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Why It Took 75 Years For My Grandpa To Have His Graduation Party

Vie, 23 Jun 2017 - 20:46

The night of my Grandpa Homer’s high school graduation, he was living in the barracks of a detention center in California with his mom, his sister and thousands of other Japanese-Americans imprisoned during World War II.


Last weekend, he finally got the graduation party he missed out on all those years ago.


My mom had received Grandpa’s diploma by mail from his old school district in Oregon, and she saved it for a family get-together the day before Father’s Day. She asked my aunt and uncle to bring my cousin’s mortarboard cap, and the family came over and played “Pomp and Circumstance” at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.


“It kind of took me by surprise,” Grandpa told me later. “[Your mother] said, ‘I have something for you,’ and someone gave me the cap and I opened the package and saw my diploma and said, ‘Oh my god!’



Someone gave me the cap and I opened the package and saw my diploma and said, ‘Oh my god!’
Homer Yasui, 92


Seventy-five years ago, Grandpa lost his chance to walk onstage in his cap and gown with the rest of his class. On May 13, 1942, he, his mother and his little sister Yuka were rounded up with other Japanese-Americans in Hood River, Oregon, and put on trains to what was then called an “assembly center” in Pinedale, California ― a hastily converted detention facility where thousands of Japanese-Americans were temporarily imprisoned before being sent to more permanent prison camps around the country.


Grandpa was 17 then, and a typical American teenager. The military instructed everyone to bring only what they could carry, so he packed a baseball mitt and baseball hat. He remembers thinking it was “kind of stupid” that everyone at the station was formally dressed.


Grandpa’s senior class was scheduled to graduate the following month, but by then, he and all the other young Japanese-Americans in the Hood River Valley, along with their families, had become prisoners of their own government.



Not that he was bothered much at the time. For years, Grandpa would joke about the “freedom” he had behind barbed wire, first at Pinedale and then at a “relocation center” in Tule Lake, California. No longer forced to work all summer on the family farm, he could smoke, play poker and chase girls.


The FBI had already taken his father away, shortly after the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941. (Grandpa’s father, Masuo Yasui, wouldn’t be released until 1946, and was never actually charged with a crime.) Grandpa’s older brother Min was forced to endure months of solitary confinement for deliberately breaking a discriminatory wartime curfew. But for Grandpa, the injustice of his family’s ordeal didn’t really register until years later.


“I was so dumb in those days. I wasn’t worldly,” Grandpa said. “I also said, ‘Well, I’m in camp, OK.’ I never thought about my civil liberties being denied me and all that. Most people my age never thought about it.”


He eventually settled into a job as a hospital orderly, where he remembers tending to a white boy with terrible burns. With no big cities nearby, the prison camp at Tule Lake was the closest option for medical care in an emergency. The young man yelled that he didn’t want to be treated by “Jap” doctors. Ultimately, he succumbed to his injuries and died.


The boy’s death made an impression on my grandfather, and he told us all the story years later. Once he left Tule Lake, he went on to graduate from the University of Denver and then Hahnemann Medical School and Hospital in Philadelphia. He married my grandmother, Miki, and became a surgeon.


“The only graduation I ever participated in was my medical school graduation,” Grandpa told me. “I got my cap and gown, and Miki saw me and she blew a gasket, because a bunch of us doctors didn’t even have the sense to get our gowns pressed.”


He has one graduation photo from that day, taken by an itinerant street photographer. “We’re all dressed alike and we look real crummy,” he said.



In the years and decades that followed World War II, America’s consensus that people like my grandfather had been imprisoned “for their own protection” or “for the good of the country” began to erode. (But that sentiment lives on, as evidenced by the 2016 presidential campaign and its aftermath.)


Grandpa’s sister Michi triumphantly returned to the University of Oregon in 1984 to accept her college diploma ― decades after she was barred from her own graduation ceremony because of the military curfew imposed on Japanese-Americans. She was in her 60s at the time.


In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, acknowledging that the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”


And in November 2015, Grandpa and his sister Yuka met President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. There, among Hollywood stars, trailblazing scientists and sports icons, Obama awarded their brother Min a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom for challenging the U.S. government’s wartime policies all the way to the Supreme Court.


Grandpa shook the president’s hand and got a hug from the first lady. He said it was one of the proudest moments of his life.



Compared to that, maybe it wasn’t such a big deal when Grandpa got a message from Hood River Valley High School this year, offering him a chance to come back for an official graduation ceremony. He declined, because at 92, he wanted to stay home with Grandma and take it easy.


I asked Grandpa about the invitation and whether he thought it meant his hometown had taken a step forward. He chalked it up to his brother Min being recognized as an “exemplary citizen.”


“I think Hood River’s very late in doing this,” he said, “because many colleges have done this earlier, and cities like Seattle and Los Angeles recognized their mistakes after 30 or 40 years. And it took Hood River 75 years.”


“But that’s great,” he added. “Better late than never, while some of us are still alive to tell the tale.”


Listen to Homer tell the more of the Yasui family’s story on the podcast “Hear in the Gorge,” produced by Sarah Fox.




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4th Grader Makes Viral Tearjerking Video About Being Racially Bullied At School

Vie, 23 Jun 2017 - 14:55

Two Washington parents felt helpless after their 9-year-old child was repeatedly bullied by peers despite complaints to school faculty ― so they used social media to draw attention to their daughter’s story. 


Last Thursday, Chanty Andrews, whose child is a fourth-grader at Ardmore Elementary School, posted a video in which her daughter Nasir used placards to share her experiences being bullied.





In the three-minute video, a despondent Nasir, who began attending Ardmore in September, is seen with signs reading, “I was a happy kid until I started school. Kids began to bully me.”


Nasir recollects instances of being punched, choked, isolated and called “servant” and “Nutella” by peers, and having food thrown at her by an office worker. 


Nasir told Kiro 7 that when she told a teacher about the “Nutella” incident, she was told the comment was not “racist” and instructed to write the definition of the word. Nasir is a minority at the school, where black students make up only 8.5 percent of the population



I don't feel like anyone is helping or cares."



Kiro 7 posted Chantey’s video to their Facebook page Wednesday and it has since been viewed over 5 million times. Nasir has received an outpouring of support. 


One Facebook user who makes jewelry even offered to create a necklace for Nasir as a show of support.






How can I become pen pals with #NasirAndrews? That child has been through it and I know the feeling well.

— Ramona Montañez (@MUSICxMONA) June 22, 2017








On Thursday, Chantey shot another video of her daughter, but this one had a much different tone. 


A smiling Nasir gave thanks to everyone who supported her and gave a special shoutout to someone named Kamara and said she wants to be her friend. 


The Andrews have pulled their daughter out of Ardmore and don’t yet know what school she’ll be attending. 


In a statement sent to Kiro 7, the school said it was “saddened” by the video. 


“We are saddened by the experience shared in the Facebook video you referenced ... the harassment, intimidation and bullying of any student is unacceptable,” the statement said. “In the case you referenced, an investigation into the allegations has been in process.”

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Weekend Roundup: Spotlight On The Apprentice

Vie, 23 Jun 2017 - 14:01

It is where Donald Trump’s reality-TV persona from “The Apprentice” meets his presidency that he can make the most significant difference for the “left behind” constituencies that voted for him. Last week, President Trump issued an executive order calling for the doubling of funding for apprenticeship grants in the United States ― a key area, like infrastructure, where a consensus can be built across America’s divided politics.


In an interview with The WorldPost this week, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers makes Trump’s case: “We don’t do anything for people who don’t go to college. They are left to either sink or swim, and mostly they sink. I’m thinking here of the kind of vocational apprentice arrangements that Germany has implemented successfully.” Summers also argues for international economic policies that benefit the average person more than the global corporations, such as closing tax loopholes and shutting down tax havens as a priority over securing intellectual property protection for pharmaceutical companies. “Right now,” he says, “when we discuss the global economy, we mainly talk about things that improve ‘competitiveness’ and are painful to the regular worker.”


