You’ll never guess what.

nelly_furtado_tube_top1.jpg     “Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.”

Now, who would have thunk it.  I know I am shocked.

Wanted: Grownups.

JENKS, Oklahoma. – An SUV carrying high school football players having a paintball fight with teammates in another vehicle flew out of control on a highway and flipped, killing a 17-year-old boy, officials said.”

“Results of an investigation into the crash will be turned over to prosecutors, who will determine whether any criminal charges will be filed.”

There were coaches present?  There were grownup coaches somehow involved with this little get-together?  Start with them.

“Test-driven teaching isn’t character-driven.”

peaceflag.jpg     This is an excellent essay by one of my favorite people on the planet, Colman McCarthy. 

I highly recommend his book, I’d Rather Teach Peace.

Read it before the link goes dead!

Have they NO shame?

140x140lmca_parents.gif     First, they were recruiting and forcibly recalling for service people way past 40.  Then it was retaining soldiers past their contracted-for time of service.  Next it was sending a recruiter after an autistic kid.

Now the military is going after pre-teens in the classroom.  This is despicable, and it needs to stop.

Click the logo to find out more, especially if you have a child in junior high, middle school, or high school.

Hang up and learn.

cellphne.jpg     Kids and parents in New York City want the school administration to lift its ban on cell phones

They are wrong. 

I can imagine that, if my children went to school in the city, especially if they went to school in, say, Philadelphia, where so many students depend on public transporation to get around, and where so many kids have to travel through some pretty rough areas to get to schol and home again, that I would probably want  them to have a cell phone.

But, from a teacher or administrator's point of view, cell phones in school are a pain in the neck.  Students – especially older ones – routinely use cell phone text messaging to, amongst other things, cheat on tests, by passing around answers.  In our school, even after we instituted a ban, kids were using picture phones to harass and abuse each other.  Phones were used to take pictures of kids while they were in school, including in the gym locker rooms, and those pictures ended up on web pages, along with abusive commentary.  Boys used camera phones to take "upskirt/down top" pictures of girls, which were then likewise circulated.  Other camera phones came to school with porn downloaded on them. 

Our school district policy now is clear and simple: If you need to bring a cell phone to school, it has to be off and in your locker during school hours.  Phones cannot be turned on or used during the school day within the school building.  If you need the phone to call Mom or Dad or whoever is at home, the one in the office is available.  If you still "need" to use a cell phone, you can't turn it on until school is over and you are out of the building.  There are consequences if you violate the policy that can lead to suspension.  Period. 

At some point, somebody somewhere is going to have to start stemming the tide that says all kids have the "right" to have access in school to all the creature comforts they are afforeded at home.  Kids at school don't need to watch a television broadcast of the news every morning, complete with commercials, ala Channel One.  Kids don't need to play video games at school.  Kids don't need to bring their iPods to school.  Kids don't  need to have access to myspace.com while they are in  school.

And, unless there's really some sort of an emergency, they don't need cell phones, either.

No Jersey jokes, please.

new-jersey.jpg     'Cause we rock here in the Garden State. 

We now officially have the highest graduation rate in America: 84.5%.

So there.

Back in the saddle again…

schools_out.jpg    Time to re-open my blog.  Stay tuned for updates.

“Plagiarism is a crime.”

Plagiarist-ap.jpg     I have a sign that says this in my classroom.  I try really hard to teach this.  Most of us do.  Sometimes, kids get it.  Sometimes they don't.  And sometimes when they don't, they DO get nailed for it

And that's the way it should be.

No good deed goes unpunished.

What a great lesson to teach our kids:

"The Camden (NJ) school board last night fired the high school principal who came out publicly to say a district official told him to fix a state test."

Here's what's meant by "fix": cheat.  The district official told this principal to cheat on state test results.  The principal refused.  The district official attempted to blackmail this principal, who has a young child with health problems, by saying things about how tough life would be if the principal lost his health care benefits.  Which would happen if he lost his job.  Which would happen if he refused to play along.  And cheat.

This prinicipal did the right thing.  He refused to cheat.  He reported the misconduct. 

Now he's unemployed.  Despicable.

“Retard.” A rant for Blogging Against Disablism Day.

