Oregon now excuses students for "mental health days"

Oregon governor Kate Brown signed a bill that excuses public school students for taking "mental health days" just as they are excused for other illnesses. The bill was spearheaded by youth activists. From the Associated Press:

(Eighteen-year-old Hailey) Hardcastle, who plans to attend the University of Oregon in the fall, said she and fellow youth leaders drafted the measure to respond to a mental health crisis in schools and to “encourage kids to admit when they’re struggling.”

Debbie Plotnik, vice president of the nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America, said implementing the idea in schools was important step in challenging the way society approaches mental health issues.

“We need to say it’s just as OK to take care for mental health reasons as it is to care for a broken bone or a physical illness,” she said.

(Image: "Conceptual illustration of mental health" by Quince Media, (CC BY-SA 4.0)) Read the rest

New York public school lunch program will have "Meatless Mondays"

Next year, New York City public schools will initiate "Meatless Mondays" as part of their lunch program. Students will be served all vegetarian food for breakfast and lunch. (Note: photo above for illustrative purposes only. Not representative of actual school cafeteria menu.) From CNN:

"Cutting back on meat a little will improve New Yorkers' health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," de Blasio said at a news conference. "We're expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come..."

School leaders in New York said doing this just makes good sense.

"For those who scoff at this notion, I have some simple advice: Look at the science," Staten Island Borough President James Oddo said. "Look at the data. Look at the childhood obesity. Look at pre-diabetes diagnoses. Look at the fact that 65% of American kids age 12 to14 shows signs of early cholesterol disease. Then, perhaps you will embrace the fact that we can't keep doing things the same way, including welcoming the idea of Meatless Mondays."

Read the rest

High school teacher sent home after using the n-word during day of dialogue following racist and anti-semitic incident

Last weekend, a video surfaced showing students from Alabama's Spain Park and Hoover high schools making horrible anti-Semitic and racist comments. Yesterday, Spain Park help assemblies and small group discussions about the video so students and staff could openly address the issue. And apparently they, um, did speak openly. According to a student interviewed by Al.com, a Spain Park teacher "told her class that everyone uses the n-word, so she could use it, too." And so she did. From Al.com:

The teacher was allegedly sent home for the day by administrators. Students confirmed she is not in class today.

"This alleged matter is being investigated," Murphy said in a brief statement to AL.com. Students told AL.com they were stunned to learn of the alleged incident.

Read the rest

Funny video of high school student calling his teachers by their first names

When I was in high school, it always felt very uncomfortable speaking a teacher's first name aloud, almost like they couldn't really have a first name beyond Ms., Mr., or Mrs. (In fact, it was an odd transition to university when many of my professors preferred to be called by their first names.)

In the fun video below, Adam Lamberti walks through his high school greeting teachers by their first names. Some of them couldn't care less. Others are clearly discombobulated by the experience.

Read the rest

Students' phallic prank as seen from a satellite

Students at Mackie Academy secondary school in Aberdeenshire, Scotland created a piece of high art on the playing field. While the act occurred last year, its documentation -- which was actually the real prank -- apparently lives on in Google Earth.

“I’m sure there is lots of penises drawn in lots of places around the school and many other schools across the country, but this really is impressive," said one former student.

(The Scottish Sun)

Of course, they weren't the first students to play this particular, er, long game. For example: "Suspected high school prank goes unnoticed by APS for years" Read the rest

School police officer removed after ticketing principal for parking in disabled space

At Jefferson K-8 School in Warren, Ohio, school police officer Adam Chinchik noticed that a car kept parking in the no-parking zone between two disabled spaces in front of the school. Turns out that it was the school principal's car. Chinchik apparently warned the principal and then finally issued a citation.

"Within one hour (of the citation), the superintendent had ordered two administrators to go to Jefferson and escort the SRO off the property," Warren police union spokesperson Michael Stabile told WCMH-TV.

(In defense of the principal), a school spokesperson said the district employee moved the vehicle when asked.

Chinchik may be assigned as a resource officer at a different school.

