Friday, September 08, 2023

5th California School District Says Teachers Must Notify Parents If Kids Identify as Trans

Parental rights triumphed over the transgender agenda in the shadow of California’s capital overnight, as the state’s fifth school district adopted a policy requiring teachers to notify parents if their children begin to identify as a member of another sex.

Parents burst into cheers as the Rocklin Unified School District board of trustees adopted the policy by a 4-1 vote Thursday morning around 12:40 a.m. local time.

The regulation stipulates that schools must contact parents within three school days if their child requests to use a name, pronouns, or sex-segregated facilities “that do not align with the child’s biological sex.” Trustees also clarified that a student’s gender identity remains confidential to everyone “except the student and their parent(s).”

“We trust our parents to know what is best for their children,” said Rocklin school trustees shortly after the vote. “We believe that the best way to address these challenges is together, with open communication and clear expectations. The board’s action to strengthen parental notification and communication reinforces our commitment to include parents in school activities and decisions related to their child.”

The new measure is aimed at “strengthening the relationship between our staff, students, and family,” they stated.

The vote came after hundreds of people crowded into a grueling, six-and-a-half-hour meeting that included more than four hours of public comments that ranged from heartrending to hot-headed.

“This policy is violent,” asserted an LGBTQ activist wearing a rainbow cape, a cloth COVID-19 mask, and hoisting a handheld transgender flag. “You are waging war, and we will not take it quietly. … We’ll shame you in public! … Take our kids’ futures and we’ll take your livelihood!”

“We don’t take threats up here,” replied RUSD Board President Julie Hupp, who favored the policy. “Threatening the board members is not how we work up here.”

“It’s not a threat. It’s a promise!” said the speaker, who identified as Jay Smith, to the cheers of rainbow flag-waving audience members.

More than one speaker wore an LGBTQ cape in the manner of a superhero. Teachers in the school district reportedly passed out rainbow ribbons to oppose notifying parents.

Mothers and fathers asked those teachers not to lock them out of knowing the most fundamental facts of their children’s lives.

“Please support parental rights. Basic safeguarding of children means not keeping secrets from parents,” pleaded concerned parent Beth Bourne.

One of the district’s concerned parents, California Assemblyman Joe Patterson, a Republican, thanked the trustees for their service, empathizing with those who received “really hateful comments.”

“What this whole issue is about is: Who gets to raise our kids? Who gets to raise the next generation of Californians? Is it the government, or is it their parents?” declared Assemblyman Bill Essayli, a Republican who has championed a similar policy at the state level (AB 1314).

“The central question is: What authority does a school have to withhold information from parents?” asked Essayli. He noted that courts have ruled “there is no right to privacy between children and their parents.”

Liberals promised swift political retaliation against RUSD and its four pro-parent trustees.

“Hit me up if you want to run for school board next year,” said Jonathan Cook, the executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance. (RUSD trustee Michelle Sutherland cast the lone dissenting vote on Wednesday night. Julie Hupp, Tiffany Saathoff, Rachelle Price, and Dereck Counter voted in favor.)

One political communications specialist urged LGBTQ activists to nullify or counter messages that parental notification policies validate parents’ love for their children.

But messages of support also poured in from those unable to attend. “Parents have every right to know what’s happening with their kids. State politicians need to stay in their lane and stop meddling in parents’ efforts to raise their children,” said former state Sen. Melissa Melendez, a Republican.

Many of those who opposed the policy reportedly came from outside the district, while some who supported it cited their faith.

Hupp took a moment during the hearings to address a “controversy” over a social media post in which she invited “Christ-centered, family-focused individuals” to attend the proceedings, noting that she posted a second message inviting all families to take part.

The lopsided passage constitutes an act of defiance on the part of Rocklin, which is located in Placer County—a mere 22 miles outside Sacramento, where the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has made a full-court press against parental notification policies.

California State Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, won a temporary restraining order Wednesday morning against the first district to approve a parental rights policy, Chino Valley Unified School District in San Bernardino County.

Sonja Shaw, Chino Valley Unified School District president, who has endured disturbing and specific death threats for her stand in favor of parental rights, objected that the policy “simply says that parents have a right to know what is going on at school and not be the last person informed.”

Judge Thomas Garza’s order, which applies only to Chino Valley, represents “a temporary setback in the ongoing struggle to affirm parents’ God-given and constitutionally protected right to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” said California Family Council President Jonathan Keller.

Bonta’s threats and legal intimidation amount to little more than “a political gimmick to intimidate school boards,” said Lance Christensen, vice president of education policy and government affairs at the California Policy Center.

“Gov. Newsom and other state officials are on a mission to strip parents of their rights and give control over their kids to the government,” he continued. “Bonta is using the power of his office to scare other school boards that are considering adopting parental rights policies. They should not be intimidated.”

“Despite the court’s decision, we stand undeterred by intimidation tactics from legislators, executives, and bureaucrats,” vowed Keller. “This is not just a legal battle; it’s a defining moment for our culture, drawing a line between government overreach and the sacred realm of family.”

Both see the lawsuits as an attempt to blunt the momentum in favor of parents’ rights and pro-family policy in deep-blue California.

Chino Valley affirmed parental rights by a 4-1 vote in July, followed by Murrieta Valley Unified School District and Temecula Valley Unified School District (both in Riverside County), and Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County.

“Five down, 939 to go,” quipped Christensen.


Progressives ending grading in schools are condescending racists

I went on a guided tour Thursday of Rome’s historic Colosseum and saw the significance of the barbarism there thousands of years ago.

Rome presented its public executions as equitable since the person losing a life was armed equally to the professional combatant tasked with spilling the prisoner’s blood.

Even the Romans understood the benefit of faking fairness to persuade the public to accept the overwhelming gaps in skillset and preparedness in those defending themselves in such a cruel environment.

Today’s progressives are much like the Romans of the past.

In liberal school districts across America, they’re doing everything possible to get the public to accept mediocrity as fair and equitable and arming our children with educational paper swords, misleading them into believing they can battle the world without the solid weapon of knowledge.

Take Portland Public Schools.

The district is considering adopting new “equitable grading practices” that it’s already using in some schools.

It sent a handout pointing to data showing historical racial disparities in students’ pass/fail rate.

The handout instructs teachers to avoid giving zeros — or any grade lower than 50% — on assignments not meeting expectations, incomplete or handed in late or not at all.

Homework can’t be graded.

Teachers can’t even penalize the scores of students who’ve cheated.

How do officials justify these wild alterations from the typical grading structure?

“What it’s doing is, it’s assessing mastery and accuracy,” PPS’ Chief Academic Officer Kimberlee Armstrong stated.

“It’s about fairness, it’s about reducing bias, it’s about considering the diverse backgrounds and needs of students.”

Progressive school administrators always talk about biases that exist within their schooling structure, but they rarely discuss what policies exist that are objectively accentuating those biases.

They only know how to present the veneer of fairness by artificially inflating underperformers and leveling the more exceptional students.

A school district that states we need to have fewer expectations of students handing in course work on time because the minority children fail to do so is beyond condescending.

I feel bad for any parent who has a minority child under the tutelage of any “educator” who truly believes this.

