Tag Archives: teenager

Wisconsin pays $300,000 to youth prison inmate in settlement

The Department of Corrections has agreed to pay $300,000 to an inmate at Wisconsin’s troubled youth prison who waited nearly two hours for a nurse after a guard smashed his toes in a door, according to a settlement agreement.

The state acknowledged no fault in the September settlement agreement, which was released Friday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

While transferring a teenage inmate to a new cell in November 2015, a guard shoved the inmate into the room and slammed the door, catching the teen’s foot against the jamb.

Records show it took an hour and 45 minutes for a nurse to arrive at the cell and even longer for him to get transferred to a medical facility.

The incident occurred at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys in Irma, about 30 miles north of Wausau.

Lincoln Hills and the adjacent Copper Lake School for Girls are under federal investigation into allegations of physical abuse, sexual assault and misconduct.

The incident happened near the end of a 16-hour shift when the guard’s unit was short on staff. The guard was placed on paid leave and then resigned a short time later.

Video of the incident exists, but the department isn’t releasing it because of laws that protect information about juveniles that are incarcerated.

Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook said the state has since altered rules on medical responses, provided better training for staff about using force and added body cameras.

“This is going to keep happening if they don’t make some real changes,” said state Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee. “Nothing is shocking at this point.”

Chicago police union hires officer accused in teen’s death

A white Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting of a black teenager has been hired to work as a janitor for the city’s police union as he awaits trial, the union president said last week, prompting protests.

Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago, says the union hired Jason Van Dyke about three weeks ago. Van Dyke is accused of shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. The shooting was captured on squad-car video and has prompted investigations, including a federal civil rights probe of the Chicago Police Department. Van Dykes has been suspended from the department without pay.

Jason Van Dyke. — PHOTO: Courtesy
Jason Van Dyke. — PHOTO: Courtesy

The union would do the same for any Chicago officer and have hired dozens of people who are in no-pay status, Angelo said.

“This officer is in a very difficult situation financially. He has a family and we would do it for anybody that works as a Chicago Police officer,” Angelo said.

The union’s action prompted about a dozen demonstrators to gather outside FOP headquarters to voice outrage at the union’s action.

“It’s a slap in the face to Chicago residents,” said activist Ja’Mal Green.

Retired Chicago police detective and former union member Cornelius Longstreet said the union was wrong in hiring Van Dyke.

“I’m not saying that Mr. Van Dyke is guilty, I’m not saying that he’s innocent,” Longstreet said. “What the bottom line is, is that I don’t think this is something that the union should have done. I think the union is sending a bad message.”

Van Dyke does various tasks at the union headquarters, Angelo said.

“He might be on the roof, he might be in the office, he does anything we need,” Angelo said.

Van Dyke has lost other jobs due to publicity and that threats closed his wife’s business, the union said. Van Dyke’s attorney last week asked court officials to let the officer not attend hearings because he has received threats of violence and death when he comes to court.

Defying Hollywood conventions in ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’

When you make a film where a 15-year-old girl sleeps with her mother’s 35-year-old boyfriend, a few things are certain: You’re going to make some people uncomfortable and you’re going to get feedback. A lot of it.

But first time director Marielle Heller knew what she wanted for The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and it didn’t involve ensuring people were comfortable.

Heller’s adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel looks at teenage sexuality from the point of view of the teenager. There’s no judgment. There’s just the story of aspiring artist Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley), a 1970s San Francisco teen with a neglectful, hard-partying single mother (Kristin Wiig) and a yearning for self-actualization. When her mom’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard) opens the door to an intimate encounter, Minnie jumps right in.

Even the first line of the film proved controversial to some: “I had sex today.”

“Most movies would have spent the first 30 minutes getting to know the character before she had sex,” Heller says.

Many advised Heller to consider that approach.

“For Minnie, that’s where this chapter of her life begins,” she says. A long intro would have only been there to satisfy screenwriting conventions and to coax audiences into the story.

People also suggested standard Hollywood plot contrivances, like having Minnie end up with a boy her own age at the end, which wholly contradicted the point of the story. This was a story about Minnie’s journey to self-acceptance outside of male validation, she thought.

“We’re in a place where for so, so, so long men have been controlling movies,” Heller said. “I’m not saying it’s some major, master, malicious plan, but I do think there is a serious lack of comfort when it comes to talking about young women and their sexuality.”

