Gun Violence, Mental Health, and Our Culture with Christopher Markelz [IEP 020]
In this episode, we’re joined by attorney Christopher Markelz and we’re discussing gun control and gun violence in this country. We talk about whether or not teachers should be armed with guns, what the private sector can and should do in response to gun violence, and how the “Whatever It Takes” program is helping children with mental health issues who run into legal issues.
Full show transcript at the bottom of this post.
What We Discuss in This Episode:
- What education rights overlap with personal injury law?
- Should teachers carry guns?
- What is the connection between mental health and mass shootings?
- What will it take to get people to take a stand for gun control?
- Education around guns and gun violence is the first step to decreasing shootings
- The importance of gun safety and training, especially in the hands of children
- What can the private sector do in response to gun violence?
- The Whatever It Takes program is doing great work while helping individuals with mental health problems
Special Education Clinic at Whittier Law School
BBC news article re: Georgia teacher who barricaded himself in the classroom with a gun
“Whatever It Takes” program at the Orange County courthouse.
www.markelzlaw.com ? Launching soon!
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Full Show Transcript
Vickie: Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project, I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda: I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.
Vickie: Each week we’re going to explore new topics, which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda: And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field.
You guys don’t know this but this is take two, which I feel like this is our second time doing this. Today we started and realized our microphones were not on. So we just had a pretty good …
Vickie: It’s been a long week.
Amanda: Vickie and I actually just got done with a three day due process hearing so for those of you who are listeners that know what that means you may know that it’s a long week and we’re at our last thread or …
Vickie: It’s Friday though, so. We have an exciting episode.
Amanda: Vickie, didn’t we talk about this? We’re not using exciting anymore.
Vickie: We’re using … what’s the new vocab word?
Amanda: Well according to you, as our take one, we’re saying infinity and beyond.
Vickie: That was completely taken out of context, she has no idea what she’s saying, objection your honor.
Amanda: So Vickie decided to say we’re going onward and upward or, a.k.a., infinity and beyond. So, for all you Disney fans out there, I guess, to infinity and beyond for the next week hopefully you’re … you had a great weekend. Once you start listening to this it’ll be Tuesday.
Vickie: Well, I mean you could be listening to it whenever, but anyways, that’s Amanda, I’m Vickie, and today we have Christopher Markelz. Say hello Chris.
Chris: Hello listeners.
Amanda: We decided it’s not a great, it’s not exciting episode, it’s a special episode.
Chris: Special episode.
Amanda: Oh shit. So, we actually … Chris goes way back. We went to law school with Chris. I said law school, a.k.a. no longer. Vickie’s laughing at me cause she doesn’t want to talk about it but …
Vickie: No, it’s just like a.k.a, you keep … I think that’s going to be your … a.k.a for the episode you’re going to say a.k.a for everything. Yeah, no Whittier law school is closing down. It was good while it lasted, but …
Chris: A good time was had by all.
Vickie: Yeah, a good time was had by all, it is what it is, I think whatever else we could say about it but, yeah, Whittier. We’re Whittier alum that’s good.
Chris: Yeah, we’re all doing okay.
Amanda: Hey, we are, and hey we’re all consecutive years I realized. 11, 12, 13 … 13 right? Yeah there we go. So we’re rep-ing pretty strong here. I mean we do have Whittier Law School glasses that we’re drinking out of right now so, just up the ante.
So I actually met Chris first because I was in … at Whittier law school they had a center for children’s rights. So it was a child advocacy section, it was a fellowship program where people who went to law school knowing that they wanted to work in child advocacy got a fellowship and we had to be on committee’s, and do community service. We also had a clinic on campus, I think Vickie and I have talked about, where we did pro bono legal aide. And so actually Chris was my mentee his first year, do you remember that?
Chris: I do remember that. There was some good stories about that that I know we’ll talk about today. But yeah, I started … I think I had my first real experience with special education before law school. I got out of college, and I was coaching a wrestling team, and one of the parents was the president of an alternative school, kind of like a charter school, right?
Vickie: Where was this? In California?
Chris: No, this was in the south wesburbs of Chicago in Illinois.
Vickie: Chicago. Chi-town.
Amanda: Vickie and her accents. Vickie think she has every accent known to like …
Vickie: They’re pretty good.
Chris: There might be a touch of accent that comes out as … there’s been you know. But I did that for a couple years, that was great. It was a school for, I don’t know if the terminology has changed, but I think the school was for kids who had been diagnosed with emotional disturbances. At least, that had to be their primary diagnosis, it wasn’t supposed to be for any behavior or anything like that, but I mean, kids would come in like …
Vickie: Like with mental health issues primarily or?
