Young Americans Are Becoming Less Comfortable With LGBTQ People, GLAAD Finds

A new survey shows that overall acceptance of LGBTQ people among young adults has dipped for the second year in a row. 

Released Monday, GLAAD’s 2019 Accelerating Acceptance Report asked 1,970 Americans over the age of 18 a series of questions with regard to their reactions to several different situations involving LGBTQ people. Participants were asked how they felt about seeing a same-sex couple hold hands, learning that a family member or a doctor identifies as LGBTQ and learning that their child has been placed in a class taught by an LGBTQ teacher, among other situations. 

The survey ― conducted in January 2019 by The Harris Poll, a New York-based research firm ― found that non-LGBTQ adults who said they felt “very” or “somewhat” comfortable in all of those scenarios was 49%, reflecting no change from 2018. For the 18 to 34 demographic, however, that percentage fell from 53% to 45%.  

As GLAAD representatives pointed out, 2019 marks the second year in a row that LGBTQ acceptance among Americans aged 18 to 34 has dropped. In 2017, that figure was at 63%. The most striking drop in acceptance appeared among young women, whose comfort level dropped from 64% last year to 52% in the newly published report.  

In a statement issued Monday, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis linked the two-year decline to “divisive rhetoric both in politics and in culture.” 

“Last year, when we saw an erosion in LGBTQ acceptance, GLAAD doubled down on our formula for making positive culture change,” she said. 

Though Ellis didn’t cite specifics, GLAAD has reportedly documented more than 40 incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate violence since the start of 2019. Policy setbacks, such as President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military, as well as religious liberty laws that essentially allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers, were also likely to have an impact, she said. 

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ people and allies must urgently address today’s cultural crisis by being visible and vigilant,” she said. 

Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema felt similarly, noting that the results were at odds with younger Americans’ clear support of other progressive issues like climate change and gender equality. 

“We count on the narrative that young people are more progressive and tolerant,” Gerzema told USA Today. “These numbers are very alarming and signal a looming social crisis in discrimination.” 

In an email statement, he added, “In this toxic age, tolerance––even among youth––now seems to be parsed out. Nothing today should be taken for granted.” 

Read the full results of GLAAD’s 2019 Accelerating Acceptance report here

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Bernie Sanders Unveils Sweeping Bill To Cancel All Student Debt

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is unveiling one of his signature policy proposals Monday, a plan to make public college free ― with a new element of eliminating all the student debt in the country. 

The legislation is the most sweeping college affordability plan to date. It eliminates tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities, as well as community colleges.

It also would wipe out all the existing student debt ― $1.6 trillion, covering 45 million Americans. 

Sanders’ plan, which was shared in advance with HuffPost, goes further than what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ― who, along with Sanders, occupies the progressive lane in the 2020 race — has proposed. While the two will be on different nights for this week’s first Democratic presidential debates, it introduces a key difference in approach on a prominent policy issue. 

The Sanders bill eliminates all student debt, whereas Warren’s plan ― while still substantial ― covers $1.25 trillion for 42 million people. The difference is that Warren’s plan has caps.

Warren’s proposal forgives $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with a household income of $100,000. People between $100,000 and $250,000 in household income would have a portion of their debt forgiven, and people above that amount would get no cancellation. 

Once she released her plan in April, Warren made forgiving college debt a major issue in the presidential campaign. It’s been one of her most high-profile policy proposals.

In the House, Sanders is joined by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whose Student Debt Cancellation Act would cancel all existing federal and private student loans, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), whose College for All Act would cover the free college aspect.

The three will be holding a news conference Monday morning outside the Capitol, with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, and several people who would have their student debt forgiven under the plans. 

Sanders’ bill would also cap student interest rates at no higher than what the federal government pays for its debt ― so that the government isn’t profiting off student loan programs ― and provide at least $1.3 billion per year to eliminate or reduce tuition and fees for low-income students at two- and four-year, private nonprofit historically black colleges and universities.

In a statement, Sanders called his proposal “truly revolutionary.” 

″[I]n a generation hard hit by the Wall Street crash of 2008, it forgives all student debt and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation to a lifetime of debt for the ‘crime’ of getting a college education,” he said.  

Sanders’ proposal to forgive all student debt, versus Warren’s proposal to cap the amount and base levels on income, highlights a key debate among supporters of debt forgiveness. 

Supporters of the Sanders approach argue that even people who currently may make a lot of money could also use financial assistance. They weren’t wealthy growing up, which is why they had to take out student loans to begin with. (Children of billionaires aren’t taking out loans for college.) They may have gone to school and done well ― becoming a doctor or lawyer, for example ― but that type of education is lengthy and expensive and can still take many years to pay off. 

Critics of this approach say that taxpayers shouldn’t be paying off the student loans of the wealthy. In 2015, the public policy group Demos put out a report finding that debt forgiveness would increase the median net worth of both black and white families.

But Demos also concluded that blanket, all-encompassing debt forgiveness would exacerbate the gap between black and white wealth, since white individuals tend to seek advanced degrees in greater numbers ― and therefore may benefit more from a loan reduction policy that does not take income into account. The group argued that “targeted relief and scholarship programs may be preferable.”

Of course, this sort of legislation is also expensive. Sanders, Omar and Jayapal say they expect to give a significant boost to the economy. A February report from the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College found that wiping out $1.4 trillion in student debt would lower the unemployment rate, create new jobs and boost the gross domestic product by as much as $108 billion per year for the 10 years following the debt cancellation.

Sanders, along with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), has already put forward legislation to pay for the plan, by imposing a small tax on the trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives, which would generate, they estimate, up to $2.4 trillion over 10 years. 

“In 2008, the American people bailed out Wall Street,” Sanders said. “Now, it is Wall Street’s turn to help the middle class and working class of this country.”

Warren would cover her plan through her ultra-millionaire tax ― a 2% annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren is expected to release her college debt plan legislation in the coming weeks, with a companion bill in the House introduced by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African-American member in Congress.

Julian Castro, a Cabinet official under President Barack Obama, has also put forward a proposal that offers partial loan forgiveness based on income. 

But sweeping debt cancellation has not been embraced by many of the other candidates. Joe Biden, who is currently leading in the polls, expressed support for free college when he was vice president. But in a January interview, he scoffed at and mocked millennials ― many of whom are struggling to buy a house and achieve financial stability because of the student debt they face. 

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Plight of the Poor Takes Center Stage at Campaign Forum

Photo: Poor People’s Campaign

Teachers Keila Foster and Philimena Owona arrived at The Poor People’s Campaign forum at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. to connect the dots between the lives of their students from Prince George’s County, Maryland, and what nine 2020 presidential candidates might say about education and other issues.

“I’m on the ground level of education and community affairs,” says Owona, who teaches at Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Temple Hills. “I’m looking to connect what is said here and how it might affect my students, their families, and the community in which we live.”

The three-day conference which started Monday was hosted by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival, a year-old group led by the Rev. William Barber II and Rev. Liz Theoharis of the Kairos Center. It was broadcast online by MSNBC and moderated by national correspondent Joy Reid.

The presidential hopefuls who spoke at the forum included former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware; and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Fla.; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Cal); self-help author Marianne Williamson; Michael Bennet; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang also addressed hundreds of activists from across the country assembled in the university’s expansive gymnasium.

President Donald Trump was asked to attend but did not respond to the invitation, according to organizers. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was scheduled to attend but missed the event due to a cancelled flight.

Intersecting Injustices

The campaign is often described in media reports as a movement which addresses poverty and systemic racism while demanding federal and state living-wage laws, equity in education, the right to join a union, a single-payer health-care system, voting rights, and enforcement of environmental laws to maintain clean air and water.

“If students don’t have clean water, how can their bodies be hydrated so they can perform at their full potential,” says Keila Foster, who teaches at Highpoint High School in Beltsville.

“As educators, we are sometimes limited in how much we can do,” Owona says. “Framing the issues and electing pro-education legislators can make a big difference in the lives of our students.”

The second day of the conference featured an array of workshops and tracks which examined, for example, “militarism and the war economy,” “ecological devastation,” policy and power-building,” and “organizing the dispossessed.” One of the aims of the campaign is to link movements that seem to be interconnected, such as racism, sexism, militarism, and classism.

“Today, we are seeing the re-segregation of high poverty schools,” said Barber, a Protestant minister and president of Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit organization addressing moral and constitutional values. “We are here because the war on poverty did not die.”

The campaign takes its name from the original 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, which was an effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States. The campaign was organized by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Advocating for Students

Foster and Owona are members of the Prince George’s County Education Association (PGCEA).

“These are our activists,” said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, PGCEA president, who attended the event with several other members. “I want to hear the candidates address these issues so I can make an informed decision on who to support for president in 2020.”

Dudley is particularly focused on learning how the candidates plan to improve public schools for “all students.”

“Don’t pander to me and tell me you are going to pay me more,” she says. “Tell me what you are going to do to serve students.”

PGCEA is comprised of 10,500 members strong with a 95 percent penetration to include teachers, speech pathologists, counselors, librarians, and school psychologists.

“We just settled a big contract to restore missed steps for educators and class size issues,” Dudley added. “In Prince George’s County, about 60 percent of children live in poverty. This condition puts them at a higher risk of having adverse experiences as they grow and develop.”

Breaking the Cycle

At the forum, of which NEA was a sponsor, each candidate was asked a question by an impoverished American about how they would improve the lives of the poor. Candidates were also asked if they would support a presidential debate in 2020 that focused on poverty issues. All agreed they would.

“We cannot have another election cycle like we had in 2016, where we had 26 presidential debates in the primary and general election — and not one focused on systemic voter suppression and gerrymandering, and not one focused on poverty,” Barber said. “We have to demand that we focus on these issues.”

At the event, campaign officials released a report on U.S. poverty: The Moral Budget: Everybody Has a Right to Live. The study finds that 43.5 percent of the nation — 140 million people — live in poverty, including 39 million children and 21 million people over age 65.

The report was submitted on the third day of the conference at a Capitol Hill hearing of the House Budget Committee where leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign testified.

“The statistics on poverty are jarring,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, committee chair. “The purpose of this hearing is to shine a light on the challenges Americans face in meeting their basic human needs.”

Over the next year and a half, the Poor People’s Campaign is planning to hold a series of town halls, trainings and voter-registration drives in an effort to mobilize Americans who do not typically vote in presidential elections. The group said the effort will culminate in the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on June 20, 2020.

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Man Who Took On Westboro Church Just Gave Trans Hero Gavin Grimm A College Scholarship

Aaron Jackson’s first foray into LGBTQ activism was a bold one: In 2013, he purchased a house across the street from the notoriously anti-queer Westboro Baptist Church, painted it the colors of the gay pride flag and aptly named the new symbol of love situated directly in the face of hate the Equality House

It was another way for Jackson, who runs the multipronged environmental and humanitarian charity Planting Peace, to give back ― and it was just the first of many campaigns he launched to benefit members of the LGBTQ community.

Aaron Jackson, founder of Planting Peace, outside the Equality House. 

Jackson, who identifies as an ally of the LGBTQ community, has also sent a pride flag into outer space and planted another pride flag in Antarctica ― both acts aimed at raising visibility ― and after the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, Jackson gave a college scholarship to a young woman who was a victim of the horrific mass shooting.

“I got an update about her progress, and it reminded me of the importance of giving someone a chance to make something of themselves,” he told HuffPost Wednesday. “If we can, we should all help lift each other up.”

Gavin Grimm (above) received a gift to pay for his education from LGBTQ activist and ally Aaron Jackson.

Gavin Grimm (above) received a gift to pay for his education from LGBTQ activist and ally Aaron Jackson.

It’s that attitude that recently led Jackson to offer yet another scholarship to a deserving young queer person ― this time to transgender teen and activist Gavin Grimm. Grimm first made headlines in 2018 when he filed a lawsuit against his school to use the bathroom aligned with his gender. In May, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied a motion to dismiss the case, and a hearing is now scheduled for July 23.

In a Facebook post, Grimm expressed his gratitude to Jackson for the scholarship.

“I received word of this just this evening and my heart still hasn’t stopped racing,” he wrote. “I can’t express how grateful I feel to have my work and my life supported in such a significant way. The enormous gift of not staring down crippling educational debt as I enter the workforce as a teacher is something I can never hope to pay forward enough.”

Grimm also explained to HuffPost just how transformative the experience of college will be now that worrying about the financial aspect is a non-issue. “Removing the anxiety from the equation completely changes the way that I will experience college and give me more opportunities to learn and grow while I’m there,” he said.

Jackson talked with HuffPost about how he chose Grimm to receive the scholarship, why he’s dedicated so much of his time to fighting for LGBTQ rights and what he believes makes a good ally.

How did you pick Gavin Grimm to receive such an incredible gift?

I made a Facebook post asking if anyone knew of any queer or trans kids that wanted to go to school but could not due to financial reasons. I received many requests, but Gavin stood out right away. I know his story well. To me he is like the Rosa Parks of the trans bathroom debate. I was really surprised to learn that after all he has been through, no one was helping him. 

You already know how he reacted to the scholarship, but what do you want others to take away from this experience? 

I hope that this inspires others to act and make a difference where they can. Not everyone has the resources to give financially to others, but there are a million different ways you can make a positive impact. I also hope people like Gavin, who stand up for what is right no matter the cost, see that others will take note and rally around them. 

Why, as a straight man, have you devoted so much of your life to queer rights?

When I started to learn that LGBT kids kill themselves due to this narrative that they are somehow less than, it really became important to me to use my platform to try to simply do my part in helping the LGBT community not only come into full rights but to help change the hearts and minds of people. Becoming an LGBT activist is one of the best decisions I have ever made.  

What, in your opinion, makes a good ally?

I feel a good advocate, whether it be fighting hunger in Haiti or LGBT rights here in America, is listening to the community’s problems and doing what they can to help. It’s not about what I want or what you want. It’s about what people need. Seeing them. Hearing them. And then taking action. Being loud with your support.

What compels you to do charity work? How do you pick your causes? 

Since I started Planting Peace 15 years ago, I get asked why I do so much for charity. And truth be told, I didn’t have an answer then and don’t have an answer now. It’s just my passion. I keep busy.

How has advocacy affected or changed your life?

I love meeting people. My work has led me to meet the poorest people on earth to some of the most powerful people. It’s opened a lot of doors and incredible experiences that have made me a better person. It’s truly a blessing.   

Head to Planting Peace to learn more about Jackson’s work, and follow Grimm on Twitter to keep up with his activism, his schooling and beyond. 

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Threatened and Attacked By Students: When Work Hurts

Shannon Macaulay, teacher at Meadowbrook High School. (Photo: Luis Gomez)

The student was extremely upset about something. A paraeducator approached him to inquire. In response, the student kicked her squarely in the stomach. She fell to the floor gasping for air.

Fortunately, Danielle Fragoso and another teacher were in that
cooking class last summer. The two teachers had no choice but to try
and restrain the student. He began to scream, kick, and punch. Fragoso was hit in an eye.

It got worse. The student eventually grabbed a large chef ’s knife from the counter.

“I was able to grab hold of the hand with the knife right around the wrist area,” Fragoso recalls. “He kept trying to stab me and the other teacher.”

At one point, the student started screaming to no one in particular asking why it seemed so difficult to out-fight two women.

“He was also shouting that he wanted us dead,” says Fragoso, a special education teacher at Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Conn. “After 15 minutes, we finally got the knife away and he ran out the room without cutting anyone.”

In her 15 years as a teacher, Fragoso was experienced enough to not panic at the sight of a knife-wielding student. She’d been there. A student once stabbed her in the back with a pencil, requiring Fragoso to seek medical attention.

“Luckily there were two of us or the outcome would have been much different,” she says. “My only thoughts were of my students and hoping none of them would get hurt.”

Many teachers, administrators, and education support professionals (ESPs) are at risk of being bitten, kicked, scratched, and punched while at work.

