Friday, December 18, 2015

School football Coach Was Sidelined for Praying. Now He’s Fighting Back

The high school football coach who was removed from his job for praying at the 50-yard line after games filed a federal complaint today with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, arguing the school discriminated against him based on his faith, The Daily Signal has learned.

“I just don’t think it’s right, what the school district did,” Joe Kennedy, a football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington State, told The Daily Signal.  The whole idea of having to hide my faith where nobody can see me doing it … that doesn’t seem very American to me.

After refusing to comply with orders to stop kneeling at the 50-yard line and praying after games, Kennedy was put on paid administrative leave and was at risk of losing his job. He was banned from participating in any Bremerton football programs, allowed only to sit in the stands when games were open to the public.

The school offered to accommodate the coach’s right to exercise his religion by providing him with private locations to pray, such as the press box. Kennedy said that wasn’t the tradition he started eight years ago, when he began coaching football.

“When I started praying, I said I was going to give God the glory on the 50-yard line, and right after every game,” Kennedy said, adding:  Nobody should have to hide who they are, especially in a public school setting, where I’ve walked through and seen “practice diversity and acceptance” all through the hallways. We’re not showing that. We’re not leading by example as adults.

The school argued that praying is a religious activity and therefore violates the federal and state constitutional rights of students and others.

In a memo issued to the public by the Bremerton School District, they confirmed there is “indeed no evidence that students have been directly coerced to pray with Kennedy.”

In defense of their adverse actions against the football coach, the district cited a Supreme Court case where the judges ruled “that a school district’s practice of simply allowing its facilities to be used for religious expression during a district-sponsored football game violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause because of the reasonable perception by students and attendees of district endorsement of religion.”

Mike Berry, a senior legal counselor at Liberty Institute, the law firm representing Kennedy in his case against the school, said filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a “necessary step for seeking vindication for Coach Kennedy’s rights.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the government agency responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination laws.

Berry said in the complaint that they’re requesting two things: for the school to reinstate Kennedy as a football coach and to allow him to privately engage in religious expression by praying at the 50-yard line after games, “as guaranteed by the Constitution and federal law.”  “That’s it,” Berry said. “Nothing more.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can address the complaint in a number of ways, including launching an independent investigation and issuing their findings in a determination letter.

The Commission can also go so far as to sue the school district themselves.

This happened when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch for refusing to hire a Muslim teenager who wore a hijab and had applied to work at the clothing store.

The case landed in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices ruled 8 to 1 that Abercrombie & Fitch had discriminated against the woman for failing to accommodate her religious practices.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also brought a lawsuit against a trucking company for firing two Somalian-American Muslims truck drivers who did not want to transport alcohol because of their religious beliefs.  In October, a federal jury awarded the two drivers $240,000.

Berry, Kennedy’s lawyer, said he is “hopeful that the [agency] might do something similar here on behalf of Coach Kennedy as they obviously, very recently, have done on behalf of Muslim employees who also faced discrimination.”

Kennedy, who works full-time for the U.S. Department of Defense and is also a former Marine, calls being suspended from his job one of the “hardest things” he’s ever dealt with.

“My background is pretty diverse, being in the military, and one of the hardest things I’ve had to do is sit on the sidelines and actually watch my team play,” Kennedy said.

The first game he was sidelined for happened to be senior night.

“I have a kid that doesn’t have any parents, and he asked if I could stand with him like I do every year when they don’t have parents,” Kennedy said. “I wasn’t allowed to stand out there with one of my guys I’ve been coaching for years. I try to play a tough guy role, but that really tore me up inside.”

When the school placed Kennedy on paid administrative leave, the district issued a statement calling the action “necessary” for his refusal to comply with policies that ban “overt, public religious displays on the football field while on duty as a coach.”

“While the district appreciates Kennedy’s many positive contributions to the [Bremerton High School] football program, and therefore regrets the necessity of this action, Kennedy’s conduct poses a genuine risk that the district will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others,” the school district stated.

“For this reason, Kennedy will not be allowed to further violate the district’s directives.”


Australia: The young white male has slipped educationally

 Paul Sheehan

Young white men are losing their traditional advantages in Australia. Their once dominant position is being eroded incrementally, in measurable ways, with each passing year.

The Higher School Certificate results provide an annual snapshot of this relative decline (and it is relative, not absolute). The superior performance of young women compared with young men remains strong.

This year, when I took out all the niche language subjects, apart from the one subject everybody has to sit, English, 37 females topped NSW in a subject, compared with 22 males.

No male domain is safe any longer. Young women topped the state in automotive examination, business services, financial services, primary industries and legal studies.

Traditionally, mathematics, mathematics extension, mathematics general, modern history, ancient history and geography were male bastions, but this no longer applies. All six subjects were topped or co-topped by young women in 2015.

The disproportionate academic success of students of Asian background was repeated in 2015. It has been structural for decades. They dominated the hard sciences again, topping physics, chemistry, information processing and technology, mathematics, mathematics extension 1, mathematics extension 2 and information and digital technology.

Take away nine subjects topped by males of Asian background, and males of European background topped only 13 of the 59 non-language subjects, or 22 per cent. This is a marked underperformance, given that European-background males make up just under 30 per cent of HSC students.

The slippage is relative. Young white males might be as productive as ever, but relative to other groups, they are falling behind.

The majority of students at Australian universities are women. The majority of graduates are women, including the majority of graduates in the professions. The disparity has been widening for years.

Inevitably, the impact of this change is rippling through the workforce. The number of women who are the main income-earners in their households has been a rising trend for years.

There are still disparities in income that favour men – a point of enduring contention – but our society has yet to work out an affordable way to bridge the income gap created by women taking extended leave to have and raise children. This reflects a structural gap more than a discriminatory one.

In terms of reputational slippage, young white men are in relative decline. I was stunned by a recent survey in Britain in which white men in their 20s placed spectacularly last in a rating of reputation.

The survey was conducted by YouGov, a British international market research company. In summarising its survey, YouGov wrote: "Data from 48 separate surveys reveals that young white men are seen as the worst ethnic, gender or age group on five negative traits, and the second-worst on five positive traits.

"The people we regard as the laziest, rudest, most promiscuous, drunken drug-takers are white men in their 20s."

