Archives for category: Students

Blogger John Warner saw that the New York Times asked right educational experts to reflect on the purpose of school. He thinks they missed the point that is most important. His response reminds me of what John Dewey emphasized. For a child, school is their life, right now.

He writes:

Just about every essay framed school as something that would deliver some kind of positive future benefit. The reason to go to school is because it will pay off someday in terms of economic prospects, or being an informed citizen, or having an appreciation of nature.

This views the result of school as a product, an outcome. I would rather we look at school as a process, an ongoing experience. For that reason, my answer to the question “What is school for?” is:

To be engaged.

Surveys show that pre-pandemic we had something of an “engagement crisis” with fewer than 50% of students saying they were engaged in school and nearly one-quarter saying they were actively disengaged. Engagement declines with each successive year of schooling. This problem has been significantly exacerbated by the disruption of the Covid pandemic.

By framing school as something that will only have benefit in an indefinite future, we ignore the importance of living in the present. As I say in my book Why They Can’t Write, “Life is to be lived, including the years between 5 and 22 years old. A world that suggests those years are merely preparation for the real stuff, and the real stuff is almost entirely defined by your college and/or career, is an awfully impoverished place.”

Pieper Lewis was 15 when she ran away from the home of her adopted mother. She slept in the lobby of an apartment building. She was befriended by a man who then gave her to other men in exchange for drugs or money. One man raped her repeatedly. In a fit of rage, she stabbed him repeatedly and killed him in 2020. After more than two years in detention, she came before a judge who gave her five years of probation, instead of 20 years in prison. He also required this homeless teen to pay $150,000 to the rapist’s family in accordance with Iowa law.

One of Pieper’s high school teachers stepped in to help her by creating a GoFundMe to pay her debt. Leland Schipper, her former math teacher, hoped to raise $150,000, enough to pay what she owed plus some money to help her get a fresh start. He has so far raised over $400,000 so that the child will be able to go to college or start a business. She said in a statement that she wants to help other girls like her who were victims of sex trafficking.

This was Pieper Lewis’ statement at her sentencing hearing.

Thank you to Leland Schipper for giving this young woman, this child, a chance to start over.

Quite a story.

This is a thrilling story, reported by The Intercept.

THE NATIONWIDE CAMPAIGN to stifle discussions of race and gender in public schools through misinformation and bullying suffered a reversal in Idaho on Monday, when a high school senior vocally opposed to book bans and smears against LGBTQ+ youth took a seat on the Boise school board.

The student, Shiva Rajbhandari, was elected to the position by voters in Idaho’s capital last week, defeating an incumbent board member who had refused to reject an endorsement from a local extremist group that has harassed students and pushed to censor local libraries.

Rajbhandari, who turned 18 days before the election, was already well-known in the school district as a student organizer on climate, environmental, voting rights, and gun control issues. But in the closing days of the campaign, his opponent, Steve Schmidt, wasendorsed by the far-right Idaho Liberty Dogs, which in response helped Rajbhandari win the endorsement of Boise’s leading newspaper, the Idaho Statesman.

Rajbhandari, a third-generation Idahoan whose father is from Nepal, was elected to a two-year term with 56 percent of the vote.

In an interview, Rajbhandari told The Intercept that although he had hoped people would vote for him rather than against his opponent — “My campaign was not against Steve Schmidt,” he said — he was nonetheless shocked that Schmidt did not immediately reject the far-right group’s endorsement. “I think that’s what the majority of voters took issue with,” Rajbhandari said.

The Idaho Liberty Dogs, which attacked Rajbhandari on Facebook for being “Pro Masks/Vaccines” and leading protests “which created traffic jams and costed [sic] tax payers money,” spent the summer agitating to have books removed from public libraries in Nampa and Meridian, two cities in the Boise metro area.

But, Rajbhandari said, “that’s the least of what they’ve done. Last year, there was a kid who brought a gun to Boise High, which is my school, and he got suspended and they organized an armed protest outside our school.”

