Crime and punishment class for Georgia students?

Georgia PTA leaders are planning to lobby the state to create a public school class that would teach students about state laws to prevent teens with disciplinary problems from getting criminal records.

The class, which would be taught in middle and high schools, would explain how teens can be charged and punished for crimes involving alcohol, sex, drugs and violent acts.

The class also would explain students’ legal rights involving police searches and being questioned by the police.

The course would include much of the material found in “Ignorance Is No Defense: A Teenager’s Guide to Georgia Law,” written by former DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan.

What do you think of this class? While this may be important information for students to know, is it a school’s job to teach it?

NOTE: Staff writer Nancy Badertscher is writing a story on teachers and paraprofessionals who are losing their jobs because of budget cuts. If you fit in that category, please contact her at nbadertscher@ajc.com. Thank you for your help.

125 comments Add your comment

Meme

May 6th, 2009
9:05 am

Just something else that the parents should be teaching.

Gwinnett Educator

May 6th, 2009
9:13 am

No it isn’t. Also, I think that this class is a WASTE of money and resources. Have a great day all of you!

William Casey

May 6th, 2009
9:13 am

What class will be removed to make room for this worthy class? My son does not need it.

Reality

May 6th, 2009
9:47 am

Horrible, horrible idea. GA students need to focus on the basics. They already cannot read or do basic math by the time they are in high school. Now, they want to teach them law instead? In what alternate reality does this make any sense at all?

jim d

May 6th, 2009
10:04 am

Unlike other posters I have no problem with this, matter of fact since schools fail to teach about our constitutional rights i think its a great idea to explain students rights. And yes folks they really do have rights.

DB

May 6th, 2009
10:06 am

Not required. Stay out of trouble, and you’ll never need to worry about it. If you need someone to explain the law to you, then hire a lawyer like everyone else in the world.

Life is pretty basic. Don’t use drugs, they are illegal. Don’t drink under the age of 21. Observe the driving rules (you have to show that you read them in order to get your license, so ignorance is no excuse.) Go to school, don’t carry a weapon to school, and don’t have sex before you are old enough to be financially, emotionally and physically responsible, on your own, for any consequences.

It’s not that hard, folks.

I don’t think it needs to be a class — good lord, that’s hours and hours of law, there. If they want to make it an evening presentation available to kids who are interested, with a Q&A session afterwards, then have at it. I just can’t imagine it taking up a semester’s worth of material. And for what? Material that doesn’t apply to them when they turn 18, anyway?

jim d

May 6th, 2009
10:07 am

Mr. Casey,

I truly hope your son never needs to exercise his rights but understanding them surely wouldn’t hurt.

Concerned and Very Involved Parent

May 6th, 2009
10:10 am

I think it is a good idea. A class could be taught right before a holiday or one of the school year breaks since not much goes on then any way. Yes, it is the parents responsibility…but reality check…how many teen hang on every parents word. Our taxes pay for the schools so yeah…why not assist the parents…what happen to “it takes a whole village”…yes, parent are the final responsibility but the school should help educate about laws.

jim d

May 6th, 2009
10:10 am

DB,

You left out don’t get hit by someone and don’t see anything happening around you.

jim d

May 6th, 2009
10:12 am

I’ll bet most the folks who object to this class –also favor mandatory parenting classes for students. Or at least for the ones that get prego.

Concerned and Very Involved Parent

May 6th, 2009
10:19 am

Education also includes life…it’s not all books. Ditto jim d…”don’t see anything happening around you” wouldn’t that be a nice dream…and everyone gets along and we all have cotton candy…right!…and it’ll probably snow today. Kids need to be prepared…education helps to prepares them.

HS Teacher, Too

May 6th, 2009
10:21 am

I agree with Jim D, believe it or not … especially with the changing technology and the fact that our laws don’t yet match the technology. But do I think this ought to be a separate class? Maybe not; why not roll it into a mandatory civics/social studies/etc. class that is already required and theoretically already should cover such material? I don’t/didn’t teach those subjects and I am sure their curricula are already overloaded, but if we can’t make a new class we ought to put the material where it makes the most sense, right?

Joyce

May 6th, 2009
10:26 am

A whole class? No. An assembly period or an optional evening presentation? Yes. I would have my son participate, even though he didn’t have any discipline problems. ALL students need to be familiar with this information!

Concerned and Very Involved Parent

May 6th, 2009
10:33 am

Joyce, my child doesn’t have discipline problems either…but an assembly?? Have you been to a middle school or high school assembly…no, something this important needs to be in smaller groups instead of the entire student body at one time. I agree a whole class isn’t necessarily the answer. Optional evening presentation…I’ve been no one hardly shows up. Do mini classes during CRCT week or other testing throughout the year…there’s plenty of “down” time the could be utilized.

