Local residents took part in Law Day activities held in Lawrence and in Topeka.
Kansas Supreme Court Justice Edward Larson urged local lawyers and judges Wednesday to do what they can to improve the lives of children.
"Children are at risk in our society," Larson said. "And, to a larger degree, society is at risk because of our children."
Larson spoke to about 70 lawyers, judges and law professors at the annual Law Day luncheon Wednesday at The Eldridge Hotel. The event was sponsored by the Young Lawyers section of the Douglas County Bar Assn.
Law Day is sponsored statewide by the Kansas Supreme Court and the Kansas and American Bar associations.
Larson told the Eldridge gathering about recent moves being made by courts across the country to put the welfare of the child above the concept of preserving the family.
"I'm not really sure that we're ready for a major change in this particular area, but a lot of us are getting to the point where we think maybe, just maybe, we ought to think about what is in the total best interest of that child," he said.
Every day in the country, 8,493 children are reported abused or neglected, he said.
"In the joy of upholding family rights, we sometimes do some things legally that leave us without a very good feeling," he said.
He noted that the juvenile arrest rate and reported alcohol and drug usage among Douglas County's children are among the worst in the state, according to figures from the Kansas Action for Children Inc.
"It's important that each of you do something," he told the lawyers.
During the meeting, State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, was given the Young Lawyers' 1996 Liberty Bell Award for her activities in the community and the Legislature.
As part of Law Day, two students from Lawrence Alternative High School went to Topeka to participate in an interactive satellite video presentation dealing with peer mediation as a way to reduce violence.
In peer mediation, two parties are brought together by a neutral third party help them resolve the dispute.
The local students, who had all been trained in peer mediation, were linked via satellite to students in high schools at Hays, Overland Park, Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City, Kan.
They also were linked by interactive video to U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., in Washington, D.C.