Juvenile

Juvenile & Children's Law Forum

Join us for the Juvenile and Children's Law Winter Forum on Dec. 2 at the Tennessee Bar Center. The forum will feature Doug Dimond with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services and Steven Christopher with the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. 

Click HERE to register.

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Family Questions Punishment of Autistic Hamilton County Kindergartener

A Tennessee family says their autistic son is being unfairly punished after kissing another classmate on the cheek, the Washington Post reports. The 5-year-old Hamilton County kindergartener was diagnosed with autism several years ago and suffers from phonological disorder, which his mother says prevents him from understanding boundaries and personal space. After meeting with school officials regarding the child’s IEP, the mother was told that the child often hugged children and looked under a teacher’s dress in addition to the kissing incident.  The mother also alleges in a Newsweek article that school officials said the behavior amounted to "sexual activity” and that his permanent record would label him a sex offender. Hamilton County Schools said the district is bound by privacy laws that do not allow it to publicly discuss what happened in the classroom, but it denies allegations of wrongdoing and disagrees with how the family has framed the issue.

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TDOE Releases 2019 TNReady Results

A recent assessment by the Tennessee Department of Education shows considerable improvements statewide regarding students’ TNReady scores, particularly in math and language arts subjects. The study, broken down regionally, also indicates that 56 percent of the state’s schools improved their overall growth scores that measure a student’s comparative performance to his or her peers based on similar past assessments. You can review the report in its entirety using this link

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Tennessee Lawmaker Moves to Repeal School Voucher Program

Tennessee Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, last week filed a bill that intends to repeal Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher legislation that would provide state funds to qualifying students, allowing them to apply the money to private school tuition, WZTV Nashville reports. The bill, HB1550, seeks to amend TCA Title 49, Chapter 6 to completely delete the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program, codified on May 24. The law has been mired in controversy since its introduction, with the ACLU calling it "unfair and discriminatory” and the FBI investigating whether incentives were given to lawmakers in exchange for their support.

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Senators Place YouTube on Notice Regarding Feature Abused by Pedophiles

Following an article in the New York Times last week, several U.S. senators are calling for YouTube to address concerns over pedophiles using the platform to exploit minors. The issue stems from the company’s recommendation system that steers users to content based on videos previously viewed, and how the algorithm can drive them to similar content watched by other users to sexualize children. Senators Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, sent a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki addressing these concerns and requesting the company respond to six specific questions regarding how the it intends to combat illicit use. U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, has taken it a step further, announcing his plans to advance legislation dubbed the Protecting Children from Online Predators Act, which seeks to ban video-hosting websites from recommending videos featuring children entirely. Blackburn and Blumenthal have given YouTube until June 25 to respond to their letter.

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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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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. 

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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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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.

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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." 

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