You go, Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts’ Inclusion Of Bobby Montoya, 7-Year-Old Transgender Child, Prompts Troops To Disband

First Posted: 12/21/11 06:15 PM ET Updated: 12/21/11 08:55 PM ET, The Huffington Post

A Colorado-based Girl Scouts troop’s decision to admit a 7-year-old transgender child this fall has prompted three leaders to resign and dissolve their troops.

As The Christian Post is reporting, all three of the troop leaders were affiliated with the Northlake Christian School in Covington, Louisiana.

Susan Bryant-Snure, one of the leaders who resigned, told The Baptist Press that the Girl Scouts’ action is “extremely confusing” and an “almost dangerous situation” for children. “This goes against what we [Northlake Christian School] believe,” said Bryant-Snure, who has three daughters among the 25 girls who had been active scouts there.

The controversy began when Felisha Archuleta protested against a Denver troop’s decision to not initially allow her transgender daughter, Bobby Montoya, to join the group. “I believe he was born in the wrong body,” Archuleta, who also confessed to having difficulty switching from male to female pronouns when discussing her child, told ABC. “But the Girl Scout leader told us he can’t join because he has ‘boy parts.’… But no one would know he’s a boy unless they pulled his pants down.”

The Girl Scouts of Colorado subsequently released a statement through the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in support of Archuleta and her excluded daughter, noting, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

Added Rachelle Trujillo, vice president for communications of the Colorado Girl Scouts: “If a child is living as a girl, that’s good enough for us. We don’t require any proof of gender.”

Bryant-Snure and her fellow leaders are now expected to align themselves with the American Heritage Girls, a Christian organization that was founded in 1995 in response to the Girl Scouts’ decision to let scouts use a word other than “God” in their pledge, according to She Wired.

Unpaid Internships: Who Do They Benefit?

AlterNet / By Anna Lekas Miller

How Unpaid Internships Perpetuate Rampant Inequality in the US

Internship culture has become a source of class division, favoring the privileged, excluding others from opportunities granted to their better-off peers.
October 7, 2011

Photo Credit: Tim Patterson
There is a job opening! It seems perfect—full time, in the non-profit sector, based in New York City. It’s obviously a prestigious position—they’re looking to hire someone with at least a masters’ degree, though in certain cases this can be interchangeable with five years of related work experience. There’s only one small problem: it’s unpaid.

According to statistics from the National Association for Colleges and Employers, the number of students at four-year colleges who took internships increased from nine percent to more than 80 percent between 1992 and 2008. Once the economy crashed, and a paying job became a luxury rather than a fact of life, many  jobs were re-packaged as internships, promising experience and career connections in exchange for free labor.

Recent graduates, disturbed by the dearth of job opportunities, began to take internships as a last resort to stay competitive in the labor market. Although an internship used to be akin to an apprenticeship—a temporary stint of unpaid, hands-on labor resulting in an eventual job offer—the explosion of both college students and recent graduates taking internships no longer guarantees a paid position. Instead, as more and more young people demonstrated they were willing to supply an unpaid labor force so long as it was framed as an “internship,” internships have become a means for companies and non-profit organizations to re-package once paying jobs and cut corners in a tight economy.

Internships are the new entry-level job—the same duties and basic experience, only this time without compensation or benefits.

Statistics show that half of all internships are paid, but most of these positions are extraordinarily competitive, and unsurprisingly concentrated in the financial sector. Certain internships in other industries offer a small stipend, but hardly anything that is adequate to subsist on, especially in a major city. The worst offenders list positions as “paid” only to reveal that compensation is in the form of lunch or a monthly metrocard.

Even if they are paid, interns do not enjoy the benefits—health insurance, dental insurance, or even legal protection from sexual harassment—of a full-time employee. Organizations are not committed to interns; interns have learned to understand themselves as temporary hires, drifting through the labor market promising uncompensated labor in exchange for experience, connections and a “foot in the door” in their industry of choice—but no job.

It’s becoming more and more expected for college students to have had at least one, if not several, internships by the time they graduate. Students that come from a privileged background, with parents who are willing and able to finance sometimes serial internships, are able to survive in internship culture financially unscathed. Eventually, they intern for long enough to make the connections necessary to break into the white-collar world. But students from lower- or even middle-income backgrounds feel financially stressed taking on unpaid work, but many do anyway to compete with their more privileged peers in the job market. As interning becomes more ubiquitous, and the possibility of an eventual job offer narrows, this becomes a greater and greater financial sacrifice.

