A Salute to Civic Engagment
Keeping American Youth Military Ready
One Generation Away: Why Civic Engagement Matters
Restoring Voices When Votes are Lost
                                                                       eNews November 2014
Keeping Our Youth Crime Free, Record Free and Military Ready

According to a Defense Department study reported in the Wall Street Journal this June, more than two-thirds of American youth would fail to qualify for military service today because of obesity, criminal records, tattoos and other exempting factors. This is an alarming statistic that should concern us all given the state of international affairs and America's vulnerability to terrorism.

We at Teen Law School share this concern, particularly because so many of the students we meet aspire to serve our country honorably while gaining skills, trades, rank and higher educational achievement.  It comes as a crashing disappointment for many to learn that their past reckless choices may already have disqualified them for service, or at best, flagged their potential recruitments for intensive and embarrassing administrative reviews. Most students in Teen Law School workshops are completely unaware that even minor infractions while a juvenile will remain in their permanent files and will be rigorously reviewed by military recruiters.

Periodically, Teen Law School contacts Arizona recruiters from all five branches for updates on their requirements and share what we learn with students. In times of heavy demand on the military, enlistment requirements can be rather lax, allowing certain misdemeanor records and dismissed charges. But due to recent federal budget cuts and overall force reduction efforts, most current enlistment requirements are very restrictive, disqualifying many candidates who might previously have earned an exemption in review. 

It is Teen Law School's mission to help teens understand the impact of their actions on their futures and freedoms and to teach them what they need to know to make safe, law-abiding choices.  If along the way, we succeed in keeping those who choose the military eligible for service, we will be proud to have contributed in some small way to homeland security. 

One Generation Away: Why Civic Engagement Matters

Long before he became President, Ronald Reagan famously said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same..." We couldn't agree more, though we'd respectfully add another requisite for the survival of freedom. Education. 

Teaching our children about the structural elements of American democracy and its essential core values is certainly a matter of national security. But it's also one of the richest languages we know for teaching teens about choices, character, responsibility, respect and consequence in everyday life. In Teen Law School workshops, our instructors and attorneys work to help kids see the connections between the social ideals of equality, liberty and justice and the practice of behaving tolerantly, respectfully and fairly. We help kids understand that laws and rules exist to protect our values as a society, school, team or family and that freedom, their freedom, is the currency of those rules and laws. It isn't always easy for teens to follow the rules and make law-abiding choices; they have trying battles to fight against peer pressure, media influence, tender self-images, immaturity, and under-developed critical thinking skills.  Yet, the durability of their futures as free American adults with full civic, social and economic promise in our society depends upon their success in making safe choices. Education is the key to keeping freedom alive. For nations and their citizens alike. Teach on!
Restoring Voices to Those Who've Lost Their Votes

On November 4th, when millions of age-eligible American voters went to the polls to exercise their most precious civil right, nearly 6 million stayed away because they'd lost their right to vote due to current or prior felony convictions.  Many of those potential voters were stripped of their voting rights even before they earned them on their 18th birthdays, having been tried and convicted as adults for felony crimes they committed while under the age of 18.  

The practice of withholding constitutional rights because of prior criminal behavior is known as civil disenfranchisement. It isn't always a life sentence, as restoration of some rights is possible in some states within some time frames and under some circumstances, but it acts and feels like civil death for returning felons in many corners of life.  Americans who have served their "debt" to society for prior felony crimes and then return to their communities often can't live where they choose, work where they choose, study where they choose, travel where they choose, defend themselves as they choose or make friends as they choose. Many passionate voices for reform of these civil disenfranchisement practices are being heard across the country, posing a question for us all to consider: Once the justice and correctional systems have meted out their consequences and a person's obligations to the state and victims have been met, shouldn't we in our communities work to welcome and reintegrate that person as a full member of society?  Wouldn't we hope for the same treatment if were in such a situation?

It can be difficult for the students in our classes to fully understand the impact of a criminal record on their futures and freedom, but that doesn't stop us from trying.  We're buoyed by the belief that every young American has a voice that deserves to be heard. Now and in the future.  No exceptions.

Many thanks to

All Members and Veterans of 
America's Armed Forces

For your bravery, courage and sacrifice
in service of our country and freedom.

 for piloting our innovative  
Teen Law School in the Classroom curriculum  

for taking the lead in strengthening resources for disconnected youth
 and those returning from secure care.

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For more information about Teen Law School and The Teen Law School Project (501c3) 
 please call us at 480-584-3692.

Is your school, church, organization or employer ready for a Teen Law School or LawU101 workshop? For group rates and more information, please call 1-877-211-8825.

The Team at Teen Law School, Inc.
P.S. Teen Law School does not offer legal advice, and nothing in this newsletter should be construed or mistaken as legal advice.  The only way to receive reliable legal advice is to consult with a licensed attorney.