Ken Edelstein is a veteran Atlanta journalist who has won more than 40 national and regional awards for his own work or for work that he edited. He's a visiting fellow at the Center for Sustainable Journalism, as well as the editor and publisher of <a href="http://greenbuildingchronicle.com">Green Building Chronicle.</a>
Some Indiana lawmakers are scrambling to protect kids from the threat of forced prostitution by adding child trafficking to the state’s list of sex offenses in advance of Indianapolis hosting next February’s Super Bowl. Amid all the fanfare and its reputation as a boon to tourism, the Super Bowl has also won some infamy for attracting a sex trade that caters to fans willing to participate in the exploitation of children. From StarTrib.com of Terre Haute, Ind.:
Before the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas ... Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, described the party-filled event as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.”
Law enforcement in Miami, site of the 2010 Super Bowl, also had concerns that underage prostitutes were brought in from Central America for tourists in town for the game. Indiana state Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville, sponsored legislation this year directing a study committee to look at whether current state law on child solicitation needs to be expanded.
Central Florida’s Polk County has become the first jurisdiction in that state to make plans under a new state law to house juveniles who are awaiting trial in adult jail rather than in a state juvenile detention center, according to NewsChief.com, a Winter Haven, Fla., news site. That change was made possible because Polk Sheriff Grady Judd pushed state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, to sponsor a bill in this year’s Florida Legislature that loosens the standards county jails must meet to house juveniles. The state currently charges counties $237 per day to hold each juvenile in pretrial detention, and that rate is expected to rise later this year. Judd told NewsChief.com that the county expects to spend $70-$90 per day per juvenile detainee. He predicts the switch will save the county around $1.5 million.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner may not have broken any laws by texting lewd photos of himself to younger women he didn’t know. In many states, however, teens who send pictures of themselves to their own girlfriends or boyfriends can be prosecuted for child pornography. Allyson Pereira calls that hypocrisy. She should know. She’s spent six years dealing with the consequences of “sexting” one topless image of herself to an ex-boyfriend.
Law enforcement officials are trying to figure out why supposedly massive fights erupted between teens on a crowded Boston beach over Memorial Day weekend. Initial reports, from Massachusetts State Police, were that gangs had used Facebook to organize violent gatherings. Then, on Tuesday, Boston’s police commissioner said whatever fights that did break out didn't seem to have anything to do with gangs. And finally state police started backpedalling their gang violence theory. Regardless, media outlets were all atwitter with the social media, “gang warfare” angle — underscoring how sensational media memes can overwhelm any attempt by the public to understand the dynamics of teen violence.
If it’s 11 p.m. on a weekday and you live in the city of Atlanta, you’d better know where your children are. In an effort to keep kids safe over the long, hot summer, Mayor Kasim Reed and other city officials announced Tuesday that they plan to enforce the city’s long ignored curfew law. The curfew law requires children 16 or younger to be at home and supervised by a parent, legal guardian or authorized adult from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from midnight to 6 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. But the big change from previous enforcement threats came in the form of punishment threats — for parents. The first violation will result in a warning, city officials announced.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Defending Childhood” initiative is taking a higher profile this week with the airing of a public service announcement promoting the effort. The attorney general launched the initiative in September to address what he called “a national crisis”: the exposure of the American children to violence as both victims and witnesses. A Department of Justice-funded study had concluded that most children have been “exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities. The consequences of this problem are significant and widespread. Children’s exposure to violence, whether as victims or witnesses, is often associated with long-term physical, psychological and emotional harm.
Here’s a conclusion that may surprise you about as much as one of the anvils that Jerry the mouse manages to drop on Tom the cat’s head from time to time: Kids don’t miss violence when it doesn’t appear in their favorite cartoons; what they’re really looking for is action. That’s the verdict of a study by professors at four universities whose finding’s have been published in the journal Media Psychology. Assistant Telecommunications Professor Andrew J. Weaver of Indiana University and his colleagues were testing the reason that producers and programmers often give for including violence in kid’s cartoons — that children want to see it. "Violence isn't the attractive component in these cartoons which producers seem to think it is,” Weaver said. “It's more other things that are often associated with the violence.
Imagine getting bills for services you didn’t get when still a teen — and then finding out when you’re 18 that your credit rating is already shot. This Rhode Island TV station found three kids who went through that brand of identity theft. They shared two other things in common: All went through Rhode Island’s foster care system, and all believe the identity thief was a family member or close friend. The station says a congressmen, Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., plans to introduce legislation in Congress designed to protect potential victims of such crimes. You’ll find more on WPRI’s investigation here.
Prevention seems to have become a four-letter word in Washington. The latest evidence? Last week, the Department of Justice finally announced how much money the states would get through grant programs under the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The numbers are ugly. Georgia saw its share of the money decline by 28.6 percent, from $3.72 million to $2.66 million.
Georgia lawmakers who backed an ill-fated effort to skirt local school systems in setting up charter schools now are faced with a daunting task. Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled the setup unconstitutional because it diverted local school money to fund schools overseen by a state commission. Legislators already have promised to press for a constitutional amendment that would work around the high court ruling. But there are too many hoops to pass such an amendment before the 2011-12 academic year begins. So those same lawmakers are now faced with a more pressing challenge: Finding room in other schools for students who were enrolled in the eight existing “commission” charter schools that will now be closed, along with students who were set to attend eight new schools this fall.