Category Archives: Education

The cat who goes to school

Bubba1

Anne Gelhaus reports for the San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 19, 2015, that the Marienthal family adopted Bubba the cat in 2009 and tried to make him an indoor cat. But Bubba likes to roam and has become a fixture in two nearby schools — Leland High School and Bret Harte Middle School in San Jose, California.

Amber Marienthal said “He’s really loud” and that she still gets calls from staff and students who see him on campus and think he’s lost.

Like many members of Leland High School’s student body, Bubba is a social animal — he attends sporting events, hangs out on campus with his buddies and has a Facebook page dedicated to his exploits. Bubba even has a Leland student card.

Bubba's Leland High student card

But unlike Leland’s other students, Bubba can roam the school’s halls freely during class. And if he wants to be excused, he doesn’t have to raise his paw; he just meows.

Bubba is known and loved by many at both schools, as his 600-plus Facebook followers attest. Marienthal, the administrator of Bubba’s Facebook page, says Bubba’s fans want him to branch out into other social media. She says, “People want me to get him on Instagram” but “I only have so much time to devote to my cat’s social life.”

Bubba has been featured in other media. He’s been written up in the high school’s newspaper, senior magazine and yearbook. Marienthal says “The students at Bret Harte petitioned to have a statue erected in his honor,” but their petition was denied.

Both of Marienthal’s sons attended Bret Harte and are now at Leland. She says Bubba started hanging out on campus about a year before her oldest son Matthew, who just started his sophomore year at Leland, entered sixth grade at the middle school. And she says the cat is likely to stay in school even after both of “his boys” graduate.

Marienthal says she’s gotten no complaints from staff or students at either school about Bubba prowling the campuses. Her main worry is that Bubba has come close to shaving off one of his nine lives on several occasions. She’s seen him lay down on Leland’s soccer field in the middle of practice and wait for one of the players to pet him. “He’s really social and he has no fear,” Marienthal says. “I’m surprised he’s still around.”

While he usually makes it home at night, Bubba did have a scare when he wandered onto the Leland campus during registration last month and accidentally got locked inside a classroom for 36 hours. Luckily, a security guard heard him meowing and set him free.

Bubba conducts a locker investigation at Leland High

Since Bubba meanders freely in and out of classrooms, teachers have learned how to deal with his presence. “One teacher made the mistake of buying treats for him,” Marienthal recalls, which led Bubba to sit by his classroom door and wait to be fed. “Bubba would meow for treats. [The teacher] got sick of the noise.”

Marienthal says she’d like to see her cat included in another important campus activity: “We’d love it if they let him do cap and gown in 2017. That’s the group that’s been with him through Bret Harte and Leland.”

Meanwhile, Bubba has developed attendance habits that students may want to emulate. “He waits for school to start, and he doesn’t come home until all the sports are done,” Marienthal says. “As long as he’s alive, I think he’ll hang out at the school.”

Bubba’s Facebook page is at facebook.com/bubbatheschoolcat.

~Éowyn

How many days could you be late to work before you were fired? How about 111?

What exactly does it take to get a public employee fired?

The teacher who can't manage his time

The teacher who can’t manage his time

Fox News: An elementary school teacher who was allowed to keep his job despite being late for work 111 times in two years said Friday that breakfast is to blame for his tardiness.

“I have a bad habit of eating breakfast in the morning, and I lost track of time,” 15-year veteran teacher Arnold Anderson told The Associated Press.

In a decision filed Aug. 19, an arbitrator in New Jersey rejected an attempt by the Roosevelt Elementary School in New Brunswick to fire Anderson from his $90,000-a-year job, saying he was entitled to progressive discipline. But the arbitrator also criticized Anderson’s claim that the quality of his teaching outweighed his tardiness.

Anderson was late 46 times in the most recent school year through March 20 and 65 times in the previous school year, the arbitrator said. Anderson said he was one to two minutes late to school “at the most” but was prepared and was never late for class. “I have to cut out eating breakfast at home,” he said Friday.