Alongside greater investment in public higher education, on-the-job vocational training is essential to creating workforce opportunities not only in a global economy, but, more importantly, when faced with the perpetual disruptions of digital capitalism. As economist Laura Tyson points out, “about 80 percent of the loss in U.S. manufacturing jobs over the last three decades was a result of labor-saving and productivity-enhancing technological change, with trade coming a distant second.” Constantly adjusting to an ever-shifting recomposition of the knowledge-driven innovation economy is only possible if skills remain aligned to the needs of employers.


Brookings Institution policy analyst Mark Muro thinks the president managed to get the big things right with his executive order. “In noting that a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone,” Muro writes, “he spoke reasonably about the potential of paid, hands-on workplace experiences that train workers and link them to employers. In addition, Trump rightly underscored the need for industry — rather than the government — to play the largest role in structuring those experiences.” Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America, a Washington-based nonprofit working to promote economic mobility, concurs that industry, not government, knows best what skills they need. “After more than two years of unlikely promises — to restore coal mining, end offshoring and recreate the manufacturing jobs of a bygone era,” writes Jacoby, “the president is finally focusing on a solution that could make a difference for the working-class voters who elected him: skills.” 


Writing from Munich on her way to an international gathering on apprenticeships, Jobs for the Future’s Nancy Hoffman emphasizes that the most successful programs “combine structured learning in a workplace with credit-bearing community college course-taking so that a student arrives at completion of the apprenticeship not just with job-related skills, but with a useable transferable credential as well.” Joshua Pearce, who heads Michigan Tech’s Open Sustainability Technology Lab, completes the picture. “A relatively minor investment in retraining,” he says, “would allow the majority of coal workers to switch to solar-related positions.”


But not everyone is completely on board. McKinsey & Company’s Mona Mourshed offers a cautious note: only around 30 percent of youth employment programs have proven effective, according to World Bank estimates. “The hallmarks of an effective program,” she writes, “are employer engagement, a practice-based curriculum, student support services and a commitment to measuring results post-program.”


Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek is even more skeptical that the U.S. can replicate the successful German model of apprenticeship, because failing K-12 schools in America are not providing young people entering the workforce with the requisite cognitive skills to effectively prepare them for an uncertain future.


Bolstering vocational apprenticeship programs in the U.S. is imperative to enabling non-college-educated Americans to find work in a continually churning economy. But, clearly, much work will have to be done to realize that imperative itself.


Other highlights in The WorldPost this week:









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Boys Wear Skirts To Protest School's Anti-Shorts Policy Amid Heat Wave

Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 15:15


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Dozens of boys in southwest England have defiantly swapped their pants out for pleated skirts after being forbidden from wearing shorts to school, despite a heat wave.


The students at Isca Academy in Exeter said they borrowed the skirts from sisters and female friends to protest the school’s dress code policy, which requires boys to wear the leg-covering garments while girls have the option of pants or skirts.


“We’re not allowed to wear shorts, and I’m not sitting in trousers all day, it’s a bit hot,” one of the boys told the BBC on Thursday.


The boys’ protest ended up going viral, with a photo of them lined up in skirts scoring more than 71,000 likes on Twitter as of Thursday afternoon.



Boys at Isca Academy in Exeter wear skirts to school in protest at not being allowed to wear shorts in hot weather. pic.twitter.com/XHrffnSQEN

— Simon Hall (@SimonHallNews) June 22, 2017


Some of the boys’ mothers have sided with their sons.


“The girls are allowed to wear skirts all year round so I think it’s completely unfair that the boys can’t wear shorts,” Claire Reeves told Devon Live. “Boys just don’t have the option, and I am just really concerned about how the heat is going to affect him.”


As Reeves noted, the protest came as the country battles scorching temperatures that have reached the 90s.


Despite that potential health threat, Reeves complained that the school threatened to place her son in isolation all day if he showed up wearing shorts. If she kept him home, it’d be considered an unauthorized absence, she told Devon Live.


Students credited a teacher with suggesting they wear skirts instead of pants, though it’s believed that it was suggested in jest. After that, several boys showed up wearing the breathable garments, then dozens more followed.


When at least one of them said they were told that they couldn’t wear the skirts with hairy legs, they fetched razors and shaved them, the boys told Devon Live and The Guardian.


Fellow mom Claire Lambeth said she’s proud of her 15-year-old son, Ryan, who she said was one of the first to wear one.


“Ryan came up with the idea of wearing a skirt so that evening we borrowed one. He wore it the next day – as did five other boys. This morning there were about 50-60 of them in skirts,” she told The Guardian. “I didn’t expect it to take off like that. The school is being silly really – this is exceptional weather. I was very proud of Ryan. I think it was a great idea.”


Headteacher, Aimee Mitchell, wrote in a letter posted on the school’s website this week, that she would be “happy to consider a change” in the school’s dress code in the coming weeks, but not without consulting both students and their families.


In the meantime, students are allowed to remove their ties and undo the top buttons of their shirts, her letter said.


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Standing Up When You Are The Silent Minority

Jue, 22 Jun 2017 - 09:56

I write a lot about not only accepting your reality but embracing it. The good and the bad. The idea is to accept so that you can learn from your life situations and embrace so you can find value even when things feel unbearable. I call it The Gift of the Struggle. It’s what gets me through a lot.


But there are times when you should not accept. Times to stand up and speak out against that which is wrong and unjust. I work hard to teach my five kids to use their voices and stand for their beliefs. This balance between embracing your reality and knowing when it is time to reject it is sometimes a difficult line to walk.


Yesterday, however, the choice was clear. My son, an incoming senior in high school brought me a copy of his AP Government reading list.


“The reading list is pretty bad,” he said. “I think you need to take a look.”


Bad was an understatement. There were FIVE titles from Michael Savage. One from Ann Coulter. One from Sher iff Richard Mack. The list goes on and on – 31 options. They were anti-climate change, anti-liberal, pro-Christian, etc. This is a public school, by the way. Of the 31 choices, there were probably two that I found acceptable and they weren’t ideal. There was not one academic book on the list and zero historical/intellectual options.


Here is my point of view: I encourage my children to read things they disagree with. To listen to those with opposing perspectives. To be open to ideas other than theirs, but to stand up for their beliefs respectfully. This list did not encourage that philosophy. It presented one side. And one side filled with pop culture personalities who spew hate and rhetoric – not intellectual, respected authors who offer well-educated ideas from different points of view. And how is my 17 year-old son, who is the Southeast Regional Director for the State of Alabama for High School Democrats of America supposed to sit in this class and feel he has a voice?


Take a look at the list:



I posted this list in a closed progressive group in which I participate. The reaction was fierce. Outrage. Incredulity. Action. It was intense and it was immediate.


I immediately emailed the teacher and copied the principal on it asking questions. Giving the teacher a chance to offer an explanation. No response. Here is my email:


Mr. Ponder,


My son just printed the AP Government and Economics reading list and I have a few questions. The list is predominantly populated with one perspective. A conservative one. I would like to know your reasoning for choosing this list and what perspective you plan to teach these books from. Can you identify the value you hope to offer in terms of choosing this list?


Can you let me know why there are no titles that would offer an alternate perspective or a balance to the list you have provided?


If you had provided both points of view in your selections and had students chose one from each perspective, I would see the value in debating the points of view and showing students the presentation of opposing views. But that is not the case here.


Also, several authors are not those I would expect to see from an academic class. Those chosen are more pop culture type pundits rather than those who would offer academic, intellectual schools of thought on conservative policy.


There are several books on the list written by people I find truly offensive and believe are hateful in rhetoric and philosophy. How will these books/authors be handled in your class?


I welcome your discussion as I was truly shocked at the political slant in your selections.


I believe in giving people the chance to respond before I act. When the teacher did not respond, I called the principal. He said, and I believe he was sincere, that this was the first he had heard of the list and he was retracting the assignment and planned to speak with the teacher. I inquired about what I should do if this teacher taught his class from this perspective, and he told me he wants to know. I believe that.


