Entrapping the handicapped

An undercover cop befriended an autistic 17-year-old, persuaded him to buy marijuana and arrested him, reports Reason TV.  Special-needs students made up most of the 22 teens arrested on drug charges at a Riverside County, California high school.

ADHD drugs don’t raise kids’ grades

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medications don’t improve academic achievement, according to new studies, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Stimulants used to treat ADHD like Ritalin and Adderall are sometimes called “cognitive enhancers” because they have been shown in a number of studies to improve attention, concentration and even certain types of memory in the short-term.

. . . However, a growing body of research finds that in the long run, achievement scores, grade-point averages or the likelihood of repeating a grade generally aren’t any different in kids with ADHD who take medication compared with those who don’t.

Boys who took ADHD drugs performed worse in school than those with similar symptoms who didn’t, according to the study, which tracked students in Quebec. Girls on ADHD drugs reported more emotional problems.

Teaching the 5th draws suspension

When Batavia High School students were asked to reveal their drug and alcohol abuse on surveys marked with their names, social studies teacher John Dryden told them they didn’t have to answer. It’s in the 5th Amendment.

The 20-year veteran was reprimanded and suspended without pay for a day for what the school board called ”inappropriate and unprofessional” conduct. In a letter, he was ordered to refrain from using “flippant” or sarcastic remarks, providing “legal advice,” and discrediting any district initiative, reports the Chicago Tribune.  ”Other requirements in the letter include that when Dryden is given a directive in a meeting, he must now repeat the directive back at the end of the meeting and agree to comply.”

District officials said the survey was meant to target students “in need of emotional and social interventions,” not to penalize students who admitted breaking the law.

Dryden is unrepentant.

“This un-vetted survey was and is a massive invasion of privacy and students do have a Fifth Amendment right not to give to a state institution any information that might incriminate them regardless of the intentions of that institution,” he wrote in an emailed response to the board’s letter. “The administration has argued that they intended to do the right thing and that we should have simply trusted them to act responsibly with the information provided by students.”

Dryden wrote that that the new requirements are “demeaning, vague, overly broad and constructed to entrap me in a future infraction for the purpose of termination.”

Where is the teachers’ union? Will they take action only when Dryden is fired for future flippancy or failure of allegiance?

Many teachers, former students and parents of current students turned out at the hearing to support Dryden, writes Joe Bertalmio, a local businessman, in the Tribune comments. “High school is a place where you send your kids to become adults, and if the only knock against John Dryden is that he speaks to his students like they are adults then I want every single one of my kids taking his classes. I can’t wait for the day that we get to vote in a new school board, I’ll be right there with a bull horn and list of names to oust.”

Online ed works—for sex, alcohol, and health

All-online courses have low success rates, note the Hechinger Report. But computer-based instruction can be more effective than classroom teaching for sex, drugs, and health issues, “subjects in which privacy, personal comfort and customized information are especially important, and embarrassment or cultural taboos can get in the way of classroom teaching.”

Simple video- and animation-based interactive courses in these disciplines turn out to be good ways of teaching subjects you may have giggled through in health class.

. . . “We’re seeing significant and large effects on attitudes, knowledge, and also behaviors” from online courses in nontraditional subjects, says Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who coauthored one study of the subject.

Colombian students who took an 11-week online course in safer sex knew more about safer sex — and practiced what they knew — compared to students who took a conventional health class.

For every 68 students who took the online course instead of the traditional course, researchers estimated by reviewing students’ medical records and comparing them to those of peers who didn’t take the course, up to two sexually transmitted infections were prevented.

Students — and teachers — often feel embarrassed to talk about sex in conventional classrooms, the researchers found.

Years ago, I looked into how contraception was taught in San Jose high schools. One teacher told me sex ed was lumped in with drivers’ ed, anti-drug ed, career awareness, etc. He left sex ed till the end of the school year in hopes he’d run out of time and not have to teach it.

Pushing drugs in school

Diagnosed as hyperactive in first grade, Ted Gup’s son was prescribed Ritalin and Adderall, Gup writes in the New York Times.

In another age, David might have been called “rambunctious.” His battery was a little too large for his body. And so he would leap over the couch, spring to reach the ceiling and show an exuberance for life that came in brilliant microbursts.