Some assaults are intentional acts of violence while others are the result of, for example, working with students who have mental challenges.

Whatever the circumstances, more and more educators are ending up in the emergency room. While some are forced to use their medical leave, others choose instead to resign.

“It’s not as rare an occurrence as most people might think,” Fragoso says.

Classrooms in Crisis

According to a government on school crime and safety, 10 percent of public school teachers reported being threatened with injury by a student from their school and 6 percent reported being physically attacked by a student from their school.

Published in 2018, “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” was compiled by agencies from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.

“Being attacked or threatened in one’s workplace should not happen
anywhere, especially in a classroom environment, where we want our
students to feel safe and loved,” says Fragoso, who spoke earlier this year at a public hearing conducted by the Connecticut General Assembly.

More than a dozen teachers and Connecticut Education Association
(CEA) officials testified to education committee members, while more
than 100 others submitted written testimony describing behaviors that create unsafe learning environments for students.

Fragoso, CEA officials, school counselors, and other educators urged lawmakers to address the crisis of violent student behavior which is occurring in rural, urban, and suburban schools. They asked legislators to support House Bill 7110: An Act Concerning Enhanced Classroom Safety and School Climate.

CEA President Jeff Leake (top) and CEA Vice-President Tom Nicholas testify before Connecticut state lawmakers about classroom and school safety.

The bill would require schools to help students exhibiting extreme behaviors, provide increased student supports and teacher training, and address children’s mental health and social-emotional needs. Gov. Dannell Malloy vetoed a similar bill last year, but the latest proposal has been updated with more specifics.

Students as young as five are biting, kicking, punching, throwing items, urinating on teachers, and lashing out in other destructive ways that put students and others in danger, Jeff Leake, CEA president, told the committee.

“They are coming to school with complex needs, and schools don’t have the resources to address the root causes of these incidents,” he explained.

“These pieces are key, as too many of our teachers have been pressured to not report or tell others of the incidents that are happening in their classrooms.”

Tom Nicholas is a school social worker and CEA vice president. He described how last school year, in just one month’s time, he had been hit and kicked about 15 times, had a student threaten to kill him with a gun, and fractured three vertebrae trying to protect a student who had run outside the building.

Fragoso testified that she felt supported by her school district administration and was encouraged to speak out to protect her students and colleagues.

“We need systems in place not only to help teachers who are fearful of reporting incidents of threats, and to ensure that they are protected and heard, but also to provide supports and treatment to the students who need help,” she told committee members.

Insufficient Resources

Members of the Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA) in Rhode Island organized a sick-out in February to get the attention of school board members as well as state legislators regarding the need for more school resources officers, counselors, and therapeutic services for students.

“For three years, we went through the grievance process asking for interventions for our most needy students,” says Michelle Way DaSilva, BWEA president.

“We do not have sufficient mental health services for students experiencing trauma and who lash out in unpredictable ways.”

DaSilva recalls a recent incident where a kindergarten student hit a teacher in the arm after the teacher asked for the student’s cell phone.

Violence Against Teachers – An Overlooked Crisis?

Violence against teachers is a “national crisis,” says Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And yet, the issue is generally ignored or at least underreported by the media and given inadequate attention by scholars – a deficiency that has widespread implications for school safety, the teaching profession and student learning.

Fortunately, at that age, they are not strong enough to do serious damage. But if they are not disciplined correctly, that behavior will continue as they grow and develop, says DaSilva.

“In middle school, the number of teachers being assaulted and disrespected is getting worse,” she says. “Some of our middle school students are bigger than some teachers, so it is very unsafe for all involved.”

As in schools across the nation, the discontinuation of counselors, paraeducators, social workers, and services for special education and other needy students has caused a disrupted learning environment.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Education Association (OEA) published, “A Crisis of Disrupted Learning: Conditions in Our Schools and Recommended Solutions.”

Some assaults are intentional acts of violence while others are the result of, for example, working with students who have mental challenges. Whatever the circumstances, more and more educators are ending up in the emergency room. While some are forced to use their medical leave, others choose instead to resign.”

According to the report, disrupted learning environments occur “when student behavior significantly interferes with instruction and/or school staff members’ ability to maintain a stable classroom or ensure student safety.” At times, students can become dangerous to themselves or the classroom as a whole. These incidents can often result in clearing a classroom of students to ensure everyone’s safety.

Over three years, OEA members shared stories of extreme behaviors in Oregon schools. According to the report: “These behaviors have made classrooms feel unsafe for students and educators, and everyone is feeling their impact. Student needs are going unmet and educators have very real concerns about whether they can provide safe, welcoming and inclusive learning environments for all with the resources they have.”

“The issue was not being addressed,” says DaSilva, a teacher for 23 years, the last 21 at Kickemuit Middle School. “So, naturally, it was getting worse.”

In May, DaSilva and BWEA agreed to withdraw several grievances after school administrators signed a memorandum ensuring that viable plans would be put in place.

“We want to get students what they need to be successful,” DaSilva says. “We also want our schools to be safe.”

Reaching Out

In Minnesota, a bill introduced in 2016 would have required school boards to automatically expel a student who threatened or inflicted bodily harm on an educator for up to a year. The bill was introduced in part as a response to a 2015 incident in St. Paul in which a high school student began to strangle a teacher after slamming the teacher into a concrete wall. The teacher suffered a traumatic brain injury.

The bill died in committee after fierce opposition from Education Minnesota (EM) and other state education groups, which instead promote restorative practices as a response to student discipline.

James Parry is the supervisor of the REACH program at Stewartville Middle and High School. The acronym stands for: Relationships, Education, Accountability, Character, Hard Work. The REACH class at Stewartville is an elective for students in seventh through 12th grades. It follows a restorative practices model that helps students to understand and take responsibility for their actions, rather than be punished under zero-tolerance policies. For his part, Parry considers students who may suffer from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and the effects of poverty, such as housing or food insecurity.

James Parry supervises the REACH program at Stewartville Middle and High School.

“Just yesterday, I was in our school cafeteria for lunch duty when I heard one of the food service workers scream for help,” Parry recalls from a May incident. “I turned to see two boys in a physical fight, one of them from REACH.”

Parry calmly stepped in between the two students and said: “Really?”
The student in the REACH program later approached Parry.

“He apologized and said he knew he was wrong, but that he just “flipped his lid” in response to remarks from the other student,” Parry says.

“Sometimes conflicts like this are between students and sometimes a teacher is involved.”

The student eventually apologized to the service worker.

“This is unbelievable growth for this student,” says Parry, who was
awarded the 2019 EM Human Rights Award. “In REACH, we (adults) focus on things like gratitude, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, honesty, integrity, and perseverance as a way to connect with students about real life.”

For students, Parry stresses that all people, at whatever age, have stressors in their lives that sometimes get the best of them.

“I identify roadblocks, triggers, and our responses to them,” Parry says.

“It is not any one trigger that makes one “flip their lid” and be aggressive or violent at school.”

It is when these triggers “pile on top of each other that it becomes difficult to control our emotions,” Parry explains.

In his own case, Parry shares with students that any combination of three or four of the following are too much for him: Tired, hungry, thirsty, rushed.

“I am good with one to two of those, but add the third and maybe a
fourth, … it is just too much,” he says.

“We (educators) need to regulate ourselves first if we really want to help our students do the same.”

When discussing restorative practices with teachers, Parry stresses that “when a student comes into the classroom agitated, it is rarely the teacher who has caused this. It is something that happened earlier in the day, at home last night, or something in their near future that they are worried about. We have the power to offer unconditional love and non-judgmental support. Combined, these allow us to put our students in a better mindset to be able to engage in the educational process.

Surveying the Landscape

Sonia Smith is president of the Chesterfield Education Association (CEA) in Virginia. When it comes to students assaulting teaches and education support professionals (ESPs), she fears that many suffer in silence.

“Many do not report assaults from students for fear of retribution from administrators,” says Smith, an English teacher on fulltime release with CEA. “Our village is fractured and we need to heal the village.”

In April, a 15-year-old male student threw a backpack and two chairs at a teacher, hitting her in the face and breaking her glasses. She was rushed to the hospital. Days later, another teacher was hurt after a violent incident at another school.

Sonia Smith (Photo: Luis Gomez)

“After those two incidents, people reached out to me in private,” Smith says. “There are more incidents happening that go unreported. It’s systemic.”

The calls that Smith began receiving prompted her and three other CEA members to create an anonymous online survey to find out who in the district has experienced verbal abuse and violent assaults from students.

“We’re not asking for names,” Smith says. “The goal is to share the findings and collaborate with the school board on implementing solutions.”

The survey is comprised of seven multiple-choice questions with text boxes that invite personal stories about past incidents and how administrators responded when told.

“That’s where people open up,” Smith says.

The survey can take as little as three minutes to fill out or more depending on the level of description and number of experiences revealed by the participant.

“I feel good about the survey,” says Shannon Macaulay, an English teacher at Meadowbrook High School. “It means that central office is listening to us.”

Macaulay would like to see more policies in place that are consistently enforced across the board.

“Most of my students are pretty mature and want to graduate so they know how to behave at school,” she says. “But there are some who stare you down, walk out of class when they feel like it, and disrespect you without any consequence from the front office.”

Earlier this year, a female senior student ripped up a quiz in dramatic fashion in one of Macaulay’s classes. After that, she removed a shoe and tossed it at the teacher.

“She reached into her backpack for another shoe and then threw that one at me,” says Macaulay. “It escalated with her kicking a trash can and threatening me.”

After Macaulay called the front office, two security guards restrained the student until the police showed up. The student was handcuffed and driven away.

“This student comes to us with a lot of anger,” Macaulay says. “I have sent emails to administrators out of concern, not blame. But nothing is done.”

In cases like this, Macaulay says the survey gives her hope that district officials will develop policies on how to consistently respond to students under these circumstances.

Smith is already getting calls from the media about when the survey results will be released.

“We are going to deal with the data internally at first,” she says. “This is not a public shaming, but if the results will help legislators take action to help out students, then that would be a favorable outcome.”

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Neighborhood Public Schools Forced to Give Up Space to Charter Schools

(Photo: United Teachers Los Angeles)

Catskill Avenue Elementary, located about 14 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, is a “legacy school,” says 5th grade teacher Elizabeth Untalan.

“It’s been around for 71 years….Grandparents, great-grandparents, daughters son have all gone through our doors.”

But Untalan and many of her colleagues and neighborhood parents are worried. They believe Catskill’s deep standing in the community is endangered by the possibility that it may soon be sharing its building with the new Ganas Academy Charter School.

This is called “co-location,” one of the more unfamiliar practices behind the sector’s dramatic expansion in California. (As of 2017-18, charter schools serve almost 630,000 students in the state.)

In Los Angeles alone, more than 70 public schools have seen valuable learning and collaborative spaces appropriated by charter companies for their staff and students. Co-locations also exist or have been approved in San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, and the state’s Central Valley area. The same trend has been underway in Chicago and New York.

If the co-location with Ganas goes into effect, students at Catskill could lose their library, computer lab, parent center, and rooms for counseling.

“These are the resources we pour into our children, these are the resources that raise student achievement,” Untalan told. “Why should our students have to give them up just so a charter business can expand into a community that doesn’t want it?”

How bad could it get? Some of the schools special education students and their instructors will lose their classroom and be forced to move into a closet.”

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is mobilizing its 33,000 members and parents in opposition, but Ganas is pushing ahead, undeterred by concerns over how the co-location will impact Catskill’s 522 students. Thirty percent  are English language learners and 90 percent are federally subsidized under the U.S. Department of Education’s Title I program.

Howard Elementary in Oakland also serves a similar high-needs student population who rely on the school’s well-rounded services and facilities. Howard already shares mobile classrooms with the Francophone Charter School. But starting this fall, Francophone is moving into the main building, displacing Howard teachers and students.

How bad could it get? Some of the schools special education students and their instructors will lose their classrooms and be forced to move into a closet.

Back in April, Howard teacher Yael Freidman urged the Francophone board not to select their space, saying it would bring  “a catastrophic disruption” to the school.

“Just because something is legal does not make it ethical,” Friedman said. “It is unethical to force teachers of special needs students to work in subpar conditions. It is unethical to further marginalize children of color by denying them adequate space to learn.”

Howard Students Need Classrooms, Not Closets

Co-Location = Encroachment

Charter schools are usually situated in buildings or facilities owned by an entity other than the school district, or in buildings formerly owned by the district. Virtual charter schools, of course, depend on little if any physical classroom space.

Still, in order to expand, for-profit charter companies want more access to facilities. Fortunately for them, many politicians and laws have compelled the district to provide it.

Co-location in California was teed up by Proposition 39, a school-funding ballot initiative adopted by voters in 2000. Embedded in the law is a provision that requires districts to offer charter schools “reasonably equivalent … facilities that will sufficiently accommodate all of the charter’s in-district students.”

If a space or room in a public school is not a classroom used by a teacher, it may be deemed “unused” – and therefore up for grabs for a charter company that requests it.

Co-location is a tactic of the California Charter Schools Association and its billionaire benefactors who push a ‘win at any cost’ business model. They don’t care if a local school is harmed as long as charter corporations get more classroom seats.” – Alex Caputo-Pearl, UTLA president.

In some instances, where there is genuine underutilization of space in a neighborhood public school, co-location may be minimally disruptive. The Center for Reinventing Public Education, a charter-friendly research organization, concluded in 2015 that – theoretically at least – public schools and charters school could “coexist peacefully” under certain conditions. It also added that “leveraging co-location for school improvement isn’t easy.”

How it’s being carried out in most communities, however, is typical of the the charter industry’s focus on competition with neighborhood public schools, while operating without adequate transparency or accountability.

As a result, co-location proposals usually create tension and division in communities, and not just in California. In New York City, charter schools are allowed to operate in public buildings at no cost, a policy started under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A charter advocacy group and the city’s Education Department have publicly clashed over widely differing claims about just how much city owned space is available to co-locate charter schools in Brooklyn.

Setting aside the hazards of wedging two distinct school “cultures” together under the same roof, co-location can be devastating for schools already struggling with scarce resources.

To parent Amber Marie Elgins, charter school co-location is just “charter school encroachment.”

Antonia Montez is a veteran teacher at Eastman School in East Los Angeles, which has been co-located since 2016 by the Extera charter company. When the school arrived on campus, the students’ art room, STEAM lab, parent center, garden programs, and food bank were all impacted, she says.

“We already have an innovative school that provides numerous opportunities for our students during and after the school day,” Montez explains. “We don’t see why Extera should be here. They’re not providing anything innovative or different from what our public school or our community already has.”

‘Your Are Predatory and Aggressive’

While co-location may fall a little more under-the-radar than other privatization initiatives, charter companies have been aggressively pursuing the tactic to solidify and expand their presence.

Indeed, in order to survive on the Catskill campus, Ganas has been aggressively recruiting students from Catskill and the surrounding community. If a Catskill student leaves to go to Ganas, the public dollars would go with the student to the charter school, leaving the public school with less funds and fewer resources.

“Co-location helps fuel the decades-long strategy of the privatizers, including the charter lobby, of starving public schools of funds, using misguided ‘accountability’ policies to label them as failures, and pitching privatization as the answer,” says NEA senior policy analyst Bob Tate.

Fortunately, a growing number of educators see what is happening. Curtailing school privatization – specifically the expansion of unaccountable, for-profit charter schools – has been a pillar of the RedforEd movement. Recent city-wide strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland helped drive support for the state legislature’s recent actions restricting the charter sector.

Carrying over the momentum from their strikes, UTLA and the Oakland Education Association have led the charge against co-location, collaborating with parents and community groups  to expose how the practice depletes valuable resources from their most vulnerable students.

