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Education

    Atlanta-based Havertys furniture retailer will temporarily close 121 stores from Thursday to April 2. The company will also suspend warehouse and distribution operations for two weeks in an effort to protect workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, but workers receiving products from vendors and making home deliveries will continue to work through March 21. The company said it will pay affected workers during the pause. Havertys corporate office personnel are working remotely, and senior leadership is assessing business continuity plans during the international national health emergency. It joins a number of regional and national retailers who are closing stores for weeks as the nation’s businesses react to the spreading disease. Companies from tech giants such as Apple to clothing retailers such as Urban Outfitters are temporarily closing stores. Local mom-and-pop stores are also feeling the pinch and closing or trying to make a go of it as state and local governments and health authorities are telling people to stay away  from public gatherings and to limit human contact. There is a growing concern about the economic impact on the state and nation as some employees are losing jobs and income. But many companies are continuing to pay employees as long as possible. Clarence H. Smith, chairman, president and CEO of Havertys said: “We believe it is our corporate responsibility and reflects our company’s values regarding our employees, customers, and communities to take these actions. Havertys was founded in 1885 and has weathered many difficult periods. Our financial strength, commitment and experience of our teams, and flexibility will serve us well during these uncertain times.”
  • It's hard to argue with the contention that the primary focus of Georgia public colleges ought to be Georgia students. A bill called the 'Keep Georgia Kids First Act' would make that official by requiring research campuses, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, ensure that at least 90% of their early action admissions are offered to Georgia residents. In explaining Senate Bill 282, sponsor Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, said he's not advocating for lower standards or pushing UGA and Tech to expand to Ohio State size. 'It's hard to get in Georgia and Georgia Tech. What I am asking on this bill is that we really look at how we can keep our kids here. We are sending too many kids to Alabama, Auburn, University of South Carolina, Clemson and so on,' said Beach. And many of those students meet the criteria for our own public colleges even though they were denied, he said, citing a young woman for whom he wrote a letter of recommendation who boasted a 4.0 GPA and high test scores. 'She did not get into UGA, which was her first choice,' said Beach. 'It is a shame we are not taking our own 4.0 GPA, 1425 SAT and 33 ACT students over kids from out of state. While Beach said his bill 'is about hardworking Georgia families and their hardworking kids,' it's also about anecdotal evidence. The reality is that UGA and Tech already give a sizable edge to in-state applicants over those from outside Georgia. As a result, the out-of-state pool of kids faces far higher selectivity standards. High school students from Georgia are not losing seats to similarly positioned out-of-state students but to ones with superior records. Beach said he gets frequent calls from constituents disappointed their teens weren't admitted to UGA or Tech. I get some of those same calls from AJC readers.  A parent's glowing summation of their child's record may overlook critical factors about why the student failed to earn admission, especially in early decision where it's a numbers game. Rather than a holistic review of the student's high school years as occurs in regular admissions, early admission depends on the academic data.  For example, a parent-reported 4.0 GPA is often based on all the courses a student took including electives, not just the core courses the colleges consider.  Also, when you look deeper, you can discover the students bypassed the most demanding academic tracks at their high schools, often because they were involved in clubs and sports. This can hurt a student because UGA and Tech prefer applicants who took the most challenging courses their high schools offered, whether AP or International Baccalaureate. The UGA and Tech presidents and the chancellor of the University System of Georgia testified against the bill, ticking off a list of negatives including the millions that would be lost in higher out-of-state tuition and the resulting greater demand on HOPE Scholarship and state funding. Beach's bill is more consequential to Georgia Tech than UGA. About 60% of Tech students hail from Georgia. At UGA, 88% of undergraduates are from the state. That 88% represents a much higher local presence than at other flagships, said UGA President Jere Morehead, citing the 39% in-state enrollment at the University of Alabama, 62% at the University of South Carolina and 64% at Auburn. Morehead said those 12% non-Georgia students enrich the Athens campus. 'The much smaller number of exemplary out-of-state students we enroll truly add significant value to UGA and to the state of Georgia as a whole,' said Morehead. Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera -- an out-of-state student himself when he enrolled at Tech -- said it was critical to Georgia's economy that Tech draw top talent from across the globe to drive innovation.  He credited Tech with transforming midtown Atlanta and for luring new companies to Georgia in search of  “the extraordinary talent out of Tech and the other leading universities across the state.' 'Many of our out-of-state students stay in Georgia and contribute to our economy,' said Cabrera. 'When you consider the average starting salary of one of our graduates is now around $74,000, the economic impact of our out-of-state graduates is significant.' The rising applicant pool at Georgia Tech continues to lower its admission rate. While the overall 2019 admissions rate was 18.8%, it was 37.7% for in-state residents, compared to around 16% for non-Georgia residents. 'In-state students have a significant advantage; you are two to three more times likely to get accepted if you are from Georgia. The out-of-state students elevate the average quality of the talent we attract,' said Cabrera. 'This bill would severely limit our ability to offer early admission to the best out-of-state students applying to Tech.' UGA admits a higher percentge of applicants than Tech. Out of nearly 30,000 applicants last year, UGA admitted 13,225 or 45%. At the end of the presentations by the UGA and Tech presidents, Beach asked Chancellor Steve Wrigley how Georgia can keep the best and brightest kids in the state.  Wrigley endorsed the approaches outlined by the college presidents, saying, “They built two great institutions based on those policies. Both advantage the state of Georgia now. What they are doing now is working, and it makes sense to stick with what we said today.” Your views? 
  • A Gwinnett teacher given a $3,725 performance bonus by the school district divided the award among 160 colleagues, leaving each of them a note in their mailboxes and $20 cash. The teacher performed this act of generosity and solidarity anonymously, and it brightened the mood today at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee. Teachers at the high school sent emails throughout the school thanking the anonymous giver for the gift. “In the light of all the tension revolving around bonus pay, I thought it was pretty amazing that an employee wanted to pay it back,’’ said a staff member. On Wednesday, Gwinnett County Public Schools distributed bonuses to 3,144 teachers chosen for outstanding performance based on a formula the superintendent called “revolutionary.”  Among the factors in deciding who earned a bonus were a teacher’s annual performance evaluation and student growth as measured by comparing baseline-setting tests at the beginning of the year to end-of-course tests. Recipients from 138 county schools received a a total of $12,377,863.68. There were three levels of awards: $6,208.80, which is 10% of the average annual teacher salary; $3,725.28 (6% of the average teacher salary) and $1,862.64 (3% of the average teacher salary).  The generous bonuses have spurred hurt feelings and criticisms, especially after teachers saw that fewer awards went to educators in Gwinnett’s high-poverty schools. Some teachers felt the bonuses undermined the collaborative nature of teaching. Along with the $20, Collins Hill teachers received this note from their co-worker:  I was given a performance-based cash award by the school district. Despite the staggering lengths the district went to try and make it fair, I don’t believe it is or ever could be.  We aren’t selling used cars here. We are teaching unique individual students and their performance is not solely based on a teacher’s effort. With vastly different classroom content, different levels of student abilities and different student home lives, each teacher faces very different challenges. Trying to boil it down to a number to pit teachers against one another is like comparing apples to battleships.  Just 30% of the teachers at this school got any kind on monetary recognition for their efforts but I know how hard all the teachers in this school work to inspire and help our students grow and I believe the 70% who got nothing deserve more than that.  Well, here it is. I’m sharing what I got with you. $3,172.15 after taxes/160 teachers=$20. (I rounded up.)  Teaching should not be a competition. Merry Christmas.  P.S. If all the recipients of this award did this, we’d all get about a $1,300 raise. Collins Hill High principal Kerensa Wing does not know which of her school’s bonus recipients chose to share their bonus, but said, 'One of our school's practices throughout the year is to carry out intentional acts of kindness and give thank you’s to one another. This is evident in notecards that are exchanged between teachers and students and in many other ways. This gesture by one of our teachers is just another example of that practice.” Wing, who is the 2020 National Principal of the Year, also said, “We have a very collaborative culture and I think that was the spirit and intent of the teacher who did this... it was a way for this teacher to express thanks and appreciation for those with whom he or she works. And this act of kindness was actually paid forward as a number of teachers who received the 'gift' took it directly to our counselors' office and donated it to support our care team's efforts to support students and families in need.
