OSU attacker was studying ‘microaggressions’

Abdul Artan, who tried to kill his Ohio State classmates with a car and knife, had a group project due this week on “microaggressions,” reports Robby Soave in Reason‘s Hit & Run. Born in Somalia and mostly raised in Pakistan, Artan came to the U.S. as a refugee with his mother and siblings two years ago.

Abdul Artan was interviewed by Ohio State's Daily Lantern at the start of the school year. He said he was afraid to pray publicly. Photo: Kevin Stankowiecz

Interviewed by a student journalist at the start of the school year, Abdul Artan said he was afraid to pray publicly.

Artan, “who reportedly became radicalized after learning about injustices committed against fellow Muslims,” was enrolled in  class called Crossing Identity Boundaries.

“The assignment, worth 15 percent of his grade, required students to find a dozen examples of microaggressions on social media and explain which identity groups were the victims, according to the syllabus,” writes Soave.

The purpose of the class is to promote “intercultural leadership” and transform students into “actively engaged, socially just global citizen/leaders.”

. . . According to the syllabus, the point of the microaggressions project is to make students “recognize the role of social diversity” and “demonstrate an appreciation for other points of view and cultures.”

A friend claimed Artan “loved America.” However, in his final Facebook post, Artan vowed to “kill a billion infidels” to save a single Muslim, called radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki a “hero” and complained about the treatment of a Muslim minority in Burma.

He was shot and killed by a campus police officer. All his victims survived.

Counselor talks boy into giving up gun

You didn’t hear about a school shooting at Sycamore Middle School in Cheatham County, Tennessee this week. That’s because counselor Molly Hudgens talked to a would-be shooter for 45 minutes until she persuaded the 14-year-old boy to give up his gun, reports WKRN News 2.

Molly Hudgens, a middle-school counselor, talked a 14-year-old boy into giving her the gun he planned to use to shoot a teacher.

Counselor Molly Hudgens prevented a school shooting in Tennessee.

The student had approached the counselor after first period to say he  was having “issues.” She realized he had a gun.

The boy said he planned to kill teachers and a police officer, but said Hudgens was the only person who could talk him out of it.

Hudgens talked with the teen until he was ready to give up the gun and surrender to police.

NYC: Are schools really safer?

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City has made it much harder for principals to suspend students for defiance and disobedience, writes Stephen Eide in a look at the progressive mayor’s education policies.

Believers in the “school-to-prison pipeline,” progressives nationwide are trying to limit suspensions, he writes in Education Next.

“While below-proficient students are believed to benefit the most from a lower suspension rate, those who have the most to lose are the above-proficient, low-income strivers,” writes Eide.

The De Blasio administration claims school crime has fallen by 29 percent over four years. However, Families for Excellent Schools cites state data showing rising levels of violent incidents.

There are only four “persistently dangerous” schools in the city, down by 85 percent, the administration claimed last month. The school-safety agents union head pointed out that not a single high school had made the list, notes Eide.

In May 2016, the New York Post reported that school-safety agents and police officers had confiscated 26 percent more weapons from students during this past school year than over the same span in 2014–15.

In a recent teachers’ union survey, “more than 80 percent of the respondents said students in their schools lost learning time as a result of other disruptive students.”

De Blasio is trying to close the achievement gap through “turnarounds instead of closures, heavy emphasis on addressing the ‘root causes’ of K–12 underperformance through pre-kindergarten education and social services, less antagonistic relations with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and more-relaxed school-discipline policies,” writes Eide. “The results have been something less than revolutionary. “

Defiant kids stay, teachers leave

More than 200 teachers quit the Highline district near Seattle this spring,”many saying the new approach to student discipline has created outright chaos,” reports Claudia Rowe in the Seattle Times.

Three years ago, Superintendent Susan Enfield eliminated out-of-school suspensions, except for threats to campus safety, reports Rowe.

Instead, Highline would keep its students on campus — even if they cursed at teachers, fought with peers or threw furniture — attempting to address the roots of their behavior through a combination of counseling and academic triage.”

Rather than tossing kids for defiant behavior, teachers were expected to manage their outbursts in class, and refer chronic misbehavers to a kind of super study hall where an academic coach would get them back on track and connect those who needed it to counseling.