Though they’re supposedly fighting to end racial biases, the officials’ reasoning and methodology in changing the grading system only exposes how their motives are based on racial biases, racist tropes and simplistic theories assuming certain groups’ lack of output is equal to intellectual inferiority.

These elitist progressives cannot conceive any other possibility why some minority children are unable to keep up with others in an equal environment other than their race — and to cover up their own years of failure to uplift the ones who have fallen, they manipulate the grading system instead of helping these children.

Real white supremacists would allow someone who doesn’t look like them to struggle surviving while reinforcing the false belief that he or she is actually excelling so the kid fails in a competitive world.

Real racial bias shows itself when officials claim your black child can’t meet simple expectations like handing in work on time.

Now that I think of it, they probably do believe the trope that black people are always late, so let’s not penalize them for handing in work late: They can’t help it, right?

More and more of America’s educators have become ideologically captured and put into practice the most condescending ideas as they claim to be the saviors of the melanated class.

The truth is, they look down on us with pity and have become our social executioners as they create circumstances to set us up for our demise.

The paper sword they’re handing minority children is crafted by a patronizing anti-racist, not a diligent educational sword maker.

Even the ancient Romans could see this isn’t a fair fight.


Single-sex schools have the academic advantage, Australian data reveals

When prospective parents agonise over the decision to enrol their daughter in a single-sex school, Campbelltown’s St Patrick’s College for Girls principal Sue Lennox has a simple answer: “Boys get away with stuff because ‘boys will be boys’ and that is a dreadful lesson for girls. That is what girls at co-ed school learn,” she said.

“When girls are in class without the boys, they can be themselves. It is a safe place where they can ask questions. They don’t feel they have to be anyone in particular because there are no boys. They grow in confidence.

“In co-ed schools, some subjects are considered ‘boy subjects’ and some are considered ‘girl subjects’. That is absent here.”

An analysis of NAPLAN results from across the country’s 304 single-sex schools shows there is another advantage to segregating boys and girls: they both perform slightly better when it comes to academic results.

After accounting for socio-educational background, the analysis by Catholic Schools NSW using NAPLAN test data from 2019 to 2022 found the single-sex advantage was particularly pronounced when it came to numeracy scores in boys’ schools.

Students enrolled in boys’ schools typically scored between 11 and 12 points higher than those in co-ed schools, after accounting for socio-educational background, the report said.

“Overall, the results of this analysis imply a modest academic advantage for single-sex schools, with the advantage generally greater for boys’ schools than girls’ schools,” the report said.

When it came to numeracy, girls who went to a single-sex school scored on average three points higher than those who attended a co-ed school, after differences in social background were considered.

There are about 284,000 students across the country enrolled in single-sex schools. While they might be performing better academically, the share of all students in those schools across the country declined slightly from 7.2 per cent in 2018 to 7 per cent in 2022.

The shrinking share of students in single-sex schools is likely driven by the fact that many boys schools have decided to open their doors to girls, the report said.

In Sydney, that includes Marist school Corpus Christi College which opened its doors to girls in year 7 this year. It followed North Sydney’s Marist Catholic College North Shore which went co-ed in 2021.

The $41,000-a-year Cranbrook in Bellevue Hill will open its doors to girls in 2026, and Newington College in Stanmore is also weighing up a possible shift to co-ed.

Flinders University researcher Dr Katherine Dix analysed NAPLAN data ranging from 2010 to 2012. She found in numeracy that students at boys’ schools were one school term ahead of students in girls’ schools. However, her research found single-sex schools offered no added value in academic results over time when compared to co-ed schools.

She now believes girls’ schools remained popular because the values they promoted were attractive to parents, while that was less the case for boys’ schools.

“Wanting to develop strong independent young women is a stronger driver in a traditionally male-dominated world. The same driver is not there for single-sex male schools,” she said.

Chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW Dallas McInerney wants single-sex schools to remain an option for parents. He warned that going co-ed by admitting girls should not be considered a quick-fix solution to help a struggling school.

“Just as we believe in parental choice between sectors, it also extends to the type of school be it co-ed or single sex because different children are better suited to different environments,” he said.

“There are a number of different reasons we might want to bring together two single-sex schools on a single site. But as a general principle, one section should not be called upon to save a failing school of the opposite sex. Don’t bring in girls to salvage a struggling boys’ schools.”

At St Patrick’s in Campbelltown, Rebecca, 15, said when she compared the school to her co-ed primary school she preferred just having girls in the classroom.

“It is a lot more quiet and focused,” she said.

Abigail, 15, said she liked the close friendships she had made at school, while her classmate Diadem, also 15, said she liked being in a supportive environment of an all-girls school.

“It is a sisterhood, I feel really encouraged to do my best,” she said.




Thursday, September 07, 2023

Arizona Parents’ Nightmare Shows It Matters How States Implement School Choice

Accursed Accurso

Following the election of Republican Tom Horne as the state’s superintendent of public instruction in November, families cheered—hoping that a better director of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program would be appointed.

Horne wanted an ESA supporter to manage the program, so he appointed Christine Accurso, an activist who had led the campaign to protect universal expansion of access to Arizona’s version of education savings accounts from a ballot initiative that sought to overturn it.

Unfortunately, Accurso didn’t prove up to the task. In the ensuing months, she frequently made changes to how the ESA program operated, nearly always making it harder for parents to use their accounts. Parents grew increasingly upset with seemingly arbitrary policy changes and the ever-growing backlog of reimbursements for expenses.

From obstructing and preventing parents’ access to the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program to allegedly violating the privacy of hundreds of Arizona families, Accurso guaranteed that few would mourn her eventual resignation.

Unpopular Decisions
As tens of thousands began applying for Arizona’s ESA program in late 2022 and early 2023, Accurso hit the brakes via numerous policy changes that, in the name of “accountability,” reduced accessibility and usability for parents.

One of her more unpopular decisions was to halt the issuing of “ESA debit cards,” which allowed families to spend money directly on education expenses, instead directing families new to the program to use the online ClassWallet portal.

However, not every eligible education vendor was accessible via the ClassWallet portal, especially as some vendors had complained about not being paid for their services for weeks or longer due to the Arizona Department of Education’s backlog of expense reviews. This posed a particular challenge to families of students with special needs, who were more likely to use services that weren’t yet in the portal.

Accurso blamed her refusal to issue new ESA debit cards to new program applicants on several shifting “obstacles.”

In a March email, she argued that allowing parents direct access to their funds would be “tax dollars immediately spent without accountability,” even though ESA parents had to submit all receipts for review before the next quarterly disbursement.

A 2018 report by Arizona’s auditor general, however, found that misspending via ESA debit cards amounted to less than 1%  of total ESA spending, although it recommended several upgrades in system administration to reduce misspending.

A more recent audit concluded that “concerns with debit card administration have largely been addressed.” Indeed, the rate of improper payments to unapproved merchants had been reduced to just 0.001%.

In an April email, Accurso said ESA debit cards were being distributed, albeit on an individual basis rather than as a blanket policy as in previous administrations. But she said her office had lagged due to “the massive backlog of pre-paid card transactions” aided by ClassWallet, a third-party vendor that she had pushed the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts office to use.

