Thursday, February 27, 2014

Student Suspended Over Fishing Knife In Car

Zero-tolerance policies continue to make zero sense. David Duren-Sanner, a senior at Northeast High School in Clarksville, Tennessee, has been suspended for the crime of unknowingly transporting a fishing knife onto school grounds. Duren-Sanner's father is a commercial fisherman who uses the knife for work and had accidentally left it in his car before his son drove it to school. The knife was found when Duren-Sanner's car was randomly selected during a search at school.

On Thursday, Duren-Sanner, a senior at Northeast High School drove his father's car to school. During a random lockdown, his car was chosen to be searched.

Duren-Sanner gave permission because he said he had nothing to hide.

His father is a commercial fisherman on the West Coast and had apparently left a fishing knife in the car. Duren-Sanner's father said it might have been wedged between one of the seats.

Duren-Sanner said he told school officials and the Sheriff's department the car was his father's and he didn't know the knife was in it.

"He's like 'it doesn't matter it was in your possession anyway,'" Duren-Sanner said.

Duren-Sanner has been suspended for ten days and will be moved to an "alternative" school for three months.

This is ridiculous. Duren-Sanner isn't a criminal. He didn't bring the knife into school and there's no evidence he was actually going to do anything illegal with the knife. The school overreacted in this case. People make mistakes—and this was definitely one of those instances. Giving Duren-Sanner the same punishment as someone who actually carried out an attack on a teacher or student is absolutely absurd.

Common sense apparently isn't so common in Clarksville.


California college student teaches school $50,000 lesson on Constitution

A California college student who was blocked last year from handing out copies of the Constitution gave his school a lesson in civics and the law, winning a $50,000 settlement and an agreement to revise its speech codes.

Robert Van Tuinen, 26, settled with Modesto Junior College just five months after his run-in with school officials on Sept. 17 – National Constitution Day. Van Tuinen said he’s more excited about getting the school to revise its speech codes, which previously confined the First Amendment to a small area students had to sign up to use.

“They were maintaining an unconstitutional speech code, and now any of my fellow students can go out and exercise their right to free speech,” Van Tuinen, an Army veteran who grew up in Modesto and now studies photography, told

Back in September, aired the video Van Tuinen took of his confrontation with school officials.

In the video, Van Tuinen is confronted by an unidentified campus police officer within minutes of passing out the pamphlets. When he protests, he is told “there are rules.”

“But do you know what this is?” he asks. “What are the rules? Why are the rules tied to my free speech?”

Van Tuinen explains that he wants to start an organization called Young Americans for Liberty.

“That’s fine, but if you’re going to start an organization like that you have to go through the rigamarole,” the police officer tells him.

"It was a tense situation," Van Tuinen told "To be told I can't do something as basic as handing out the Constitution was frustrating."

Eventually, the police officer escorts Van Tuinen into an administrative office, where an unidentified woman shows him a binder with rules she says govern free speech on campus. She explains that there is a designated place “in front of the student center, in that little cement area,” where free expression is allowed, but then notes that two people are already using it.

The episode caught the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which, together with a Washington law firm, took his case to federal court in the Eastern District of California. But by then, school officials had already started backpedaling.

"In the case of the YouTube video, it does not appear that the student was disrupting the orderly operations of the college and therefore we are looking into the incident," Modesto Junior College Marketing and Public Relations officer Linda Hoile told at the time.

On Monday, the school settled the case by agreeing to revise its policies to allow free speech in open areas across campus and pay Van Tuinen $50,000. Although much of it will go to legal fees, Van Tuinen said he'll happily use what's left to to pay off other bills.


British parents told to force schools to change term times so they can take children on cheaper holidays

Micheal Gove said yesterday parents should lobby their child’s school to change its term dates to avoid paying inflated prices for a family holiday.

The Education Secretary attacked the travel industry for raising prices at peak times, but argued that many schools have the power to set their own dates.  Around 70 per cent of secondary schools and 30 per cent of primaries can do so, but not those run by councils.

However, the Coalition has drawn up laws to extend the power to all schools by September next year.

A holiday during half-terms such as last week can be twice as expensive as the week before.