HS Teacher, Too

May 6th, 2009
10:42 am

(Once again, my attempted post is lost… forgive me if at some later point it shows back up and this is redundant.)

I have to say that I agree with Jim D. Right now, technology is moving far too quickly for our laws to keep up. Kids don’t understand the permanence of their actions, OR the legal consequences of their actions under the law as it exists today. Take, for example, the idea that “sexting” can be prosecuted as child pornography. For better or for worse, to the letter of the law kids need to understand that there can be serious and significant consequences that will be with them for the REST OF THEIR LIVES.

Now, that being said, I am quite certain that putting this “civics” content into a history or other social studies class would burden an already-too-full curriculum. On the other hand, does this material warrant a class of its own? Probably not.

So, here is my suggested solution: create a NEW civics class that teaches MORE than just this aspect of the law. Create a class that teaches the basics about our court system; the difference between civil and criminal courts; the basics of our rights under the federal and state constitutions … you get the idea. In short, take the “civics” out of “history” and create a one-semester civics/government class. Make it a requirement for graduation. What’s wrong with actually educating our populace about how our government works, folks? Shouldn’t that indeed be our responsibility as citizens?

V for Vendetta

May 6th, 2009
10:44 am

I’m torn on this one. I like CVIP’s idea of making such a class optional. Is it the school’s RESPONSIBILITY to teach such a class? NO. Should such information be AVAILABLE to students and/or parents? YES. I think it’s as simple as that. However, politicians, educrats, morons, et al. need to stop telling the school’s what they’re responsible for. Based on the laws they pass, I’m pretty sure they don’t understand the concept of responsibility.

VOICE

May 6th, 2009
10:50 am

Jim d, I must really be losing it! Once again, I agree with you and CVIP. A key objective of the class, which some may have overlooked, is to prevent teens with discipline problems from getting criminal records. If it actually works, it may well be worth the time and money.

Some disregard the fact that we are paying in a number of ways for the crimes committed by these teens who are progressing up the criminal career ladder. Educating them on the front end could prevent much of eventual cost to society. Just consider the average amount spent by the State of Georgia to educate a child as compared to the amount to house a prisoner and/or “supervise” them in the community.

I’d be interested in seeing if the crime rate would be affected by such a class. If it doesn’t work, we can always end it. I thinks it’s worth a try.

jim d

May 6th, 2009
10:57 am

Voice,

Perhaps, then, I should reconsider my position on the issue. :)

high school teacher

May 6th, 2009
10:58 am

Students NEED to know that if they are 16 or older, they can go to jail for having oral sex with a 15 year old. They need to know that they can have their licenses revoked for too many speeding tickets. They need to know that they can go to jail one day if they don’t pay child support. I think this class is worth the spending it would require.

Please note that only students with discipline problems would be enrolled. Students have electives, and this would be a good one.

As for doing a parent’s job…character education should also be a parent’s job. Feeding a child should also be a parent’s job. But the schools provide both of those services as well.

To be quite honest, I don’t know that all the parents know laws in GA that apply to teens.

By the way, when I was in school we took citizenship and economics in the 9th grade. While econ was over my head, I found citizenship to be enlightening. This type of information would fit well in that class.

high school teacher

May 6th, 2009
11:01 am

AAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH! I am so tired of my comments disappearing!

I feel better now. Perhaps I can remember my post and re-type it in a minute.

high school teacher

May 6th, 2009
11:10 am

Students NEED to know that if they are 16, they can go to jail for having oral sex with a 15 year old (the kids’ version of abstinence) and label them as a sex offender for the rest of their lives. They need to know curfew laws. They need to know what could happen to them if they don’t pay child support. They need to know that getting into a fight could land them a record.

There are lots of things the schools do that should be a parent’s job (feeding the child, character education, etc).

This class was introduced as being for those with discispline problems, so not everyone would take it.

In high school, kids take electives, so this wouldn’t replace an academic class. Get real, people. This class could even be part of a pathway in public safety or law enforcement (The best cops I know are the ones who were troublemakers in school!).

I think that this class could be incorporated into a government class, but that class is typically taught at the senior level. However, I have argued for years that it should be a freshman class for the reasons stated above.

Lisa B.

May 6th, 2009
11:12 am

The standards for 8th grade Georgia Studies include a section on Georgia’s Juvenile Justice system and laws.