Anderson remains suspended without pay until Jan. 1. A message seeking comment was left Friday with the school superintendent’s office.

The arbitrator found that the district failed to provide Anderson with due process by not providing him with a formal notice of inefficiency or giving him 90 days to correct his failings before terminating his employment.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie referenced the case in a tweet on Friday. Christie wrote: “Think I’m too tough on the teachers union? This is what we’re dealing with in NJ.”

Anderson said he was “very upset” to be suspended but conceded that losing his job would have been worse. When he returns to school in January, “I will be early,” he said.

DCG

School Bans Child’s Wonder Woman Lunchbox – Considered Too Violent

Get me off this crazy train…

wonder woman lunchbox

Yahoo: A child’s school has banned her lunchbox, because it features the comic book character Wonder Woman. 

The school sent the unnamed girl home with a letter for her parents, explaining why they deem it inappropriate – which a family friend and Reddit user has posted online for the world to weigh in on.

Reddit user twines18 posted a photo of the letter sent, along with a couple of snaps of the child’s lunchbox, explaining that the school finds Wonder Woman to be a figure that represents violence.

But it’s not just this particular superhero that the school has it in for – they don’t allow any superheroes to be worn on clothing, backpacks or lunchboxes of the children.

“We noticed that Laura has a Wonder Woman lunchbox that features a super hero image,” reads the letter. “In keeping with the dress code of the school, we must ask she not bring this to school. The dress code we have established requests that the children not bring violent images into the building in any fashion – on their clothing (including shoes and socks), backpacks and lunchboxes.

“We have defined ‘violent characters’ as those who solve problems using violence. Super heroes certainly fall into that category.”

wonder woman letter

Seems fair enough, superheroes do tend to throw a few punches. But anyone who’s ever picked up a Marvel or DC Comics book, or watched one of their films, will know that superheroes only turn to violence as a last resort and it’s always in a quest to save and protect others.

So surely aspiring to the likes of Wonder Woman (one of the only female superheroes, let’s not forget) is a positive thing?

Reddit users commented on the irony that the picture on the lunchbox isn’t even violent – it’s not like it’s an image of Superman punching something or someone or Iron Man shooting someone with his repulsor blasts. She’s simply holding her Lasso of Truth – which is never used as a weapon.

“I really thought that the lunch box would have a picture of Wonder Woman kicking or punching someone,” commented one person. “Nope, just Wonder Woman is enough to indicate violence.”

And another Redditor, who clearly knows a lot about Wonder Woman, delved into her character traits. “One of the things I find most ironic here is that Wonder Woman specifically was designed to be different from other superheroes from her inception.

“Her creator saw how other superheroes utilised violence to solve problems so often, and he felt there was a different way, he felt that was a very ‘masculine’ approach, and that a feminine superhero didn’t have to just be a copy of a male superhero, solving problems in the same ways, and acting and thinking the same way, but could be uniquely a woman on top of being a hero.”

The same Reddit user also explained a little about Wonder Woman’s lasso. “That’s a magic lasso, she can get people to confront the truth of what they’ve done, and tell the truth to her especially,” he wrote. “The Lasso is basically a magical psychiatric session, it doesn’t maim, it doesn’t mutilate, it contains, and makes whoever contained in it have to be honest for maybe the first time in their lives.”

We appreciate the school’s consistency, one rule for all and all that, but banning ALL superhero images seems a little extreme. After all, who didn’t have a Batman pencil case or a Catwoman lunchbox as a child?

And we have to wonder – does the school’s ban stretch to Disney memorabilia? After all, there’s violence in almost every single Disney film. Elsa hurt a number of people with her icy blasting powers and let’s not forget Scar virtually pushing Mufasa off a cliff…

DCG

St. Mary’s Academy in Portland rescinds job offer after learning candidate is gay

No doubt a lawsuit is on the way.

st marys academy

Oregon Live: St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland rescinded a job offer to an academic counselor after learning the 27-year-old woman is gay.

