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Archive for February, 2008

Mandated Reporting: What you Need to Know

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Child abuse is often plagued by children and other family members who don’t know where to turn for help. They want the child to be safe, but they are also afraid that the child will be put into the foster care system or even worse. The main problem here is mandated reporting. If you come forward with your concerns will people report you? Actually, mandated reporting is a blessing in disguise for most people involved. Here’s a bit about how the system works and why it will help, not hurt, you.

Mandated reporting laws vary greatly from state to state. However, in general, these laws say that anyone who works with a child they believe is being abused is obligated to report this abuse to the authorities. This includes teachers, doctors, counselors, day care workers and baby-sitters, and so forth are all required by law to report child abuse. Basically, anyone who come into contact with the child is held under these laws.

Laws vary, but in most cases, a person is only legally required to report a situation when he or she is told of the abuse. So, if a child confides in the adult that he or she is being abused, a parent admits the abuse, or another family member comes forwards and discloses this information, the person must contact Child Protective Services. On the other hand, if the person only suspects the abuse is occurring, it is a judgment call. It is always better to report abuse and risk being wrong than to not report it and be right. However, some people will wait until they have hard evidence of abuse before reporting it.

Just because you aren’t trained to spot abuse or deal with situation in which a child tells you he or she is being abused doesn’t mean that you aren’t required to report the situation. Legally, most people dealing with children are required under mandating reporting laws. However, only teachers, doctors, police staff, and such are actually trained in most cases. If a child comes forward to you, however, you should always report it even if you think he or she is lying to get attention. Legally, in many cases, you must do so not matter what you think about the situation.

After reporting, Child Protective Services will investigate the situation. At this point, you’ll be asked further questions, as will other people in the child’s life. Contrary to what most people think, children, even those who are undoubtedly being abused, are usually placed with family members if they are removed from the home at all. These agencies are very careful to make sure that there really is an abusive situation on hand.

Therefore, if you believe that a child is being abused or have witnessed the abuse yourself, don’t be afraid of mandated reporting. If the situation is reported, only good can come from it. The child will be removed from the situation and, in most cases, the abuser will get help to control his or her violent tendencies. Mandated reporting is your friend.

Is Domestic Violence Happening to You?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

It may seem a bit silly to ask the question in the title, but sadly, many people aren’t sure what qualifies as domestic violence. Is your relationship abusive or just unhappy? Learning the legal definitions of abuse can help you understand when it is crucial to get help, no matter how much you care about the other person.

Abuse can be categorized into a number of topic areas. However, all are abuse and should be taken seriously. If you experience any of these types of abuse, seek help from the police as soon as possible. Remember, domestic abuse can come from a spouse – male or female, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a parent, an adult figure in the household, or even an adult child in the case or senior citizens.

Sexual abuse is the first type of domestic abuse you should consider. Even if you are married to someone, sex without your consent is abuse and, in most cases, rape. Sexual abuse also comes in the form of sex with a minor or sexual contact with a minor. This is child abuse and a tragic form of domestic violence.

Domestic abuse can also be physical in a non-sexual way. All forms of violence are considered abuse. Even being hit once or being slapped rather than punched is a form of abuse. Physical domestic abuse can come from a man or a woman, so remember that it is possible for a wife to be the abuser. Physical violence against children is also a form of domestic abuse, although spanking is not illegal as a form of punishment. Check out your state laws to understand where spanking turns from punishment for a naughty child to physical domestic abuse.

Physical domestic abuse can be a one-time thing or come in the form of outbursts. This is comment, and afterwards, the abuser usually apologizes and wins back the hearts of his or her family. However, this does not make it OK. Always seek help if physical violence has occurred. Promises to change only lead to more physical abuse. Eventually, someone who simply has violent outbursts starts to have them more and more often until abuse is a part of your daily life.

The law also recognizes terrorism and verbal abuse as domestic abuse. In a household, the head of the family may not actually hit others, but he or she may still abuse others in the house with threats, cruel and unusual punishments, coercion, blackmail, humiliation, degradation, and so forth. Stalking may also be a form of abuse, and it is against the law if you have a restraining order out against the other person.

