Sunday, December 22, 2013

Student suspended for a year for … *GASP*… hugging a teacher

A high school senior has been suspended for a year and will not graduate on time for committing a terrible offense…he gave a teacher a hug.

Sam McNair is a 17-year-old student at Duluth High School in Georgia. He was suspended last week when a school hearing officer decided he violated the Gwinnett County Public Schools’ rules on sexual harassment.

    “Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite,” said McNair.

A surveillance camera caught the hug. It shows McNair placing his arms around the back and front of the teacher and giving her a “side” hug.

According to a discipline report, the teacher claimed McNair’s cheeks and lips touched the back of her neck and cheek.

McNair denied he kissed his teacher or that he sexually harassed her. He said he hugs teachers on a regular basis and has never been disciplined for it.

April McNair, Sam’s mother, told KCTV 5 that she is stunned about the suspension. She believes the district had a responsibility to notify her if her son’s hugging was becoming problematic before it suspended him and derailed his college plans.

    “He’s a senior. He plays football and was getting ready for lacrosse and you’re stripping him of even getting a full scholarship for athletics for college.”

Sam does have a discipline record and previous suspensions but not for sexual harassment. He does not believe he should be punished for showing affection:   “You never know what someone’s going through. A hug might help.”

We now live in a country where rich 16-year-olds can steal alcohol and kill four people while driving drunk without getting much more than a slap on the wrist, six-year-olds can get suspended for kissing girls’ hands, and teenaged boys can get suspended for hugging teachers.

What happened to our priorities?


Government Preventing Colleges from Saving Money

With skyrocketing tuition, there is no denying that college is too expensive. My friend, Professor Richard Vedder of Ohio University, has produced a lifetime of work showing that colleges' hefty price is directly related to students' easy access to Federal Pell grants and student loans. Those taxpayer subsidized funds allow universities to handsomely compensate tenured professors who rarely teach and ensure administrators at state institutions remain the highest paid public employees in America.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this model is unsustainable. With student loans already surpassing $1.2 trillion , this is a financial bubble ready to burst. And the failure will be another burden on taxpayers because these loans are backed up by the government. That is why we must insist that public colleges and universities model their business practices after private industry, such as incentivizing schools to reduce the time it takes to graduate and to reduce budgets by outsourcing services which can be performed better and more economically by the private sector.

Privatized dorm buildings, food services, and busing contracts are some good examples of public colleges and universities contracting services to save taxpayers money. But one important outsourcing idea is under attack by the Obama administration and government bureaucrats.

Smart entrepreneurs have developed a model for providing all the functions of a campus bursar’s office, allowing outside institutions to handle student loans and financial aid refunds while not having to hire their own employees, which saves millions of dollars for most schools. Using the economies of scale, companies such as Higher One, which was founded by three Yale University students in 2000, offer this service to colleges and universities while quickly processing students’ refund in the form of a check, direct deposit, or prepaid debit MasterCard.

The business model for these companies is one that every college would be wise to consider. Even though students receive 100 percent of their refunds, businesses like Higher One make a profit because the schools pay them pennies on the dollar of what it would cost them to manage financial aid for their students. In addition, these companies earn profit through debit cards and checking accounts with large ATM networks and small fees which are lower than other national and regional banks.

Since most of the schools that use these services are smaller institutions or community colleges, the average student age is 29. And as these older students try to improve their education and get a better job, they often do not have a bank account, so instead they are provided with pre-paid debit cards. Not only do students receive the money the same day, but the cards prevent the type of check fraud that has plagued the Pell Grant program by $1.2 billion. This is the same sort of shift we saw at the Social Security administration, when they stopped providing paper checks a few years ago. The debit card also prevents students from using check cashing services which can take up to 10 percent of their money.

But never doubt government’s eagerness to oppose efficiency. The organization created out of the job-killing monstrosity known as Dodd-Frank, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), headed up by Richard Cordray, wants to stop these companies from offering the debit cards. Supported by left-wing senators, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the goal is to use the Department of Education to eliminate these third-party financial services for students, while forcing those colleges to spend millions on new staff.

While such actions are beyond ridiculous, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for some regulation. Regulators might want to prohibit these companies from providing commissions to schools to avoid improper sales pitches to students by orientation staff. And, as check fraud is so common, it is probably reasonable to require future payments to happen in more secure ways by eliminating paper checks.

These outside companies provide an important service and should not be eliminated by government decree. These companies only profit when their services are found to be valuable to individual colleges and students. With a sensible amount of oversight, the model of using innovative companies on campuses deserves the full throated support of fiscal conservatives everywhere.


The New Frontier in School Choice: Education Savings Accounts

Parents are using Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to tailor their child’s education to meet that child’s individual learning needs and are highly satisfied with the flexibility the accounts provide, according to two reports released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

In 2011, new ground was broken in the fight for educational opportunity when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Arizona’s revolutionary ESA program, the first state law of its kind. Through the ESAs, parents are empowered with the ability to customize their child’s education.

The concept behind ESAs is simple: 90 percent of the funds that would otherwise be spent on their child at a public school are deposited into a savings account for parents to use on a variety of approved educational services and products, including private school tuition, education therapy, textbooks, private tutoring, or even college tuition.

Originally, only students with special needs were eligible for the accounts. However, last year Governor Brewer signed into law an expansion of the program to include children in active duty military families, foster children, and children in poor-performing schools. What is more, parents can “roll over” unused ESA funds from year to year.

In the Friedman Foundation report, The Education Debit Card, Heritage education policy fellow Lindsey Burke finds that of the families utilizing education savings accounts, “34 percent chose to use their ESA funds for multiple education options.” When given the ability to customize their child’s education, more than one-third of families utilized the opportunity to its fullest, tailoring their child’s education to that child’s individual needs.

A recent Friedman study by Jonathan Butcher and Jason Bedrick reinforces this point:

    "The majority of respondents reported being “very satisfied” with the accounts (71 percent); nearly 20 percent of those surveyed reported being “satisfied,” and 10 percent said they were “somewhat satisfied.” No parent responded as neutral or reported any dissatisfaction with the accounts."

Parents reported that they were grateful for “the educational flexibility the ESA afforded them and the resulting improvement in their children’s lives and opportunities.”

Education Savings Accounts represent the future of school choice. With ESAs, those who are closest to the children and know them best—their parents—are empowered with educational decision-making authority. With this authority, parents are investing in more than their child’s education: They are investing in their child’s future.


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