Confederate Flag Banned By Indiana School Principal, Are Students' Rights To Free Speech Being Violated?

An Indiana high school principal has banned students from wearing anything that depicts the Confederate flag, saying that tensions at the school are running high and the insignia is making some students feel unsafe, WXIN (Indianapolis) is reporting. Bloomington North High School Principal Jeffry M. Henderson sent an email to parents, faculty and staff last week saying the so-called “Stars and Bars” has no place at the school. The issue came up because at least two students showed up to class last week wearing the flags draped across their shoulders and flowing behind them, like capes. Street Photography : Man with a Confederate Flag Cape by crushton43 | #streets #photograph… — J.D. Byron (@JamesDayByron) September 24, 2016 “Throughout the day, this issue has evolved into one that has created a substantial disruption to the educational environment. As a result, students may no longer wear or display images of the Confederate flag on their clothing or any other personal item while at school or a school-sponsored event or function due to the disruption it has created.” Depending on whom you ask, the Confederate flag is either a symbol of Southern pride and heritage, devoid of any racist meaning; or a symbol of hate, prejudice, and slavery. Writing in The New York Times in December 2015, Ben Jones, chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. opined that anyone who would claim the Confederate flag represents hate and slavery is missing the point. “To those 70 million of us whose ancestors fought for the South, it is a symbol of family members who fought for what they thought was right in their time, and whose valor became legendary in military history. This is not nostalgia. It is our legacy. The current attacks on that legacy, 150 years after the event, are to us an insult that mends no fences nor builds any bridges.” Dukes of Hazzard 1979-1985 (146 episodes) — Histi Pics (@HistiPics) October 27, 2016 However, most civil-rights groups and hate-watching groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center included, regard the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate that must be eradicated. “But the argument that the Confederate flag and other displays represent ‘heritage, not hate’ ignores the near-universal heritage of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved by the millions in the South. It trivializes their pain, their history and their concerns about racism — whether it’s the racism of the past or that of today.” So how did the Confederate flag controversy make its way to a high school in Bloomington, Indiana of all places? As it turns out, some associated with the school believe the students may have worn the flags in response to an LGBTQ event at the school last week. Some students were “concerned” about a gay pride being flown in the school’s library and in one classroom. Regardless of the reasons behind the tensions, Henderson said that the presence of the Confederate flag has made some students feel “unsafe,” and so he doesn’t want it at his school. So, does banning students from wearing the Confederate flag to school violate their First Amendment rights to free speech? That question would be up for a court to decide, in the event that one of the students affected by such a ban – in Bloomington or elsewhere – filed a lawsuit. In fact, outside of Indiana kids have fought back against schools banning the Confederate flag at their schools, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the courts, have had their backs. The issue came up in Ohio in 2015, and the ACLU of Ohio issued a statement supporting the rights of the students to display the Confederate flag in their schools. “The First Amendment protects the right to express any viewpoint, no matter how unpopular, and therein lies its strength. It is not up to the government—be it the local school district or Congress—to decide for us which speech is acceptable.” Do you believe schools should ban students from wearing the Confederate flag at school? [Featured Image by STILLFX/Shutterstock]

