Student investigation into principal’s credentials — lead to resignation

❝ Connor Balthazor, 17, was in the middle of study hall when he was called into a meeting with his high school newspaper adviser.

A group of reporters and editors from the student newspaper, the Booster Redux at Pittsburg High School in southeastern Kansas, had gathered to talk about Amy Robertson, who was hired as the high school’s head principal on March 6.

❝ The student journalists had begun researching Robertson, and quickly found some discrepancies in her education credentials. For one, when they researched Corllins University, the private university where Robertson said she got her master’s and doctorate degrees years ago, the website didn’t work. They found no evidence that it was an accredited university…

The students began digging into a weeks-long investigation that would result in an article published Friday questioning the legitimacy of the principal’s degrees and of her work as an education consultant.

On Tuesday night, Robertson resigned

❝ The resignation thrust the student newspaper staff into local, state and national news, with professional journalists nationwide applauding the students for asking tough questions and prompting change in their administration.

“Everybody kept telling them, ‘stop poking your nose where it doesn’t belong,’” newspaper adviser Emily Smith told The Post. But with the encouragement of the superintendent, the students persisted…

Nice to know that even in a state with politicians as smarmy as Sam Brownback and his tame state legislature – principled actions are still protected by existing law. High school journalists are protected from censorship. More important, they did the work the school board should have done.

RTFA for the details. Worth it.

Yup – education is SO important


What if there was an election and no one showed up to vote – not even the candidates themselves?…That’s precisely what happened in the recent Hagerman, New Mexico, school board election…Three candidates ran unopposed: None received a single vote, not even their own.

It was a lack of opposition and not a lack of interest in education that kept the town’s 1,034 eligible voters away from the polls, said Superintendent Ricky Williams, who supervises the three-school district of fewer than 500 students.

The fact that the candidates were unopposed – and that the election was held in Roswell 26 miles away – may have had something to do with it, he said. Polling stations were not open in the southeast New Mexico community, a decision made by Chaves County…

None of the candidates for three open seats on the five-member school board was an incumbent, so each candidate needed at least one vote to be elected…

Cindy Fuller, Bureau of Elections chief for Chaves County, said that with no contested positions, no write-in candidates and no questions or bonds on the ballot, state statute permits the clerk’s office to handle the election. There were voting convenience stations in Roswell, she said, but not Hagerman.

That turned out to be not convenient enough

BTW, in the population center of the state, Albuquerque, less than 2.6 percent of voters showed up to vote for Albuquerque Public Schools and Central New Mexico Community College board elections. Of 297,291 eligible voters, only 7,668 cast ballots.

Court says school can’t ban Boobies Bracelets


Two girls in Pennsylvania have won a victory for student free speech after a federal appeals court ruled the Easton Area School District can’t ban “I (heart) boobies” cancer awareness bracelets.

Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez wore the awareness bracelets, from the Keep A Breast Foundation, to school on Breast Cancer Awareness Day in defiance of the ban. They were each suspended from school for the infraction, and they filed suit.

The girls challenged the school district in 2010 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The girls testified they merely wanted to raise awareness of breast cancer at their middle school.

District lawyer John Freund described the bracelets as “cause-based marketing energized by sexual double-entendres.” He said middle school is “a witch’s brew of hormones and curiosity,” and said the bracelets’ sexual undertone was meant to invite disruption.

The school district appealed after the lower court ruled for the students. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court.

In a split opinion, the court rejected the argument that the bracelets were lewd and disruptive. The court found breast cancer awareness among young people to be a relevant social issue, and found the bracelets did not cause disruptions at school.

In a rare move, the entire 3rd Circuit heard the school district’s appeal rather than leave it to a three-judge panel. During those arguments, Judge Dolores Sloviter said she did not see the slogan as sexual, and told the crowded courtroom that she had lost a colleague on the court to breast cancer.

Nice to see an American court invite expanded participation.

Unsurprising to see petty local bureaucrats display the mentality of witch-hunters and cultural hangups that disappeared in much of this land decades ago.

School board reading list has 30 spelling errors

New York state officials criticized a school board whose summer reading list misspells titles including “The Great Gatsby” and names including George Orwell.

The Hempstead Public Schools summer reading list has more than 30 spelling errors, including misspelling “The Great Gatsby” as “The Great Gypsy” and misspelling the names of authors including George Orwell, Emily Bronte, David McCullough and Frederick Douglass, Newsday reported Wednesday.

Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson did not immediately return calls for comment…

Roger Tilles, a member of the New York State Department of Education’s Board of Regents, blamed the district’s leadership for the spelling errors.