Teachers received little training in de-escalating conflicts, reports Rowe.

“Violence is rampant and behavior management is nonexistent within our school community,” wrote Jasmine Kettler, a Highline High teacher, in a farewell blog post.

Credit: Mark Nowlin/Seattle Times

Credit: Mark Nowlin/Seattle Times

“There’s a fight every week and it just feels normal — but it shouldn’t,” said Carson Torres, 18, at an Aug. 17 board meeting.

In response to the story, Enfield wrote that “eight out of ten staff members say they are safe at school.” Overall, the teacher turnover rate has declined and the graduation rate is rising, she wrote.

However, Highline High lost almost 30 percent of  its staff this spring, while Mount Rainier High lost a quarter of the teaching force, a teachers’ union official says.

Shooting victim ‘loved the kids’


Philando Castile in life and death.

“Before he was fatally shot Wednesday by a police officer in Minnesota, before his name became a hashtag, Philando Castile was known as a warm and gentle presence at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where he managed the cafeteria, reports the Washington Post.

“He just loved the kids, and he always made sure that they had what they needed,” said Anna Garnaas, who teaches at the St. Paul school. He knew their names, he knew what they liked, he knew who had allergies. And they loved him.”

She added, “If you’re going to pick someone to feel threatened by or to feel like you have to feel you have to defend yourself against, this is not the guy.”

A police officer stopped Castile, 32, who was driving with his girlfriend and her four-year-old child, for a broken taillight, according to the girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who streamed the aftermath of the shooting. The officer told them to put their arms in the air, said Reynolds at a press conference Wednesday night. When the officer asked for his license and registration, Castile reached for his wallet in his back pocket, and “he lets the officer know,  ‘Officer, I have a firearm on me.’ I begin to yell, ‘But he’s licensed to carry,’ ” said Reynolds. The officer shot and killed Castile.

Castile felt he needed to carry a gun. The police officer thought a black man — even one driving with a woman and small child — must be dangerous.

“He remembered their names. He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t,” Joan Edman, a recently retired paraprofessional at the school, told Time. “Yes, black lives matter. But this man mattered.”

In Baltimore, survivors ‘keep breathing’

Shawn Nelson, who survived a stabbing, gives a mortarboard to classmate Acoyea Booze. Nelson will enroll in community college. Booze will enlist in the military. Shawn Nelson, who survived a stabbing, gives a mortarboard to classmate Acoyea Booze. Nelson will enroll in community college. Booze plans to enlist in the military. Photo: Christopher T. Assaf/Baltimore Sun

Corey Witherspoon cradled a 17-year-old boy who’d been stabbed by a classmate in the middle of science class at Baltimore’s Renaissance Academy High School. The boy’s mentor screamed: “Fight! You can make it! You’d better keep breathing!”

Those words became “the unofficial mantra” of the small school, reports Erica Green for the Baltimore Sun. Ananias Jolley never regained consciousness and died a month later, just before Christmas. In the next two months, two more students were killed. “Darius Bardney, 16, was shot in a hallway at the Pedestal Gardens apartment complex,” writes Green. “Daniel Jackson, 17, was shot while standing on a West Baltimore porch.”

Santonio Jolley, whose brother was stabbed in science class, returned to school to earn a diploma. He plans to be a truck driver.

Santonio Jolley, whose brother was killed by a classmate, returned to school to earn a diploma. He plans to be a truck driver. Photo: Christopher T. Assaf/Baltimore Sun

On June 3, Renaissance graduated 65 students — and posted an 82 percent four-year graduation rate, its highest since 2010. A majority of graduates will enroll in community college and four-year universities. Quite a few plan to go into the military. (It’s probably safer than staying in the neighborhood.)

“Among the graduates were Ananias’ brother, 20-year-old Santonio Jolley, a dropout who enrolled in Renaissance five days after his brother died,” writes Green. Valedictorian Jaylen Myers, 17, will study engineering at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Shawn Nelson, who was stabbed seven times protecting his aunt last year, also earned his diploma. “It was like God gave me another chance that he didn’t give them,” said Nelson. “He gave me a second chance.” He will apply to Baltimore City Community College and hopes eventually to run his own business rehabbing vacant homes.

