Catholic School Principal Quits After Visiting Strip Club During Field Trip



BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana Catholic school principal has been arrested after visiting a strip club while on a school field trip to the nation’s capital.

Diocese of Baton Rouge spokesman Dan Borne says Michael Comeau was arrested early Thursday in Washington, D.C., where he was with students from Holy Family Catholic School, a K-8 school in Port Allen.

According to an arrest report, officers were dispatched to Archibald’s Gentlemen’s Club on a complaint about “an intoxicated man refusing to pay his bill.”

The Advocate reports the 47-year-old faces charges of public intoxication and possession of an open container of alcohol. It was unknown if he has an attorney.

Borne says Comeau has resigned. An interim principal will be appointed.

Comeau also resigned from his position as a reserve Brusly (brew-lee) Police officer.

Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com





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Yale University To Have Its First Black Student Body President In Its History



Yale University student Kahlil Greene is set to become the university’s first black student body president. 

Greene, who will begin his junior year at the university this fall, campaigned on a four-part policy plan, which included, fostering a safer, healthier and more equitable campus culture, the Yale Daily News reported. He was elected as president in April.

The Maryland native told Fox 5 DC during an interview Wednesday that he was inspired to run for president to “amplify the voices of the underserved communities on campus.” 

“Especially students of color,” he continued. “So being the first black president, I feel like I’m in the position where I can really do that.” 

Greene, who is an economics major, served on the Yale College Council prior to his election as president. 

He told Fox 5 that he thinks Yale can be a more “diverse and inclusive” campus and that he’s grateful to be in a position where he can help make that happen. 

Greene also paid homage to black influential figures who have made history at Yale during his interview with the news station. He mentioned Edward Bouchet, who is recognized as the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at any American university when he received his doctorate in physics at Yale in 1876. 

When asked on Fox 5 about his advice to other students who may want to pursue leadership positions at their institutions, Greene said: “You don’t necessarily grow up thinking you’re going to be the first person to do anything in this world, but if you work hard and you dream big, it can and will happen.”





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Accountant Linked To ‘Varsity Blues’ College Admissions Scam To Plead Guilty: Reports



A California accountant who allegedly worked for the mastermind of the so-called “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal is set to plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy.

Unsealed court documents revealed Friday that Steven Masera, a 69-year-old bookkeeper for William “Rick” Singer’s firm, plans to cooperate with investigators, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Singer, already a cooperating witness, is the founder of The Key, a Newport Beach college counseling company that offered families of prospective students assistance in getting into top schools. He and his partners allegedly pulled it off through myriad scams in which wealthy parents were complicit.

Prosecutors say Masera helped Singer launder fees paid by clients to rig college entrance exams and bribe sports coaches to portray their children as team recruits, according to Bloomberg News.

Singer also established the Key Worldwide Foundation, a phony charity through which he hid the nature of the funds, passing them off as donations for underprivileged kids, prosecutors say.

The LA Times reported that Masera addressed letters to parents from the foundation, falsely claiming that they received nothing in return for their five- to six-figure payments that prosecutors allege were in fact being given to exam proctors and coaches involved in the scam. Using the fake letters, families were able to disguise the payments as tax write-offs.

Others involved in the scandal include “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli and “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to shelling out $15,000 to hike her daughter’s SAT scores. Loughlin and Giannulli, however, have pleaded not guilty. According to People, the couple faces charges of money laundering conspiracy and mail fraud, and could spend up to 20 years in prison for each charge if convicted.

More than a dozen other parents have also been indicted in the case.



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Principal Admits Accidentally Plagiarizing 2013 Ashton Kutcher Speech


PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia principal accused of plagiarizing Ashton Kutcher in an address to his school’s graduating class says he didn’t mean to use someone else’s work.

Parkersburg High School Principal Kenny DeMoss has issued a statement saying he should have cited his sources in the May 23 speech, but asserted the ideas were his own.

“I did not get all my ideas from Ashton. Format yes, thoughts and ideas were from my heart,” he wrote, adding that he’s upset the speech has stolen the focus from graduating students.

A graduate posted a video to Facebook that spliced DeMoss’ speech with Kutcher’s 2013 Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards speech and has since amassed more than 100,000 views. The speeches used similar wording and at times featured identical phrasing.

DeMoss said the widely-circulated video cut out a preface that was supposed to make clear he was going to be folding others’ ideas and thoughts into his speech.

In an email Friday, DeMoss said he’s putting the incident behind him.

“Me and my family are the only ones being hurt here. My accuser isn’t. I love kids and love this school and this will only make me better,” he said.

Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook did not immediately return a voicemail seeking comment.

This story has been corrected to say Teen Choice, not Kids’ Choice. Links photo.





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Teachers Paying for Their Own Substitutes? Believe it or Not, It Happens.