I am not a scholar. I am not an academic. I am a public school teacher who teaches middle school kids. If you're looking for an academic, scholarly, journal-quality piece of writing for Blogging Against Disablism Day, you have come to the wrong place. I am sure that others will be able to wax much more eloquently and informatively than I will. Me, I want to rant.

I'm here to talk about the word "retard."

If you've been here before, you know that I teach eighth graders. As many of you remember from your years in junior high or middle school, kids in this age group can be mercilessly cruel. Sometimes, their behavior crosses the line into downright evil. And one of the things they will do is call each other names. Horrible names. But only rarely do I hear my students using racial, ethnic, or bigoted slurs against each other. Mostly, the name calling is of a sexist / mysoginist bent ("bitch," etc.), or it's homophobic ("faggot," "that's so gay," etc.), or it's the Word You Never Want To Say In Mr. Austin's Class.

That is the word "retard." Or "retarded."

I am on a one-person crusade to stop kids in my school from using this word, and yet, for some reason, the use of it in the popular vernacular only seems to be getting worse. I hear it more and more often in movies and especially on television. And what's really distressing about its use in the media is that it's not just "young" characters who say it, as a way of somehow telling the dullards in the audience that the characters involved are "keeping it real" or whatever. It's the supposed grown-ups – the adults – who use it. The writers who make up this part of the supposedly liberal creative community throw it around like it's just another word. So more and more people hear it, and so figure that somehow it's acceptable.

I hate this word. I hate all that goes along with it, all that it implies. This is not just because I used to work with our county Special Olympics. It's not just because my niece is autistic. It's not just because my neighbor's son is autistic. It's not just because of the kids who have been through my classrooms at all grade levels for the past twenty-five years who have inspired me so much with the way they went about their day-to-day struggles, not just against their "disabilities," but against the stereotyping and indifference that they had to fight against as well. This is not just because many of the students who have to hear this word being thrown about by their peers as if it means nothing are either dealing with their own disability issues themselves, or have family members who are.

It's because it's hate speech. And because no one seems to care that it is.

The first time each school year when some unsuspecting chuckle-headed kid uses this word in my class, as in "You are so retarded," or "You ree-tard!," I usually make a really big deal out of it. I will stop the class cold and reel on the kid, if I can pick out the perp easily. If I don't know exactly who said it, I go off on the whole class. If it's handy, I whip out my niece's sweet-faced portrait. "You see this picture? This is my niece. She's autistic. She's what a stupid person would call 'retarded.' DON'T USE THAT WORD IN MY ROOM!" (Now, to be fair, realize that on the first day of every year, in every class, when I am going over my class ground rules, I give the kids fair warning: no one in my class is allowed to use hateful speech of any kind, and this word is specifically mentioned.) I ask the kids – all of them – would they use "the N word" on a Black classmate? Even as a "joke"? This is because so many of them respond to my ranting by saying, "It's just a joke" or "We're friends" or "I was just kidding!" So I respond: "Would you call a person a _____ as a joke?", filling in the blank with an offensive slur of some kind. The fact that some word that they will associate with hate is coming from my mouth in a classroom really shocks them.

At that point, after I have figuratively grabbed them by the throat, we will have a calm conversation about the meaning of words. And about how words hurt. And about how they should think about what words mean before they choose to use them. What ae we saying when we use that word that way, I ask them? That a person with disabilitites is somehow less than human? Less worthy of respect, of dignity? Less worthy of life? Who might you know, I ask, has to deal with some sort of physical or mental challenge every day? A family member? A friend or neighbor? How would you feel if that person was insulted by the use of that word?

After that, I usually don't hear that word again. really. One crazed, exaggerated hissy fit can make a big difference, especially since I very rarely raise my voice in class at all, let alone yell. Or, if I do hear it again later, I almost always hear the kids policing themselves, with other kids telling the guilty party not to "say that."

And I feel good about that. Like I actually have taught them something.

So today, I ask you to join me in my quest to rid the world of this particular form of hate speech. If you use it (and you young 'uns do, a lot. I hear it all the time on the college campus where I take night school classes), stop it. If you hear someone else use it, tell them it offends you, as you would (or should) when you hear people saying hateful things. If for no other reason, you'll be setting a good example for kids like my students.

