Free speech wins — belatedly

Mendocino High basketball players wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts to warm up for a tournament at Fort Bragg High School in northern California, writes Coach Brown. Players were told they’d be expelled from the tournament if they wore the shirts again.

Mendocino High girls warm up in "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts (Photo: Fort Bragg Advocate News)

Mendocino High girls warm up in “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts (Photo: Fort Bragg Advocate News)

“All the boys but one chose to ditch the shirts and play in the tournament,” writes Brown, who teaches and coaches at nearby Ukiah High. Half of girls said no, leaving the Mendocino girls team with only five players. They quit the tournament.

Fort Bragg is especially sensitive about the issue because a deputy sheriff, Ricky Del Fiorentino, was killed earlier in 2014 by a criminal, writes Coach Brown. The officer has been a mentor and coach at the high school.

Nonetheless, “high school students have the right to political speech at public school events,” such as school basketball games, writes Brown.

If he’d been the coach, he’d have made it a “teachable  moment.”

I would talk to the players about their choices, social and political, and make sure that they have a good comprehension about not only what might happen but about the event that they are protesting. I would talk to them about why Fort Bragg is sensitive about the subject and why the choice that they make might have unintended consequences. Then I would let them make a choice. Now, if they warm up in the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts then they break our uniform policy and don’t play that game. On my team if you forget a part of your jersey, you don’t play. . . .If they all choose those consequences, we forfeit. That simple. Political protest has consequences.

In a belated recognition of free-speech rights, Fort Bragg announced the tournament will not prohibit players from “wearing an expressive T-shirt during warm-ups” or regulate spectators’ T-shirt messages, reports the Fort Bragg Advocate News. “However, student athletes must wear their designated uniforms during the game.”

The students and their community supporters should “be proud of the young adults not only trying to raise awareness of current events but also for demanding their Constitutional being upheld,” writes Coach Brown.

Awareness isn’t high in the north country. When Mendocino High’s girls’ team first wore the “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts before the Fort Bragg tournament, their coach, Caedyn Feehan “didn’t even know what it meant.” She “thought it was a joke about how I had conditioned them so hard,” Feehan told the Advocate News. “None of the administrators knew what it was.”

UI president apologizes for public art

A public art piece created by University of Iowa faculty member Serhat Tanyolacar stood on the UI Pentacrest for less than four hours before it was removed. (Mitchell Schmidt/The Gazette)

Today’s college students are delicate souls. When University of Iowa students saw a Klan-costumed sculpture in the “Pentacrest,” they didn’t look at the newspaper stories about race riots and killings printed on it. They didn’t consider whether it might be anti-Klan. They were too distressed.

It was removed within hours. Not “soon enough,” said President Sally Mason in an apology for letting a professor display his art.

“For failing to meet our goal of providing a respectful, all-inclusive, educational environment, the university apologizes,” she wrote.

Mason, who was out of town Friday, said in her message that she plans to meet with concerned students Wednesday to “prepare a detailed plan of action” that will include input from those affected by the incident. The plan will look at how the university can “better meet its responsibility to ensure that all students, faculty, staff, and visitors are respected and safe.”

Mason also shared plans to move quickly in forming a committee of students and community members to advise her on options for strengthening cultural competency training and reviewing implicit bias training.

The university will provide counseling for the traumatized.

Serhat Tanyolacar, 38, a UI faculty member raised in Turkey, apologized “for the pain and suffering I caused to the African American community” and begged for forgiveness. He’d hoped to “facilitate a dialogue” on the history of racism. Instead, he used his eight-year-old “mixed-race” son to defend himself from charges of racism. (Does he get free counseling?)

Artist Serhat Tanyolacar

Artist Serhat Tanyolacar

Removing the artwork likely was “viewpoint-based discrimination,” said David Ryfe, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in the Daily Iowan.  Still, Ryfe said, “If it was up to me, and me alone, I would follow the lead of every European nation and ban this type of speech.”

On his blog, Ryfe says he doesn’t want to ban “artistic expression.” He supports a ban on “hate speech” — “defined as speech uttered with the intention of demeaning and/or intimidating a category of persons (based on race, sexuality, gender, and so on), especially categories of people that have been historically marginalized/threatened.”

The journalism professor hasn’t worked as a journalist, ever.

Sensitivities also are delicate at Smith, where President Kathleen McCartney apologized for a pro-protest email that said: “We are united in our insistence that all lives matter.” It went on to say the grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have “led to a shared fury … We gather in vigil, we raise our voices in protest.” Not good enough.

