High School Spends $53,000 To Reprint Yearbooks After Students Flash Racist Symbol



A high school in a Chicago suburb is spending more than $53,000 to reprint its 2018-2019 yearbook after staff discovered photos inside in which students were flashing the white supremacist “OK” hand sign.

Administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School released a statement last week notifying parents that they were withholding the yearbooks from distribution after they discovered the photos, according to CBS Chicago.

This week, the Chicago Tribune reported that the high school will pay Jostens $53,794 to reprint the books and that the new versions are expected to be delivered to students by mid-June.

The racist adaptation of the “OK” hand sign began on 4chan ― an anonymous message board frequented by racists, trolls and extremists ― and has since been co-opted by prominent white supremacists who often use it to signal their presence to like-minded extremists. It’s prominent enough that those who use it have been fired from their jobs or faced other consequences ― recently, a Chicago Cubs fan was banned indefinitely from Wrigley Field after flashing the hand sign behind a black reporter during a live broadcast.

While the students’ intent was unclear and the photos weren’t made available, the content was apparently jarring enough that staff felt it necessary to reprint the yearbooks.

An email to parents, from school district Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams, notes that while the hand gestures could have been in reference to the classic schoolyard made-you-look “circle game,” its use by hateful people and ideologies led to the decision:

We’ve been made aware that this year’s ‘Tabula’ yearbook, which has not yet been distributed, contains several photos of students making a hand gesture that has different meanings. In some cases it’s used in what is known as the circle game. However, the gesture has more recently become associated with white nationalism. Regardless of intent, the potential negative impact of this gesture has led us to decide that we cannot distribute the yearbook as is. We are looking at alternative options, and in the coming days we will share further details about distribution plans. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support as we work through this situation.



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Teachers Under Fire For Culturally Insensitive Yearbook Photos



The yearbook photos of language teachers at a southern California high school are inspiring harsh words among school officials and parents.

The photos show the language teachers at San Pasqual High School in Escondido dressed in stereotypical outfits related to the language they teach, according to San Diego station KGTV.

One picture showed a French teacher sporting a beret, but it was the images of Spanish teachers wearing sombreros and fake mustaches that some found problematic.

“They could be offensive if they’re making fun of us” is how parent Martin Reyes tactfully put it. “But it could be something honorable if they’re trying to do honor to the Mexican culture. It would be better without the big mustache and hats.”

The Escondido Union High School District told San Diego NBC affiliate KNSD that the pictures were taken at the beginning of the year for use as teacher ID photos.

The school district released a statement to the Escondido Times-Advocate reiterating this point, but also declaring the photos to be “culturally insensitive and in poor judgement.”

San Pasqual High School principal Martin Casas said in a statement that the school “takes pride in its rich history and diversity.”

He added: “It is our intent to use this situation as a tool to remind students, as well as staff, to remember the impacts of their words and actions. We are committed to continuing our efforts to ensure all students, families and staff feel welcome and valued.”

Casas later posted an apology on Twitter in both English and Spanish:





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Labor Movement Comes Back Big After ‘Janus’


In January, Virginia teacher Nicole Loch attended a #RedForEd rally at the statehouse in Richmond. She arrived on a charter bus sponsored by the Fauquier Education Association (FEA), even though Loch had never joined the union—a decision she had resisted for 11 years.“It was a bus full of other educators from my county,” says Loch, a civics teacher at Auburn Middle School in Warrenton.

“When I got to Richmond, I saw the power of mobilization and strength in numbers,” she says. “I knew then I needed to join.”

Loch marched and chanted for a mile—from Monroe Park to the capitol steps—where the crowd numbered 4,000. Standing there—holding a sign with the words “I Teach, I Matter”—she realized that many of the 250 FEA members at the rally had been meeting for months to organize their road trip, produce T-shirts and signs, and arrange meetings in the offices of legislators to discuss education policy and funding in Fauquier County.

nicole loch

Longtime teacher Nicole Loch joined her local association the day after attending a statehouse #RedForEd rally. (photo: Philippe Nobile)

“I felt I had been left behind,” she says. “I had no idea what people in my county had been doing to prepare for the event because I wasn’t a part of FEA.”

A mere 24 hours after the rally, Loch had joined FEA and the Virginia Education Association (VEA)—the state’s largest educator union.

“Being an FEA member has emboldened me to speak out about the value of public education and demand action from local officials to do what’s best for children and educators,” says Loch, who became a building representative soon after joining FEA.

The Perfect Civics Lesson

Loch attended the rally, she says, because she wanted to show her students what it means to advocate for public schools.

“I teach them to exercise their First Amendment rights and speak out when they see injustice,” she says.

Loch had read about the massive 2018 educator walkouts in “red” conservative states like Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, which attracted 26,000, 45,000, and 35,000 protesters respectively. Within months, 267,000 more educators in Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina organized walkouts. She heard how educators, with the support of their unions, attracted public support and forced reluctant legislators to invest in schools and increase educator pay.

Arizona educators rally for school funding in April 2018.

The perfect civics lesson fell into Loch’s lap when Oklahoma educators took their fight to the polls last November and ceremoniously ousted 15 of 19 legislators in the state House. Why? They had voted against raising taxes to fund education. The previous spring, Oklahoma educators had organized a nine-day #RedForEd protest that ended when lawmakers approved a tax increase to pay for $6,100 average pay raises for teachers and $1,250 raises for education support professionals (ESPs).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. workers initiated work stoppages only seven times in 2017, the second-fewest since the agency started keeping records in the 1940s.

In 2018, aggrieved educators, parents, and other community members participated in 20 walkouts. That’s nearly three times the amount of the previous year. In addition to walkouts, innovative organizing strategies, social media campaigns, and town hall meetings have marked a new labor movement unseen in a generation.

Looking back, Loch says she was impressed by the solidarity of colleagues across the country but not enough to join her own union in the Commonwealth, a right-to-work state.

“I earn below what a professional with 11 years’ experience and a master’s degree should make,” she says. “I couldn’t make sense of the expenditure.”

Power in Numbers

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) decision last June. The plaintiff, Mark Janus, was an Illinois state employee who received the raises and benefits negotiated by his union. The ruling allows him and other public sector workers the right to benefit from union contracts without having to pay their fair share for that representation.

kember kane

Maryland teacher Kember Kane speaks at a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2018 during Janus deliberations. (photo: Jay Mallin)

Janus overturned Abood v. Detroit Board of Education—the 1977 case in which the court unanimously upheld fair share fees that support collective bargaining. Each state was left to decide whether to permit such fees. With Abood, workers who didn’t want to join a union didn’t have to. Rather, they paid a reduced “fair share fee” or “agency fee” to cover the cost of union representation and bargaining services that unions provide for the benefit of all employees. Such fees were reduced amounts charged to workers who opted out of union membership. By law, the fees could not be used for political purposes.

“There are many educators in my building—as in many schools—who don’t know how powerful they are until they organize,” says Loch. Since the Janus ruling, almost 30 new members have joined FEA, bringing total membership to 460.

Bargaining for the Common Good

NEA had projected a loss of as many as 200,000 members in addition to 90,000 agency-fee payers after the Supreme Court decision. Instead, as of March, more than 217,000 new members had joined NEA since the Janus decision, and the Association has more members today than it did last year be-fore the Court’s decision. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), with 1.7 million members, added 88,500 members by the beginning of this year, which offset the 84,000 agency-fee payers the union lost after the ruling. Even case defendant AFSCME reports that for every member opting out since Janus, the union has gained seven new members.

david jeck

Superintendent David Jeck granted educators of Fauquier County Public Schools professional leave to attend the January #RedForEd rally in Richmond. Jeck is an FEA member. (photo: Philippe Nobile)

Almost 15 million Americans still pay dues to unions, according to BLS. Increasingly, those unions are supporting campaigns that benefit the entire community. Across the country, unions are helping to champion improved public transportation, healthcare, and public education.

In the nation’s new non-agency fee environment, NEA has supported grassroots #RedForEd movements by providing expertise in digital communications, logistics, member mobilization, research, and legislative strategy. In states across the nation, NEA has helped parents, students, and educators win billions of dollars in increased funding for public schools.

Since 2014, the NEA Center for Organizing has worked with local and state affiliates to develop union leaders, expand membership, and engage educators. Through Education Summer, for example, the center trains members for six to eight weeks to become education organizers who can identify local issues, recruit new members, and establish community relationships.

The center’s New Educator Campaign is another example of NEA’s efforts to recruit and retain members. Operating year-round, the campaign works with incoming teachers, ESPs, higher education members, and association leaders to build a culture of organizing in a post-Janus world of voluntary union membership.

At the state level, for example, more than 19,000 North Carolina educators with support from NEA rallied last year in downtown Raleigh to demand better pay and increased funding for public schools. The power of collective action was exhibited again in Raleigh at a second march in May with 20,000 more educators in attendance.

On a local level, the California Federation of Teachers funds the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)—an advocacy group for low-income communities of color. Before Los Angeles teachers organized a walkout in January, ACCE members and other groups—like Reclaim Our Schools LA—articulated demands for smaller class sizes, reduced random student searches, and more social services, that the union brought to the bargaining table—and won.

‘Janus’ Was Personal

Nationwide, educators are publicly and audaciously voicing their opinions about how to recruit, support and retain teachers, ESPs and higher education members.

Officials with NEA-Rhode Island (NEARI) had predicted a 20 to 30 percent membership loss in the first year after Janus. Instead, NEARI had gained about 275 members by March.

Sarah Markey is a NEARI UniServ director, and co-presenter of a workshop titled, “Engaging ESPs After Janus.”

“After the Janus decision, we were heartbroken,” says Markey. “It felt very personal, intended to hurt the people we care about most: educators and students.”

Markey’s co-presenter, Kristin Chase, is president of the 160-member East Providence Teachers Assistants (EPTA). Statewide, she says members were prepared for a worst-case scenario after Janus.

“I’m happy to say that a vast majority of our locals remained steady,” says Chase, who is the NEARI vice president for ESPs. “We saw no noticeable difference in any membership category.”

Kristin Chase (left) and Sarah Markey of Rhode Island conducted a workshop at the
NEA ESP conference in March involving the ‘Janus’ ruling.

Chase and Markey say this positive result is due primarily to one-on-one member engagement, which they stress in their presentation.

“Getting more members to step into leader-ship roles is a huge component in sustaining active participation for the long term,” says Chase, who helped EPTA achieve 100 percent membership.

Anti-union organizations, think tanks, and right-wing activists backed by corporate donors, including ultra-conservative billionaire David Koch and his brother Charles; U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family; and the Bradley Foundation, had long been preparing for a case like Janus as part of a larger campaign to undermine the power of unions.

On the heels of the Janus decision, these anti-union forces have funded dozens of lawsuits across the country designed to weaken the labor movement. And with an increasingly partisan judiciary, unions cannot rely on the courts to do justice.

“It is the continued activism of educators that will lead to a better future for public schools and students,” says Markey.

Stay Ready

“It’s clear that corporate interests want to get educator associations out of their way,” says Brian Nelson, who is president of NEA-South Kingstown (NEASK), and a math teacher at Curtis Corner Middle School in South Kingstown. “Their goal is to privatize the education system and turn it into a profit bearing institution.”

In the months before the Janus ruling, Nelson attended educator meetings and union gatherings at schools across the district to discuss the ramifications of the case.

“I explained that if collective bargaining is weakened or eliminated, it would impact their salaries, health care quality, retirement benefits and workplace environment,” he says. “We didn’t lose members after the Janus decision. No one opted out.”

To increase their community presence, and to enhance their own team spirit, many of the 310 members of NEA-SK bowl together and organize other social outings. “At times, I felt each school was on its own island,” Nelson says. “Bowling nights help to bring us together and provide community members with the opportunity to approach us and discuss our work with students.

Brian Nelson welcomes the new post-‘Janus’ era.

“While building a more public profile, NEA-SK members have already won a formidable victory. During the summer and fall of 2018, they worked with other community groups to prevent the closure of a beloved elementary school, which was opened on time in September. And last November, four out of the five pro-education candidates endorsed by NEA-SK for town council won by large margins.

“The election was our golden opportunity to create the change that our members deserve,” Nelson says.

Approximately 865 NEARI members reside in South Kingstown—even though they work in other towns and belong to other locals. If spouses and domestic partners are included, the number jumps to 1,730 allies.

“We capitalized on that affiliation and had a strong show-ing on Election Day that flipped the council,” says Nelson. One of the council members elected was NEARI’s Sarah Markey.

NEA continues to work to support affiliates across the country as they plan collective actions on behalf of their students and schools. This work is the manifestation of New Business Item 48, passed by delegates to last year’s NEA Representative Assembly. The measure called on NEA to support a national campaign of labor action to save public services, fight for union rights, and improve NEA members’ living and working conditions. Educators in affiliates nationwide are leading the campaign. And NEA is helping them win.

“It’s been amazing to see what educators are doing for their schools, students, and communities,” says Markey.

Empowered Educators

About 250 people attended a March budget meeting of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors in Warrenton, Va., many of them wearing red T-shirts with the words, “Advocates for Change.”

All but one of the 46 speakers addressed education funding, teacher and ESP pay, campus facility upgrades, and other school issues.Two days later, at a joint work session between the board of supervisors and county school board, FEA President Lauren Brill sat in the front row with FEA colleagues Carolyn Leach and Bobby Jenkins.

“Until recently, people felt like they weren’t being heard,” says Brill, a teacher at Margaret M. Pierce Elementary School in Remington. “Richmond was a spark for change.”

“However, being heard and being funded are two different things,” she adds.

Virginia is the 11th wealthiest state in the nation and ranked by Forbes magazine as Number One for business. Yet, the state ranks 42nd in per-pupil state funding and 32nd in teacher pay.

“Virginia teachers are paid about $8,500 less than the national teacher’s average salary,” says Superintendent David Jeck, who granted professional leave to educators wanting to attend the rally. “With regard to state funding for schools, we are still below 2009 levels when adjusted for inflation.”

In Virginia, teacher pay scales can vary from one county to the next due to state funding, property values, and variations in local tax policies. In neighboring Loudoun County, for example, a first-year teacher with a master’s degree earns $55,941 per year, or about $1,000 more than a teacher in Fauquier County with a master’s degree and more than 10 years’ experience.