They need more of those.

To a former student, who died too young.

Mike Lutz was a good kid when I knew him.  Quiet, funny, a bit silly.  A good boy.

Somewhere along the way, after he went on to high school, he lost his way.  Now he's gone, dead because someone sold him some "killer" heroin.  And it killed him.

In our local newspaper, his parents were quoted as saying that they knew Mike had a drug problem. They just didn't know how bad it was. “I think we were just clueless, absolutely clueless,” his father said. They tried and tried to get their son some help, but apparently, Mike's habit was stronger than their love. And that is the real shame.

Rest in peace, Michael. Maybe now at least you'll find some.

My letter to Oprah.

Dear Ms. Winfrey:

Yesterday I happened to be doing a little channel-surfing as I sipped some afternoon coffee, just before diving into a stack of student papers that needed to be graded, which I wanted to knock out before grabbing the dinner that I wanted to gobble down before heading out to my Ad. Psych. class, the one I'm taking for my second certification requirements.  I happened to land on your program.  I don't know if it was a re-run of an earlier show or what, but I was pretty disgusted by what I saw.

You had on a teen-aged boy, along with his parents.  This young man had apparently been the victim of a sexual predator, one who had been lurking about in the guise of a middle school teacher.  This horrible woman had victimized this boy, along with a few others, from what I could tell, before this victim came forward and reported what was going on.  I gather this criminal is now in jail.

So, once again, we had the enticing tale of a young man seduced by an older woman who used her position of power and authority to get sex.  In other words, this was the story of a rapist.  Let us not mince words here.  That's what she is.

Here's my question:

WHY DID YOU NEED TO SPEND AN HOUR ON THIS? 

Why all the lurid detail?  Why the exploitation?  The kid sat on stage the whole time, mumbling answers to the questions you threw at him, with a blank stare on his face.  He looked as if he were ready to either burst into tears and bolt for the exit.  He looked ashamed.

I know there seems to be a lot of this stuff going on lately.  It's disgusting and terrible, and criminal.  It also gives the people who already have an agenda to do so even more ammunition to bash teachers and the whole public education system.  You know better than anyone that when a child is sexually assaulted, a CRIME has been committed.  We really don't need to spend a lot of time rehashed the gory details, as if this is somehow about sex.  It's about sickness, and, at the root of it, violence.  Violence against children.

You claim to love teachers.  You've done shows that have honored teachers.  That's nice.  On this particular day, you did not honor us.  You disgraced our profession by giving the enemies of public education (and they are myriad, and their ranks are powerful and growing like a virus) more tools with which to bash us.  This was not a story about information, as in educating parents or kids or anyone else.  This was a story about titillation, about exploiting this boy and his pain for entertainment purposes.  If we need to, we can read this stuff in the newspapers.  We can lobby our lawmakers to stiffen the penalties for criminals who do these things.  We get it.

Stop it.  No more exploitation, please.  The bad guys are doing that job just fine without your "help."  Hundreds of thousands of teacher like me, who go to work every day with love in our hearts for our students and for the job we do, don't need to hear this day after day.  We work hard at what we do.  Stop making our job even harder.

Respectfully,

David, A Teacher.

You could smell this coming.

my_space_for_murder1.jpg     "CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Del Mar College students now have to use computers outside the school's system if they want to visit the popular Web site MySpace.com. The community college has blocked the site in response to complaints about sluggish Internet speed on campus computers."

Oh.  It's about the bandwidth.  I thought maybe some of their students might be, oh, I don't know, planning a massacre or something…

(Sorry: that was in bad taste.)

Is History being “left behind”?

wheres_ben_franklin.jpg     Yes

Our state assessment for eighth graders, the dreaded GEPA, spends one day testing kids on science (although failing this section has no bearing on placement in remedial science classes in high school, because such classes don't exist), one LONG day testing math, and TWO really long days testing literacy.

Not one minute is spent on social studies.  No history.  No civics.  No geography. 

Why is that?  These are required courses in every grade of a kid's public school education here in the Garden State.  Why is it not important enough to include in standardized testing, especially the tests that determine whether or not a student graduates from high school? 

