Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yearbooks mutilated to remove student comment

June 15 2010, Comox Valley Echo

A Lake Trail student has been quite literally cut out of this year's yearbook.
School board officials told the Echo that Grade 10 student Brandon Armstrong's photo was chopped out of the yearbook due to a "hurtful and untrue" comment in his bio.
Because of that comment, scissors were taken to 299 of the 300 yearbooks produced to remove Armstrong's photo.
Just one yearbook has Armstrong's picture: his own. Beneath it is the comment that caused the kafuffle: his favourite Lake Trail Memory was "when Mrs. Carpenter spent all our money on a new fence instead of new textbooks." Lori Carpenter is the school's principal.
Armstrong said it "blew my mind" when he found out he'd been snipped.
"It kind of sucked," he said. "I was excited for the yearbook and I'm excited to keep it for a long time. It kind of sucks, for sure."
He said he included that comment as his favourite memory both because he thought it was true and also because he thought it was "kind of funny."
School officials obviously didn't think it was very funny, while assistant superintendent Sherry Elwood said it was absolutely untrue -- the principal had no part in the decision to install the fence, she said.
Elwood said the comment was removed both because it was untrue and because it was targeted at a specific staff member.
"I don't believe that's censorship," she said. "That's about you being responsible for what you put in print under your name as being true. That's really what it's about."
Elwood admitted that the teacher responsible for the yearbook should have caught the comment in the editing process and removed it at that time if there was a concern.
She said he was "mortified" over the inclusion of the comment and removing it with scissors was a thoughtful, measured decision.
But Armstrong's mother, Sherri Kennedy, felt the entire incident could have been dealt with in a much more reasonable manner.
Elwood noted that school officials did try to cover the comment with black felt, but it was ineffective with the glossy paper the yearbook is printed on.
Kennedy would like to know why they had to cut his entire picture out rather than just taking the scissors to the comment.
"It's not just that one line that's cut out," she said. "They could have at least left the picture in.
"It's kind of unfair -- not just to my son, but to everybody -- that it's not there."
Beyond that, the school included an insert in the yearbook to explain the gaping hole.
It states that "one student made a comment in his bio that was both hurtful to another person and which was not based on truth." In bold, it states: "I will not allow anything to be published that is hurtful and untrue."
"It makes it look like he said some kind of swearing or something really bad about another person, bad enough to take out his whole profile, including his picture," said Kennedy.
"Parents would look at it and think this child had done something worse than what he actually did."
Elwood said that had the comment been targeted at the school district, which did make the decision to install the fence, it would "probably be a different issue."
Kennedy said she'd like to see all of the yearbooks reprinted, but was told by school officials that would not happen because it would cost upward of $3,000 and the money is not available.
The yearbook is the last one that will include a Grade Ten class, of which Armstrong was a part, because the school's grade configuration changes next year.
"This boy is permanently removed from this piece of history at the school," said PAC chair Yolande Munroe.

Overreacted much? Five years from now nobody is going to give a damn about the comment, but everyone is going to notice one of their classmates has been deleted from the yearbook. Why didn't this get edited out after it was submitted, or during the design and layout process, or at the printers? And most interesting of all, the Streisand Effect is now in place: because the administrators wanted this removed, it's now all over the Internet.

Cutting out a student's photo from a keepsake because of a sarcastic comment is petty and vindictive, and is guaranteed to cause more ill-will towards the principal than if she had let it go. A yearbook bio is neither a scholarly report nor a piece of journalism and she is at no risk of libel. If was going to be redacted, why not buy Avery sticker sheets to cover the comment? And perhaps the most interesting question... what happened to the image on the other side of the page?

And oh yeah, the yearbooks were paid for by the students. Hope they got what they paid for.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Student suspended for Saying No to Drugs

NBC Wave 3, Indiana, February 25 2010

 The parents of a Kentuckiana seventh grade student say their young daughter was suspended from school for doing exactly what she's been taught to do for years - to just say no to drugs.  