Together with a higher cost of living, four out of 10 educators are forced to live outside the area where they work, says Leach, a teacher at C. Hunter Ritchie Elementary School in Warrenton, who lives in neighboring Midland.

“The state does not give us that much funding,” she says. “This affects school conditions, pay scales, and where people can afford to live.”

FEA members Carolyn Leach (left), Bobby Jenkins, and Lauren Brill meet regularly with school administrators. (photo: Philippe Nobile)

Superintendent Jeck is a former teacher, coach, and principal, and current FEA member.

“It just made sense to join FEA,” says Jeck, who wore a red T-shirt at the Richmond rally and addressed the crowd on behalf of Fauquier County educators. “Their messaging is right.”

Jeck and Brill often meet informally to discuss education issues. They share pride in the county’s 96 percent graduation rate, close-knit community, and collaboration between educators and administrators.

“We have monthly sit-downs,” says Brill.

Jenkins is a county school bus driver and FEA’s vice president. He and other ESPs meet with FEA member and Assistant Superintendent David Graham at least once a month for breakfast.

“He (Graham) use to drive a school bus,” Jenkins says. “We understand each other.”

As in many parts of the country, Virginia educators have not been discouraged by Janus or any other anti-worker, anti-union court rulings. Instead, they took matters into their own hands, taking the battle to the steps of the statehouse and the public sphere. They signed up new union members, rallied against the underfunding of public schools, and joined a labor movement with broad public support.

“Wherever you live in this country, policy makers need to hear from us and be held accountable,” says Jenkins. “The union gives us leverage and a voice.”



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What Teachers Really Want For End-Of-Year Gifts


Most teachers will happily accept anything they get from their students (and their families) at the end of the school year. But what do they actually want?

The school year is long. Here are some gifts for teachers to show them how much you care. 

“1. We don’t expect anything and appreciate everything. 2. Hand written cards and notes mean more than you could imagine and are saved. But if we are talking actual gifts that I have appreciated, I do have some favorites… Flair pens are ALWAYS welcome. Some parents have asked what my favorite Starbucks drink is and then they actually deliver it (great way to start the day).” ― Jen Trotter Milke

“I don’t drink wine and I rarely drink coffee, so unfortunately I always have to re-gift those things. I love anything useful! Especially things like cute notepads, post-its, pens, art supplies, etc. And my kids know that I worship books, so getting me a book or a gift card is always loved. But while I appreciate any token of thank you from my kids and their families, heartfelt note or letter or drawing is what I cherish!” ― Gina Costanza Sitte

“As a teacher, I must say my most memorable gift was when each child in the class brought each teacher a flower. We ended up with a beautiful bouquet of all kinds of flowers.” ― Geri Gorman Boegner

“Gift cards! Teacherspayteachers.com gift cards are great as well as personal ones to Target or Walmart/ other places the teacher may have on their favorites.” ― Kate Patterson

“My favorites are handwritten notes of thanks from the kids or parents. I keep them under my desk calendar to read on the tough days. It’s also awesome when the parent sends me a POSITIVE email and copies my principal on it! That means so much!” ― Jenny Werner Burke

“I recently heard from one of my son’s former teachers that her favorite gifts hands down were ones of membership to places she would love to go to but never had the money to go… We’ve done family memberships (which are good for a year) to Botanic gardens, museums and aquariums by pooling together money with the rest of the families in our classes to make the money go further.” ― Patricia Bell

“Helpful??? Supplies for hands-on projects that would typically come from my own money. Appreciated? Handmade and/or personal gifts” ― MiaLynn DB

“I value a note or letter from a student. I know it is not as practical as a Starbucks gift card, but it helps me to know that my efforts are not in vain. The idea that I make a difference… that feeds my soul.” ― Heather Hein Vernon

“One year all my students’ families pooled money together for a gift card to a spa. Best.present.ever.”― Beth Zarling

“Nice pens, pads of paper for ‘to do’ lists.”―Christina Snyder



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Police Investigating Students For Allegedly Tainting Crepes With Bodily Fluids



A group of middle school students in Ohio are being investigated for felony assault charges after serving crepes allegedly tainted with urine and semen to adults at their school.

Investigators said the incident occurred May 16 at Olentangy Hyatts Middle School in Powell, as part of a “Global Gourmet” home economics class.

As part of a class cooking competition, students were making crepes that would be judged by teachers. Some students reportedly placed bodily fluids into crepes that were later consumed by several adult victims, according to The Smoking Gun.

The alleged act came to light after a video showing the supposed tainting started circulating around the school, according to local station WBNS TV.

Attorney Brad Koffel, who is representing one of the students accused of adulterating the food, told the station that the accusations could “easily could have been a prank that may have been mocked up for the purposes of creating a video.”

He added: “We don’t know if urine or semen was ever placed in anyone’s food. I don’t know how the school would know that.”

Tracy Whited of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office told the Columbus Dispatch that five victims ― all teachers and staff members ― have been identified, and that eight students are under investigation.

A forensic analysis of evidence is also being conducted and students could face felony assault charges depending on what’s found.

“The safety and security of our students and staff is of utmost importance,” the Olentangy School District said in a statement released on Monday about the incident. “District leadership and local law enforcement are conducting a thorough investigation into this incident, and anyone found in violation of school policies will be held accountable for their actions.”



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Rep. Justin Amash Talks Up Trump Impeachment Hearings To School Kids



Launching his Presidential bid last June, Donald Trump held up his financial statement to prove <a href=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2015/06/19/you-may-not-take-donald-trumps-candidacy-seriously-but-take-another-look-at-his-real-estate-business/” target=”_blank”>he had assets worth a total of $9 billion.</a>
<br><br>
In a tasteless boast, Trump went on to reveal he refused a bank’s loan of $4bn. <a href=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2015/06/19/you-may-not-take-donald-trumps-candidacy-seriously-but-take-another-look-at-his-real-estate-business/” target=”_blank”>He said:</a> “I don’t need it. I don’t want it. And I’ve been there.”
<br><br>
While millions of Americans continue to suffer the effects of sluggish economic growth, Trump is blissfully unaffected. Well, that’s how he makes it sound.

ASSOCIATED PRESS



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California Senate Passes Bill For Free Abortion Pills At Public Colleges



As a wave of abortion restrictions sweep through several states, California’s Senate passed a bill to ensure students at its public colleges and universities have access to abortion pills at campus health clinics.

Lawmakers approved the College Student Right to Access Act on Monday, sending it to the state Assembly which will then decide whether it moves to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Connie M. Leyva, would allow students to obtain free medication abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. According to Planned Parenthood, the nonsurgical process involves two pills that stop a fetus from growing, having effect comparable to an early miscarriage.

If it becomes law, the legislation would apply to campuses of both California State University and the University of California. 

In 2018, a similar bill made it all the way to then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) desk, who vetoed it. However, then-Lt. Gov. Newsom said at the time that he would have signed it.

The Women’s Foundation of California, which is one of several women’s advocacy groups jointly sponsoring the bill, states that the measure would create a fund managed by the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls that would give grants to school health clinics. The funds would go toward “training and equipment to prepare them to provide abortion by medication techniques.”

The foundation estimates the cost to be between $14 million and $20 million.

In a statement released Monday, Leyva pointed to newly passed abortion bans as a sign that the time for action is now.

“Recent efforts across our country make it absolutely clear that women’s rights, particularly access to abortion, are under attack,” she said. “While other states are taking a giant step back to the days of outright misogyny and forced pregnancy, California continues to lead the nation by reaffirming the constitutional right to access abortion care without delay, including at student health centers on public university campuses.”

Last week, Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed her state’s near-total abortion ban into law, which makes no exceptions for cases of incest or rape. If the legislation takes effect, the only scenario in which a woman could have a legal abortion would be if her life was in jeopardy.

That same week, Missouri House lawmakers passed an eight-week abortion ban, and it is now expected to be signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

In total, eight states have passed bills rolling back access to abortion, several of which ban the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur at six weeks.

Every single Democratic presidential candidate has spoken out in support of abortion access, many of them strongly condemning measures like Alabama’s as unconstitutional. 

On Tuesday, protesters ― including some of the 2020 hopefuls ― rallied in a series of #StopTheBans demonstrations around the country.



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What Does a Global Arts Classroom Look Like?


Julie Midkiff, an art teacher at Bradley Elementary School in Mount Hope, West Virginia, is an NEA Foundation Global Fellow who studies the connection between global arts and the Appalachian Arts and Crafts Tradition. She is also a contributor to 12 Lessons to Open Classrooms and Minds to the World, which supports students’ need for a globally conscious education.

NEA Today spoke recently to Midkiff about what a global arts classroom looks like.

How does arts education lend itself so well to global education and crossing international lines?

Julie Midkiff: Arts education is one of the core pillars of the Humanities; it helps us to gain a higher understanding of common human experiences.  The visual arts and the arts in general help us tap into this higher understanding of the human experience through the senses, whether it be what we see, hear or feel, or common things we all experience, such as growing up and going through life’s milestones while learning about our culture and the emotions we feel along the way.

Throughout history visual artists have used universal human experiences, feelings, and emotions in their work, and students from many different countries and cultures can easily relate to, for instance, a photograph of a mother cradling a baby, a painting such as Picasso’s Guernica, depicting the ravages of war, or emotions captured in Käthe Kollwitz’s drawings.

What commonalities do students from different parts of the world find in your art and theirs? What traditions are shared?

JM: When students see or experience a painting, sculpture, drawing, or installation, it helps them tap into these core experiences and they start to interpret these works within the framework of what they already know of the world.

It is my goal as an elementary arts educator to use a global lens to help my students expand their world from the familiar and local to include regional, national and international perspectives.  I like to use functional craft as a common example in my elementary Art classroom to help my students find commonalities between traditions and cultures shared around the world.

We use the four global competency domains to not only investigate and analyze artwork, but also as a lens for understanding the history and cultures of the artists we study.” – Julie Midkiff

My students in Appalachia can relate to quilting as an art form. They understand that quilts have been made and passed down from generation to generation and that some are used to keep them warm at night while others have been made to memorialize family members.  I build a regional perspective by helping them compare quilt making in Appalachia to the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

On a global scale, I’m expanding their understanding of textile arts by introducing my students to artists I met and learned about as an NEA Foundation Global Fellow in southern Africa, including the work of Anthony Bumhira from Zimbabwe who uses blankets, doilies, and painting techniques to explore cultural and contemporary traditions.

I’m also researching the work of Thania Petersen from South Africa whose work taps into her Indonesian heritage and experiences with Islam and uses costume as imagery to explore personas and her own identity.

What does global competency mean for students in your classroom? What about global citizenship?

JM: According to the Asia Society, students can demonstrate global competency in four ways: When they can investigate their world with awareness and curiosity in learning about how it works, recognize their own perspectives and those of others with the understanding that others may not share their perspectives, effectively communicate ideas verbally and non-verbally with diverse audiences, and take action to use their knowledge and skills to make a difference in the world.

My young learners range from Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade and we use the four global competency domains to not only investigate and analyze artwork, but also as a lens for understanding the history and cultures of the artists we study.

Global citizenship naturally goes hand in hand with global competency. By being engaged in lessons that use the global competency domain framework, my young learners gain the understanding that they are more than citizens of our town, region and country, but that they actually belong to and live within a world that is interconnected and that we all share the responsibility of making our world a more equitable, fair and sustainable place.

Julie Midkiff

How does creating a lesson with a global reach differ from creating other lessons?

JM: Lessons with a global reach dig deeper into the human experience and condition.  These lessons tend to be longer, and often cover a range of topics connected by a common thread of curiosity, gaining perspectives, communicating specific ideas, or taking action to solve a problem.  Giving yourself time to make these connections as an educator will help you be able to facilitate this in-depth learning in your classroom, no matter your content area or specialization and to help students make connections to real world problems, issues, cultures, etc.

How does global competency starting at a young age help tackle major issues of poverty and climate change?

JM: Tackling issues of poverty and climate change at a young age within the framework of global competency is a tall order for young learners.

Developmentally, they are just discovering themselves as individuals and the world immediately around them.  However, if these young learners can learn to make connections to these larger issues and taking action from an early age, we are positioning them on a trajectory where they will be able generate innovate solutions and to be the creative problem solvers of the future.

When possible, I try to partner with other teachers, community groups or organizations to help my students take action and participate in being part of a change or solution.

This year, I facilitated a partnership between my fifth-grade classes and a citizen’s conservation group in the Florida Keys. The group sent my students plastic trap line that is commonly used by commercial and recreational fishermen that had been cleared from the canals and waterway after the marine devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

My goal is for my students, who live in land locked state, to gain an understanding of why we need to be good stewards of environment and to care about ocean pollution, which is one of the factors contributing to climate change.  My students researched the problems of recycling trap line, the affect of trap line has as marine pollution and its’ affect on local marine life and ecosystems.  They are in the process of building a sea turtle sculpture out of the trapline to be displayed with a QR code to bring awareness to the marine pollution and climate change issues to our local community.

By engaging in the trap line sea turtle sculpture lesson, my students have an increased sense of agency that they too, at a young age, can take action as global citizens and make a difference in the world.



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‘Sesame Street’ Introduces New Muppet In Foster Care



Sesame Street” is taking another stride in helping kids navigate difficult situations.

According to The Atlantic, the Sesame Street in Communities program introduced a Muppet character on Monday who is in foster care. The initiative features a series of videos addressing questions and concerns about foster care. It also offers an interactive storybook and printable activities.

The new “Sesame Street” character, Karli, lives with her foster parents Clem and Dalia, who are helping her deal with the “ups and downs” (as Dalia puts it) of being separated from her birth parents.

In one video, above, Elmo’s dad Louie (yes, Elmo’s had an onscreen dad since 2006), asks Clem and Dalia: “How has everything been going, since becoming her foster parents?”

In a refreshing response, Clem admits, “Changes like this can be really rough for kids. And for adults, too.”

In another video, below, Karli shows her pal Elmo that Dalia taught her that “even when our hears feel sad and small, they can still grow. The more love they get, the more they grow.”

