Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
A family in Lynchburg, Va., decided to take their daughter out of a private Christian school and placed her in public school after the school’s principal sent a letter home suggesting the eight-year-old wasn’t “following suit with her God-ordained identity.” The little girl, Sunnie, enjoys “boy hobbies” as well as “girl hobbies,” according to her great-grandmother and legal guardian. The school argued that she didn’t live a “biblical lifestyle” but her great-grandmother said she’s too young to understand “questions of sexual orientation.” More from Time.com:
The family of an eight-year-old girl in Lynchburg, Va. has withdrawn her from a Christian school after administrators told her she wasn’t feminine enough.
Sunnie Kahle enjoys what are traditionally considered “boy hobbies” as well as “girl hobbies”, reports CBS affiliate WDBJ. She collects coins, hunting knives and baseballs along with stuffed animals and colorful bracelets.
“Sunnie realizes she’s a female, but she wants to do boy things,” Doris Thompson, Kahle’s great-grandmother and legal guardian told WDBJ. “She wants to play rough and tough.”
When Kahle turned five, she asked for a short haircut. “She had hair down to her waist and she wanted to give it to a child with cancer,” said Thompson. “After we cut her hair she started wanting to wear jeans and a t-shirt. She didn’t want to wear her frilly dresses anymore.” Classmates began to ask Kahle if she was a boy or a girl, and Kahle says she responded to questions politely and was not offended by them.
But the question did bother her school’s administration. Becky Bowman, principal of the Timberlake Christian School, sent Kahle home with a letter in February reminding Thompson that the school had religious affiliations and maintained the right to refuse a student who didn’t live a “biblical lifestyle.”
“We believe that unless Sunnie and her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education,” Bowman wrote in the letter, which was given to WDBJ7 by Thompson.
Thompson was offended by the letter. She argues that Kahle is a tomboy and that she’s too young to understand questions of sexual orientation. “To claim that we are condoning sexual immorality in our home is nonsense,” Thompson said. “We are Christians. We understand the Bible. Sunnie knows it very well. She has accepted Christ…If my child grows up to be homosexual or transgendered, I will love her that much more.”
Thompson removed Kahle from the school and placed her in public school instead. Timberlake Christian School responded to original reports about Kahle’s relocation in a statement on Tuesday afternoon:
There is much more to this story than has been revealed related to Sunnie and the classroom environment. Our documentation shows a significantly different narrative than the one portrayed in the original news report. You can be assured that we have cared for Sunnie and worked with her grandparents for several years to assist them. Our TCS teachers and administrators love Sunnie and we can assure everyone that this has never been an issue of hair length or boots as it has been portrayed. It has been our constant desire over the last several years to work with this family and to shepherd this precious little girl in a way consistent with traditional values.
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Image: Baby is born Boy or girl? via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 21st, 2014
An Arkansas high school senior who was one of seven students profiled in the school yearbook is alleging that the school’s decision to pull all seven profiles from the finished book stems from its reticence to publish an account of a gay student coming out of the closet. CNN has more:
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Taylor Ellis, 17, told CNN affiliate KATV that Sheridan High School pulled seven student profiles from the Yellowjacket yearbook rather than publish an account based on his coming out.
“It’s a big thing in Sheridan to be gay,” the yearbook’s assistant editor, Hannah Bruner, told KATV of why she profiled Ellis. “That something that doesn’t get told a lot.”
In a statement, Sheridan Superintendent Brenda Haynes said, “We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook.”
She added, “We have reviewed state law, court cases, and our own policies. It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the District have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so.”
The district decided to scrap the seven profiles rather than publish Ellis’ story, Bruner said. To Ellis, the reason for taking out all the profiles was clear.
“We have a good idea why they’re not going into the yearbook,” he said. “They don’t want to just throw out the gay kid’s interview.”
Ellis, who came out a year ago, said he didn’t understand the decision.
“I’m already openly gay,” he told KATV, “so there’s no reason that it should affect how people see me.”
Bruner’s profile of Ellis said, in part, “Although the thought of coming out and the repercussions of doing so, frightened Ellis at first, he found that most of the student body, as well as the teachers, were very accepting of him.”
Ellis’ mother said the principal, Rodney Williams, contacted her.
“I didn’t understand, because there had been no problems, so I ask him, ‘have you had threats?’ ” Lynn Tiley told KATV. “He said, ‘no, ma’am, just his well-being.’ “
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
A Canadian mother is alleging that her daughter’s Catholic school is discriminating against her daughter by failing to accommodate her severe food allergy. More from The Huffington Post:
Lynne Glover recently filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School for allegedly discriminating against her daughter. The girl, Elodie, is severely allergic to dairy and eggs, and her mom says the school has failed to accommodate the child’s “disability,” according to Canadian outlet The Spec.
