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School under fire for rule telling students they can't say 'no' when asked to dance

A Utah school is facing backlash after reportedly telling sixth-grade students that they must accept requests to dance at the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance.

>> Watch the news report here

According to KSTU, Natalie Richard was convinced her daughter had misunderstood Kanesville Elementary School’s rule when she came home saying that she could not refuse if a boy asked her to dance. However, after speaking with her daughter’s teacher, Richard realized the sixth-grade girls had in fact been told they couldn’t say “no.”

>> Valentine's Day 2018: 6 ways to eat for free or cheap

“The teacher said she can’t. She has to say yes. She has to accept, and I said, ‘Excuse me?’” Richard recalled of hearing the news, after which she took the issue up with the principal. “He basically just said they’ve had this dance set up this way for a long time, and they’ve never had any concern before.”

>> On Rare.us: School blocks single mom from attending father-daughter dance

A spokesperson for Weber School District confirmed the rule’s existence but explained that it’s intended to teach the students to be inclusive.

“Please be respectful, be polite. We want to promote kindness, and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance,” Lane Findlay said, adding that the students will fill out cards before the voluntary dance with the names of five people they want to dance with and can speak up if they feel uncomfortable with anyone who has requested to dance with them. “If there is an issue, if there’s students that are uncomfortable or have a problem with another student, I mean, that’s certainly something that can be addressed with that student and parents.”

>> Read more trending news 

Richard, however, believes rejection is a learning experience and a part of life. She said there are other ways to educate the children on being tolerant and accepting that don’t include forcing girls into unwanted dances with boys.

“[The rule] sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say ‘yes’; [it] sends a bad message to boys that girls can’t say ‘no,'” she said. “Psychologically, my daughter keeps coming to me and saying, ‘I can’t say “no” to a boy.’ That’s the message kids are getting.”

Read more here.

Texas teacher dies from flu after spurning medicine that cost $116

A Texas elementary school teacher died on Feb. 4 from flu complications after deciding the $116 price tag for medicine to treat the virus was too steep, The Weatherford Democrat reported.

>> Read more trending news

Heather Holland, 38 and a mother of two, taught at Ikard Elementary School in Weatherford. She became ill the week before she died and planned to buy medication, then changed her mind because she believed the co-payment was too costly, according to her husband, Frank Holland.

“She wouldn't go get medicine because she's a mama. Mamas are tough. She just kept going. She had a job; she had kids," said Heather Holland’s pastor, Clark Bosher. "I think any mom does that. I don't think she is being irresponsible. I don't think she thought she was that sick. It happened so quick."

Frank Holland bought the prescription on Feb. 1 but his wife’s condition worsened.

“Friday night  (Feb. 2), things escalated and she ended up in the ICU,” Holland told the Democrat. "The doctors got the blood cultures back and they had to put her on dialysis early Saturday.” 

Heather Holland had been with Weatherford ISD for four years and had nearly completed her master's degree, the Democrat reported. 

“She was an incredible teacher, an incredible mother, an incredible wife," Bosher told NBC5

Heather Holland is survived by her husband, a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son. 

“I have to be strong for the kids but it’s still surreal, it hasn’t all set in,” Frank Holland said. “We’ve been together a long time, over half my life. She’s my best friend, my soulmate, my everything.

“It hasn’t set in with (the children) yet either.”

NY school cancels play after protest over white student cast in lead role

A high school production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in upstate New York was canceled after students complained over the casting of a white student in a lead role, WNYW reported.

>> Read more trending news

Students at Ithaca High School sent a letter of protest to Tomkins Weekly, arguing that the role of Esmerelda was written for a woman of color. 

“We want to stress that the talented young woman who was cast in this role is a stellar actor, singer, and dancer,” the students wrote. “Our concern is not with her, but with the fact that in terms of demographics, she is the wrong choice for this role.”

The students added that the actor playing Esmerelda was blonde with hazel eyes and “is the epitome of whiteness.”

The school district canceled the production, and said a "collaborative project" would replace the show, WNYW reported.

Minnesota school removes ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from curriculum

Students taking English classes in a Minnesota city will no longer have to read two American classics or write reports about them, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

>> Read more trending news

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which contain racial slurs, will no longer be required reading for students in the Duluth Public School district’s English classes next fall. However, the books are not banned: They will be available in the school as optional reading for students, the News Tribune reported.