For the moment, scenes with Karli will only be available online, and it is unclear if she will be included on the iconic children’s TV show.

“Fostering a child takes patience, resilience and sacrifice, and we know that caring adults hold the power to buffer the effects of traumatic experiences on young children,” said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, per ABC.

“We want foster parents and providers to hear that what they do matters — they have the enormous job of building and rebuilding family structures and children’s sense of safety.”

The online resources for the Sesame Street in Communities program are intended to help parents, caregivers, social workers, therapists and anyone else working with kids in these situations.

“Sesame Street” has introduced multiple characters meant to familiarize children with real-world issues. They include Julia, who is on the autism spectrum, as well as characters with incarcerated parents or experiencing family homelessness.

The Sesame Workshop also plans to release videos and materials about substance abuse in October, per The Atlantic.



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6 Lovely Children’s Books About Asian American Culture


I have a distinct memory of being in fifth grade and reading a book unlike any other I’d read before. It was a short story about a young Chinese immigrant who identified herself as Shirley Temple Wong. She didn’t understand the point of the pledge of allegiance, got into fights with bullies on the playground and overcame it all thanks to her one good friend, her family, and her hero, baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

Until then, I’d never read a story with an Asian American main character that discussed immigration, discrimination and Chinese culture.

I was enamored with the story, “In The Year Of The Boar And Jackie Robinson,” and I wanted more. Unfortunately, it was tough to find another story about Asian kids and cultures in my school library. Nearly 20 years later, only 7% of kids books published in 2016 featured Asian American characters, according to the Children’s Cooperative Book Center.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and it’s the perfect time to discover some new stories about Asian people, places, food and culture.

Whether your child is into looking at pretty pictures or has already advanced to small chapter books, these reads are sure to get them excited and curious about a world beyond their own —or reassure them that there are stories out there about kids with struggles just like theirs.

In The Year Of The Boar And Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord (ages 10 and up)

My childhood favorite was published in 1984, but the lessons still resonate today. “In The Year Of The Boar And Jackie Robinson” will make a great first chapter book for any avid young reader eager for a story about immigrant culture, tolerance and overcoming adversity.

Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong and Margaret Chodos-Irvine (ages 5 and up)

This book will leave readers hungry for more stories of good food and family fun. The narrator of this colorful kid’s book just wants to eat apple pie on the Fourth of July. Instead, her Chinese parents insist on preparing and serving noodles and pork while everyone around her is eating ice cream. But is it all really as unpatriotic as she thinks?

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (ages 10 and up)

Unhei is sick and tired of people pronouncing her Korean name incorrectly. Why does she have to have that name anyway? What would happen if she decided to change her name? In this book, young readers will learn the answers to these questions and discover that being different can be a good thing.

Pepper Zhang: Artist Extraordinaire! by Jerry Zhang (ages 5 and up)

When Jerry Zhang’s daughter told him she didn’t want to be Chinese, he created a Chinese hero she could look up to. Not every book about Asian American heritage has to be about the struggle of fitting in. “Pepper Zhang” is a colorful read that proves Asian stories can be silly, fun, entertaining and extraordinary.

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia (ages 5 and up)

Aneel’s grandfather coming to visit can only mean two things: good food and good stories. Beautifully illustrated and even more beautifully written, “Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji” will open up your kid’s imagination and get them craving more tales of Indian food and adventure.

The Great Wall Of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (ages 10 and up)

Lucy Wu thought she was going to have the perfect sixth-grade year, but she was sadly mistaken. Her dreams of becoming a basketball star, an interior designer and of finally getting her own room are shattered when her great aunt Yi Po comes for an extended stay. But Lucy eventually learns that even the darkest clouds have silver linings. Preteen and advanced young readers will be hooked on this children’s book about bullying, family and friendship.



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N.J. Principal ‘Floored’ After Oprah Winfrey Surprises School With $500,000 Gift



Students at a high school in Newark, New Jersey, received quite the surprise Friday when Oprah Winfrey stopped by to announce she was donating a cool $500,000 to their school.

The media mogul and billionaire philanthropist said she was inspired to donate after watching a CBS News report about West Side High School Principal Akbar Cook and initiatives he started to curb bullying and keep students off the streets at night.

“I saw what your great principal is doing,” Winfrey told students and staff packed into the school’s gymnasium. “And I thought, what can I do?”

“So I’m going to leave here tonight and leave you with a half a million dollars,” she continued, prompting the crowd to erupt in applause.

CBS News’ Jeff Glor reported last month on Cook’s “Lights On” program, which keeps the school open from 6 p.m. through at least 11 p.m. on Fridays during the school year and three nights a week during the summer.

Instead of spending time on the streets during those nights, students are able to use the gym, dance, play board games and more. They are also provided with free meals donated by local charities.

Cook also installed washing machines in the school for student use after hearing about some being bullied for wearing dirty clothes. 

“This is selfless work that we do,” Cook told CBS. “No one goes into education thinking they are going to get rich. … I have a gold medal around my heart from the love that the kids give back to me.”

Winfrey praised Cook’s dedication to his community and West Side students for “moving in the right direction.”

The Lights On program shows “other people how to do it right by providing an opportunity and a place for you to be,” she said. “I want this program to continue.”

She said her $500,000 gift aimed “to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Winfrey also gave each student a $50 gift card for the grocery store chain ShopRite, reported CBS New York.

“This is big,” Inaisha Baker, a 17-year-old West Side student told The Star-Ledger. “I was shocked.”

Cook echoed Baker’s gratitude.

“My kids feel like they don’t have anyone,” Cook told Winfrey, according to the Star-Ledger. “And you just took time out of your busy schedule to show me and my babies love. I’m floored. I’m truly humbled.”





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Maine To Become First State To Ban Native American Mascots In Public Schools



Maine is set to become the first state to ban the use of Native American symbols as mascots in public schools, colleges and universities. 

Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed the bill into law on Thursday after it passed unanimously in the state’s Legislature. It will become effective 90 days after the legislative body adjourns.

L.D. 944, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Benjamin Collings, prohibits all Maine public schools from adopting a name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to a Native American “tribe, individual, custom or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name of the school.”

Native American tribes in Maine have stated “clearly and unequivocally” that the mascots have been “a source of pain and anguish,” Mills said in a statement.

“A mascot is a symbol of pride, but it is not the source of pride,” Mills said. “Our people, communities, and understanding and respect for one another are Maine’s source of pride and it is time our symbols reflect that.”

A 2005 study by the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of all Native American symbols by schools and organizations, finding their use “harmful” and “inaccurate.” 

“The symbols, images and mascots teach non-Indian children that it’s acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior and perpetuate inaccurate misconceptions about American Indian culture,” according to the study.

Rep. Rena Newell, a non-voting tribal member of the Maine House of Representatives representing the Passamaquoddy Tribe, praised the legislation for “promoting cultural diversity and awareness.”

“Today and [from] now on, it is our collective responsibility to the next generations to promote each other as equals, as individuals, and most importantly as neighbors,” Newell said in a statement.

Maine last month joined a growing number of states replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Christopher Columbus is often credited with “discovering” America, despite the vast number of indigenous communities already inhabiting the land.

Indian tribes and their allies have said Columbus Day overlooks the violent history of colonization in North America.



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Dozens Protest Mike Pence At Taylor University Graduation In Home State Of Indiana



Dozens of members of Taylor University’s graduating class protested Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance as the school’s commencement speaker on Saturday, walking out of the ceremony minutes before he spoke.

Most of the nearly 500 graduates at the nondenominational Christian liberal arts school in Pence’s home state of Indiana remained seated for his remarks.

Pence, the former governor of Indiana, received a standing ovation during his introduction as some students walked down the aisle and out of the auditorium in the Kesler Student Activities Center at the university in Upland.

The protest was planned and discussed prior to Saturday’s ceremony, reported The Associated Press, and stemmed from Pence’s conservative religious views and role in the Trump administration.

Laura Rathburn, one of the protesters, told The Indianapolis Star she was disappointed her school chose Pence to speak.

“I think his presence makes it difficult for everyone at Taylor to feel welcomed,” she said, donning a graduation cap she decorated with rainbow colors and a message that said, “Ally Visible For Those Who Can’t Be.” 

Pence, an evangelical Christian, has come under fire over his opposition to same-sex marriage and transgender rights and support for conversion therapy for LGBTQ people. In January, he defended his wife Karen’s decision to teach at a private Christian school in Virginia that bans LGBTQ students and employees.

Christine Newman-Aumiller and her sister, Marilyn Dodd, protested Pence’s appearance at their alma mater outside the commencement. Dodd held a sign saying, “VP Pence does not stand for Christian values.”

Pence “does not have a servant’s heart if he cannot defy someone who criticizes and ridicules the little ones that Jesus himself said, ‘Let come unto me,’” Newman-Aumiller told radio station WVPE, an apparent reference to President Donald Trump.

In his address, Pence warned that it’s becoming “acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs,” and he called on his audience to stand up for their religious values. He also lauded the “growing American economy” and praised Trump for standing “so strong on national defense.”





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Bernie Sanders Unveils Anti-Charter School Education Plan


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unveiled his plan to address educational inequity on Saturday morning, the day after the 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Most controversially, the Democratic presidential contender’s sprawling plan takes a hard stance against charter schools, a type of public school that is privately managed. But it is also unique in providing specific proposals to fix school segregation, an issue that has garnered little more than lip service from politicians in recent years. It specifically addresses disparities in school funding, proposing having a minimum amount to be spent per pupil.

Sanders framed his proposal, the Thurgood Marshall Plan For Public Education & Educators, as one designed to live up to the promise of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling ― which made legally enshrined school segregation unconstitutional.

“We need to revolutionize national priorities and start giving education in this country the attention and the resources that it needs,” Sanders said during a Saturday morning speech at a South Carolina church.

Charter schools have become an increasingly polarizing topic among liberal voters in recent years. Sanders’ proposal calls for a moratorium on public funding for the expansion of charter schools until the completion of a national audit on the impact of these schools. It calls for a ban on for-profit charter schools, which represent about 15 percent of all charter schools.



Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, released an education plan that focuses on school segregation and charter schools.

The plan says these schools drain money from the public school system while exacerbating racial segregation, citing the interests of “billionaires” like U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

DeVos and other billionaires, “have been using charter schools as a way to privatize the public education system,” Sanders said in the speech.

Sanders framed the issue, in part, in terms of harm done to communities of color. He cited the NAACP’s 2016 call for a moratorium on the expansion of these schools until there is further accountability and transparency. A subsequent NAACP report on the issue said that for some, charter schools “provide the answer to persistently failing traditional public schools in their community.” For others, “charter schools drain their community of limited resources and harm their children because many cannot attend the charter schools in their own neighborhood.”

So far, Sanders is the only 2020 presidential candidate to have called for a moratorium on charter schools.

“They are making the system more unequal and more unfair,” Sanders said Saturday. “Not all charter schools, but far too many charter schools in America are performing worse, much worse than public schools.”

Studies on charter school performance have shown variation across region and type of charter school. In places like Ohio, a recent study shows, students in charter schools have made similar progress in reading as their counterparts in regular public schools but slower progress in math. In places like New York City, on the other hand, black and Hispanic students who attend charter schools are experiencing significant learning benefits. 

Sanders’ plan says he would increase federal funding for desegregation efforts. He also proposes funding for transportation methods, like busing, that aid school integration efforts. For years, budget provisions have banned the use of federal funds for school desegregation transportation.

Not all charter schools, but far too many charter schools in America are performing worse, much worse than public schools.
Bernie Sanders

“More than two dozen of Donald Trump’s judicial nominees have refused to say that they would support the original Brown v. Board of Education decision,” said Sanders. “It really is incomprehensible.”

But his education plan also touches on other hot button issues, such as teacher pay. He says that, if elected, he would work with states to set a minimum starting salary of $60,000 and protect collective bargaining rights and teacher tenure.

Sanders’ plan has already drawn intense reactions from charter school supporters.

Amy Wilkins, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, points to national polls, conducted by pro-school-choice groups, that show black Democrats view charter schools far more favorably than white Democrats. A poll from Education Next found that in 2018, 29 percent of black Democrats opposed charter schools, compared with 50 percent of white Democrats, per Chalkbeat.

“Senator Sanders is literally saying I’m going to stand in the schoolhouse door and prevent kids from going [to charter schools], like a segregationist,” said Wilkins, whose great uncle Roy Wilkins previously ran the NAACP. He is trying to “prevent kids, many of whom are low-income, or of color, from having a choice.”

“It is the opposite of what the spirit of Brown is and was,” she added.

Wilkins also pushed back on the viability of some of Sanders’ specific proposals. Sanders’ plan says he would mandate that half of members on charter school boards be parents and teachers. Wilkins noted that traditional school boards don’t have such requirements, saying, “a lot of this is beyond the reach of the federal government.”

But Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, praised the plan and its criticism of charter schools.

“Ninety percent of parents in this country send their kids to public schools, and they want those public schools to be top priority,” the teachers union leader said in a statement.



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How An Elite Private School Is Dodging Blame For Sexual Assault Of A Student


LOS ANGELES — It was an open secret at Brentwood School, a $44,000-a-year private academy in Los Angeles with a roster of famous alumni, that science teacher Aimee Palmitessa flirted with male students.

She once posed with kids in her class wearing matching T-shirts that said “AP Chem 2014 has me … (Mg,Fe)₇Si₈O₂₂(OH)₂” — a reference to the symbols for the mineral cummingtonite. A former student recalled her making a suggestive joke next to the word “sex” on one of his tests. Another student talked to friends about having sex with her. That boy eventually transferred to another school — but Palmitessa continued teaching at the Brentwood high school.

In 2016, Palmitessa forged a relationship with a sophomore student in her honors chemistry class. She listened to him describe his shyness around girls. She defended him when he got in trouble for being at a party where students were filmed singing along to a rap song that included a racial slur. By the following year, she was welcoming visits from the student in her office almost every day.