"At this point, he doesn't want to go back to that school because of how the situation unfolded," Stabile said. Read the rest

Kindergarten and first grade football team holding a gun raffle

A kindergarten and first grade football time in Morrow, Ohio is holding a gun raffle to raise travel money for tournaments. They've already sold 500 tickets. The winners, 21 years or older, will receive either a handgun or HM Guardian F5 Elite. Apparently, gun raffles to support kids sports and schools isn't uncommon. From WLWT:

Gina Pennycuff is a mother and a substitute teacher. She happened to be working when she got a Facebook message about the gun raffle.

"It was disturbing to me because gun raffles for a youth organization just doesn't mix," she said.

She shared the flyer on Facebook and the comment section took off, some in favor and some opposed...

"I can't imagine being a parent of a kindergartener and them worrying and doing lockdown drills, but them also knowing they're raffling off guns," she said.

"Youth football team gun raffle sparks debate" (Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!) Read the rest

School superintendent arms students with rocks as protection against school shooters

“Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone," says David Helsel, superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full students armed with rocks and they will be stoned."

From WNEP:

“At one time I just had the idea of river stone, they`re the right size for hands, you can throw them very hard and they will create or cause pain, which can distract,” said Helsel.

Helsel says teachers, staff and students were given active shooter training through a program known as ALICE which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate and they routinely hold evacuation drills for active shooter simulations.

But if a teacher decides to lockdown a classroom, there are rocks in a five-gallon bucket kept in every classroom closet that students could throw if shooters get inside.

Apparently the school also has an electronic system to lock down the school and they "train kids and talk about barricading the doors," he adds. Read the rest

White teacher reprimanded black 13-year-old student by saying he might get "lynched"

Last month, Renee Thole, a white middle school teacher in Mason, Ohio, told 13-year-old black student Nathan Agee-Bell, in front of the entire class, that if he didn't pay more attention to his work, his friends would form a mob and lynch him. Apparently Nathan told the teacher the comment was racist and she questioned why he would think such a thing. Nathan waited a month to report the incident to his mother because of fear of retribution. From Cincinnati.com:

Mason Schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson confirmed the incident occurred in teacher Renee Thole's classroom.

"As educators, sometimes we mess up. And clearly that happened here," Carson said.

The spokeswoman declined to say if the teacher was disciplined, but said the district "investigated, documented, and set expectations for (the) future...."

Agee-Bell asked officials to remove her son from the social studies class, which they did.

Thole would apologize in class for offending Nathan and said she didn't have harmful intentions. But (Nathan's mom Tanisha) Agee-Bell said she never explained to the largely white class why she was wrong.

Carson said the teacher misspoke and felt awful...

Agee-Bell said she planned to speak during a school board meeting Tuesday night, but was asked by officials to talk privately afterward instead. She said that conversation lasted five minutes.

In it, Agee-Bell said officials thanked her for coming and said they take race issues seriously.

"I don't believe them," she said afterward.

"A Mason teacher told this 13-year-old he might be lynched. The child didn't tell his mom for a week. Read the rest

Principal offers students $100 to stay off their screens

Diana Smith, principal of Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington DC, offered rising 8th and 9th graders $100 each to stay entirely off their screens one day each week this summer.

“Kids have these phones under their pillows at night — they’re going to bed, they’re texting each other at 3, 4 in the morning,” Smith told WTOP. "I challenge them to stay off of any screens — so television, games, phones, tablets, everything — for the 11 Tuesdays that we have of summer break."

The students must provide two signed letters from adult witnesses to be eligible for the cash price.

Read the rest

Chicago has about 40% fewer African-American teachers than in 2001

This month's Mother Jones examines a shocking statistic: "According to the Albert Shanker Institute, which is funded in part by the American Federation of Teachers, the number of black educators has declined sharply in some of the largest urban school districts in the nation. In Philadelphia, the number of black teachers declined by 18.5 percent between 2001 and 2012. In Chicago, the black teacher population dropped by nearly 40 percent. And in New Orleans, there was a 62 percent drop in the number of black teachers." Read the rest

Hard work and lower standards raise our national high school graduation rate

Nationally the High School graduation rate has been on the rise. NPR reports the rise is due to a combination of hard work that benefits students, and some states simply lowering standards so they earn passing grades.