Catskill educators and parents have demanded answers from the Ganas charter corporation on why they are pushing head against the clear the wishes of the community. “You are predatory and aggressive” teacher Christina Gan told a Ganas board meeting in April, which was announced only one day in advance after two and-a-half months of refusing to hold any public meetings.

Despite a LAUSD spokesman’s insistence that the decision to co-locate Catskill was designed to “minimize disruptions and potential impacts,” stripping critical resources and services from their students will do precisely the opposite, says Catskills teacher Chris Collins.

“Co-location is nothing good for us. It will only hurt our school and our students are going to suffer. They already know that there may not be an art teacher next year because there won’t be a room for him.”

US mapNEA Report: Only Five States’ Charter School Laws Rate “Mediocre” or Better

Privately-managed charter schools do not have to operate by the same rules as district schools and in many places do not have to be as transparent about how they spend public money. They are run by private boards who do not have to be accountable to the public. A new NEA report card on state charter laws and statutes zeroes in on the weak regulation and lax oversight that enable for-profit organizations to open and manage charters in most states.

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Here’s What People Are Getting Wrong About ‘Summer Slide’

When the end of the school year arrives, internet articles and morning talk shows sound the annual alarm about preventing summer learning loss. They advise parents to purchase hot new reads for their children, take them to museums, and sign them up for science camp.

As a literacy educator for the past 27 years – and the parent of two teenagers – I’ve tried many of these recommendations myself. (Ask my son about the library reading programs I signed him up for, and wait for the groan.) I understand why such tips are appealing. Who doesn’t want young people to spend their summers more productively than sleeping and playing Fortnite? But it’s high time we question the assumptions baked into our thinking about the so-called “summer slide.”

The summer slide is real, but …

It’s hard to blame parents for anxiety about summer loss given a century’s worth of research that shows young people can lose up to several months’ worth of school-year learning over summer break. Studies also show older students have greater gaps than younger students, and summer loss is greatest for low-income students. These findings are worrisome.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize that concerns about summer loss are grounded in an idea that learning is linear and that students’ gains or losses are best measured by performance on achievement tests. Any gaps these tests reveal need to be considered with caution.

The loss-prevention recommendations themselves also reflect some problematic biases. Parents and caregivers from all walks of life find ways to support their children’s growth and development. But many ideas suggested for stemming summer setback assume an audience with disposable income, employment flexibility and English fluency that not all families have.

For example, tracing shadows every two hours from breakfast to dinner is easier for a parent with the means to stay home than a working parent. Suggesting that families who can’t afford summer camps create their own using online resources ignores variation in parental education, literacy levels and technology access. Such disregard of social class differences is particularly concerning since many summer-loss articles are thinly veiled advertisements for commercial products and programs.

Also troubling is the assumption that families, not educators, should promote learning in specialized areas such as mathematics, reading and science. Although families from all walks of life promote varied kinds of learning in everyday life, most parents lack preparation to address academic subjects, and their year-round obligations don’t end just because school is out for their offspring.

Summer gains for all

Given these complexities, I believe that solutions to the summer slide should not fall predominantly on students and their families. Instead, schools must step up to design summer-learning supports responsive to community needs. These might be home-based initiatives, such as the one created by Richard Allington and colleagues, where students’ selection and ownership of 12 free books yielded small but significant gains in reading, particularly for students from the least-advantaged families.

Schools might also offer no- or low-cost programs on site that combine interest-driven academics with a mix of enrichment activities such as dance, drama, or meditation. Summer school can be much more than the retaking of failed courses.

Research suggests parents would take advantage of these programs if they were offered. The National Summer Learning Association found that 51% of families not participating in a summer program would do so if one were available. Cost is often a factor. For instance, the association found that of families that pay for summer programming, the average cost was $288 per week per child.

I have seen first-hand what can happen when summer is viewed as a time to test innovations that promote learning for all, teachers and students alike, rather than an opportunity to “fix” some children stereotyped as deficient.

For four years, I served as director of a summer writing institute meant to ease middle schoolers’ transition to high school. The three-week program was free, open to all students slated to attend a local high school in the fall, and drew its staff from volunteers committed to continuous professional improvement. Students pursued individual and collaborative projects in both print and digital forms. Guest authors from the community spoke about how and why they write. Teachers worked together to construct plans responsive to students’ varying needs.

My research within the institute suggests that students valued interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds and abilities around topics of interest. It also suggests that families valued a high-quality learning experience for their children that didn’t duplicate the school curriculum, take the whole summer or require extra effort from them. Teachers valued collaborating with peers to design a strengths-based writing program tailored to the local community.

To be sure, programs like the writing institute require considerably more time and money than sending home a one-page menu of suggestions for families. But if such programs engage students without stigmatizing them and help teachers refine their craft, that investment could be well worth it.

Kelly Chandler-Olcott is the Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence at Syracuse University. This article is republished under a Creative Commons license from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site featuring analysis from academic experts. For more articles about summer learning loss, click here.

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The Biggest LGBT Center In The World Just Got Bigger — And Better

LOS ANGELES — The construction wasn’t quite finished on the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new Anita May Rosenstein Campus in mid-May. There was still caution tape on some of the planters outside, and men on ladders were drilling into ceilings, securing fixtures and sweeping up, like frantic workers in “The Truman Show.”

But inside the sparkling glass complex, a culinary course was already underway. Six students, three LGBTQ seniors and three youth, were on day nine of their class, making a chicken fricassee under the guidance of Janet Crandall, the executive chef of the Center’s culinary arts program.

“You’ll want to take out the chicken when you are reducing the sauce,” she explained.

“Yes, chef,” the students said, earnestly.

Crandall, a friendly, energetic person with a short, blond haircut, was hired by the Center in January. “I was writing curriculum up till the kitchen opened on April 7. We got the OK from the health inspection the Friday before.”

The classes are the brainchild of cookbook author and TV personality Susan Feniger, a Center board member. The mission is twofold: to give seniors and youth marketable culinary skills, and eventually to serve up to 600 meals a day at the Center, as well as to produce food for a cafe there.

The course is 300 hours over three months. “The first 100 hours focus on basic cooking techniques, including knife skills, cutting vegetables, cooking vegetables, making stock, grilling, braising,” Crandall said. “Then they move to the second level of 100 hours, cooking on a larger scale for members of the Center. This also includes proper food ordering and receiving methods.” The students spend their last 100 hours as interns in L.A. restaurants.

Crandall noted that each student has a uniform with their name embroidered on it. “Whatever you want to say you are, you are here,” she said. “It’s something so small, but that’s how they identify. And when they go out to a restaurant for work, that’s who they are too.”

Everyone Deserves A Beautiful Space

The commercial-sized kitchen is the spiritual and physical center of the new Rosenstein Campus. After more than a decade of fundraising and planning, the new complex is almost complete. There are two wings: one with 100 beds and 25 micro-apartments for at-risk youth, and another expected to have 98 affordable housing units for seniors by 2020. Those are linked by Pride Hall, a common ground where two of the most vulnerable segments of the LGBTQ community can meet, connect, cook and eat together.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center was already the largest such facility in the world. Now it’s even bigger.

“At the end of the day, this is a $140 million project,” said Darrel Cummings, the Center’s chief of staff who, with the Center’s CEO Lorri Jean and the board of directors, began raising money for the campus in 2012. Designed by Leon Leong and Killefer Flammang Architects, the complex looks as modern and clean as the Getty Villa in Malibu. It’s fresh, elegant, with green roofs and mini-courtyards throughout.

“When you think of an LGBT center, you think, ‘Oh, a rented space with beanbag chairs, where you can sit and talk about how awful everything is,’” Cummings said. “Here there is natural light everywhere. And who is this space for? It’s for really low-income or homeless people. We intentionally built an iconic structure that would look as beautiful as this, because we believe all of these people deserve it by virtue of being a human being.”

The need is there. The new campus has only been open two weeks, and already it is filling up. When it comes to the more vulnerable populations of the LGBTQ community, there is no such thing as a soft opening.

A Silver Tsunami

That morning in Pride Hall, the Center held a luncheon in honor of “Respect Your LGBTQ Elders” Day. City Councilman David Ryu, a major supporter of the project, stopped by with some good news: He’d secured $450,000 in this year’s city budget to fund programs, meals and more at the campus’ senior center.

In 2007, realizing that the “silver tsunami” of baby boomers heading into retirement included a very large lavender wave, the Center applied for and received a three-year, $1 million grant from the Administration on Aging, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to pilot a program that would address senior LGBTQ issues.

According to a 2014 study by the nonprofit group Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, there are at least 3 million LGBT people over 55 in the United States, and that number will double in 20 years. Within this community are long-term HIV survivors who have particular health care needs.

At the same time, the Center also wanted to increase services for another underserved and rising demographic — at-risk and homeless youth. Shockingly, 40% of homeless youth in Los Angeles identify as LGBT.

“We quickly realized if we were going to do this, we were going to have to think about a new space — and raise a lot of money,” Cummings said.

“When we started thinking of the space, we were really turned on by the idea of young people who have never had access to the history of LGBT people,” he said. “And for older people to have access to the younger generation ― that would be a very interesting thing to try.”

That this campus opens during a dark time for marginalized people in our country is not lost on the Center’s staff. “Resisting is one thing,” Cummings said, “but this is an achievement in the face of all this. Our community came forward and said, ‘We don’t believe in hunger.’”

Fighting Erasure

On the wall in Pride Hall is a detailed timeline of LGBTQ history, including the 1959 Cooper Do-nuts riot and the 1967 New Year’s Eve raid on the Black Cat Tavern ― both in L.A., and both of which many Angelenos would argue marked the “real” birth of the modern gay movement, rather than the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York.

Robert Clement, 94, a senior at the Center, remembers Stonewall well. He and his partner, John Noble, were living in the West Village at the time and walking to their apartment when they heard a big ruckus. “John went to go investigate and came back to say that a bunch of gays were doing high kicks at the police, and I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m interested in that,’” he said, laughing. “So we kept moving.”

But Clement, a lifelong activist, is no bystander. An ordained priest, he founded the Church of the Beloved Disciple in Manhattan in 1968, the first major apostolic and sacramental church for the LGBTQ community in New York. The space became a meeting ground for early LGBTQ organizations like the Gay Activists Alliance, as well as the all-male dance troupe Les Ballet Trocadero. The film historian Vito Russo was an altar boy. With Noble, Clement celebrated the first ever “Holy Union” at the Church of the Beloved Disciple in July 1970.

In the ’80s, the couple moved to San Diego to enjoy the warmer climate. They were together for 43 years, until Noble died in 2003. Clement, on his own, decided he wanted to be in a larger city where he hoped there would be support and community. He moved to Los Angeles, where he found that a good part of his savings went to his $2,000-plus rent.

Fortunately, Clement landed an apartment at Triangle Square, a senior affordable housing complex in Hollywood also founded by the Center. The staff introduced him to David Epstein, 69, to show him around.

“Robert had a bit of an emotional collapse after the loss of his lover, so we had that in common ― the whole feeling of depression and anxiety that had stayed with us all these years,” Epstein says. The two became close friends.

Epstein had moved to Los Angeles in 2003 as well, on the verge of expiration. Like many of today’s LGBTQ seniors, he was a survivor of a culture that wanted him erased, and was in the throes of post-traumatic stress disorder. “I have been in the community for 50 years. I made it through the ’70s and ’80s, I made it through the plague. But by the mid-’90s, I had two deaths back to back, two lovers of mine, one by suicide,” he remembers. “I had a complete collapse.”

He was living in Allentown, Pennsylvania, near a right-wing militia training ground, ostracized and shunned. “I knew I was going to die if I did not do something really radical, so I came out here, suicidally ill.”

Epstein found an apartment in Silver Lake and forced himself to take the bus to the Center nearly every day to play bingo and go to art and exercise classes. “But mostly,” he says, “it was connecting with other people. Social isolation is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day… The LGBT Center saved my life.”

As an activist in the ’70s, Epstein remembers going to his first gay liberation meeting at 21. In 1973, when he was 23, he attended the now-famous rally in New York where Sylvia Rivera gave her powerful speech laying out for people how the movement was failing the poor and trans communities.  

He also remembers coming across an article about the Stonewall anniversary march in 1970. “I’m looking down and there’s a photograph of a priest… a priest in full vestment… carrying a sign. I remember it saying ‘Gay is Good,’ but it really said, ‘Gays This is Your Church.’” A few years into their friendship, Epstein realized that “the person in the photograph was Robert. All these years later we’re best buddies.”

Epstein and Clement are hoping to live together and move into a larger apartment at Triangle Square, because Epstein is being priced out of his apartment in Silver Lake. Like many major U.S. cities, Los Angeles is facing an acute housing crisis, brought on by a perfect storm of luxury development, rent increases and income inequality. And while the area saw a decrease in homelessness in 2018 for the first time in years, homelessness rose by 22% among Angelinos 62 and older.  

“When the 2008-9 housing crisis hit, a lot of developers came in and grabbed the land. Now you’re seeing the results of that,” said Tripp Mills, deputy director of senior services at the Center. “The affordable is getting squeezed out.”

Paired with this statistic is the added discrimination facing LGBTQ seniors. A 2014 study by the Equal Rights Center in Washington found that 48% of lesbian, gay and bisexual households encountered housing discrimination. The sad truth is that many LGBTQ elders go back in the closet when they enter senior facilities. A 2011 survey found that just 22% of LGBTQ aging adults felt they could be open about their sexual identity in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Giving Youth Legs To Stand On 

A neon sign at the reception area of the Center’s youth wing reads “You Are Beautiful.” Past the front desk is a large lounge with a television and plenty of comfortable tables and chairs. In mid-May, this area was crowded with young people watching TV, checking the computers and talking. 

On the first floor of the facility is a shelter with 40 emergency beds, which are always full. The Center’s former youth facility in Hollywood only had 26 beds, which were also always full.

We intentionally built an iconic structure that would look as beautiful as this, because we believe all of these people deserve it by virtue of being a human being.
Darrel Cummings

On the upper floors is the transitional living program ― singles, doubles and quads that resemble new dorms in expensive universities, some with private bedrooms linked to kitchenettes and bathrooms. Two weeks after opening, the Center is still in the process of filling them. “Given our population, and the fluidity of gender identity and expression, separating our youth members by gender really makes no sense,” said Simon Costello, director of the Center’s children, youth and family services. 

The wing also hosts the Ariadne Getty Foundation Youth Academy, which offers programs for high school completion, vocational training and post-secondary education. The Youth Employment Program next door offers resume-writing clinics, mock interview workshops and a closet with donated clothing for interviews. There’s also a computer lab and a sound studio with rainbow-colored wall guards. So far, there is a 100% graduation rate for students getting their GEDs.

The mission is to give these young people legs to stand on. “We’ve found that it takes time for our youth members to learn lifelong skills, lead a stable life and become a success story,” Costello said. “Previously, we would ask young people ― from day one ― where they planned to work. Many of them did not have any idea what was possible, let alone what they wanted to do. Our program gives youth the time and space to work with staff towards individual, self-directed career and educational goals that lead to long-term independence.”

More than 40 formerly homeless youth from the Center’s programs now attend a two- to four-year college. “We were told that… the best you can do is get them in some kind of trade, entry-level liquor store job,” Costello said. “But they will work with you. You are safe here, there is food here. We have internships, employers, education.”

From youth homelessness and violence to health care and housing for an aging population, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new campus addresses a wide swath of today’s LGBTQ struggles. It’s doing so on a much grander scale than Clement’s church in 1968, but it’s still the kind of community-based activism that is as old as the movement.

“Something that needs doing, you do,” Clement said. “It’s amazing what you can achieve if you get a little angry and annoyed.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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West Virginia’s Senate Goes To War With Teachers, Again

West Virginia teachers went on strike in February to protest a bill that would open up the state to charter schools and help students pay for alternatives the public education system. They won that strike, and went back to work, when the House of Delegates’ rejected the legislation.

Just four months later, history is repeating itself.

