Archive for March, 2010

Middle schoolers charged with sexual battery. Are we criminalizing being 13 and stupid?

School news this week sounds like a police blotter. I just read the short AJC story on the Stephenson Middle  School students criminally charged with sexual battery for touching a classmate “inappropriately” and stuffing him in a locker.

Are there more of these strange incidents occurring or are schools taking trangressions more seriously and following through on them?  At the middle school level, are we attaching sexual meaning to events that aren’t truly sexual in nature?  Are these really criminal acts or immature kids doing stupid things?

I just have a hard time believing that kids today are remarkably different than their parents or grandparents. I don’t want to excuse criminal behavior but I also don’t want to criminalize immature behaviors.

According to the AJC:

A male student was allegedly the victim of sexual battery on March 10, Davis said Wednesday. Six students at the school were identified as participants, he said. Five of those have been charged and face …

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Class sizes of 40. Prisoners tending school grounds. This can’t be Cobb County. Can it?

I understand the crisis facing state schools, but raising class size to 40 students, as discussed in Cobb today, seems a solution that will only create more problems in the long run. I just don’t know how much a teacher can accomplish with 40 students.

If these scenarios are the only alternative, I have to believe Cobb taxpayers would rather pay higher taxes. I can’t imagine a premier school system like Cobb accepting classes of 40 students or criminals tending the school lawns.

Or is this the new reality of Georgia education? If so, we’re selling our kids short.

According to the AJC:

Cobb County might have to raise classroom sizes to 40 students, cut hundreds of teachers, cut bus routes and use prisoners to maintain school grounds to slash its budget next year.

At a hastily called Wednesday meeting, the Cobb County School Board discussed all of these possibilities, foremost how to handle raising class sizes to the maximum, in order to address an expected $137.7 million …

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Date rape on campus: Are the lines blurrier than we admit?

An American University college newspaper columnist has sparked a vigorous debate over a column in which he wrote: “Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry ‘date rape’ after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.”

Columnist Alex Knepper also wrote:

“Date rape” is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don’t jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the …

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Teacher in lewd dancing trial: Wasn’t firing him enough?

AJC update Wednesday afternoon: Jury found teacher not guilty:

Lots of folks are debating  former chorus Southwest DeKalb High School teacher Nathan Grigsby, who was on trial this week for allowing male students to perform a lewd “Chippendales-style revue” in class.  While jurors deliberated whether Grigsby was guilty of contributing to the deprivation of a minor, many other people made their minds up about the teacher’s failings in this bizarre case.

They contend that the teacher had to be aware that three boys were stripping – one down to his underwear – and dancing provocatively to loud music while girls in the classroom shrieked.

In his defense, Grigsby said he had headphones on because he was helping another student and did not hear the screaming girls or the sexual lyrics. Most people feel that it would be hard to drown out a roomful of shrieking students and booming music. Moreover, they argue that wearing headphones does not blind you. How could a teacher miss …

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Why isn’t superintendent handling school closings in DeKalb?

I had one question at the end of tonight’s nearly four hour Citizens Planning Task Force meeting on which under-capacity DeKalb schools to close: Why didn’t the DeKalb County schools superintendent make this tough decision?

More than 350 parents and children attended a meeting on possible school closings in DeKalb to show support for their schools. AJC/Hyosub Shin

More than 350 parents and children attended a meeting on possible school closings in DeKalb to show support for their schools. AJC/Hyosub Shin

Instead, a citizen task force is doing the hard, no-win job of paring down an original list of 83 schools to four for possible closing and consolidation. The task force will present its findings to the county school board in two weeks, and the board will make the actual decision of which schools to close after another round of public hearings.

Tonight, the dwindling list went from 14 to 10 with the elimination of Medlock, Briar Vista, Laurel Ridge and Avondale elementaries. The task force voted those schools off the list because the schools around them lacked the capacity to absorb the displaced students. (See the …

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In DeKalb, authority granted today to cut 430 school posts

With tonight’s meeting on the further winnowing of the potential school closing list and this morning’s session of the school board, DeKalb County is dominating local school news today.

