Sunday, November 09, 2014

Student Suspended for Slicing Apple During Healthy Snacks Presentation

Da'von Shaw, a Bedford, Ohio high school student, brought apples and raisins to school for a "healthy eating" presentation he was giving to his speech class. He took out a knife to slice an apple, and I'm sure you can all guess what happened next:

“When I took out the knife the teacher then told me that I couldn't use it, so I didn't hesitate I just gave it to her,” said Da'von.

He continued with his other classes, but late in the day was suspended for five days. The suspension letter charged him with having a weapon at school.

His mother Shakila Wilson is angry, saying, “I can take off my belt and use that as a weapon. Pens and pencils can be used as a weapon. You can't take a person with no intentions to harm and put them as a criminal because that's what you normally do.”

She feels the punishment is too much, didn't take the circumstances into account and worries about her son missing classes and assignments.

At least he wasn't actually executed by the Bedford High School zero tolerance squad. But still, a five-day suspension for bringing a "weapon" to school is not inconsequential. Questioned by a reporter at 19 Action News, the superintendent suggested that Da'von's punishment could actually have been much worse: an entire year's suspension. I guess the school was being incredibly lenient when it decided not to put Da'von's life on hold for a year over nothing.

A while back, when we first started hearing about these zero tolerance follies, I might have sputtered something like, "What are we teaching kids when a school refuses to make any distinction between actual danger and normal life?" But now I realize: We are teaching kids precisely what they need to learn in a hyper-terrified society. They need to understand that society today refuses to distinguish between an infinitesimal risk and a huge one. Zero tolerance is perfect training.

Some day, if he doesn't do something crazy like bring a nailclipper to school, Da'von will graduate. Eventually, he will matriculate into American adulthood, where, if he wants an easy time of it, he will not roll his eyes when a TSA agent confiscates his 3.5 oz tube of Pepsodent, and not slam the door when a cop comes to investigate him for letting his son play at the park, unsupervised.

In other words: To get along as he goes along, Da'Von will be expected—required!—to accept safety hysteria as a way of life. As a high school student who sliced an apple without considering the enormous threat this posed to his fellow students, he failed. But after five days at home to reflect on what he did, perhaps he will be ready to become a good, quaking, danger-hallucinating American.


How Eva Moskowitz Outmuscled the Teachers Union

In November 2003, Eva Moskowitz, then a freshman member of the New York City Council, held explosive public hearings about how union contracts imposed inane work rules on public schools. The city's political establishment was astonished.

Mosowitz—a former history professor, public school teacher, and self-proclaimed liberal, whose politics up until that point seemed to resemble those of every other Democratic politician in New York—was sacrificing her political career to take on organized labor. Exposing the consequences of teacher union contracts was a direct affront to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which wields enormous influence in New York City elections.

Moskowitz didn't pussyfoot. At one point in the hearings, she even played audio testimony from a whistleblower with a disguised voice. She said that many of her sources declined to appear because they feared union retribution. She also went toe-to-toe with Randi Weingarten, the UFT's confrontational leader.

Two years later, when Moskowitz ran for Manhattan Borough President, Weingarten and the UFT mobilized against her and sunk her candidacy. So Moskowitz left politics for the time being; if she couldn't transform the system from within, she would build an alternative to the public schools.

Today, Moskowitz is the founder and CEO of Success Academy, which is the city's largest and most successful charter school network. With 32 schools around New York City—staffed by a non-union teaching force—Success Academy posted test results last year that astounded education policy experts.

Meanwhile, Moskowitz and her charter school allies started building a powerful coalition to counter the outsized political influence of organized labor. In March, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) tried to squash Success Academy's expansion plans, Moskowitz bused 11,000 charter school parents and kids up to the state capital in Albany to protest—and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo came out in support. De Blasio retreated. Success Academy could move forward with its expansion plans after all, and state lawmakers quickly passed a bill to protect charter schools from future interference by the mayor.


UK: Vice principal of 'Muslim Eton' who claimed she was sacked and told she would go to hell for opposing rules that told all girls wear veils during lessons loses claim for racial discrimination

The vice principal of a Muslim girls' college who claimed she was sacked for opposing rules telling all pupils to wear veils during lessons has lost her claim for racial discrimination.

Ghazala Khan, 37, alleged she was told she would 'go to hell' and branded a 'stupid outsider' by her boss and barred from certain assemblies at Mohiuddin International Girls College in Burnley, Lancashire.

She lost her job in 2012 claiming it was because she questioned why some teachers refused to teach girls unless they wore veils across their faces. 

But today an employment tribunal in Manchester dismissed her claims and ruled in favour of the college.

The college denied she was vice-principal and said she left the establishment after it was criticised during an inspection. It said staff had received complaints describing Mrs Khan as 'rude and bad-tempered'.

The school which charges £5,500 a year for international students and £4,500 for UK and European pupils, was described as a 'Muslim Eton' for girls when plans were originally put forward in 2009.

Founded in October 2010 the school has around 90 students and is run by the Birmingham-based Mohuiddin Trust under the leadership of Sheikh Hazrat Pir Alaudin Siddiqui Sahib - an Islamic scholar based in Pakistan.

Mrs Khan was appointed as vice principal in 2011 but she said she clashed with the college principal after saying she and some students had some Islamic teachings they disagreed with forced upon them.