Grad Students Are Now Considered Employees in Momentous Educational System Upset

The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that graduate students can be considered employees at private universities. Any grad student who works as a teaching or research assistant now has far more power in their position. The 3-1 decision would allow grad students to unionize and negotiate for better benefits from their universities. This ruling overturns a previous 2004 Brown University decision where the board declared that grad students bargaining for benefits would undermine the educational value of student teaching. Many universities require grad students to participate in student teaching or research in order to earn their degree, but many graduate student organizers argue that in these positions they are overworked and underpaid. Considering grad school labor, such as adjunct teaching, or being a research assistant, wasn’t protected by a union, student workers were forced to make ends meet with little pay and hectic hours. Washington Post reports that the process to unionize grad students was started two years ago by research assistants from Columbia University and New School in New York respectively. The students filed independent petitions with the NLRB to join the United Auto Workers and begin the process of unionization for grad students. Although the NLRB ruling is good news for grad students, some private colleges are not happy about the decision. According to ABC News, Columbia University issued a statement about the recent grad student ruling, saying the relationship between an employer and an employee is not the same as that of a college and a student. Columbia said, “First and foremost, students serving as research or teaching assistants come to Columbia to gain knowledge and expertise, and we believe there are legitimate concerns about the impact of involving a non-academic third party in this scholarly training.” Grad students have been protesting for unions for years. [Photo by Pat Little/AP Images]Columbia isn’t alone in its opposition to the grad student ruling. The entire collection of Ivy League schools, plus Stanford and MIT, submitted briefs which argued that unionizing students would disrupt educational operations. The private colleges voiced concerns about upsetting class duration, grading time, and curriculum. Although there has been some push back from universities, Columbia has announced that it would increase its stipend for students over the next four years. Students at Yale, Harvard, and Cornell have also been given inroads into unionizing. Yale will now have to make accommodations for unionized grad students. [Photo by Pat Eaton-Robb/AP Images]While there are educational benefits for grad students working as teaching and research assistants, there is still a fundamental wage problem inside private colleges. Many grad students are older, they may have families and children, and they try and subside on a little less than $31,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, that figure may be lower depending on the varying pay of the college. The unionization of grad students comes with an array of benefits for the newly minted employees. Students are hoping that this ruling will allow them to have more control over their work environment and gain more job security through protections like unpaid leave. Health insurance is another issue in the NLRB grad student labor decision. Because grad students are paid so little, they can rarely afford their own health insurance or the coverage provided by the school. If grad students are considered employees, they could receive better benefits or at least have the option to bargain for more coverage. By designating students as private college employees, the NLRB position could also effectively help lower student debt for grad students. Many students have to take out huge loans to fund their education, but they may never find a career to pay that money back. At this point, the concept has become accepted and even mocked by students. Earning more annually and attaining more benefits could help close that gap for grad students. Ultimately, the decision gives grad students legitimacy as employees and allows them more control in an educational environment that comprises much of their adult lives. The United Auto Workers and SEIU are helping some students unionize now, but in the end the students will have control. [Photo by Bob Child/AP Images]

President-Elect Trump Has Promised Vouchers For Families To Homeschool: Who Qualifies And Will He Deliver?

Will the U.S. government soon be paying families to homeschool their children? President-Elect Donald Trump promised to include homeschoolers in his school choice voucher program while on the campaign trail, leaving many to wonder now if he’ll make good on that promise and who will qualify. At the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit in September, Trump discussed his plan to allocate $20 billion in a school choice voucher program to homeschoolers, according to Slate. Trump said that his proposal would begin with a $20 billion block grant from the federal government for states to pursue school choice programs, which adds up to one third of the Education Department’s total current budget. Since 90 percent of education spending is at the state level, he said he would then campaign to get the states to reallocate another $110 billion of their education budgets to school choice programs. Politico published the full text of Trump’s speech, where he promised to provide vouchers for every “disadvantaged” school child in America. “If we do this, that would mean $12,000 in school choice funds for every disadvantaged student in America,” he told the crowd. “The money will follow the student to the public, private or religious school that is best for them and their family.” “School choice is at the center of this civil rights agenda, and my goal is to provide every single inner-city child in America that is trapped in a failing government school the freedom to attend the school of their choice,” Trump said, and then clarified that homeschoolers would be eligible for the funds. And that means a private school, a religious school, a charter school or a magnet school. School choice also means that parents can home-school their children. Hundred percent. Many were quick to dismiss the idea as another unreasonable campaign promise. Another unreasonable policy proposal from @realDonaldTrump homeschool vouchers — Pacific Standard (@PacificStand) September 20, 2016 Others pointed out that the vast majority of homeschool families would not qualify for the voucher program. Only 5 percent of homeschooling families made less than $20,000 per year, Raw Story reports, which is just under the poverty line for a family of four and is the income level at which families would qualify for vouchers. They also noted that 83 percent of homeschooled children are white, belong to two-parent households, and also tend to be better educated. Indeed, about three-fourths of homeschool parents have completed at least some higher education. In addition, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has said that it would oppose giving government vouchers to homeschool families. When discussing Trump’s voucher suggestion on their blog in September, they spoke out against the idea. While we have not seen the final plan, and therefore cannot address the accuracy of such concerns, HSLDA will continue to oppose any attempt by Congress or the executive branch to give government money to homeschoolers, because we believe this is outside the constitutional authority given to the federal government and government funds often carry stipulations that limit homeschoolers’ curriculum choices. One homeschooling mother explained on Real Mom Life that many homeschool families also say they don’t want the funds. Most homeschool families make too much money to qualify, she said, and they don’t want the government control of loss of privacy that would come with the handouts. “Private institutions, including homeschoolers, are free to believe and behave according to their conscience,” she wrote. “Federal funding would negate or compromise this freedom.” Trump Proposes Home-School Vouchers for Poor Kids. It's a Dumb Idea That No One Wants. #trump — Homeschooling AGENT (@homeschool_agen) September 20, 2016 Other homeschoolers were elated at the idea. “What I could do!” exclaimed one homeschool mom on Twitter at the news. OMG- homeschool Vouchers!! Are you serious? What I could do! He said it! #HomeschoolersForTrump — Kari Donovan (@happit1776) October 23, 2016 @remnantnews Trump said in Gettysburg address today he would extend vouchers to charter, magnet, religious and HOMESCHOOL FAMILIES. HUZZAH! — Julianne (@julieanneccc62) October 22, 2016 It is important to note that Trump has never clarified how he would implement the program in regards to homeschoolers, other than to say that most decisions would be left at the state level. Homeschooling, which is legal in all 50 states, is on the rise in the United States. According to a press release issued by “The Old Schoolhouse Magazine,” approximately 2.3 million children are homeschooled in the U.S. Homeschoolers spend approximately $600-900 per year per child on curriculum and other materials. Curriculum is the biggest expense for many homeschool families, but there are numerous ways that parents can make it more affordable, such as frequenting the library, buying used curricula and using free resources online. [Featured Image by Steven Van Aerschot/Shutterstock]