Chris: Correct. There’s some kind of trauma or something like that. Some class environments, usually no more than ten in a class, team of therapists, and it was a great, great environment.
Amanda: So would this be kind of like how California has non public schools was there like certified … was it a … or was it a private school? Do they have non public schools?
Chris: If it’s non public, is that different than private?
Vickie: So, in California we designate non public only because district funding could go to it and so, as long as they’re certified under the California department of education we designate them as non public. Whereas private schools could be religious based, right?
Chris: Okay right, so …
Amanda: Or private schools don’t have to follow the requirements the California department of education, they can kind of do whatever they want.
Chris: Okay, I’m not an expert on what licensing there was in Illinois, you know it was practically ten years ago, but the way it worked was that districts could not provide some of the requirements that were called for in an IEP, such as group therapy or individual therapy, things like that. This school was able to provide that for a limited number of students to keep a small class. So they were in … when kids graduated from this high school they received a diploma rom their home school.
Vickie: Oh, that’s cool. That’s interesting, okay.
Amanda: So it sounds to me like, under the IDA we have kind of like a rule that if … well a school district is supposed to educate a child in whatever setting is appropriate for them in a [inaudible 00:05:54] environment and sometimes we have situations where some school districts don’t have facilities that would be able to assist with certain students because, maybe they don’t have that many students that have that need, so rather than saying, “Oh well this school district is required to come up with a classroom just for one student”, that wouldn’t be appropriate. They’re able to then fund … so in California we have a lot of those kids in non public schools. So it’s like filling that void but you’re still within the pervue of the school district, they’re still holding the IEP’s and all of that. So it sounds maybe like that’s kind of along the lines?
Chris: Right, right, right. And I’m sure there’s our little nuances that are differences cause we’re talking about another state and things like that, right. But, I started there and when I applied for law school I applied to be in the CCR cause I had so much experience in there, and I thought it was a good idea, and I thought that’s something that I’d be interested in. And that was a really great experience too. We really learned a lot and helped a lot of people in the special education clinic. And yeah, that’s where I got to meet, I think both of you, yeah?
Vickie: I think so, yeah. I think there was some cross over, but I remember seeing you and talking to you at like a Whittier … maybe it was like one of the career in the law things, like where we’d … like there was that first incubator program?
Chris: Right, right, right. Yeah. So, after law school and the bar I started my own practice. Special education has always kind of been on the radar but I also have learned how to do other things too, and so, occasionally I kind of take those cases and …
Vickie: Yeah, and we’ve collaborated on a couple of cases where personal injury kind of crosses over with special education. As much as Amanda and I would love to delve into the world of personal injury, that’s where we kind of use you Chris.
Chris: Right, and I’m kind of the same way where, as much as I’d like to do more of the special education law it’s much easier, and more efficient, and beneficial for the client to send them to you guys who do this all day.
Amanda: And yeah, and vice versa, because like Vickie said, we can dabble in telling parents, “Oh yeah, I think this is a personal injury claim”, but … and the way it works is that when we have an injury at a school the rights overlap with the education rights and so, if you’re going to come to a settlement on one issue you have to be very careful that you’re not waiving any claims to say a personal injury matter and so we always like … if we tell a parent, “Hey. You have a claim for personal injury, we don’t do personal injury so you need to go to a personal injury attorney”. We prefer it to be someone that we know, that we can collaborate with because we want to make sure if we’re coming to a settlement, and it’s a global settlement, it includes any rights that you would get under a personal injury case.
Vickie: Well somebody that also has a basic understanding of special education law because if, and I feel like Chris has been around us long enough and we’ve talked about special education laws so much with him that he has a basic understanding, and that makes all the difference I think in how you would approach a personal injury case.
Chris: Absolutely. Right, and there’s so many ways that kids can be hurt in schools, especially kids with serious special education issues. They don’t know their own strength, or if they have a meltdown, right? I mean, in the school that I worked at we … there were instances where people would have psychotic breaks and they would have to be restrained. And we actually did a … we had a couple trainings while I was there where you learned, all day, you practiced how to safely restrain people because when you don’t have that restraining … there were coaches who were head locking kids and they were getting hurt or suffocating those kids.
Amanda: You grab kids arm to try to hold them back from running and you end up dislocating their shoulder, or breaking the arm. I’ve seen that before unfortunately.