Here is what I find interesting. As this post went around the internet, there were many who had experienced this teacher. Their children were not surprised about this list. They indicated that he taught class from his right-wing perspective for more than a decade and that this reading list had been used for several years. Many parents were uncomfortable and talked to their children about how to handle his class. But as far as I can tell, no one complained to the school. No one confronted the teacher. If they did, they did it quietly.


I have some thoughts on the reasons for this. I live in Spanish Fort, Alabama. It is a VERY conservative area of the country. I am not conservative at all. When I first moved here from Pensacola, FL five years ago, I did not realize I would not find any like-minded people – because they were all staying under the radar. If you are a liberal here, you tend to just be quiet to avoid conflict with pretty much everyone you know. When you unexpectedly find a fellow liberal, it’s a little private party where you jump up and down…on the inside.


This attitude of hiding has created a culture of a silent minority. Parents seem to hesitate to speak out. I think there is fear of a negative impact on our children if we complain about a list like this. That fear is not unfounded. But is that enough to remain silent?


The silver lining of the hostile political climate we are now enduring is that people are coming together for a cause. Through these closed political social media groups, I have discovered that there are a lot more people like me in lower Alabama than I ever knew. The support and common ground we have found in knowing each other has empowered more and more of us to become active locally and to speak up for our beliefs – even in the face of name calling (which has occurred to my own 19 year-old daughter in the discussion of this list). What has the world come to when a teenager is called names by a middle-aged man for expressing her point of view? Her point of view that the silent minority shared and became the vocal minority for?


I have to say, I am proud of the swift action the community took to right this wrong. And it goes to show that when people come together for a common cause and take action, change can be swift and decisive. Onward.


This was originally published on www.thegiftofthestruggle.com

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The 395 Kids Philando Castile Left Behind

Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 14:23

It was a few weeks after his death in July 2016 when Sakki Selznick learned that her daughter had been giving imaginary high-fives to Philando Castile.


Castile ― or Mr. Phil, as students at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School would call him ― often greeted students with high-fives while they waited on line to get breakfast in the cafeteria. Now that Mr. Phil was gone, Selznick’s young daughter worried she’d never get one of his famous high-fives again. One evening, she explained, she was thinking about it and she’d started high-fiving the air, hoping Mr. Phil would respond somehow.


A magical high-five didn’t arrive. Through tears, Selznick explained to her daughter that she would not be getting one.


Jeronimo Yanez, at the time a St. Anthony police officer, shot and killed Castile last summer during a traffic stop. Castile, 32, left behind not only a girlfriend and her daughter, a mother and a family, colleagues and friends, but also 395 adoring students at the Saint Paul, Minnesota, elementary school where he worked.


The students have spent the past year mourning Castile, a loss that was felt anew last week with the news that Yanez had been acquitted of any wrongdoing.


Now that Castile’s killer has been found not guilty, the young children are grappling with another uncomfortable truth: The justice system doesn’t always deliver justice.



In a country where many schools are segregated by race and class, J.J. Hill is a small bastion of diversity, a Montessori school that draws from surrounding progressive neighborhoods. About 47 percent of the students are Asian, black or Hispanic, with a number of Somalian and Hmong immigrants. The rest of the students are white. For the most part, everyone gets along, parents say. The fact that this harmonious racial coexistence does not extend beyond the school’s four walls is a reality students had to confront when a cop killed their nutrition services supervisor last summer.


For some white families, it was surprising that an incident of stark police brutality could happen to someone in their circle. The shock mobilized them to action via protests and petitions. For some black families, the reality of police violence was something for which they had long prepared their children.


But the fact that it happened to Mr. Phil ― a man whom parents describe as exceedingly gentle and unfailingly kind, a man who did everything “right” ― was something no one could have prepared for.


Selznick, who is white, previously lived in an all-black neighborhood in Los Angeles. She says she isn’t naive about the harsh facts of police brutality. But when a jury found Yanez not guilty of second-degree manslaughter last week, she felt like she had been tricked into the idea that there would be some sense of justice. Earlier reports of a deadlocked jury had given her hope. “I got snookered,” she said.


When Selznick’s 10-year-old daughter learned of the verdict, she seemed overwhelmed. She said she could no longer remember Mr. Phil’s face. Selznick’s 16-year-old son, who also knew Castile, almost put a hole through the wall in anger.


“They’re right at the age where they believe there will be social justice,” Selznick said. “That’s a lie.”


Zuki Ellis’ son, entering fourth grade, isn’t likely to forget about Castile’s death any time soon. Ellis is black. She’s never tried to conceal from her son the realities of racism or police brutality. But this was the first time anything had happened to someone so close.


“He has the same question a lot of us have: How does something so awful happen and no one is accountable for that?” Ellis said. “How do you kill Mr. Phil and nothing happens?”



They’re right at the age where they believe there will be social justice. That’s a lie.
Sakki Selznick


This year, when kids at J.J. Hill had to face school without Mr. Phil, regardless of their race, some students emerged from the experience as changed individuals.


Tony Fragnito, a small business owner who is involved in local politics, says his two boys, one going into third grade and one into fourth, were noticeably different. They were more somber and had less energy when they got home from school. Then, in November, the election happened, building on the trauma of Castile’s death. After Donald Trump won, Fragnito’s younger son packed a suitcase and said he was moving to Canada with his Somali friends from school because “it’s not safe for them anymore.”


Andrew Karre, a children’s book editor, recalled that when his 9-year-old son found out about Castile’s death, he asked a simple but difficult-to-answer question: “Why was the police officer scared?” Karre’s son followed Yanez’s trial on public radio. When the verdict was announced, the family headed down to the Capitol to protest. Given the facts of the case, Karre said, his son was troubled by the outcome. 


John Horton, a teacher at J.J. Hill who also has two kids enrolled, said Castile’s death would often come up in class. The children drew connections to Castile when learning about civil rights issues. They tried to make sense of Castile’s death in relation to a larger context of injustice. But for many, he said, it still seemed senseless.


“I think a lot of the adults are still trying to work through it, and the kids see this,” Horton said. “They see the instability and the not understanding from the adult side.”


The school has mostly dealt with the grief head-on. Teachers got special training, and counselors were available for therapy throughout the year. A handful of teachers sported pins with Castile’s face on them. There is a bench in his honor, and a tree in his name.  


But some parents are still struggling to provide answers to questions they can’t figure out themselves.


“It has been a hard year,” Ellis said. “I don’t imagine the next year will be easier.”

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Florida: Death To Public Education

Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 09:52

Florida has long struggled to take the lead in the State Most Hostile To Public Education contest, with North Carolina, Wisconsin and Nevada giving some real competition. But last week, Florida’s legislature and governor took a decisive leap forward.


Let there be no doubt ― no state is more hostile to the very idea of public education than Florida.


Can I give you a quick list of the many ways that Florida has spat on public education in the past? They tried to undermine the teaching of science. They have remained studiously devoted to the idea of the Big Standardized Test, even though they can’t seem to get one right (and even to the point of cancelling actual education and requiring students to pledge allegiance to the test). But their devotion to the BS Test is so great that they hounded the mother of a dying child and went to court to keep children out of fourth grade who had demonstrated mastery of reading― but not on the BS Test. They have committed to a merit pay plan (well, with every kind of commitment except funding) that is one of the dumbest and most insulting versions of the oft-disproven concept of merit pay ever seen. They have turned recess into a political football. They have stood in a courtroom and declared that teacher-given grades are meaningless.  They implement bad retail management practices in their education system. They serve as the home base for FEE, the astro-turf edu-group that was supposed to help propel Jeb! Bush to the White House (as well as other failed astro-turf for the Common Core failures). In the face of a teacher shortage, they got rid of tenure and have since used it make the shortage worse by purging teachers who speak up about abuses they see. They host some of the research in How To Replace Teachers (and Students) With CGI Avatars, as well as some disastrously failed Gates “research” about teaching. They are pioneers in the destructive and not-remotely-useful A-F school grading system. And while they have pursued these new horizons in the destruction of public schools and the teaching profession, they’ve also kept the door open so that good old-fashioned racist underfunding of public schools can continue unimpeded.


