Has One Georgia County’s ‘Virtual’ Alternative School Failed Troubled Students?

In an experiment lasting one school year, Clayton County, Ga. handed out laptops to its most challenged students and sent them home to learn in a new “virtual” school. As the school administrators prepare to update the school board, parents, teachers and others are convinced the experiment came at a high cost to many of the school district’s most academically challenged students. Listen to the complete report from 2011 Soros Justice Media Fellow Chandra Thomas-Whitfield. The story originally aired on Atlanta NPR affiliate WABE and was produced by WABE’s Jim Burrus.

dekalb county school bullying policy 1

Alleged School Bullying Victim, Mom Speak Out On Georgia’s New Bullying Law

LISTEN:

‘It Was Just Pretty Much Assault Every Day’: Alleged School Bullying Victim, Mom Speak Out On Georgia’s New Bullying Law. Back to school season is in full swing and like so many other families around the country 13-year-old Alicyn and her mother Annise Mabry are busy keeping up with the demands of the school year. http://jjie.org/alleged-school-bullying-victim-mom-speak-out-on-georgias-bullying-law/40307/2

However, instead of preparing to go to a local school, Ali takes classes at home. Instead of a classroom, she logs onto her laptop for online lessons. Instead of a teacher, her mom is her instructor.

Jaheem Herrera. Photo credit: smokenmirrors_photo/photobucket

Jaheem Herrera’s Suicide Inspired Lawmakers To Beef Up Georgia’s School Bullying Policies

LISTEN:

Jaheem Herrera’s Suicide Inspired Lawmakers To Beef Up Georgia’s School Bullying Policies, His Mother Says She’s Still Fighting For Justice

It’s been two years since Masika Bermudez lost her only son Jaheem Herrera, but the heart-wrenching emotions are still raw as if he died yesterday. “It was like a bad dream, you know,” says the metro Atlanta mother, tears welling in her eyes. “You have your son there after school and in a blink of an eye, he’s not there anymore. The last thing I can remember about my son is with a big smile on his face when I was looking through his report card and then to see him lifeless afterwards. That’s the last image I have of my son every time I close my eyes.”

Jaheem was just 11-years-old when she found him hanged in a closet in their Decatur, Ga., apartment in April of 2009.

The Truth About Bullying

I’ve been a journalist a lot longer than I’d care to admit (a lot of people mistake me for younger), so admittedly after a while the articles I write sometimes begin to blur together. However, one thing’s for sure: the name Jaheem Herrera will forever remain etched in my mind. I remember clearly the first news reports of this metro Atlanta boy’s suicide in 2009. The images of his mother, heartbroken and sobbing splashed across my television screen aren’t easy to erase. I was honored to be among the first people Masika Bermudez agreed to speak to after her son’s untimely death.

Stakeholders, Foster Kids Speak Out On Georgia Juvenile Code Rewrite

The stakeholder organizations involved in Georgia’s Juvenile Code Rewrite legislation are still providing input for the sweeping revision of the state’s 40-year-old juvenile law.

Representatives from a diverse array of child welfare organizations shared their respective views on HB 641 at a standing-room only hearing before House Judiciary Committee members Thursday.

Overwhelming support for the effort – now roughly seven years in the making – was repeatedly voiced during the two-hour gathering at the state capitol, along with critical suggestions for improvement. The rewrite has received commitments from Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia House and Senate leadership to ready the measure for a vote in the 2012 legislative session.

“I think we’re finding out that a lot of people have concerns and they’re coming together to make this a good piece of legislation,” says committee chairman Rep. Wendell Willard (R- Sandy Springs), of the presentations made by organizations such as the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Court Appointed State Advocate (CASA) and Interfaith Children’s Movement. “It was very encouraging to me. Hopefully by January we will have a bill that is ready to move forward.”

Overloaded Public Defense Systems ‘Jeopardizing The Fairness of Our Justice System,’ Report Finds

The ongoing overburdening of U.S. public defense systems that serve millions of people annually is jeopardizing the fairness of our justice system and can result in more and longer prison sentences, concludes a recent report published by the Washington D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute (JPI). According to the report, 73 percent of county-based public defender offices lacked the requisite number of attorneys to meet caseload standards, while 23 percent of these offices had less than half of the necessary attorneys to meet caseload standards. With an increasing overload of cases, lack of quality defense and a shortage of resources, the report argues, justice is not being served and the wellbeing of millions of people is at stake. The findings in System Overload: The Costs of Under-Resourcing Public Defense echo the perspective shared by Jonathan Rapping, associate professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and founder and CEO of the Southern Public Defender Training Center, which trains public defenders across the southeastern United States. Rapping tells JJIE.org, “we need to make sure that we create a campaign to view juvenile defenders as part of the larger public defender community; they’re just as important as their counterparts in the adult system.

Leadership Changes Announced For Governor’s Office for Children and Families

Georgia’s First Lady is expanding her service role to children in the state. Sandra Deal, wife of Gov. Nathan Deal, has agreed to lead the advisory board for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF). “It’s important for us to concentrate on our children and our families for the sake of our state,” Mrs. Deal said during the news conference led by the governor, along with House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. It was also announced that Katie Joe Ballard has been tapped to take on the role of GOCF’s Executive Director. “I’m excited; I have some big shoes to fill,” said Ballard after the event today in the North Wing of the state capitol.

Teen Accused of Killing Cop Appears In Court

A Riverdale Ga. teen charged in the shooting death of a Clayton County sheriff’s deputy has appeared in Clayton County Superior Court. Investigators say Jonathan Bun has already confessed to killing Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly. Daly, 55, was shot and killed after he pulled over a Honda Civic that Bun was riding in. He was attempting to take the 17-year-old into custody for a January armed robbery at a gift store in College Park.