Changing Qualifications

That backlog, however, to a great extent actually was due to Accurso’s own decision to manually review every single ESA transaction rather than to adopt a risk-based review process that approved routine transactions, with greater scrutiny applied only where warranted. Arizona’s auditor general recommended such a risk-based review years ago.

In two public meetings early this year, Accurso’s office said ESA debit cards couldn’t be issued based on a fear of “auditing our office.” The auditor general, however, had given previous administrations high marks for oversight of the debit cards.

Accurso also routinely changed the qualifications for what did and didn’t qualify for ESA funds. Several emails obtained by The Daily Signal show that Accurso consistently found excuses for not covering educational expenses that qualified for funding under previous Arizona Department of Education administrations and in other states with education savings accounts.


It's Begun: Some Schools Are Reinstating Mask Mandates for Children

COVID is endemic. People are still going to get it, regardless of vaccination status. And many more will contract the virus multiple times. It will be like flu season, folks, which also has a vaccine that can prevent severe illness or death but is not a silver bullet against infection. It’s not being reported anymore, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the COVID and influenza vaccine efficacy is similar, around 40-50 percent. Take the shot, don’t take the shot, but the experts self-immolated when they said if you take the vaccine, you’d be shielded forever.  

And we’re back to the window dressing that is mask-wearing. It’s been documented for months now that store-bought masks don’t work. KN95 masks are useless for kids because they don’t fit properly; their faces are too small. But it gets better: even for adults, this mask, marketed as the Rolls-Royce of face coverings, did nothing to stop the spread. Still, a Silver Spring, Maryland, school decided to wrap these kids’ faces up because some students tested positive.

COVID is over. The Left may not want to admit it because it helped them win the 2020 election, and the panic peddlers yearn for the days of mass infection to further test the limits of government power. Not anymore. The pandemic is done. Every aspect of social life is back, and lockdowns aren’t coming back.  

Science fiction has become official policy on COVID, which, if you think about it, isn’t all that shocking since progressives think that biological males can become women, have babies, and menstruate. If you can stomach that delusional hayride, believing that masks will curb the spread of the coronavirus isn’t too far off the reservation.


California Mom Wins Settlement Against School District That Socially Transitioned Her Daughter

California mom Jessica Konen won a $100,000 settlement from her daughter’s school district, Spreckels Union School District, after Buena Vista Middle School had socially transitioned her 11-year-old daughter, Alicia, without her knowledge or consent. The school district still refuses to admit that it’s at fault.

Many are calling this a landmark case, saying it will make other school districts across the country think twice before transitioning kids behind their parents’ backs.

Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for education studies, told The Washington Stand, “This is a great development in the overall move to stop mistreating children based on gender identity declarations at school. When California is debating the issue of whether or not to inform parents if their child makes a declaration or is accommodated as the opposite sex, this is also timely.”

At the beginning of her sixth-grade year, a friend invited Alicia to the school’s Equality Club, headed by two seventh-grade teachers, Lois Caldeira and Kelly Baraki. While there, the teachers told her that she was bisexual and later on identified her as transexual. (Alicia wasn’t sure what either of those terms meant, but trusted the teachers, was given more material to read, and believed them.)

Later, in the spring, Alicia went to the school counselor because she was depressed and stressed. She had weekly meetings with the counselor as well as Caldeira and the principal. Alicia was informed that she was depressed and stressed because she was “not being who she was” and that if she became her “true self,” she would get better.

According to the legal complaint, Caldeira and Baraki identified students for the school’s Equality Club “based on comments students made to them, comments that they overheard students make to others, and their own observations of students in the classroom setting, and otherwise. Once they identified students for the club, Caldeira and Baraki would invite them to participate.”

In a leaked recording from a 2021 California Teachers Association conference, these teachers discussed how they kept meetings private and “stalked” students online for recruits.

“When we were doing our virtual learning—we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki admitted. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

Spreckels Union School District adopted a “Parental Secrecy Policy,” ensuring that staff at Buena Vista would “conceal from parents that their minor children had articulated confusion about their gender identity, evinced a desire to change their gender identity, or assumed or expressed a new gender identity, unless the student expressly authorized the parents to be informed.”

Remarkably, Spreckels Union would “intentionally deceive parents regarding students’ new gender identity and expression by, among other things, not publishing the Parental Secrecy Policy on the Spreckels Union website, using students’ birth names and pronouns in communications with parents despite using students’ new names and pronouns when parents were not there, instructing students they were not to tell their parents about their new gender identity or expression because their parents ‘couldn’t be trusted,’ and otherwise concealing those facts from parents.”

Devastatingly, the school’s actions drove a wedge between Konen and Alicia.

These are tactics promoted and encouraged by teachers unions such as the California Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association, as well as the union for school counselors, the American School Counselor Association.

They result from common attitudes among the education establishment and others on the political Left who view parents as potential threats to their own children if they don’t accept LGBTQ ideology.

For example, Peter Renn, an attorney for the LGBTQ legal organization Lambda Legal, said, “Outside of school, these students may similarly face potential hostility at home because of who they are. For example, involuntarily outing a student as LGBTQ to their parents can very well lead to them getting kicked out of the home in some circumstances.”

Thankfully, during Alicia’s eighth-grade year, she was learning at home due to COVID-19 school shutdowns. This is when, in Alicia’s words, she “ended up being out of control of the school” and figured out who she really was—a girl.

Now, five years after Alicia started being transitioned by her school, she and her mom have received counseling, and their relationship has been restored.

Konen and Alicia’s lawyer, Mark Trammel, are calling on parents across the country to be pro-active and realize that this is not just something that happens in California. He says that his office has likely received calls from parents in all 50 states who have gone through something similar to Konen’s situation.

Joseph Backholm, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for biblical worldview and strategic engagement, told The Washington Stand:

This situation is further evidence that many in the education system view parents as a threat to children. Parents need to be very careful about the environments and people they entrust their children to. There are a lot of ‘nice’ people who will do terrible things to you and your children.

Konen advises parents to be fully involved in their children’s lives; do their research on their school’s faculty, curriculum, and clubs; and listen to their intuition.

Backholm said, “I am encouraged by the result of this lawsuit, not only because it is appropriate under the circumstances, but because it will hopefully deter other schools from doing something similar in the future. When significant things are happening in a child’s life, parents need to be the first to know, not the last. Schools that do not believe that should quickly be reformed or cease to exist.”

Kilgannon agreed. “No one can ‘do over’ even one second of childhood, never mind the years that can be consumed by this evil and the irreparable harm that is done. Let’s celebrate this victory and remember it is but one battle in the ongoing war to protect children and parents.”




Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Voters Dissatisfied with Quality of Public Education—Poll

At the Republican primary debate last week, presidential hopefuls disparaged the state of education in the nation, with some candidates advocating for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education and the promotion of school choice options.

It’s an issue that seems sure to reappear as voters signal strong concerns with the quality of traditional public education. The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll, conducted by Noble Predictive Insights, found that more Americans are dissatisfied than satisfied with the quality of education at their local public school.

The poll of 2,500 voters found that 39% were satisfied with the quality of their local public school’s education, and 41% were dissatisfied. The poll asked 1,000 Republicans, 1,000 Democrats and 500 independent voters about their views.

