Guns are everywhere you think they’re not. Guns have been found on the floor of a movie theater and in the diaper aisle of a big box retailer. They aren’t just slid under a mattress at home or tossed up to the top shelf of a closet; they’re lying in a pile of leaves, or behind a toilet in an airport.
The mother left and two teens were alone in the house. It took the 13-year-old son 10 minutes to find the gun. It was loaded and in a bottom dresser drawer covered by one piece of clothing. It might as well have been on the fireplace mantle.
When I was a kid, around 10 or 11, I loved fantasy novels, especially The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I read these books over and over, and with my friend Michael would act out the various scenes of the books. We would run around the yard with toy swords and trash can lids for shields, battling monsters until it got too dark to play any longer. One day we were pretending we were wizards, casting spells and dispensing vague wisdom to our imaginary comrades. As part of our costumes we made hoods out of pillow cases, and were blithely going about our business when my dad came home.
Only about a quarter of rising ninth graders in the Southeastern United States will graduate high school on time, according to a new report from the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB). “The middle grades are the make-or-break point of our K-12 public school system,” SREB President Dave Spence said in a press release. “If states are serious about raising graduation rates and preparing more students for postsecondary study, work has to begin now on the middle grades.”
The SREB is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established by regional governors and legislators to improve the public education system. The organization covers 16 states in the South and Southeast, working directly with state leaders, schools and educators to improve learning and student achievement from Pre-K to higher education. The 16 states covered by the SREB have made “good” progress in early grades achievement in recent years according to the report, but a number still lag behind national standards.
Our Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, JJIE.org, has its roots in part in The Race Beat, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book co-written by Hank Klibanoff, former managing editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I was taken by how important it was for the press to shine a spotlight on the injustices taking place in the South before and during the Civil Rights era. Today that same kind of spotlight must be shone on the juvenile justice system, which, with its share of injustices, remains in the shadows of the collective American consciousness. When John Fleming came our way as the prospective editor of the JJIE.org, I knew he was a kindred spirit who cares deeply about high quality, ethically sound journalism and equal justice for all. That dual commitment is illustrated in his just published essay in the Nieman Reports entitled: Compelled to Remember What Others Want to Forget.
Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal, this Deep South state’s new executive and a former juvenile court judge, has made it known that he may be ready to reassess laws mandating that some children be prosecuted as adults. It will, however, be next year before the laws — passed nearly 20 years ago — get a fresh look from members of the state’s General Assembly and the governor. Until then, children between the ages of 13 and 17 are automatically prosecuted as adults in Georgia when accused of committing certain serious crimes. Armed robbery is among the so-called “seven deadly sins” on that list. Since taking office, Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, also a former juvenile court judge, has tried some innovative ways to get the word out about this to young people before they end up in prison.