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Fall 2021 Course

Children and the Law

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: In Class

This class will examine the laws governing children in the family, school, the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system, and political life. We will explore the extent to which the law should recognize children as a distinct legal category, in other words, as legal subjects having unique vulnerabilities, relationships, developmental needs, capacities and interests. Some important questions we will address are: How do we go about identifying children’s interests and weighing them against the competing interests of parents and the state? How does one measure children’s autonomy or maturity, and what role should it play in the laws regulating children? To what extent do current laws governing children perpetuate racial, ethnic, gender and economic inequalities? What are children’s rights, and can they expand to include affirmative rights to basic necessities such as food, housing and healthcare? Specific topics include parental rights; gender identity and transitioning; sexuality and statutory rape laws; reproduction and abortion; medical decision making; corporal punishment; free speech in school; school discipline; homeschooling; abuse and neglect; removal and foster care; juvenile delinquency; criminal procedural rights and sentencing; the Indian Child Welfare Act; children’s political rights; and the legal representation of children.