It was a blessing then that Heller, a writer and actress, found a financier — international production company Caviar — that gave her the freedom to execute her vision, even if it was on a shoestring budget with lots of help from friends and family.

Most essential, though, was finding the perfect Minnie.

Heller, who’d played the part on stage, had a seemingly impossible list of qualities that she needed an actress to satisfy: To look young but also old; to be an every woman but incredibly special; to be believable as a comic book nerd; and to be beautiful and sexually confident but still exude the awkwardness of a teenager. Powley stood out as the rare embodiment of all those contradictions.

Now 23, British actor Powley had been sending tapes to the United States for years and hadn’t booked anything. When she put her name in for Minnie, she wasn’t expecting much, but she’d never read a role that resonated with her so deeply.

Simply, it reminded her of being a teenager, and that alone was revolutionary.

“I think there’s such a vicious cycle surrounding teenage girls and female sex. People are scared of it, so they won’t talk about it and people don’t talk about it because they’re scared of it,” says Powley. “I wanted to be part of this project which was going to potentially break that cycle.”

Once she was cast, she and Heller decided to forgo agents and managers and lawyers and “nudity riders” and work something out together. Trust was essential.

“I think having a female director was really important to her and me being an actor meant that I knew what I was asking her to do,” Heller says. “I’ve been topless in a play. I know how hard that is. I knew what I was asking of her and she felt that.”

Part of that trust came from knowing they both had the same objective.

“We wanted to make a movie about coming-of-age and exploring sexuality,” Powley said. “We didn’t want to make a movie about a 15-year-old fu**ing a 35-year-old man.”

While the relationship between Minnie and Monroe is controversial on paper, on screen it’s never presented as exploitative.

“The movie is all told from Minnie’s point of view. If she doesn’t feel it’s creepy, we shouldn’t feel it’s creepy,” Heller said.

In an effort to ensure that the film reaches its intended audience, Heller worked to secure an R-rating. She wouldn’t disclose the changes, but said that they didn’t compromise the integrity of the film.

“I was very surprised by how well it went,” she said, especially considering the fact that, in the U.K., it was slapped with an “18” rating — which both Heller and Powley found dismaying.

“A board of men decided that this movie was not suitable for young women,” Heller said. “Nobody tries to shelter young men from the realities of the world. Why do we try to shelter young women?”

Updated: Protests follow fatal police shooting of Madison biracial teen

UPDATED: Almost 2,000 university, high school and middle school students walked out of their classes on March 9 to join a demonstration against the fatal police shooting of unarmed biracial teen Tony Robinson in the state capital.

Students also amassed in the Capitol rotunda, waving signs and chanting, “Black lives matter,” which has become a standard slogan in dozens of protests around the country over the past several months — all of them organized to draw attention to a spate of police killings of unarmed black men, including Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee. 

Robinson, 19, was shot and killed by Madison police officer Matt Kenny. According to a police report, Kenny responded to a call at about 6:30 p.m. on March 6 complaining about a person “yelling and jumping in front of cars.” A second call to police said the man was “responsible for a battery,” Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said during a press conference on March 8.

The police report said Kenny, who is white, went to an apartment on Willy Street looking for the suspect and forced his way inside after overhearing a disturbance. There, he encountered Robinson, who struck Kenny in the head and knocked him to the ground before Kenny fired at him, according to the report.

Koval said police are investigating to determine how many shots were fired and to analyze the incident.

Robinson’s killing was the second incident in which Kenny used lethal force in his career. Eight years ago, he killed a white man who pointed a pellet gun at him. Kenny was exonerated of wrongdoing in that case and even awarded a commendation for it.

The March 6 incident was also Robinson’s second run-in with the law. At the time of his death, he was on probation for an armed break-in during 2014. 


During a March 8 press conference, Koval acknowledged that the fact Robinson was unarmed was “going to make this (case) all the more complicated for the investigators, for the public to accept.”

His concern quickly proved to be true. Peaceful protests and rallies were ongoing in the days following the killing. The city of Madison’s website was shut down on the night of March 9 and its email systems were disrupted by what city officials said might have been a cyberattack related to Robinson’s killing. Officials said the attack is similar to those experienced by other cities after officer-involved shootings.

