Sunday, June 30, 2013

Case Against Student Who Wore NRA T-Shirt to School Dismissed

On June 27th, in a positive resolution to a case which has captured the attention of advocates for First and Second Amendment rights, the case against 14-year-old Logan Middle School Honor Student Jared Marcum of Logan, W.V., was dismissed with prejudice.  Marcum had been charged with obstructing an officer following an incident stemming from a Logan Middle School faculty member's reaction to Marcum wearing to school an NRA t-shirt featuring the words "Protect Your Right" and an image of a semiautomatic rifle. The charge against Jared carried a possible sentence of incarceration.

The entire episode started back on April 18th when Marcum was wearing his NRA t-shirt in school and a Logan Middle School band teacher took exception to Marcum's choice of attire.  The Logan County Schools' Dress Code, however, had no restriction on clothing featuring firearms.  Nevertheless, the teacher demanded that Marcum remove his shirt or turn it inside out. Marcum refused, citing his First Amendment rights, at which point the other Logan County school officials became involved.  During the incident, Marcum's classmates were vocal in support of him.

As Jared persisted in asserting his rights and refusing to remove the shirt, school officials called the Logan Police Department, complaining of an "unruly student."  Police arrived to find Jared in the principal's office, still wearing the shirt.   An officer ultimately arrested Marcum, claiming that his repeated assertions of his rights, even after being warned to be quiet, constituted obstruction of a police officer. Marcum was also given a one-day suspension from school.

Upon his return to school, Marcum again wore the t-shirt that sparked the controversy and was greeted by a show of support from his classmates, many of whom chose to wear similar attire in solidarity. In the days that followed, support continued to pour in from students all around the country, along with rights advocates across the political spectrum. In support of his client, Marcum's attorney, Ben White, made clear Jared's motivation for his behavior, stating, "Jared respects firearms and has training to use them, and believes in the Second Amendment... He believes it's being threatened by current legislation. He wore [the shirt] as an expression of political speech and the need to protect the Second Amendment."

On June 17th, Logan County prosecutors charged Marcum with obstructing a police officer, claiming that Marcum had hindered the responding officer's ability to do his job by "interrupting" and refusing to be quiet when told to do so. The charge carried with it the possibility of incarceration in a juvenile facility. In contesting the charge, White noted that "In my view of the facts, Jared didn't do anything wrong," going on to say, "I think [the officer] could have done something differently."

Thankfully, on June 27th, common sense prevailed, as the parties agreed no further legal action would arise from the case.  In the agreement underlying the order of dismissal, Jared did not admit guilt to any offense, and the State made clear that "[u]nder [the] circumstances [it] is not interested in the possibility of creating a juvenile criminal record for this Defendant."  For his part, Marcum has offered an apology for any perceived disrespect to the officer, and he and his mother agreed to forego any civil action against the City of Logan, its police department, the police officers involved. During the episode, NRA was in contact with and provided assistance to Marcum's attorney.


British graduates taking elementary jobs

More than 20,000 of last year’s graduates were unemployed six months after leaving university, with men more likely to be out of work than women.

Thousands more took jobs that do not require a degree such as window cleaners, office juniors and road sweepers.

Overall, nine per cent of all UK and EU full-time university leavers, or 20,415, were assumed unemployed after completing a first degree in 2011-12, according to figures yesterday from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Women are faring better than men in the job market, the data suggested, with more than one in 10 − or 11 per cent — of male graduates whose whereabouts were known six months after they finished their first degree registered as jobless, compared with seven per cent of women.

Although the total proportion of those unemployed six months after graduation is the same as the previous year, the agency warned that figures are not directly comparable because of changes in the way they are collected.

The statistics also looked at the types of jobs and careers graduates were in after gaining their degree. In 2011-12 more than a third of new graduates working in the UK were in “non-professional” jobs not necessarily requiring a degree.

Around 9,695 people were working in “elementary occupations”, taking jobs as office juniors, hospital porters, waiters, road sweepers, window cleaners, shelf stackers and lollipop men and women.

Rising numbers were working in factories and sales and customer services.

Yet the largest group − 54,435 people − were in the graduate job level group described as “professional occupations”. This includes vets, dentists, pharmacists, engineers, teachers and solicitors.

Prof Michael Gunn, chairman of the university think tank million+ and vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University, said: “Six months is a relatively short time to make a judgment about the value of getting a degree and the occupations which graduates will enter in the future.

“However, these statistics confirm that, even in a difficult labour market, studying for a degree on a full-time or a part-time basis remains one of the best ways of securing employment and a career.”

Simon Renton, University and College Union president, insisted that well-educated workers were still sought-after and were more likely to fare better in the current economic climate. He said: “Students are still in demand.

“A report this week comparing 43 countries’ education systems showed that graduates are three times more likely to be employed than those with few qualifications and that demand for highly-skilled, highly-educated workers is still rising faster than supply.

“If we are to have any chance of being a major player on the global stage we need to be investing in skills at both university and college level.”


Playgrounds could be built on in Britain's school places crisis: Lack of planning 'is putting education at risk'

Under-performing schools could be forced to expand to deal with a chronic shortage of places, MPs warn today.  They say education is at risk because of a lack of planning by the Department for Education.

Some schools may have to turn libraries or music rooms into classrooms or create classrooms  in playgrounds.

The warning comes from the Public Accounts Committee, the latest group to raise concerns about the lack of school places.

In March, a study by the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that by September 2014, an estimated extra 256,000 school places will be needed.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said it is spending £5billion by 2015 on new school places, and that it expects 190,000 extra places will have been created by September.

However the committee’s chairman, former Labour minister Margaret Hodge, claims that the DfE does not know whether this £5billion ‘will be enough to pay for them or even spent to best effect’.

In its report, the PAC says the department and local authorities did not anticipate ‘how much and where pupil numbers were rising early enough and therefore failed to plan adequately for the increased demand’.

The report warns that the need to increase the number of school places should not be done at the expense of quality.

Mrs Hodge said: ‘It does not take much imagination to realise that educational opportunities and standards might be diminished if specialist areas, such as music rooms and libraries, are converted into classrooms, poorly performing schools expanded or playgrounds used to house children in overcrowded demountables.’

Schools minister David Laws replied that the Coalition was ‘clearing up the mess left by Ed Balls and Labour when they were in government’.

He said: ‘Margaret Hodge is right that there is a severe need to ensure there are enough school places but she has failed to pin the blame where it belongs – at the door of the last Government of which she was a member.’


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