Report Highlights Todres’ Children’s Rights Work

A recent report on bullying by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies highlights the work of Professor of Law Jonathan Todres.

In the Sept. 5 “Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying” report, Todres talks of early interventions to combat this long tolerated and common problem. He suggests that creating incentives for positive behavior rather than just punishing bad behavior may be an effective intervention.

“Parents and other caregivers are essential partners in successful interventions,” says Todres, the only law professor on the planning committee. However, he notes that other research finds that while most parents believe their children will tell them if they are being bullied, children are less likely to actually do so. Also, children report more social and health impacts than parents perceive.

“That suggests an area of need both for research and for further interventions,” Todres says in the report.

Most states have adopted or amended anti-bullying legislation in the past 15 years.

For more than 15 years, Todres has researched and focused his writing on issues related to children’s rights and child well being, publishing more than 40 academic articles and book chapters.

In addition to his recent work on bullying, Todres also provided written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary during a Sept. 9 hearing. The House committee considered testimony about a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution relating to parental rights and how any such amendment would affect both parents and children.

Todres, lead editor of the book “The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child: An Analysis of Treaty Provisions and Implications of U.S. Ratification” (Brill Academic Publishers 2006), briefed the subcommittee on development of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and how it compares to U.S. law. He discussed how the proposed amendment could result in unintended adverse consequences for both parents and children.

“Although it is understandable that any parent would have questions about the potential impact of a law or treaty on his or her family, the assertion that the CRC is a threat mischaracterizes both the U.S. approach to international law and the mandate of the CRC,” Todres testified. “The question of treaty ratification should be taken seriously and spur a thoughtful review,” but that parental rights to raise their children are already well protected by multiple Supreme Court decisions.”

Potential unintended consequences of a constitutional amendment include limiting the rights of some parents, such as in the case of international child abductions.

“A constitutional amendment that bars any application of international law might render many children at greater risk of harm and leave their parents without adequate rights to seek their children’s return,” Todres testified.

It could create problems for intercountry adoptions, putting adoptive parents’ rights in jeopardy as well as the children they are seeking to adopt if international law is barred from applying, he adds.