Study: Bullying Is Serious Public Health Issue, Zero-Tolerance Is Not The Solution

A 300-page report found that bullying is a serious public health issue, and that common policy strategies are not working and should be stopped. The researchers aimed to shed light on this bullying problem, which is still an slippery problem despite tens of millions in spending and legal changes in all 50 states. The Associated Press reports that the researchers found bullying causes mental and health issues ranging from headaches and sleeping problems to anxiety and depression along with a higher probability of academic failure. Frederick Rivara is a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s hospital, and she led the multidisciplinary team who created the latest report. She described the difficulty in finding a solution to bullying. “Bullying has long been tolerated as a rite of passage among children and adolescents, but it has lasting negative consequences and cannot simply be ignored. This is a pivotal time for bullying prevention, and while there is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, the evidence clearly supports preventive and interventional policy and practice.” LGBTQ youth are particularly at risk of being bullied and facing the long-term consequences of that harassment. [Photo by Chris Hopkins/Getty Images]A Swedish psychology professor conducted the first serious study on the behavior back in 1978, but bullying didn’t receive that much attention until a string of school shootings in 1999 according to the Seattle Times. The recent study shows that bullying affects between 18 percent and 31 percent of children and youth, based on stats from multiple sources. Another seven to 15 percent faced bullying online in some form. About 16 percent of public schools reporting bullying incidents from 2013-2014 according to the National Center for Education Statistics, down by 13 percent from 1999-2000. But Rivara’s study found reason to be suspicious of the apparent success. The White House has made bullying prevention a high priority and has held gatherings, like the Conference on Bullying Prevention, to figure out effective strategies. [Photo by Shawnthew-Pool/Getty Images]Since 1999, the federal government has spent $113 million on prevention programs. Likewise, all 50 states have updated their laws on the aggressive behavior, and every state except Alaska now includes statues on cyber-bullying. The new emphasis has led to the popularity of zero-tolerance policies, where schools immediately suspend students caught bullying. Rivara says that’s the wrong approach. The study found that zero-tolerance policies were often perceived as too harsh or punitive. As a result, some bullying goes unreported, and the problems go on. Still, the study itself seemed to be short on big solutions. The researchers recommend more efforts to collect data to guide policy makers on the efficacy of anti-bullying laws and their implementation. They also say teachers and school officials need more training, and that federal agencies should partner with local groups to developed “evidence-based” prevention programs. Social media companies need to be involved as well. Rivara says the tech giants need to post their anti-bullying policies clearly on their websites, and explained, “social-media companies have some responsibility.” The researchers say that for future studies there needs to be a set definition for the word “bullying.” They defined it as, “any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.” They found that the bullying public health problem extended past victims, saying that even bystanders suffer health problems, including anxiety and depression. Jody McVittie, who coaches teachers on improving school culture, said that’s no surprise. “What we know about trauma is that when you feel powerless, it’s a source of secondary trauma. We also know that when a bystander intervenes, bullying stops.” The full study on bullying and its negative affects on public health is available here. [Photo by Chris Hopkins/Getty Images]

