Jaheem Herrera. Photo credit: smokenmirrors_photo/photobucket

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

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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.

Photo illustration: Clay Duda/JJIE.org

Law Enforcement Learns the ‘Social Media Beat’

It’s no secret: Social media has redefined the way people communicate, especially among the under-30 crowd. Now, law enforcement agencies are catching on and increasingly incorporating social media into their arsenal of crime-fighting tools.

Over the past few months a series of high profile social-media-turned-criminal acts have made headlines — from flash mobs turned violent on the streets of Philadelphia to Atlanta house parties taped off as homicide scenes — and law enforcement has taken note.

Some agencies have been quick to recognize the potential of embracing social media. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, has run a “Social Media Monitoring Center” since early 2009; Correction officials in California have worked directly with Facebook to thwart inmates from accessing social profiles while behind bars; And police in New York formed a special unit to monitor social channels for gang-related and other potential criminal acts.

Georgia D.A.: Bullying May Lead to Life of Crime

Bullies may not have committed any crimes while bullying, but officials in one south Georgia county say bullying may lead to a life of crime. Dougherty County, Ga., District Attorney Greg Edwards told The Albany (Ga.) Herald that, while there is no specific crime for bullying, “about 25 percent of cases we come across relate to bullying to some extent.” Edwards went on to say he believes bullies often, “start in juvenile court and graduate to more serious crimes.”

According to Dougherty County’s juvenile prosecutor, Andre Ewings, those crimes can vary greatly. “It can be almost anything,” she told The Herald. “It can be a simple battery to as serious as an aggravated assault. It may also be terroristic threats.” Today, much of that bullying is done online through social networking sites like Facebook. Ewings also said she believes bullies tend to get in more trouble than other children.

Ty Cobb On Safe Schools for LGBT Youth

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth across America are facing a crisis in the juvenile justice system as a result of harmful discrimination in their homes, schools and communities. Recent studies demonstrate that continued harassment of LGBT youth in their schools place them at a higher risk for involvement with the system. LGBT youth are more likely to skip school to avoid victimization and in the process face truancy charges. Additionally, other LGBT students end up in the system on assault or disorderly conduct charges after they try to defend themselves against bullying by their classmates. In other instances, LGBT youth are disproportionately targeted by school officials for punishment, often referring them to juvenile court for conduct that is more appropriately handled in school.

Peer Pressure Leading Kids to Commit Cyber-bullying and Other Online Crimes

Peer pressure doesn’t end when kids are alone in front of a computer, new research shows, and it’s leading kids to commit cyber-crimes such as cyber-bullying and music piracy. The study, published online in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, found kids in middle and high school whose friends committed cyber-crimes were more likely to engage in the same illegal activities, especially if they also exhibit a lack of self-control. “These are the more risk-taking, impulsive kids; they’re more likely to act on opportunity,” study co-author Thomas Holt, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University, told PsychCentral.com.  “It’s important to know what your kids are doing when they’re online and who they are associating with both online and offline.”

Researchers surveyed 435 students in one suburban Kentucky school district.  Cyber-crime also includes activities such as hacking and viewing online pornography (which is illegal if the viewer is under 18).  

 

Judge Tom Jacobs: Megan Meier Law to Be Tested on Middle School Students

You may remember Megan’s story from the many news reports over the past four years. Megan Meier took her life in 2006 after being bullied online by Josh Evans, a fictitious 16-year-old. Josh befriended Megan on MySpace, flirted with her for a month and then dumped her stating, “The world would be a better place without you in it.” Thirteen-year-old Megan hanged herself in her bedroom. At the time of Megan’s death, Missouri did not have any anti-bullying or cyberbullying laws. Soon after her suicide, it was discovered that Josh didn’t exist.

When does a Human Rights Commission oppose cyber-bullying education?

Is the rush by politicians to get tough on cyber-bullying becoming an overly crowded bandwagon? That could be the case in New York City, where the city’s Human Rights Commission came out yesterday against a City Council member’s proposal to mandate education on cyber-bullying. “To be effective in reaching the targets of our educational programs, the commission must be able to adapt quickly,” a Human Rights Commission official was quoted as telling a City Council hearing. “That flexibility would be hampered by this proposed legislation.” It’s not that the commission opposes efforts to educate kids about the problem, its chairwoman said in a statement.

Tormentors Sentenced in Cyber-bullying Case

The legal fall out from one of the nation’s most sensational cyber-bulling incidents drew closer to a close Thursday when three of Phoebe Prince’s tormentors were placed on probation, while the statutory rape charge against another was dropped. Fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince, who had recently moved from Ireland to South Hadley, Mass., was tormented by six other youths — including two of whom she’d dated — before she hanged herself last year. Yesterday, three of the girls involved in the case were placed on probation for misdemeanor charges of harassment or violating civil rights. “If they satisfy their probation, the charges will be dismissed and they will not have criminal records,” the New York Times reports. The statutory rape charge against a sixth former student, who had sex with Phoebe when he was 18, was dropped.

Forsyth Investigator Educates Teens, Parents About Cyber Dangers

The United States Constitution might be the law of the land, but some of its basic provisions don’t prevail in Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Jeff Roe’s home. “In my house my two children have no Fourth Amendment rights,” quips the father of a 10-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. “They know that I have the right to log onto any of their email accounts at any time. I can go into their room and inspect the contents of anything that I want to at any time. A lot of parents say they don’t want to invade their children’s privacy; I say it’s called being a parent.”

That same in-your-face-style shines through in the community seminars he has conducted on the sheriff’s department’s behalf for the past four years.