TIME justice

Transgender Teen Awarded $75,000 in School Restroom Lawsuit

Jonas Maines,  Nicole Maines, Wayne Maines
In this file photo, transgender student Nicole Maines, center, speaks to reporters as her father Wayne Maines, left, and brother Jonas, look on outside the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty — AP

Case was brought when a Maine school district forced the student to use a staff restroom

A court in Maine awarded the family of a transgender teenager $75,000 in a discrimination lawsuit against a school district that forced the student to use a staff restroom rather than a facility reserved for pupils, reports the Associated Press.

Nicole Maines, 17, had won her lawsuit against the Orono school district earlier this year in front of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that the school district had violated the state’s Human Rights Act.

The case marked the first time a state’s highest court ruled that a transgender person has the right to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify.

In the wake of the court’s decision, a lower court awarded the financial settlement to the Maines family and the activist organization, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defender, on Nov. 25. In accordance with the order, the Orono school district is prohibited from refusing transgender students access “to school restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.”

The case stemmed from an incident in 2007 when the grandfather of a fellow fifth grade classmate complained to school administrators that Maines was allowed to use the girls’ restroom. In the wake of the protest, the Orono school district began forcing Maines to use a staff facility — a decision that her parents argued was discriminatory.

[AP]

TIME justice

A Cop Hugs a Tearful Boy in This Powerful Ferguson Protest Photo

Devonte Hart Ferguson
Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a demonstration in Portland, Ore., Nov. 25, 2014. Johnny H. Nguyen

Meet the photographer who captured a rare moment of empathy in the Ferguson protests

A demonstration in Portland, Oregon was the scene of an unusual embrace last week.

The November 25 protest was held, along with many across the United States, in solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white policeman in August, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer.

Photographer Johnny Nguyen brought his camera to the protest and met a 12-year-old black boy named Devonte Hart, who was overcome with emotion.

“I saw tears running down Devonte’s face and a sign that said free hugs around his neck,” Nguyen, 20, recalls. “There was a lot going on, but my gut told right then and there to stay with this kid.”

Nguyen followed Devonte through the crowd and watched as a white Portland police officer named Bret Barnum looked at Devonte’s sign and asked, “Do I get one of those?” The pair hugged.

“It has spread the message of coming together despite our differences,” says Nguyen of the photo, which he put on Instagram. “The message is about love and compassion and finding a common ground.”

After the hug, the two went their separate ways: the 12-year-old Hart to go protest, and Barnum to do police work.

Nguyen says that Americans have been waiting for a sign of togetherness after the vitriol and anger of the past week. “I think people deep down have been clambering for a glimmer of hope amidst all the negativity going on,” Nguyen said. “I’m just glad I was there, in the right place and the right time.”

TIME justice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Released From Hospital

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is photographed in the West conference room at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 30, 2013. Nikki Kahn—The Washington Post/Getty Images

After undergoing a procedure to clear a blocked artery

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged and sent home from a hospital on Thanksgiving Day after undergoing a procedure to clear a blocked artery, a spokeswoman said.

The feisty 81-year-old was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Tuesday night following discomfort while exercising, the Associated Press reports. A heart stent was inserted to clear the blockage in her right coronary artery.

She was released before noon Thursday and expected to return to work on Monday.

Ginsburg, the oldest member of the nine-justice court, has repeatedly said she has no plans to retire until she can no longer do her job. “I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer,” she told Elle in an interview in October. “But now I can.”

[AP]

TIME Opinion

What History Books Should Say About Ferguson

Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting.
Michael Brown's mother Lesley McSpadden cries outside the police station in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 after hearing the grand jury decision on her son's fatal shooting. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

How we tell the story of what happened in Missouri matters

When the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Mike Brown was announced late Monday evening in Ferguson, Mo., the world was watching. After hours of delay, misleading “Breaking News” banners, and a preemptive build-up of riot management forces on Ferguson streets, we were more than ready to hear the verdict. But the lengthy remarks delivered by St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch were far less welcome.

McCulloch padded his announcement with nearly 30 minutes of narrative, detailing his own particular version of events in Ferguson since August 9, 2014, when Brown, an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot in the street. He complimented local authorities, conveniently choosing not to mention their internationally panned militarized assault on citizens in the days following Brown’s death. He praised his own management of the process, conveniently ignoring the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder had to step in for oversight and ultimately, to launch a federal investigation because of a lack of trust in the local “process”. And while no indictment came for Darren Wilson, in McCulloch’s tale, the media, twitter, eyewitnesses and even Mike Brown himself were tried and found guilty.

Why would McCulloch feel compelled to use his time on the national stage to recount the previous three months and tell his story? Because as a public official and an attorney, he understands the importance of the record: what account is written, what story is told, and, most of all what remains in our collective memory. What matters most as the chaos of cultural moments and social movements unfold is the history – or, more accurately, the telling of the history for generations to come.

