Archives for category: Cruelty

When the history books are written in years to come, the Trump administration’s cruel, callous, inhumane treatment of immigrant children may well be the most horrifying chapter.

Caitlin Dickerson writes in the New York Times that border officials are sending unaccompanied minors to Mexico, even though it is not their home country and they have no family there.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/30/us/migrant-children-expulsions-mexico.html?referringSource=articleShare

U.S. border authorities have been expelling migrant children from other countries into Mexico, violating a diplomatic agreement with Mexico and testing the limits of immigration and child welfare laws.

The expulsions, laid out in a sharply critical internal email from a senior Border Patrol official, have taken place under an aggressive border closure policy the Trump administration has said is necessary to prevent the coronavirus from spreading into the United States. But they conflict with the terms upon which the Mexican government agreed to help implement the order, which were that only Mexican children and others who had adult supervision could be pushed back into Mexico after attempting to cross the border.

The expulsions put children from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at risk by sending them with no accompanying adult into a country where they have no family connections. Most appear to have been put, at least at first, into the care of Mexican child welfare authorities, who oversee shelters operated by religious organizations and other private groups.

The expulsions, which appear to number more than 200 over the past eight months, reflect the haphazard nature with which many of the administration’s most aggressive immigration policies have been introduced. In many cases, they have led to the shuffling of young children between U.S. government agencies and now, between the governments of countries that are not their own. For years now, the Trump administration’s handling of migrant children has left members of families separated for months on end and unable to reach one another.

A report to the courts earlier this month revealed that the parents of 545 such children currently in the United States, some of them separated from their families as long ago as 2017, still have not been located.

Under existing diplomatic agreements and U.S. policies, children from countries other than Mexico are supposed to be put on flights operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to their home countries, where they can be reunited with their families.

Rumors of children from other countries being expelled into Mexico have swirled among nonprofit workers advocating for child welfare in Mexico and the United States. But locating any such children has been difficult because of spotty reporting from Mexican government authorities.

But an email from the U.S. Border Patrol’s assistant chief, Eduardo Sanchez, obtained by The New York Times, makes it clear that such transfers have not only occurred, but that they are a clear violation of U.S. policy.

“Recently, we have identified several suspected instances where Single Minors (SM) from countries other than Mexico have been expelled via ports of entry rather than referred to ICE Air Operations for expulsion flights,” Mr. Sanchez wrote.

During the last Trump-Biden debate, the moderator asked about the children separated from their parents. Trump said they were brought across the border by “coyotes,” and that they had never experienced such clean and pleasant surroundings. Biden expressed great remorse for the children who were wrenched from the arms of their parents (not “coyotes”) and left alone.

In my view, this cruel policy of separating parents from their children at the border should be prosecuted as a crime against humanity. International courts should press charges against Trump, Pence, Sessions, and anyone else who was responsible. The parents were deported, and the children were locked up, some of them in cages. Some of them were infants. Contrary to Trump’s claim in the debate, the Obama administration deported families; it did not separate the children from their parents and keep the children while the parents were deported.

The purpose of Trump’s inhumane policy was to discourage immigration by frightening them. The children were separated 2-3 years ago; private groups have been searching for their parents. The Trump administration has stood in their way and claims the parents don’t want the children they lost by force.

Now we know that 545 children are stranded here, and no one knows who or where their parents are. Some of these children are babies who do not know their names. Biden said it: this was “criminal.” Biden was right. The criminals should be prosecuted.


Madeline Will wrote in Education Week that many states plan to resume teacher evaluations, despite the pandemic and the difficulties of teaching remotely and/or in-person. Some will incorporate student test scores, which is absurd. Many teachers believe this is unfair, since teaching conditions are adverse. Unfortunately, Will relied on the “National Council on Teacher Quality” for its “expertise.” This is an organization launched by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation that has no professional credibility and that issues an annual rating of teacher education programs based on its reading of course catalogues and on whether the programs offer instruction in Common Core, for example.

The best authority on VAM in the nation is Audrey Amrein-Beardsley of Arizona State University, who earned her Ph.D. as a student of David Berliner and Gene Glass. She has written the definitive studies of test-based teacher evaluation. Her blog VAMboozled! is the go-to place for updates on this fraudulent evaluation method.