Rajbhandari, who started leading Extinction Rebellion climate protests in Boise when he was 15, is familiar with the group’s tactics. “We used to have climate strikes, like back in ninth grade, and they would come with AR-15s,” he said, bringing rifles to intimidate “a bunch of kids protesting for a livable future.”

So when the Idaho Liberty Dogs called on Boise voters to support Schmidt — and a slate of other candidates for the school board who, ultimately, all lost — Rajbhandari told me he texted his rival to say, “You need to immediately disavow this.”

“This is a hate group,” Rajbhandari says he told Schmidt. “They intimidate teachers, they are a stain on our schools, and their involvement in this election is a stain on your candidacy.” Schmidt, however, refused to clearly reject the group, even after the Idaho Liberty Dogs lashed out at a local rabbi who criticized the endorsement by comparing the rabbi to Hitler and claiming that he harbored “an unrelenting hatred for white Christians.”

While the school board election was a hyperlocal one, Rajbhandari is aware that the forces he is battling operate at the state and national level. “Idaho is at the center of this out-of-state-funded far-right attack to try to undermine schools, with the end goal of actually abolishing public education,” Rajbhandari told me. “There’s a group, they’re called the Idaho Freedom Foundation, and they actually control a lot of the political discourse in our legislature. Their primary goal is to get rid of public education and disburse the money to charter schools or get rid of that funding entirely.”

For his courage and candor, he won the endorsement of The Idaho Statesman.

This is a remarkable young man with a bright future ahead of him. I am happy to add him to the honor roll of this blog.

Read the rest of the story by opening the link. Rajbhandari is a force to be reckoned with. He is a good omen of the bright, dedicated young people who stand up for their teachers and for environmental activism, who fight for gun control and against censorship. Best wishes to him!

Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy Charter chain has won national plaudits for its extraordinarily high test scores. SA is a fundraising dynamo, attracting the support of leading figures on Wall Street and the financial sector. She and her chain were the subject of a hagiographic film called “The Lottery,” made by Madeline Sackler of the infamous opioid Sackler family,who are big supporters of the charter industry. The implication was that all students were chosen at random and were exactly the same as those in local public schools.

Over the years, critics have noted the high attrition rate of kids who start at SA schools, as well as an extraordinarily high teacher attrition rate.

Gary Rubinstein, high school math teacher and blogger, has followed the progress of SA in many posts on his blog.

In this post, he explores the effects of SA’s “backfill” policy, meaning that the schools seldom accept new students after fourth grade.

Using public data, Rubinstein explores the chain’s admissions and placement policies.

He writes:

I’ve learned through a lot of first hand stories that one of the biggest factors in the ‘success’ of Success Academy is the way they weaponize the school’s ability to force students to repeat grades or to voluntarily leave the school to avoid having to repeat a grade. When they have a student who they think is not fitting into their system enough, even if that student is on grade level and passing the state test, they sometimes arbitrarily tell the family at the end of the school year that if the student returns to Success Academy the next year they will have either repeat the grade they just completed or they can transfer to a different school and then they won’t have to repeat the grade.

So one way that holding a student back can improve the school’s test scores is that the weaker students leave the school ‘voluntarily.’ But maybe the family will decide that they want to keep their child at Success Academy and then the student will be more likely to do well on the state test when they have just repeated the year in that grade. But there is another way that Success Academy wields the power to arbitrarily make a student repeat a grade. Each year there are many students who leave the school for all kinds of reasons. While most schools give students on a waiting list a chance to be ‘backfilled’ and transfer from another school, it is known that Success Academy only allows backfilling in grades 1 through 4. So students from the waiting list are offered a slot at the school, but sometimes Success Academy will tell these families who just got a position off the waitlist that because Success Academy is so rigorous, the student will have to repeat the grade they just completed at their other school. They say this to the families whose children, Success Academy thinks, will struggle at the school. So these families who are told this will either take the deal and have their children repeat the grade or they will choose to go to a different school. Either way, Success Academy improves their test scores this way either by denying the student a chance to go to Success or by having them retake the same grade where they will likely do better on the state test the second time around than they would if they were in their proper grade.

