Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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.

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.

“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.

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.)

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.

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.

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.

“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?

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…

MySpace. A place for friends. Where you can plot to kill them.

my_space_for_murder.jpg     Something is really rotten in South Jersey.

"A 15-year-old high school student was charged with harassment after she allegedly posted a 'hit list' on a Web site, authorities said."

We recently had a program for the parents of middle school students in our district, sponsored by our PTA, because it was becoming increasingly obvious that our kids are much more cyber-savvy than their parents.  Additionally, we have had a number of incidents – mostly involving girls – which centered on the use of computers and technology such as MySpace and Instant Messaging to harass, threaten, and generally make life miserable for targeted students.  The kids also use MySpace as a resource to troll for "friends," usually older teenagers (mostly males) looking for sex.

It is absolutely amazing what parents do not know, and what they do not  – and will not – do to stop this from happening.

Too many parents seem to think that their offspring have an unfettered and absolute right to privacy, even when their children are using cyberspace to advertise their personal wares and threaten violence against others.  Too many kids have computers and internet access in their bedrooms, so they can literally stay up all night (or more likely, stay online all afternoon after school, when parents aren't home) to do their dirty work.  Parents don't even know about MySpace, have no clue how to access or navigate it, and far more don't know their kids' screen names or passwords.  So the kids can do what they want, when they want, and Mommy and Daddy are totally and udderly clueless.  Or they choose to be that way, because it's easier.

Meanwhile, other kids are bullied mercilessly, others are at risk for being victimized by violence, and still others place themselves at the mercy of sexual predators.

I'm not some right-winger (obviously) calling for censorship of MySpace.  I am for protecting kids, mine and yours.  My teenagers don't have unlimited internet access.  The computer my 13 year old uses is in a common area, not in his room.  He has his own secure desktop, which does not allow him access to certain programs without permission.  We actually USE the "parental contol" settings on our firewall/anti-virus software.  MySpace is blocked. 

Instant Messager is NOT on our computer.  Period.  It serves no useful purpose.  Using it is a waste of a kid's time.

Parents, teachers, and school administrators all need to wake up to the reality of what kids are doing online.  They need to be educated, so that they can educate – and  protect – everybody's kids.

Anybody else see something wrong with this?

dukey.JPG     Read the story here.  Ummm, not to sound like too much of a poophead here, but, what the heck is wrong with the young people (sorry, but they're probably all males) at Duke University, who think that wearing one of these "because ______ (fill in your lame excuse)" is appropriate?  Or somehow funny?

Remembering Anthony.

anthony.jpg     Sappho, over at The Sappho Manifesto, one of the many progressive/radical blogs I read regularly, brought this story to my attention on Tuesday, after all of the big immigrants' rights rallies across the United States.  It made me really sad.

Now I see that "Members of a coalition of Southern California students say they'll dedicate Saturday's Mass Student March 2006 in downtown Los Angeles to 14-year-old Anthony Soltero."  Read the local news coverage here (video also).  The AP story is here.

I'll be thinking about Anthony on Saturday.  I'll be praying for his family on First Day (Sunday).  You might want to, too.

NJ “high school massacre plot” update.

"Four teenage boys facing terrorism and conspiracy to murder charges in an alleged plot to massacre fellow students at Winslow Township High School will remain detained until at least May 4."

About the only other tidbit that has leaked out to our local media, at least in terms of information about the accused in this case, is that the boys have all been described as being "Goths."

Here we go again.

I guess someone was absent the day they discussed “Brown” in history class…

brown_stamp.jpg     How else do you explain the despicable behavior of the Nebraska state legislature, in deciding that the Omaha school system should be divided along racial lines?

You know, we here in the Garden State have to endure an endless barrage of bad jokes about our homeland.  But at least we don't do stuff like this here.

"History will not, and should not, judge us kindly," said Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha.

You got that right.

Guess they WON’T be teaching that lesson on Whitman, either.

equality_flag.jpg     The good "Christian" people who run the Rowan-Salisbury school district in North Carolina have decided to ban "all sexually-oriented clubs — gay, straight or otherwise — and to address any student's emotional issues concerning sexuality with guidance counselors."

Read the story here.  Read about how one adult resident is upset that the high school's "Rebel" mascot has been banned (kinda shows where he's coming from), and how a parent who spoke in favor of such clubs, and in support of gay and lesbian students – kids – was booed.  How classy.

Now, if these knuckleheads had done their homework, they would know that, for one thing, Gay-Straight Alliance-type clubs are not "sexually-oriented," whatever that means.  They might have even bothered to, oh, I don't know, visit a web site like this one to see for themselves what these groups actually do for kids, straight, gay, or otherwise. 

Instead, they caved to the likes of professional fundamentalist hate-monger Flip Benham.

Pathetic.  I hope some of my ACLU dues go to pay for the lawsuit I smell coming.  I just might have to write another check.

(Thanks for the heads-up to Pam's House Blend.)

Another “no duh” story for this week.

dookey_duke.jpg    Seems to be a lot of "no duh" going around right now.  You won't believe this.  Sit down and take a deep breath now.  Ready?  Here goes:

"By the NCAA's own scorecard, about half the players of the men's top college basketball teams in this spring's final games are failing students."

It's about the money, it seems.  Money that the NCAA just loves raking in.

What kids really want.

Sometimes they surprise you.  All you have to do is ask.

I'll be curious to see what others think about this.

Local Teacher-Student “Inappropriate Relationship” Update.

She's pleading guilty (see first post below).

Feeling any safer now? Hmmm?

On my other, more political blog, I'd put this under my continuing series of posts titled "Your tax dollars at work, v. whatever."

So, do you?  Feel safer now?

Here we go again.

Another plot by students to massacre their classmates.  This one right down the road from me.

Here are some clues as to why this keeps happening:

"Police said one [suspect] had tried to buy weapons from underground dealers who took the youths' money but never produced guns. Another dealer was arrested on a warrant before he could hand over guns, authorities said."  Translation: Easy access to weapons of mass destruction (firearms), even by teenagers.

"The fathers of the three suspects attended the hearing [after the suspects were arrested]. Two left without commenting, and a third, swarmed by reporters, made brief comments as he left, saying that his son was 'a good kid' and that the whole matter might be a misunderstanding."  (Emphasis mine.)  Translation: Parents are in denial about how seriously ill their own children must be to even contemplate doing something like this.

"[A senior student] said everyone at the school was aware of what had happened but that few seemed scared."  Translation: People (especially students) have been so desensitized to violence that they don't take a threat like this seriously.  Or they are just completely clueless.  More likely the latter.

"A pep rally was canceled last Friday; an auction was postponed yesterday. A pre-prom assembly might be canceled next week, [the senior] said…'It's just a setback,' [she] said. 'It's just a waste of our time.' " Translation: See previous translation.

" 'I don't really care, as long as the cops take care of it,' [the same student] said. 'I don't think they were really going to do it, anyway.' "  Translation:  What more needs to be said?  There were threats being made by the Columbine killers months before they slaughtered their classmates, a teacher, and themselves, and nobody listened then, either.

Final translation: Time to wake up now.

More on this added 4:55 pm: "Terror Charges for Boys Accused in Plot"

Here we go again.

The accused.I hate to start out with a post with a story like this, but this just came over our local "Action News" station in Philadelphia ("action" defined as "the most violent and/or salacious news of the day").  Yet another female teacher has been arrested for having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, in this case, a 34 year old woman having a "relationship" with a sixth grader.

Yup.  A sixth grader.

Where I was raised, we call that rape.  In light of the recent case in Florida, it will be interesting to see how this case progresses.