Furthermore, relocating to another city, often with a much higher cost of living, is expensive, and doing this without a steady income is a huge financial burden. Many current students and recent graduates are already significantly in debt from student loans, and with the rising cost of college have to dig themselves even further in debt because of the social pressure to work for free as an “investment.”

“It’s like buying a lotto ticket, but for a lot more than a few dollars at a local gas station,” Josh Montes, a senior at Cornell University, tells me. During his college career, Montes has held four different internships, three of which were unpaid, mostly financed by odd jobs he worked while interning full time, as well as his savings from working while he was in high school.

“It adds up, and it’s completely defective if you want to succeed,” says Montes. “Some families can afford to pay for their son or daughter to have an internship. However, if you are from a lower-income background, you need to provide for yourself through loans and grants–if you can get them– or from generous family members who probably can’t afford it anyway. It is a financial burden that other students simply don’t have to face.”

As family incomes stagnate, and tuition rises at an average of five percent across the board for both public and private schools, many students are too busy trying to put themselves through college to consider the financial burden of an unpaid internship. Although these students are sometimes able to make the necessary money to make ends meet at two, and sometimes three jobs, many are anxious that internship culture is leaving them behind by systematically favoring students and graduates from wealthier backgrounds.

“I would like to intern—it seems like it would be interesting,” Matthew, another college senior who works multiple jobs in order to put himself through school, tells me. “Plus I feel like my friends who intern are ahead of me in the job market. Those of us who have to work are left behind.”

Matthew is not alone; thousands of students work multiple service industry jobs at every hour possible while their more privileged peers are able to work, albeit unpaid, from nine to five. Though they are earning money, the feeling of exclusion is palpable, both from their friends’ experiences, and the eventual white-collar opportunities they may never access, despite a college degree.

Internships have largely eradicated the possibility of breaking into the white-collar world through a salaried position, and internship culture has become a source of class division, favoring the privileged, pressuring others into financial sacrifices, and excluding others altogether. Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is an increasingly rare phenomenon—and for this generation, is quickly becoming mythical. Now, it’s understood that those who become the collective white collar of the world—the business managers, lawyers, investment bankers, television anchors, and politicians—are selected at a young age. That selection process, despite our supposed American values, is grounded in the privilege and pedigree of the elite.

Manjoo Takes on US Domestic Violence Laws

Rashida Manjoo, UN Expert, Chides U.S. Over Domestic Violence

Us Domestic Violence
08/23/11 08:10 AM ET   AP

GENEVA — A U.N. human rights expert has criticized the United States for failing to properly protect women from domestic violence, citing a 1999 Colorado child slaying case.

The U.N. investigator on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, says U.S. laws on domestic violence lack substance and aren’t properly enforced.

Manjoo singled out the case of Colorado woman Jessica Lenahan whose three daughters were killed by her estranged husband. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last week sided with Lenahan in a complaint against the United States.

The Washington-based civil-rights tribunal recommended the U.S. government carry out a full investigation of the case and strengthen legislation against domestic violence.

Officials at the U.S. mission in Geneva were unable immediately to comment Tuesday.

“No other country sentences kids to die in prison.”

Juveniles In Prison For Life: Leland Yee Fights For SB9, Appeals For Minor Defendants

Sb 9
First Posted: 8/17/11 06:16 PM ET Updated: 8/17/11 07:54 PM ET, The Huffington Post

SAN FRANCISCO — The United States is the only country that sentences juveniles to life without parole. And in California, about 295 defendants serve that very sentence for crimes committed when they were legally children.

With the introduction of Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), Senator Leland Yee aims to change that.

According the bill, defendants who were sentenced to life with no parole for a crime committed as a minor would be eligible to apply for a lesser sentence of 25 years to life.

“This has been widely called a ‘painfully modest’ bill, especially in light of the rest of the world,” Adam Keigwin, Senator Yee’s chief of staff, told The Huffington Post. “No other country sentences kids to die in prison.”