Sheehan goes on to elborate about the poor ratings of young white men in Britain but seems not to realize that political correctness would have had a large effect on the results.  For instance, given their high level of criminality, young black men  would undoubtedly have been very negatively rated but to do so would be on the brink of illegality in Britain today.  A British pastor has just been prosecuted for saying that Muslims serve the Devil


Sanity — and Santa — have been restored at a Brooklyn public elementary school where St. Nick was banned, the Pledge of Allegiance was dropped and Thanksgiving was replaced with a “harvest festival.”

Nutty Korean Principal is a member of the grievance industry -- so was being insensitive to most of her 1,600 students in the name of "inclusivity."

The good news arrived at PS 169 in Sunset Park on Monday morning, a day after The Post exposed the bizarre PC extremism of Principal Eujin Jaela Kim.

District 15 Superintendent Anita Skop stormed in the front door at 9:50 a.m., and minutes later, two fifth-grade boys were brought to the main office to lead a recital over the public address system of the Pledge of Allegiance, teachers told The Post.

As The Post reported on Sunday, the pledge hadn’t been said over the loudspeakers since the beginning of the school year. Kim, 33, became principal in May 2014.

Santa Claus is now reinstated at the school, and Department of Education officials said on Monday that the Pledge of Allegiance will be recited over the PA system every morning, in response to concerns from the community.

“It never would have happened if The Post didn’t do the story. That’s the only way we got our voices heard,” PTA president Mimi Ferrer said.

“I’m ecstatic that Santa can come back. Hopefully, he can make a visit to the kids in our school for our winter celebration on Thursday.”

At a school leadership team meeting last week, Kim told staffers, “Do not celebrate Christmas, do not celebrate gift-gifting, do not celebrate Santa. We need to be respectful,” according to a school source.  “Christmas is a Christian celebration and something that is tied to religion,” Kim told them, according to the source.

DOE officials said on Monday that PS 169 administrators were mistaken in believing that Santa could not be used as a holiday symbol.  Only depictions of religious figures or texts are banned.

“We work to foster inclusive communities in our schools that welcome students and families, and celebrate the diverse values and traditions of all New Yorkers,” DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said in a statement.

“This principal continues to work closely with her school community to ensure PS 169 is an inclusive school, meet students’ and families’ needs, and celebrate the values that make her community and New York City great,” Kaye said.

Officials said the school emailed staffers new guidelines on Monday allowing the use of Santa Claus “as a holiday symbol with secular dimensions.”

“I apologize for any confusion this may have caused,” Kim wrote in the email.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

School principal bans Santa, Thanksgiving and Pledge of Allegiance

Santa Claus is banned. The Pledge of Allegiance is no longer recited. “Harvest festival” has replaced Thanksgiving, and “winter celebrations” substitute for Christmas parties.

New principal Eujin Jaela Kim has given PS 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a politically correct scrub-down, to the dismay of teachers and parents.

“We definitely can’t say Christmas, nothing with Christmas on it, nothing with Santa,” PTA president Mimi Ferrer said administrators told her. “No angels. We can’t even have a star because it can represent a religious system, like the Star of David.”

Kim, 33, did not return a call or email seeking comment.

A memo last month from assistant principal Jose Chaparro suggested a “harvest festival instead of Thanksgiving or a winter celebration instead of a Christmas party.” He urged staff to “be sensitive of the diversity of our families. Not all children celebrate the same holidays.”

Ninety-five percent of the 1,600 kids at PS 169 are Asian or Hispanic.

In a recent directive to all schools, the city Department of Education said it permits holiday symbols including Christmas trees, kinaras (candleholders for Kwanzaa), dreidels, Hanukkah menorahs and the Islamic star-and-crescent. Displays that “depict images of deities, religious figures or religious texts” are prohibited.

In a memo to staff this month, PS 169 business manager Johanna Bjorken added: “In case you are wondering about grey areas: Santa Claus is considered an ‘other religious figure.’ ”

But a DOE spokesman told The Post that Santa is allowed as a secular figure.

Santa was a part of the holidays at PS 169 for years. Joseph Iorio, a longtime assistant principal and the acting principal who preceded Kim, recalled state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz visiting the school dressed as Santa “many times.”

Iorio also said he tapped student leaders to lead the Pledge of Allegiance every Monday morning. When Kim arrived, the school-wide pledge ended.

​A DOE spokesman said classrooms can recite the pledge “at the teacher’s discretion.” But PS 169 teachers said that Kim never told them they could do so.

Kim has other wacky priorities, school sources say. Soon after joining PS 169 in May 2014, her first time as a principal, she ordered the faculty to clear their classrooms of “clutter.” She moved hundreds of books and loads of supplies into the gym, where parents and other community members took what they wanted. The rest was tossed in the trash.

She also dumped boxes of newly purchased reading books in the basement because she preferred another curriculum, staffers said.

Kim bought seven 70- to 80-inch Sharp flat-screen smart TVs, which retail at about $3,000 each. After painting over and removing historic murals, she had the TVs mounted in the auditorium — three over the stage and two on each side.

“It was ridiculous,” Ferrer said. “They have never been used.”

Kim holds a lottery for students to get academic assistance after school or on Saturdays. She also started a “professional learning period” in which teachers observe each other in class, but it eliminates one period of core instruction a week for students, staffers said.​

​​Kim recently told staff that Chancellor Carmen Fariña ​praised PS 169 at a town hall meeting.


Common Core Creeping on Catholic Schools Creates Controversy

Common Core is crippling Roman Catholic schools in New York as they attempt to not only keep up with their own academic standards and spiritual development but also include the new controversial material of Common Core.

The Diocese of Albany recently stated that Catholic schools will attempt to "reduce the frequency of the Common Core-aligned tests while sticking with the standards." The statement issued wanted to make it clear that "although the standards of the Common Core itself are good, the collateral pieces have caused great strife for families and teachers," Albany Superintendent Michael Pizzingrillo said. According to an interview with ABC News:

    "Right now, Catholic schools are still trying to figure out how they respond to the Common Core and how deeply they embrace it," said Dan Guernsey, director of K-12 programming at the Cardinal Newman Society. The focus, he said, has to remain on the development of students' "mind, body and spirit."

Almost 1.9 million students around the U.S. are enrolled in 6,568 Catholic schools, most of them elementary schools, according to the National Catholic Education Association. It is incredibly alarming that now not even religious based schools are unable to escape the overreach of this intrusive core curricula adopted by individual states. This issue has sparked the anger from other religious Americans throughout the country as well - one mother in Pennsylvania, whose family were members of the Unitarian Church, wrote a lengthy letter to her children's school explaining why she was using her legal right as a parent to opt her kids out of the mandatory Common Core testing they were intended to take. In her letter, she noted explicitly at one point that:

    Imposing constant churn and disruption on our most vulnerable students in the pursuit of higher test scores is not education justice. Worse, the relentless high-stakes-testing has served to re-inscribe inequality.