Concerned and Very Involved Parent

May 6th, 2009
11:14 am

Read the HS Teacher, Too comments…”What’s wrong with actually educating our populace about how our government works, folks? Shouldn’t that indeed be our responsibility as citizens?”.
HS Teacher – RIGHT ON!!!! The majority of the teachers DO care. This type of education wouldn’t be just for the kids in trouble but to prevent situations. I’m not dismissing parent’s responsibility (I take mine very seriously)…but I do agree a mandatory semester on current laws that could directly affect the kids (right in their world) would be very beneficial and educational.

Reality

May 6th, 2009
11:24 am

Here is an idea….

Yes, students and parents need to know that information – fine. No, it is not and should not be the responsibility of the SCHOOL!

Why not offer a free class at the local Sheriff’s office on a Saturday? Let a law enforcement officer teach the class since they are the ones ultimately that have to deal with it. This way, it is free, it is available for those that want it, and it does not interfere with the mission of the school to teach content!

Reality2

May 6th, 2009
11:30 am

Nothing wrong with it as an elective course. I just don’t know who will be teaching it. Do we have highly qualified teachers to teach it???

DB

May 6th, 2009
11:32 am

Voice — “A key objective of the class, which some may have overlooked, is to prevent teens with discipline problems from getting criminal records.” Call me hard-nosed, but why should teenagers with severe enough discipline issues avoid the consequences of a criminal record?

I have no problem with education of the populace. I just don’t see why teenagers need a separate class that basically deals with being stupid. We lecture kids about birth control and STDs, but it doesn’t stop teenage pregnancy and regular STD outbreaks in the 22-and-under category. Why do we think that telling someone that sexting is illegal is going to stop some idiot bimbo with no self-respect from sending a picture of her boobs to her boyfriend? They all know about DUI from driving class, but it doesn’t stop them. The entire WORLD knows that underage drinking is against the law — but there are still teenagers who get together every Friday and Saturday night and get drunk. Even if we educated them, the teenage mind being what it is would simply shrug it off and say, “it would never happen to me, I’m too smart to get caught.”

HS Teacher, Too

May 6th, 2009
11:51 am

DB, I agree with you on both counts. I don’t think that it’s appropriate to make this a “here’s how you stay out of jail” class. But, I think that that seed perhaps sprouts a good tree. If we turn it into a modern-day civics class that goes beyond the typical “if you drink and drive and get caught, you go to jail” lecturing that — as you correctly said — doesn’t seem to work so well, I truly believe that there is a need for such a class, and that it could work.

Quite frankly, I am not convinced that high schoolers today GET old-fashioned civics information, despite what any curriculum may say. I can’t count how many times I had students cite to me “their constitutional rights,” and those rights they thought they had existed only in the constitution in their minds. And that’s a terrible travesty; there will always be students who don’t learn, but we at least ought to be TEACHING our students how our government works.

So I suppose I have changed the proposed class to something broader. It would cover our government’s structure; it would cover how the courts work; the differences between criminal and civil cases; how you can’t just “sue” someone but have to have a reason founded in law; how you can’t “always” appeal; and yes, it would also spend some time covering the kinds of offenses that tend to get kids in trouble — but that would not be the point or the entirety of the class. It would essentially be a “law for the high schooler” class that introduces students to more than the three-branches of our government history lesson, but rather to our LEGAL system.

Given my proposed expansion, that’s why I suggest that if the only way to do that is to create a new course, I’m all for it. But again, it should be for all students. It should be a graduation requirement. It certainly shouldn’t be only for kids with disciplinary records.

(On another note, you say that the programs we have in place don’t work but I have to say that, while kids are still kids and have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude, we have no way of knowing how well our programs have worked. Anecdotally, I know that my high schoolers who used to go out and drink also used to designate a driver. THAT is 100% attributable to what we’ve beaten into their brains. Are they still drinking? Sure. Is that still illegal? Sure. But they are, at least, not driving as well. If that’s all I can get, I am quite happy to take it.)

VOICE

May 6th, 2009
12:14 pm

DB, I understand your point. But, my point would become clearer if one of those teens at age 20 had a 9mm stuck in your face. Just maybe, that could be avoided.

jim d

May 6th, 2009
12:15 pm

maybe i missed something , but i’ve yet to see where this class would be required–each schoolm system would have to approve teaching of the curriculum.

high school teacher

May 6th, 2009
12:28 pm

And it wouldn’t interefere with other required courses or the mission to teach school content. Last time I checked, character education wasn’t school content either, but I have to designate in my weekly lesson plans how I incorporate the character ed word of the month.

catlady

May 6th, 2009
12:30 pm

The answer to any question: Let the school do it.

