children

Bill on school bus seat belts clears House panel 9-7

A bill requiring Tennessee school buses to be equipped with seat belts cleared the House Transportation Committee with a 9-7 vote Tuesday amid concerns over costs and other factors. The bill by Rep. JoAnn Favors, D-Chattanooga, (HB395) was prompted by a Nov. 21, 2016, school bus crash that killed six Chattanooga children.

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ACLU wins first round in TN juvenile jailing lawsuit

News release from American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A federal judge today granted a preliminary injunction in an American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee lawsuit challenging the use of solitary confinement for juveniles. The injunction prohibits the county from subjecting children in its detention facility to solitary confinement as punishment while the case proceeds.

The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of a 15-year-old pretrial detainee who was held in solitary confinement for five days at the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility. It is now a class action seeking to end the practice of solitary confinement for all juveniles in the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Facility.

“Being locked in a concrete cell alone for 23 hours a day with nothing but a mattress and a toilet can create lasting damage for a young person’s psychological, social and physical development,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Mark J. Downton of Downton Clark, PLLC. “We are pleased that the court has recognized that subjecting young people to solitary confinement for disciplinary purposes is inhumane.”

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Comptroller finds more missing money in DHS nutrition programs

News release from state comptroller’s office

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson has released investigations detailing serious issues within two organizations working under the Tennessee Department of Human Services’ Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program respectively.

The Comptroller’s Office worked in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General in its investigation of All About Giving, Inc. All About Giving, a nonprofit organization formerly located in Nashville and Knoxville, assisted daycare homes by submitting meal reimbursement requests to DHS for meals provided to children.

Investigators questioned several large cash withdrawals and expenditures made by All About Giving. Questionable expenditures included money spent on Xbox, Google Live, Big Fish Games, Shoe Carnival, Perfume Paradise, and in-state and out-of-state hotel charges. Investigators analyzed $230,569.33 of expenditures and found documentation to support only $19.60 for postage stamp purchases.

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Bill repeals TN law saying artifcial insemination babies are legitimate

Two Tennessee lawmakers want to do away with a 40-year-old state law granting legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination and critics say the bill is aimed at gay couples and their children, reports the Associated Press. A sponsor says that’s not the case.

The bill (HB1406, sponsored by Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald) would remove a single sentence applying to child custody when artificial insemination is involved, one that’s been interpreted to make no distinction between same-sex and heterosexual couples.

But opponents warn that changing the law could prevent both same-sex parents from appearing on the children’s birth certificates, affecting their ability to make parenting decisions ranging from medical care to education.

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DCS turning over Mountain View juvenile penal center to private operator

The state Department of Children’s Services is moving to convert part of the Mountain View Youth penal center into a privately run treatment center, reports WBIR-TV.

Rob Johnson, DCS spokesman, stressed Thursday the Dandridge center itself will remain open. But the state argues that in its traditional role as a “secure” center for hardened juvenile offenders Mountain View is now underused. DCS announced the development Thursday afternoon.

The idea is to install a 60-bed “Level Three” center that would offer youth in custody more chances to learn job skills and get treatment. It would be “staff secure,” but would allow juveniles in custody more freedom to move around – without the perimeter razor wire that’s now in place.

Mountain View can accommodate 144 people; there are 39 there now, according to DCS.

“We have a really big need for these Level 3 beds,” Johnson said.

Mountain View is one of three such centers in Tennessee with elevated security designed to house serious offenders. In recent years, it’s been the site of escape attempts and assaults on staff members.

The trend is to de-emphasize the traditional state correction center and emphasize , when possible, more treatment-based options for juvenile offenders, according to Johnson.

Mountain View would keep a “hardware secure” area with up to 24 beds, the razor wire fence and steel doors. It would also be run by the private operator, which would lease Mountain View from the state.

…Johnson said DCS already contracts with almost 30 firms that provide services so it wouldn’t necessarily have to seek formal proposals in a bidding system for Mountain View.

Making the change, according to DCS, would free up $3 million for “prevention services” that would go to help reach young people to ensure they don’t end up in the juvenile justice system.

Note: The DCS press release is below.

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Emma and William top TN baby names in 2016

News release from state Department of Health

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Emma and William are the most popular names chosen by new Tennessee parents for their babies born in 2016. Names chosen for babies are recorded and tallied by the dedicated team in the Tennessee Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records, which registers some 240,000 new records of births, deaths, marriages and divorces every year.

William has remained the top name chosen for baby boys born in Tennessee for a decade, coming in as the most popular choice for ten straight years. Emma has been the most popular name for Tennessee baby girls since 2011. There are ties for the top choices in three slots on the list of boys’ names this year.

The top 10 names Tennessee parents chose for their new babies born in 2016* are as follows:

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Supremes OK forms to simplify uncontested divorces for couples with children

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted a set of plain-language forms and instructions for use in uncontested divorces between parties with minor children in an effort to simplify divorce proceedings for parties that fall into that category.  The forms will become effective January 1, 2017.

The forms are approved by the Court as universally acceptable and legally sufficient for use in all Tennessee courts pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 52. The forms and instructions were submitted to the Court by the Access to Justice Commission.

The forms arose from the Commission’s responsibility under Supreme Court Rule 50 to develop initiatives and systemic changes to reduce barriers to access to justice and to meet the legal needs of persons whose legal needs may not be met by legal aid programs. Currently there are restrictions on the types of family law cases which may be handled by federally funded legal aid providers.

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Eric Trump ends fundraising for foundation that benefits St. Jude Children’s Hospital

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s sons will stop raising money for his foundation, which gives money to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis because donations could be perceived as buying access to his father, reports the Associated Press.

