Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Privacy laws shield bullies. Would public shame be a greater deterrent?

grabarart0920Tammy Simpson is an anti-bullying advocate and the founder of the Brandon Bitner Memorial Scholarship Fund. Glen Retief’s memoir about bullying, “The Jack Bank,” won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award.  Retief teaches creative nonfiction at Susquehanna University.

This is their first piece for the AJC:

By Tammy Simpson and Glen Retief

As our kids settle in for the second half of the school year, spare a thought for this number: 160,000. That’s the estimated number of American students who will stay at home every day this semester due to fear of being bullied.

Americans spent much of December transfixed by images of elementary school gun violence. However, the fact is that the average student is infinitely more likely to be bullied than shot by a lunatic. Bullying — which can, of course, include gun violence, especially in rough neighborhoods — is the routine risk that can shake loose the foundations of children’s security.

Once, parents typically reacted to a disclosure …

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Can the DeKalb school board reinvent itself in 30 days?

This is the digest form of the four-hour state Board of Education hearing today on whether or not to suspend the DeKalb Board of Education. If want all the details, scan my live blog from the hearing.

The DeKalb board is fighting for its survival after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the district on probation last month because of board mismanagement, meddling, nepotism and fiscal failings. The General Assembly passed a law in 2011 that gave the governor the legal power to remove errant school boards who jeopardize their district’s accreditation.

After the hearing during which every DeKalb board member testified, the state Board of Education delayed voting on recommending that the governor oust the fractious school board, instead approving a consent agreement and giving DeKalb time to show improvement.

But not as much time as the school board wanted.

It was clear some state board members were exasperated with the ongoing problems in DeKalb and …

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DeKalb board chair: ‘You can’t prohibit a student from plagiarizing and then permit some staff person to do it.’

If DeKalb County Schools paid a consultant $10,000 for a report that seems overly broad and overly academic, the district was irresponsible with taxpayer funds. But if DeKalb keeps an employee on staff who copied other people’s material for that report, then it’s communicating to students that cheating can be overlooked.

Ralph Taylor was hired by DeKalb to produce an analysis of its alternative education program in 2011, then offered a job as an associate superintendent in DeKalb shortly after finishing it, according to the AJC.

Following a tip, AJC reporter Ty Tagami discovered that Taylor copied more than a third of his report from publications accessible via the Internet.

DeKalb school chief Cheryl Atkinson offered an odd rationale to the AJC for retaining Taylor in his $117,461-a-year associate superintendent  job. “The infraction pertains to his work as a consultant, not as an employee,” she said through a spokesman.

Tagami interviewed one of the authors of …

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What would you tell the state board today about the performance of the DeKalb school board?

Today, the DeKalb Board of Education appears before the state Board of Education to answer this summons:

It is hereby ordered that the Members of the DeKalb County BOE should appear on Thursday, January 17, 2013, at 1:00 p,m. before the State Board for a hearing and to present evidence as to why the State Board should not recommend to the Governor that he suspend, with pay, the Members of the DeKalb County BOE pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73.

Once the state board hears the evidence, it has two weeks to send its recommendation to Gov. Nathan Deal. If the governor opts to suspend the DeKalb board members, he must suspend all of them and appoint replacements. The replacements would serve the remainders of the term of the members they replace, so their tenures would vary.

I asked DOE to check with its legal folks on whether Deal can choose to reappoint current board members since three DeKalb board members are brand new, Melvin Johnson, Marshall Orson and Jim McMahan.

It …

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Students First? Michelle Rhee’s report card: Is the issue more choices or better choices?

Michelle Rhee's advocacy group, StudentsFirst, released state report cards, but the grades have no relation to student achievement.

Michelle Rhee's advocacy group, StudentsFirst, released state report cards, but the grades have no relation to student achievement.

All the discussion about expanding school choice through private school tax credits, charter schools and vouchers glosses over a critical caveat: More choices don’t necessarily lead to better choices.

Earlier this week, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization released a report card on state education policy determined in large part by the extent of school choice afforded families and the effort to dismantle teacher unions.

By focusing on public policy, the StudentsFirst report card looked more on State Houses than schoolhouses. Georgia earned a D-plus because StudentsFirst felt the state doesn’t go far enough in providing information and choices to  parents.

