Entries in Students (16)


Schools Take Aim at Popular Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- School districts in California and New Mexico are trying to ban the popular snack food Flamin’ Hot Cheetos because they say it is a health hazard to students.

School officials say the concern is their nutritional value, or lack thereof.  Each bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos contains 26 grams of fat and a quarter of the amount of salt that’s recommended for the entire day.

One school district in Illinois, which used to sell about 150,000 bags each year, has already taken the snack off its menu.

“If children were to bring in snacks that are high in fat, high in calories, that’s their choice,” Rockford School District Interim Superintendent Robert Willis said.  “We’re not going to be providing those kinds of foods.”

On top of the artificial coloring and flavoring, some experts say the Cheetos are “hyperpalatable,” meaning they’re highly addictive.

“Our brain is really hardwired to find things like fat and salt really rewarding and now we have foods that have them in such high levels that it can trigger an addictive process,” said Ashley Gearhardt, a clinical psychologist at the University of Michigan.

Frito Lay, which makes and sells Cheetos, says it is “committed to responsible and ethical practices, which includes not marketing our products to children ages 12 and under.”

While Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are under fire in schools, kids can’t get enough of them.  So much so that there is a YouTube video featuring kids rapping about their love of the snack.

“Got my fingers stained red and I can’t get them off me.  You can catch me and my crew eating hot Cheetos and takis,” one boy raps in the video.

Takis are a chili pepper- and lime-flavored corn snack.

The video has already been viewed more than 3.3 million times and there are even Facebook fan pages dedicated to the snack.

One fan page has more than 49,000 “likes,” with many fans posting photos and videos with the snack.

“Don’t feel like leaving to get food,” one person writes.  “So I’m eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Philadelphia Students Slimmer; Schools' Anti-Obesity Efforts Cited

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Researchers found a drop in Philadelphia high school obesity rates between 2006 and 2010, the first time a large evaluation has suggested that a school system's efforts to curb obesity were effective.

Philadelphia researchers, including city health commissioner Donald Schwarz, looked at the BMI (Body Mass Index) numbers of 120,000 students from elementary school through high school, and found a five-percent decline in obesity rates over the five years studied. Though it's hard to prove for sure that the school system's efforts were the greatest cause of the improvement, Philadelphia clearly tried to make a difference. Schools banned soda and sugary beverages, removed all deep fryers and sold only low-fat milk in their cafeterias over the last 10 years.

"You've got to give the school system in Philadelphia credit for doing this stuff," said Dr. Louis Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and the Weill Cornell Medical Center. "It's not just one step, but many steps that are going to be necessary to stem the tide of obesity."

Similar studies have been conducted in California and Arkansas, but in neither of those places was there a significant weight reduction over time.

Aronne said perhaps Philadelphia students weren't able to leave school -- and buy unhealthy foods -- as easily as students in California, who were more likely to have cars. The Philadelphia health efforts also included telling kids to leave unhealthy snacks at home, and cooperating with nearby corner stores to put healthy choices -- instead of candy -- near the cash register.

But Commissioner Schwarz says the decline isn't what most surprised him. He said he was more struck by which groups saw the biggest slim-down: African American girls and Hispanic boys.

In other studies, Schwarz said, the students who had the greatest success against obesity were wealthy, but African Americans and Hispanics in Philadelphia typically aren't.

Students might not always be able to choose healthy snacks at home, but they'll get healthy snacks in school, said Lisa Rudi, who manages Eat.Right.Now, a 13-year-old program in Philadelphia to end hunger and promote healthy eating. The program features after-school cooking clubs, school assemblies and field trips to farms. School farm stores even sell produce inexpensively and offer recipes to parents.

"They're getting to taste vegetables they've never tasted before," she said. "Last year, we did sweet potatoes for 2 and a half pounds for a dollar."

Bettyann Creighton, the district's director of safety and physical education, said teachers are also encouraged to provide non-food rewards in the classroom, and clubs are encouraged to sell healthy treats -- instead of candy and cupcakes -- when they hold fundraisers.

