Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Photophobia again

British school orders parents to delete Facebook video of their four-year-old daughter performing as an innkeeper in nativity play

A couple were ordered to delete a video of their child performing in a nativity play by her school because of concerns about the online safety of pupils.

Douglas Holmes said his four-year-old daughter Emmi-Rai had played the role of innkeeper in her nativity play at Ynysboeth Primary School in Abercynon.

His partner Lisa Evans filmed their daughter's performance and posted the video on Facebook.

But the next day she was asked to take it down by a teacher who appeared in the video.

Mr Holmes, 30, said 'My partner doesn't usually post videos on Facebook. But some parents couldn't go to the play because of work. A friend of ours couldn't make it and we managed to catch her daughter in our video so she posted the video.

'She wasn't offending anybody but she was asked to remove it. We have removed it just in case they decided to take any further action.

'I was very angry when she came back from the school and told me they wanted her to take it down from her personal profile. We should be allowed to share our daughter's experience with other people if we want to.'

The incident follows a number of disappointments for children who have seen nativity plays cancelled in recent years or their parents charged to watch. 

A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf council said schools do not want to spoil parents' enjoyment of special occasions such as Christmas concerts, but there were occasions when the protection of children is necessary, particularly due to the widespread nature of social media.

He said at Ynysboeth Primary School some parents had specifically requested that the child's images were not shared on social media.

One group that campaigns for personal freedom called for 'common sense' to be used and urged the school to stop behaving like 'Scrooge'.

Mother-of-four Miss Evans, 33, said she felt the school's reaction had been extreme and that she did not understand it because its website has a picture of every child anyway.

She said: 'It is absolutely outrageous and has been blown out of all proportion. 'As far as I am concerned my parental rights have been taken away.

'We weren't told specifically told by the school not to put up any videos but politely asked if we could refrain from doing so - but it certainly wasn't an order. I never usually post videos - I only did it because a lot of parents had work commitments and couldn't make the play.

'One of the mum's was really grateful I'd posted it up and she thanked me because she hadn't been able to make it.'

Miss Evans said she posted the video on Monday evening and was told by teacher to remove it the next morning, when she dropped her daughter off at school.

She added: 'It was then that her teacher told me she had been made aware of the video and asked me to remove it because she was in it - for just three seconds.

'She did not mention the children or child protection - if she had of course I would have removed it immediately.'

'My Facebook settings are extremely protected and private - only my close friends can see anything I can post.

'The whole thing is totally crazy - at the end of the day the school website has a picture of every child in the school and that is open to anyone to see. I really don't know what all the fuss is about.'

A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf council said schools needed the permission of all parents to allow filming or photography of their children in school.

He said: 'If just one parent or carer objects to group photography, then the head teacher does not allow it to happen.

'At Ynysboeth Primary School a significant number of parents or carers specifically requested that their children's images do not appear on social media. 'The headteacher made it clear to the audience that photography was allowed, but not for distribution on social media. 'Unfortunately a minority ignored those wishes and published them anyway.

'There are children in our schools who are protected by means of court orders and under no circumstances can the identity or location of these children be revealed. To do so could expose them to unacceptable risk.'

He said headteachers felt it was necessary to ban photography or filming of some events because they work closely with adoptive and foster carers to ensure the well-being and safeguarding of their children.

Andrew Allison, from the Freedom Association said that 'common sense' was needed. He said: 'Child protection is obviously a serious issue, however, some common sense is needed here. Sharing a video of your child in a nativity play is a natural thing a proud parent does.

'Considering there is a photograph of every pupil on the school's website, and Miss Evans' security settings on Facebook are set to private, the school should stop behaving like Scrooge and allow other parents who couldn't attend the nativity play a chance to share the experience.'

The incident in Abercynon follows a number of disappointments for children who have seen nativity plays cancelled in recent years or their parents charged to watch.

According to a Netmums survey conducted earlier this month, just two in five schools allow parents and loved ones to take photographs freely at school plays.

At one in six, cameras are banned completely, while 14 per cent of schools video the performance then charge parents for copies. And a third of schools ask parents to sign forms stating they will not share snaps on social media, the survey said.

One mother who responded to the survey online said that she agreed with photographs not being shared on social media, pointing to her own situation involving her adopted son.

She said that if his photograph was to be posted on social media his birth parents might be able to determine his location - something, she argued, that would threaten his well-being.
Without proper precautions, children can be exposing details of their lives to anyone who logs on

One school in Middlesbrough was today praised after it sent a letter to parents urging them not to post any photos taken at the school nativity on social networking sites.