According to Sister John Mary Fleming, executive director for education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "many parents are listening to the news. They see the political charge...What this situation has done is created an opportunity for Catholic schools to review our mission: What is our mission and how does the curriculum support that mission?"

Currently, the conference wants to review the Common Core standards but notes that "rejecting them could put students at a disadvantage later in high school." This point, however, is a false flag, since we need to consider several major factors regarding what they consider a real "disadvantage":

    Yes, if lets say a family moves from one state to another, and the schools in which their children attended teach several different curricula, the child might have a difficult time, at first, adapting to the new methods, yet the opportunity to engage and adapt to a new style of learning is important and vital for critical thinking that will help them later in adulthood, since not everything will conform to them.

    Adopting Common Core doesn't guarantee all children learn the same or that they will be given a high standard to meet academically. If this Department of Education sponsored program were like a car, would one four-seat sedan adequately meet the needs of all people and accomplish what they need? No, this is why the American people have options when it comes to markets because everyone has a different interest and need they have to accomplish differently, which is why they have a marketplace of choices. Sadly, Common Core is forcing parents to have their kids conform to a standard they are having a hard time escaping, standards that have caused people of all political stripes to realize that their kids are force fed sometimes extremely hazardous material.

The Albany diocese's decision to re-evaluate their involvement with Common Core is going on at the same time as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call for "a total reboot" of the curriculum, after New York joined with several other states with a populace highly rejecting the notion of an experimental and obviously progressive agenda . It was reported recently that a whopping 20% of New York public school students opted out of the mandatory math and English assessments last spring. This trend has been spreading like wildfire, though, and because of the hefty level of opt outs from students, more public schools are being threatened with severe budget cuts and other forms of punishment for a lack of test participation.

What this incursion has shown is that no matter where you have your child go to get an education, these harsh progressive initiatives aimed at indoctrinating kids into a neo-socialist, relativist mindset. This "Obamacare" of education has shown a positive trend in the increase in homeschooling though throughout the country, showing the government and corporations backing Common Core that in a last attempt to draw a line in the sand, parents are willing to pull their kids out of the system in order to guarantee them a better educational opportunity in the long run.

With Common Core creeping into the fabric of religiously based schools, how further will this intrusion go before these institutions finally say enough is enough?


Serpent in the Supreme Court: The Folly of “Strict Scrutiny,” from Japanese Internment to Affirmative Action

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in The Fisher II case involving the use of race in admissions to the University of Texas at Austin. This case, like other college admission decisions dating to Bakke (1978), hinges on how the Supreme Court applies a “strict scrutiny” standard that originated with a decision upholding Japanese internment (Korematsu v. United States, 1944). Now heralded as an advanced yardstick in civil rights jurisprudence, this contrived standard did Japanese Americans little good: the Court deferred to the government’s wisdom in interning citizens based on their race or national origin. If internment can pass “strict scrutiny,” small wonder that the Court defers to the serpentine arguments of university officials who state that, by doling out race preferences, they are “really” searching for the educational benefits of “diversity”–another legal concept invented by the Supreme Court in the Bakke case (1978)! The Fisher II debate over diversity preferences is simply more of the same.

(Readers interested in the particulars of the affirmative action cases involving the University of Texas can read this analysis).

Here is how the process works: The Court arrogates to itself the right to decide what level of scrutiny to apply to our constitutional civil rights, then invents criteria to uphold state violations of those rights (to be fair, the Court sometimes strikes down violations it does not like). Strict scrutiny states that racial discrimination must be “narrowly tailored” to serve a “compelling governmental interest.” This level of judicial activism has not served the Court or the country well. What we need is simple adherence to the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and to the absolute nondiscrimination yardstick set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Necessity is the mother of invention, the saying goes. Thus, in 1944, a Supreme Court majority deemed it “necessary” to uphold internment while stating that racial discrimination in general was a really bad, “suspect” thing subject to strict scrutiny. Looking internment in the eye, the majority declared that it served an important government interest. Justice Frank Murphy vigorously dissented:

I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land. Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

In some historic Court cases, a dissent goes on to serve as a beacon to civil rights advocates. (This is a point emphasized in my book Race and Liberty: The Essential Reader). When a Court majority upheld streetcar segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent inspired the NAACP to fight on for colorblind law and equal protection, regardless of race. In that dissent, Harlan famously declared:

Our Constitution in color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.

Sadly for us, Murphy’s dissent never swayed the court from its “strict scrutiny” standard. Doubly tragic, the Court abandoned Harlan’s color-blind view of the law (enshrined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964) when it invented “diversity” as a loophole for universities to circumvent the guarantee of equal protection (Bakke 1978). Ever since Bakke, the Court has applied Goldilocks reasoning to the various ways universities discriminate: this form is too rigid (no quotas), another is too vague, but some racial “diversity” preference is acceptable as long as you can tell us how it produces “educational benefits.” How far may universities run with racial diversity? Run a scheme by us, the Court responds, and we will know a benign racial scheme when we see one.

None of this provides rule of law or guidance to universities who are, at any rate, determined to discriminate, whatever the Court decides. Thus, those advocating for nondiscrimination sue the University of Texas again for treating the last Court decision as a paperweight. We arrive at Fisher II, which is almost certain to “kick the can” again. Universities do as much as the Court will allow–and that is a lot. Even when universities run afoul of the Court (as happened in a 2003 case), the justices act as if the universities are trying to do the right thing but simply failed in that one instance. In reality, universities will lawyer up “massive resistance” to nondiscrimination longer and harder than the southern segregationists ever could manage. Meanwhile, the Court’s deference to the specious arguments of university officials borders on submissiveness.

Can we return to the classic liberal vision of principled, predictable, and colorblind law? One way would be accept the plain meaning of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: forbid all discrimination in programs that receive federal aid. (That would include all public universities). That reading of civil rights was the position taken by four justices in the Bakke case. Justice Powell joined that plurality to make it a majority; but, in so doing, introduced the possibility of “diversity” as a legitimate use of race. Little did he know how mischievous that phrase would become. The Court struck down rigid racial quotas but left “diversity” to be debated ad nauseam, with strict scrutiny the standard.

