Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Government paranoia in Chicago: Teacher suspended after showing students garden tools

The intemperate, extreme nature of today's education establishment just keeps getting more and more absurd, as evidenced by details of a recently filed lawsuit surrounding claims that a teacher was suspended after bringing garden-variety tools to class.

Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, a civil rights-oriented public interest legal organization, filed the suit on behalf of Doug Bartlett, a 17-year veteran teacher, after he was suspended by officials at the Washington Irving Elementary School in Chicago for bringing wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers to class as part of a "tool discussion," CNSNews.com reports.

Those tools, according to school officials, are weapons, you see, and as such, are not permitted on campus grounds.

From the news site:

"Despite the fact that all potentially hazardous items were kept out of the students' reach, school officials at Washington Irving Elementary School informed...Bartlett, a 17-year veteran in the classroom, that his use of the tools as visual aids endangered his students. Bartlett was subsequently penalized with a four-day suspension without pay - charged with possessing, carrying, storing or using a weapon."

Again, you just can't make this stuff up.

According to his complaint, Bartlett says he "suffered humiliation, embarrassment, mental suffering, and lost wages." He is seeking "nominal compensatory damages," as well as the removal of the suspension from his employment record.

"This school district's gross overreaction to a simple teaching demonstration on basic tools such as wrenches and pliers underscores exactly what is wrong with our nation's schools," said Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead. "What makes this case stand out from the rest is that this latest victim of zero tolerance policies run amok happens to be a veteran school teacher."

As stated, none of the students had any access to the tools. When they were not being used, they were secured in a toolbox on a high shelf that was clearly out of the reach of students. Bartlett's only purpose in bringing them was to have a discussion with his students about their proper use.

Shame on him for wanting to teach kids how a screwdriver works.

"This is a suit for violation for Plaintiff's constitutional due process rights resulting from the overzealous application of political correctness," says the complaint, which also notes that two of the "tools" Bartlett brought with him were a pocket knife and box cutter - the "weapons," per the school.

On August 8, 2011, in connection with a required "tool discussion" included in his teaching curriculum, Plaintiff displayed to his second-grade students several garden-variety tools, including a box cutter, a 2.25" pocketknife, wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers," the complain says. "The visual aids were used in an effort to facilitate student understanding and remembrance of the curriculum. As he displayed the box cutter and pocketknife, Plaintiff specifically described the proper uses of these tools. Neither of these items was made accessible to the students."

It goes onto say that a complaint against Bartlett was lodged Aug. 19. He "was charged with possessing, carrying, storing, or using a weapon; negligently supervising children; inattention to duty; violating school rules; and repeated flagrant acts."

The school's definition of a weapon is extremely broad. According to the complaint, which quoted from the Student Handbook, a weapon is described as:

"Any object that is commonly used to inflict bodily harm, and/or an object that is used or intended to be used in a manner that may inflict bodily harm, even though its normal use is not as a weapon."

Bartlett said he never had any intention of using any of his tools as weapons, nor did he think he was subject to suspension and other disciplinary action for bringing tools to his class for what turns out to be a mandatory part of school curriculum, according to the suit.

But in today's breathless, hyper-paranoid "learning environment," all we are really teaching our kids is to be afraid. Of everything.  That's the real crime.


Four in ten British students may default on their loans: Treasury fear funding system is unsustainable

Four out of ten student loans may never be repaid, amid fears that university funding is becoming unsustainable.

The Treasury is said to be concerned that the new system – which sees students borrow up to £9,000 a year for their course fees – will not recoup its costs.

Officials anticipated that 28 per cent of loans would never be repaid. It is now understood that their estimate stands at 40 per cent.

From last September, the maximum amount universities could charge for tuition was nearly trebled from £3,290 to £9,000. This leaves students with the prospect of £36,000 of debt for a four-year course, before living costs are taken into account.

And graduate salaries have fallen dramatically in recent years, impairing their ability to repay the loans when they start work.

