Youth Services Law

Showing 7 posts in Public Policy.

Gender Differences (and Learning Styles) May Be Hard-Wired

Posted In Public Policy, Schools

Gender differences in learningI am late discovering this 2013 study from the National Academy of Sciences, which found gender differences in  how brains are wired.  Literally.  The study was a large one, looking at 949 young people between the ages of 8 and 22, and analyzing brain connectivity, or how regions of the brain communicate.  The researchers found significant gender differences.  In general, male brains "had greater within-hemispheric connectivity," while in the female brains, "between-hemispheric connectivity and cross-module participation predominated."  

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Sex Offender Laws that Do Not Protect Children

Posted In Criminal Law, Mental Health Research, Public Policy

Simplified man Stop You on a No SignIt is not often that I use “California” and “sensible policy” in the same sentence, but the California Supreme Court has issued a ground-breaking (and sensible) decision invalidating restrictions on where sex offenders can live.  The court reviewed “Jessica’s Law,” a statute prohibiting any registered sex offender from residing within 2000 feet of “any public or private school, or park where children regularly gather.”  The plaintiffs did not challenge the statue on its face, but only the state’s blanket application of it to registered sex offenders on parole.  The court found that one-size-fits-all application to be unconstitutional, but noted that the state retains the authority, based on other statutes, to fashion special parole conditions for sex offenders.

Contrary to some claims, this decision is not a setback for child abuse prevention, simply because residency-based restrictions do not prevent child abuse.  As Dr. David Finkelhor, one of the giants in the field of child abuse prevention, wrote in 2009, restrictions on where sex offenders live “have been adopted without any evidence about their efficacy.”  Furthermore, “[t]he logic model behind these restrictions appears fundamentally flawed, given that most sexual abuse occurs within established family and social networks and also that motivated offenders, wherever they happen to live, can go where they wish in search of victims.”

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Multicultural Child Abuse?

Posted In Child Abuse, Public Policy

Scared 8 year old boy being abused or abducted by adult female.The governing council in Rotherham, England has released a searing report about the failure to combat and prevent child sexual exploitation (CSE) in that area. The author, Prof. Alexis Jay OBE, found that the local police and social services agencies ignored at least 1400 cases of CSE between 1997 and 2013.

British newspapers and some conservative commentators have jumped on the part of the report that says that upper level administrators deliberately ignored the fact that most of the reported perpetrators were part of the Muslim Pakistani community. Frontline staff were left confused as to "what would be interpreted as 'racist.'" Thus, pundits claim, "racism fears stopped social workers saving children."

As a former federal prosecutor for an Indian reservation, I have some experience with ethnic communities and child abuse prosecutions, and I seriously doubt that social workers left children in danger merely because of political correctness. In fact, Prof. Jay said that investigators found no evidence that frontline staff made decisions based on ethnic origins. However, she found that the local government sanitized public discussion of the problem. That distinction is an important one. The problem is no less serious, but it does call for a different solution.

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Sexual Assault Facts, Myths, and Statistics

Posted In Child Abuse, Mental Health Research, Public Policy

Statistics"Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable."  Mark Twain

1 in 5 college women have been raped, 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted before age 18, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the same age.  We have all heard these statistics at one time or another.  And all of those statistics are wrong.

I understand why people dealing with these issues like shocking numbers.  After all, big solutions require big problems, and both governments and donors respond more quickly and generously to crises.  But bad statistics are never a good foundation for public policy or credible fundraising.

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No Scary Science, Please

Posted In Public Policy, Schools

Bomber Boy CartoonThe LA Times reports that school officials suspended a teacher for supervising student construction of "imitation weapons." The "imitation weapons" were science fair projects. One, an air-pressure projectile device, is similar to a project that President Obama demonstrated at a White House science fair. The other is a battery-operated coil propulsion system.

Two months later, the school reinstated the teacher, but left open the question of whether he will face disciplinary charges. In the meantime, students lost valuable time preparing for AP exams, and the school fencing team that he coaches missed an important meet.

All because school staff and administrators couldn't tell the difference between danger and "imitation" danger.

Normal Childhood is Not a Medical Condition

Posted In Mental Health Research, Public Policy, Schools

PillsDr. Allen Frances has written several excellent articles noting that we are over-diagnosing ADHD. I don't agree with his claims elsewhere that the entire problem is drug company advertising, but there is no doubt that doctors and educators are over-medicating children. The incredible rise in ADHD diagnoses should be a warning sign to educators and parents that we are turning normal childhood into an ongoing medical condition. As Dr. Frances notes, "[W]e shouldn't want to transform our kids into well behaved, well medicated little zombies. The 2-3% of kids with severe inattention and hyperactivity will require more extensive behavioral treatment and some will require medication – but most hyperactive kids will do just fine with good enough parenting."

Three-Year Old Racists?

Posted In Public Policy, Schools

According to an article this week in the Daily Mail, a mandatory reporting policy in Britain has resulted in students as young as preschool being accused of various kinds of intolerance.  The article's claims that the children's records will follow them into adulthood may be a bit overwrought, but there is not much doubt that the labels would make their later education more difficult.  If the facts in the article are accurate, it certainly appears to be another instance of well-meaning policies combined with overly broad definitions that have harsh unintended consequences.

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