Aronne, who was not part of the study, said he thinks preventing obesity in children is a crucial step toward curbing it nationwide. He said relatively new research indicates that fatty or sugary foods "injure" the weight-regulating areas of the brain early and lead to obesity, which could point to why Philadelphia's actions to foster healthy eating early are important.

"If we're going to stop the epidemic of obesity, it's going to be in childhood," he said.

He added that Philadelphia's results are not a miracle. "It's the result, in my opinion, of applying a number of techniques over several years."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cramming May Be Damning for Your Grades

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- High school students who choose to sacrifice their sleep to get extra studying time in may fare worse academically the next day compared with their well-rested peers, new research suggests.

In a study released Tuesday in the journal Child Development, UCLA researchers studied 535 students as they progressed through ninth, 10th and 12th grade to see how lack of sleep affected their academic performance.  Using a diary that they kept for 14 days straight, the students answered the following questions:

  • Did you do homework or study today while not in school?  If yes, for how long?
  • How many hours and minutes did you sleep last night?
  • Did you have problems understanding something taught in class today or do poorly on a test, quiz, or homework?

What researchers found was that as the students advanced through high school, the downsides of sacrificing sleep time for study time became more apparent.  Ninth grade students who spent extra time studying on a particular night did not have worse academic performance the next day.  By 12th grade, however, students who made the same tradeoff reported deficits the next day in understanding class material or on test performance.

In practical terms, this study argues that studying at the expense of sleep may not be a wise decision.

"Although studying is essential, sleep is important for learning," says Dr. Phyllis C. Zee, professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern University.  "Even one night of sleep loss can negatively affect performance."

"This should make not only high school students but also college students and even professionals rethink the common practice of 'cramming' for exams, work projects, et cetera, at the expense of sleep loss," Zee continued.

Dr. Andrew Fuligni, professor of psychiatry at UCLA and senior author on the study, emphasizes that it is not problematic to spend more time studying overall -- as long as it is not at the expense of sleep.  Previous studies have confirmed that the same amount of study time spread evenly over several days leads to better academic performance than trying to study all at once.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids with Healthy Hearts and Lungs Get Better Grades?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- It's August already and as summer vacation winds down toward the new school term, a new study reveals the link between good grades and good health. Students with healthy hearts and lungs fare better in math and reading, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention.
Researchers studied some 1,200 students from five Texas middle schools whose average age was 12. The participants were evaluated for cardio-vascular fitness, academic performance, self-esteem and social support.
The study authors found that the only consistent factor that had a positive effect on their grades was cardio-vascular fitness.   

“Cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor that we consistently found to have an impact on both boys’ and girls’ grades on reading and math tests,” study co-author Trent A. Petrie, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas said in a statement. “This provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students’ involvement in physical education classes.”
The study also showed that students perform better in reading when family and friends provide reliable social support to help in problem solving and dealing with emotions.  The results were not the same for math, however, where cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor related to positive performance.

Though the study does not show a clear causal relationship between fitness and academics (students who are motivated to be physically fit could actually just be students who possess academic motivation as well), the authors conclude that the relationship of physical fitness and academic performance is one that is independent of other factors, and schools should work to develop better fitness programs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids Fail Less When They Know Failure Is Part of Learning

Fuse/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Kids perform better in school if they know failure, and trying again, is part of the learning process, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

The research included several experiments intended to see whether parents and teachers can help students succeed by changing the way learning material is presented to them.  Study experiments included anagram problems and reading comprehension, and researchers found that kids who were told it’s normal to fail and try again did better on the tests than those who did not receive such a pep talk.

“In this research, we showed that helping children to interpret difficulty, not as a sign of intellectual limitation but as the normal learning outcome, improved their performance on very demanding and difficult tasks and reduced their feelings of incompetence,” said study co-author Frederique Autin, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Poitiers in Poitiers, France.  “What our data revealed is that reorienting the interpretation of difficulty boosted children’s working memory, that is the ability to process and remember information.”

“Experiencing difficulty when we work on a demanding problem may raise the possibility that we are not that smart after all,” said Jean-Claude Croizet, co-author of the study.  “Difficulty makes us nervous because it is often associated with lower ability.”