The decision comes two months after a Virginia school temporarily banned the two novels after a parent complained that her high school-age son was negatively impacted by the books’ racial slurs. In October, the school board in Biloxi, Mississippi, removed “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which won a Pulitzer Prize for author Harper Lee, from the curriculum of an eighth-grade class, the Sun Herald reported. The school, however, reversed is decision in late October, but required students to get a permission slip from their parents in order to participate in the class, the Sun Herald reported.

In Minnesota, school officials said the decision to remove the two novels was in response to concerns from students and parents.

>> Virginia schools ban books for racial slurs

“The feedback that we’ve received is that it makes many students feel uncomfortable,” Michael Cary, director of curriculum and instruction for the Duluth Public School district, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Conversations about race are an important topic, and we want to make sure we address those conversations in a way that works well for all of our students.”

Cary told the News Tribune that district leaders believed other literary options could impart the same lessons as the two novels.

"We felt that we could still teach the same standards and expectations through other novels that didn't require students to feel humiliated or marginalized by the use of racial slurs," he said.

Stephan Witherspoon, president of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP, called the move “long overdue, like 20 years overdue,” he told the News Tribune.

The literature has “oppressive language for our kids” Witherspoon told the Star Tribune. “Our kids don’t need to read the ‘N’ word in school. They deal with that every day out in the community and in their life. Racism still exists in a very big way.”

A racial slur appears 219 times in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” published in 1885 by Mark Twain; and 48 times in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” published in 1960.

Witherspoon told the News Tribune that it was wrong to include the books in Duluth’s curriculum.

“There are a lot more authors out there with better literature that can do the same thing that does not degrade our people,” Witherspoon said.

Cary said Duluth’s teachers will play a key role in selecting new texts for students to read.

“We’re doing this out of consideration of the impacts on our students and specifically different groups of students in our schools, and especially our communities of color,” Cary told the Star Tribune.

Girl all smiles in viral photo after teacher shows up with identical hairdo

A photo of a Texas teacher and her young student has gone viral after the woman kept her word last week and showed up at school with a hairdo identical to the girl’s.

Leigh Bishop, a pre-K teacher at Lakeview Elementary in Sugar Land, is being called “teacher of the year” across social media platforms after a photo of her with her student, who she identified only by the first name August, went viral. Bishop posted on Facebook Jan. 30 about an exchange she and August had the day before. 

“[Monday] Me: Oh my goodness! I love your hair August! Don’t be mad at me when I come to school with my hair just like that tomorrow …. August: Okay, Ms. Bishop. *Rolls eyes, keeps walking,*” Bishop wrote

Bishop used emojis to show the surprise on August’s face, and her dad’s, the following morning when they arrived at school to find Bishop sporting the same braided hair as the little girl. 

“Me: You thought I was playing? Girl, we are CA-UTE together!” Bishop wrote.

The internet at large agreed, with more than 15,000 people reacting to the post, which included a photo of Bishop crouched down next to August, her hands cradling the little girl’s chin. A beatific smile shines on 4-year-old August’s face as she looks at her teacher. 

>> Read more trending news

As of Wednesday, another 4,000-plus people had shared Bishop’s post on their own Facebook timelines, and hundreds of people had chimed in on the photo on both Facebook and Twitter. 

Commenters praised her for giving August, who, like Bishop, is black, representation in her school. 

“You are why we NEED black women teachers,” one woman, Paola Patrice, wrote. “You are beautiful inside and out! This made me smile at my phone. So grateful for you! You can never be paid enough!”

“Look at that smile!” TE Howell wrote. “It tells a beautiful story. The day my teacher let me know I’m beautiful, my hair is my glory and who I am will impact the world.”

“You are amazing,” another commenter, Toni Hunter, wrote. “You just built a beautiful little girl’s self-esteem.”

“God has placed you in the right place to touch kids’ minds and hearts,” Vickie Platenburg wrote. “You are a teacher that thinks outside of the box. Keep up the good work.”

“Thanks, everyone,” Bishop wrote in response. “Any chance I get to make a student feel whole and important, I take it. (Plus, I REALLY loved her hair.)”

The teacher said that August was thrilled by the gesture.

“She was soooo tickled the whole afternoon!” Bishop wrote. “It was the cutest thing.”

One of Bishop’s friends wrote that the photo belongs in the school yearbook. 

“You know, I took it just to show her what we looked like standing together!” Bishop responded. “Not even thinking it would turn out like this … it seriously speaks volumes. (Definitely) yearbook worthy.”

