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Virginia schools ban 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' 'Huckleberry Finn' for racial slurs

A Virginia school has temporarily banned two American classics after a parent said her high school-age son was negatively impacted by the racial slurs they contain.

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The decision to remove "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee came after a parent filed a complaint, WAVY reported. The parent cited excessive racial slurs as the reason for wanting the books banned, Superintendent Warren Holland told the news station.

The parent, whose son is biracial, said that her concerns are "not even just a black and white thing."

"I keep hearing, 'This is a classic, This is a classic,' ... I understand this is a literature classic. But at some point, I feel that children will not -- or do not -- truly get the classic part -- the literature part, which I'm not disputing," she said at a Nov. 15 school board meeting. "This is great literature. But there (are so many) racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can't get past that."

The parent said her son, who was reading "Huckleberry Finn" for a high school assignment, couldn't get past a certain page in that story on which the N-word appeared seven times. 

A racial slur appears 219 times in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and 48 times in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"So what are we teaching our children? We're validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by (any) means," the parent said, also noting psychological effects language has on children. "There is other literature they can use."

The parent proposed a committee made up of parents and teachers of different cultural backgrounds come up with a list of books that are inclusive for all students. She also offered to donate books and raise funds in the case of budgetary concerns.

The complaint, which was "a request for reconsideration of learning resources," will go before a committee made up of a principal, librarian, teacher, parent and potentially others, according to WCMH. The committee will then make a recommendation to the superintendent.

Holland said that there is no set date for when the recommendation will be made.

Read more at WAVY.

3-year-old dropped off at wrong home prompts retraining for some Fla. bus drivers

A Brevard County, Florida, mother said instead of being dropped off in front of his house, her 3-year-old son ended up at a nearby apartment complex 2 miles from his home.

The bus driver is on paid leave while the investigation continues.

Because of the incident and some other recent incidents, every bus driver in the county has been or will be retrained on release procedures.

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WFTV.com found out the transportation area supervisor has also met with each driver in the north area, to make sure they're aware of the policies that are in place to protect students.

Virginia Merritt said she didn't know what to think Monday when her 3-year-old was not dropped off at his bus stop, which is in front of the family's Titusville home.

“All I felt was that adrenaline rush. I couldn't think straight at that. I couldn't think straight,” Merritt said.

She raced over to Riverview Elementary School, where her son attends Head Start, but he wasn't there either.

But a parent called the school from the Forest Park apartments to say she was with a child who was not with a parent.  

“Whatever rules they are supposed to follow in training, evidently yesterday nobody followed any of them,” Merritt said.

Brevard County Public Schools officials said the driver did not follow proper protocol, which requires pre-K and kindergarten students to have a parent or designated individual meet them at their bus stop and possibly show identification.

It’s the most recent transportation issue for the district. Earlier this month, a special-needs student was left on her bus, and in August, a driver dropped a 5-year-old off on U.S. 1 after she boarded the wrong bus.

“When he woke up this morning for school, he was crying and said he didn't want to go,” Merritt said.

The district’s transportation services director said, "In light of these recent situations, every driver has retrained or will be retrained regarding the release of students. We were told supervisors would also be periodically checking bus videos to make sure drivers are in compliance.”

A daily checklist is being developed containing pre-K procedures for the instructional assistants who ride the bus with drivers, and it'll be kept in the bus at all times.

Top U.S. education official urges schools to stop paddling students

U.S. Education Secretary John King wants states to ban teachers from paddling students.

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Twenty-two states allow corporal punishment: whether it be paddling, spanking or hitting students.

The nation's education chief said this type of punishment is used on students of color and with disabilities more often than other students.

King said corporal punishment is used to discipline on an estimated 100,000 students each yeah and calls this kind of punishment harmful and ineffective.

On a call with reporters this week, King said some school officials defend the practice saying physical discipline is a traditional child rearing practice that has always been used in schools.

The head of the nation's largest teachers union, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, said the union is on board with this effort. 

King wrote a letter to governors and school leaders in states that allow student corporal punishment encouraging them to end the practice.

