Friday, January 18, 2013

Report: S. Euclid “Youth in Peril” Forum + Today's Events

Report on South Euclid “Youth in Peril” Forum
Attorney and former assistant 
prosecutor Jocelyn Conwell on how a
juvenile record can bedevil adults.

School Board president
Cassandra Jones lauds Judge Michael Ryan

Judge Williams-Byers and Professor Naso listen as teacher
Karen Jones responds to audience question.

South Euclid resident Angela Shute-Wilson 
addresses the Youth-in-Peril panel.

South Euclid resident Gregory Moore urged 
the community to finda way to continue the City's 
court diversion program this summer.

Case Western Reserve University professor
and City Council president David Miller speaks
from audience about the consequences when
children are witness to domestic violence
Marko Fikaris recalls his
outsider status as South Euclid child

Police Chief Kevin Nietert listening
 as community member speaks

An active and engaged band of nearly 40 citizens turned out Wednesday night to listen to and question local community leaders about alternatives and programs for young people, especially those in the 12-15 age range, to deter them from pursuing activities that might push them into the juvenile justice system.

Councilwoman Ruth Gray
 The meeting, held at the South Euclid Community Center, was called by the city council's safety committee, chaired by Ruth Gray. Panel members included three judges —Alison Nelson Floyd and Michael John Ryan from Juvenile Court, and Gayle Williams-Byers of South Euclid Municipal Court — as well as S. Euclid police chief Kevin Nietert, service director Keith A. Benjamin, South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools director of business services, Karen Jones of Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education and teacher at Memorial Jr. High in South Euclid; Case Western Reserve law professor and juvenile justice expert Carmen Naso; and Chad Welker of the school district’s business services, including security.

Benjamin said that 38% of all young people who get involved with juvenile court wind up in the criminal justice system as adults. He urged swifter resolution of juvenile cases and emphasized that where and with whom children spend their out-of-school time plays a critical role in their destinies.

Police Chief Nietert emphasized his belief in the court diversion program previously operating within South Euclid but said that it had been possible only due to a federal grant that had expired. Since the district had only $5 thousand to run a program costing $10-15 thousand, the city was likely not to participate in 2013.

CH-UH board member and SE-L schoolteacher Karen Jones had some strong ideas about how teachers must be involved in the lives of their students. She said a “good teacher has to be a risk-taker” and inquire after the lives of her students.

“You can’t just wear blinders and say ‘I’m just teaching social studies,’” said Jones. “I don’t want my students to ever meet Judges Floyd or Ryan in court.”

Following the presentations there was high participation from residents. A businessman in the audience, Gregory Moore, challenged city leadership and residents to come up with a plan to ensure the diversion program continues in 2013. “No plan, no dollars. No dollars, no plan,” he said.

Judge Williams-Byers said that she had “been in dialogue with the school superintendent and the principal of Memorial Jr. High regarding the diversion program” as well as a peer court model, and that she would take the lead in following up with Juvenile Court regarding extension of a court diversion program.

Marko Fikaris related his family’s move to South Euclid in 1979 when as a sixth or seventh grader he was presented with numerous challenges because he was an outsider. He said that ingredients for a successful life start from the home.

Two or three parents in the audience spoke with particular reference to five streets in the southwest corner of South Euclid that are within the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district. One said that living in one city while going to school in another raised peer issues of loyalty and identity among students.

As the meeting adjourned, a consensus seemed to be reached that officials would hold regular public sessions on a quarterly basis, in addition to the actions they would pursue over the next sixty days. *

Today’s Community Events

Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson will be the featured speaker tonight, Friday January 18, at the 12th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Gala, sponsored by the Cleveland chapter Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

The program will be held at the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church, 1161 East 105 St. [map]

State Sen. Nina Turner will be honored at the 7 PM dinner. For information or tickets [$50.] call Marcia McCoy at 216.374.0913 or 216.752.0259.
• • •

The ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams takes place this afternoon at 4:30PM at Cleveland City Hall, 601 Lakeside Ave., in City Council chambers. Collier-Williams was elected to the Common Pleas Court in November.

* I was unable to arrive before several on the panel had spoken.

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