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Georgia Sex Offenders Sue Over Signs Discouraging Trick-or-Treaters

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  • Last Halloween, the Butts County Sheriff’s office required signs to be placed outside the homes of sex offenders that read: “Warning! No Trick-or-Treat at this address!”
  • Authorities planned to use the same policy this year but are being sued by a group of sex offenders who say the signs violate their rights and are a form of “compelled speech.” 
  • The group is asking for the policy to end and want compensation for damages including emotional distress. 

Sex Offenders File Lawsuit Against Sheriffs 

A group of registered sex offenders in Georgia filed a lawsuit against the Butts County Sheriff’s office for posting signs on their homes warning trick or treaters not to visit. 

The signs in question read: “Warning! No Trick-or-Treat at this address! A community safety message from Butts County Sheriff Gary Long.” 

Source: Butts County Sheriffs

According to Sheriff Gary Long, the messages were designed to keep kids safe, however, the sex offenders who filed the lawsuit argue they are a violation of their rights to privacy and have likened the policy to “compelled speech,” which violates the First Amendment.  

The lawsuit was filed by Christopher Reed, Reginald Holden, and Corey McClendon. The men say some of the signs were put up by county sheriffs but, in other cases, the county’s sex offenders were told they had to either display the signs on their properties or face unspecified trouble.

The Sign Policy 

The initiative to display the signs began in 2018 when Long directed deputies to place the warnings in the front yards of over 200 sex offenders registered in the county from Oct. 24- Nov. 2. The sheriff’s office planned to do the same this year, which prompted the lawsuit. 

In a Facebook post, Sheriff Long said the signs were first instituted after the cancellation of a local Halloween festival, which resulted in an influx of children going door-to-door. He has also explained that the signs comply with a state law that forbids sex offenders from participating in Halloween. 

Source; Butts County Sheriff’s Facebook

Other areas in the state, like Monroe and Lamar counties, also use the signs. In Monroe County, if an offender did not want a sign in their yard, they had to wait in the lobby of the local sheriff’s office during trick-or-treat hours last Halloween.

Attorney’s Argument 

Mark Yurachek, the lead attorney for the men who filed the suit, told Fox 5 Atlanta that the Georgia State Sex Offender Registry does not require offenders to post these signs on their homes, therefore offenders should not be forced by local deputies to display them.

“The law allows the sheriff to put a list of registered sex offenders at his office, at the courthouse, on the internet,” he explained. “It does not allow him to go door-to-door telling people you have a sex offender living next door to you.”

“I’m just not sure that this kind of action makes your kids any safer,” Yurachek continued. “It just makes your constitutional rights less safe.” He also went on to call the deputies’ actions clear examples of trespassing, saying, “They’re coming onto their property and putting the signs on there.”

The suit asks for a trial by jury and asks that the jury award the plaintiffs with compensation for damages including economic harm, emotional distress, and the cost of legal fees. The group is also asking that local authorities are prevented from using the sign policy moving forward. 

According to Sheriff Long, the case will be heard by a federal court Thursday to see if the signs can be used this year, but regardless of the outcome, he says his office will do everything within the law to protect the community’s children. 

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (The Washington Post) (Fox 5)

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Bodycam Footage Shows Officer Arresting Six-Year-Old At School

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  • Attorneys for the family of a 6-year-old girl released bodycam footage of an Orlando school resource officer arresting the young child.
  • The video shows the girl getting handcuffed with zip ties and sobbing as she pleads with the officers to let her go.
  • The officer made national headlines in September when he arrested that child as well as another 6-year-old in a separate incident that same day.
  • He was fired a week later because he failed to get the necessary permission from his department to arrest children under the age of 12.

Newly-Released Footage

Bodycam footage of a 6-year-old girl being arrested by a former Orlando police officer was recently released to the public by the attorney of the child’s family. 

The incident took place in September 2019 and led to the termination of the officer, Dennis Turner, a week later. The newly-released video shows Kaia Rolle reading a book with a school employee when two officers enter the room. 

“Okay, she’s going to have to come with us now,” Dennis Turner can be heard saying. 

“What are those for?” the little girl asked when she saw the zip ties. 

“It’s for you,” Turner responded, as the other officer put them around Rolle’s wrists. She immediately started crying and pleading for help, even begging the men for “a second chance.” 

Rolle’s sobbing continued as the officers led her outside toward the police car. 

“I don’t want to go to the police car,” she said through tears. 

“You don’t want to?” the officer who handcuffed her said. “You have to.”

After Rolle is put into the back of the vehicle to be taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, the footage shows Turner back in the school. An employee asked him if the restraints on the child were necessary.

“Yes,” Turner replied. “And if she was bigger she would’ve been wearing regular handcuffs.”

The officer then added that the youngest person he’s ever arrested was seven-years-old. He continued with details and said that he’s arrested 6,000 people over the course of his career.

“She’s six?” Turner said when one of the school staff members told him Rolle’s age. “Now she has broken the record.”

Background

The police report states that the officers were responding to a complaint that Rolle had “battered three staff members by kicking and punching them” at her charter school, Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy. 

The child’s grandmother, Meralyn Kirkland, told WKMG in September that Rolle suffers from a sleep disorder, sleep apnea, and had acted out as a result of not enough rest the previous night.  