Restraining orders are the best way to put an end to domestic abuse (or at least start the process). Domestic abuse is not your fault, and the law is on your side. If you are being abused sexually, physically, or psychologically, seek help today. With a restraining order and the help of a good lawyer, you can put your life back on track for happiness, and you can bring your abuser to justice.

How can the Police Help your Domestic Abuse Case?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

If you are being domestically abused, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. It is against the law for you to be beaten in any way, even if you are in a relationship with another person or are related to the other person. Luckily, the law is on your side. There are a number of people who can and will help you. Know your rights! The police are often your first line of defense against a domestic abuser. Here’s how they can help you:

• Arresting the Abuser: If the police witness the abuse or see enough evidence that the abuse has definitely happened, he or she will arrest your abuser. Note that this is often a judgment call. You can help by being willing to sign the complaint. Police officers sometimes will not arrest an abuser if the evidence is not clear and you aren’t sure if you want to actually appear in court or even file a restraining order. Be confidence and assert yourself. If you have been abused, a police officer will help you if you are willing to help yourself.

• Transportation: If there are not enough grounds to arrest the abuser, or if the abuser makes bail and goes home, the police must transport your to a safe place if you ask for help. It is a good idea to go to this safe place as soon as the abuser is arrested instead of waiting. Safe places include houses of friends and family members, but remember that these will be the first locations your abuser will try to find you if he or she wants to. A better choice may be to go to a shelter for those in abusive relationships. There, you will be better protected.

Police are also able to escort you other places in order to keep you safe. For example, you can ask for a police escort to go back to your home and get items you need, like clothing and medications. You may also be able to get transportation from court hearings where your abuser will be present.

• Giving Advice: When domestic abuse is a problem and the police are called, they are required to give you advice, even if you choose not to press charges and even if the abuser is not arrested. The officer on call that responses to your situation should give you a written copy of your rights, as well as contact information should you want to get help at a later date. The officer should also give you all of his or her contact information in case you need it in the future.

In addition, the officer is legally required to write a police report for every call. You can obtain this police report quite easily from the officer, and should make sure that all information is correct before he or she leaves. This report may help you legally down the road, so keep it in a safe place.

How a Restraining Order Can Protect You

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

If you are the victim of domestic abuse, one of the first things you should do is get a restraining order against your abuser. A restraining order won’t stop a person from attacking you if he or she really wants to, but it can protect you legally. It can also help you bring a situation to the authorities before it escalates into more abuse. Even if you care about you abuser, a restraining order is in your best interest.

A restraining order might also be called a protective order or a TPO (temporary protective order). Your state government runs the legal restraining order program, and it varies slightly in each state as to what requirements are needed to get a restraining order. If you are being abused, go to the courthouse in your county immediately. They can help you fill out the right papers to file for a restraining order.

When you apply for the restraining order, the state will contact you abuser to notify him or her about the order. Every state is different, but in general, your abuser may not try to come near you, even in public places. He or she will be banned from premises where you are sure to be (your home, your place of employment, your school, etc.), and cannot seek your presence in other public locations. For example, he or she cannot wait at your child’s daycare center, knowing that you have to stop there to pick up your child. You can also specify that you’re like all contact to be stopped. This means that your abuse cannot contact you via notes, phone calls, or even gifts. All contact must be made through a lawyer to your lawyer or to the court. There are varying degrees allowed here, depending on the state and your personal preferences.

If your abuser contacts you or comes near you, he or she is in violation of the restraining order. The best thing to do if this happens is to call the police right away. Even if your abuser “just wants to talk,” it is best to keep everything through the court systems. If you call the police, they will show up immediately and take care of the situation. Often, simply threatening to call the police is enough to get the abuser to leave you alone.

The restraining order can also order your abuser to do things other than stay away from you. He or she may have to pay bills for injury and damagers, continue to pay child support, relinquish property owned by you, attend violence classes, and so forth. If she or she violates these orders, you will not be in immediate danger. In this case, instead of calling the police, file a motion for contempt. This will let the courts know that there is a problem, and the situation can be remedied as soon as possible.

Domestic violence is not a small problem – it is a huge one. Your abuser, although he or she might apologize, needs to be helped. Filing a restraining order is the best way to protect yourself and those around you.