Palmitessa sexually assaulted the boy, who was too young to legally consent, for the first time in June 2017. The student, referred to as John Doe in this story, was 17 years old and had never had sex before. They continued seeing each other secretly throughout the summer. Palmitessa instructed Doe to have rough sex with her. She assured him that they were a real couple. They had a fake “wedding” ceremony where they dressed up, exchanged vows and gave each other bracelets.

Doe’s parents found out about Palmitessa’s relationship with their son in August 2017 and contacted law enforcement. Doe began recording his phone and video calls with the teacher. In those conversations, she veered between saying that she loved him and that she hated him.

“I’m gonna bite you. I’m gonna draw blood,” Palmitessa told Doe in one conversation, court records would later show. “You’ll be crying like a fucking bitch, but I don’t care. I have no empathy. You deserve it. And you’re so fucking cute that you have to be punished for being so fucking cute.”

Palmitessa fretted about the start of a new school year, which would make it harder for them to see each other privately. She worried about girls giving him attention. She told him she didn’t want to go to jail, according to court records.

The teacher was arrested on Aug. 18, 2017, a week after Doe’s parents approached law enforcement. Prosecutors charged her with 12 felonies related to having sex with a minor.

His day-to-day existence continues to be dominated by scars inflicted by … sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of someone whose primary obligation as a teacher of children, as his teacher, was to ensure his safety.
John Doe’s parents in a victim impact statement

Although Palmitessa was placed on administrative leave, the school’s head, Michael Riera, urged parents in a series of emails to avoid speculating about what she did or talking to the media. Riera, who goes by “Dr. Mike,” emailed families a month after Palmitessa’s arrest to announce that the teacher had pleaded not guilty and was free on bail — a message that some parents interpreted as an effort to minimize the seriousness of the allegations. Riera sent a follow-up email the next day clarifying that it is “typical” for defendants to plead not guilty in the early stages of criminal cases.

In February 2018, Dr. Mike told parents that Julie Yanow, a workplace investigator hired by the school to review the Palmitessa case, had completed her investigation. Dr. Mike pledged to develop a better system for reporting misconduct, but admitted no wrongdoing on the part of the school. He did not discuss the statutory rape allegations against Palmitessa — he said only that she would not be returning to the school. Riera did not release the independent investigator’s report.

Some Brentwood School parents were dismayed by the school’s cautious response: School officials avoided directly condemning Palmitessa. They didn’t address how they had failed to protect Doe or how they would protect kids at the school from future predators. And several faculty members who had failed to report Palmitessa’s actions remained on the school’s payroll.

“They should have followed up with more information,” one parent whose children went to Brentwood told HuffPost. “You’re talking about a 45-year-old raping an underage kid. Here we are entrusting the school to take care of our kids and they’re not following up and telling us what they’re doing.”

Even though they were paying the school’s steep tuition fees, parents didn’t feel they could pressure school administrators into being more transparent. They feared making a fuss might cost their kid a spot at the prestigious school, several parents said in interviews.

So on Aug. 6, 2018, Doe sued Brentwood School in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The 33-page complaint documented Palmitessa’s history of suggestive behavior toward students, even before Doe ended up in her classroom. In the complaint, Doe accused faculty and administrators of ignoring warning signs and failing to protect him from sexual abuse. The lawsuit, which included explicit details about how Palmitessa allegedly groomed and assaulted Doe, made headlines.

Then the case seemed to disappear.

That’s because Brentwood School quietly went to work trying to kill the lawsuit. Tucked into the school’s enrollment agreement is a single paragraph about mandatory arbitration. According to the agreement, any “controversy or claim” related to the school must be dealt with in arbitration, a secretive process with no jury, little oversight and limited options for obtaining information from the other party or appealing decisions.

The mandatory arbitration clause in Brentwood School’s enrollment agreement.

If Doe’s case were allowed to move forward in civil court, his lawyers would have plenty of ways to get more information about how much the school knew about Palmitessa’s interactions with Doe and other students. They would have the right to request internal communications through discovery, the pretrial process of obtaining evidence, and to call witnesses to testify under oath. In civil court, Doe could be kept anonymous, but much of the information uncovered in the case would be made public. A jury would get to decide if he deserved compensation for his ordeal.

Instead, the elite private school has fought a nearly yearlong effort to eliminate Doe’s civil court case and deal with his allegations against Brentwood in a private arbitration process.

Some parents, even those who had carefully read the enrollment paperwork, expressed shock at the school’s legal approach.

“You shouldn’t have to negotiate, ‘Hey, if my kid gets raped, I want to be able to sue,’” another former Brentwood parent said. “Who in their right mind would think that if a school was negligent on child rape, that would be covered under an arbitration agreement?”

Aimee Palmitessa, a former teacher at Brentwood School, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse



Aimee Palmitessa, a former teacher at Brentwood School, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

Forced arbitration is pervasive in U.S. workplaces — an Economic Policy Institute study estimated last year that more than 55% of workers are subject to mandatory arbitration agreements. Proponents tout the process as a faster, cheaper and more private alternative to litigation in court.

Research has shown that the process favors the employer. In a study of 3,945 cases, Cornell University’s Alexander Colvin found that workers’ success rate in arbitration was lower than in court — and that when they did prevail in arbitration, they tended to receive less money than similar litigants who went to court. The data also indicated that a worker’s chances of winning decreased when their employer had appeared before the same arbitrator multiple times.

The secrecy of the process can help protect repeat abusers as well.

At Fox News, for example, mandatory arbitration agreements allowed Roger Ailes to keep his job as a powerful television executive, even as multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. After former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson overcame the company’s arbitration agreement and sued Ailes for harassment, more than two dozen women went public with similar allegations. The Fox News CEO was forced to resign, albeit decades after the alleged abuse began.

In response to the Me Too movement, several major corporations have backed away from enforcing arbitration agreements in cases involving sexual misconduct allegations. Microsoft eliminated mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims in December 2017; Uber, Lyft, Google, Facebook and three major law firms adjusted their policies the following year.

When it comes to arbitration agreements between private schools and their students, however, there is a dearth of information.

Private schools have almost no obligation to make their internal policies public and they are subject to limited oversight. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the California Association of Independent Schools, the two organizations that have accredited Brentwood School, did not respond to several requests for comment about their position on member schools making arbitration agreements a condition of enrollment. Several lawyers and arbitration experts contacted for this story told HuffPost they had never heard of schools using forced arbitration.

Mandatory arbitration clauses have become prevalent enough in private schools that Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, a law firm in California, created an entire webinar about how schools can create legally enforceable arbitration agreements. Max Sank, one of the lawyers who presented the webinar, was also one of the lawyers who represented Brentwood in its attempt to keep Doe’s case out of court. (A preview of the webinar was removed from the firm’s website after HuffPost attempted to purchase access to the $100 video. Sank did not respond to requests for comment.)

A law firm that has represented Brentwood School in the Doe case held a webinar on arbitration agreements in private schools.



A law firm that has represented Brentwood School in the Doe case held a webinar on arbitration agreements in private schools.

HuffPost asked 30 highly ranked private schools in the U.S. if their students are subject to arbitration agreements. None of the schools admitted to it. Six told HuffPost they don’t use arbitration agreements; the rest declined to comment or didn’t respond.

Brentwood School also wouldn’t say when or why it began requiring parents to sign arbitration agreements on behalf of their kids. A version of that agreement from several years ago stated that even the “existence” of an arbitration proceeding was confidential, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by HuffPost. Brentwood later amended the language to say any arbitration “will be conducted in a confidential manner throughout and after the proceedings.”

The school uses an arbitration organization called JAMS, which typically provides a list of at least five potential arbitrators and allows each party to strike two names. The arbitrator usually decides what kind of information the parties can request from the opposing side. Unlike in court, almost no information from these proceedings becomes public record, and most decisions are final.

Vaguely worded arbitration clauses can allow schools to shield themselves from scrutiny in matters of sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying and discrimination. Several small private Christian schools use these agreements to preempt potential lawsuits over their discriminatory policies against LGBTQ students.

But most parents, when they sign school enrollment agreements, aren’t thinking that they’re giving up their right to sue in cases of abuse.

“Did they really contemplate, ‘If my school harms my kid, I’m stuck in some bogus arbitration hearing?’” said David Ring, a lawyer who has represented several victims in sex abuse cases. “They’re thinking, ‘OK, if there’s a dispute over tuition or my kid drops out and I don’t get all my money back.’”

Brentwood officials emphasized the value of privacy in arbitration. The school attracts high-profile parents who may not want their families’ personal lives to play out in the public view.

“Arbitration is an appropriate way to address student claims, particularly when they involve significant privacy issues,” Riera, the head of the school, said in a statement. He added, “Nothing in the arbitration agreement prevents a student from raising any causes of action, or seeking any remedies, that would be available in civil litigation.” (Riera declined multiple requests for an interview through a spokeswoman.)

Asked through the spokeswoman whether the victim should be allowed to choose how best to protect their privacy, Riera did not respond.

“Any dispute I had with my children, I would want to remain private and not in the public court system,” Erika Aronson Stern, a member of Brentwood School’s board of trustees, told HuffPost. “I look at it as a mechanism to protect the student and I don’t know why any parent would have a problem with it unless their motivation was to have some sort of public spectacle,” Stern continued, noting that she was not referring specifically to the Palmitessa case.

Using arbitration agreements in schools can be particularly problematic because the victims are typically minors whom the school is responsible for protecting ― and who end up restricted by agreements their parents or guardians signed on their behalf.

Doe and his parents declined to comment for this story. The other boy who, according to Doe’s complaint, talked to friends about having sex with Palmitessa could not be reached for comment.

Attempting to force child abuse victims and many other aggrieved parties into arbitration would have once been inconceivable. But a series of Supreme Court decisions dating back to the 1990s — including several 5-4 rulings handed down by the court’s conservative majority — prompted an explosion in the number of people bound by contracts that restricted their access to the courts. The use of mandatory arbitration agreements grew by more than 600% between 1994 and 2017, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The lower courts are still working out the details of the broader embrace of arbitration. In 2015, for example, a Los Angeles daycare facility tried to enforce an arbitration clause after parents accused two employees of sticking pushpins into toddlers’ legs when the children failed to follow instructions. An appellate court sided with the toddlers and their parents: Even if the facility had a valid arbitration provision, it did “not contemplate an agreement to arbitrate claims arising from physical abuse of the children,” the panel of judges wrote.

Ring, who represented the families in that case, said he has seen an increasing number of schools include arbitration clauses in their enrollment paperwork. “What do they have to lose?” he said. “If a judge says no, they’re right back where they would be.”

You shouldn’t have to negotiate, ‘Hey, if my kid gets raped, I want to be able to sue.’
Former Brentwood School parent

Employees at Brentwood School should have known that Palmitessa was a problem and done something to protect students, Doe alleged in his complaint.

Before Palmitessa sexually assaulted Doe, the boy said he went to guidance counselor Robert Jost for help. Doe told Jost that he was in love with an older woman whom he saw every day. Jost asked if the woman worked at the school and Doe admitted that she did. The guidance counselor, the court filing alleged, responded by telling Doe about Emmanuel Macron, the president of France who met his wife when he was a teenager and she was his teacher.

Other school employees also allegedly failed to do much of anything. Palmitessa’s three officemates and her boss “witnessed the evolution of the relationship,” including Doe’s frequent visits to the office, according to the complaint.

Both Jost and one of Palmitessa’s officemates, Dawn Roje, did warn Palmitessa to stay away from Doe, but neither reported the matter to school management or state authorities, the complaint alleged. California law requires school employees, administrators and athletic coaches to report known or suspected instances of child abuse to authorities. As of Friday, Jost and Roje were still listed on Brentwood’s website as employees. They did not respond to requests for comment. Brentwood School disputed the allegations against its employees in court filings.

The school’s failure to stop Palmitessa caused Doe lasting emotional and physical damage, he alleged in the 2018 complaint. Even after her arrest, Doe continued to wear his “wedding” bracelet. He asked his parents to pay tuition for Palmitessa’s daughter. A psychiatrist placed him on 24-hour suicide watch. Palmitessa also allegedly failed to warn Doe until after they had unprotected sex that she had herpes, a treatable but incurable sexually transmitted disease.

The school “asks this Court to be the first in California — and the first in the country as our research shows — to hold that civil litigation arising out of the statutory rape of a student may be compelled into arbitration,” Doe’s lawyers wrote in an October 2018 court filing. “The Court should decline this invitation.”

Last November, a judge sided with Brentwood School. Records show Doe has appealed all the way up to the California Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether to review his case.

Joseph Koetters, a former teacher at Marlborough School, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two students.



Joseph Koetters, a former teacher at Marlborough School, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two students.

Four years ago, another prestigious private school in Los Angeles was sued by a former student who had been sexually abused by teacher Joseph Koetters, became pregnant and eventually miscarried. Marlborough School, an all-girls institution 11 miles from Brentwood, had ignored misconduct allegations against Koetters and even helped him land a job at a different school, according to the 2015 civil complaint.

Chelsea Burkett, now 34, accused Koetters of having abused her in the early 2000s. She came forward after media reports began to reveal the teacher’s wrongdoing. The case was agonizing for Burkett, who chose to make her identity public after first filing the case anonymously. Marlborough’s lawyers argued in a court filing that by not coming forward earlier, she had “consciously exposed other girls to the risk of abuse.” The victim-blaming gambit played out in public and Marlborough retracted the filing and apologized a week later. Burkett, who was represented by Ring, and the school reached a confidential settlement in 2017.

Koetters also pleaded guilty to criminal charges of sexually abusing Burkett and another student. He served six months in jail.

Marlborough currently has a mandatory arbitration provision in its enrollment agreement — but communications director Carly Rodriguez said she didn’t know if that was the case when Burkett was a student.

Burkett told HuffPost that taking her case to arbitration would have been “directly antithetical” to her goal of holding Marlborough accountable. When the abuse scandal broke, it became clear that “there was going to be no notion of uncovering the truth or communicating it out to the broader community and public” from the school, Burkett said. “And while civil litigation isn’t a perfect remedy for that, it’s far more transparent than an arbitration process.” The litigation allowed Burkett and her lawyer to obtain information about Koetters’ misconduct at another school before he arrived at Marlborough.