If Joe Biden is elected, one of the first things his Secretary of Education should do is to give blanket waivers are annual federal testing in grades 3-8 and urge states to eliminate any teacher evaluations based on test scores. Test-based teacher evaluations were enacted into state law solely to qualify for a chance to win some share of the billions attached to Race to the Top. Ten years ago, the research on value-added assessment (VAM) was almost non-existent but then Secretary Arne Duncan insisted on its validity. In the past decade, VAM has proven to be unreliable, invalid and unstable. Every state should repeal the laws they passed at Duncan’s urging.

Will reports:

For many teachers, stress levels are at an all-time high this year, as they navigate remote lessons, socially distanced classrooms, or a combination of the two. And there’s yet another looming stressor: teacher evaluations.

“You would think that given everything that’s changing and everything that’s brand new to teachers, that they would have figured out a way to skip a year,” said Kristin Brown, a high school math and computer science teacher in Wisconsin. As a teacher, she added, you shouldn’t have to “defend yourself and prove that you’re an effective educator in a pandemic.” 

In the spring, nearly half of states eased evaluation requirements or issued flexibility or guidance for school districts, and teachers’ unions are arguing for more of that as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

So far, at least 17 states have released guidance on teacher evaluations this year, according to an analysis by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Most states are still requiring teacher evaluations in some capacity, although Mississippi has suspended the requirement for districts to submit annual employee performance data, and Illinois has told districts they will not be penalized if they don’t conduct summative evaluations this year.

While some administrators and other experts say evaluations and observations are crucial to providing valuable feedback and support, many teachers say it’s unfair to make potentially high-stakes job-performance decisions when they’re navigating new technologies, adjusting to different methods of teaching, and trying to reach students who might not have reliable internet access or stability at home. They worry that evaluations this year, particularly those that include student growth data, won’t be reflective of teachers’ abilities, since students’ lives and learning have been so disrupted.

Shannon Holston, the director for teacher policy at NCTQ, said she expects more states to release guidance in the coming weeks. For those that have already, “it seems a number of states understand that this is not a normal year and have tried to adjust requirements for evaluations while still really focusing on the observation and feedback component,” Holston said. 

For example, Colorado and Ohio will not incorporate student growth data in teacher evaluations at all this school year. And districts in Connecticut and Oregon can use social and emotional learning or student engagement measures in evaluations this year instead of academic measures to show student growth. 

Massachusetts has streamlined its evaluation rubric to focus on six priorities, and Washington state has reduced the number of criteria required for comprehensive evaluations from eight to two. The rest of the evaluation score will be based on the teacher’s previous score...

New Jersey had to tweak its student growth percentile formula because there were no statewide assessments last year from which to collect data. Instead, teachers and administrators this year are responsible for setting goals for students and assessing whether they’ve met those goals by the end of the year. This objective will make up 15 percent of teachers’ evaluation rating, while the observations or the portfolio of practice will make up the remaining 85 percent...

A new law in Indiana says that schools are no longer required to use state test scores when evaluating teachers. But Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said he has heard some districts are still planning to use test scores this year—which the union is against. Gambill said local associations will be working with those districts to try to eliminate test scores from evaluations...

Teachers are limited with how they can react to unexpected challenges during remote classes, said Gambill, of the Indiana state teachers’ union.

“If technology freezes or there’s an issue with connectivity, that’s not something you can course-correct for in the same way you could if everyone is in person,” he said. 

Teachers say they welcome coaching and feedback. [Monise] Seward [a special education teacher in Georgia] said she’d find it more helpful to have another teacher observe her class, so she can get feedback from someone who’s currently in the trenches with remote instruction. Mostly, Brown said, teachers want to be afforded professional trust that they’re doing their best possible work under challenging circumstances.

“The sentiment out there is that teachers are drowning, and day to day we might have our heads above water for a little bit of time, but the next minute we’re gasping for air,” she said. “What can I give up, and what can I do differently, so that I’m always above water? Once we’re in this for a while, we’ll get a routine going. Just let us get our feet under us before jumping in.”

The children of prominent politicians are causing mighty waves. Kellyanne Conway’s daughter Claudia has one million followers on TikTok, Twitter and other social media outlets, where she regularly excoriates Trump and her parents. The niece of Donald Trump, Mary Trump, wrote a bestseller about the dysfunctional family that produced The Donald and regularly appears on cable news to denounce his policies.