Chris: Absolutely, yeah. Or there were kids who … banging their heads on the wall, or the floor, it’s sad. And you just want to keep them safe but you also have to restrain them to keep them safe.
Amanda: And unfortunately a lot of these teachers and schools in a lot of areas don’t have the full on training on how to deal with serious maladaptive behaviors that would require the use of restraint or seclusion, right? And we have rules, and each state has their own laws on what you can do, and schools have their own protocols as well, but when it comes down to it, not everyone has the training and then what we were just talking about. They want to give teachers guns now?
Chris: Yeah, and that is a really interesting proposal because, especially in high school, where kids will learn how to push a teacher’s buttons, I mean teachers are not perfect people. They’re just like the rest of us, they have good days and bad days, they get upset, they do or say things they regret, and you’re going to put a weapon on this person who, training or no training, it’s not a great idea. And from a personal injury stand point you could talk about even accidental, right? I think that there’s …
Vickie: Even that just … or was it even accidental? I think there was a teacher, just a couple of days ago … I can’t, I’m going to have to look it up while everybody else is talking, that was in a classroom, I think he had had a gun, the police were called, a shot had gone off, no injuries but literally just happened a couple days ago.
Amanda: Well I mean, I’ve heard people critique this by saying what if we have, even like a minority teacher right? We have an African-American teacher, or a Hispanic teacher that’s in the classroom that has a gun. The police department when they hear that there’s a gun in the school and there’s an active shooter, they don’t know who it is, they don’t know that it’s a teacher, they don’t know that it’s a student, right? So what happens if the teacher pulls out their gun to try to defend their classroom, the police come in and think they’re the shooter? There’s just too much unknown with this and how many people who have guns have actually gotten actual training on how to use a gun? And who’s accurate? I think I heard of some statistic, and I’m not even going to say the statistic, but it was like, something … well I guess I’m going to say it but, something along 30% of police officers actually have … like when they go through training, their accuracy is only a certain percentage. And that’s police officers. So imagine people who don’t use guns on a regular basis, we’re going to trust them to keep our kids safe?
Vickie: Well I think you look to where the suggestion is coming from and it’s coming from the NRA. The NRA benefits from teachers getting guns, and then having to do the training to have those guns, so who benefits? The NRA and I think that that’s where you start.
It was a Georgia teacher. He had barricaded himself in the classroom and he had fired a handgun, and he is in police custody, and this was from yesterday March 1st, and I’m looking at BBC news everyone, just so you know that I’m quoting something. But yeah, obviously this came two weeks after the Florida high school shooting in Parkland.
Amanda: Does it say why the teacher shot the gun?
Vickie: No, basically what ended up happening … Jessie Randall Davidson, 53, locked his students in the hallway and fired a shot when the principle opened the door, according to U.S Media Reports. No students, obviously, were harmed. They did indicate … I don’t know why they indicated this, but one student sprained her ankle running out, but it’s basically like, obviously, he was in Georgia, he had a gun … and this is two weeks after this whole thing.
So I think you start with, and I get it, people are going to disagree with it, but it is what it is, and basically it’s our opinion. We’re attorneys, we’re not your attorney’s, this is just us having a really honest conversation about what’s happening in our world. But I think that’s where you start with the NRA saying, “Yes. Teacher’s need to have guns, and oh we’ll train them”, it’s like okay benefits from that?
Amanda: Well just like any person with a gun anyone can go and use a gun for an improper purpose, right? So, how are we to say that all teachers … like just like any kid could use it improperly but so could a teacher. We talk about mental illness being there and I know that, look we do have the president and we have republicans trying to blame mental illness, but we do see mental illness as a factor. Not in the same way that some people do. We see it as … look the Parkland shooter, we know for a fact that the school had knowledge and information about this kid. And we would say probably, maybe, needed some mental health services and didn’t get it, right?
Chris: Yeah. I mean, the kid lost both his parents, right? And …
Amanda: Within not even that long of each other.
Chris: Yeah, it’s … I don’t think that it’s any one thing. I mean, if you ask me I think it’s a cultural thing. I think that you can’t just say it’s mental health.
Vickie: 100%. We say we’re straight shooters, why do we say that? It’s an American culture you know what I’m saying?
Chris: Yeah, and I mean, I know people with mental health problems and they don’t shoot people. And that’s not to say that we don’t need to address mental health. Guns are dangerous. I don’t know, I’m making a statistic up, but it’s like what dramatically increases the likelihood that your child could die from a gun is having a gun in your house, right?
Amanda: Well absolutely. I mean they say you’re more likely to get …
Chris: There’s more accidentally shot, right?
