Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fury as British judge frees paedophile teacher and says: Teaching staff are often attracted to children

A judge has let a paedophile teacher walk free after telling him she did not criticise him for being attracted to children. Supply teacher David Armstrong had admitted hoarding more than 4,500 indecent images of children.

But handing the 63-year-old pervert a suspended sentence, Judge Mary Jane Mowat said: ‘I don’t criticise you for being a teacher who’s attracted to children. ‘Many teachers are but they keep their urges under control both when it comes to children and when it comes to images of children.’

Her extraordinary comments – recorded by a local newspaper reporter – provoked fury from campaigners who labelled them ‘outrageous’. Senior teaching representatives expressed disbelief at the remarks and said they sent the wrong message to child sex offenders.

Peter Bradley, of the children’s charity Kidscape, said schools exist to provide a safe place for children to learn. ‘This teacher should not have been in the profession and it is outrageous for the judge to say many teachers are sexually attracted to children,’ he said. ‘The message needs to be clear – if you are sexually attracted to children then you don’t work with them.’

Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘Teachers are professionals whose interest is ensuring children and young people achieve their educational potential. ‘To suggest their interest in pupils could understandably be anything else is totally unacceptable.’

Armstrong was caught after a colleague reported him at the Little Heath School in Tilehurst, near Reading. A teaching assistant noticed files on his laptop computer had names such as ‘rape wife’, ‘nude model’ and ‘gay alligator’.

Armstrong was arrested and police found the appalling catalogue of indecent images and videos on two laptops and an external hard drive. Reading Crown Court heard more than 300 were in the two most serious categories and involved victims as young as two. Some of the images were not of real children but Japanese cartoons depicting youngsters in sexual scenes.

Armstrong’s solicitor said he had worked at many schools and had an ‘impeccable record’.

The supply teacher, of Devizes, Wiltshire, was given 12-month jail sentences, suspended for two years, for each of five charges of making indecent photographs of children. He was put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years, with a Sexual Prevention Order which bans him from owning a computer or device capable of connecting to the internet. He was also automatically banned from working with children.

The case is not the first time Judge Mowat has stirred controversy over sentences handed to sexual offenders. In 2008, she allowed a former headmaster to walk free from court after he said drugs he was taking for Parkinson’s disease made him a paedophile. Phillip Carmichael said the medication caused him to become ‘hypersexually active’ after he was caught with 8,000 images and videos on his computer.

The judge said the case was ‘wholly exceptional’ and gave him an absolute discharge.

Two years earlier, after paedophile Robert Prout was convicted of abusing a 12-year-old girl, the judge admitted she would normally give a suspended sentence but recent public criticism influenced her decision to jail him for ten months.


Court Says NAACP, Teachers Union Can’t Trap Kids in Failing Schools

New York City families and school choice advocates were handed a major victory late Thursday evening when a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled that 22 failing public schools must close and 15 charter schools must be allowed to share space in public school buildings.

The ruling gives hope to many New York City families eager to see their children receive a quality education. The NAACP and the teacher unions so despise non-unionized charter schools that the groups were willing to see students remain trapped in ineffective schools for selfish political and financial reasons. Thursday’s ruling corrects that injustice.

Education Action Group believes that all parents should have the right to choose where their children attend school. Each child deserves access to an effective educational experience that will prepare them for life.

The state Supreme Court has previously ruled that the New York Constitution requires that students receive a “sound, basic education.” There is nothing that says that education must occur in a traditional government-run school.

That principle was indirectly affirmed again last night by the Manhattan Supreme Court judge’s ruling.

Since charter schools typically are not weighed down by burdensome union rules and regulations, they have much more autonomy and are free to be innovative. This allows an increased focus on student achievement and more opportunities for students.

Yesterday’s ruling gives New York City families good reason to view the upcoming school year with a renewed sense of hope.


NPR: America's Dropout Crisis

NPR can see the problem but not the solution: High discipline classes for slow learners

Of all the problems this country faces in education, one of the most complicated, heart-wrenching and urgent is the dropout crisis. Nearly 1 million teenagers stop going to school every year. The impact of that decision is lifelong. And the statistics are stark:

The unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma is nearly twice that of the general population. Over a lifetime, a high school dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate and almost $1 million less than a college graduate.

Dropouts are more likely to commit crimes, abuse drugs and alcohol, become teenage parents, live in poverty and commit suicide.

Dropouts cost federal and state governments hundreds of billions of dollars in lost earnings, welfare and medical costs, and billions more for dropouts who end up in prison.

NPR is looking at the dropout crisis through the stories of five people. Three dropped out of school years ago. They talk about why they left school, the forces in their lives that contributed to that decision and its impact in the years since.

There are also profiles of two teenagers who are at risk of dropping out and the adults who are working hard to keep them in school.

Monday, July 25

Almost half a million black teenagers drop out of school each year. Most will end up unemployed by their mid-30s. Six out of 10 black male dropouts will spend time in prison.

Patrick Lundvick, 19, quit school in ninth grade. He started running with a gang and selling drugs in his Chicago neighborhood.

Within a few years, he was in prison for theft. When he got out, he promised his mother he would change. He's now studying at a special charter school for dropouts and hopes to get his diploma and go to college. But he knows that having a criminal record has damaged his job prospects, and he admits that the lure of the streets is still strong.

Tuesday, July 26

The single biggest reason why girls drop out of school is pregnancy. And Latinas have the highest teen pregnancy rates of any racial or ethnic group; 41 percent of Latinas leave high school because they get pregnant. These young women often end up with few job skills, more pregnancies and dependency on unreliable and sometimes violent men.

Lauren Ortega, 20, is a mother of two who is struggling to finish her high school education. She is torn over whether to stay with the father of her children.

Tuesday, July 26

A fifth of the schools identified by the U.S. Department of Education as "dropout factories" (where no more than 50 percent of students graduate) are located in rural areas like Oconee County in South Carolina.

Nick Dunn, 16, hates school and is teetering on the edge of dropping out — just like his father and his four siblings did. But things have changed a lot since his father was young. Oconee County has watched its economy dry up and even adults are struggling to find work.

Wednesday July 27

Studies show that kids who miss a lot of school are at far higher risk of dropping out.

By the time he was 12, Danny Lamont Jones had already missed all of sixth grade and much of seventh. Now at 15, Danny is due to enter tenth grade next fall but isn't sure he'll go.

Officials in Baltimore are trying to intervene early with kids like Danny to try to keep them engaged with school and prevent them from ending up on an inevitable path toward dropping out.

Thursday, July 28

Sixty percent of the nation's high school dropouts are older than 40. Most of them left high school to start working, but few move beyond low paying, dead-end jobs. Only seven percent of dropouts 25 and older have ever made more than $40,000 a year. And in hard economic times, many find that not having a diploma puts them at the end of the employment line.

Kenny Buchanan, 44, was 18 when he gave up on high school. He figured he could earn a living without a diploma, and for several years, he did. But then he got married and found it difficult to find work that could support a family. Before long, employers began refusing to even interview him because he didn't have a diploma.


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