Supreme Court Rejects Mandatory Life Sentences for Juvenile Murderers

On Monday, June 25, 2012, a divided Supreme Court ruling said that states may not impose on juvenile murderers mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole.

The 5-4 ruling said such mandatory sentences offend the constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and follow a trend at the court of treating even the worst juvenile offenders differently from adults.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, said the decision was consistent with the court’s past findings that children lack maturity and have an underdeveloped sense of responsibility; that they are more vulnerable to outside pressure and that their character is less formed and more open to rehabilitation.

“Our decisions rested not only on common sense — on what ‘any parent knows’ — but on science and social science as well,” Kagan wrote, adding “the mandatory penalty schemes at issue here prevent the sentencer from taking account of these central considerations.”

The decision said judges may still sentence juveniles convicted of murder to a life sentence without possibility of parole, but must take into consideration mitigating circumstances.

The opinion was joined by Kagan’s fellow liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, as well as by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who most often sides with conservatives but has authored the court’s previous opinions about juvenile offenders.

It drew sharp rebukes from the court’s conservatives, including Justice Samuel Alito, who said from the bench that the ruling represented an “elite vision” from the court that it knows better than the states, 29 of whom authorize mandatory sentences for juvenile murders.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in a dissent joined by Alito and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, elaborated.

“Determining the appropriate sentence for a teenager convicted of murder presents grave and challenging questions of morality and social policy,” Roberts wrote. “Our role, however, is to apply the law, not to answer such questions.”

He said mandatory life sentences “could not plausibly be described” as unusual when a majority of states endorse them.

In 2005, the court banned the death penalty for juveniles who kill, saying “the punishment of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is itself a severe sanction, in particular for a young person.”

In 2010, the court continued the trend by saying juveniles whose crimes did not include murder could not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole at some point.

Kennedy wrote both opinions for the divided court.

The cases at the court were brought by lawyers for the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., which had asked the court to ban life sentences for juveniles 15 and younger when they committed their crimes.

The cases before the justices came from two 14-year-olds who were sentenced to life without parole for their roles in separate killings.

Evan Miller, a victim of abuse so severe that, his lawyer said, he had tried to kill himself five times, was convicted along with another juvenile of killing a neighbor, 52-year-old Cole Cannon, and setting afire Cannon’s trailer in Lawrence County, Ala.

Kuntrell Jackson of Blytheville, Ark., was with two other youths who attempted to rob a video store. One of the others used a sawed-off shotgun to kill 28-year-old clerk Laurie Troup.

Elementary School Principal Arrested on Drug Charges

Osceola County, FL

Osceola County deputies say an elementary school principal was arrested on drug distribution and delivery charges on Friday.

43-year-old David Groover was booked in to the Osceola County jail Friday and has since bonded out.

Groover was charged with delivering methamphetamine, distributing narcotics, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.

Officials say the investigation began when deputies received a complaint of possible drug-related activity at Groover’s home.

During the investigation, Groover provided an undercover deputy with meth and GHB, according to detectives.

Deputies say a search warrant was executed at Groover’s home and several drugs and drug paraphernalia were located.

Groover is the principal of Partin Settlement Elementary School in Kissimmee. School officials have not said if any action will be taken against Groover.

 

It seems that we need an “overhaul” of educational staff. Who’s taking notes?

I don’t know what’s going on in Osceola County, but they’ve been having a lot educators breaking laws. This guy is an elementary school principal. He’s has not been fired by the school district. Why? What’s the problem?

Background Checks Are Now Mandatory for All AAU Personnel

Osceola County, FL: The Amateur Athletic Union will begin what its national president said Tuesday he hopes will foster a “culture of safety” with the implementation of several reforms, including mandatory background screening for all staff, coaches and volunteers.

The new screening is set to begin Sept. 1 and coincides with the youth organization’s new membership cycle. No one will be exempt from screening and any questionable information they turn up could permanently disqualify people from participation in AAU programs. AAU’s Board of Directors will have final say on all membership decisions.

Everyone involved in AAU programs will also be required to report any known or suspected child abuse to law enforcement.

“The new recommendations are not because we suspect anyone, but rather because we expect everyone to do their part to create a strong, new culture of safety,” Stout said.