Amanda: Yeah exactly.
Chris: So I don’t know that necessarily putting more guns out there is a great way to have less people get shot. I mean because if someone wants to do something there’s not always a way to stop them. I mean that’s the world we live in.
Amanda: Right. And I mean, I think one of the arguments that I’ve heard a lot in the last couple weeks, and I feel like we hear it every time there’s one of these mass shootings, which now seems to be every couple of weeks, I feel like this reality is just not okay, is that well if someones going to try to kill someone they’re going to find a way no matter what. Well, you know what? I would love to see them try to kill 17 people within however many minutes with a knife. It’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen. It’s not the same thing.
Vickie: Obviously for us this is all … Valentine’s Day was about two weeks ago, it’s March 2nd, just to give you guys some context, whether you’re hearing this two weeks from now or a month from now, we’re still going to be talking about it so it’s timely. But just this morning there was at Central Michigan University another shooting, so this is not even two weeks after the Parkland shooting.
Amanda’s saying that this is norm, is true. It’s become a norm.
Amanda: And one thing that … I think when Vegas happened, we had a lot of people saying, “Well nothings going to change”, they had a very pessimistic attitude about it, saying nothings going to change because if nothing changed with Sandy Hook, nothings going to change, right? If we’re not going to stand up and change things when kids get killed, but I do feel, and I’ve heard this on a podcast that I listen to and other people I’ve talked to, I feel like it’s different but it’s different because this time … like with Sandy Hook these kids were not old enough to fight back and say, “We’re not going to take this shit anymore”, where now we have high school students that are very well versed in Twitter, very well versed in the media because they grew up on it, that are now standing up. I feel like maybe … because I feel like before we used to say like, “Well is anything really going to change from this?”, I feel like there is becoming a grass hairs movement of maybe change?
Chris: Yeah, you know what? It’s interesting because when I was a kid we had fire drills and tornado drills. And now they have active shooter drills. And it’s something that is touching all of our lives and it will continue to happen. I mean, at Northern Illinois University where I went to college, a year or two after a graduated, on Valentine’s Day there was an active shooter who killed I think 12 people and himself, so 13 people. And that was in a place where I was in class every day in that building where he went and it happens everywhere. If you went to UC Santa Barbara, there was the kid who went around and shot people from his car.
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Chris: So these things are touching everyone’s lives and the more that it happens the more that movement grows to really do something about it.
Vickie: Yeah, and just to clarify, because I had read that headline very quickly, it was a shooting at Central Michigan University and it was a shooting of parents by someone and they’re saying, obviously, it’s a domestic violence issue. But regardless, it’s obviously a shooting that’s happening on a campus and I think that for us living in this world and we got pessimistic about, for us, very, very young in the 90’s it was Columbine, right? So for me, that’s where it started. It was still far away, oh that’s happening but not here, oh my gosh in happening in high school, I may not be in high school at that point, it’s one of those things where you’re able to kind of, oh okay that’s at a school. And then Virginia Tech … I could go on Boulder, like, I can’t go to movie theaters, even abroad in France you can’t go to a concert. You have to be constantly aware and that’s another thing …
Vickie: Yeah and obviously Vegas, but I think Chris kind of touched on something where it is a cultural kind of thing that’s happening. And what these kids and young adults are doing in Florida is really bringing its attention … they don’t know the rules of decorum, right? It’s just like, oh we talk about it for a week, and then we move on. And they’re like, “No this affected me and I’m going to talk about this on social media. You’re going to try to call me out and say that I am a crisis actor and I’m going to go on Twitter and I’m a kid, what are you even talking about”.
Amanda: Or yeah, I’m a paid activist, or a paid protestor. Like that’s the new conspiracy that these kids are paid protestors, which it’s like, I’m sorry. But what’s great is that they’re sitting there on Twitter and they are like in the moment refuting it. It’s not like this conspiracy sits with people for weeks and then all of a sudden we refute it. It’s in the moment. These kids are on Twitter and they’re like, no, no, no, I was there don’t even try to …
Chris: Has anyone alleged that Russia is going to? Like the Russian [inaudible 00:19:39] are involved?
Amanda: The Russian bots. Oh it’s the Russian bots that are … well no, no, no, because the Russian bots would never go against the NRA Chris, come on!
Chris: I thought that they’d play both sides of the fence just to drive up provision and …
Amanda: Oh man, the Russian bots don’t know how to make equal treatment on both sides I don’t think.