Are we really trying to, in the end, graduate educated citizens?  If that truly is the goal – and not just using schools as vocational training factories – shouldn't we be determining whether or not our students are fully informed citizens, who understand where they came from so they can have an idea of where they are going, who know how their government is supposed to work, who know what their rights are and how to protect them, who can actually find places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and, say, Nepal, on a map?

An interesting opinion piece on this from The Boston Globe.  I have my own ideas about this, but they involve wild and warped conspiracy theories, so I'll keep them to myself…

The Creature walks among us.

The_Creature.jpg     Or, to be more precise, it's on the door.

KANSAS: "State Board of Education member Connie Morris took exception Wednesday to a picture of a made-up creature that satirizes the state's new science standards hanging on a Stucky Middle School teacher's door… The creature, called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is the creation of Bobby Henderson of Corvallis, Oregon. It looks like a clump of spaghetti with two eyes sticking out of the top and two meatballs flanking the eyes… In November, the board voted 6-4 to allow criticisms of evolution to be taught in Kansas schools."

Just another problem with the Witch Burners of the American Taliban: No. Sense. Of. Humor.

No dollar left unspent. But by whom?

Found this interesting story on CNN.com, about how some private citizens are finding new and interesting ways to spend the money (what there is of it) that's been made available under the No Child Left Untested legislation. While I think innovation is great, and I whole-heartedly endorse making more tutoring available for kids who need it (as long as it's not just "test coaching"), I wonder why so much money is going to privatized sources.

Or, should I really be wondering. Guess not.

More on the “gay-bashing t-shirts” case in California.

rainbow_flag.jpg     Here's a much more in-depth article from the Los Angeles Times on the decision handed down Thursday in the case of California students who sued for the right to wear t-shirts bearing homophobic slogans to their public school.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that a T-shirt that proclaimed "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned'' on the front and "Homosexuality Is Shameful'' on the back was "injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn.'' The court said that the shirt can be barred on a public high school campus without violating the 1st Amendment.

In other words, the wanna-be gay-bashers lost.  That's as it should be.

Here we go again. Yet again.

"FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Six middle school students in a small Alaska town were arrested Saturday (April 22, 2006) on suspicion of plotting to bring guns and knives to school and kill fellow students."

"The unidentified students wanted to seek revenge for being picked on by other students to disliking staff and students…"

Okay, class, now listen up.  Anyone starting to detect a pattern here?

" 'I'm as surprised as anyone," [Police Chief] Lindhag said at a news conference at North Pole City Hall. 'You don't want to think this will happen in your own home town.' "

That's the problem.  We all need to start believing it.  Now.

Students in two public schools sue for the right to be bigots.

equality_flag1.jpg   1.  In nearby (to me) Downington, Pennsylvania: "Three students of a high school prayer club have sued the Downingtown Area School District, saying they were illegally barred from displaying the words Christian and Bible and expressing their views on the 'sinful nature and harmful effects of homosexuality'."

2.  Out in California, somewhere around San Diego: "Public schools can bar clothing with slogans that are hurtful, a U.S. appeals court ruled Thursday in the case of a student who wore a T-shirt saying 'Homosexuality is shameful.' "

In Downington, the students are being "represented" by the Alliance Defense Fund, a right-wing activist group with a long record of trying to force fundamentalist Christian views into public school classrooms.

This is not a "free speech" issue, of course.  It's about divisive speech that hurts people.  It's about forcing a theocratic agenda down the thoughts of a captive audience: public school students.

My question for people like this, the American Taliban, is always the same: Why not spend all that money putting these students through some fundamentalist private school you set up, where t-shirts bearing homo-hating slogans can be part of the uniform?  Please keep your hatred in your own house.

“Is this gonna be on the final?”

Three students have been expelled from Bay Minette Middle School in Alabama for showing a porn film – on a DVD – in their social studies class. 

While the teacher was in the room.

One of the parents, of course, is outraged that her kid is being punished, but not the teacher.  According to the story, "…the film was played for 30 minutes while the teacher remained at her desk, her back to the class."  Excuse me?  This went on for half an hour?