Bishop’s Facebook page is full of stories and photos from her work. Her teacher biography on the Lakeview Elementary website, where she goes by Leigha Bishop, states that she is certified to teach elementary education, English as a second language and gifted and talented students. She is working toward a master’s degree in school and mental health counseling.

“I am thrilled to be at a school with so much history, and a school that my dad and his siblings attended,” Bishop states on the page. “I am also thrilled to be part of a school district I grew up in.”

She wrote that, outside of her work, she enjoys spending time with her own daughter, hiking, “chasing waterfalls,” and baking. 

Former Georgia State soccer player who used racial slur apologizes

A former Georgia State University soccer player who withdrew from school after making a racial slur on social media said she was remorseful during an exclusive interview Wednesday with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

>> Read more trending news

“The truth is, I could give you excuses ... but what you need to know is what’s in my heart,” Natalia Martinez said by phone from her native south Florida.

>> Related: Georgia State soccer player withdraws from school after backlash over racial epithet

The epithet appeared on the freshman’s Finsta page, a secret version of Instagram that is growing in popularity among teens.

>> Related: Georgia State soccer player suspended over racial slur used on social media

Earlier, Martinez released a statement of apology, saying, “No words can properly express the remorse I feel about my use of that horrendous and disgusting word on social media last week. My incredibly poor choice of language in that post is beyond embarrassing.

“This mistake is something that I have to live with forever.”

Florida couple find Scottish children’s message in a bottle from 1980s

A Florida couple surveying damage after Hurricane Irma last September found a message in a bottle, sent more than three decades ago by a class of children in Scotland, FlKeysNews reported.

>> Read more trending news

On Sept. 29 last year, Ruth and Lee Huenniger were walking near their Key Largo home, inspecting street lamps. Ruth found a plastic bottle lying near a chain link fence and noticed there was a note inside.

“We are learning all about pirates. We would like to see how far this message goes. Please write and tell us where you found this bottle,” the note said.

The note was signed by Class 2/3, Chapelpark School, Forfar, Angus, Scotland, FlKeysNews reported.

The Huennigers decided to write back to the school, whose class sent the bottle hurtling into the North Sea in the 1980s, WSVN reported.

“I thought, ‘Let’s see if this gets all the way back to Scotland,'” Ruth Huenniger told WSVN. “I mean, I’d never heard of Forfar.”

“Your message was found in Key Largo, Florida, USA, on Sept. 29, 2017,” the new note read. “Hope this was a fun experience for your class.”

This time, the note was sent through the mail. On Oct. 23, the Huenningers received a letter from Fiona Cargill in Scotland. The retired teacher said her class had written the note sometime in the 1980s, FlKeysNews reported.

“We forgot to put a date on the letter, but would you believe it, that bottle was sent on its journey more than 30 years ago,” Cargill wrote. “The pupils who took part in this will now be in their mid-thirties!”

Chapelpark Primary School closed in 2008 and is now an apartment building. The postman who was given the Huennigers’ letter for his route knew this and delivered it to the town’s new school, Whitehills Primary, FlKeysNews reported.

“The staff did an investigation and discovered it was my class,” Cargill wrote. “I retired from there just over a year ago and was so, so excited about this wonderful true life story.”

Cargill said her class of children ages 6 to 8, had studied pirates and decided to send several bottles.

“They covered them with sticky plastic to keep them from getting wet, put them in bottles and then got a fisherman to put them in the North Sea,” said Cargill, who added there are at least three more bottles that were thrown into the ocean.

Oldest sibling in 'torture house' case was frail, bullied in elementary school, classmate says

After realizing he attended grade school with the oldest of the 13 Turpin siblings allegedly tortured by their own parents, Taha Muntajibuddin wrote an emotional Facebook post — which he later confirmed with The Associated Press — that described the girl as frail, having poor hygiene and being a target for torment by her classmates.

>> 13 siblings rescued in California will live in separate homes

The girl, now a 29-year-old woman, was rescued along with her other siblings from their home in Perris, California, on Jan. 14. The parents, David and Louise Turpin, were arrested and face multiple charges, including torture, to which they have pleaded not guilty.

>> Video shows children leaving alleged 'torture house' in California

Muntajibuddin, now a pediatrics resident doctor in Houston, said he attended kindergarten through third grade with the oldest Turpin child in Fort Worth, Texas. He described her as “a frail girl, [who] had pin-straight hair with bangs and often wore the same purple outfit.” Muntajibuddin expressed an “overwhelming sense of guilt and shame” over the way he and his classmates treated her.