When he was older, he sold his Adderall to classmates, who saw it as a performance-enhancing drug.

As a 21-year-old college senior, he was found on the floor of his room, dead from a fatal mix of alcohol and drugs.

“I had unknowingly colluded with a system that devalues talking therapy and rushes to medicate, inadvertently sending a message that self-medication, too, is perfectly acceptable,” writes the grieving father.

Now psychiatrists have defined grief as depression, which “runs the very real risk of delegitimizing that which is most human — the bonds of our love and attachment to one another.”  Gup does not plan to take a pill to dull his grief for his son.

Huck Finn, 2013


– Signe Wilkinson

Union blocks bill on firing ‘predator’ teachers

Awaiting trial for sexual abusing fifth-grade students, a Los Angeles teacher was paid $40,000 to take early retirement. A bill to make it easier and faster to fire teachers for crimes involving sex, drugs or violence stalled after the teachers’ union came out against it. Assembly Democrats receiving heavy teachers’ union contributions abstained in a committee vote, the equivalent of  ”no” without the accountability, reports Anderson Cooper.

Here’s the Los Angeles Times on teachers’ union clout in California.

Vee must haff your peppers

Via Instapundit, we have a chronicle of the absurd: a student is denied access to a prescription inhaler during an asthma attack because his parents didn’t sign a form.

School leaders called Sue Rudi when her son started having trouble breathing. She rushed to the office and was taken back to the nurse’s office by school administrators and they discovered the teen on the floor.

“As soon as we opened up the door, we saw my son collapsing against the wall on the floor of the nurse’s office while she was standing in the window of the locked door looking down at my son, who was in full-blown asthma attack,” Rudi said.

Michael Rudi said when he started to pass out from his attack, the nurse locked the door.

The Blogfather quips, “I’m beginning to think that sending your kids to public schools is starting to look like parental malpractice.”

Apparently no one even bothered to call 911.

A teacher reviews her performance review

An English and journalism teacher for six years, Coleen Bondy ranked as low average in her effect on students’ test scores this year. The value-added scores — based only on her least-motivated students — are “practically useless in evaluating teacher performance,” she writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.

It’s hard for those who finished high school 20 or 30 years ago, as I did, to fathom the conditions in a typical L.A. Unified high school classroom these days. Classes are huge. Students face overwhelming family and social issues. Drugs are rampant. Students are incredibly disrespectful, testing authority constantly at the beginning of the year. Teachers must be able to get a strong grip on their classes all by themselves because consequences for bad behavior in class are often nonexistent outside it.

. . . Today’s teacher must be highly skilled in her subject matter just to make it into the classroom, more so than at any other time in the history of education. She also must play the role of parent, custodian, psychologist, drug and alcohol interventionist and parole officer, to name a few.

“Society has decided to blame many of its failings on teachers,” Bondy writes.

If teachers can’t be evaluated fairly based on their students’ progress (compared to their previous progress’ rates) and they can’t be evaluated based on classroom observations, how can they be evaluated?

Teen sex is dreary on MTV’s ‘Skins’

MTV’s Skins, which features “lurid and explicit” teenage sex, teaches teens some valuable lessons, writes Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post. Other teens-gone-wild shows make adolescent sex and drug use “seem glamorous and exciting,” she writes.

CW’s “Gossip Girl” . . .  portrays the “scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite,” as the anonymous narrator says at the start of every episode.

By contrast, the kids on “Skins” seem sad, lonely and disturbed, each in his or her own distinctively troubled way. Cadie is a strung-out pill-popper with a stable of inept, pill-dispensing shrinks and parents who are too self-absorbed to pay her much attention beyond suggesting that she take her meds. Chris is a strung-out pill-popper – he’s taken an excess of Erectagra – whose mother abandons him with a scrawled note and $1,000 in cash in an envelope.

They manage to make sex seem like a dreary, transactional chore – a sex-for-pills exchange is arranged to engineer a loss of virginity – and drugs and alcohol seem like, well, drugs and alcohol, unpleasantly disorienting and prone to induce vomiting.

Marcus thinks teens will appreciate their own nagging parents after watching the checked-out, boozed-up parents on Skins.

Will teens watch Skins as a cautionary tale of the downside of sex, drugs and lax parenting? Or will they take the show as a sign that promiscuity and drug abuse are normal?