A San Francisco second-grade teacher who, due to state law, must pay the cost of a substitute educator while she seeks treatment for breast cancer has made national headlines after parents at her school started an online GoFundMe campaign to cover her costs.

“Parents were outraged and incredulous—like, this can’t be. There must be some kind of mistake!” one parent told the San Francisco Chronicle.

But the situation, which has outraged parents and captured the attention of state lawmakers, isn’t just about this teacher or even this decades-old state law, which resembles policies in a handful of other districts. It reveals bigger issues: a public education system that is starved for state funds and resources, and too often relies on educators to sacrifice their own time, money, and well-being to make it work, union leaders say.

“What it really is, is a reflection of how financially strapped the system has been for so long,” California Teachers Association President Eric Heins told The Washington Post. “It is outrageous when you think about someone suffering from a catastrophic illness that they actually have to deal with these kinds of issues while already facing extra financial pressure.”

What’s happening with this particular educator, says Heins, is just one example of the pressures burdening public-school educators across the state and nation.

Over the past decade, the national average teacher salary has decreased 4.5 percent, adjusting for inflation, according to NEA’s Ranking & Estimates report. “Educators don’t do this work to get rich, they do this work because they believe in students,” says NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “But their pay is not commensurate with the dedication and expertise they bring to the profession.”

Teachers often live paycheck to paycheck, working two to three job to pay the bills, and they’re fed up. Their frustration has fueled #RedforEd rallies, walk-outs, and strikes involving more than 500,000 educators from California to North Carolina, and also led to some new investments in public education. For example, in February, striking Denver teachers won 7 to 11 percent pay raises, plus cost-of-living raises; in March, Oakland, California, teachers won 11 percent raises plus 3 percent bonuses; and, in April, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan signed a budget that will increase starting teacher salaries to $41,000.

Sick Leave and Substitute Pay

In San Francisco, teachers get 10 sick days per year. If they need more, the cost of a substitute— about $200 a day—is deducted from their paychecks. The policy is similar to many others in California and also other states, Education Week found. On average, across the U.S., teachers have about 12 sick days per year, and can roll those over from year to year. Consequently experienced teachers may have a larger stockpile of days.

Often, unions will help their members by working with a school district to set up and maintain a bank of sick-leave days. Members contribute unused sick days, and then can “withdraw” from the bank in cases of extended leave. In some cases, educators have been able to donate their sick days directly to a colleague.

Although the California law has been in place since 1976, lawmakers now are scrambling for a fix. “It really does seem like we need to do something to rectify this problem,” state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who heads the Senate Education Committee, told KQED, which first broke the story of the San Francisco teacher. “Maybe what worked back then doesn’t work now, and maybe we need to reconsider that law.”

But the real solution, say union leaders, is professional pay for educators and an end to the underfunding of public school systems. Simply moving money from one column in a district’s budget to another column isn’t going to help, if it means less money for, say, health insurance, or librarians, or fixes to aging school facilities.

“It’s about money, of course,” Heins told NPR. “When you’re in an underfunded system, you’re still robbing Peter to pay Paul.”



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Michelle Obama Shares The Sweetest Tribute To ‘Sesame Street’


Michelle Obama needs no help with how to get, how to get to “Sesame Street.”

The former first lady has appeared on and collaborated with the famed educational children’s television show on numerous occasions in recent years.

She was honored Wednesday for her work with the Joan Ganz Cooney Award — named after the program’s creator — at the Sesame Workshop’s 50th Anniversary Benefit Gala in New York City.

Obama shared a sweet Instagram tribute to the show in response.

“There is something unexplainable that happens there, some unique alchemy that bubbles up that you just can’t find anywhere else,” she wrote. “There’s nothing in the world that so beautifully marriesboundless aspiration with simple goodness, nothing that strips away the daily madness and distraction, nothing that is so pure and hopeful—and absolutely essential to our future.”

“Sesame Street,” produced by the nonprofit organization Sesame Workshop, often seeks to tackle difficult or taboo issues. Episodes in recent years have included a character who is in foster care and another who is homeless. The show has also helped to explain the concept of blended families to children.

In a statement released ahead of the event, Sesame Workshop’s President of Global Impact and Philanthropy Sherrie Westin said Obama was being recognized “for all that she has done to help improve the lives of children.”

“From fighting childhood obesity, to supporting military families, to empowering girls the world over, Mrs. Obama is a tireless champion of children and families,” Westin said.

Obama famously joined Elmo in 2009 to send a message about healthy eating as they planted a vegetable garden:

They also recorded this PSA:

In 2011, then-second lady Jill Biden accompanied Obama in sending a message about support for service members:

And Elmo and Rosita joined Obama at the White House in 2014 to announce her “Let’s Move!” initiative.