The letter, sent by St Edward’s RC Primary School, said it was a 'priority' for children to be kept 'as safe as possible'. The letter stated: 'Please could you ensure that you have not placed any photographs of Foundation Stage or Key Stage Christmas performances on to any social media websites including Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.'

And the school, which was named best state school in the north-east by the 2014 Sunday Times Parent Power publication last month, has the support of parents who agree with the message, according to The Gazette.

Official guidance issued by the Information Commissioner's Office states that parents should be able to take photos of their children at events such as school plays and sports days, without fear of breaching the Data Protection Act.

In 2010, Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, urged parents of children appearing in plays and other school events to 'stand ready to challenge any schools or councils that say "Bah, Humbug" to a bit of festive fun'.

His comments came after one father, Lee Ingram, spoke out over being threatened with arrest when he notified a school that he wanted to take a photo of his daughter, then five, in her nativity in 2007.

However, photographs are only exempt of the Data Protection Act if they are taken for personal use - to be put in a family photo album, for example. And there is debate as to whether social media falls under this exemption.


Dubious British food in school dinners too

Frozen cheese sandwiches and a donut: Clegg confronted by angry mother over unhealthy school dinners

Children given free school meals have been served mouldy and frozen sandwiches, Nick Clegg was warned today.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who has championed the policy of free lunches for under-7s, vowed to investigate claims a school in Somerset was providing 'unhealthy' meals which left pupils hungry.

But he hit back at critics of his scheme, insisting 1.6million children – around 85 per cent - were now getting the benefits of a school lunch.

Since September all children under the age of seven in England's schools have been offered a free meal.

Mr Clegg argues that pupils who have school meals are healthier and achieve more academically.

But today he was confronted by a listener on his LBC radio phone-in who claimed schools were struggling to provide acceptable food.

The caller, Nicola, from Somerset, said her daughter's school did not have the capacity to provide hot lunches for the increased number of children entitled to free school meals. Instead they have been given a packed lunch.  'Now these packed lunches, obviously, are cold, they're sandwiches and very unhealthy donuts,' she said.

The sandwiches are either cheese, ham, or tuna. There is no capacity for requests such as no butter, or whatever, if they don't particularly like it.

'There have been occasions when… the sandwiches turned up frozen. There was another occasion when they turned up in mouldy bread.

Nicola, who refused to name the school, said: 'Most parents I know are now sending in their children with additional food, they are coming home hungry.'

The Liberal Democrat leader, who championed the free school meals policy, told her: 'It sounds totally unacceptable and you are quite right as a mum to be immensely annoyed.'  He added: 'If what you said is absolutely right, it hasn't changed at all since the beginning of term, and that they are providing such poor value and poor quality cold meals, that's completely wrong.  'It's not what is happening across the vast majority of the rest of the school system.'

He promised to look into the case and 'make sure something is done about it'.

The on-air exchange came as Mr Clegg released figures showing more than 1.6 million infant pupils are eating free school dinners.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader said the official figures showed that a decision to offer all five to seven-year-olds a free meal at lunchtime has had a very high take-up in its first three months.

The policy was introduced into England's 16,500 primary schools in September.  In total, 1,640,530 youngsters - around 85% of infant pupils - have a school meal at lunchtime.

'Well over a million and a half infants are enjoying a school meal at lunchtime, giving them a better start to afternoon lessons and a healthy boost for their first years in school,' Mr Clegg said.

'The other good news for families is that this saves them up to £400 per child a year on the cost of a packed lunch.

'The naysayers about this policy can eat their hats, and all the leftover sprouts.'

Earlier this year, the expense of the free meals policy sparked a coalition row, with former education secretary Michael Gove and schools minister David Laws later writing a joint article insisting they were behind the scheme.

Some head teachers initially warned that the policy would cause difficulties in schools which did not have the kitchen and dining facilities to feed all of eligible pupils during the lunch hour.


UCLA Prof Assigns Pro-Israel Book in Order to Trash It

The angry man himself

It seemed too good to be true: the required reading in UCLA history professor James Gelvin's fall 2014 class, History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1881 to Present, includes a pro-Israel book, Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel (2004). Described by the New York Times Book Review as "[e]specially effective at pointing to the hypocrisy of many of Israel's critics," the Washington Post Book World called it a "lively, hotly argued broadside against Israel's increasingly venomous critics."

