Students invent classroom door lock

“Shaken by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and determined to prevent future tragedies, a team of high school students in Washington, D.C., has invented a new locking device for classroom doors,” reports Discovery News. Often classroom doors can’t be locked from the inside due to fire-safety regulations. They hope their low-cost device will help teachers keep intruders out.

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Ten Benjamin Banneker Academic High School students, led by math teacher John Mahoney, created the Dead Stop. A PVC pipe that’s hinged on one side can be locked on the other with a steel pin. Fitted over a hydraulic door closer, it will prevent the door hinge from widening.

 When the students did research about patents and commercially available door locks, they said most of the devices they found required physical installation either on the door or the jamb. Other devices were expensive and complicated to install. Theirs should cost less than $5 and be simple enough that a teacher could lock the door in under 30 seconds, they said. Once the danger has passed it should be easy to remove as well.

With a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant, the students plan to build and test several prototypes of their design, publicize the DIY instructions and collaborate with a company to manufacture the device. They’re hoping for pro bono help in applying for a patent.

Unsafe in any sport

Students must wear helmets to play soccer, field hockey and lacrosse in Princeton, New Jersey schools, reports EAG News. Bubble soccer

The helmets, which cost $35 to $70, may not prevent injuries, says Joanna Boyd, a concussion specialist at the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey. “It’s the speed, it’s the angle, it’s the kind of hit it is.”

Protective gear can encourage aggression, some say. “I’m concerned that the players who are better padded will be more emboldened to do things they never would have thought to do before,” said Marc Block, a longtime soccer referee,told Newsworks.  ”My sister referees women’s lacrosse, and as soon as they told everyone to start wearing those metal eye cages, the number of sticks to the head went up very quickly.

I was hit in the head — quite hard — by a field hockey stick when I was in high school. The girl walking ahead of me decided to practice her golf swing and whacked my forehead on the back swing. Just think what might have been …

‘Just Move’ stamps declared ‘unsafe’

The U.S. Postal Service will destroy the entire press run of “Just Move” stamps because of safety concerns, reports Linn’s Stamp News.
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Three of the stamps in the 15- stamp series show children performing a cannonball dive, skateboarding without kneepads, and doing a headstand without a helmet. That’s unsafe, according to members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

Michelle Obama, who’s been trying to encourage children to be more active, has popularized the “Just Move” slogan. She was set to take part in a first-day ceremony for the stamps — until someone decided kids need a helmet to do a headstand.

The campaign will need a new slogan: If you’re swaddled in protective gear and supervised by a certified adult, move. But be careful.

I keep looking for evidence this is a hoax. So far, nothing.

Hit & Run, which has pictures of all the “Just Move” stamps, finds more safety horrors: The baseball player isn’t wearing a helmet!

And what about the kid cartwheeling without a P.E. teacher’s supervision? The rope climber might fall!

Are we free to gambol?

Nerf recess: No balls, tag, cartwheels

“Hard” balls, tag and cartwheels are banned during recess at a Long Island middle school.

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Kids were getting hurt on the playground, Port Washington Supt. Kathleen Maloney told CBS.

Structured sports are safe, a press release stated. In a smaller recess space due to construction, unstructured play with “hard balls” is not.

Students have been given Nerf balls to replace footballs, baseballs and lacrosse balls. They’re not allowed to play “rough” games of tag or turn cartwheels without a coach’s supervision.

“Cartwheels and tag — I think it’s ridiculous they are banning that,” a student told CBS.

Others agreed they want more than a Nerf recess. “You go for recess — that’s your free time to go let loose and recharge,” a boy said.

Parents charged that fear of  liability and lawsuits — not injuries — prompted the ban.

Boys suspended for gun play at home

Two 13-year-old Virginia Beach boys were suspended for the rest of the school year for shooting a pellet gun on private property, reports WAVY News. Seventh graders Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark were playing with a spring-driven airsoft gun in the Caraballo front yard, which is near a school bus stop.
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Six boys were playing with the “zombie hunter” gun in the yard on Sept. 12, says Khalid. “We see the bus come. We put the gun down. We did not take the airsoft gun to the bus stop. We did not take the gun to school.”

The boys were charged with “possession, handling and use of a firearm.”

Airsoft guns use plastic pellets, rather than bbs.

In a letter, Principal Matthew Delaney said one student was hit by a pellet while 10 feet from the bus stop.

Clark will be homeschooled. Caraballo will attend an alternative school.

If not suspension, then what?

California schools are reducing suspension rates, reports Sharon Noguchi in the San Jose Mercury News.

Pressed by law enforcement, civil-rights advocates and the realization that the way they disciplined students was failing, schools are keeping on campus more kids who talk back, throw tantrums or even threaten teachers.

Some educators say they’ve found better alternatives. Five years ago, Yerba Buena High in East San Jose lost 1,062 days to suspension. Last school year, that was down to 23 days. ”Suspending students is not effective,” said Yerba Buena Principal Tom Huynh.

Instead of sending students home on a mini-vacation, YB requires detention. At a recent session, a counselor talked about her own rebellious childhood.

Oak Grove High, which serves high-poverty San Jose neighborhoods, uses detention, Saturday school or litter patrol, as well as referrals to a counselor, anger-management help or a substance abuse support group.

But some teachers say “taking away the option to suspend creates a disciplinary void and sticks them with rowdy or even dangerous kids in class,” writes Noguchi.

 ”For an experienced teacher who knows how to deal with intense behavioral management — we get that,” said one Oakland Unified teacher who didn’t want to be identified for fear of reprisal. “But for a new teacher, it’s a disaster.”

