Sunday, December 23, 2007

Judge investigated for homeschooling threat

A threat by a Utah judge to take away a homeschooling mom's children if she failed to enroll them in public school, and make sure they were in attendance every day, has been escalated to the level of the state Legislature, according to a homeschooling leader. "I can tell you there are several legislators working on this, including one on the judicial retention committee," John Yarrington, president of the Utah Home Education Association, said. "There's no excuse for this kind of bias and prejudice."

At issue are the threats issued by Judge Scott Johansen, who serves in the juvenile division of the state's 7th Judicial District. He said in a court hearing for the homeschooling mom, Denise Mafi, that he would order the removal of her children from her custody if she failed to enroll her children in the public school district and keep them in class every day, unless they had a physician's note excusing them. Mafi, who has homeschooled for nine years, told WND that she already had enrolled the children, for fear the judge would carry out his threat.

WND earlier reported the confrontation developed after the school district apparently lost an affidavit Mafi had submitted for the 2006-2007 school year. Mafi already had submitted her state-mandated affidavit for the 2007-2008 school year for her children, and had received her exemption. However, when she appeared in court with her juvenile son to have the charges dismissed (under a case held in abeyance procedure) stemming from a clash among children, she suddenly was presented with four counts against her for failing to comply with the state's compulsory education requirement. The counts each carry up to six months in jail.....

WND contacted the judge's court, but was told to call the state judiciary's office, and a spokeswoman confirmed that the situation was being reviewed, but she couldn't comment on a pending case. The district attorney's office didn't return a telephone request for comment.

Yarrington said a lawyer for the UHEA is working on the case, as are lawyers for the Home School Legal Defense Association. He said court records show the judge told the woman that she was in court with her son "because you homeschool," even though the case at hand had nothing to do with homeschooling. And the judge told the woman that homeschooling fails 100 percent of the time and he wasn't going to allow it.

"This guy's nuts. He has no clue," Yarrington said. "He's [stepped] on so many rights it's ridiculous." The lawyers were awaiting the remaining paperwork in her dispute before taking their next step, Yarrington said. He said the judge would have to be "insane" to try to get away with such actions. But he's not entirely surprised, because there have been "a quite a few of these situations," in Utah in recent years. "We're constantly in a push and shove with districts, and sometimes with the state school board," he said, even though a recent state law limits the state and district involvement in homeschoolers' lives if they file the required affidavit annually.

He also said the group constantly advises parents to send the affidavits in by registered mail or another service that provides a written confirmation of delivery. That apparently is what Mafi failed to do. "Unfortunately, people get in a hurry, and they don't know about this 'Gotcha,'" used by school districts, he said. No numbers are compiled on such situations by homeschool groups, often because homeschool parents frequently seek their own legal advice and get their situations resolved without informing the association, Yarrington said. But he said he knows of "numbers" of such situations. "Several districts have gotten cranked up and decided to show how tough they are," he said.

He said he was aware of one recent case in which a mother was charged with violating state law regarding educational neglect and truancy even though she had a doctor's note regarding her son's absences, a health situation that prompted her to move to homeschooling. "This fine principal actually called the doctor. That's way outside the bounds," Yarrington, who represents about 7,500 homeschooling families in Utah, said. "The principal gave the doctor the kid's name, and said, 'Is there any reason this kid can't come back to school?' "The doctor, without the case in front of him, said, 'It's probably okay,'" he said.

Cracking down on homeschooling is "pretty obviously" a goal of the state, he said, although state officials disagreed. Scott Peterson, of the state Department of Education, said there are more than 8,000 homeschooled students in the state, many of them who choose to continue to participate in various classes or activities at their local school districts. But he admitted comments such as Johansen's have no place in education. Asked if he thought the judge was out of line, he replied, "If that is what he said, it would be, yes."

Homeschool officials said local school districts get about $7,500 per student in tax payments, but the state said that figure was closer to $2,500, although there were additional funds that also were involved.

As WND has reported, such threats and actions are becoming more common in Germany, but that nation still makes homeschooling illegal under a law launched when Hitler expressed a desire to control the minds of youth....


Australia: National literacy exams planned for all schools

If the new Leftist Federal government doesn't overturn them. But Leftist State governments have agreed to it all so the only immediate peril is dumbing the whole thing down

SPELLING, grammar and punctuation will be assessed nationally for the first time next year with the introduction of uniform tests for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The national literacy and numeracy tests, to be held over three days in May, will include an extra test on language conventions in the literacy assessment, in addition to reading and writing. The language conventions test will comprise about 50 questions, half on spelling, half on grammar and punctuation.