Moderates who lean Republican had the highest dissatisfaction rate, 52%, followed by voters who identified as strong Republicans with a 51% dissatisfaction rate. Of all Republican respondents, 47% said they were dissatisfied. Of Democratic voters, 33% were dissatisfied.


Tim Scott Challenges the Schools

Certain educrats have a tell when they’re afraid of losing control of our kids: They go to the Leftmedia with scare tactics, and they claim Republicans are “waging war” on education.

In this case, it’s they who are waging war — against South Carolina Senator and Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott, who simply wants to empower parents and make sure schools aren’t using our kids as pawns in their woke social experiments.

Just last year, in fact, Scott introduced legislation to cut federal funding to schools that implement transgender policies denying parental notification. And now, Scott has introduced a plan to create a “family first” culture in education.

More specifically, Scott’s 12-point plan promises to “defend every parent’s right to know what their child is hearing and reading in school” and “empower every family the right to opt out of propaganda that attacks their values and religious liberty.” Additionally, the plan pledges to break the backs of the teachers’ unions, protect girls’ sports, and take critical race theory out of the classroom.

“Teachers’ unions, Big Tech, and Joe Biden are on a mission to make parents less important,” said Scott in a press release. “I have a bold agenda to support and empower parents — from the classroom to the locker room to the smartphone. We must empower parents and give them a choice, so that every child has a chance.”

Scott faces a steep uphill struggle to win the GOP nomination and then the White House, but while his plan shares some characteristics for improving education that other candidates have embraced, it shows an emphasis that is unique to Scott. Even CNN has noticed his focus on education: “Scott has made education a central theme of his campaign since its launch in May,” the network reports, “frequently citing his own experience growing up in poverty and attending college on a partial football scholarship. He often tells audiences at campaign events that education ‘is the closest thing to magic,’ and has stressed the importance of education in overcoming the disadvantages facing poor Black Americans.”

Maybe that’s why those on the Left are so critical of Scott’s plan. Maybe that’s why they say he’s targeting race and gender (like we haven’t heard that charge before).

In reality, he’s tapping into a national movement to remove politics from our classrooms, keep the focus on traditional values and proven educational methods, and give parents a say in where they send their kids to school. Of course, none of these measures sit well with Democrats, who want nothing more than to protect their education monopoly.

“At its core,” writes the Washington Examiner’s Kaylee McGhee, “Democrats’ opposition to school choice stems from the realization that it would break the education monopoly they’ve spent the past several decades building. If parents have the financial power to leave the government’s system, then that system no longer has control — control over government funds, over the ideological upbringing of children, and over the families who have been bullied into thinking they have no say in the matter.”

One of the best ways to shatter the federal education bureaucracy and empower parents is to eliminate the Department of Education, which, incidentally, four Republican presidential candidates pledged to do in last week’s first debate. Tim Scott wasn’t one of them.

Nonetheless, giving parents an educational voice is one of the central pieces of Scott’s plan, which allows parents to decide “whether it’s public school, private school, charter school, STEM school, or homeschool that is best for their child.”

In the end, Scott’s presidential aspirations may be a long shot, but the eventual GOP nominee would be wise to give his plan serious consideration. It’s a detailed, workable, and winning plan to save our schools from the Marxist assault on our children. ?


Australia: Deakin University: Pressure to change name due to racist views held by Alfred Deakin

An Australian university is under pressure to change its name because the former prime minister it is named after held racist views.

Deakin University in Melbourne is named after Alfred Deakin, who served as Australia's second Prime Minister in 1903, and the nation's first Attorney-General.

He helped pass the Aboriginal Protection Amendment Act of 1886, which led to the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families, known as the Stolen Generations.

Deakin also helped create the White Australia Policy in 1901, which restricted the number of non-white migrants coming to Australia.

In 1901, Deakin controversially predicted: 'In another century, the probability is that Australia will be a white continent with not a black or even dark skin among its inhabitants.

'The Aboriginal race has died out in the south and is dying fast in the north and west even where most gently treated.

'Other races are to be excluded by legislation if they are tinted to any degree. The yellow, the brown, and the copper-coloured are to be forbidden to land anywhere.'

Deakin was prime minister of Australia for three terms - from 1903-1904, 1905-1908 and 1909-1910. He died in 1919.

Sixteen academics from Deakin University created a seminar titled 'We need to talk about Alfred Deakin and his ideal of a White Australia', in 2020, and questioned why the university was named after someone with such racist views.

However the university's Vice-Chancellor Professor Iian Martin said a potential name change was not on the cards.

'This is not something that we are looking at and is absolutely not something that those Indigenous leaders...are asking to do,' Professor Martin told The Age.

While acknowledging the views of Mr Deakin would not be acceptable today, Prof Martin said changing the name would not help people understand previous injustices.

'If we simply expunge things from the record, what hope is there learning from the mistakes of the past,' he said.

Indigenous leaders, university staff and relatives of Mr Deakin have all been consulted by the university, Prof Martin said.

He stressed Indigenous leaders did not want the name to be changed.

According to their website, Deakin University 'is committed to Reconciliation and Treaty, advancing the educational aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples'.

'All our endeavours aim to reflect Australia's full history and seek to build an inclusive future'.

Deakin University has been a leader in Indigenous education for 40 years, the vice-chancellor added.

Mr Deakin served three terms as prime minister and was instrumental in Australia becoming a Federation.

He also helped establish the High Court and the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.




Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Back to school chaos: Thousands of pupils to start term from home as 100 schools warned of building collapse

More than 100 schools in England have been told to immediately close classrooms and buildings over safety fears, plunging the annual back to school rush into chaos for many.

Thousands of pupils now risk having to start the year taking lessons online or in temporary accommodation.

Ministers were accused of “incompetence” after the order – which will see some schools forced to shut completely – was issued just days before schools reopen next week after the summer break.

The number of schools affected could still rise as newly issued government guidance set out plans to survey all schools suspected of suffering similar problems within “weeks”.

Teaching unions slammed the situation as “nothing short of a scandal”.

The closures follow fears over a type of concrete, described as “80 per cent air” and “like an Aero Bar”.

Known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), the lightweight material was used in schools, colleges and other buildings between the 1950s and the mid 1990s, but has since been found to be at risk of collapse.

Earlier this year the National Audit Office (NAO) assessed the risk of injury or death from the collapse of a school building as “very likely and critical.”

Schools have been told they can temporarily house pupils in local community centres or empty office buildings.

But the government’s guidance to schools said funding will only be provided for works that are “capital funded” and schools will have to pay for rental costs themselves for emergency or temporary accommodation.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said telling schools to vacate areas containing the concrete was “the right thing to do for both pupils and staff” as she insisted the plans would “minimise” the impact on pupils.

“Nothing is more important than making sure children and staff are safe in schools and colleges, which is why we are acting on new evidence about RAAC now, ahead of the start of term,” she said.

Over the summer engineers have been assessing school sites for RAAC and “a couple of cases have given us cause for concern.” she told the BBC.

But the Children’s Commissioner called for “clear direction” about where pupils should go.

Dame Rachel de Souza warned ministers had to learn “lessons from the pandemic”.

“After years of disruption for children and young people, what they need most is stability and getting back to normal”, she said.

“Everything must now be done to ensure the impact on children’s learning is minimised. And it is particularly important that everyone working with children prioritises those who are vulnerable and those with additional needs.”

