Friday, March 01, 2013

Facebook Photo of Female Students Dressed in Burqas for Lesson on Islam Prompts State Investigation‏

Parents are demanding answers after a Texas teacher reportedly invited female students to dress up in Islamic garb and told the class to refer to Muslim terrorists as freedom fighters.

Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has launched an investigation into the incident. He told Fox News he was disturbed after seeing a photograph of female students wearing burqas and learning that students were reportedly taught that the cause for Egypt’s turmoil is democracy, not the Muslim Brotherhood, based on an article by the Washington Post.

The lesson on Islam was apparently taught in a world geography class at Lumberton High School in Lumberton, Texas, Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes reports.

One parent told Fox News she was “outraged” after she discovered a photograph of her 14-year-old daughter wearing a burqa on Facebook. “I felt my blood press go through my head,” she added.

“As parents we should have been made aware of this and I felt like the line had been crossed,” the parent said. “Christian kids who want to pray have to do it outside of school hours – yet Islam is being taught to our kids during school hours.”

The girl’s dad wants to know why his daughter was learning about Islam in a geography course.

More from Fox News:

    "The parents said they confronted their daughter and told her to explain exactly what she had been taught.

    “They were asked about their perception of Islam,” she said. “Most of the class said they thought about terrorism. And her response was, ‘we’re going to change the way we perceive Islam.’”

    The teacher reportedly told the students that she did not necessarily agree with the lessons –but she was required to teach the material."

Sen. Patrick said he can relate to parents’ frustration.  “Could you imagine if someone asked a Muslim student to dress up as a priest? The parents of a Muslim student might be rather upset about that,” he said.

The Lumberton Independent School District defended the lesson on Islam in a statement to Fox News, saying “the lesson that was offered focused on exposing students to world cultures, religions, customs and belief systems.”

“The lesson is not teaching a specific religion, and the students volunteered to wear the clothing,” the statement added.

According to the school district, Christianity and Judaism were also part of the lesson — but the parents claim Christianity was not discussed in the class.

When the parents contacted the principal at the high school, he told them the content was required under CSCOPE, a controversial online curriculum system that provides lesson plans to teachers across the state of Texas. However, the school district claims the lesson on Islam was not part of CSCOPE.

Janice VanCleave, founder of Texas CSCOPE Review, said that is a typical response from a school system that uses CSCOPE. She also said teachers are not giving students the whole story about Islam.

“They are not telling students how these young women are treated in this religion…In the Islamic countries women are not treated well at all,” she told Fox News.

VanCleave argues that CSCOPE offers no comparable lessons on Christianity or Judaism.

“I do think CSCOPE promotes the Islamic religion,” she added. “I don’t think it’s right to be proselytizing the Islamic religion in our schools.”

Meanwhile, every time lawmakers have asked CSCOPE leaders about Islamic lessons, they have been told “those were old lessons,” Patrick said.

CSCOPE is the same curriculum system that referred to the Boston Tea Party as an act of terrorism and asked students to design a flag for a new socialist nation.


Adults Are Flocking to College That Paved Way for Flexibility

In September, Jennifer Hunt of Brown County, Ind., was awarded a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey without ever taking a Thomas Edison course. She was one of about 300 of last year’s 3,200 graduates who managed to patch together their degree requirements with a mix of credits — from other institutions, standardized exams, online courses, workplace or military training programs and portfolio assessments.

Years ago, fresh out of high school, Ms. Hunt had finished enough advanced work to enter the University of Texas at Austin with sophomore standing. But after a year, homesick, she returned to Virginia. Then she married and eventually moved to Indiana. She had 10 children, whom she home-schools, and worked in her husband’s business.

About a year ago, at 39, she resolved to complete a degree. In a kind of a higher-education sprint, she took a number of college equivalency exams, earning 54 credits in 14 weeks.

“I tried to do an exam a week at the University of Indianapolis test center,” where the exams could be proctored, she said. “Each test cost about $80.”

Ms. Hunt estimated that her degree in business administration, plus a simultaneous associate degree in applied science, had cost her $5,300, including books and fees. There are almost as many routes to a Thomas Edison degree as there are students. In a way, that is the whole point of the college, a fully accredited, largely online public institution in Trenton founded in 1972 to provide a flexible way for adults to further their education.

