Felony Charges Dropped Against Young Undocumented Student at Heart of Immigration Debate

A nearly three-year legal battle has come to an end for a young undocumented immigrant whose 2010 arrest sparked a national debate over U.S. immigration policy, particularly the right of undocumented immigrants to attend public universities. Thursday, a Cobb County, Georgia, judge dismissed a false-swearing charge against the now 23-year-old Jessica Colotl stemming from her arrest on March 29, 2010. A Kennesaw State University (KSU) police officer stopped Colotl, a KSU student, for a traffic infraction on campus. She was arrested the following day after failing to produce for authorities a valid driver’s license. Colotl’s case has been widely publicized nationally, drawing renewed attention to the use of 287(g) programs, which allow local police agencies to enforce immigration law and detain suspected undocumented immigrants.

Former CDC Director Says NRA “Terrorized” Gun Violence Researchers

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) has published numerous studies analyzing firearms-related deaths and injuries data, but over the last 16 years, the NCIPC hasn’t conducted a single study exploring why such acts of violence take place. The reason, several former CDC directors say, is because pro-gun lobbyists made the topic of gun violence research forbidden through several measures adopted in the mid 1990s. In 1996, several legislators co-sponsored an amendment that would cut the CDC’s budget, with a House Appropriations Committee adopting an additional amendment that prohibited CDC funding “to advocate or promote gun control.” Eventually, $2.6 million was removed from the CDC’s budget — the exact amount that the NCIPC spent on firearms injuries studies a year prior. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long been critical of the CDC, with NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre recently telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) that he believed the agency was promoting a political agenda through the NCIPC in 1995. Other gun proponents agreed.

Choosing to Stay and Fight For Kids in Trouble

“What happened in your life that made you a passionate advocate for kids?” When Jane Hansen, Information Officer for the Georgia Supreme Court, asked me this question last week during an interview, I thought, “Whoa — the question assumed something happened to me.” Now I am paranoid — what does she know that I don’t? I have known Jane going way back to my days as a parole officer when she was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution — she has a keen sense of things. This “happening” resides in the recesses of my mind, something that rises to the surface from time to time when triggered by an event, song, or a question.

The Glee Effect: Singing Teens Do Better in School

Students are finding musical inspiration from shows like “Glee” and “The Sing-Off” and studies show that singing kids do better in school and are more diverse. Ninety percent of educators believe singing in a choir can keep some students engaged who might otherwise be lost, according a nationwide study. The Atlanta Journal Constitution profiled Marist High School in Atlanta, which has caught “The Glee Effect” where stereotypes are being broken. A variety of students, from teens who play sports to more reserved teens, are participating in school choirs. Thirty-one percent of kids between 8 and 18 say that movies like Disney’s “Camp Rock” and shows like “Glee” make them want to get involved in music making, according to a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive.

Nine Girls Arrested for Gang Activity in Peachtree City

Nine girls, all 13 to 15 years old, were arrested for gang activity Wednesday morning at their Fayette County schools, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The girls were turned in by other students who reported to school officials that the girls were making threats and wearing pink and black clothes. Peachtree City police were already tracking the girls for allegations of bullying, beating in new gang members, carrying weapons and apparently sharing information on Facebook. Investigators are increasingly monitoring social media websites to track gang activity, as we reported last month. Surveys across the country also show a nationwide trend of girls getting arrested more often than boys.

Miley Cyrus Bong Video Sparks New Debate About Salvia Drug

Interest in the hallucinogenic drug salvia exploded this weekend when a video of teen pop sensation Miley Cyrus using salvia hit the Internet Friday. Salvia divinorum is a member of the sage family and users smoke it like a cigarette, chew it, or smoke it in a pipe or bong. It’s legal for adults in the state of California, where Cyrus was videoed inhaling it through a bong. The video comes from TMZ.com. Sales of the substance have tripled since the video went public, according to Fox News.

Gangs Use Social Networking to Mark Their Turf

Teens in gangs are using sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter to glamorize their activities and carry on gang wars. In several cases, gang members use these sites to track down and confront rivals by following them on Twitter or checking out their Facebook page, according to a gang awareness blog called Open the Gate. Teens in gangs are also using social networking to recruit new members. Authorities call it cyberbanging and they’re trying to fight it by monitoring sites, along with pictures and comments related to illegal activities. Some gangs are very active online.

Another Teen Killed at House Party

For the second time in a week, a teenager was killed at a house party in the Atlanta area. 18-year-old Daquavious Stephon Mapp was apparently caught in the crossfire of a firefight between other teenage boys. James Edwards and Tevin Williams, both 17, are charged with aggravated assault and gun charges. Police aren’t sure whose bullet killed Mapp, according the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Estimates vary widely, but most accounts say 75 kids were at a party in Conyers, Ga.

School District Rejects Federal Grant Money, Claiming Race to the Top Doesn’t Work

Times are hard for school systems across the country, so why is the Jones County school district, refusing $1.3 million in Race to the Top federal funds? The school system, located southeast of Atlanta, claims the funding comes with stipulations, requiring that over half the money ($900,000) be spent on paying teachers based on merit, according to WMAZ-TV. The school board voted unanimously to reject the funds. The money was too targeted and restrictive to help the district, Superintendant William Mathews told the TV station. Mathews also explained that research does not show that paying teachers based on merit works.

Teens Arrested for Gwinnett County Shooting

A 16-year-old was arrested in Gwinnett County last week for allegedly shooting another 16-year-old in the chest, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  The District Attorney’s Office hopes to try him as an adult, which could result in a 20-year prison sentence. Two other teens, ages 17 and 18, were arrested this week in connection with the shooting.  The Gwinnett Daily Post (GDP) reveals that the older suspect is enrolled as a senior at Hooper Renwick School while the 17-year-old is enrolled in 8th grade at Grace Snell Middle School.  The latter has not attended school all year, a Gwinnett Public Schools spokesperson told the GDP. The three suspects are suspected to be involved in gang activity. “…Arrest warrants show [the 18-year-old] admitted to having a ‘captain’ rank in whatever gang set he claims,” said the Gwinnett Daily Post.