Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Florida Senate rejects ban on assault weapons, votes to arm teachers

 The Florida Senate rejected a proposal to ban assault weapons, and voted for a measure to arm some teachers, weeks after 17 people were killed in the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history.

An amendment that would have banned assault weapons attached to a wider bill failed on Saturday in a largely party-line vote, in response to the Feb. 14 killing of 14 students and three faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland.

The vote was 20-17 against the assault weapon ban, with two Republicans joining all of the senate's 15 Democrats in support of the proposal, the Miami Herald reported.

The full bill, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, is expected to pass the state Senate on Monday, then go to the Florida House.

After the Senate rejected the ban, Stoneman Douglas student Jaclyn Corin tweeted, "This breaks my heart, but we will NOT let this ruin our movement. This is for the kids."

Fellow classmate David Hogg, who has become one of the school's leading activists on gun safety, tweeted, "Elections are going to be fun!"

Also, an amendment to remove a provision to train and arm some teachers failed.

The bill raises the minimum age to buy a rifle or a shotgun to 21 from 18 and bans the use, sale or possession of bump stocks, which were used in the Oct. 1 shooting deaths of 58 people in Las Vegas. The device effectively turns semi-automatic weapons into automatics.

The bill includes $400 million in funding for schools to address mental health issues, the Herald reported.

Nikolas Cruz, the accused 19-year-old killer who was expelled from Stoneman Douglas, had a history of run-ins with the law and school officials. The Broward County school system and sheriff's department have been criticized for not acting on red flags on Cruz's mental health problems and potentially violent behavior.


Look No Further Than DC for School Choice Need

Just 42% of high school seniors will graduate in '18. School choice naysayers ignore the evidence at their feet.   

Our nation’s capital is home to many rich and affluent lawmakers and lobbyists. Which means most of them have the resources to send their children to the most prestigious private schools inside the Beltway. That’s understandable, but their school selection also adds to the enormous disconnect they have with lower-income groups.

School choice is vehemently opposed by Democrats, but the fact is that Washington, DC, is Exhibit A in the need for a wider range of options for ill-prepared students. Last year, 73% of high school seniors in DC graduated, The Washington Post reports, but that figure is estimated to plummet to just 42% this year.

Interestingly, there’s a nefarious reason for the considerable decrease. The Post writes that DC “had celebrated a 20-point increase in its graduation rate since 2011.” However, “The likely drop in the graduation rate is the latest fallout from an investigation that cast doubt on the validity of diplomas awarded last year. The graduation rate in 2017 was 73 percent, but the probe revealed that one in three graduates received their diplomas in violation of city policy. Those students had walked across graduation stages despite missing too many classes or improperly taking makeup classes.”

In other words, DC schools were inflating the graduation number. The Post points out that “teachers felt pressured to award diplomas even if teens failed to meet requirements, all in the name of improving graduation rates.” This is a nationwide problem, but it’s evidently a monolithic one in the nation’s capital. In December, The Washington Post published another report on overall U.S. graduation rates. As of 2016, cumulative data showed that 84% of students graduate.

That Post report also noted: “There are … reasons to be skeptical. Some districts have used questionable methods to get students to the finish line, including softening grading scales and using credit recovery programs, which allow students to take abbreviated versions of courses to make up for failing grades.”

The fact of the matter is that, as John Sexton points out, a participation trophy is the entirely wrong way to approach education, especially when “many of the kids receiving them weren’t even participating.” A 42% graduation rate is simply unacceptable. As it turns out, the best evidence for school choice — translation: accountability and better performance — is sitting right outside lawmakers’ and lobbyists’ homes.


School Suspends War Vet Who Vowed to Protect Students
By nearly every account, Timothy Locke is one of the most beloved and inspirational teachers in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, school district.

Locke is a veteran of the Iraq war, and for the past 17 years he’s flavored his classroom lessons at Cherry Hill East High School with real-life experiences.

But on Feb. 22, the veteran school teacher was summoned to the principal’s office, where his bag was searched and he was placed on administrative leave and ordered to undergo physical and psychiatric evaluations.

According to parents and students, Locke’s only crime was to address his concerns about school safety with youngsters in his Advanced Placement History class. The teacher feared a similar attack could happen at Cherry Hill East.

“During the course of the conversation he indicated that he would protect his students if something like [Parkland, Florida] happened here,” parent Eric Ascalon told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show.” “He was raising safety concerns about the school with the students. And the intent of his statement [was that] he would protect his students at all costs.”

Imagine that, folks. An Iraq war veteran reassured his students that if someone tried to attack the school he would be there to protect them. That’s a good thing, right?

Well, the leadership at Cherry East felt otherwise after a student in the classroom complained.

The school district refuses to comment on what was said or why Locke was placed on administrative leave. Locke, too, has stopped talking on the advice of his attorney.

But before that happened he granted an interview to

“The bottom line is that I was very concerned about the security at my school,” Locke told the newspaper. “I was adamantly concerned with the welfare of my students.” reports the school is guarded by two unarmed “campus police,” but the officers are not employed by local law enforcement.

“He was speaking up and addressing an issue that has to be addressed,” Ascalon told me.

Ascalon said his son was enrolled in one of Locke’s classes last year and called him an “amazing teacher who has an ability to connect with the students on a variety of levels.”

He also pointed out the discussion was held during an advanced academic class.

“It’s an upsetting topic [school safety], but it’s a topic the students are crying out to address,” Ascalon said. “He speaks to them like young adults who are capable of critical thinking,”

It’s too bad the Cherry Hill East High School does not share the same capability — to think critically.


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