Child Abuse: How to Stop It

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Child abuse is tragic because, unlike an adult, a child does not have the resources to help him- or herself in many cases. Often, those near the child suspect neglect or violence. Unfortunately, people are hesitant to report suspected abuse for a number of reasons – most often because they are worried about being wrong. Stop worrying. It is better to be wrong and report a possible case of child abuse than to be right and not say anything. You main concern here should be the care and safety of the child involved.

Not every state has a hotline for child abuse. However, if your state does, this is the first place to turn because it puts the case on the radar right away. Unfortunately, lines at child abuse hotlines are often busy for long periods of time. Keep trying. Eventually, you will get through and be able to report your case.

Before you call, take a moment to gather information about the child, his or her family, and the problems as you see. First and foremost, have the child’s full name and, if possible, age, address, and home phone number. The hotline call attendant will ask about details of the case, so you’ll have a chance to fully explain your suspicions. Make a note as to the dates you’ve seen marks on the child, should that be the case. Also make a note of specific acts of verbal or physical violence that you’ve witnessed in person. The attendant will also ask you what other children are in the house and where the child goes to school, so find out this information if you can.

As you are making the call, make sure that you write down all of the information surrounding your report. Note the date and time as well as the name of the person with whom you talked. Ask lots of questions about your next steps and their next steps, and don’t hesitate to ask for a manager. If you feel like the matter isn’t being taken seriously, your best option is to hang up and call the police or 9-1-1 if you believe that the child is in immediate danger.

If you aren’t sure if the child is actually being abused, it is a good idea to report the incident anyway. Children often try to hide their abuse because they think it is their fault or are worried about getting into more trouble. When in doubt, report.

Never take matters into your own hands. The court system is set up to protect children as much as possible. You can do your part by simply reporting the problem. Do not put yourself at risk as well. Remember, you can report anonymously if you feel uncomfortable giving out your name. The focus here is making sure that the child is as safe as possible, not pointing fingers at accusers. The only way to help stop domestic child abuse is to report it to the authorities.

How Age Discrimination Effects You

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

It is your civil right to be treated equally. While we usually speak about civil rights in regards to race, religion, and nationality, today, discrimination reaches much farther. One of the most common types of discrimination is ageism. Ageism can work against people who are young and people who are old, but in all cases, it is illegal. If you live in the United States it is important to know your rights regarding ageism.

Ageism is basically discrimination against someone because they are old or young. This can happen in many different sectors of the public world. For example, say a business is hiring a new person for a job. Two people apply for this job and, based on their qualifications are called back for interviews. Each person has the same educational credentials. Each has the same experience in the field. If one is 30 years old and the other is 60 years of and the employer hires the 30 year old person simply because he or she is younger, this is ageism. Although people justify ageism in a number of ways, it is still discrimination. Thankfully, civil rights laws do protect against ageism in a number of instances.

The most major law surrounding ageism is the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. According to this act, the law prohibits age from becoming a factor public realm that received federal funding. For example, when applying for college, a university cannot deny you based on age if you are as well qualified as other, younger students who have been accepted. Volunteer programs, community organization, and other such federally funded programs have to offer the same treatment to everyone regardless of age.

But what about the employment situation in the example above? Since most businesses are not federally funded, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 does not apply to them. However, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act can protect you from some ageism in the workplace. Under this act, employers are not allowed to hire, fire, or make promotions based on age.

Employees, regardless of their age, must also be give equal benefits. The only exception to this is if the costs of those benefits are higher for older employees. If this is the case, the employer must offer lower benefits that are equal tin cost to the benefits that the younger employee is receiving. To go along with the, mandatory retirement is not allowed in most cases. Although many of these laws are meant to protect older Americans, ageism can also be a problem for younger Americans. If you are denied employment because you are younger than another applicant, even though you are better qualified, ageism is at play and you are legally protected. These laws apply to any employer who has 20 or more employees.

If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against because your age, it is important to file a complaint. Your local or state employment office can help you fill out the proper paperwork. Remember, just because it isn’t about skin color doesn’t mean that it isn’t discrimination.

Discrimination in the Workplace: What are your Rights?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Under the civil rights laws given to all United States citizens with the Constitution and various other regulations, discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Discrimination here can be the result of a number of issues including, but not limited to, gender, race, religion, nationality, physical abilities, sexual preference, and marital status. However, with the help of civil rights laws like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees who feel like they are being discriminated against can take their case to court. If you plan to work in the United States, it is important to understand your civil rights for equality under the EEOC.