As the late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe tells us: Until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. This history, an account of these past months, matters because as much as we want to believe that the problem upon which these events were built – violent, systemic racism – will be a distant memory by the time our children are themselves adults, the arc of the moral universe is long…very long. It is quite possible (read: highly likely) that the struggle to make a more perfect union will continue and that our grandchildren will turn to the history books for context for their own fight. There they will read about our turning point moments – and about us: the activists, the officials, the media, the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, the heroes and villains of these perilous times.

VOTE: Should the Ferguson protestors be TIME’s Person of the Year?

So, for future generations, let us write some history:

Let the record show that after Mike Brown’s death, Ferguson became ground zero for a movement that had been building in cities all across America. It was not the isolated reaction of a group of disgruntled residents. Thanks to the fearlessness and raw emotion of the Ferguson community, it was the strike of the match that finally lit the flame for people nationwide who felt as if those sworn to protect them, were hunting them instead.

Let the record show that a generation of young people rose up in this moment to lead. Tell the story of Ashley Yates, Tef Poe, and Tory Russell, brilliant young people ushering in a new era of activism, media, politics and community engagement. Tell the story of the organizations and networks that they are building in the face of a narrative that claims that young black people will loot and tweet but not strategize and work.

Let the record show that despite widespread celebrity disengagement from issues of racism, Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams has tirelessly forgone the glamour of his Hollywood career to be a bold, unapologetic presence in Ferguson and beyond, making him poised to be this generation’s Harry Belafonte.

Let the record show that national organizations like the nearly one million member ColorofChange.org worked in solidarity with Ferguson residents to support their leadership and also connect the events on the ground to a larger movement against injustice and police brutality.

Let the record show that members of rival St. Louis gangs stood together, united, protecting the elderly, women, children and physical property during the protests as a show of solidarity for their community.

Let the record show that it was not the Ferguson police department who made history but the hundreds of people who stood peacefully night after night for 15 weeks, chanting, talking and holding one another at youth organized meetings and healing stations organized by poet Elizabeth Vega.

Let the record show social media’s role in raising the name and story of an unarmed black citizen being killed – just as it has for Ezell Ford, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and countless others.

Let the record show that those very same social media platforms and voices were responsible for shining light on a city using tanks and tear gas on its citizens when mainstream media was being arrested and shut out.

Yes, let the record show the rage. Do not be afraid to talk about the disproportionately small number of people who would rather break things - windows, shelves, fences – than stand for the breaking of more people.

And most importantly, let the record show that the George Zimmerman verdict and the Darren Wilson decision are not evidence of black people’s delusions of racism but instead of how deeply entrenched bias and hatred is in a system that was built on, you guessed it, state-sanctioned racism.

Long after the facts of the case have been parsed and forgotten, long after Mike Brown t-shirts are faded and Darren Wilson rides off into a sunset that still hides George Zimmerman, there will be a record.

And if written correctly, it will tell the story of a people who refused to let America run from her promise of justice and equal protection under the law; citizens who used every awful tragedy, every imperfect victim, every messy media firestorm, every conflicting account, every questionable death, every chance it got to scream a truth that it knows deep in its bones: the police state is dangerous and unequal.

So, dear lions. Those of you black, brown, female, gay, poor, and oppressed; those feared and hunted by a system that won’t recognize its flaws, commit now to being historians. Tell and claim the parts of the Ferguson story that didn’t make it into the President’s remarks or McCulloch’s recap or the 24 hour news coverage.

If we do this, history will undoubtedly show what the state never has: that black lives – and all lives – matter.

 

TIME tragedy

Ticket Waived for Teen Who Dozed at Wheel in Fatal Car Wreck

Five of his family members were killed in the accident

A ticket will be waived for a teen who dozed off at the wheel, causing a car crash that took the lives of five of his family members.

The Texas teen, whose name has not been released, said he fell asleep at the wheel of his family’s car around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The family was driving through Louisiana at the time, on their way to Disney World in Florida for Thanksgiving.

The car hit the median and ultimately flipped, causing six of the eight people in the car to be ejected from the vehicle. Five of those family members died. They included parents Michael and Trudi Hardman, and kids Dakota Watson, 15, Kaci Hardman, 4, and Adam Hardman, 7.

The driver was initially issued a ticket for the accident, but that was then waived. “This young man has been punished enough,” Louisiana Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones said, The News Star reports. “There is no need to add to his pain. The ticket will be dismissed.”

[The News Star]

TIME justice

FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Arrests have already been made for firearm charges

The FBI has sent some 100 agents to the St. Louis area to prepare for the grand jury decision on whether to indict the police officer who shot the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

A decision by the grand jury is expected within days, and there are signs that unrest is brewing. The FBI arrested two men earlier this week near Ferguson on firearms charges as part of the increased law enforcement presence in the St. Louis suburb, CBS reports.

The 100 FBI agents were ordered to mobilize and arrive in Ferguson Friday, and additional personnel have been put on alert so they can be called in as a second emergency wave, ABC reports.

President Obama, Brown’s family, and Attorney General Eric Holder have urged protestors to remain peaceful.