But the latest shocker is this article in Vanity Fair by Caroline Rose Guiliani, daughter of Trump’s personal attorney and former Mayor of New York City. She argues with her father’s political views and urges readers to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Caroline is a political activist, and she speaks out eloquently against her father and his famous client.

The article is titled: “Rudy Guiliani Is My Father. Please, Everyone, Vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

She writes:

I have a difficult confession—something I usually save for at least the second date. My father is Rudy Giuliani. We are multiverses apart, politically and otherwise. I’ve spent a lifetime forging an identity in the arts separate from my last name, so publicly declaring myself as a “Giuliani” feels counterintuitive, but I’ve come to realize that none of us can afford to be silent right now. The stakes are too high. I accept that most people will start reading this piece because you saw the headline with my father’s name. But now that you’re here, I’d like to tell you how urgent I think this moment is.

To anyone who feels overwhelmed or apathetic about this election, there is nothing I relate to more than desperation to escape corrosive political discourse. As a child, I saw firsthand the kind of cruel, selfish politics that Donald Trump has now inflicted on our country. It made me want to run as far away from them as possible. But trust me when I tell you: Running away does not solve the problem. We have to stand and fight. The only way to end this nightmare is to vote. There is hope on the horizon, but we’ll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Around the age of 12, I would occasionally get into debates with my father, probably before I was emotionally equipped to handle such carnage. It was disheartening to feel how little power I had to change his mind, no matter how logical and above-my-pay-grade my arguments were. He always found a way to justify his party line, whatever it was at the time. Even though he was considered socially moderate for a Republican back in the day, we still often butted heads. When I tried to explain my belief that you don’t get to be considered benevolent on LGBTQ+ rights just because you have gay friends but don’t support gay marriage, I distinctly remember him firing back with an intensity fit for an opposing politican rather than one’s child. To be clear, I’m not sharing this anecdote to complain or criticize. I had an extremely privileged childhood and am grateful for everything I was given, including real-world lessons and complicated experiences like these. The point is to illustrate one of the many reasons I have a fraught relationship with politics, like so many of us do.

Even when there was an occasional flash of connection in these disagreements with my dad, it felt like nothing changed for the better, so I would retreat again until another issue I couldn’t stay silent on surfaced. Over the years other subjects like racial sensitivity (or lack thereof), sexism, policing, and the social safety net have all risen to this boiling point in me. It felt important to speak my mind, and I’m glad we at least managed to communicate at all. But the chasm was painful nonetheless, and has gotten exponentially more so in Trump’s era of chest-thumping partisan tribalism. I imagine many Americans can relate to the helpless feeling this confrontation cycle created in me, but we are not helpless. I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.

Trump and his enablers have used his presidency to stoke the injustice that already permeated our society, taking it to dramatically new, Bond-villain heights. I am a filmmaker in the LGBTQ+ community who tells stories about mental health, sexuality, and other stigmatized issues, and my goal is to humanize people and foster empathy. So I hope you’ll believe me when I say that another Trump term (a term, itself, that makes me cringe) will irrevocably harm the LGBTQ+ community, among many others. His administration asked the Supreme Court to let businesses fire people for being gay or trans, pushed a regulation to let health care providers refuse services to people who are LGTBQ+, and banned trans people from serving their country in the military.

Women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and people of color are all also under attack by Trump’s inhumane policies—and by his judicial appointments, including, probably, Amy Coney Barrett. Trump’s administration has torn families apart in more ways than I even imagined were possible, from ripping children from their parents at the border to mishandling the coronavirus, which has resulted in over 215,000 in the U.S. dying, many thousands of them without their loved ones near. Faced with preventable deaths during a pandemic that Trump downplayed and ignored, rhetoric that has fed deep-seated, systemic racism, and chaos in the White House, it’s no surprise that so many Americans feel as hopeless and overwhelmed as I did growing up. But if we refuse to face our political reality, we don’t stand a chance of changing it.

The New York Times released this story recently, explaining the genesis of Trump’s inhumane policies at the southern border:

WASHINGTON — The five U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico, including three appointed by President Trump, recoiled in May 2018 against an order to prosecute all undocumented immigrants even if it meant separating children from their parents. They told top Justice Department officials they were “deeply concerned” about the children’s welfare.

