Thursday, June 20, 2013

The 14-year-old kid arrested over his pro-NRA shirt now faces a year in jail

The West Virginia eighth-grader who was suspended and arrested in late April after he refused to remove a t-shirt supporting the National Rifle Association appeared in court this week and was formally charged with obstructing an officer.

As CBS affiliate WOWK reports, 14-year-old Jared Marcum now faces a $500 fine and a maximum of one year in prison.

The boy’s father, Allen Lardieri, is not pleased.  “Me, I’m more of a fighter and so is Jared and eventually we’re going to get through this,” Lardieri told WOWK.  “I don’t think it should have ever gotten this far.”

“Every aspect of this is just totally wrong,” Lardieri added.  “He has no background of anything criminal up until now and it just seems like nobody wants to admit they’re wrong.”

Officials at Logan Middle School in Logan County, West Va. maintain that Marcum, who has since completed eighth grade, was suspended for one day because he caused a disruption after a teacher asked him to remove a shirt emblazoned with a hunting rifle and the statement “protect your right.”

“She said, ‘Are you supposed to wear that in school?’” Marcum had previously explained in an interview with the CBS affiliate. “I said, ‘I don’t see why I shouldn’t.’”

In a move The Daily Caller can only characterize as courageous, Marcum returned to school after his suspension wearing exactly the same shirt. Students across the rural county showed their support for Marcum by wearing similar shirts on that day as well.


British primary school teaching assistant fired after her 18-year-old son was convicted of child sex offence wins £28,000 compensation

A teaching assistant who was sacked from a primary school over her contact with her sex offender son has won £28,300 in compensation.

Tracy Hodgkinson, 47, informed her school bosses when her 18-year-old son was arrested in November 2009 for having a relationship with an underage girl.

But she claimed that they then began to try and force her out of her job after she had taught for ten years at Halifax Primary School in Ipswich, Suffolk.

Her son was jailed for two-and-a-half years in May 2010 for an offence of grooming and sexual activity with a girl aged under 14.

Mrs Hodgkinson was dismissed in January last year after the 362-pupil school raised concerns about her contact with her son and claimed it no long had 'trust and confidence' in her.

She took her case to an employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds Suffolk, which ruled last December that she had been unfairly dismissed.

The tribunal has now awarded her compensation of £28,300, but has made no order for her to be given her job back.

Mrs Hodgkinson of Ipswich said she could not abandon her son who became her only child after her daughter died from a rare form of cancer in December 2004.

She said: 'It is a weight off my shoulders. The whole process has really taken its toll, my health has suffered.

'I couldn't abandon my son, he's the only child I have left. Me having contact with my son, who has paid for what he did, posed no risk to the children.

'They tried to make me pay for his crimes. I feel I can draw a line under it all now. I am very saddened by what has happened, but glad that I stood up and fought for what I believed in.

'I still can't really believe I had the strength to stand up and fight my case in front of barristers and lawyers.

'There were times when I contemplated taking my own life, but the memory of my daughter got me through. I really hope the school has learned from what happened.'

Her son was living with his father, her ex-husband, at the time he was arrested over his relationship with the girl who had no connection with Halifax Primary School

Mrs Hodgkinson informed the school's headteacher Anna Hennell-James and Janice Lee, strategic manager for the learning and improvement service at Suffolk County Council, of his arrest.  She asked for some time off and was told to remain at home until the school had decided on a strategy to respond to the situation.

But she claimed that a subsequent meeting with the headteacher and a council official 'turned into a disciplinary hearing'.

The school later raised concerns about her not reporting that there had been a request for a friend's 15-year-old daughter to visit her son in Norwich prison.

Mrs Hodgkinson claimed the visit didn't happen after she contacted the girl's parents to ask their permission and the mother refused it.  She consequently did not inform the school because she did not consider it a 'serious matter'. The prison later admitted that the visiting request should not have been issued.

The school also accused her of 'associating with offenders' after she met her son at a McDonald's restaurant following his release to a bail hostel in Ipswich. When the pair met, her son had a friend from the hostel with him.

Mrs Hodgkinson went to an employment tribunal after losing an appeal against her dismissal.

The tribunal found that the school's statement that it had lost confidence in her was 'not based on reasonable grounds'.  It also ruled that disciplinary process was full of mistakes, misunderstandings and a lack of proper consideration.

Mrs Hodgkinson had also not received any formal disciplinary warnings let alone a warning that her job was at risk.

There was also no evidence that she had failed to spot or safeguard the interests of any child at the school before or after her son's arrest.