Earlier this month, the state Senate passed two bills similar to the one teachers protested in February, but with additional language that makes it more difficult for the educators to go on strike. The fate of the bills is again in the hands of the House of Delegates, which reconvenes on Monday.   

The bills represent the latest skirmish in a nearly two-year tug-of-war between local teachers and state legislators, during which teachers went on strike twice. The first walkout, in 2018, protested low pay and health care costs, and was teachers’ first in the state since 1990. It lasted nine days and helped spur a “red state revolt” across the country, as teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma and elsewhere subsequently staged their own walkouts. The second strike in West Virginia earlier this year lasted just two days.  

Now, during the summer break for public schools, teachers are getting ready to mobilize again.

The two education bills that the state Senate advanced promise a pay hike but would allow the establishment of charter schools ― public schools that are privately managed ― and create education savings accounts that help families use public money to pay for private schools. One bill also specifies that strikes by public employees are illegal in the state and that the workers can be fired for such work stoppages. It also says school superintendents must keep schools open during walkouts.

The West Virginia Supreme Court previously ruled that teachers don’t have the right to strike. But in the recent labor strife local superintendents closed schools in anticipation of work stoppages, which took the onus off of the teachers. 

In Arizona and Oklahoma, legislators also recently introduced bills that included new penalties for striking teachers, but the measures did not pass. 

In West Virginia, teachers like Brittney Barlett are on edge, ready to pack their bags and go protest at the capital in Charlestown. Barlett will drive three hours each way on Monday to the city, missing a day of her summer job.

“They can try to fire all of us, but I don’t think it’s going to work, and it’s simply retaliatory,” said Barlett.

Barlett has only been working as a teacher for three years ― two of which have been filled with protests. In addition to teaching, she’s decided to run against her local state delegate after he voted against the teachers in February.

“There’s such a disconnect between what they’re saying and what the reality of our classrooms are,” Barlett said of Republican state senators, all of whom voted for bills that have provoked the teachers’ ire.

A recent report by the state Department of Education suggests widespread opposition to the idea of charter schools and education savings accounts across the state. The report, based on a series of forums, surveyed participants on their views of education issues. The department received nearly 700 comment cards on the topic of charter schools and education savings accounts, with 90% of respondents expressed disapproval.

But GOP state Sen. Patricia Rucker, chair of the education committee, disputes that the report accurately reflects public attitudes. She said its findings were “slanted” by the large number of teachers who participated, and that respondents weren’t given proper clarification on the definition of charter schools and education savings accounts. She also noted that most indicated support for the idea of more flexibility in education.

Responding to criticism that the Senate bills represent reprisal against teachers, Rucker said in an email to HuffPost, “There is nothing retaliatory about local control or clarifying that our state does not allow for public employees to strike (as determined by our state Supreme Court). … There is nothing retaliatory in giving local counties the option to have charters, something the majority of the United States has already,” 

The Republican-led bid in the West Virginia Senate has the support of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

But state Del. Sean Hornbuckle (D) is skeptical that Republicans have the numbers to pass the bills in the House. The bills have encountered bipartisan opposition in that chamber.  

Hornbuckle said he isn’t opposed to charter schools on principle and that he believes they might work well some places. In West Virginia, though, many schools are in rural areas and they are already struggling to retain students. Opening up charter schools could drain public schools of an already shrinking pool of resources and students.

The bills are “a deliberate poke in the eye of teachers and also labor unions,” Hornbuckle said. “The fact that one would like to attack working class folks and blue-collar America ― that might work in some places but it’s not gonna fly in West Virginia.”

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Valedictorian Unleashes Searing Rebuke Of High School Staff In Speech

A San Diego high school valedictorian began her graduation speech as most do ― by thanking her parents and role models. Then she unleashed a firestorm of criticism against her guidance counselor, main office staff and a teacher she accused of being drunk on the job.

Nataly Buhr, a San Ysidro High School senior, elicited a roar of shouts and applause from her peers in the crowd during the June 6 commencement ceremony when she called out “the teacher who was regularly intoxicated during class this year.”

“Thank you for using yourself as an example to teach students about the dangers of alcoholism,” she quipped. “Being escorted by police out of school left a lasting impression. I hope that future students and staff learn from these examples.”

Buhr also thanked her counselor for “teaching me to fend for myself,” deriding the employee as practically useless.

“You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments,” she said. “You expressed to me your joy in knowing that one of your students was valedictorian when you had absolutely no role in my achievements.”

Continuing, Buhr skewered the school’s main office for allegedly almost costing her hefty sums of financial aid.

“Thank you for teaching me how to be resourceful,” she said. “Your negligence to inform me of several scholarships until the day before they were due potentially caused me to miss out on thousands of dollars.”

The blistering speech, which appeared to be well-received by students who reacted with cheers, went viral online, being shared across Twitter and receiving hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

But the school wasn’t as thrilled.

In a statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Sweetwater Union High School District spokesman Manuel Rubio scolded it as “inappropriate and out of line.”

“While we definitely welcome the concerns of students and their families regarding any situation at one of our schools, doing so in such a manner without any prior knowledge of this situation by the school, is not the right way of handling this,” he added. “Ultimately this takes away from what should have been a day of celebration for the school and their community.”

Addressing the controversy in a statement to local CBS affiliate KFMB-TV, Buhr didn’t back down.

“I understand that those I criticized may be facing personal issues, but I don’t think that should be affecting their commitments or the school’s responsibility to fulfill their commitments,” she said.

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Immersion Programs Teach Much More Than Another Language

Matthew Bacon-Brenes is a dual language immersion mentor teacher in Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon. He teaches Japanese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Spanish. We spoke to the NEA Foundation Horace Mann Awardee about about language immersion programs and the wide-ranging benefits they bring to all students.

Why is learning a culture as important as learning a language?

It’s a gateway to understanding the multicultural, multi-perspective world in which we all live. My interest in language is deeply rooted in cross cultural communication. We need to understand different cultures and perspectives to fully understand our place in history and our relation to the world.

There is great power in history lessons told in a different language with a different cultural lens. That’s how we learn about narratives and paradigms that don’t exist in one language but do in another.

What lessons have your students learned from cross –cultural studies?

A core Japanese cultural value emphasized, encouraged and honed in my classroom is “thinking of the other.” It is thinking about and honoring the feelings and perspectives of those around you. “The other” can be in the seat next to you or someone on the other side of the globe.

By teaching about the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in Japanese to American students, I can present a more global perspective on what is to be “American” – that it is a unique perspective on what is most valued in our country and that it is not the only way to go about creating a nation of people.

The unit starts with John Locke’s “State of Nature” and “Natural Laws” that are the basis of Thomas Jefferson’s “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.  Most American students at 8th grade have heard those words and can repeat them when prompted with the fill-in-the-blank “Life, liberty and _______?” A light bulb goes on. A connection to a thread of American culture and value system in which students have been immersed unfolds.

We look at interpretations on this triad of individual rights and dearly-guarded American values to examine events like the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the flying of the Confederate flag, homelessness in Portland, and other contemporary issues. The core question is, “whose rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are being violated?” The answers are complicated, involving racism, classism and more.

At some point following this unit on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I offer students a series of readings on Japanese cultural values, offering another fill-in-the-blank: “Liberty (or freedom) is to Americans, as __________ is to Japanese.

There is no shortage of answers: respect, peace, community, etc. Harmony is one of the highest cultural values in Japan. Collectivism, in contrast to America’s ardent individualism, places greater emphasis on the needs of the group than the individual in Japan. “Ongaeshi” (returning a favor) is also enormously important.  We push students to not just speak the language of Japan, but its culture as well.

Learning all the correct vocabulary and attending well to the grammatical rules is important. But not paying attention to cultural norms when speaking another language leads to “fluent fools” – our students become aware of other perspectives, that the American perspective isn’t the only one and that being a fluent fool is not cool.

What other benefits do language immersion programs have for students?

There is a lot of research that shows the rigor of language acquisition combined with content acquisition has enormous cognitive benefits for native and non-native speakers, raising achievement particularly in language arts and math.

Benefits are seen in every student demographic – affluent, low income, native speakers and English native speakers. Higher level learning skills comes from the power of transferring words and ideas from one language to another, thereby reinforcing them.

It’s a little hard sometimes for parents and educators to get on board with 50-50 immersion programs because there is an initial lag. Some parents wonder how their child, who might already struggle in math, will catch up if he’s learning math in a second language. But they do catch up. In fact statistics show that dual language students not only catch up, they pass up English-only students.

Students participate in a Japan Research Residency, the culminating 8th grade academic experience in Osaka and Hiroshima.

What are the benefits for ELLs in a dual immersion program?

I you want students to understand content, the best way to get them there is in their first language. This is an equity issue. We must move past the historic thinking around ESL as a deficiency model, like they are deficient because they can’t speak English. Instead, we embrace their heritage language skills as Spanish speakers or Vietnamese speakers, for example, and offer English simultaneously. We value their first language and realize that using it is the best way for them to access new content while also teaching them the English language. Again, it’s reinforcing the concepts, words and ideas.

How is the presence of a language immersion program an equity issue?

The dual language immersion department has made a commitment to equity and benefiting all students. Statistically, kids from economically diverse backgrounds make the biggest gains in language immersion programs. We are deeply committed to serving all students and schools, particularly those that have been historically underserved.

Language can be divisive – we’ve seen that around the country with English only laws, but we’ve also seen how language can bring people together and bring about academic rigor more universally. By looking at the immersion program through an equity lens, we see that the best model is 50-50, with half of the student body coming from a targeted language.

Why is the celebration of diversity so important in our current political environment?

The “America First” mentality is based on fear and is totally counterproductive to solving our greatest issues on the globe, from racism and hunger to human rights and environmental disasters. We need to embrace each other to evolve, grow and be a place where we all have an opportunity.

I think language and multicultural learning – embracing all heritages, opening access to opportunities, and offering a sense of belonging to everyone — is a piece of it. When students see their culture and their perspectives as part of our curriculum it counters that destructive idea that fear needs to drive us.

I believe that love needs to drive us, I take that from Martin Luther King, Jr., from Gandhi, and from all of the educators that I work with. That’s what drives educators — the love; getting outside ourselves to embrace the beauty and gifts of the other. Language studies and cross-cultural communication is key to that.

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20 Books With LGBTQ Characters Your Kids Will Love

Looking for a way to celebrate and honor Pride Month with your young kid? From books with main characters who are LGBTQ or still figuring out their sexual orientations to stories of straight kids or teens with gay friends or parents, these books portray many aspects of the LGBTQ experience for kids as young as 3. Many of these books have been published within the last few years, a happy indication that more and more families are celebrating diversity in gender and sexual identity.

For more books for kids and teens about the LBGTQ experience, check out the full list at Common Sense Media.

Authored by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Laura Cornell

Twenty-fie years after its controversial debut, this updated version of a now-classic tale of a little girl with same-sex parents comes across as a sweet, gentle message of inclusion and acceptance.

Recommended for ages 3 and older

Publisher: Candlewick, 2017

Authored by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

This sensitively written book about a transgender teddy bear is done with just the right hand to introduce the idea of gender identity and transition to very young kids, for whom less may be more.

Recommended for ages 3 and older

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2016

Authored by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, presented by HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and written by LWT staffer Jill Twist, is a picture book that celebrates inclusiveness and democracy and embraces same-sex marriage. It was published to coincide with the release of a similarly titled book written by Vice President Mike Pence’s daughter (featuring his real-life family pet rabbit, which is named Marlon Bundo), as a response to Pence’s on-the-record positions on same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues.

Recommended for ages 4 and older

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2018

Authored and illustrated by Jessie Sima

In one seamless story, this book introduces an exuberant multiracial girl who has two dads, sends her on a fantastic hot-air balloon journey with penguins, and throws her a rollicking rooftop party.

Recommended for ages 4 and older

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018

Authored by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas / This autobiographical picture book about a transgender child chronicles the story of her life (so far); in her words, “I have a girl brain but a boy body.” This is an excellent choice to jump-start a conversation about gender, identify, compassion, and honesty.

Recommended age: 4 and older

Quality rating: 4 out of 5

Publisher: Dial Books, 2014

Authored by Sarah Hoffman and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case / This cheery book about a confident young boy who feels best when he’s wearing a dress is a terrific way for parents to start a conversation with kids feeling their way through unfamiliar terrain.

Recommended for ages 4 and older

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co., 2014

Authored by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole / And Tango Makes Three is a powerful, gentle story of two male penguins who fall in love at the zoo and together nurture and parent another penguin couple’s offspring from the time it’s an egg.

Recommended for ages 4 and older

Publisher: Little Simon, 2015

Authored by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato / Whether you read this as a smart take on same-sex marriage and changing gender norms or a celebration of free and kindred spirits, Worm Loves Worm is irresistible.

Recommended for ages 4 and older

Publisher: Balzer + Bray, 2016

Authored by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Chris Raschka / This sensitive portrait of a loving and recognizably human family in which school-age Lester is adopted by Daddy Albert and Daddy Rich has clear adoption and LGBTQ themes, but the feelings will be recognizable to any kid who’s felt anxiety.

Recommended for ages 5 and older

Publisher: Greenwillow Books, 2016

Authored by Alex Gino / This simply and tenderly written story will help kids ― and parents ― understand what it feels like to be transgender.

Recommended for ages 9 and older

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2015

Authored by Tim Federle / Better Nate Than Ever is a charming story of a boy who sneaks away from home and falls in love with New York City. Nate’s a lovable hero for misfits and dreamers everywhere, and especially for young gay teens and kids who, like Nate, aren’t ready to declare anything about their sexuality.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2013

Authored by Raina Telgemeier / Drama is a funny, affecting graphic novel about what it takes to put on a middle school musical. The engaging cast of diverse personalities includes a forthrightly gay male character and another exploring his own sexuality. The author treats the subject with sensitivity and discretion.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Authored by Rick Riordan / This second book to the Magnus Chase series features a gender-fluid character named Alex, who adds depth and diversity to the story nine-world hopping and giant killing.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, 2016

Authored by Ashley Herring Blake / This gentle book about a 12-year old’s first same-sex crush explores both LGBTQ themes and universally human themes of family, first love, and navigating life’s unexpected challenges.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018

Authored by Donna Gephart / Lily and Dunkin is a wonderfully written story about the start-and-stop friendship between an eighth-grader who is transgender and another who’s struggling with mental illness.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2016

Authored by Mariko Tamaki, Illustrated by Brooke Allen Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! (yes, there are unicorns) ignores gender as a possible limitation and opens readers’ imaginations to limitless possibilities. Tweens and young teens will get a lot of positive messages about ignoring gender stereotypes and the limitless possibilities out there for a girl who wants to discover them.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Publisher: Amulet Books, 2018

Authored by Jennifer Gennari / My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer main theme is prejudice against same-sex marriage and gay people in general. The main character’s emotional growth is believable, and the resolution is satisfying.

Recommended for ages 10 and older

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children’s Books, 2012

Authored by James Howe / 13-year-old Addie’s story is told completely in narrative poetry that poignantly captures the turmoil and confusion she faces about issues. She helps organize the Gay and Straight Alliance in support of her openly gay friends and dares to hold a Day of Silence even when it’s nixed by the principal.

Recommended for ages 11 and older

Publisher: Atheneum, 2011

Authored by Jazz Jennings / Transgender activist Jazz Jennings describes what it was like to know ― even as a toddler ― that she was a girl in a boy’s body and how her family came to understanding, acceptance, and full, loving support. She holds little back in her frank, funny memoir ― she shares soaring highs and humiliating lows, her ambition and depression, and her unique experience with puberty.

Recommended for ages 12 and older

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers, 2016

Authored by David Levithan / The omniscient spirits of gay ancestors narrate this story that looks at the lives of several gay teens during a few days leading up to and including two boys’ attempt to break the world’s record for the longest kiss. This is a beautifully written novel about some moving modern-day characters, and an eloquent comment on the current evolutionary stage of society’s treatment of gay youth.