  • Georgia is home to a number of boisterous college towns, and depending on one’s alma mater, there are some fierce opinions on which one is best. New rankings from the personal finance website WalletHub found that Georgia’s college towns and cities shape up pretty well when compared to others across the country.  » RELATED: Which colleges in Georgia are most expensive? New rankings released In the new report, Atlanta was ranked as the 16th best college town or city in the nation, and the 9th best among “large” cities.  On the list of best small college cities, Athens came in at No. 19 and Statesboro at No. 24. “Experts have argued that a school’s geographical location is just as important as a strong curriculum and supportive school environment to a student’s academic success and personal development,” the report’s authors wrote. On the overall list, Austin, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Scottsdale, Arizona; Tampa, Florida; and Ann Arbor, Michigan took home the top 5 spots for best college towns or cities. » RELATED: These are the best colleges in Georgia, according to a new 2019 ranking So what makes a college town the best? The report ranked 415 cities of varying sizes in categories such as affordability, social environment, and academic and economic opportunities.  That included looking at things such as share of rental units, average costs of pizza beer, student gender balance, presence of NCAA Division 1 sports teams, share of part-time jobs and earning potential for recent college graduates. » RELATED: Two Georgia schools among America’s 50 ‘smartest colleges’ Here’s the breakdown of Atlanta’s scoring:Atlanta ranked as the 9th best large college city in the country and No. 16 overallWallet friendliess rank: 272Social environment rank: 9 Academic and economic opportunities rank: 146Total score: 58.82 Large cities were defined in the study as having a population of more than 300,000 residents, midsize cities as having between 125,000 to 300,000 people and small cities as less than 125,000 people.  The report looked only at the city proper, not the surrounding metro area.  Other findings included: Savannah was ranked the 58th best midsize college town Savannah ranked No. 1 for “lowest cost of higher education” Statesboro ranked No. 4 for highest share of rental units For best small college towns, Valdosta was No. 120 and Albany was No. 140 Among midsize cities, Macon ranked 113th, Columbus ranked 123rd and Augusta ranked 148th
  • Federal education law requires states to identify their worst-performing schools and provide them with help to improve. Georgia schools end up on the list if they consistently perform in the bottom 5% on the state report card, the complex  College and Career Ready Performance Index.  While the CCRPI charts school performance and progress on multiple measures, it largely relies on test scores to evaluate how well a school is doing. Schools dealing with the greatest entrenched poverty dominate the state’s list of lowest performers. Under-performing schools find their way onto one of two lists; Comprehensive Support and Improvement  and Targeted Support and Improvement. Schools end up on the CSI list for these reasons:  Lowest 5%: Title I schools that, when ranked according to their three-year CCRPI average, are among the lowest performing 5% of Title I schools in the state. Low Graduation Rate: High schools with a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate less than or equal to 67%. Schools land on the TSI list for these reasons: Consistently Underperforming Subgroup: The school has at least one subgroup performing in the lowest 5% of all schools in at least 50% of CCRPI components. Additional Targeted Support: Among all schools identified in the “Consistently Underperforming Subgroup” category, the school has at least one subgroup that is performing in the lowest 5% of schools in all CCRPI components. Alternative schools are common on the list. (For example, Cobb’s lone school on the CSI list is an alternative high school.)  Looking at the metro districts on the 2019 CSI list:  Atlanta Public Schools has 13 schools on the list. Clayton has three.  Cobb has one. DeKalb has 10, including six high schools.  Fulton and Gwinnett each have four.   Thirty-five charter schools operate in Georgia under the auspices of the State Charter Schools Commission, which approved them and oversees them. Seven of these state charter schools -- 20% -- are on the CSI list. Among them is the state’s largest school with 10,000 students enrolled last year, Georgia Cyber Academy.  