Harambe Memes Racist? UMass Amherst RAs Ban Fallen Gorilla 'Micro-Aggressions'

Harambe memes may have always been questionably tasteful, but resident advisors at UMass Amherst are cracking down on jokes spawned by the viral captioned images of the deceased gorilla. It’s not, however, because of sentimental reasons like, say, the Cincinnati Zoo, where Harambe lived before his death. Rather it’s because of the way that phrases made popular by the gorilla memes can either be racist micro-aggressions, or, in some cases, violations of Title IX. That’s according to the resident advisors “Colleen and Ryan,” who appear to have domain over the third floor of UMass Amherst’s Sycamore Hall, referred to as “Syc 3” in the letter. After an unnamed joke about Harambe was written on one or more whiteboards outside of the student’s dorm rooms, the pair sent out an email reminding students to be conscientious of the ways that their messages may be interpreted as micro-aggressions. Specifically, they called for a halt on any jokes linked to the inescapable gorilla memes. What’s Behind All The Harambe Memes? @amazingatheist @RubinReport the regressives are at it again. — Michael Schwartz (@Schwartzennator) August 26, 2016 The actions of the UMass RAs were at least partially related to the fact that Amherst hosts Defined Residential Communities (DRP), one of which shares the name “Harambe,” only in that case it is spelled “Harambee.” The moniker the group uses is actually a Swahili word meaning “the point where people pull together.” The collective is self-described as a way to “support students who are of African descent, identify within the African Diaspora and/or wish to learn more about African culture and celebrate different African Diaspora cultures.” Mixing these two associations proved problematic for the UMass dorm authorities, resulting in the freshly arrived Amherst students being asked to report any Harambe-related messages that were written on their whiteboard. “Any negative remarks regarding ‘Harambe’ will be seen as a direct attack to our campus’s African American community. Please be careful what gets written on your whiteboards, as well as what you write on them. If you are not the one writing these remarks, please let us or the RA on duty know.” UMass nixes Harambe memes, says they’re “micro-aggressions” — Roark (@Roark__) September 6, 2016 Taking into account that the warning advised against violating Title IX, specifically “encouraging the exposition of body parts,” one can deduce that the offending phrase may have been one of the most popular at the meme’s zenith: “d***s out for Harambe.” UMass Amherst students on Syc 3 were told that such messages could be classified as “ual assault.” “These are ual assault incidences that not only get reported to Community Standards, but also to the Dean of Students. Needless to say, it is a very serious incident—especially for a first year student!” While the UMass RAs’ conclusions may be debatable, there have been several clear instances of Harambe the gorilla memes linked to racism outside of Amherst. Two of the biggest targets were President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle — two figures who had, in the past, even been “simian-ized” by a Belgian newspaper. Most recently, the actress Leslie Jones suffered a brutal assault on Twitter that resulted in one of its ringleaders, conservative provocateur Milo Yiannapoulos, being banned from the platform. How #Belgium newspaper portrays Obama? As a#drugdealer and/or #monkey! Pure #racism @demorgen #noexcuse — Mouhssine (@mouhssine) March 29, 2016 @JimNorton Remember what Obama said when Harambe got shot…..@marknorm @AnnCoulter @DonaldTrumpWall @ih8hillary — Nigel Crommwell (@NigelCrommwell) June 11, 2016 @slateramononym Leslie Jones nudes Bride of #harambe — KGB Pepe Memes (@Fredboss11) August 24, 2016 Of course, Harambe memes didn’t originate the historic racist association between black people and gorillas. In both the arts and science, those of African origin were often depicted as “subhuman” or “less evolved” than their white counterparts. It’s an attitude that some say directly contributed to the continuation of slavery, reported The Conversation. “Leading scientists of the day Josiah C. Nott and George R. Gliddon, in their 1854 Types of Mankind, documented what they saw as objective racial hierarchies with illustrations comparing blacks to chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. As Stephen Jay Gould comments, the book was not a fringe document, but the leading American text on racial differences.” I liked a @YouTube video Child falls into gorilla pit at Cincinnati Zoo: timeline leading to Harambe’s death – — Penguin Gamezz (@michaelszymans4) September 1, 2016 Harambe memes may be an off-limits micro-aggression on at least one floor at UMass Amherst, but they’ve still remained popular online — despite pleas from the Cincinnati Zoo for them to cease. [Photo via John Sommers II/Getty Image]

