Toddlers and Tiaras Mom Files Suit

Isabella BarrettSusanna Barrett, one of the pageant mothers in TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras, has sued Warner Brothers Entertainment, AOL, and Associated Newspapers in Manhattan Supreme Court for printing knowingly false statements about her daughter, Isabella Barrett. Isabella and her mother were attending a charity event at Libation NYC when video was taken showing the 5-year-old signing LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” The complaint alleges that the articles regarding the incident falsely claimed that Isabella was gyrating to the music her mother acted as her disc jockey, feeding her lyrics to the song. Worse, the complaint alleges, the articles sexualized an innocent five-year-old girl who was not portraying herself sexually, erotically, or provocatively and who is now “in serious physical danger, attracting the attention of others who would seek to sexualize a child.” The complaint also states that Isabella “did not understand the concept of sex, let alone ‘sex appeal’ and could not have been singing about her own sex appeal.” She is seeking $30 million in damages for libel, $10 million from each of the defendants for exposing them to hatred, contempt and aversion. Read a copy of the complaint here.

But how much responsibility must Susanna Barrett accept for placing her daughter in the spotlight? Isabella Barrett is one of several young girls featured on Toddlers and Tiaras on the TLC Network, which has been much criticized for how it portrays the young pageant participants. Last year, another girl, 3-year-old Paisley, was costumed as Julia Roberts in her role as a prostitute in Pretty Woman.… <Read More>

Supervised Visitation Leads to Tragedy

Josh Powell with sons Charlie and Braden

Shortly prior to the tragic death of Charlie and Braden Powell this week, Pierce County Superior Court Judge, Kathryn Nelson, ordered a psychosexual evaluation of their father, Josh Powell, as a requirement of regaining custody of his children aged 5 and 7. According to Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney, Mark Lindquist, the situation may have been untenable to the control-obsessed father: if he refused to take the test, he would lose custody of the children; if he flunked the exam or refused to fully cooperate, he would also lose custody. Sometimes referred to as a sexual-deviancy examination, a psychosexual evaluation is lengthy and intrusive, taking upward of 30 hours to complete. Often used in testing sex offenders who have been civilly committed, the exams assess an individual’s personality, sexual history, potential risk factors and other patterns in determining and identifying possible sexual addictions.

Powell initially lost custody last fall in a battle with the state and his in-laws after his father, with whom he and the boys resided, was arrested on voyeurism and child-pornography charges. These allegations and other revelations about Josh Powell’s upbringing led to the judge’s decision to order the psychosexual evaluation prior to determining whether Powell could regain custody of the two boys.

During a court-ordered supervised visit on Sunday, Josh Powell attacked his children with a hatchet before setting fire to his home. Supervised visitation can be ordered by a judge when there are concerns about the protection and safety of a child in the company of a parent.… <Read More>

Online Sperm Donation

More couples are turning to the internet in their quest for children. After spending over $14,000 in failed artificial inseminations using sperm sourced by a sperm bank, one such couple went online to discover (now, which offers profiles for men willing to donate sperm for free to thousands of women desperate to conceive. After a couple of months of chatting and emailing with a prospective donor, the couple flew across the country to meet him. After the donor produced the sperm, the husband injected his wife utilizing a syringe.

Private sperm donation is not formally monitored by the FDA, but their official position states that “human cells and tissues intended for donation…are regulated…regardless of whether they are for sale or free of charge.” Online donors can be sanctioned for not complying with federal guidelines, which require a series of STD tests, costing more than an thousand dollars per attempt. One such donor in California was paid a surprise visit by the FDA and could now face jail time as well as a $100,000 fine for failing to comply with these guidelines.

This kind of donation also brings up another concern, the parental rights of the sperm donor. In many states, including California, the husband of a woman who is artificially inseminated is treated in law as if he were the natural father of a conceived child. This special treatment is only when the procedure is completed under the supervision of a licensed physician and surgeon. If women are being artificially inseminated by their husbands instead of by a licensed professional, the special treatment can be bypassed.… <Read More>

Unions…Bullies in NYC Schools?

In his 11th State of the City speech, Mayor Bloomberg announced last Thursday of his intention to form “school-based committees” that would evaluate teachers at 33 struggling schools in the NYC public school system. The city stands to lose $60 million in School Improvement Grants from the state due to the lack of agreement between the teachers union and Mayor Bloomberg concerning a teacher evaluation process. By establishing these committees, Mayor Bloomberg hopes to bypass this dispute and allow the schools to receive the funding. Also at stake are the districts’ share of federal Race to the Top funds, which include several more million for improvements in instruction.

The school district signed a commitment with the grant application promising to revise labor contracts for teachers in grades 4 through 8 and require that personnel be evaluated as highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective. Student performance was required to make up at least 20 percent of the evaluation.

Bloomberg said that under the existing union contract, the city has the authority to form school-based committees to evaluate teachers on merit and replace up to half of the faculty in those schools. The President of the United Federation of Teachers asserts that the mayor lacks the authority to set up the committees and start evaluating teachers, noting that this kind of initiative has to be negotiated with the union. Will a legal battle over this issue delay the process even further?

The recent documentary “Waiting for Superman” shed light on the issue of teachers in charter schools, where such teachers generally do not need to join existing collective bargaining units, a sore spot for teachers unions. … <Read More>

Pretty Woman?

Who has time to watch TV these days?  If you have, you may have noted the increasing proliferation of programming including mothers and their young children in shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC. According to the TLC website, Toddlers and Tiaras follows families on their quest for sparkly crowns, big titles, and lots of cash. An article by ABC News reported that the pageant circuit includes an estimated 250,000 children who compete in more than 5,000 pageants each year.

Many are concerned that these children are being sexualized at a young age. One young pageant participant, 3-year-old Paisley, was recently costumed as Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman, adorned with a mini-skirt, midriff-bearing top, black boots, and a blond wig. After her brief strut around the stage was highlighted on the show, the Parents Television Council issued a statement, noting, “For years we’ve seen adult sexuality being inappropriately and aggressively foisted on innocent young children, but children today are being sexualized at younger and younger ages. All available data suggests they will suffer for it later in life.”

Pageant mothers claim that they aren’t making their children do anything they don’t already want to do. However, a 2007 study by the American Psychological Association showed a correlation between a premature emphasis on appearance with low self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression. Is the quest for a tiara really worth the impact this type of activity can have on children or is it truly all in good fun?

Read more from ABC News here.… <Read More>