Public School: A Penitentiary for Children

superthumbWhen I was a kid, I always felt school was like being in jail. I saw it as a place I had to go to–totally against my will–for about 8 hours of my day, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays). While there I was not allowed to leave and I was not allowed to do whatever I wanted. I was forced to “behave” and “listen” to the teacher. Pure torture…from my 10 year old perspective. Despite my overly dramatic childish impression of school as a type of prison, this view was not totally incorrect. Little did I know then that today’s schools would be morphing into a form of jail for children.


Solitary Confinement Room for Children

Schools across the country are literally building solitary confinement rooms for children. These cells tend to be very small, sometimes padded, with no windows. Sometimes the cells are equipped with mechanical restraints such as handcuffs and ankle shackles. Many of the children suffering this indignation also suffer from autism. With autism rates in the United States rising, schools are responding to the epidemic by building these “special rooms.” Schools argue that some children are so violent that the only way to protect the child, and those around the child, is by restraining the child in one of these cells. Shannon Knall, the policy chair of the Connecticut Chapter of Autism Speaks, blamed the high incidence of the use of restraints on teacher’s and administrative staff’s  “tremendous lack of training” and knowledge about alternative interventions.

I am a mom of four children. And as mentioned above, I myself was once a child. I will self-incriminate and admit that I was also often a very naughty child.  Fist fights (with boys…yes, I was that girl!), talking back to the teacher, ditching class, and daring the principal to call my parents. Despite all my bad behavior, I actually loved learning. Hence the law degree. I just hated school and all of its “constraining” rules. To this day, I still feel that many of the rules were unnecessary and tended to stifle learning. It is hard to believe that any school that maintains “solitary confinement” rooms for children is actually engaging in any type of learning activity. It is counter-intuitive to believe that schools that are so worried about “safety” they are building jail cells for kids are also able to deliver a “high achieving learning environment that fosters a life-long love for education.” Yeah right. As my grandpa would say, “you must think I was born yesterday, if you expect me to believe that.”

My personal experience with school (specifically public school) prompted me to place my children in a private school where I felt they would have more freedom and encouragement in learning. At the time I made that decision I had no idea about the ominous trend that would soon overtake America’s schools–ie., solitary confinement rooms. Now that I do know, I am so glad that I made the decision to not send my children to public school. Having said that I know that for most parents, private school is not an option. But there is another option–Homeschool. Again, I know that homeschool is not an easy choice for all families to make. It takes dedication and determination on the part of the parents. Sacrifices sometimes need to be made in terms of lifestyle since one parent is now required to stay home to teach the children. But it is a sacrifice that is well worth it. For single parents, homeschool may be entirely impossible. The other obvious option is for parents to regain control of local school boards. Again, this would take extreme persistence and collaboration on the part of determined parents. But it can be done. It just takes the willingness to try.

Our children deserve better than the schools are giving. Its time to make the schools answerable to parents. Either return school governance to their original form (local school boards were originally designed to be answerable to parents) or exit the schools via homeschool, private school, or school vouchers. Apathy is not an option.




A Glimmer of Hope for Discharging Student Loans in Bankruptcy?

Student Loan DebtA potential ray of hope has appeared on the horizon for the thousands of people struggling to pay their student loans. On January 21, 2015, Representative John K. Delaney (D-MD) introduced H.R. 449–Discharge of Student Loans in Bankruptcy Act (click here to read H.R. 449). This bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Currently, bankruptcy law states [some] student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy if the debtor demonstrates to the court that to continue paying those loans would constitute an “undue hardship.” For most people with thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt, who are out of work, struggling to pay their mortgage/rent, put food on the table, etc… would seem easy to prove to a court that there is no way the debtor could afford to pay their student loans. But only if it were that easy. Since the bankruptcy code does not define “undue hardship”, bankruptcy courts have taken it upon themselves to create a test to determine “undue hardship.” Most courts have adopted the three-part Brunner Test….and this test is very difficult to pass.

The Brunner Test (Brunner v. New York State Higher Education Services Corp.) states that the debtor must prove:

1. debtor can’t maintain, based on current income and expenses, a “minimal” standard of living for herself and he dependents if forced to repay the loans; and

2. additional circumstances exist indicating that this state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period of the student loans; and

3. that the debtor had made good faith efforts to repay the loan

The debtor must satisfy all three parts to receive a discharge. Most courts impose a very strict reading of the above factors. For this reason most people who attempt to discharge their student loan debt in bankruptcy, fail to do so. Perhaps H.R. 449 will provide debtors with student loan debt the opportunity to truly receive a financial “fresh start.”



11th Circuit reverses bankruptcy sale, criticizes lawyer

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a 2010 bankruptcy in a case involving allegations of collusion by business partners and accusations that a bankruptcy lawyer failed to turn over emails about the plan. In a per curiam opinion, the 11th Circuit said late-disclosed emails supported claims of a partner in Global Energies, Joseph Wortley, that two other Global Energies partners hatched a plan to file an involuntary bankruptcy petition in an effort to wrest control of the business from him, the Daily Business Review reports. Global Energies’ assets were ultimately sold to one of the other partners and his company after they paid creditors and court costs, the story says. The opinion PDF cited June 2010 emails produced in March 2012 appearing to show that the two partners “colluded in filing for involuntary bankruptcy and that they had testified falsely…

via 11th Circuit reverses bankruptcy sale, criticizes lawyer.

ASU Professor Charged After She Refused To Give Identification And Was Thrown To The Ground By Arresting Officer

Shades of Nazi Germany: “Your papers, please”.
Unfortunately, the police state is alive and well in the United States.


ersula-oreThere is a growing controversy in Arizona over the arrest of Arizona State University Professor Ersula Ore who refused to show her identification to a police officer and ended up being thrown to the ground and arrested — a scene captured on the videotape below.

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A restoration of the balance of power between the three branches of government is desperately needed.


3branchesBelow is my column in the Sunday Washington Post on separation of powers — authored with United States Senator Ron Johnson (R, Wis.). As the piece states, Johnson and I come from sharply different political perspectives, though the most surprising aspect of this collaboration is that he is a Packers fan and I am a Bears fan. We decided to write a piece together to try to seek a nonpartisan response to the rapidly expanding executive power in our system — and the corresponding decline of legislative power. We have been discussing this worrisome shift within our system and the lack of any collective institutional identity, let alone action, from members. We thought, if we could show the common ground in these concerns, it might encourage other members to reach across the aisle in the interests of their institution.

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