Florida Teacher Allegedly Told Black Students, 'Don't Make Me Call Donald Trump And Get You Sent Back To Africa'

A Florida high school teacher has been placed on leave for allegedly telling a group of black students, “don’t make me call Donald Trump and get you sent back to Africa,” The New York Daily News is reporting. Until last week, John Sousa was a teacher and golf coach at Wesley Chapel High School in suburban Tampa. John Sousa, Florida High School Teacher, On Leave After Trump Comment — Aђŋāђyāw (@SCOJAY_) November 14, 2016 On Wednesday, however – the day after Donald Trump was elected president – parent Donnie Jones, Jr. took to Facebook to complain about Sousa’s behavior that day. “My child and two other students walking down the hallway at Wesley Chapel High School and a white male teacher asks them what are they up to. (it’s during period break so they are suppose to be there mind you) Anyway the teacher says to them ‘Don’t make me call Donald Trump to get you sent back to Africa.’” Students also complained to school officials, according to The New York Daily News. In fact, by the time Jones had written his Facebook post, officials had already begun an investigation, Linda Cobbe, director of communications for Pasco County Schools, said in a statement. “Pasco County Schools takes this alleged behavior very seriously and we will not tolerate it. We are following our investigative procedures and will take appropriate action.” As of this writing, it is unclear what will happen to Sousa. Several options are on the table, including a suspension without pay, or even termination. Sousa has apologized for his statements, but Jones isn’t convinced he’s genuinely remorseful. “I believe he’s sorry but he’s only sorry because he’s in trouble.” Following Trump’s election last week, several incidents of racist remarks and actions being made by school teachers, and even kids, have hit the news. In San Jose, according to The Mercury News, a gym teacher who hasn’t been identified allegedly singled out a student who was refusing to stand for the national anthem. The teacher made the student stand before the class and then told him that Trump was going to deport him. “Good luck with being deported now that Donald Trump is president. … You guys had it better here than you will over there.” In Michigan, a group of male students locked arms and formed a metaphorical human wall and then hassled a Latina student, telling her that Trump was going to send her back to her country and that they [the boys] were going to “make America great again,” according to this Inquisitr report. The mother of another student at the same school, Kellie Demmers, claims her daughter, who is Asian American, was told by another student that she should be deported. She also claims that school officials chided her for taking her complaints to social media. “They thought they were just going sweep this under the rug and I’m not the sort of parent that is going to let that happen.” The problem of racist incidents in the wake of Trump’s election is not limited to schools. According to a USA Today report, The Southern Poverty Law Center indicates that there has been a dramatic rise in hate crimes since Trump’s election, even worse than the spate of hate crimes that took place after the events of September 11, 2001. “Since the election, we’ve seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump’s election. The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats.” Do you think the Florida teacher who told black students that Trump was going to deport them should be fired? [Featured Image by Hasan Shaheed/Shutterstock]

Columbia University To Open A First Amendment War Room: $60 Million 'First Amendment Institute' To Promote Free Expression

