California Bar Journal
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Kids and the Law updated by bar
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interactive Kids and the Law website, where kids and parents can ask questions and get answers online from volunteer attorneys.

The foundation, created in 1990, funds law-related education and public service projects and provides scholarships to law students who demonstrate an interest in public service. Over the past nine years, it has collected $5.3 million, awarded between 30 and 40 grants each year to worthy projects and given $738,000 in scholarships to 185 students.

The cornerstone

"Kids and the Law is one of our most successful programs in providing valuable legal information to the public," said State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson, calling the guide "the cornerstone of the State Bar's public education program" - a program which also includes a series of 21 popular consumer information pamphlets, six of which are available in Spanish.

"We hope lawyers who are parents and are receiving Kids and the Law in this Bar Journal will share this vital information with their kids, their grandkids, all the kids in their lives," said Johnson. "And we hope lawyers who don't happen to be parents will share it with teachers, friends who are parents and anyone else who can help pass on this information."

Johnson added that "with the foundation's generous grant," the bar also was able to "spruce up" its online version of Kids and the Law and make another 100,000 print copies available for schools, organizations and other groups who want to incorporate the guide into their ongoing programs.

The revised guide may be downloaded from the State Bar's website at Requests for additional print copies of the revised 2001 guide should be e-mailed to or mailed to State Bar of California, Office of Communications, 180 Howard St., San Francisco 94105-1639.

First impressions

Villa said she first became familiar with Kids and the Law in 1997 when she was serving as president of the Mexican American Bar Association. "I thought the book was a great idea as soon as I heard about it," she said.

She remembers ordering several hundred copies to distribute to children in Los Angeles area schools for an outreach program called "Talk to a Lawyer Day" on the first Monday of October. "We received lots of great feedback from parents and teachers," Villa said.

First published in 1996 in print form, the publication offers relevant, accessible, easy-to-understand information on a wide range of laws and legal issues involving children in California.

Plans also are underway to translate the guide into Spanish. Villa said she would like to see the guide eventually translated into other languages as well.

Kids and the Law was triggered in the mid-1990s after a State Bar survey revealed that many children were unclear about certain laws and the consequences for breaking them. The survey suggested that while most children in their adolescent and teen years would turn to their parents with legal questions, they actually learned more about the law from school and television.

Major topics

Some of the questions answered in the booklet include:

Alcohol - What happens when a teenager is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol? Can parents legally give their child a beer?

Curfew - Does state law or local ordinance set the curfew for minors? Do curfew laws have any exceptions?

Drugs - What are the laws regarding drug use by minors? What are the consequences? Are the consequences more serious if a child is caught with drugs at school?

Police - Do police have the right to search a child or adult without his or her consent - and if so, what are the limits to such searches? What should a youngster do if he or she is arrested?

Fighting - What are the options if your child is caught fighting? Is it legal for a child to strike a sibling?

Guns - If a parent gives a gun to a minor or leaves a gun where the child could get it and someone is injured or killed by that gun, how much is a parent liable for? Is brandishing a firearm replica illegal?

School - Are parents required to send their children to school? What happens if they fail to do so? Under what circumstances can school authorities suspend or expel a child?

The bar's consumer education pamphlets cover topics such as divorce, child custody, small claims court, wills, estate planning, hiring a lawyer, arrest, renting an apartment and buying a house. For more information about the pamphlets or an order form, call 415/538-2280.