On a positive note, voters in several states amended their state constitutions to effectively breathe the Civil Rights Act back into law, thus overturning judicial and court decisions to the contrary. Those states include: California, Michigan, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska and Oklahoma. For a discussion of that movement in California and the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the amendment, see the document “Turning Back the Clock to the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” by Janice Rogers Brown, in Race and Liberty: The Essential Reader).

The Civil Rights Act flatly prohibits discrimination based on race. Yet, no matter how plain the nondiscrimination language, at the national level there seems to be little legislative or executive will to enforce it as written. The 1964 Act was the crowning colorblind achievement of the civil rights movement. The sponsors of the Act did everything in their power to emphasize it meant nondiscrimination. Period. Yet, with decision after decision, the Court has undone that achievement.

It would do no good to pass another Civil Rights Act mandating nondiscrimination, since we already have one that the U.S. Supreme Court ignores. The result is a nation that can’t resolve divisive debates over race. Elections are battled as one party’s effort to (among other things) stack the courts to favor their side against the other party. Yet changing the court’s composition will do little good if the doctrine of strict scrutiny stands. The swing justice in the Fisher II case, Anthony Kennedy, came of age in the 1950s–the earliest years of the standard. Every justice on the Court has lived in the world of strict scrutiny.

To repeat: The root problem is the Court’s invention of “strict scrutiny” and application of other contrived criteria to civil rights cases (“diversity,” “critical mass of underrepresented minorities,” etc.). Such scrutiny is strict in theory, deferential in practice. Indeed, it must be deferential in some cases: the original point of strict scrutiny was to have a reason to uphold internment! If the Court did not have the power to uphold the “legalization of racism” (Murphy’s phrase), it would have to rule that internment (and race preferences today) are unconstitutional violations of the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. But, the Court wishes to legally engineer outcomes that a majority believes are beneficial, even if they are unconstitutional or illegal by classic pre-strict scrutiny standards (Justice Murphy’s Law, as it were).

There is little cause for hope. Perhaps the Constitutional system of checks and balances has failed us. Congress could never force the Court to interpret the law as intended. Besides, the 1964 Congress no longer sits in office. It is highly doubtful you could get a majority of today’s Congress to enact the nondiscrimination law of 1964! There would be accusations of “colorblind racism” and other nonsense peddled by academic hustlers since the 1960s.

The executive branch has committed mischief of its own (various forms of racial discrimination are backed by Executive Orders and agency rulings). The Court thought it applied scrutiny more strictly in the area of government contracting. In practice, executive agencies have simply pushed junk social science to demonstrate the need for contracting set-asides for minorities and other favored groups. (Never mind that the contracts sometimes pass through to huge corporations).

There is no magic wand to right the world. All we can do is discuss and debate the merits of rule by judicial oligarchs (and others in power). I, for one, stand for the rule of law, not the rule of men (as the old saying went). One step in that direction is to challenge the notion of court-made law. Under the Constitution, properly understood, strict scrutiny does not exist. Its imposition is no more right than the imposition of any other unjust exercise of power.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Offended College Students Want Building Renamed

Perhaps Attorney General Loretta Lynch should come to the aid of these students. Like many of their fellow Buttercup Bolsheviks around the nation, the students at the Lebanon Valley College have been protesting “institutional injustices” on the Pennsylvania campus. They presented a list of demands to the administration, and one shows just how out of touch they are. Yes, it tops the demand of some college students for “safe spaces” against uncomfortable ideas.

Students want the administration to change the name of the college’s physical education building because it is named after the school’s former president Clyde A. Lynch. Why? As Penn Live reports: “At Friday’s forum [the student protesters] acknowledged no known links between Dr. Clyde A. Lynch and the practice of "Lynching” but said as is, the building and last name harken back to a period in American history when Blacks were widely and arbitrarily killed by public hangings and ‘Lynch Mobs.’“ At least the students at Princeton University who wanted to scrub every mention of President Woodrow Wilson from the campus lobbied for it because of what the man did and said, not because of his surname.

In a statement on the college’s website, the college’s President Lewis Thayne said in response to the demands, "Advocating for responsible change and being engaged as an active member of a community are civic virtues every member of a democracy should practice. We all stand with the concerned students who are advocating for responsible change at Lebanon Valley College.” Even if that mean those “members of a democracy” are getting offending at one of the institution’s patron’s last name, apparently.


Fired for Refusing to Call a Biological Girl a Boy, This Teacher Is Claiming Religious Discrimination

This fall a, teacher was fired in Texas for not referring to a 6-year-old girl as a boy.

Madeline Kirksey was, until recently, a manager at Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center on Clay Road in Katy, Texas, a town just to the west of Houston.

One girl had been attending the school for several months. After leaving school one Friday named “Sally,” she came to school on Monday with a new haircut, claiming to be named “Johnny.” Kirksey was fired after refusing to refer to the female child as a male or call her Johnny. Kirksey now claims that this firing was religious discrimination.

Ironically enough, Kirksey was fired on the same day Houston residents defeated the so-called “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” which could have allowed people identifying as the opposite sex to use public bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.

According to Breitbart, following Kirksey’s firing, the Learning Center distributed a set of rules and guidelines to all of the teachers on how to handle transgenderism among the students. The guidelines, developed by a special interest group, the International Foundation for Gender Education, instruct the teachers to defend the student’s dignity and to let themselves be told by the students which pronouns to use in reference to the students. Additionally, the guidelines call for the teachers to “be an advocate for the student[s]” against their own parents.

The guidelines state that educators “are often more knowledgeable” than parents and that parents can be “terribly cruel to their children who express transgender inclinations.”

Commenting on the new guidelines, Kirksey told school administrators that she did not think it was the school’s job to force its beliefs onto the students, or the student’s parents. She also stated that being forced to do so violated her religious beliefs.

Both Texas and the federal government have laws against religious discrimination in employment. Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (a federal law) and the Texas Labor Code prohibit employers in Texas from engaging in such discrimination and require reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs.

This includes private employers.

Kirksey has decided to file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the first step in an anti-discrimination claim against the learning center. She claims that she was wrongfully terminated on the basis of her religious beliefs.

Kirksey also reasoned that following the new guidelines would create an unhealthy environment where the students are encouraged to change their gender and bathroom preferences willy-nilly. She noted, for example, that the child previously known as Sally joined the boy’s football team after naming herself Johnny. Upon getting hit, however, the child cried and said, “I’m really not a little boy.” While these concerns are not necessarily relevant to Kirksey’s claims of discrimination, they illustrate that the school has much to consider in crafting good educational policy.