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Columbia University announced on Tuesday that they would create a $60 million free expression “war room” at the university’s campus in Manhattan. The project, named the Knight First Amendment Institute, will seek to preserve and expand the rights of freedom of speech and the press outlined in the First Amendment in the digital age. The Knight Foundation is an American non-profit dedicated to promoting quality in journalism. Columbia and the Knight Foundation have stated they will split the costs evenly, making the $30 million invested the largest journalism grant in Knight’s history. According to a statement published on the foundation’s official website, the Institute would seek to take on legal battles around free speech and freedom of the press issues that news organizations historically took up, but now might find too costly to pursue. Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University’s president and a First Amendment scholar, says in the official statement that the new Institute hopes to influence legal debates over First Amendment issues that have been hotly debated in an age globally connected by the internet and social media. “The First Amendment is not self-executing; only people can make it what it has become, through our attitudes, actions and, more pointedly, through the courts. In the past, news organizations pursued and won key court cases defining free expression. But such cases can be enormously expensive and many media – both established and new – are increasingly hard-pressed in the current economic environment to support First Amendment legal action. While the digital age has opened up new opportunities for accountability journalism, we need to fill the void and continue to champion free expression through litigation, research and education.” #columbia Spring flowers at Columbia University #NYC #Columbia #university #spring #nycity ???????? by cplaman — Ivy League Pix (@ivyleaguepix) May 8, 2016 News organizations historically fought in legal cases regarding issues of privacy, libel, information access, and press freedom, but in the past decade economic pressures have undermined news companies’ ability to fight for these rights. It is hoped that the Institute will fill the critical void left behind by supporting litigation and promoting research and education towards protecting First Amendment rights, as well as help shape how the First Amendment is applied to digital law, according to the New York Times. “Among the issues of concern: online privacy rights, free expression on college campuses and whistle-blower protections, an issue that has gained urgency with the prolific filing of criminal charges by the Obama administration.” A recent poll of top newsroom editors by the Knight Foundation found that 65 percent believed news organizations were less able to champion free speech rights than 10 years ago, and 53 percent of editors said news organizations were no longer prepared to go to court over First Amendment cases. The poll included the leading editors of major print and online publications. Most also agreed that First Amendment law had not kept up with new challenges of the digital age. The Knight Foundation and Columbia University made a big announcement today — CJR (@CJR) May 17, 2016 “The basic freedoms we take for granted under the First Amendment are hardly settled,” Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation, said in the official statement. “As the internet becomes even more integral to our lives, we face significant questions about the evolution of our rights. Threats to free speech are on the rise, and our hope is that the Institute will not just protect but help reinvigorate First Amendment principles for future generations.” Columbia University and the Knight Foundation will contribute $5 million each, along with $25 million each in endowment funds to the new institute. which will be a new independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization affiliated with Columbia. It will benefit from the university’s robust school of journalism and its top-tier law school. Currently, there is no set timeline for the institute’s opening, though a search for an executive director in ongoing, and it is expected to take shape in the coming year. [Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images]

Illinois Teacher 'Disciplined' For Trying To Force Student To Stand For Pledge Of Allegiance