The girl did not bring the prescription drug to her Jeffersonville, IN school, nor did she take it, but she admits that she touched it and in Greater Clark County Schools that is drug possession.    
Rachael Greer said it happened on Feb. 23 during fifth period gym class at River Valley Middle School when a girl walked into the locker room with a bag of pills. 
"She was talking to another girl and me about them and she put one in my hand and I was like, ‘I don't want this,' so I put it back in the bag and I went to gym class," said Rachael.
The pills were the prescription ADHD drug, Adderall. Patty Greer, Rachael's mother, said she and her husband are proud of their daughter for turning down drugs, just like she's been taught for years by DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) instructors at school.  
"I'm proud her conscience kicked in and she said, ‘No, I'm not taking this. Here you can have it back,'" Patty Greer said.  
But just saying no didn't end the trouble for Rachael. During the next period, an assistant principal came and took Rachael out of class. It turned out the girl who originally had the pills and a few other students got caught. That's when the assistant principal gave Rachael a decision.
"We're suspending you for five days because it was in your hand," said Rachael.
After hearing the news, Patty Greer went to school officials.  
"He said she wrote it down on a witness statement and she had told the truth, he said she was very, very honest and he said he was sorry he had to do it but it was school policy," said Patty Greer.
According to Greater Clark County Schools district policy, even a touch equals drug possession and a one week suspension.  
"The fact of the matter is, there were drugs on school campus and it was handled, so there was a violation of our policy," said Martin Bell, COO of Greater Clark County Schools. 
We wanted to know what would have happened if Rachael had told a teacher right away. Bell said the punishment would not have been any different. District officials say if they're not strict about drug policies no one will take them seriously.  
"That's not a good policy," said Patty Greer. "We're teaching our kids if you say no to drugs you're going to get punished, it's not right."
 Greater Clark County School district officials would not tell us how many other students were involved, but they did tell us there were other suspensions and some students were moved to an alternative school.
In a case strangely similar to the Indiana boy who turned in his knife and was expelled for weapons possession,
again the school administrators teach that it is smarter to say nothing and to hide from the authorities than it is to speak up and do the right thing. At least the parent realizes the flaws in the school policies--and I suppose that if the administration is going to be this rotten about it then none of the students will take them seriously as officials.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

School bans DICTIONARY for "sexually graphic" material

The Press-Enterprise, January 25 2010
After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across "oral sex" in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster's 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.
School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the "sexually graphic" entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.
"It's just not age appropriate," said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district.
"It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.
Meanwhile, some parents are questioning the district's response and some school board members are asking why officials did not consult with them.
"Censorship in the schools, really? Pretty soon the only dictionary in the school library will be the Bert and Ernie dictionary," said Emanuel Chavez, the parent of second- and sixth-grade students. "If the kids are exposed to it, it's up to the parents to explain it to them at their level."
Board member Rita Peters questioned why one parent's complaint would lead the district to pull the dictionaries.
"If we're going to pull a book because it has something on oral sex, then every book in the library with that better be pulled," she said. "The standard needs to be consistent ... We don't need parents setting policy."
Peters said if the dictionary quarantine is setting a precedent, a committee should be formed to review all school books for age-appropriateness.
Board member Randy Freeman, an elementary school teacher and parent to four daughters in Menifee schools, said he supports the initial decision to ban the dictionary temporarily.
Freeman said it's "a prestigious dictionary that's used in the Riverside County spelling bee, but I also imagine there are words in there of concern."

 You can't be serious. Can you? Really? Banning the dictionary? For reference, the definition in the dictionary is "Oral stimulation of the genitals" which is, by any account, as accurate and succinct a definition as any, without any unnecessary or inappropriate context or endorsement of said activity.

  Whoever these parents are, they should be happy the kids are looking these terms up in the dictionary and not, say, the internet. Apparently ideas are dangerous and don't want their children getting any. Which means no independent thought, exploration, discovery, or creativity. As one Fark commenter said, "Tell China to stick a fork in us, we're done."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Student Expulsion Overturned

Orland Press Register, January 22 2010

Gary Tudesko can go back to Willows High School Monday.

The Glenn County Board of Education overturned the high school junior's expulsion for having shotguns and ammunition in his pickup truck on a street next to, but not on, the high school campus.

The board held the appeal hearing on Tuesday. It announced its decision Friday morning.

"I'm excited. I want to go back to school as soon as I can. I can't wait for the first day to be right back in there," Tudesko said.

In addition to reversing the Willows Unified School District board's decision, the county trustees ordered Tudesko's expulsion be removed from the school record.

It also ordered "any costs incurred by the pupil or his parents be reimbursed by the district.

The county board ruled the district had "acted in excess of its jurisdiction" because the act "did not occur on school grounds or at a school activity."

Furthermore, the county board stated that Tudesko did not have an opportunity for a "fair hearing" before the district board, because he "was not provided timely written notice of all evidence...."

The board also found "prejudicial abuse of discretion by the district" because it failed to show how other discipline choices were not feasible, or that Tudesko was a "continuing danger to the physical safety of the student and others."

The final finding stated that the board "need not reach a determination" about whether relevant and material evidence existed or "was improperly excluded at the hearing before the district governing board."

GCOE board president Judy Holzapfel reported that the trustees had met for about three hours between sessions on Thursday night and Friday morning.

"We felt it extremely important to get this correct and in the proper order," she said to a room filled with Willows Unified school administrators and Tudesko supporters, including several NRA representatives, at least one from Washington, D.C.

Willows High Principal Mort Geivett's reaction to the reversal was disappointment.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised, due to the political climate we have here and the fact we have school board members who are going up for re-election and a superintendent who might be running for re-election," he said.