Every state has specific laws about discrimination in the workplace. At the bare minimum, however, states must uphold the following rules:

• It is illegal to hire, fire, promote, layoff, specially compensate, assign special jobs to, train, or deny benefits to an employee based on age. Specifically, this protects people over the age of 40 who may be pushed out of a job to make room for younger employees.

• Employees must consider all qualified candidates, even if they have a physical or mental disability. Employment facilities, if possible, must be altered to allow this to happen. An employer, does not, however, have to lower qualification standards.

• Wages earned must be based on skill, effort, responsibility, seniority, and working conditions, and must be equal within a single establishment, regardless of gender.

• Ethnicity must not play a role in firing or hiring. English fluency can only be required if the job demands it.

• It is illegal to consider pregnancy when hiring a new employee. Pregnancy must be considered a temporary disability, and time off must be treated in the same manner. After birth, the employer must hold the job open for the same amount of time it would have been held open for a sick or temporarily disabled employee. Pregnancy benefits must apply to everyone, regardless of marital status.

• Race, religion, and gender may not play a role in hiring, firing, promotions, salary desions, and so forth.

• Employers may not fire or demote employees due to that employee filing charges of discrimination.

• It is illegal to sexually harass someone in the workplace. Sexual harassment includes unwanted advances, sexually-natured contact, verbal conversation of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors in return for work-related perks, and so forth. This law pertains to victims of both genders. In many states, this is being expanded to include laws forbidding sexual preference to play a role in hiring, firing, and so forth.

If you believe that discrimination has played a role in your career, you can file a charge of employment discrimination. Someone else can also file on your behalf if you want to protect your identity. You’ll have to fill out a questionnaire about your experiences, which will include your contact information, a statement about the violation, the company committing the violation, and date or dates of the violation. This form must be filed within 180 days of the violation in order to be valid. Remember, it is your civil right to be treated fairly in the workplace. Protect it by filing a charge when an employer discriminates against you.

Disabilities and Education: Section 504 and the IDEA

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

We often think of civil rights as something that affects only adults, and while it is true that discrimination in the workplace, voting rights, and so forth are primarily issues concerning adults, civil rights also affect children, especially in education. Under United States laws, all children must be given educational opportunities. This includes your child, even if he or she has a mental or physical disability.

Under Section 504 of civil rights law, all children must be given equal access to education. Under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), your child is given even more rights. Simply put, even if your child has a disability, he or she still deserves a full education. This does not necessarily mean that a child will be part of a special education program outside of the typical classroom, but it does mean that a child will have a chance to learn, just like all other children are given.

Children must first go through an evaluation process to determine whether or not they are eligible under Section 504. If your child has a mental or physical disability that requires accommodations to make learning possible, he or she probably qualifies. A child may then be placed in a special education classroom, which is most common if the child is causing disruptions that make it impossible for other students to learn. However, in many cases, especially in elementary school, the disabled student will simply be given tools to help him or her with daily learning activities. These tools may include extra time for assignments, specially printed textbooks, books on tape, behavior intervention plans, special recreation time, visual aids, oral testing, and aid from a special teacher. Every case should be considered individually to ensure that the child is getting the best education possible.

As a parent, you are given certain rights under Section 504 that allow you to protect your child. These rights are as follows:

• The right to receive notice when you child is evaluated or placed in a special class.
• The right to access all records pertaining to your child’s health and education at school.
• The right to request a hearing to review the placement of your child.
• The right to file a complaint with your district’s Section 504 coordinator if you are unhappy with any aspect of your child’s education.
• The right to file a complaint with the regional or state discrimination offices.

It is important to understand that your school district has certain obligations but, at the same time, that there are hundreds of other children who have needs that must be considered as well. In some cases, the best choice for your child and their education is to seek private school options. Remember that you are your child’s advocate. It is important to speak up if you feel that he or she is being left behind due to not being given the tools needed to overcome disabilities and succeed in school. Always file a complaint if you are concerned about your child’s education.