Suing an institution can also be a way to push reform. “It certainly gets their attention and forces them to sit with consequences of the rules they’ve had in place, the people they hired,” Burkett said. “Even if they change because they don’t want to get sued again, that’s still a win. Ideally, they change because they want to keep kids safe.”

In March of this year, Marlborough invited Burkett and another former student who wrote about being pursued by Koetters to speak to current students and accept a “Courage Award.” The school did not impose any restrictions on what the two women could say. Burkett saw this as a positive sign.

Did they really contemplate, ‘If my school harms my kid, I’m stuck in some bogus arbitration hearing?’
David Ring, a lawyer who represents sex abuse victims

As court rulings continue to expand the reach of forced arbitration agreements, lawmakers are increasingly looking at ways to rein them in. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that limited the use of mandatory arbitration under federal contracts valued at more than $1 million. That same year, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a law that restricts the use of forced arbitration in civil rights and hate crimes cases. (Brown later vetoed a bill that would have outlawed mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act.)

Earlier this year, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), backed by over 30 co-sponsors, introduced a bill that would amend federal law to eliminate forced arbitration clauses as applied to employment, consumer and civil rights cases.

The bill doesn’t have any Republican co-sponsors yet, although there are signs of some Republican interest in arbitration reform. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, backed a 2017 measure that would have ended forced arbitration in cases involving sex discrimination and harassment. In April of this year, Graham convened a hearing on mandatory arbitration, which included testimony from a U.S. Navy reservist and a restaurant owner who fought the enforceability of certain arbitration agreements. Graham, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the Blumenthal bill.

But it’s unlikely that significant arbitration reform will become law under President Donald Trump, who unsuccessfully tried to force Stormy Daniels into arbitration when the porn star, who had received $130,000 from his lawyer to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump, sued to get out of a nondisclosure agreement. The president has also pursued arbitration against campaign staffers, including a woman who filed a workplace discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the Trump campaign.



Palmitessa pleaded no contest in April to three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and was sentenced to three years in prison. After she was sentenced, Dr. Mike sent Brentwood parents another email.

“We sympathize with the student and family for the pain and distress Dr. Palmitessa caused and hope that the conclusion of these criminal proceedings will be some measure of relief,” he wrote. Dr. Mike didn’t mention that Brentwood School is still fighting to keep the victim out of civil court.

At the sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorney Adrian Roxas of Los Angeles County read victim impact statements prepared by Doe and his parents. It was the first time that the young man and his parents, all of whom are bound by the arbitration agreement’s confidentiality requirements, disclosed publicly what they had been through.

“Our son has been permanently changed, damaged and scarred by this series of assaults,” Doe’s parents wrote in their statement. “Almost two years later, it seems our son has permanently lost the ability to make friends, has lost the ability to date, to socialize and to trust. Beyond the anxiety and risk of self-harm, his day-to-day existence continues to be dominated by scars inflicted by violent and dark psychological torture and sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of someone whose primary obligation as a teacher of children, as his teacher, was to ensure his safety,” they wrote.

Doe’s parents also hinted at the school’s efforts to evade responsibility. “Among the many ugly truths that we have learned on this journey is that many would prefer this type of issue never see the light of day. Apparently, Brentwood School believes in hiding this kind of conduct rather than flushing it out of the community,” they wrote.

Doe, who is now in college, wrote about his trust issues and his inability to emotionally connect with people. He told of enduring “ridicule, anxiety, confusion, depression, misery and more sleepless nights than I can count.” Nobody from Brentwood School ever reached out to him to apologize or accept responsibility, Doe said.

And nobody, he added, ever told him that they had taken steps to ensure that this never happens to another student again.



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Tax Credits, Free College And Other Proposals That Could Affect Your Wallet Next Year



It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing another presidential election. As the 2020 hopefuls vie for a nomination, they’re bringing their biggest and boldest ideas to the table, especially when it comes to the financial lives of Americans. Our current president has a few thoughts, too.

Here are seven proposals kicking around Congress that, if passed, could impact your bottom line in the near future.

Proposal: Cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced earlier this month during a live-streamed press conference that they have a plan to cap interest rates on credit cards and consumer loans. They’re calling the new piece of legislation the “Loan Shark Prevention Act,” which, if passed, would cap interest rates at 15 percent.

The average credit card interest rate is the highest ever at 17.73 percent, though the highest rates top 30 percent. In fact, there is currently no federal limit on how high credit card interest rates can go. The average U.S. household with credit card debt carries approximately $6,929 in balances month to month, according to an analysis by NerdWallet. About 1 in 11 Americans who have credit card debt say they don’t think they will ever be completely free of it.

Proposal: Forgive almost all student loan debt.

Considering that total student loan debt held by Americans now tops $1.5 trillion, college debt has taken center stage as a major issue our country needs to solve.

Several Democratic hopefuls have proposed solutions to rising student loan debt. Sanders has long been a proponent of making public colleges tuition-free so that students don’t have to take on loans in the first place. He’s also proposed forgiving existing debt, as has Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with a recently announced plan to eliminate $50,000 in student loan debt for anyone with a household income below $100,000, as well as provide relief to households with incomes between $100,000 and $250,000.

Proposal: Encourage more retirement savings.

A key House committee recently passed a bill that includes the most comprehensive changes to private retirement plans in more than 10 years. The Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement Act ― or Secure Act ― includes provisions that encourage small businesses to provide retirement benefits to employees, creates a new $500 tax credit for businesses that set up plans with auto-enrollment and makes retirement benefits available to some part-time workers, among other benefits.

Various elements of the bill have been debated for years, and now it’s finally come together with wide bipartisan support. Unlike other proposals in Congress, the Secure Act is expected to pass into law.

Proposal: Make rent more affordable.

As rents continue to rise, Americans shoulder the financial strain of trying to keep up. In 2015, 38 percent of all renter households spent more than one-third of their incomes on rent. That’s why both Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have introduced bills to make rent more affordable.

Booker’s Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act would provide tax credits to those who spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent, as well as change zoning policies to increase the availability of affordable housing and reduce housing discrimination. Similarly, Harris’ Rent Relief Act aims to provide a refundable tax credit to those who earn less than $100,000 a year and spend at least 30 percent of their income on rent, including utilities.

Proposal: Move closer to universal basic income.

In addition to trying to help renters, Booker and Harris are also pushing bills that would provide a financial safety net to all Americans. Though they don’t quite call for universal basic income, their proposals certainly lean in that direction.

Harris recently proposed the LIFT the Middle Class Act, which would provide families with a tax credit of up to $500 a month (or up to $6,000 per year) to help them keep up with the rising cost of living.

Booker has embraced the idea of issuing “baby bonds” as a way to close the racial wealth gap. His plan would issue a $1,000 savings account to all newborns, as well as up to $2,000 per year for children in low-income households. The goal is that by the time those children reach age 18, when the funds are released, their savings will have grown into a sizable nest egg.

Proposal: Loosen payday loan requirements.

While the 2020 hopefuls have been focused on introducing new legislation, the current administration is working to reverse some existing laws. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ― an organization established in the wake of the Great Recession to serve as a consumer watchdog ― might soon roll back some Obama-era rules surrounding payday lenders.

The Trump administration, which happens to have a rather cozy relationship with the payday lending industry, recently appointed a new CFPB chief who said the current underwriting standards make it difficult for consumers to access credit. As a solution, she plans to undo the requirement that lenders must first determine whether a borrower has the means to pay back their loan before approving them for one.

The fees that come with payday loans equate to APRs as high as 300 percent, and consumers who borrow these loans often become trapped in cycles of debt. That’s why they’re considered to be predatory financial products by opponents such as Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending, which have formed a coalition to block the changes from taking place.

Proposal: Kill the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness was established in 2007 as a means for student loan borrowers to have their debt forgiven after making 120 payments while working for a qualifying employer in the public service sector. However, Trump’s 2020 budget proposal aims to defund the program, which he says is too costly, as well as to cut funding for Pell Grants and other federal aid.

The program was established nearly 12 years ago, which means the first rounds of borrowers who made all 120 qualifying payments can finally request to have their debt forgiven. The problem is the program offers no way to officially enroll or confirm eligibility throughout those 10 (or more) years. Instead, borrowers must apply for forgiveness once they’ve made all 120 payments to find out if they qualify to actually receive forgiveness.

So far, less than 1 percent of PSLF applications have been approved. Whether or not Trump ends up cutting PSLF, borrowers should know there may be other ways to get their debt canceled.



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School District Dismisses Concerns Shooter Drill Perpetuated Muslim Stereotypes


A Pennsylvania school district is facing backlash after community members discovered a man wearing a Middle Eastern-style headdress had played the role of a gunman during an active shooter training drill. 

The actor in the training video, an unidentified Penn-Trafford School District teacher, is depicted with a purple and black checkered scarf tied around his head. The scarf resembles a kaffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by men in some Middle Eastern countries.

Penn-Trafford School District, located in Pittsburgh’s suburbs, said in a statement Wednesday that the teacher’s outfit was not intended to represent any particular culture or religion. In addition to the checkered scarf, the teacher playing the shooter also wore a long blond wig and a paintball mask over his face. 



A Penn-Trafford School District teacher is seen wearing a checkered purple and black scarf around his head in a video of an active shooter training drill.

Still, some current and former students of the school, along with several advocacy groups, are expressing concern about the choice to include the checkered scarf in the drill. 

“You could have used anyone. You didn’t have to dress him up,” Trinity Garbacz, a junior at Penn Trafford High School, told CBS affiliate KDKA.

Ahmad Abuznaid, director of the Michigan-based National Network for Arab American Communities, told HuffPost he believes the use of the kaffiyeh in the school’s training drill is “deeply problematic.”

Since only about 20% of the world’s Muslims live in the Middle East-North Africa region, the kaffiyeh is more of a regional, cultural tradition than something that is intrinsic to Islam as a religion. But that hasn’t prevented it from being misused and misrepresented in the West, Abuznaid said.

“Western media has overwhelmingly portrayed an image of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, many times wearing Islamic garb or keffiyehs,” he said via email. “Stereotypes of our community have proven to be very harmful both domestically and abroad.”

The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh said it was “appalled and saddened” by the video.

“The action of Penn-Trafford puts our community of over 10,000 Muslims in the greater Pittsburgh area in great harm,” board secretary Elaine Linn told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The district’s training video was created in January as part of a drill meant to help teachers prepare for shootings on school grounds. Two teachers with experience handling firearms volunteered to act as shooters. The simulation was conducted with the help of local police departments and an active shooter drill consultant, the district said. 

It was the consultant who provided the teachers with costumes and accessories to help alter their appearance so they wouldn’t be recognized by their co-workers during the drill, the district said.

The consultant, John Sakoian of the security training company Command Excellence, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his company gave the teachers a bag of props to help disguise themselves. The scarf included in the bag was meant to be used as a “neck scarf,” not as a headdress, Sakoian said. 

“He completely, innocently converted it to that,” Sakoian said of the teacher.

“The drills are not meant to identify any race or religion or group or creed of people,” he added. 

The&nbsp;Penn-Trafford School District provided this photo as a proof that the district "did not intend to represent any part



The Penn-Trafford School District provided this photo as a proof that the district “did not intend to represent any particular culture or religion as the shooters.”

Students in the district’s audiovisual department created a video of the drill that the district said would be used in future staff trainings. The district said the video was intended to be viewed only by school staff. However, the audiovisual department students, whom the district said were “proud of their work,” posted the video they created to their YouTube channel. 

Screen grabs of that video were then posted to social media, causing some community members to question the district’s choices. The school responded by saying that the screen captures didn’t tell the whole story.

“There was no intent by the District, police department or consultant as part of the training to provide an identity to the volunteers as anything other than an active shooter,” the district wrote in its press release.

One alumna of the school district, Alicia McElhaney, noted that the district’s statement on Wednesday did not contain an apology for the incident.

“Honestly, still not a good look,” she tweeted.

Abuznaid called the school’s response “insufficient.”

“I would expect for them to consider the implicit bias that helped fuel the decision to wear the keffiyeh if there was in fact no intent to represent any culture or religion,” he said. “Diversity trainings are clearly not cutting it.”

Jacob Bender, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Philadelphia chapter, pointed out that even though the district claims the video was intended only for staff members, it was still seen by students. Bender believes the scarf the teacher used “clearly” looked like a kaffiyeh.

“It’s irresponsible on the part of the school district to allow bigoted and prejudicial attitudes to be perpetuated within the school system,” Bender said. “There should be no excuse for any acts of bigotry.” 

“When we see it, we need to condemn it, no matter where it is coming from,” he added. 





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They Helped Lead Kentucky’s Teacher Protests. Now They’re Running For Office.



A year after a record number of Kentucky teachers ran for state Legislature and mass protests shut down schools across the state, two educators are setting their sights on more powerful statewide offices.

Jacqueline Coleman, a high school assistant principal, and Kelsey Hayes Coots, a middle school teacher, both participated in last spring’s protests, during which Kentucky teachers swarmed the state Capitol to demonstrate against years of school budget cuts and proposed changes to their pension plans.

Neither has held office, but now both will appear on the ballot in Tuesday’s Democratic primary ― Coleman as the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s current attorney general, and Hayes Coots as a candidate for state auditor.

Kentucky was one of several states that experienced widespread teacher protests last spring. Offshoots of those demonstrations have continued into 2019, a statewide election year in which Gov. Matt Bevin (R) ― one of the chief targets of teachers’ ire ― is seeking reelection.

The presence of two teachers on the ballot, even in a little-watched off-year election, will test the ongoing strength of the “Red for Ed” movement that grew out of last year’s protests, especially as teachers’ unions and public education advocates fight to reverse decades of budget cuts that have strangled school systems nationwide.

It could also make education a major issue in Democrats’ efforts to unseat an unpopular Republican governor. Critics have painted Bevin as one of the nation’s most ardent opponents of public education and teachers’ efforts to stave off even more cuts.

“There is a war on public education in Kentucky, and it’s going to take educators rising up [to stop it],” Coleman told HuffPost this week. “And if our government won’t listen to us, invite us in and give us a seat at the table. We’ve just decided that we’re going to run and we’re going to become that government.”

Both Coleman and Hayes Coots cited the 2018 protests as their inspiration for seeking office this year.