The DOE’s Office of School Improvement works with CSI schools. School districts must provide support to TSI schools, but the state gives professional learning and technical assistance. So, here is the update from DOE today of schools that exited the lists. Twenty-six schools made the improvements necessary to exit the lowest 5% of schools or CSI-low graduation rate status, and another 21 made the improvements necessary to exit TSI status, for a total of 47 schools. “It is our responsibility as a state to provide the support all schools need to improve, including intensive and tailored supports for struggling schools,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Our entire agency, led by our Office of School Improvement, partners with schools identified for additional support to ensure they have the resources they need to succeed – and that’s producing real improvements in schools. We’ll continue this all hands-on deck approach to school improvement, with the ultimate goal of ensuring every student in our state has access to a high-quality K-12 education.” DOE singled out schools and districts that made improvements:  Hunt Elementary School (Peach County Schools) exited CSI status and saw a 6-point increase in literacy and 19-point increase in progress from the 2018 to 2019 CCRPI. In partnership with GaDOE School Improvement, the school has focused on improving climate and culture; student-focused instruction and leadership; and building a school leadership team committed to the school’s mission and vision. Principal Anita Mathis recognized the need for structured reading intervention across grade levels and has placed a strong emphasis on reading instruction. Twelve teachers are seeking a reading endorsement in partnership with Middle Georgia RESA, and each student begins the day with 45 minutes of small-group reading. Macon County Schools increased its districtwide CCRPI score by 11.9 points from 2018 to 2019 and had two schools – Macon County Middle School and Macon County Elementary School – exit CSI-lowest 5 percent status. The district has built strong partnerships with GaDOE School Improvement staff, with a focus on building local capacity to improve student outcomes. Superintendent Marc Maynor and his team have worked with GaDOE to increase the rigor and relevance of the district’s curriculum and ensure high levels of curriculum implementation and high-quality professional learning for teachers. Fulton County Schools had six schools exit CSI-lowest 5 percent status: Feldwood Elementary School, McNair Middle School, Parklane Elementary School, Paul D. West Middle School, S.L. Lewis Elementary School, and Woodland Middle School. Fulton County has strategically aligned resources, personnel, and professional learning to support the specific needs of its CSI- and TSI-identified schools, in an ongoing and proactive approach to school improvement. The district has worked with GaDOE and with Metro RESA to ensure consistent monitoring of implementation data at the district, school, and classroom levels, attention to both academics and school climate, and proactive planning for success.  
  • A new survey says that while teens are aware of the risks of vaping, it has become a common part of the youth landscape of America. The poll by Common Sense and SurveyMonkey reflects the rapid spread of vaping among teens  and the powerful reach of social media in exposing kids to the risky trend. The results also underscore the challenges to school in preventing vaping. A third of the teens in the survey say they see classmates vaping in school a few times a week or more. More than half  say they see vaping at school at least monthly. Battery--powered smoking devices, vaping pens have cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. The liquid is heated into a vapor, hence the term “vaping.”  Originally marketed to help people quit smoking, vaping has caught on with teens, in part because of the kid-friendly flavors such as bubble gum, youth-oriented advertising and easy-to-conceal design. The e-cigarette JUUL, for example, resembles a USB flash drive. Other devices look like regular pens, so they blend easily in a school backpack. Most metro districts have declared war on vaping; DeKalb has an information campaign that features student-collaborated anti-vaping videos and ads. Among the findings of the new poll: -Nearly eight in 10 teens say vaping is popular among their peers and is a part of their daily experience, in real life, in schools, and on social media.  -Nearly a quarter (23%) first heard about vaping on social media as it infiltrated their feeds.  -A majority of teens (59%), especially those on Instagram and Snapchat, say they are likely to see a social media post that mentions or shows vaping. 'As these results show, vaping is everywhere kids are, whether it is online, at home, or at school, and now, because of the woeful lack of regulatory oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it has become a national health epidemic,' said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense. 