“It indicates again that a stable administration is absolutely essential for kids to get the kind of education they need,” he said. “Hempstead has not had a stable administration for a long time and the kids are suffering.”

Hempstead is in Nassau County – which certainly has a stable political history. Mobbed-up politicians have been in charge for decades; but, then, they don’t care a whole boatload about spelling either.

Book acknowledges existence of gay families — now banned by Erie, Illinois, school board!

One page in a book about families is causing an uproar in a Quad City area school district.

Back in May, the Erie School Community District banned, ‘The Family Book,’ because of a page that says “some families have two moms or two dads”. It was banned after parents complained to the school board. A predictable clot of Christian church-organized shock and awe.

Now, a national debate over diversity and freedom of speech has swelled over the Internet. 600 people have signed an online petition demanding that the school district reconsider the decision, with supporters coming from California to Florida. It came up on CNN, this morning.

Erie School District Superintendent Brad Cox says…”At our April board meeting, we had between 75 to 100 people show up, which is quite a few, and the vast majority who spoke at that board meeting spoke in opposition of the materials…”

“If you look at ‘The Family Book,’ you can tell it’s done for elementary age children. It’s a lot of colored pages, and one line sentences,” said Materials Selection Committee member Joe Weaver. “We found them to be appropriate for the setting they were being used,” he added.

But that conclusion failed to hold back a vocal majority faction opposed to the book…Supposing somehow that bigotry and ignorance democratically arrived at should be the rule.

The practice of banning books in schools is really nothing new. The Harry Potter books have been banned from some schools and the classic storybook, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, is banned from elementary schools across the country.

The author of The Family Book, Todd Parr, tells TV6 the book has been out for ten years and this is the first time there’s been any controversy.

The controversy is manufactured by Christian bigots who oppose even simple recognition that same-sex households exist. I couldn’t care less how much ignorance they force upon their own children – at home or church. But, the public school system should come up to a standard more demanding than fundamentalist superstition and fear.

It’s never a surprise when an elected school board or any other public body crumbles before a meeting packed with some sect or other. The city council in Santa Fe wasted years before allowing wifi to be installed in public libraries because of nutballs who showed up and whined about glowing in the dark from cellphone and internet radiation.

Crazies are mostly alike. Politicians are mostly alike. Their lives are driven by fear. In the case of public systems like education there are standards to be met, standards to be supported. Political cowardice has no place in that decision-making.

Nose piercing more than fashion, it’s faith

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A soft-spoken 14-year-old’s nose piercing has landed her a suspension from school and forced her into the middle of a fight over her First Amendment right to exercise her religion.

Ariana Iacono says she just wants to be a normal teenager at Clayton High School, about 15 miles southeast of Raleigh. She has been suspended since last week because her nose ring violates the Johnston County school system’s dress code.

”I think it’s kind of stupid for them to kick me out of school for a nose piercing,” she said. ”It’s in the First Amendment for me to have freedom of religion.”

Iacono and her mother, Nikki, belong to the Church of Body Modification, a small group unfamiliar to rural North Carolina, but one with a clergy, a statement of beliefs and a formal process for accepting new members.

It’s enough to draw the interest of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has contacted school officials with concerns that the rights of the Iaconos are being violated by the suspension…

On Tuesday, after her first suspension ended, Ariana went back to school with her mother — and her nose ring. She was suspended again, this time for five days. If she comes back to school on Sept. 21 with the nose stud, she’ll face a 10-day suspension or referral to ”alternative schooling,” Nikki Iacono said…

”We don’t worship the god of body modification or anything like that,” he said. ”Our spirituality comes from what we choose to do ourselves. Through body modification, we can change how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the world.”

The church claims roughly 3,500 members nationwide, having started about two years ago, after adopting the name of a similar group that had been dormant for several years.

RTFA. Humorous, interesting. 99% of most Americans don’t have a clue what freedom of religion means in the broadly-held constitutional sense. I wouldn’t expect most school administrators to have any more of a clue.

Or freedom from religion – which is subsection A. Har!

My wife and I were married by a bartender from a local nightclub – a minister in the Church of Universal Life. A terrific group that kept a lot of hip young dudes out of Uncle Sugar’s Army in the days of the draft. Recognized by the state of New Mexico.

Face it – this is a country that’s been going backwards for decades over religious crap, anyway.