I have heard about families having to grapple with this choice after getting into the school as a ‘backfill’ student, but I had no idea how common of a thing this was. So I did a freedom of information request to the NYC Department Of Education. Much to my surprise, the data was just emailed to me today and what it reveals is shocking, even by Success Academy abuse of families standards.

Read what he learned.

Pastors for Texas Kids is sponsoring two discussions TODAY about public schools, in Lubbock and Amarillo.


Front Runners for Texas
Lt. Governor Q&A

Amarillo registration here:
Lubbock registration here:

Mike Collier is confirmed for both cities. No response from Dan Patrick after multiple messages to his staff.

A federal court in North Carolina ruled against a charter school that required girls to wear dresses.

The charter school claimed it was not subject to federal laws against discrimination because it is not a “state actor.” Charter schools frequently claim they are not “state actors” when they violate civil rights laws or labor laws, but simultaneously say they are public schools.

An en banc federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a public charter school in North Carolina violated the equal protection clause when it required girls to wear skirts.

The full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia, ruled against Charter Day School Inc. in a June 14 decision. Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote the majority opinion.

The Charter Day School required girls to wear skirts, jumpers or skorts based on the view that girls are “fragile vessels” deserving of gentle treatment by boys, the appeals court said.

The school had argued that the school is not a state actor subject to the Constitution, and that the federal law banning discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs did not apply to dress codes.

The appeals court ruled against the school on both arguments.

The 4th Circuit decision is the first by a federal appeals court to recognize that charter schools receiving public funds must abide by the same constitutional safeguards as traditional public schools, according to a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The en banc court and a prior 4th Circuit panel agreed that sex-specific dress codes may violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. But the en banc court went further than the panel when it ruled that the charter school violated the equal protection clause

The school founder had said skirts embody “traditional values” and preserve “chivalry” and respect. Chivalry, the school founder said, is a code of conduct in which women are “regarded as a fragile vessel that men are supposed to take care of and honor.” School board members agreed with those objectives, including the goal of fostering “traditional roles” for children.

“It is difficult to imagine a clearer example of a rationale based on impermissible gender stereotypes,” the appeals court said.

Nine judges agreed with the opinion. Six dissented, in whole or in part, on the grounds that charter schools are not state actors.

Abby Livington of The Texas Tribune reported on the Congressional hearings about the Uvalde massacre. Please subscribe to The Texas Tribune. It is a valuable source of information and insight about the Lone State State.  The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. 

WASHINGTON — Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old in fourth grade who survived the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, said she covered herself in another student’s blood to trick the shooter into thinking she was already dead.

Cerrillo, wearing a sunflower tank top and her hair pulled back into a ponytail, spoke softly as she answered questions for 2 minutes on video about what she endured that day in the classroom, just a few weeks after she witnessed her friends and teacher die in a deadly school shooting.

“He shot my teacher and told my teacher good night and shot her in the head,” she said in the prerecorded video. “And then he shot some of my classmates and the white board.”

Cerrillo was the youngest of a small group of Uvalde survivors and family members who testified at a House hearing Wednesday about the devastation wrought by gun violence in their communities.

On May 24, an 18-year-old gunman armed with two assault rifles entered the school building killing 19 children and two teachers and injuring 17 others.

That day Cerrillo said she and her classmates were watching a movie. Her teacher received an email and then got up to lock the door — that’s when made eye contact with the gunman in the hallway, Cerrillo said.

At that point, the teacher told the students to “go hide.” Cerrillo hid behind her teacher’s desk among the backpacks. The shooter then shot “the little window,” presumably part of the door to the hallway. She said the gunman entered a neighboring classroom and was able to access her classroom through an adjoining door. That’s when he started shooting.

One of the students who was shot, a friend of hers, was next to her among the backpacks.

“I thought [the gunman] was going to come back to the room, so I grabbed the blood and I put it all over me,” she said.

