Accommodating less visible disabilities in our courtrooms

In today’s Governor’s Council hearing for a nominee to the Family Court, an important issue came up, which is one I’m always very mindful of: Courtroom approaches to handling mental differences, particularly for people on the autism spectrum. As I note on my campaign website, “We must also guarantee that our courts themselves are accessible and accommodating to all varieties of disabilities, including physical and mental challenges that may or may not be visible.”

There’s still a long way to go on accommodating physical disabilities that are plainly visible, but their visibility has also contributed to progress on that front. We haven’t had as much progress on less visible things. It’s critical that our judges exercise flexibility, restraint, and understanding in dealing with adults and children with autism in the courtroom. “Unusual” or “disruptive” behavior isn’t always disrespectful, and sometimes judges need to work around it, rather than trying to control it. Courtrooms are very stressful environments for everyone, but they can definitely be overwhelming to people who aren’t neurotypical (especially for children), and it’s important to make provisions for that.

Millennial Massachusetts: The 27 percent

Notes from the campaign trail

As of 2012 Census data, 27.4% of ‪‎Massachusetts‬ residents were born after 1980 and before 2001. No other generation held a bigger share of the population. Yet in 2016, there are zero ‪Millennials‬ on the Governor’s Council. There are just a handful in the legislature. If we win this campaign, we’ll take just one of the eight Council seats and bring a strong voice for the issues our generation cares about – because everyone will benefit from that. I would also become the highest-ranking Millennial in a Massachusetts constitutional office, and I would work to help other young progressives bring their long-term vision to government all over the state.

Collective

Massachusetts has historically been at the forefront in the United States on worker safety and labor rights, compensation, activism, and organizing. Organized labor has been and must remain a fundamental component of our economic structure. Without it, there is no significant force representing our workers on an equal level with management and owners.

Our courts must uphold the rights of workers – including state and municipal workers – to organize themselves and bargain collectively and cooperatively for compensation and benefits proportionate to their productive work, as well as safe workplaces and fair scheduling.

Our courts must uphold contracts signed with workers’ unions, particularly by the state or municipal governments. It is the responsibility of employers to negotiate contracts they can actually execute.

We cannot achieve economic justice without securing the rights of organized labor to fight for fair and living wages in our society.

Humphrey For Massachusetts: Organized Labor

Opposition Leadership

We need someone speaking every single day to the media and other party members, without apology, for progress and for our values. This is important in any context, but it is of even greater importance with a conservative Republican governor and with Democrats taking on an opposing role.

We, the progressive core of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, are not merely right on the issues in idealistic terms; our solutions are actually more realistic and more grounded than the other side’s solutions. And when the other side occupies part of the space of our party and blurs the lines on critical issues, it becomes harder to win elections than it should be, rather than helping to retain seats in swing districts. While there is room for disagreement on policy specifics, there should be a broad alignment of values on the major and contentious issues of our time.

Voters want bold, clear, and courageous leadership in their officials. Leadership sometimes means leading the voters toward one’s point of view on the issues. We have to make our case, in plain terms, as to why we are correct on those issues.

We can only offer the voters an informed choice in making their decisions at the ballot box if we argue our case to them for our preferred positions on the issues.

December 2, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 152

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team. End notes written by Kelley.

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Topics: Big Ideas for Reforming American Governance — Criminal Justice and Prison Reform. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: November 29th, 2015.

NOTE: Our show is now officially on hiatus until September 2016; details at the end of the episode. Thank you all for listening.

Episode 152 (51 min):
AFD 152

Discussion Points:

– Overburdened courts and public defenders
– Systemic, compounding racial bias in the criminal justice system: Arrest, representation, pleas, juries, sentencing, parole
– Mandatory minimums: What went wrong?
– The purpose of prisons: Inmate storage or rehabilitation?
– The economics of prisons: Let’s build local economies not dependent on prisons
Read more

Protecting students from intrusive school social surveillance

Thanks to my State Senator Cynthia Stone Creem for pushing legislation in Massachusetts to protect elementary, secondary, and tertiary public school students from intrusive social media surveillance by school administrators — and for being proactive on this before it becomes a big problem, as it inevitably would without legislation.

No student should have to turn over their passwords and login info to their school just to be permitted to get an education. We cannot develop a healthy, independent, and democratic civil society if students face omnipresent surveillance that discourages them from branching out in their views during a formative period.

I also believe such online monitoring could have a chilling effect on young people being able to examine and test their self-identity, particularly in less welcoming communities.

While students and children do not always have full and unlimited rights, they must retain a reasonable right to privacy. That principle doesn’t change just because technology does.