The Department for Education said it was taking precautionary steps following “careful analysis of new cases”.


A Peek Into the J-Schools Helps Explain Our Partisan Press Industry

Over the weekend, a rather stark dichotomy in the news coverage emerged from CNN. On Saturday a shooter entered a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida and killed three people. Unsurprisingly, Jim Acosta convened a panel to discuss this matter, delivering his expected cant and melodrama. In the course of the segment, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was inevitably brought up, and accusatory words were thrown at the governor about whether he would deviate from his presidential campaign and fly into Jacksonville.

It was mere hours after the deaths of three innocents, but already he was absorbing critical commentary about perceived inaction. (DeSantis did make it into town quickly, giving a speech and a prayer vigil - for which he was also criticized.) What made this imbecilic commentary all the more ridiculous was a separate report from CNN at almost the exact same time.

Sunday morning saw a piece from Kevin Liptak that was a warm assessment of Joe Biden’s extended time off in the month of August. As Hawaii dealt with a catastrophe that employs the use of the term “death toll”, Biden could barely be budged off the beach, taking nearly two full weeks before arriving on the scene. The most critical word from Liptak was in quoting those darned Republicans who dared criticize Biden for dragging his sand-covered feet on that tragedy.

This type of biased, partisan double-standard seen from CNN is by now an expected reality in journalism. In my daily media column, I frequently post entries on the press applying differing standards based on who and from what party the details emanate. We are almost conditioned by now to the blatant favoritism seen from the news outlets, but every so often it helps to explore from where this partisanship derives. After all, were these journalists not schooled in the proper ways of applying reportorial skills and journalistic ethics in the execution of their job duties?

On Twitter, a reliable source of leftist dogma is Jay Rosen. Scroll his timeline on any given day and you get a tangible sense of his left-leaning approach. While this is itself not a notable point, once you understand Rosen is a journalism professor at New York University his consistent combative position from the far left you can begin to get a sense of just the type of conditioning his students may be receiving before being sent out into the journalism wilderness. And he is hardly an outlier.

This month I came across a report told with alarm about the media conditions within the state of Wyoming. The piece centered on a relatively fresh news outlet called Cowboy State Daily. This is a right-leaning outlet that launched in 2019, and its popularity, as well as its coverage, is delivering deep concern, both for the type of news offered as well as how it has emerged in a time when many local papers were shuttering across the state. You get the sense of the dire opinion immediately, as you are greeted by the headline, “Trouble In Wyoming."

This panic feature was delivered by The Columbia Journalism Review, the online outlet of the famed Columbia School of Journalism. The concern is that this news outlet was undertaken and funded by a Republican donor and prospective GOP candidate, Foster Fries. In its setup of the “problems” this right-leaning outlet poses, CJR described the conditions that have led to this nefarious uprising.

Like most US states, Wyoming has suffered a decline in local journalism in recent decades; this year the Casper Star-Tribune reduced its weekly print run to three days. The drop-off follows a national pattern that’s seen the US lose over 2,100 newsrooms since 2004, a trend that, Tow Center research has found, accelerated during the pandemic with at least a hundred more news organizations (local and national) closing.

America’s growing news deserts have become vulnerable to wealthy partisans setting up local news outlets to push their political agendas. This has raised concerns about one-sided, politically motivated narratives being strong-armed into local political discourse.

What becomes rather evident in reading this lengthy assessment is that those concerns are also one-sided. If you were expecting to see examples of these problematic news outlets from both sides of the political spectrum you will be left wanting. It is clear that CJR sees the problem in one direction, and there is little in the way of open-mindedness or allowing for divergent opinions to be represented. This is seen in the primary critical focus being applied to the coverage of what it describes as “energy reporting."

Cowboy State Daily has appeared to throw doubt on the reality of man-made climate change, which is the consensus among the global scientific community.

Listed are a number of headlines from pieces that “throw doubt”, such as noting the mental impact climate panic has on children, asking about the veracity of Greta Thumberg’s popularity, and reporting that Vanguard pulled out of a climate alliance. Most notable though is that this J-school outlet is not permitting anything in the form of an open forum on the topic. It states clearly that man-made climate change is a “reality." Any journalistic exploration is, as a result, antithetical and outright considered to be wrong.

This is the type of dogma being taught to these burgeoning reporters and journalists and serves as an example why there is such a rock-ribbed slant in the news coverage these days. I looked through the CJR’s recent archives and saw little in the way of a critical voice applied to journalism on the left. One particular story caught my eye and revealed much about this J-school publication.

The headline was ‘Pink slime’ network gets $1.6M election boost from PACs backed by oil-and-gas, shipping magnates. Named after the overly processed meat products exposed decades ago, this was in regard to a practice that has emerged over the years - especially around elections - of partisan groups setting up a network of ersatz newspapers and/or digital outlets that resemble established sources.

These publications are set up to resemble legitimate local news outlets, with entries both local and statewide, regional features, and even local weather, but are designed to insert stories that frame a desired voting result as well. Candidates or other ballot initiatives will be covered in a way favorable to the backers, and these are designed to coax or fool voters into believing the news coverage is legitimate.

While this is a concerning practice, what is seen from CJR is that it is presented mostly as a one-way occurrence. The site presents this as almost entirely a conservative-right-leaning tactic. Passing mention of this being a two-sided activity is made early (something seen “increasingly by both the left and the right”), but from there this lengthy rundown is focused solely on conservative or Republican efforts.

Last fall I covered a leftist network of these ‘Pink Slime’ outlets that operated ahead of the midterms. There is, curiously enough, little in the way of curiosity about these left-leaning sources being problematic in the field of journalism. A search made on CJR of the various names of these pre-fab newspapers and websites I spotted delivers no returns. I also searched on the CJR-affiliated web outlet The Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and tellingly that site also had little to nothing to say about these Democrat-favoring news outlets.

While none of this is particularly surprising, it still becomes quite revealing. The J-school approach to things is clearly on par with what has been displayed by so many universities that foster an environment of left-wing social messaging. It appears obvious that while they might give voice to the vocation being one of non-partisan unbiased reporting, in guidance and in practice all evidence points to the J-schools being just as prone to the leftist ideology seen from many college campuses.

Understanding that they become a laboratory of left-leaning agitprop and send their charges into the journalism industry “properly” indoctrinated, you then grasp why we see so many of the problems today in the press environments.


Why State-run Schools Should Refuse Federal Money

Just recently, the Biden administration authorized guidance from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to block key federal funding for schools with hunting and archery programs. This ridiculous restriction, while shocking to some, was just the latest in a long line of governmental overreaches from the past few decades.

Last year, the Biden administration bullied local school districts into either supporting an immoral agenda or losing federal dollars for school lunches.

In 2016, President Barack Obama wrote every local school district, overriding local and parental authority, and told them to “let transgender students use bathrooms matching their gender identity” or else risk lawsuits or federal funding.

The reality is that despite dramatic increases in federal intervention and funding in the government education system since the 1960s, education achievement has not improved. The most widely used measures of school achievement are scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which shows no significant change. Efforts to improve educational outcomes for low-income children have also been expensive and unproductive. Even the federal college grant and loan programs have been ineffective for students. The evidence is inarguable — the federal government’s intervention in education has been and continues to be a dismal failure.

