Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Father spends his leave from Afghanistan protesting outside school after son, 13, is suspended for standing up to school bully

Reading between the lines here, the kid was suspended because he was white and that meant he must be at fault in the matter.  Publicity had its usual disinfectant effect, however

A former policeman working in Afghanistan has spent his annual leave protesting against his son's school after the boy was suspended for standing up to a bully who has picked on him for years.

Randy Duke, who now trains police officers, spent two hours each day picketing Cade Middle School in Victoria, Texas wearing a sandwich board reading: 'BULLYING VICTIMS ARE PUNISHED HERE.'

His father, who returns to Afghanistan in two weeks, said a bully had stomped on a paper airplane his 13-year-old son, Max, had given to a classmate with special needs - the latest in a string of incidents.

Unable to take the treatment anymore, Max said, 'Why would you do that?' and the boy pushed him, Duke told ABC News. Max then shoved him back, and a scrap ensued.

'Max has been working hard to stay away from him, since he had been confronted by him and other kids before,' he said. 'They would use racial slurs – saying, "we don't like you because you're white".'

The fight was broken up and the school administration suspended Max for two days and sent him to an alternative school for 30 days. He was also removed from the school's marching band.

'[They] gave what I believe was a harsh punishment,' Duke said. 'They looked at this as a fight - which it was not. Had it been, in-school suspension would be an appropriate punishment.'

But for Max, the worst punishment was that he is no longer allowed to play with the marching band. His father said he had been picked as one of eight students to play.

The opportunity had given him some much-needed confidence, and he was making friends and seeing his grades improve, his father said.

When Duke felt as if his conversations with the school were falling on deaf ears, he decided to start the protest, and received a great deal of support from parents passing by.

'I got lots of thumbs ups, and cars honking at me,' he said. 'I talked with other parents who said their child was bullied and it was improperly handled.'

One father told KHOU: 'Here you've got a child that retaliated for being picked on for three years and he's being punished. It should have been stopped three years ago.'

Duke, who has 20 years of policing experience, added that the school sent over police patrol cars to keep an eye on him - but he knew all the officers inside the vehicles.

But, just when Duke thought he was not going to get anywhere with his protest, his wife, Wendy, picked up the phone to the school and eventually reached an agreement.

The Dukes agreed to remove a formal complaint they had posted against the school, and the school agreed to re-enroll Max, who was able to perform with the marching band.

Duke, who will be returning to Afghanistan for another year before he returns, said he was finally able to watch his son perform.

Before he leaves, Duke is organising discussions between parents whose children are affected by bullying, and Cade Middle School staff will sit in on the meetings, ABC reported.

'Instead of us against them, my purpose is to mend our community,' he said. 'I'm hoping to plant the seed in the community. And I hope community leaders will step up and roll with it.'

Diane Boyett, a spokesperson for the school district, said in a statement that parents must make a report with the school if they think their child is being bullied. Duke said he had done so.


North Carolina university votes to ban Chick-fil-A from campus‏

Odd to see this happen at a school in a state that voted to ban gay marriage.  It shows what little Soviets universities have become

A North Carolina university’s student government has voted to ban a Chick-fil-a restaurant on campus because the fast-food chain’s president is against gay marriage.

Elon University’s Student Government Association voted 35-11 to ask its food vendor to find another restaurant to take its place, the Daily Advance reports.

Now, the decision goes to the Student Government Association’s executive president, Darien Flowers, who can accept the vote or veto it.

Flowers said he wants to talk to students and other people before making a decision, according to the paper.

The ultimate decision on whether Chick-fil-A stays will be made by senior administrators at the private college and Elon's president, school spokesman Dan Anderson told the paper.

In July, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was "guilty as charged" for backing "the biblical definition of a family."

“We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that." Cathy told the Baptist Press, the news agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Atlanta-based chain opened its first location in a Georgia mall in 1967 and grown to more than 1,615 restaurants in 39 states and Washington, D.C., with annual sales of more than $4.1 billion, according to its website.


The benefits of a classical music education at what was once a British sink school

But would it work with less dedicated and enthusiastic teachers?  Almost anything works if the teachers believe in it

Daniel Olorunfemi didn’t even know what a tuba was until three years ago, when he started at Highbury Grove School in Islington, north London. In the past 12 months, though, thanks to this inner-city comprehensive’s ground-breaking classical music programme, he has been on stage at the Royal Albert Hall playing the lowest-pitched of all brass instruments in front of 5,000 people.

Quite an achievement? “I was a bit too nervous to take it all in,” the 13-year-old confesses. “But it was amazing, wasn’t it,” chips in his more confident classmate and fellow orchestra member, Melissa Bolat. She, too, only picked up a double bass for the first time when she arrived at Highbury Grove.