An Illinois high school student was disciplined for attempting to force a student to stand for the pledge of allegiance, CBS Chicago is reporting. Kelly Porter admits that her 15-year-old son, Shemar Cooper, was “a little disrespectful” in the way he went about refusing to stand, but claims that the way school officials – especially his Spanish teacher – reacted was above and beyond what was necessary. Two weeks ago, Shemar was in Spanish class at Blue Island High School in suburban Chicago when the school participated in the pledge. Shemar refused to stand, and when approached by the unidentified teacher, he said “America sucks.” She made him apologize and sent him to the principal’s office. Porter also says that the teacher and other school officials “harassed” Shemar about his actions. A Illinois boy refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. [Image via Shutterstock/tobkatrina] The next time, the teacher was less forgiving. Shemar once again refused to stand for the pledge, and the teacher tried to physically force him out of his seat. And at a third incident two days later, Porter says Shemar was pulled out of class and “reprimanded.” An Illinois teacher was disciplined for trying to force a student to stand for the pledge of allegiance. [Image via Shutterstock/iofoto] Porter complained to school officials and, after an investigation, determined that the teacher was out of line. Michael Stillman, an attorney for Community High School District 218, wouldn’t say how the teacher was disciplined, citing confidentiality, but did say that her actions did not rise to the level of a fireable offense. Kelly Porter, however, cleared up any ambiguity about the discipline, saying the teacher was suspended. She did not say for how long. “I am very happy with the outcome, and what this tells me is my son’s First Amendment right was definitely violated. I’m grateful that the teacher was reprimanded, suspended, because it sends a message to other schools that you cannot violate children’s First Amendment right and get away with it.” She also says that she harbors no ill will towards the teacher. “As long as she was held accountable, and she’ll never do it again. You know, everybody has to learn from their mistakes. I’m not a hard or cold-hearted person. I’m very forgiving. I have released any anger that I had towards his teacher.” And as for Shemar? “I’m so proud of this little boy that I’ve raised, and I’m so proud of who I’ve raised him to be; to stand up for what you believe in, and in this case, to sit down.” This is not the first time that a student has gotten into hot water for refusing to stand during the pledge of allegiance. Back in 2015, The Inquisitr reported on the story of New Hampshire 8th-grader Fatima Smart. The 14-year-old said that she didn’t want to stand for the pledge because she believes the U.S. government makes bad decisions, and she didn’t want like pretending to believe in something she didn’t believe in. She said that her teacher made an example of her and “bullied” her by making her stand outside of the classroom, telling other kids that they could stand outside too if they wanted to “be like Fatima.” Whether school officials like the idea or not, students in American schools have the constitutional right to not stand during the pledge of allegiance, says American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Lee Rowland. “The Supreme Court ruling that states students cannot be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance is over 70 years old and no public school in the country has the right to force a student to participate in it.” Do you believe that the Illinois teacher who attempted to force a student to stand for the pledge of allegiance deserved to be disciplined? [Image via Shutterstock/Kraevski Vitaly]

A Tucson School Stopped A Kid From Being Bullied – By Kicking Him Out Of School

A Tucson mother says her son’s school put an end to her son’s bullying once and for all – by kicking him out of school and issuing her a restraining order, telling her to never set foot on Tucson Public Schools’ property ever again. It’s the latest in a series of failures of Tucson schools to address a severe bullying problem, say other parents. As KGUN (Tucson) reports, Sue N’Goran says that her African-American son has been spit on, kicked, called a “dirty n****r,” and worse at his Tucson school. “He’s been bullied by these children… saying that he’s brown only because he’s so dirty that he can’t get cleaned. So he’ll scrub himself, he’ll sit in the bathroom and scrub his skin trying to get the brown off of him. And asking me, ‘Why did you make me brown. If you know I was going to get bullied?’” A Tucson mom says her son was kicked out of school for being bullied. [Image by Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock] She said she’s made repeated complaints to the principal at her son’s school, only to be given vague promises that something would be done about it. At a board meeting Tuesday night, N’Goran says that the bullying problem would be solved, once and for all, as of that night. However, the problem wasn’t solved in the way she was expecting: rather than deal with the bullies, Tucson schools dealt with the problem by kicking her son out of school. Further, she says, when she showed up at school the next morning to drop her son off, campus security told her she was not welcome on the property any more. “You are not to step foot on TUSD property, the school or the district ever again in your life or your son. If you do you will be arrested.” Whether or not N’Goran’s version of events is true cannot be confirmed; a statement from the school district noted that they cannot comment specifically on student discipline issues, citing student privacy. However, other parents besides Sue N’Groan have been complaining of bullying at Tucson schools, according to a KVOA (Tucson) report. At a sometimes-heated school board meeting Tuesday night, some parents say that the bullying is so bad, and the school district so uninterested in addressing the problem, that they’ve been pulling their kids out of school. Bullying is so bad at Tucson schools that some parents are pulling their kids out of school. [Image by Pressmaster/Shutterstock] Kristina Hansen says that her daughter was being bullied on a daily basis; when she complained, she says, school officials moved her daughter to another classroom rather than deal with the bully directly. “Instead of dealing with the bully, they deal with the victims. They pull the victims out of class, they have them stay away from the person.” Another parent, who asked not to be identified, said that school officials refused to take her concerns seriously, even as her soon had to go to the emergency room from the bullying, according to Tucson News Now. “Now I have medical bills stacking up because my son’s tooth was knocked out and the other one was jammed into his other tooth that is now broken. This is not OK. You guys are supposed to protect my children.” Tucson Schools Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sanchez insists that the district is, in fact, proactively addressing bullying. However, he says, parents may not feel satisfied because they aren’t being told how, or even if, their children’s bullies are being punished. “Because of privacy law, we can’t explain to a parent who wants to know what happened to that bully. Because of federal law, I can’t say well that bully got x, y, and z consequences. And so I’ve listened, I’ve met with some of the parents that came and spoke.” Sue N’Groan, for her part, says she intends to try to address her and her son’s banishment from Tucson schools at the next board meeting. [Featured Image by GagliardiImages/Shutterstock]