If the bill passes, an eligible defendant would need to first serve 15 years before submitting a statement of remorse, as well as evidence supporting work towards rehabilitation. Defendants would have three opportunities to apply. If accepted, a case would then be reviewed and considered for a lesser sentence. As a minimum, defendants would need to serve at least 25 years total, with no exceptions. But the bill would give some defendants the opportunity to someday live outside of prison.

Yee, a child psychologist in addition to state senator and mayoral candidate, argues that young people are not fully developed, and that decisions made as youths do not reflect decisions they would make as adults in some cases. Yee explained his reasoning in a recent press release:

“The neuroscience is clear: Brain maturation continues well through adolescence and thus impulse control, planning and critical thinking skills are not yet fully developed. SB 9 reflects that science and provides the opportunity for compassion and rehabilitation that we should exercise with minors. SB 9 is not a get-out-of-jail-free card; it is an incredibly modest proposal that respects victims, international law and the fact that children have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults.”

On Wednesday, SFGate chronicled the story of Christian Bracamontes, a man serving life in prison with no parole for an armed robbery he committed when he was 16. During the incident, his 19-year-old accomplice shot and killed a victim — an act that, according to Bracamontes, was not a part of the plan. Bracamontes turned and ran when the shooter opened fire. But under California’s aiding and abetting law, Bracamontes was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole.

“When they arrested me and said it was for aiding and abetting, I was like, ‘What is that?’ I was confused,” Bracamontes told SFGate. “If I could go back, I would have stepped up and tried to talk to him [the shooter],” he continued. “I would have made sure he wouldn’t have pulled that gun out…No one would have gotten hurt.”

His adult accomplice who actually pulled the trigger, on the other hand, pled guilty and struck a deal with prosecutors. He will soon be eligible for release.

Bracamontes’ story is not unique. According to Human Rights Watch, in California, 45 percent of youth offenders serving life without parole were convicted of murder, but were not the ones to actually murder the victim.

Keigwin discussed the nature of SB 9 with The Huffington Post: “The judge will probably reject most of these cases,” he said. “But in some circumstances, like that of Christian Bracamontes, who has shown considerable work towards rehabilitation, the judge may very likely extend a new sentence.”

Keigwin explained that after serving the minimum 25 years, defendants would still need to apply for release with no guarantee. “I can’t recall a single person who has served a 25-year sentence and reoffended,” he said. “And I don’t think our opponents could either.”

According to SFGate, Texas has already banned life sentences with no parole for juveniles, and the U.S. Supreme Court banned the sentence as cruel and unusual punishment if imposed on a minor for anything but murder.

While Yee’s bill has received much support from both the public and human rights groups, it has also faced some staunch opposition. Prominent defense attorney Daniel Horowitz has been among the most vocal opponents, citing the brutal murder of his wife Pamela Vitale by a minor in 2005.

In a 37-minute video interview with The Heritage Foundation, Horowitz said that as a dedicated defense attorney for more than 30 years, he is certainly sympathetic to public defense and social justice. “I’ve been in that camp and I don’t entirely abandon it,” he said. “But I also believe that when you get up every day and go to work and you take care of children and your family, you have a right to be free of crime. And if somebody brutally victimizes your family, you have a right to expect that society is going to exact justice for you…that society is going to take that person and put them where they’ll never hurt anybody again.”

In the video, he describes the events of the murder and his reasoning behind his opposition. “I’ve never spoken about this and I’ve always refused to speak about it,” said Horowitz about his wife’s murder. “But right now, we are facing a nationwide movement to let people out of prison, including Scott Dyleski, Pamela’s murderer, by legislation by fiats…So I’m breaking my silence.”

While Keigwin understands Horowitz’s concern, he rejects his statements about the bill, stating that assuming a defendant like Dyleski would be considered for release is an extremely slippery slope. “The reality is, no judge is ever going to even grant Scott Dyleski a resentencing hearing. It is such a ridiculous stretch to assume that,” Keigwin told HuffPost. “Dyleski has shown no remorse and no work towards rehabilitation and these are requirements to just get a hearing. Even if someone did grant him a hearing — and I cannot even imagine that they ever would — there is no judge who is going to let him out of jail.”

“Obviously we can’t write into law ‘except for this guy,’ but the language is so tight that that would never happen,” he said, addressing the question of loopholes in the bill.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón reaffirmed Keigwin’s statement. “SB 9 absolutely holds youth responsible for their actions,” he said. “It creates a rigorous system of checks and balances, and provides a limited chance for young offenders to prove they have changed — both to a judge and to a parole board.”