A third member and contemporary, Joe Monk, wasn’t quite such a novice. “I’d played a bit of guitar before I got here,” he says. At Highbury Grove, though, every child is given an instrument to learn, and they offered him the clarinet. He hasn’t looked back. “It is just what everyone does here,” he reports matter-of-factly. “It’s the same as doing English or maths.”

Which may be the case in many independent schools, where parents and governors have the resources to fund one-to-one tuition from peripatetic music teachers and to purchase expensive violins, violas and cellos – but it is rare indeed in the state sector. Music and playing instruments is usually an optional extra, available only to those whose parents can foot at least part of the bill. A modest scheme called Wider Opportunities, launched under the last government to allow all primary schoolchildren a limited window in which to learn an orchestral instrument, is aimed principally at giving them a taster. Ambitions at Highbury Grove School, though, are longer-term. For many of its pupils, drawn from a catchment area with pockets of social deprivation (70 per cent qualify for free school meals), that first introduction to an instrument they might never otherwise have had can be a life-changing moment. Last year’s head girl, whom the school started on the flute at 14, has just begun a music degree at Oxford.

Highbury Grove has had a bit of a topsy-turvy history, admits its director of music, Pierce Brown. When it opened as a brand-new all-boys’ comprehensive in the late 1960s, its head was the bewhiskered Rhodes Boyson, later a high-profile education minister under Margaret Thatcher. He turned the school into a fortress against all progressive teaching methods – defending corporal punishment at a time when everywhere else was phasing it out.

In the 1990s standards fell, and by the turn-of-the-century, thanks to an undercover TV reporter posing as a supply teacher, the school, by now mixed, became a byword for failure. “Ten years ago, it was appalling,” says Brown candidly. “And that wasn’t just what Ofsted said, it was what the local community felt. Parents would do anything rather than allow their children to come here.”

That was when the fightback began. As part of her widely acclaimed efforts to turn this failing school around – which included rehousing it in new premises – the head teacher, Truda White, had an idea. The 1,300 pupils at the school speak 50 different languages as their mother tongue. Music, she felt, could act as a common language to unite them and mould them into one community.

And she took that one stage further. Rather than embracing the musical enthusiasms of the children, she decided upon something more timeless – the classical canon. One inspiration was the Simón Bolívar Orchestra from Venezuela, the internationally renowned face and sound of a nationwide social programme (“El Sistema”) that has run since 1975 in the Latin American country, which recruits, trains and equips classical musicians from among the poorest youngsters.

With the ongoing support of the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, which provides the instruments and covers the extra costs that otherwise would be beyond the standard state school educational budget, Highbury Grove has been working away to build up this radical programme for six years. “At first, our performances could be a bit hit or miss, and it still isn’t perfect,” says Brown, an Australian who joined four years ago. “But we now feel confident enough to start talking about it publicly.”

Music is at the heart of the curriculum. Every child in their first three years is given the chance to learn a stringed instrument. And, so that they don’t come to it blind, Highbury Grove now sends its music teachers out into six feeder primary schools locally to start pupils off before secondary transfer. Those who opt for music as their speciality on entering Highbury Grove are given a wider range of instrument choices, and for everyone there are orchestras, ensembles, bands and choirs.

But wouldn’t electric guitars, synthesisers and computer-generated sounds be more familiar, and perhaps more appealing, to the pupils than classical music and the traditional instruments of the orchestra? “It is about opening doors, giving them the chance to develop an interest and their own ability, and then we find the passion comes,” explains Brown. “There is nothing to match the vibrations that come through a raw, acoustic instrument.”

It is not, he stresses, that this is some prissy conservatory from which all contemporary sounds are banished as vulgar. There is too much of a buzz about Highbury Grove to make that possible, even if he wanted it. Some of the pupils, he says, have been working on a version of Pachelbel’s Canon that mixes Baroque 17th-century music with sampling from We Dance On by hip-hop crew N-Dubz (which included X Factor judge Tulisa). “We make classical music cool,” he jokes.

He is very serious, though, about the wider educational benefits that such a concentration on music has brought to the school. Every task in music is approached in the round. “So, as well as studying a piece of music, we will also study how the ear works in Biology, or sound waves in Science, or the history of the period when it was written. It all has a practical basis in the daily life of the school. We’re preparing pieces for Remembrance Sunday right now, and music again provides a way into understanding a commemoration that is very important in our culture, but a bit of a mystery for those of our pupils whose families have arrived in this country very recently.”

If it is all sounding too good to be true, you don’t just have to take Brown’s word – or those of the pupils – for the bigger benefits that music has brought to the school. Ofsted has visited, awarded Highbury Grove an “outstanding” rating and praised in particular the music programme for the sense of community it engendered with everyone working and learning together. Examination results are improving rapidly and the school is now heavily oversubscribed, with five candidates for every place. It is even beginning to attract applications from sections of the local community that previously would have given it the widest of berths. “It all goes to show,” Brown reflects, “that the skills involved in classical music are very transferable across the curriculum”.


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