Monday, August 22, 2011

"A Child's Bill of Rights"

My cousin, Nancy, has an excellent post about really giving children the time they need to make decisions and do things their way.  And, oh, what a freeing experience for all involved.  Her blog post is entitled School Is Starting.  It inspired me to share with you "A Child's Bill of Rights", which is so very important to keep in mind as we parent, teach and care for our children (even after they are grown).  We framed this and had it hanging at The NOAH Project.  As teachers and administrators at our school for children with autism, we respected these rights as they were at the core of our belief system.  When children literally cannot speak up for themselves these rights become even more important, as they are more likely to be overlooked. 

A Child's Bill of Rights
by Fred M. Fariss 
  • I have the right to live rather than exist.
  • I have a right to personhood rather than being an object of possession.
  • I have a right to equality with every other human being regardless of age.
  • I have a right to be respected with regard to my worth.
  • I have a right to be uniquely myself with my own identity.
  • I have a right to speak my thoughts and feelings, and to be heard.
  • I have a right to ask "Why" and to receive answers.
  • I have a right to receive discipline without hollering, discounts and put-downs.
  • I have a right to be encouraged to grow to maturity at my own pace.
  • I have a right to be free from physical harm at the hands of resentful people.
  • I have a right to be loved for being me.
  • I have a right, with valid guidance, to think for myself, and to make decisions.
  • I have a right to be responsible for myself.
  • I have a right to feel joy, happiness, sorrow, bereavement and pain.
  • I have a right to be a winner.
  • I have the right to care and be cared for, to nurture and be nurtured, to give and to receive.
  • I have a right to form my own convictions, beliefs and standards.
  • I have a right to know and experience personal freedom.
  • I have the right to recognize and accept the rights of others regarding their Bill of Rights.

While on the subject of rights, as I was in my last post, and with the new school year beginning it seems appropriate to post this.  Interesting enough, many of us need to give ourselves these permissions as grownups.  Some of us did not get these permissions growing up and in other instances we gave them up as we matured.  This is really a format for basic human rights.  They sure would lend themselves to a healthier and safer world for us all to live in.

Friday, August 12, 2011

First Amendment, Right?

There is an interesting case which recently surfaced and it relates to our First Amendment Rights and blogging.  I've been reading all the comments both for and against.  Before I describe to you what is happening I want to set out the actual First Amendment Rights as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It is my understanding this Amendment speaks to 5 freedoms:  (1) freedom to speak freely without government intervention, (2) freedom of press, (3) freedom of religion, (4) freedom to appeal or lobby to legislative bodies for or against legislation, and (5) freedom to peacefully gather in public, to march, demonstrate, protest, or otherwise express views.  Further, originally this applied to only those laws enacted by the Federal government but has since been ruled by the Supreme Court to include state and local governments.  Sounds pretty simple to me.

So, here is the story.  A man by the name of Anthony Morelli who lives in Pennsylvania had a blog which he started in 2007.  For 4 years he posted hundreds of blog entries.  The blog was entitled "The Psycho Ex Wife" which of course can be seen as offensive right there.  He posted as they were going through embittered divorce and custody battles.  Further, he posted anonymously, keeping all names out.  Their two sons are currently 10 and 12 years old.  At present the two parents have joint custody.  The ex-wife is an alcoholic and is believed to suffer from a personality disorder. 

The tag line on Morelli's blog was "The true account of a marriage, divorce and subsequent custody fight between a loving man, his terrorist ex-wife who we suspect suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder and the husband's new partner."  With this blog, Morelli created a community (approximately 200,000 visitors per month) and several forums where people in a similar circumstance could discuss child custody issues, parental alienation syndrome and other assorted divorce challenges.  Now that is a strong community and for many, a much needed support group, as they wade through some very grueling court battles and all the days in between. 

I know what it is like to live with someone whose sanity is in question.  Had this blog existed 20 years ago, I would have been a daily visitor myself.  I was dealing with the safety of my children and myself and eventually worked through all the issues, both safety and the legalities of the divorce.  Then I had a similar issue...when the court allowed for my ex-husband to have very limited visitation rights.  After just a handful of visits he disappeared once again so my concerns were put to rest.  With only an occasional call from him once every few years I eventually learned we were relatively safe, his threats of hurting us turned out to be empty.

All that aside though, the reason I have brought this to you is to discuss First Amendment Rights,  Judge Diane Gibbons who was presiding over the Morelli custody case ordered Morelli to shut down his blog on June 6th of this year or lose joint custody of his kids.  She banned him from mentioning his ex-wife or his children on any public media.

Now you see the question, does the Court have the right to order that blog stopped or punish the blogger if he doesn't do what is ordered.  It seems we are looking at two aspects of the First Amendment.  One, freedom of speech says we have the right to speak freely without government interference.  And, two, freedom of press establishes the right to publish news, information and opinions without government intervention.  This includes newspapers, magazines, newsletters, etc.  Wouldn't it then include blogs, for really they are just a form of newsletter?

We could argue the pro's and con's all day as to its content.  It seems to me if it mischaracterizes the ex-wife then she has a libel/slander suit on her hands, although we don't hear anything about that.   The judge appears to be concerned about the children being subjected to this information about their mom (as if they aren't living in the midst of it) and calls it abusive.  Yet we are not hearing her concern for the safety of the children in the clutches (and custody) of their alcoholic mother.  I was married to an alcoholic, and I divorced him for that reason and all the abuse that goes along with alcoholism.  I needed to raise my children in a healthy environment and could accept nothing less for their sake.  Where is the judge standing on that?  As I said, we could argue all day long the pro's and con's but what is legally accurate? 

As always, your comments are welcome and I invite you to research the topic yourself as there is a great deal of media out there concerning this and even more peoples' comments who swear the blog was the best thing or the worst thing.  What are your thoughts to the shut down of a blog that was just being brutally honest?