‘Mindfulness’ may help students learn


Mindfulness training may improve achievement, reports Emily Deruy in The Atlantic. A Chicago study is looking for evidence of effectiveness of breathing and relaxation exercises or asking students to focus on a feeling or emotion.

Children learn to focus, handle transitions and recover quickly from upsets, said Amanda Moreno, an assistant professor at the Erikson Institute, a child-development-focused graduate school in Chicago. That frees up time for learning.

Moreno said she’s heard from teachers with students who have gone from five or six tantrums a day to none because they know they can go to their classroom’s “calm spot” whenever they feel like they’re spiraling out of control.

The program seems to be helping good schools get better, she said. It doesn’t do much for schools that lack a sense of community or a commitment to learning.

Mindfulness aims to “create compliant students who can manage their own behavior, focus on their assignments, and calm themselves when angry or frustrated with school,” wrote David Forbes in Salon.

That’s a bad thing, he argues. “Such students can then turn into passive, unquestioning consumers and cooperative workers who will help their corporate employers better compete in the global economy.”

People who can manage their own behavior also are a lot less likely to end up in prison.

Chicago teachers worry their students will be killed, writesMarilyn Rhames, who’s now an alumni counselor for a K-8 charter school.

Lee McCullum Jr., 22, — featured as the troubled kid turned honors student and prom king in the 2014 CNN series, Chicagoland — was shot and killed a few weeks ago. His girlfriend, Tiara Parks, 23, was killed a week earlier.

More learning leads to less violence


Philadelphia schools cut teachers and counselors, but not security guards. Photo: Matt Rourke, AP

Raising test scores may be the best way to prevent school violence, according to a new California study, reports Hechinger’s Jill Barshay. Safety doesn’t come first, the study found.

Schools that reduced violence and improved school climate tended not to produce academic gains afterwards. Instead, the researchers found, schools that first raised academic performance usually got large reductions in school violence. School climate indicators, such as whether students feel safe, also improved in schools that first increased test scores.

Surveys of students in middle and high school were compared with school test scores over a six-year period. Researchers were surprised to see that “academic gains preceded school safety and climate improvements,” writes Barshay.

“The best violence prevention is a school that works very hard to improve academics,” said Ron Avi Astor, a USC professor and co-author. “The school climate and school bullying researchers should continue their work, but, for intervention strategies, if they tie in with the school reform movement on academics, they will get a bigger bang for their buck.”

Feds: Schools are safer

Schools are getting safer according to a new federal report. Violence, bullying and sexual harassment has declined, the survey found.

About 3 percent of students ages 12 to 18 said they were victims of crimes at school in 2014.schoolviolencephoto

“On college campuses, the number of sexual attacks more than doubled from 2001 to 2013,” reports CBS News. “There’s really no way to say whether those increases reflect an increase in actual forcible sex crimes or just that more people are coming forward and reporting them,” said Lauren Musu-Gillette, an author of the report.

I’d guess it’s an increase in reporting and a much broader definition of sexual assault.

Ken Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services thinks the numbers are fuzzy. “Federal and state stats underestimate the extent of school crime, public perception tends to overstate it and reality is somewhere in between,” he said in a presentation to the Education Writers Association national conference in Boston.

Palestinian honoree teaches through play

A Palestinian teacher’s play-based methods have won her a $1 million global education prize, reports Diaa Hadid in the New York Times.  The Varkey Foundation chose Hanan Hroub for developing educational games for children traumatized by violence.

When a reporter visited her West Bank classroom, “second-grade students were not focusing on their assigned task of scrawling math problems on balloons,” writes Hadid. “They were popping those balloons.”

The teacher put four marks underneath a frowning yellow face.

“No, Miss! No! We will concentrate, we promise!” piped up a girl named Shurouq. Ms. Hroub and her charges discussed why they felt distracted, and promised to do better.

Not all is fun and games, reports Hadid. “Some Israelis have denounced her as part of a Palestinian education system they see as inciting violence, and noted with dismay that her husband assisted in the killing of six Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1980.”