[ABC]

TIME justice

Obama Tells Ferguson to ‘Keep Protests Peaceful’

Woman stops to visit the memorial set up where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson
A woman stops to visit the memorial set up where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, Nov. 22, 2014. Jim Young—Reuters

"Using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law, contrary to who we are"

President Barack Obama urged protestors in Ferguson to remain peaceful as they await the grand jury’s decision in this summer’s fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.

“I think first and foremost, keep protests peaceful,” Obama said in an interview, the Associated Press reports. “This is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are unjust. But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law, contrary to who we are.”

A grand jury decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is due any day now, and police are preparing for further unrest in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Michael Brown senior, the victim’s father said “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain.”

[AP]

TIME justice

Michael Brown Sr. Appeals for Calm Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

"I do not want my son's death to be in vain"

The father of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. this summer, released a video Thursday asking people not to “hurt others” or “destroy property” ahead of a grand jury decision into whether the officer will be indicted in the killing.

“No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain,” Michael Brown, Sr. said in the video. “I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region for everyone…Let’s work together to create change for all people regardless of race.”

The shooting of Brown by Officer Darren Wilson sparked sometimes violent protests in Ferguson this August, exposing simmering racial tensions in the St. Louis suburb.

Protestors gathered again in below freezing temperatures outside the courthouse to await the grand jury’s return on the case in the past week. They have been met by officers in riot gear. Police have already arrested five people and are bracing for the verdict.

TIME justice

Officer Darren Wilson Can Remain a Ferguson Cop if Not Indicted

The grand jury decision is expected as early as this weekend

The cop who fatally shot unarmed teen Michael Brown can return to active duty if he isn’t indicted by a grand jury, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said.

Jackson said that Officer Darren Wilson would likely be fired if the grand jury does return an indictment, NBC reported Friday. Wilson is now on paid leave.

It’s unclear whether Wilson would want to return to the police force if he avoids an indictment, Chief Jackson said.

After Brown was killed on August 9, violence flared in periodic skirmishes between protestors and police, who deployed smoke bombs, tear gas and even armored tanks. The unrest sparked a national debate about racism and excessive police force.

[NBC News]

TIME Crime

School District: Student Is Partly to Blame for Sex with Teacher

Teacher-Sexual Consent Elkis Hermida
This undated photo provided by the California Department of Correction shows Los Angeles school district teacher Elkis Hermida, who was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child. California Department of Correction/AP

A 14-year-old's sexual past and willingness to engage in sex with a 28-year-old teacher was fair game in a Los Angeles civil trial

Correction appended, Nov. 17, 2014

An underage girl can consent to sex with a teacher and her sexual history is relevant when considering who is liable for damages in such a case. That’s the argument a lawyer for the Los Angeles Unified School District made in court after the family of a 14-year-old girl sued the district after it was revealed that a teacher had sex with her.

The teacher, Elkis Hermida, was sentenced in criminal court in 2011 to three years in state prison for lewd acts against a child. Hermida, a middle-school math teacher, had sex with the underage girl for a period of six months. But in civil court, where the lawsuit was brought and decided in the district’s favor in late 2013, responsibility for sex between a teacher and an underage student is less clear, the school district argued.

The district said that the underage girl knew it was wrong to have sex with her teacher and the district had no knowledge of what occurred and was therefore not liable, according to public radio station KPCC, which reported details of the trial for the first time on Nov 12. The district also said, according to KPCC, that the girl was partially responsible for the sexual relationship, even though she was younger than 18, the age of legal consent in California. Liability in the case hinged on whether the district knew anything about the teacher or his relationship with the student that made it negligent in the case. A jury found the district was not negligent, but the legal strategy of placing blame on the underage girl has rocked Los Angeles and victims’ advocates who say it could set a dangerous precedent.

“The blame the victim strategy that they adopted is very dangerous for the public at large,” says John Dion, an attorney and deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “It creates a real chilling effect of people coming forward. When they don’t come forward, child sex abuse is allowed to continue. This is a crime that flourishes in secrecy.” In criminal cases in California, defendants are typically not allowed to bring up the sexual pasts of alleged victims, but in the civil case involving the district, the girl’s sexual history was revealed at the trial.

“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher…She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?” attorney Keith Wyatt, who represented the L.A. school district in the civil trial, told KPCC in an interview. After KPCC aired its interview with Wyatt, he apologized in a statement, saying his remarks were “ill thought out and poorly articulated.”

Still, Cynthia Godsoe, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in children and the law, says the legal strategy itself is shocking. “Given that the state legislature has said people below 18 years old are not mature enough to consent, I think for an attorney representing a public entity to argue that it’s her fault is not ok,” says Godsoe. “He’s arguing flat out that she’s not a victim and there’s already been a finding in criminal court that she is. I find it kind of amazing.”

The girl’s family is appealing the court ruling. Holly Boyer, the attorney now representing the girl, said she expects to file an opening brief with the appeals court within a month.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the name of Cynthia Godsoe’s employer. It is Brooklyn Law School.

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