Recommended for ages 12 and older

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How Restorative Practices Work for Students and Educators

A few Mondays ago, a Denver third-grader named Luca sat down in a circle with his classmates and started a conversation like this: “If you were an animal for a day, based on your mood and feelings today, what animal would it be?”

It was the best conversation, say classmates Ellie and Lina. “I said I’d be a monkey because I was feeling silly,” says Ellie. “And I said I’d be a panda!” says Lina. “Because I was feeling lazy and hungry, and pandas are lazy and they eat all the time!”

Funny! But the point of the circle conversations, also known as “peace circles,” which take place every Monday morning in every classroom at the K-8 Dora Moore School in Denver, isn’t giggles. It’s to build community and to foster the kind of student-to-student and educator-to-student relationships that lead to supportive classrooms.

“When you go to school here, you get to know each other,” says fifth-grader Trinity. “At my old school, we never got to know each other — or to understand each other.”

Classroom circles are just one of the restorative practices that Dora Moore’s educators have adopted over recent years. Many of their students also practice their conflict-resolution skills in “peace walks,” and get regular, positive feedback through daily, one-on-one check-ins with dedicated, full-time restorative practices specialists on their campuses.

Often, this all takes place under the eyes of visiting educators who want to see and hear what happens in public schools where educators care more about creating a community built upon kindness, not consequences.

Dora Moore’s schoolwide enthusiasm and experience with restorative practices has made it one of three model schools in Denver, which, thanks to a three-year, $663,000 NEA Great Public Schools grant to the Restorative Justice Partnership (RJP), have welcomed hundreds of visiting educators from Minnesota to Mississippi.

In addition to NEA, the partnership includes the national Advancement Project and a local advocacy group called Padres y Jóvenes Unidos that in 2008 won a historic commitment from Denver Public Schools to eliminate racial disparities in discipline and focus on keeping kids in schools, plus the Colorado Education Association, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the University of Denver, and Denver Public Schools.

Sandra Lins leads her students in deep breathing every morning. (PHOTO: DOUGLAS GRITZMACHER)

“These are organizations that haven’t always seen eye to eye,” notes RJP project manager Lindsay Lee. “But they are in agreement on this issue.”

As well as coordinating the school visits, RJP also has put together an online library of educator guides and resources, including webinars on restorative language and culture, how to align trauma-sensitive practices, and more.

Says Maryland high school teacher Erika Chavarria, who last year visited Denver’s North High School, another RJP model school: “The main thing that struck me, the thing that sums it all up, is the level of trust and respect in the building. It was very clear that students were trusted and respected [by educators], and it was very clear that—because the students received that level of trust and respect and love—they gave it in return.”

Taking on the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Adopting restorative practices doesn’t mean no more suspensions, ever. Even at Dora Moore, North, or the third RJP school, Skinner Middle School, students still get suspended for serious offenses. But suspensions have decreased, as the petty disrespect that escalates into red-faced standoffs, or the squabbles that explode into violence, often are avoided or headed off by restorative practices.

More traditional punishments don’t work to change the root cause of misbehavior, or to keep students on a path to college and careers. “When I got here, the culture was to suspend and ‘kick ‘em out of my room,’” says Dora Moore principal Karen Barker, who arrived five years ago. But what do kids learn from that, she asked.

And who exactly is kicked out? “Zero tolerance” policies—suspensions, expulsions, and the more recent trend to police referrals or arrests—often are nourished by implicit biases and institutionalized racism, and aimed unevenly at black, Latino male, and American Indian students, as well as students with disabilities.

For example, while black students accounted for 15 percent of students in 2016, they accounted for 31 percent of school-related arrest and referrals to law enforcement, according to federal data. This forced march by students of color—from classrooms into courtrooms—is what’s known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and NEA members have committed to dismantling it.

At the RP schools, suspensions are a last resort. And, as they have decreased, an Advancement Project report has found that “indicators of achievement” have increased.

Stephaun “Mack” Gaddis (above, right) is the restorative practices coordinator at North High School in Denver. (PHOTO: DOUGLAS GRITZMACHER)

Inside an RJP School

When visitors come to Dora Moore, the first thing they see is the “tone-setting” that takes place in all classrooms, says Lee. In fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Sandra Lins’ classroom, this looks like Lins pulling a chair to the front of her classroom, sitting down to face her students, and saying, “Let’s get ready for the day.” It sounds like the quiet huffs of deep, calm breathing and the faint strains of classical music.

Last year, Dora Moore’s restorative practices coordinator, Morgan Isaacs, drew footprints and conversation prompts onto butcher paper that she rolled up and toted around school. This was the first “peace walk.” Since then, her template has been printed on dozens of vinyl tarps and distributed to classrooms, the playground, and the cafeteria.

The way it works is both parties in conflict—either two students, typically K-3, or an adult and student—step onto the mat and engage in a guided conversation. It always begins with an “I feel” statement, and ends with an agreed-upon plan to avoid future conflict.

Says fifth-grader Bradley: “I’ve noticed a lot of people have the same feelings as me.”

Meanwhile, at North, visitors observe students entering school, walking past a Black Music Matters poster through the front office, where staff smile and greet every student, asking about their weekends, or after-school activities, or well-being. “They do that intentionally,” says Chavarria. “Right off the bat, you can see the level of love.”

She also observed trust: Every North student can leave campus for lunch, and has a longer-than-typical time for lunch. They also have free blocks of time that they can use as they see fit—maybe to visit North’s college center, or hole up in the art room with some therapeutic clay.

At North, students also have hands-on involvement in school discipline, doing peer-mediation and low-level restorative conferencing. They even sit on employee interview committees and if they feel like a job candidate wouldn’t be a good fit on their campus, they say so.

Sound too idyllic to be real? Both Dora Moore and North, as well as Skinner, have been engaged in restorative practices for several years. The changes to their school’s culture have not come overnight, and they require whole-school staff commitment—plus training, re-training, and funding for dedicated restorative practice coordinators. Building real relationships with students has to be top priority.

But it can be done, they say.

Check out NEAEdjustice to learn moreabout restorative practices and get the RJP implementation guide.

Go to NEA EdCommunities and join one of the many groups of educators dedicated to improving their practices, such as the “Trauma-Informed Restorative Practice” group or the “Eradicating School to Prison Pipeline” group.

Also visit the RJPartnership site for links to the webinars and more.

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Former Stanford Coach Is First Person Sentenced In College Admissions Scam

A former Stanford University sailing coach on Wednesday became the first person to be sentenced in a sweeping college admissions scam involving bribery, inflated test scores and phony sports recruits.

John Vandemoer was sentenced to just one day for his part in the so-called “Varsity Blues” scandal, NBC News reported. Though the government had pushed for a 13-month sentence, U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel in Boston sided with Vandemoer’s defense attorneys. However, the disgraced coach won’t actually see any time behind bars since the judge dismissed the one day as already served.

Instead, Vandemoer has been ordered to serve two years of supervised release, six months of which will be under house arrest, The Associated Press reported. He will also pay a fine of $10,000.

Vandemoer pleaded guilty in March to one count of racketeering conspiracy involving $770,000 in bribes he arranged for the sailing program. According to CNN, he also designated two of the elite California university’s applicants as sailing recruits, even though they had no experience. University officials said neither individual finished the application process.

Once the charges against Vandemoer were made public, Stanford fired the coach, calling the revelations “nothing short of appalling.”

“The conduct reported in this case is absolutely contrary to Stanford’s values, and to the norms this university has lived by for decades,” university President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell said in a joint statement. “Today’s news is a shock exactly because it so clearly violates our institutional expectations for ethical conduct.”

In remarks delivered outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Vandemoer vowed to accept responsibility for his actions and their consequences, then “move forward with my life.”

“A big part of my coaching philosophy has always been that it’s not the mistake that defines you, rather it’s what you do afterwards,” he said. “I’m holding true to those words now, faced with my biggest mistake.”

According to The New York Times, Vandemoer did not keep any of the bribes for himself, unlike others charged in the scandal. Stanford was the only institution involved in which all of the funds linked to the scheme were contributed to university programs.

Prosecutors said that at other schools, including UCLA, the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University, coaches or businesses pocketed a portion of the money.

The scandal gained national attention earlier this year after implicating “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman.

Huffman pleaded guilty in May to spending $15,000 to falsify her daughter’s SAT results, but Loughlin and Giannulli have maintained their innocence, pleading not guilty in April to charges of money laundering conspiracy and mail fraud conspiracy.

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Wiccan Professor Alleges Catholic University Discriminated Against Her Faith

A Wiccan professor has sued her employer, a Catholic university in western New York state, alleging that it discriminated against her because of her faith and gender. 

Pauline Hoffmann, former dean of St. Bonaventure University’s Jandoli School of Communication, contends that the university pressured her into accepting a demotion.

Now an associate professor at the same school, Hoffmann filed her federal lawsuit last month in the Western District of New York, seeking to get her old job back, as well as lost pay and unspecified damages. 

Hoffmann, 49, told HuffPost that she believes the school’s treatment of her may stem from “a fear of the unknown.” 

“Wiccan isn’t a ‘mainstream’ religion like Judaism,” she wrote in an email. “I think there are many stereotypes surrounding it that are grossly inaccurate.”

Wicca, one of many branches of modern-day Paganism, is an earth-based spiritual practice. Hoffmann, a St. Bonaventure alumna, told WIVB 4 that she first learned about the tradition in college and was drawn to its focus on nature.

Hoffmann started working as an assistant tenure-track professor at St. Bonaventure in 2006. She told HuffPost that she identified as Wiccan at the time, but that her faith wasn’t discussed during the interview process.

Hoffmann claims her faith became an issue for the school in the fall of 2011 when she agreed to appear on the university’s student television channel to offer a witch’s perspective on Halloween. She was an assistant professor and the interim dean around that time, WIVB 4 reports, and seeking the permanent position as dean. 

“They kind of hemmed and hawed, and they had told me that one of the issues that they were having is that I’m Wiccan and that that might be a problem,” Hoffmann told WIVB 4. 

Pauline Hoffmann is currently an associate professor at St. Bonaventure University’s Jandoli School of Communication.

The following May, the school’s then-provost, Michael J. Fischer, demanded that she sign a document promising to uphold the school’s Catholic values, according to the lawsuit. 

Hoffmann’s suit says she asked Fischer, “If I were Jewish, would I have to sign this?” And Fischer allegedly replied, “If you were Jewish, then I guess not.” 

The lawsuit also alleges that Fischer told Hoffmann, “You might not want to be so overt about being a witch if you want to move up.” 

Hoffmann ultimately got the permanent job, but the lawsuit alleges that she was given a two-year contract, while other deans at the time, who were all male, had three-year contracts and higher salaries.

She told The Buffalo News that she was deeply upset by the school’s treatment. “I was angry but also confused and hurt,” she said. “It was like someone telling you, ‘Don’t be you.’”

Hoffmann contends she was subsequently pressured to resign as dean of the school of communication. She stepped down from that post in January 2018, which she said resulted in a significant pay cut. The professor also claims she was unfairly passed over for a promotion to provost. 

“I felt pressured to be quiet about being Wiccan,” she told WIVB 4. “And after a certain point, I did just feel the pressure that, OK, they clearly don’t want me in this job and it almost wasn’t worth it for me. It was emotionally and physically taxing for me.”

In February, Hoffmann filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which subsequently sent her a “right to sue” letter. 

HuffPost has reached out to St. Bonaventure University for comment. The school’s chief communications officer, Thomas Missel, told The Buffalo News that they would not be commenting on the case “since this is both a personnel and legal matter.” 

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Evangelical Publisher’s Africa-Themed Bible School Kit Had Kids Pretending To Be Slaves

An evangelical Christian publishing company has been getting flak for creating an Africa-themed children’s Bible school curriculum that critics say perpetuates racist stereotypes.

Group Publishing, a Colorado company that creates educational resources for churches, published a vacation Bible school (VBS) curriculum this year that had kids pretending to be Israelite slaves and making up new names in what it called a “click language.” The original curriculum also referred once to Africa as a country.

Group has already tried twice to respond to criticism ― apologizing and releasing a revised version on Monday that seeks to correct those controversial lesson plans. Still, some Christians are saying the damage is done and that the curriculum should be scrapped.

“There are many more ways to dramatically interpret Scripture without caricaturing people groups and appropriating rich ethnic tradition for supposed discipleship,” said Jonathan Walton, a ministry director for the evangelical campus ministry group InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

During summer VBS programs, churches transform their buildings into elaborate sets, designed around a central theme. Group is just one of many Christian publishers that sells VBS curricula and other resources that guide Sunday school teachers and volunteers through the process of putting on their own VBS. Previous Group VBS themes had kids pretending they were shipwrecked on an island or spelunking.

But in 2019, the “Roar” curriculum doesn’t promise to take kids to a vague geographical location. It is marketed as an “epic” adventure to Africa, specifically. More than 10,000 churches have purchased Group’s “Roar” curriculum, the company told HuffPost. Since June is prime VBS season, some churches have already started putting Group’s “Roar” materials to use.

For “Roar” VBS, leaders are encouraged to decorate their churches with savanna murals, raffia-topped huts and termite mounds. Group is selling what it calls an “African Pattern Plastic Backdrop” for $20, a bag of plastic bugs for $8 and other materials to help set the stage. In a catalog advertising its resources, the company promises that these design ideas will help “transform your VBS room into a vibrant African savanna.”

On social media, Christian leaders took issue with three specific parts of the curriculum. On Day 1, the curriculum instructs kids to pretend to be “Israelite slaves” making bricks while a leader pretends to be a “mean Egyptian guard” who mocks and pressures them into working harder. The exercise is meant to illustrate the day’s lesson that “when life is unfair … God is good.” But Christian leaders pointed out on social media that having kids, particularly black kids, pretend to be slaves could be harmful.

A Day 5 activity encouraged children to add a “click or two” to their names and pretend to introduce themselves in a “click language.” This was an apparent reference to languages, such as Xhosa and Zulu, that include distinct click consonants. The company also referred to Africa as a “country” in a Day 4 lesson plan, although Africa was identified correctly as a continent elsewhere in the curriculum.

The original curriculum read: “Africa is such a cool continent to explore. Did you know that some parts of Africa are really cool…as in cold! They get snow! But a lot of the country is very hot.” 

As news about these controversial aspects of the “Roar” curriculum spread on social media over the weekend, Group initially reacted on Saturday by defending its choices. The company insisted that the slavery exercise referred to “Bible times” and not to other events or populations. Their initial solution was telling communities that were offended by this activity to “simply omit” the words that made them uncomfortable.

“Even though some of these biblical accounts are ugly, we feel it’s important to help children truly understand what is recorded in the Bible, and grow in their relationship with the Lord,” the company said in a now-deleted statement.

Group then compared its “click language” activity to having children practice rolling their Rs while learning to speak Spanish.

“On Day 5 in Roar VBS, kids are practicing saying their name, just as you would when you try to say your name in Spanish, German, or any other language.”

But some Christians were not satisfied with this justification ― and insisted that the activity was “racist and unacceptable.” 

By Monday, Group had changed its tune. It posted a second apology and released revised versions of the curriculum online that corrected the three points that social media users had brought up.

Thom Schultz, president of Group Publishing, told HuffPost in a statement that the company assembled its entire team on Monday to revise the curriculum. He said the team regrets the mistakes it made.

“We realized the modifications needed were very important, and we wished to save our users the work of making the changes themselves,” Schultz wrote.

He said that the team now understands that the phrase “click language” is seen as “disrespectful.” He said that the one reference to Africa as a country was a “typo” and that the writer had originally meant to write “countryside.” The activity asking kids to pretend to be slaves was removed from the revised version of the curriculum.