She said she “stayed quiet” and then she grabbed her teacher’s phone and called 911.

“I told [the operator] that we need help and to send the police [to my] classroom,” she said.

Cerrillo added that she did not feel safe in school and did not “want it to happen again.” An off-camera questioner asked if she thought a shooting like this will happen again and Cerrillo affirmatively nodded.

Cerrillo was calm and quiet. She didn’t cry. But some of the adults from Uvalde who testified wept before the committee, including her father, Miguel Cerrillo, who traveled to Washington to testify in person.

“I come because I could have lost my baby girl, but she’s not the same baby girl I used to play with,” he said, adding that “schools are not safe anymore.”

Kimberly Rubio, a newspaper reporter and the mother of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio, who died that day, described dropping her children off at the school and attending end-of-school-year awards ceremonies that morning.

“I left my daughter at that school and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life,” she said, as she testified in a video recording sitting next to her stone-faced husband, Felix Rubio.

She called for a ban on assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, raising the age to purchase certain guns, keeping guns out of the hands of people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others, stronger background checks and to repeal gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.

“We understand for some reason to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children,” Rubio said. “So at this moment we ask for progress.”

Dr. Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician, Uvalde native and graduate of Robb Elementary School, described in the hearing room his encounter with the bodies of two deceased children that arrived at his hospital.

The children’s bodies were “pulverized,” “decapitated” and “ripped apart.” The bullets did so much damage to their bodies that the “only clue as to their identities was a blood-splattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them, clinging for life and finding none.”

He added that he and other hospital personnel braced that day for an onslaught of carnage, but it never came because so many of the victims were already dead.

The San Antonio Express-News reported what several children said about the carnage in their classroom. The Houston Chronicle said that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who opposes gun control, wants the state to spend $50 million in bullet-proof shields.

As Salvador Ramos approached Room 112 in Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School, the teacher and her students heard gunshots.

She told the fourth-graders to get down on the floor or under their desks, and she went to the door to make sure it was locked. Then Ramos fired at the door handle. Rounds from his assault-style rifle shattered the door window and struck the teacher, fatally injuring her as she tried to protect her kids.

“It’s time to die,” Ramos declared as he entered the classroom. “You guys are mine.”

Ramos at one point asked if anyone needed help, and when one child stood up, he shot him.

These details of the first minutes of the May 24 rampage are from a 10-year-old boy who was in the classroom and who has described the scene to his mother and to law enforcement officials.

“Creepy music” blared from Ramos’ phone as the 18-year-old high school dropout opened fired on the class, the boy recalled. His mother, Corina Camacho, said shrapnel struck her son in the leg.

Then Ramos walked to the connected classroom next door, Room 111, and opened fire again.

“He was like going back and forth, playing music,” the mother told the San Antonio Express-News.

The terror continued for over an hour. It would be more than 75 minutes after the first 911 calls before members of a Border Patrol tactical unit went into the classrooms and killed Ramos. By then, 19 students and two teachers — Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia — were dead. Seventeen other people were injured. It isn’t clear which teacher was killed when Ramos shot through the door.

On Morning of chaos: A reconstruction of how the Uvalde massacre unfolded

The Express-News’ account of the early minutes of the rampage is based on interviews with law enforcement sources, state lawmakers, Corina Camacho and civil lawyers who represent surviving children and teachers.

Camacho’s son told his story to the FBI recently. He is one of several witnesses who were interviewed by the FBI, the Texas Rangers or the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The information from the lawyers and law enforcement sources helps shed light on the tragedy and the disastrous police response that followed. Key details remain unknown to investigators as they try to reconcile incomplete or contradictory statements from witnesses and law enforcement officers.

The massacre in the rural town of more than 15,000 is the second-worst mass shooting at a school, after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed 26. President Joe Biden visited Uvalde last week to comfort the families, and in a televised speech days later, he renewed calls for tighter gun restrictions, including a ban on assault-style rifles.