“Too many of today’s students want freedom from speech rather than freedom of speech,” Greg Lukianoff, President of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Fox News. “It’s hard to challenge minds while walking on eggshells,” he said.

‘The talk’ about how to deal with police

The act of scholastic disobenience was organized by Ines Anguiano, 16, a senior at Brooklyn Preparatory High School.Brooklyn Prep students walked out to protest (Photo: Caitlin Nolan, New York Daily News)

Eric Garner’s death — and a grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who choked him – is a call to action for some New York City high school students, reports WNYC.

“This can happen to any one of us,” said Christine Rodriguez, a 17-year-old senior at the Bushwick School for Social Justice. “I live in Bushwick, and on every block I see police cars. I worry about my friends, my peers, my family, strangers.”

Seventeen-year-old Malik James, who attends the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in Brooklyn, is part of a youth leadership group that looks into policy issues.

“As a young black male who’s part of the demographic of those affected,” he said he felt “something between anger and desperation.” His coping method was research.

James has been scouring the Internet to understand the facts of the Garner case, looking for some sensible explanation for the grand jury’s decision. He’s hoping to figure out “what is it that I don’t know, what is it that I still don’t understand about the case, why he cannot get an indictment.” So far, he has determined that the system offers too many protections to police officers and that prosecutors are too closely tied to the police department.

Democracy Prep Charter High in Harlem stresses citizenship. Students told WNYC their parents had given them “the talk” about how to deal with the police.

Eleventh grader Jeff Agyapong said his mother warned him not to challenge the police.

“When police approach you, no matter what, don’t say anything, follow their directions no matter what because your parents will come down to the precinct and everything will get straightened out peacefully,” he said. “The contradiction in the black society is ‘should I stand up for myself because I know I didn’t do anything wrong?’ or ‘should I follow what everyone wants me to do?'”

“I don’t think black communities should be teaching their black boys to be afraid of cops,” Jaylene Paula said. “If we’re passive in these cases, then this passivity is going to encourage what happened in Ferguson and what happened in Staten Island.”

The parents of 16-year-old Anthony Ayba said, “They just think right now you need to be safe, don’t worry about your rights, just make sure you’re alive.”

Students protest ‘patriotic’ history

In a Denver suburb, a conservative school board member proposed focusing U.S. history courses on citizenship, patriotism and respect for authority. Naturally, students walked out in protest.

Students protest outside of Ralston Valley High School, in Arvada, Colo.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Students protest outside of Ralston Valley High School, in Arvada, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Some students waved American flags and carried signs, such as “There is nothing more patriotic than protest.”

Other carried signs supporting teachers. “The youth protest in the state’s second-largest school district follows a sick-out from teachers that shut down two high schools,” reports AP.

The school board proposal — which has not been voted on — would establish a committee to review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to ensure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strike or disregard of the law.”

“There are things we may not be proud of as Americans,” board member Julie Williams told Chalkbeat. “But we shouldn’t be encouraging our kids to think that America is a bad place.”

“In South Carolina, conservatives have called on an education oversight committee to ask the College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement courses, to rewrite their framework to make sure there is no ideological bias,” notes AP.

“Politics, propaganda and faith” have distorted history in textbooks written to meet Texas’ standards, historians complain.

Detroit students protest missing teachers, easy A’s

Detroit high school students walked out to protest absent teachers and the principal’s removal at an all-boys public school, reports the Detroit Free Press. Fifty students were suspended.

As recently as last month, students spent weeks passing time in the gym, library or cafeteria due to a lack of teachers, parents said.

. . . “Theyre failing these young black men,” said Sharise Smith, who has two sons at Douglass.Smith said her son received an A in geometry during the first semester without taking a final exam.”It was by default, just for showing up. It wasnt because he earned an A,” Smith said.

Students chanted, “We want an education.”

Seattle college tires of ‘Occupy’ campers

“Occupy Seattle” campers have worn out their welcome at a downtown community college. Crowding, poor sanitation, sexual harassment and doing drugs in sight of the child-care center — kids are being kept inside for play time — are problems, say college officials as they look for a legal basis for eviction.

Also on Community College Spotlight: A new California plan will make community college students choose an academic or vocational path, but it won’t work without improving counseling.

Protesters ‘occupy’ standards meeting

A chanting crowd stopped discussion of common standards at a meeting of New York City’s Panel for Educational Policy on Tuesday night, reports Curriculum Matters.

This YouTube video shows Chancellor Dennis Walcott trying to start the meeting, which was intended to explain how adoption of Common Core Standards will affect curriculum in city schools. The “Occupy the DOE” protesters said the decision was made without input from teachers and parents.

