Judicial branch expanding parental leave

Employees of North Carolina’s court system are among the many state employees who are, as of this month, entitled to eight weeks of paid parental leave when they become new parents.

Th leave — available to employees irrespective of gender and whether they give birth or are adoptive parents — will benefit about 100 employees per year in the Administrative Office of the Courts.

On Tuesday N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced the courts are taking their efforts to support new parents among the 20,000 lawyers practicing in North Carolina.

“Last week I asked the Supreme Court to approve changes to our rules of practice to allow attorneys who practice in courts all across North Carolina to designate up to 12 weeks of secured leave without court appearances for new parents welcoming children to their families,” Beasley said.

“In their very same way we care about the people who are served by our courts, it is important that we value and support the people who work in our courts,” Beasley said.


Chief Justice Beasley Announces Rule Changes

Chief Justice Beasley announces rule changes to strengthen families and support children.

Posted by North Carolina Judicial Branch on Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The rule change will take into account both the reality of parenthood and the demands of a court schedule on trial lawyers, said Kim Crouch, executive director of NC Advocates for Justice.

“This new rule will contribute substantially to the ongoing conversations about lawyers and wellness and what we can do to ensure that the legal profession remains a sustainable, long term career choice for all,” Crouch said at Tuesday’s press conference. “This policy also puts the opportunity to become a trial lawyers or continue a career as a trial lawyer within the reach of a greater number of attorneys.”

Too many trial attorneys — even those who can take advantage of paid leave time and short term disability policies — are forced to choose between parenthood and a demanding court schedule, Crouch said. Until now, that schedule was rarely changed to address their needs as parents.

Attorney Lauren Newton shared her personal experience with the problem at Tuesday’s press conference.

“Before this rule we were able to designate no more than three calendar weeks in a consecutive year,” Newton said. “That’s not enough time if you’ve had a baby. I had a c-section. That’s typically eight weeks. You get more than the six weeks that most short term disability allows — if your firm has a short term disability policy. I had eight weeks. Generally that was not compliant with the rule.”

That means she faced attorneys on the other side of cases who declined to reschedule or push back deadlines or court dates, despite her health.

“I was asked to attend a hearing and write a brief one week after having a new born,” Newton said. “I was in no shape to do that. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t drive a vehicle.”

Crouch credited the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the NC Association of Defense Attorneys with supporting the change.

“A new parent’s life is plagued with uncertainty,” Crouch said. “Without the assurance of 12 weeks of secured leave following birth or adoption, many trial attorneys might have to wait to become a parent until their professional life slows down. And we all know that’s not likely to happen.”

“Becoming a parent is life changing,” Crouch said. “The months after birth or adoption are a critical time in a family’s life. Mothers need time to recover from child birth and we all need time to bond with our children. Even with an uncomplicated delivery, it takes months to adjust to the life of parenting. Allowing parents the time they need to recuperate and heal will be good for our profession. It will be good for our clients. And it will be good for our families.”


Author to present “White Ally Toolkit” following KKK activity in Hillsborough

Two weeks ago armed Ku Klux Klan members demonstrated in Hillsborough, leading to a much larger anti-racist demonstration there.

Though the Orange County Sheriff’s Department  announced its intention to arrest some of the demonstrators for carrying firearms in a political demonstration  there had been, as of this week, no arrests.

With those tensions still lingering and many wondering how to confront racism in their communities, Dr. David Campt is teaching a course on “Encouraging and Equipping Anti-racism Allies” in Hillsborough this weekend.

David Campt

Billing himself as “The Dialogue Guy,” Campt has gotten national media attention — including an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” last year — for his books and workshops on effectively confronting racism and how white allies best can help anti-racism efforts.

“Talking about racism should focus on what is done, the action, the impact, not whether someone is a racist,” Campt said. “Focusing on saying that whether so-and-so is a racist, is counterproductive. This diverts our attention to an emotional discussion of a personality instead of what the racist behavior is actually doing.”

His talk in Hillsborough will center on lessons from his book “The White Ally Toolkit.”

“The White Ally Toolkit workshop is for allies wanting to make a difference on racism, with emphasis on using practical, non-antagonistic and persuasive conversational-listening skills among their friends and circle of influence,” Campt said in a statement about the event this week.

Campt — who is originally from Eden, NC — said his workshop will answer some common questions on racism and effective dialogue, including:

  • What does the latest scientific research say about the keys to persuading others?
  • How relevant are tools of empathetic listening and non-violent communication?
  • How can my own racial background and perspective be used to help me engage skeptics?
  • What are effective approaches for strategically addressing racially problematic behaviors?
  • How do I make good and courageous choices about engaging difficult racial moments?
  • What is a good sequence of issues to cover when trying to expand a skeptic’s perspective?

“More people need to know how to talk to the people that white nationalists are targeting,” Campt said. “The natural tendency is to avoid talking to them or to chastise them. At the workshops, we teach strategies that are more effective in turning them away from hatred.”

The event will be held in two sessions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of Hillsborough, 1710 Old N.C. 10 in Hillsborough. Spaces are limited with admission rangin from $30 to $75. Those interested can get more information through calling (919) 644-0567.



Study: Republicans increasingly think higher education is harming the country

A new Pew Research Center survey shows nearly 40 percent of American adults say colleges and universities are having a negative impact on the United States.

That number is up significantly from 2012, when it was measured at 26 percent.

