NY Judge: ‘System Contains Built-In Gender Bias’

As if boys don’t have it bad enough in schools, now there’s this that suggests they have it harder in court than do girls (New York Daily News, 11/30/10).

It seems that Queens judge John Hunt has climbed down the throat of New York’s Probation Department for routinely recommending more lenient treatment for juvenile girls than boys.

Take Queens eighth-graders Stephen C. and Jennifer S.

The teens took part in the robbery of a boy who was punched, kicked and choked before having his iPod wrested away. Probation recommended that Stephen be put on supervised probation while Jennifer should have her case eventually dismissed.

Judge Hunt disagreed Monday and ordered both teens put on probation for 18 months.

“The court could find no cogent reason why Jennifer S. should be treated differently than her accomplice, Stephen C.,” Hunt wrote.

And, if Hunt is right, it’s no accident that girls get more favorable treatment than do boys; he says the anti-male bias is built right into the system.

In an effort to trim the number of locked-up juveniles, the city partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice in 2003 to develop a computer-generated program that would take the guesswork out of probation officers’ recommendations.

A higher score on the Probation Assessment Tool (PAT) means a recommendation that could lead to eventual dismissal of charges. A lower score means probation or lockup, not to mention the juvenile delinquent tag.

Hunt claims PAT routinely rewards girls with 14 extra points for gender alone, while boys get 0.

“The system contains a built-in gender bias in favor of female delinquents,” Hunt writes.

The only person from the Probation Department quoted by the article took the opportunity to not contradict Hunt’s claims, but only said that the PAT recommendations are assessment tools that judges are free to use or not as they choose.

So it looks like the “assessment tool” uses gender profiling to render its assessment.  My guess is that judges tend to rubberstamp the PAT recommendations in many or even most cases.  Those are the types of assessments done by outside sources that judges find convenient to use.  If someone questions a judge’s ruling, he/she can just point to the assessment.  In some occupations, that’s called passing the buck, but judges do it as a matter of routine.

So being a boy in this country is no walk in the park.  The likelihood that you’ll grow up without a father or other adult male figure in your life is pretty high.  Your chance of being taught by a male teacher at any time during the first 18 years of your life is something like 20%. 

The schools you attend turn out to be fairly inhospitable places for you; that’s one reason there are so few male teachers.  If you can’t sit still, they’ll give you medication that makes sure you do.  Even so, you’re much more likely than the girls in your class to be disciplined, suspended or expelled. 

Sure you’d learn better if you were in a more structured environment with clearly-articulated rules, expectations and goals.  But that’s too bad for you; the schools prefer ways of teaching and classroom environments that make learning hard for and uninteresting to you.

All of that may lead you to seek a male figure anywhere you can find him – say, on the street or in a gang.  Or, lacking male guidance, you may simply screw up in any of the countless ways adolescents do.  And if you do, you’ll find yourself in a juvenile court that has some handy-dandy computer software that, much like your schools over the years, notices that you’re a male and doesn’t like what it sees.

So let’s give a cheer for Judge John Hunt who had the courage, the decency and the respect for equality required to call a halt to the misandry of the New York Probation Department.  It’s a small step, but a necessary one.

But if we want to keep boys out of the criminal justice system, if we want boys to do better in school and go to college, there’s a much better way to do it than relying on the occasional judge with a brain and a conscience.  Keeping families intact, with a biological mother and a biological father to raise the kids is by far the best way.

Of course readers will notice that I said “if we want to keep boys out of the criminal justice system…” etc.  From all appearances, we don’t much care.  The massive amount of social science on boys in education, the value of intact families, etc., is widely known, but mostly goes for naught.  We know the truth and elect to ignore it.  We ignore it in the news media, law and public policy every day, every year. 

In such ways are decent societies brought low.

Thanks to Don for the heads-up.

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