1 in 5 American Children Live in Poverty

Study: 1 in 5 American children lives in poverty

Researchers find 14.7 million children were poor in 2009, 2.5 million more than in 2000

Image: Karla Washington
By CRISTINA SILVA
updated 8/17/2011 5:30:32 AM ET

LAS VEGAS — Karla Washington worries how she will afford new school uniforms for her five-year-old daughter.

Washington, an undergraduate student, earns less than $11,000 a year from a part-time university job. The salary must cover food, rent, health care, child care and the occasional splurge on a Blue’s Clues item for her only child.

“My biggest fear is not providing my daughter with everything that she needs to be a balanced child, to be independent, to be safe, to feel like she is of value,” said Washington, 41.

Washington’s economic woes are seen throughout Nevada, where the nation’s highest unemployment and foreclosure rates have combined to devastate families and empty neighborhoods and construction yards.

A national study on child well-being to be published Wednesday found Nevada had the highest rate of children whose parents are unemployed and underemployed. The state is also home to the most children affected by foreclosures — 13 percent of all Silver State babies, toddlers and teenagers have been kicked out of their homes because of an unpaid mortgage, the study found.

Across the nation, the research by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that child poverty increased in 38 states from 2000 to 2009. As a result, 14.7 million children, 20 percent, were poor in 2009. That represents a 2.5 million increase from 2000, when 17 percent of the nation’s youth lived in low-income homes.

Recession hits hard
In the foundation’s first examination of the impact of the recession on the nation’s children, the researchers concluded that low-income children will likely suffer academically, economically and socially long after their parents have recovered.

“People who grew up in a financially secure situation find it easier to succeed in life, they are more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to graduate from college and these are things that will lead to greater success in life,” said Stephen Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “What we are looking at is a cohort of kids who as they become adults may be less able to contribute to the growth of the economy. It could go on for multiple generations.”

The annual survey monitored by policy makers across the nation concludes that children from low-income families are more likely to be raised in unstable environments and change schools than their wealthier peers. As a result, they are less likely to be gainfully employed as adults.

There are other social costs. Economically disadvantaged children can result in reduced economic output, higher health expenditures and increased criminal justice costs for society, the survey concludes. The research is based on data from many sources, including the Mortgage Bankers Association, National Delinquency Survey and U.S. Census Bureau.

“Even if you don’t care about kids and all you care about is your own well-being, then you ought to be concerned,” said Patrick McCarthy, president of the Baltimore, Md.-based charity. “… We’ve got to think about what kind of state, what kind of country we can expect to have if we are not investing in the success of our children.”

The report found some bright spots.

In the two decades since researchers began compiling the annual report, infant mortalities, child and teen deaths and high school dropout rates have declined. But the number of unhealthy babies have increased, and there were far more children living in low-income families.

Programs such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and foreclosure meditation have acted like a dam against the flood of poverty, McCarthy said, but that assistance has been threatened by federal and state government budget cuts.

Mississippi in last place
Mississippi kept its overall last place ranking in child welfare for the 10th consecutive year, according to the survey. It was closely trailed by neighboring Louisiana and Alabama, a nod to the poverty that plagues southern states. Nevada ranked 40th overall, its worst ranking in 10 years, largely because of its economic decline.

The rankings are determined by a state’s achievement in 10 indicators that reflect child poverty, such as undernourished infants, infant mortalities, teen births and children in single-parent families. The top state for children was New Hampshire, ahead of Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont.

In Mississippi, 31 percent of children were living in poverty — the highest level in the U.S.

New Hampshire had the smallest population of low-income children at 11 percent. The federal poverty level this year is $22,350 a year for a family of four, but child advocates claim that figure should be higher.

Nevada, Florida, Arizona and California and other states grappling with high foreclosures rates also were home to the largest populations of children affected by the mortgage crisis. North Dakota had the fewest, followed by South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska. In all, more than 5.3 million children have been affected by foreclosure, the study found.

Mississippi’s rankings were least affected by the recession, only because it long ago secured its worst-case standing. Overall, Mississippi ranked last in seven of the survey’s child well-being indicators.

