Friday, March 09, 2012

Teacher Suspended Over Chicken Nugget Incident

School district official says substituting a preschooler’s lunch was against district policy

The teacher involved in “supplementing” a preschooler’s lunch with chicken nuggets in Hoke County has been suspended indefinitely.

Parents of students in the Pre-Kindergarten program at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford got a letter from Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes last week saying a substitute teacher would take over the preschool class until the “issue” is resolved.

It remains unclear why the teacher’s actions violated district policy. State officials responsible for monitoring homemade lunches for preschoolers have told Carolina Journal that the Jan. 30 incident that caused a nationwide uproar satisfied state policy.

The letter from Barnes, dated Feb. 28, reads as follows:

“As I am sure you are aware, we recently experienced an unfortunate situation where a failure to follow district policy resulted in the substitution of a Pre-K student’s lunch at West Hoke Elementary School.This letter is to inform you that Ms. Emma Thomas will be a substitute in [your child’s] classroom until we can bring resolution to this issue. We are pleased that [your child] is enrolled in our Pre-K program and we are confident that Ms. Thomas will continue to provide [him or her] with a very positive educational experience.”

The mother of the 4-year-old girl whose turkey sandwich was replaced by chicken nuggets says the teacher is not to blame and shouldn’t be punished.

“We are concerned for Ms. Maynor [the teacher] and want her back in the classroom, as she was only following guidelines,” the mother wrote in an email to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County. “It’s the government that needs to be reprimanded and changed. Teachers should not be put in a situation to overrule the parent’s lunch of choice.”

Giving the girl a full cafeteria tray, which included chicken nuggets and milk, was not a violation of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ policy, according to DHHS spokeswoman Lori Walston. “The rules require that the provider at least ensure the missing items are offered,” Walston wrote in an earlier email exchange with CJ. “It would not be a violation for a child to be provided more than what was needed. It is the provider’s choice as to their specific process.” It is unclear why giving the girl the cafeteria tray violated “district policy.”

“[DHHS] can’t offer comparison between our policy and [that of] any district or childcare center or family childcare home, as we would not have the staffing to compare policies of all programs in the state,” Walston said Monday,.

As CJ reported Feb. 23, Cecelia Ellerbe, a child care consultant who works for the DHHS division, noticed a violation of the state’s nutrition policy at West Hoke Elementary Jan. 26. Walston told CJ Ellerbe “observed the lunch routine” at the preschool, which “would typically include walking through the cafeteria area. She could have seen any items that had been placed on tables, but might not have seen all lunches,” Walston said.

Principal Jackie Samuels sent a letter home with students the next day, informing parents that homemade lunches lacking any of the items required under state regulations and U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines — fluid milk, two servings of fruit or vegetables, a serving of grain or bread, and a serving of meat or meat alternative — would have the missing items supplemented by school staff.

The following Monday, Jan. 30, the incident reported Feb. 14 by CJ occurred. A teacher offered a 4-year-old girl a cafeteria tray with chicken nuggets, a sweet potato, bread, and milk to replace the turkey and cheese sandwich, potato chips, banana, and apple juice her mother had packed for her.

When the girl got off the school bus with her untouched lunch box that day, her mother wanted to know what happened. “She came home with her whole sandwich I had packed, because she chose to eat the nuggets on the lunch tray, because they put it in front of her,” her mother said. “You’re telling a 4-year-old, 'Oh, your lunch isn’t right,’ and she’s thinking there’s something wrong with her food.”

Neither Samuels, Barnes, nor Superintendent Freddie Williamson responded to requests for comment from Carolina Journal.


Infinite Affirmative Action?

In Eric Holder’s world, the need for racial preferences will never end.

By John Fund

Later this year, the Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of the use of racial preferences in college admissions in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. The battle lines will once again be drawn over the meaning of the equal-protection provisions of the Constitution. So it’s noteworthy that Attorney General Eric Holder has just made it clear he’s never bumped into a racial preference he didn’t like, and that he sees no time limit on such policies.