A spokesman for Halifax Primary Schoool said: 'We are disappointed that the tribunal did not see fit to uphold our decision to dismiss Mrs Hodgkinson.  'Our main priority has always been, and will continue to be, the safety of children in our care.'

Mrs Hodgkinson said: 'I am just so pleased that the little person has fought against all odds and won.

'At the end of the day I took them on because while I know my son has done wrong - I'm not disputing that and have never condoned his crime - it was his crime, not mine.

'I had worked at the school for ten years, I loved it there and my little girl loved it there before she died. Now I can't look at it in the same way.

'After losing my daughter I couldn't just stop seeing my son. He's the only child I have left.

'After I told the school it seemed everything I did was picked up on. It feels like they have tried to make me pay for what my son did.

'Me having contact with my son poses no risk to the children.  'They [the school] have tried to make me out to be a bad person. It's been a living nightmare.'


Britain’s universities have to play it clever

The foreign competition is fierce – our leading institutions must raise endowments or perish

Last month, David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science, acknowledged how vital universities are to the UK economy, adding that their innovation and research will “keep us ahead in the global race”. But there is one international race top British universities are at risk of losing: the competition to attract and retain the brightest undergraduates, amid the economic realities of higher education on either side of the Atlantic. Tackling this issue will require a reassessment by leading establishments of how they financially support their pupils, and changes in how British students think about their relationship with their universities after graduation.

I teach an undergraduate class in statistics at Harvard. Enrolment in statistics courses here has grown significantly over the past five years, but there has been another discernible trend: the increase in the proportion of British accents. In 1992, when I was completing my graduate studies at Harvard, 15 British undergraduates enrolled in Harvard College – four per year out of an annual class of about 1,600. That enrolment has quadrupled this year, to 62. I encounter these students in my office hours, ambitious young men and women who, in a different era, would have headed to Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial or other leading UK universities without considering an American alternative.

A similar story is playing out at other elite US universities. Higher education as a whole has become a more international enterprise, but it is likely that the shifting economics of education in the UK versus the US is contributing to the increasing numbers of British undergraduates studying in America. The highly charged debate in Britain has focused largely on the level of fees, but the more relevant metric is affordability; that is, the net cost of a university education, once financial aid has been factored in.

On the American side, the total gross cost per year – tuition, room, board and fees – of attending Harvard has risen from $31,132 in 1998-99 (the year tuition fees were introduced in Britain) to $52,652 in 2012-13. Yet the net cost (taking aid into account) has remained relatively stable, at only $18,277 (about £12,000). Enabled by the largest university endowment in the world, Harvard College spent $172 million last year on undergraduate financial aid. Families whose annual income is less than $65,000 – whether they are US citizens or not – are not required to pay anything towards their children’s education, so many attend Harvard free of charge.

Contrast this with Britain, where tuition fees jumped from £3,300 per year in 2011 to a maximum of £9,000 per year in England from 2012. Most leading universities have opted to charge the higher amount, which still does not cover the cost of educating a student. However, no student in England has to pay fees while they are studying. Rather, they may take on a government-arranged loan, and defer payment until they earn a salary of at least £21,000 per year.

Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial are regularly placed in the top 10 universities in the world. As Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, wrote last year: “We too are in a global competition of Olympic proportions.” These achievements are a testament to the quality of the undergraduates, faculty and research students at British universities. The institutions must, however, recognise the evolving economic realities, which mean they can no longer assume top talent will gravitate to them by default. A decade ago, the leading UK universities maintained a virtual oligopoly on able students; now, new-world competitors are poaching their talent.

This is worrying for the UK. While many British students may ultimately return home to pursue a career, an international undergraduate education can often be the first step towards a more permanent emigration of talent. Each time an outstanding British undergraduate is admitted to Harvard on financial aid, not only the student but also Harvard itself celebrates. The vibrancy of an institution of higher education is driven by the excellence of its undergraduate body.

Leading UK universities are examining how to remain pre-eminent amid international competition. For instance, the Cambridge bursary scheme, in an echo of Harvard’s affordable funding initiative, provides grants of £3,500 for students whose household income is below £25,000, and £1,500 for those below £35,000. Establishing momentum behind such initiatives will involve a cultural shift in the attitudes of alumni to higher education funding. By way of comparison, the recent Stanford endowment campaign raised over $6 billion in five years, a sum greater than the value of the entire Cambridge University endowment (age, 804 years). British universities must engage wholeheartedly in conversations with their alumni about the future affordability of a good undergraduate degree. Faculties should accept that raising endowment funding to support undergraduates will be critical to competitiveness. Such initiatives are becoming more urgent, so that “premier league” British universities do not find themselves unable to attract the best students, and end up relegated from the top division.


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