Kids and the law. What do you think of when you hear those words together? Maybe you think about skipping school or getting caught at a party with some beer or maybe it is more sinister- maybe you think of gangs, Juvenile Hall or kids “in the system.”
The intersection of children and our legal system is much bigger than that and, with the advent of new technology and the increasing use of social media, the implications (both legally and practically speaking) of what our children are doing are affecting them for longer and longer periods of time and in ways they may not (and probably do not) currently appreciate. In this issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer, we examine this intersection in many of its facets- both negative and positive. Yes, there can be a positive! As you will see, our legal system is working to improve the odds for the children that are caught up in it.
Two members of our law enforcement community, Dan Cabral, Supervising Attorney of the District Attorney’s Office’s Juvenile Prosecution Division, and Lieutenant Christopher Sherry address some of the more traditional intersections of kids and the law. Dan Cabral discusses “Truancy and the Juvenile Justice System” while Lieutenant Sherry identifies several programs that the California Highway Patrol has to help our children stay out of trouble – be it drugs, alcohol, driving or the deadly combination thereof.
We also examine ways the Contra Costa Courts are looking to make the intersection of kids and the law a more positive experience – one designed to help kids succeed as well as making their experiences in court (when they must be there) a little more comfortable. Ken Torre looks at “Law and Justice Academies of Contra Costa County” which are designed to instill in children the goal of staying in school and entering into a law related career. These programs show children who are considered “at risk” in some way (academically behind, economically disadvantaged, possibly truant) the value of their education and how staying in school, going to college and entering a law related profession can be a path to a bright future. Jennifer Rosenberg and James Benney write about the Juvenile Hall Bedtime Reading Program in “For Reading’s Sake!” This program has been providing comfort to young inmates at Juvenile Hall in Martinez for more than 20 years. Thanks to Dana Santos, our April issue also includes an interview with Judge Lois Haight, the Supervising Judge of the Juvenile Department at the Contra Costa County Superior Court. Finally, Mimi Lyster tells us more about the new Children’s Waiting Room, which is now open to the public.
Finally, we look at the intersection of kids, the law and technology. With the new generation putting everything they think onto Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, it begs the question- what are the long term effects of this “sharing” mentality. In an article originally printed in the Marin Lawyer, Charles Dresow examines this question as it relates to The Fourth Amendment, while James Wu examines the effects of “too much sharing” on future employment opportunities.
On a personal note, the movie “Bully!” opened on Friday, March 30. We were not able to see the movie and review it ourselves before this edition had to “go to press” but we have included a link to a New York Times review of the movie. Bullying is one area where kids and the law intersect violently and dramatically. We have seen so many examples recently of the tragic effects that bullying can have- at the elementary, high school and college levels of education. Some children are bullied into committing suicide. Some children- the bullies themselves- may have not understood what they were doing or how traumatic the experiences were for those being bullied. They may now find themselves facing legal actions and jail time. It is a tragic situation for everyone- there are no winners and the legal landscape is evolving on this important issue. By all accounts, “Bully!” is an important movie for all parents to see.
Filed Under: Inside