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Minneapolis Civil Rights Law Blog

Minnesota DWI patrols increase on Super Bowl weekend

The Vikings have not been to the Super Bowl since the late 1970s. And in more recent years, the Minnesota home team has not even come close to a winning season. Nonetheless, football fans across Minnesota will be sitting down to watch the big game on Sunday – if only for the commercials.

If you are among the many Minnesotans who have cleared their calendar for Super Bowl Sunday, please remember that roads and highways will be more dangerous than usual, both physically and legally. Because Super Bowl Sunday tends to be among the biggest drinking days of the year, law enforcement agencies across the state respond by ramping up driving patrols and arrests.

Ahead of marijuana law, Minnesota criminalizes compassionate care

Many compassionate-care advocates were thrilled last year when Minnesota lawmakers passed a bill legalizing certain cannabis-derived medications. Minnesota’s medical marijuana law is certainly more restrictive than those passed in other states, but supporters say it is at least a good start.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which means that state laws legalizing it (for medical or recreational purposes) are in conflict with federal law. This legal patchwork also creates other problems, including for Minnesotans who desperately need medical marijuana and drive to other states to obtain it. One Minnesota mom has already put a face and a personal story on this issue.

Does America need to rethink drug education programs? Part II

In our last post, we began a discussion about the approach to drug education taken by most schools in Minnesota and around the country. Up to this point, drug education has largely focused on giving kids scary facts about the physical and legal dangers of drug use.

While such information is helpful to a point, some critics believe that our current model has the same failings as the abstinence-only model of sex education. In other words, it doesn’t deter drug and alcohol use, it only makes experimentation more dangerous.

Does America need to rethink drug education programs? Part I

When it comes to America’s morally charged issues, there is still a fierce debate over how such issues should be addressed in school. A good example is sex education. The conservative view has long been that schools should teach abstinence-only education, because teaching anything else is supposedly an endorsement of teen sex.

The opposing view argues that kids are going to be curious about and experiment with sex regardless of what they are taught in school. As such, they should at least learn how to practice safe sex. Which approach is better, practically speaking? Well, statistics show that abstinence-only education is far more likely to result in high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Minnesota protesters at MOA face numerous criminal charges

Many of our recent posts have been focused on race and civil rights. Even though 2015 has just begun, we can be sure that 2014 will be remembered as a year when Americans felt compelled to confront the issues of racism in criminal justice and excessive force used by police officers.

The killing of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York sparked nationwide protests when grand juries failed to indict either police officer. Those protests came to Minnesota, and those who raised their voices in opposition now find themselves facing criminal charges.

Evidence of racial bias still looms large in America: Part II

In our last post, we began a discussion about the continuing problem of racial discrimination in America, including here in Minnesota. Some 50 years after the height of the civil rights movement, African Americans still struggle against in employment, housing and the criminal justice system.

Perhaps the biggest change over the past half-century is the fact that racial bias is now primarily unconscious. For that reason, it may be even more difficult to fight. This was the subject of a recent guest column in the New York Times, written by Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan. He cites decades of research showing that racial bias persists, “even when we have good intentions.”

Evidence of racial bias still looms large in America: Part I

Approximately 50 years after the height of the civil rights movement, Americans are again wrestling with unsettling issues of racial inequality. Those who have seen the Martin Luther King biopic “Selma” have probably noted that the rhetoric is less heated than it was back then but the tensions have certainly not gone away.

Does America have a race problem? How about Minnesota, which is often considered a progressive state? A recent article in the New York Times cites decades of research showing that racial bias against African Americans continues to plague America, but that such bias is usually unconscious.

Costs associated with juvenile crime in Minnesota: Part II

Yesterday, we began a discussion about the costs of addressing juvenile crime in Minnesota and around the country. The most expensive (and arguably least effective way) to handle juvenile offenders is to incarcerate them. According to a recent report by the Justice Policy Institute, incarcerating a single juvenile offender for one year can cost as much as $104,839 in Minnesota.

Thankfully, many young offenders who commit low-level crimes do not face the threat of incarceration. But the short-term and long-term consequences of a conviction for juvenile crime should not be underestimated.

Costs associated with juvenile crime in Minnesota: Part I

Minnesota has a fairly good record when it comes to investing in the state’s children. Most of our school districts are adequately funded, and school administrators work hard to identify and help students from low-income families by offering services such as free and reduced lunch.

Regardless of their political views, most Minnesotans would agree that children are a worthwhile investment. But when it comes to addressing juvenile crime, we may be spending far too much money in ways that sometimes do more harm than good. Most states, including Minnesota, rely too much on incarceration for juvenile offenders, even those who commit non-violent offenses. This approach is both expensive and ineffective in many cases.

Target faces wrongful termination lawsuit from former worker

As Minnesotans, we are often reluctant to “make waves” at work. Most employees try to avoid any behavior that could cause management to view them as a headache or a hassle. To some extent, this is a smart strategy.

But employees should never have to worry about their jobs when seeking accommodations or other benefits that are legally protected, including workers’ compensation and FMLA leave. Earlier this month, a former Target employee sued the Minnesota-based company after being fired from her job in August of last year. She alleges that she faced retaliation and eventual termination because she filed a workers’ compensation claim.

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