The moves follow a six-month review by two AAU-commissioned task forces that focused on youth protection and adult volunteering screening. They produced a joint 30-page report with 42 recommendations for changes to AAU’s policies, protocols and procedures.

AAU commissioned the review last December in the wake of decades-old sex abuse allegations against former president Bobby Dodd. The organization had never faced any abuse allegations prior to those against the 63-year-old, who had it severed all ties with, and he to date has never been charged with a crime.

AAU had previously done some random screenings of officials, but they were not mandatory

The oldest organization dedicated to youth athletes in the country, the 124-year-old AAU oversees about 30 sports programs for all ages nationwide, including major sports like football, basketball and baseball to bocce ball, baton twirling and competitive jump rope. More than 500,000 athletes and 50,000 volunteers participate in its programs.

The new screening will be done through a contract with LexisNexis Risk Solutions and will take between a few to several days per person depending on the applicant.

The company has a special program for nonprofits, which will help to defray a lot of the costs. The company has done more than 5.5 million screenings for different nonprofit organizations over the past 15 years including the Boys &Girls Club, Little League Baseball and Boy Scouts.

“They are coming to the right place,” said Beverly McIntosh, who heads LexisNexis’ volunteer screening division. “This is what we do.”

But some of the costs will be passed to AAU members, with membership rates increasing by $2 in each of its categories. That means that youth athlete fees will increase from $12 to $14 and from $14 to $16 when new member registration begins.

In addition to the background checks, policies will be in place to prevent adults from being alone in rooms with youths. Also AAU will put together a child protection manual to guide its members, and have a zero-tolerance policy for hazing.

“It probably should have been done a long time ago….There’s a term we use every day — change. That’s what all this is about,” Stout said. “I don’t think about what we didn’t do, I think about what we are going to do. And that is change the perception of this organization hopefully across the rest of its serving youth across this country.”

It’s a perception that probably needs changing after the Dodd allegations.

ESPN reported that two former basketball players had accused Dodd of molesting them as children in Memphis and other locations in the 1980s. But Memphis police suspended their investigation a month later because they could not find any victims, and no one has come forward to file a formal criminal complaint.

Dodd’s attorney, Steve Farese, said in January that his client is innocent. Farese said he was not surprised that police did not go forward with a criminal investigation.

 

Kids–No more fun with adults….Single Parents–No more help from Coaching Staff

Long gone are the days of asking the coaching staff to pick your child up and take them to practice when you have to work late. Long gone are the days of asking the coaching staff to bring your child home from practice because you have to work late.

Our laws have to get tougher for those grown ups who can’t keep there hands off of our children. And–and we need to instill in our children that lying is not good. We have to lead our children by example. When anyone lies–nobody wins.

A Teacher’s Aide for the Polk County School District Suspected of Sex With Male Students

A Lakeland teacher’s aide accused of having sex with students has turned himself in, thePolk County Sheriff’s Officesaid today.

Curtis Leonard Jiles, 30, wanted on charges including sexual battery by a person in custodial authority, sexual activity with minors and procuring a person younger than 18 for prostitution, reported to the Polk County Jail book-in facility about midnight.

 

 

Where are our children safe? (Somebody please answer this question for me)

Mother and Son Burglarized Middle School

June 5, 2012

Taylor County, FL

A mother and son duo are accused of breaking into a local middle school and stealing thousands of dollars in money and equipment.

The principal of Taylor County Middle School showed us the damage police say the mother and son caused. The two are accused of not just stealing, but leaving the place in a complete mess.

People in Taylor County are asking themselves what the duo could have been thinking. Perry Police say Jacob Gaskins, 22, and his mother, Paula Gaskins, 46, broke into Taylor County Middle School on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend.

Officials say the two stole an estimated seven thousand dollars worth of items.

The principal of Taylor Middle say the duo climbed through a window in the teacher’s lounge. Officials say they tore up the vending machines and stole money.

They are, also, accused of going in the main office, where two Mac computers and radios were stolen as well.

Police were able to recover the equipment, but not the money.

School officials say Jacob was easily recognized on the surveillance video. He was arrested later that same day.

