Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kansas City Student Could Face Charges for Hugging School Social Worker

A whining social worker. How unsurprising

An Olathe junior high school student could face sexual battery charges after allegedly giving a school social worker an "inappropriate" hug, police said on Tuesday. According to Olathe Police, a school social worker at Chisholm Trail Junior High School told an assistant principal that the boy, 13, hugged her in a way that she thought was inappropriate. The student was contacted by the school resource officer, then released to his parents.

"The report has been taken and the incident was documented and it has been forwarded to the district attorney's office," said Sgt. Johnnie Rowland of the Olathe Police Department. "They will review it and decide from that point what action should be taken."

Nicole Littler from MOCSA, the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault says some teens don't understand sexual harassment, and she urges parents to talk to their children about it. "Sexual harassment is the No. 1 topic that we are asked to go out and talk about especially in middle schools," said Littler. "Hugging someone can be sexual harassment, but it also depends on who it is and how they feel about the situation."

The Olathe School District would not comment on the case. The Johnson County District Attorney's office is reviewing the case.


Debate on Pledge of Allegiance in Vt. town

No one's sure when daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance fell by the wayside at Woodbury Elementary School. But efforts to restore them have erupted into a bitter dispute in this tiny (pop. 810) Vermont town, with school officials blocking the exercise from classrooms amid concerns that it holds nonparticipating children up to scorn. Supporters say the classroom is the place for it, and the disagreement has fueled an increasingly acrimonious debate.

"The whole thing is tearing our community apart," said Heather Lanphear, 39, the mother of a first-grade student. Unlike other Pledge controversies, this one centers on how and where schoolchildren say it, not whether they should be allowed to.

In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schoolchildren can opt out of reciting the pledge for religious reasons. Sixty-one years later, the court said a California father couldn't challenge the Pledge of Allegiance, reversing a lower-court decision saying teacher-led Pledge recitals in public schools were unconstitutional. That case involved an atheist who didn't want his third-grader to have to listen to the phrase "under God." But it didn't rule on the constitutionality of compulsory recitation.

The brouhaha in the Vermont school began in September, when parent Ted Tedesco began circulating petitions calling for its return as a daily practice in the 19th-century schoolhouse, which has 55 children in grades kindergarten through six. School officials agreed to resume the pledge as a daily exercise, but not in the classroom. "We don't want to isolate children every day in their own classroom, or make them feel they're different," said Principal Michaela Martin.

Instead, starting last week, a sixth grade student was assigned to go around to the four classrooms before classes started, gathering up anyone who wanted to say it and then walking them up creaky wooden steps to a second-floor gymnasium, where he led them in the pledge. About half the students chose to participate, according to Martin.

Tedesco, 55, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major, and others who signed his petitions didn't like that solution, calling it disruptive to routine and inappropriate because it put young children in the position of having to decide between pre-class play time and leaving the classroom to say the Pledge. "Saying the Pledge in the classroom is legal, convenient and traditional," said Tedesco. "Asking kindergarten through sixth graders who want to say the Pledge to leave their classrooms to do so is neither convenient nor traditional."

Martin and School Board Chair Retta Dunlap defended the practice, saying it restored the Pledge to the school as requested, preserved the rights of students who - for political or religious reasons - didn't want to participate and gave others the opportunity to pledge their allegiance. "I was happy to have it upstairs. I think it's important that all the kids share in it together," said parent Ellen Demers, 42.

On Friday, the routine changed again. Just before 8 a.m., Martin herded all the school's students - and a handful of adults - into a cramped foyer that adjoins the first-floor classrooms and told sixth-grader Nathan Gilbert, 12, to lead them in the Pledge. Most recited it; some didn't. Afterward, 10 adults streamed down the steps and outside, forming a circle around Dunlap for a heated discussion in which they pressed for an explanation of why it couldn't be said in the classrooms.

The format is up to teachers, not administrators or parents, Dunlap said. "The children will get used to it, and they'll know what's expected of them," she said.

In an interview, Martin said the point of having the whole school gather for the Pledge was to protect children who don't participate in it. "If you're in a classroom with 15 students and you choose not to say the Pledge, it's much more obvious than a group setting. When they're saying it in a group of 55, it's may not be so obvious. We don't want to isolate children," she said.

Tedesco pulled his two children out of the school last week, but he says the reason was the school's declining scores on standardized tests, not the Pledge issue. He plans to continue lobbying for classroom recitation. "There's no way a heckler's veto should abridge the constitutional rights of the majority," he said.


Delaware Indoctrination: You Haven't Heard It All

The Foundation For Individual Rights in Education is set to release (mid-day Friday) a compendious report by Adam Kissel on the Delaware Residential Life Program. If you haven't followed this rank system of indoctrination (now happily suspended) the FIRE report is a comprehensive and sobering account of the roots and influences of the Delaware system.

Most importantly, and disquietingly, the FIRE report exposes the extent to which the Delaware program was by no mean isolated - it was simply the most forceful implementation of explicitly political "educational outcomes" encouraged by the American College Personnel Association for all colleges. Once instituted, the Res Life system became, most egregiously, a model for the ACPA and other "res life" professionals. Here's Kissel on the topic:
ResLife was so proud of its achievements that the University of Delaware began to hold annual Residential Curriculum Institutes for trusted counterparts from around the United States and Canada. Over 70 people from more than 35 schools registered for the first one in January 2007, which focused on the university's cutting-edge "curricular approach." The institute was cosponsored by the ACPA, which sent its president, Jeanne S. Steffes, to be the opening speaker. Then---University of Delaware President David Roselle was on hand to welcome the participants, and the keynote address by Marcia Baxter Magolda of Miami University of Ohio was sponsored by Delaware's Office of the Provost and its Academic and Student Affairs Council.

Residence Life staff, some of them sporting Ed.D. degrees from the university's own School of Education, also began publishing articles about the cutting-edge methods of the curriculum---without quite revealing the sustainability agenda. For instance, in the November--December 2006 issue of About Campus, a magazine for college and university educators, Kerr and Associate Director of Residence Life James Tweedy published "Beyond Seat Time and Student Satisfaction: A Curricular Approach to Residential Education." In that article, Kerr and Tweedy discuss their desired "learning goals," which include requiring each student to, among other things, "explore societal privilege and the experiences of those disadvantaged in our democracy," "explore social identity privilege," and "explore class privilege." They also---creepy as it sounds---discuss potential improvements to the program, such as "the possibility of identifying behavioral factors that can be observed and recorded by hall staff members."

The Delaware program may be gone, but its advocates are still legion. The report is essential reading on an impulse to indoctrinate still far from dormant.


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