But then, letting terrible crap happen without standing in its way (well, unless it’s those third graders trying to avoid passing the Big Standardized Test) is what Florida does best. They have left the field for charter schools wide open, while doing their best to hamper public schools so that charters would look by comparison. Which is a challenge, because in Florida we have so many awesome charters to choose from. How about the charter that fired an English teacher for assigning actual reading?  How about a charter organization making money for a former model, but not actually educating anyone? Or a charter that’s run only to enrich a family, but which fires its whole staff. Or a charter that abruptly closes mid-yearHere’s an entire report that captures pages of Florida charter frauds and scams, because none of these examples is unique within the state. 


And Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos regularly holds Florida up as an exemplar.


But for some of Florida’s education ― well, “leaders” isn’t exactly the word, so let’s call them Buckaneers, after the brave pirates who used to raid Florida in days of old, and yes, I spelled it with a K on purpose ― anyway, those guys didn’t see enough destruction happening fast enough, and so, HB 7069.


Florida HB 7069 is everything there is to hate about the legislative process. The Miami Herald figures there are pieces of 55 old bills stapled together in this ugly dog. Cobbled together in some collection of dark back rooms, it offers a giant poop sandwich with a pickle on top, in hopes that people who like pickles will buy it.


Except that, in the end, the Florida GOP didn’t make any real effort to sell it to anyone, though some of the charters that stood to profit from it assigned letter-writing duties to their parents. And some newspapers played along ― the Orlando Sentinel, in a truly amazing display of journalistic malpractice, covered the story as a bill “to scale back testing.” The whole business came down to an 11th-hour hope that if enough opposition could be mustered to the bill, Gov. Rick Scott would accidentally follow his naked self-interested into doing the right thing and veto this unholy bastard of a bill.


That did not happen. In fact, because simply signing the bill wasn’t enough of a big fat “F@#! You!” to all supporters of public education, Scott signed the bill in a Catholic School, like the faithless jerk who cheats on you with some loose sleazebag, and then brings the sleazebag to the family picnic, just to rub it in your face.


The bill includes hundreds of pages, but opponents and supporters agree on what it does― the bill shifts millions of taxpayer dollars from public education to the charter industry. Senator Linda Stewart summed it up pretty well here in her comments:



The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.



Opposition to the bill was widespread, and the cause for its support was not hard to figure out. Check out some of the leaders of the initiative. There’s House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whose wife runs a charter school in Pasco County. (He’s also the guy who reportedly insisted on the “poop sandwich withy pickle” political strategy for creating the bill). There’s Rep Manny Diaz, who runs a pretend college that lets charter students pretend they are taking college course. There’s bill co-sponsor Rep. Erik Fresen, who works as a $150,000-a-year consultant for Civica, an architectural firm that specializes in charter school buildings. Diaz and Fresen also work for Academica, a big time Florida charter chain. And the legislators did consult some folks as well, according to Gary Fineout, an AP reporter who has covered many Florida crazy-pants education stories:



Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican and chairman of the House Education Committee, said legislators met with charter school operators and asked what it would take for them to set up schools in the neighborhoods now served by traditional public schools. He said one answer was that they needed help paying for new buildings to house the school.



Voila! HB 7069 gives charters the ability to just go ahead and suck up tax dollars for purposes like buying or building facilities.


The bill also provides the cynically-named “Schools of Hope,” which is an unbridled license for charter schools to expand in markets where the public school has been sufficiently weakened ― and no requirement to accept the students from that community. The state’s voucher program has been expanded. And a charter no longer needs the permission of a local district to expand ― just its money.


There are yet more amazing features (after all, it’s almost 300 pages). Charter schools get to “grade” districts (but not, of course, vice versa). Title I funds are up for redistribution. New charters may ignore local zoning laws. Charters may of course hire any warm body they like, regardless of qualifications. And in a particularly baldfaced unsupportable move, HB 7069 says that if Chris does a lousy job as a student at Gotrox Charter Academy, then goes back to public school, the public school has to count all of Chris’s failure in their public school grade.


It is true that HB 7069 does stop short of, say, allowing charter operators to take the food from in front of students in public school cafeterias. Nor does it allow charter operators to attack public school buildings with tanks or bazookas. But charter advocates are peeing themselves with glee. It is absolutely open season on public education in Florida, with the traditional system to be replaced with a corporate marketplace with a single purpose ― to make a bunch of money while pretending to sort of educate a select few students, kind of.  Students will be at the mercy of whatever the market wants to offer them, while the children of the rich will head off to private schools. What happens when the state burns down your public school and no reputable or competent charter wants you? Some Floridians are about to find out.


There is no pretending this will serve students. Florida’s education system has already been failing masses of students by gutting public schools and replacing them with unregulated, unqualified, unscrupulous charter operators, and this bill openly and deliberately accelerates that process. North Carolina has been trying hard to show us what one-party rule with no regard for democracy or the rights of citizens looks like, but it turns out they are just wanna-be’s compared to the money-hungry back-room operators of the Florida GOP. I have seen on the twitterverse that some legislators may have voted for this abomination thinking that Scott would veto it (which ― really? Have you met your governor) and that other folks failed to speak out because they really like pickles and didn’t believe the poop would be that hard to choke down. Shame on all of them.


I know there are still good schools and good teachers left in Florida, but their uphill struggle only gets steeper from this point. After last week’s action, I wouldn’t send my worst enemy to teach in Florida, nor their children to go to school there.


And do not forget ―


This is what Betsy DeVos thinks is an example for us all. This is what she thinks the whole country should look like.


Originally posted at Curmudgucation

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Yale Dean Who Called People 'White Trash' And 'Low Class' On Yelp Leaves Position

Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 08:47


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A Yale University dean has left her position following outrage among students when insulting reviews on her personal Yelp account surfaced last month.


June Chu, who was dean of Pierson College at the prestigious New Haven, Connecticut, university, was placed on leave in May after screenshots began circulating of her calling people “white trash,” “low class” and other derogatory terms on the crowdsourced reviews site.


Chu’s decision to leave was announced Tuesday by Stephen Davis, head of Pierson College, in an email to students.


“Dean Chu has left her position at Pierson College and wishes the best to the students,” Davis said in his email. “As a result, I am initiating the process of the search for a new dean, who will be in place before the start of the fall term.”




The university’s student-run newspaper published the inflammatory screenshots two weeks before Chu was placed on leave. Students accused the former “Yelp Elite” reviewer of posting “racist” and “classist” comments on the site. In one instance, Chu described local movie theater employees as “barely educated morons.” In another post, she praised a different movie theater for not having “sketchy crowds.”


Chu has since deleted her Yelp account. She sent an email to Pierson students the same day the screenshots were published, apologizing for her “insensitive” remarks.


“I have learned a lot this semester about the power of words and about the accountability that we owe one another,” Chu wrote. “My remarks were wrong. There are no two ways about it. Not only were they insensitive in matters related to class and race; they demean the values to which I hold myself and which I offer as a member of this community.”


Neither Davis nor Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway asked Chu to submit her resignation, according to the Yale Daily News.


A representative for Pierson College did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


An email to Chu’s Yale address yielded an automated response, which said “I am unavailable” and directed “questions concerning academic issues” to an associate dean.


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Florida Teachers Take State Ed And Pearson To Court

Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 05:04

Twenty-year veteran Broward County, Florida teacher Julie McCue and physical teacher Daryl Bryant, who has taught at a charter school near Cape Canaveral for three years, are suing the Florida Department of Education (FDOE). In 2010, as part of its application for a federal Race to the Top grant, Florida proposed making teacher certification exams more difficult, supposedly to raise standards. The current exams were introduced in 2015. On the revised tests failure rates have soared by up to 30% on some sections. The passing rate on the essay portion of the Florida Teacher Certification Exam (FTCE) fell to 63% in 2015. Teachers working under temporary certification who fail the FTCE risk losing their jobs.