Frozen with fear

The morning of Tuesday, May 24, began like any day near the end of the school year. Some classes at Robb Elementary had just come in from recess. Others had just let out for lunch. Summer break would begin in two days.

Teacher Emilia Marin had propped open a door with a rock to help a co-worker bring in food for an end-of-the-year party from a car in the school parking lot. Then Marin saw a truck crash outside the school’s perimeter fence, said her lawyer, Don Flanary.

Marin went back inside the school to get her phone and report the crash to 911.

When she came back outside, still on the phone, she saw her co-worker flee and heard people at a funeral home across the street yell, “He’s got a gun!”

Marin saw Ramos jump over a fence. She kicked the rock away, pulled the door shut and ran into the school. She huddled under a counter in a classroom.

She heard gunshots, first outdoors, then inside the school. Her 911 call dropped. She grabbed chairs and boxes to hide behind. Frozen with fear, she tried to be still.

Marin received a text from her daughter asking if she was safe.

“There’s a shooter,” Marin typed back. “He’s shooting. He’s in here.”

Then Ramos approached Room 112.

Camacho and one of her lawyers, Stephanie Sherman, said her son described how Ramos shot his way into the classroom and how police at one point opened the door and retreated after he fired at them. Law enforcement sources disputed the latter part of the boy’s account, saying no officer went into the classroom during the initial response.

The officers “were all in the hallway, and when shots were fired, they all ran back to another hallway or outside,” one source told the Express-News.

Another lawyer for the family, Shawn Brown, said the boy related different details to his grandfather. He told the grandfather that his teacher shielded him with her body as he lay on the floor and that Ramos fired at her, killing her and striking him in the leg.

Brown also said the boy told his grandfather that Ramos, after pacing from one room to the other, asked if anyone needed help — acting in the guise of a police officer.

“When one kid stood up, he shot him with the AK,” Brown said, quoting the grandfather. “That may be the reason he thought an officer had come in.”

Investigators are trying to unravel discrepancies in the accounts provided by the traumatized children. Camacho’s son’s account differs somewhat from what other children have told investigators. The inconsistencies could reflect differing vantage points — whether the children were lying facedown or were facing away from Ramos.

Some saw most of the massacre unfold. As their memories return, the children have revealed progressively more and sometimes contradictory details to investigators and family members.

“The kids’ interviews, they’re bad,” said one law enforcement source, referring to the graphic details. “I can’t even imagine the nightmare … that those kids went through.”

Brown said the differing versions simply reflect trauma.

“It’s because of the shock and because of the stress that they went through,” Brown said. “They’re remembering bits and pieces as they go, and it may not be in sequential order. It was such a traumatic experience that their brains are trying to block it out.”

The official account of what happened inside the school has not been fully disclosed because of a criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers, assisted by the FBI, that is being overseen by Uvalde District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee…

First on the scene

According to law enforcement sources, Uvalde police and Uvalde CISD officers were among the first to arrive. Because it was school district property, responding officers deferred to Arredondo.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, whose district includes Uvalde, said last week that Arredondo was not aware of 911 calls from students inside the classroom, who were begging to be rescued.

Arredondo’s six-officer department does not have its own radio communications system. The 911 calls were routed to the Uvalde Police Department, Gutierrez said. Why Arredondo would not have known about the desperate calls from the students is unclear, given that numerous officers equipped with radios were at the scene.

One source said interviews with officers indicated that Arredondo did not have a police radio with him. Another law enforcement source said security video from the school confirms Arredondo did not have a radio.

“He made some phone calls to Uvalde PD” to get information and may have missed the 911 calls from the students, a source said.

On Uvalde schools police chief didn’t receive 911 calls

Also, the fortified, concrete walls of the school interfered with reception of the radios carried by other officers, law enforcement sources said.

At one point, 19 officers were in a hallway outside the classrooms where Ramos had cornered his terrified victims.

“There’s not as much radio traffic as you would think there would be,” one law enforcement source said. “Those inside may not have heard the kids’ 911 calls.”