But the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, made it clear what Mr. Trump wanted on a conference call later that afternoon, according to a two-year inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general into Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy.

“We need to take away children,” Mr. Sessions told the prosecutors, according to participants’ notes. One added in shorthand: “If care about kids, don’t bring them in. Won’t give amnesty to people with kids.”

Rod J. Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general, went even further in a second call about a week later, telling the five prosecutors that it did not matter how young the children were. He said that government lawyers should not have refused to prosecute two cases simply because the children were barely more than infants.

“Those two cases should not have been declined,” John Bash, the departing U.S. attorney in western Texas, wrote to his staff immediately after the call. Mr. Rosenstein “instructed that, per the A.G.’s policy, we should NOT be categorically declining immigration prosecutions of adults in family units because of the age of a child.”

The Justice Department’s top officials were “a driving force” behind the policy that spurred the separation of thousands of families, many of them fleeing violence in Central America and seeking asylum in the United States, before Mr. Trump abandoned it amid global outrage, according to a draft report of the results of the investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the department’s inspector general.

The separation of migrant children from their parents, sometimes for months, was at the heart of the Trump administration’s assault on immigration. But the fierce backlash when the administration struggled to reunite the children turned it into one of the biggest policy debacles of the president’s term…

Gene Hamilton, a top lawyer and ally of Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s assault on immigration, argued in a 32-page response that Justice Department officials merely took direction from the president. Mr. Hamilton cited an April 3, 2018, meeting with Mr. Sessions; the homeland security secretary at the time, Kirstjen Nielsen; and others in which the president “ranted” and was on “a tirade,” demanding as many prosecutions as possible.

Jeffrey Goldberg writes in The Atlantic that Trump is contemptuous of veterans who were wounded or captured. He calls them “losers” and “suckers.”

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

The Republican Party—that is, the Trumps—made heroes of Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who had menaced peaceful marchers on their St. Louis Street with guns.

The McCloskey property abuts a reform synagogue. Its rabbi, Susan Talve, spoke up and said the McCloskeys are litigious bullies.

In 2013, the synagogue placed beehives along the wall to produce honey for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. One morning they found the hives destroyed and all the bees dead. Mark McCloskey had taken an ax or sledgehammer to them.

His issue? The fence between them sat six inches inside the McCloskey’s property line. The hives were his to wreck.

“He could have picked up the phone and said, ‘Hey, those beehives are on my property,’ and we would have happily moved them,” said Talve.

She said children at the synagogue wept when they heard the news of the hives. The synagogue maintains raised bed gardens on its property that supply some 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to a local food pantry, as well as pear, fig and apple trees.

“We were going to have our own apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah!” she said.

She said the McCloskeys didn’t contact the temple at all before lashing out.

Instead, McCloskey left a note threatening to sue the synagogue for damages if the shattered hives were not removed at once.

Media Advisory

August 17, 2020

For more information, contact:
Chris Danforth
(501)912-0168

Arkansas Public School Communities Funeral, Sponsored By: Grassroots Arkansas, the Central Arkansas Democratic Socialists of America, Arkansas Community Organizations, the National Association of Social Workers in Arkansas, and Arkansas Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

Little Rock, AR —

What – Arkansas Public Schools & Communities Funeral

When – Monday, August 17, 2020, 6 PM.

Where – Arkansas State Capitol, starting at the Little Rock Nine Memorial and ending on the Capitol front steps.

Join us on Monday, Aug. 17 from 6 PM to 8 PM at the Arkansas State Capitol for a visual demonstration of the continued and intentional endangering of Arkansas’ children, teachers, educators, parents, grandparents, families, schools, and communities by the State of Arkansas during the ongoing COVID 19 crisis.

By continuing to withhold economic resources from Arkansans, by continuing to plan for forced school reopenings in the face of CDC best practices, and by ignoring the impossibility of safe physical attendance in the classroom, Governor Hutchinson and the State of Arkansas are sacrificing the lives and well-being of our communities so that he can stand in front of the cameras and say that “Arkansas Is Open For Business”.

We will practice 6ft distancing, wear masks, and use hand sanitizer.
###

Grassroots Arkansas is a coalition of activists dedicated to fighting for an equitable Central Arkansas. We want to bring an end to social, economic, political injustice and inequality by transforming the power relations and structures that create and hold them in place. We place education at the democratic center of this struggle that reaches every aspect of our lives. Learn more at https://www.grassrootsarkansas.org/.