Hayes Coots, who teaches middle school in Louisville, helped organize the demonstrations as part of a grassroots organization that originated on Facebook and helped persuade teachers to shut down schools in April 2018. For days, those teachers swarmed the state Capitol in Frankfort to protest further rounds of public education budget cuts and reforms to the public pension system.

The ordeal, in which the GOP-led Legislature attached pension reforms to a piece of legislation dealing with public sewage system regulations, gave Hayes Coots “a front-row seat into the broken inner workings of the Legislature,” she told HuffPost.

“Our leaders are working to gut public education, trample workers’ rights, roll back our gains in health care, and are doing everything they can to institute a two-tiered, 48th-in-everything, win-at-all-costs, every-man-for-himself version of Kentucky,” Hayes Coots said. “And I reject that.”

Coleman, meanwhile, ran for office in 2014, four years before joining the protests in Frankfort last April. The daughter of a former state legislator, she ultimately fell short in her own bid to win a state legislative race, returning to school and her job coaching girls’ basketball. She had no plans to pursue another office until Beshear ― who as the attorney general successfully sued to block the pension reform law ― tapped her to run for lieutenant governor. It was an opportunity, she said, to ensure that public education played a major role in the governor’s race.

I think that we are learning how to channel that frustration.
Jacqueline Coleman

“Fully funding public education has become kind of like a buzzword, but it has real meaning and there are real kids behind that issue,” Coleman said. “And I’ve seen exactly how it affects a school, and a classroom. And I don’t know that the greater population truly understands how detrimental budget cuts are to public education year after year after year.”

The Beshear-Coleman ticket is currently locked in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination against former state auditor Adam Edelen and state Rep. Rocky Adkins. Tuesday’s winner will likely face Bevin, who will enter the general election as one of the most unpopular governors in the country, according to public polls. Bevin’s approval ratings ― which are low even among Republicans ― cratered after the teacher protests a year ago, especially after he insinuated that teachers’ choice to close schools would result in instances of child abuse across Kentucky.

He later apologized, but when smaller groups of teachers closed schools again this year, Bevin’s administration took an even more aggressive response, demanding that school districts turn over the names of teachers who had used sick days to return to Frankfort to protest another round of proposed pension changes.

Bevin is not solely responsible for Kentucky’s pension crisis or its crunched education budgets, which have undergone repeated rounds of spending cuts over the last two decades. But his aggressive stance toward teachers and his pursuit of an arch-conservative agenda, which has included signing legislation legalizing charter schools in Kentucky, has bolstered teachers’ opposition to him. And Democrats hope it has made public education a major issue in the state.

“I think that we are learning how to channel that frustration,” Coleman said. “It’s one thing to go to Frankfort every year to rally. But I think we all realize now, ‘If I don’t want to keep doing this every year, then I probably should make sure that I’m voting for the best pro-public education candidates.’ The way that we can really make a difference as a voting bloc is obviously on Election Day.”

Hayes Coots, meanwhile, is also facing a crowded primary race in which public education and the state’s pension crisis are major issues. Both have factored into her campaign; as auditor, Hayes Coots said she would focus on bringing more transparency to a state government that a Harvard study recently ranked as one of the nation’s most corrupt.

“In a revenue-strapped state, we can’t afford to lose even a single dollar to fraud or corruption,” Hayes Coots said. “One dollar that is wasted to inefficiency or abuse is one dollar that doesn’t go to the 125 kids that sit in my classroom daily and kids that are like them across the commonwealth.”

Though neither has held office, both said their experience as educators has put them on the front lines of Kentucky’s most pressing problems.

“Every challenge we face in this commonwealth, teachers face in their classrooms,” Coleman said. “We cannot talk about any solution to any of the challenges that we face if we don’t first talk about public education, because it’s the genesis of every solution.”

The energy teacher protests generated in 2018 didn’t necessarily translate to the ballot box: Of the record 51 teachers who ran for office last year, 37 lost. But the 14 winners included a teacher who, running as a Republican, knocked off one of the highest-ranking lawmakers in the state House. And on Tuesday, Hayes Coots and Coleman could earn the chance to win even bigger seats.

“Public educators need to be at the table to protect public education,” Hayes Coots said. “I’m proud to prove that educators can move to the public square, gain broad support and run competitive and professional campaigns. If elected, I’ll show that we can win too.”



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Teacher Planted Live Ammo At School To Protest Lack Of Metal Detectors, Police Say



A high school biology teacher in Massachusetts is facing charges after police say he planted live ammo in a school stairwell to prove the school needed metal detectors.

On Thursday, 57-year-old Alfred Purcell III told fellow staffers at Southbridge High School that he had just found one live round of 9 mm ammunition in the rear stairwell, according to local station WCVB.

The school was then placed on lockdown. During that time, police and school staffers reviewed video footage from the stairwell that showed Purcell removing the ammo from his pocket, dropping it on the floor and quickly leaving the area, police told the station.

Video taken 10 minutes later shows Purcell taking a picture of the ammo and then using a school-issued portable radio to contact school administration and the school resource officer.

Purcell then returned to his class for the rest of a lockdown, which lasted about an hour, according to CBS Boston.

“There was no kids that were injured, nobody was seriously impacted by this other than we went into a lockdown for an hour and we had to investigate a teacher who was doing things he shouldn’t be doing,” said Southbridge Police Chief Shane Woodson, according to CBS Boston.

Purcell was arrested and charged with two counts of carrying a dangerous weapon on school grounds, two counts of possessing a firearm without an FID card, disturbing a public assembly, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

Officers later found 102 live rounds of 20-gauge shotgun ammunition in the trunk of Purcell’s car, Woodson said, according to the Boston Globe

Police said Purcell admitted he was concerned about school safety and felt more metal detectors were needed.

Purcell pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, and was ordered held on $500 bail, the Boston Globe reported. He also must stay 500 yards away from the school.

Purcell’s lawyer, Leah J. Metro, said her client denied any involvement with the bullet that was found.  

Southbridge School Superintendent-Receiver Jeffrey Villar said he takes the allegations very seriously.

“To have someone who I’ve hired to ensure a safe environment for our children to do something like this is abhorrent and absolutely shocking,” Villar said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Purcell had been hired in August and passed a background check. However, Villar said classroom management was “an issue” and the district had already decided not to renew Purcell’s contract before Thursday’s incident.



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Kamala Harris Reflects On Brown v. Board Impact For Ruling’s Anniversary



Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Friday marked the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which paved the way for the desegregation of public schools, by referencing the ruling’s impact on her own life.

“I likely wouldn’t be a U.S. Senator,” she tweeted, recalling that she was an elementary school student shortly after officials began integrating her school district in Berkeley, California. 

Her office said last year that Harris, whose parents were immigrants from Jamaica and India, began attending Berkeley’s Thousand Oaks Elementary School in 1969, one year after the Berkeley Unified School District first began to fully integrate its schools.

“I only learned later that we were part of a national experiment in desegregation with working-class black children from the flatlands being bused in one direction and wealthier white children from the Berkeley hills bused in the other,” Harris wrote in her recent memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.”

The landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision ruled that the racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. But the decision took many years to go into effect, as many schools across the country continued to resist desegregation, and lawmakers and school officials had heated debates over its implementation.

According to academic studies at the time, officials in Berkeley began to fully integrate the school system in 1968. The city was the first to adopt the controversial practice of busing students to implement desegregation, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

Harris was bused to her school from where she lived, according to local outlet Berkeleyside. Her neighborhood was part of an area affected by redlining, the practice of delineating neighborhoods with predominantly poor and minority residents and discouraging banks from serving them — effectively segregating them from more affluent white neighborhoods. 

The effects of these mechanisms of de facto segregation remain today, including in public schools.





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Grateful Parkland Students Honor Therapy Dogs With Yearbook Page



Students in Parkland, Florida, created a yearbook page of furry portraits to honor the 14 therapy and service dogs that helped them get through the aftermath of last year’s horrific mass shooting. 

The eclectic mix of dogs highlighted in the Aerie yearbook for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School included Gail Policella, Sophie Levy, Annie Sultenfuss, River Haneski and Grace Goodwill, also known as “therapydogprincess.” Schooner Davis wore a dapper bow(wow) tie for picture day.

The yearbook crew quipped on Twitter that Chief McAlpin — a yellow lab — “loves his yearbook,” and encouraged students to seek him out so they could sign it.

Therapy dogs were initially brought to the school to help teens cope with the overwhelming trauma after a gunman fatally shot 17 people on campus on Feb. 14 last year. The suspected shooter, a former student, has confessed to the attack on video and could face the death penalty.

The first official therapy dog at the school was a Bernese mountain mix named River. School library media specialist Diana Haneski, who helped shelter 50 students during the attack, adopted River and introduced him at a “Yappy Hour” last summer.

Doggy portrait day was last October, and the dogs were apparently instructed to place their paws on an image of human footprints.

People responding to a Sun Sentinel tweet about the dogs were touched — but also saddened that they were even needed in the first place as the number of shootings in U.S. schools continues to climb.





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How one union is working for paid parental leave


Audience members at United Faculty of Florida meetings don’t often coo with appreciation. But a recent UFF-University of Florida (UFF-UF) bargaining session was more satisfying than Bubble Guppies for the many babies (literally) in attendance.

With UFF-UF’s contract expiring this year, faculty union leaders are determined to replace UF’s 1950s-style parental leave policies with provisions that will promote gender equity among UF employees and support healthy families. Their efforts at the bargaining table would make UF a better place to work and a healthier place for children and families—and also bring the state’s flagship university, currently ranked 8th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, into line with other Florida universities and other top-10 public universities.

“I have felt very supported, in all ways, in my experiences here at UF. The one thing, and I knew this coming in, is that the parental leave policy is just not good here,” says Lisa Scott, a UFF-UF leader who co-presented on parental leave during the recent bargaining session.

Scott, who came to Gainesville from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2015 during a UF campaign to hire new faculty at the top of their fields, is an associate professor of psychology who focuses on infant learning and brain development. With earned authority, she says, “There is a huge discrepancy between the policy here and what we had received at UMass. This is my area of research and I can tell you that [UF’s policy] is detrimental to women and children.”

Union leaders also are encouraging more availability of childcare on campus through the expansion of existing programs.

What does a 21st century policy look like?

Under the terms of UFF-UF’s current employee contract, new parents don’t get paid parental leave. Instead, they can use up to six weeks of accrued sick or vacation time, and then “borrow” any additional weeks against future years of employment.

To stay home for an additional 12 weeks—to recover from childbirth or bond with an adopted child—requires 480 hours, or an additional six years of work without any sick days or vacations. Two children add up to 12 years of indenture.

“That’s six years of you not getting sick, not getting cancer, not having an accident,” says Scott. “There was one women who was in a really serious accident and she ended up teaching online from her hospital room because she didn’t have any remaining sick time!”

Making matters worse, the policy is inconsistently applied across the university, says Hélène Huet, a European studies librarian who co-presented with Scott. Faculty can negotiate with department chairs for better deals. Some get them, some don’t. “I work in the libraries and my department is mostly women. From what my colleagues who are pregnant, or have been, say, our department is very supportive. Others less so,” says Huet.

By comparison, UF’s peer institutions have clear, more expansive policies that invest in their faculty and families. The University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill allows new parents on 9-month academic appointments to take a full semester of paid leave, while the University of Michigan offers six weeks of paid maternity leave, plus six weeks of paid parental leave for all new parents. In September, the University of Virginia improved its policy from three weeks to eight weeks of paid parental leave.

Meanwhile, three years ago, University of Central Florida union leaders negotiated for a full semester of paid leave for mothers and fathers, including same-sex parents. That’s also what Florida State University and the University of South Florida faculty get, UFF-UF leaders found.

Across the nation, the average duration of parental provided by university employers is 14.2 weeks for women and 11.6 weeks for men, according to a research database maintained by some University of Colorado-Boulder faculty.

If university administrators want to break into the top-five ranked U.S. public universities—and they have announced a campaign called “rise to five”—then they need to improve their policy, UFF-UF leaders say. “In my view, I do think the administration knows this is important. I do think they want to make a change,” says Scott.

“They’re smart people,” she says.

There are other reasons…              

Universities are already tough places for women to work. They get paid less—and the gap is bigger at doctoral-granting public universities than any other kind of public institution. On average, according to data published last year in the NEA Advocate, women faculty at doctoral-granting public universities, like the University of Florida, earn 81 percent of what their male colleagues earn.

Additionally, while women hold 49 percent of all faculty jobs, they only hold 38 percent of tenured jobs, according to a 2016 TIAA Institute study. That means they’re more likely to earn less in contingent or adjunct positions, where they have no job security, no voice, and little access to health and retirement benefits.

UF isn’t an exception to these employment practices, UFF-UF leaders found. Just 10 percent of “distinguished professors” are women; 24 percent of full professors; 35 percent of associate professors; and 41 percent of assistant professors. Meanwhile, women are over-represented in non-tenured, non-tenure-track roles.

“[UF’s parental leave policy” is just another policy that hurts women more than it hurts men,” says Scott. “It’s just another thing that adds to the difficulty that women have navigating the academic system and tenure ladder.”

Putting aside the risk to their careers, a poor parental leave policy also can damage new parent’s health—and the well-being of their children. Postpartum depression is less prevalent among mothers with paid leave, researchers have found. Also, studies show that paid leave is strongly associated with reduced infant mortality rates, says Scott. In fact, researchers estimate that providing 12 weeks of paid leave to all American mothers would results in nearly 600 fewer infant deaths per year.

“There is data showing that parents just knowing they have parental leave reduces negative outcomes for infants. Not being constantly worried about how you’re going to make ends meet, how you’re going to have to spend time with your baby—those things matter,” says Scott. “In the first six months of life, babies learn almost entirely from their interactions in the home. High-quality care has to be in the home—and outside the home. I would really love to have a flexible policy that allows families to decide what would be the best use of their time in the first year.”



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A Sexual Assault Survivor At Princeton Tried To Protest. Instead, She Was Fined $2,700.


Princeton University recently ordered a sexual assault survivor to pay nearly $3,000 in restitution to the university after she wrote “Princeton Protects Rapists” around campus. 