“We don’t care how or where the student learned, whether it was from spending three years in a monastery,” said George A. Pruitt, the college’s president, “as long as that learning is documented by some reliable assessment technique.”

“Learning takes place continuously throughout our lives,” he said. “If you’re a success in the insurance industry, and you’re in the million-dollar round table, what difference does it make if you learned your skills at Prudential or at Wharton?”

At a time when student debt has passed $1 trillion, such institutions seem to have, at the very least, impeccable timing. Thomas Edison, New Jersey’s second-largest public college, and two like-minded institutions — Charter Oak State College in Connecticut and the private, nonprofit Excelsior College in New York — are all growing. Thomas Edison’s graduating class last fall was a third bigger than the class five years earlier. And the idea of measuring students’ competency, not classroom hours, has become the cornerstone of newer institutions like Western Governors University in Utah.

At Thomas Edison and the other such colleges, almost all students are over 21, many are in the military, and few have taken a direct path to higher education.

Pilar Mercedes Foy, 31, a Thomas Edison graduate whose parents did not go to college, said after she got an entry-level job at PSEG, the New Jersey energy company, she realized that she would need a degree to advance. She earned the bulk of her credits through heavily subsidized evening classes offered at work, supplemented by classes at Union County College and 12 credits from the CLEP Spanish exam. For her, earning a degree without taking on a penny of student debt was enough of a milestone that she invited her husband, parents, siblings, in-laws and nieces to the September graduation ceremony.

Thirty years ago, when Dr. Pruitt became president, the Thomas Edison approach was controversial. Some academics, in particular, were skeptical, he said, almost believing that “if we didn’t teach it to you, you couldn’t have learned it.”

Results have quieted most naysayers, Dr. Pruitt said. For example, Thomas Edison graduates had the highest pass rate on the exam for certified public accountants in New Jersey, in the latest national accounting-boards report. Still, the approach raises real questions about the meaning of a college degree.

“If I’m giving you a degree, I’m vouching for you, testifying to your competence,” said Clifford Adelman, a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington. “With these nomad students in higher education, whose students are they? There are questions of ownership and ethical responsibility.”

Most Thomas Edison students arrive with some credits, at times earned many years earlier. Others get credits by submitting a portfolio of their work or passing standardized exams like the College Level Examination Program, administered by the College Board. Many complete online college courses from Thomas Edison or “open courseware” sources like the Saylor Foundation. Many bring transcripts from the American Council on Education’s credit recommendation program, certifying their nontraditional programs.


British Headteacher and five staff suspended for restraining aggressive nine-year-old pupil and locking him in the 'naughty cupboard'

A primary school’s headteacher and five of her colleagues have been suspended after an aggressive child was said to have been restrained and shut in a 'naughty cupboard'.

Catherine Woodall, 61, and five colleagues were suspended amid claims that the nine-year-old child was placed in a lockable room after terrorising staff and pupils at Revoe Community Primary School in Blackpool, Lancashire.

Police were called in to investigate allegations of false imprisonment at the 489-pupil school and the six staff, including the head, were sent home.

There were also concerns at the council that staff sent other pupils to the box room whenever they misbehaved. The pupil was confronted by the school's deputy headteacher in a corridor.

She blocked the boy's path through the school and he started to kick out at her. Miss Woodall was not on the premises at the time, MailOnline understands, but has still been suspended.

Other senior members of staff at the school then put the boy in a hold. He was then placed in the small room with a glass window, known as the 'naughty cupboard', to calm him down.

A complaint was made and the local education authority called in police. The staff were suspended pending the outcome of a probe and have been formally interviewed by detectives.

Blackpool Council informed parents about what had happened in a letter sent out yesterday.

One member of staff, who has not been suspended, said today: 'The issue is one of false imprisonment of a nine year old (because) the door on the small calming down room is lockable. This boy had really lost it. What were the staff supposed to do?'

In 2010 Miss Woodall picked up a top advisory and support role under a National College for School Leadership scheme, which means she can oversee headships in other 'challenging' schools.

Parents of children at the school were shocked at the suspensions. Mark Syme, 30, who has three children at Revoe and used to be a school governor, said he was 'gobsmacked'.

