Friday, November 20, 2009

NJ school board insists on aborting student pro-life event

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of a student against the Bridgeton Board of Education after officials at Bridgeton High School prohibited her from expressing a religious viewpoint on the 6th annual Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity. In October, ADF attorneys distributed a legal memo offering to legally defend students across the nation kept from participating in the event by school officials.

“Pro-life students shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “The Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity is a non-disruptive, student-led event occurring outside of instructional time. The event provides the opportunity for students to exercise their constitutional right to express their viewpoint on abortion, just as other students have the right to express their views.”

The student was prohibited from participating in the Stand True Ministries-sponsored event by distributing pro-life literature during non-instructional times and wearing a red arm band with the word “LIFE” written on it. School officials told the student that nothing “religious” is allowed in public schools.

“Cumberland County has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the state of New Jersey, yet Bridgeton High School censors students’ pro-life speech opposing abortion,” commented Cortman. “Government-run schools say that students need to be educated on these issues, but many times they only want to allow one side to be presented.”


British regulator's pupil safety rules are impossible, say head teachers

Highly performing schools are being penalised by Ofsted for a lack of security gates, high fences and entry codes to keep out intruders. Under a new inspection regime introduced this term, schools that do not make pupils “feel safe” are judged to be failing.

Head teachers claimed yesterday that inspectors were trying to catch schools out as they scrambled to update child protection policies. They called for Ofsted to reverse the rule after one of the most improved schools in England was told that its security was inadequate. A parental survey, part of the inspection process, at Lawnswood School in Leeds indicated that 1.3 per cent of parents thought that it did not keep children safe and inspectors marked it down despite record results last year.

Another school was judged to be inadequate because inspectors deemed the fence around the playground low enough for child snatchers to reach in and grab pupils. A third failed because inspectors were offered coffee before they were asked for identification.

Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said that it was important that schools were safe places but warned that they were being asked to implement unworkable safety arrangements. “We are concerned that very good schools will fail inspections because of unreasonable requirements,” she said.

Milan Davidovic, the headmaster of Lawnswood School, wrote to Ofsted complaining about its verdict. “There was a definite feeling that the inspectors were coming to grips with the framework themselves, a feeling that it wasn’t clearly understood,” he said.

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that one inspector found his way into a school through a back entrance and began talking to pupils. The school failed because he was able to gain access without being asked for identification. A single glitch in safeguarding documentation or practice was enough to put schools into an “at risk” category, he added, and he called for Ofsted to separate judgments on academic achievement from child protection.

Ofsted’s new inspection framework stipulates that “where a school is judged to be inadequate in relation to the quality of the school’s procedures for safeguarding . . . the school’s overall effectiveness is also likely to be judged inadequate”. Details of the rules were published in July, giving schools little time to make changes. Since the new framework came into place one in five schools has moved down the ranking after inspection.

A spokesman for Ofsted said: “The protection of children is of the highest priority for Ofsted across all its inspection remits and we have revised our safeguarding guidance for school inspections from September to ensure an appropriate focus on this vital area. “However, schools are not judged to be inadequate as a result of minor administrative errors or issues that are not serious. Very few schools have been judged to be inadequate for their safeguarding arrangements only since the beginning of September.”

Case Study: "We're Judged on a feeling"

Lawnswood School in Leeds holds several education awards and was one of the Top Ten most improved schools in England last year (Joanna Sugden writes). But it has just been placed in special measures by Ofsted. A survey of parents at the school, which has 1,500 pupils, yielded only 123 replies and found that 20 parents felt their children did not feel safe at the school. It has just been given notice to improve under new rules that write schools off if they fail safeguarding measures.

“We are being judged on a feeling,” said Milan Davidovic, the headmaster. “If a few parents raise that as an issue then Ofsted has to take it into account.”

Lawnswood was given the healthy schools award, which recognises that pupils are feeling safe and happy. But, Mr Davidovic said that Ofsted did not take this into account. “The framework can act like a pack of cards, one judgment can make another judgment fail. We believe it is unfair,” he said. “It’s not to do with Criminal Records Bureau checks; it’s to do with a reported feeling that we are being judged on. “The students are disappointed that Ofsted have this view. But our spirits aren’t as low as they would be if the outcome [of the inspection] did reflect the true situation.”

The headmaster has written Ofsted a letter of complaint containing 23 points of disagreement.


Australian school defies parents; kills boy; no penalty

Sounds like teachers getting full of themselves again. Maybe a big civil lawsuit will get some questions answered and the guilty parties identified. You don't send your kid to school to have him come home in a coffin. My son is not a good swimmer. It could have been him. But I was told when he was due to swim and was there to watch him

THE parents of a Tasmanian student who drowned say they had no idea he had been going on a school excursion. "We had no knowledge of any excursion to Bells Parade, no permission slip was signed," Sera Levi, the mother of Latrobe High School teenager Rene, told The Mercury. His father Laupule said he had told the school his son was to be excluded from school trips. "He was not a strong swimmer and we did not encourage him going in the water," Mr Levi said.

Tasmania Police spent a couple of hours with the family yesterday afternoon, but Rene's parents were still unsure exactly what had happened at the Mersey River near Devonport on Monday afternoon.

"There were five teachers with 120 students," Mrs Levi said. "Some of the children were swimming. They went under the trees when it started raining. "A boy saw splashing, but no one was there," Mrs Levi said.

Rene's parents did not know their son had drowned; they only knew he was late returning from school. "We went looking for him and turned up at the school, and no one had anything to say," Mrs Levi said. "I was asked to wait for the principal. Phil McKenzie said he was sorry. I asked what for and then ran from the building screaming. "When we arrived at Bells Parade there was no sign of life. He had just been found and he was dead."

Tasmania Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the teenager's death. The Department of Education, he said, would be asking Latrobe High School staff some more probing questions about the incident in days to come.


Unhappiness is a drawn gun: "There’s the real world, and there are representations of it. I draw a picture of, say, a gun. That picture is of a gun; it is not itself an actual gun. It’s just, well, a doodle. This being the case — that doodles differ from real threats — then why was a 13-year-old boy near Mesa, Arizona, suspended from school?”

Pittsburgh eyes students’ wallets: "Pittsburgh wants to tax one of its most abundant resources: students. The city is home to seven colleges and universities, and though their real estate is tax-exempt, their tuition isn’t, says Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who plans to impose a 1% tax on tuition as part of his budget for 2010. Nearly 100,000 students study in Pittsburgh, and ‘they’re not paying a dime for any city services they might receive,’ Ravenstahl says.”

Tuition gift for children of the fallen: "[Peter] Trovato … took out a frayed, hand-written list of children of fallen service members from Massachusetts and penned the names of Van De Giesen’s children, 18-month-old Avery Grace and Colin Joseph, then unborn. He’s been writing the names of such children since 2004. … Troubled by the loss and by the hardships it would inflict on the child, he decided to set up a fund to help pay for the boy’s college education. When the next parent died in the war, he made the same pledge. Five years later, his Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund has an endowment of some $3 million and has promised up to $40,000 in college grants to each of the 62 children who have lost parents in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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