Chris: A lot of people too … there was a clip of one of the survivors talking to Marco Rubio and saying would you not accept NRA money, right? And the money in politics is really a great issue that needs to be debated and addressed because I think that … what is the answer? I don’t know that we have an answer. I don’t think they’re just taking … no one’s going to take everyone’s guns away, there are way too many for that ever to happen. But we don’t even study this issue. Let’s actually take a look at what’s going on here.
Vickie: Look at Australia, look at Japan. There are so many different areas, I mean even with Bill Clinton and the ban on assault rifles, just within that time period, which the republicans didn’t want to re-new when it came time up. The statistics are out there and its just a matter of, okay it’s out there so why don’t we research it. It’s just easier to fall back on like, oh we’re never going to stop it. But why can’t we try something?
Amanda: The concept of, if we can’t get rid of all gun violence then we shouldn’t get rid of some, I don’t understand that concept but that’s being floated around a lot. And its like, yeah if we could cut at 50%, it’s cut it at 50%, at least we’re trying. I just … but I mean I think it comes down to there’s multiple facets, just like you said, there’s not just one problem here there’s many problems. There’s too many guns out there, there’s not enough people paying attention, there’s mental illness, there’s how are we education our kids, how are we … if an adult has guns in their house and they’re at an early age teaching kids how to shoot guns, and it’s not for the purpose of hunting. In my opinion, what are you telling the kid? You can use this gun for recreational purposes but kids when they’re young especially, let’s say before they get to middle school, they’re very impressionable. And sometimes it’s hard for them to generalize ideas and so let’s say they have a video game that they’re shooting a gun at someone and they’re allowed to go shoot a gun at an animal because they’re hunting. How do they generalize that it’s then not okay to, in real life, shoot a gun at another human? I don’t know that we’re teaching the difference.
Vickie: That gets into a very touchy area because video … I don’t know that video games … like we could get into that but like …
Amanda: All I’m saying it’s like the whole thing …
Vickie: No, no, no I understand. But I think Chris really hit it on it’s head when it’s like a cultural thing. It’s not necessarily … and it’s the way that we perceive mental health issues in this country. They’re separate issues that need to be addressed at one.
Chris: Yeah, I mean, I think I would probably feel safer with the kid who’s grown up around guns and has learned how to use, and respect, and what they’re for. There’s training that you can do that’s like police cadet training to go shoot a handgun. And you don’t just learn how to shoot, stand, point, and pull the trigger, you learn about what that weapon can do, and what it can’t do. And I think that’s important and there are a lot of different reasons to have a gun, right? It could just be for hobby, it could be for self-defense, those are different reasons you might have one. And there are those people out there that just want to have it because they can.
Amanda: Well I mean they think that in a moment of crisis it’s going to protect them. I don’t many people … like I do know a lot of people who are good in crisis but there are a lot of people who aren’t good in crisis. So, we want someone who’s not good in crisis with a gun? And I think that’s where we’re going to with … there are teachers that are now being trained for active shooter drills. I’ve got a lot of friends that are teachers that are saying this is now their new norm. In California, it used to be earthquake drill. The stop, drop and roll and that was the primary. Then for a while it was like the triangle idea.
Chris: I don’t know what the triangle …
Amanda: So the triangle rule was basically the idea that if you put yourself next to something, let’s say we’re sitting next to the bookcase, so if I went and hid next to this bookcase if the ceiling fell the ceiling would fall into a triangle. And there would be a triangle that I would be safe under. And that was the new idea. But the problem with that idea that got refuted a couple of years later was that if that … number one if the thing was still too heavy it still could go onto you and the idea of maybe you couldn’t escape.
Chris: Yeah you’re trapped under the ceiling and the rubble and you’re not good.
Amanda: So that was … so it was like, stop, drop and roll, then there’s been the stand in the doorway, we get … like every other couple of years we get a new strategy of how to avoid earthquakes. Or stand in the middle of a field. Don’t stand in the middle of a field. Stand near trees, don’t stand near trees. But, now the reality is we’re getting these active shooter drills and teachers are being trained for certain things but from what I’ve heard in some of the recent school shootings is that some of them did everything that they were told to do in their trainings. So, is the training going to protect against everything? No it’s not. It’s not enough and there’s so many factors that come into play.