The cyberattack affected in-car laptops used by law enforcement across the county, in addition to Madison’s system.

Since his initial press conference, Koval has reaffirmed his pledge to uncover the details of the case. He’s apologized to Robinson’s family and prayed with Robinson’s grandmother. 

Robinson’s uncle Turin Carter said his family wanted a thorough investigation, but added that family members do not endorse anti-police attitudes.

“We understand that law enforcement is necessary and mandatory and we need to change our mindset about the police,” Carter said in a news conference outside the house where Robinson was shot.

Robinson, a 2014 graduate of Sun Prairie High School, was well-liked, according to Olga Ennis, a neighbor and family friend. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Ennis said.

She said many in the community don’t trust police officers. “We’re afraid of the cops,” she said. “Who do you call for help now?”

Mayor Paul Soglin called the shooting “a tragedy beyond description” in a statement. “I hope as the pain eases that something constructive will come of this,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Robinson’s shooting came days after the U.S. Justice Department cleared Darren Wilson, the white former Ferguson, Missouri, officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, of federal civil rights charges. A second report found patterns of racial profiling, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement and court practices in the St. Louis suburb.

There have been several high-profile deaths of black suspects killed by police officers in recent months. In New York City, Eric Garner died after officers put him in a chokehold and a video showed him repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” A police officer in Cleveland fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had been pointing a pellet gun at a playground. And although Milwaukee police determined the officer who fatally shot Dontre Hamilton acted in self-defense, he was fired for ignoring department policy and treating Hamilton as a criminal by frisking him.

The Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, which has organized the protests in Madison, said “black people are eight times more likely to be arrested than white people” in Madison. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Politifact found the statement holds true for all of Dane County.

Koval has assured protesters that his department would defend their rights to gather, but he’s implored the community to exercise “responsibility and restraint.”

Koval said he understood the anger and distrust taking hold in the community. He said that “for those who do want to take to the street and protest,” his department would be there to “defend, facilitate, foster those First Amendment rights of assembly and freedom of speech.”

Koval also asked protesters to follow what he said was the lead of Robinson’s family in asking for “nondestructive” demonstrations. The Dane County NAACP issued a statement calling for “calm and vigilant monitoring of events as they unfold.”

Late on the afternoon following Robinson’s shooting, people filled the Fountain of Life Covenant Church for a community meeting. Family members took the stage and read a statement prepared by Robinson’s mother Andrea Irwin.

“I can’t even compute what has happened,” Irwin’s statement said. “I haven’t even had a chance to see his body.”

She was not present, and the statement said she was taking time to grieve with her children. Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin, was on the stage as the statement was read, but left immediately after.

Hundreds at funeral for teen girl killed by Denver police

Hundreds of friends and relatives gathered on the weekend to say goodbye to a 17-year-old girl shot to death by Denver police officers. She was remembered for her big heart and gregarious spirit.

Mourners filled the pews at the funeral for Jessica Hernandez at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Westminster, in the suburbs north of Denver where she grew up. The Mass was held in Spanish, with English translation for the crowd that spilled beyond the church’s doors.

The Rev. Richard Nakvasil remembered Hernandez as a devoted sister to her five siblings and as an empathetic teenager who tried to help the homeless. But he relied mostly on her own words, reading a poem she wrote in which she tried to summarize her complicated nature.

“I seem to be a fighter, someone who doesn’t like connections,” Nakvasil read, speaking into a microphone so those standing in the back could hear. “It seems I don’t want peace. But really I am outgoing … But really I do want peace. Where there is no violence. I really don’t want to fight.”

Police have said Hernandez was shot Jan. 26 after she drove a stolen car toward an officer in a residential alley in Denver. Police Chief Robert White has said officers repeatedly told her and four other teens to get out of the car before two officers opened fire. A passenger in the car has disputed the police account, saying Hernandez lost control of the vehicle because she had already been shot and was unconscious.

The shooting, which remains under investigation, sparked protests and came amid an ongoing national debate about police use of force fueled by racially charged episodes in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Hernandez’s family and others have called for an outside prosecutor to investigate what happened.

But even as questions swirled about her death, Hernandez’s life was in focus on Feb. 7.

Her friends wore red sweat shirts emblazoned with a picture of her wide smile. Cars in the parking lot had “Justice for Jessie” scrawled on their windshields.