'While we certainly need tough government action to protect kids from Big Tobacco, we need more than that. Parents, educators, media, and public officials at all levels of government need to work together to raise awareness and protect kids from mysterious vaping illnesses and the scourge of nicotine addiction.' Here is the official release: There is some good news in the survey. Likely as a result of the recent spike in media coverage on the dangers of vaping, most teens understand vaping is as harmful as smoking cigarettes, despite tobacco industry claims that vaping is healthier. More often than not, the messages teens are now seeing online are against vaping rather than promoting or glorifying it. More than twice as many teens say they've learned about 'risks or harms associated with vaping' as those who say they've heard that 'vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes' (72% vs. 34%). “Understanding teenagers’ opinions on issues that are critical to their health can help us anticipate—and in some cases avoid—health crises in the future,” said Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. “In our study, 43% of teens who say vaping is less harmful than smoking have seen messages online to that effect, highlighting the key role social media and online advertising play in shaping public attitudes among young people. If we want teens to make healthful choices based on the latest information, engaging media and social media companies as part of the solution is a logical first step.” Selected key findings: Vaping is popular among teens, and it's happening regularly at school. One-third of teens (33%) say they see classmates vaping in school a few times a week or daily. More than half (54%) say they see it monthly. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) say vaping is popular among people their age where they live. Most teens think vaping is as harmful as smoking. Just over half of teens (52%) say vaping is 'about as harmful as smoking,' while 31% say it's more harmful and 17% say it's less harmful. Among those teens who say vaping is less harmful than smoking, 43% say they've gotten messages online telling them that 'vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes.' One in four teens first learned about vaping on social media. A plurality of teens (44%) say they first learned or heard about vaping from someone they know, while 23% first heard about it on social media, 9% from TV or a movie, and less than that from outdoor ads, in a store, on a website, on the radio, or on a podcast. Vaping is common in teens' social media experiences. When thinking about their typical experience using social media, 59% of teens say they're likely to see a post that mentions or shows vaping. Instagram and Snapchat users are most likely to see vaping content. About three-quarters of Instagram (76%) and Snapchat (73%) teen users report seeing posts that include vaping on each of those respective platforms. Slightly fewer—64%—who visit YouTube say they've seen vaping content on the site. Most of the vaping-related content online is advertising. Most of the vaping-related content that teens are seeing, according to them, is advertisements (61%) rather than content shared by a friend (40%) or shared by celebrities, personalities, or influencers (25%). More often than not, the messages teens are seeing online are against vaping rather than promoting or glorifying it. More than twice as many teens say they've learned about 'risks or harms associated with vaping' as say they've heard that 'vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes' (72% vs. 34%). Similarly, more than twice as many teens say they've seen content related to 'how to stop vaping' vs. 'how to use vaping devices' (38% vs. 15%). More teens now use TikTok than Facebook, and more than half of teens on TikTok see vaping-related posts. More than four in 10 teens have used TikTok in the last year, compared with 39% who've used Facebook in the same time period. More than half of teens (56%) on TikTok say they've seen posts that include vaping on the platform, compared with 40% of teens who use Facebook. This poll comes on the heels of the launch of the public education and advocacy campaign by Common Sense on the dangers of Big Tobacco and e-cigarettes. Most recently, Common Sense called on media leaders to refuse advertising by Juul and e-cigarette companies and urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban flavored cigarettes. As part of its work with educators across the country, Common Sense created a lesson plan for teachers called 'How to Use the Vaping and Juuling Trend to Teach Media Literacy' to help teens better understand persuasive tricks and deeper meanings of advertisements and commercials.
