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.

Men Wanted: Community Organization Seeks Male Applicants for Education Training Program

The official application cycle has closed, but a Gwinnett County-based community organization that focuses primarily on education issues is seeking more male applicants for its upcoming community training program. The Gwinnett Parent Coalition to dismantle the school-to-prison-pipeline (aka Gwinnett STOPP) has received an overwhelming response from female applicants, but organizers say they’re holding out for more men to sign up this month. The school-to-prison-pipeline is a national trend wherein some advocates say children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. JJIE.org’s Chandra R. Thomas spoke to co-chairwoman Marlyn Tillman about the Parent Leadership Institute, which officially kicks off next month. JJIE: What is Gwinnett STOPP? TILLMAN: We are a parent-led organization; we’re a volunteer organization that was formed in 2007.

LGBT stock photo - Clay Duda, JJIE.org

Double Jeopardy: Lesbian Activist Says Fear of Parents’ Homophobia Inspires Secret Life

[“Double Jeopardy: Lesbian Activist Says Fear of Parents’ Homophobia Inspires Secret Life” is part 2 of a 3 part series on LGBT issues. Bookmark this page for updates.]

Second Life is a virtual reality game wherein members create a customized “avatar” that serves as a digital representation of themselves. In this three-dimensional virtual community, the avatar assumes an identity, takes up residence and moves about in a world completely created by them, for them. Second Lifers buy property, start businesses, make friends, join clubs, attend classes or sometimes just hang out. Amber Holt* has never played this game, but in many respects, she feels like she lives it every day.

Brian Dixon

The Other Side of the Rainbow: Young, Gay and Homeless in Metro Atlanta

[“The Other Side of the Rainbow: Young, Gay and Homeless in Metro Atlanta” is part 1 of a 3 part series on LGBT issues. Bookmark this page for updates.]

In April 2008, Brian Dixon was 18-years-old and homeless. Being gay, he says, only exacerbated his predicament. After allegedly enduring years of mental and physical abuse, at age 14 Dixon left home to live with his grandparents. Within a year, they placed him in Georgia’s foster care system.

School bus stock photo - Clay Duda, JJIE.org

Georgia Schools Not Making the Grade With Discipline Practices, New Report Finds

The Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is pushing for some major changes in how discipline is doled out in Georgia’s public schools. The recommendations come on the heels of the Atlanta-based non-profit organization’s release last month of its final student discipline report titled Effective School Discipline: Keeping Kids in Class. The first phase of the report featured an analysis of discipline reports from a cross-section of school districts. The final report features a more in-depth data analysis and interviews with representatives from the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) district and school personnel and other stakeholders. Surveys were also distributed to parents, students and teachers at Parent Teacher Associations and other community organizations statewide.

On Demand: Underage Sex Billboard Campaign Targets Johns, Pimps

The Juvenile Justice Fund’s A Future. Not A Past. effort has a new tool in its ongoing campaign to “disable the demand for child sexual exploitation” in Georgia. The Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia has agreed to donate space to the Atlanta-based non-profit victim’s advocacy group to run billboard ads throughout metro Atlanta. Unlike previous efforts by other organizations focused on raising awareness among victims, these ads are unique in that they will target the demand side – specifically the pimps and johns who partake in child prostitution.

Georgia’s New Sex Trafficking Law Step In Right Direction, Advocacy Group Says

In less than two months, on July 1, a human trafficking law that toughens the penalty for sex traffickers and seeks to improve outcomes for victims will officially become law in Georgia. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 200 into law earlier this month. Advocates are praising the measure for many of its key provisions, including that it treats those in sexual servitude as victims; not criminals, allows victims to provide “an affirmative defense” when coming forward and for penalties that allow the state to seize any real or personal property used or purchased by a convicted trafficker. The fact that law enforcement agencies will also receive training on ways to identify and interact with human trafficking victims is also being touted as important progress. Here’s what Renee Kempton, the Atlanta Ambassador for the national non-profit Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTN) had to say about the measure.

New Barton Center Measure Could Help Keep Runaway Kids Safe

Shelter, food, counseling and medical care may not seem like typical 18th birthday presents, but many local experts say, thanks to a state law, many underage runaways in Georgia often wait until then to seek such services at local shelters. “A lot of runaways show up at shelters on their 18th birthday seeking services that they could not get before due to their age,” says Kirsten Widner of Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Policy Center. “Under the bill that we’ve drafted, they would not have to wait until they’re 18 anymore.”

Currently emergency shelters in Georgia that serve runaways face a legal liability if staffers provide services to young people under the age of 18 without parental permission. In light of the law, most shelters in the state do not serve underage runaways at all. The staffs at those that do, typically try to contact the child’s parent or guardian before providing any services.

Outgoing DJJ Commissioner Garland Hunt Reflects On His Brief, But Busy Term

The man who Governor Sonny Perdue tapped seven months ago to serve as Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner is leaving his post after only seven months on the job. Garland Hunt officially departs this week following Governor-Elect Nathan Deal’s decision last month to name DJJ Deputy Commissioner Amy Howell in his place.  Hunt is a lawyer, an ordained minister and co-pastor of the Father’s House church in Norcross, and a corrections industry veteran.  He spoke to JJIE.org’s Chandra R. Thomas about his brief tenure overseeing a state agency with some 4,300 employees who are charged with monitoring and caring for some 20,000 youngsters. Many people were surprised to see you replaced after such a short time in the position. How do you feel about the decision? As I stated in the letter I sent to the staff, I certainly regret not being appointed to the position but I respect the governor-to-be’s appointment.