WWMTD – cleaner’s tragedy

My cleaner’s children’s father (her ex-partner) was assaulted last week and died on Monday.  How do I support her?

My cleaner’s ex-partner had been having problems with his housemate.  He called her the night it happened to say that he didn’t want to take their children for the weekend as scheduled because he was worried about this guy’s behaviour.  About nine hours later he got hit over the head and never regained consciousness.  The other guy claims self-defence, but can’t produce the weapon.  Why would you hide the weapon if it was self-defence?  All indications point to an escalating fight that went badly wrong.

I really don’t know how to support my cleaner without crossing the line between employer and employee.  I’ve told her to take all the time off that she needs and to let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, but she says that this is her job and she needs the money, so she’ll continue to work as usual.  So she showed up yesterday and cleaned my house.  The day after his death.

I can’t imagine what she’s telling her kids, who are about 11 and 8.  She’s such a nice young woman and a really hard worker.  I feel so bad for her.  I feel impotent to do anything, but she’s got family and friends around her.  I’m just her employer.  What else should I say or do except be flexible about when she works?  It’s not a rhetorical question.  I really do need some guidance on this, but I don’t know where to get it.


How To Deal With Truancy?

A prosecutor in Detroit is working up a scheme to fine, and even jail, parents for failing to show up to parent-teacher conferences, according to an article in the Huffington Post.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s desperate attempt follows a rash of crime committed by youth in the city, and one of the nation’s highest truancy rates. Last year, the average student missed 46 days of school. A former Detroit special education teacher quoted in the article said as little as 3 out of 15 parents would attend meetings with teachers.

Worthy has a new idea she hopes will fix the problem: Jail parents for up to three days for repeatedly missing scheduled parent-teacher conferences.

“I have seen that younger and younger children are committing more violent acts and we need to look at different approaches,” Worthy told reporters. “I know we need to try something different. We should not have to legislate this, but what we have been doing is not working.”

She’s still working on the details, but once her proposal is finished, she hopes to present it to county commissioners in August and persuade them to approve an ordinance. After that, she may take it to state legislators in Lansing.

It’s unlikely to quickly become an ordinance because it would probably be challenged in court because civil libertarians say it may be outside the law. Even some teachers, who often spend several hours waiting for parents who don’t show up for the conferences, are skeptical.

Educators and parents are skeptical of Worthy’s plan because they say that jail time further burdens poor parents. But they acknowledge that truancy and crime are major problems in the city.

What do you think of Worthy’s plan? Is there anything we can do to get all parents more involved in their children’s education?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

The Huffington Post ran good food for thought on why merit pay for teachers is a bad idea. A study by the Economic Policy Institute laid to rest two myths: one is that the private sector overwhelmingly relies on merit-based pay, when only seven percent of workers actually participate in such a system. The other, is the assumption that good teachers are driven by money. The study found that other factors, like, the purpose of the job and autonomy given on the job, were the primary drivers. Anyways, this is a topic we have discussed here before, so this column is definitely worth a read.  

In a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down state laws that lock up juveniles for life without the possibility of parole, if they have not committed a murder, according to the Washington Post.

Good on the Episcopal Church for consecrating its first openly gay woman, according to CNN. In related news: Portugal’s president is about to sign a law legalizing gay marriage, according to BBC News.

I came across a lot of interesting stories for this edition. Here is a Daily Beast article about how women who marry a much older man — or younger man — have an increased risk of death compared to women who marry men their age. The reason is that both these women face added pressures with the age difference. For the younger women, it is the stress that comes with being their husband’s caregiver. For the older women, it is the added pressure of having to look hot to keep up with their younger husbands.

This is sad. Almost 11 years after his mother died of a drug overdose, Tyler Lambert, the 25-year-old son of late Diff’rent Strokes star Dana Plato, committed suicide, according to the New York Daily News. Lambert died of a gunshot wound to the head.

In less macabre news, Sandra Diaz-Twine won Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains. She is the only player to ever win the million dollars twice. So now I must ask you Survivor fans: do you think the right contestant won? As some commenters in the CBS thread pointed out, there are folks who feel that Russell Hantz got robbed the second time. Of course, you all know where I stand. I was rooting for Sandra all along. And, as other commenters pointed out in the CBS thread, part of the game is to get the jury, who you had a hand in voting out, to award you the million dollars. It is not only a physical and strategic game, but a social game, too. Despite all his bullying and “controlling the game,” Russell was never able to sway the jurors, which makes me believe that he is far from the best player. The best villain, yes, but hardly the best player.