Lauren Brown

Lauren Brown

Lauren Brown said the private Roman Catholic school in late July pulled its offer for a college counseling position after she told an administrator about her sexual orientation. Willamette Week reported late Tuesday that Brown was offered a year’s salary to withdraw from consideration and to keep quiet about it.

Christina Friedhoff, president of the all-girls school, acknowledged the situation in a letter sent home to parents Tuesday. “St. Mary’s is grounded in the Catholic religion,” Friedhoff wrote. “We ask that the faculty and staff support and nurture the Catholic identity, practice, culture and mission on which we were founded.”

“We understand that others may hold different values, and we respect the right of individuals in society to do so. At the same time, as a Catholic high school, we are obligated to follow our current Catholic teachings regarding same-sex marriage in our employment practices.”

She notes that the school’s board of directors and the schools founders, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, support the decision. The Catholic Sentinel, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, reported that Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample also supports the school’s actions.

“We expect that given certain reassurances by the federal government in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling making ‘same-sex unions’ the law of the land, our religious liberty would be protected in this case as well as any future cases of this sort,” the archbishop said in a statement.

Friedhoff asked parents to pray for the school, which she said will experience a “difficult time” given the public attention the decision has generated. The school, which traces its roots back to 1859, has about 700 students. Classes for the upcoming academic year are scheduled to begin next week.

The school’s usually lively Facebook page and Twitter feed have both been suspended. The school’s website continues to link to the pages, though they show all content is unavailable.

Meanwhile, St. Mary’s students and alumni upset by school administrators’ actions have taken to social media to express their outrage. On Twitter, they are using the #FightForSMA hashtag.

DCG

Summer reading list with gay theme stokes controversy at elite university

I’m betting no books by this author would ever be on their summer reading list.

Fun Home

Fox News: A gay and lesbian-themed graphic novel on an elite university reading list for some incoming college freshmen is generating pushback among Christian students who feel the material is “pornographic.”

Fun Home,” a best-selling story that features a girl coming out as a lesbian and discovering her father was gay, is among several books selected by Duke University “to give incoming students a shared intellectual experience with other members of their class.”

Instead, the racy reading material — which is recommended, but not required — seems to have stirred up controversy.

“I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” Freshman Brian Grasso posted to a Class of 2019 Facebook page in late July that was cited by the school’s student newspaper, The Chronicle. “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”

That the book doesn’t merely express gay and lesbian issues in words, but rather depicts imagery of acts that some may find objectionable is at the root of the protest among students at the Durham, N.C., school. “The nature of ‘Fun Home’ means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature,” freshman Jeffrey Wubbenhorst wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

Other students replied to the Facebook thread urging Grasso and others like him to keep an open mind, according to The Chronicle.

The Duke controversy is just the latest “Fun Home” debate. In 2014, the South Carolina House of Representatives’ budget-writing committee docked the College of Charleston the cost of its summer reading program – $52,000 – due to concerns over “Fun Home,” which has become a musical as its popularity has spread.

“It goes beyond the pale of academic debate,” Republican state legislator Garry Smith told The Post and Courier at the time. “It graphically shows lesbian acts.”

Author Alison Bechdel

Author Alison Bechdel

The book’s author, Alison Bechdel, decried the drama surrounding her work. “It’s sad and absurd that the College of Charleston is facing a funding cut for teaching my book – a book which is, after all, about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people’s lives,” she told Publisher’s Weekly in 2014.

When the Duke selection committee chose the book for the Common Experience program during the spring, it was aware of the controversy that had dogged the book. “It has the potential to start many arguments and conversations, which, in my opinion, is an integral component of a liberal arts education,” Ibanca Anand, a student member of the selection committee, told The Chronicle in April. “During orientation welcome week activities, students will discuss the book in small groups and as a larger community,” a college announcement said in April.

Other books recommended by the selection committee include, “All the Light We Cannot See,” about a blind French girl and a German boy during World War II; “It Happened on the Way to War,” about a Marine who “waged peace while fighting war”; “Red,” a play about pop art; “The Righteous Mind,” a psychological look at “why good people are divided by politics and religion”; and “The Shallows,” which focuses on how the Internet is changing users.