Nakvasil said he understood that for many in the crowd, grief was compounded by questions about Hernandez’s death.

Angel Rodriguez, 15, one of Hernandez’s former schoolmates, said he couldn’t make sense of the shooting, which left his friends puzzled and angry.

“We don’t want people to use a very sad incident like this to do something violent,” said Cisco Gallardo, program director for Denver’s Gang Rescue and Support Project.

The group’s staffers were on hand at the request of Hernandez’s family, but she was not involved with the organization, which tries to keep young people from joining gangs, he said.

“Any death puts your life in perspective, and for some young people it pulls them down. We don’t want kids to blow it out of proportion,” Gallardo said.

Many of those in attendance at the funderal had never met Hernandez but came to support her family. Hernandez was a lesbian, and her case has garnered additional attention from LGBT civil rights activists.

“When we see Jessie’s face, that’s like looking in the mirror,” Miriam “Mimi” Madrid Puga said. “It’s tragic we’ll never see that smile again. But her spirit will live on.”

Nobel Peace Prize winners: Education for all

Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India have stressed the importance of uniting people across borders and religions by educating children and freeing them from poverty.

The 17-year-old Malala, who was shot in the head two years ago for insisting that girls have as much right to education as boys, says it is “not only the right but the duty of children” to be educated.

Sitting side-by-side with Malala, the 60-year-old Satyarthi said that even if a single child is denied education “we cannot say we are enlightened.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winners were speaking to reporters in the Norwegian capital a day before being presented their awards on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

Malala, the youngest Nobel Prize winner, said said she had been concentrating on her difficult school exams in recent weeks – she is pleased to have gotten As and Bs -and has only focused on writing her Nobel speech in the last week.

To spotlight her crusade, Malala invited four girls and a young woman who have fought for education rights in Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan to join her delegation.

“I’m really happy my friends are coming,” she said. “I feel I am speaking on their behalf. It is important they are able to join me. This is a very big platform.”

In ‘From Up Here,’ a family copes with stress following school incident

High school senior Kenny Barrett is not popular. In fact, he’s picked on and teased. His response to the situation has put everyone around him on high alert, and he’s required to make a public apology to the entire school body. But what will the brooding teenager do next?

How Kenny’s family copes with his situation is at the heart of From Up Here, a 2008 New York Drama Desk and Outer Critics’ Circle nominee for best play and the season opener for Madison’s Forward Theater.

“For me, this is fundamentally a play about a family struggling to stay together,” says author Liz Flahive.  “Because the event that sets the play in motion happens before the play begins, I felt like I had better access to address a larger issue of school violence in a way that allowed for a different conversation.”

The topic and its treatment are what attracted Forward to the project, says artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray, who is directing the production.

“On a personal level, I’m a mom and these issues terrify me,” she says. “Most treatments of the subject are so dark that I can’t go there as a parent and don’t want to put the audience through it. This play seemed constructive, community-minded and positive, and it’s a great way to get us talking about these issues.”

Kenny’s family is already dealing with the usual challenges that create everyday stress. Kenny’s mother has divorced his father and remarried, prompting predictable stresses between the son and the stepfather. There is an estrangement between mother and son that becomes a major through-line of the narrative, Gray says. 

The character of Kenny, played by high school student Alistair Sewell, the son of Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra maestro Andrew Sewell, leads a quartet of local teen actors that gives the show the needed energy and veracity, Gray says. 

“The character Kenny, which is beautifully written, is central because his story sets the play’s action in motion, but the responsibility seems to be equally balanced on the shoulders of all the characters,” Gray says. “It doesn’t seem to be as much about Kenny as it does about everyone around him dealing with their responsibilities.”

The play’s theme is consistent with what Gray considers the theatrical company’s responsibilities to the Madison area.

“As an arts org, our mission statement is that we exist to serve the community in a variety of ways that reach beyond artistic levels,” Gray says. “There’s an opportunity for art to have a more measurable social impact on issues. Madison in particular is a great lab for doing this.”

In addition to the usual pre-show talks an hour before curtain at the Thursday and Sunday performances, Forward Theater will partner with community leaders on Nov. 14 for a free symposium on the issues raised by From Up Here. The symposium will include actors performing a brief scene from the play, followed by the panelists sharing their experiences dealing with related issues in the Madison area.