Until next season…What are you watching nowadays? What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Kansas jury convicts killer of late-term abortion provider

After deliberating for less than an hour, a Kansas jury found anti-abortion fanatic Scott Roeder guilty of first degree murder for shooting Dr. George Tiller in church last May. Roeder admitted killing Tiller and will be sentenced in March. Prosecutors are seeking a 50-year sentence with no possibility for parole. If Roeder is sentenced to life in prison, he could be eligible for parole in 25 years.

During the trial,

[Sedgwick County District Judge Warren] Wilbert had barred Roeder from using a so-called necessity defense, aiming for an acquittal by arguing that the killing was necessary to prevent a greater harm – killing babies. But the judge allowed Roeder to present evidence that he sincerely believed his actions were justified to save unborn children — a defense that could have led to a conviction on the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter.

On Thursday afternoon, however, Wilbert ruled that he would not give jurors the option of considering a voluntary manslaughter conviction, because such a defense requires that a person must be stopping the imminent use of unlawful force.

Unfortunately, Roeder succeeded in shutting down Tiller’s clinic, one of very few facilities where women could receive late-term abortions. Contrary to the propaganda you may have heard from the anti-choice movement, women seeking care from Dr. Tiller didn’t just casually decide during the second or third trimester that they didn’t feel like having children.

Kansas state law allows abortions on viable fetuses after the 21st week only if carrying the pregnancy to term would endanger the mother’s life or cause a “substantial and irreversible impairment” of a major bodily function. Courts have interpreted a “major bodily function” to include mental health.

Amanda Marcotte wrote before Tiller was murdered,

The argument for attacking Tiller is that he performs late term abortions, which are supposedly worse than early term ones, even though anti-choicers claim that a fertilized egg is the same thing as a 5-year-old child, so that shows that their targeting of late term providers is cynical politicking on its face.  But if you actually bother to look at why women get late term abortions, the targeting Dr. Tiller becomes even more horrifying.  Generally speaking, you’re talking about women who really wanted to have a baby, but who can’t have this one, because something is wrong with her health or that of the fetus.  Because of the sensitive nature of the situation, Dr. Tiller’s office offers a great deal of counseling services to their patients, who are often suffering trauma because of what’s happening to them.  In addition to counseling, there are baptism and funerary services, as well as photographing and footprinting, for people who want to say goodbye to the baby that they expected to have but couldn’t.  The levels of hate projected at Dr. Tiller are directly proportional to the levels of care he shows for women during this rough period of their lives.

Although Roeder will spend a long time in prison, it’s hard to feel justice has been served when he accomplished his goal.


More on Faith Healing

We have had long discussions in the past about parents getting sentenced for praying rather than seeking medical care for their children.

The Washington Post had a fascinating story on the difference in sentences for neglect between religious and non-religious parents. Basically, the faith healers get much more lenient sentences than non-religious parents who get charged with neglect even for lesser offenses.

In the past 25 years, hundreds of children are believed to have died in the United States after faith-healing parents forbade medical attention to end their sickness or protect their lives. When minors die from a lack of parental care, it is usually a matter of criminal neglect and is often tried as murder. However, when parents say the neglect was an article of faith, courts routinely hand down lighter sentences. Faithful neglect has not been used as a criminal defense, but the claim is surprisingly effective in achieving more lenient sentencing, in which judges appear to render less unto Caesar and more unto God.

This disparate treatment was evident last month in Wisconsin, a state with an exemption for faith-based neglect under its child abuse laws. Leilani and Dale Neumann were sentenced for allowing their 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara Neumann, to die in 2008 from an undiagnosed but treatable form of diabetes. The Neumanns are affiliated with a faith-healing church called Unleavened Bread Ministries and continued to pray with other members while Madeline died. They could have received 25 years in prison. Instead, the court emphasized their religious rationale and gave them each six months in jail (to be served one month a year) and 10 years’ probation….

Compare the Neumanns’ legal treatment with a couple of other recent cases in which children were injured or killed by nonreligious neglect. Russell J. Wozniak Jr. and Jennifer Ann Wozniak, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., received basically the same sentence as the Neumanns for, the criminal complaint said, allowing their 2-year-old to wander around covered in vomit and wearing a full diaper.

Then there are the parents of Alex Washburn. The 22-month-old died after hitting his head at home in Cross Lanes, W.Va. His parents, Elizabeth Dawn Thornton and Christopher Steven Washburn, said the boy fell a lot and hit his head on the corner of a table and his chin on a toilet. They apologized for not seeking medical help and agreed to terminate their parental rights to their other children, handing over custody to the state. “I wish I did seek medical treatment for my son faster,” Washburn told the court. “That will definitely be with me for the rest of my life.” The court sentenced both parents to three to 15 years in prison.