At a recent state board of education meeting Florida Education Commissioner Pamela Stewart defended the high failure rate on Florida teacher certification exams claiming the tests are “aligned to the standards that are being taught in the classroom which are appropriate.” But the FDOE has not produced evidence that the tests reliably predict teacher performance, which may be a basis for overturning them. In New York State multiple teacher certification exams were dismissed by the courts precisely because the State Education Department could not demonstrate that they actually measured teacher qualifications.


Julie McCue charges that the state is really using a flawed examine to deny teachers credentials and salary increases. Broward County claims to use a “pay-for-performance salary schedule,” but the reality is that no matter your education, experience, or classroom performance, teachers are denied raises if they do not pass the new state test.


McCue has failed the essay portion of the Florida Educational Leadership Examination (FELE) test four times since 2015. Each time, suspiciously, she received the exact same score, just one point below passing. The FELE test was created by the FDOE, but is administered and graded by testing mega-giant Pearson Education.


According to a report by WPTV in West Palm Beach, Pearson profits each time someone fails one of their exams. Prior to 2009, the Florida Department of Education subsidized test takers. Candidates paid $25 to take each part of the multi-part tests and did not pay to retake a section that they failed. Pearson now charges test-takers up to $200 per section, an increase of 800%, and an additional $20 to retake a section. Test-takers can appeal failing scores, but they have to pay $75 for a reevaluation.


At the day-long administrative hearing FDOE produced five “expert witnesses” to defend the testing process and Pearson sent its lawyers to observe. A representative of FDOE maintained that Pearson's grading system is extremely detailed and thorough. FDOE's attorney said “the idea of human error is beyond belief.” While one of the FDOE “expert witnesses” was a Florida school administrator, he is also, coincidently, a paid Pearson employee. During the past two years he reviewed 20-25 failing FELE essays and acknowledged he has never reversed a score. One hundred and sixty failing FELE test takers challenged their scores last year, and none were reversed by Pearson.


This must be the only time in test assessment history that grading is 100% reliable. I found an article on a Pearson website where they bragged that their Versant Technology when reading essays had an inter-rater reliability of 0.89, which was HIGHER than human inter-rater reliability, and is considered very high. But it still means that about 10% of the test grades were not consistent.


But there is another reason the FDOE expert witness’ scoring is invalid and the administrative judge should through the whole FDOE and Pearson gang out of court, reverse the failing grades, and recommend they be prosecuted. The test scorer testified that he had reviewed 20-25 failing FELE essays and never reversed a score. But if was only assigned to review failing exams that were being appealed, he already knew these test-takers had failed. Essentially he was being asked to confirm what FDOE and Pearson wanted confirmed. In a fair review, without bias, these tests would have been mixed in with ungraded exams and the reviewer would not know that any of them had already received a failing grade.


Testimony at the Florida administrative judicial hearing calls into question the grading of many Pearson “essay” exams. The Pearson/SCALE edTPA is used to evaluate student teachers by over 700 teacher education programs in forty states and is required for certification in sixteen states. It is a roughly sixty-page portfolio plus video that is subject to arbitrary grading practices, arbitrary practices that Pearson also denies.


The Florida administrative judge is expected to issue a preliminary ruling within a month. The judge’s decision is sent to the Florida Education Practices Commission that makes the final decision. I’m rooting for Julie and Daryl.


Follow Alan Singer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReecesPieces8

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Jimmy Kimmel Lets Teen Finish His Faculty-Censored Graduation Speech

Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 03:40


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Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday taught a lesson to the school that cut off a graduation speaker’s rogue speech.


Senior class president Peter Butera went off-script to viral acclaim in his commencement address for Wyoming Area Secondary Center in Exeter, Pennsylvania, last week.


The Villanova-bound 18-year-old called out the lack of real student government on campus and the faculty’s “authoritative attitude.”


Then the microphone went dead and he was ushered off the podium.


But he got a bigger platform ― national television. The “Jimmy Kimmel Live” host let Butera finish his speech, telling him, “Have you learned your lesson that you should always carry a bullhorn in your pants?”


He then gave Butera the best life lesson ever: “Keep being a pain in the ass.”


Watch the fun above.

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Pearson Botches Mississippi Testing [Again]; Mississippi Immediately Severs Contract

Mié, 21 Jun 2017 - 00:01


Education and testing mammoth Pearson has an established history in botchinghigh-stakes testing.


Pearson did it again, in Mississippi.


According to the Associated Press (AP), Mississippi canceled its contract with the testing giant after Pearson fessed up to mixing up scoring tables for an exam that now has approximately 1,000 Mississippi students either graduating when exit scores were not actually high enough or not graduating because of test scores that were not too low after all.



The AP release continues with an inept-yet-contrite Pearson will “assist the state in any way possible.”


Of course, the way to assist the state is to not put the state in this awful position to begin with.


And it’s not the first time Pearson incompetence has caused Mississippi problems. As the AP notes, Pearson scoring errors resulted in five students being denied their diplomas in 2012. Pearson paid these students $50,000 toward Mississippi university attendance. Other students affected by the same 2012 Pearson scoring ineptness were compensated lesser amounts.


Add to that the 2015 Mississippi state testing crash, for which Pearson paid the state $250,000.


Safe to say that Pearson has had abundant opportunity to deliver on Mississippi testing contracts— and it has failed.


What is astounding is that even as Pearson profits are suffering to a record extent, its CEO, John Fallon, received a 20-percent pay raise in May 2017. From the May 05, 2017, Telegraph:


Two thirds of shareholders rejected the company’s remuneration report at its AGM after Mr Fallon received a £343,000 [$439,383] bonus, equivalent to a 20pc [percent] pay rise, despite having presided over its worst 12 months in nearly half a century on the stock exchange.
Despite the controversy, the shares were up nearly 12pc in the afternoon after Pearson unveiled a new £300m [$384 million] tranche of job cuts and office closures.... ... 4,000 staff were cut last year ....

Indeed, Fallon is being rewarded for throwing the crew overboard on a poison ship that is taking more water than ever.


It seems, however, that the Mississippi Board of Education has finally had enough of Pearson.


***


Longer version originally posted 06-17-17 at deutsch29.wordpress.com.


***



Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?
School Choice: The End of Public Education?


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.


Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

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Kickstarter Aims To Give Book On Black Boy Joy To Public Schools

Mar, 20 Jun 2017 - 16:14

At some point in their lives, black men are forced to realize that no matter what they do, some people will never see their humanity.


To counter the negative perception of black men and boys, Chicago native Valerie Reynolds authored “The Joys of Being a Little Black Boy.” The book follows a blissfully innocent adolescent named Roy in Chi City as he gets to interact with historical black figures like Barack Obama, Frederick Douglass and Jackie Robinson.


“Roy takes readers on a journey of joy through a historic adventure reminding us that many remarkable black men were once joyful little black boys,” the book’s publisher, Hurston Media Group, said in a statement to HuffPost.



Reynolds told HuffPost why her book is so relevant to the present social climate. 


“It is very important to ensure little black boys are aware of the joy that they possess, much like the historical figures highlighted in the book,” Reynolds told HuffPost in an email Tuesday. “Now, more than ever, it is critical to counter the dominant narrative that mostly portrays black men and boys as dangerous, violent and criminal.”


In order to ensure her message reaches the masses, Reynolds began a Kickstarter campaign. She aims to raise $7,500 not only for the book’s printing costs but also to donate copies to public schools throughout the country. As of Tuesday, the campaign has reached 70 percent of its goal. 


On the book’s Kickstarter page, Reynolds points to the killing of Terence Crutcher by Officer Betty Shelby to illustrate the necessity of positive representations of black boys. In audio footage from a helicopter that hovered over the scene of the killing, a police officer is heard typecasting Crutcher by saying he looked like a “bad dude.”