There have been multiple other collaborations between Obama and the show. Other famous faces, including model Chrissy Teigen and her husband, singer-songwriter John Legend, also attended Wednesday’s shindig.

Check out more photographs below:



Chrissy Teigen and John Legend

John Oliver and Kate Norley



John Oliver and Kate Norley

Adam Ottavino



Adam Ottavino

Tina Brown



Tina Brown

Diane Sawyer



Diane Sawyer

Katie Couric



Katie Couric

Hoda Kotb



Hoda Kotb

Lindsay Shookus



Lindsay Shookus

Oscar Issac and Elvira Lind



Oscar Issac and Elvira Lind





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Teen Climate Change Activist Greta Thunberg Honored With Stunning Street Art Mural


Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg has been immortalized in a gigantic new street art mural.

Aerosol artist Jody Thomas finished his portrait of the 16-year-old schoolgirl from Sweden on the side of the 15-meter-high Tobacco Factory building in his home city of Bristol, southwest England, on Wednesday.

“She’s very much in the limelight, very current, very contemporary and she’s obviously clearly leading a very, very important issue which affects all of us on the planet,” Thomas told HuffPost.

“She has a very fearless style, tells it exactly how it is and lets everyone have it with both barrels,” added Thomas, who attended the city’s famed Barton Hill Aerosol Art Project at the same time as Banksy in the 1980s.

The mural forms part of the Upfest Summer Editions, which is taking place across Bristol until October. The full Upfest, Europe’s largest live street art festival, usually takes place in the Bedminster and Southville neighborhoods during the final weekend of July each year but is on a break for 2019.


Thomas worked for more than two weeks and used about 60 cans of paint for his latest piece.

Only one person who approached him didn’t know who he was depicting.

“They thought it was Bjork,” he revealed, in reference to the Icelandic singer-songwriter famed for her 1995 version of “It’s Oh So Quiet.”

Thomas praised teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg for her "fearless style."

Steve Hayles, the founder of Upfest, hoped Thomas’ mural would “help to create more conversations on the issue of climate change and its effect on our community.”

“We hope that his work will resonate with the people who come to see it and inspire some to learn more about the issue,” he added.

Thomas worked for nine days and used about 60 cans of paint for his latest piece.

Thunberg has garnered global attention in recent months for her #FridaysForFuture movement, which asks students to walk out of school on Fridays to raise awareness about the climate crisis.

She told European politicians in April that she wanted them “to panic” about global warming. “I want you to act as if the house was on fire,” she said, later explaining how “when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground, then that does require some level of panic.”

Thunberg has garnered global attention in recent months for her #FridaysForFuture movement.



Thunberg has garnered global attention in recent months for her #FridaysForFuture movement.

Thunberg’s rise to fame has coincided with growing awareness, and increasing concern, about the environment.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) signature policy proposal, the Green New Deal, wants to make the U.S. carbon-neutral by 2030.

Earlier this month, the United Nations released a report that predicts up to 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of imminent permanent loss because of human activity.

And the Extinction Rebellion movement held a series of climate change protests across London and the world in April.

Thomas’ mural of Thunberg replaces one of “The Simpsons” character Lisa Simpson that Manchester female duo Nomad Clan (aka street artists Cbloxx and AYLO) painted at Upfest in 2018 to mark the 100-year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United Kingdom.

Female street artist duo Nomad Clan painted this mural of "The Simpsons" character Lisa Simpson at Upfest in 2018.



Female street artist duo Nomad Clan painted this mural of “The Simpsons” character Lisa Simpson at Upfest in 2018.

That, in turn, replaced Brazilian artist Kobra’s depiction of the late singer-songwriter and former Beatles star John Lennon ― which some people mistakenly believed looked a bit like Harry Potter:

Some people thought Kobra's mural of John Lennon actually looked a bit like Harry Potter.



Some people thought Kobra’s mural of John Lennon actually looked a bit like Harry Potter.

Thomas in 2017 performed a live street art reveal of HuffPost’s new logo to more than 200,000 people on Facebook.





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Maine Bans Conversion Therapy For LGBTQ Youth



AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine banned gay conversion therapy for minors on Wednesday, joining more than a dozen other states that have outlawed the controversial practice.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill Wednesday, and it will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns next month.

Conversion therapy aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the new law, professionals, including school psychologists, pharmacy technicians and social workers, who have advertised, offered or administered conversion therapy to a child could face discipline from licensing boards.

Maine joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia that have banned the practice. Supporters decry it as a harmful and note the American Psychological Association opposes the therapy.

“Conversion therapy is a harmful, widely discredited practice that has no place in Maine,” Mills said. “By signing this bill into law today, we send an unequivocal message to young LGBTQ people in Maine and across the country: We stand with you, we support you, and we will always defend your right to be who you are.”

A law against conversion therapy was signed recently in Massachusetts, while states including North Carolina are considering such legislation this year.

“With this law, Maine is taking seriously its responsibility to ensure youth and parents who seek support are not subjected to fraudulent and dangerous practices under the guise of therapy,” said Mary Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project director for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

Maine’s former Republican governor vetoed a similar measure last year, but the bill has gained momentum this year under a Democratic-led Legislature. Republicans argued that the bill was unnecessary, while also contending that it would prevent parents from seeking religious counselors for their children.

“There have not been any recorded cases of this happening in Maine,” said state House Republicans spokesman John Bott.

Republicans failed to pass an amendment to exclude talk therapy and counseling from counting as conversion therapy.

Maine’s law exempts treatment that offers acceptance, support and understanding while being neutral on sexual orientation and gender identity.



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How Closing Schools Traumatizes Students and Communities


A student walks down a hallway at the Jean de Lafayette Elementary School, on the final day of school Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Chicago. The school was one of 50 slated to be closed by the city.(AP Photo/Scott Eisen)

Since 2004, Oakland Unified School District has closed 16 schools and is now targeting an additional 24 by the start of the 2019-20 school year. District officials call it “right-sizing,” a term borrowed from corporate America – appropriate given that many of the shuttered schools will be converted into for-profit charters. While policymakers see failing or “bad” schools, parents, students and educators see pillars of the community that have not been adequately funded and are worth fighting for.

Closing down his school, one Oakland seventh grader testified in January, “is like putting me up for adoption ..[My school] made me who I am.”

These are scenes that have been playing out in urban school districts across the country. In 2013, Chicago announced it was closing 50 schools, 90 percent of which served all-black student populations. The plan triggered massive protests from parents, educators, students and community members.  The mobilization to save their neighborhood schools is recounted in “Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side,” by Eve L. Ewing.

In the book, Ewing, who in addition to being an assistant professor at the University of Chicago is also a poet and podcaster, vividly describes the anger, destabilization and sense of displacement felt by the families impacted most by school closings. 

These are the voices that need to be heard as policymakers make decisions that put children’s lives on the line, Ewing says. And, as she recently told NEA Today, no amount of  bureaucratic jargon and cherry-picked data can conceal the racist underpinnings behind the top-down, punitive policies that have dominated the education agenda over the past two decades.

“Ghosts in the Schoolyard” should be read by any official who actually makes these sort of decisions, but what other audiences do you most want to reach? Did you happen to see the teacher in Boston publicly handing out copies of your book to members of the School Committee who were considering closing the school where she works?  That must have been gratifying. 

Eve L. Ewing, author of “Ghosts in the Schoolyard.”

Eve Ewing: Yes, I did see that story. The photo of the teacher holding the book up was profoundly moving. So certainly I’m interested in lawmakers reading the book, but I also wanted to reach the people who have been closely impacted by these decisions to close schools – the parents, teachers, community members. Many have told me that the find the book to be validating. It makes them feel like they didn’t dream this up, you know?  It’s really unfortunate that the world we live in makes people feel that those sort of experiences are not being legitimated. I hope the book can be a lesson for researchers to take people at their word about how they are so deeply affected.

Another audience is young people. I want them to understand the history and context of the social system in which they find themselves, but also the history and context of struggle and how the people who came before them have worked really hard to try to make a better world.

You taught in Chicago public schools. How did that experience shape the way you approached the book and your work in general?

Ewing: With all the research I do, whether it’s about school closings or anything else, I’m always trying to think about how people on the ground who are actually living with the consequences of how things actually play out.

Every public school teacher has had the eye-rolling experience of being handed something to try in your classroom where you are like, “Ok, this is not going to work.” Had anyone talked to me or had any respect for me, I could have told them that, but no one ever asked.  So I don’t want to be that researcher. I try really hard to think closely, and to ask people about their actual lived experiences, rather than assuming my own expertise.

ghosts in the schoolyard coverI also worked as an aide in a couple of other schools on the South Side. All of them were 100% black and low-income, but I saw real differences in how the teachers approached the students. I saw teachers who were punitive and, frankly, cruel, and teachers who were what we call in the literature “warm demanders” – very loving, very caring,  but also had high expectations. So I saw how the tone, tenor and climate of the schools – and how what the students were able to do – changes when someone treats them like human beings.

Reading about the sense of loss felt by students, parents and educators was difficult. This was a traumatizing experience for them. Were you prepared for that when you interviewed them and listened to their testimony?

Ewing: I think I was intellectually prepared but I don’t think there’s any way to be emotionally prepared. Because some of these experiences were mirrored in my own life, I sort of knew what to expect. But I spent lot of time listening to recordings of children crying. On a very visceral level, that’s very difficult, but it’s important for me to have that perspective.

Yeah, people tell me all the time that reading the book was upsetting. But that affective reality, that sort of emotional reality, should be part of the calculus when we make these decisions that impact the lives of children so deeply. So no, while the trauma experienced by these families wasn’t surprising to me, it might be surprising to the people who were the engineers of this policy.

The avoidance to talk about the role of race in any of these decisions is pretty strong, right? 

This community’s choice to resist a school being characterized as “failing” is in fact about much more than the school itself: it is about citizenship and participation, about justice and injustice, and about resisting people in power who want to transform a community at the expense of the people who live there.” – From Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s Southside by Eve L. Ewing

Ewing:  People are comfortable talking about race when they are talking about how some racial groups are not performing up to par, when it’s through the lens of talking about deficits that are perceived in students of color, particularly black students.

It would be a different if we pushed ourselves to talk about race and education policy in terms of the way that current policies reinscribe and reinforce racial inequalities, and the way the education system interacts with other stratified systems in our society to ensure that students don’t have the same resources or opportunities based on race.

There’s a difference between talking about race and talking about racism. Scholars before me have established that that sort of deflection can in many ways be a racist tactic. The idea that it’s not racism, it’s this other thing, has been a very effective way of silencing any sort of critique.

As you say in the book, racism can be just as much, if not more, about the outcome as opposed to the intent. To what extent has it saturated our recent education policies?

Ewing: Well, the speaker goes to 11! To me, these questions are entirely about race. What underlies all these supposed reforms has so much to do with how much we control black people, how we control black children, how we assimilate immigrant groups, how we commit cultural genocide against native people. All of these in their way are the underlying projects of school reform.

“We Need to Be Disruptors of Institutional Racism in Our Schools”
To tackle institutional and systemic racism, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told the South by SouthWest conference in March, we have to be aware of every part of the system, including the silence of implicit bias that blinds us to the larger system and what needs to be disrupted and dismantled.

So much goes uninterrogated about how and why our schools look the way they do. Why, for example, are people are so attracted to curriculum reforms that supposedly elevate test scores and graduation rates to astronomical levels simply by ensuring that children live under an intense disciplinary regime – one that minimizes their capacity for free expression and maximizes the degree to which their bodies are under control?

These are the costs that people are willing to pay for the supposed dividends of test scores, right? And even a lot of policymakers who identify themselves on the left and who are White still advocate for policies for children of color that they would never dream of implementing if their own children were in the classroom.

More room has been made recently for a serious discussion about funding inequality in our education system. How far can that conversation go without talking about race?

Ewing:It’s a start, but it depends on how much we want to scratch below the surface. If we want to talk about funding inequality, we have to talk about property taxes. If we want to talk about property taxes we have to talk about residential segregation. We have to start talking about wealth inequality, right? We have to start talking about the transference of wealth. We have to talk about opportunity hoarding.

I often bring up about the analogy and the sneeze and the cold. One is the symptom and one is the actual virus. At some point you have to talk about the virus if you’re sitting around sneezing all the time. What is it that is actually making us sick?

Are you optimistic about the heightened awareness of how many of these policies are affecting students? There’s been quite a bit of progress on some fronts, including charter schools and overtesting. 

Ewing: Well, I’m not really sure we’re seeing all that much progress yet. I do think we’re seeing rhetorical progress and that is a really important first step. And I do think that people across racial groups are beginning to see the brunt of some of these policies. So that’s a real potential for solidarity.

But I don’t know that the heightened awareness has been matched by the policy environment. Under Betsy DeVos, I think we’ve been regressing on quite a few areas, just thinking about vouchers for example. But there is a potential of something powerful happening there, for sure.

closing schools and race

The nine-day strike in February by the 3,000 members of the Oakland Education Association forced the district to put s temporary hold on its plan to close 24 schools.

You’ve said that people shouldn’t conflate “schooling” and “education.” Schooling are those institutional practices that, as you said earlier, emphasis control and standardization, whereas education is genuine discovery and learning. To what extent are competing visions or ideas about the role of public education getting in the way of transformative change?

Ewing: We live in a hyper-individualist society. So when many people think about schools, they see them as an engine to attain the most material gain that they possibly can for their individual child. And I think that’s fine. It’s a natural human impulse, especially for parents.

But we should expect policymakers to have a different lens. They have to think about how we build systems that work for all students, that are not based on principles of competition, but instead on principles of resource provision. So how are we meeting  our ethical and moral obligation to provide all children regardless of their social position with adequate resources?

But I think a deeply-rooted anti-blackness undercuts that. A lot of research bears this out. When people are choosing schools, when people are assessing what a good school is and what bad school is, when they are thinking about what kind of curriculum they want to implement in schools – if the children being served are black, the game changes from one of thinking about nurturing and resource provision to one of punishment and control.

People see blackness as a proxy for low-quality and the presence of black children as a proxy for badness. So that and hyper-individualism are two mindsets that have to change, but policymakers and politicians have to take a lead on that. We can’t sit around and wait for people to suddenly be better people in order for our school systems to be better. We have to demand courage and innovation to create the policies that are going to create conditions of equity. And then everybody else has to catch up or not.

“A System That Blames Children”
relay program for teachersMass school closures in Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and other cities has created a multi-tier system where academically strong schools at the top are located in higher-income neighborhoods and not readily available to all students. Closing schools not only has a negative impact on student performance but also creates hardship for communities already struggling with disinvestment.

Pushed Out: The Injustice Black Girls Face in School

Black girls make up 16% of girls in U.S. public schools, but 42% of girls’ expulsions. What forces have made these students targets?



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Joe Biden Criticizes Charter Schools For Taking Money From Other Public Schools



Speaking before a crowd of educators Tuesday evening, former Vice President Joe Biden said that some charter schools funnel money from public schools, and that he does not believe federal funds should go to for-profit charter schools.

“Any charter school system that does not allow for total enrollment… siphons off money for our public schools, which are already in enough trouble,” said Biden, a Democratic contender for president. When asked to clarify what Biden meant by “total enrollment,” his campaign said he “doesn’t want any charters to be able to have admissions tests.”

However, a vast majority of charter schools are open-enrollment and do not offer admission tests. Charters are a type of public school that are publicly funded but privately managed, and are supposed to accept all students, regardless of performance. Still, some have been criticized for cherry-picking or pushing out students with special needs. 

Earlier in the evening, Biden seemed to conflate charter schools with magnet schools, which do screen based on ability. When asked for further clarification of the “admissions tests” comment, the campaign did not respond.

Biden’s criticism of charters represents the latest attack on these schools from the Democratic side ― and notably strays from the Obama administration’s embrace of these schools. Earlier this month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), another presidential hopeful, released his proposed education plan, which called for a full ban of for-profit charter schools, as well as a moratorium on public funding for the expansion of charters. 

Biden’s comments did not go nearly as far. When asked about for-profit charters, which only represent around 15 percent of all charter schools, he said, “I do not support any federal money for for-profit charter schools, period.”

He also noted, “There are some charter schools that work.”

The former vice president was speaking at a town hall in Houston hosted by the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s two major teachers unions. Biden released his proposed education plan Tuesday, the first major policy proposal of his campaign. Most notably, the plan calls for tripling spending for Title I, the federal program that funnels extra dollars to schools serving low-income populations. With an increase in Title I funds, teachers should be given a raise, and universal preschool should be offered to 3- and 4-year-olds, the plan says. 

The plan did not mention charter schools. Even after his comments at the town hall, Biden’s position on the issue appears murky, said Amy Wilkins, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“If you’re a parent who wants to understand where the former vice president is on charters, what he said yesterday, it wasn’t clear enough,” Wilkins said.

The Tuesday event was part of the AFT’s rigorous endorsement process. So far, the union has hosted town halls with other candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

In her introduction, AFT President Randi Weingarten praised Biden as a friend of labor. She said Biden was her union’s “north star” during the Obama administration.

“You all know we didn’t always get along with the Obama administration’s positions on education,” Weingarten told the audience ― possibly referring to the administration’s support of charter schools, of which the AFT has been critical. “But we had a go-to guy, who always listened to us, who always brought our message to the White House, to the Oval Office, and I trust that message would get through. That’s who the former vice president is.”

“He’s with us, because he is us,” she added.



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Joe Biden Tackles Education In First Major Policy Proposal Of 2020 Campaign



More than a month after he officially announced he would run for president, Joe Biden has finally entered the 2020 Democratic policy wars with his fellow candidates. 

On Tuesday, the former vice president and current Democratic front-runner released a wide-ranging education plan, which includes proposals his campaign contends would raise teachers’ pay and offer universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The plan is Biden’s first major proposal of the 2020 presidential campaign, during which time others in the large field of Democrats have released various bold policy plans. On the subject of education alone, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has proposed giving the average teacher a $13,500 raise and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has suggested wiping out student loan debt for the majority of American borrowers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ― who is currently Biden’s closest competition in the polls ― is once again making free public college a central calling card of his presidential campaign, while also proposing a salary floor of $60,000 for teachers, universal free school meals and the tripling of Title I funding, among other ideas. 

By comparison, Biden’s education proposal is less ambitious in scope. The central pillar, in fact, is nearly identical to one component of Sanders’ previously released plan: Like Sanders, Biden has proposed a threefold increase in federal funding for the Title I program. With the additional funding, Biden said he would raise teachers’ pay at Title I public schools by an unspecified amount and institute universal pre-kindergarten. (Title I schools have a large percentage of students from low-income families.)

The Biden campaign said it hopes that increase in Title I spending would help reduce the funding gap between overwhelmingly white and predominantly non-white school districts, which has reached an estimated $23 billion.

“Systemic racism is persistent across our institutions today ― including in our schools ― and must be addressed,” the campaign said in a press release. “President Biden will make sure that no child’s education opportunity is determined by their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability.”

The campaign put forward a number of other education ideas on Tuesday as well, including reinstating the Obama administration’s Department of Education guidance to legally pursue desegregation and providing grants to school districts for the purpose of diversifying schools.

Additionally, the campaign said Biden hopes to create a program where teachers can make extra money by coaching and mentoring other teachers, increase federal funding for special education, double the number of guidance counselors and health professionals at schools, improve public school buildings through infrastructure legislation, and make it easier for educators to pay off their student loans (when asked, the campaign did not immediately offer specifics as to how). 

Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association, applauded Biden’s plan in a statement on Tuesday, saying it would “go a long way towards eliminating the persistent achievement gaps and providing opportunity for all students no matter their ZIP code.”

“What is becoming increasingly clear in light of Biden’s and other recent education proposals is that, as the eyes of the nation turn to the 2020 presidential campaign, the country is hungry to elect a president who will not only do what is in the best interest of public education but also ensure that students have the schools they deserve,” García said. 

The Biden campaign released the proposal ahead of a Tuesday night town hall with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, in Houston.



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Serving the Whole Child Involves Every Educator


Meeting the needs of the whole child in our nation’s public schools requires an integrated approach to include social, emotional, and academic learning. And the federal government wants to help the cause to the tune of $260 million.

“It’s not like you can do just one of these,” said Jessica Cardichon, a director with the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), which sponsored a recent discussion at the U.S. Capitol titled, How Federal Policy Can Empower States and Communities to Provide Whole Child Education For All Students

“It’s a comprehensive approach across school systems,” said Cardichon, who moderated a panel of education, research and policy experts who stressed the need for federal funding to support the implementation of research-based whole child approaches that foster 21st century skills. “Additional after-school services are also essential to some students to reduce the negative effects of poverty.”

In April, the House Appropriations Committee released a fiscal year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) funding bill, which includes $260 million for a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiative to support a whole child approach to education.

“It’s not groundbreaking,” said panelist Philip Tizzani, a staff member with the House Appropriations Committee. “It’s been a slow-build.”

Tizzani said the SEL initiative, which is pending, would require districts to match federal funding. Federal funds make up approximately 9 percent of states’ education spending along with state and local efforts.

“We (Congress) need to make investments in these policies,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who delivered introductory remarks at the event. “We need to embrace proven holistic policies that educate the whole student.”

Child-Centered Environment

Panelists discussed how sufficient funding would help schools meet whole-student needs and what states, districts, and schools can do to provide a multi-tiered system of student support.

“When kids enter school, they are not all at the same starting line,” said Deborah Delisle, president and CEO of Alliance for Excellent Education. “How do you bridge that gap?”

One solution: States and districts can provide professional development for school staff to help create child-centered environments that foster students’ well-being and encourage creativity, according to panelists.

“It’s also important for educators to be engaged in their own learning,” Delisle said.

Abbe Futterman is the principal at The Earth School in New York.

“You have to know where the child is in their development,” said Futterman, a panelist. “Teachers need to be prepared to support children as they come … fostering an emotionally and culturally supportive environment.”

The Learning Policy Institute has offices in Palo Alto, Calif., and the District of Columbia. Its staff includes researchers, educators, public policy and communications specialists who work with policymakers, educators and community groups to promote and advance fair and equitable education policies.

Collaboration between schools, health care agencies, housing and other community groups also helps students to reach their full learning potential.

“A strong community that supports robust relationships is a key factor in whole child education,” said Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, LPI president, in a statement. “Education Support Professionals (ESPs) are key members of this community, fostering safe, positive learning environments as they work with students in and outside of the classroom. Their work is critical to meeting the needs of the whole child.”

ESPs: A Rich School Resource

There are almost 3 million school support professionals working in the nation’s K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Of NEA’s 3 million members, almost 500,000 are ESPs, who are organized by NEA into nine career categories.

“One third of the adults interacting with children in our K-12 system are ESPs,” said Tim Barchak, an NEA senior policy and program analyst who attended the event. People such as paraeducators, school secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, food service and health workers, security officers, and others “help students succeed not only in school but in life,” he added

During the question-and-answer segment, Barchak remarked that given their responsibilities, ESPs should be provided with sufficient professional development to reflect the role they play in assuring student safety, health and other SEL needs.

“That workforce should also be stabilized with fair compensation and by ceasing privatization,” Barchak added. “Preparing students for the future requires more than looking exclusively at instructional methods and curriculum.”

Panelist Charles Kamasaki, a senior advisor with UnidosUS and the National Council of La Raza, said in response to Barchak’s comments that “the most diverse segment in a school are ESPs.”