California’s Diverse 6.2-Million-Kids Public School Population Requires Overhaul In History Books, 'We Want To Make Sure They Are Accurate'

California’s public schools are wrestling with how to the textbooks used in its public schools can be relevant to the Golden State’s hugely diverse population of students, many of whom come from immigrant backgrounds, ABC News is reporting. The Instructional Quality Commission Thursday is expected to consider whether it will go ahead with a proposal to the California Board of Education that will guide publishers over how to choose the material they use in their textbooks. It has become increasingly difficult teaching world histories in California schools when most of the students are Asian, Latino or from families that just recently migrated to the U.S. A prolonged debate has been going on about this plan for the past 10 years. Over the years different ethnic groups have lodged complaints about how their people have been misrepresented in textbooks or portrayed in classroom discussions, and want the records set straight. A brand new history and social studies framework for over 6.2 million public schools students is the massive challenge before the Instructional Quality Commission. Students of Japanese extraction argue that the mention of Asian “comfort women” incarcerated during World War II in history books should be expunged. In addition, a Hindu-American group has pitted itself against publishers who make references to the caste system and use the words “South Asia” when referring to India. California’s public schoolchildren are a diverse lot. [Image via Shutterstock/]Some other groups simply feel certain histories are being neglected and not given the attention that they deserve. For instance, there was the Philippines Bataan Death March in 1942 where 750 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos died when they were forced to walk 60 miles to prison. There was also the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago under the Ottoman Empire. Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association agrees that these annals of history need to be revisited all over again. “It’s about people’s stories and for so long, the stories have been narrowly told, so when there’s an opportunity to develop a new framework, we want to make sure they are accurate stories. It creates a much richer narrative and story about what makes California so unique in the United States.” California boasts the largest K-12 population in the United States, and because of this, any revision in its textbooks spurs changes in other states. California has a cosmopolitan student population; it is 53% Latino, 25% White, 12% Asian and 6% African American. Education experts say they are not surprised with the clamor for historical changes in school textbooks, but warn that all the changes cannot be made and neither can all the materials be covered inside the confines of a classroom. Chairman Bill Honig of the History-Social Science Subject Matter Committee revealed that the panel spent many hours taking the testimonies of over 90 people as well as considering suggestions from over 1,500 other people in the bid to build a better framework. “We have people from every part of the world, but there is just not enough space to do justice to all these things.” On top of all this, several lobbying groups are expected to make the trip to Sacramento and present their cases before the 18-member strong advisory commission. The groups include the Hindu American Foundation, which is opposing a recommendation by the South Asia Faculty group to the word “South Asia” in place of the word “India.” “In recent times, “South Asia” has been used to describe regions that include India, Pakistan and Nepal. The foundation also contends that linking a person’s status to the caste system and saying that women and men and are not equal is embarrassing and sends the wrong message to Hindu students in 6th and 7th grades. Samir Kalra, director of the foundation said things needed to be done right because young people of an impressionable age could easily get confused over their identities. A Hindu advocacy group is concerned about Indian children getting the wrong message from California’s school textbooks. [Image via India Pictures]The Asian “comfort women” notion for American soldiers that is taught in high schools have also been hit with an avalanche of petitions. Opponents of this school of thought claim the women were paid prostitutes recruited by rogue soldiers and not by the Japanese military. Phyllis Kim, executive director of the Korean American Forum based in California, said it was crucial that these things be clarified because kids of Japanese ancestry could be ashamed or bullied. Executive director Cecilia Gaerlan of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society in Berkeley said she wanted people to know more about the brave American soldiers that defended the Bataan peninsula without food, water or reinforcements for three months before being overrun by the Japanese military. [Image via Shutterstock/]