She said one fellow teacher refused to speak to her, as she did not wear a veil, and she had challenged the same tutor after he ordered all his female students to wear the niqab in his lessons.

Mrs Khan also said the college principal have warned of the school being 'polluted' because she had 'let a Christian in'.

Speaking about the teacher's conduct, she said: 'There were quite a few times I didn't agree with the way he would make children wear veils across their faces just so he could teach them.

'I said "nowhere in Islam does it say they must wear a veil to come to classes." He said, "you have no knowledge of anything and have no right to talk with somebody not related to you." They said it was necessary to make all girls wear the veil.'

Mrs Khan said she was also banned from assemblies where the girls would gather each evening because she was 'an outsider' and would have to wait outside.

She added: 'There were a few occasions when I wasn't allowed into the assembly because they said I was an outsider.

'But when recitation is going on I am a Muslim and I recite the Qur'an. Mr Bashir made me wait outside. He used to say, "can you wait outside? There are a few things you wouldn't understand. When we have finished you can come in." I used to say, "it's all blessings, why can't I come in?"'

She claimed she was also not respected because she was female and not considered a Muslim 'scholar', despite being an experienced teacher.

Mrs Khan said: 'The only way that we differ is that they say the Sheik, the founder of the college, is going to take them to heaven and everyone who does not believe in him is going to hell.'

Mrs Khan said matters came to a head after an Ofsted-type school inspection for Muslim education called the British School Inspectorate, where the college was criticised in a number of areas.

The hearing was told that a meeting was called with the principal and trust director and she was 'blamed' for their failed inspection, called a 'stupid outsider' and ordered to leave.

She said: 'I was upset, wasn't feeling well, had a lot of stress related issues and didn't want to come to court.  'For two years I waited and thought "maybe they might sort things out for me" but they didn't. I was very stressed. I was going through a lot, I had just lost my job. 'I was very depressed. My doctor said I was maybe going to have a nervous breakdown.

'I had realised I had been wronged. I thought they had been very prejudiced towards me and I thought I had been wronged.'

Mrs Khan - who was representing herself - put questions to 45-year old Mr Bashir, a civil engineer who reacted angrily and was warned by tribunal judge over his conduct.

When it was put to him by Mrs Khan that she had actually employed a Christian teacher, he replied: 'You don't even have a degree. You're not even qualified. I'm 100 per cent absolutely sure she was not employed as a vice-principal.'

Later Mr Bashir's own lawyer Amy Smith asked him: 'You are being accused of telling the business teacher that the claimant was incompetent in her work and she was a stupid outsider.'

He replied: 'I never used the words stupid outsider.'

She added: 'You are accused of making rude jokes because she was an outsider and she was going to hell and if you had it your way you would employ her as a cleaner or tea lady.'

Mr Bashir who is no longer principal at the college replied: 'I never said that.'

Miss Smith also put it to him that he told students Mrs Khan wouldn't understand them because she wasn't 'among them', which he also denied.

He said the school employed Christian teachers so could not be accused of religious prejudice.


Australia:  What makes for good childminding in the early years?

How important are staff numbers and credentials? 

A report by a free market think tank that found little evidence to support improving childcare quality has been rejected by academics and experts.

University of Toronto professor Charles Pascal, who is in Brisbane meeting with childcare experts, said that "good evidence needs to trump ideology" and "junk science".  "The science regarding the social, emotional and cognitive impact of high-quality early learning and care on all children is unassailable."

He was responding to a Centre for Independent Studies report, released on Wednesday, questioning the changes introduced under the Gillard government in 2012 that aimed to improve childcare quality by increasing the number of carers per child and boosting staff qualifications.

Policy analyst Trisha Jha from the think tank said the "jury is out" on whether or not the reforms will improve outcomes for children. After doing a survey of international and Australian studies, Ms Jha said that to date, people have been "too optimistic" with the evidence. She also said it was a potentially inefficient use of the taxpayer funds.

Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page dismissed the study on Thursday.

She said the Centre for Independent Studies had "not looked at the research evidence regarding the harm children experience in poor-quality programs as a result of heightened stress and the impact this has on family decision-making".

"If Australian families were to lose confidence in the early childhood services sector, the consequences socially and economically would be disastrous."

Ms Page also pointed to a study released by Early Childhood Australia earlier this week, which showed factors other than service delivery were having at least as much, if not more influence on the fees charged by long day care services.

"It's highly unlikely that daily fees would be reduced if the quality reforms were relaxed," she said.

While the quality reforms have bipartisan support, the Coalition has raised concerns they will decrease affordability for families. The Productivity Commission, in its draft report on childcare, also raised the idea of watering down the standards.

The Benevolent Society's chief executive Joanne Toohey said reducing the quality standards would deny vulnerable children access to quality early childhood education.

"One in five children starting school is 'vulnerable' in one or more areas of development. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children the rate is double this, at 43 per cent," Ms Toohey said.

"We know that early childhood education and care enhances child development and makes a significant difference to children's school readiness and performance in later life, particularly for disadvantaged children, if the services are of a high quality," said Ms Toohey.

The Centre for Independent studies issued a statement on Thursday, saying that critics of its report had either not read or understood it.

"The focus of this particular report was not to argue that quality in childcare does not matter, but to examine whether structural factors – staff-to-child ratios and staff qualifications – have a proven, meaningful and statistically significant impact on childcare quality and child outcomes," Ms Jha said.

"The review of the evidence suggests it does not."


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