Sunday, February 17, 2013

Elementary school bans white kids from tutoring
An elementary school principal in the Denver suburbs told parents that white children would be excluded from an after-school tutoring initiative.

Andre C. Pearson, the principal at Mission Viejo Elementary in Aurora, Colorado sent letters home to parents informing them that only students of color are eligible for the program, KJCT, the local ABC affiliate, reports.

Some shocked parents have alleged discrimination and segregation, reports CBS Denver.

“I was infuriated,” one parent, Nicole Cox, told CBS Denver. “I didn’t understand why they would include or exclude certain groups.”

“We have come so far in all of these years to show everybody that everyone is equal, that everyone should be treated equally,” Cox added.

Cox is white. She has a 10-year-old daughter at the school, and she wants her daughter to have tutoring.

CBS Denver explains that Principal Pearson left Cox a voicemail before she could complain directly to the school (as other parents already had).

“This is Andre Pearson,” the voicemail said. “It’s focused for and designed for children of color, but certainly, if we have space for other kids who have needs, we can definitely meet those needs.”

The district has since apologized for the error. A spokeswoman for the school district told KJCT that Pearson’s letter was a mistake and that white students can participate in the tutoring program.

“We deeply regret that they got that communication,” the spokeswoman added, according to notes CBS Denver.


Race riot at Minneapolis South High School

A cafeteria fight at Minneapolis South High School escalated into a melee involving hundreds of students Thursday, spurred by what parents and students said are growing racial tensions between Somali-American students and others.

Police said that 200 to 300 students shoved, kicked and threw bottles at one other and that extra Minneapolis police officers were called in to break up the fighting. Three students and one staff member were taken to a hospital for medical treatment, and police said rioting and disorderly conduct charges could be filed.

"We're very fortunate no one got seriously injured," said police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer, adding that in 19 years, "I honestly can't recall a [similar] situation of this magnitude."

While school district leaders said they didn't know what sparked the fights, students such as Adnan Farah said they were the culmination of increasing racial tensions.

"This school is not safe for Somali students," said Farah, a junior. "Throughout this year, there have been a lot of fights."

Senior Guled Omar said he and other Somali-American students feel targeted at the school. "I don't know if it's because we're minorities or the newest immigrant group," he said.

Omar said that students have complained to the school district and principal about perceived discrimination, but that nothing has been done.

School district spokesman Stan Alleyne said he couldn't comment on the students' claims, but added that the district takes any complaints about racism seriously. "It is a safe school," he said. Principal Cecilia Saddler did not reply to messages to comment.

Officials briefly considered canceling Friday classes, but decided instead to hold school, with some restrictions. Students will remain in their classrooms during class periods and access to the building will be limited.

"We are comfortable with the security measures that we currently have in place and we look forward to providing a normal instructional day," the school said on its website.

Tensions aren't new

The fighting came two days after an article in South's student newspaper, the Southerner, described Somali-American students' sense that tension around ethnic or racial differences has grown this year. Two students told the newspaper that earlier this school year, a welcome banner in Somali was ripped off a balcony by two students and that a lunch table that primarily had been used by East African students was removed from the lunchroom.

The article also described recent efforts to increase dialogue, such as creation of a Somali Student Association.

Palmer said Thursday's incident started during the first lunch period around 11:45 a.m., when a student threw a milk carton at another student, sparking a small fight. By the third lunch hour, about 12:45 p.m., tensions and unsubstantiated rumors about that initial fight spread and a melee erupted. Twenty to 25 staff members intervened, as did two school resource officers, who then called Minneapolis police officers for help.

Omar and Farah said Somali students jumped in to help one of their number who was involved in one fight. Farah said the violence "was a racial issue. This is just the biggest one throughout the year."

Palmer said the students dispersed only after police sprayed a chemical irritant. No one was arrested and no weapons were used, he said. The campus was placed on lockdown for the rest the day, with students remaining in their classes before being dismissed as usual.