A Unique Civil Right in the United States: Trial by Jury

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Most civil rights recognized in the United States are also recognized by other developed countries. However, the right to a trail by jury is unique to the United States, as many other countries have other systems in place for court proceedings. In fact, a Grand Jury trial is found almost nowhere else in the world. This right, given to all United States citizens with the Sixth Amendment, is an important one to understand so that you are prepared in case you are ever accused of a crime.

A jury is comprised of 12 people. Both the defending and prosecuting sides of the case must approve these people, and in many cases, this is not a problem. In high-profile cases, jury selection can be a long process. Most of the time, people from the general public are randomly selected and are required to report for jury duty. Juries cannot learn about the trial from any source other than the trial itself and may be sequestered (kept from all outside sources in a controlled environment) for the length of the trial. The jury’s deliberations are kept in complete secrecy.

In a criminal case, a Grand Jury first reviews the evidence to determine if there is (or is not) reason for a trial. This happens at both the State and Federal court levels. If they determine that there is cause for trial, a date is set and the prisoner is apprehended and may be released on bail. A petit jury then hears the main trial.

The job of the petit jury is to determine if the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This verdict must be determined purely on the facts presented to them, not on assumptions or personal beliefs. In some cases, the jury is also responsible for recommending a verdict, although most of the time the judge has the final say on the verdict.

There are no set proceedings for jury deliberation. In most cases, the first step is to elect a foreman. The foreman is the person who leads deliberation, speaks to the judge if necessary, and announces the verdict in court. In “open and shut cases”, deliberation goes quite quickly, as everyone simply votes and goes back to court, so the jury might elect a foreman at the end of deliberations just to announce the verdict.

When a jury can’t come to a decision, they are said to be “hung”. In criminal cases, the jury’s decision must be unanimous (in civil cases, majority rules). After extensive deliberation if no unanimous vote is reached, a mistrial is declared. The case may then be declared a mistrial and ended completely, or it may be retried, depending on the circumstances of the individual case. This aspect of the court’s jury system has been highly criticized, as it is easy for a jury to be hung and a trail to be declared a mistrial.

While the court system is in no way foolproof, it is a rather fair system if you are accused by a crime. Trial by jury is one of the most important civil rights, as it can ensure that you are treated fairly even if you are unjustly accused.

Is Affirmative Action Legal?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

While it is your civil right to be treated equally in the United States as all other United States citizens, there are some questions about affirmative action and whether this concept should actually be legal. Basically, affirmative action is the push to include people of all groups, and it is most applicable to woman and minorities. Affirmative action is legal in the United States and meant to balance out discrimination. However, some are opposed to its legality, as affirmative action can also mean another type of discrimination.

In the United States, affirmative action most comes into play with education, employment, and housing. It is meant to prevent discrimination. Certain entities (like colleges or business) have different policies for minorities and women in order to help diversify their total population. For example, at a university, they might accept minorities who have slightly lower standardized test scores, while having higher expectations from groups that apply more readily. This affirmative action raises their minority population.

The problem with this, some believe, is that it effectively discriminative against members of the majority group. For example, say a woman is hired in an all-male office in order to have a female presence in the company. That means that males were not considered for the job and have, in effect, been discriminated against. In other words, affirmative action and the law are at odds often. However, like with other discrimination cases, this can be hard to prove.

Affirmative action regulations were never meant to be discriminatory. Instead, they were meant to prevent people from discriminating. Employers, for example, would discriminate against blacks in the 1960s. Affirmative action rules prevented this, by ensuring the best black candidates were hired. The thought process behind these rules were that the best black candidates were probably the best candidates anyway. Today, it is not always that simple.

However, discriminate does still go on in business, education, and other public sectors. Because of this, affirmative action still had many supporters. The claim here is that the law should always support equal opportunity. While there are many holes in this legal theory, you do have options if you feel as though you are not being given a fair chance.

You should immediately speak with local or state agency if you feel like someone has discriminated against you. This is especially crucial in the case of housing, as the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for a landlord to refuse to accept your rental application based on race, nationality, sex, religion, disability, or marital status. You can file a complain for this kind of discrimination, as well as for all other, even those you believe are caused by affirmative action laws.

The key here is to speak out as soon as possible. By filing a complaint and helping to take the case to court if possible, you can prevent discrimination in the future for yourself and others. Affirmative action can be a good thing, but it can also lead to some bad results if not regulated properly.