Students should all be treated fairly in the classroom, and school districts and private educational facilities do have the right to set their own curricula and policies. However, our system of government protects the traditional religious beliefs of all Americans, and forcing gender ideology upon objecting schoolteachers is the wrong way to go. It isn’t difficult to accommodate all parties here: It seems quite reasonable to allow teachers simply to refer to all students by their last name, if they so choose.

Expecting our teachers to be able to keep up with each child’s daily gender choices is a dangerous path to follow. The purpose and focus of a school should be on a child’s academic education, not on sexuality or gender. As Dr. Paul McHugh, former chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has argued, inculcating children with notions about gender change is often harmful; in that respect, it is not just that speaking about gender in the classroom is not usually germane to pedagogy, but that speaking falsely about gender is positively harmful.

Madeline Kirksey’s record as an academic teacher appears otherwise unblemished, and she should be allowed to continue with her teaching career


Australia: Education Ministers agree on reforms to improve the quality of teacher preparation

John Hattie is a smart guy and this all seems pretty sound -- in theory at least.  What is overlooked is the low quality  (semi-chaos)  of many of the schools and the resultant difficulty of attracting capable people to teach in them

Reforms agreed today at the Education Council will put in place rigorous quality assurance measures to ensure that teacher education programs are approved based on evidence about how well they prepare graduate teachers.

Professor John Hattie, AITSL Chair, said, “The reforms will help to ensure that graduate teachers are ‘classroom ready’ so they can have maximum impact on student learning. This is vital, since teacher expertise and quality teaching are the most important in-school influences on student learning.”

Early in 2015, the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) found that there is some excellent practice in initial teacher education in Australia, but the quality varies significantly between institutions. Accordingly, Ministers have resolved that all graduate teachers must be properly prepared to teach like the best.

Throughout 2015, AITSL worked constructively with teacher education providers, teacher regulatory authorities and key education stakeholders to address the concerns raised by TEMAG. The reformed system of accreditation of initial teacher education programs will be based on evidence, data, evaluation and improvement and will place a premium on demonstrating effective practice.

Key points:

    The selection of entrants to teacher education programs will be more rigorous and transparent, with all institutions considering candidates’ academic ability, as well as the non-academic characteristics that make them suitable for teaching.

    All initial teacher education students will have to pass a rigorous assessment that covers the breadth of teaching responsibilities to ensure that they are classroom ready by the time they graduate.

    A literacy and numeracy test for initial teacher education students will be implemented, to ensure that graduate teachers have appropriate personal literacy and numeracy skills.

    There will be a greater focus on building partnerships and communication between initial teacher education providers and schools for improved professional experience.

    All primary teaching students will complete a subject specialisation, ensuring that they have high level skills and knowledge in a particular subject area, as well as being prepared to teach across the primary curriculum.

Professor Hattie, continued, “Ultimately, the aim is to build a high-impact profession that people aspire to join. A profession that is as highly esteemed in Australia as it is in the leading countries of the world - and all in the great cause of advancing student learning.”

Press release

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

UK: Who would be a teacher today?

Soul-sapping bureaucracy is putting off new recruits

The British education system has produced a controversy a week since the Conservatives took office in 2010. This time, secretary of state for education Nicky Morgan, her schools minister Nick Gibb and the Department for Education have been accused of undermining the teaching profession itself.

According to the Labour Party, schools are ‘hemorrhaging teachers’ because of excessive workloads. And the statistics would appear to support Labour’s claims. Four in 10 new teachers quit within a year, and almost one in five secondary-school-trainee places have gone unfilled this year, according to the government’s own figures.

None of this is a surprise. Teaching is no longer a profession. While you may still have to obtain a formal qualification, teaching has been emptied of any the freedom that teachers once had to direct the learning of their pupils. This repressive climate is putting off new recruits. But this is not just the Conservatives’ fault.

When Labour’s Tony Blair said that his three policy priorities were ‘education, education, education’ in 1997, many thought he really cared about children and the future. They were to be disappointed. During its time in power, New Labour built an educational edifice of exam scripts, policies, white papers, targets and data-driven nonsense, laden with jargon and acronyms, which has sucked the life out of our schools. Both the Conservatives and Labour are to blame for the lifeless and undesirable profession we see today.

The potential to change a child’s life and set him or her on a journey of discovery, not to mention the great holidays and public-sector pension, no longer outweigh the many negatives of entering the profession. Entering the classroom nowadays is fraught with difficulty. Teachers no longer hold the authority they once did. Not only do pupils at some schools sit on recruitment panels and decide who to hire, they also might very well break the career of a teacher. They are encouraged to make formal complaints about teachers, perhaps because they disagree with a teacher’s teaching style or perhaps because they simply dislike the teacher’s manner (which is common from my experience). This hands power and authority over to the children. They see the classroom as their domain, the space over which they exert control.

Schools are also increasingly resembling miniature prisons. They require staff to wear identification on site at all times, and any visitors must sign in and out, as well as wearing visible ‘visitor’ badges, lest they be suspected of being a paedophile or deviant. Is it any wonder, then, that many are running from a profession that views adults’ interaction with children with suspicion?

However, teachers face an even bigger problem. The state no longer trusts teachers to teach. They are not trusted to impart the knowledge and wisdom they have obtained through study and experience to their pupils. Education, in the British state sector, no longer has a moral purpose. The national curriculum and exam procedures strangle teachers’ freedom. Instead, teachers must concern themselves with helping pupils obtain the ‘gold standard’ five A*-C grades at GCSE level, which it is assumed will eventually help pupils get a good job. Constrained by the bureaucracy of a state that is obsessed with stats and data, teaching has been emptied of any ethical purpose – it has become a tick-box exercise.

What the education system must do in order to attract ambitious and passionate new recruits is to provide teachers with freedom: the freedom in the classroom to take risks; the freedom to design a curriculum that will deliver the best that has been thought and said, and help budding young minds make sense of the world; and the freedom to disregard dry targets and data. Without granting teachers the freedom to do these things, the Department for Education will continue to fall short of recruitment targets. After all, who would be a teacher today?


Chaotic British school to be taken over by Muslim group

Parents have voiced their anger that an Islamic group is to take over a secondary school where less than 2 per cent of pupils are Muslim.

A petition was started after it was revealed Tauheedul Education Trust (TET) is taking over Highfield Humanities College in Blackpool, Lancashire, which is in special measures.

The trust, which has faced controversy in the past, oversees the running of ten Muslim Schools in the northwest, West Midlands, and east London.