Demonstrators also chant that the city wants to raise standards without the supports that students need to reach them.

As they file out the front door of the building, the demonstrators chant, “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”

After the meeting was canceled, Walcott and the other panelists met with parents in upstairs classrooms.

Backlash

“We have to destroy education in order to save it,” writes Zombie on PJ Media after attending a San Francisco rally in which teachers and their students demanded more funding.  (Yes, it was a school day.) Update: But the rally didn’t start till 4 pm.

He includes photos of the Los Angeles protest by Ringo of Ringo’s Pictures.

• As you can see in the many photos illustrating this essay, their demands for more money were accompanied by many ancillary leftist slogans like “Tax the Rich!” and “Workers’ Power!” and “Cutting Education Is Class War” and so on. So this wasn’t just about requesting more funding for education: The content of the rally itself revealed that increasing school funding is just a component of a larger leftist agenda — school funding is being used as a lever to penalize the rich, increase power for unions, and so forth.

Teachers aren’t supposed to be indoctrinators, Zombie writes.

United Teachers of Los Angeles carried signs with green Che Guevera stickers.

Parents get annoyed when teachers co-opt students for political campaigns, even if it’s presented as supporting education. Throw in Che Guevera and they get very annoyed.

Dressed as zombies, coincidentally, University of Wisconsin students protesting budget cuts disrupted an event for Special Olympians because Gov. Scott Walker was speaking. Bad manners and really bad PR, writes Ann Althouse.

Liberty High bans taped-mouth protest

When is a silent protest too “distracting” for school? asks Greg at Rhymes With Right.

At the ironically named Liberty High in Virginia, administrators told students they couldn’t tape their mouths shut to protest abortion because it was a distraction.

In Tinker v. Des Moines, the U.S. Supreme Court said students had a First Amendment right to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. Greg asks:

Now tell me, how does tape over the mouth in any way rise to the standard set in this case — “substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others” — in light of the fact that the tape would be in no way more disruptive than the black armbands in Tinker?

This seems like a fairly clear violation of Tinker. It’s not uncommon for student protesters to tape their mouths. On the annual Day of Silence to protest harassment of gays, students often duct-tape their mouths.

Newark kids use Facebook to protest rats, guns

Two weeks after Facebook’s founder promised $100 million to improve Newark schools, students used Facebook to organize a protest against their high school’s inability to control gangsta, rodent and insect infestations.

On Thursday, students at Barringer High School in Newark walked out of class in protest, saying their school is unsafe and unsanitary.

Students tell The Star-Ledger of Newark there are rats, mice, cockroaches, spiders, guns and fights in the hallways.

During the afternoon protest, students left the building in waves of 10 or 20, but some said security guards blocked doors to prevent anyone from going outside.

Students spread the word of the protest on Facebook.

Mark Zuckberg’s donation was conditioned on Gov. Chris Christie giving Newark Mayor Cory Booker control of the schools, something the governor may lack the authority to do.  It’s not clear how this will be resolved.

The money wasn’t likely to make a difference, writes Rick Hess. Newark is spending $940 million this year,  more than $22,000 per pupil, and graduates less than half the students.  (And can’t keep the schools free of rats.) An extra $100 million over four years, even if it generated matching funds, is not significant.

Furthermore, Zuckerberg missed the chance to “use the money to leverage hard-to-win changes.”

It’s hard for even far-seeing union leaders to convince veteran union members to accept reforms to evaluation, tenure, or pay policies. It’s much easier if they can tell their members that such changes are what it will take to unlock new funds. District leadership reluctant to close half-empty facilities, overhaul operations, or push for cuts in benefits will find its path somewhat easier if such measures will open doors for new funding. As in any negotiation, one’s leverage is greatest before signing on the dotted line. Unfortunately, Zuckerberg missed an important opportunity to provide political cover to Booker and Christie, or to ensure that his money would be well spent.

Superintendents don’t have much discretionary money, so $50 million a year could make a difference, “if spent smart,” Hess concedes. But the signs aren’t promising.

Booker is promising to solicit ideas from the community, seems none too eager to suggest tough measures, and Zuckerberg didn’t push or demand tough medicine. This sounds to me like a formula for more tepid measures to boost professional development, add programs, tweak curriculum, and the rest.

The legal problems give Zuckerberg a chance to rethink the donation. If he can’t condition the donation on mayoral control, he can condition it on agreement to make difficult changes.  Of course, that lets an outside philanthropist dictate school policy, which will be very unpopular.