Sample tests show that Year 3 students will be asked to correct misspelt words in sentences such as "we jumpt on the trampoline", choose the correct tense of a verb to insert in a sentence and show where quotation marks or capital letters should go. By Year 9, students will be asked to correct misspellings such as "apreciate" and "seperate", place apostrophes and identify whether "a" in the sentence "a product" is a noun, definite article or indefinite article.

The national testing regime includes separate tests on reading, writing and numeracy, with students in years 7 and 9 to sit two for maths, one using calculators and one without. In reading, students will be given several passages of writing of different styles, varying in number from six for Year 3 students to eight in Year 9, and asked to answer mostly multiple choice questions. The writing task next year is to compose a narrative, with students in all years given the same brief. The sample question is based on discovery, and gives students half a dozen sentences about people discovering new ideas, objects or secrets, from which they are expected to write astory. Previously, states and territories set literacy and numeracy tests in years 3, 5 and 7. Results were manipulated to compare students in different jurisdictions against national benchmarks.

Under pressure from the Howard government, the states and territories agreed to replace their tests with common literacy and numeracy tests and include Year 9 students in the assessment. University of Western Australia professor Bill Louden, who has written reports on literacy education, said constructing a separate test for spelling and grammar was a better way of assessing students' skills than marking it as a part of a writing assignment. Professor Louden, head of the graduate school of education at UWA, said parents, teachers and employers tended to regard students' spelling and grammar as markers of their quality. "Students may not be aware people draw all sorts of inferences from the general ability to spell and construct grammatical sentences, so tests are important to draw students' attention to that," he said.

Australian Education Union acting federal president Angelo Gavrielatos had concerns that a national testing regime was being introduced before the development of a national curriculum. "We appear to be going at this the wrong way; we're talking about reporting first then assessment before we've had a conclusive discussion about curriculum," he said. "Curriculum must be centre stage."

Terry Aulich, executive officer of the Australian Council of State School Organisations representing government school parents, said the tests should be trialled on adults as well as on the students to ensure they were an accurate reflection of ability. Mr Aulich expressed concern about the sophisticated language skills required in the sample tests, with the use of words such as "dugong" and "habitat" in the Year 3 reading test, which he said were not part of the average eight-year-old's vocabulary



Today's posts on TT are school-relevant so I reproduce them below

Student Claims Teacher Asked Her to Cover Up Lesbian-Themed Shirt

I am inclined to see the ACLU as the good guys in this one -- though if the message had been ANTI-homosexual they would have been nowhere to be seen:

"A Virginia high school student said she was asked by a teacher to cover up a lesbian-themed shirt or face suspension.

Bethany Laccone, 17, said she was asked to cloak a logo of two interlocked female symbols while attending a class this month at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth. She's a full-time senior at nearby Woodrow Wilson High School, where she has not faced a similar ultimatum.

In a letter sent Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia asked Norcom administrators to remove any mention of the incident from Laccone's records and agree not to similarly censor other students.

The school's dress code prohibits "bawdy, salacious or sexually suggestive messages." ACLU leaders want administrators to clarify that students can express political views.


Ohio Teens Sue High School over Facebook 'Parody'

We read:

"Three teenagers have sued school officials over lengthy suspensions they received for setting up a Facebook page that identifies a teacher as a pedophile. The entry on the social networking site included the face and last name of the teacher and referred to him as a member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which supports sex between men and boys.

"They're not saying it's true, they're saying it's just parody," the students' attorney, Marc Mezibov, said Friday. The boys were suspended from Taylor High School for the maximum 90 days for creating the entry in November. They've served 10 days and were told the rest of the punishment would begin Jan. 2, when classes resume after the holiday break.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ordered school officials to let them return pending a hearing on the lawsuit Jan. 10. "Each of the boys has written an apology to the teacher and questioned whether they exercised their best judgment," their attorney, Marc Mezibov, said Friday.

The students and their parents filed the federal lawsuit Dec. 14 after the Three Rivers School District board voted to uphold the punishment. They argue that the Facebook entry should be considered protected speech because it was parody. The plaintiffs also allege the district overstepped its bounds because the Web page was created away from school with access limited to seven people, Mezibov said.....

There have similar cases across Ohio and the country, said Scott Greenwood, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney. Courts have ruled that students can't be punished by schools for such off-campus acts and that such suspensions violate free speech, he said.


The "parody" claim seems far-fetched but it sounds like a private communication to me -- so would seem to be covered by privacy protection. If all negative private communications had to withstand legal assault we would be in a huge mess.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was starting to think the Facebook parody web page the boys made would open them up to libel and slander damages, but the story seems to say that only the seven who created the page can access and view it. I'd expect the boys to be OK as long as that page never is able to be viewed publicly.