In our line of work we do see kids with mental health issues. And we see kids who need support and without that support they might go down the wrong path. And we see the signs. We see the signs because we see it on a regular basis because we know what we’re looking at with these kids and our job, our goal, our mission, is to help these kids get on the right track and be successful, independent adults when they get out of school. But, if we don’t provide them the services then maybe they’re not going to end up that way and, over and over again … I know we had an episode we talked about Sandy Hook, and we talked about the signs that he had when he was in school, and this is the pattern. For the Parkland shooter, there were signs that the school could’ve intervened and we never want to say, “Oh it’s the school’s fault. It’s the school’s fault”. No. But there are things that we could be doing … cause once a gun in involved, there’s only so much you can do right? How do you stop a gun? But if you can prevent that from even becoming a situation to have the gun in the first place, is that something that we should be considering as well? It’s that multi-faceted solution, right?
Chris: Are you suggesting that we take away the guns pre-preemptively?
Amanda: Oh without due process?
Vickie: We totally understand the second amendment and we understand that rulings have been made but I think there’s some really common sense things and it’s sad when you have a corporation, shout out to Dick’s Sporting Goods, for indicating that, you know what, assault rifles? We get it. We don’t want to sell them anymore, if you’re under 21 we’re done with this, we won’t sell all these other things …
Chris: What corporation would want to have their name attached to … where did that guy buy his gun? Dick’s Sporting Goods. Nobody wants … right? They don’t want to be a part of that story anymore.
Amanda: Apparently Fed-Ex is still okay with being part of that story because they’re still associated with the NRA and they refuse to go away from it. But one thing I heard today, as I was listening to one of the podcasts that we listen to, Pods of America, and they were talking about how now there are some banks that are seriously considering whether or not they want to have a relationship with organizations like the NRA.
We talk about the government can control regulations, right? But is there something that the private sector can do? So like Vickie said, Dick’s Sporting Goods is trying to do just that. They’re trying … maybe there’s not a legal regulation but if they can do their part in cutting down some of this maybe there is, and so … cause did you know that if you’re an NRA member you get like NRA discounts at businesses just like Triple A.
Vickie: The NRA is a group of people that want their voices heard. They’re not supposed to be anything other than that. So, just like we’re a part of the American Bar Association, or any other association, we get certain discounts because we’re part of an association that …
Chris: Do we have a lobbying group?
Amanda: Can we say that the ABA needs to get us better discounts because, let’s be honest, I don’t think we have that great of discounts.
Chris: No kidding.
Amanda: I think the NRA has way better discounts than we do.
Vickie: And like, you know, Fed-Ex has come out the statement indicating like, under federal law a lot of people use us and so we’re not going to discriminate against anyone, and so they did their PR kind of stick and things like that, but I think where we’re going as a society … there’s obviously to pressure our government to make these changes and to make legislation, especially in just very simple things. Let’s ban assault rifles. It’s been done in the past, it happened under Clinton, so it’s one of those things where it’s like why are we not even trying? And I think that what you were leading to with Marco Rubio at the town hall being there as part of his job, so I’m not going to give him extra kudos for being there, that’s his job. He’s in Florida, yes, so to have a town hall and to really listen … like I hope that he actually listens and is just like, okay what is it that we can do, because there is … and you know if they don’t do what we want them to do then that’s 2018. We can re-elect.
Amanda: Yeah, well I mean, the polls are out there. How many times in the last couple of weeks have we heard the polls? The majority of Americans, they are for some of these regulations. The assault rifle ban, and the background checks, there’s certain things that are not regulated right now that could be and the majority of Americans agree with. So, it really comes down to congress. Why is congress not acting upon their constituents wishes?
Chris: I mean, yeah that’s kind of an open ended question but like I said, I really think there just needs to be some money put into studying this problem. Let’s just try something. Let’s try something and then let’s see how that works. And then somewhere else they can try something else, and we’ll see how that works, and we’ll compare our notes and we’ll try to find a real solution. And it’s not something that happens over night because … it’s my opinion that this is a cultural thing. It’s not just mental health, it’s not just a security threat or something like that, it’s a cultural problem and it’s going to continue until we actually do take some kind of action.
Amanda: Yeah, I agree.
Vickie: And I mean, that is the student’s from Florida actually kind of standing up and saying something. I think there’s a tide and it’s shifting and us being pessimists I think because of what we’ve grown up, and what we’ve seen starting with Columbine in the 90’s, we’ve seen the same thing over and over for quite some time. So I think with the tides changing that hopefully we’ll … something will come of it. I think something.
Amanda: I mean, yeah, I think one thing that we can say is that these students who … I mean, they’re not even 18, they’re kids still. And they’re doing more activism, trying to get more change than many adults I know. I can say that. Even a couple of years ago. I mean we were kind of in that realm of … we knew things that were going on, but how active were we in current events and trying to make change? We recently through our podcast have tried to really enact some change and getting people to get involved, but before that? We’ve gotten really pissed off in the last year over a number of things but I really applaud these teenagers. I think that their tenacity, and their fearlessness …
Vickie: Their moxy.