Schultz said that his team traveled to countries in Africa to learn about the culture and form relationships with residents and local ministries. None of the three writers who wrote the “Roar” curriculum is African American, he said.

He said that each year’s VBS materials are subjected to extensive field tests with children and families from various ethnic backgrounds, “including African Americans.” He said that these families did not raise any cultural concerns about the “Roar” curriculum.

Schultz said that over the years, Group has created VBS curriculum featuring many different countries and regions in the world.

“Though we have not employed a writer or artist from each of the countries spotlighted, that is something we will be exploring,” he said.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a Christian minister who writes frequently about race and Christianity, suggested that he doesn’t think Group’s lack of awareness about racial sensitivities is unique to this specific publishing company. He believes Group was able to get this far along in “Roar” VBS’ publishing process because “white culture is normative for the people writing and developing their materials.”

“A lot of curriculum for churches is created by mostly white Christians who’ve not done the work to examine their own whiteness and how it has shaped their faith,” he said.

Even with the changes Group released on Monday, Wilson-Hartgrove said curriculum is still problematic. He pointed out that Christianity was used in the 19th century to justify slavery, since it offered the gospel to “pagan Africans.” He said he sees those same assumptions in Group’s materials, which he believes portray Africa as “wild” and “uncivilized.”

“A safari invites white people to see Africa has the colonizers first saw Africa ― an [exotic], wild place full of adventure but in need of taming civilization,” he said. “Jesus invites us to learn something about the diversity and glory of God in the particularity of non-white, non-Western cultures.”

In response to the minister’s critiques, Schultz said that the curriculum does not refer to residents of African countries as “uncivilized.”

He said that his company is planning to expand consultants and contributors, particularly from minority groups; form a cultural “advisory group”; and give its current staff additional training on racial sensitivities.

“We, along with many other Christians, regret the mistakes made by our ancestors and contemporaries in some of their evangelistic attempts around the world,” he said. “Today we want children to grow with a full appreciation and honor of other cultures.”

Asked how Group is going to ensure that all churches who purchased the Roar VBS curriculum see the revisions, Schultz said that the company decided to make a digital version available immediately, since “VBS season is in full swing.” He said the company is “notifying our customers and our re-seller partners, who have their own customers, to use the modifications.”

Walton, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship leader, said Group needs to do much more if the company wants to serve Christian kids from all backgrounds ― especially since America is becoming increasingly racially diverse.

“My hope for them is that they recall this curriculum, give people their money back and hire a TEAM, not just one person of color to develop a curriculum … [and] lead the production of resources,” he wrote. “I say lead because the majority of [kids in this] nation are children of color.”

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West Virginia Lawmakers Out to Punish Educators for Taking a Stand

(Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

In October, the West Virginia Legislature promised to give educators a pay raise. It failed to deliver on that promise and so a special session was called to hash out the details. As many suspected, strings would be attached.

“Not exactly an earth-shattering revelation,” wrote Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, in an editorial in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “but even we’re a little shocked at how far West Virginia’s [senate] has gone to punish public school teachers and service personnel for striking two years in a row to defend their livelihoods and the kids they teach.”

On June 3, the state senate narrowly passed an amendment to its Student Succeeds Act (S.B. 1039), which does include some provisions educators support, like providing more social workers, counselors, and nurses. But the bill also comes with a heavy dose of bitter pills: banning teacher strikes, removing local control from county superintendents to close school districts for a strike, canceling extracurricular activities during work stoppages, and docking the pay of teachers and staff who go on strike—or firing them altogether.

Additionally, the bill proposes an unlimited number of charter schools and diverts public dollars toward voucher programs.

“[T]he Student Success Act … [was] never about students at all,” Lee explained. “[T]his late addition is petty and vindictive, and probably what Senate President Mitch Carmichael … wants more than anything, after being embarrassed by the teachers, school service personnel, and their unions two years in a row.”

In 2018, WVEA members statewide went on strike for nine days, which lit the fire for #RedForEd across the U.S. Thirteen months later, they showed their power again with another work stoppage over charter expansion and vouchers.

West Virginians Ignored

The Student Success Act is similar to a previous senate bill (S.B. 451) that died in the house in February 2019. The main discord between the two chambers was over charter schools and vouchers.

Wendy Peters, an elementary school teacher, told MetroNews at the time, “Some folks in leadership are more beholden to these out-of-state interests, who have poured a lot of money into this,” she said. “They let charter school and education savings account (voucher) folks have three hours to answer and ask questions in the (Senate) Finance Committee, and then they gave the teachers, the principals, and the superintendents of the state 70 seconds (each),” referring to a February public hearing.

We need to show up. I’m not going to be teaching all that many years more, but I care about the legacy I’m leaving behind for future educators and for the kids in the classrooms.” – John Quesenberry, West Virginia teacher

Peters may still be right.

Charters and vouchers are back in West Virginia and have even captured the attention of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who tweeted her support for these unproven schemes.

John Quesenberry, a civics and history teacher of nearly 31 years in Beckley, W.V., has taken note, saying that DeVos’s input only “strengthens our resolve to continue to stand for our kids because we don’t want what she did in Michigan to take a foothold here.”

“When it comes down to it, Betsy DeVos doesn’t have a vote in the legislature,” he says “and that’s what we’re fighting against: people from outside of the classroom and out-of-state special interests telling us (educators) what to do.”

While DeVos may not have a vote, West Virginians do.

Remember in November

This latest attack on educators is “stressful, but it also makes people angry that a handful of politicians can dictate what they want regardless of what the people say,” explains Quesenberry.

The West Virginia Department of Education recently produced a report the captures the public’s thoughts, opinions, concerns, and expectations about public education. Thousands of West Virginians shared their resounding support for increasing teachers’ compensation, more student support services, and addressing the math teacher shortage. Charters and vouchers we’re at the bottom of the priority list.

WVEA members, however, continue to organize and work with their allies. “Bridges have been built and people are working together…it’s empowering,” says Quesenberry, co-president of the Raleigh County Education Association.

Educators are now contacting their representatives and meeting with them face-to-face to push back against the provisions educators see as detrimental. They’re also organizing to show up to the state capitol on June 17, when the house is set to consider the Act.

“We need to show up,” says Quesenberry, “I’m not going to be teaching all that many years more, but I care about the legacy I’m leaving behind for future educators and for the kids in the classrooms.”

Despite the outcome on June 17, the work will continue, as educators have their sights on the November 2020 election.

Linda Pentz of the Monongalia County Education Association commented via Facebook, “It’s heartbreaking to watch leaders make such poor decisions for the children of WV. It is time for WV to take control of who is representing our state.”

Officials at WVEA echo this sentiment. “The issue will not go away as long as the same people remain in place,” says WVEA President Dale Lee.

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‘Tiger Mom’ Amy Chua’s Daughter Secures Clerkship With Kavanaugh

The daughter of Amy Chua, the Yale law professor who popularized herself as the “Tiger Mom” and spoke out in support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year, has secured a coveted clerkship with the controversial judge.

Several legal news outlets reported Monday that Chua’s oldest daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, would begin the clerkship later this year. The development raised some eyebrows, given that Chua, who helps place judicial clerks from Yale, wrote an op-ed last year defending Kavanaugh against accusations of sexual assault.

The headline that ran with it in The Wall Street Journal? “Kavanaugh Is a Mentor to Women: I Can’t Think of a Better Judge for My Own Daughter’s Clerkship.”

In it, Chua praised Yale Law School alumnus Kavanaugh and said the eight female law students she’s placed in clerkships with him all had positive experiences, offering a counterpoint to the three sexual assault allegations that faced him during his Senate nomination hearings.

“These days the press is full of stories about powerful men exploiting or abusing female employees,” she wrote. “That makes it even more striking to hear Judge Kavanaugh’s female clerks speak of his decency and his role as a fierce champion of their careers.”

Her support for Kavanaugh was selfless, she implied, because her daughter had accepted an appellate clerkship with him. If the Senate confirmed him ― which it ultimately did ― her daughter would have to look for a new position.

Critics of Chua quickly pointed out that she did, in fact, have a vested interest in seeing Kavanaugh confirmed to the court because her daughter would likely be first in line for an even higher-ranking clerkship with Kavanaugh if he were ― a maneuver straight out of the “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” playbook on fierce parenting made famous in her 2011 book.

Chua-Rubenfeld denied she would be applying for a Supreme Court clerkship “anytime soon,” though that was less than a year ago.

Accounts from other students seeking clerkship placements by Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, suggest the two saw Kavanaugh less as a “mentor to women” than as a man who liked to employ attractive young women. 

One of those students told HuffPost last year that Rubenfeld informed her that Kavanaugh liked to hire female clerks who had a “certain look.”

“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” author Amy Chua, center, and daughters Louisa, left, and Sophia at the 2011 Time 100 gala in April 2011.

Students also told The Guardian that Chua privately told a group of law students in 2017 that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and that she would advise them on their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him. Chua denies she said that. 

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University Of Alabama Trustees Vote To Refund $26 Million Gift After Donor’s Abortion Remarks

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The University of Alabama board of trustees voted Friday to give back a $26.5 million donation from a philanthropist who recently called on students to boycott the school over the state’s new abortion ban.

Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr., a 70-year-old real estate investor and lawyer, had already given $21.5 million to the university after his pledge last September with the rest still to come. But in a news release last week, he urged students to participate in a boycott of the school.

Hours later, Alabama announced it was considering giving back his money, the biggest donation ever made to the university. Within minutes a maintenance crew removed his name from the law school that was named in his honor.

While Culverhouse said he has no doubt Alabama is retaliating over his call for a boycott, the university said the dispute has nothing to do with that. Instead, officials say it was in an “ongoing dispute” with Culverhouse over the way his gift was to be handled.

The university said that on May 28 — the day before Culverhouse’s boycott call — its chancellor recommended the trustees return the donation. The university said donors “may not dictate University administration” and that Culverhouse had made “numerous demands” regarding the operation of the school.

University administrators and trustees did not respond to requests for comment.

Culverhouse did not attend Alabama, but his parents did, and the business school bears the name of Hugh Culverhouse Sr., a wealthy tax lawyer and developer who owned the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Culverhouse called university officials “liars” over their account. He acknowledged there were some disagreements over the handling of his gift. He said he told university President Stuart Bell that the law school should admit more students and that his donation was to fund scholarships to achieve that. But he said he thought the matter had been resolved.

Culverhouse said he was stunned by the university’s stand. But he also confessed: “You probably shouldn’t put a living person’s name on a building, because at some point they might get fed up and start talking.”

Culverhouse pledged a record $26.5 million to the university in September, but in a news release last week urged students to participate in a boycott of the school over the state’s new abortion law.

The Alabama ban would make abortion at any stage of pregnancy a crime punishable by 10 years to life in prison for the provider, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The law, set to take effect in November, is the most hardline of the anti-abortion measures enacted this year as states emboldened by the new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court take aim at Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

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50 Years After Stonewall: LGBTQ Pride in America’s Schools

NEA EdJustice 
Resources and stories for creating safe, affirming schools for LGBTQ students.

Take Action: Tell the Senate to Pass the Equality Act
More than half the states in the U.S. lack fully inclusive non-discrimination protections, leaving millions of people subject to potential discrimination in their daily lives.

NEA’s Read Across America Calendar
Educator-recommended, age-appropriate titles that explore identity and can blend effectively into existing classroom activities and units of study.

NEA Center for Social Justice Trainings
Designed for all NEA members, particularly those committed to addressing bias around sexual orientation and gender identity, this program teaches school personnel how to create a safe school climate for students and staff.


HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program
The nation’s premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to embrace family diversity, create LGBTQ and gender inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying, and support transgender and non-binary students.

The national organization championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education since 1990.

GSA Network
LGBTQ racial and gender justice organization that empowers and trains queer, trans and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities.

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How I Got My Toddler Back On Books After She Got A Taste Of Screen Time

When I opened the gates to screen time for my 2-year-old daughter, I was planning to limit it to airplane rides and sick days. But with TV and tablets came a whole new colorful world that hooked my tot instantly, and her new word “cartoons!” became a constant refrain. Almost overnight, her obsession with books and our sweet ritual of reading became a distant memory to her little toddler brain. Screens offered something much more exciting.

I felt OK introducing screen time, especially since most of the time I snuggle up on the couch and watch with her (which is why I now know every single word of Moana), to make the TV time as interactive and educational as I can. And the apps we’ve let her play with are all highly rated for learning. But when it came time to reading books together, her previously enthusiastic interest was now drawn to a shape-shifting demigod voiced by the Rock.

I was worried. For me, books are more than fun and educational. They’re a family tradition. My own lifelong passion for reading was sparked by my mother’s nightly read-aloud sessions with me and my sister. We never skipped a night, and it was truly a highlight of my childhood. I may not follow every custom my mom handed down (like her tendency to embroider our names on anything she could stick a needle into), but I know that a love of books is worth preserving. I want my kid to treasure that magical reading time as much as I did growing up, despite the irresistible pull of singing animals, animated princesses, and sweeping soundtracks (seriously, it’s hard to compete with Lin-Manuel Miranda).

So I had to dig deep to come up with extra-special reading experiences to compete with all that sparkly screen entertainment. My hope is that these tips and tricks will cultivate positive and passionate literacy habits she’ll have the rest of her life.

Make it a daily ritual

Every night, without fail, before my daughter heads to bed, we read at least two books together, usually more. On the nights she’s wound up and super resistant to sleep, this routine puts her in a mellow mood and helps her relax. By the time I turn the first page, she’s already heavy-lidded and sucking her thumb.

Let them pick

Your kid is bound to have favorite books, and you will inevitably groan inwardly (and probably outwardly) when she asks you to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 200th time. But it’s those cherished favorites that will always comfort and entertain. (If we go for a third book, Mommy gets to pick. Otherwise we’d never rotate our library.)

Find a quiet, special space

We used to read in the rocker next to her crib, but on those nights she didn’t want to go to bed, she put up a fight just to enter her room. Then we used to read on the couch, but there are inevitably distractions ― the basketball game is on, the dog is barking at the neighbors, there’s music on the stereo. So I created our own special reading space on the bed in the guest room. It’s stocked with pillows and blankets, and I light some candles and lay out the book selections on the bed with us. It’s our insta-special reading spot! (It sure doesn’t take much with a toddler.) You can do this anywhere you have enough room for two.

Don’t freak out and eliminate screen time

Once you’ve introduced TV and tablets to your toddler ― and discovered his or her voracious appetite for it ― you don’t need to panic and pack it all in. Well-chosen, high-quality media has proven benefits and is fine when balanced with other activities. Try to be strategic with when, how often, and how much you let them imbibe.

Keep the selection fresh

Hit the library regularly, and check out stuff by their favorite authors or in their preferred genres. Libraries are key, since you never know what they’re going to like, and you don’t want to shell out bucks for books they won’t touch. Need recommendations? Check out some of Common Sense Media’s fave books for toddlers.

Find print books with sensory experiences

You can load up your Kindle or tablet with digital books when traveling, but let them enjoy the tactile experience of turning pages and touching different textures. My kid loves books with an interactive element, such as flaps and dials or scratch-and-sniff spots. Her favorites include Mama’s Pajamas, which has an array of different fabrics, and Dance, which uses cardboard levers to make different animals dance.

Keep ’em all over

We keep a few books in the car and a stack by the potty, and she gets to take one to bed every night. It may be overkill, but it gives her an opportunity to connect with books at every step. Studies have even shown that having lots of books at home can give kids a big boost in school.

Resist the begging with clever excuses

When my kid gets really stuck on something and wants to do nothing but watch Frozen, I tell her Elsa and Anna are sleeping. She accepts that without question. Sure, it’s a white lie, but it’s for her own good (and the sanity of me and my husband). A lifelong love of reading is a gift you can give to your kids that they will carry forever. One day she’ll thank me!