The undergraduate, whom HuffPost is not identifying because she is a victim of sexual assault, said she was raped by a fellow classmate in 2016 during her freshman year on campus. She reported the incident to the school’s Title IX office last year and began the arduous task of seeking justice. Princeton, however, concluded in December that the accused student did not violate the school’s sexual misconduct policy. The young woman lost her appeal of that verdict a month later.

“It devastated her, it destroyed her, it changed her,” William Keiser, a Princeton student and friend of the survivor, told HuffPost.

It was at that point that the young woman decided to take matters into her own hands. Armed with a Sharpie marker, she wrote the phrase “Princeton Protects Rapists” and “Title IX Protects Rapists” on several different walkways around campus. The lettering was around the size of a standard sheet of printer paper.

The university ordered the student to perform 50 hours of community service and pay the school $2,722.58 for the cost of cleaning up her graffiti and replacing parts of the walkway, telling her to make the check out to “Trustees of Princeton University.” Princeton also put her on four years of disciplinary probation even though she is on track to graduate before then. 



Photos of some of the graffiti that cost the student survivor over $2,700.

A source with direct knowledge of the case, who asked not to be identified out of fear that the university might retaliate, told HuffPost they were surprised by the school’s ruling on the vandalism. The source said a Princeton administrator who was not involved in the sanction told them the typical penalty for violating the school’s property damage policy, in a case like this, is six months to a year of probation. The university told HuffPost that property damage has resulted in suspensions in the past.

Princeton University spokesman Ben Chang declined to comment on any specifics of the student’s case during a Wednesday phone call but said the school “absolutely” supports students’ rights to peacefully protest. 

“The university takes seriously its mission to support the free expression of all views, and we absolutely support and defend the right of students to participate in peaceful protest activities,” Chang said.

“Let’s be clear: Students are not disciplined for participating in peaceful protests or speech ― students are subject to discipline if they deface and damage university property,” he continued. “The range of penalties imposed by the university in vandalism cases may include suspension or probation, campus service, and required restitution, with the amount tied directly to the cost of repairing the damage to university property.”

Chang declined to say whether Princeton had considered the effects of fining a sexual assault survivor so much money. 

HuffPost’s source accused Princeton’s administration and Title IX office of demonstrating a “deep lack of humanity,” and several protesters told HuffPost they felt like the university administration had refused to take any agency in enforcing its Title IX policies.

Student organizers staging a silent sit-in in front of Nassau Hall.&nbsp;



Student organizers staging a silent sit-in in front of Nassau Hall. 

Sage Carson, manager for anti-sexual violence organization Know Your IX, said the penalty was “surprisingly harsh” since the student was a sexual assault survivor and was protesting the administration’s Title IX ruling. 

Carson said the only other sexual assault survivor to face such an extreme financial penalty from their university was former Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, who created the Carry That Weight protest in 2014. Sulkowicz and the other student activists were fined a combined $471.00 to replace the mattresses they took from the dorm rooms, which were used as part of their protest. That example and this one, Carson said, are textbook retaliation. 

“Not only did Princeton not find [the accused] responsible, they also implemented this extremely harsh sanction in response to her speaking out about her case,” Carson said. “This says to her that if you talk to people about how the school handled your case ― we are going to retaliate against you.” 

The average lifetime cost for a survivor of rape or assault is around $122,000, according to a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. The high cost usually consists of medical bills, lost wages, therapy, lost tuition and more. The fact that Princeton is fining a sexual assault survivor, Carson said, speaks volumes. 

“If she has to pay restitution to Princeton for speaking out, it shows that the administration doesn’t understand the impact of sexual violence on a student,” Carson added. 

If she has to pay restitution to Princeton for speaking out, it shows that the administration doesn’t understand the impact of sexual violence on a student.
Sage Carson, KnowYourIX manager

The school’s sanction against the student sparked a campuswide protest demanding Princeton take better action against sexual violence. For the past week, at various times, 150 students have occupied Princeton’s main lawn in front of President Christopher Eisgruber’s office, protesters told HuffPost. Student activists formed the organization PrincetonIXNow, which created a detailed list of 11 demands, including transparency and consistency in the Title IX process.

“It’s been an incredibly dehumanizing process,” PrincetonIXNow organizer Soyeong Park told HuffPost. “And for those core organizers who are survivors, it’s a reminder that their well-being and their desire to make this university a more hospitable place for them and the ones they love is not a compatible goal at Princeton.”

Park and fellow PrincetonIXNow activist KiKi Gilbert said the student organizers have begged the administration to listen, but they don’t have a lot of faith in school officials.

The sit-in protest ended on Wednesday evening, eight days after it began. Dozens of students held up signs reading “Princeton Protects Rapists” and “Protect Your Students” over the past week, sitting and sleeping outside in the rain. The undergraduate students have received an abundance of support from faculty, graduate students and Princeton staff. 

In meetings with students on Monday and Wednesday, Princeton administrators said the university would take steps to hear student concerns. Administrators, however, didn’t budge on changing the Title IX processes student activists have said need to be changed. 

“The damage done by sexual misconduct is heartbreaking. We must address these harms through policies that are simultaneously fair, compassionate and effective,” Eisgruber wrote in a statement issued Wednesday. 

“If policy changes are to occur, however, they must take place through this University’s governance processes,” he added. “Those processes are designed to ensure that when Princeton reforms its rules, including its disciplinary procedures, it does so in a way that is deliberative, well-informed, fair, and open to all views and perspectives.”

Park told HuffPost in a Thursday interview that organizers are “devastated” and “extremely disappointed” by the administration’s response. She said she believes the university is simply trying to save face by meeting with organizers, but they aren’t committed to changing. 

Gilbert, a first-generation, low-income college student, summed up the feeling on campus well.

“The fact that I’m putting my education in the back seat right now so I can engage in this issue in a serious manner is really indicative of what’s happening here,” she said. “We can’t be students if we can’t be protected.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the day the protest ended as Thursday; the sit-in concluded Wednesday evening, which was the date that organizers met with the university president. Language about the number of protesters on the main lawn has been amended to clarify that it is an aggregate, not the number of students who appeared at any one time.

This article has been updated with a statement from the university on previous penalties for property damage, as well as with a statement from student organizers. 



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Brown V Board Feature – NEA Today


Is Housing Desegregation the Answer for Schools?

Sixty-five years ago, the Brown v. Board of Education ruling promised integrated and equitable schools. Today, as one sign of progress, housing officials collaborate with educators to integrate neighborhoods as one means to achieving school integration.

“Housing and school policies have a strong connection and can deeply effect patterns of racial and economic progress in communities,” says Harry Lawson, director of NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Office. “This makes it important for educators and education advocates who understand the benefits of school integration to meet with housing officials and make recommendations on attendance zones and school district boundaries.”

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‘We Cannot Walk Away From That Commitment’

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” the Court ruled unanimously, declaring that schools and other institutions violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The doctrine of “separate but equal,” which had been the law of the land since 1896 when Plessy v. Ferguson was decided, was audaciously overturned. Thurgood Marshall, a leading attorney with the case, recalled, “I was so happy I was numb.” He predicted that school segregation would come to an end within five years.

What happened? Did Brown matter?

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Teens Under Fire After Photo Of Racist Promposal Goes Viral



Students at a Los Angeles-area high school are facing disciplinary action after a photo that showed them posing with a racist prom proposal sign went viral.

In the photo, a male student and a female student who both attend Palos Verdes High School hold a sign that says, “BiaNca You are racIst but I would Give anything for you to Go with mE to PRom,” according to local ABC affiliate KABC TV.

The invite bolds key capitalized letters that, put together, spell out the N-word.

The photo caused outrage among students, parents and teachers after it was posted to social media.

School principal Allan Tyner told Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC that the two teens in the photo and their parents have been contacted.

“We have been in touch with the identified students and their families to inform them that we are forming a response and anticipate severe consequences,” Tyner said in a statement. “In accordance with our values and expectations for respectful conduct in our district and at PVHS, this sign is unacceptable.”

The school is also trying to determine whether other students were present at the time the picture was taken.

On Wednesday, Tyner published an open letter on the high school’s website where he said he planned to meet with all students to discuss the controversy:

We will review appropriate behavior and how the use of hurtful racial slurs like the one used on this recent picture posted on social media is unacceptable. I know that this one unfortunate event does not represent us as a school community.

Racist words and racist acts have no place in our school community.

We will rise above this, learn from this, and be a better school community because of it.

Palos Verdes High School will hold its prom this coming Saturday. The theme is “Wish Upon a Star,” according to the Los Angeles Times.



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7 Scary Numbers That Show How Bad Student Loan Debt Is For Mental Health


It’s no wonder the country’s $1.5 trillion in collective student loan debt is being called a crisis. Young borrowers are delaying major life milestones such as buying homes and starting families because of the financial burden of their loans. A million borrowers default on their loans every year.

But there’s another equally damaging consequence of student loan debt that’s talked about less often: its impact on borrowers’ mental health. That’s certainly not something that’s discussed with 18-year-olds as they prepare to sign the dotted line on a 10-year loan.

Debt-Induced Depression

Just ask Sophia Buxton. At its peak, her debt was close to $150,000 in student loans, mostly from private lenders. “This was well beyond what I originally financed because I accrued so much interest in my first couple of years out of school due to forbearance and interest-only payments,” she said.

The debt’s effect on her mental health became severe. “I allowed this period of my life to rob me of years due to severe depression,” Buxton said. Underemployed with multiple jobs, living at home with her parents and sometimes unable to make ends meet, she relied on credit cards to cover daily expenses. And she defaulted on one of her loans.

“I felt like I would never get out of the financial hole, so what was the point in trying? I allowed my debt to let me think that I was unlovable, unworthy of marriage, children, happiness, travel, etc. … In my mind, it was easier to just end it all,” she said.

Fortunately, Buxton sought treatment for her depression. She also eventually refinanced her loans, opened up about her struggle, and has been making progress on paying down her debt.

“I felt like I would never get out of the financial hole, so what was the point in trying?”

– Sophia Buxton

Anyone who has shouldered the burden of six-figure student loan debt knows the heavy toll it can take. “Waking up every day to work a job knowing that 80 to 90 percent of your net pay is going directly to student loan debt is a unique monster,” Buxton said. “My depression also fooled me into thinking that I was completely alone in this struggle.”

The truth is, Buxton is far from alone. Millions of student loan borrowers face stress, depression and other mental health concerns due to the pressure their debt places on them. Some research, the bulk of which is performed by financial companies that offer product solutions, has examined what those effects look like.

Here are seven statistics that prove just how harmful student debt can be.

1 in 10

This is how many people say student loans are their top worry. A new survey from Stash found that of respondents who said money is a source of stress, about 10% named student loans as their No. 1 stressor.

65%

The percentage of student loan borrowers who lose sleep at night due to stressing over how they are going to repay their student loans. That’s according to a survey by Student Loan Hero that polled more than 1,000 student loan borrowers.

67%

The percentage of borrowers who reported having physical symptoms of anxiety due to the stress from their student loan debt, according to the same Student Loan Hero study. Symptoms included headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, fatigue and more.

1 in 15

The number of borrowers with a high debt load who have considered suicide because of it, according to a survey by financial coaching company Student Loan Planner of its existing email subscribers. The survey said 70% of respondents had between $100,000 and $500,000 in student loan debt and that 90% were between the ages of 20 and 39.

80%

Percentage of working professionals with student loan debt who said it is a source of “significant” or “very significant” stress, according to research commissioned by Gradifi.

43%

The percentage of student loan borrowers who say student loan debt has interfered with self-care like purchasing health insurance and gym memberships, according to a survey by financial services company SoFi. The survey, which polled 1,200 SoFi customers, also found that 15% of respondents have sought a mental health professional to deal with the stress of their student debt.

$50,000+

The amount of college debt that causes borrowers to have lower well-being. A Gallup poll found that Americans who graduated from college between 1990 and 2014 and borrowed $50,000 or more weren’t as likely as their college debt-free peers to thrive in four elements of well-being: purpose, financial well-being, community, and physical well-being.

Millions of student loan borrowers face stress, depression and other mental health concerns due to the pressure their debt places on them.

Don’t Give Up

Buxton’s debt situation took a dark turn, and for years, it seemed like she had no way out. But that wasn’t the case.

With the help of therapy, financial education and a good friend to push her along, Buxton was able to turn her situation around. “Over the past few years, I’ve completely restored my credit, moved out on my own, bought a car and tripled my income since my first job post-grad school,” she said. “I’m obsessed with my monthly budget and even invested a few bucks in my Robinhood app.”

It was a long, tough road to get to this point. And now that she can look back on her journey with a new perspective, Buxton has a few words of advice for others who might be struggling to balance student loan debt and mental health.

Know you aren’t alone. Experiencing anxiety, depression or stress as a result of your unmanageable debt can feel like a lonely situation. Everyone’s story is unique, but there’s a large community of people who are in a similar situation. You’re far from the only one.

It’s OK to talk about your debt. Mental health is often a taboo subject ― and so is money. But keeping these issues to yourself only makes the problem worse. “Let’s break down the shame so we have a baseline to build upon and stay encouraged,” Buxton said. It’s important to talk about your struggle, whether that’s with a therapist or a trusted confidant. “Also, it helps to let your friends know so they aren’t inviting you to brunch every weekend,” she added.

Talk about your salary, too. Buxton said openly discussing your salary, especially with people in your same field, is key to equity. “The more we share openly, the more we can use our collective information to help each other out of the hole by first earning fair and equitable wages.”

Be kind to yourself. Finally, work on finding the balance between paying off your debt but also living a good life. “We are not on this earth for a long time, so make sure it’s a good time,” Buxton said. Of course, that doesn’t mean spending recklessly. Instead, treat yourself to a small purchase every now and then, and set bigger rewards for when you reach certain financial goals. “Climbing the mountain is not nearly as satisfying if you don’t take breaks to enjoy the view.”



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Tennessee School Stops Teaching Kids To Do Nazi Salute After Student Pushes Back


A Tennessee elementary school will “no longer feature a student portraying Hitler or the [Nazi] salute” as part of a class project about World War II after an 11-year-old was removed from her classroom last week for telling her classmates to stop Nazi saluting one another.