V for Vendetta

May 6th, 2009
12:35 pm

Here’s the vibe I don’t like:

“My goal is to make sure people understand that we can educate a child now or we can repair an adult later,” Cornelius said.”

As DB pointed out, we educate kids on a wide range of topics meant to help keep them out of trouble, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t do anything wrong in the future. Kids are KIDS, and some of them–many times unfortunately–don’t get it through their thick skulls until they’re facing some scary consequences. When I was in college, there were plenty of times when I thought, “I’m good, I haven’t had THAT many.” Then my friend smashed his pickup nearly in half and was facing a whole host of DUI charges. My attitude changed REAL quick, and I still to this day observe a pre-set “limit” whenever I know I’ll be driving.

The biggest problem I have with Cornelius’s quote is the “educate a child now” part. Yes, she’s absolutely right. We CAN educated a child now. In fact, you can start educating your child the minute he or she pops out into the world. My parents were STRICT with a capital B (for BELT), but that didn’t stop this former Gifted student from doing some DUMB stuff.

Tell them not to drink, they’ll still drink.

Tell them not to do “it,” they’ll still do it (A LOT).

Tell them not to hit each other, they’ll still hit each other.

Do I feel bad when little Johnny at my school gets carted off in cuffs because he didn’t know that he could have charges pressed against him for smashing another kids face in? NOPE. Guess what? Sometimes, no matter how unpleasant it is, you just have to face the music. It’s called ACCOUNTABILITY, and I think more than a few of you need to look it up.

jim d

May 6th, 2009
12:50 pm

DB,

So let me get this right–you don’t think students should be informed of their rights? That exercising ones rights under the law may be inconvenient. And if we don’t teach those civics lessons to our youth today we won’t likely be troubled with them exercising them as adults..

Would that about sum it up?

jim d

May 6th, 2009
12:52 pm

Cat,

Civics? Government? Social Studies? isn’t that what the schools should be teaching?

crawdaddy

May 6th, 2009
12:57 pm

I think an updated civics class is the answer, maybe a GA laws section. No need for an extra class. IMO kids already know what most of the laws are anyway. If you know right from wrong, the law is pretty much applicable. The schools should be about the three R’s. Parents need to teach their kids right from wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of parents do not know themselves. On a side note, why does Clayton county have to hire a school superintendent all the way from California? Are no qualified Georgians?

Sarah H

May 6th, 2009
12:59 pm

As jim d says: Civics? Government? Social Studies? We teach all of this. The only thing different would be buying Morgan’s book.

jim d

May 6th, 2009
1:00 pm

If people are to exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities as citizens, they must understand those rights and responsibilities. kids should be taught their civic rights and responsibilities so they can become politically involved adults.

Students today aren’t even taught that the Bill of Rights, the model civil liberties document, was the result of a compromise. It was offered to allay fears about the strong central government established under the basic Constitution or that some state ratifying conventions would not have approved the Constitution had they not been promised the Bill of Rights as well.

This is what we are talking about and yes that job DOES belong to the schools.

jim d

May 6th, 2009
1:02 pm

high school teacher,

I feel your pain. This is really starting to suck.

Lee

May 6th, 2009
1:07 pm

Personally, I think every parent should take their soon-to-be-driving-age teenager down to a lawyers office and pay the $100 or so to let them explain their rights, potential pitfalls, and consequences when dealing with law enforcement / justice system.

I’m sorry, I know there are a lot of good law enforcement personnel out there who exhibit common sense and approach their job in a professional manner, but there is ample anecdotal evidence of “good” kids who get railroaded by the system.

As far as schools, I think it would be a worthwhile endeavor for law enforcement personnel / district attorney / judge to come in and give a lecture to the students about the legal justice system, laws, and consequences. Civics class would be an appropriate venue for this lecture. I don’t think it merits a semester long class.

Let’s face it, teenagers think they are ten feet tall and bulletproof. Most have not yet grasped the concept that what they do as a fourteen year old may impact their lives when they are thirty.

….that is, until they are thirty and they wonder where they went wrong…

Parent

May 6th, 2009
1:10 pm

Very important topic on which to educate our students and weave into a curriculum, and not just for the kids getting in trouble. Maybe then, with this generation, we can raise students who are less willing to put knee jerk politics ahead of our youth’s future. If school districts opt to arrest and file juvenile complaints on kids for minor, non violent, non drug/weapon infractions which have already been disciplined inside the school environment (and yes it is done ALL the time), then they should be accountable for teaching those laws. How often are teens getting arrested and/or juvenile complaints filed? – no high school or school district I have ever heard of shares this information in the aggregate – nor are they willing to break it down by offense/race/gender. Teach it as an elective with open enrollment in a broad civics class environment, the consequences are much too serious to leave this one to chance.

luvs2teach

May 6th, 2009
1:14 pm

I love the idea of this class, and as a matter of fact, I suggested this very same book to be taught as part of our 8th grade advisement. The kids don’t know, and while it may be the parents’ responsibility to teach some of this, the fact of the matter is that they don’t know either!

