In Illinois, disadvantaged juveniles who are in state care are often sent to a residential treatment center. The residential treatment is intended to provide help to these children who struggle with family issues, drug use, alcohol use, behavioral problems and mental health. However, an in-depth investigation into these centers by the Chicago Tribune revealed that instead of treatment, these youth are often victims of violent acts. Now the U.S. Justice Department is said to be considering an investigation into these centers over the allegations of child abuse. The months’ long investigation uncovered stories of youth who had been revictimized by those who were supposed to help them as well as by other patients. Over 1,000 reports were filed by treatment centers during 2011 and 2013 over physical assaults made on wards of the state. Additionally, the centers submitted 428 reports concerning a sexual assault on a state ward. Former residents of these facilities, now over the age of 18, recounted experiences that included physical restraints by staff, gang fighting, committing crimes, stabbings, bullying from other residents, engaging in prostitution, smoking marijuana and sexual assault including rape. The investigation also revealed that law enforcement and the Department of Child and Family Services often ignored state law concerning the age of sexual consent. As a result, many sexual abuse or assault claims were considered consensual and dismissed, exposing children to further abuse. In spite of high records of assaults, runaway youth and sexual abuse, the state continued sending juvenile wards to these facilities. To escape these violent environments hundreds of youth run away and find themselves on the streets where there are little options open to them. To support themselves, they often enter prosecution or commit crimes – anything to keep from going back to the centers. Adding to the problem is the lack of staffing and the inability of facilities to protect children. For some centers, there is a lack of concern over victims of violence and their reluctance to act encourages the abuse and assaults to continue. With the emergence of this information, the Justice Department is considering the allegations and may decide to step in. This is something that Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois is hoping for. He has already asked the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to take action and will be approaching Medicaid and asking them to cut those facilities from[READ MORE…]
It is estimated that over 11 million people in the United States today are undocumented immigrants and out of that number over 511,000 of that population live here in Illinois. Despite the fact they are not legal visitors or residents, these people purchase property, create businesses, work and drive on the state’s roads. Driving is considered a privilege and people who are issued driver’s licenses have taken a course on driver safety and studied the state’s road laws. Many undocumented immigrants are driving without formal training or understanding of these laws and this puts them at risk of getting into a car accident and harming others. Last year, Illinois sought to improve road safety by providing a program that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license which is valid for up to three years. The program, called a temporary visitor driver’s license, requires undocumented immigrants to show the following: Proof of insurance Pass written driving test Pass road test Pass vision test Proof of residency in Illinois for at least one year While the licenses make it legal for undocumented immigrants to drive, they cannot be used as a form of identification and they are color coded to indicate their difference from a regular driver’s license. Furthermore, these licenses are only for driving a car or motorcycle – they do not permit holders to operate commercial vehicles. Since its launch, around 190,000 people have contacted the state to set up appointments to obtain the special license and over 85,000 people have received one. The program encourages immigrants to study driving rules in Illinois, thereby helping them understand what road signs mean and how to identify crosswalks. Immigrants can also sign up for driving courses that help them develop defensive driving skills, avoid engaging in dangerous behaviors such as distracted driving and tailgating, and how to navigate heavy traffic without putting themselves and others in danger. Recently the Chicago Tribune pointed out that almost 800 traffic accidents occur in the state daily. In 2013, the state saw a 4 percent increase in crashes. Some believe this rise is due to the drop in gasoline prices which has encouraged people to drive more. Factors that contributed to the accidents include speeding, alcohol use, weather, wildlife on roadways and inexperience. Now that Illinois has opened a path for undocumented drivers to obtain a license, it is hoped that fewer accidents will be[READ MORE…]
Valentine’s Day is designed to show love and acceptance but it is not uncommon for school bullies to twist that intent to make their victims feel unworthy of such affection. Bullying Statistics.org estimates that in 2010 one in seven students at schools across the nation, including here in Illinois, were either bullied or acted as a bully. Over the last several years, bullying has taken more victims as bullies use texting, social media and other electronic methods to harass and humiliate others. Now Illinois hopes a new law will provide help to students who are victims of bullying. The new law, which went into effect last month, amends the state’s School Code. Previously, the law gave Illinois schools the power to investigate cyberbullying that occurred through a school-owned electronic device. Now, the law allows schools to expand their investigations to bullying claims that don’t involve school-owned computers as well as school-sponsored activities, functions or programs if the bullying causes a disruption to the school or the educational process. One example would be a student who is at home and creates a web page or blog under the identity of another student. That student then posts images or messages which cause psychological and emotional harm to the victim. Those posts or web page are shared with other students at the school and word spreads through texted and emailed links. At school, the victim is taunted by others over the existence of this online content and is unable to focus on schoolwork. The school is notified of the cyber-bullying and could use the new amendment to look at the bully’s electronic actions. If other students also shared the content with more than one person, the school could investigate them for bullying as well. Under the new law, schools must create a process on how they will determine whether the alleged bullying falls under their jurisdictions. Schools investigating a bullying incident are also required to provide helpful information to the alleged victims such as community bullying programs, support services and counseling. Recently, one school district sent parents into a panic after sending out a letter stating that students may have to give their social media passwords to their school. This was incorrect as Illinois made it illegal for schools to ask for students’ passwords to social media sites in a new law last year. Victims and their parents can provide proof of bullying[READ MORE…]
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