According to the AJC:

The school board voted Tuesday morning to give interim superintendent Ramona Tyson the authority to reduce up to 430 positions, board chairman Tom Bowen told the AJC.

The exact number of employees will be determined May 30, Bowen said.

The layoffs are needed to help with an anticipated $115 million shortfall.

I plan to attend the meeting tonight of the citizen task force charged with recommending which schools to close and will post an update. I suspect that it will be another packed house as last week’s meeting was standing room only.

Any good news on the school front lately? Feel free to post about your winning science, debate or problem-solving teams. We need a shot of positive serum amid all this bleak cutting. (I was counting on a Race to the Top win yesterday to …

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Bill to dump CRCT in early grades goes nowhere. Why?

Despite what seemed to be widespread support, two bills in the Georgia Legislature to eliminate mandatory CRCTs in first and second grade went nowhere this session.

Georgia is unusual in its mandated standardized testing in the early grades. Only one state tests in grade one, while six states test in grade 2.

This comment came to me from Caitlin McMunn Dooley, assistant professor of early childhood education at Georgia State University. I also created a Google doc – you can link to it below – in which she compares CRCT and NAEP.

House Bills 1132 and 1100, which both proposed to eliminate CRCT testing in grades 1 and 2, seem to be dead in the water. HB1100 made it through the education committee, made it to the Rules committee, but was never voted on by crossover day.

I worked closely with state Rep. Stephanie Benfield to get this legislation passed for the good of Georgia’s little kids. The bills were sponsored and supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. This would have …

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Why didn’t someone save Phoebe Prince from unrelenting bullying?

The fierce response of a Massachusetts district attorney to the suicide of a teen bullying victim — the prosecutor brought charges today against nine teenagers — reflects the increasing concern over school bullying, concerns that have grown as intimidation and taunting have gone viral over the Internet.

Nine teens face charges in the suicide of alleged bullying victim Phoebe Prince

Nine teens face charges in the suicide of alleged bullying victim Phoebe Prince

Pursued with unusual cruelty by a group of students at her new high school, Phoebe Prince, 15, hanged herself in January. She had enrolled at the school in the fall after moving  to the United States from Ireland, which may contributed to her victimization at South Hadley High School.

According to the AJC story:

Phoebe, ostracized for having a brief relationship with a popular boy, reached her breaking point and hanged herself after one particularly hellish day in January — a day that, according to officials, included being hounded with slurs and pelted with a beverage container as she walked …

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New Tech study: High SAT scores leads to higher pay for donor eggs

A new study out of Georgia Tech concludes that egg donors from highly selective schools with impressive SAT scores earn more for their eggs.

As a reporter who used to cover family issues including infertility and adoption, that seems obvious to me. Couples are often quite specific in what they want from egg donors, from good looks to good genes to good grades. Couples with musical backgrounds often seek out donors who play piano or sing. I found that many couples wanted the same three things in their donors: youth to ensure viable eggs, strong academics and good health.

While still controversial, soliciting and compensating college students for egg donation is common in the U.S. (It is not allowed in some other countries.) And it’s a route usually pursued by upper income couples since many of the costs fall outside medical insurance.

According to the AJC story:

Eggs harvested from students attending universities with higher SAT scores are worth more money, according to new …

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Plea from a young clarinetist: Please save the music

As we’ve discussed before, threatening music and arts programs is a surefire way to jolt public school parents into action. It’s not unusual for a school superintendent or school board looking for a tax increase to ominously predict an end to music and art.

While often an empty threat in the past, music programs will be eliminated as school districts face historic budget cuts.

While often an empty threat in the past, music programs are now being cut.

This time, it’s no pantomime to rile up parents.

It’s real. Music is being cut in some systems, including Fulton County.

Here’s a letter from a Fulton middle school student. She asked if I would share it with you:

My name is Rachel Smith, principal (first chair) clarinetist of the Georgia All State band.

I represent our state in its entirety as a musical powerhouse.  Clarinet is my passion; I someday aim to be a world-renowned clarinetist and impact society strongly.

I picked up the clarinet in the fourth grade.  At the time, it seemed like a whim, but I was unaware that I would practice so much and meet a plethora of people who also do what I …

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