"And, the fact they had to face folks who are avid hunters. In this community, you have to dig down deep to stand up and do the right thing," he added.

Of greater concern, Geivett said, is "the decision clearly compromises the safety and security of kids and staff members on my campus and this clearly goes beyond Willows High."

Willows Unified Superintending Steve Olmos' response was one of confusion.

The decision "has left me dumbfounded, almost speechless," he said.

The county board "is undermining our authority. They are definitely saying we don't have jurisdiction off campus," he complained.

"We are even responsible for monitoring students in cyber space," he said, noting that school are expected to keep an eye out for cyber bullying, which does not have to happen on school grounds.

Still, the overriding concern among school administrators is safety.

Olmos said the county board said in its ruling that Tudesko "can park in that spot with guns in his truck and, my concern, is that other people will know or believe he has guns near school. And you never know what other people may do."

He also noted that two city streets go through campus, which means students have to cross city streets to go from class to class.

He questioned whether the Board of Education's ruling means the school does not have jurisdiction when students are on those streets.

Tudesko's mother, Susan Parisio, said "I'm so relieved. It's been such a long, long battle."

It was a battle Tudesko has said he did not want to pursue, but his mother thought it was important.

And apparently, gun rights adovates agreed.

Tudesko's appeal, presented by Long Beach attorneys C.K. "Chuck" Michel and Hillary Green, was funded in part by the National Rifle Association's and the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation's combined Legal Action Project.

Michel and Assoc. specializes in firearms, environmental, land use and employment law.

At a press conference following the Board of Education's ruling, Michel said he was pleased with the decision.

"We want to keep kids safe," but he said school administrators "need to know the difference between a good kid and a bad kid."

Referring to the 340 school-related shootings since 1994, Michel said, arguing there is a big difference between those shooters and young hunters.

Tudesko and a friend had been duck hunting prior to the start of school on the day two shotguns were discovered in his truck by detection dogs.

"We don't want anymore tragedies on campuses. But we have to have common sense," Michel said.

Olmos could not say whether the district will take the ruling to court. He and the school board will have weigh the options before deciding what to do next.

"If they'll stay out of court, we'll stay out of court," Michel countered.

County Superintendent of Schools Arturo Barerra did not participate in the board's closed sessions,

At Tuesday's appeal hearing, Willows Unified attorney Matt Juhl-Darlington, who did not attend Friday's meeting, had asked the board to exclude the Barerra because of previous issues between he and Olmos.

The board denied that request.

Still, Olmos thought the board made a political decision.

"Unfortunately I think it did," Olmos said.

The county board members declined to comment on their decision.

Thankfully, sanity does prevail! The county board's decision is a stern reprimand of the school's almost totalitarian attitude regarding its students. It's hardly surprising to hear the superintendent whining about how they don't have jurisdiction off campus; whoever these people are, they seem to like running their little empire. They're also in flat denial that they even DO have limits to their authority; they complain that this decision was politically motivated.

It's good to see that justice can be served, but from the school board's attitude nothing is going to change. This sort of thing should never have had to go to court in the first place.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

School Evacuated Over Science Project

San Diego City News, January 15 2010

The discovery of a suspicious-looking home-made contraption that a middle school student brought to class with him Friday prompted a full evacuation of the Chollas View-area campus until it was determined to be harmless.

A staffer at Millennial Tech Middle School called San Diego police shortly after 11:30 a.m. to report the presence of the object at the Carolina Lane campus, SDPD Officer Jim Johnson said.

Students and employees were cleared out of their classrooms and offices while a bomb squad was dispatched to inspect the device, which consisted of a bottle with wires attached to it, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the city Fire-Rescue Department.

The 11-year-old who had brought the device to the technology-oriented magnet school told authorities it was a home-made electronic motion detector that he wanted to show to his classmates, Luque said.

Officials decided to call in the explosives team to look over the object — which an administrator had confiscated and taken into a principal’s office — as a precaution.

The explosives team used a remote-control device and X-ray machine to scrutinize the device, eventually determining that it was harmless.

The personnel then confiscated it and issued an all-clear about 3 p.m., Luque said. Nearby Gompers High School was unaffected by the incident, according to police.

Why is paranoia so high in schools? Why are administrators so dense that they can't tell an 11 year old's science project from a homemade explosive? The child's science teacher could have taken one look at it and told them it was fine, or maybe they could call the kid's parents. But after everything else and it was determined it was harmless, the bomb squad confiscated the damn thing, after wasting an entire school day and thousands of dollars in remote control robots.

No wonder America is lagging behind in science education. First there was the risk aversion keeping kids from exploring and learning from their environment, then the anti-intellectualism dominant in religious conservatism, now there's the paranoia involved in actually doing the science. Do your kids a favor and buy them a copy of The (New) Way Things Work, and find out just what they're doing in school.