  • It’s usually the teachers who give out grades, but new rankings from Niche.com flips the script.  The site gave educators a report card, using categories such as: academics grade, teacher absenteeism and parent/student surveys.  Other factors included: teacher salary index, teachers in their first or second year, average teacher salary and student-teacher ratio.  » RELATED: Which states are the best for new teachers? Georgia near bottom of the pack Niche, which ranks all things education related, bases its data on both nationwide stats from the U.S. Department of Education and surveys collected directly from students and parents, according to the site.  So which schools in metro Atlanta have the best teachers?  Best public high school teachers in metro Atlanta: 1. Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology (Gwinnett County Public Schools) 2. Walton High School (Cobb County Schools) 3. Alpharetta High School (Fulton County Schools) » RELATED: 2 Georgia public high schools rank in top 100 in USBest public middle school teachers in metro Atlanta: 1. Dickerson Middle School (Cobb County Schools) 2. Carrollton Junior High School (Carrollton City Schools) 3. Riverwatch Middle School (Forsyth County Schools) Best public elementary school teachers in metro Atlanta: 1. International Charter School of Atlanta (Charter) 2. Bremen Academy (Bremen City Schools) 3. Jones Elementary School (Bremen City Schools)  » RELATED: Georgia’s best pre-K teacher shows kids success is ‘more than sports’ Earlier this year, Niche ranked two of Georgia’s schools in the top 100 public high schools in the country. In those rankings, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology came in at No. 13 in the United States and No. 1 in Georgia. While Northview High School in Johns Creek, which ranked at No. 91 in the country and No. 2 in the state.
  • A North Georgia community is divided over the school district’s decision to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice. Pickens County Superintendent Carlton Wilson said a Florida appellate judge’s ruling mandates that public schools allow students who identify as male to use the boys’ restroom and vice versa, Channel 2 Action News reported. RELATED: Georgia joins lawsuit over transgender students in schools Now, the controversy is brewing in the mostly conservative town as some parents push back against the district’s decision.  “There could be a fight. The safety in general is my concern, regardless of where you stand on the issue,” parent Becky Hernandez told the news station Friday. Others, such as parent Rachel Evans, said allowing students to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity is the right move. “They would use the stall and it wouldn’t be an issue,” she said. “They just want to be treated like everyone else.”  MORE: Transgender student policy at forefront of Decatur schools’ battle Wilson said there are several transgender students who attend school in Pickens County. “Every one of these students are our students and every one of the students — all of them — are going through different things in their lives,” he said. “They all need to be nurtured and loved.” ALSO: Schools, activists, disagree over bathroom for transgender students A community meeting to address the matter is planned for 6 p.m. Monday at Pickens High School. Wilson said he expects more than 600 people to attend. In other news:   
  • When the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on the firing of a popular Virginia French teacher last year for refusing to use a transgender student’s new pronouns, journalist Graham Moomaw noted, “…the dispute has all the makings of a legal fight, presenting a novel mix of questions about LGBTQ rights, religious freedom and the limits of free speech for public employees.” Today, it became a legal fight. Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit against the West Point School Board on behalf of fired teacher Peter Vlaming. “Peter went out of his way to accommodate this student as he does all his students; his school fired him because he wouldn’t contradict his core beliefs,” said Alliance Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton in a statement. “In his French class, he always calls his students by the name they choose. He even used the student’s preferred masculine name and was willing to avoid using pronouns in the student’s presence. He just didn’t want to be forced to use a pronoun that offends his conscience. That’s entirely reasonable, and it’s his constitutionally protected right. Tolerance, after all, is a two-way street.” The Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom is a nonprofit legal organization that advocates for 'the right of people to freely live out their faith.” Last year, it reached a $1.2 million settlement with Atlanta for former fire chief Kelvin Cochran over his firing after he authored a book that condemned homosexuality. It also represented two conservative student groups last year that sued Kennesaw State University. Both of those lawsuits were settled. In its unanimous decision to fire Vlaming in December after a four-hour  meeting in front of a packed house, the West Point school board cited insubordination. It issued a statement following its vote: West Point Public Schools has the responsibility to ensure all students have a safe and supportive school environment where they can learn and thrive. We do not and cannot tolerate discrimination in any form, or actions that create a hostile environment for any member of our school family. Mr. Vlaming was asked repeatedly, over several weeks and by multiple administrators, to address a