Eric Trump said Wednesday that it pained him to cease soliciting donations for his organization, which he says has raised more than $15 million for children terminally ill with cancer…. (T)he younger of the president-elect’s two adult sons, has raised enough money over the last decade to fund a new intensive care unit at St. Jude, which provides free medical care for children.

Eric Trump said he will likely wind down the Eric Trump Foundation — which had just one employee — but plans to continue public advocacy against childhood cancer. About $5 million of a $20 million, 10-year commitment to St. Jude remains outstanding, money that likely will be raised by donations from patrons at Trump-owned hotels and golf courses.

… The Kay Research Care Center’s 328,000 square feet at St. Jude includes the Eric Trump Foundation Surgery and ICU Center. The Eric Trump Foundation’s total commitment to St. Jude was to $28 million since 2006, including the $5 million outstanding.

… “Fighting childhood cancer is a cause that has been central to my life since I was 21 years old,” Eric Trump told The Associated Press. “It’s an extremely sad day when doing the right thing isn’t the right thing. That said, raising awareness for the cause will be a lifelong mission for me.”

… Eric Trump’s foundation scuttled a plan to raise money for the children’s hospital through an online auction for coffee with his sister Ivanka Trump, who is considering joining the White House in some capacity. (Note: Previous post HERE.) And Eric and Donald Trump Jr. backed away from an inauguration event that aimed to raise money for conservation charities.

They were named as directors along with two of their friends in a new Texas-based nonprofit that had considered offering $1 million donors the chance to rub elbows with the new president at a “Camouflage & Cufflinks” ball in Washington the day after Trump’s swearing-in. The nonprofit also proposed allowing some donors to join one or both of the sons on a hunting or fishing trip.

UPDATE/Note: Trump apparently wasn’t happy with the move. His tweet, as reported by CNN:

“My wonderful son, Eric, will no longer be allowed to raise money for children with cancer because of a possible conflict of interest with … my presidency,” Trump tweeted. “Isn’t this a ridiculous shame? He loves these kids, has raised millions of dollars for them, and now must stop. Wrong answer!”

Trump family fundraising for St. Jude’s ($60K for coffee with Ivanka) questioned

Ozan M. Ozkural, a London-based investment manager with substantial investments in Turkey, had an apparent winning bid of nearly $60,000 for a cup of coffee with Ivanka Trump as part of fundraising for a charity that supports St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, reports the New York Times. But now he may not actually get the cup of coffee with the president-elect’s daughter.

Eric Trump  told The New York Times on Thursday that he was considering shutting down the bidding — 10 days after it started — about an hour after The Times raised questions about the auction.

The charitable fund-raising by Mr. Trump’s children is problematic, ethics lawyers said, because of the unusual role they are playing in the transition process, with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, attending meetings the president-elect had with executives from major technology companies and with the prime minister of Japan, and Mr. Trump’s oldest son, Donald Jr., helping to select the nominee for interior secretary.

… Eric Trump — who is expected to remain at the Trump Organization — said that he was trying to navigate the “new world” he is in since his father’s win.

“We’ve done this every year,” he said, referring to his foundation, which typically raises about $5 million annually, has a single paid staff member and gives almost all its revenues to St. Jude’s. “We utilized Charitybuzz to raise significant funds. Every single year we’ve auctioned off a lunch with one of ourselves. It’s nothing more than an effort to raise a lot of money in an effort to help sick children.”

In a statement, Ms. Trump said it was an “honor” to raise “additional money to benefit terminally ill children through the donation of my personal time.”

… Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit organization that promotes limiting the influence of special interests, said the role of Ms. Trump and her brother in the fund-raising effort seemed “highly inappropriate” because they were offering access in exchange for money.

Federal employees have strict restrictions on charitable solicitations, but the provision does not apply to the president.

“This is just wrong,” Mr. Wertheimer said of the auction to have coffee with Ms. Trump. “The president’s family should not be out raising money for whatever cause, in exchange for a potential influence buyer who wants to get his views to the president.”

Note: Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed providing $12 million toward St. Jude’s latest expansion plans (previous post HERE) while the City of Memphis plans to add another $25 million. See also somewhat related past post HERE.

Gardenhire seeks change in law on reporting child abuse

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, says legislators will be looking to change state law on child abuse reporting following dismissal of charges against the former basketball coach at Ooltewah High School, reports the Times-Free Press.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole dismissed four charges of failure to report child sexual abuse against Andre “Tank” Montgomery on Friday, saying that under current state law, the coach was not required to report the pool-cue rape of a freshman student to authorities.

Poole reminded people in the courtroom he must make decisions based on the law. In this case, he interpreted state law to mean that adults have a legal obligation to report sexual abuse of a child aged 13 to 17 only if it is committed by a member of the child’s household.

“Now, that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be a moral requirement to report,” Poole said.

He suggested it may be time for state lawmakers to clarify the intention and wording of the statute.

…(Gardenhire) said they have waited to get involved because of the pending criminal case. Now the legal case is over, local lawmakers plan to sit down with judges, attorneys and school officials to talk about to improve the statute.

“We want to come up with the best way to amend and strengthen [the current statute] to protect children,” he said. “And obviously hold anybody in the future accountable for not doing the right thing.”

…Although the charges were dropped, Montgomery and the Hamilton County Board of Education still face two federal lawsuits filed in connection with the rape.

Montgomery’s attorney, Curtis Bowe, said it has been a long year of emotion and stress for Montgomery and his family.…Montgomery commended Poole’s interpretation of the law, and said the youths responsible for the rape have been held accountable. “Mr. Montgomery is not responsible,” Bowe said.