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Why It’s OK To Cry In Front Of Your Kids Sometimes

When parents feel upset or about to cry, they may be tempted to suppress these emotions or hide their tears from their children. It’s natural to want to shield kids from the unpleasant parts of life, but there are actually benefits to crying in front of your children.

Last year, Australian blogger Constance Hall wrote a viral Facebook post about letting her children see her cry. “[O]n the weekend I watched a terribly sad documentary with my children and as tears were welling up in mine and my daughters eyes my son put his arms around us both, patting and rubbing our backs,” she wrote.

“I realised that my kids are completely ok with human emotion, not traumatised from seeing their mum cry, they care and understand that this is life,” she added. “There is such comfort for a child knowing that their rock can break down, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t secure. And if we can’t be their for each other why are we here at all?”

HuffPost spoke to a couple of experts about why it can be healthy for kids to see their parents cry sometimes and the best ways to handle these situations when they arise.

Normalize Feelings

“If a child sees a parent or caregiver cry in response to a certain event or situation, it can be beneficial because this allows kids to see that it’s OK to express your feelings,” board-certified licensed professional counselor Tammy Lewis Wilborn told HuffPost.

Normalizing feelings is an important part of raising emotionally intelligent children. If a parent is crying in response to a situation that also upsets their children (like the death of a grandparent or other family member), letting them witness this grief can help the kids realize they aren’t alone in their sadness.

“Because children don’t have tons of lived experience, a lot of times when they’re having different thoughts or feelings, it makes them ask, ‘Is this normal? Is something wrong with me? Why am I so sad and why has this affected me in this way?’” Wilborn noted. Experiencing a sense of collective grief with their parents communicates to children that their sadness is appropriate and helps them learn to cope better.

She added that when children see their parents cry, it can humanize them in their eyes and help kids realize adults are affected by sad things, which is perfectly all right.

Assure Them You’re Going To Be OK

“Children will often be confused and afraid if they see their parents really upset. Afterwards, it is important to explain to the best of your ability, given your child’s age, that you had an emotional moment, but that you are OK, and that you’re going to continue to be OK,” child psychologist Jillian Roberts told HuffPost.

Parents should give their children enough information to help them understand there’s no reason to be scared or confused and that they can talk about things that are uncomfortable.

“When we talk about our own emotional experiences and how we have learned to regulate them with our children, we are both teaching them a life skill and giving them permission to talk about their own experience, which is very healthy,” Roberts explained. “These conversations open up that channel for your parent-child bond to strengthen.”

“Children will often be confused and afraid if they see their parents really upset. Afterwards, it is important to explain to the best of your ability, given your child’s age, that you had an emotional moment, but that you are OK, and that you’re going to continue to be OK.”

– Jillian Roberts

In addition to offering the assurance that everything is going to be OK and giving some context to explain the crying, parents should also specifically ask kids about their own feelings.

“You may want to check in with the child and ask, ‘How do you feel seeing Mommy or Daddy cry?’” Wilborn noted. “This gives them another opportunity to talk about their emotions.”

Keep It Age Appropriate

When explaining to kids why you were crying, it’s important to only give information that’s developmentally appropriate and won’t make them worried or afraid of losing their stability and safety.

“Sometimes the nature of the context of why the parent is crying may not be appropriate to explain, or the details might be more than a child can handle,” Wilborn explained. Still, it’s important to offer some sort of context to help kids understand that it’s not their fault.

“I think parents have good intentions about not wanting to have certain conversations with their kids because we don’t want to share that the world can be scary and bad sometimes,” she added. “I think the downside of that is that children fill in the gaps. So when kids don’t have enough information to understand what they’re seeing, it actually ends up doing the same thing the parent is trying to avoid.”

So, while parents don’t have to say ‘the house is about to enter foreclosure,’ they may want to say something like, ‘I know you’ve seen Daddy cry a lot. I’m just having a tough time, but it’s going to be OK.’”

Don’t Limit Emotional Talk To Girls

“Humans need to be given permission to experience and honor their emotional experiences,” said Roberts, noting that many different families and cultures communicate messages of shame around expressing emotions. This kind of negative messaging particularly affects young men.

“This is very damaging because it communicates to them that the only emotion they are allowed to experience and show is anger,” she explained. “We need to encourage parents of young boys to pay particular attention to the emotional experiences of their boys, and that young boys know it is OK for them to experience and discuss the full range of emotions we have as human beings.”

Avoid Doing It Too Often

While it can be healthy for kids to see their parents cry sometimes, it’s possible to take it to an unhealthy extent. If kids see their caregivers crying too frequently or excessively, it may send the message that something is seriously wrong.

“You may want to check in with the child and ask, ‘How do you feel seeing Mommy or Daddy cry?’ This gives them another opportunity to talk about their emotions.”

– Tammy Lewis Wilborn

“Children may feel guilt when they see their parents crying because they want to do something about it, but they don’t know what to do because they’re kids,” Wilborn noted. “They may feel helpless, wondering, ‘What can I do? How do I make this stop?’ And then there’s fear. ‘What does this mean? What’s going to happen to my parents? What’s going to happen to me?’”

Be Mindful Of Intensity

Roberts believes the intensity ― more than the frequency ― of a parent’s emotional experience should be a way to gauge whether it’s a good idea to let their child see them crying.

“If you tear up at sad commercials daily, this is perfectly OK and normal. This shows your children your authenticity, and you are typically in control of your emotions in these circumstances,” she explained. “If you are hyperventilating or displaying other signs of an extreme emotional response in which you would typically excuse yourself from the public view, you should excuse yourself from your children. Extreme, out-of-control emotional responses like these can feel scary for children.”

Of course, it’s not always possible to shield children from these kinds of intense, uncontrollable emotions, especially when tragedy strikes unexpectedly. Still, Roberts recommends that adults not allow their kids to be present for such moments.

“Try to do everything you can to avoid these situations,” she said.

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School Climate – The Overlooked Factor in the Teacher Shortage

Curbing the national teacher shortage depends a great deal on paying educators a professional salary.  Teachers are struggling to make ends meet, and the gap between their salaries and those in professions requiring similar levels of education turns many potential candidates away from the classroom.

Focusing exclusively on the “teacher pay penalty,” however, underplays the complexity of the teacher shortage and the challenges school districts face in attracting and retaining quality educators.

Will a second or third year teacher decide to stay in the classroom if he is expecting a bump in salary the following year? Perhaps, but suppose the barriers to student learning are accumulating, encouragement and support from the administration is scarce, or classroom autonomy has been stripped away.

These are just some of the factors that determine the quality of the work environment or “school climate.”  An unduly stressful and taxing school climate erodes job satisfaction and morale, driving a growing number of teachers out of the profession.

Which is why improving the working and learning environment in schools has been a centerpiece of the #RedforEd movement. Educators across the nation are hitting the streets to demand increased funding for the kinds of resources and supports that improve teaching conditions and foster greater student learning.

According to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, (EPI) more than half of teachers do not feel supported in their jobs, and 25%  consider leaving the profession as a result. The study is the fourth in EPI’s series looking at the trends – challenging working environment, low pay, lack of professional development opportunities, and the diminished status of the profession – that have undermined the teacher labor market.

“The teacher shortage is a growing national crisis that needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner,” said EPI research associate Elaine Weiss. “Obviously compensation is a major part of the issue, but improving teaching environments would go a long way toward helping teachers feel more supported.”

Analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Teacher and Principal Survey, Weiss and EPI economist Emma Garcia identify several factors that shape school climate, including barriers to student learning, administration support, autonomy in the classroom, a voice in school policy decisions, and job stress and personal safety.

Specifically, half of teachers reported not feeling a great deal of support or encouragement from the administration, and 6 out of 10 said cooperation and collaboration among staff at their school was lacking.

school climate teachersOver one in four teachers also reported that poverty was a “serious problem” challenging their ability to teach and their students’ learning. And roughly a quarter said that students’ unpreparedness to learn and parents’ struggles to be involved were also serious problems.

These challenges are widespread, the report finds, but are felt most severely in high-poverty areas.

For example, in low-poverty schools, only 12% of teachers report that student come to school unprepared to learn. That number triples to 38% in high-poverty schools. A wide gap also can be found in parental involvement. Only 9% of teachers in low-poverty schools report it as a serious barrier, compared to 31% in high-poverty schools. Student apathy, absenteeism, poor health, and class-cutting are all seen as greater problems in high-poverty schools.

On other factors, the gap is narrower. Teachers in all schools believe they lack any sort of voice in shaping curriculum, setting performance standards for students, devising discipline policies, or evaluating teachers.

The impact of school climate on the decision to stay or exit the profession is real.

Across the board, the EPI report said, “teachers who quit the profession were more likely to have reported, in the year before they quit, feeling stressed, unsatisfied, unsupported, and not involved in setting school or classroom policies.”

Despite their substantial training, expertise, and ability to deal with everyday challenges of the job, said Garcia, educators can be expected to do so much to improve working conditions. The focus needs to be on reversing the chronic underfunding of schools and elevating the status of the profession.

“Schools’ climates are shaped by rising poverty, ongoing racial and economic segregation of schools, and insufficient public investments,” García explained. “Because these larger societal forces contribute to deteriorating working environments in schools, they can’t be blamed on students or parents. Rather, improving the funding and resources to counter them should be made a priority.”

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Teacher Fired After Tweeting Trump To Remove School’s ‘Illegal Students’

A Texas high school teacher has been voted out of a job after she sent a series of tweets to President Donald Trump that requested help removing “illegal students from Mexico” that she said had “taken over” her school.

Georgia Clark, who taught English at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth, admitted to sending the tweets late last month but told school officials she thought her messages were sent in private, according to local station CBS DFW.

On Tuesday, her school board unanimously voted for her termination. She has 15 days to appeal before the termination takes effect. Her attorney, Brandon Brim, in an email to HuffPost on Wednesday, said she will request a hearing to contest the board’s decision. He did not provide further comment.

According to screen grabs obtained by local media, Clark fired off a series of tweets to Trump over at least two days.

“Mr. President, Fort Worth Independent School District is loaded with illegal students from Mexico,” one tweet from her since-deleted account read. “Anything you can do to remove the illegals from Fort Worth would be greatly appreciated,” she said in another.

Clark expressed concern about her identity getting out while asking for help, telling him that “Texas will not protect whistle blowers.”

She added: “The Mexicans refuse to honor our flag.”

The tweets did get out, however, leading to public outrage and the school board determining that her online conduct violated the district’s social media use policy. Her behavior, along with the public reaction to it, also compromised her ability to teach, the Star-Telegram reported.

The school district’s Hispanic student population is a little more than 60 percent, NBC DFW reported.

A separate investigation has also been launched into complaints that Clark used racially insensitive language to students, including asking a student to produce their immigration papers in order to use the restroom, The Washington Post reported.

A Texas school board voted on Tuesday to terminate Georgia Clark, who taught English at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth.

All U.S. public schools are constitutionally required to provide schooling to all children, regardless of immigration status, following the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe.

This means that schools are not allowed to deter undocumented children from enrolling or to ask about their immigration status. They are also not allowed to report students or their families to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status,” Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns, said in a statement after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos suggested otherwise during testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce last year.

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No One Is An Outsider At This UK School

LONDON, U.K. — Andrew Moffat never thought a lesson plan could be this controversial.

But when the primary school decided to teach children about diversity and LGBTQ rights, parents at his Birmingham school protested loudly. Beyond Brexit, the controversy in the Muslim-majority community was one of the biggest national news stories in the U.K. this year.

The primary school teacher was caught completely off-guard by the protests which began in January when one mother pulled her 10-year-old daughter out of the Parkfield Community School, telling a local paper that children were too young to be learning about same-sex marriage in the classroom.

Moffat, a finalist for one of the most acclaimed educational prizes, the $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, had designed No Outsiders around a series of children’s books that promote equality across all sections of society.

But angry parents accused him of “changing the moral position of family values” and “converting children with a heterosexual background towards believing that homosexuality is fine.”

On a recent day, Moffat sat down with HuffPost U.K. to talk about what it was like to be at the center of the storm.

The conversation has been edited for clarity.

How did No Outsiders start?

I’d been teaching for eight years and I was doing lots of work on emotional literacy. I was doing lots of work on picture books and then a group started called No Outsiders, which was funded by the Economic Research Council [Britain’s oldest economics-based think tank]. It was a two-year academic project about how do you teach about sexuality in primary school and it was the first time anyone talked about doing this. [The ERC] put a call out to primary school teachers, and so I joined that group. So that’s where it all came from.

No Outsiders ran for four years without complaint. Were you surprised at the level of reaction to the program this year?

Yes, the whole school was shocked. It came out of nowhere, especially because we‘ve had four years of fantastic support from parents. Over the course of four years, we’ve had 38 No Outsiders workshops where parents have come in and looked at the books, and we’ve talked about it. They’re saying it’s really, really important. To go from that to suddenly huge demonstrations with parents saying they didn’t know about it was a shock.

Protesters have accused you of promoting “personal beliefs.” What would you say to that?

I’d say I’m not promoting anything, I’m teaching about equality. And what No Outsiders enables us to do is teach about equality and diversity within a framework. And the framework is that every child knows that they belong, and that’s the bottom line. You want every child to know that they belong in school.

I want children to be proud of who they are. And I think all parents want that for their children. It’s an anti-bullying resource. No parent wants their child to be bullied.

What was the worst moment for you?

Oh definitely hearing children and parents chanting “get Mr. Moffat out” outside the school. That was horrific. I wouldn’t want any teacher to ever hear that.

How have you dealt with the attacks aimed at you?

The school has paid for a counselor for me, which is fantastic. I see him once a week. He has been really, really good. And also the staff team are so solid in that school. Also, I see it [No Outsiders] working in schools across the U.K. Every week I’m at a different school around the U.K. doing an Outsiders day and schools are lapping it up because it works.

And yes, ok, at the moment we’re having challenges at my school, but that’s one school. But there are many hundreds of other schools who are not facing challenges, so we carry on. The kids love No Outsiders. Kids are very confident about what No Outsiders mean.

Do you have any sympathy for the families who are against the program?

I wouldn’t use the word sympathy but I do understand where they are coming from. I did go to that school deliberately four years ago, thinking there might be challenges.

People use that as a criticism but I think that’s a good thing because I want to make a difference. So I went into this with my eyes open and I’m absolutely convinced that we can find a way forward together, no question. I’m not going anywhere.

Have you ever considered quitting?

Yeah, I’ve had my moments. I’ve definitely had wobbles. But I think it makes you realize why this work is so important. Change isn’t always easy and this is about how we can move society forward so that everyone is welcome and everyone has a contribution to make. So the protests only go to show why this work is so important in schools.

What has been the biggest lesson for you?

Not to rest on my laurels and to be alert because I didn’t see this coming. I wear a rainbow lanyard every day. Everyone knows that I’m gay so I thought there would be no problem at all. I thought everything would be fine and it very quickly turned. So it’s about being realistic and being alert.

What would you say to LGBTQ kids who have seen or read about these protests?

I’d say, ‘don’t be frightened.’ There is a small minority who don’t agree with us. But there are many, many more people who do. If only I could show them the thousands of messages I’ve had. My school has had about a hundred cards or letters from unknown people from across the world saying “you’re doing a great job, carry on.”

What was school like for you?

Very difficult. There were no role models. There were no LGBT people on the television just being gay and getting on with their lives. You’re searching as a young boy for who are you going to be, who can you relate to, and realizing that you’re just not like the other boys. There was a real sense of being an outsider. Coming out at school was never on the cards for me, it just was not possible.

I knew I was different at six or seven because I wasn’t like the other boys and they very quickly isolated me. In terms of being gay, in secondary school. So by 1986 or 1987 I definitely knew. I was in no doubt in my mind at all. So I was searching for role models… looking for people who said they were gay.