Nicola Pearce, 46, who has one daughter at the school, said: 'When I had a look at the letter I couldn’t believe it. One member of staff being suspended is bad enough but six is shocking.’

Luke Carter, 40, who has daughter at the school, added: 'It’s always been a good school but this has worried me.’

A replacement head and teachers were sent to the school to cover the missing staff. A spokesman for Blackpool Council said the issue centred on the 'professional judgement' of school staff involved.

'The issue is one of false imprisonment of a nine year old (because) the door on the small calming down room is lockable. This boy had really lost it. What were the staff supposed to do?'

Councillor Sarah Riding, cabinet member for education and schools on Blackpool Council, said: 'Before half-term we were made aware of an issue at Revoe Primary School that raised concerns to us about the professional judgement made by a number of staff in relation to pupil wellbeing.

‘These concerns have led to the suspension of six members of staff while a full investigation is carried out. It would not be appropriate to comment further on the nature of the investigation until it has been concluded.

‘Although we have no reason to suspect any child has come to harm this is a serious situation that needed immediate action to be taken.

‘In the meantime temporary staff have been recruited and there will be no disruption to children's learning. All parents will receive a letter explaining the current arrangements in place.’

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: 'This allegation, like any allegation involving the well-being of young people, is being taken extremely seriously and will be thoroughly investigated as our priority is the safeguarding of young people. No arrests have been made at this stage.'

The probe began months after the school was at the centre of a row over proposals to convert it into an academy.

Miss Woodall began consulting with parents and governors on the possibility of breaking away from council control and becoming an independent facility.

'My son got put in this cupboard room. He got in a bit of trouble at the school last year and was put in a room for disruptive children. But next to that is the cupboard, which they use for children that won't calm down''

Parent Emma Chadwick, 28, whose son was also put in 'the cupboard'

But the move angered union officials and parents, who gathered outside the school gates to voice their disapproval over the proposed move.

One parent, mother-of-four Emma Chadwick, 28, of Blackpool, said her son Harley Marsh, seven, was also put in 'the cupboard'.

She said: ‘My son got put in this cupboard room. He got in a bit of trouble at the school last year and was put in a room for disruptive children.

‘But next to that is the cupboard, which they use for children that won't calm down. It's a room with no windows and is tiny, almost like an under-stairs cupboard.

‘I was called to the school and when I got there he was in the corner of this room crying. It's unbelievable that they would do that to children. The size of it is just so small - it really is like a cupboard.

‘I think they've been using it for a while and the council has acted now to stop it just because there have been so many complaints from parents. It is disgusting that children can be treated in this way when they are at school. It is not the way to discipline children.’

The letter announcing the suspensions of Miss Woodall and her colleagues was sent by Charlotte Clarke, head of the Labour-controlled council's 'Universal Services and School Effectiveness' department.  It said: ‘Before half term Blackpool Council became concerned about the professional judgement made by these staff in relation to the well-being of pupils when isolating them during challenging behaviour.

‘This has led to six staff being suspended. The suspensions are a neutral act to allow a full investigation to take place as quickly as possible.

‘I realise this will be concerning news and I am writing to reassure you that swift action has been taken and the priority of the council is always the well-being of pupils.

‘Whilst the investigation takes place, an experienced headteacher will be in school every day. Once the exact details are finalised I will write once again to let you known the arrangements.

‘Temporary members of staff are also in place to cover the other positions so there will be no disruption to your child's learning. I appreciate your patience during this difficult time for Revoe and can assure that you will be kept updated throughout the process.’

Mother-of-three Felicity Crane, 32, said: ‘I got a letter from the council yesterday like everyone else. I wasn't aware of the cupboard but I don't think the teachers can control the kids there.

‘The idea that they are putting children in a tiny box room as a punishment is shocking. It is very wrong to put a child in there.

‘I have three children, twins aged six and a seven year old, and it is frightening to think they could be treated like that.’

Neil Hodgkins, headteacher at Devonshire Primary School, and Sandra Hall, headteacher at St John's Primary School, have now been drafted in to run the school.

On its website the school says: ‘Revoe is a school where every child really does matter. We aim to provide a safe and healthy environment which enables our children to be successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.’


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