Via NPR:

While the graduation rate continues to climb, the improvement comes at a time when the scores of high school students on the test known as the "Nation's Report Card," are essentially flat, and average scores on the ACT and SAT are down.

As we've reported, the rising graduation rate reflects genuine progress, such as closing high schools termed "dropout factories," but also questionable strategies by states and localities to increase their numbers.

"For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it's a ticket to nowhere," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that's long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.

Cohen points out that roughly half of states now offer multiple diplomas. Some of those credentials are rigorous, some aren't. "You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study. We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."

In many places, the high school graduation exam is also a low bar, Cohen says, while some states have dropped it altogether.

Just last month, in a major school funding ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher excoriated his state for watered down graduation standards that, he says, have already resulted "in unready children being sent to high school, handed degrees, and left, if they can scrape together the money, to buy basic skills at a community college."

It's difficult to know which states earned this uptick in graduation rates through high standards and hard work and which states achieved it through shortcuts and lowered expectations.

Read the rest

Middle school teacher in trouble after administering "Pimps and Hos" math test

Teacher JoAnne Bolser of Mobile, Alabama's public Cranford Burns Middle School was put on leave last week after administering a math test with word problems about pimps, hos, cocaine dealing, drive-by shootings, gangmembers who "knocked up" multiple girls, and other delightful subjects. The questions included:

"Tyrone knocked up 4 girls in the gang. There are 20 girls in his gang. What is the exact percentage of girls Tyrone knocked up?"

"Pedro got 6 years for murder. He also got $10,000 for the hit. If his common-law wife spends $100 of his hit money per month, how much money will be left when he gets out?"

Dwayne pimps 3 ho's. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Dwayne's $800 per day crack habit?

Kids in Bolser's class texted photos of the quiz to their parents, sparking an investigation.

"The principal looked into it and then our school resource officer investigated it and then we immediately put the teacher on administrative leave," said the school's director of communications, Rena Philips.

Bolser was already planning to retire at the end of the school year this month.

According to Snopes, the quiz, known as the "L.A. Math Test," has circulated on the Web for years as a "joke" and Bolser is far from the first idiot to distribute it to students.

(NBC News) Read the rest

Obama to schools: let transgendger kids use the bathroom matching their gender

Public schools should allow trandgender students to "use bathrooms matching their gender identity," reports CNN on guidance to be issued later today by the Obama administration.

The announcement comes amid heated debate over transgender rights in schools and public life, which includes a legal standoff between the administration and North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2. The guidance goes beyond the bathroom issue, touching upon privacy rights, education records and sex-segregated athletics, all but guaranteeing transgender students the right to identify in school as they choose.

"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. "This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies."

It's getting nasty out there, faster than I think anyone expected. Yesterday, one school district decided to permit students to carry weapons onto campus, with a school board member plainly suggesting they pepper spray transgender people who "follow" them into bathrooms.

The future, assumedly, seems to non-gendered bathrooms. It's an interesting architectural, legal and space-efficiency problem: not every venue can just peel off and throw away the stickers. Read the rest

Colorado school district spends $12,000 on assault rifles for guards

Douglas County, Colorado, is to arm its security guards with Bushmaster rifles, reports the Denver Post, at a cost of more than $12,000 to the 67,000-student district.

"We want to make sure they have the same tools as law enforcement," Payne said Monday of his eight armed officers. The first few rifles should be ready for use within a month's time once officers have gone through a 20-hour training course, the same one that commissioned police officers take. The rest of the guns will be deployed in August, he said.

Spray 'n pray. Read the rest

Nobody voted in Iowa election including only person running

Randy Richardson was the only candidate in his district running for the Riceville, Iowa Board of Education but nobody voted for him, including Richardson himself.

"I didn't vote because I was too busy," Richardson told the Mason City Globe Gazette.

The entire population of the district is less than 1,000 people. Richardson has said he'd happily take the post if appointed. Read the rest

Succeeding at standardized tests means owning the books with the answers in them

Standardized tests aren't tests of basic knowledge. They're branded products produced by textbook companies, and getting the right answers depends on whether you studied from the right books. Read the rest

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