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MARCH 2, 2010

Primary Source of
the Month

Juvenile Court: An 8-year-old boy charged with stealing a bicycle, May 5, 1910. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Juvenile Court: An 8-year-old boy charged with stealing a bicycle, May 5, 1910. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.



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Games, activities, and resources about life in colonial America.


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Colonial Williamsburg for Teachers


VOLUME 8, ISSUE 7

Top Stories


"Juvenile Justice: A Century of Change"

Throughout the late 18th century, "infants" below the age of reason (traditionally age 7) were presumed to be incapable of criminal intent and were, therefore, exempt from prosecution and punishment. Children as young as 7, however, could stand trial in criminal court for offenses committed and, if found guilty, could be sentenced to prison or even to death.

The 19th-century movement that led to the establishment of the juvenile court in the U.S. had its roots in 16th-century European educational reform movements. These earlier reform movements changed the perception of children from one of miniature adults to one of persons with less than fully developed moral and cognitive capacities.

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Primary Source of the Month:
Juvenile Court

This 1910 photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine provides an early historical perspective of a juvenile court, the first of which was established in 1899. Until that time, children appeared in criminal court along with adults. Definitive national institutions and procedures for juvenile justice were not developed for some time after 1910. Supreme Court decisions from the latter half of the 20th century led to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, revised in 2009.

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Teaching Strategy: Juvenile Justice, Then and Now

In this lesson, students will examine how the juvenile justice system evolved over time.

The system of juvenile justice underwent a constant process of alteration as the United States government continuously redefined the role of the courts in the lives of children. The Juvenile Court Act of 1899 created the first national juvenile court in Cook County, Illinois. The early juvenile court system was established taking into account the British doctrine of parens patriae (the state as the parent), and based on the assumption that children were malleable and could be rehabilitated.

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Colonial Williamsburg Teaching Resources for Your Classroom

Colonial Williamsburg offers a variety of quality instructional materials dealing with 18th-century life, including:

  • Will's Story, by Joan Lowery Nixon (book)
  • A Day in the Life Series (DVD, CD-ROM)
  • Teaching Literacy Through History (lesson unit)

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Teaching News

The Chautauqua Institution and Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg and Chautauqua Institution are partnering to present a Teacher Professional Development opportunity on the topic of "Excellence in Public Education" during the week of August 1-7, 2010. Visit the Chautauqua Institution Web site to view the Week 6 description. Colonial Williamsburg will provide classroom sessions on education from the eighteenth century to the present. The tuition for the week is $1,900. For a full description of the week, accommodations, and graduate credit, please send an email to [email protected]

Women's History Month
March is Women's History Month, an annual national and international celebration of celebration of women's history and achievements. For further exploration of the topic, we have assembled some links to several women's history related web sites.

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Quotation of the Month

"The old conception of even-handed justice that each offender should receive exactly the same treatment is not the test of justice in the juvenile court . . . In the juvenile courts children are all treated alike only when each is treated in accordance with his needs."

—Grace Abbott, The Child and the State, vol. II, 1938


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