If this woman's son did indeed bring this filth into school, he should, of course, be punished.  Severely.  But, if this teacher did indeed sit with her back to the class for thirty minutes while this went on, perhaps the teacher should be held partially responsible as well. 

That's putting it mildly.

Here we go again. Again.

columbine_high1.jpg     "RIVERTON, Kan. – Five teenage boys accused of plotting to kill other students in a shooting rampage at their high school were arrested Thursday after details of the alleged scheme appeared on the Web site MySpace.com."

"Sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one of the suspects, Sheriff Steve Norman said.  Norman said he would ask prosecutors bring charges of conspiracy to commit murder against the young men, ages 16 to 18."

Today, in case you forgot, is the seventh anniversary of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

The last part of this article is very interesting: "[Sheriiff] Norman said that the potential victims were popular students and that the suspects may have been bullied. 'I think there was probably some bullying, name calling, chastising,' he said."

Hmmm. Seems to me we've heard that somewhere before.

The Dark Lord of Censorship comes to Gwinnett County, Georgia.

you_know_who.jpg     "LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) – The Gwinnett County School Board will hear a parent's request today that the Harry Potter book series be removed from all school libraries in the state's largest school system. Laura Mallory says the books promote witchcraft and are NOT appropriate for elementary school students. She is a missionary and a mother of four."

There's a much more complete story here.

This is the best part.  The woman who is causing all this fuss "… admitted that she has not read the book series partially because 'they’re really very long and I have four kids.'”

Right.  Censor something you haven't even bothered to read

The “No duh!” story of the week.

"Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act."

Surprised?  You shouldn't be.  Scroll down, for one of the many reasons why this is the case.

Homophobia is just fine with Happy Valley.

hater.jpg     "Penn State fined women's basketball coach Rene Portland $10,000 after concluding she violated university policy in her alleged hostile treatment of a player who was perceived to be a lesbian."

But, the coach still has her job.

"The school began the investigation after a former player, Jennifer Harris, alleged that Portland had harassed her, told Harris she needed to look 'more feminine' and had a policy of keeping women she thought were lesbians off the team."

But she still has her job.

"The school said it concluded that Portland created a 'hostile, intimidating and offensive environment' based on Harris' perceived sexual orientation. Harris has said that she is not gay, but was perceived to be by Portland."

But she still has her job.

Why does this person still have a job working with young people?  Any young people?

"Portland has a career record of 678-240, including 592-220 at Penn State."

Oh.  That explains it.

I’m shocked. Simply shocked.

my_brain_hurts_1.jpg     Monday: "States are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law's requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress."

Tuesday: "Congressional leaders and a former Bush Cabinet member said Tuesday that schools should stop excluding large numbers of minority students' test scores when they report progress under the No Child Left Behind law."

Whoa.  You mean people are cheating on their high-stakes testing results?

The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University was talking about this months ago.  You should read this.

And my parents used to worry about my Kiss albums.

kiss_1.jpg     "LONDON (Reuters) – Young people who adopt the "Goth" lifestyle of dark clothes and introspective music are more likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide than other youngsters, according to a study on Friday [14 April]."

I have to be honest: I have had a number of kids in my classroom over the years – at the middle school, high school, and college level – who would fit into this category, if we were judge them just by their adopted look.  I admit to being a bit "disturbed" by this particular choice of uniform, but, upon further review (like, actually getting to know them), most of these kids have struck me as being pretty well adjusted.  They also tended to be more mature and more creative than their peers.

I worry when studies like this come out, that we might watch some kids a bit too closely, because of our preconceived notions and stereotypes, while other, more deeply troubled kids, disappear under the radar.

Another sure sign of spring.

the-dark-lady.jpg     School budgets going down to defeat in South Jersey. 

Our local budget question was defeated, as did the regional high school district's proposal.  Oh well, no varsity ice hockey or synthetic turf for the athletic fields.  (Now, to be fair and balanced here, those two items were each listed on separate questions on the ballot, so we could vote for the basic budget while voting against each of those proposals.  Which is what I did.)

Now, of course, in New Jersey, having a budget question defeated doesn't mean it's really "defeated."  It depends on what your definition of "defeated" is.  Now the local town council gets to deal with it, and that means we usually get most of what we want.  But with all the tax issues now facing us here in the Garden State, I'll be willing to bet that we're looking at cuts.