student by the pronouns with which this student identifies. The issue before us was not one mistaken slip of the tongue. Mr. Vlaming consistently refused to comply going forward -- including in a statement made at the hearing -- a willful violation of school board policy. According to the Richmond paper in its story about Vlaming’s dismissal:  Vlaming, 47, who had taught at the school for almost seven years after spending more than a decade in France, told his superiors his Christian faith prevented him from using male pronouns for a student he saw as female. The student’s family informed the school system of the transition over the summer. Vlaming said he had the student in class the year before when the student identified as female. Vlaming agreed to use the student’s new, male name. But he tried to avoid using any pronouns — he or him, and she or her — when referring to the student. The student said that made him feel uncomfortable and singled out. No one suggested that Vlaming deliberately used female pronouns to refer to the student in the student’s presence, but he did use female pronouns to refer to the student in conversations with others. Witnesses described one pronoun “slip-up” during a class activity on Halloween when the student was using a virtual reality headset. The student was about to run into a wall, and Vlaming told others to stop “her.” Vlaming, who is pursuing a master’s degree in school administration at the College of William & Mary, asked the School Board to consider what he called the “absurdity” of punishing a teacher for discrimination on the basis of pronoun usage alone, with no accusation of overtly malicious behavior. “I am being punished for what I haven’t said,” Vlaming said. Many parents and students at West Point High School in Williamsburg, Va., supported Vlaming. About 100 students staged a walkout in which some carried signs proclaiming 'Men are men. Women are women.” And nearly 14,000 people signed a petition calling for the board to give him back his job. But a counter petition to protect trans students said:  Mr. Vlaming got fired because he refused to call a trans student by their correct name and pronouns. He refused to, just because his religion was against it. Religion is an important thing to most people, but as a teacher he is not allowed to bring his religion into anything with a student. This student just wants to be called by the name and gender they want, and Mr. Vlaming was not using the right pronouns all throughout the year. This student has been openly trans for the whole year and they constantly were correcting him and no matter what they did Mr. Vlaming didn't correct himself. Trans people have to wake up every morning and hate themselves because they were born into a body they didn't want, so the least everyone can do is respect their preferred names and pronouns. In the end, this isn't about a teacher. This is about a problem that has been going on for years. Trans people should have the right to be able to walk outside their homes and not get ridiculed for who they are and who they want to be. If you agree please sign this petition to protect trans kids everywhere.  Your thoughts?  If you are interested in this issue, you can read here what the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network advises.
  • When a Fayette County father glanced at a field trip permission slip from his daughter's charter school last week, he was stunned. The destination printed atop the form said 'Confederate Soldier Cemetery,' and the mission, according to his seventh grader, was to clean it. The form stated students would be visiting the cemetery once a week over four weeks. The father, who is African-American, reached out to the sponsoring teacher at Liberty Tech Charter in the town of Brooks to voice concerns, saying the activity was inappropriate for a black child or any child in a public school class. The teacher explained the community service project was suggested by a parent, and she told the dad she hoped the cemetery could be disassociated from the Confederate graves in it. Students, she said, would weed and help combat erosion at the cemetery. She said they would not be touching the graves, according to the dad.  The father asked me to withhold his name for concerns about fallout to his daughter.   While he had seen the cemetery in the heart of Brooks, the father visited it again Friday and concluded disassociating the site from the Confederacy would be impossible. Along with a large sign proclaiming, 'This cemetery is maintained by Sons of Confederate Veterans,' Confederate flags adorn some of the graves. (Not all the graves are former Confederate soldiers.) In an email, the father explained to Liberty Tech principal Melissa King why the project was ill-conceived: Given the history of the confederates — who fought a war mainly to protect a society of which slavery was an integral part — I do not believe this a suitable assignment for a child; especially an African-American child whose ancestors gave their lives to gain freedom. The true history of slavery is one of violence and oppression. It is a history that needs to be taught with appropriate weight. Something has gone terribly wrong when children are asked to clean the graves of those who enslaved, killed and oppressed their ancestors. This may be an excellent opportunity to implement some training and awareness on issues encountered by diverse students. Understanding cultural differences and weighing the long-term impact of assignments that deal with history and race could spare many students from unintentional alienation and humiliation. I understand that the original idea