“This ‘big bad dude’ scared her because her understanding of Black men has been shaped by distorted images, stories, and depictions of Black men that are conjured by the media ... media misrepresentations have real and tragic consequences,” Reynolds wrote on the campaign page. 


“We want this book to remind little Black boys who they are and whom they come from,” she continued. “We also hope that this book illuminates the humanity of Black boys and reminds everyone that we are more alike than we are different.”


The pledge levels start at $5, and each donation of $27 or higher comes with one or more copies of the book, along with other small items. Some pledge levels are named after young black men and boys who have lost their lives to police shootings or other racially charged violence. 


Reynolds hopes that by August, the book will make its way to classrooms and be available in retail stores. 

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To All The Kids Without A School

Mar, 20 Jun 2017 - 07:00

You don’t exist. At least that’s what a lot of people think.


The other day, some expat moms at my Swiss international school in Zurich were chatting in the garden about overdone American graduation ceremonies. Americans, apparently, are known for over-celebrating the graduation.


We dress up, pull out our videophones, slap our hands together at large gatherings in flowery rooms. We cry, give gifts and parties for kids moving-on from preschool, kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school and college. We share photos of graduates on Facebook, listing accomplishments, parading our pride. We weep over the years that have passed, the struggles, triumphs; and sometimes we slow down and reflect. For the privileged, certificates of graduation are granted for gymnastic level completion, piano, tennis, and so on. Speeches are made, and then we might eat too much and go swimming.


We forget you exist.


Meanwhile 75 million school-aged children and youth are in desperate need of education and support, either in danger of, or already missing out on their education.


I stood in the warm breeze giggling by the rose garden with moms. We laughed about the over-done over-everything that is perceived as terribly American. But afterwards, it occurred to me that the tradition of coming together to recognize the blessing of an education, any education might be a pretty good idea. It might be good to take a look at how very life-changing, how extravagant a good classroom experience really is. But in reality, how many parents and kids really do celebrate graduations? Americans or not? I wondered.


Then I found that according to UNESCO, 61 million primary school-age children were not enrolled in school at all in 2010.


But we keep forgetting that you exist.


Now for my backstory. Last year, I wrote a piece about the child at graduation whom nobody claps for. I wrote it after sitting at a graduation ceremony, bawling my eyes out, while watching beautiful kids graduate from the Connecticut school two of my children attended at the time— but where my son was not welcomed. I listened to stories told about proud well-dressed eighth graders glistening with pride. I watched teachers stand tall with emotion. Those kids were poised to change the world. Meanwhile, my then 10-year-old boy with special needs was home clinically depressed with a tutor. He was out of school after countless institutions had failed him. He was without a community, (other than the therapists we’d hired.)



Some of you can’t get a quality education because of your special needs, but others of you can’t get an education because you don’t have a home, a school or even a nation to call your own.



Sometimes it felt that no one really believed me. A child without an appropriate, safe school in the U.S.? No one wanted to believe that he existed.


But six months ago we left the U.S. and ditched our educational nightmare. Today all three of my children have a school. My oldest son has teachers, friends, classroom experiences, recess, and a caring international community at a very unusual Swiss International School supported by a learning support foundation.


Now I’m look over my shoulder at you. I see the educational landscape my child and I have been battling through where you still struggle, and I feel horror. I’m preparing for my boy to graduate from primary school (for which he has no good memories of until this year,) yet you are still out there without seat at a ceremony, without a safe, appropriate school or any school at all. There are other moms of special needs kids still homeschooling some of you rather than watching you suffer in a system at times abusing kids with untrained support and inappropriate behavioral protocols— a system, a world failing to educate millions of kids appropriately.


Some of you can’t get a quality education because of your special needs, but others of you can’t get an education because you don’t have a home, a school or even a nation to call your own. Some of you don’t have a classroom because of poverty or gender or because your district, your country, your world is busy spending money on soccer fields, oil, weapons, walls and security for government golf outings. Some of you don’t have parents or don’t have parents with resources, with community, with access to food, water, bathrooms and shoes. Some of you don’t have the ability to get any learning done. Period.


And so I’m hoping other grownups will put down the cameras for a moment. I’m hoping that they’ll join me in thinking of you without a school, without a seat at a ceremony.


I’m hoping that these other lucky ones who’ve been blessed with an education will join me in taking their intellectual gifts, their graduation gift funds...they’ll do much, much more with their over-everything American.


I’m hoping that we educated over-celebrating adults will work harder, much harder to admit that you exist. To know you. And to help you and every single kid, like you, get a safe, appropriate education.



P.S. In case anyone still tells you that you don’t exist, you can share a few more horrifying facts:


3.7 million refugee children have no school to go to of the 6 million school-aged children under the UN Refugee Agency’s mandate.


1 in 10 of the one billion people in the world with a disability are children and 80% live in developing countries. Among marginalized groups, children with disabilities remain the most excluded.


84% of U.S. principals say that students are coming to school hungry. Hunger increases the inability to concentrate by 88% and increases behavioral problems by 65%.


1 in 3 children with an identified disability for which they receive special education services in the U.S. are victims of some type of maltreatment (i.e., either neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse) whereas 1 in 10 nondisabled children experience abuse.


Autistic children are three times more likely to be bullied in school and 28 times more likely to commit suicide than their non-autistic peers.


1 in 5 school districts leaders in the U.S. approved of using restraints or seclusion (for children with disabilities) as punishment. Restraint and seclusion in a disciplinary method often used for hyperactive children or children on the autism spectrum. It can include locking children in dark closets and tying them with straps, handcuffs, bungee cords, or even duct tape and was used more than 267,000 times nationwide in the 2012 school year.


Organizations to consider supporting:


http://www.globalpartnership.org


http://hungerinourschools.org


http://www.feedthechildren.org


https://www.malala.org


http://www.unesco.org





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Child Refugees Document Horror Of Fleeing Their Homes Through Powerful Art

Mar, 20 Jun 2017 - 03:15


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Art is providing a powerful emotional outlet for a group of child refugees.


Youngsters who have settled in southeast England after fleeing unaccompanied from countries such as Syria, Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan have been tackling the trauma of displacement at British Red Cross-backed creative projects. 


Some of those 14 to 19-years-old will now showcase their works at the free “All I Left Behind, All I Will Discover” exhibition at London’s OXO Tower from June 21 to 25.



“The refugee crisis has led to a huge outpouring of solidarity with unaccompanied child refugees but they seldom get the opportunity to speak for themselves,” said Alex Fraser, the organization’s director of refugee support.


The children have channeled their emotions into meaningful drawings and sketches, transforming life jackets and vases into canvases for their creativity. The projects are aimed at helping them integrate into their new communities and will be featured in the show.


“We hope it will provide a rare glimpse of what it is to be a child refugee and the pain, trauma and extraordinary resilience which characterizes so many of their stories,” Fraser added. A selection of their pieces are below:



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This 10-Year-Old Is Creating A Device To Prevent Infants From Dying In Hot Cars

Lun, 19 Jun 2017 - 15:22

After Bishop Curry heard his neighbor’s 6-month-old infant died from being in an overheated car, he decided to create a life-saving device to prevent incidents like this from reoccurring ― as any responsible 10-year-old would.


“It kind of came in my head,” Bishop told HuffPost of his device, the Oasis. 



The Oasis would respond to rising temperatures by emitting cool air and use an antenna to signal parents and authorities. At the moment, Bishop only has a 3-D clay model of the device, but his father, Bishop Curry IV, began a GoFundMe campaign for the Oasis in January.


“I got lots of help from my parents,” Bishop said. 


Attorneys advised the family that the minimum amount they’d need for prototyping and manufacturing fees, as well as a patent for the device, is $20,000. 