While the StudentsFirst report card considerations are extensive, they don’t include student outcomes, which is why Louisiana dramatically outscores Massachusetts, the state that …

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Watching video of Bartow school board member, you have to wonder: How do these folks win elections?

Bartow County school board vice chair Angela Cornett made a smart decision in resigning her post after a troubling surveillance video captured her seemingly lurching into a teen attempting to hold a parking spot in a Walmart.

The video has now gone viral, and Cornett has been charged with reckless conduct.

The teen involved appeared on national TV to decry the incident. Seventeen-year-old Emily Gulledge is a Bartow County student. On the “Today” show, Emily said, “I was the child in the situation and she acted like the child. I can’t believe somebody would actually hit somebody with a vehicle especially over a parking spot.”

This story first came to my attention when a Bartow resident sent me a link to the Bartow for a Better Board of Education site.

I was also sent a link to a video where Cornett goes after a teacher by name at a public board meeting.

After watching the videos of the parking lot incident and the school board meeting, I have to wonder if there are any …

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Helicopter parents turn into stealth bombers and court orders them to stop stalking daughter at college

We read a great deal about college students who are overly dependent on their parents, but 21-year-old Aubrey Ireland contended that she faced the opposite problem –  obsessive parents who secretly monitored her emails and calls, watched her sleep at night via Skype and showed up at her college uninvited to check up on her and speak to her department head.

A court sided with Ireland, ruling that her parents’ behaviors amounted to stalking and ordering them to stay clear of their only child while she was finishing school. Among the parents’ transgressions: Installing monitoring software on her computer and her phone.

A dean’s list music theater major from Kansas, Ireland said she had no choice but to take her parents to court. Outraged, her parents are now attempting to recoup the $66,000 in tuition they paid the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. (The school gave Ireland a scholarship to complete her final year.)

Ireland told “Good Morning …

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APS watchdog delves into charter school chain with history of problems. Yet, APS board considers renewal.

You’ve probably heard the expression that there are two things you don’t want to see being made: Sausages and laws.

As a longtime reporter, I’ve been surprised at how elected officials approve legislation or make critical decisions with very little information or with a complete disregard for the facts. I once attended a three-hour meeting of the House Judiciary Committee where 18 witnesses — including a national expert flown in by the committee — testified in opposition to the bill under discussion. The witnesses provided convincing and overwhelming evidence that the law would be a nightmare to enforce and would only worsen the problem it was supposed to solve. Not a single person spoke in favor it the law except the sponsors.

But the committee passed the bill anyway. And the state has been at the losing end of legal challenges ever since.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Atlanta school board’s debate over renewing the charter for Atlanta Preparatory Academy. Several of you …

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DeKalb school chief releases audit to the public. Read it and let’s discuss

UPDATED Wednesday morning: As promised, Dr. Atkinson has posted the audit. Go here to read it.

UPDATE at 3:30: I just spoke to DeKalb Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson who says she plans to release the forensic audit on the district website within the next 24 hours or sooner. She explained that the audit is only a draft and subject to change. She said she is overriding the attorney’s view that the document is privileged in its draft form since it already has been leaked to the media.

Atkinson said her goal was never to keep the audit from the public.  She is sending the draft audit to board members now and then will post. She wants parents to understand that this is only a draft from the auditors and changes may be made.

Parents in DeKalb County Schools are among the most dissatisfied in metro Atlanta, in large part because of a string of ineffective leaders, one of whom ended up in indicted.

New school chief Cheryl Atkinson arrived a year ago and cast herself as a change …

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Ann Coulter vs. the Jesuits at Fordham: A college invite is rescinded

Pundit Ann Coulter

Pundit Ann Coulter

I have written this blog now for several years, and only mentioned acidic pundit Ann Coulter once. Three weeks later, I am bringing her up again because this incident demonstrates a sensible way to handle controversies over college speakers.

Coulter was invited to Fordham University in New York to speak on Nov. 29 by the College Republicans.

The planned appearance  triggered protests and a student petition. A group of students argued that tuition should not be used to underwrite speakers at the private college who are “not compatible with the values the Fordham community professes – particularly the Jesuit tenet of ‘Men and Women for and With Others’.”

See what you think of Fordham President Joseph M. McShane’s response and of the decision Friday night by the Fordham College Republicans to cancel Coulter’s appearance.

First, Father McShane’s statement:

The College Republicans, a student club at Fordham University, has invited Ann Coulter to speak on …

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