Family

Group Home for Developmentally Disabled Investigated for the 72nd Time in 5 Years

A Murfreesboro group home for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities is under investigation on allegations of abuse for the 72nd time in the past five years, the Daily News Journal reports. Employees of the Stones River Center are most recently accused of choking and assaulting a patient who became combative when asked to remove his headphones. After the altercation, the man told his mother that he was assaulted. The mother noticed unexplained injuries on the man’s body and notified authorities of the incident. Staff members involved maintain that that they did nothing wrong and that the restraint performed was approved for use on aggressive patients. 

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Amazon Under Fire for Harvesting Children's Data

Consumer advocacy groups are drawing attention to the way Amazon treats privacy regarding its Echo Dot Kids Edition, The New York Times reports. The company markets the device as an easy way for children to interact with its voice assistant software Alexa, but the groups involved allege that Amazon additionally included data-mining software in the device that violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by gathering names, home addresses, Social Security numbers and other private information. Amazon released a statement maintaining that the product is compliant with COPPA; however, more than a dozen organizations have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on the issue.

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More Than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School Employees Call Out Sick to Protest Budget

More than 1,400 Metro Nashville Public School employees — including 1,091 teachers — called out sick today in protest of the 3 percent pay raise suggested by Mayor David Briley in his budget, saying that it’s simply not enough, The Tennessean reports. The action comes in response to Briley’s proposed $28.2 million increase in Nashville public schools' operating budget, far less than the requested $76.7 million. Most of the money asked for was to be earmarked for teacher raises. President-elect for the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association Amanda Kail said of the protest, "You have to understand that teachers haven't had a cost-of-living or a significant raise, depending on how you define significant, in 10 to 15 years … People are getting pretty fed up."

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School Voucher Plan May Fall Short of Tuition Costs in Urban Areas

Governor Lee’s controversial school voucher program may fall short in its goal to provide alternative options for children of failing schools, particularly those from low-income families in urban districts, the Tennessean reports. The governor’s plan would provide families with up to $7,300 to fund private school tuition, however, that sum falls well short of the average cost of attending most private schools in urban areas. Detractors of the program argue that under its current iteration, the voucher program will do little to assist these children and would only take money away from public schools that desperately need funding. Proponents of the plan say that the funding disparity will be bridged with tuition assistance from the schools, or financial assistance from a third party. According to the plan, families would be required to make less than double the federal guidelines to qualify for free lunch, approximately $54,000 annually for a family of three or $65,000 annually for a family of four.

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Tennessee General Assembly Moves to Ban Child-Like Sex Dolls

Tennessee lawmakers last week advanced legislation that would bar possession or distribution of child-like sex dolls, the Tennessean reports. The ban is part of an amendment to HB1168/SB0659, which defines the entities “a child-like sex doll is an obscene anatomically correct doll, mannequin, or robot that is intended for sexual stimulation,” making possession of the dolls a Class E felony and distribution a Class A misdemeanor. A similar ban, known as the CREEPER Act, was submitted to the U.S. House in its last session. The Tennessee ban now heads to Governor Lee for his signature.

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Juvenile Court Judge Speaks Out Against Bill Allowing Exemptions for Adoption Agencies

Nashville Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway recently spoke out against proposed adoption legislation in an opinion piece in the Tennessean. The bill would allow adoption agencies to deny placement to LGBT families based on religious grounds. She references one bill in particular — HB0836/SB1304, sponsored by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, and Sen. Paul Rose, R-Shelby, Tipton counties — that has passed the House by a 67-22 vote. Calloway expresses concerns that this legislation could serve as a jumping point for discrimination and could have a ripple effect, affecting children who may not share common religious beliefs with agencies or those who themselves identify as LGBT. She further cites a case in Philadelphia where a federal judge upheld the city's non-discrimination policies for adoption agencies that sought denials for LGBT families and legal challenges for several states that have attempted to instill similar legislation. The Senate bill will be considered by its Judiciary Committee today.

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New Study Features Data on Foster Child Placement

The Annie E. Casey Foundation — a private philanthropy that assists children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes — recently published an assessment on trends in U.S. foster care placement. The study highlights disparities among placements for African American and older children, placement data among different institutions and offers insight on how states can improve services. The examination also shows Tennessee as one in only three states or territories that saw a decline in placement, with numbers down two percent between 2007 and 2017, as compared to an average five percent increase nationally. You can view the complete article here.

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Tennessee House Advances Religious Exemption Bill Regarding Adoptions

The Tennessee House on Monday advanced legislation that that would allow adoption agency denial of service to same-sex couples based on religious objections by a 67–22 vote, with three abstentions. HB0836/SB1304 amends TCA Title 36, Chapter 1, Part 1 to prohibit the requirement that those agencies “perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions.” The companion Senate bill was reset for hearing yesterday by the Senate Judiciary Committee to its final calendar date.

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Knox News Story Draws Attention to Unlicensed Caregivers

A website that parents can use to find caregivers for their children has instituted a formal vetting process following stories of three children who died under supervision in unlicensed daycares, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The website, Care.com, became the center of an investigation by the paper when it discovered that unlicensed providers were using the site to solicit business. Knox News compiled a list of 52 caregivers from the site. DHS verified that only 22 had valid licenses. Going forward, Care.com says it will screen its clients using criminal databases and the national sex offender registry.

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House Passes Bill Making Aggravated Rape of Child Punishable by Life Imprisonment

Legislation that seeks to increase the punishment for a conviction of aggravated rape of a child, amending TCA Title 39, Chapter 13 and Title 40, Chapter 35, easily passed in the Tennessee House with only one vote in opposition. HB0283/SB0290 would increase the penalty for such a crime from 15 to 60 years in prison to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The legislation was recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

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