DCG

Rutgers: No such thing as ‘free’ speech

no free speech

Campus Reform: There is no such thing as ‘free’ speech,” according to Rutgers University.

The apparent denial of free speech is part of the public university’s effort to combat student bias on campus. The university’s Bias Prevention and Education Committee lists five ways for students to avoid committing “bias incidents.” Tops on the list is the command that students “Think Before [They] Speak.”

bias

To clarify what this means, the university warns students that “[t]here is no such thing as ‘free’ speech.” However, The university’s student code of conduct contains zero references to “free speech” or “freedom of speech.”

“All speech,” the university continues, “has a cost and consequences.”

The university defines “bias acts” as “[v]erbal, written, physical, psychological acts that threaten or harm a person or group on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, atypical heredity or cellular blood trait, military service or veteran status.”

The university encourages students to report “bias incidents”—which can be done anonymously—using an online Incident Report Form. Students can report bias incidents as either a victim or a witness.

The Bias Prevention and Education Committee lists four other ways for students to avoid committing a bias incident. Students are encouraged to “overcome cultural biases” and to join “activities, programs, courses, and practices that promote diversity and social justice.”

stupidity

The university also encourages students to “[l]ose stereotypes about any group.” There is “no such thing as a ‘positive’ stereotype,” according to the university. “All stereotypes are inherently negative, hurtful, and damaging.”

The Bias Prevention and Education Committee, according to the university, is a “two-tiered body comprised of the Deans of Students Bias Response Team and the Bias Prevention Education Advisory Panel working in concert to MONITOR, PREVENT, REPORT, RESPOND, and RESTORE environments in the aftermath of BIAS INCIDENTS.”

Rutgers professors are encouraged to prevent bias inside the classroom by using “the syllabus to create ground rules with regard to difference and disagreement.” Professors are also encouraged to ask their students “how they feel about provocative material, especially that which references issues of race, sexuality, gender, class, religion or any of the other ‘protected classes.’”

The university did not respond to a voicemail requesting comment.

DCG

Sandy Hook families each gets $94k to settle lawsuits against Lanza estate

Americans are notorious for our litigiousness. One of the many curiosities of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings of December 14, 2012, is that, unlike other school shootings, the families of the alleged victims of alleged killer Adam Lanza had not filed lawsuits. (See my post of March 29, 2014, “Why are there no Sandy Hook lawsuits?”)

Two long years after the alleged massacre, however, some of them finally sued, although each victim family had already received MILLIONS of dollars in donations from individual Facebook sites, organized Sandy Hook charities like United Way, and the $11.6 million Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Some of those Facebook and charity sites, curiously, had been created before the alleged massacre, that is, before the alleged victims actually became victims. See:

Three groups of defendants are the targets of lawsuits:

  1. The manufacturer, distributor and seller of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle allegedly wielded by Lanza.
  2. The town of Newtown and its board of education.
  3. The estate of Nancy Lanza — Adam’s mother whom he allegedly had killed before he allegedly drove to the school — for carelessly allowing her son access to the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle that he allegedly used in the alleged massacre.

For more on the above lawsuits, please see my post “Sandy Hook families sue Lanza estate, as Newtown demolishes the Lanza home”.

Andrew Gorosko reports for The Newtown Bee, August 3, 2015, that the 16 plaintiffs in lawsuits that were filed earlier this year against the estate of Nancy Lanza would receive nearly $94,000 each in a proposed settlement of those legal claims., according to a July 31 letter by Angelo A. Ziotas to Probate Judge Joseph A. Egan, Jr.

Ziotas is the attorney representing one of the litigants, the estate of child victim James Mattioli.