Among the panelists will be representatives from the Madison Metropolitan School District, the Madison Police Department, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and a professor of psychiatry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The event will be held at the auditorium on the CUNA Mutual campus, 5810 Mineral Point Road.

The outreach will allow experts to discuss some of the play’s important issues and the way they relate to the Madison community in a meaningful way, says Gray.

“This is a family and community play,” she continues. “Something has happened and what do we do next? How do we work together and come together as a family and community? It’s a play less about the headlines and more about those themes.” 

On stage

Forward Theater’s production of Liz Flahive’s From Up Here runs Nov. 6–23 at The Playhouse at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St. For more information, call 608-234-5001 or visit www.forwardtheater.com.

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California school district settles complaint brought by transgender student

A Southern California school district has settled a government claim that it discriminated against a transgender student who said she was forbidden to wear makeup, was harassed by other children and was encouraged to change schools.

The Downey Unified School District agreed to give the teenager access to the same facilities and activities as other female students, including athletic tryouts and district-sponsored overnight events, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Without acknowledging any violations of federal law, the district southeast of Los Angeles also agreed to ensure that the middle-school student wouldn’t be disciplined “for acting or appearing in a manner that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity,” according to an agreement reached Oct. 8.

The district will also review and revise policies, if necessary, to ensure that transgender students have equal access to school activities; will train administrators about gender-based harassment and will add instruction on gender identity and discrimination to its curriculum, the agreement said.

The district worked with the federal agency to craft the agreement, Superintendent John Garcia said.

“It’s important not to lose sight that we’re talking about … a child,” Garcia said. “And as a school district, we want to make sure that all of our children feel safe and comfortable and supported.”

The student filed a complaint in 2011 when she was in elementary school. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria before starting kindergarten but continued to use a male name and use the boys’ bathroom until she reached the fifth grade, according to a resolution letter sent by the education department’s Office for Civil Rights to the district superintendent.

That school year, staff confiscated her makeup and made her write an apology letter “for making male students uncomfortable” by wearing it, the letter said.

The student also said she was discouraged from discussing her gender identity with her friends, and that she was frequently teased by other students on the bus, who called her “gay,” “fag,” “bitch” and “whore,” according to the letter.

Garcia said the Downey school district already changed its policies last year to comply with a new California law – the nation’s first – requiring public schools to let transgender students choose which restrooms they use and which school teams they join based on their gender identity instead of their chromosomes.

Jamaican police urged to fully investigate mob killling of transgender teen

A New York-based human rights group has called for Jamaican police to conduct a full investigation into the mob killing of a transgender teenager.

Dwayne Jones was found dead on July 22 near the northern city of Montego Bay after being attacked by a crowd of people while attending a dance party. Authorities said the 16-year-old was stabbed multiple times and shot once.

In a statement on Aug. 1, Human Rights Watch said Jamaican authorities need to send an “unequivocal message that there will be zero tolerance for violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

Justice Minister Mark Golding has recently condemned the slaying, saying police “must spare no effort” in finding the killers.

Activists say Jamaican gays, particularly those in poor communities, suffer frequent discrimination.

An anti-sodomy law outlaws consensual same-sex sex on the island and advocates for gays argue that the colonial-era statute fuels homophobia. A gay rights activist is trying to challenge the constitutionality of the nearly 150-year-old law in a Jamaican court.

Last year, a local gay rights group the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays, received 36 reports from adult gay males saying they were the victims of mob violence due to their sexual orientation.

Bail raised for California teen accused of hate crime

Bail has been raised nearly sevenfold to $520,000 for a teenager facing hate crime allegations in the brutal beating of a Northern California man.

Prosecutors this week detailed the injuries, including a fractured skull, suffered by Lawrence “Mikey” Partida in the early hours of March 10 in Davis, Calif.

The Sacramento Bee reports (HTTP://BIT.LY/10FYOIY ) 19-year-old Clayton Daniel Garzon is accused of using anti-gay slurs during the alleged attack.

Garzon appeared in Yolo Superior Court on felony battery and threat charges with hate crime enhancements.

Prosecutors argued Garzon is a danger to the community and a risk to flee.

Partida’s friends, family and supporters gathered outside the courthouse, some wearing T-shirts that read, “Stop Hate. Justice for Mikey.”

A preliminary hearing in the case is set for April 26.