Glover pulled Elodie out of school earlier this year, but she wants the school to create an environment that would allow the 6-year-old to re-enroll, the outlet notes. Elodie has gone into anaphylactic shock nine times after being exposed to eggs and dairy.
“I want to ensure all children have access to a barrier free education, that anaphylaxis is more readily recognized as the disability it is. I would love to see board officials be required to undergo mandatory human rights training, there is a lack of understanding, compassion and empathy toward those with anaphylaxis,” Glover said, according to the outlet.
The mom has previously tried to work with the school’s board to create a safe environment for her daughter, but she says she does not think the school implemented enough precautions, CBC News reports.
A spokeswoman for the school board told the outlet she could not comment on the case. CBC News notes the board’s policy requires schools to take “every reasonable effort” to accommodate children with allergies, although it “cannot guarantee an allergen-free environment.”
The mother’s case seeks to ban dairy and egg products from the school, the National Post reports.
“They left me no choice but to file a claim to get them to the table because I wasn’t getting anywhere,” Glover told The National Post. “I’m not looking for a guaranteed allergy-free environment because I know it’s not possible. But reasonable accommodations that fall in line with our doctor’s diagnosis is just plain common sense.”
Image: School cafeteria tray, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 10th, 2014
“Zero tolerance” policies in schools, while well-intentioned, are often ineffective and overly zealous, and they create a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects minority students, the Obama administration said this week in a set of new guidelines. The guidelines urge schools to abandon “zero tolerance” policies in favor of alternate methods of deescalating classroom conflicts before they become violent and dangerous. More from PBS.org:
The wide-ranging series of guidelines issued Wednesday in essence tells schools that they must adhere to the principle of fairness and equity in student discipline or face strong action if they don’t. The American Civil Liberties Union called the recommendations “ground-breaking.”
“A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.
Holder said the problem often stems from well intentioned “zero-tolerance” policies that too often inject the criminal justice system into the resolution of problems. Zero-tolerance policies, a tool that became popular in the 1990s, often spell out uniform and swift punishment for offenses such as truancy, smoking or carrying a weapon. Violators can lose classroom time or become saddled with a criminal record.
Police have become a more common presence in American schools since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999.
The administration said research suggests the racial disparities in how students are disciplined are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.
“In our investigations, we have found cases where African-American students were disciplined more harshly and more frequently because of their race than similarly situated white students,” the Justice and Education departments said in a letter to school districts. “In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.”
Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, acknowledged that students of color were being suspended and expelled in disproportionate numbers.
In American schools, black students without disabilities were more than three times as likely as whites to be expelled or suspended, according to government civil rights data collection from 2011-2012. Although black students made up 15 percent of students in the data collection, they made up more than a third of students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once and more than a third of students expelled.
More than half of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black, according to the data.
Domenech said his organization will work to educate members about the recommendations. “Superintendents recognize that out-of-school suspension is outdated and not in line with 21st-century education,” he said.
Image: Prison bars, via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 15th, 2013
Babies may prefer to be around individuals who pick on, or even mildly bully, members of a group who are different in some way from the others. Researchers at Yale University and the University of British Columbia have determined their findings based on a study of babies who were observing puppets, beans, and balls. The results may help scientists better understand the roots of violence and discrimination, the Boston Globe reports:
Led by scientists at Yale University and the University of British Columbia, the researchers posed a complicated social scenario to 9-month-old and 14-month-old babies: If they saw a rabbit puppet who was either similar or different from them in some fundamental way—in this case, preferring graham crackers or green beans—would they care how others treated the rabbit?
The researchers already knew two basic things about the choices and preferences of infants. Just like adults, who tend to like people who are similar to them, babies are drawn to others who share their tastes in food and toys. Hollywood movies leverage our impulse to cheer for do-gooder heroes over villains; babies similarly prefer a character that helps someone else climb a mountain rather than pushing them down it, a previous study had shown.
But would babies always, universally, prefer heroes to villains? Or would their preference depend on who was being helped or hindered? The researchers wondered: would they see the enemy of their enemy as a friend?
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“I was surprised, and my liberal bleeding heart sunk like a stone, when we found them actually choosing, really robustly, the puppet who punishes” the rabbit puppet that did not share the baby’s preference, said Karen Wynn, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale and senior author of the work, published in the journal Psychological Science.
Image: Rabbit puppet, via Shutterstock