Last month, in an appearance at Columbia University, his alma mater, Holder made a jarring statement in support of racial preferences, saying he “can’t actually imagine a time in which the need for more diversity would ever cease.” “Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices,” he declared. “The question is not when does it end, but when does it begin. . . . When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?”

Holder certainly made his statement on friendly territory. He was interviewed as part of a World Leaders Forum by Lee Bollinger, Columbia’s president. In 2003, Bollinger made news when as president of the University of Michigan he was the named defendant in two affirmative-action cases. In Gratz v. Bollinger, the justices by 6 to 3 struck down the university’s policy used for undergraduate admissions, which blatantly sorted students by race and applied different academic standards to achieve desired racial admission outcomes. But in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger, the court upheld by a 5–4 vote the law school’s preferences policy. The only difference between the two cases was that in the latter case the university was upfront about the preferences it was giving; in the former case it kept them hidden.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the deciding vote in allowing racial preferences to continue, but she made it clear that their days should be numbered. She wrote: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” In Eric Holder’s world, that day will never come.

Some say Holder has already been presiding over the most race-absorbed Justice Department in history. Career civil-rights attorneys such as former Voting Rights section chief Christopher Coates have resigned in disgust, citing the administration’s repeated refusal to apply civil-rights laws evenhandedly. In his book Injustice, former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams has documented with eyewitness accounts that then-deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights Julie Fernandes told Justice lawyers that the new administration was only interested in “traditional civil rights work,” which to her meant “helping minorities.” As she put it before her appointment: “The law was written to protect black people.” More recently, the Holder administration’s affirmative-action guidelines for colleges and universities, issued in December, are clearly intended to increase the use of race-preferential admissions policies. Could it be that Holder has not yet begun to fight?

If so, it makes the need for the Supreme Court to make the correct constitutional call in Fisher all the more imperative. In places where the use of racial preferences has largely ended because of state law, such as California, universities have thrived and have been able to recruit diverse student bodies. But in places where preferences remain the order of the day, there is real harm done. As Roger Clegg, president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity noted on National Review Online, “The casualties of these discriminatory policies are not only the white and Asian students who are discriminated against, but also the African American and Latino students who are supposedly their beneficiaries, because their academic careers and professional lives are damaged by the resulting academic mismatches.”

This conclusion is supported by an amicus brief filed in Fisher by three members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights — Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow, and Todd Gaziano — which cites mounting empirical evidence that racial preferences do considerably more harm than good.

“If this research is right,” they write, “we now have fewer minority science and engineering graduates,” “fewer minority college professors,” and “fewer minority lawyers” than we would have under race-neutral admissions policies.

How can it be that affirmative action reduces the number of minority professionals? The extensive research cited by Heriot, Kirsanow, and Gaziano shows that as a result of racial preferences, minority students are overwhelmingly at the bottom of the distribution of entering academic credentials at most selective schools. That’s what it means to get into a school on a preference. One’s entering credentials will be below those of the typical student.

These studies show that going to a school that one got into by the skin of one’s teeth is not a good idea. Academic credentials matter, not just in the absolute sense, but also in a comparative sense. Students who attend a school where their entering credentials are similar to the rest of the students are more likely to follow through with an ambition to major in science or engineering, more likely to decide to become a college professor, and more likely to finish law school and pass the bar.

Put differently, if you have two identical students and one goes to Penn State and gets A’s and the other goes to Princeton and gets C’s, the Penn State student is likely to be more successful regardless of his race. And he is likely to be a lot happier.

Indeed, polls show most Americans are rightly uncomfortable with racial preferences. But affirmative action — the kindler, gentler term — has been around so long now that many have forgotten the origins of that peculiar institution. Some don’t realize that the 1964 Civil Rights Act that is cited as the authority for mandating preferential treatment for racial minorities actually forbids all racial discrimination. It all happened before many Americans were even born.