Many parents are concerned about its takeover of Highfield, a secondary school that has failed to improve since it was deemed 'inadequate' a year ago, and claim governors were 'railroaded' into it by the government's regional schools commissioner.

According to Sian Griffiths and Julie Henry at The Sunday Times, some parents are confused why a largely white school is to be run by a sponsor that heads up Islamic faith schools.

TET insists Highfield will retain its non-faith character but many parents are still worried, with a petition calling for the takeover to be postponed attracting more than 1,000 signatures.

Spencer Shackleton, whose 15-year-old son is a pupil at Highfield, said: 'It is shocking. TET sponsors Islamic-faith schools and Highfield is... in a town where less than 1 per cent of the population is Muslim.'

On the petition, Esther Paiva wrote: 'I think it is awful parents have not been consulted on this. Seems they have already made their minds up whether the parents like it or not.'

Simon Humphries said: 'I chose for my kids to go to a non-religious school for a reason and I don't want that choice to be taken away from us now!'

Others support the takeover, however, and hope it can improve the situation a Highfield.

Parent Louise Graham told the Sunday Times: 'The school needs change and needs to be taken forward and I think TET is the right organisation to do this.'

Elsewhere, TET runs the strongly-performing Tauheedul Islam Girls' High School in Blackburn, Lancashire, although the school was criticised for requiring pupils to wear an Islamic headdress.

Since this came to light two years ago the school has scrapped the rule.

At another TET school, Olive Primary, Channel 4's Dispatches exposed staff describing music and clapping as 'satanic' in undercover footage.

But since then Ofsted investigations of both have led to positive feedback.

TET said: 'TET is one of the most successful multi-academy trusts in the country... We have a long history of working with non-faith schools to support real, long-lasting improvements.

'We are committed to bringing this expertise and experience to Highfield.'


Seventh grader wearing Star Wars t-shirt is told by school administrators that it is BANNED 'because it has a gun on it'

A Texas seventh grader who wore a Star Wars t-shirt to school was told it has been banned because 'it has a gun on it.'

Colton Southern from Rosenberg had worn the shirt to school on Thursday which is emblazoned with the Star Wars: The Force Awakens logo and features a Stormtrooper holding a gun.

Administrations at George Junior High School told him to cover up the shirt, which he was told was banned because it has a picture of 'what in the movie is a weapon,' KTRK reported.

'It's political correctness run amok,' Colton's dad, Joe, said.  'You're talking about a Star Wars t-shirt, a week before the biggest movie of the year comes out. 'It has nothing to do with guns or making a stand. It's just a Star Wars shirt.'

The district's secondary school handbook apparently details potential violations of dress code, which includes 'symbols oriented toward violence,' a Lamar Consolidated Independent School District spokesperson said.

Administrators said Colton was not reprimanded and was only required to zip up his jacket.

However, they told KTRK that they could have required him to change, assigned him in-school suspension or have had him face other consequences.

On Thursday, following the incident, Colton's dad posted about it on Facebook and called the whole thing 'absurd'.

He wrote: 'Star Wars shirt banned at school! My son came home from George Junior High School in Rosenberg, TEXAS, and informed me he could no longer wear this shirt to school (which he has many times) because the Stormtrooper has a gun! How absurd!'

Joe Southern said to him the incident is a violation of the first amendment and that the weapon shown on the shirt and the character holding it are both fictional, according to KTRK.

He added that any implication that his son would hurt anyone is incorrect, saying there is not a violent bone in his son's body.

'He's a Boy Scout, active in church, volunteers at Brazos Bend State Park. There's not a violent bone in his body. He's just an excited kid for the movie,' he said.

The next installment in the Star Wars saga, one of the most highly anticipated movie releases of the year, premieres in Los Angeles on Monday for VIP audiences in three separate theaters amid tight security.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Comes Early for Teachers Unions and Obama Administration With No Child Left Behind Rewrite

“It’s like Christmas Day,” exclaimed Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. García was referring to passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama—who similarly referred to the new law as a “Christmas miracle”—earlier Thursday.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the measure, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the most recent iteration of which was No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act passed the Senate by a margin of 85-12 and in the U.S. House by a vote of 359-64 in late November (this included every Democrat who voted in both the House and Senate).

According to Politico, “victory certainly didn’t just land in the laps of union leaders. The National Education Alliance and the American Federation of Teachers are on track to spend $3.7 million combined lobbying Capitol Hill before 2015 is done.

“The National Education Alliance calculates that it has held 2,300 face-to-face meetings with lawmakers this year. Members have sent 255,000 emails to Capitol Hill and made 23,500 phone calls, according to NEA’s calculations.”

Politico goes on to report:

    In February, it spent $500,000 on an ad buy targeting Senate HELP Committee members’ districts, calling on them to replace the law… the AFT calculates it had 200 in-person meetings with lawmakers, made 125,000 phone calls and submitted more than 20,000 online comments to members of Congress.

The proposal’s elimination of Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) has rightly drawn the support of the vast majority of analysts and education stakeholders. AYP was the overly prescriptive federal mandate that undergirded the foundation of No Child Left Behind; it required that all students achieve proficiency by the 2014-15 school year or have a state risk federal sanctions. In addition to eliminating AYP, the new law also eliminates the so-called “highly qualified teacher” provision, which established federal credentialing requirements for teachers. Yet the law’s policy bright spots end there, and they are overwhelmed by the prescriptions, programs, and spending that remain.

Major federal prescription remains, particularly around testing:

    States must continue to administer annual tests and report results publicly. Just as with No Child Left Behind, states must test all children in grades 3 through 8 annually and at least once in high school, and as with No Child Left Behind, results must be disaggregated by subgroup.

    Just as with No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act mandates that states have test participation rates of at least 95 percent of students.

    States must administer tests that include at least three achievement levels and, as with current practice, must set cut scores that are “challenging.” Tests must align to state standards and now must provide “coherent and timely” information about student outcomes and proportion at grade level.

    In addition to the mandated annual tests, new state “accountability” plans must include reports on interim progress, which likely means interim testing on the part of states.

Although the law consolidates some programs, it does not eliminate any program funding, it and creates several new significant federal programs, including:

    Newly codified $250-million annual federal preschool program, to be housed at Health and Human Services and jointly administered by the Department of Education.

    New family engagement centers program, new STEM program, Master Teacher Corps, and civics professional development programs.

    Reconstituted Part A, Title IV section into the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, which would authorize spending at $1.6 billion annually through 2020. That authorized amount comes in addition to the authorized $1.1 billion in Part B, which funds the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program.

