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Year in Review

December 30, 2014 permalink

Here is a recap of the more important child protection stories of the year.

  • Last year bill 42, providing for ombudsman oversight of children's aid societies, passed second reading in the Ontario legislature [1] [2].

    In March premier Kathleen Wynne announced plans to extend the ombudsman's oversight to cover the MUSH sector, but excluding children's aid societies. Instead, CAS oversight was to fall to the provincial child advocate [3]. In May the premier dissolved the legislature in anticipation of a defeat on the budget, killing bill 42 [4]. The new legislature elected on June 12 had a Liberal majority, ending any possibility of giving the ombudsman CAS oversight [5]. The government proposed bill 8, giving weakened oversight powers to the child advocate, and the legislature enacted it on December 2 [6].

  • Last year the Jewish group Lev Tahor fled from Quebec to keep their 200 children safe in Ontario. [1] [2].

    This year Quebec tried to get the children returned. Courts ruled for return, then were overruled. Some of the children fled to the Caribbean. Six made it safely to Guatemala, but nine others nabbed in Trinidad were returned to Canada. Following many more incidents, the entire group fled Canada. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11].

    The absence of more recent news suggests that Canada has abandoned efforts to keep these children under CAS control.

  • Philomena, the story of the forced adoption of an Irish boy, got an Academy Award nomination for best picture [1].
  • The Jeffrey Baldwin inquest ended with the usual bevy of recommendations for more power for Children's Aid [1], but supplemented with a few others. The Toronto District School Board moved to implement one of the onerous suggestions [2]. Jeffrey Baldwin was in the news one more time when DC Entertainment refused permission to put Jeffrey's hero Superman on his memorial [3]. They relented after a public outcry.
  • Last year Justina Pelletier, a girl suffering from mitochondrial disease, was seized by Massachusetts child protectors when a doctor suggested her problems were mental. [1].

    This year it became a high-profile case. Massachusetts completed the child-snatching by making her a permanent ward, but she was eventually returned after a year in care. Justina, who did figure skating before being seized, came home in a wheel chair [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9].

  • Following years of indifference in which the Canadian press reported mostly puffery about children's aid, the Toronto Star published a series of hard-hitting articles on Motherisk, a program of the Hospital for Sick Children that accused mothers on scientifically unsound evidence. [1] [2] [3]. Then in December, within the same week both the Toronto Star and the National Post began investigative reports about child protection [4].
  • Though it closed four decades ago, the Grandview Training School for Girls was the subject of a freedom of information disclosure. [1].
  • Another freedom of information disclosure revealed the financial chaos preceding the resignation of Mike Stephens as executive director of Chatham-Kent CAS [1].
  • The province of Alberta started the year continuing its policy of hiding the names and circumstances of children dying under provincial care. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6].

    Then in July the province proclaimed a law allowing parents to speak the name of dead foster children. The press instantly published dozens of names. [7].

    But the disclosures have so far been limited to deaths occurring before the new law. Later deaths are concealed, except for a web page When a child receiving services dies that discloses only the age, sex and date of deaths in foster care [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14].

  • In a case that was on trial for 154 days, a judge assessed costs of $1.4 million to CAS as their penalty for pursuing a frivolous case [1].

For another kind of reminiscence, here are ten absurd news items collected by Lenore Skenazy.



Here Are 10 Outrageous 'Zero Tolerance' Follies of 2014

Are your children safe at school? That depends on if you're worried about bullies or administrators. Here are 10 of the most infamous "zero tolerance" punishments handed down to kids—and even some adults—this year.

  1. Student, 13, shares lunch, gets detention

    A 13-year-old boy at Weaverville Elementary School in California shared his school lunch (a chicken burrito) with a hungry friend. For this, he got detention. Superintendent Tom Barnett explained, "Because of safety and liability we cannot allow students to actually exchange meals.”

  2. Sunscreen not allowed on field trip—kids might drink it

    A San Antonio, Texas, school forbid students to bring sunscreen on a field trip. Why? According to spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor, "We can’t allow toxic things to be in our schools.” The children, "could possibly have an allergic reaction (or) they could ingest it. It’s really a dangerous situation.”

  3. Kindergarten cancels its year-end show to allow more time for college prep

    A letter home from the Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, New York, read, in part: "The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers and problem solvers."

  4. Teacher suspended on weapons charge for demonstrating carpentry tools

    A second grade teacher at Chicago's Washington Irving Elementary School was suspended for four days without pay for bringing screwdrivers, wrenches and other shop tools to class, and demonstrating how to use them. These are dangerous items.

  5. School bus driver loses job for keeping kids warm when bus breaks down

    This one's in Canada! On a day when the windchill dipped to -34 Fahrenehit, school bus driver Kendra Lindon's bus broke down. Knowing it could take a long time for a replacement to arrive—and that kids would be waiting outside till it did—she picked up the few children on her route (including her son) in her SUV. A neighbor noticed two kids sitting in the cargo hold without seat belts and called the bus company. She was promptly fired.

  6. 79-year-old substitute teacher fired for having student-friends on Facebook

    Carol Thebarge was a substitute teacher at Stevens High School in Claremont, New Hampshire, for nine years and was friends with about 250 current students on Facebook. She was told to unfriend them or lose her job. She chose to lose her job. Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin told the press, "She’s loved by many, but that doesn’t give you allowance to ignore a protocol designed to protect all.”

  7. Student suspended for slicing apple with knife during health food demonstration

    Da'von Shaw, a Bedford, Ohio, high school student, brought apples and craisins to school for a "healthy eating" presentation. When he took out a knife to slice an apple, his teacher told him he was not allowed to use it. He immediately handed it over to her. Case closed? Nope. Later that day he was suspended for a week because he brought a weapon to school.

  8. School goes on lockdown when mom fails to sign-in

    The mother of a special needs child in Walnut Grove, Missouri, raced to school when she got a "frantic" call from her kid'steacher. After she was buzzed into the building, she ran straight to his room, thereby committing the cardinal sin of not signing in. The school went into lockdown. Cops arrived and took the mom to the police station, where she was charged with trespassing.

  9. Girl in wet bathing suit forced to stand outside... in February... in Minnesota... due to school policy

    After the fire alarm went off in Como Park High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, everyone evacuated, including Kayona Hagen-Tietza, 14, who had been swimming in the gym pool and didn't have time to change. School policy forbids teachers from having students in the car, so she stood outside, barefoot, for 10 minutes in 5-degree weather until a teacher obtained "permission" to let her sit in her car just this once.

  10. Student suspended for twirling pencil, subjected to five-hour evaluation

    Ethan Chaplin, 13, was twirling his pencil, which made the child sitting behind him feel "threatened or uncomfortable." That's all it took for the Vernon, New Jersey, school to send Chaplin for a 5-hour physical and psych evaluation. His urine was tested and blood drawn. “We never know what’s percolating in the mind of children, okay?" the superintendent, Charles Maranzano, said. "When they demonstrate behaviors that raise red flags, we must do our duty.”

And a very Happy New Year to everyone who goes to school, works at a school, or is suspended from school for a sandwich swap, monkey wrench, or pencil twirl!

Lenore Skenazy is host of the reality show “World’s Worst Mom” on the Discovery Life Channel, starting Jan. 22. She is also a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids.

Source: Reason