Then officials took a closer look at the video and noticed Paula. She was arrested last Tuesday.

 

It’s mothers like her that make people in authority question the really great mothers ethics

 

I believe that part of the reason why teachers and law enforcement officers fail to contact mothers before their child is in the middle of a crisis–is because they fear the mother may cover up for their child. Although the two people mentioned above are not the first to commit crimes together, it’s incidents like that that will stick in everyone’s mind. Leaving mother and son to nearly always be presumed guilty. 

 

Mother Faces Child Abuse Charges for Choking Teen Boy Who Bullied Her Daughter on Facebook

St. Petersburg, FL

Debbie Piscitella, a mother whose daughter was bullied on Facebook, had an untimely encounter with the boy who’d been bullying her daugter in a mall. It’s been reported that she and her daughter were out shopping at a local mall when the mother spotted the teenage boy. On the Dr. Drew show, the mother admitted that she had not planned on putting her hands on the teenager when she first approached him. She said that she really just wanted to tell him to stop bullying her daughter. She went on to say that in an instant, she had grabbed the boy by his throat. Witnesses said that she’d only choked the boy for a few seconds, but either way she’d left marks on his neck. And yes, the boys mother pressed charges.

Now the girl’s mother, who was a nursing student, may not be able to pursue her career as a nurse. Surely, this may affect her family financially. Jim Pisceitella, the girl’s father, told reporters that his wife made a “stupid mistake”.

On the other hand, a local radio station gave it air-time to the bully and allowed him to further add insult to the girl’s mental injury, as the boy spoke about how the girl has a reputation for sleeping around.

 

Where Are the Adults in this Mess?

The girl’s mother should’ve never approached the boy. I’m sure that her training as a nurse, taught her how to restrain herself. I know that a mother’s love for her child is huge! But as a mother, it’s our responsibility to be an example for our children. It’s our responsibility to show our children the proper way to deal with bullying is to simply ignore it. As tough as it may be to ignore an ignorant person–God will deal with it. And when you’re on God’s side–you will not lose. The Lord will not allow His sheep to be preyed upon. And that’s what we need to be teaching our children–God’s wrath is real. God said, “Vengeance is mine.”       

More Parents Look into Homeschooling Their Children

Osceola, FL– With all of the controversy surrounding the FCAT test, more than 18,000 attendees were on hand at the 25th Annual Florida Parent Educators Association Expo www.fpea.com at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Florida . At the expo parents attended workshops and purchased homeschool materials.

It has been reported that parents are realizing that teachers are focusing too much time with preparing students for the FCAT test and not enough time on the students entire learning needs. Since homeschoolers are not required to take the FCAT test, this alternative education may eliminate some of the pressures on the parents and students.

My Homeschool Experience

I Homeschooled my kids on and off throughout their school years. When they weren’t working on a Homeschool curriculum, they were mostly in private schools. I allowed my nephew to attend a public school because I was told that the school would meet his special needs. When my older son reached his high school years he went from Homeschool to a Catholic high school. My youngest son, was Homeschooled up until he got caught up in the Juvenile Justice System. However, the detention facility where he was placed for months failed, to meet his required educational subjects. Upon his release, we opted for him to get his General Education Diploma (he passed with flying colors on the 1st sitting), he was 16-years-old. Both of my sons enrolled in college. My oldest son graduated from Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University. My youngest son was in his 2nd semester at Tallahassee Community College when he was arrested.

I would’ve loved to Homeschool my kids through all of their school years. However, being a single parent and working full-time, was a lot. Although there are programs out there that require little supervision (based on your child’s age), you still have to participate (make sure child is completing assignments, administer quizes and tests). The good thing about the homeschooling program my kids were enrolled in–was the DVDs kind of gave them a classroom experience. If asked–my kids would probably say that they didn’t like being Homeschooled. A lot of that would be due to the lack of socializing.   