One experiment included 111 French school children ages 11 and 12.  They were given a difficult anagram problem that was too difficult for any of them to solve.  Afterwards, researchers told half the kids that failure is common and to be expected when learning.  The other group were simply asked how they tried to solve the problem by the researchers.  The group that received the pep talk scored better on further tests than the group of kids who did not receive the talk.

“Fear of failing can hijack the working memory resources, a core component of intellectual ability,” the researchers said.  “Fear of failing not only hampers performance, it can also lead students to avoid difficulty and therefore the opportunities to develop new skills.  Because difficulty is inherent to most academic tasks, our goal was to create a safer performance environment where experiencing difficulty would not be associated with lower ability.”

“Indeed, those who are smart succeed,” Autin said.  “This is what we often believe.  But science tells a different story.  Believing that success reflects higher ability and failure lower competence is not only wrong, but we show that it is detrimental to intellectual efficiency during challenging tasks.”

While the researchers noted the students’ improvement on tests was likely temporary, working memory may get a boost from a simple dose of self-confidence.  The researchers said teachers and parents should provide positive reinforcement and point out kids’ progress rather than test scores.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Black Students More Likely to Be Disciplined, Survey Finds

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Black students face a greater chance of being disciplined than their peers in public schools, new data from the Department of Education suggests.

A survey of 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the U.S. found that black school children accounted for 35 percent of those who had been suspended once, even though they made up only 18 percent of the students sampled.  The percentage jumped to 46 among those who had been suspended more than once and to 39 among those who had been expelled.

Compared to their white classmates, black students were found to be three-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended or expelled.

American Civil Liberties Union senior legislative counsel Deborah Vagins, who pushed for the data's release, said, "There's several concerns that are happening in our nation's schools, not just school discipline, but obviously also the re-segregation of schools.  Our schools are becoming more and more racially isolated."

And, as she explained, this can be detrimental to a student's performance.

"Data shows that the more racially isolated students are, the worse it is for their academic achievement," Vagins said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Allergic Girl's Death Raises Questions About School's Responsibility

Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM(RICHMOND, Va.) -- The death of a Virginia first grader has raised questions about how schools should handle severe allergies.

Ammaria Johnson, 7, died Monday after suffering an allergic reaction during recess at her Chesterfield County elementary school, Hopkins Elementary.

"She came to the school clinic after feeling she had hives and shortness of breath," Lt. Jason Elmore, a spokesman for the Chesterfield County Fire Department, told ABC News. It's unclear how long Johnson was in the clinic before school officials called 911 at 2:26 p.m.

"When emergency crews arrived, she was already in cardiac arrest in the clinic," said Elmore.

Johnson was rushed to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

What caused the reaction is still under investigation, but Johnson's mother, Laura Pendleton, told local reporters the girl had a peanut allergy.

"We can only assume that at this time," said Elmore. "We have EMS protocols in place for allergic reactions and we performed those in hopes of saving her life, but unfortunately this time we could not."

Calls to Pendleton were not immediately returned. She arrived at the hospital after Johnson had died, Elmore said.

The death is still under investigation by the Chesterfield County Police Department, according to a spokeswoman, but the state medical examiner will not be involved.

Experts say Johnson could have been saved by an EpiPen -- a device that injects epinephrine, currently available only by prescription.

"The epinephrine reverses severe symptoms, giving time to get the person to an emergency room for monitoring and more care," said Dr. Scott Sicherer of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

But Hopkins Elementary had no such device on hand for Johnson.

Chesterfield County school policy states that parents are responsible for providing the school "with all daily and emergency medications prescribed by the student's health-care provider," and keeping medications up to date.

"For any medication, the school would have to be in possession of that medication to provide it," said Shawn Smith, a spokesman for Chesterfield County Public Schools. Even if the school had an EpiPen prescribed for another student, they would not be able to use it.

"The medication we receive, or should receive, has to be specific to that child, whether it's over-the-counter or prescription," Smith said.

Smith declined to comment on Johnson's case specifically, but said managing severe allergies starts at home.