of this project was to support the community and the thought is that the confederate history could be dissociated from the cemetery and community service. I visited the graveyard and it there isn’t no way to dissociate the graveyard from its historical context. There are confederate flags that are very present as well as a very large sign for the Sons of the confederacy. I am not confident that for this field trip there has been an assessment, consideration and safeguards put into place to protect diverse students from the emotional pain of past events...It would be great if the criteria for field trips can be reassessed to also included the considering the emotional well-being being of children — from the perspective of those who could be negatively impacted. I also reached out to principal King with several questions about the field trip. Did Liberty Tech Charter ask students to clean a Confederate cemetery? No, students will not be cleaning any cemeteries, Confederate or non-Confederate. The goal of this opportunity is to allow students to visit multiple cemeteries in close proximity to the school to understand their importance to the community. A specific focus will be on who in a community is responsible for preserves and maintains these public areas. Students will be learning this information by observations, interviewing professionals, and researching not by cleaning. Is this project a service project or an academic one? This is not a service project and is academic in nature to give our students an opportunity to better understand who is responsible for preserving and maintaining graveyards. The particular graveyard in question has had a major erosion problem. Several Eagle Scout projects have been conducted at this graveyard. The students thought it would be a location that would help them in their research to better understand how communities preserve these public areas. Other graveyards in local proximity to the school have been discussed and will be visited. Who suggested it? We asked our entire school community to help us generate ideas on what are some real world problems that our students could work on. Our middle school-students had a variety of projects from which to choose, one of which is to answer the question, “How do communities preserve graveyards and promote awareness regarding these public areas?” This particular idea was suggested by a parent but each student individually selected which academic project they would work on. What did the teacher mean when she said she hoped the Confederate elements of the cemetery could be 'disassociated' from the project? The cemeteries were selected based on proximity to the school, and cemeteries were not selected because they are Confederate. Liberty Teach Charter Schools celebrates and values the diversity of its student body. The school would never require its students or staff to take part in an activity or experience that would undermine its commitment to fostering the strength of diversity. Liberty Tech decided to shift the cemetery visits from Wednesday mornings to Saturday mornings, which the principal told me was due to transportation concerns. (The children were going to walk the .03 miles to the cemetery.)  'Due to being a one-school district and a state charter school, we do not own buses or have extensive funding for the renting of transportation. Our No. 1 concern is always the safety of our students, hence the change in the project plan. Furthermore, the breadth of the project required more time than one hour per week allotment in order to properly make observations while utilizing project based learning,' said King. What are your thoughts about this project? I spent a few hours today reading about how schools still grapple with teaching students about the Civil War and slavery, especially in the South. I found this Atlantic article compelling.  The writer notes: The question of what students should learn about the Civil War, the role that slavery played in it, and the history of Reconstruction—the period from 1865 to 1876 when African Americans claimed their rights to freedom and voting, followed by a violent backlash by white Southerners—causes contentious disputes among educators, historians, and the American public. One outcome of these disputes is that ideologies often masquerade as historic facts. Texas’s 2010 standards, for instance, listed states’ rights and tariffs, alongside slavery, as the main causes of the Civil War—even though historians overwhelmingly agree that slavery was the central issue. Another common problem is omissions: A 2017 survey of 10 commonly used textbooks and 15 sets of state standards found that textbooks treated slavery in superficial ways, and state standards focused more on the “feel-good” stories of abolitionists than on the brutal realities of slavery. When the same study surveyed 1,000 high-school seniors across the country, it found that among 12th graders, only 8 percent could identify slavery as the cause of the Civil War, and fewer than four in 10 students surveyed understood how slavery “shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness.” Projects and field trips of this nature can go wrong, as occurred with a Catholic school in Louisiana  and a private school in New York.  In 2016, I wrote about the playing of an Underground Railroad game by a Cobb fifth grade class and the objections of a grandmother who felt rolling the dice to travel the railroad trivialized the horrors of slavery.  At the time, I talked to experts who cautioned that projects around race and ethnic identity must be thought out carefully so students are not hurt or marginalized.  Your views?