Americans have had enough of these federal control freaks. Considering the recent offensive policies issued from USED, states are beginning to consider whether they should continue accepting federal education funding.

USED mandates Common Core, Marxist critical theories, the sexualization of children, anti-American propaganda, and threatens to withhold federal funding for noncompliance. None of these serve the best interests of children. USED exists because they seek to control state education systems through bribery and blackmail using federal dollars. Additionally, they exist so federal elites have the muscle to control children.

National test scores scream at us that children desperately need to learn reading, writing and math, not more federally mandated critical race theory and overt sexualization.

The key to eliminating federal intervention in government schools is to eliminate federal funding.

The time is right for states to wean themselves off the federal dole. Serious conversations are taking place throughout the country about the legitimate and effective role of the federal government in education. But who has a viable plan to dismantle the behemoth?

The “Blueprint to Establish State Control of Education by Eliminating all Federal Education Dollars,” written by United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) outlines the necessary steps to restore state sovereignty for education policy and practice — and it’s achievable.

The Blueprint explains detailed steps to help governors and state legislators develop and execute a concrete plan, and even provides clear evidence as to how educational outcomes can improve.

States can eliminate federal funding in four steps:

1. Analyze education funds by source: federal, state, and local.

Total education spending in the United States is the second highest funding category, behind health care but ahead of national defense. Some argue this level of spending has corrupted the system, which is why educational outcomes are so dismal, but the majority of funding comes from the states and local communities, not the federal government.

2. Conduct a Cost of Compliance Study for federal funds.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of every dollar spent on government education, it is important to assess overhead demands in terms of cost placed on the state, district, and local schools by accepting federal funds and implementing federal education programs. Once known, a determination can be made if the cost of compliance, including federally imposed control and regulation, exceeds the value of the funding. Relying on state-funded education rather than federal funds offers the opportunity to streamline compliance and return control of education policy to the state and local level.

3. Identify state programs to replace USED programs.

After completing the Cost of Compliance Study, an assessment can be made as to which programs could be eliminated because they are ineffective, inefficient, or unnecessary. Other programs could be replaced by comparable programs within the state. As each program is evaluated, a multi-step, multi-year transition plan could be established.

Eliminating federal funding opens opportunities for creative solutions based on the values, vision, and objectives of local communities, returning control to parents and community members where it belongs. Ideas for program level discussions should follow.

4. Shift education revenue responsibilities entirely back to the state.

One approach to generate required revenue could be to establish a state tax called “offset to federal funds” calculated to collect the amount needed. Since most of the federal tax is collected from income taxes, a replacement tax using the same model might be most easily understood by the public.

To keep from sending the federal government the money they previously took and gave back, taxpayers would need a mechanism to deduct this offset from their individual federal taxes. Since the state and local tax deductions were eliminated in the last major tax bill, a special arrangement would have to be made. However, there is benefit to the federal government in this arrangement as the savings from program improvements would be shared with them, since only the replacement funding is deducted.

USPIE looks forward to engaging governors, state legislators, influential think tanks, and citizen activists to further develop the proposal. The only way to eliminate the onerous, ineffective USED and return control of children’s education to parents and local communities is for Americans rise up and fight for the wellbeing of America’s future. If we don’t take a stand now, it may become too late




Monday, September 04, 2023

Regulatory Overreach 101 – Brought to You by the Department of Education

Democrats’ war on for-profit education has now reached a point where it threatens the online offerings of traditional schools.

After a disastrous attempt at introducing new guidance earlier in the year, the Department of Education is again preparing to attack the online program management industry. Online program managers – or OPMs – are companies that provide the internal organs, in essence, that make modern online education initiatives go.

Depending on the schools and contracts they’re honoring, online program managers market the universities’ online education programs, recruit students, counsel them through the admissions process, enroll them, provide the software and tech support and even work with professors to make the professors’ courses more online-friendly.

Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, NYU, Cal-Berkeley, North Carolina, Northwestern, Syracuse and Rice are among the highly regarded schools that use online program managers, although the schools rarely mention their involvement in the product.

Their services are so critical to the programs’ operations that online program managers typically earn 60% of the course’s revenue, although some schools are moving away from the revenue sharing model to a fee-for-service arrangement as schools develop their own online capabilities and no longer need everything on the online program managers’ menu of services.

Third-party providers, such as online program managers, are forbidden by law to earn commissions for recruiting students, but they can recruit if this is part of a package of services the providers offer to colleges, which is the case with online program managers.

That’s too much profit for the Biden administration, so it has proposed regulatory changes that would force schools to rework their contracts with online program managers in a way that will add crippling costs and risk to all parties.

The department has indicated that it wants to change the rules to more closely scrutinize whether online program managers are being paid according to how many students they recruit in violation of the law. The Government Accountability Office said last year after studying the industry for more than two years that some arrangements with colleges may skirt the rule, but by and large the industry and the universities it serves comply with the law as is.

The charge is that if online program managers are being paid to recruit, that imposes costs that unnecessarily and unlawfully drive-up costs and erode the effectiveness of higher education.

But what the schools and their partners in online program management have actually done is innovate, both in terms of product offerings and in terms of their relationships, so as to provide maximum access to flexible, innovative, and effective online education for millions of American college students. The department claims these vendors have increased costs and eroded the effectiveness of higher education in America.

But like a college freshman, the department has failed to show its work. It has presented no evidence that online program managers increase costs or reduce access. It has failed to explain why the colleges would so eagerly enter into these arrangements if they were counter to the wellbeing of their students. It has failed to explain how this demand would be met – which is greater and more consistent since Covid – without these arrangements. Other than political talking points and partisan preference, it has failed to give any reason for changing the rules on something that appears to work.

This is the worst kind of regulatory overreach. This process would be unacceptable if it was being used to change something as mundane as the way asphalt is used as a highway surface. The fact that this rushed, half-baked process is being allowed to change something as essential and fundamental as the way Americans learn is both unbelievable and unconscionable.

Online education programs aren’t quick or easy to develop. The initial budget impact of a college attempting to build an online curriculum from the ground up would be prohibitive without the knowledge and experience provided by OPMs. These partnerships have been effective and beneficial for all involved, from schools to private companies to, most importantly, students.

What the Department of Education should do is what the GAO recommended – continue to study the issue and ensure there aren’t abuses and violations of the current rules. Officials should look at costs, student outcomes and the relationships with colleges to make sure taxpayers and students are getting their money’s worth. But absent evidence they’re not – and we haven’t seen any such evidence – there’s no reason to change the current 2011 guidance.


Historic University With Christian Background Allows Students to Live in Dorms Based on 'Gender Identity'

Earlier this year, Townhall reported how Wellesley College, an exclusive all-girls school, decided to allow its student body to vote on allowing transgender and non-binary students. And, in January, Townhall reported how Ithaca College in New York will allow students who identify as “transgender” or “non-binary” to live in a separate residential community that excludes “cis-identifying students.” This move was meant to create a “supportive community” for students who identify as LGBTQ+.

Furman University, the oldest private university in South Carolina and among the 75 oldest high education institutions operating in the U.S. today, allows students to live in a dormitory based on their “gender identity” rather than their biological sex. The school was named after Baptist pastor Richard Furman.