The GoFundMe campaign has already exceeded that $20,000 goal and, as of Monday, has raised over $23,700. Bishop, who will begin sixth grade in the fall, told Fox News last week that in addition to his parents, his classmates and friends are fully behind him on his projects. 




“They want to work for me,” he said. 


Last June, CNN reported that the number of hot-car deaths had nearly tripled compared to the same time in 2015, which had 24 hot-car deaths in total.


When Curry grows up, he wants to center his career around inventions, including a time machine. 



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School Employee May Be Fired For Claiming Gays 'Should Be Killed' On Facebook

Lun, 19 Jun 2017 - 12:28

An Ohio school employee is likely to lose his job after posting that gay people “should be killed or at least relocated” ahead of a local Pride celebration. 


Chris Dodds, who has worked as a garage assistant supervisor with Columbus City Schools since 2004, reportedly posted the hateful message on a Facebook page for the 2017 Columbus Pride parade and festival last week. In the since-deleted post, Dodds said he hoped Friday’s festival, which has drawn more than 500,000 people in the past, “turns out like the Boston Marathon,” a pointed reference to the 2013 bombing that killed three people and injured several hundred others.


Take a look at a screenshot of the alleged post, courtesy of Change.org, below.  



The post quickly prompted an online petition calling for Dodds’ dismissal. “This is completely unacceptable,” organizer Tom Neffs wrote, “and we need to take a stand and demand that this man not be allowed to spread this hate to the children in affiliation to our school system.” The petition has since drawn over 46,000 supporters as of Monday afternoon.


School officials addressed the news in a Facebook post Thursday. 





Scott Varner, who is a spokesman for Columbus City Schools, told The Columbus Dispatch on Friday that the district “values and celebrates its diversity” and was “working with authorities to address this matter and [Dodds’] actions.” 


“We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Varner said. “We are currently working toward Mr. Dodds’ termination.”


In an email to HuffPost, Columbus City Schools Communications Manager Jacqueline D. Bryant confirmed that the school district was planning to terminate Dodds, and noted that more than 500 teachers, staff, students and family members joined the city’s Pride Parade on Saturday in the end. 


On Saturday, school officials shared some jubilant images of those teachers and students marching in the parade on Facebook, and their praise seemed even more profound in the wake of the controversy.  





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When Someone Reminds You That Your Special Needs Child is Different

Lun, 19 Jun 2017 - 07:07

“Hi Mrs. Radigan. Is Lizzy toilet trained? Do you need a cup for her to leave a sample for her physical this morning?”


My expression reflexively said, “Of course she’s toilet trained, she’s 15 and not only is this the same practice that’s been taking care of her since she was born, you personally have known her this whole time.” But I remained silent despite my anger, smiled, and said, “Yes, she has been since she was three. Thankfully.”


“Oh, of course she is. Sorry. You are really a saint. ”


Flashing my best saintly smile, I grabbed the cup and led my daughter, who’s now 5 inches taller than me, to the bathroom so she could prove her ability to pee in the cup. We finished in the bathroom and left the cup on the shelf for the lab.


We were seated in the waiting room for only about a minute when a face that we have never seen before appeared, called her name, and led us to the exam room.


The physician’s assistant was a very attractive young woman. In a professional voice, she asked me if I could get my daughter in position to do the eye exam.


Doing my best impersonation of the “Cool Special Needs Mom” I try to show to the outside world, I said, “OK. Come on Lizzy, let’s do the eye chart.”


“She needs to cover her left eye.”


“OK. Lizzy, let’s cover your left eye. That’s it. Good.”


“Have her start reading the first line on the chart, where my finger is.”


“OK. You can talk to Lizzy, it’s fine. She doesn’t bite. Do you bite Lizzy?” All three of us laughed a bit. I turned to Lizzy, “Honey, can you tell me the letter she is pointing to.”


The three of us continued this way, the assistant asking me questions to ask Lizzy and me repeating the questions for my daughter, all the way through the eye and hearing exams.


I searched my well worn bag of tricks, the ones I use when I’m trying to educate people about my daughter. I asked the woman her name.


“Maria.”


“Lizzy, say hi to Maria.”


Lizzy looked up, smiled and said, “Hi Maria.”


With that Maria smiled and said hi back to Lizzy. I was thinking that maybe I was getting through to the young assistant, when she guided us to the examination room and handed me a gown for Lizzy to wear and left saying she would be back in a moment .


When Maria came back she continued to ask me questions about Lizzy, and I continued to try to get Lizzy into the conversation. I was having very little success with both members of my audience, and I think we were all glad when Maria completed her tasks and told us to wait for the doctor.


Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this woman was trying to be hurtful. She was just doing her job. And for all I know, she handles all patients this way. Plus, I admit, Lizzy is not always an easy customer. But I’m reaching my breaking point, and watching my daughter being treated like someone less than human didn’t help me that day.


It’s been a tough year for Lizzy. Despite the developmental delays that cause her to behave more like a young child of 3 or 4 than the five-foot-eight teenager that she is, my daughter also suffers from Bipolar disorder.  


Whether this is the result of her other problems, we will probably never know. But it’s this illness that causes the most havoc on our sweet girl.


This year Lizzy has been having more and more manic episodes. She’s been shredding her dresses, taking apart her shoes, having nightmares about monsters, and remaining so frightened of the monsters that she can’t sleep at night. She also has been emptying out bottles of shampoo faster than we can buy them. I won’t mention what she does to our deodorants but suffice it say we have the nicest smelling bathroom grout in the neighborhood.


When we ask her why she is doing this, she tells us she doesn’t know.


We have gone through seven dresses, five pairs of leggings, three pairs of shoes, countless bottles of shampoo, and innumerable sticks of deodorant. She has gone days at a time with little or no sleep, and we have had to change and adjust her meds several times.


I’m tired and stressed. And I want someone to help my daughter.


If I can’t have that right now, I at least want the professionals who come in contact with Lizzy to treat her like a person.


When I encounter someone, like the physician’s assistant at my daughter’s physical, who can’t recognize the beautiful girl hiding behind all the disabilities, it’s a knife through my heart. It also drives home that sinking feeling that I’m the only one who can protect her in a world that will never quite understand her, give her the respect, and treat her with the dignity all of us have a right to expect.


I also have to remember that at the end of the day, Lizzy is just a young girl who’s trying to find her place in a confusing world. Her disabilities make her personal struggle harder than what most of us will ever encounter. At the end of the day, all I can do is be her guide and hope I’m doing it right and hope that she meets more people along the way who respect her than people who overlook her.


This piece has been previously published on Kathy’s site, My Dishwasher’s Possessed!

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A Free-Market Failure In The Heartland

Sáb, 17 Jun 2017 - 21:18

It was every supply-side economist’s dream: the promise of achieving economic nirvana by slashing taxes for the wealthy and corporations, and shrinking government. Except it became a nightmare for the people of Kansas, and now the Kansas Legislature has taken a big step toward waking up from it.


Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback turned his state into a laboratory for the most extreme form of trickle-down economics, promising that it would usher in an economic boom. It didn’t. It never has. Brownback’s five-year experiment caused state revenue to plummet, the deficit to explode, and painful spending cuts to be made—including cuts decimating public schools. Last week, a once-unlikely alliance stopped Brownback’s attempt to double down on his plan: Democratic and Republican lawmakers, urged on by parents, business people, civic activists and unions of working people.


You would think that this revolt by Kansas’ citizens and legislators of both parties would send chills up supply-siders’ spines nationwide. But the essential tenets of Brownback’s plan remain at the center of the tax proposals championed by President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Granted, these free-market tenets are well-established conservative orthodoxy. But, as the Kansas experiment demonstrates, they offer a false promise and lead not to prosperity but to deep austerity.


The Kansas economic plan was intended to serve as a model for other anti-government forces. Instead, it presents lots of inconvenient facts. State revenues plunged $700 million in the first year alone, resulting in deep cuts to everything from road repair to state psychiatric hospitals. The state budget deficit climbed to nearly $900 million. And, while economic growth nationally has remained steady at just above 2 percent annually, Kansas’ growth has been anemic, at 0.2 percent.