Why would a professor so openly critical of Israel assign such a work? To balance his own unfavorable views on the topic, perhaps? To spark classroom debate on complex issues?

Not quite. A source at UCLA tells Campus Watch that students are reading Dershowitz in order to locate and write about the alleged errors, a requirement that does not extend to any of the other reading material.

Would that Gelvin's students could apply such scrutiny to his own book, The Israel Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War (2014), which is also required reading. Martin Sherman, formerly of the University of Southern California and the Hebrew Union College, reviewed the book for the Middle East Quarterly in 2010 and concluded that it provides:

"... an account of the Israel-Palestine conflict which is appallingly shallow, shoddy, and slanted. ... [I]t will certainly underscore the mendacious manner in which this topic is dealt with in mainstream academe"

Nor does it apply to the third assigned book, Jimmy Carter's The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East (1985), although Gelvin recommends in the course syllabus that students purchasing them from the UCLA bookstore do the following:

"Be sure to borrow or buy used copies of the Dershowitz and Carter books. I'll be damned if either of those two poseurs get a dime in royalties from my course"

Such hostility may surprise, given Carter's scathing anti-Israel polemic, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid (2006), and his many public apologias for the terrorists of Hamas. But his 1985 work describes his experience negotiating the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, an act long despised by anti-Israel activists for its required recognition of Israel's legitimacy by the Arab world's leading state. Whatever the case, Gelvin's course syllabus grandly informs students that both Carter and Dershowitz are "poseurs."

Elsewhere in the syllabus, Gelvin employs the jargon of post-colonialism, referring repeatedly to the "Zionist Colonization of Palestine" and to "Zionism and colonialism." His online reading assignments include several anti-Israel so-called "new historians": University of California, San Diego sociology professor Gershon Shafir; University of Arkansas anthropology professor Ted Swedenburg; University of Oxford emeritus professor Avi Shlaim; and the (now repentant) Ben Gurion University history professor Benny Morris. However, he also incorporates reading material from early Zionist leaders Theodor Herzl and David Ben Gurion, and former Brandeis University president Jehuda Reinharz.

Gelvin's approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict is summed up in the syllabus's introduction, where he describes it as simply a "dispute between the two rival sets of nationalisms." By emphasizing nationalism and downplaying religion and culture, Gelvin, like many of his cohorts in Middle East studies, is able to portray both sides as morally comparable and equally at fault.

This is not the first time Gelvin's tendentiousness has been obvious to his students, some of whom described him at Bruinwalk, a website that features reviews of UCLA professors, as follows:

"Professor Gelvin is not a historian but rather an advocate of [the] Palestinian cause."

"I feel bad for people who enter his class hoping to get an unbiased and fair representation/analysis of the situation in the Middle East—all you will get is a one-sided OPINION."

"My experience of the Arab-Israeli conflict, through Gelvin's eyes, has left me feeling angry at Israel."

"I hope anyone that takes his class can tell the difference between what's fiction and reality. If you thought you learned history, you didn't; you only learned what he wanted you to know.

. . . My grade on the papers definitely went up after I started to write them [sic] pro-Arab."

In response to the emergence of academic watchdogs, he claimed in 2003 that "[w]hat really irks those guys is that I don't use my classroom for political purposes, and thus my lectures don't advance their political agenda."

In light of such evidence, however, Gelvin's attempts to portray himself as an objective scholar are unconvincing. By engaging in this blatant misuse of power, Gelvin is doing a disservice to his students and to the field of Middle East studies. It's all there in the syllabus.


Student claims he was expelled from W&L for consensual sex

A day after Rolling Stone published an article describing a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, a former Washington and Lee student claims he was expelled for having consensual sex with another student who eight months later regretted the encounter and claimed rape.

The former W&L student has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the private Lexington university discriminated against him because he is a male, and because it wanted to avoid the negative public scrutiny that UVa was experiencing. Moreover, the student, identified as John Doe in the lawsuit, contends W&L’s Title IX officer advocates to female students that “regret equals rape.”

“W&L has created an environment where an accused male student is fundamentally denied due process by being prosecuted through the conduct process under a presumption of guilt. Such a one-sided process deprived Plaintiff, as a male student, of educational opportunities at W&L on the basis of his sex,” John Doe claims in the lawsuit.

W&L spokesman Brian Eckert said, “We don’t feel it is appropriate to discuss the specifics of a legal proceeding, but we’re confident that we correctly follow our established university policies and procedures, as well as federal mandates. We’re committed to treating all students fairly and maintaining a safe environment on our campus.”

