Juvenile

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.

read more »

Tennessee Lawmakers Increase Annual Funding for Voluntary Home Visit Program

The General Assembly on Tuesday added an additional $1 million in annual funding for voluntary home visiting programs, the Lebanon Democrat reports. The program provides trained volunteers to assist parents with young children and offer them guidance to promote early childhood development. Proponents of the program include Save the Children Action Network, Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, Children’s Hospital Alliance of Tennessee, Tennesseans for Quality Early Childhood Education and the Nurse-Family Partnership, among others. 

read more »

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."

read more »

General Assembly Passes Bill for Stiffer Penalties When Children are Harmed in Drive-By Shootings

The General Assembly this week passed a law that will provide stiffer penalties when children are harmed in drive-by shootings, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The JuJuan Latham Act — HB0002, SB0010 — is named for a 12-year-old Knoxville boy who was killed in the crossfire of a gang-related attack while attending a birthday party in 2016. The shooting also claimed the life of an unborn child when the mother fell trying to escape the situation. To date, no one has been charged for either crime.

read more »

Gov. Lee Holding Considerably Less Press Conferences as Signature Legislation is Debated

Gov. Bill Lee has become less available to reporters and has denied public record requests regarding his schedule, saying that those documents are exempt under the "deliberative process privilege," The Tennessean reports. The Associated Press reviewed Lee’s press schedules and noted that in February only one in 27 of Lee’s press appearances were designated as photo only; however, in April over half of his appearances received that designation. This comes at a time when debate surrounding his controversial school voucher plan comes to a head in the General Assembly. Lee's press secretary Laine Arnold said: "The governor has been focused on passing his legislative agenda and budget” and that it is “really more of a question of timing." 

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

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.

read more »

DCS to Reevaluate Policies After Shooting

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is reviewing its current policies regarding weekend home passes after a 16-year-old violent offender on furlough shot a man at a Nashville gas station, The Tennessean reports. David Earl Mays was charged with shooting the victim in the torso during an attempted carjacking as the man was getting gas. Mays — who was ordered into DCS custody for handgun possession, aggravated robbery and theft of $2,500 or more — had been cited for several infractions during his incarceration of just over six months, with the department noting he “continued to exhibit violent behavior” and transferring him to a more rigid facility  "due to disruptive behavior and involvement in several serious incidents.” Mays will be charged as an adult in the case of the shooting.

read more »

TDHS Announces Increase for Child Care Assistance

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) on Monday announced that it will raise the weekly reimbursement rates for providers in its Child Care Certificate Program for the first time in over a decade.  The program – Smart Steps — aids parents who are working or pursuing secondary education who meet certain eligibility requirements, and teen parents enrolled in high school. Regarding the increase, TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes said: “Quality child care is essential to the development of children … These rate increases are a specific investment in Tennessee’s community of child care providers and will promote access to early childhood environments that are safe, healthy and educationally rich.” The new rates will see a 35 percent increase for infant and toddler care and a 20 percent increase for pre-school and school-age care.

read more »