Sunday, October 06, 2013

GA: City schools requesting AR-15s to defend their students

Some of the anti-gun activists have recommended we protect students in schools with bullet proof dry erase boards and laws which criminals are supposed to respect.  But these tactics really just make the students sitting ducks in an active shooter scenario. has reported that a northeast Georgia school district is asking for Colt 6920 M4 carbine rifles, which are law enforcement versions of the civilian AR-15.    These rifles can carry 30-60 round magazines and have shorter barrels making them perfect for tactical deployment.

    "The Colt 6920 M4 carbine rifles — one for each school — would be locked in the vehicles of school resource officers when the schools aren’t in session."

The safes where the guns are stored will be accessible by fingerprint recognition, and access to the rifles would only be granted to the school’s resource officer.

Gainesville police approached the schools about the idea in April after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut.


Some schools drop out of lunch program

The Agriculture Department says 524 schools — out of about 100,000 — have dropped out of the federally subsidized national school lunch program since the government introduced new standards for healthier foods last year.

The new standards have met with grumbling from school nutrition officials who say they are difficult and expensive to follow, conservatives who say the government shouldn't be dictating what kids eat and — unsurprisingly — from some children who say the less-greasy food doesn't taste as good. But USDA says the vast majority of schools are serving healthier food, with some success.

According to USDA data released Monday, around a half-percent of schools have dropped out since last year. Ninety of those 524 schools that have dropped out said specifically that they did so because of the new meal-plan requirements. Most of the rest did not give a reason.

Eighty percent of schools say they have already met the requirements, which went into place at the beginning of the 2012 school year.

"It's important to remember that some schools weren't as close to meeting the new standards, and they may need a little more time for their students to fully embrace the new meals," said Dr. Janey Thornton, the USDA deputy undersecretary in charge of the school meals. She said it is clear that the majority of schools think the new standards are working.

In an effort to stem high childhood obesity levels, the new guidelines set limits on calories and salt, and they phase in more whole grains in federally subsidized meals served in schools' main lunch line. Schools must offer at least one vegetable or fruit per meal and comply with a variety of other specific nutrition requirements. The rules aim to introduce more nutrients to growing kids and also to make old favorites healthier — pizza with low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crust, for example, or baked instead of fried potatoes.

If schools do not follow the rules, or if they drop out, they are not eligible for the federal dollars that reimburse them for free and low-cost meals served to low-income students. That means wealthier schools with fewer needy students are more likely to be able to operate outside of the program.

Some school nutrition officials have said buying the healthier foods put a strain on their budgets. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, also released Monday, said that 91 percent of school food officials the group surveyed said they face challenges in putting the standards in place, including problems with food costs and availability, training employees to follow the new guidelines, and a lack of the proper equipment to cook healthier meals.

The group said almost all schools they surveyed had expected to meet the requirements by the end of last year. Even though some schools are still working out the kinks, "It shows that this is certainly doable," said Jessica Donze Black, director of the Pew project, which has lobbied for healthier foods.

Leah Schmidt, president of the School Nutrition Association and director of nutrition programs at a Kansas City, Mo. school district, said any schools that would consider forgoing the federal funds would have to have very few students eating the free and reduced-cost meals.

She said it is to be expected that some schools have met challenges.

"Any time you have something new, you're going to have some growing pains," she said.

Dr. Howell Wechsler, the CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a group that is aiming to reduce childhood obesity, said that though some schools are still working to catch up, many have exceeded the standards. The alliance has worked with more than 18,000 schools in all 50 states, and Wechsler says many are thinking of creative ways to encourage healthy eating, like holding walk-a-thons or farmers' markets to raise money instead of bake sales.

He said that many of the schools have reported better academic performance and less student sick days as a result.

"Just about all of the schools that participate with us they say there is a difference," Wechsler said.

As some schools struggled to follow the new guidelines at the beginning of the last school year, USDA relaxed some of the original requirements. In December, the department did away with daily and weekly limits on meats and grains that school nutrition officials said were too hard to follow.

Congress has also had its say on the standards. In 2011, after USDA first proposed them, Congress prohibited the department from limiting potatoes and French fries and allowed school lunchrooms to continue counting tomato paste on pizza as a vegetable.

The school lunch rules apply to federally subsidized lunches served at reduced or no cost to low-income children. Those meals have always been subject to nutritional guidelines because they are partially paid for by the federal government, but the new rules put broader restrictions on what could be served as childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed.

Schoolchildren can still buy additional foods in other parts of the lunchroom and the school. Separate USDA rules to make those foods healthier could go into effect as soon as next year.


'I cannot afford to give my children the education I had – the fees are simply too steep’

A British lament

Is there anything more fraught with anxiety for the middle-class parent than the question of what school to send your child to? The divide between state and independent schools makes this worse. There is a fear, held particularly by those who were privately educated themselves, that state schools are not good enough, and that your child will get bored or – worse – go off the rails.

I’m a fairly representative example of this worry. I benefited from a highly academic education at private schools. But now that I have children of my own, I cannot afford to give them what I had. The fees are simply too steep.

Even if we could educate one child privately, by making superhuman economies or borrowing money, to put all three through public school could require up to £100,000 a year of spare cash – which we don’t have.

And what if we were to select only one child for the de-luxe education? How would the others feel about it as they got older, especially if they had had a bad time at their state school? Might they not grow to resent their parents, and their favoured sibling?

The idea is bandied about that by “making sacrifices” – shopping at Lidl and cutting out fancy holidays – you can afford private schools. I’m not sure how realistic that is. You might run out of cash halfway through – then face the awful prospect of having to drag little Jamie out of his cushy public school and plonk him in the rough comprehensive up the road.

Something has definitely shifted. The kind of privileged education that I and lots of other middle-class parents enjoyed seems more out of reach than ever, the preserve of a super-class. Back in the Eighties, I remember my father, a surgeon in Shropshire, paying about £900 a term for me to go to Rugby. (Admittedly, I received a 50 per cent discount for getting a scholarship.) Today, if you want to send a child to Rugby, it will set you back £10,415 a term.

That is a lot of money to find out of taxed income. And it’s a problem for the schools, too, I’d argue, because if “solid English families” (to use one headmaster’s phrase) can no longer afford these great institutions, they risk losing their distinctive character.

All I’m looking for is a bargain-basement school offering first-rate teaching but none of the frills that push up fees in the facilities “arms race”. Forget the Olympic-sized swimming pool, as long as there are inspiring teachers who think there’s nothing their pupils can’t achieve.

Meanwhile, we entrust our children to the state and try to remember that the important thing is to make sure they’re happy. And when lots of pushy middle-class parents colonise a school, supporting it and bringing an appetite for rigour and competition, standards are driven up. That is a good outcome for state schools – and all their pupils.


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