Youth Services Law

Showing 8 posts from April 2009.

Swine Flu

The latest problem that day care centers, schools, and camps need to know about is swine flu.  The illness is spreading, and may become our next epidemic.  Like so many illnesses, children are at high risk.  There is no effective vaccine, and only limited treatment options.

You can take some common-sense precautions to hep protect your clients:

*  Enforce rigorous hand-washing protocols.

* If children are sneezing and coughing, anyone who comes into contact with them must wash their hands before touching anyone or anything else.

* Children who exhibit flu-like symptoms should be isolated from the general population and sent home with parents as soon as possible.

* Check with your local or state health department to learn what specific precautions authorities are recommending for your area.

* Monitor the CDC website for updated recommendations

* Watch websites related to your industry, such as the American Camping Association's summary of precautions.

Special Needs Campers

Posted In Youth Camps

The Justice Department has filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against an RV park owner, alleging discrimination against an HIV-positive child.  As youth organizations gear up for summer activities, administrators need to follow o the requirements of the ADA.

Any child who has a disability, or is perceived as having a disability, cannot be excluded from camping activities unless accommodating them (1) would cause an undue burden on the camp, (2) would change the fundamental nature of the program, or (3) would place other campers at risk.   As is always true with things drafted by lawyers, that summary has multiple caveats, explanations, and specific definitions, and each camp should consult a knowledgeable attorney about individual issues.  For an excellent summary of the ADA as it applies to camping programs, see this article at the American Camping Association website.  

If you need to find another camp that can better deal with a particular child's disabilities, the American Camping Association has a search feature, and Very Special Camps has an online directory.

Mediation Fails Between Parents and Teacher Accused of Requiring Child to Eat Discarded Food

Posted In Schools

The saga of the teacher arrested for requiring a child to eat food he had thrown into the garbage can passed another mile stone last week, when pre-trial mediation failed. The teacher's lawyer said that they had been unable to reach an agreement with the child's family.

The story started a month ago, when parents accused Anne O'Donnell of forcing their 5-year-old son to retrieve chicken nuggets and a banana that he had thrown into the garbage and then eat it while she watched. Police arrested her for risk of injury to a minor, and the story was widely disseminated over the Internet.

According to another local story (now behind a paid firewall, but summarized on Findlaw), the teacher claims that she merely retrieved the banana and asked him to peel and eat it. That version is much less incendiary, but the parents apparently are not buying it. It is understandable that parents would believe their child's version of events, but it often is difficult to understand what a child is describing, and even more difficult to question children without skewing their recollections.  

This is one case where an objective adult needs to step in and view the evidence rationally. Let's hope it happens soon.

90% of Babies Manic-Depressive

Posted In Humor

A bit of humor to end the week, from The Onion:

 "The majority of our subjects, regardless of size, sex, or race, exhibited extreme mood swings, often crying one minute and then giggling playfully the next," the study's author Dr. Steven Gregory told reporters. "Additionally we found that most babies had trouble concentrating during the day, often struggled to sleep at night, and could not be counted on to take care of themselves—all classic symptoms of manic depression." 

Hat Tip: Psych Central

Teacher's Aide Sues Student

Posted In Schools

A former teacher's aide has sued an 11-year-old boy for colliding with her as he was running for ice cream. Her attorney says, "It's a legitimate case. It's not silly."

I'm glad he cleared that up.

Inadequate Background Check

A Nashville school district has fired three employees after discovering that a middle school teacher was hired despite an outstanding criminal warrant for child molestation. This story illustrates the pitfalls of relying too heavily on routine criminal background checks. The accused teacher, Ronald Boykin, had no criminal conviction, but had been wanted for two years in another city in the state.

According to news reports, the district fired the employees for lax hiring practices. Apparently Boykin actually noted on his application that he was under criminal investigation, although it is not clear whether he specified what was being investigated. The district employees also failed to re-check his application when he transferred from a support position to being a teacher.

The first line of defense in any youth-serving organization is a thorough application  interview. One of the best resources on screening employees, including how to conduct an interview, is the CDC's publication about policies and procedures. It is free, and available for download here.  

Oh, Please

Researchers at Carleton University have published a study that illustrates how tunnel vision can expose professionals to well-deserved ridicule from lay people.  The study, published in Child Abuse Review, analyzed 47 classic Disney cartoons. The researchers found that 10 of the cartoons had scenes in which children received unwanted physical contact or "threatening approaches from adults," and failed to respond appropriately.

Excuse me?  Professional researchers spent numerous hours watching cartoons?  And their profound conclusion was that the children in the films did not set a good example?  Hello -- we are talking about entertainment here.  Not everything that a child watches needs to teach a message. Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon.  

These researchers likely would scoff at parents wanting to keep Harry Potter out of libraries, but they apparently see no problem with concluding, "Is the unwanted contact and risky situation content appropriate viewing for children, given efforts to teach children sexual safety?" It's a silly question, deserving of the ridicule the study is attracting. Sometimes well-meaning people simply spend too long dealing with one topic, and start seeing it everywhere they look.  

She's Ba-ack

Posted In Miscellaneous

I'm finally back.  The trial and keeping caught up afterwards took longer than I expected.  The trial went well, but it was a bench trial, so we do not have a verdict yet.  It was an enjoyable trial, with civil opponents, good witnesses, and great clients.  Law practice just doesn't get much better than that. 

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