Rolle was not the only child Turner arrested that day last September. In a separate incident, he also arrested another 6-year-old from the same school.

Dennis Turner had been working as the school’s resource officer. He retired from the Orlando Police Department in 2018 and was assigned to the Officer Reserve Program, which is made up of retired officers, according to the Orlando Sentinel.  

It is department policy that officers must get approval from a superior before arresting anyone under the age of 12. Turner did not get that approval before he proceeded with the arrest of both the children. 

The officer’s arrest of the six-year-olds made national headlines and sparked outrage from many across the country. An investigation into the incidents was opened and Turner was terminated from his job. The department told WKMG that the other officer, who is seen putting the zip ties on Rolle, was not aware that protocol was not followed. State Attorney Aramis Ayala said at a news conference in September that she would not be pursuing the charges against either child.

“I refuse to knowingly play any role in the school-to-prison pipeline at any age,” Ayala said. “These very young children are to be protected, nurtured and disciplined in a manner that does not rely on the criminal justice system to do it.” 

See what others are saying: (WKMG) (NBC) (WESH)

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The School-To-Prison Pipeline Debate: SROs & Why Student Arrests Are Increasing…

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The existence of the school-to-prison pipeline has been debated for decades. The term is pretty self-explanatory, but it describes how children are funneled from schools to prisons through multiple school discipline and safety initiatives like zero-tolerance policies and school resource officers. The issue isn’t black and white because while there appears to be evidence, like the decrease in juvenile arrest rates, that suggest it isn’t a problem, there’s more to the story.

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Tik Tok “Skull Breaker” Challenge Leading to Severe Injuries

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  • Tik Tok has seen a new viral challenge that involves a person getting tricked into jumping into the air while two others kick their legs out from under them, causing them to fall onto the ground.
  • Multiple young people have suffered injuries as a result of the challenge, and it has been reported that one Brazilian teenager died.  
  • Concerned parents are striving to raise awareness of the dangers of the trend, and one student even started a non-profit organization to combat pranking and bullying after falling victim to the challenge herself.

Dangerous Online Trend

A new trend is making its rounds on the popular app Tik Tok— one that has led to serious injuries and received backlash from concerned parents.   

The “skull breaker” challenge involves three people standing in a line, shoulder to shoulder, under the pretense that all of them will jump into the air at the same time. But instead, only the middle person jumps while the two people flanking them kick their legs out from under them, causing them to slam into the ground. In most cases it appears that the middle person is tricked into the challenge, unaware that they will be knocked over.

The danger of the “skull breaker” challenge can be found in its name, as it quite literally has the potential to crack people’s heads open. Doctors are warning that it can result in broken bones, concussions, and brain bleeding, among other injuries. 

Tik Tok has expressed their disapproval of the challenge. The app told ABC News that the safety of their users is a top priority and they “do not allow content that encourages or replicates dangerous challenges that might lead to injury.”

Awareness Growing 

This new online fad is the latest dangerous trend among young people, akin to the Tide Pod challenge and the viral Tik Tok “outlet challenge” that prompted warnings from fire officials. A Brazilian teenager reportedly died from the “skull breaker” challenge, and more youth around the world have been seriously hurt.  

The recent virtual trend raised eyebrows in Daytona Beach, Florida in January, when two students convinced an unsuspecting third female student to perform the challenge for Tik Tok content. 

According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, the video has since been deleted. The News Journal reported that the victim’s parents were originally going to let the school handle it but ultimately decided to press charges. The Daytona Beach Police Department told TODAY that two students are facing misdemeanor charges of battery and cyberbullying as a result of the prank.    

On Feb. 8, an Arizona woman posted images of her injured son to Facebook, reporting a head injury as well as stitches and cuts to his face that stemmed from the skull breaker challenge.

“My son was asked to do a jumping contest with his 2 ‘friends,’ when he jumped up, the 2 boys kicked him, as hard as they could, so his legs flew out in front of him,” Valerie Hodson wrote. “He landed hard flat on his back and head, as he struggled to get up he lost consciousness, he fell forward landing on his face.”

“I really contemplated posting this, but I feel there needs to be awareness of this malicious cruel viral prank,” Hodson said.

Facebook: Valerie Hodson

Hodson’s son is not the only child to be hospitalized due to the skull breaker challenge. Teri Smith, a woman located in Alabama, also took to Facebook to discuss her son’s broken bones after falling victim to the prank.

“Prayers needed… Parker was unknowingly tiktok pranked which caused him to fall,” Smith wrote. 

Facebook: Teri Wimmer Smith

Similar pushes for awareness have been seen as impacts of the challenge have been felt by others around the country. In Portland, Oregon, 14-year-old Olivia Ross said she hit her head hard on the ground after she was tricked into the challenge by two seniors at her high school. 

“They just told me we were going to jump for a video. Of course I was excited since they were upperclassmen and they were asking me to be in their video,” Ross told KOIN 6. “But I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Ross and her mother, Lindsay Zobrist, decided the best course of action was to spread awareness of these types of viral pranks because they expect that many kids don’t know how dangerous they can be. They created a non-profit organization called Teaching Kindness Matters and are working to get school districts to include “pranking” in their definition of bullying. 

See what others are saying: (TODAY) (Forbes) (ABC13)

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