On the university’s website, it clearly states that “Furman will provide students housing consistent with their gender identity.” This means that students who “identify” as the opposite sex can live in the student housing among them.

Additionally, transgender students can choose whether or not to disclose this information to their new roommates.

“Housing and Residence Life keeps a student’s disclosed gender identity confidential and will share it only with employees who need the information in order to perform their job duties. A transgender student may choose whether to disclose gender identity information to a roommate,” the website states.

Additionally, the school allows transgender students to use restrooms and facilities that align with their “gender identity” instead of their biological sex (via Furman University):

All students should have access to locker room, bathroom, and shower facilities that are safe, comfortable, and convenient. Transgender and gender non-conforming students may use any facility consistent with their gender identity. Moreover, gender-neutral bathrooms are located in the Chapel, Dining Hall, Estridge Commons, Infirmary, Library, Music Building, Physical Activity Center, Shi Center, and Trone Student Center.

Townhall previously reported how female students on the University of Pennsylvania’s swim team were forced to share a locker room with Will “Lia” Thomas last year. Paula Scanlan, one of Thomas’ former teammates, said in an interview that she used to “change as fast as possible” when Thomas was present.

“It [the locker room] was uncomfortable. I did notice a few girls – there’s a few bathroom stalls in the bathroom – and I did notice some girls changing in the bathroom stalls for practice, which I’ve never really seen that before,” Scanlan said. “For me personally, the biggest thing was, when you’re changing, there’s all these people talking in the background, all these women’s voices, and then all of a sudden you hear a man’s voice. I’d always kind of jump a little bit [hearing Thomas’ voice].”


Australia: Students who are illiterate, innumerate, and scared: be disappointed, but not surprised

Why would anyone be surprised at the latest NAPLAN results? Yes, they are disappointing, but the amount of hand-wringing expressed through media demonstrates either naivety or ignorance.

Many of us have been explaining the reasons behind our struggling schools for a long time. This makes it all the more frustrating to hear the media’s tiresome excuses. Here are a few ways to translate common phrases thrown around in media reports as excuses for why so many of our students are not doing well, remembering that, as CS Lewis quipped, the best lie is the one closest to the truth:

We need to get back to basics: Of course, this is right, yes? It might be, if teachers knew what it meant. Many do not. Today I heard a commentator say, ‘Yes, we have to get back to basics with young students – they must learn how to learn.’ Learn how to learn? What incoherency… It reflects the ‘21st Century education’ philosophy that says if we know how to think, we do not have to learn sequential core content. But that is not true. We must have our students instructed in the underlying information upon which they can build. An expert is someone who knows more than others and then they have a basis for thinking critically. Too often our teachers are not taught this.

Our teachers are not trained enough: I remember visiting a school in the village hill districts of Costa Rica. They had their first year of graduating students leave the school, half of whom were from an economically poor village and yet obtained full scholarships to American colleges. Further, at least half their teachers had no tertiary teacher training. Who were they? They were American college graduates who came to live in that village and teach their college subject to these school students as an extended ‘gap year’. Why did this work? These young teachers demonstrated outstanding relational commitment to the students around them, and through that relationship, developed a fruitful teaching and learning environment. What would our teacher unions do with a program like this in Australia?

We must focus on anxiety crises: The environment is boiling, the colonials are oppressive, and we must develop our own identity based on our fleeting feelings… This sort of thinking has replaced any certainty about what individual character is about in our schools. Character used to be based on understanding that we, as humans, are made to live in certain ways. This gave us a common mind on which common sense was based. Now we have dysphoric minds that chase therapeutised illusions of reality. That is the relational context of the current Australian classroom.

Teachers must manage classrooms better: As one young teacher said to me, the best way to do this is to redirect students and use better words. Because character has disappeared, and identity personality tests have taken over, teachers are timid in implementing consequences for bad behaviour. Oh, and I just used two politically incorrect words – ‘consequences’ and ‘bad’. What might happen if teachers actually spoke of punishment for wilful misbehaviour?

Our teachers are not paid enough: the history of investment in education in Australia clearly demonstrates that spending more money the same way does not make a difference. As in all aspects of life, it is what we do with what we have that makes a difference. But like so many of our federal government ministers, bigger government is given as the answer to the problems created by big government.

Our teachers are not paid well because of independent schools: Last time I checked, the NSW independent schools saved the NSW government the same amount as the price of the NSW Police department. The pleas to close down the schools that parents are actually choosing over state schools is driven by the unspoken belief that the government should have more influence than the family.

Trust us to fix it: Again, nothing will change in schools while government policy does not support families as families. Why do we think the best way to live as a society is by the government paying people to care for us, cradle to the grave? I am old enough to remember when I could at least claim something for supporting the rest of my family, while we chose to have only one of us working for pay. Why is it assumed that a child is only ‘ready’ for school if he or she has gone to a pre-school? Why are families discouraged to look after those in need in the family by the push to have everyone in the paid workforce?

Reviewers like Kevin Donnelly have summarised all this by highlighting that we are not instructing our students enough on essential knowledge anymore, and we have ignored our Judeo-Christian heritage. Douglas Murray’s recent article spoke to the heart of our cultural malaise when he asked, ‘Are we pleased to be in this country compared to others, or not?’ The anthropologist might ask it this way: ‘Should all non-Indigenous Australians simply sail away so that the original locals can continue with their pre-medieval designer tribalism?’

It is good that we are disappointed by reports that reveal learning difficulties for our students. But acting surprised by this news is to deny the dynamics of the false reality being constructed by people who call themselves progressive, but are in fact are taking us to hugely regressive places.




Sunday, September 03, 2023

Maine Hospital Fired Nurses for Refusing COVID Shots—Now It’s Begging Them to Come Back

Nurses and other health care workers at MaineGeneral Health, one of Maine’s largest health care providers, were unceremoniously fired two years ago if they refused to take the experimental mRNA injections touted as COVID-19 preventatives.

Some of those workers were even slapped with misconduct charges for refusing to comply with the mandate, many were later denied unemployment benefits, and no requests for religious exemptions were honored.

Now, one of the nonprofit hospitals that left some employees jobless and without recourse to Maine’s unemployment insurance benefits is sending text messages to the same employees it cast aside practically begging them to come back to work.

“You were once a proud member of the MaineGeneral team. Would you consider rejoining us? We would be pleased to discuss options with you,” the MaineGeneral Health Recruitment team said in a text message to former registered nurse Terry Poland.

“As you know, nearly 2 years ago MaineGeneral had to comply with a state mandate for COVID-19 vaccination. We lost a number of great employees as a result, including you,” MaineGeneral said.

“MaineGeneral has eliminated the COVID-19 vaccination as an employment condition,” MaineGeneral said.

Poland, who lives in Augusta, had worked as a registered nurse for 33 years. Her career included employment with MaineGeneral, Central Maine Medical Center, Pen Bay Medical Center, and the Aroostook Medical Center.

She couldn’t believe that the hospital would contact her in such a manner after casting her life into chaos for nearly two years.

“I was livid. Like, how dare you force me out of a career that I’ve dedicated my whole life to, taken away my livelihood, my ability to earn a good income, and now you think I’m gonna come grovel back to you?” Poland said.