Emily Hoefling was principal of Leadership Prep Canarsie in Brooklyn, which is part of the Uncommon Schools charter chain. She was fired because she dared to express views that ran counter to the authoritarian culture of the chain.

Yes, she writes, it is an authoritarian regime, and it always was.

When she led a professional development session, she encouraged teachers to express their views. That was her first mistake. Their views conflicted with the company line, and she did no5 correct them. She was marched away, lectured, yelled at, and fired.

She writes:

Make no mistake about it, Uncommon Schools is an authoritarian organization from top to bottom. And dissent is dangerous for everyone — no matter your age and no matter your position.

As an Uncommon principal, I developed a reputation for being ‘unaligned to the mission’ of Uncommon Schools. And the iron fist that deals with ‘disobedient’ students and ‘difficult’ teachers is the same iron fist that deals with rebellious leaders.

Brett Peiser and Julie Jackson have not only designed and maintained the culture of Uncommon Schools, they have also created a system that will step on, silence, and erase anyone who dares to step out of line or tarnish the Uncommon brand.

Even after she was fired, she was threatened with legal action if she dared to write about what happened to her.

She did, so you should read what she wrote.

This is a powerful editorial written by the editorial board of the York Dispatch.

The Republican-controlled legislature has imposed a funding system that is literally forcing the school district to starve in order to survive.

It is an outrage.

This should be a cover story in every national magazine. It isn’t, because it’s all too common.

When we starve our schools, we destroy the education of the children who attend them.

The editorial says:

York City School District is trapped in a death spiral.

It’s stuck under years-long state management that limits how money can be spent. Charter schools are annually sucking more than $25 million from its budget. Miserly state lawmakers foist the responsibility for funding public education on local officials, thereby fostering a system that rewards students in rich communities and punishes those in poor ones. And York City taxpayers are fed up with paying taxes that are up to double what’s paid in richer districts with more valuable property.

It’s no wonder that, under these conditions, York City Superintendent Andrea Berry presented a slash-and-burn budget for the 2020-21 school year containing $6.2 million in cuts. And, sadly, it’s no surprise the district’s school board went even further, last week approving a budget that axed 44 positions, including 32 teachers.

And, even so, York City’s 2020-21 budget still boosted taxes. That’s how bad things really are.

Really, what choice did district officials have?

York City school officials are trapped in a budgetary spiral that’s plagued poor, largely minority communities throughout the U.S. for decades. Under-represented at the statehouse, their calls for funding reform fall flat.

Like anything stuck in a trap, eventually the grisly choice of gnawing off one’s leg is the last, best available option.

Easily available metrics, such as test scores, drive the moneyed classes from the city, exacerbating blight and crashing property values.

The poverty increases the demand for not-for-profits, which, in turn, remove more property from the tax rolls.

And, all the while, Republicans in the state Legislature tout the myth of “school choice,” a particularly insidious bit of libertarian conservative dogma — concocted in response to the integration of Southern schools — that conspires to privatize the American school system and funnel taxpayer dollars to religious institutions.

The results will be devastating for York City’s students and society at large.

Interested in the performing arts? Too bad.

Hoping to grow from an introduction in the humanities? Those options are even more limited now.

Programs such as these are, in a very real sense, the foundation of a well-rounded education, one that prepares students to take their place as active citizens in a representative republic. But, more often than not, society has decided that the liberal arts aren’t for poor kids.

Make no mistake, York City’s plight is one destroying urban districts throughout the country. Just ask Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who, in 2016, wrote a blistering ruling that attacked the very foundation of the system under which public schools are funded in this country.

His 90-page ruling was an indictment of the disparity between rich districts and poor ones that the U.S. funding model breeds.

“So change must come. The state has to accept that the schools are its blessing and its burden, and if it cannot be wise, it must at least be sensible,” Moukawsher wrote.

And yet, with the inherent systemic flaws well-established, school districts such as York City remain trapped and must eat itself just to survive.

Officials there had little choice this past week.

But the fact that they were left without any other options is neither moral nor just.

Thanks to Peter Greene for sharing this blistering but accurate editorial.