He is asking leaders to replace corporal punishment with disciplinary methods that he said work better against bad behavior.

King adds the disciplinary technique would be considered "criminal assault or battery" against an adult.

Deputies: Older student drew swastikas on kindergartners riding school bus

Two kindergartners in Florida came home Thursday with swastikas drawn on their hands and arms by another student on the school bus, deputies said.

The incident prompted an investigation by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and a public statement by Imagine Town Center Elementary School.

“Two of our younger students arrived home yesterday with swastikas, which we consider racially biased images, drawn on their hand and arm,” the statement said. “An older student allegedly drew the images on them as they rode the bus home from school.”

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November 18, 2016Dear Parents and Guardians,As your partner in education, I am writing to make you aware of a...Posted by Imagine School at Town Center on Friday, November 18, 2016

School administrators asked the sheriff’s office to start a criminal investigation after they learned about the incident.

Officials were reviewing video from the school bus and said they have made arrangements for “an alternate form of transportation for the student in question.”

The sheriff’s office looked into the swastika incident “to determine a motive, as well as to see if there are any more incidents that may have occurred,” it said Friday on its Facebook page.

Posted by Flagler County Sheriff's Office on Friday, November 18, 2016

Investigators announced Friday that after evaluating the situation, no crime occurred and that the fifth grader involved was just "goofing around," sheriff's office spokesman Cmdr. Jim Troiano said.

Imagine Town Center principal James Menard promised parents that disciplinary action will be taken once the school's internal investigation is complete.

He also decried the incident, saying that it did not reflect the character that staff tries to instill in students.

“Imagine Town Center is a learning community centered on high expectations, both academically and in the conduct and character of our students,” Menard wrote. “This incident is not consistent with our expectations of respect, tolerance and civility toward all students.

“We take this seriously.”

At the same time, Menard asked parents to use the incident as a teaching moment with their children.

“Please use this incident as a way to speak with your child about the kind of character that defines the expectations for our school and broader community,” Menard wrote. “Please also be assured that incidents of this nature will not be tolerated.”

 

Girl suspended for using child-sized butter knife to cut peach at school

An honor roll student was suspended from a Florida middle school for using a child-sized butter knife at lunch to cut a peach.

The girl violated the county's weapon policy when she brought the knife that she has used since she was a baby to the Silver Trail Middle School in Pembroke Pines, Florida, WPLG reported.

Ronald and Andrea Souto said their 11-year-old daughter was suspended for six days after she cut her peach to share with a friend.

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The parents are afraid that suspension could also bring criminal charges.

The Pembroke Pines Police Department has given its investigation to the state attorney's office. Prosecutors haven't said if the office will file charges.

The family's attorney said the school could have used discretion in the girl's punishment, WPLG reported.

"The school board has abused its discretion to act in this case," Lary Meltzer said. "It is tragic that a school that this little girl loves to see fit to prosecute and suspend her - the epitome of a model and honor roll student - for using a child-proof utensil that could never be construed in any form as a weapon in order to share part of her lunch with a fellow classmate."

Broward County school district would not give specifics on the girl's punishment, but told WPLG, "The school followed district policy regarding this incident and continues to work with the student and parents involved. It is the district's priority to maintain safe and secure campuses for students and staff at all times."

Read more here.

'After School Satan Club' meets at Oregon middle school

After some controversy, the After School Satan Club met Monday night at a middle school in Portland, Oregon.

Club organizers said the club is about promoting the separation between church and state, and is not trying to encourage devil worship, according to KPTV.

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Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, told KPTV that a Christian-based after-school program has been able to hold meetings at schools within the district without resistance, which gives the impression that the district is endorsing a particular religion. The movement is seeking to establish After School Satan Clubs accross the country. A group called Satanic Portland is leading a similar campaign in the area, according to KPTV.

KPTV - FOX 12

Organizers were initially met with resistance from school district officials and concerned parents, but in September, the satanic group was approved to hold meetings at schools within the Parkrose School District. 

Color blind student sees world in new way with special glasses

Jared Case, a visual arts teacher at Mad River Middle School in Dayton, Ohio, literally helped to add a little more color to the life of one of his students.