Ministers said it was necessary to put higher education ‘on a more sustainable footing’ – but some claim they fear the loans could increase the cost to the taxpayer in the long-term.

A senior source said yesterday: ‘The Treasury are all  over this and are extremely worried about the viability  of the system. They are taking a very  long-term view but their  estimate for non-repayment  keeps going up.

‘It is not helped by the recession, which means graduate incomes are going to be lower than they hoped.’

An independent schools expert also raised fears that teachers are not giving pupils and parents enough information about the debts they could accumulate by going  to university.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council and a former headmaster of Harrow, said students on four-year courses would have debts of up to £80,000 on graduation, once borrowing for living costs was included.

He added: ‘If you were an adult taking on this size mortgage you would go through a rigorous process which guarantees you understand what you are taking on. That is  not happening with 17 and 18-year-olds.’

And Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter University and a former president  of Universities UK, said it  was ‘inconceivable’ the Government could reopen the issue of university fees before the next election.

He said: ‘The only way you can save money is to cut student numbers going to university or alter payment terms. Either is a political no-go area before an election.’

Currently all UK and EU  students can apply for a loan, paid to their university or college, of up to £9,000 which they pay back.   They can also get a loan  for living costs of up to £5,500 – or £7,675 a year if they live  in London.

Students must pay back the loans only when they earn more than a certain amount, which is currently £16,365.

For those under the fee system who will graduate in  2015-16, the threshold will be £21,000 and they will have to pay back their loan at a rate  of 9 per cent of their earnings every year.

A Treasury spokesman said: ‘The Coalition transformed university funding to make it more sustainable, progressive and transparent.

‘According to the OECD, we have the most advanced student support system of any comparable country.’


Fired! Governors of British school that covered up poor standards: Parents fooled into believing pupils were doing well

A school's entire board of governors has been sacked after teachers were caught marking work too generously to cover up poor standards.

Parents were being fooled into thinking their children were doing well by teachers who have not had their work monitored properly for years.

Ofsted inspectors only discovered what was happening when they looked at pupils’ written work at Bradford Moor Primary School – where only 2 per cent of pupils speak English as their native language.

The school has now been placed in  special measures and the education authority dumped the entire board of governors last week.

Two years ago the Labour-controlled council praised the school as an example of successful multi-racial education. But since then the school has come under fire for falling standards.

In February, a parents’ group staged a protest over the school’s scrapping of sets in favour of mixed-ability classes.

There has also been criticism over resources being spent on interpreters for children and parents.

Most pupils at the primary school come from a Pakistani background and speak Urdu or Punjabi. Only nine out of 470 have English as their first language.

Christopher Keeler, who led the Ofsted inspection, said in his report: ‘Evidence from looking at the work in pupils’ books indicates that teachers’ assessments of what pupils can do are too generous, particularly in writing.  ‘This gives a misleading impression of standards to pupils and their parents.’

And in a withering attack on staff, the report added: ‘Some teachers lack the level of subject knowledge, experience and confidence required to teach either literacy or numeracy effectively.’

Inspectors concluded that planning and support for pupils was ‘not good enough’ and the governors had failed to ‘challenge’ the poor standards.

The report said pupils started school with ‘skills that are much less developed than usual for their age’ and standards continued to fall over the next three years.

They identified basic reading and writing as well as communication and social development as being particularly poor in the early years.  Even Year 6 pupils were well below average in maths and reading.

A new headteacher is now in place and council bosses are waiting for the go-ahead from the Department of Education to bring in a new team of governors.

Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, said yesterday: ‘It is not surprising children who have English as a second language will struggle in English as a subject.’

He said money spent on interpreters ‘would be better spent on teaching,’ adding: ‘This is a classic example of what you get when you put political correctness before results.’

Bradford councillor Ralph Berry said: ‘We have got a school which has been through a period of change and difficulty.  'But we have a new head who has come in to address some of the long-standing issues and we are really turning things around.’


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