But Mr Gove said it was ‘wrong’ for parents to take children away in term time and defended tough penalties brought in last year for those who flout the rules.

He said: ‘There’s no need to sacrifice your child’s education in order to secure a cheaper holiday. Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times.

‘My view is that the holiday industry needs to look at itself in the mirror and ask if it is doing enough.’ He added that ‘parents have the freedom to ask schools to be flexible and understanding’ when fixing term dates.

Mr Gove’s intervention came as a Westminster debate was held on the subject after 170,000 signed a petition for action over the high prices of going away during school holidays.

Last month a father vented his fury on Facebook about trying to book a Center Parcs holiday with his seven-year-old daughter.  Paul Cookson found the price for October half-term was £300 higher than the week before and wrote: ‘I don’t think I should be penalised for sticking to the rules.’

Donna Thresher, the mother who created the petition calling for a cap on price increases, wrote:  ‘Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays … It’s time to stop the holiday companies cashing in on school holidays and let parents have some guilt-free family time!’

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills told her there was ‘fierce competition’ in the travel market and the trend of costs rising at peak times enabled firms to make ‘reasonable profit’ at times of low demand.

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming warned that allowing schools to set dates could be difficult for parents with children at different schools. He suggested the German approach of dividing the country into regions with different holidays, or cutting Air Passenger Duty at peak times.

A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said the best solution would be for schools to ‘stagger the dates they take their holidays’.

David Cameron’s official spokesman said schools could use new powers to alter the school day to allow parents to take their children on a break when prices are lower.

It comes ahead of a debate in Parliament on how travel firms charge as much as £600 more if families travel during school holidays.

Almost 170,000 signatures signed an e-petition highlighting the importance of ‘family time’, and accusing holiday companies of ‘cashing in on school holidays’.

The scale of the parent backlash has now triggered a debate in Parliament, with MPs demanding ministers revisit new rules which make it harder for parents to take their children out of school during term time.

The idea of staggering school term dates to spread the demand for family breaks was backed by the Association of British Travel Agents.

On average prices during school holidays rise by up to 30 per compared with term time.

The trade body said: 'Price rises during school holidays and other busy periods are down to supply and demand.

'More people in the UK and across Europe want to take holidays in July and August, at Easter and at Christmas, therefore prices rise during these times, as there is increased demand for a finite number of hotel rooms and flight seats.

'ABTA believes that the best potential solution to relieve the pressure of demand during the short window of the school holidays is for schools to consider staggering the dates they take their holidays which would allow more British families to take breaks in periods of lower demand.'

While moving school holidays to times when prices are lower might seem like a solution to the problem it is fraught with problems.  Holiday companies would be likely to put their prices up across more weeks of the year.  And parents with children at different schools could find themselves juggling different holidays and having to find even more childcare across the year.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of national charity 4Children said: 'The hugely inflated prices families face when planning a holiday during the school holidays cannot be justified. 'Pressures on families have been mounting over recent years with strains on job security, household finances and relationships all taking their toll.  'That's why it's important that families are able to take a break from their daily anxieties and spend quality time together.'

The e-petition which triggered today’s debate was launched by mother-of-two Donna Thresher from Essex after discovering the huge price disparities between deals in term time and during school holidays.

The e-petition said: ‘Family time is so much more essential in the current working world, but so many people cannot afford holidays in school holidays.  ‘A break at home is not the same as getting away from it all where there isn't any house work or DIY to get done, instead focus is on family.  It's time to stop the holiday companies cashing in on school holidays and let parents have some guilt free family time!  ‘Enforce action that caps the percentage increase on holiday prices in school holidays.’

The formal response to the e-petition on the Government website said there is ‘fierce competition’ in the holiday market and that holiday companies seek to make a reasonable profit during the peak periods to make up for quiet periods throughout the year.

The e-petition said responsibility for this policy area sits with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The response on the e-petition said: ‘In a competitive market it is for business to decide the market worth of their products and to price accordingly.

‘In the holiday market there is fierce competition for custom. Prices rises in peak periods are a reflection of the international competition holiday companies face for hotel accommodation and other services in destinations which are popular with consumers from many other countries and where there are limits to capacity.


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