"Change isn’t always easy and this is about how we can move society forward so that everyone is welcome and everyone ha

“Change isn’t always easy and this is about how we can move society forward so that everyone is welcome and everyone has a contribution to make. So the protests only go to show why this work is so important in schools,” Moffat says.

Who were your role models when you were growing up?

I remember in 1984 when I was 12 and [U.K. pop band] Bronski Beat came out. I was obsessed with [British pop music magazine] Smash Hits. I still have all the old issues in my loft! That was my bible basically. I used to read it from cover to cover. In 1984 Boy George wasn’t out. I loved him. I had his posters all over my wall but I didn’t think he was gay, he was interesting. But [the band] Frankie Goes To Hollywood talked about being gay in Smash Hits and Bronski Beat definitely did. Even Freddie Mercury, when I was at school everyone thought he was straight. I got beaten up by Queen fans because I was into Wham! (laughs).

What do you think school would have been like if you’d something like No Outsiders?

Oh god, I wish! Even to just have a discussion that gay people exist. To know that there are people out there who have two daddies or two mummies. But also to know a gay teacher would have been amazing. I wasn’t out until I was 27 as I was too scared to come out. And you couldn’t talk about it because there was horrific bullying. I remember an English class when I was 16 and every week we had a half hour debate on something topical and it was when the AIDS stuff came out and the topic was something about gay people. I remember a boy in that class saying “I think all gays should be put up against a wall and shot” and everyone cheered – and the teacher didn’t say anything. So to have a scheme like No Outsiders or a teacher who is out would have made a huge difference.

What are your hopes for the future?

It has been the most difficult two months of my career but at the same time, I’ve had some of the most life-affirming moments because I’ve had so much interest and support. So for the future, I’d love to see No Outsiders or something like it in primary and secondary schools, but primary schools are where it’s got to start. I thought the process would put people off but I’ve had a surge in requests for training and work, which is fantastic. People aren’t frightened. Not one school has canceled me. So there’s hope for the future. Really it’s about what I said before about growing up in the 1980s and feeling isolated. I don’t want any child to go through that. My hope for the future is that no LGBT child goes through what we went through in the 1980s. I want them to know that it’s alright and you’re going to be ok.

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Jenny Slate To Give Graduation Address To Just One Student

CUTTYHUNK ISLAND, Mass. (AP) — The single graduating student on a tiny Massachusetts island is nonetheless receiving the star treatment.

Actress and comedian Jenny Slate will speak at this month’s graduation ceremony for Cuttyhunk Elementary School, a one-room schoolhouse on the island that has a year-round population of around 12.

Slate’s audience will be Gwen Lynch, this year’s lone graduate of the school that goes up to 8th grade, her family and other Cuttyhunk residents.

Michael Astrue, a summer resident who was in charge of finding a speaker, tells the Cape Cod Times that Slate is familiar with the island as a Massachusetts native.

Slate played Mona-Lisa Saperstein on “Parks and Recreation” and is a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member.

Astronaut Cady Coleman spoke at the graduation of Gwen’s brother, Carter, last year.

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Teens Thought They Found A Way Around Cafeteria Food. Schools Say No.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Students in middle and high schools across America thought they had found a way around cafeteria “cuisine” and boring brown-bag lunches: just hit up delivery services like DoorDash, GrubHub or UberEats and get takeout food sent to their schools.

Now, citing security and nuisance concerns, school districts from California to Delaware are cracking down.

“The other day a student asked me if he could get food delivered and I said, ‘No!’” said Leslie Blaha, a science teacher at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, who was standing in line at a Chipotle Mexican Grill across the street from the school.

“If they get it delivered to the school, the main office sends it back,” Blaha said. “We can’t have food coming from an unknown source that we don’t know what’s in it.”

The fight over lunch deliveries may seem minor, but the easy availability of fast food is no joke to nutritionists — especially amid the Trump administration’s drive to overturn school lunch standards put in place during the Obama administration. Seven states, including New York and California, have filed a lawsuit to stop the rollback.

Sarah Reinhardt, food systems and health analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said allowing students to order restaurant food for lunch means “there is no one looking out for their nutritional needs.

“Fast-food meals often contain more salt and usually come with sugared drinks,” she said. “That’s why we have regulations on school lunches that help keep kids healthy.”

Some districts, however, had more prosaic reasons for banning the deliveries.

Delivery drivers in Sacramento had to register at the front office, creating havoc. Some parents in Wilmington, Delaware, occasionally would bring food they had prepared at home for their kids, until they discovered the restaurant delivery services.

Pati Nash, public information officer for the Red Clay School District in Delaware, said food deliveries at several schools were becoming “disruptive.” One school, the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, sent an email to parents.

“Students should not be ordering food from Grubhub, DoorDash, etc. during school hours,” said the email from Dean Julie Rumschlag, which Nash forwarded to Stateline. “This is a safety concern that also disrupts the educational process within our community. Please do not order food from outside vendors to be delivered to the school during the school day.”

The bottom line, according to Nash: “Random people delivering Thai food is not part of our safety plan.”

Just don’t get caught 

The school district in Montgomery County, Maryland, which includes Montgomery Blair High School, has banned food deliveries districtwide, with the exception of a handful of schools with “open lunch” policies.

“Students were going to [class] late and saying, ‘My food got here late,’ and we said, ‘Nice try,’” said district spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala.

“It’s a logistical nightmare,” Onijala added. “You have dozens of students coming down to the office every day, and they have to be called to pick up their lunch.”

Students in the Chipotle across the street from Montgomery Blair said some students circumvent the rules by meeting delivery people just outside the school, which also is against the rules. “It’s OK to do if you don’t get caught,” said the student, a junior, prudently refusing to give her name.

At Granite Bay High School near Sacramento, a ban on all deliveries to students — not just food but homework, backpacks and clothing — caused some grumbling, but mostly among parents.

“The administration got tired of being errand runners for parents who were delivering pretty much everything to their students and expecting the delivery would make it to Jimmy or Susie in their classrooms,” Karl Grubaugh, a teacher and faculty adviser to the school newspaper, said in an email.

Now, students must retrieve any items delivered by parents from a table outside the front office.

Despite repeated requests from Stateline, none of the major delivery services would comment for this story.

Trump’s take on nutrition

Former first lady Michelle Obama made school lunch nutrition a policy priority during her time in the White House, and the Obama administration issued strict guidelines designed to make meals healthy as well as appealing to kids. Sample menus replaced hot dogs with whole wheat spaghetti, pizza sticks with chef salads, and whole milk with skim.

The Trump administration has rolled back some of the standards, specifically those that require the use of whole grains, lower sodium foods and nonfat flavored milk. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue quipped, “I wouldn’t be as big as I am today without chocolate milk.”

But Reinhardt of the Union of Concerned Scientists cited a 2015 study in the medical journal Childhood Obesity showing that under the Obama-era rules, which took effect in 2012, students consumed more fruit, threw away less of the entrees and vegetables, and consumed the same amount of milk as they did before the changes.

She worries that the delivery boom will make it more difficult for school officials to influence kids’ dietary choices.

“What happens if we have no way to reach kids with dietary guidelines?” she said. “If kids aren’t eating meals at schools, the buck stops there.”

The School Nutrition Association, a professional organization representing more than 58,000 school lunch workers, supports more flexibility than the Obama rules allowed on whole grains and sodium. But Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for group, said fast-food lunches undermine nutritional standards and harm students’ health.

“School meals are required to meet … sodium limits, and limits on calories and saturated fats,” she said. “Every meal has to offer students fruit, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk. Students that participate in the national school lunch programs have better diets than nonparticipants.”

Another downside to delivered lunches, Pratt-Heavner said, is the “stigma it places on the kids who really rely on school meals for their nutrition and don’t have the means to order UberEats or meals on the side.”

Kristi L. King, senior dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, said in an email that school lunches have been designed to provide one-third of a student’s daily estimated calorie needs, and that “by consuming foods from fast-food places, the students may be missing out on essential nutrients especially if they do not eat breakfast or dinner, which many don’t.”

“A lunch of just french fries is not enough.”

In an email, Chipotle spokeswoman Regina Wu emphasized that the fast-casual chain has nothing to do with school delivery policies.

“We partner with delivery companies” such as DoorDash, Wu said, “to fulfill delivery orders that are in compliance with the established guidelines of the area.”

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Lawyers For College Admissions Scam Parents Claim Payments Weren’t Bribes

Defense attorneys for some parents fighting charges in the massive college admissions bribery scandal told a federal judge on Monday that their clients’ payments were not bribes, but charitable donations to the colleges.

During a status hearing in Boston, several attorneys offered what could be a defense strategy for the nearly 20 parents who have pleaded not guilty, including “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.

“If the money went to a school, it’s not a bribe,” said attorney Martin Weinberg, representing businessman David Sidoo, among the dozens of wealthy parents indicted in an alleged scheme to bribe their children’s way into elite colleges, including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California. “Many of the clients would contend that if payments were made to a charity or sports organization, that it is not a bribe,” he added, according to NBC News

Aaron Katz, an attorney for parent Elizabeth Henriquez, told Judge M. Page Kelley that the scheme’s mastermind, Rick Singer, gave parents the impression that “their money was going to go to athletic programs or schools ― not to bribes,” according to Bloomberg

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen rejected the defense claims.

“It doesn’t matter if the money went to the coach’s program or the coach directly,” Rosen said during the hearing, according to The Washington Post. “A bribe is simply a quid pro quo.”

According to the indictment, Singer set up a fake charity to funnel the parents’ payments, which involved thousands of dollars to falsify their children’s standardized test results or create fake profiles that falsely portrayed the students as top athletic recruits.

More than a dozen other parents in the case, including “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this year.

Several other figures, including Singer and his associates, as well as coaches and school officials who are accused of accepting the bribes, have also pleaded guilty.

On Monday, Ali Khosroshahin, a former USC women’s soccer coach, became the latest figure in the scheme to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with prosecutors.

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Union Stands Behind Counselor Punished For Advocating For Students

High school counselor Kris Bertsch Rydell (photo: courtesy of California Teachers Association)

A Santa Rosa High School (SRHS) counselor is being punished for standing up for her students. So say students, parents, and her colleagues in the Santa Rosa Teachers Association (SRTA), who are rallying behind the highly decorated and respected veteran high school counselor, Kris Bertsch-Rydell.

As a veteran counselor, Bertsch has instructional history and knows how the counseling system works. “I’m a strong voice. I’ll advocate for my colleagues as professionals and for our students who don’t have a voice. That’s the reason I became a school counselor,” she says. “There are too many students and families who feel like they don’t have a voice. Someone’s got to speak for them.

“Now my union is speaking for me.”

Santa Rosa City Schools management filed a Notice of Unprofessional Conduct (NUC) because Bertsch is advocating for her students, says SRTA President William Lyon.

SRTA filed an unfair labor practice charge that district management discriminated against Bertsch and interfered with her rights protected under California labor law.

Management’s claims involve Bertsch asking questions about school board policies. Cited examples include sending polite, professional emails to the superintendent, school board members and SRTA leaders asking for clarification on board policies on issues such as credit recovery, online schools and new graduation requirements for math. “I asked if we can offer Pre-Algebra to make sure students are prepared. That was ‘unprofessional,’” Bertsch says with a sigh.

“As counselors, we need board policies as guidance for how we do our job. When I ask the question, I’m advocating for myself as a counselor to do my job, as well as for my students and my school. We all have the same concerns.”

I didn’t truly realize this before, that when I spoke up for my students, my union has my back.” – Kris Bertsch-Rydell

Management also charged that she used school email to do union business, which is in fact protected by California labor law. “But it’s not just union business, it’s counseling business,” she notes. “It’s related to how to do my job, so my colleagues can do their jobs.”

“I didn’t truly realize this before, that when I spoke up for my students, my union has my back,” Bertsch adds. “SRTA has stepped up in such an amazing way to help me. It validates that what I did and am doing matters. If I can’t advocate for students when I see a wrong and do something about it, I shouldn’t be sitting here. My students depend upon me to make things right for them. Or at least, to speak up and try to problem-solve in ways that will make things right for them.”

Hundreds of people have sent letters of support and showed up at school board meetings sporting orange ribbons (SRHS school colors are orange and black). Students are showering her with support.

In the school newspaper, The Santa Rosan, staff writer Emilie Davis noted that Bertsch “works tirelessly every day to make sure all of her kids are doing well, both in their classes and in their personal lives. … She did her job. She stood up for her students and did what she thought was right. She was repaid by having her job threatened.”

In the article “Why a dedicated counselor deserves to stay,” Davis noted the absurdity of district management criticizing Bertsch for using the word “dude” in an email. “It’s time the district starts walking the talk and stops punishing educators who put their kids first,” Davis wrote.

The timing of the story in the student newspaper was good, because it was a particularly low point for Bertsch.

It’s time the district starts walking the talk and stops punishing educators who put their kids first.”SRHS Student Emilie Davis

“So many times we do what we do and get negative feedback. The students’ support validates what I do every day, and my goal of serving students,” she says, adding that the student support has helped her get out of bed some mornings “because it’s been pretty stressful. I’m a pretty strong person, and I’ve gone through the grinder a few times. This has been beyond detrimental.”

SRTA’s contract calls for progressive discipline, requiring a conversation, notice, and plan for improvement before threatening discipline and termination. In this case, district management skipped the first steps.

Lyon contends this behavior is in retaliation for advocating for students by asking difficult questions. “Kris Bertsch has had fantastic reviews by the eight administrators she worked with during her 25 years in this district. She is an advocate for students, and we’re concerned district managers are trying to intimidate teachers by trying to muzzle Kris. She is being punished for standing up for her students and her profession. And that’s not acceptable.”

“When members are bullied or threatened, it has a chilling effect on their ability to speak up for themselves, each other, and their students,” adds Lyon. “The most effective way to combat this is to stand up for each other.” He is concerned about educators being bullied for supporting Bertsch, noting some of her supporters have received non-re-election notices. “We stand for respectful treatment of all SRTA educators.”

To date, district managers have not taken further disciplinary action. SRTA members and students will continue to advocate for Bertsch, they say, just as passionately as she has advocated for students and colleagues for the past 25 years.

This story originally appeared in California Educator

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Dwyane Wade Makes Surprise Appearance At Marjory Stoneman Douglas Graduation

NBA legend Dwyane Wade gave Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students a big surprise Sunday when he was introduced as the guest speaker at their graduation ceremony.

The basketball player, who retired from the Miami Heat in April, arrived at the Parkland, Florida, school to speak to the 2019 graduates more than a year after the mass shooting that killed 17 people, including staff members and students.

In a video posted on Twitter by an audience member at the ceremony, Wade looked back on his March 2018 visit to the school three weeks after the violence unfolded.

“I remember being so nervous to see and meet everybody,” he recalled. “What would I say? I mean, I grew up in the inner city of Chicago and I’ve experienced a lot of awful things, but I’ve never experienced anything to the magnitude that you guys have just experienced.”

To Wade’s surprise, he said, he was met with smiles from students who were excited by his arrival. 

Speaking to the school that month, Wade offered his support to students, who responded with shouts and cheers.

“I just wanted to come and say I’m inspired by all of you,” he said. “As someone out here in the public eye, I’m proud to say I’m from this state because of you guys, because of the future of this world because of you guys.”

The tragedy became especially personal when the athlete learned 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, who died in the shooting and was a fan of Wade’s, was buried in his team jersey.

“This is why we will not just SHUT up and dribble!” Wade tweeted after hearing the news. “It’s way BIGGER than basketball. We are the voices for the people that don’t get to be heard. Joaquin Oliver may you Rest In Peace and i dedicate my return and the rest of this Miami Heat season to you.”

For the school’s 2018 graduation ceremony, late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon was the surprise guest speaker, delivering a speech sprinkled with jokes and words of encouragement.

“Choose to move forward,” he told the graduates. “Don’t let anything stop you.”

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