“We are really tired of being in 50th place,” said Linda Southward, a social science research professor at Mississippi State University. She said state policy makers have closely followed the rankings and have strived to promote early education as part of its strategy to reduce overall poverty.

“We are just extremely challenged given the economic hardships that we have,” she said.

Dreaming of a savings nest
Nevada, meanwhile, has long had a challenging record on child issues because of its historically low-performing schools.

The Kids Count survey found 11 percent of Nevada teens were not in school and had not graduated from high school in 2009, the worst rate in the nation. New Hampshire was best at 3 percent.

Image: Karla Washington
Karla Washington dreams of stashing away a small savings nest for her daughter, in case of emergency. “I want to be able to say that she is OK,” she says.

At least 34 percent of Nevada’s children were living in families with both parents not working full-time in 2009, the largest increase in the nation, according to the survey.

“You Thought You Deserved It Because No One Else Was That Way”

Minnesota gay teens bullied by adults, peers, say activists

ReutersBy Andy Greder | Reuters – 21 hrs ago

PINE CITY, Minn (Reuters) – Barb Schroeder knew about her son Alec’s struggles as an openly gay freshman in rural Minnesota’s Mora High School. But she didn’t know about the knife.

Classmates called Alec names and pushed him around inside a portable bathroom during a homecoming football game in 2005.

“I would take a knife out, hold it and think about how quick it would be, and how I wouldn’t have to go to school tomorrow and deal with that,” recalled Alec Schroeder, now 20.

Alec’s mother transferred him to a different school district in Minnesota, a state which has become a flash point in the battle over gay rights — and not just because of the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and woman that will go before voters on the 2012 ballot.

The Anoka-Hennepin school district, the state’s largest, was sued in July by the Southern Poverty Law Center and The National Center for Lesbian Rights for what the groups call the district’s “gag” or “neutral” policy limiting teachers from defending or advocating gay rights.

The district just outside of Minneapolis is represented by Republican U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, a presidential contender whose husband owns a counseling business that has sought to “cure” homosexuals.

It is also located in what state health officials have declared a “suicide contagion” area because of higher than average numbers of suicides and suicide attempts.

Activists say gay teens account for an out-sized number of deaths and blame the district’s “curricular neutrality” on gay issues, which critics say leads to marginalization and bullying by banning classroom discussion on the issues.

Anoka-Hennepin’s superintendent, Dennis Carlson, defended the district’s policies in a recent Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial, saying the district is not homophobic.

“We are advocates for all students,” wrote Carlson, who added that sexual orientation can be discussed in class if it’s “age-appropriate, fact-based and connected to curriculum.”

Gay activists say the problems for gay teens in Minnesota go beyond Anoka-Hennepin. In a 2009 survey, 84 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students in Minnesota said they had been harassed or assaulted in the past year due to their sexual orientation, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Minnesota was in line with the national average in terms of the number of respondents saying they heard derogatory comments such as “dyke” or “faggot” from other students. But where the state stood out was in homophobic remarks directed at students by adults — in that category, the state came in at more than four times higher than the national average.

“Unfortunately, it paints a very difficult picture,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of New York-based GLSEN.

In Pine City, north of Minneapolis, city planner Nathan Johnson, 33, remembers hearing “faggot” and “that’s so gay” from both students and teachers when he was at Pine City High School in the mid-1990s.

“That was really prevalent as I think is true in a lot of high schools,” said Johnson. “It resonated with me.”

Things have changed at Mora High School since Alec Schroeder attended. The district, located 70 miles north of Anoka-Hennepin, amended its harassment policy to include sexual orientation, calling violations of it an affront to the U.S. Civil Rights Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

Mora Public Schools Superintendent Craig Schultz said in an e-mail, “Harassment, that I am made aware of, of any kind, is not will not be tolerated during my tenure with Mora Schools. This is my personal philosophy.”

Schroeder remembers his time at Mora before the new harassment policy as “scary.”

His mother said she now thinks, “If we didn’t take him out of there, I truly believe it wouldn’t have ended well.”

Alec Schroeder said he put up with the bullying because he was a teenager confused by conflicting emotions.

“You thought that you deserved it because no one else was that way,” said Schroeder.

“As you get older, you accept it and realize that you aren’t the only one,” said Schroeder, who is now working toward a nursing degree and performing in theater.