As to the logistics of creating an entirely new class in the midst of our economic crisis being difficult, that may be a problem, but I’m certainly glad this idea is on the table.

high school teacher

May 6th, 2009
1:18 pm

Teenagers think that they are immortal, invincible, and inertile :)

NMHA

May 6th, 2009
1:19 pm

I have no problem witht this class being offered as an elective-type class, that is mandatory for chronic behavior problem students. Kids that don’t need it, don’t have to take it, or they can if criminal justice is something they may be interested in as a career.

high school teacher

May 6th, 2009
1:19 pm

Make that infertile. Gees, it posts the ones that I don’t want it to post!

Concerned and Very Involved Parent

May 6th, 2009
1:29 pm

Reality
Free classes at the local Sheriff’s office…yeah right…how many people do actually think will show up for that?

Reality2
Teachers teach civics and current event now…why wouldn’t they be qualified.

DB
I think the key objective of the class would be to educate the teen to prevent problems before they happen. It’s not stupid…they teach sex education to prevent STDs and other situations. I disagree…I think sex education DUI education does help more than not. Don’t lump all the teens into the same group, there are a lot of good kids out there. Also, it’s not just girls sending in appropriate photos via “sexting”…boys send photos of things that should remain in their pants too.

HS Teacher, Too
I agree…some will fall between the cracks…but I believe the majority will benefit. I also agree…It should be a graduation requirement. It certainly shouldn’t be only for kids with disciplinary records. DITTO…I also agree some of the stuff is getting through to them…more kids are having designated drivers or calling their parents.

high school teacher
Excuse me…the last time I checked school and everything else in life has an impact on character!!! Teachers play a vital role.

catlady
What‘a crock…parents should be involved…no one’s suggesting that we drop the kids off at age 5 and pick them up after graduation.

Jim d
YES!!! isn’t that what the schools should be teaching?

Luvs2teach
You’re right…some parents do care…but the just don’t know all the “new laws”.

NMHA
All kids would benefit… “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

V for Vendetta

May 6th, 2009
1:45 pm

CVIP, you said: “Free classes at the local Sheriff’s office…yeah right…how many people do actually think will show up for that?”

Doesn’t that sum it all up? If you don’t care enough to take your kids to something like that, then why should anyone care? I don’t know about you, but my parents would have been first in line for such a program–no matter where it was offered. I hold the same attitude. If something like that were offered at the police station, I would have my kids down there in a heartbeat. It’s my responsibility to do so, no one else’s. When will people figure that out? This is a matter of individual accountability. If we don’t model it for our kids, how can we expect them to pick it up from someone else?

I find it funny that in such a conservative state as Georgia so many people want the schools to provide all of these services for them. It seems to me that if people in this state were truly conservative then they would be advocates of individuality over the collective.

Stacey

May 6th, 2009
1:51 pm

I agree with those who say that this should be incorporated into an existing civics and/or state government class. A lot of laws are common sense but others aren’t. IMO, it would be beneficial for all students to take such a class. When it comes to the law, what you don’t know can hurt you the most. Heck, I was a criminal justice major 20 years ago but it would benefit me to take such a class now. I can’t recall what they are advertising, but there’s a series of radio commericals that make fun of dumb law (such as in Idaho (or somewhere) it is illegal to fish while sitting on a camel’s back). I feel pretty sure that I don’t have to worry about me nor mine breaking that particular law but there are other laws they might not be aware of.

Elsie

May 6th, 2009
1:51 pm

Make it a mandatory after-school or Saturday session for students with discipline issues- make it part of the discipline “process”.

Concerned and Very Involved Parent

May 6th, 2009
2:05 pm

V for Vendetta
A lot of schools offer community service forums in the evenings…but no one shows. So do you think sex education and information about drugs should be taken out of the schools too? I’m not giving up my parental rights or responsibilities but additional education that can assist my child in making wise choices can only be beneficial. You can’t live under rock…the issue of society must be deal with. The kids should be well armed with knowledge in all areas so they can make wise decisions.

“individuality over the collective” …we all live in society with one another.

Elsie
Should sex education only be for sexually active kids?

high school teacher

May 6th, 2009
2:16 pm

CVIP,

I don’t disagree. I was merely pointing out that these classes would fall into the same category as character ed.