The other plaintiffs are:

  • The estates (i.e., families) of child victims Emilie Parker, Grace McDonnell, Jack Pinto, Charlotte Bacon, Jessica Rekos, Daniel Barden, Dylan Hockley, Jesse Lewis, and Benjamin Wheeler.
  • The estates of adult teachers Rachel D’Avino, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto.
  • Teachers Natalie Hammond and Deborah Pisani whom Lanza had wounded, not killed.

According to Ziotas, the 16 plaintiffs each would receive equal portions of the $1.5 million value of a home insurance policy that Nancy Lanza had on her house at 36 Yogananda Street. When that amount is divided by 16, each of the plaintiffs would receive $93,750 from the insurance firm.

The Lanza home at 36 Yogananda St., now demolished

The Lanza home at 36 Yogananda St., now demolished

According to the lawsuit filed by the majority of the plaintiffs, Nancy Lanza, at some point before the shooting incident, bought a Bushmaster AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. The suit states: “The weapon was an assault rifle designed for military use in modern warfare. The Bushmaster was built to spray rapid fire and pierce body armor in order to inflict maximum casualties on the battlefield, but was sold to the general public by its manufacturer and various other business entities, even though it had no practical civilian purpose for self-defense or reasonable sporting activities.”

The lawsuit claims that Nancy Lanza carelessly and with negligence kept the gun stored unsecured in her home where Adam Lanza had access to it, which was a “substantial factor” in the deaths and injuries of the plaintiffs. The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Mattioli estate states that Nancy allowed her son access to the weapon although she knew or should have known that “his mental and emotional condition made him a danger to others.”

The defendant named in the lawsuits is Samuel Starks, the administrator of Nancy Lanza’s estate, who estimated the family home at 36 Yogananda St., to be worth about $64,000. But the house, in an affluent section of Newtown, was assessed at $523,000 at one point, according to The Hartford Courant .

Vision Government Solutions had the ownership history for 36 Yogananda as:

  • Sold to Estate of Nancy J. Lanza on 2/1/2013 for $0
  • Sold to Nancy Lanza on 2/8/2011 for $0

Note: When a house changes hands from one family member to another, as in a divorce, the sale of the property is usually listed as $0. See also “The strange purchase date and price of Sandy Hook homes.”

The last time I checked, the ownership of the house had reverted to Ryan Lanza, Adam’s older brother. But The Courant says that “The house was donated to the town [Newtown] by a New Jersey bank that took over the mortgage that Nancy Lanza had on the property.”

In January, the city of Newtown voted to demolish the Lanza home, just as the city had also demolished Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES), allegedly for asbestos contamination (see “Was Sandy Hook Elementary School already abandoned before the massacre“).

Consigli Construction

The construction workers of Consigli Construction who tore down the school were all sworn to secrecy by signing confidentiality agreements forbidding public discussion of the site, photographs or disclosure of any information about the building. Why the secrecy?

Note: The Italian word consigli means “advice or counsel,” as in consigliere to a mafia don or crime boss.

The family-owned Consigli Construction Construction is also building a new replacement SHES, with a generous grant of $50 million from the State of Connecticut, i.e., Connecticut taxpayers.

According to The Newtown Bee, in 2002, engineering consultants had recommended to the Sandy Hook school district that SHES be merely renovated with upgrades to the school’s ventilation systems to meet indoor air quality codes, at a cost of $5 million. The work was supposed to have begun in 2010, over a 9-month period, which meant Sandy Hook Elementary School likely was already abandoned before the massacre.

So the same construction company has the lucrative contract to both tear down the asbestos-contaminated old school and rebuild a $50 million new one. Pretty neat deal.

In October 2014, Consigli broke ground for the new $50 million 87,000 sq.-ft. state-of-the-art school to replace the old 70,000 sq. ft. building. The new building “will include three classroom wings, two of which are two-stories that overlook central courtyards. Breakout spaces in the form of treehouses will be built to create an alternate learning environment. The new school will incorporate the most current and advanced educational approaches, security and design.”

Sandy Hook Elementary School

new Sandy Hook Elementary School

For all the posts FOTM has published on Sandy Hook, go to our “Sandy Hook Massacre” page.

~Éowyn