And most notably, perhaps, are all of the missed opportunities to advance conservative policy, and policy that would actually empower parents:

*   No option for states to make their Title I funding (the bulk of federal funding for low-income districts) portable, to follow students to a school of choice.

*   No reduction in the accumulation of spending.

*   Limited program consolidation.

*   No option for states to completely opt out of the law through a provision known as APLUS is included. The amendment received 195 votes in the House and 44 votes in the Senate (amounting to 80 percent of Republicans in Congress) yet is not part of this proposal.

Although it may be an early Christmas present for the president and the teachers unions, for those interested in empowering parents and genuinely reducing federal intervention in education, the Every Student Succeeds Act leaves much to be desired.


UK: Parents's fury as school bans them from filming their children's nativity play - in case they share footage on the internet

Parents have been left angry by a school's decision to ban them from filming their own child's nativity play. Mothers and fathers of pupils at Gladstone Road Primary in Scarborough, North Yorkshire were astonished to receive a text telling them of the rule just hours before the youngsters were due to go on stage.

The school claims children could be 'at risk of harm' if the nativity scenes were shared over the internet by parents.

Katrina Young, whose daughter was in the show, said: 'When you children start school, the nativity play is special. It is something you want to film and watch over and over again as they get older.

'So when we were told we weren't allowed to film anything it was absolutely crushing.'

The school has ruled that only staff can film the four and five year old pupils as they act out the story of Jesus's birth.

A mother, who asked not be named, added: 'So that makes it completely pointless. Once the video is distributed there is nothing to stop anyone putting it on Facebook anyway.

'I can understand a ban in filming if they were letting in any Tom, Dick or Harry but not when only parents are allowed in anyway.'

The school has defended its decision, insisting it is in the best interests of the children.  It said in a statement: 'We informed parents that this year the play could not be filmed because of concerns around safeguarding of some of the children at the school.  'There was a risk of harm if the videos were shared more widely on social media, for example.

'As traditionally the school has been able to allow filming, the head teacher did not want to wait until the children arrived at the performance to inform them of the change and therefore advised them in advance.

'We acknowledge this change came with late notification, and regretted the late notice.'


College quotas are actually destroying lives of minorities

Yesterday the US Supreme Court heard a constitutional challenge to racial preferences in college admissions. These preferences obviously hurt whites and Asians turned down to make room for less qualified minorities, but ironically, the preferences also harm many Hispanics and African-Americans - the very students they're supposed to help.

No wonder campuses are roiled with racial tension. It's high time the court put a stop to racial preferences entirely.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman who sued the University of Texas for rejecting her in 2008, claims the university's admissions process unconstitutionally favored minority applicants, violating her right to equality under the law. Like affirmative-action programs everywhere, the school claims it judges each applicant "holistically." Don't buy it.

For University of Texas applicants, simply being born black or Hispanic gets you points for "achievement," even if your parents are wealthy bankers. Being born white or Asian gets you zip. It's similar at Harvard, which is being sued in another case. In defense, Harvard says "when choosing among academically qualified applicants," colleges need "freedom and flexibility to consider each person's unique background."

That's doubletalk. Many minorities admitted to elite schools based on race aren't "academically qualified."

A survey of selective colleges by UCLA professor Richard Sander documented that students who get in based on race tend to earn lower grades and are less likely to graduate. At less demanding colleges, they'd have a better chance to succeed.

They're in over their heads.

But not in California, which outlawed racial preferences in 1996. Minority students now are more apt to attend lower-ranked public colleges but twice as likely to graduate.

Gail Heriot, a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, points to "mounting empirical evidence" that admitting students based on race is "doing more harm than good."

That poignant lesson seems lost on administrators at elite universities who boast of large minority enrollments.

Racial preferences in law school admissions put many minorities on the failure track. At selective law schools, 51 percent of African-American first-year students admitted with racial preferences had grades in the bottom 10 percent of their class, compared with only 5 percent of white students.

It's one thing to be at the bottom of the class, but, Heriot explains, "It is quite another for an African-American student to find himself toward the bottom of the class and to find half of his African-American friends and acquaintances there too." It stokes bitterness and feelings of injustice.

Minority students struggling academically tend to segregate themselves from other students. And turn to nonacademic pursuits - like campus protests. This fall's protesters at the University of Missouri, Princeton, Harvard and Yale are demanding "safe spaces" for black students only.

In previous decades, students protested the Vietnam War or economic inequality. Today, they whine about perceived racial slights. Imagine being admitted to an Ivy League college and then complaining about the names on the buildings - John Calhoun at Yale or Woodrow Wilson at Princeton (as if anyone who lived more than a century ago would pass muster by today's values).

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas warned from personal experience about the harm to minority students: "I watched the operation of such affirmative-action policies when I was in college, and I watched destruction of many kids as a result."

Of course, the justices hearing the Texas case will focus on the harm done to students excluded because they aren't favored minorities. Whites like Abigail Fisher, but also Asians.

Like Harvard and many universities, the University of Texas limits Asian students, even though they have the highest test scores. Asian-American groups label that "racist" and remind the court, "It demeans the dignity and worth of a person to be judged by ancestry instead of his or her own merit and essential qualities."

It's also unconstitutional. Now's the time for the justices to say so unambiguously, and put a stop to it.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

College Student Takes a Stand Against Campus Free Speech Policy, Sues School

A student at an Arizona community college is challenging her school’s so-called “speech zone,” arguing the policy “severely limited” her right to free speech and due process.

Brittany Mirelez, a freshman at Paradise Valley Community College in Maricopa County, Ariz., was kicked out of the designated speech zone in October for failing to obtain permission to use the space.

Mirelez had set up a table to converse with students about a group she is trying to start called the Young Americans for Liberty. The group, which has branches nationwide, advocates for limited government and liberty-minded candidates.

Originally, Mirelez said a Student Life official granted her permission, but shortly after setting up her table, a different official told her she had to leave because she didn’t get approval to use the space 48 hours in advance.

“It was just rude and uncalled for,” Mirelez, 18, told The Daily Signal. “I didn’t really understand the big deal, so we had a little argument for 10 minutes. Then I finally was like, ‘I’ll go inside even though I don’t see the difference between being inside versus outside.’”

After being told that she violated campus policy, Mirelez packed up her belongings and left the area.

But two months later, The Daily Signal has exclusively learned that Mirelez filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Arizona against Dr. Paul Dale, president of Paradise Valley Community College, along with two other campus officials.

In the lawsuit, Mirelez alleges “the fear of arrest or punishment severely limited [her] constitutionally-protected expression on campus.”