The increase is almost entirely attributable to those who identify as Republicans or independents who lean Republican, according to the survey.

From 2015 to 2019, the share of Republican or Republican leaning respondents who said colleges have a negative effect on the country jumped from 37 percent to 59 percent.

Over the same period the opinions of Democrats and independents leaning Democratic were largely positive and stable.

There is also disagreement on why higher education may be headed in the wrong direction. Respondents from both parties agree tuition costs are too high (Republicans – 77 percent, Democrats 92 percent). But a large majority of Republicans (75 percent) believe there is too much concern about protecting students from views they might find offensive while far fewer Democrats (31 percent) said that was the case. Republican respondents were also much more likely (79 percent) to believe professors are bringing their political and social views into the classroom than Democrats (17 percent).

In North Carolina we have seen this divide play out in the Republican dominated UNC Board of Governors’ ongoing attempts to create conservative academic centers which they say will counteract pervasive liberal sentiment in academia.

It was also on display during former UNC System President Margaret Spellings’ tenure as head of the state university system. Despite the Texans’ deep conservative background and tenure as Secretary of Education under Republican President George W. Bush, Spellings was criticized as insufficiently conservative by critics on the political right and ultimately resigned after sustained public tensions with the Board of Governors.


Paypal suspends Ku Klux Klan donation account linked to NC

This week PayPal suspended the donation account of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The move comes after the account was brought to the company’s attention last month, when screen shots of the donation page on the group’s website were shared on social media.

The “hotline” number shared on the website, which has a 336 area code, has been traced to an Eden, NC number that has for years been associated with Klan activity.

The number is still active, with a recording telling those who call “If you’re white and proud, join the crowd” and inviting them to leave contact information.


The Loyal White Knights is the same organization whose armed members demonstrated in Hillsborough late last month, leading to large scale counter-protests.

The number is the same one displayed on the “Help make America great again” banner held by Klan members, as captured by photographer Daniel Hosterman at the demonstration.

Though the Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced its intention to arrest some of the demonstrators for carrying firearms in a political demonstration  there had been, as of Thursday of this week, no arrests.


“Ex-gay” minister condemns “conversion therapy” he promoted for decades

The founder of one of the nation’s largest “conversion therapy” groups has come out as gay and is apologizing for his role in popularizing the practice.

So-called “conversion therapy,” which has been condemned by organizations like the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association, attempts to “cure” people of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

McKrae Game — founder of South Carolina’s Hope for Wholeness —  is disavowing the “ex-gay” ministry that promoted the practice through social media and an interview last week with the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston.

“It’s all in my past,” Game said in a Facebook post last weekend. “But many, way TOO MANY continue believing that there is something wrong with themselves and wrong with people that choose to live their lives honestly and open as gay, lesbian, trans, etc.,”

“Learn to love yourself and others,” he said.

Game, who spent more than 20 years promoting conversion therapy through religious ministry, said he’d like to see all such program end.

“I created it all,” told the Post and Courtier of Hope for Wholeness. “We have harmed generations of people.”

In 2017 the organization’s board of directors abruptly fired Game. In June of this year Game cut his ties with the organization and came out as gay.

“When the reporter asked me if I’d like to see Hope for Wholeness shut down, I said I’d like all exgay ministry and conversion therapy counselors and organizations shut down,” Game said in his Facebook post.

Hope for Wholeness, based in South Carolina, became one of the nation’s largest conversion ministries. Through programs of its type, nearly 700,000 LGBT-identifying adults have undergone some form of conversion therapy as of 2018, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.

Last month, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order prohibiting North Carolina taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for conversion therapy.

The order “directs the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to take the appropriate steps to make sure that no taxpayer dollars are used for conversion therapy for minors,” according to Cooper’s office.

It prohibits any medical or mental health provider receiving state or federal funds allocated to the North Carolina DHHS to use those funds for conversion therapy for patients under eighteen years of age.

“State taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for a practice on children that major medical associations agree is harmful and ineffective,”Cooper said in a prepared statement. “Conversion therapy has been shown to pose serious health risks, and we should be protecting all of our children, including those who identify as LGBTQ, instead of subjecting them to a dangerous practice. I’m proud to sign this order and I will continue working to build an inclusive North Carolina that is welcoming and safe.”

Policy Watch has reported extensively on the controversy over conversion therapy and the national movement to outlaw the practice.

A bill to prohibit the practice among minors entirely, the Mental Health Protection Act, was filed in the North Carolina House in March.

Despite polls showing overwhelming bipartisan support for the ban, it faced stiff opposition from religious groups and conservative Republicans and has not received a hearing in this legislative session. No such bill has yet been passed in any state in the Southeast.

In April, Policy Watch had an exclusive interview with Sam Brinton, director of Advocacy for The Trevor Project and Garrard Conley, author of the best-selling conversion therapy memoir “Boy Erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 50 States 50 Bills initiative is working to pass bills protecting minors from conversion therapy across the country. So far, eighteen states have laws or regulations preventing the practice for those under 18.

The Movement Advancement Project map of states with laws governing “conversion therapy.”

The Trevor Project  recently released the results of its inaugural 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health, including insights around conversion therapy. The cross-sectional national survey of LGBTQ youth across the United States found :

  • 2 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with youth who have undergone conversion therapy more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not.
  • 42 percent of LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the past year.
  • 57 percent of transgender and non-binary youth who have undergone conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year.