So the Neumanns got one month in jail for six years and kept custody of their children, and the Washburns got up to 15 years in prison and agreed to give up their kids.

Since we love to dissect ethical type stories around these parts, I thought I would post. Chat away!


Why Don’t Men Vote?

Despite all the media hoopla surrounding this year’s presidential election, voting is actually down from the ’60s especially among men, according to Newsweek. The magazine laid out the reasons for the disparity in voting patterns between men and women:

Isolation: Men are less likely than women to attend church, consume news, trust authority and believe that people are generally good, according to the University of Michigan’s General Social Survey, a biannual tracking of attitudes and behaviors. “I’m basically an outsider,” says Chris Cox, 32, a systems administrator from Omaha. Voting, he explains, is like choosing “between a douche bag and a turd sandwich.”

Education: Higher education is the top predictor of voting, and increasingly men aren’t as schooled as women. In recent decades, male enrollment has dropped below that of women at the undergraduate level.

Crime: Of the 5.3 million convicted felons barred from voting in this country, more than 80 percent are men. That number has steadily swelled since the 1980s, says UC-San Diego political scientist Samuel Popkin, who explains the male voting problem simply: “Men go to jail.”

Culture: It’s a guy thing–but mostly a single-guy thing. Married men are not only more likely to vote than their bachelor counterparts, but according to gender sociologist Michael Kimmel, they are frequently swayed by their wives about who gets their votes. Wise decision.


Do You Feel Safe?

Lately, my neighborhood on the Berkeley-Oakland border has experienced a rash of crimes from home burglaries to hold-ups.

The teenage son of one of our neighbors was held up in broad daylight at our local public transit station. The obviously startled mother has called the police whenever she sees anyone fit the description of the perpetrator — a young African American man on a bicycle — but the man has not been caught, making us all feel uneasy.

Unfortunately, crime in Berkeley and nearby Oakland has shot up this year. Oakland actually made a list of most dangerous U.S. cities.

To the chagrin of residents in those cities, CQ Press, a unit of Congressional Quarterly, just released a list of the 10 most crime-ridden cities in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. The report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people and compared per capita rates on homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. “Each crime category was considered separately and weighted based on its seriousness,“ AP quoted CQ Press.

The cities CQ suggested we avoid — why else publish the list? — are the following:

1.) Detroit, Michigan
2.) St. Louis, Missouri
3.) Flint, Michigan
4.) Oakland, California
5.) Camden, New Jersey
6.) Birmingham, Alabama
7.) North Charleston, South Carolina
8.) Memphis, Tennessee
9.) Richmond, California
10.) Cleveland, Ohio

Well, if these folks have not seen their real estate values tank, they will now. Even the FBI criticized the CQ stats for its “simplistic“ view, which can cause harm to the cities’ image.

“These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region,“ the FBI said. “Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.“

Doug Goldenberg-Hart, acquisitions editor at CQ Press, said that the rankings are imperfect, but that the numbers are straightforward. Cities at the top of the list would not be there unless they ranked poorly in all six crime categories, he said.

“The idea that people oppose it, it’s kind of blaming the messenger,“ Goldenberg-Hart said. “It’s not coming to terms with the idea that crime is a persistent problem in our society.“

The report “helps concerned Americans learn how their communities fare in the fight against crime,“ CQ Press said in a statement. “The first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand the true magnitude of their crime problems. This will only be achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and understand.“

While I agree that such numbers are demoralizing, I would never prohibit anyone from conducting any research. Then I read this final graph in the AP story and I can’t help but think that Goldenberg-Hart is full of it:

The study excluded Chicago, Minneapolis, and other Illinois and Minnesota cities because of incomplete data.

Whoa. Chicago is only the second largest city in the country. It seems irresponsible to exclude it from such damaging research.

OTOH, I have noticed crime shoot up in my neighborhood. I blame it all on income disparity. As I have blogged before, yuppies like us are snagging real estate at ridiculous prices and former urban dwellers have nowhere to go. It is disturbing that, at least in my neighborhood, the victims of crime are whites and perpetrators impoverished blacks. Oftentimes, I walk by poles with posters of “Wanted“ black faces. I hate the racial overtones and income disparities that exist in our community and elsewhere.  

CQ’s report also listed the safest cities in the nation, with Mission Viejo, California; Clarkstown, New York; Brick Township, New Jersey; Amherst, New York and Sugarland, Texas topping the list. Do you feel safe in your community, MotherTalkers?