“This is unnecessary and unconstitutional,” Mirelez said, arguing her free speech shouldn’t be confined to a particular space on campus.

In the lawsuit, her attorney argued that because Paradise Valley Community College receives public funds, “the First Amendment rights of free speech and press extend to campuses of state colleges.”

Mirelez is not seeking specific monetary damages, but she is asking the school and its officials to cover her legal fees and more importantly, to change its campus “speech zone” policy.

The Daily Signal obtained a copy of the school’s current policy, which states that students are entitled to “speak in public and to demonstrate in a lawful manner” Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. That speech is limited to one particular outside walkway.

According to court documents, the speech zone “comprises less than 0.26 percent of the entire Paradise Valley Community College campus.”

“Colleges are supposed to be a place where ideas are freely shared, not gagged or suppressed,” Tyson Langhofer, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Mirelez in her lawsuit, told The Daily Signal. “College really works against its own purpose when it places restrictive speech rules above freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees to students and all other citizens.”

Free speech zones are a contested policy among college campuses, and often find themselves subject to lawsuits.

This is not the first lawsuit that members of Young Americans for Liberty have brought forth against speech codes. In March, three students from Dixie State University filed a similar lawsuit, alleging the university refused to approve promotional flyers about Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, those flyers “disparage[d] and “mock[ed]” those individuals.

On Sept. 17, Dixie State settled with the students, agreeing to revise the campus speech policies and pay $50,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

Mirelez said she is “hopeful” to reach a similar outcome. And for the most part, the political science major said she has the support of her teachers and fellow students.

“I think a lot of people would approve of getting the [speech zone] taken away,” she said. “A lot of students have told me it’s weird that they only see us in one spot, that they would like to see us around campus more.”

“You don’t wake up and say I kind of want to sue my school to get rid of something,” Mirelez added. “But it’s gotta happen.”


Norway: Permission need to dance around Christmas tree‏

Some Norwegian parents are asking just how far schools should go in accommodating minorities after a school in suburban Oslo asked parents for permission to let kids dance around the Christmas tree.

Oslo area mum Karianne Haug told Aftenposten that she could scarcely believe her own eyes when her child came home from Lesterud School in the western suburban municipality of Bærum with a slip asking permission to let her child sing and dance around the Christmas tree.

“It’s fine to ask [for one’s child] to be exempt from the religious service, that has worked fine for years, but to have to check off permission to dance around the Christmas tree? What will be next? Where is the limit for how many considerations we should take? Who makes these considerations, and for whom?” she said.

School official Gry Hovland said that several area schools have for several years had a joint set of rules for which types of activities kids can participate in. She said the guidelines are based upon recommendations from the  Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (Utdanningsdirektoratet), which references a European Court of Human Rights decision a few years ago that recommends schools be “especially cautious” about religious activities amongst young students.

“We interpret going around the Christmas tree, which includes singing Christian songs, as an event that tends toward religious content. We want to protect ourselves and not cross any boundaries. That’s why we ask parents and guardians to give permission to go around the Christmas tree,” she told Aftenposten.

She said that very few students opt out of the ritual, while more parents opt to not let their children participate in the religious service.

Loveleen Brenna, who heads a consultancy firm focused on diversity in the workplace, told Aftenposten that while she is sure the school had the best intentions, the Christmas tree exemption was misguided.

“One must be careful not to wipe out part of the cultural foundation in Norway under the guise of respect for diversity,” she warned.

That sentiment was echoed by concerned mum Haug.

“Norwegian traditions are important, that’s how I see it. We live in a society with rapid changes and families that are splitting up. Traditions help to protect our children. I think it creates a problem if all students, regardless of their believes, can’t gather around the Christmas tree – how harmful can it be?” she asked Aftenposten.


Veteran British teacher WINS her appeal against a conviction for clipping an unruly teenage boy around the ear that threatened to end her unblemished career

A veteran teacher whose exemplary career was left in tatters after she was found guilty of clipping an unruly pupil with a book has today won her appeal to have her conviction quashed.

Regina Hungerford, 54, faced a lifetime classroom ban after being found guilty of assaulting Shane Jenkins when she 'lost it' during a maths class at Merthyr Tydfil College, South Wales.

The court heard she had apparently lashed out with the book because the teenager refused to stop playing music on his smartphone.

But Mrs Hungerford - whose 25-year volunteering career with the Girl Guides was also threatened - has now won her appeal to have her conviction quashed.

The win is a victory for campaigners who described the case as a 'complete scandal' and called on the law courts to sympathise more with teachers under strain from badly behaved pupils.

The teacher had always admitted throwing Jenkins's phone out of the window, but insisted she did not strike the boy, who was 17 at the time.

After being found guilty in October of the assault - despite conflicting evidence in court from the alleged victim - she vowed to fight the 'miscarriage of justice'.

Mrs Hungerford, who was supported in court by a friend, declined to comment after the case if she would return to work at the college where she taught for 14 years.

But a friend said: 'It is a big relief and she want to get on with her life. She wouldn't be able to teach nor do the Guides with a criminal conviction - but now she can carry on.'   

The appeal heard how the incident unfolded when Jenkins had refused Mrs Hungerford's repeated requests that he turn off his mobile phone. The pupil then said: 'You can't make me' when she asked him again.

He then claimed that Mrs Hungerford lashed out with the book.

Jenkins initially admitted he was not certain that Mrs Hungerford hit him. But he later said he was 'sure' Mrs Hungerford had caught him once with the hardback.

Mrs Hungerford, of Cefn Coed, Merthyr Tydfil, who said she was normally 'very calm', admitted using two hands to 'slam the book down on the desk' but said she did not hit the boy.

Classroom assistan Michelle Waters also gave evidence that the book was an A5 notebook while support worker Beverley Clark said it was a spiral notebook and files.

Widowed Ms Hungerford had taught for 13 years at Merthyr Tydfil college before the incident.

She also volunteered with the girl guides for 25 years and had been the county commissioner for Breconshire between 2006 and 2007. Her conviction left a question mark over whether she would be able to continue in that role. 

Her defence barrister Peter Doninson had said the 'real sentence' was 'the loss of her employment and loss of work with the girl guides'.

'She can no longer volunteer in the community and that is a loss to her well being and the community that she supports,' he had said.

After the sentencing, in which she was subject to a 12-month community order, she said: ‘This has ruined my life and I want to do my best to overturn this miscarriage of justice.’

Today's appeal was heard in front of a judge and two magistrates at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court.