>> Mom accused in 'torture house' case kept watchful eye on son at college, report says

Muntajibuddin reflected: “It is nothing but sobering to know that the person who sat across from you at the lunch table went home to squalor and filth while you went home to a warm meal and a bedtime story."

>> Couple accused of holding 13 children captive were days away from moving to Oklahoma

Reactions to his post, which we are not displaying because it identifies the victim, have varied; some readers have praised Muntajibuddin for his speaking about and condemning his youthful actions, while others were angry that he took part in bullying the girl as a child.

>> Hundreds of journals found in home where 13 siblings held captive, DA says

“It was just meant to be an honest lesson: Take it or leave it,” he told the AP in an interview Tuesday.

>> Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive

Anthony Kirchner, a spokesman for the Crowley Independent School District, confirmed that the girl and Muntajibuddin attended the school at the same time. However, Kirchner was unable to determine when she enrolled or departed, or whether any of her siblings attended the school. Elementary schools are required to hold onto such records for only five years.

>> Read more trending news 

Muntajibuddin did have positive things to say about the girl, writing that she, "despite being vehemently vilified by her peers, was still one of the most pleasant people I have had the opportunity to meet. She had this whimsical optimism to her that couldn’t be dampened, couldn’t be doused no matter what anybody threw at her.”

He added: “The resounding lesson here is a simple one, something that we’re taught from the very beginning: Be nice.”

Florida college student says man tried to touch her leg in on-campus parking garage

Police at the University of Central Florida are warning students to be on their guard after a woman said a man tried to assault her in a campus parking garage Monday.

>> Read more trending news

UCF police said a woman who attends the university was approached around 6 p.m. by an unknown man who asked for help with his car in Garage C. 

During the exchange, the man tried to touch the student's leg, police said, causing her to scream and run away. 

The student immediately called police and described the man as 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was wearing glasses, a gray sweater and dark pants, she told authorities.

UCF police said the description of the incident closely matches two similar incidents that happened on campus within the past month and a half. 

In December, a student reported that she was inappropriately grabbed by a man inside the Business Administration II building, the UCF Police Department said.

The student told investigators that the incident happened at about 5:50 p.m., UCF police spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin said.

The man, who she did not know, was lingering near a vending machine and started talking to her before grabbing her, Gilmartin said.

"It's just unfortunate that we have to deal with that here at UCF. I feel like we're so close as a family and as a university. It's incredible that we have to do this," UCF student Ponatoyas Jusakus said.

Investigators said the woman ran from the building and reported the incident about an hour later.

>> On WFTV.com: 9 Investigates: Sexual assault cases at UCF

The man was described as being dark-skinned with a thin build and about 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was wearing a gray hoodie and jeans at the time of the incident, police said.

A similar incident happened in the same building Dec. 4, Gilmartin said. The victim in that case provided a similar description of the culprit, but no one was arrested.

>> On WFTV.com: Police: Woman screams for help, gets pushed into car at UCF

Police said they do not believe the two incidents are related to a similar encounter at Valencia College this week.

"Detectives are currently revisiting the case from last month and reviewing surveillance video from last night," Gilmartin said. "In regards to the incident at Valencia College Tuesday night, at this point, the circumstances and suspect descriptions do not match."

Georgia State soccer player withdraws from school after backlash over racial epithet

A Georgia State University soccer player who was suspended from the team after she used a racial epithet on social media has withdrawn from the school, officials said.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Georgia State soccer player suspended over racial slur used on social media

Some students had called for the expulsion of 18-year-old freshman defender Natalia Martinez after the epithet appeared on her Finsta page, a secret version of Instagram that is growing in popularity among teens.

>> On AJC.com: What is a ‘Finsta'? Teens and their secret Instagram accounts

“As a progressive, diverse university, we ... feel like this sort of behavior should not be tolerated,” said India Bridgeforth, who created a petition demanding the university take a tougher approach with Martinez.

The petition had garnered more than 500 signatures by Monday afternoon when the university announced Martinez had “officially withdrawn.”

Associate athletic director Mike Holmes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that officials were made aware of Martinez’s post Friday morning — just days after the University of Alabama expelled a 19-year-old student who posted a video of a racist rant on her Finsta page.

>> Read more trending news 

That student, Harley Barber, uploaded a second video on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in response to people who were upset by the language and threatened those who wanted to report her fake Instagram account, The Washington Post reported

In a statement, Georgia State University said the school does “not tolerate the language (Martinez) used in her post.”

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