John Doe claims that twice, he had consensual sex with a student identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe. The first encounter occurred in his room at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house where they went after an off-campus party on Feb. 8. Both had been drinking, he said.

He claims they sat on chairs in his room and talked for about an hour. He said Jane Doe then said that while she doesn’t usually have sex with a man when she first meets him, she found him very interesting. He said she moved toward him, initiated kissing, took off her clothes except for her underwear and got into bed with him. He said at no point did she say she did not want to have sex.

He claims she spent the night, that he contacted her later through Facebook and that they had sex again in early March. He said she told her friends she had a good time. But at a Pi Kappa Phi St. Patrick’s Day party a few weeks later, Jane Doe left when she saw him kissing another woman, who is now his girlfriend.

It wasn’t until July that Jane Doe told a friend that she was sexually assaulted, the lawsuit claims. Then in October, Jane Doe, as a member of a student organization against sexual assault called SPEAK, attended a presentation by W&L Title IX officer Lauren Kozak. According to the lawsuit, Kozak shared an article, “Is it possible that there is something in between consensual sex and rape … and that it happens to almost every girl out there?”
The article talks about alcohol-fueled sex in which the woman later regrets the encounter.

“Ms. Kozak introduced and discussed the article with the members of SPEAK to make her point that ‘regret equals rape,’ and went on to state her belief that this point was a new idea everyone is starting to agree with,” the lawsuit contends.

Five days after the presentation, Jane Doe reported to Kozak she was sexually assaulted but indicated she did not want to pursue a complaint, the lawsuit said.

By the end of October, Jane Doe changed her mind once she learned that both she and John Doe had been accepted into a program to study in Nepal for a semester, the lawsuit states.

John Doe claims that Kozak then led an investigation biased against him from the outset; he was ordered not to talk with anyone about it, and he was prevented from obtaining information to disprove the allegations.

He further claims that he could not present witnesses or question any of Kozak’s summaries during a Student-Faculty Hearing Board where he was charged with sexual misconduct.

“Moreover, based on Jane Doe’s own complaint, she admits that she ‘initiated making out,’ ‘took off her clothes except for her underwear and got into the bed. She took off her underwear in the bed. He also got naked. She was fine with all of that.’ Under W&L’s policies, the ‘responsibility of obtaining consent rests with the individual who initiates sexual activity,’ and, by her own account, Jane Doe admits that she initiated the sexual activity. The burden to establish ‘consent,’ or, in this case ‘lack of consent,’ should have been assigned to Jane Doe,” the lawsuit contends.

Eckert pointed to the university’s website to explain the policies, procedures and the president’s position on sexual misconduct. An interim policy was adopted over the summer and Kozak was named as the Title IX officer in order to comply with U.S. Department of Education regulations.

The policy sets out the framework for reporting and investigating complaints of sexual misconduct as well as the posting of Student-Faculty Hearing Board proceedings.

Hearing results for the fall of 2014, which includes John Doe’s case, will not be posted until the end of the term.

The Student-Faculty Hearing Board conducted two inquiries in May, both against law students. Both students were found to be in violation of sexual misconduct and unwanted sexual touching; both were suspended for one year.

In February 2013, the board expelled a student for sexual misconduct. In 2012, it held three similar hearings, finding no policy violation for two of the students. The third student was found to have harassed another student and was suspended for a term.

The university’s current policy requires dismissal when a student is found to have had sex without consent, but it allows for a range of punishments for other sexually related offenses.

John Doe said that, since Jane Doe initiated sex, she, not he, would need to obtain consent. Therefore, “W&L engaged in blatant gender bias” by relying on gender stereotypes as to whom should be responsible for sexual assault.

He also contends the timing of the publication of the Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVa,” influenced W&L’s decision.

The article described the story of a gang rape at a UVa fraternity house that has been mostly debunked. However, allegations that sexual assaults on campuses are not treated as the crimes that they are remains a topic of academic, political and public discussion. So, too, has the question that has been raised about procedures and the makeup of university boards adjudicating these complaints.

John Doe contends W&L’s procedures violate federal law and his due process rights.

John Doe is seeking a monetary award to compensate him for damages to his well-being, his reputation, educational opportunities and career prospects. Further, he seeks to have the expulsion reversed and his disciplinary record expunged.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

John Doe claims that twice, he had consensual sex with a student identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe. The first encounter occurred in his room at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house where they went after an off-campus party on Feb. 8. Both had been drinking, he said.

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