"At the beginning of the school year, we sent information to parents outlining the different responsibilities for the family and the child, the principal, the teacher, the doctor and the nurse," he said. "First and foremost, is does begin at home. Working with their doctor, the family would outline a health care plan that deals with those severe allergies."

Pendleton told local reporters her daughter did have a plan, but said the school refused to take Johnson's EpiPen and failed to give her Benadryl -- an over-the-counter antihistamine also listed in her plan -- at the first sign of a reaction.

Because severe allergies can develop without warning, some experts say schools should stock EpiPens like bandages and other first-aid supplies.

A school EpiPen stash could soon be a reality with a proposed bill that would encourage states to adopt laws requiring schools to have EpiPens on hand. The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, proposed in December 2011, would mean EpiPens could be used for any student or staff member in an anaphylactic emergency.

The bill would include liability protection for school officials who give epinephrine in good faith, according to Maria Acebal, chief executive officer of the Fairfax, Va.-based Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, which championed the bill.

"No one in this country has ever been sued for giving epinephrine, to my knowledge," said Acebal. "All the lawsuits come about because school officials don't give it when it's needed."

In a healthy child, epinephrine can cause a rapid heart rate, nausea and light-headedness -- mild symptoms that wear off in 15 minutes. It would only be dangerous in children born with a congenital heart condition, which school officials would be aware of.

Acebal, whose eldest daughter has a food allergy, said her other children learned how to inject epinephrine by age 6.

"If I can teach a 6-year-old to do it, we can teach school staff," she said.

Acebal said having epinephrine on hand in school would give students, staff and parents added peace of mind.

"My heart breaks for Ammaria's family because any parent who has a child with a food allergy knows what it's like to fear that phone call from the school," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cyberbaiting On the Rise as Teacher Tantrums Posted to YouTube

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you do a quick search on YouTube, you can find dozens of videos of teachers "flipping out" to the jeering laughter of students.  Known as cyberbaiting, students engage in this form of bullying by provoking teachers to the breaking point and then secretly recording the tantrum on a cellphone and posting it online.

Not only is it humiliating for the teachers, but it can cost them their job.  In Houston, gym teacher Sherri Davis was fired after kicking her 13-year-old student to the ground and beating him in front of his classmates, who recorded the incident.

Sometimes, it's a perfect storm of psychological vulnerability and provocation: Nashville, Tenn., teacher Donald Woods hurled chairs at goading students, but was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, according to his family.

Recently, the cyber security company Norton reported that 21 percent of teachers worldwide either experienced cyberbaiting themselves or knew a colleague who was cyberbaited.  Many lose their jobs after their outbursts, even though students were the provocateurs.

So far, according to the Norton study, only 51 percent of teachers said their schools had guidelines for social media communication.

"If it's on YouTube it will spread like a cancer," said Donna Emery, a veteran math teacher from Wilmington, N.C., who now runs a resource center.  "Teachers are under attack, period."

The teacher "sets the stage" for classroom control and open lines of communication with parents at the beginning of the year, but some teachers don't know how to set boundaries and students can "smell the fear," she said.

Some blame a culture that has become more violent, parents who coddle their children or budget cuts that create larger class sizes.  But cyber experts say it's the new tools in the hands of impulsive teens.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


No School for You! Unvaccinated Students Shut Out

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The San Francisco Chronicle reports that roughly 2,000 of the city’s middle and high school students were barred from attending class Thursday because they had yet to be immunized against pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, and they can’t return until they get the shot.

The action was taken under a new state law that requires all seventh- to 12th-graders, in both public and private schools, to get the pertussis vaccine by the first day of school.

California is no stranger to the ravages of the illness. Last year, the state experienced the worst whooping cough epidemic it had seen in 50 years. By January 2011, the state Department of Public Health reported more than 8,000 cases and 10 infant deaths.

The students had apparently been given fair warning. District officials said the lockout of unvaccinated kids came only after phone calls to homes, numerous written reminders, in-school announcements, free community vaccination clinics and a 30-day extension on the vaccination deadline, according to the Chronicle.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and an ardent supporter of vaccination efforts, said that despite the lockout of unvaccinated students, the impact on these kids’ class schedules should be minimal, because free vaccinations were made available immediately to those who had yet to receive them.