Big cuts.

Our school board also had three seats up for grabs, and two will be filled by newcomers.  Not a bad thing, but we lost our current board president, which is a shame, as she was apparently quite instrumental in hammering out our recent contract agreement.  She's a good person, and was a good board member.

The fact that we held this election over Spring Break, when many families who have kids in our schools are on vacation, did not help.  We warned them.  Now they have a bigger problem.

Again, it’s the time of the season…

… for teenagers to die for no reason

"19-year-old Stephen L. Meloni is facing a preliminary hearing Wednesday on charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and others that could send him to prison… And once again, a community is facing painful questions about what happened – and whether young people and their parents will ever learn."

" ' This is a poignant reminder of what happens when teens and alcohol and lack of supervision conspire,' Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said after the death of the Bala Cynwyd teen, Jessica Easter."

That's my question.  The "adults" who were in the vicinity of this "party" heard, saw, and smelled what was going on.  Why did no one call the police?  A CRIME was being committed here. This life could have been saved.  But no one acted like a grown-up.

Unfortunately, every community in America has at least one tragic story like this. Around here, we've had far too many. 

Something needs to change.

Tomorrow is Election Day.

Tomorrow is our annual school election day.  We have eight school candidates running for three seats.  We (our teachers' "association") just settled our contract negotiations, and got a decent deal for the next three years.  A reasonable raise, no real cuts in benefits, no change in working conditions, including workload.  Not too shabby, considering what's going on state-wide.  So I'm leaning toward at least two of the incumbents on the ballot.  A few of the wannabes are using terms like "fresh ideas" (trans.: privatization) and "fiscal responsibility" (trans.: budget cuts), so they got cut from my list real quick.

We also have to vote on our local budget, and the budget for the regional high school district that our town feeds into.  Of course, I'm going vote for the local budget: I have to vote to pay myself, as I teach where I live.  There's a real question as to whether the budget question will pass.  We're off from school this week.  The Local Powers That Be decided (for some reason I'll never understand) to hold the election this week, even though a significant number of families (the voters who vote to support the budget) will be out of town.  That leaves a few folks like me, who don't go away in the spring, and people who don't have kids in public school to come out and make this decision for all of us.  You see the problem.

I'll also vote for the basic package for the high school district, even though I think that the whole "regional district" idea is out-dated and not very cost effective.  I don't like the fact that some of my school tax money goes outside of my town, at least not this way.  One of the five high schools in the "region" is ten minutes from my house: that should be our town's high school. We don't get to vote to change that.  Yet.

However, there's also another part of the high school budget package I won't be supporting.  There's an item on the ballot asking parents to pay for an interscholastic ice hockey program (male students only) for the high schools.  Now, these schools have had ice hockey for more than ten years.  The program is run as a club, with all funding coming from the families of the players and from independent fundraising.  And frankly, that's as it should be.  Taxpayers should not be expected to pay for this.  We have serious school funding issues in our state.  We are always living on the edge when it comes to asking the locals for more property tax money for our town's schools.  This is asking too much right now. Here's some other reasons:

1.  Ice hockey is a hugely expensive sport.  All sports cost something, but hockey is in an entirely different time zone, expense-wise. 

2.  There is no comparable program for girls on the ballot.  Anyone ever hear of Title IX?

3.  High school hockey, around these parts, is a goon's game.  The behavior of players, coaches, and especially parents, at youth ice hockey games is deplorable.  I don't want my money paying for this, thanks.  You want to pretend your kid is Dave "The Hammer" Schultz (again showing my age), do it on your own dime.

Now, I say all this as a life-long hockey fan.  I live for my Flyers, and frankly, went through a major funk last season when the knuckleheads who are involved in the NHL shut down the league last year.  I love the game.

But, with all the other things our kids need, I really don't want to pay for it.

“Duck and cover” makes a comeback.

duck-n-cover-280.jpg    "Across the country, many schools hold lockdown drills because of terrorism fears and school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 that left 15 people dead. But Minnesota could apparently become the first state to require such exercises."

But not everybody thinks this is such a good idea.