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After finding out that Lucas Boonchaliew, one of his seventh-grade students, was color blind, Case said that he remembered a video he had seen online about glasses that help correct color blindness.

"I've known about the glasses for a few years now," Case said. "They make the rounds on the viral video circuit. I have done research on them, and I saw very mixed reviews. I couldn't justify buying a pair before I had any students with color blindness. When I discovered Lucas was color blind, I asked him if he would be interested in trying them out."

Case said Lucas agreed because he was curious to see if the glasses would work.

The glasses were purchased through EnChroma for $500. The money came from an in-school fundraiser and a student fund set aside for accommodations to students with specific needs.

When the glasses arrived, Case said there was a period of adjustment. A person needs to wear the glasses for about 10 hours before his eyes can acclimate to them.

Lucas' specific type of color blindness is called protanopia. Case said that this means red cones do not detect enough red and are too sensitive to greens, yellows and oranges. As a result, greens, yellows, oranges, reds and browns may appear similar, especially in low light. It can also be difficult to tell the difference between blues and purples, or pinks and grays. Red and black might be hard to tell apart, especially when red text is against a black background.

Eventually, Lucas said he saw a very noticeable difference. "Colors are brighter than usual. Oranges and reds mostly. I had a shirt that I thought was gray, but it was actually pink and green," Lucas said.

He said he was amazed that the glasses actually worked. "I didn’t really think they would. I thought that it would be a waste. I wish I could see blue better all of the time now. I noticed flowers outside are bright pink, and before they just looked kind of red. When I walked outside, the sky caught my attention."

Lucas' stepfather, John Sowers, said that he was very excited when he heard what Case was doing for his stepson. "For a teacher to go out of his way and give a child the chance to see colors is amazing. It speaks volumes about him as a caring teacher," Sowers said.

The glasses are the property of the school and will be used as a learning aid for any student who might benefit from them.

Case said that no other color blind students have come forward as of yet, but he is hoping to hold annual fundraisers to benefit other color blind students as they are identified.

Racist signs found above water fountains at Florida high school, investigation launched

School leaders are investigating after racist signs, one reading "colored" and one reading "whites only," were posted above two water fountains at a high school in Florida.

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The signs were found at First Coast High School in Jacksonville. A photo of them was posted on social media and shared with WJAX-TV on Thursday evening.

Duval County Public Schools spokesperson Laureen Ricks sent the news station the following statement:

"(The) school is investigating, but it appears to be a prank. Staff immediately removed the notes once it was brought to their attention."

Middle school students chant 'build the wall'

A video showing middle class students in Michigan chanting “Build the wall” has gone viral.

The incident was reported Wednesday at Royal Oak Middle School, according to the Detroit Free Press. A brief video clip posted on Facebook shows students in the cafeteria chanting, “Build the wall.”

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President-elect Donald Trump has promised to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to address illegal immigration.

This happened today at Royal Oak Middle School in Royal Oak Michigan. It is so sad. Latino children were crying.The taunts, the "Build that Wall" with such bullying power and hate from children to children. Just Horrifying!Posted by Dee Perez-Scott on Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin released a statement about the incident, which said that a "small group of students engaged in a brief" chant and that school personnel addressed the issue. Lewis-Lakin said the school district is “committed to providing a safe, secure, and supportive learning environment for all students."

Kindergarten students share words of wisdom with Trump

Young students at the Mission Grammar School in Roxbury had some "words of wisdom" to share with Donald Trump after he was elected president.

The 5- and 6-year-old students explained how to be a "Super Friend" and asked President-elect Trump to keep the world safe.

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The letter reads:

Dear President-Elect Donald Trump. K2 would like to share our words of wisdom with you about being a Super Friend president in 2017. 1. Be nice to ALL people. 2. If you feel like you are going to use a bad word, just tuck, take 3 deep breaths and come back and say kind words. 3. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all! 4. Please keep our world safe! We would like to grow up and become the President some day. Remember, if you need help being a Super Friend contact K2 Scholars at Mission Grammar, Roxbury, MA.    
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