“The California example shows that if you do the right thing and provide the resources to get it done quickly and appropriately, it works,” he said. “And it works to protect the individual as well as the community.”

In addition to being highly contagious, whooping cough is a grueling illness. Its advanced stages are characterized by a severe, hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath, or the “whoop” that gives the disease its nickname.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ex-NFLer, Dick's Sporting Goods Promote Concussion Tests for Young Athletes

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images(PITTSBURGH) -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, who suffered several serious head injuries during his career, is encouraging student-athletes to undergo concussion tests before starting fall sports.

In a 30-second television spot that began airing Monday, Bettis never directly mentions sports gear sold by Dick's Sporting Goods, the Pittsburgh-based chain of more than 400 stores. Instead, Bettis picks up a white football helmet inside one of the stores and says, "You wouldn't get on the field without this, and you shouldn't get on the field without a baseline concussion test either."

He closes the spot by saying, "Let's bench concussions with the help of Dick's Sporting Goods."

An estimated 3.8 million youngsters suffer concussions annually while engaging in sports and recreational activities, putting them at risk for neurological damage. Studies have confirmed that these brain injuries eventually can contribute to such disorders as dementia and Parkinson's disease. They've also been associated with a newly identified condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has led to suicides among some athletes, especially professional football players.

On Aug. 2, Bettis and Dick's launched the Protecting Athletes through Concussion Education (PACE) program. Their goal is to test about one million middle school and high school athletes at more than 3,300 U.S. schools using a tool called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), already widely used by pro football, baseball and hockey teams.

The 20-minute computerized quiz asks about a player's health history, symptoms, sleep and medications. Other questions focus on the ability to remember words and images, as well as reaction time. Responses establish a baseline level of brain function. Athletes then can be retested after a concussion and the results compared to determine when they've recovered. Based on those results, "young athletes will know when to sit out," Bettis says in the ad.

ImPACT was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Joseph Maroon, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who appears in the ads with Bettis. The testing subsequently was improved and computerized by Dr. Mark Lovell, founding director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, and Dr. Michael "Micky" Collins, current director of the program, which sees 10,000 athletes a year, the majority of whom are youngsters.

Physicians contacted by the ABC News Medical Unit generally supported baseline testing for youngsters who play sports. The tests provide a more accurate picture of an athlete's neurological function than what might be apparent for athletes who understate their injuries or claim to be symptom-free because they're eager to resume playing. "Some of these athletes may be hiding symptoms and others may truly feel OK, but the test can pick up subtle deficits," said Dr. Ken Mautner of Emory Sports Medicine Center in Atlanta.

Divine said athletes who return to play too soon and become reinjured are "at greater risk of post-concussion syndrome, an indefinite time period of headaches and other symptoms, cognitive dysfunction, problems with emotions, behaviors, sleep and many other normal day-to-day activities."

Dr. Aaron Karlin, director of the pediatric concussion management program at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, likes the tests because, among other things, the results are "easy to show to parents, athletes, coaches and trainers alike so there is limited argument/discussion."

Dr. Mark Halstead, director of the Sports Concussion Clinic at Washington University Sports Medicine in St. Louis and team physician for professional, college and high school athletes in the area, said the tests must be properly administered and interpreted. "Whomever purchases the test to use must have a physician or neuropsychologist who is trained in the test," he said. "These tests should not be interpreted by coaches, parents, athletes or any other non-medically trained providers."

Dick's will donate $1 for each pair of sport shoes bought by Sept. 12 in its stores or online. It is pledging up to $1 million for the PACE program, according to the ad running on ESPN, the Discovery Channel, Food Network, VH1, TLC, BET, Oxygen and Golf Channel. The new campaign includes four YouTube videos, including one with Bettis.

He also is among several pro athletes, including Ali Krieger, a defender on the U.S. Women's National soccer team; Daryl "Moose" Johnston, a former Dallas Cowboys fullback; Brian Mitchell, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back; and Doug Flutie, former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots, making in-store appearances and participating in concussion seminars.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio