March 06, 2006

Too much for Teach for America

One Harlem school is so dangerous that Aeven the dedicated recruits are staying away:

Teach for America, known as the Peace Corps for struggling urban schools, has sent its teachers to the worst crime-ridden schools in the nation. But one Harlem school is too dangerous — even for them.

The national group pulled about 10 of its teachers from Intermediate School 172 after one of them was threatened and others were assaulted last year, the Daily News has learned.

And Teach for America is refusing to send any corps members back to IS 172 until order is restored, sources said. It is believed to be the first time the organization has blacklisted a school anywhere in the nation in its 16-year history.

"The feeling was the administration hadn't addressed the questions of security with our teachers," said an official at Teach for America, who asked not to be identified.

The teachers at this school dodge hurled chairs and wear earplugs to block out the noise. One expressed concern at why the DOE wasn't doing anything. Short of enforcing martial law, I'm wondering what could be done when the students apparently care so little. I can see why TfA doesn't want to "lure" recruits in with high pay and then leave them, undefended, in war zones.

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Attempted murder via SUV

Terrorism at my alma mater:

A University graduate with at least one prior arrest careened a rented silver Jeep Grand Cherokee through the Pit about noon Friday, gutting a community psyche and leaving many questions unanswered in a media spectacle that has turned the international lens on Chapel Hill.

University police Chief Derek Poarch confirmed that Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, 22, a 2005 graduate, is being held in the Central Prison in Raleigh on a $5.5 million bond on nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill.

I agree with Newsbusters that it's absurd to label this a "skirmish," on par with publishing cartoons. I find it informative - and correct - that the Daily Tar Heel article that explores his possible motives does not mention the cartoon.

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February 01, 2006

Boys punch, girls do lunch

Schools in the Philadelphia region tackle the issue of bullying head-on:

Penn Central Middle, in Bucks County's Pennridge School District, is one of many schools in the region and nation that have started anti-bullying programs to address the differences in the way boys and girls bully.

Schools started taking bullying much more seriously after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The more bullying was discussed and researched, the more obvious it became to school officials that girls and boys have different favorite methods.

Boys are more likely to use their fists, while girls use words as weapons. Boys are often trying to prove their dominance over each other - who is the toughest, strongest, the best athlete.Girls are more about relationships - if one is mad at another, she tries to persuade her friends to also be mad.

"If a girl can make it so another girl can sit alone in the cafeteria, then they got her"...

Some of the definitions of "bullying," though, are far too broad:

Girls can hurt others by excluding them, said Daria Mojibian, counselor at Parkview Elementary School in Westville. Last school year, fourth-grade girls made up clubs that had animal mascots, and, even though they were not real clubs, the girls would not allow certain girls to join.

A few weeks ago, Mojibian said, a popular sixth grader found a broken pen on the playground and went around putting ink dots on the hands of her friends. "All the popular girls had them, all the popular boys had them," she said. One girl, who is accepted only sometimes by the popular crowd, did not get a dot and became so upset that she smeared the ink on a student's jacket, she said.

I don't know that I'd want my daughter to feel that everyone had to accept her, or want her to join their club, or that it would be acceptable (or productive) for her to smear ink if she didn't get included. If fourth-grade girls want to create unofficial clubs and invite only their friends to join, why shouldn't they be allowed to? While students should learn to treat everyone with respect, I've never been much for the idea that their friendships, clubs, and cliques should be forced to be as all-inclusive as possible.

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January 05, 2006

A really big "Kick Me" sign

How, exactly, does this square with anti-bullying initiatives and zero-tolerance for violence in schools? Granted, kicking soccer balls at photos is better than kicking them at the actual teachers...but not by much. And it's no better when the issue is the teaching of proper respect for educators.

Posted by kswygert at 11:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2006

Going out with a, er, um.....

There are lots of things that don't make sense about this tale:

A former Holliston middle school teacher who owned up to fondling and kissing a 17-year-old female student in June will receive his pension if he does not violate the conditions of his probation. Thomas V. Collins, 71, of 20 Kinsley Lane, Mendon, will receive his benefits package from the Massachusetts Teacher Retirement Board because he was not convicted of the crime, said Sean Neilon, the board’s assistant executive director...

Collins in November waived his right to a trial on charges of indecent assault and battery and admitted to sufficient facts before Judge Paul Healy in Framingham District Court. Admitting to sufficient facts is tantamount to a guilty plea. Healy continued the case without a finding for five years, during which time Collins will be on probation. He must undergo a sex-offender evaluation and a psychiatric exam, and seek any recommended treatment...

Police arrested Collins, a former math teacher at Robert Adams Middle School, after, they said, he grabbed and hit a 17-year-old girl’s buttocks and forcibly kissed her. The girl said the incident happened June 21, the last day of the school year, and Collins’ last day of a more than 40-year teaching career.

How, exactly, does one enter a guilty plea and then have the judge decide there were no findings in the case? If the issue is that the charges are without merit, why weren't they dropped? If the charges do have merit and Collins pled guilty, why doesn't that automatically mean a conviction?

And what's a 17-year-old student doing at a middle school?

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December 30, 2005

Next, on CourtTV - Naked Children Caught on Tape!

Parents, get your naked little vandals under control!

Have you ever had the dream where you're at school....naked? Three 10-year-old boys in Bryan County did go to a school naked and it was all caught on tape. KTEN's Chelsea Hover got the scoop on the Durant Middle School break-in....that has a strange twist, and severe penalties.

Three elementary school students managed to wiggle under a fence and find an unlocked door at Durant Middle School the day after school got out for Christmas break. If you watch the video link, you'll see some of the surveillance tape recorded by the school's cameras...

Once inside, they stayed...for five hours! At first they try to shield their faces from the cameras but eventually they let loose. The video shows them running down the halls, entering classrooms, trying on football pads and helmets, getting in lockers, and even eating a snack in the cafeteria! At one point, two of the boys stripped down and ran down the hallways naked, even though they seemed to be aware of the cameras.

Of all the places I would have chosen, as a kid, to break into and run wild, "school" would not have been one of them. And as funny as this story seems, the $4000 worth of damage they caused by whacking the newly-refinished gym floor with baseball bats may not seem hilarious to restitution-paying parents.

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December 14, 2005

Is some bullying worse than others?

The Texas state school board has withdrawn from a national organization over disputes about how to handle bullying and homophobia in schools:

In a 10-5 party-line vote Nov. 18, the elected Republican-controlled board dropped the state’s membership in the National Association of State Boards of Education, or NASBE. The decision was prompted in part because one of the Texas board members said the group had run a conference that included discussions of policies at odds with the board majority’s views on how to address bullying of students because of their sexual orientation.

“I disagreed with the whole framework of discussion,” Terri Leo, the board member who recommended that the state pull out of NASBE, said last week in describing the October symposium. She said some speakers had advocated policies prohibiting the bullying of particular groups of students, including gays and lesbians, not just overall bans on mistreatment of fellow students.

“They’re pushing for hate-crimes-type legislation through bullying policy,” said Ms. Leo, who believes that such an approach unfairly establishes special protections for gay students.

The fact that her fellow Republicans all supported her motion to leave the national group, while all the board’s Democrats opposed it, is an “indication of the partisan direction that NASBE is going,” Ms. Leo said in a telephone interview...

At the Oct. 12-13 symposium in Phoenix sponsored by NASBE, Ms. Leo said, speakers argued that bullying policies should specify homosexuals as students who need to be protected from harassment and suggested that those who bully gay students should receive more-serious punishments than those who bully other students.

“Bullying is wrong, period,” Ms. Leo said. “All victims should be dealt with the same—compassionately—and all bullies should be treated equally.”

I wondered how long it would take the "hate crime" debate to reach into schools.

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An outrageous event goes unnoticed

Oh sure, kids will be kids. But any school in which kids can get away with this in class should be shut down.

Three First Coast students are facing criminal charges after a teacher says they were involved in oral sex in the classroom. Christopher Lemay, 18, is accused of paying a 16-year-old-girl to perform the act on another boy at Sandalwood High. Those two are under-age, so First Coast News is not releasing their identities.

Sandalwood administrators say the act happened under a table in a large class full of students, so the teacher had limited visibility.

You'd have to get up early in the morning to build a classroom so large and crowded that a teacher would not be able to notice something like THAT going on.

Posted by kswygert at 12:14 PM | Comments (107) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

When doing well might be a dangerous act

Well, this is one of the more depressing things I've seen in a while (Warning - disturbing photo):

Police are investigating after a teenager from Neath was attacked in school hours after receiving two academic awards. Danielle Price, 15, was treated in hospital for facial injuries after the assault at Llangatwg Comprehensive. Her mother reported the school yard assault to South Wales Police who have launched an investigation.

Another girl, also 15, was suspended from lessons for a week. The school said it had taken "appropriate action"...

The attack happened during morning break earlier this month when Danielle, a Year 10 pupil who hopes to become a solicitor, was celebrating being presented for awards for achievements in German and Humanities in assembly.

It would be nice to think there is no relation between Danielle's being singled out for academic awards and the attack. However, this comes on the heels of disturbing reports like this one:

Smart black students being accused of "acting too white" is an issue Triangle educators are debating at a youth and race conference this week. Students say the stigma is keeping some of their peers from doing well in school.

Tenth grader Anais Guzman is on the honor roll. She says some of her peers see the achievement as acting too "white". "They can get high grades but they don't want to because they'll be considered as acting white, so they put white people down,” Guzman said.

Note that not only is high academic achievement seen as being "white" - a pernicious racist idea if there ever was one, on par with anything the KKK ever theorized - but "being white" isn't considered to be a good thing. Neither, possibly, is being given awards in German and the humanities.

P.S. There are those on the web who dispute that African-American students disparage high achievement. And I know of at least one study suggesting that, while there are those who spread the nasty "acting white" accusations, many African-American students are able to ignore such bad ideas.

I also know that the victim of the attack in Wales is white, so the "acting white" issue isn't what's going on there (if indeed the attack has anything at all to do with her awards). However, seeing these two stories close together led me to ponder how both could be the result of same underlying issue - the emergence of an ideology of victimhood and outcast status, where anyone's efforts to achieve "within the system" would be derided and attacked.

Update: And then there's this (Hat tip: Henry Cate).

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October 20, 2005

Are words really enough?

The Education Wonks are skeptical about the theory that mere words can stop bullies:

Irving Middle School [Idaho] administrators brought in motivational speaker Terry Brewer Tuesday to teach students how to use humor to deflate bullies, but the district's counselors stress that the assembly is just one example of how District 25 tackles bullying every day.

“(Bullying) is one of our top three priority issues we work on all the time. It is not a novel topic. Keeping school culture safe is an absolute priority because people don't learn well in conditions that are hostile or intimidating. And the other issue, it is a matter of human dignity,” said Jefferson Elementary School counselor Jan McCormick...

McCormick said teachers and school counselors weave anti-bullying strategies, such as conflict management, multicultural and diversity training, into the curriculum every day, beginning in kindergarten and ending at high school graduation...She said this systematic approach has changed the schools' culture for the better, and decreased the number of bullies substantially.

I think the Wonks are too skeptical (although I'd like to see some hard data to back up McCormick's claims that her school is actually safer now). I think words can defeat bullies, if enough kids are willing to stand up and speak out. As with all violent behavior, though, there has to be a non-pacifist - in this case, the teacher or principal - who is willing to step in and mete out some serious punishment when an empathetic mediator gets flattened by a bully with a low EQ. Without that backup, I wouldn't want any kid of mine to be "mediating" schoolyard disputes.

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September 19, 2005

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Net

How do you manage bullying on the internet?

It's a simple question: "Who do you hate?"

But posted in January by a 17-year-old Smithtown High School student from Nesconset on a Web site called - a popular cyber hangout swamped by teenagers - the question dangles out there like a virtual pinata.

"I want everyone to take a moment and really think about who you hate in our school," he writes, "then choose the one that you have the most disdain for and write it here for all to see. this may cause violance ... agression, and death. but iam willing to look past that for the better of the cause. so lets here it."

A pummeling of messages follow, one verbal swing after another.

The responses stretch for the next eight months over 16 pages, and number 240. They name everyone from a boy that "sucks at life" to "that stupid blind girl." One 16-year-old girl writes that she wants to stab a boy named "alex something ... in the eye with a really hot french fry."

Welcome to the world of cyberbullying, a new age form of aggression that can instantly erupt with a few keystrokes. At least one expert describes such virtual smearing as a suburban phenomenon because so many adolescents have their own computers and unsupervised time to use them - making Long Island the perfect environment for it.

Philisophical questions:

1. Should it be considered bullying if the recipient is not the direct target of the remark, and may in fact never learn about the remark?
2. Should it be considered bullying if it's just speech, and not action?
3. Should it be considered bullying if it's just a joke?

And most importantly:

4. Should it be considered bullying if there's no way to regulate this? It's impossible to catch all these sites, and virtually impossible to decisively identify who is participating. If it's defined as bullying, then it's a problem without a solution.

Posted by kswygert at 02:59 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

Mouthing off

This has to be a joke:

A secondary school is to allow pupils to swear at teachers - as long as they don't do so more than five times in a lesson. A running tally of how many times the f-word has been used will be kept on the board. If a class goes over the limit, they will be 'spoken' to at the end of the lesson. The astonishing policy, which the school says will improve the behaviour of pupils, was condemned by parents' groups and MPs yesterday. They warned it would backfire.

Parents were advised of the plan, which comes into effect when term starts next week, in a letter from the Weavers School in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.
Assistant headmaster Richard White said the policy was aimed at 15 and 16-year-olds in two classes which are considered troublesome.

"Within each lesson the teacher will initially tolerate (although not condone) the use of the f-word (or derivatives) five times and these will be tallied on the board so all students can see the running score," he wrote in the letter. "Over this number the class will be spoken to by the teacher at the end of the lesson."

I'd list everything wrong with this idea, but I don't have all night.

1. Kids are competitive. The daily contest to see whose name gets up on the board first will be just that - a contest.
2. Now, in addition to teaching, teachers will be required to withstand a barrage of curses from students, and will be able to do nothing except stop and write the student's name on the board.
3. If saying the f-word four times carries no punishment, how exactly is that not condoning it?
4. Test item: If there are 30 students in the class, and the class lasts for 60 minutes, and each student can say the f-word four times without getting in trouble, how many times will the f-word be spoken each minute, on average?

I'm not counting here the number of f-bombs the teachers will be dropping by the end of the day, as they are forced to deal with this idiot policy. Quadruple-tolerance for awful behavior is as bad as zero-tolerance for harmless behavior.

Note the lovely rewards for those who do "behave":

...[the school] also plans to send 'praise postcards' to the parents of children who do not swear and who turn up on time for lessons

Oh wow. So now getting to class on time and not sounding like a fishmonger is praise-worthy. That's funny; at least that much was expected of me in school. What's more, since when has a teenager ever behaved just so that that their parents would receive an award?

Note that the newspaper's debate item of the day is:

Should children be removed from parents who are loving but 'not clever enough' to raise them?

How about let's talk about students being removed from the influences of principals who are "not clever enough" to understand the implications of this policy? I think Ace is right; they're getting rid of bad behavior by defining it away.

Posted by kswygert at 07:04 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

Studying in the US shouldn't be dangerous

I had no idea this was a problem:

The U.S. Department of State has proposed a new rule that aims to help prevent sexual abuse of foreign youths in high school student-exchange programs by increasing the screening requirements for adults who interact with such students.

The proposed amendments to regulations for high school exchange programs would require criminal-background checks of all adults who work with the programs. The program sponsors would also have to run the names of all adults in the households of host families through sex-offender registries kept by the states where the students would live while in the United States. The programs would be required to report allegations of sexual misconduct both to the State Department and to local law-enforcement agencies.

Sounds like a good idea.

Posted by kswygert at 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

Free the Kutztown 13!

In nearby Kutztown, PA, 13 students are charged with digital trespassing:

They're being called the Kutztown 13 — a group of high schoolers charged with felonies for bypassing security with school-issued laptops, downloading forbidden Internet goodies and using monitoring software to spy on district administrators.

The students, their families and outraged supporters say authorities are overreacting, punishing the kids not for any heinous behavior — no malicious acts are alleged — but rather because they outsmarted the district's technology workers.

The Kutztown Area School District begs to differ. It says it reported the students to police only after detentions, suspensions and other punishments failed to deter them from breaking school rules governing computer usage...

The trouble began last fall after the district issued some 600 Apple iBook laptops to every student at the high school about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The computers were loaded with a filtering program that limited Internet access. They also had software that let administrators see what students were viewing on their screens.

But those barriers proved easily surmountable: The administrative password that allowed students to reconfigure computers and obtain unrestricted Internet access was easy to obtain. A shortened version of the school's street address, the password was taped to the backs of the computers...The administrative password on some laptops was subsequently changed but some students got hold of that one, too, and decrypted it with a password-cracking program they found on the Internet.

Anyone who tapes their password to the back of a computer deserves to be bypassed, and that goes for schools, too. Why did the school spend thousands of dollars to buy 600 Apple laptops and, apparently, not one dime on an IT person who would have understood how to keep the computers encrypted? This could have been much worse. What if one of the laptops had been stolen by someone who could have used to it do much worse things than download chat programs?

Regardless of the punishment for this crime, I hope the school has learned a valuable lesson here.

(Via Wizbang!)

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August 03, 2005

A rampage with a joystick

In this day and age, when educators everywhere are loudly proclaiming that bullying is evil, unacceptable, and most politically incorrect, you almost have to admire Rockstar Games (creators of the infamous Grand Theft Auto) for having the stones to create a new video game called, well, Bully.

SKINHEAD thug wins a bloody playground fight with a classmate, before hunting down a teacher as his next victim. This is Bully. A new video game that's been called the sickest ever, a sadistic orgy of violence where you win points for being the most vicious yob in a reform school.

News of the game's release comes as research suggests that playing violent video games makes youngsters more aggressive.

Or maybe not. While the game - which I sincerely hope is rated M for Mature - may be cathartic for those adults out of school who wish to indulge in a bit of electronic revenge, you have to wonder what the effect might be on any kid whose parent lets them spend lots of unsupervised time in video game carnage.

Notice the "parental responsibility" part I slipped in there.

Posted by kswygert at 07:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 01, 2005

The decline and fall of discipline in British schools

Back in March of this year, London Telegraph reporter Julie Henry noted that schools were being overrun by students who were taught no manners, discipline, or polite behavior by parents. I have the feeling that the comments of the Government's Chief Inspector of Schools were provocative - and extreme - enough to inspire Julie to go undercover and see what she could find.

And boy, were her eyes opened. One article on the documentary that was produced notes:

On returning to teaching after a 30-year absence, a supply teacher using the pseudonym Sylvia Thomas secretly filmed shocking examples of lessons ruined by large numbers of pupils over a three-month period. The documentary shows children aged from 12 to 15 completely ignoring her and other staff while they shout, scream, fight, swear and wander around the classroom at will. In one scene a full-scale fight breaks out and a 6ft tall boy is seen wielding a rubber truncheon, as the terrified teacher calls for help. In another, pupils throw books, pens and balls of paper across the room for a full 15 minutes as the teacher protests, before they declare that they "don't give a shit". In yet more disturbing scenes, a boy in a computer class is filmed accessing hard-core porn sites and then protesting his innocence, saying "I just typed in 'anal', miss".

An email circulating on the Bill Evers list cites another Telegraph article that I can't find online (this might be a transcript of part of the documentary), and what it includes is just as shocking:

What struck me very early on was that poor, even outrageous indiscipline -children leaping across tables or wandering around brandishing fire extinguishers - had become acceptable. At one school, I was calmly advised by a female colleague to lock the classroom door while I was teaching, to "protect" myself and my class from the marauding groups in the corridors. The look of surprise on my face did not seem to register with her.

Time and again I would be surprised, and shocked, and eventually deeply
saddened by what I saw in the state school system. A combination of
classroom disorder, endless supply teachers, conscientious but jaded staff
and school managers who seemed prepared to pretend that all was well had
created a situation that was a million miles away from the Government
rhetoric of rising standards.

Kudos to Ms. Henry for all of her articles, which chronicle the decline of discipline in many (but not all) British schools, and for pointing out that zero-tolerance brutality by teachers doesn't seem to be a feasible solution, either:

St Aloysius Roman Catholic College for boys in Islington, north London, should have been a showcase for New Labour, with a rise last year of 19 per cent in the number of pupils gaining five A* to C grades...At this school, the behaviour balance seems to have gone to the other extreme, under the Government's banner of "zero-tolerance". Staff called pupils "total scum" after an incident of vandalism, and shouted at them to "bugger off, go home, we don't want you".
Posted by kswygert at 07:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 27, 2005

Crazy behavior, insane teacher?

Oh, pu-leeze.

A middle-school reading teacher whose sexual liaisons with a 14-year-old student made tabloid headlines broke off plea negotiations with prosecutors and will claim insanity at a December trial, her attorney said today.

Debra Lafave, 24, was under such emotional stress that she didn't know right from wrong when she had sex with a 14-year-old student numerous times in June 2004, attorney John Fitzgibbons said after a brief court hearing. A Dec. 5 trial date was set.

Recently married, in good health, with no kids - yet somehow there was enough stress in her life to make her commit statuatory rape with one of her students? Multiple times? And hide it well while she was doing it? Mmm-hmm. Sure. Her ex-husband believes she's not the woman he married, but I believe he feels she's guilty of deception and idiocy, not insanity.

Posted by kswygert at 10:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005

The educationalists discuss the problem of louts

The Education Wonks link to an upcoming discussion of discipline in British schools:

Tony Blair has been floating new ideas in a bid combat loutish behaviour in England's schools. Ahead of a meeting with educationalists on Wednesday, the prime minister suggested that children who are suspended from school take part in community service.

In a letter to Sir Alan Steer, head of a taskforce on pupil behaviour, Blair says that suspensions are "a crucial sanction for head teachers" but they should be made more of a punishment.

"Should we legally require suspended students to stay at home, accompanied by a parent, rather than allowing them freely to cause a nuisance on the streets or in shopping centres?" he wrote.

Ministers believe school discipline is essential if standards are to be raised and the wider problem of anti-social behaviour is to be brought under control.

The government also wants to see parents taking more control and responsibility for the behaviour of their children.

The trick, of course, is in how to do that. The EWs note that this would require the UK to do something that the US has so far shown great reluctance to do, which is to require that parents and students show as much accountability as teachers and schools:

We've stated the obvious before, and we will keep on stating it: The establishment of a safe, secure, nurturing, and orderly learning environment for all children is an absolutely essential component of any meaningful educational reform.

Parents and students must also be held accountable for "doing their part" if the our nation's public schools are to have any chance of accomplishing President Bush's goal of "Leaving no child behind."

It should be noted that some schools have had great success with being as tough on parents as they are on problem students.

Posted by kswygert at 06:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

The new ABC's (amphetamines, barbituates, cocaine...)

Does this sound like something that should be taught in nursery schools?

CHILDREN under five are to be schooled in the dangers of drugs in a bid to "drug-proof" Scotland's youngest generation, The Scotsman can reveal. Infants will be introduced to the issue of illegal drugs while at nursery schools, and day centres for the first time.

Nursery teachers will begin training on the use of educational packages for children early next year, under an initiative led by Scotland Against Drugs (SAD). The move follows the successful introduction of drugs education in primary schools in recent years.

Specific educational packages are likely to include concepts of "good" and "bad" medicine and also from whom it is safe to take medicine. Details about specific controlled drugs will not be taught.

Childcare staff will be taught how to deal with children whose parents are drug users.

Um, how will the staff know whose parents are drug users? Does the method include training children how to detect drug use in their parents? How likely is it that the definitions of "good" and "bad" drugs are subtly and properly defined, given that these definitions are being taught to kids still learning their ABC's?

Most importantly, is there research to suggest that learning about "good" and "bad" medication as a five-year-old will prevent later drug use? The Scotland Against Drugs website is down, but I found one online quote from the SAD gang which suggests that they're not so much interested in what the research actually shows as what the public perception of such research is. Which makes me wonder if their "scare 'em while they're young" approach actually has any research to back it up.

Posted by kswygert at 12:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

A hands-on approach to learning chemistry

One Chicago teacher imparts a real-life lesson in how to use the chemical reactions in fire to gain good grades:

A chemistry teacher who was at least three months behind on her car payments gave passing grades to two failing students who stole and burned her car so she could collect insurance money, a fire investigator said. Aldine Senior High School teacher Tramesha Lashon Fox, 32, was charged with insurance fraud and arson, and the two students were charged with arson.

Roger Luna, 18, and Darwin Arias, 17, had been failing Fox's class up to their final exam. But Arias received a 90 and Luna an 80, grades high enough for them to pass the semester, said senior fire investigator Dustin Deutsch of the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office.

I'm amazed Fox hasn't argued that this was merely an independent-study chemistry project gone awry. Then again, she may be saving that for her day in court.

Posted by kswygert at 11:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 01, 2005

A second chance

Interesting headline: "Irving ISD hires chastened principal."

The Irving school district has hired a former Dallas principal who was disciplined after tens of thousands of dollars in student-activity funds disappeared from her high school.

Former Molina High principal Linda Lujan-Kimm wasn't accused of wrongdoing but was demoted in 2003 after the money was reported missing. An office manager, who resigned before the Dallas school district investigated, was responsible for managing the funds...

At least $45,000 may have been taken from Molina High. Under Dallas district policy, principals are ultimately responsible for overseeing the management of activity funds. Ms. Lujan-Kimm said she informed Dallas district officials about the missing money. Following a DISD investigation, she was reassigned to a position of lesser responsibility. Her most recent Dallas job was secondary ESL program coordinator.

In her application to Mr. Singley, Ms. Lujan-Kimm cited her accomplishments at Molina High, including improvements on standardized test scores and increases in the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses and taking AP exams. She was a finalist for the district's principal of the year award.

If she wasn't the one responsible, and was the one willing to blow the whistle, I wonder why she was demoted at all?

Posted by kswygert at 10:26 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

"If Ms. Grundy has 7 bottles of vodka and makes 10 screwdrivers per hour..."

I understand teaching elementary school is a tough task, but can't teachers be expected to keep the sozzlement to a minimum on the job?

A primary school teacher kept a stash of 200 BOTTLES of alcohol in her classroom cupboard. Barbara Edwards, 50, nipped into the store for swigs during lessons and fell asleep at her desk during lunch hour.

Her classroom stank of drink, but she only admitted to a problem when her hoard of brandy, wine and Bacardi was found.

Guess what? She most likely gets her job back once her doctor says she's over the drinking problem. Isn't that great? Wouldn't you want your kids in her care for seven hours a day? I forsee some wicked math word problems in her future. And just how big is that cupboard of hers?

Posted by kswygert at 05:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

A dangerous testing situation

Good Lord.

Two charter school administrators have been suspended for 10 days each without pay following a 13-year-old girl's claim that she was raped by a boy during a state proficiency test in March. Dayton Academy Principal Emory Wyckoff should have called police as required by state law, said Adam Tucker, a spokesman for New York City-based Edison Schools, which manages the school.

Wyckoff's suspension will begin in July. Assistant Principal Aundray Brooks also was suspended. Brooks was supervising the state-mandated standardized test but left the room to deal with a noisy situation in the hallway. The girl told police that a 14-year-old schoolmate attacked her during that time. Brooks will begin his suspension Friday. Both administrators have received letters outlining the reprimands and the rationale behind it, Tucker said.

Any administrator who doesn't call police for such a situation should be looking for work. And how long was the room free of adult supervision? Weren't there any other kids in the room? Why didn't someone else step in to help? The claim is bizarre - this is something that shouldn't have been possible.

Posted by kswygert at 10:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

Does the kid deserve punishment, or Pepto-Bismol?

Eeeww. It's gross, but is it battery?

A high school student who vomited on his Spanish teacher has been charged with battery against a school official. The misdemeanor charge was filed Monday against the Olathe Northwest High School student. The 17-year-old was charged as a juvenile and his name was not released.

Prosecutors said the vomiting was intentional, and the teacher, David Young, called the act "outrageous." "I think a message is being sent by both the school district and the district attorney that this behavior will not be tolerated," Young said.

Guess what the ol' technicolor yawn is being blamed on?

The student's father said his son told him he did not mean to throw up on the teacher but had been made uncontrollably ill by the stress of final exams.

Bad enough exams get the blame for cheating, tears, etc.; now they're getting blamed for assualt with a deadly spew as well.

The father said the district expelled his son and recommended he enroll in an alternative school in the fall.

They have special alternative schools in Kansas for students who are weak of stomach? Who knew? And is zero tolerance for hurling really in the rulebooks?

Posted by kswygert at 11:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

No good seat on the bus

The Washington Post describes in perfect detail why I hated riding the bus:

Every day, 440,000 school buses ferry 18 million children to and from schools and activities across the United States. Accidents, seat belts and safe crossings generally are the matters parents worry about. But experts say sexual assaults on school buses, one of the fastest-growing forms of school violence, seldom register as a safety concern.

Although many school systems don't identify bus assaults independently of all school violence, administrators, teachers and bus drivers say the nature and frequency of the attacks are increasing, and at younger ages. The incident involving the Germantown girl was one of four alleged sexual assaults on Montgomery County's school buses this school year; the alleged attackers in Virginia were as young as 8.

As a middle-schooler, I took it for granted that harassment was an unavoidable part of the bus-ride experience. As an adult, I realize there's no reason this should be the case - and examples such as the ones described in this article should be a warning sign to school districts.

Posted by kswygert at 09:35 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 01, 2005

Hopefully he got some mouthwash along with the candy

What kind of teacher do you get when you combine low levels of maturity, ethics, and decision-making with some interesting creative impulses?

A Carroll County mother is accusing one of the teachers at her son's elementary school of having inappropriate physical contact with her son, having him lick the teacher's toes in exchange for candy. The mother says she discovered what happened on Friday, when she saw a note, bearing the teacher's name in the signature, written in her 10-year-old son’s school yearbook.

“I saw a note from a teacher, saying, ‘Good luck next year. Don't lick anyone else's toes. You're silly. Love, Mrs. Kilpatrick,’” said Denise Strozier, the student’s mother. “So, I'm, like, okay. What is this about licking somebody's toes?” She says her son, a student at Temple Elementary School, then described inappropriate physical contact this past February with teacher Jody Kilpatrick in front of a dozen other children.

“He said that [the teacher] says, ‘Well, everybody else has candy. And if you lick my toes, you can have some candy,’ And I said, ‘Are you sure that's what you [heard?]’” Strozier said. “He said, ‘Yes, ma'am, all my friends were there and I licked her toes, and I got candy’”...

Strozier called the principal to complain, and she said the initial response from the school was simply to offer Strozier and her son a replacement yearbook, but only if she returned the one with the teacher's writing in it. Strozier said the teacher apologized to her over the phone, but the mother wants the teacher fired.

I'm posting this icky tale solely for the benefit of my fiance, who has the complete opposite of a foot fetish. He's never gone near my toes. If you put a gun to his head and ordered him to lick anyone's toes - even Carmen Electra's - I'd be a widow at a young, young age.

Posted by kswygert at 05:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 31, 2005

Tougher standards do not cause preschool violence

The Education Gadfly scoffs at the notion that violent preschoolers are produced by higher academic standards:

The Times reporter rustled up the requisite couple of experts to lament that pre-schools have become places that replace "block sets and dress-up rooms" with "alphabet drills and quiet desk work." "The notion of standards are [sic] coming down almost to the embryo," grumped one such expert. "We are not allowing normal, creative, interactive play. We are wanting kids to sit down and write their names at 3..."

What's behind that dire development? (Are you still on the edge of your chair?) Nothing other than the federal No Child Left Behind act, which, claims the Times, is a cause of "the push for academic-centered preschooling."

Good grief. If we have learned anything about schooling, it is that young children have the best odds of succeeding there if they arrive having already mastered a host of skills by the time they reach kindergarten. When Bill Bennett, John Cribb, and I wrote The Educated Child a few years back, we strove to itemize those skills and, to our own amazement, the "kindergarten readiness list" occupied four pages...

The United States is sorely overdue for such a focus in all its pre-school programs. But that doesn't mean you should picture tiny tots sitting in big school desks with dictionaries in front of them. Anyone who has witnessed a well put together pre-school knows that cognitive skills can usually be imparted with very little pain via activities that are also fun—not to mention nurturing.

Of course that calls for pre-school teachers who know what they're doing. And it's helped considerably if parents do their part, too. But as a country we'd be far wiser to try to solve those problems than to accept the nonsense of the New York Times and its hand-picked "experts," namely that pre-school should shun intellectual development and cognitive skills. The kids would be better served, too.

Posted by kswygert at 04:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The wrong way to show off that little butterfly tattoo

Listen up, angry moms - there's a reason Basic Instinct wasn't filmed in a schoolyard:

Working out a disagreement like a mature adult was not an option for Donna Maria Thomas. The 42-year-old North Carolina mother is accused of exposing herself to her daughter's assistant principal.

Authorities in Raleigh, N.C., say Thomas, 42, had a contentious history with officials at her daughter's high school. On May 17, she picketed the school board's headquarters...

Thomas reportedly saw the high school's assistant principal, Darnell Bethel, arrive for a doctor's appointment across the street and went to confront him. She prevented the man from entering the building and then lifted her dress and exposed her buttocks.

Sughrue said the woman was not wearing any underwear. Bethel reported the incident to authorities and a warrant was issued.

One of the charges was simple assualt. Just how bad was that rear view?

Posted by kswygert at 03:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 21, 2005

Dangerous toys

One mother gets the scare of her life:

A 5-year-old Queens boy arrived home from kindergarten with a little something extra in his backpack - a loaded handgun, police said yesterday. Another kindergartner had given the .45-caliber semiautomatic to little Christian Park at Public School 16 in Corona on Wednesday.

"He said, 'Give it back to me tomorrow,'" Christian told the Daily News. "I put it in the bag."

Christian's mother, 29-year-old Eloisa Marquez, assumed the silver gun was a toy when she spotted it in her youngest son's black backpack. "When I touched it, I realized it was real," she said. Marquez immediately called the school and police, who yesterday arrested the father of the boy who brought the weapon to school.

Tesfari Davis, 25, of Corona, was charged with three counts of criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. His son, also named Tesfari Davis, was given an in-school suspension, officials said.

Tesfari Davis, Sr, deserves to be slapped with much worse charges than that (can we make utter stupidity a felony and bar him from having more kids?). Tesfari Davis, Jr., deserves a new father. And Eloisa Marquez deserves kudos for being attentive enough to go through her kid's backpack and smart enough to notify the school and the police.

Posted by kswygert at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Getting a (bad) early start

Talk about starting off life in the wrong way:

So what if typical 3-year-olds are just out of diapers, still take a daily nap and can't tie their shoes? They are plenty old enough to be expelled, the first national study of expulsion rates in prekindergarten programs has found. In fact, preschool children are three times as likely to be expelled as children in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the new study, by researchers from the Yale Child Study Center.

"No one wants to hear about 3- and 4-year-olds' being expelled from preschool, but it happens rather frequently," said the study's chief author, Walter S. Gilliam.

The descriptive statistics on subgroups will surprise no one, with white girls being the least likely to be expelled, and for-profit preschools being the most likely to toss the troublemakes. And what kinds of trouble could such young kids be making?

The study did not gather information on why the children were expelled. But Dr. Gilliam said a wide range of behavior could lead to expulsion: aggression toward the teacher or other children; actions that violate a zero-tolerance policy, like taking a toy gun to school; or anything that might cause a teacher to worry about injury and liability, like running out of the classroom to the parking lot.

It's a shame that the study didn't collect that information. It would be nice to know how many toddlers get expelled for being aggressive, as opposed to just hyperactive (or having clueless parents that send them in with toy guns).

The Daily News has NYC's local numbers:

One out of every 110 preschoolers is expelled annually from New York classrooms - a rate nearly 18 times higher than the number of older kids booted in grades kindergarten through 12, a study released today found. Hundreds of 3- and 4-year-old pint-size terrors were bounced - from public and private schools alike - for bad behavior ranging from pulling down classmates' pants to slipping water guns into class, according to Yale University researcher Walter Gilliam...

Jean Mandelbaum, director of All Souls preschool on the upper East Side, was shocked to hear so many tots were being expelled. "Every school has a kid that is troubled in some way, but expelling a kid is a harsh thing to do. It's not something we do," said Mandelbaum.

Still, Mandelbaum and other educators said if young students are a danger to their classmates or themselves, they should be removed. "A school is not set up to handle everything," Mandelbaum said. "They are not therapeutic organizations or jails."

(Via Devoted Reader John K.)

Posted by kswygert at 02:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 11, 2005

When "unruly" reaches a whole new level

The Boston Globe practices the fine art of understatement, as they note schools are now reserving separate rooms for training "unruly" students:

A first-grader attacked the teacher with scissors. Another flung a chair across the classroom. Several students kicked, cursed, and punched their way into such a frenzy that teachers had to hold them down.

The usual punishments -- trips to the principal's office, parent meetings, and, finally, suspending them from school -- were not working. This year, Lowell teachers took action: They took seven of the school system's most disruptive children, who were also some of its youngest, and put them in a separate classroom where the pupils are taught how to behave.

With a mix of counseling, strict classroom rules, and plenty of adult oversight, the program aims to help the misbehaving pupils without interrupting their classmates' lessons.

The program is commendable, although I'd say the students described above need a lot of help before they could even be described as "unruly." Violent and disturbed sounds more like it.

It's interesting, too, that the program's inception demonstrates that some Boston administrators understand the beneficial aspects of strict classroom rules, yet we constantly hear teachers espouse the need for classrooms with lax or no rules, where students can feel free to "express themselves" at all times. I believe these kinds of teachers have a stunning lack of understanding of human nature, as we can see with the children who express themselves by hurling chairs.

This isn't happening just in Boston, either:

Newton and Worcester have also instituted programs to stop disruptive behavior before students get bigger, stronger, and in more trouble in the upper grades. Most alternative programs are for high school students with discipline problems, but more school systems are searching for ways to help the youngest, said June Million, spokeswoman for the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

No one tracks the figures, but Million said a recent informal survey of 52 schools nationwide found that two-thirds of the schools were starting behavior programs for elementary school pupils or looking for ways to address the problem. The National School Safety Center also has noticed an increase in the number of elementary schools concerned about behavior among the youngest children, said Ronald Stephens, the executive director.

The NSSC's summary of recent studies on school safety can be found here.

(Via Reginleif.)

Update: I've read this post again and decided to make a modification. I agree with the commenters that it doesn't seem to be teachers, especially experienced teachers, who prefer lax discipline, and I apologize to teachers for making this comment.

I should have instead referred to the "progressive" educrats who believe in the "child-centered" education that Bill Evers so neatly skewers in this article.

Posted by kswygert at 01:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

An outrageous offense, part 2

The case of the Columbus high school violence cover-up continues to horrify, although it's not getting nearly enough national attention.

Michelle Malkin has new information about how everyone except the principal is getting away with a slap on the wrist:

The principal is scheduled to be fired, but the assistant vice principals who allegedly participated in the cover-up are getting away with a slap on the wrist: 10-day suspensions and "sensitivity training" courses. Meanwhile, it looks like education dimwits in the area are going to exploit the crime to drum up diversity dollars under the guise of convening a "violence summit."

Meanwhile, it turns out that these despicable "educators" who advised the girl's father not to call the police, lest the news media get hold of this, also failed to summon a nurse to give the girl any sort of first aid. I suppose that, too, would have caused too much additional embarassment for the girl? The administrators of Mifflin High School also apparently didn't even stick around for the cops to arrive.

The school district apparently thinks a training video and extra security is the answer to this problem. I'd suggest the changes start with not hiring corrupt administrators who see a bleeding and dazed victim as a problem to cover up, rather than a student who desperately needs help. There's enough wrong with soon-to-be-ex principal Regina Crenshaw and her underlings that a Blockbusters' full of videos couldn't fix them.

Local talk show host Glenn Beck has been covering the story, and scored a brutal interview with Columbus mayor Michael Coleman. A Clear Voice has the summary, and Mike at Ohio for Blackwell has the audio tape.

One particular lowlight of the interview:

Glenn Beck was finally able to get Michael B. Coleman, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio on the phone today. (After he tried to back out of his promise to call in two days ago.) The conversation was quite interesting and perhaps indicative of why Columbus has such a problem with their school system.

Glenn attempted to talk to Coleman about the school board’s decision to keep the assistant principals on, and Coleman talked about the criminal side of the investigation and said that he was not allowed to reveal anything about it while it was open, but he was sure everything would be taken care of. Glenn kept trying to steer him back to the subject of the school board and their actions towards the assistant principals and Coleman kept insisting that he couldn’t talk about an open police investigation. About the only thing he said about the schools was that they had paid policemen there and that he, the mayor, had no control or influence over what the school board did.

The best part of the interview was when Glenn attempted to ask him a question, “Doesn’t it offend you as a man….” He didn’t get a chance to finish, but I’m assuming the end of that question was something like, “that the schools would allow something like this to happen to a girl and then do nothing to the people who allowed it to go on.” However, he didn’t get a chance because Coleman interrupted him with “Are you attacking my manhood?”

Yeah, Mayor Coleman, this is all about you. The rape victim in your city's schools is just, you know, a tangential part of the case. We should be paying much more attention to your manhood (and how you supposedly send all your kids to private schools). How such an asshat got elected, I'll never know, but let's hope Ohio voters give him the boot as soon as possible.

I still have optimism, but perhaps Maxed Out Mama's thoughts are more accurate:

I'll give you my guess. This boys will not be convicted of any criminal charges. There will not be enough evidence; the testimony (said quietly behind closed doors) will be that the word was that this girl was known for giving blowjobs to boys. Those involved will say they thought she was consenting. Those witnessing it will agree. Not one of all the boys involved said anything to school authorities. Not one. They don't know the difference between right and wrong, consenting and enforced acts. If they haven't participated themselves they have all heard about such acts before.

Nor will there be much support in the community for prosecuting them. I am the child of a public school teacher, and I have heard it all before.

If kids don't learn that sexual activity in certain contexts is flat wrong because it is dangerous, they don't know by instinct.

And they certainly don't learn it when the clueless adminstrators who are supposed to be taking care of their students think of nothing but making themselves look good, or when egotistical mayors can't put themselves and their insecurities aside for two minutes to try and help someone who was wronged.

Posted by kswygert at 07:29 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

No escaping the violence

Talk about a wake-up call:

The flying chair that knocked out a Cleveland high school administrator on Monday should send alarms throughout the city. When going to class means risking a hospital visit, education stands no chance. And when adults look at chaos and call it order, they undermine the school district's credibility and put more students in jeopardy.

Monday's fracas at South High School that sent an administrator and a student to emergency rooms is only the latest example of uproar in local buildings. As Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett reported on Sunday, Glenville High School suffered an incident of its own last week that bloodied students and teachers and led to the arrests of two teens. Journalists' visits to Collinwood High School, meanwhile, have revealed an institution where students are completely comfortable loitering in hallways when they should be in class.

The Great Schools reviews of South High will litter your screen with popups, but they're still worth reading. Local police and school officials are desperately trying to regain control there, but something tells me that police presence isn't the key:

At South High, however, police say a parent pitched in to injure a student, underlining the desperate need for church and community leaders to play a vocal and visible role in establishing basic standards for behavior.

There you have it, folks. I fear that no amount of police officers - or mayoral initiatives - are going to do much good when parents are willing to beat up on other people's children. Sure, the cops can drag the adult troublemakers away, but with that example, it's hard to see how the younger students can learn how to behave in less violent ways.

Posted by kswygert at 08:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

School shenanigans in NYC

It's Friday afternoon, and the news is weird:

A Manhattan high-school teacher slept with her student for months and got pregnant with his child — but gave him only a barely passing 65 in social-studies class, according to a bombshell report obtained by The Post. The 18-year-old boy toy from the HS for Health Professions and Human Services shrugged off the grade, but couldn't forgive his teacher, Rhianna Ellis, 25, for reneging on her promise to abort the pregnancy.

The details of the sordid 10-month affair — which included romps at a Queens motel and "one last time" in Ellis' Queens home — were chronicled in a recent letter from Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon to Chancellor Joel Klein.

Lord have mercy. I can understand the boy's low score, though; when did he have time to study? What's more, the high school sounds like Peyton Place:

A guidance counselor at a Manhattan high school is in trouble for having an affair with one of her students, officials said yesterday - the second sex scandal to rock the school this week. Samantha Solomon, 29, was booted from the High School for Health Professions and Human Services after school bosses learned she was having sex with a teenage boy, according to the Education Department.

Here's the Inside Schools page on the school in question. Amusingly, the review says that one downside of the place is that "The principal doesn't seem to know the students." To which I can only say, "Boy, all the other school employees sure do."

Posted by kswygert at 03:23 PM | Comments (39) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

An outrageous offense

Firing's too good for the school administrators in this case:

A 16-year-old disabled girl was punched and forced to engage in videotaped sexual acts with several boys in a high school auditorium as dozens of students watched, according to witnesses. Authorities are investigating and no charges have been filed in the alleged attack last month at Mifflin High School. Four boys suspected of involvement were sent home and have not returned to class.

Also, the principal, Regina Crenshaw, was suspended and will be fired for not calling police, school officials said. And three assistant principals were suspended and will be reassigned to other schools. Crenshaw had no comment Tuesday...School officials found the girl bleeding from the mouth. An assistant principal cautioned the girl's father against calling 911 to avoid media attention, the statements said. The girl's father called police.

The high school (whose mascot is known as, ironically enough, the "Punchers,") has only a 63% graduation rate among non-disabled students, and has the following mission statement:

The Mifflin High School Community is dedicated to the use of available resources to provide quality instructional programs in a safe, clean and orderly environment through which all students will develop to their highest potential, demonstrate mutual respect and prepare for a productive role in our society.

Everyone at and above the level of the AP who told the father not to call the cops should not only be fired, but prevented from ever again working in the educational system. And the principal should not just be fired, but brought up on charges. Ohio law requires that school employees report suspected sexual abuse of students; here we have a known sexual attack that was on school property, and the perpetrators haven't even been charged. Don't tell me this conduct wasn't covered under the "zero tolerance" rules.

I can't tell you how disgusted this makes me. The idea that the APs involved will be assigned to other schools is outrageous. This Columbus Public Schools Directory contains the email addresses and phone numbers of the Columbus School Board members who voted upon the punishments. Be polite - and remember, they did vote unanimously to fire the principal - but do ask them why they thought the APs involved deserved to be given jobs at other schools.

Update: Wizbang has the link to the NYT summary of the story.

Posted by kswygert at 03:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005

A new use for scratch-and-sniff cards

File this one under, "Yet More Things That Teachers Didn't Have To Worry About 20 Years Ago:"

At least one Illinois lawmaker believes a solution to the meth crisis may be right under our noses...a state lawmaker wants to equip...teachers or daycare workers with a better awareness of the presence of methamphetamines.

"Everybody's probably smelled marijuana or heard it, or smelled it if they were even at a concert. But methamphetamine has a very distinct smell that smells like cat urine." That smell largely comes from the anhydrous ammonia, one of the key components of meth. So Michael McAuliffe has won house approval to provide certain professionals with scratch and sniff cards so they can compare a meth smell with unusual odors they might detect on the clothing, hair, or skin of their students, indicating the child had been exposed to the drug's production or use...

The Illinois Federation of Teachers is looking at the legislation to determine it's application and any liability that could be involved, should one of their members bring a foul smell to the attention of police.

A related article on the meth crisis in Minnesota is here:

Nebraska and Oregon are among the nearly two dozen states that have entrenched meth problems, most of them in the West and Midwest, according to state-by-state advisories the Drug Enforcement Administration released this year...Already in Minnesota, a fifth of addicts who entered drug treatment for meth use last year were younger than 18, according to Carol Falkowski, a researcher at the nonprofit Hazelden Foundation, who tracks the state's drug trends for the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Another recent state survey found that about a quarter of girls and a fifth of boys in Minnesota's alternative learning schools had used meth at least once in the last year. Ten percent had used it 10 times or more.

It's just the old fogey in me coming out, but I can't imagine why anyone - even a teenager - would want to do a drug whose negative side effects include:

Hyperactivity and irritability
Visual and auditory hallucinations (hearing "voices")
Suicidal tendencies and aggression
Suspiciousness, severe paranoia
Shortness of breath and increased blood pressure
Cardiac arrhythmia and risk of stroke
Sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Long periods of sleep ("crashing" for 24-48 hours or more)
Prolonged sluggishness, severe depression
Weight loss, malnutrition, anorexia
Itching (illusion that bugs are crawling on the skin)
Welts on the skin
Involuntary body movements
Paranoid delusions
Severe amphetamine induced depression and/or psychosis

Posted by kswygert at 12:01 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

March 26, 2005

Bored in Bentleyville

Apparently, some misbehaving students couldn't think of a better hiding place for their stash than the local high school:

School officials have discovered a secret hideaway at Bentworth High School, in the small coal-patch town of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania. The secret room was behind a hallway hatch used to access pipes. Inside, officials found marijuana roaches, candles, and a disposable camera with pictures of a boy bound with duct tape and a girl flashing her breasts.

Police say no crimes were committed but at least ten students have been disciplined. However, some parents think officials aren't taking the secret hideaway seriously enough. Kay Keen, a former PTA vice president, says those sorts of things shouldn't be happening in a school.

Guess there's not that much to do in coal-mining towns these days.

Posted by kswygert at 09:14 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

Tragedy in Minnesota, Update #2

Well, it didn't take long for experts to link the most recent school shooting and the rise of standardized testing:

In the five years since the Columbine High School tragedy, American students have grown accustomed to security officers and lockdown drills. But on Monday, the extra security failed to stop another shooting at a school, providing a reminder that the solution is not more metal detectors but closer relationships between students and educators, experts said...

The number of violent deaths in and around schools rose last year to 49 after dropping for three years in a row, according to data collected by Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, an independent consulting firm. A total of 28 such deaths have occurred this academic year, including the Red Lake killings. The Education Department disputes the methodology used by Trump but has yet to come up with its own figures for the past two years.

Trump attributed the rise in violence to a variety of factors, including cuts in school safety funding and the overriding emphasis placed by many school districts on improving standardized test scores. He said that school safety issues have ended up "on the back burner in too many schools," with administrators feeling that "their jobs are on the line if their test scores don't improve."

As well they should be on the line, as far as I'm concerned. And it's hard to see how a focus on basic skills education and testing necessarily leads to a decrease in focus on school safety. I don't believe any principal out there thinks that kids can learn, and test, well in a war zone.

Weise sounds like one mixed-up kid:

...Weise was different and seemed to delight in the fact.

"He wore black a lot and painted his face," said Ashley Morrison, a 17-year-old student who escaped from Monday's shooting rampage at the school that left eight dead, including Weise. "... Every time I'd seen him in school he wore a trench coat."

Another student, Parston Graves Jr., 16, said Weise drew a strange and perhaps foreshadowing sketch a month ago. It was a guitar-strumming skeleton with a caption that read, "March to the death song 'til your boots fill with blood."

Should the school have done something? Would it have been possible for them to do anything drastic if Weise had not committed any crimes? Assuming the school had been focusing more lately on raising standardized test scores, does it really make sense to assume that that must be why Weise was somehow overlooked? Or is a culture in which teachers and administrators are afraid to make individual judgments about disturbed children (hence the zero-tolerance rules) more likely the culprit?

Posted by kswygert at 11:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tragedy in Minnesota, updated

More strange details are emerging regarding the school shooting earlier this week. The shooter, 16-year-old Jeff Weise, wore a bulletproof vest during the attack. He apparently admired Adolf Hitler, and had posted online at the website of the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party (lovely sounding group, isn't it?), whose ULR is Wizbang quotes Weise as admiring the "ideals" of the group, and the often-irreverant Jeff Goldstein gets serious:

Moral: if a kid claiming to love Nazis threatens violence, take him seriously.

Jeff links to a blogger living near where the shooting occurred, who says the following:

The Red Lake Ojibwe reservation is about 40 minutes from the very northwest corner of the Leech Lake reservation where I live. I played sports against the Red Lake Warriors in high school. I played VFW and Legion baseball alongside a handful of friends from Red Lake on Bemidji's team in the early 1990s. I still see several of them each summer in the local softball league, and we take a minute to say hi, catch up on life. Despite the wrenching poverty and desperate squalor that infests much of the Red Lake rez - one of the poorest places you will ever see - the Red Lakers I know are (by and large) happy people, no different than you or me...

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this for me - even more than the fact that this shooting happened in my back yard - is the fact that these school slayings have happened all across America and all across the socioeconomic spectrum...What has gone so horribly wrong? What has changed so drastically that school kids now work out their anger with shotguns and pistols rather that with fists and, in extreme cases, the occasional knife fight? And what can we hope to do to halt this disturbing trend?

Posted by kswygert at 08:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

Tragedy in Minnesota

The latest, horrific school shooting happened yesterday in Minnesota:

MINNEAPOLIS -- A student on a remote Indian reservation in Minnesota burst through the metal detector at his high school Monday and shot dead five classmates, a teacher and a security guard before turning the gun on himself, authorities said.

Before his rampage at the school, the student shot and killed his grandparents at their home on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, authorities said. His grandfather, Sgt. Daryl Lussier, had served for more than 35 years on the Red Lake police force. "The boy took his grandfather's duty belt with the guns. That's what he used," said Roman Stately, the Red Lake fire director...

Stately described a devastating scene at the small high school in Red Lake. The school's security guard, who was unarmed, was dead at the front door. The slain students and teacher were bunched in one classroom, along with several wounded teenagers. The gunman, an underclassman, had shot himself in the face. His body lay near those of his victims.

Authorities said as many as 15 students were injured.

"It was just so sad to see the children lying on the floor like that, lying on top of each other. Just a terrible sight," Stately said. "I've seen a lot of bad scenes in my time, but nothing like this."

The FBI, which is investigating the shooting along with tribal police, would not speculate on a motive. "It will probably take the rest of the night to put it all together," FBI Special Agent Paul McCabe said. "We still have a lot of work to do."

This Google Search will link you to more than 1,600 news stories on this topic. The NYTimes coverage is here. And at least one news article is spreading the "goth loner" theory around.

My heart goes out to the relatives of the victims.

Posted by kswygert at 11:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Jelly beans lead to madness

Girl reacts, officials overreact:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A 5-year-old girl was arrested, cuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser after an outburst at school where she threw books and boxes, kicked a teacher in the shins, smashed a candy dish, hit an assistant principal in the stomach and drew on the walls.

The students were counting jelly beans as part of a math exercise at Fairmount Park Elementary School when the little girl began acting silly. That's when her teacher took away her jelly beans, outraging the child. Minutes later, the 40-pound girl was in the back of a police cruiser, under arrest for battery. Her hands were bound with plastic ties, her ankles in handcuffs.

Although apparently arrested, the girl had no charges filed against her. Mom's response, while perhaps understandable, isn't the most healthy:

The girl's mother, Inda Akins, said she is consulting an attorney. "She's never going back to that school," Akins said. "They set my baby up."

Mom, your kid does have some kind of behavior problem. Wouldn't it be best to focus on that, rather than on this alleged "set-up?"

Update: Now here, on the other hand, is a kid who deserves to be arrested, and charged. And I don't want to hear any stories about how he didn't get enough jelly beans when he was younger...

Posted by kswygert at 10:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Let the students correct themselves

Schoolroom discipline is a popular topic here at N2P, so I eyed with interest this article on East Baltimore's self-policing students (registration required).

Since it was established in November, the East Baltimore school's Student Court has handled about two dozen trials, including one involving two students who fought during an assembly attended by several Ravens players, an incident that deeply embarrassed the school.

Courts run by teenagers have existed in schools and communities across the country, including in the Baltimore region. Some teen courts handle nonschool offenses and serve as alternatives to the criminal justice system, giving young offenders a taste of the courtroom without its dire consequences. Others, like the one at School No. 426, located in the Lake Clifton High School complex, aim to create a sense of order and community within a student body.

The process, to me, sounds worlds away from - and better than - zero tolerance:

Jazmine Murchison, a petite 17-year-old serving as the teacher's lawyer, laid out the offenses: the student had been insubordinate, disregarded an instruction, skipped detention and exhibited a pattern of misconduct.

The issue of guilt or innocence was not at issue. For the students who act as judge and jury, the goal in these cases is to get a full account of the defendant's offense and decide on an appropriate penalty, such as an apology or community service. The court takes into account circumstances surrounding the offense and notes whether the student is sorry.

(Via the Education Wonks.)

Posted by kswygert at 06:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

The taxpayers should be storming the gates

There's quite a tale of "funding" issues going on in the wealthy Roslyn (Long Island, NY) school district. Specifically, $11 million smackeroos intended for the district went instead to plane tickets, mortgages, student loans, jewelry, and acrylic nails:

Top Roslyn school officials and their friends and family siphoned off more than $11 million of district money in an elaborate scheme involving far more people and far more extravagant spending than had been suspected, a state report has found.

Those implicated allegedly made mortgage payments on six different homes -- including two in Florida -- paid off personal loans, bankrolled vacations to the Caribbean, leased luxury cars and shelled out thousands of dollars at Tiffany's, Nordstrom's, Sharper Image, Coach and Rolex...

The Roslyn school scandal unfolded last year after an anonymous letter tipped off authorities that top officials had engaged in systemic misspending for a decade. So far, three former district officials -- Superintendent Frank Tassone, Assistant Superintendent for Business Pamela Gluckin and accounts payable clerk Debra Rigano -- have been arrested and pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny. Now auditors say as many as 29 people may have benefitted from the scheme.

Accounts payable clerk Debra Rigano - who certainly took the "payable" part of her job title to heart - allegedly lavished $334,452 of taxpayer's money on, among other things, hair and nail boutiques. And here I thought I was the only woman who could easily rack up a six-figure bill at a beauty salon.

(Via reader Ashley L.)

Update: The Education Wonks note that Long Island local Tony of A Red Mind In A Blue State has been all over this. The Wonks helpfully provide links to all six of Tony's posts on the topic.

Posted by kswygert at 08:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

What happens in school, stays in school

When a teacher loses it over students being disrespectful during the national anthem, while other students videocam the ruckus and post it on the web - who should be punished?

The Board of Education may toughen its policy on use of wireless telephones in schools, after a videotape showing a Brick Township [NJ] High School teacher screaming at his students to show respect for the national anthem — and then pulling the chair from underneath one student who refused to stand — was posted on several independent Web sites.

The tape was made by a student in Stuart Mantel's class and shows Mantel screaming at his students about standing quietly while "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played. When a student, identified on the Web site only as "Jay," refused to stand, the video shows Mantel yanking the chair from under him.

Although state statute does not specifically address whether a student must stand during the national anthem, Ron Rice, a spokesman with the state Department of Education, said there have been numerous court rulings stating that a student cannot be punished for refusing to stand while the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. Rice said those same rules apply to the anthem.

On the video, Mantel tells the class to stand and keep their mouths shut. At one point, whistling can be heard, to which Mantel screams for the student to stop. He also told the students to stop whispering. Then, while the anthem is playing, Mantel approached Jay, who was sitting, and told him to stand. When Jay told Mantel he did not have to stand, Mantel pulled the chair from under him.

"Are you serious?" Jay asked.

"I am damn well serious," Mantel replied.

According to a written description posted on some of the Web sites, the student who taped the confrontations was suspended for 10 days. Mantel was not disciplined.

Interesting. On the one hand, I can certainly understand the frustration of the teacher; at my school, we sure wouldn't have been able to get away with much during the national anthem. On the other hand, he seems to have crossed a line in his actions. It seems that the suspended student got in trouble for breaking the rule about using cell phones in schools, which would cover the video part.

Posted by kswygert at 07:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 17, 2005

A teacher who knows his (illegal) stuff

In science education, some instructors bore students to tears by teaching dry formula and concepts straight from the textbook, with no experiments to keep things interesting. Other teachers, though, do an excellent job of describing the real-life applications of complicated scientific concepts.

Like this guy.

David Pieski, a teacher at Freedom for two years, used an overhead projector in class to give students detailed instructions in bomb-making, including advising them to use an electric detonator to stay clear from the blast, according to an arrest report.

Authorities said in Pieski's classroom, they found information, including the chemical breakdown, for an explosive predominately used by Middle East suicide bombers.

One student said he set off an explosive device at Hunter's Creek Golf Club on Jan. 6 and videotaped it, according to Pieski's arrest warrant. The videotape shows a fiery explosion, and the voice of a young man shouting an expletive can be heard...

On Feb. 8, sheriff's investigators interviewed Pieski at the school. He told investigators he detonated chemicals in a coffee can by a ball field four times for his students. He said he did this as a chemistry project to show a reaction rate, the arrest report said...

Pieski guided investigators to an unlocked metal cabinet in the back of a classroom, where there was "a can of black powder stored next to other chemicals"...Investigators also found a book marked "Demo," containing information, including the chemical breakdown, about an explosive known to be used by suicide bombers in the Middle East, according to the arrest report. It is unclear if the information was shared with students, the arrest report said...

He was arrested at Cunningham's office Tuesday morning on a charge of possession or discharging of a destructive device and culpable negligence. Pieski, who was booked into the Orange County Jail on Monday afternoon, declined to comment. He was later released from jail on $1,000 bail.

Check out his mug shot. It's like Ryan Seacrest meets scary white supremacist. Ladies, if you're interested, Pieski has plenty of time on his hands now that he's been reassigned to a desk job - and he's still earning his salary!

Posted by kswygert at 11:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 08, 2005

Hitting close to home

Next, on America's Most Wanted - "Have you seen these parents?"

Some parents on Detroit’s west side were hauled into court because their children weren't showing up for school. Prosecutors say that they warned the parents first, and now they are taking more extreme measures. The parents were lead away in handcuffs Monday morning, under arrest for failing to appear in 36th District court on the charge of parental school truancy.

Some of the parents claimed that they and their children were innocent, while other parents had explanations.

One arrested mother, who wished to keep her identity concealed, told 7 Action News, "She was out ill. I did write a note. I started keeping a copy for myself, so I had no problems, you know. Here it is, almost 3 years later, and they’re saying I received a letter in the mail that there was an outstanding warrant for my arrest."

Three years later? Out ill how many times? And, uh, keeping a copy for yourself isn't exactly proof that you notified the school.

Parents who turned themselves in Monday not only got a free ride to the Wayne Co. jail, but they saved themselves the embarrassment that other parents will face when they are arrested at home or on their job.

Sylvia Halloyfield is from the District Department of Attendance for Detroit Public Schools. She explained to 7 Action News, "And as we tried to work with them and their families, it is just not sunk in yet that attendance is necessary for improving student achievement." The warning is out that the district is cracking down on children who don’t attend school, and the parents who don’t keep up with the children.

I'm of two minds about this. Certainly, it helps the city to spot parents who keep their kids at home and abuse them, or who send their sons to school and not their daughters, or who just plain don't care if their kids are in school. On the other hand, given the potential for bureaucratic mixup, I fully expect the parents of some hospitalized or homeschooled kids to be in court very soon.

According to developments back in 1999, one reason Detriot schools started targeting truants and their parents was because of funding issues:

Detroit Public Schools, facing the threat of lost funding, is warning parents that if their children do not show up for school next week, attendance officers will make house calls to find out why...The district will receive about $6,000 for every student in attendance on that day.

Detroit Public Schools interim CEO David Adamany was mentioning the jail aspect of it back then, too. Detroit sees the push for basic skills to be connected to the truancy issue - kids who aren't in school can't learn. If people are just now being arrested, parents can't say they weren't warned.

Posted by kswygert at 12:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 06, 2005

Where the real bullies are

What good is all the effort schools invest in teaching kids to be nice and play well together when some of the real bullies are those who pick them up at 3 pm?

Whether it's swearing at principals or barging into class to scold the teacher, Canadian schools say they are seeing a rising tide of Parent Rage. "A growing number of parents seem very comfortable mouthing off at the school secretary, marching in and calling the teacher names — `You f---ing so-and-so' — often in front of the children," said superintendent Rauda Dickinson, who oversees downtown schools for the Toronto District School Board...

"Compared to a few years ago, it's everywhere"...

In a nationwide poll of school violence, the Canadian Teachers' Federation found 59 per cent of principals across the country in 2001 had witnessed at least one parent verbally abuse a teacher that year, and about 23 per cent had seen a parent physically assault or intimidate a teacher, said federation president Terry Price...

Ironically, some of this parent rage is erupting over the new Safe Schools Act:

The Ontario Principals' Council is concerned at the frequency with which parents threaten to sue schools over Ontario's new Safe Schools Act — both the parents of victims and the parents of bullies, said president Doug Acton. "Bullying is a real hot-button issue for parents. They can get angry if their child is disciplined, or angry if their child is bullied and the principal doesn't impose the maximum penalty."

So angry that they....go up to schools and bully the teachers. Or threaten a lawsuit at the drop of a hat, which can essentially be non-violent bullying.

"We have parents spitting, swearing and pushing principals from one end of their office to another in an attempt to intimidate them," said veteran principal Helen Evans of the Toronto School Administrators' Association, which represents principals and vice-principals across the city. "One mother marched into a hall and asked two girls to leave because she said 'By the time I'm finished with that a--hole teacher in there, you won't want to be around,'" Evans said.

When Emily Noble was a principal, a drunken father stomped into her office waving a gun because he was angry his daughter had broken her arm on a school skating trip. When Noble, now president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, asked him to leave he replied "If it happens again, I'll come back and shoot you." Noble had police issue a restraining order.

Gee, what better parent could there be than one who threatens school authorities when his child - as children do - gets harmed when learning to skate? The sad thing is that this guy probably sees himself as Father of the Year for his "protectiveness." Another sad thing is that it's not hard to see why there are discipline problems within schools when the parental examples are this poor.

(Hat tip: Reginleif.)

Posted by kswygert at 06:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2005

Get busted for cocaine, keep your job

Over at The Education Wonks, they've been keeping a close eye on those who would sully the good name of education - and those who seem unable to fire teachers deserving of censure:

Here at the 'Wonks, we like to keep an eye on those whose wrong-doing is a detriment to the Education Craft. We will continue to do so. As we profiled before, The City of New York has a great deal of trouble getting rid of many of its teachers that have

This is due to a combination of union rules, and government statutes. The allegations of bad behavior run the gamut from being drunk in the classroom, to being arrested with crack cocaine and other forms of criminal behavior.

So, when I saw this article in The New York Post titled "Class Clowns," I just knew that the news was not going to be good.

Nearly half of all public-school educators that have been brought up on disciplinary charges over the last five years---allegations ranging from drug use to corporal punishment--are still in the school system and earning full salaries. In some 37% of cases, the educator kept his or her job by order of an independent arbitrator of by settling their cases with the Department of Education.

Only 74 of the 555 educators charged with wrong-doing have been fired since the year 2000.

In a move allowing them to keep their pensions, more than 180 resigned under pressure.

There are currently 68 educators who have disciplinary cases pending.

I used to live in a town near Niagara Falls, New York. So I know a little something about The Post. It is a tabloid. And like many tabloids, it has an axe to grind. The use of "shock headlines" are The Post's stock-in-trade. But I think that in this case, they may be right.

Usually, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Assuming this isn't another "dress-on-backwards" take on the truth, The EduWonks are quite right to be concerned about this type of track record.

Posted by kswygert at 07:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 07, 2004

Strange things are afoot in South Haven

When the story's this weird, the punchy lede just writes itself:

A teacher and a 14-year-old former female student whom she is accused of sexually assaulting participated in witchcraft together and even "wed" in a pagan ritual, police said. Elizabeth Miklosovic, 36, a teacher at South Haven's Baseline Middle School, was arraigned Thursday on a charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Van Buren County...

Also Thursday, the Kent County prosecutor's office issued arrest warrants for Miklosovic on charges of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct that accuse her of performing illegal sex acts with the student at the teacher's Grand Rapids home.

John Weiss, principal of the middle school where Ms. Miklosovic was teaching, wins the prize for understatement of the day:

"There have been a wide variety of reactions," he told The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph. "There are 550 students and 550 reactions, it seems."

My guess is that most of them would fall in the "Eww," "Ick!," and "Say what?!" categories.

The girl's family said Miklosovic brainwashed the girl into thinking the two did nothing wrong. A relative told The Grand Rapids Press that the family initially believed Miklosovic's interest in the girl -- who was described as vulnerable and as having emotional problems -- was to help her.

Unfortunately, incidents like this make it that much harder for teachers who aren't sexual predators to reach out to students who need extra help.

Posted by kswygert at 09:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 14, 2004

Was that really necessary?

In California, cartwheels are too much for kids, but in Miami, the police figure Tasers are necessary?

Police in Miami-Dade County, Fla., say they used a Taser gun on a 6-year-old boy to keep him from hurting himself. The boy, who wasn't identified, was shocked with 50,000 volts on Oct. 20 at Kelsey Pharr Elementary School. The principal called 911 after the child broke a picture frame in her office and waved a piece of glass.

When two police officers and a school officer arrived, the boy had already cut himself under his eye and on his hand. Police said the officers talked to the boy without success. When the boy cut his own leg, one officer shocked him with a Taser gun and another grabbed him to keep him from falling.

Um, wouldn't getting close enough to use a Taser necessitate getting close enough to the child to just grab him? This seems unneccessarily harsh - but, interestingly enough, Joanne Jacobs' commenters are on the side of the police on this one.

Posted by kswygert at 04:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 26, 2004

Do they teach wrestling moves in education programs these days?

Looks like someone should have tried out for the WWF, not the NEA:

Teacher Katrina Ann Rucker, 30, is charged with battery and cruelty to children for allegedly beating a parent who tried to retrieve her daughter's book bag, The Macon Telegraph newspaper reported Friday.

According to police interviews, parent Lurella Amica went to Bruce-Weir Elementary School Thursday morning to deliver a note to her 9-year-old daughter. At the classroom door, the girl told her mother that Rucker had thrown her bag in the trash can, the report stated. Amica entered the classroom and tried to get the book bag, but Rucker grabbed for it and the two struggled, the report said.

After Amica wrestled the bag away, police say Rucker picked up a chair and hit her in the back, knocking Amica to the floor. Rucker then began punching Amica in the face and body. During the fight, the girl was reportedly crying for her teacher to stop hitting her mother and ran up to them. Rucker then allegedly hit the child, pulled her hair and pushed her out of the way before starting to strike the mother again.

Rucker dragged Amica by the hair outside the classroom, according to the report. "A school administrator and another teacher had to pull the teacher off the mother," Macon police spokeswoman Melanie Hofmann said...

Principal Karen Konke sent letters to parents about the incident. "Let me assure you the school is safe and that our students have been involved in appropriate instructional activities throughout the day," Konke wrote.

Um, where's all the lingo about how the school has "zero tolerance" for this kind of behavior? Or does that only apply to students? As Daryl Cobranchi notes, parents are pulling their kids from this school.

Posted by kswygert at 11:36 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 23, 2004

New York - It Ain't Kansas

As if NYC teachers didn't have enough to worry about (third-grade reading tests, anyone?), their personal possessions are getting pilfered:

An outbreak of thefts has plagued city schools, as petty criminals have made off with cell phones, purses, jewelry and laptops. One teacher even lost her coat from inside school headquarters at the Tweed Courthouse - where guests are scanned and photographed and have to cough up identification before entering.

The rash of thefts has forced Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to issue a mass warning to principals and distribute a flyer with theft-prevention tips.

"If you look at the schools, you have an influx of new teachers. Like anything else, you come to New York and expect everything to be safe. But it's not Kansas," said NYPD Assistant Chief Gerald Nelson, commander of school safety...

Thefts of staff, student and school property swelled 31% between July 1 and Sept. 26 compared with the same period last year, according to police statistics...

A Bronx middle school teacher who asked to remain anonymous said he has been pickpocketed twice while working and once caught a sixth-grade girl in the act. "The students feel like there are no consequences," he said.

Good Lord. My job is stressful, too, but at least I don't have to worry about what's in my pockets.

Posted by kswygert at 03:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 14, 2004

Camden: Throwing good money after bad

The October version of Reason contains one of the most depressing articles I've ever read, about children trapped in a cycle of failing, violent schools:

Like every junior high school student in Camden, New Jersey, 12-year-old Ashley Fernandez attends a school that has been designated as failing under state and federal standards for more than three years. But low expectations were the least of this seventh-grader’s problems. In 2004 Ashley’s gym teacher became irritated by his unruly class and punished all the girls by putting them in the boys’ locker room. Two boys dragged Ashley into the shower room. One held her arms and the other held her legs while they fondled her for more than 10 minutes. The teacher was not present, and no one helped Ashley.

Ashley’s principal, who has refused to acknowledge the assault, denied her a transfer out of Morgan Village Middle School. Since the gym incident, Ashley has received numerous threats, including repeated confrontations with male students who grab her and then run away. When Ashley’s mother began keeping her home from school, she got a court summons for allowing truancy...

In all, more than 100 parents have removed their children from Camden schools because of safety concerns. The school district’s response: a truancy crackdown.

Author Lisa Snell isn't buying school districts' responses to the low transfer rate:

Since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, less than 2 percent of parents nationwide have transferred their children to other public schools. Teachers unions, school administrators, and journalists have argued that the low transfer rates prove parents do not want more choices and that they prefer their local schools. But while parents have more information than ever about the quality of their children’s schools, in most cases they still have no way out of a failing institution.

Districts have not made a good-faith effort to implement public school choice. Sometimes parents are not notified of their option to change schools at all; other times they’re told only after the school year is well under way. Some districts send parents letters discouraging them from transferring their kids. The choices themselves are limited to marginally better schools, with superior institutions often refusing to accept low-performing students...

Many parents of students in failing schools are not even aware of the right to transfer. A federally funded survey of Buffalo parents by the Brighter Choice Public School Project found that 75 percent of the parents surveyed did not realize their children attended a school designated as in need of improvement, which means it did not make adequate yearly progress in reading or math for two consecutive years. A full 92 percent said they would like to switch schools. A comparable percentage of parents in Albany also were unaware of the transfer option.

Ms. Snell believes NCLB in its current form is part of the problem, but the solution is not removing the law, or simply throwing more money at it, but removing restrictions and adding more true choice for parents:

...a better solution is to break up the education dollars to increase capacity, allow more competition, and increase high-quality choices. In June 2004, for example, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who is in the unique position of legally controlling Chicago schools, introduced a plan to open 100 of the city’s worst-performing schools to competition. By 2010 Daley intends to recreate more than 10 percent of the city’s schools -- one-third as charter schools, one-third as independently operated contract schools, and the remainder as small schools run by the district...

When parents are provided with real choice, demand increases dramatically. Since 1999, the privately funded Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) has provided more than 62,000 low-income children across the nation with scholarships to attend private schools. The first year, more than 1.25 million children applied in 20,000 communities; since it was launched, the average income of participating families has been $22,000. The children’s new schools may be parochial, denominational, independent, or a home school. They do not have to belong to any organization or meet any other requirement. The choice is left up to each family...

Camden schools show that more money is not the answer. Camden is one of New Jersey’s 30 Abbott districts -- districts with low property-tax bases that receive supplemental funding from the state. As a result, Camden’s per-pupil funding is higher than the New Jersey state average of $10,000 and the national average of $8,000; the Camden district has revenues of approximately $15,000 per pupil and receives large portions of federal Title I dollars. Camden schools had more than 1,200 incidents of serious violence in 2001-02, an increase of 300 percent from the previous year. The district has refused to release updated school violence numbers since then, but this year saw several highly publicized incidents, including a foiled Columbine-style plot to shoot students and an increase in the number of schools labeled persistently dangerous.

Ashley Fernandez doesn't attend an underfunded school. She attends a dangerous one. It's important for everyone involved in the education reform debate to understand that.

Posted by kswygert at 09:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

When homeschoolers attack

The Muskegon County (Michigan) school district, along with local fire and rescue agencies, implemented their new emergency response plan this week:

Terrorists will strike a busload of students in the Whitehall area on Tuesday [September 21], killing more than a half-dozen and sending dozens more to hospitals. It's not a crystal ball that allows such a disaster to be foreseen. It's all in the plans -- disaster preparedness plans, that is.

The disaster won't be real, but it will look real, and the participants -- including students, emergency room personnel and firefighters -- will act as if it's real.

The exercise, one that is becoming familiar in the post 9/11 era, is part of attempts by emergency responders and Muskegon County school districts to prepare for the worst. The exercise, which will involve the aftermath of a supposed explosion on a school bus at 9:30 a.m. at Durham and Holton-Whitehall roads in Whitehall Township, is being funded by homeland security grants awarded to several area school districts and Muskegon County.

Local school district transportation directors instigated the exercise because they wanted to test their abilities to respond to emergencies, said Tom Spoelman, transportation consultant for the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District.

Sounds good, right? Nothing like a drill to make sure all the agencies are prepared, right? Sure - but there's the one little issue of the fictional terrorist group that the school invented for the purpose of the drill:

The exercise will simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled. Under the scenario, a bomb is placed on the bus and is detonated while the bus is traveling on Durham, causing the bus to land on its side and fill with smoke.

Emphasis mine. I realize this is not one of the more important elements of the exercise, and the school district should be commended for undertaking such a drill (which seems like it was a useful exercise). But I can't help but think that the fake terrorist group was designed to be one to which, they assumed, no one would take offense (which means any particular religion, sex, or political party was out). They were searching for a group they assumed no one would defend.

So they made up a group of radical homeschoolers who care enough about their kids to homeschool them - but are willing to threaten the lives of kids who attend public schools. Sheesh. I'm sure the Muskegon County school district officials aren't offended by that - but the Devoted Reader who sent this my way sure was. And so was his homeschooled daughter.

And so is Michelle Malkin, who has a roundup of links that includes a homeschooling blogger who received an "apology" from the school, lists of angry emails sent to the school district, and the statements from two Muskegon school officials:

As educators, we believe that the first and most important teacher is the parent, whether in home schools, public schools, or non-public schools. We all work together to ensure a safe and secure environment for our children to live and grow.

We sincerely regret offending home school educators. We believe that all parents are educators and do important work at home with their children.

In this day and age of political correctness, it is probably true that the school district could not have named any group without creating a firestorm (including, sad to say, white supremacists or Islamic terrorists, both of whom have attacked American citizens in the past). But in that case, why define the group at all? The focus was, as it should have been, on the rescue mission itself; the school could have given the fictional terrorist group a meaningless acronym for a name, and left it at that.

I guess I should just be thankful they didn't go the Columbine-mythology route and assemble a group of fictional, organized, murderous goths.

Posted by kswygert at 06:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 20, 2004

Scary student threatens to bomb school

A plot to bomb an Michigan high school was foiled by the alert daughter of a local university police officer who specializes in "cyber crimes":

Authorities credited Celia McGinty of Moscow, Idaho, with foiling a plot to bomb Chippewa Valley High School outside Detroit.

Police said a search of 17-year-old Andrew Osantowski's home last week turned up instructions for making a bomb and videotapes of him with assault weapons. Osantowski was arrested Thursday; his father and a family friend also were charged.

McGinty met Osantowski online in a music chat room three weeks ago. She said Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the boy — who started at Chippewa Valley High School on Aug. 31 — was very specific about how he would take revenge on teachers and schoolmates.

"He told me where he had his weapons," she said. "He gave me his name and address. Who would do that?"

Osantowski has been jailed on more than $1 million bond on 10 felony charges, including threatening an act of terrorism, and could face up to 20 years in prison. A judge entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Police said Osantowski told McGinty about plans for violent revenge at the school, including plans to kill a police liaison officer, and she alerted her father, George, who heads the cyber crime unit for the Washington State University police.

"She realized when the conversation turned bad, it was time to pass that information on," George McGinty said.

Besides the bomb instructions and videotapes, police Friday displayed other items they said were found in the home, including weapons and ammunition, Nazi flags and books about white supremacy and Adolf Hitler.

Marvin Osantowski, 52, the boy's father, was charged with concealing stolen firearms and pleaded not guilty. Bond was set at $500,000.

Sounds like it could have been a disaster waiting to happen, if the boy was serious (and not just a disaffected little bigot shooting off his mouth to a girl). The school has some suggested comments for parents on their site:

What Parents Can Say To Their Child(ren):

You might tell your child the following:

• The student involved in this threatening situation attended your high school for only 10 days. He was a recent transfer from a school outside our district.

• The student who made these threats is in police custody.

• No students or staff members were in danger at any time because of this situation.

• Your high school was thoroughly examined and no dangerous materials or weapons were found.

• The school has always been safe, and it is even more so now.

• Talk to your school counselor or school social worker, if you have any worries or concerns. They are ready to help.

Boy, the school is (understandably) keeping the kid at arm's length. Why was he transferred from the other school? And why would he want to bomb a school he'd been at for only 10 days? He certainly wouldn't have had a lot of time to dislike the people there. Maybe the fact that he was relatively unknown is what is freaking people out. Well, that, and the Nazi flag, and the bomb plans, and the threats, and the ammo.

Posted by kswygert at 08:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Learning by example

Given the reader email I receive, I believe that there are plenty of parents out there who, given the chance, would like to slam a pesky educrat or two up against a wall.

However, doing so in the name of anti-bullying is a bit, well, paradoxical:

A woman has been charged with slamming into an assistant principal at a middle school open house, the third time in several years that a mother has been accused of assaulting Anchorage School District staff.

Deborah Meister, 46, is charged with misdemeanor assault for the incident Tuesday night at Central Middle School. Police said she apparently was upset about the school's anti-bullying policies...

The assault took place in the school multipurpose room, where parents had gathered to hear from principal Johanna Naylor before meeting their children's teachers. After Naylor spoke, assistant principal Mario Toro talked about behavioral and attendance guidelines, said district spokesman Roger Fiedler.

Toro reminded parents that policy handbooks were sent home with students. He mentioned that all Central students go through anti-harrassment and anti-bullying talks.

Parents were told they were free to meet with their children's teachers and Naylor spotted Meister in the back of the room waving her arms. Naylor motioned her forward, Fiedler said.

"As the woman came up, she was saying something to the effect of, 'Why didn't you talk more about anti-bullying at the school?'" Fiedler said.

Police said that Toro stepped in front of Naylor as Meister approached. Meister then said, "So what would you do if I did this?" and slammed into Toro, police said. "It was her full body hitting hard against his chest and shoulders," Fiedler said. "It was very sudden."

What, is she the parent of a bully who wants her child to have more opportunities to show off his technique? Sheesh.

Posted by kswygert at 01:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 09, 2004

When the safety features on school buses don't include the driver

Whatever happened to the demerit system, having bus monitors to assist school bus drivers, and assigning the rowdiest routes to the burliest, most competent drivers? Baltimore is facing some tough criticism as an out-of-control bus makes the news:

Old Court Middle School pupils aboard a bus were so rowdy Tuesday that the driver apparently was not aware that a boy had fallen out the rear emergency door, police and school officials said yesterday.

The boy was identified as Sedrick Alexander Bailey, 11, a seventh-grader who lives in the 7800 block of Kenbridge Road in the Windsor Mill area of Baltimore County. He remained in the critical care unit of Sinai Hospital last night and was listed in serious condition, a hospital spokesman said.

Luckily for the boy, there were some adults nearby who were paying attention:

County police spokesman Bill Toohey said that after the bus passed Sedrick's usual stop, another child opened the back door and encouraged the boy to jump out. Police and school officials were investigating whether Sedrick then accidentally fell, jumped or was pushed.

Rudy Seunarine, 43, who lives at Coronado and Kenbridge, said he was in his driveway when he saw Sedrick lying on his back in the street, with the bus traveling on, its emergency door open.

Seunarine said he slipped Sedrick's white notebook under the boy's injured head for support while calling 911 on a cell phone.

"He was in bad shape," the neighbor said. "He was crying. He was in shock. ... He told me he was pushed, but it's up in the air still."

The punchline here, such as it is, is that the driver remained clueless about what happened until the school, alerted by police, contacted him (didn't he notice his rear door was open? there is an alarm for that sort of thing). The reason given is all the confusion and shouting on the bus (did he not notice what they were shouting?). Oh, and the bus driver is 81 years old - not to bring up ageism here, but it's certainly possible that the age factor had something to do with this.

Posted by kswygert at 11:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 07, 2004

A sad day for campuses

A strange set of links from Drudge this morning - a roster of college students either committing suicide, or found dead. Six NYU students have apparently committed suicide since Sept. 7 of last year, although at least one case followed the use of "hallucogenic mushrooms."

But it was a bad week for dorms and frat houses, too, as college students expired at Princeton, McGill, Michigan, and Colorado State. It doesn't sound like foul play is suspected in any of these, but neither have the causes of death been identified.

This may be no more than the usual number of college students who die at the beginning of school years, but tragic nonetheless.

Posted by kswygert at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2004

When being the target of bullies really stinks

Didn't really get the chance to scan the news today (chances are everyone was talking about Zell Miller instead of tests), and hopefully I'll be posting a bit more this weekend. But before I go, I just have to link to this news article, which raised my eyebrows practically off my forehead:

A pair of Taunton High School jocks got dumped from the varsity football team yesterday when administrators busted them for urinating on the freshman squad's equipment. The duo soiled shoulder pads, jerseys and cleats, and even defecated on the locker room floor, during the Friday afternoon stunt, Superintendent Donald Cleary said.

"I've got to assume they were trying to send a message,'' he said.

I've got to assume they teach Mastery of Understatement at Superintendent School. It is possible to make a comment that is SO understated that it makes the speaker seem a bit dense, you know.

Apparently, the pranksters topped it all off with Gatorade "to make it look like more urine than there was,'' Cleary said. Both students, identified as sophomore and junior members of the varsity team, received a four-day suspension from school. They'll also split the cost of cleaning the locker room and replacing the tainted equipment, Cleary said.

"Obviously people are learning difficult lessons,'' he said.

Again, the understatement. Of two high-schoolers learning a lesson that most parents would have drilled into their three-year-olds. You do not relieve yourself on other people's property! Why does a high school superintendent consider this to be a DIFFICULT lesson for his charges to learn?

Practice was canceled Monday as the school's headmaster and athletic director pressed each varsity player for answers. School officials initially considered suspending the team's season if the culprits wouldn't come forward, Cleary said.

The school opted not to involve police. "We felt we could do it more efficiently and quickly,'' Cleary said.

Plus they knew that police would either laugh in their faces, or call in the EPA and get the entire locker room declared a public health hazard.

Christine Fagan, 52, who has sons on both the varsity and freshman football teams, said neither son was laughing when they found out their season might be jeopardized. "I had two sad, sad faces come out of my car,'' Fagan said. "It's a real downer for them.''

Why sad? Why not angry at the idiots who pulled this stupid stunt? My guess is the really sad faces were those who had to transport the whole stinking mess of equipment to the cleaners, not to mention the parents of the adorable little pee-peers and poo-pooers (who should be sent to their rooms until they turn 21 or learn to control their bodily functions in public, whichever comes first).

Posted by kswygert at 03:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 28, 2004

If an English student plagiarizes a paper and no one realizes it, does it still make a sound?

We all knew this was coming...

A student who admits down-loading material from the internet for his degree plans to sue his university for negligence. Michael Gunn claims his university should have warned him his actions were against the regulations.

The Times Higher Education Supplement reports that he was told on the eve of his final exams that he would get no marks for his course work. The University of Kent at Canterbury says students are warned about plagiarism.

Michael Gunn, a 21-year-old English student, told the Times Higher: "I hold my hands up. I did plagiarise. I never dreamt it was a problem.

"I can see there is evidence I have gone against the rules, but they have taken all my money for three years and pulled me up the day before I finished.

"If they had pulled me up with my first essay at the beginning and warned me of the problems and consequences, it would be fair enough.

"But all my essays were handed back with good marks and no one spotted it."

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this fiasco, because three idiotic concepts are at work here. First is the issue of Gunn not realizing plagiarism was "a problem;" that statement alone should qualify him as too dense for a university degree. Second is the charge made by Gunn that it somehow shouldn't count against him that the university didn't figure out what he was doing right off the bat. Universities are becoming ever-more vigilant against internet plagiarism, but just because the university just now figured out what Gunn was doing doesn't mean his earlier bogus work gets to be "grandfathered" in somehow.

Gunn's departmental handbook states that plagiarism is unacceptable. It doesn't matter whether he realized that or how and when the university caught it. He should still be, as he is, out on his ear.

The third batty idea here is that Gunn thinks he'll be able to find a solicitor to take his case. At least, I hope that's a batty, as opposed to doable, plan.

Best comments on the case:
My favorite story about this. A guy in my high school english class was writing about Ray Bradbury. Well, he used the cliff notes extensively and, of course, didn't credit a damned thing. Well. It never dawned on him that our teacher was so excited about his choice of people to write about because she was an authority on Ray Bradbury. As a matter of fact, in college, she wrote the cliff notes about his stories. Needless to say, that dumbass failed.
WTF? I've just graduated from a British university and on the top of EVERY assignment I was given was a little note saying "Plagiarism is a serious offence, show your sources in the footnotes". This guy is either a liar or incredibly stupid. I'm betting on the latter.
I'm a friend with a professor, so I hear a lot of war stories. On the front page of every syllabus are the rules on academic honesty. Last semester was truly an eye-opening event. He actually reads and checks every paper and presentation. If you plagiarize, the work gets an 'F', and the student has to submit a new paper on academic dishonesty (and receive no credit for it). If the student refuses the paper, the student gets an 'F' for the course. I could not believe how many students copied other people's work, cut whole pages from the internet without citation and claimed it was their own, and then would actually complain to the teacher that what *he* was doing would hurt their GPA and that was unfair. One woman even gave the response, I would do ANYTHING to get an A in this course.

He commented, Well, have you thought of doing the work?

Posted by kswygert at 02:53 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 24, 2004

The Princeton Pinchers

Those Princetonians and their sticky fingers:

Authorities say Princeton University students are increasingly being caught shoplifting from the school store, with 10 Ivy League students arrested since March. Twelve students have been arrested since the installation of new security cameras in the Princeton University Store several months ago, according to a published report.

Not surprising that more have been caught now that new methods exist to catch them. The hand-wringing over why such students would steal has officially begun:

Students have been charged with misdemeanors for stealing items such as razor blades, clothing, sushi and cosmetics from the shop, which is partly a bookstore and a 24-hour convenience store. It is independent of the university...

[Municipal Prosecutor Marc] Citron said the arrests have made him add to his explanations of why people shoplift. He said he used to have two reasons: people stealing to buy drugs and people with psychological problems.

"And No. 3 is the Princeton University student and I am not quite sure what category they fall into," he said. "What troubles me is that some of the students feel that they are so privileged, that they have the privilege (to steal)."

That's certainly one explanation. Perhaps, though, college tuitions have risen so high that even kids who can afford to attend Princeton find themselves short of pocket change?

And will the anti-testing crowd, who insist that high stakes "make" people cheat, come to the defense of the Princeton Pinchers, by insisting that the high cost of cosmetics "makes" these students steal? I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by kswygert at 01:20 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

Bam! Your educational career is over!

One of the most phenomenal examples of bad judgment that I've ever seen in a school principal, and that's saying something.

Parents at Bromley East Charter School are still trying to get all of their questions answered after a safety drill last week went too far, they said.

Last Wednesday the Brighton school practiced a lockdown that was supposed to teach students emergency procedures. All classrooms had to lock their doors, but one first-grade room didn't. That's when the principal went in to the classroom and did something that traumatized the students, a parent said.

"He went up to each one of them and went, 'Bam, bam, bam!' And said, 'You're dead,'" said parent Jeanie Styer.

If the school tries to defend the principal's actions by making a Columbine reference, the parents should sue the pants off the place. Columbine doesn't justify telling first-graders that they'll be shot to death if they forget to lock a door (and why isn't that the teacher's responsibility?). Let's put it this way; if a group of first-graders failed to follow the directions for a fire drill, would the principal be justified in holding up a match and pretending to torch the students? Please. There's a not-so-fine line between driving a point home in a manner appropriate to six-year-olds and being hysterically threatening, and this principal is way over it.

Parents should also find out if a student who pointed a finger at another student and said "bam!" would be in violation of this school's "zero tolerance for violence" rules. My guess is there's rampant hypocrisy at work here, in addition to the boneheadedness.

Posted by kswygert at 03:32 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

An expletive a day keeps the teacher away

Here come the lawyers: High school teacher Elizabeth Anne Moore is tired of students telling her to go *beep* herself in class, and so she's taking it to the courts:

Elizabeth Anne Moore, a reading teacher at Trevor G. Browne High School (AZ), claims in a court petition that the 15-year-old student daily tells her in front of other students "to go (expletive) myself." Moore, 53, says the boy also uses a crude expression in telling classmates that she offers sexual favors to students.

"I am sexually harassed and abused by his vulgar language and unable to protect my other students from him," Moore wrote. "His father tells me he cannot control (his son)"...

Moore, a Peoria resident, asked the Peoria Justice Court to issue an injunction to stop the harassment. A hearing is set for April 20.

Tom Horne, state schools superintendent, said Friday that legal action is rare for a teacher, if not unprecedented. "If the facts alleged are true, the student should have been expelled," Horne said.

Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association, said she was unaware of the case but believes Moore may have failed to get relief through normal channels, so she finally took matters into her own hands.

"It's not common," Kotterman said. "It should never be necessary."

Kotterman also said school administrators sometimes tend to brush off problems by accusing teachers of failing to control their classrooms.

What IS Ms. Moore supposed to do with a kid whose parent brushes off her concerns? Send him to the principal's office every day? Suspend him every time he opens his mouth? Apparently, she tried that, and wasn't happy with the administrative response (although a district spokesman said officials have responded properly). I hope the school district is very embarrassed by this situation, because Ms. Moore shouldn't have to face this kind of abuse every day on her own.

Posted by kswygert at 11:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Teaching anger management to the mob

I know, I know, it's not appropriate to find this funny:

WOODLAWN, Md. (AP) — A brawl broke out during an anger management assembly at a suburban high school. Two people were arrested and 11 students were suspended after a shoving match escalated into a melee during Thursday's assembly.

Here's a tip for Woodlawn High School - shoving 750 kids (a prefab mob) into an auditorium and then forcing them to watch as students act out "peaceful ways to resolve conflict" isn't the best approach to dealing with the situation. I'm thinking smaller groups, consisting only of those who have been shown to have anger management issues, with a lot more structure and guidance.

Posted by kswygert at 02:58 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 01, 2004

Setting the limits for student misbehavior

One Oklahoma school managed to kill two birds with one stone and address the problems of school discipline and overcrowding simultaneously; as Joanne Jacobs reports, of the 147 sixth-graders at F.D. Moon Academy, 136 were suspended on March 25th alone:

Sixteen of the 147 sixth-graders at F.D. Moon Academy were suspended Monday for class disruptions, and 120 students were suspended Wednesday after they picked up cafeteria tables, slammed them to the floor and talked back to faculty, school officials said.

Principal Elaine Ford estimated teachers spend 85 percent of their time reprimanding students and said test scores won't improve until disciplinary problems are resolved..."I wish you could be a fly on the wall because some of the time you'd be shocked at what your child is doing," Ford told parents at a meeting Wednesday...

Jarona Knight, whose daughter was suspended, said after the meeting that she wasn't surprised by the students' behavior because some parents in the audience were yelling while school officials talked.

The comments on Joanne's site are, as always, interesting. And Reform K12, who teaches high school students in Philadelphia, has his own take on the topic:

While we applaud their efforts at trying to get the school under control, we have to wonder, why are teachers spending 85% of their time on discipline? How could nine-tenths of the sixth grade class be suspended in one week?

Being that we refuse to believe that any group of students is incorrigible, we have to conclude that this school has been poorly run this year, and the students are naturally behaving within their boundaries (which don't appear to be many)...

One anecdote we'd like to share involves a middle school serving the same neighborhood as the middle school where we began our full-time teaching career.

The school was in chaos, and a new principal was hired...The consequence for most serious violations (like the wanton disruption of school) was an out-of-school suspension, after which the parent had to "reinstate" Johnny or Suzie. In the first month of school, massive numbers of children received suspensions, and the line of parents complaining about these new policies (while reinstating their children) stretched out of the main office and down the hallway.

The principal took each parent into his office, and it went something like this:

"Here is the rule, and here is the consequence of the rule. Both of these things have been taught to your child. Unfortunately, your son/daughter broke the rule, and received the consequence. Any questions?


Within two months, the students got the message, and the school became a civil place, where teaching and learning could blossom. The number of suspended students dropped to miniscule levels, once the students realized there was no use resisting this principal.

It was at this point that the teaching staff was able to roll up their sleeves and get to work teaching academic knowledge and skills.

We need more principals like that one.

Posted by kswygert at 01:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

Chicago's new crime wave

Teachers in Chicago are suffering from a rise in student violence:

Janet Pena-Davis is barely 5 feet tall, but the veteran English teacher doesn't scare easily. One day, though, a girl arrived 15 minutes late to class--and full of attitude. When the girl took out a snack and began to talk loudly to a friend, Pena-Davis asked the student to leave the class and try again the next day.

The girl hurled a full soda can at her head.

Pena-Davis was able to duck the can. But as the teacher went to close the classroom door, the girl dragged her into the hall and began to beat her--punching and scratching, pulling off her glasses and tugging viciously at her hair. The attack was enough to terrify Pena-Davis, 55, who walked out of Austin High School that day and never went back.

These kinds of stories are adding up to overwhelming numbers in Chicago:

Reports of verbal and physical assaults against teachers by students have risen during the last four years, the data show. From Sept. 1, 2003, through the end of February, 970 such incidents were reported in elementary and high schools--an increase of 25 percent from the 777 reported during the same period a year earlier.

These reports include battery, threats of violence, assault, vandalism, theft and sex crimes. In cases of physical assault only, the increase is about 17 percent over the previous year.

School officials claim the change reflects higher reporting, not more incidents. Teachers reply that they aren't even reporting all the incidents, so the true assault rate is even higher. For example, Ms. Pena-Davis was told not to file an assault report on the young woman who attacked her.

Teachers are being attacked for doing their jobs, and they aren't getting the support they need from school officials. Security guards, closed-circuit TV systems, and the like might help catch attackers after the fact, but it won't prevent the "cultural meltdown" that has resulted in daily abuse of teachers. Parents aren't stopping it; they say they're afraid of their own kids. Principals aren't doing enough; one violent first-grader, whose assault left a teacher unable to open her mouth for four months, was suspended for only one day, and the principal refused the teacher's request for counseling for the student.

Blaming teachers for "lack of classroom discipline" doesn't cut it when principals refuse to back teachers up, schools aren't able to apply standards, and students who assault others get a slap on the wrist. In this day of zero-tolerance for toy weapons, can't schools figure out how to implement more severe punishments for assaults?

Posted by kswygert at 11:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Horrifying news in Montana

Three boys - one fifth-grader and two second-graders - brought a loaded handgun to school as part of a plot to shoot and stab a third-grade girl to death. The Billings Gazette article names the three boys (I thought juvenile offenders could not be named in news article), who hid the gun in a sandbox:

Sheriff Tim Fulton said the boys told investigators they intended to harm the young girl because she had teased two of them. The plot was uncovered late Wednesday morning, about a half-hour before recess, when another student alerted school officials...

The gun, a .22-caliber revolver, had two bullets in it, Hayworth said. School Superintendent Dave Shreeve said a box of bullets also was found nearby. The boys were identified in court records as Klint Cook and Levi Strait, both second-graders, and Blake Belgarde, a fifth-grader. They were charged Thursday in juvenile court with conspiracy to commit assault with a weapon.

"From the interviews (with investigators) I don't believe that they fully comprehended the full significance of their actions," Hayworth said. "But they understood that this was going to bring harm to her … and they intended that."

Sickening. I rarely sympathize with criminals, but second-graders? It's hard not to feel compassion for them (and anger at their parents). If the kids are this misguided now, what's a stint in juvenile detention going to do to them?

Posted by kswygert at 09:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 01, 2004

So much for schools being gun-free zones

Armed officers from Washington, DC's, police force will now patrol the halls of Ballou High School, and Wendy McElroy has had it with the idea that public schools are by definition safer than homeschooling:

Parents who wish to explore educational alternatives at their own expense should be encouraged to do so, yet the opposite is occurring...Two of the most viable [alternatives] are homeschooling and apprenticeships. Neither prevents anyone from choosing public schools; each merely offers a choice at no public expense. How could anyone reasonably object to that?

There are plenty of objections, but like Wendy, I find few of them "reasonable:"

In the ‘80s, when homeschooling appeared on the social radar, it was closely associated with the Religious Right. Homeschoolers were viewed as extremists and unqualified amateurs...

The accusation of harm shifted. Homeschooling is now said to mask child abuse. This was the message clearly implied by an Oct. 14 CBS News two-part report entitled "A Dark Side to Homeschooling." The report created a furor of protest in the homeschooling community; it also encouraged politicians to call for anti-homeschooling legislation.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin examined a push for legislation in New Jersey. Four adopted boys were found to be starving although child welfare officials claimed to have visited the home no fewer than 38 times. Rather than condemn the bureaucracy, politicians blamed the fact that the foster parents had homeschooled. Thus, all New Jersey homeschoolers may be subjected to indignities like criminal background checks and obstacles like health regulations more stringent than those imposed on public schools.

Malkin concluded, "God forbid children be taught by their own parents without oversight from the all-knowing, all-caring, infallible … child welfare-public school monopoly!"

Wendy concludes:

My purpose is not to dispute with parents who send their children to public schools. I believe the system is a brutal failure, but parents must decide for themselves. I advocate extending alternatives far beyond the typical private versus public school debate, and even beyond homeschooling.

I agree that almost anything sounds better than what's being installed at Ballou High:

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has approved a security plan for Ballou High School that would include armed police officers patrolling inside the building, X-ray machines to inspect all bags and packages, and secure doors that would remain locked except in an emergency.

The plan, prepared by Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and released yesterday at the mayor's weekly news briefing, comes in response to the Feb. 2 fatal shooting of James Richardson in the cafeteria at Ballou High School. Another student has been charged in the slaying...

The plan, which Mr. Williams described as "custom-designed" for the Southeast high school of 1,097 students, will include up to 30 police officers and security guards patrolling the building in a combination of fixed and roving patrols during school days. The 24 security guards, six police officers and one school investigator called for in the plan will be under the command of a police sergeant...

Other changes at Ballou will include the purchase of four metal detectors, three X-ray machines, a computer system with a photo-ID database that will include student schedules and disciplinary infractions. Images from the school's 53 surveillance cameras also will be fed to the police department's Joint Operations Command Center.

Students will enter the school through one main doorway, and barricades will be erected to prevent them from going around security equipment. Most of the school's 120 entry points will be outfitted with delay-egress doors, which were approved by the fire department and will be locked at all times except in the event of an emergency.

That's no longer a school. That's a prison. "Joint Operations Command Center?" Barricades around security equipment? Fixed and roving patrols? And how can a school possibly have 120 entry points, unless they're counting windows?

Posted by kswygert at 10:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 24, 2004

Philly's Avenging Angel

Philly's a tough city with a soft (and strange) heart. In the last week, two schoolkids have been killed by gunfire. Eleventh-grader Raymond Dawson was shot to death during a robbery attempt while walking home from helping his family sell flowers. And Faheem Thomas-Childs, a third-grader, was caught in the middle of a drug war while walking to school.

In response, a "hard-boiled businessman," a Sicilian named Joe Mammana, is putting a $10,000 bounty on the heads of the “cowards and thugs” responsible for each of these killings, which raises the reward money to over $100K:

“These losers can kill each other and it would be a public service, a thinning of the herd,” said hard-boiled businessman Joe Mammana, putting a $10,000 “bounty” on “the heads” of the “cowards and thugs” who killed Faheem Thomas-Childs, 10, in a crossfire outside T.M. Peirce Elementary School...

“Just bring these cowards in strapped to a horse, ankles to wrists,” Mammana said, urging people to anonymously call the Crime Commission tipline — 215-546-TIPS (546-8477).

“They want to shoot each other in the streets like they’re in the ‘Wild Wild West’ and they don’t care who gets in the way, even if it’s a 10-year-old child. OK, let’s bring them in and give them frontier justice. Swift. Eye for an eye. Boom! Boom! Boom!”...

What’s eating this obviously well-heeled suburban guy in the beautifully tailored jacket and slacks, the old-school fedora, the big-league jewelry and the imported Italian sports car that costs as much as a three-bedroom colonial on an acre of prime suburb? Why does he care so much about young, innocent inner-city murder victims?

Mammana, who attended La Salle High School and Temple University, is a self-made success whose widespread business interests range from suburban real estate to boxing promotion to an international egg-processing plant in North Philadelphia that employs 100 neighborhood people.

When he rages against gun-toting thugs who have no respect for human life, he talks from his head as well as his heart. He hears gunfire coming from streets near his factory almost every night. His employees tell him about their fear of walking down those streets to and from work.

He knows their fear is real. He respects it. He is outraged that his decent, hard-working people have to live with this fear...

“I’m Sicilian,” he said. “My children are half Spanish. I don’t see color. I don’t see race. We’re all human beings. And we’re all subject to the streets. These bums who shoot children — I want them off the streets forever.”

Posted by kswygert at 11:59 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 09, 2004

Non-zero tolerance for teacher assault

Remember my post on the politics of suspending students? That post described events in Kentucky, but it looks like the same conflicting desires - to reduce school violence, while also reducing suspensions - are in play in Minneapolis, MN.

The result? One injured teacher, one lightly-punished student, and a whole lot of debate:

The 13-year-old boy was running in the hall at the south Minneapolis public school. The teacher told him to stop. He kept running. She put her hand on the lad. Next thing she knew, she was on the floor.

"It's a little fuzzy what happened," said Joyce Thompson Graham, a seventh-and eighth-grade English teacher at Sullivan School. "I was either pulled down, or elbowed or tripped. All I remember is that he said, 'You can't stop me.' "

The kid was right. The teacher couldn't stop him.

Thompson Graham ended up in a hospital emergency room. She suffered a severe injury to her right ankle. She's currently teaching with crutches and a cast.

Punishment for the kid?

Initially, he was given a one-day in-school detention. When another teacher corroborated Thompson Graham's story, the punishment got tougher. He was suspended for two days.

Two days' suspension for what looks like an assault? Thompson Graham doesn't know whether to laugh, scream or hire a lawyer.

The light punishment is the result of a mandate from the school district to reduce the number of suspensions. The idea is to use alternative forms of punishment for these children that are coming from "troubled backgrounds" and who have "unmet needs." But it sounds like teachers in Minneapolis have some "unmet needs" for a safe teaching environment:

The order from district headquarters is to reduce the number of suspensions. The result, [Ms. Thompson Graham] said, is a disintegrating educational environment. Hallways are chaotic. Students frequently are directing obscene language at teachers with no fear of consequences.

[The district's director of student engagement Birch] Jones said it's clear the student was running in the hall, a violation of school policy. It's clear Thompson Graham hit the floor and sustained an injury. And it's clear the student took off running.

But the student's intent, he said, was not clear. Thus, the light punishment.

"This is probably a situation where we could have brought the student, his family and the teacher together," said Jones, calling it a "teachable moment."

Louise Sundin, head of the Minneapolis teachers union, said teachers are being increasingly crushed by these "teachable moments"...

Phil Villaume, an attorney who represents two Minneapolis teachers in cases surrounding lax school discipline, said the problem is not unique to urban schools. He's receiving calls from teachers statewide.

"Administrators are not backing teachers," said Villaume, "even though they have state law behind them."

State law calls for zero tolerance of harassment in our schools. There's no subsection in the law about teachers bouncing off floors being considered a teachable moment.

(Thanks to Devoted Reader and fellow blogger Jim P. for the link.)

Posted by kswygert at 05:23 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004

The politics of suspending students

Two interesting articles on school discipline have been posted on the Education Week mailing list. First up, Kentucky schools are allegedly suspending "disproportionate" numbers of African American students:

Although 10.4 percent of students across the state are African-American, they constituted 22.3 percent of the youngsters suspended during the 2002-2003 school year.

"Our schools have to answer why they're suspending kids at twice the rate of the population," said Jon Akers, executive director of the Richmond-based Kentucky Center for School Safety, which yesterday released its fifth annual analysis of student discipline....Information is collected from school districts on the number of students punished for breaking criminal laws or violating school board policies, such as those prohibiting fights, defiance of authority, profanity and threats. Numbers show whether students were suspended, expelled or given corporal punishment.

The racial imbalance highlighted in this year's numbers is a big jump from last year, when African-American students represented 10.2 percent of the population and 13 percent of the suspensions.

Akers said the growing inequity should be a call to action for school officials.

What exactly should school officials be expected to do? Set a cap on the number of suspensions per ethnic group? The data don't indicate whether the suspensions are all different students, or a core group of malcontents who are repeatedly suspended. I mean, I'm all for examining root causes, but I wanted to see something in this article suggesting that there is support for school officials who have taken a hard line with discipline and are willing to suspend anyone who is a problem, regardless of how the numbers shake out.

And speaking of hard lines with discipline, a "bullying ban" is now under consideration in Kentucky, and that ban is pretty broadly defined:

It used to be called teasing, razzing that every child went through at one time or another...[but]...the issue of bullying has taken on different dimensions for parents and educators. Two state senators now want to require Kentucky school districts to establish official policies to identify, punish, and prevent the practice.

Their bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee yesterday, but not before several Republican members balked at the notion that it was needed....

The legislation would require discipline codes that prohibit "harassment, intimidation or bullying of a student" for any reason, including "a characteristic" listed in Kentucky's existing statute on hate crimes. Those characteristics include race, gender, religion, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation...

The legislation, tied to major school safety efforts started in 1998, would require schools to make bullying a punishable problem that students or others could report anonymously. Districts would have to provide yearly training on bullying to employees, and report instances to the Center for School Safety.

On the one hand, Kentucky doesn't like the numbers of African American students being suspended, and wants to find "alternative" ways of dealing with the problem to make the numbers go down. On the other hand, Kentucky wants to make bullying a more easily-punishable offense, and I assume that punishment could include suspension. What if Kentucky looks closer at the school disclipine data, which indicates that the vast majority of school suspensions are due to violations of school board policies (and not violations of criminal laws), and discovers that African American are disproportionately suspended for...bullying?

What's more important to Kentucky, reducing the number of students who are suspended, or expanding the definition of punishable offenses? Certainly, both things could be done simultaneously, but I think it's more likely that these two ideas will turn out to be incompatible.

Posted by kswygert at 09:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Mysterious death in Miami

OK, this is a little scary...

A student was found dead Tuesday at a middle school, which has been locked down, officials said. Miami-Dade County police said the death at Southwood Middle School appeared to be "unnatural," but refused to release further details.

Students have been locked in their classes, county schools spokesman John Schuster said. He had no other information.

Anyone know any more about this?

Posted by kswygert at 01:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Malevolent Mondays

Something was in the air this past Monday; schools in Louisiana and NYC are still feeling the repercussions of it.

Two Louisiana students were arrested on counts of "terrorizing," and were allegedly planning a Columbine "anniversary" crime spree. Did the police really prevent another school shooting, or was this an over-reaction?

Poems by the pair about being bullied and numerous writings in which Levins, a senior, and Sinclair, a sophomore, refer to themselves as "The Trenchcoat Mafia" were also found, authorities said...

"We found one drawing that had the student blowing the brains out of a particular teacher," Wiley said. Another depicted Levins and Sinclair on a school roof celebrating around dead bodies hanging out of windows, officers said.

"Apparently, they were planning to wake up at 4:20 a.m. on April 20 of this year to do this," Maj. Tony Bacala said.

Authorities said said no weapons were found, although detectives did find evidence that Levins and Sinclair had obtained information on buying shotguns and rifles.

And in New York, in the wake of Mayor Bloomberg's "crackdown on classroom mayhem," there were 17 arrests in and around local schools:

In Brooklyn, an all-out brawl erupted in a high school cafeteria.

In the Bronx, a 15-year-old boy allegedly sent three safety officers to the hospital.

In Chelsea, two teenage girls were charged with assaulting a teacher. And in Harlem, gunfire erupted outside a grammar school just before classes began, sending kids, parents and teachers scurrying for cover.

Authorities were probing a fifth possible incident, as an Education Department spokeswoman said only that officials were still working "to make our schools safer."

Sounds like they've got their work cut out for them.

Posted by kswygert at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

The benefits of bullying

And speaking of bogus self-esteem, one reason that bullying is so entrenched in the school system might be that bullies derive a bogus, but gratifying, sense of power and popularity from it:

"Bullying Among Young Adolescents: The Strong, the Weak and the Troubled" was published in the December issue of the magazine Pediatrics.

Dr Juvonen's research found that bullies were admired by their peers, and thus felt good about themselves. Bullies are popular because their dominance earns them respect among the general student population who tend not to sympathise with the victims, the study found.

"They don't show any signs whatsoever of depression, loneliness or anxiety," Dr Juvonen said. "They look even healthier than the socially adjusted kids who are not involved in the bullying"...

The study defines bullying as "starting fights and pushing other kids around", "putting down and making fun of others" and "spreading nasty rumours about others".

Most anti-bullying programs in schools were based on the belief that bullies picked on others because they had low self-esteem, Dr Juvonen said. Attention should focus on how to discourage support for bullying behaviour by other students, she said.

In other words, let's help shore up the kids who aren't bullies, instead of focusing our attention on "helping" the kids who are.

Posted by kswygert at 04:03 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

"These kids are my heroes"

Debbie Schultz, a Spanish teacher at Heritage High School (GA), was attacked in her classroom this week by her estranged husband. The reason she lived to tell this tale is because her students rescued her:

Debbie Shultz's class had just finished a Spanish II final exam Wednesday morning when the door to their trailer burst open with a bang. Shultz's estranged husband stood wild-eyed in the doorway, teeth gritted, pausing almost for dramatic effect, she recalled. Then he rushed toward her, she said, raising a large knife toward her chest.

That's when Shultz's students, 16- and 17-year-old kids, went to her rescue. Several of the youngsters tackled the man, pinning him to the floor and wresting the knife from his hand.

"Those kids are my heroes. I believe God used them to save my life," Shultz, 46, said Wednesday evening, recuperating at home with stitches in her hand and leg where her assailant slashed her with the knife.

"I'm sorry that they were called upon to do such a huge job so early in their lives, but without them I wouldn't be alive."

Only four years ago, one student shot six others at this school, finally surrendering to an assistant principal. Ms. Shultz was one the teachers who put herself in danger by warning other students of what was happening. Now her students have returned the favor:

Heritage High Principal Greg Fowler praised the students who went to Debbie Shultz's aid. "They love Ms. Shultz," Fowler said. "When a teacher has a relationship with the students, this is the payoff."

Nimesh Patel, 17, was taking a nap after finishing his final when he heard screaming and the scampering of fleeing students. He saw his teacher trying to fend off her assailant.

"I froze there for a second. Me and a couple of other guys grabbed him and threw him to the ground and basically sat on him until the cops came," he said.

Several other students helped Patel subdue the attacker. They included Austin Hutchinson, 16; John Bailey, 16; Andy Anderson, 17; Matt Battaglia, 17; and Scott Wigington, 17.

Ms. Shultz also made sure her students were okay, even as she was rushed off to recieve medical attention:

After the assailant was taken into custody, the students were provided counseling and allowed to go home if they wanted. Patel remained in school to take his chemistry and history finals.

Shultz hugged her sobbing students as she was taken away, letting them know she was OK.

She said she plans to return to her classroom today -- after she goes by the courthouse to sign final papers for her divorce.

"I'm definitely going to school tomorrow, to thank my kids for being heroes, to let them know I'm OK and that bad things happen to good people."

And to let them know that ordinary "good people" can be heroes if they choose.

Posted by kswygert at 01:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 16, 2003

Shannon Williams, teacher and hooker no more

Some of my Devoted Readers with the more twisted senses of humor might remember problematic teacher Shannon Williams, whose little "misunderstanding" with the Oakland, CA police this summer resulted in a charge of soliciting. She has now plea-bargained and pleaded no contest to a charge of disturbing the peace.

This update on her story is not to be missed, for two reasons. First, because Ms. Williams admits to deliberately choosing to become a prostitute, thus removing any evidence that she was framed by police (at least one commenter from my previous post on this story insisted that Ms. Williams was but an innocent social activist). Second, because of what the head of the Berkeley PTA had to say about Ms. William's future career in teaching:

Former Berkeley schoolteacher and prostitute Shannon Williams, who said she should not be banned from her daytime profession because of her evening occupation, pleaded no contest Thursday to disturbing the peace and was put on probation. A prostitution charge against her was dropped as part of a plea agreement. Her lawyer said Williams should legally be able to return to teaching because disturbing the peace is not a crime of "moral turpitude."

No matter, I suppose, that the crime she was originally arrested for could be seen as immoral.

Williams' prostitution arrest in August as a $250-an-hour hooker gained national talk-show attention, especially after she argued that teachers' personal lives should not affect their employment.

Why, of course not. And students personal lives shouldn't affect their education, either, except for those pesky students who carry Advil in their purses, or who have hunting knives in their car, or who don't want to submit to mandatory random drug testing.

Williams, 37, said Thursday that her eight-year prostitution career began when she enrolled at San Francisco State to obtain a teacher's certificate. After a chance conversation with two prostitutes in a bar, "I realized that doing this I could work one or two nights a week and really focus on my studies," she said.

My, Ms. Williams reveals herself to be quite the genius with this statement. After speaking with two criminals in a bar who sell their bodies for sex, she realizes that doing the same will allow her to "really focus" on educating America's youth.

Williams described herself as a small business owner who lives in Berkeley, where she tends fruit trees in the back yard. Until her "sting" arrest, she turned tricks in a rented condo with older men who, she says, enjoyed her empathy and conversation. She earned enough money to buy a vacation home near Yosemite.

Vacation home? I thought she was doing this all For The Children - you know, to be able to "really focus" on her studies? You mean she was really just doing it all for financial gain? Who would have guessed?

The publicity surrounding her arrest prevents her from returning to prostitution, she said. She's not teaching, either. Months before her arrest, she had decided to take a year off from school work. But she would eventually like to return to teaching.

"I don't agree with that. Absolutely not," said Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition in Anaheim. "The last thing in the world schoolchildren need is to have a prostitute as a role model."

"It is inappropriate to work with children by day and to sell sexual relationships by night."

But the head of the California PTA for Alameda County, which includes Berkeley, wasn't so sure. "As long as she's not bringing it into the classroom, maybe it's not a problem," said Carol-Ann Kock-Weser, who emphasized that her opinion did not represent PTA policy.

Emphasis mine. I have a feeling Ms. Kock-Weser won't be representing the PTA at all much longer, not after suggesting to a reporter that maybe it's okay for a teacher to be a prostitute at night. Does Ms. Kock-Weser really believe the only issue here is whether or not Ms. Williams brings her tricks to class? Whether she services men on school grounds? Whether she dresses in lingerie for her "independent study" classes?

As for Ms. Williams, now that both of her career paths have been derailed, whatever will she do?

She is unsure what she will do now that she's out of prostitution. "I liked my clients; I liked the work I did keeping them healthy and happy. I feel bad about having that taken away," she said.

Yeah, I guess when there are laws against your profession, your job security is sometimes shaky, isn't it? Am I supposed to feel sorry for her? I don't, but I'll be happy to offer her a suggestion for future employment. Why not call Ms. Kock-Weser and see if she'll let you tutor her children?

Posted by kswygert at 04:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 09, 2003

Bad behavior in Washington State

Thanks to Sharkblog for his roundup of (among other things) educational crimes and misdemeanors in his home state.

First, a child who's obviously read Sleeping Beauty - or the story of Velma Barfield - one too many times:

A sixth-grader was expelled from school yesterday after she allegedly gave a cookie tainted with dog repellent to her teacher.

The pupil, from Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary School in Sammamish, sprayed the store-bought cookie with dog repellent at home before school, and then replaced it in the box before giving it to the teacher yesterday afternoon, said Peter Daniels, spokesman for the Lake Washington School District.

The girl was immediately expelled, though she can appeal the expulsion if she chooses, Daniels said.

Other students nibbled on the cookies as well, though no one has been harmed by the poison. Was this malicious, or perhaps just a scientific project gone wrong?

Next, we have a very young "sex offender":

An 8-year-old boy accused of fondling four female classmates will be the youngest participant in Wayne County's sex offender rehabilitation program, prosecutors said...The boy will receive individual counseling because the group sessions for teenagers are not age-appropriate, prosecutors said. The judge also sentenced him to two years probation.

Authorities said the boy fondled a 7-year-old girl and touched three other 7-year-old girls inappropriately outside their clothing while the children watched "Mary Poppins" at a Mount Clemens school in May.

These charges include one felony, by the way. How does an 8-year-old legitimately plead "No contest" to a felony assualt charge? And is there age-appropriate counseling for sex offenders so young that it's hard to believe they know what sex is?

This guy, on the other hand, doesn't have age as an excuse. What was he thinking, begging for a chance to take a subordinate to Hawaii with him? And would the educators' unions have demanded trips to Hawaii for all assistant principals, not just the ones unlucky enough to be stalked by their bosses?

Finally, these school counselors poo-poo the notion that they did anything wrong by changing hundreds of grades for seniors who were close to the 2.0 average required for graduation:

Three Franklin High School counselors disciplined for how they changed student grades maintained yesterday that they did nothing wrong and criticized the way Seattle Public Schools administrators handled their cases.

"I felt like I was working my tail off to make the system work equitably for kids," former Franklin head counselor Jolyon Raymond said at the office of the Seattle Education Association, the labor union that represents teachers and counselors...

Raymond and fellow counselors Acie DuBose and Kory Kumasaka, who also return to Franklin today, were placed on paid leave Sept. 18, the day Superintendent Raj Manhas announced an investigation into the apparently improper alteration of hundreds of student grades in the 2002-03 school year. The changes seemed to benefit primarily seniors with grade-point averages close to the 2.0 threshold for a diploma, administrators said.

Yup, I'd say that's making the system "work" for kids. Thanks to the Shark for collecting this pile of Washington follies.

Posted by kswygert at 03:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

VP stabs self, blames student, keeps paycheck

You know, it's hard to imagine how a school official could do more damage to student morale than the trigger-happy Principal McCrakin of Goose Creek, SC.

But I must admit, a vice principal who stabs himself in a school bathroom, and then allows police to claim that a student was the attacker, sure fits the bill:

An assistant principal who was thought to be the victim of a stabbing allegedly inflicted the wounds on himself, and then lied about it, authorities said. Clinton Knoll, 35, of Ulster County, was arrested Monday, two weeks after he was found bleeding in a bathroom at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School.

The incident prompted a day-long lockdown and drew resources from three police agencies. Knoll was charged with falsely reporting an incident and knowingly making a false statement, both misdemeanors...

At a press conference the day of the stabbing, [Hyde Park Police Chief James]McKenna said he believed the attack came ''from the student body.'' Monday, he denied making that statement and said police did not limit their search to the student body...

Parent Felicia Ritters blasted authorities for implying a student may have been responsible for the stabbing. ''They came right out with a statement in the paper saying they suspected it was a student,'' she said...

Knoll was charged at 11:53 a.m. Monday, after he had come to Hyde Park Police headquarters to answer more questions about the incident. He was arraigned and sent to Dutchess County Jail, where bail was set at $1,000. He is due back in court Thursday.

At his arraignment, Knoll was ordered by a judge not to make contact with school officials or go to the school grounds. He was suspended with pay from the Hyde Park school district.

Gee, suspension with pay? No zero tolerance for school officials who bring sharp objects onto school property, I see; no zero tolerance for those who lie about self-inflicted wounds as well.

Posted by kswygert at 04:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003

Shameful police behavior in South Carolina

OK, I said I wasn't going to blog, but this story of the armed raid on a school full of surprised (and unarmed kids) is huge, and it takes place in my home state:

After complaints from parents and students, police in Goose Creek, South Carolina, defended their decision Friday to send a team of officers, some with guns drawn, into a high school earlier this week for a drug raid that turned up no drugs...

Stratford High School students described Wednesday's incident as frightening.

"They would go put a gun up to them, push them against the wall, take their book bags and search them," Aaron Sims, 14, told CNN affiliate WCSC. "They just came up and got my friend, not even saying anything or what was going to happen. ... I was scared."

Why did the police need their guns? Evidently, they suspected that drugs would be in evidence in the school, not weapons. Why do police officers need guns to find drugs on 14-year-olds in a school building? That's just crazy.

Police monitored video from school surveillance cameras for several days and "observed consistent, organized drug activity," he said. "Students were posing as lookouts and concealing themselves from the cameras."

When the principal saw more of the same suspicious activity on the school surveillance video, he asked for the officers to respond, Aarons said.

On Wednesday, 14 officers went to the school "and assumed strategic positions," he said.

Within 30 seconds, officers had moved to "safely secure the 107 students who were in that hallway," Aarons said. "During that time some of the officers did unholster in a down-ready position, so that they would be able to respond if the situation became violent."

Again, why were SWAT-team tactics necessary in a school full of juveniles who are suspected of dealing drugs, rather than using weapons? Was there really any reason to assume that this would become violent? Wouldn't an undercover operation have worked as well? Or a simple search with drug dogs but no weapons?

Anytime narcotics and money are involved he said there is "the reasonable assumption that weapons will be involved. ... Our primary concern was the safety of the students (and) everyone else involved."

Is that assumption really reasonable inside a school building full of juveniles, when the tapes apparently showed no weapons activity?

Instapundit's got the story covered. One of the Great Man's readers, Michael Graham, had first-hand knowledge of the principal who called in the cops:

HELLO STUDENTS, AND WELCOME TO STALAG 13: Actually, it's an insult to Col. Klink and the gang to compare them with the goose-stepping George McCrackin of Stratford (S.C.) High. That's the school where the local jackboots kicked in the doors, drew their guns and threw a bunch of school kids onto the ground in a futile search for a few ounces of pot...all on videotape...

I know George McCrackin from my days at WSC in Charleston, SC. He became part of the Michael Graham Experience when he started kicking straight-A students out of school because their shirts weren't tucked in. No, I'm not exaggerating. He felt it was vital for maintaining discipline to keep all shirttails out of public view...

So when I saw the video on CNN of the gun-wielding goons terrorizing school kids, my first thought was of ol' George. Sure enough...

My favorite part of the story is Commandant McCrackin in his officer monitoring the 48 (!) surveillance cameras and signaling the police on when to move in. I can picture him sitting there, fingering his super-spy decoder ring and rehearsing the phrase “suspect in sight!”...

Michael's pretty pissed about the police force's use of weapons, as well as that aforementioned attitude that it was "reasonable" to assume that these kids would be armed:

The Goose Creek Police defend their dangerous stupidity by claiming to have monitored drug activity for four days using the school's "Big Brother" camera system. OK, if you really did see drug deals going down...why didn't you arrest the DRUGGIES, Officer Fife? The schools already violate every notion of citizenship by regularly conducting warrant-less, probable cause-less, random searches of the schools. The kids spend more time in front of surveillance cameras than women on peep-show websites. And still, for the jackboots of run the government schools, it's not enough.

Meanwhile, over at Samizdata, this is all grist for the "Beware the State" mill:

I am sorry, but some square headed jerks in a blue shirts start waving guns around a bunch of children who are just going about their business at school, and it is reported that parents are "questioning the wisdom of police tactics"? Questioning the wisdom of police tactics?...

I would be looking for some heads-on-spikes if a child of mine was subjected to that sort of treatment. How this incident has not resulted in angry mobs in the streets throwing rocks is beyond me. What does it take to really piss these people off?

So... attention all parents in Goose Creek: are you starting to have second thoughts about the wisdom of entrusting your children to state 'care' yet? Unbelievable.

Be sure to read the comments on that post, too. Very informative.

Posted by kswygert at 04:45 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003

No punishment where punishment is due

I had previously avoiding blogging this story, simply because I thought it was so appalling:

The Dallas Independent School District is investigating two students caught having oral sex in the middle of a classroom full of other students and an adult monitor.

District officials say a 12-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy were performing the sex act in the back of a science laboratory at Robert T. Hill middle school. Four witnesses say the girl was performing the act on the boy.

Donny Claxton with the DISD said the teacher was in a meeting, and the adult monitor on duty was apparently unaware of what was going on in the science class. Claxton said the fact that the students were having sex while under supervision of school personnel is very disturbing.

I think I'd have chosen a more extreme word than "disturbing," and a more extreme modifier than "very." This version of the story contains an even worse quote from Claxton:

"It's even more disturbing in society that a 12-year-old youngster is cognizant of such activity," [Claxton] said. "The fact that it happened in a classroom while an adult was present is almost inexcusable."

As Best of the Web puts it, "Almost? One wonders if there is anything that our public schools would consider just plain unacceptable." What on earth made Claxton put that word "almost" in there at the last minute? What was the reason for hedging his statements about an act this heinous?

As I said, I wasn't going to blog the story. But then today there's this follow-up:

Two students at a Dallas middle school won't face charges for engaging in a sex act during a science class recently.

Police tell the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that October 28th act between the 12-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy at Robert T. Hill Middle School was consensual. They also say the children's parents have asked that no charges be filed.

The adult who was monitoring the class when the act happened is reportedly on administrative leave.

School officials say the two students have been disciplined but won't comment on the nature of the discipline.

Apparently, this school doesn't have a set of those notorious zero-tolerance policies for minor offenses. You know, the policies that require expulsion when a 14-year-old commits the non-crime of writing in a private journal about a dream that involves violence , or that require criminal charges be filed when a 16-year-old shares his inhaler because he believes someone else's life is in danger.

Why isn't this school publicizing the punishment that these promiscuous students are receiving? Does the school have something to hide? Do the school administrators feel at least partially at fault? (They should.) I assume the parents want no charges filed because they want to protect the privacy of their children, but I bet the school has less compassionate motives in refusing to admit what disciplinary steps they've taken. My guess is that they have no idea of how to deal with this.

And "administrative leave"? Get real. That "adult monitor" should be fired.

Posted by kswygert at 02:05 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 22, 2003

Is school violence really on the rise?

School violence is massively on the rise this year, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Perceptive - or alarmist?

The 2003-2004 school year is only a few weeks old, but a string of fatal shootings, stabbings and other attacks threatens to make it one of the deadliest in years. Since mid-August, when most students returned to class, the nation's public schools have seen 18 violent deaths, more than in either of the previous two school years. And that doesn't include dozens of nonfatal incidents...

In Utah, there have been no shootings in schools reported for 2003. And while there have been no large-scale shootings like those at Columbine High School in 1999, which killed 15, the high number of incidents nationwide is baffling school safety experts, who say school violence is usually worst in the spring -- pointing to a rough year ahead.

It is also raising a quiet alarm among those who work with young people.
"We have a post-9-11 world in which we have a greater sense of threat, in which our children have a greater sense of threat, of stress and anxiety," says Ken Druck, a clinical psychologist in San Diego. "Kids are scared, and a lot of violence stems from stress and fear."

Does this psychologist really believe that 9/11 is to blame for violence in schools? I'm sure that many adults are stressed out, and a family may be under great stress if one family member is serving overseas, or feels persecuted by the Patriot Act, or what have you. But this seems like an odd, pat, simplistic answer to a complex question. My hunch is that kids react to stresses that are closest to them, and it's hard to believe that they're stabbing each other over the threat of terrorism, or the worry about how soon Iran will have nuclear weapons.

Observers cite several possible factors, including large and impersonal high schools, violent video games, a poor economy and the stress of higher academic standards. A few note that street gangs are on the rise and that the war on terror is diverting resources from school safety.

Violent video games are being held responsible just like heavy metal was in the 1970's - as a way to explain parental negligence. I do think that large high schools do allow a greater number of troubled kids to slip through the cracks, although those schools are also more likely to have more psychological support staff. Poor economies can stress out parents, which can be rougher on kids, I suppose.

But the "stress of higher academic standards"? What? What expert thinks testing is related to school violence? That's just ridiculous. Kids don't stab each other over the PSAT or the MEAP.

It would be easy to blame the upswing in deadly violence on the lingering effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. But Sept. 11 actually may have put a dent in school homicides and suicides. In the two years immediately following the attacks, these incidents dropped sharply, according to Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland firm that tracks school crime. There were 17 violent deaths in 2001-2002, and 16 in 2002-2003. By contrast, the 1999-2000 school year saw 31 such deaths.

So much for the quote from that psychologist. How does he explain this downswing?

By most accounts, schools are spending more energy than ever to prevent violence...But Bill Modzeleski of the federal government's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools says many violent incidents take place after school as students head home. "It's a time when there is little or no control over these kids," he says.

Meaning: that's a time when parents, or some other adult, should be around to provide guidance, and they aren't. It doesn't do schools much good to hire cops and rent metal detectors if parents are willing to, or are forced to, let kids walk unchaperoned through rough neighborhoods after school, does it?

An increased emphasis on academic skills is putting children at risk because schools often ignore their social and emotional needs, says David Osher of the American Institutes for Research, a Washington-based nonprofit focusing on education, children's mental health and other issues.

Well, I suppose that would be because schools are first and foremost supposed to educate children. Granted, some kids get little training in social skills and emotional regulation at home, but it's not going to do them much good in life if schools focus on that without teaching them to read. Given the prevalence of school psychologists and the general touchy-feely nature of public education these days, it's hard to believe that schools are driving kids to violence by drilling them on multiplication tables.

There's no one answer to what's causing some of these isolated incidents of violence, which added together don't necessarily indicate a trend (see below). For example, here's an assault case that had nothing to do with testing, gangs, or terrorism. Instead, it's about basketball and the "school spirit" that most districts value. When "school spirit" gets ugly, you need better rules, and better enforcement.

Interestingly, this information isn't presented until the very end of the article:

Federal statistics show that young people are still much safer in school than practically anywhere else, and it's not clear whether school crime in general has risen over the past several years. The most recent figures show that it dropped in the 1990s.

* The percentage of public high school students who reported being crime victims dropped from 9.8 percent in 1995 to 5.7 percent in 2001.

* The rate of serious violent crime at or near school among students ages 12 to 18 dropped from 10 offenses per 100,000 students in 1992 to 5 in 2000.

Emphasis mine. So should we all be worried about our kids, or not?

Posted by kswygert at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2003

Seeing red(eyed) over algebra

I understand that most kids hate learning algebra, but this is ridiculous. Blaming the teacher for not giving you enough help in algebra is understandable; poisoning her is not. And it's interesting in light of the recent zero-tolerance idiocy stories that expulsion for this offense apparently isn't mandatory in California.

Oh, and I hope the DA's office reads this article when deciding on the prosecution and sentencing of this kid. Putting Visine in someone's drink does not give them diarrhea - but it can kill them.

Posted by kswygert at 04:19 PM | Comments (3)

October 08, 2003

reverse racism in a cleveland middle school

Interested Participant relates a shocking tale of the media bias surrounding a horrific race-related criminal tradiation in one Cleveland middle school:

(Cleveland, OH) Imagine this scenario. Every year on the 1st of May, white kids at a middle school perform a ritual event. They select a black girl to attack and administer a beating. The beating causes her to suffer from psychological trauma and blackouts from blows to the head. She is forced to transfer to a different school.

The white kids go to trial where the judge disallows any testimony or evidence indicating the racial motivation of the perpetrators. Charges are dismissed for most of the offenders.

Now, imagine the media fallout. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters, and other black activists would be featured on every news program denouncing the judge and the school system. The headlines of most major newspapers would broadcast "Racial Violence at Grade-School." There would be demonstrations. Op-ed pieces would call for someone's head. And, ultimately, someone would be fired.

As believable as the scenario is, it did not happen recently in Cleveland. However, if one replaces "white" with "black" and vice versa, it did happen. Without emphasis, the Cleveland Plain Dealer website reported the occurrence on 9/30/03. There is no mention of the event on the 10/01/03 Plain Dealer website report.

Since the attack occurred in May (and apparently occurs every year), isn't it odd that nobody is reporting on it? NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and MSNBC have not pushed the story. The WaPo and the Times don't seem to think it's important. Could it be that the major media has a bias against acknowledging that wanton bigotry exists on both sides of the racial divide?

Seems so.

I've reprinted Interested Participant's posting here in it's entirety because he captures the vicious absurdity of the situation so well. There does seem to be some confusion over whether this tradition really exists, but some school officials believe it does:

Prosecutors say another girl attacked Melissa to settle a personal beef, but the fight grew into a pile-on because "May Day" has long been reputed in some racially integrated schools as a day for minorities to beat up white students. Melissa is white and her accused attackers are all black or Hispanic...

Two school officials and two Cleveland police officers testified that authorities anticipated May Day problems.

"Since I've been at Wilbur Wright, I've taken every May 1 seriously, just because of the potential of what could happen," said school Principal Michael Murawski, who helped break up the brawl. "Everyone was on heightened awareness."

Regardless of whether this is a real tradition, or just an urban legend, the lack of press surrounding it is appalling. This sort of double-standard perfectly illustrates why I have always opposed the legal minefield that is "hate crime." In our society, some hates are more acceptable than others.

Posted by kswygert at 01:58 PM | Comments (11)