Because some officers were off-duty or rushed in, they didn’t have body cameras or did not set them to record, further complicating matters for investigators.

Arredondo appears to have been inside the building with some school police officers and Uvalde police officers. Investigators have collected reports from some first responders indicating that Arredondo tried early on to negotiate with the gunman by cellphone, but Ramos did not answer.

As officers planned strategy in the hallway, Arredondo believed the victims were all dead and Ramos had barricaded himself, investigators said. He held officers back to wait for reinforcements and specialized equipment, and the officers on the scene stood down, according to sources.

DPS Director Steve McCraw has said there was “no excuse” for that decision and that the 19 officers should have stormed in and killed Ramos early on to end the bloodshed and give aid to the wounded.

On As Uvalde students waited for rescue, police assumed there was no reason to rush in

Outside, other officers cordoned off the school and barred agitated parents from going inside.

While the school was under attack, Mireles, one of the fourth-grade teachers who was killed, called her husband, Ruben Ruiz. He is a school district police officer, and he rushed to the scene, Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell said. Like the students’ parents, he was prohibited from entering the building.

Mireles and Ruiz talked by phone as the fatally wounded teacher took her last breaths.

“She’s in the classroom and he’s outside. It’s terrifying,” Mitchell told reporters after being briefed by Uvalde County sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene.

Radio traffic shows that officers from several federal law enforcement agencies responded, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Ultimately, members of a Border Patrol tactical unit shot Ramos, who apparently was locked inside one of the classrooms.

Brown, the lawyer for the family of the 10-year-old boy, said the child described how he and a couple of other students got up when they were rescued.

“He said he saw the other kids on the floor,” Brown said, choking back emotion. “He told the grandfather, ‘I got up. My friends didn’t.’”

‘Really bad’ for police

Why the outer door Ramos used to get into the school didn’t lock when the teacher pulled it shut is unknown. One law enforcement source said officials plan to remove that door and the classroom doors for inspection.

A team from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University went to the school this past week to conduct an assessment of what happened.

The U.S. Justice Department is carrying out a separate review of the police response, at the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin Jr.

“The report is not going to be good,” one source said. “This is really bad for law enforcement.” | Twitter: @gmaninfedland

The same organization that produced the Glen Beck video in the previous post also produced videos attacking the Disney Corporation and Pearson for their alleged role in “grooming” children to change their gender identity.

With the recent rash of horrific school shootings, you would think that these zealots could think of better uses for their time and resources.

How about making videos about the need for gun control? Reduced class sizes? Health clinics in school for families?

No, these people are obsessed with sex. That’s all they think about.

The good news is that parents are on to them. They don’t love Pearson, but they love their teachers. They are not fooled by nutty propaganda.

The Destroy Public Education crowd is in league with some seriously whacky people.

The vice principal of an IDEA charter school in San Antonio was arrested for punching a 5-year-old child.

Betsy DeVos, when U.S .Secretary of Education, gave the IDEA chain more than $200 million from the federal Charter Schools Program to expand.

SAN ANTONIO – An area elementary school vice principal is in custody and charged with assault after she “lost control” and attacked a 5-year-old student in her office, according to Sheriff Javier Salazar.

The incident happened April 22 at an IDEA elementary school in the 10100 block of Kriewald Road, but the sheriff’s office wasn’t made aware of the situation until Wednesday, April 27.

According to Salazar, a mother told deputies that her five-year-old son, who attends the school, was assaulted by the school’s vice principal, 53-year-old Tara Coleman Hunter in her office..

The child admitted that he became “unruly” while in Hunter’s office and struck her. However, the situation escalated further when Hunter “lost control” and attacked the child, Salazar said.

“This was handled way inappropriately,” the sheriff said during a news conference Thursday.

Hunter punched the child in the face or head and pushed him into a file cabinet, according to the sheriff. This caused the child to develop a bump on his head and bruising.

The child was out of control, but the adult should know how to deal with an unruly child without resorting to physical assault.