Even worse, Oakland teachers allege, the pressure not to suspend has led schools to fudge their numbers by not documenting fights or even weapons violations, or the ensuing punishments.

Oakland Unified was forced to reduce suspensions as part of a settlement with the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Instead, the district promotes “restorative justice,” which “tries to get scofflaws to make amends, combatants to reconcile and students to come to terms with any harm they’ve done.” The district stresses conflict resolution and support for African-American boys.

“All of this is done to try to put a Band-Aid over a gaping wound. It leaves a lot of kids feeling unsafe,” one teacher said.

You can look at school suspension rates by district, courtesy of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, which is leading the anti-suspension crusade.

‘Run, hide, fight’ is new safety advice

Hiding in a locked classroom and waiting for rescue may not be the safest strategy when a gunman threatens, advises the U.S. Department of Education. Run, hide, fight is the new safety mantra, reports EdSource Today.

As part of back-to-school preparation, educators throughout California are being trained in the technique, which includes giving teachers the leeway to ignore lockdowns requiring students to be kept inside, to run off campus with students, and to unleash a fire extinguisher on a person with a gun.

“The idea is that instead of being passive and being executed, be active and perhaps save your own life and the lives of others,” said Arthur Cummins, who sits on the board of the California School Resource Officers Association and is an administrator for safe and healthy schools at the Orange County Department of Education.

Los Angeles Unified is training administrators and school principals on alternatives to locking down the campus.

“If you listen to a 911 tape from Columbine, a teacher was doing what she was trained to do, which was to ‘shelter in place,’” said Carl Hall, assistant superintendent of support services for the Kern County Office of Education. “The reality was she had a great opportunity to remove herself and her kids and go out a back door – that’s very sobering.”

Here’s a video aimed at office workers. It’s a lot tougher when adults have to protect children as well as themselves.

Iris scans are the new school IDs

In the sci-fi movie Minority Report, ubiquitous iris scanners reveal shoppers’ identities so advertising can be targeted — and they can be tracked everywhere.

Iris scanners are replacing ID cards at schools ranging from preschools to universities, reports CNN.

South Dakota-based Blinkspot manufactures iris scanners specifically for use on school buses. When elementary school students come aboard, they look into a scanner (it looks like a pair of binoculars). The reader will beep if they’re on the right bus and honk if they’re on the wrong one.

The Blinkspot scanner syncs with a mobile app that parents can use to see where their child is. Every time a child boards or exits the bus, his parent gets an email or text with the child’s photograph, a Google map where they boarded or exited the bus, as well as the time and date.

Parents already can slip a GPS tracker in little Aidan’s backpack, but I guess that’s not good enough for helicopter parents. Kids can lose a backpack, but they aren’t likely to lose their eyes. (But kids will forget to use the scanner and be reported missing . . . )

Eyelock, which makes scanners used in foreign airports and at high-security offices, is “entering the school market, piloting their devices in elementary school districts and nursery schools around the country.”

A San Antonio school district will stop using microchip-enabled ID cards to track attendance, despite winning a lawsuit. The cards didn’t raise attendance enough to cover the cost.

Did school crime cover-up lead to Trayvon’s death?

By covering up students’ crimes, Miami-Dade schools contributed to Trayvon Martin’s death, argues Robert Stacy McCain on the American Spectator‘s blog. District policy was to treat crimes as disciplinary infractions, shielding students from serious consequences.

. . . Chief Charles Hurley of the Miami-Dade School Police Department (MDSPD) in 2010 had implemented a policy that reduced the number of criminal reports, manipulating statistics to create the appearance of a reduction in crime within the school system. Less than two weeks before Martin’s death, the school system commended Chief Hurley for “decreasing school-related juvenile delinquency by an impressive 60 percent for the last six months of 2011.”

Four months before his fatal encounter with George Zimmerman, Martin was caught at school with women’s jewelry that matched items stolen from a home near the high school; he also had a screwdriver that the school resource officer called a “burglary tool.” Martin said a friend had given him the items. Instead of telling the police, the school suspended Martin for graffiti and stored the jewelry as “found property.”

Days before his death, Martin was caught with a small amount of marijuana. Suspended again, he was sent to his father’s girlfriend’s house in Sanford.

When the Miami Herald reported on Martin’s disciplinary record at Krop High School. Chief Hurley launched an internal investigation to determine who’d leaked the information, inadvertently revealing the report-no-evil policy.

If Trayvon Martin had been a little older and wiser, he’d have walked straight back to the house instead of doubling back to confront and punch Zimmerman, giving him a viable self-defense case. (The evidence and witnesses — both prosecution and defense — support this scenario.) Sadly, Martin never got the chance to grow up.  If he’d been arrested for burglary . . . ? Arresting teenagers usually doesn’t turn them into model citizens. Unfortunately, neither does not arresting them.

Zero tolerance for boys’ play could backfire

Zero tolerance for imaginary gun play is “psychotic” as in “out of touch with reality,” says Dr. Leonard Sax, a Pennsylvania psychologist and family physician. 

“Out-of-touch policies such as these, which criminalize behaviors which have always been common among young kids, are contributing to the growing proportion of American kids, especially boys, who regard school as a stupid waste of time and who can’t wait to get out of school so that they can get back to playing their video games,” Sax said.

Sax is the author of Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.

Remember the five-year-old interrogated and suspended for bringing a cap gun on the school bus? Maryland school officials have refused the parents’ request to remove the suspension from the kindergartener’s permanent record.