Blame the courts for the perversion of the well-intentioned Civil Rights Act. In employment law, the Supreme Court started out sounding the right note with regard to so-called “reverse discrimination.” It ruled in McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co. (1976) that Title VII means just what it says and applies to whites as well as African Americans. But to its everlasting discredit, the Supreme Court endorsed preferential treatment for minorities in United Steelworkers v. Weber (1979). In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Justice Brennan, writing for the majority, managed to hold that Congress would have wanted to permit Kaiser Aluminum and its union to establish quotas for black candidates for highly sought-after training programs. Justice William Rehnquist dissented, refuting the majority’s reading of the statute with clear evidence from the legislative history and repeatedly comparing the majority’s opinion to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities, partly motivated by ideology and partly by concern over the violent race upheavals of the late 1960s, were engaging in similar race-preferential policies. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and in Grutter, the Supreme Court reluctantly acquiesced in those policies as well.

Shortly before the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, Urban League executive director Whitney Young called for “a decade of discrimination in favor of Negro youth.” Congress clearly and unequivocally rejected that advice, opting instead for a complete ban on race discrimination in employment and at colleges, universities, and other institutions that accept federal funds. Nevertheless, Young got his way — and more. And more. Before the ink was dry on Title VII of the 1964 Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was making plans to pressure employers to hire more African-American employees. Within just a few years, colleges and universities were violating Title VI’s prohibition on race discrimination by substantially lowering their academic standards for African-American applicants. Young’s decade of discrimination in favor of African Americans had begun. That “decade” has now stretched into its sixth decade.

Here’s hoping that later this year the Supreme Court repairs its previous mistakes and, following Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s advice, draws the curtain shut on racial preferences, even if it is a little earlier than her own timetable — which has 16 more years to run.


More than 40 teachers at under-achieving British school strike over 'dangerous' pupils

Teachers at an under-achieving school walked out on strike yesterday in a row over ‘out-of-control’ pupils. The staff claim the headmaster and board of governors have failed to support them in tackling dangerous behaviour by unruly children. Incidents highlighted include a firework being let off in a corridor and a knife being brought into class.

Teachers have also reported pupils regularly fighting during lessons and verbally abusing staff.

Castle Vale Performing Arts College in Birmingham is rated ‘satisfactory’ by Ofsted – the third of four possible rankings awarded by the inspectorate. But last year just 29 per cent of students gained five A*-C grades, including maths and English, in their GCSEs – compared with a national average of 58.2 per cent.

Headmaster Clive Owen yesterday said he was ‘disappointed and disturbed’ by the decision of some 40 staff to strike. But the NASUWT teaching union claimed its members had been left with no option but to walk out and called for an investigation into management at the school.

Union representative Ben Ball, who has taught at the school for 32 years, said behaviour was so bad at times that the school resembled a ‘battlefield’. ‘The behaviour of the pupils has got to a stage where action must be taken,’ he said. ‘There is a core group whose behaviour is completely unacceptable, and downright dangerous, who prevent us from teaching the rest of the children.’

He said the school’s behaviour policy was not followed through by senior management, with the result that ‘the kids know that nothing will happen to them if they continue to behave the way they are doing.’ Yesterday morning, most of those on strike manned a picket line outside the school in the city’s 1960s Castle Vale housing estate.

NASUWT has pencilled in March 20 and 21 for two more days of strike action, but said it would suspend these in the event of an approach from the school for further talks.

A teacher on the picket line, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘The children are out of control, they are bringing blades into school, smoking openly and even bully some teachers. But kids will get sent home by the management for not having a pencil case and then when a teacher’s been sworn at by a pupil nothing’s happened.’

The strike meant the school, which has around 800 pupils and 75 teachers, was closed to all but Year 11 students, who are set to take GCSE exams in the summer. Parents had mixed reactions to the action. Some condemned the teachers for walking out, but others had sympathy for their situation. One said the school was ‘like a zoo’ where children ‘run riot’.

Mr Owen said: ‘A number of meetings with the union have been held to avoid this.’ A spokesman for Birmingham Council said it would convene a meeting with all parties in an effort to head off the two further planned strikes.


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