children

Haslam unveils legislation on juvenile justice reform, UT board downsizing

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced his legislative agenda for the 2018 session, continuing his focus on leading the nation in jobs, education, and efficient and effective government.

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TN Supremes give Dad custody of kids after Mom’s move to Moonlight Bunny Ranch

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – In a case involving the custody of two minor children, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that Father had established that a material change of circumstances had occurred and that it was in the children’s best interests for Father to be designated as the primary residential parent.  The Court also reviewed the Court of Appeals’ immediate issuance of the mandate and its order for custody to be transferred from Father to Mother within twenty days.

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Fed funding of health insurance for 74,000 TN children threatened; TN Democrats see ‘political games’

Absent action soon by Congress, funding for a federal program that provides health insurance coverage to 74,000 Tennessee children and pregnant mothers could soon run dry, reports the Times Free Press. State officials, including Gov. Bill Haslam, are worried about the possibility.

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Conflict seen in TN laws to prevent child sexual abuse and to restrict sex education

Organizations pushing Tennessee schools to expand their child sexual abuse prevention efforts say they face resistance from educators worried about violating a state law putting restrictions on sex education classes, reports The Tennessean.

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Mayor’s daughter and her husband face murder charges in toddler son’s death

The parents of a 2-year-old boy who died after being left in a vehicle overnight at the Gatlinburg home of a Middle Tennessee mayor were arraigned Monday on felony murder charges, reports the News Sentinel.

Jade Elizabeth Phillips, 24, and her husband, Anthony Dyllan Phillips, 26… are accused of causing the death of their son, Kipp, by leaving the toddler inside a car overnight and into the afternoon of July 14 while temperatures soared into the 90s. The child’s official cause of death has not been made public.

Division lines between husband and wife are already being formed in what could become a defense blame game – typical when two people are charged in the same crime.

Jade Phillips, daughter of Westmoreland Mayor Jerry Kirkman, has posted her $250,000 bond and has hired veteran Knoxville defense attorney Tasha Blakney. She appeared in court Monday dressed in a black dress and gray sweater, her father seated beside her in the courtroom before Ogle took the bench.

Her husband was dressed in a black-and-white striped jail jumpsuit, unable to post bond. There was no one there on his behalf. Amber Haas, a veteran with the 4th Judicial District Public Defender’s Office, was appointed to represent him. Anthony Phillips cast a glance at his wife as she was leaving the courtroom. She did not look in his direction.

TN judge reducing sentences of jail inmates who get vasectomies or anti-pregnancy implants

General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield of Sparta has authorized 30-day sentence reductions for male inmates at the White County Jail who agree to free vasectomies in White County and women who agree to receive free Nexplanon implants, which prevent pregnancies for up to four years.

WTVF TV in Nashville, which first reported on the judge’s order, signed in May, says 32 women and 38 men have since signed up for the procedures and the accompanying sentence reduction.

“I understand it won’t be entirely successful but if you reach two or three people, maybe that’s two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs. I see it as a win, win,” (Benningfield) added.

Inmates in the White County jail were also given two days credit toward their jail sentence if they complete a State of Tennessee, Department of Health Neonatal Syndrome Education Program. The class aimed to educate those who are incarcerated about the dangers of having children while under the influence of drugs.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee, says the “coerced contraception” program is unconstitutional.

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Fed court oversight of DCS ends after 16 years

News release from the governor’s communications office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich today announced that after more than 16 years of system-wide reform and a massive turnaround, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is now free of federal court oversight.

U.S. District Court Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw has approved the historic agreement between the state and Children’s Rights, the New York-based advocacy group that in 2000 filed litigation known as the Brian A. lawsuit that charged that Tennessee youth in foster care suffered in an overburdened system, describing children in crowded congregate care shelters and social workers with overwhelming caseloads.

Tennessee now has a thoroughly reformed foster care system. The reform comes after years of collaboration with Children’s Rights and the Technical Assistance Committee, a panel of nationally recognized child welfare experts that served as the federal court monitor for the Brian A. consent decree.

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Report on high lead levels in school drinking water may boost ‘flushing’ bill in legislature

Reports of unsafe levels of lead in the drinking water at some Nashville schools may improve chances for passage of legislation that died in a House subcommittee earlier this year, reports WTVF-TV.

The TV station recently found data from a survey of Nashville school water, not previously made public, that showed 81 of 2,800 samples had lead levels higher than the 15 parts per billion, the “action level” established by the Environmental Protection Agency. The American Academy of Pediatrics says a child’s drinking water should have no more than one part per billion and about third of the samples were in excess of that level. At one high school, the level was 1,190 parts per billion.

Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, sponsored a bill this year (HB385) that would require daily “flushing” of water systems in school building built before 1986.

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TN ranked 35th in well-being of children, overall state economy

Tennessee ranks 35th among states both in caring for children and in its overall state economy, according to separate studies making the media reporting circuit today. The timing of the releases of the reports is surely coincidental; but just maybe there’s some linkage between the state economy and child well-being?

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New ‘blue ribbon task force’ on juvenile justice system set up by speakers (Haslam gets a seat)

News release from House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office

NASHVILLE – Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) this week announced the formation of the Joint Ad Hoc Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice. The task force will be co-chaired by Speaker Harwell and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).

The task force will study, evaluate, analyze, and undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s juvenile justice system, using a data-driven approach. The members are charged with developing evidence-based policy recommendations that will lead to potential legislative action that will protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and contain costs while improving outcomes for youth and families in Tennessee.  Continue reading