The students at the McFadden School of Excellence in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, had been taught to do the salute in their social studies class.

“My daughter spoke out even though she was told by a teacher ‘not to address it.’ She has been bullied by classmates and targeted personally with Nazi salutes, so school feels lonely sometimes. But her family is so proud of her, and I bet there are others who are too,” wrote Keith Jacks Gamble, the child’s father, on Facebook.

Gamble posted the story about his daughter on Twitter as well, asking others to support her actions.

He wrote in his posts that children at the McFadden School of Excellence had “been giving Nazi salutes in the hallways and at recess for weeks” after a fifth-grade social studies teacher assigned a student to give the Sieg Heil salute while dressed as Adolf Hitler for a project. 

James Evans, the communications director for Rutherford County Schools, confirmed the assignment to HuffPost, indicating that it was part of a “World War II exhibit of Living History” and involved a student “delivering a speech, and at the end, giving the Nazi salute.”

In a detailed account written in emails and then shared on social media, Gamble and his partner offered a full timeline of the events they said transpired at their daughter’s school. Gamble shared redacted versions of these emails, which he sent to the school for confirmation or amendment of the timeline.

Gamble’s emails state that his daughter was upset at the instruction to give a Nazi salute and that when she noted this, she was given the opportunity to air her grievances in front of the class. She was then instructed by teachers to “not address it again.”

However, Gamble said, the salute was repeatedly used and his daughter continued to voice her concerns. After learning that her classmates were going to perform a mass salute at her specifically, she told another teacher, who then intervened and told students to not give the Nazi salute anymore because it is “wrong.”

Still, the “Living History” project continued and, while the salutes had dropped off after that one teacher’s intervention, they picked up again during the project’s rehearsal. At that time, 10 to 20 students responded to the Sieg Heil from the student portraying Hitler with Sieg Heils of their own.

Gamble’s daughter shouted at her classmates to “stop it” and “put your hands down,” and was then removed from the class for being “disrespectful with her tone and body language to teachers.” She was then given a talking-to by various teachers and sent to the principal’s office, who echoed that she had been “disrespectful.” 

Evans, the communications director, confirmed these events to HuffPost, adding that Gamble’s daughter “was not disciplined or punished in any way for her concerns or actions” and that “the school agrees the actions of the students were completely inappropriate.”

“The principal also investigated concerns that the salute had happened more than once, and he was able to confirm two instances where some students gave the salute (outside of the history project). Teachers intervened in both confirmed instances. The principal held a meeting with all fifth-graders about what had happened and to put a stop to any further instances,” Evans wrote via email.

The director of Rutherford County Schools has since sent an email to parents to “assure them we do not condone any type of symbolism or actions that can [be] interpreted as hate-filled or insensitive.” The McFadden School of Excellence has also said it will cease having a student portray Hitler or perform the salute and will “find alternative means of covering the fifth-grade history standard.”

Adolf Hitler is saluted by the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany, now long before the start of World War II.



Adolf Hitler is saluted by the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany, now long before the start of World War II.

When asked why the school assigned students to perform the Nazi salute at all, Evans told HuffPost that the project was “intended to be an interactive way for the students to learn the history standards for fifth grade” and that “multiple historical figures and events are included and students are assigned roles to research and perform.”

“It was never intended to be offensive and the salute was definitely not encouraged to be performed by the other students,” he said. 

The use of the Nazi salute in schools has been a repeated issue in recent years. A photograph cropped up in November 2018 of a group of mostly white high school students in the Baraboo School District in Wisconsin giving the salute. The problematic image was investigated by police and the school district and received criticism from the Auschwitz Memorial Twitter page.

That school district ultimately did not punish the students involved.





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Harvard Ousts Dean Who Joined, Withdrew From Harvey Weinstein’s Defense Team


Harvard University has ousted faculty dean and professor Ronald Sullivan after he joined the defense team of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and sparked backlash from many students.

Sullivan and Harvard lecturer Stephanie Robinson, a married couple, both served as the first black deans in the school’s undergraduate Winthrop House. Though Sullivan has since withdrawn from the Weinstein case and Robinson was never part of it, neither will be welcomed back after their terms end on June 30, Harvard Dean Rakesh Khurana said in a statement Saturday, calling it “a regrettable situation.”

“Over the last few weeks, students and staff have continued to communicate concerns about the climate in Winthrop House to the College,” Khurana said. “The concerns expressed have been serious and numerous. The actions that have been taken to improve the climate have been ineffective, and the noticeable lack of faculty dean presence during critical moments has further deteriorated the climate in the House. I have concluded that the situation in the House is untenable.”

Harvard’s decision came two days before a court approved Sullivan’s request to withdraw from the Weinstein team.

In a joint statement sent Monday to HuffPost, Sullivan and Robinson said they were “surprised and dismayed” by Khurana’s decision.

“We believed the discussions we were having with high level University representatives were progressing in a positive manner, but Harvard unilaterally ended those talks,” they said. “We are sorry that Harvard’s actions and the controversy surrounding us has contributed to the stress on Winthrop students at this already stressful time.”

The couple said their next steps would be to process the school’s actions and “consider our options.”



Ronald Sullivan arriving at New York Supreme Court on Jan. 25, 2019.

Sullivan announced in January that he would represent Weinstein, according to The Harvard Crimson, who is scheduled to stand trial in September for charges of sexual assault and rape. Outraged Harvard students began protesting Sullivan in response, culminating in a 178-person sit-in last week at the Winthrop dining hall where students waved Me Too signs.

Last Friday, The Crimson reported that several current and former Winthrop staffers claimed to have witnessed “a workplace climate of hostility and suspicion generated by” Sullivan and Robinson.

While Sullivan faced strong criticism from some within the Harvard community, in March, the school’s Black Law Students Association defended his decision to represent Weinstein, condemning the notion that those accused of sexual assault are undeserving of legal counsel.

The organization also called the school’s response “outsized,” arguing that it was characterized by “racist undertones.”

Furthermore, the HBLSA denounced what it called efforts “to scapegoat Professor Sullivan for the ongoing failures of the University to effectively address the many issues of sexual assault on campus.”

On Monday, Sullivan told HuffPost he was no longer representing the film producer, pointing to a scheduling conflict with the trial date. Though Sullivan has made his exit from the Weinstein team, he said he would continue to be available to the defense “for advice and consultation.”

Addressing the controversy over his initial decision to work for Weinstein, Sullivan said, “My representation of those accused of sexual assault does not speak to my personal views on any of these matters.”

A spokesperson for Weinstein told HuffPost “Weinstein is extremely grateful to Ronald Sullivan for his work with him until now, and for Ron’s offer to advise where he can going forward.”

“Mr. Sullivan believed that Mr. Weinstein deserved a vigorous defense, and it is a sad moment for us all right now. We, as a country, have now reached the point when a Harvard lawyer and professor cannot serve his duty to, and belief in, the law and defend a person who may be deemed unpopular or unworthy of a legal defense by segments of the public.”

Both Sullivan and Robinson will still be able to teach and lecture at Harvard, though it’s unclear whether they’ll decide to do so after losing their deanships.

Winthrop is one of 12 residential locations on Harvard’s campus where undergraduate students socialize and dine. The school’s website likens it to the fictional Gryffindor house from the “Harry Potter” series, boasting tight-knit relationships, a lion mascot and a slew of famous alums from the Kennedys to actor B.J. Novak.

Deans like Sullivan and Robinson are responsible for leading and setting the tone of their respective houses, according to Harvard’s description of the position.



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Elizabeth Warren Promises To Appoint A Public School Teacher As Education Secretary


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) promised a crowd of educators on Monday that she would make one of their colleagues the next U.S. secretary of education if elected president.

“I will name a secretary of education who has been a public school teacher,” Elizabeth Warren said to applause in Philadelphia. “No more Betsy DeVos.”

Warren first announced her promise in an email on Monday. She reiterated her commitment later in the day during the town hall event, which connected her with educators from the American Federation of Teachers, one of the country’s two major teachers unions. 

While DeVos, the current secretary of education, has never worked in a classroom, multiple previous education secretaries have, like DeVos’ predecessor John B. King. 

“I want someone who has seen tattered textbooks. Or tried to manage when there’s too many kids in a classroom. But I also want someone who has actually been there and taught a child to read,” said Warren to applause. 



Elizabeth Warren speaking before a crowd of teachers at an American Federation of Teachers event. 

A New York City public school teacher named Liat Olenick approached Warren’s team in March about pledging to make a public school teacher education secretary. Olenick sought out members of Warren’s team at a rally in Long Island City, and kept in touch with them about her idea, she told HuffPost.

Olenick has also asked Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) during events to make the same pledge. They have not publicly done so, she said, though they both affirmed their commitment to public education in responding.

Spokespeople for Warren did not reply to HuffPost’s request for comment. But Olenick said she believes the pledge represents proof of Warren’s commitment to public education. 

“Just the fact that Elizabeth Warren is listening to teachers and thinks it’s important to listen to teachers is really powerful,” said Olenick, who is also a leader of Indivisible Nation BK, an activist group in Brooklyn.

The commitment, according to Warren, is part of her larger plan to transform education in America. Warren said she would start by enacting a new tax on the wealthiest Americans, targeting those who have fortunes of more than $50 million. Then, she said, she would use the money to pay for universal child care, universal preschool, higher wages for early childhood educators, expanding Pell grants, tuition-free public colleges and wiping out student debt. 

Warren also used the town hall to burnish her own public school credentials as a former special needs teacher. She called the role a dream job, and one that she still might have today had she not been terminated for being visibly pregnant. 

The role was “not a job. It’s a calling and I loved it,” said Warren. She later noted that her campaign is “a chance to put a public school teacher in the White House.”

The town hall was the American Federation of Teachers’ third recent event with 2020 presidential contenders. Union members previously met with Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

The events are part of the union’s presidential endorsement process. 

“Our No. 1 goal is to elect a President who reflects our values and that means beating Donald Trump in 2020,” AFT President Randi Weingarten previously stated of the process. “But to win our endorsement, candidates will have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”



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Mike Pence Tells Evangelical Grads They Will Face Discrimination For Being Christian


Vice President Mike Pence warned graduates of an evangelical university over the weekend that they will face persecution for holding “traditional Christian beliefs” once they leave campus.

During a commencement speech at Virginia’s Liberty University on Saturday, the vice president encouraged the Class of 2019 to “be ready” to face opposition because they live in a time when “it’s become acceptable and even fashionable to ridicule and even discriminate against people of faith.” 

“You know, throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian. It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible,” Pence told the nearly 21,000 graduates. “But things are different now. Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs.”

“You’re going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith; you’re going to be asked to endorse them. You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture,” he added.

Watch Pence deliver the commencement address at Liberty University below.

Pence cited reports from the United States and United Kingdom governments that suggest Christians are the world’s most persecuted group. He also mentioned recent attacks against houses of worship ― including the deadly attacks on Christian churches in Sri Lanka and on three historically black churches in Louisiana, as well as those on Jewish synagogues in Pennsylvania and California and mosques in New Zealand.

Pence said the pushback conservative American Christians have faced for their positions on social issues was further proof that they are being persecuted for their faith. 

He referred to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order that challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, and to Georgia’s “heartbeat bill,” which was signed into law on Tuesday. Some production companies have pledged not to film in the state in response to the law, which effectively bans abortion after six weeks. Pence said the boycott was the work of “a bevy of Hollywood liberals.”

He also pointed to the backlash faced by his wife, Karen Pence, after HuffPost reported she was working at an evangelical school that bans LGBTQ employees and students. 

“We faced harsh attacks by the media and the secular Left,” the vice president said. “These attacks on Christian education are un-American.”



Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Liberty University commencement ceremony in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Saturday.

Liberty University is a private evangelical university in Lynchburg with a long history of political involvement. It was founded by Jerry Falwell, a Baptist minister who helped seal evangelicals’ ties to the Republican Party in the 1980s. His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., is a close ally and defender of President Donald Trump. Trump has paid several visits to Liberty University, and he gave the first commencement address of his presidency there in 2017. 

Pence praised Trump’s legacy during this weekend’s commencement address, touting the strong economy, America’s support of Israel and the 103 conservative judges Trump has helped place in the courts.

“I’m proud to report our administration has already taken decisive action to protect religious liberty, and we’ll continue to do just that,” Pence said. “And I promise you: We will always stand up for the right of Americans to live, to learn, and to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience.”

Online reactions to the vice president’s speech illustrated how deeply divided American Christians are about religious liberty and civil rights. Progressive Christians believe their conservative co-religionists are using religious beliefs as a sword to cut down the civil rights of minority groups. On the other hand, conservative Christians tend to think movements supporting LGBTQ equality or abortion rights are blatant attacks on their ability to practice conservative beliefs in the public square. 

As people who believe in the inerrancy of scripture, evangelicals take seriously the Bible’s warnings that Jesus’ followers will be oppressed for their religious beliefs. Even though Christians in America have considerable political and social clout, some evangelicals are concerned about the group’s demographic decline. When they receive pushback on culture war issues, some see themselves as being part of that long line of Christians throughout history who have suffered for their faith. 

Fellow evangelicals praised Pence’s speech, and agreed that American evangelicals are being “persecuted.” 

“The vice president was quoting the words of Jesus, quoting scriptures,” Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham and a longtime Trump supporter, said on “Fox & Friends,” referring to a scripture passage in which Jesus tells his disciples they will be persecuted for their beliefs.

“That was a great message to these students, to be ready, be prepared,” Graham added.  

But Eugene Scott, a Washington Post reporter who covers identity politics, wrote that Pence mainly means conservative, white, Trump-supporting evangelicals when he talks about “Christians.” He said Pence’s rhetoric about persecution could perpetuate the “victim mentality” in America’s culture wars.

“Pence’s characterization of the criticism directed toward conservative Christians focused only on how it makes people like him feel. It failed to address the validity of the pushback or even acknowledge that the criticism sometimes comes from other Christians,” Scott wrote in the Post

Other commentators from Christian backgrounds indicated the commencement speech was further proof of the so-called evangelical persecution complex.





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