"In Michigan, fire agencies have come out against a lockdown drill plan because it allows schools to cut back on fire drills. The state's Association of Secondary School Principals has concerns of its own….

"You are actually teaching the robbers how to rob the bank," said executive director Jim Ballard. "Most violent crime within schools has been student against student. If you're teaching those students what you are going to do in your lockdown procedures, they basically know what's going to happen."

I tend to agree.  I think that teachers and staff members should know the protocol, and should somehow receive professional development to prepare for this type of scenario.  I'm not sure how much good – or potential harm – comes from actually trying to "practice" this.  I'm torn. 

One of my earliest memories of school (early 1960s, now) involves practicing the old "duck and cover" drill in my kindergarten classroom.  Leave your desk, go out in the hall, crouch down on the floor, tuck down, and turtle up.  "And kiss your sweet a#@ goodbye," as a poster from the time used to say.  It was postively traumatic.  And useless.  Living within fiteen minutes of Philadelphia, with its naval base (at the time), a nuclear strike would have left us as less than a memory.  The Powers That Were did do a very good job of scaring the bejesus out of a generation of little kids, though.

My school district now has a "lockdown" procedure, and we have a policy to practice it at least once a year.  It's April.  Late April.  We have not practiced it yet.  Because of a huge wave of retirements last year, we have a large number of new staff members in our buildings.  They don't know what they're supposed to do, I'll bet.

They will have a mess to clean up, however.  The last time we practiced, we managed to make a significant number of kids very upset.  A number of kids cried during the drill (I teach middle school, remember).  A few complained of nightmares afterwards.

I'd be curious to hear from other teachers on this subject.  Do you do this?  What do you do, exactly?  And most importantly, do you think these drills have value?

Meet Principal Buckethead.

Buckethead21.jpg   "INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A principal trying to prevent walkouts during immigration rallies inadvertently introduced a lockdown so strict that children weren't allowed to go to the bathroom, and instead had to use buckets in the classroom, an official said."

Somebody needs a little extra help with reading comprehension, apparently. 

A mixed bag of news from the land of “higher” education.

– A grand jury may be asked for indictments as early as today in the alleged rape of a dancer by members of the Dule lacrosse team.  Whatever happens when, something tells me this week will be big – maybe make or break big – in terms of where this case goes. 

The discussion and "conversation" about this case floating around the blogosphere has been postively depressing.  Racist epithets, sexist (misogynist, really) slanders, and obscenity abound.  It's been very disheartening to read.  We really have a lot of growing up to do, as a culture, when it comes to these issues.  I thought we had come a longer way.  We haven't, it seems.

Stories like this one won't make the case for the fine strapping lads at Duke any easier.  Perhaps the NCAA, which makes soooo much money off of guys like this, might want to finally face up to the fact that college sports (male college athletes, to be specific) have a problem here, one that needs to be addressed.

– There's some reason for hope: these students at the University of Virginia are practicing some old school direct action, to benefit people other than themselves.  They're paying a price for it.  They give me hope, and deflate my cynicism.  More power to them.  If my kid was one of these people, I'd be proud. 

Making the case for corporal punishment at Penn State.

Not really.  But who raised these kids, that they would think that something like this would be okay?

What I’m going to do with my Spring Break.

Sun4.JPG     1. Grade all of my ungraded papers, so I can go back to work all caught up.
2. Celebrate my wife's birthday next weekend.
3. Read two books, both of them short, but both real books: Democracy Matters by Cornel West, and An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire by Arundhati Roy.
4. Read ahead for my night school class.
5. Rake out my front yard and fertilize it.
6. Go to a Phillies game.
7. Go see V for Vendetta with my wife and my younger son.
8. Blog.
9. Rest.   Rest.  Rest.

As if they needed another excuse to beat up on teachers, another Fox News dream story come true.

Maybe this one will get them to stop talking about Natalie Holloway for five minutes:

"COFFEEVILLE, Ala. – An English teacher at a small Alabama high school has been charged with having sex with at least four students and allegedly involving one in a plot to kill her husband."

Then again, maybe not.  But I love the name of the town.  Think how they'll be able to work that into a title for the inevitable television movie that might come out of this…