I used Abeka Academy’s Homeschool Curriculum www.abekaacademy.com

If We Work Together–We’ll Succeed Together–All Things Are Possible

Soulsville Charter School located in Memphis, Tennessee, was featured on Morning Joe, a daily talk show that comes on MSNBC. Althought this charter school is located in another state, it is a model for school for each and every community where there is a disconnect between schools and their communities. Listening to Digger Phelps interview NeShante Brown– the school’s Executive Director, was very moving. NeShante Brown was very passionate about her school, students and the belief that given the right atmosphere and tools–all kids can go to college and succeed in life. I recommend every parent to take the time out to review Soulsville’s website. Just maybe you can encourage a school that your child or a child that you care for who is struggling to adopt their structure.

www.soulsvillecharterschool.org

My Personal Experience

My three sons–I have two biological boys and my nephew–  I refer to them as my three sons. There is a five year age difference between my biological sons; and a one year age difference between my youngest son and my nephew. My two boys are very independent. Always eager to learn (sometimes too eager). My nephew, who is a slow learner, was more dependent. When it came to their education I started them out attending public school. My oldest son fitted right in. The teachers and students loved him. My middle son, was more of a challenge because he was an entertainer (his schoolwork didn’t suffer at all). My nephew, was placed in a regular Kindergarten class despite already having been diagnosed as Educably Mentally Handicapped (a handicap that both his biological mother and sister were under). All throughout the school year, my youngest son’s (nephew) teacher was questioned about when he’d be tested by the school’s Exceptional Education Team, the answer was said to be that there were we a lot of kids in the district that needed to be tested and that he was on the list. In the meantime, the teacher continued to send regular schoolwork home for him to complete. At the end of the school year the teacher wanted him to repeat the Kindergarten because the ESE team never were able to test him during the school year (NOT!) I really worked diligently to established reasonable relationships with all of the boys public school teachers, but it seemed like they wanted structured robotic kids. Something that does not exist in any civilian community. With my oldest son being the “popular kid” in school, he was bringing home other kids problems–allowing other kids problems to become his problem. My middle son wasn’t entertaining other kids, he was challenging the teacher’s competence. My youngest son (my nephew) when he was finally placed in an ESE classroom, he wasn’t being challenged enough. While all of the teachers loved him, he was a great classroom helper, even helping the more severely handicapped kids. I ended up removing all of the boys from public schools and then I  homeschooled them–on and off. I’d mostly homeschool them during the second semester of the school year that way we could go right through the summer. I will say that I would’ve rather homeschooled them their entire education, but as a working single parent–it was often exhausting. They were doing their work–I just couldn’t keep up. And then when school started back up in the fall, they’d be a head of the kids in their class. I was persuaded by a nurse (friend) that it would be more beneficial for my youngest son (my nephew) to stay in public school because of his disability. Because he needed speech therapy. During elementary school, he received very little speech therapy. After that, no more. I was angry. When asked why they were stopping his speech therapy–I was told that he didn’t need it. I eventually just told him to try to mimick what was being said on T.V. (afterall, that’s how Hispanics say they learned to speak English). It helped. When my oldest son reached his high school, I allowed him to go to a private Catholic high school by way of an independent school. He graduated from Florida State University. My middle son, who inspired me to create this blog, made a few bad choices (in friends and of his own), however, he was able to pass the General Education Test with flying colors on his first attempt when he was 16-years-old. He got a part-time job and was enrolled at Tallahassee Community College at the time of his arrest. All of my boys inherited a loving and caring spirit. That’s why I can guarantee you that my son DID NOT commit any murders. Every person that all of my sons have encountered they have helped in one form or another. If one lesson that my son is learning while awaiting his trial–is that everybody who says that they are your friend is not your friend. When you’ve inherited a loving and caring spirit–that’s a harsh reality.

Teacher Powernaps During School Day

In Seminole County, FL, a high school teacher chose to go to his truck and take a powernap during lunch time. However, he failed to return to his classroom. After lunch, another teacher noticed that students were in the classroom, but their teacher was not. School officials found him in his truck, fast asleep. He’d overslept. It’s been reported that school officials are expected to ask school board members to suspend the teacher, whose been teaching in the district for over a decade without any other incidents, for one day without pay.

 

Where is the team support here?

School officials have each others backs when teachers sleep in their classrooms (when they fail to teach students) but they don’t have each others backs when they are found physically sleeping in the parking lot–away from their classroom.