Poland continued:

“I don’t hardly think so. And that’s the attitude of most everybody that I’ve been in contact with since yesterday.”

A source told the Maine Wire that about 15 former MaineGeneral Health employees received similar text messages.

Poland refused to take the experimental COVID-19 shots after Gov. Janet Mills decreed on Aug. 12, 2021, that health care workers would be forced to receive the shots as a condition of working in health care by Oct. 1, 2021.

Documents reviewed by the Maine Wire show that MaineGeneral established a speedier timeline of Sept. 17 for compliance.

Eventually, the state pushed back the deadline to the end of October.

Poland was never opposed to vaccines generally speaking.

Though she previously used a religious exemption to avoid taking an influenza shot, she willingly took the other vaccines required to work in health care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, including immunizations for measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B.

She said she was concerned about the novel nature of the mRNA technology, a form of gene therapy, which prior to COVID-19 had not been used in the standard schedule of immunizations.

“I knew enough not to take it. I’ve been a nurse long enough to know I need to question what new products are,” Poland said. “I’m not going to be the first one to jump on board of an experiment.”

When she discovered that fetal tissues are commonly used in the development and production of the drugs, that only strengthened her resolve as a Christian not to get the injections.

In previous years, Poland has said she was allowed an exemption from taking the influenza shot so long as she wore a mask during flu season. However, the hospital was unwilling to provide this accommodation for COVID-19.

As a result of her choice, Poland faced not only termination but also an allegation of misconduct from her former employer.

When she applied for unemployment benefits, she was rejected because of the misconduct allegation.

When she appealed, she was turned away.

Documents reviewed by the Maine Wire show that the Maine Department of Labor determined that MaineGeneral Health “discharged” her; however, the agency concluded that Poland’s refusal to get the injections was a violation that constituted a “culpable breach of obligations to the employer.”

As a result, Poland had to rely on her savings to get by in the middle of economically disastrous government lockdowns and soaring inflation.

Poland then sought help from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that she’d been discriminated against on the basis of her religious beliefs.

MaineGeneral Health, in responding to the commission, argued that allowing Poland religious accommodations would impose an “undue hardship” on the hospital. On that basis, the commission declined to take on her case.

The Maine Human Rights Commission also rejected her discrimination complaint.

“[T]here has been positive energy between human resource personnel and managers who are in the process of working together to reach out to former employees to see if they are interested in returning,” said Joy McKenna, director of communications for MaineGeneral, in an email.

“Since Monday, we are only aware of a few people who have indicated that they are interested in having a conversation about applying for an open position,” she said. “We currently have 453 open positions, which is similar to our pre-COVID open position count.”

McKenna said the hospital did not intentionally fire unvaccinated employees in a way that would block them from getting unemployment benefits.

Some of those positions have been filled by foreign nationals with green cards, McKenna said, though she was not able to provide an exact number on Aug. 9.

At the time MaineGeneral fired her, Poland was working at the MaineGeneral Rehabilitation and Long Term Care at Gray Birch facility in Augusta.

The facility provides nursing home and assisted living services and has a 37-bed capacity. Federal stats show the facility had 141 staff before the mandate and 110 after it was enforced.

In the years since she was fired, she estimates she’s earned only $12,000 and $17,000 as a home health care worker, a position that hasn’t provided similar benefits to the job she lost.

As a registered nurse, Poland was making about $75,000 per year.

She’s still not willing to give MaineGeneral another shot.


New ‘Pirola’ variant of COVID is spreading fast, has experts concerned

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide, a new variant dubbed “Pirola” has experts worried.

Also referred to as BA.2.86, Pirola is a highly mutated variant of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, which emerged in 2021 and led to a frightful spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

“When Omicron hit in the winter of 2021, there was a huge rise in COVID-19 cases because it was so different from the Delta variant, and it evaded immunity from both natural infection and vaccination,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Scott Roberts said in a Yale Medicine bulletin.

The bulletin states that “there is some reason to worry, in that this variant … has more than 30 mutations to its spike protein,” referring to the proteins on the surface of the virus that allow it to enter and infect human cells.

“Such a high number of mutations is notable,” Roberts said. “When we went from XBB.1.5 to EG.5, that was maybe one or two mutations. But these massive shifts, which we also saw from Delta to Omicron, are worrisome.”

Is the new COVID variant worse?

The three biggest questions facing medical experts are: How transmissible is Pirola? Will it bypass existing immune defenses? How lethal will it be for those unlucky enough to get infected by it?

“Nobody knows right now, but studies are ongoing,” Roberts said.

The Pirola variant was initially detected in Israel and was later identified in Canada, Denmark, the UK, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Thailand, according to the CDC.

By August, it had surfaced in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and New York. And Thursday, Dr. S. Wesley Long of Houston Methodist Hospital reported that he had isolated a Texas case of the Pirola variant.

The rapid spread of Pirola “doesn’t look good right now,” Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told Reuters.

Pirola’s multiple mutations make it “radically different in its structure” compared to earlier coronavirus variants, Topol said.

As far as Pirola’s severity is concerned, “[i]t is too soon to know whether this variant might cause more severe illness compared with previous variants,” the CDC stated.

Our current levels of immunity, whether from vaccination or prior infection, also remain to be seen.

The new booster shots, expected to be available later this month, were developed to target the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

Nonetheless, the boosters “will likely be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization” from BA.2.86, the CDC states. “That assessment may change as additional scientific data are developed.”

“The vaccine is still going to provide you great defense against illness and death,” Long said.

Other experts agree: Despite Pirola’s mutations, “it’s important to remember that it’s still the same virus at its core, so the same prevention methods — masking, vaccination and hand-washing, among others — can help people avoid infection,” Roberts said.


Team Youngkin Addresses Future COVID-19 Restrictions: ‘In Virginia You Get to Choose’

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin won’t be mandating that Americans mask up or lock down to fight the COVID-19 pandemic any time soon, The Daily Signal has learned.

Some schools, hospitals, and businesses have begun encouraging Americans to wear masks again amid a rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, sparking fears that lawmakers will once again institute lockdown measures and mask mandates.

Youngkin’s office told The Daily Signal on Thursday that such measures won’t be happening in the state, where the governor previously has banned schools from mandating masks.

“Governor Youngkin has been consistent since the beginning of his administration, if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask, but in Virginia you get to choose,” spokesman Christian Martinez said.

He added: “On Inauguration Day, Governor Glenn Youngkin declared Virginia open for business, the governor has no plans to change that.”

On Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Mandy Cohen said that up to 10,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 per week in the United States. Cohen noted that this number is significantly lower than the comparative figures for August 2022, at the pandemic’s highest point, when there were 40,000 hospitalizations a week.

“We’re in a much different and better place in August of 2023,” she said. “We have stronger immunity and tools to protect ourselves, we have vaccines, at-home tests, effective treatments, and commonsense strategies like washing your hands and staying away from people when you’re sick.”

The Daily Signal also asked 2024 presidential candidates whether they would support future mask mandates or lockdowns. None of the 2024 hopefuls that The Daily Signal spoke with supported any such restrictions.

“No mask mandates,” candidate Vivek Ramaswamy told The Daily Signal on Thursday. “No vaccine mandates. No lockdown ever again.”