Friday, April 27, 2012

The Right to Attend School

Want to learn more about the rights of young people to attend school?  Check out our pamphlet here.

Comic by PLE Team volunteer Diana Rozo.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Where do we go from here?

This opinion piece was written by JFCY volunteer and PLE Team member Cemone Morlese. The opinions expressed are Cemone's and not necessarily those of JFCY.

The Trayvon Martin case has gained international attention from average people, to celebrities to even the President, himself. At its core is the victim, 17 year-old Trayvon, shot and killed in Sanford, Florida and the man who shot him, Neighbourhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman. What has taken me by surprise is just how quickly the story spread and turned into a difficult, but important debate over many hot-button issues.

One of the biggest discussions surrounds the issue of profiling. The case hinges on the claim by Zimmerman that he felt “threatened” by Trayvon Martin and needed to protect himself. But what was it that made him feel this threat? Trayvon was a Black teenager wearing a hoodie. Did Trayvon’s race play a factor in the perception of him as a threat? Racial profiling is not a new notion, especially in the United States, but the belief was that incidents of racial profiling were becoming less and less frequent. This shooting makes many wonder how often Black youth are still being misperceived as “dangerous” simply because of their race in today’s society. Another factor that may have led to Trayvon Martin being seen as a threat was his clothing. 

Are teenage boys who wear hoodies assumed to be dangerous to the general public? This seems outrageous, but I can’t help but wonder I too fall victim to this assumption. If I’m walking alone late one night and I see someone behind me, I honestly would be a little more afraid if the person behind me is in dark clothes and a hoodie rather than a business suit. Sad, but true. Also, the media plays a part by showing countless movies and TV shows portraying youth dressed in hoodies and oversized clothing causing trouble and committing crimes. 

That being said, thinking someone looks suspicious and shooting and killing someone because they look suspicious are two completely different things. Perhaps this is the reason for the public outcry in the Trayvon Martin case; a sense of injustice because a teenage boy was killed because he apparently looked threatening. What angered even more people was the fact it didn’t appear George Zimmerman would even be brought to trial for the shooting. The “Stand Your Ground” laws seem to protect his actions as long as he could prove he truly believed his life was threatened. However, recently he was charged with 2nd degree murder.

So, where do we go from here? The Martin family and their supporters rallied for justice and now charges have been laid. With these new charges, my biggest fear is that the case, and more specifically the important issues it brings up, will be forgotten. 

The Trayvon Martin case has special importance to me because my brother is a 17 years-old Black teenager who likes to wear hoodies. For the first time, I began to really think about how other people perceive my brother every day. Is their first impression of him a negative one? I hope not. Nevertheless, discussions about profiling, the origins of beliefs about race and appearance and why such beliefs persist must continue in order to prevent another case like this from happening again.

Friday, April 20, 2012

JFCY celebrates National Volunteer Week!

Thank you to JFCY's many volunteers including committee members, board members, admin support and, of course, the PLE TEAM.

JFCY would especially like to thank U of T law student LEORA JACKSON, a volunteer through Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC).  Leora worked very closely with the PLE Team from September 2011 until April 2012.  She organized meetings, managed our group of fabulous volunteers, wrote the legal content for our blog posts and edited the Bullying Zine.

Leora's PBSC placement is now over. She will be working at Downtown Legal Services for the summer and then starting her second year of law school in September.

JFCY thanks Leora for her amazing work and fabulous contributions during the past eight months!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Just in time for the Day of Pink, the JFCY PLE Team has released its Bullying Zine. Click here to read it!

This zine has articles and info on many topics relating to bullying, as well as comics and other graphics. It was directed and edited by Leora Jackson, a U of T law student who volunteered at JFCY this year as part of Pro Bono Students Canada.

The content in the zine was written by the following PLE Team volunteers: Terence Chen, Tracy Chen, Arif Hussain, Marsha Rampersaud, Cydney Kim, Deby Ko, and Inez Leutenegger. The legal info was reviewed by JFCY staff lawyers.

Members of the PLE Team will be handing out copies today at Dundas Square, as part of the Day of Pink, the International Day Against Bullying, Discrimination, Transphobia and Homophobia in schools and communities.

For your own copy, and to distribute to your class, community group or friends, click here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Child Abuse and the Legal Obligation to Report

Blog scenario was written by JFCY volunteer and PLE Team Member Cydney Kim, a grade 11 student at UTS.  Legal info by JFCY. 

Ashley is a 14 year old student who has just started high school. After moving with her mom and her new step-father to another city, her school and neighborhood are both unfamiliar and daunting.  Luckily, she befriends Jasmine on the first day and soon begins to confide in her. The biggest challenge that Ashley faces is getting used to her new step-father. While she respects her mom’s decision to marry him, she finds it hard to warm up to him.

One day, Ashley accidentally breaks a plate while her mom is not home. Suddenly, her step-father begins to scold her. While it began as a lecture, it gets more heated until he harshly pushes her up against a wall, bruising her back. Later that day, he approaches her and apologizes, claiming that he acted out rashly in a moment of anger. However, it doesn’t stop there. These incidents of physical abuse grow more frequent and Ashley begins to fear going home. Not wanting to end her mother’s marriage, she doesn’t tell her mother and keeps it to herself. After all, her step-father always apologizes to her afterwards.
However, her friend Jasmine soon realizes that something is wrong when Ashley begins to come to school with bruises on her arms and worried expressions. Eventually Ashley explains how she received the bruises but brushes the situation aside; saying that her step-father didn’t mean it and that time would solve the problem. As Ashley walks away, Jasmine realizes that these incidents will only grow worse if nothing is done.

What can Jasmine do?

Legal Information
This blog post covers what happens when someone suspects that a child is being harmed or is unsafe at home, and the beginning of the process where child protection services become involved with a family.  It does not describe what happens after the first court hearing if a child is removed from home.  For more information about child welfare court from a young person’s perspective, check out this JFCY pamphlet.  For information for parents and guardians on child protection, check out Family Law Education for Women’s page on child protection.

If Jasmine is concerned about Ashley, she can talk to a teacher or other trusted adult.
Jasmine can tell an adult that she thinks that Ashley may be suffering from abuse at home.  For example, she can tell one of their teachers. Abuse is harm that can take many different forms, including both words and physical actions. Many times, abuse takes place between people who are in close relationships, like people in a sexual relationship or a parent and child.  This can make abuse very difficult to discuss and respond to.  However, no person ever deserves abuse, and regardless of whether Ashley broken things or misbehaved, her step-father has no right to hit her in anger.  For more info on the laws around physical punishment (or “spanking”) click here.  
The adult that Jasmine confides in about her concerns for Ashley may talk to Ashley to find out what is going on.  If this adult thinks that Ashley is being abused then that person has a legal duty to report the situation to the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).  According to Ontario law, every member of the public must contact CAS if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child is being abused or neglected.  CAS has the authority to investigate situations after they are contacted. This means that CAS will get in touch with the family to find out what is happening.  If necessary, they may act to make sure that the child is safe. 
For more info on what happens once that CAS is involved with a family see our earlier post here.