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Vickie: Oh yeah. Well that podcast went in a completely different direction than I thought it would. Chris we usually like to talk about something positive that you’ve seen as an attorney that you’ve dealt with. It could be within the realm of any students that you’ve dealt with, or a good time story that you kind of want to end with.
Chris: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, so something that we were kind of chatting about a little earlier was Orange County has a couple different community courts and one of them is called the Whitcore, it stands for whatever it takes.
Vickie: Oh okay, and just in Orange County? Okay.
Chris: Yeah, I’m not sure if LA County, or San Bernardino, or Riverside County has their own, they may. But it is in Orange County and it’s a program for individuals … there’s a number of different qualifying factors, but it’s for people with mental health issues.
Vickie: Okay, that’s very interesting.
Chris: And like I said, there are a couple other qualifying factors, a couple disqualifying factors, but the idea of the program is that if you have a mental health issue, or you may have a mental health issue, you can be evaluated and diagnosed, that you will plea guilty to your charges and you will enter in … your sentence will be suspended, your cost of probation and any assessments associated with your conviction are suspended, and you are ordered into a mental health program. It’s a residential program. You will be in there from anywhere between 18 and 24 months.
Vickie: Right, depends, right?
Chris: Right totally depends on the individual and how quickly you can progress through the program. And you have tele-care, you have these different … you’re receiving treatments.
Amanda: Like the mental health treatment that they might need for whatever it is they’re dealing with, counseling and what not?
Chris: Correct. If it’s medication you have to take the medication.
Amanda: Something they may not have been able to even access otherwise.
Chris: Absolutely. And at the end of the program, as you progress through the different stages of the program, they even help … part of graduation is finding employment, and finding housing, and …
Chris: It is incredible and the kids that I’ve seen, I mean I call them kids but they’re over 18, but they have done so well. To see …
Chris: Yeah, to see kids who were almost refusing to take medication, or they’re just … they would go to prison any other …
Amanda: Otherwise. Right.
Chris: Right, they’d have a felony conviction, at least one felony, and they would be doing time in prison, and when they get out what do they do? Now they’re just going to be a recidivist. They’re just going to re-offend somewhere else because their underlying mental issue has never been addressed.
Amanda: Wow. So when we talk about rehabilitation in the system, and we don’t see it very often, and this sounds like a great way to really address, how can we rehabilitate someone who, if they have a mental health issue they can be rehabilitated but they need the right services and supports.
Chris: Absolutely, and the beautiful thing about this program is, it’s the judge is a judge whose in there every day, she handles all of these cases, there is a team of, I don’t know if they are psychologists or social workers, the DA is there, but they’re case workers. And it’s a room full of people, and they get in there every day, and they go over their cases, and they talk about these people. And they say heres how they’re doing well, here’s this person needs a little bit of encouragement, they’re not doing so well, and sometimes the encouragement can be a night or a weekend or two in jail because that’s the reality.
Vickie: If you’re not here, you’re there.
Chris: Yeah, really. And their success with the program is really amazing and to see how it really can address a kid’s problems … and I mean there are adults in the program too, it’s not just kids, but it is just people with mental health issues that are not being addressed, or they’ve never been addressed, or there’s a similar program for drug and alcohol abuse, right?
It’s a similar case where there’s qualifying and disqualifying factors, but if you are in this program the virtue from the actual criminal court and superior court keeps you out of jail.
Vickie: And we always talk here about inclusion, opportunity, community. And this is all of that, right? Obviously you’ve done something but we’re recognizing it, there’s the inclusion component of it. The DA, all of these social workers, everybody’s including you in on, “Okay if you do this, this is the opportunity that you’re getting and if you’re able to accomplish this you can return back and this community is going to be here for you”. And that is the cycle and that’s like … by the way you’re listening to the Inclusive Education Project Podcast, I realized that we didn’t do that at the top of the hour.
Amanda: Wow. Thirty minutes, almost forty minutes late.
Amanda: Almost to our outro.
Vickie: It is what it is, that’s the theme, but yeah, that’s great. And so then you’ve had experience through that and just great results, that’s amazing.
Chris: Yeah absolutely, and that’s the best part is when you have a client who completes the program and then they are able to motion the court to change their plea and to have those charges dismissed.