School Board prez fiddles with, uh, inappropriate behavior

Detroit school board President Otis Mathis admitted Friday to engaging in “inappropriate actions” but tried to take back his resignation after he was accused of fondling himself during a meeting with the district superintendent…

He said medical issues may have contributed to the incident. “I need to pursue treatment. … I want to make sure that what happened doesn’t ever happen again…

“It’s over. He’s done. We have more important business to handle,” said Carla Scott, a member of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education. “We can’t afford a circus.”

DPS police were investigating allegations by Superintendent Teresa Gueyser that during a meeting Wednesday, Mathis touched himself for 20 minutes, then unzipped his pants.

Gueyser, in a memo to the board, said she ended the meeting. “I told him that there was no reason for us to continue the meeting with that behavior,” she said…

Seems reasonable to me. I can think of a few places where such behavior might not be surprising; but, none of them include meetings of school board staff.

Parents back up teacher at Georgia ‘dirty dancing’ trial – UPDATED

What’s appropriate – after you leave high school

Jassundra Barnett says what her son did in chorus class was “silly.” But she doesn’t think it is a matter for the police and the criminal courts. And she doesn’t think his teacher should take the fall.

Jerramy Barnett was one of three male students at Southwest DeKalb High School near Atlanta who performed a provocative dance in chorus class in 2008…

No one disputes the sexual nature of the boys’ dance routine, which was widely viewed by students and faculty members on a student’s Facebook page. What is in dispute is whether it was a crime.

On Monday, just before a jury was chosen at Grigsby’s trial on charges of contributing to the corruption of minors, prosecutors announced they had filed public indecency charges against the three male students, including Jerramy Barnett.

His mother told CNN by telephone Monday night that the charges against her son, now a 19-year-old high school graduate who works in a church music program, are unwarranted.

“The charges were brought against him to intimidate him into not testifying for Mr. Grigsby,” she said. “If not, why did they wait 16 months, until the morning of the trial, to charge them?”

Continue reading

Mississippi HS prom canceled over gay dating

A Mississippi county school board announced Wednesday it would cancel its upcoming prom after a gay student petitioned to bring a same-sex date to the event.

“Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year,” school board members said in a statement.

Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at Itawamba, recently challenged a school policy prohibiting her from bringing her girlfriend as her date to the April 2 prom. McMillen, who is a lesbian, and the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union urged school officials to reverse the policy both on McMillen’s choice of date and attire. She also wanted to wear a tuxedo to the dance.

ACLU attorney Christine Sun said her organization receives requests for help every year from students facing anti-gay prom policies. The complaints are especially prevalent in the South where attitudes toward sexuality are more conservative, she said.

“Conservative” is one of the words you might choose. Not the one I’d use.

In the announcement, the school board encouraged the community to organize a private prom. “It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors. “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this causes anyone,” the statement concluded. School officials did not respond to calls seeking comment…

The ban on same-sex dates is a violation of McMillen’s constitutional rights, said Sun, the ACLU’s senior attorney on gay rights. “We believe the law is pretty clear,” Sun said. “The school just can’t arbitrarily say you have to bring an opposite date to the prom.”

A private prom would allow the district to get around the issue, McMillen said. “If they set it up privately they probably aren’t going to allow gay people to go and there is nothing that you can do about it,” she said.

Yup. Mississippi has become well-skilled over the years at organizing “private” everything to circumvent civil rights, civil liberties frowned on by reactionaries and other bigots.

Students petition for removal of entire school board

In what may be the first attempt in California to unseat an entire school board, high school students and supporters who want to oust all five members collected enough signatures to put the issue before voters, the Tuolumne County clerk said Friday.

The students organized the recall campaign as a civics project after the board of the Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District voted to get rid of their popular math teacher, a former professional football player.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Tioga High School senior Billy Hilton, 17, one of the student leaders of the recall effort. “I don’t think this has happened many other places. We were able to do it because our school and community are so small and tight-knit…”

The California School Boards Assn., which represents 95% of the state’s school districts, does not keep election records, but staff members said the recall of a school board is uncommon if not unprecedented. “We can’t remember a time when a whole board has been recalled…”

It is unclear how the allegation of plagiarism reached the school district. The university said the allegation was unfounded, but the school board has refused to take Dutton back.

Dutton, who hopes to return to Tioga High and resume teaching math, said he was overwhelmed by the support from the students and community. “I knew that I had a good relationship with them, but you never think that the kids would rise up and do something of that sort,” he said. “I can’t say enough about their support. It reiterates for me that this is the right career for me.”

Regardless of what may have been presented to the school board, it was a Star Chamber proceeding with the teacher having no right to confront accusers or challenge so-called evidence. If you run a school board like the Inquisition, you deserve to be thrown out of office.