The impact on public education in Kansas has been catastrophic. In just two years, Brownback cut $63 million from public colleges and universities. State funding for public universities is 17 percent less than it was in 2008. Since Brownback took office in 2011, state per-pupil spending has dropped from $4,400 to $3,800. A survey of school districts by the Kansas Center for Economic Growth found that 96 percent of districts say their base state aid per pupil is insufficient. Public schools in Kansas have 19,000 more students than they had in 2009, but 655 fewer teachers. Classrooms are crowded, and many school facilities are in disrepair.


With a governor who refused to listen, parents and educators turned to the courts for relief. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously this spring that state funding for public education is not only inadequate, it is unconstitutional. The court found that black, Hispanic and poor students were especially harmed by the inadequate funding. Last week, the Legislature passed a more robust funding formula, which Brownback was forced to sign.


Another Midwest state has taken a different approach, one that invested in its future. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton raised taxes on upper-income individuals and businesses several years ago. Was the move kryptonite to the state’s economy, as Brownback and his fellow tax-cutters would have you believe? To the contrary. Minnesota has the fastest-growing economy in the Midwest, and the state is projecting a $1.65 billion surplus for the next two years. California and New York have chosen similar paths and are growing at twice the rate of Kansas.


You know the oft-quoted definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Cliché aside, it makes no sense that both Trump’s and Ryan’s tax plans are modeled on the failed Kansas experiment—or does it? Political ideology often trumps evidence, and playing to the political base can pay off. Legions of observers have noted that Trump, his family and many of his associates would benefit from virtually every element of his tax plan.


In the midst of the Brownback economic nightmare, on the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, I visited Topeka, Kansas, the home of the plaintiffs in the Brown case, to help fight the draconian cuts to public education. Topeka is hallowed ground in the effort to ensure every child receives an equal and adequate education. Six decades after that landmark decision, the state bleakly illustrated how radical economic policies could join racial discrimination in depriving children of the public education they need and deserve.


Stephen Henderson, the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, recently wrote that Brownback hoped his experiment slashing taxes and spending would serve as a “model for the utter trivialization of government, its services and those who count on them.” Brownback could not have been more wrong. Trivializing government and eliminating services have real-life consequences, and the people of Kansas have said “enough.” That is the true model for our country.



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The U.S. Department Of Education Must Not Be Allowed To Roll-Back Progress On Tackling Campus Sexual Violence Under Title IX

Sáb, 17 Jun 2017 - 13:30

Sexual violence in our nation’s college and university campus communities is a significant challenge. This is no myth or hoax. Numerous scientific studies going back at least thirty years have documented that between one-in-five and one-in-four women will be victimized over their time in college. There has long been a framework under federal law, Title IX which prohibits gender discrimination in access to educational opportunities, to address sexual harassment and violence, but it is, and has been broken. We owe our students better, we owe them a safe learning environment, and we owe it to taxpayers who support education to ensure that investment isn’t diminished by the negative impact of sexual violence.


The Obama administration inherited this broken system, due in large part simply to systemic neglect by administrations and Congresses of both Republicans and Democrats. Under the leadership of Vice President Joe Biden, the Obama Administration in 2011 made addressing Title IX’s sexual violence requirements a priority tackling extensive problems both in higher education and federal enforcement that had been identified in an investigative series by the Center for Public Integrity and NPR in 2009 and 2010.


They began making significant progress including instituting “universal guidance” in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter, and addressing not just cases presented by individual sexual assault survivors but investigating how these institutions handled every case. This was important because as the investigative reporting had revealed colleges and universities often had problems with their entire process affecting far more than just one case. Unfortunately, by 2014 this had led to a whole new problem. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the unit tasked with Title IX enforcement, was overwhelmed with far more case work than they could possibly resolve in any reasonable period of time given the personnel they had. There was never any real plan to correct this as cases continued to mount-up.


According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Title IX Tracker, since enforcement was stepped-up in 2011 “the government has conducted 399 investigations of colleges for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence.” Of those “62 cases have been resolved and 337 remain open.” The average case duration is 1.7 years, not the 180 days recommended by OCR, and many cases are open over 3 years with some up to 6 years. Often the students who initiated or were involved in any investigation have left campus by then receiving no justice.


The Trump Administration then inherited this problem. “In OCR, processing times have skyrocketed in recent years and the case backlog has exploded,” the U.S. Department of Education (ED) said in a statement. “Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice for many complainants has been denied for too long.” This is a sentiment echoed by many Title IX complainants, but how this is corrected is at least as important as recognizing the problem. The Obama Administration failed to do either effectively acting like the driver of a car obliviously about to drive off a cliff hoping for a hand to pluck them out of the sky before they crashed into the ground below, and it does not seem like the Trump Administration will be aspiring to get to the root of the problem either.


As recently reported by ProPublica and The New York Times, OCR, under the leadership of Candice E. Jackson, the acting head of the office, is planning to address this backlog by scaling back the scope of their reviews. “There is no longer an artificial requirement to collect several years of data when many complaints can be adequately addressed much more efficiently and quickly,” they said in the official statement. In simpler terms this means OCR won’t be looking at broken systems and how to fix them, only the injustices reported by a single complainant. While this may expedite justice for individual complainants, it will fall back to a system that continued to allow systemic flaws to deny justice. We have come too far to allow this to happen, and meeting both needs must not be considered mutually exclusive.



Ironically Catherine Lhamon, who headed OCR in the final years of the Obama Administration in which the back-log was allowed to accumulate under her watch, now heads the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and has announced they will launch “a two-year investigation of federal civil rights enforcement” including a focus on ED. We don’t have two-years to wait for an investigation, especially one headed by the official who was on watch while much of the underlying problem was created. We need solutions, and we need them now not in two-years.


A bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators, headed by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Dean Heller (R-NV) stepped forward with part of the solution last year bolstering a request from the Obama Administration. They sought to appropriate “at least $137.7 million” for OCR in Fiscal Year 2017 “to be used in part for the investigation and enforcement of Title IX.” This did not happen and OCR funding was kept level at $107 million. The Trump Administration’s proposed budget, however, would slightly reduce overall funding to under this amount, and would cut the personnel budget by $4 million from $68 million to $56 million.



More money alone is not the solution, but it is an important part of it. If our country is going to take this obligation seriously we need make the commitment to actually do so. More strategic enforcement by OCR should also be an essential part of the solution. The bi-partisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), which is pending in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence in the House are both critical pieces of the solution as well. Combatting sexual violence has never been, and is not a partisan issue. The unity of the legislators working on these issues proves that, and I am hopeful they will work to bring about the needed solutions sooner rather than later.

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Dr. Dre Pledges $10 Million Donation To Compton High School

Vie, 16 Jun 2017 - 14:20

Dr. Dre has pledged to donate $10 million toward the construction of a performing arts center being built at Compton High School in 2020.


The center that Dre, a native of Compton, California, is investing in will be located in the Compton Unified School District and feature a 1,200-seat theater. 


“My goal is to provide kids with the kind of tools and learning they deserve,” Dre said in a statement to Variety. “The performing arts center will be a place for young people to be creative in a way that will help further their education and positively define their future.”


The donation is the result of a promise the rapper made a couple of years ago, Rolling Stone reported. In 2015, Dre said he would give the profits from his “Compton” album to the construction of a performing arts facility in his hometown.


Looks like he came through. 


The publication also reports that Dre collaborated with recently re-elected Compton Mayor Aja Brown on the decision. In a 2015 interview with Beats 1 Radio DJ Zane Lowe, he said Brown, the city’s youngest mayor, suggested he invest his money in the facility


“I’ve been really trying to do something special for Compton and just couldn’t quite figure out what it was,” Dre said during the radio segment. “She actually had this idea and she was already in the process of working on it. I said, ‘Boom, this is what we should do.’”


Leave it to the ladies.

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