They often act as confidants and translators between Latino and Asian parents, teachers and school administrators, he explained.

“I’m in one hundred percent agreement with you (Barchak) that funds should be provided for their (ESP) training,” Kamasaki said. “They are often the entry point and great supporters of kids who are ELL (English language learners).”

Added Delisle: “Every adult who interacts with that child, like the bus driver, should be trained to understand their (student) needs.”

Within NEA, the whole child framework is built upon five tenets where each student:

  • Enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Engages in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Gains access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Is challenged academically and prepares for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP) also work to remove barriers to student learning. School staff in this category include school counselors, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, library media specialists, speech pathologists and others.

“School support professionals are key to assuring students have the services they need to succeed academically and socially, inside and outside the classroom,” Barchak said.

LPI has produced several publications addressing whole child issues, including Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success, Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement, and Protecting Students’ Civil Rights: The Federal Role in School Discipline.



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Supreme Court Leaves School’s Transgender Bathroom Policy In Place



The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal from Pennsylvania students challenging their school’s policy of allowing certain transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity, leaving the policy intact.

The four students and some of their parents, who are not named in the case, claimed that the Boyertown Area School District, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, “did not notify its students or their parents of this change.”

According to their attorneys, the students said that they first learned of it while “undressed in the locker room, they realized they were in the presence of a student of the opposite sex,” arguing that the policy violated their privacy rights.

The school allowed the policy on a “case-by-case basis,” after requiring transgender students seeking permission to use facilities that matched their gender identity “to meet with counselors who were trained and licensed to address these issues,” according to court documents. The counselors often also “consulted with additional counselors, principals, and school administrators” before school officials granted the transgender students the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity.

The high court’s decision to not advance the case leaves in place a 2017 ruling from a federal judge in Pennsylvania, who denied the students’ claims that their rights to privacy were violated.

A federal appeals court upheld the ruling last summer, determining that “the presence of transgender students in the locker and restrooms” does not “infringe on the plaintiffs’ rights.”



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Veterans Walk In High School Graduations Decades After Leaving For Wars



Two combat veterans who left high school to serve their country finally walked at their graduation ceremonies on Saturday after decades of waiting.

Joe Perricone, 95, was drafted to join the U.S. Army in 1943 during World War II, local station WFLA reported. He was attending Tampa, Florida’s Hillsborough High School at the time and was able to receive his diploma, but he missed out on the chance to attend his graduation, heading off to Europe instead.

With help from the school board, Perricone’s grandson, Judge Thomas Palermo, made sure he could join in on the graduation ceremony for the class of 2019 where he was handed a diploma and commended for his service.

“It means a lot to us that someone we love very much will finally live out his dream,” Palermo told NPR’s WUSF.

The same day, Bill William Arnold Craddock, 85, also received his degree from Volunteer Hill High School in Church Hill, Tennessee, local news station WJHL reported. At age 16, Craddock entered the Air Force then enlisted in the Korean War, leaving Science Hill High School where he had been enrolled.

Like Perricone, he, too, was welcomed to walk in the class of 2019’s ceremony and had a message for both the new graduates and the ones with whom he would have celebrated in 1953.

“I would tell that class to study hard and be good,” he said. “Learn all they can and get the best education they can get.”

Earlier this month, World War II veteran Pete Sabedra, 92, received his diploma alongside his grandson at Pennsylvania’s Derry Area High School almost 80 years after he would have graduated, local station WTAE reported.



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Teachers Under Fire For Culturally Insensitive Yearbook Photos



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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Labor Movement Comes Back Big After ‘Janus’


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

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

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

nicole loch

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Civics Lesson

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

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

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

Arizona educators rally for school funding in April 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

Power in Numbers

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

kember kane

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

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

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

Bargaining for the Common Good

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

david jeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Janus’ Was Personal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empowered Educators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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What Teachers Really Want For End-Of-Year Gifts


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Police Investigating Students For Allegedly Tainting Crepes With Bodily Fluids



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

ASSOCIATED PRESS



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California Senate Passes Bill For Free Abortion Pills At Public Colleges



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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What Does a Global Arts Classroom Look Like?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie Midkiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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‘Sesame Street’ Introduces New Muppet In Foster Care



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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6 Lovely Children’s Books About Asian American Culture


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cook echoed Baker’s gratitude.

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





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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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Bernie Sanders Unveils Anti-Charter School Education Plan


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the case seemed to disappear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

Proposal: Cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent.

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

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

Proposal: Forgive almost all student loan debt.

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

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

Proposal: Encourage more retirement savings.

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

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

Proposal: Make rent more affordable.

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

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

Proposal: Move closer to universal basic income.

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

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

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

Proposal: Loosen payday loan requirements.

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

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

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

Proposal: Kill the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

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

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

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



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