Chris: It’s fantastic. And we’re talking about serious felonies that would be strike offense otherwise. And this changes peoples lives and that is probably the most rewarding thing that can happen as an attorney, when you change someones life for the better.
Vickie: 100 percent.
Chris: Yeah, it’s a really great program.
Amanda: That’s awesome. I wonder if other counties have it.
Vickie: If they don’t they should.
Amanda: If you’re listening in another county, tell your court system that they need this program. I mean because that’s what we talk about when we talk about the need for criminal justice reform and really, truly being able to rehabilitate people. It’s not always, oh you’re a bad person and you need to be rehabilitated into a good person. Sometimes some people are struck with mental illness, I mean, our homeless population that … a lot of people that go through the system and we talk about the school [inaudible 00:37:48] pipeline. I mean we are talking about something where there is sometimes factors outside of these individuals control and if we don’t give them an opportunity like Vickie said to go and reintegrate back into the community and be a part of it, then we’re not doing a service to our community as a whole.
Chris: Yeah and when I’m kind of screening potential clients that I … I look for is, how old is the student? And have they been getting any assistance? And then I always tell people when you’re talking about kids, younger kids, grade school, junior high, high school, the one thing you don’t get back is time. You don’t get that time back. They push kids through high school and they push them through grade school and you don’t get to repeat a couple years to catch up. It’s moving forward all the time. And by the time you’re in high school and if you get out, or you don’t pass, all those issues that have not been dealt with, a lot of those people end up in the criminal justice system. That’s where they end up.
Vickie: The school to prison pipeline is real and we’ll probably have a topic on that very soon. No 100%, that it is what it is in the sense that it’s the norm and what we try to do is bring people on here to talk about the norm should not exist in the way that we think. And that you literally just hit it on it’s head. If these issues do not get resolved at this lower level why are we not putting in the funding, why are we not putting in the attention at this lower level because at that point it’s going to be cheaper. I’m talking to a conservative type of person that’s all about the money. It’s going to be cheaper at this level because once they get into the system … then I know you … we had talked about a judge saying to one of your clients, “Hey next time I see you in criminal court, you’re going to jail”, no we don’t want there to be a next time. We don’t even want the first time to happen and I think that a lot of times, and the overlap with the foster care kids, the juvenile kiddo’s that we get appointed to, that’s what we’re trying to prevent, right? So that they don’t get to the position where you’re in criminal court with them and trying to show the judge, no there’s mental health issues here that we have to resolve.
Chris: Absolutely. And often times the older you get the biggest limiting factor is, how much money you have. Do you have an attorney who’s going to get you into that program or fight for you to get into that program? Or are you going to be stuck with public defender who just sees the facts and sees that you’re probably guilty but we’re not going to address your mental health issues?
Amanda: We always talk about resources, are you going to be aware of the resources that are out there that can help you and that can get you on the right track. So that’s something that Vickie and I, we did not know about, that to some end I know that that’s something that we’re going to take into consideration for sure. I mean we obviously don’t do criminal law but it is something that we do have cross over from time to time just like personal injury and what not. So, we really appreciate you being here today Chris.
Chris: Well I really appreciate you two having me.
Vickie: Where can people find you? Is there like an email that people an email you if they are so angry with your opinion? No, I’m just kidding. If they would like to hear more from you, or would like to contact you, what’s your contact? Yeah if they need your help.
Chris: Absolutely, I’m very easy to find online. You can search my name Christopher Markelz.
Vickie: How do you spell that?
Chris: It’s M-A-R-K-E-L-Z, my email address is email@example.com. There’s a website markelzlaw., which should be launching very soon.
Chris: Yeah so, we’re all able … you can find me online, it won’t be too hard to find me. But if you have questions I always say it’s free to call and to chat and I’m happy to answer any questions that anybody has.
Vickie: Well thank you so much for coming on the pod. It’s a Friday and if you haven’t already could tell, it’s like March 2nd for us, and it’s about to rain so I wanted to end with …
Amanda: I was going to say, about to rain? I drove in almost five hours worth of traffic in the pouring rain today driving to and from an IEP in the valley and let me just tell you I think it was five hours of rain so, about to rain?
Vickie: Yeah, so I was just going to end with the infamous words of Hilary Duff, let the rain come down. That’s how I was going to end the pod. Sorry.
Amanda: Well I’m sorry, are you going to at least throw the ending out with the actual song?
Vickie: I don’t think that we could actually afford the copy write on that. So …
Chris: We’ll just stick with above and beyond.
Vickie: Yeah, to infinity and beyond. Bye