Later, junior Simon Quevedo said the fights during the first two lunch periods escalated as word spread. "People came in to back up their friends and it turned into an altercation," he said. "I was a bit scared, because you never know what people will have on them."

Student Council president Connor Bass described the scene as "chaos." The senior said five to six fights were going on simultaneously. "When the cops came and started spraying Mace, it was just pandemonium," he said.

Palmer said police are still investigating the incident, which was captured on surveillance cameras inside the school.

Integration, not interaction

South High parent Kate Towle said she heard about the fighting when her son texted her after lunch. She said she has heard about students feeling unsafe and racial tension, but added that the school has been working to reduce conflicts.

Towle advises a group called Students Together as Allies for Racial Trust (START), which South students began in 2009. It meets weekly to discuss intercultural issues to try to bridge differences. "Like any area, these skills have to be developed like math, history. ... You can't throw kids in a building and expect them to get along," she said. "It's a challenge for all of our students to live amid such rich diversity."

Almost half of the 1,750 students at the school are students of color, and of those, 8 percent are of Somali heritage, according to the school district.


British pupil, 13, excluded from school for wearing 'dangerous' traditional tie instead of a clip-on

A schoolboy has been punished for refusing to wear a clip-on tie because he wants to wear a smarter traditional one - which breaches 'health and safety rules'.

Max Richmond, 13, was put into isolation for a day, for wearing the proper tie at Colne Community School in Brightlingsea, Essex.

The 1,438-pupil school insists pupils wear clip-on ties for health and safety reasons - but Max says the clip-on ones are uncomfortable and childish.

He prefers to wear a traditional tie of exactly the same design, given to him by a neighbour.

He was given work to complete on his own in a small cubicle for continuing to wear the tie.

Max, of Waterside, Brightlingsea, said: 'It seems bizarre and unnecessary especially over something like the tie I was wearing.  'I like wearing a real tie because it feels proper.

'People have worn them for generations, and if you are not wearing one during secondary school then you are never going to learn the necessary skills for when you go into the world of work.

'When you are wearing a clip-on tie it is hard to be taken seriously, especially when you go to competitions against other schools - it feels foolish, and childish.'

On their website in 2009, the Health and Safety Executive said it was a 'myth' that health and safety bans traditional school ties.

The school has agreed to review the policy.

Nardeep Sharma, headteacher, said the rule was introduced about three years ago to support the health and safety of young people.  He said: 'This was in line with the practice in most secondary schools nationally.  'The policy can only be changed by governors and a parent has requested the governors review this policy, which the school has agreed to do.'

Max said he welcomed the review and hoped the governors would take his points on board.

Roger Bibbings, occupational safety adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said schools can make pupils wear clip-on ties, but should not cite health and safety grounds.

He said: .It might be a sensible precaution if a school insists on pupils wearing ties while handling rotating machinery, such as in a school workshop, but for any other reason you cannot say this policy was required under health and safety law.'

The Health and Safety Executive's website says: 'Quite rightly, few parents would see wearing school ties as a safety issue.  'After all, millions of kids have been wearing ties for years without any real problems.

'Taking simple precautions during laboratory work or around machinery makes sense. But if the concern is about kids fighting, although clip-on ties may help, the real issue is discipline.

'So no, we don't ban school ties – it's down to the school to make decisions about uniform, not HSE.'

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive added: 'It seems to us to be a disproportionate response.'

Linda Painter, of the Schoolwear Association, said that producers had reported a 'strong trend' in school opting for clip on ties, largely because every tie looks uniform and neat, but also because it means that the ties do not get wrapped around students' necks.

She said: 'Lots of school do have clip on ties, it's a strong trend. It's not definitively about health and safety.

'Obviously they can come off quite easily and don't get stuck round children's necks, but clip-ons do mean that all the students' ties look the same and look smart.'


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