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Entries in Teachers (20)

Wednesday
Mar272013

Texas School District to Arm Teachers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LUBBOCK, Texas) -- Educators in a Texas school district will soon be permitted to carry guns in the classroom, assuming they get approval from the school superintendent, pass a training course and obtain a concealed-handgun license.

The Levelland Independent School District, which is about 30 miles west of Lubbock, instituted the policy in response to last year's deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as the shooting at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

"How do you describe a tragedy like that? It's devastating," Levelland ISD Superintendant Kelly Baggett told ABC News, referencing the Sandy Hook massacre. "It absolutely instilled fear in all of us and made us take a hard look at where we are with our safety and security."

Baggett said the Levelland ISD School board voted Thursday for the policy change allowing teachers to carry guns only after extensive research and a series of meetings.

"Not every teacher in Levelland is going to carry a gun to campus," Baggett said. "It will be certain individuals that I and the school approve. The training is paramount. It's absolutely the most important thing."

Under the new policy, teachers would first need to obtain a concealed-handgun license and pass a gun-training course. The exact nature of the training course isn't yet known, but the Texas State Legislature is considering legislation to establish standards for firearms training for public school employees.

Levelland would not be the first Texas school district to arm employees. David Thweatt, superintendent for Harrold Independent School District in north-central Texas, told ABC News that his school board voted unanimously to arm school employees after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which he says was a wakeup call.

"The idea that we have moved into a society that the police have to do everything is ridiculous," Thweatt said. "Active shooters know where they are going. If your school is known to have a policy in place where people are protecting children with deadly force, they are not coming to your school."

Thweatt says the training his employees received involved lots of time spent on accuracy and shooting, while the other component involved strategies for clearing and securing rooms. It took about a week to complete.

Baggett of the Levelland district said Texas law does not allow handguns on public school property, but a loophole exists in the penal code that says that a school board can authorize concealed handguns with the approval of a school attorney. The Levelland ISD has about 3,000 students and 485 staff members spread across eight campuses and, Baggett says, he hopes to arm two employees per campus.

Baggett says the parental and community response to the new policy arrangement has been mostly positive. "For the most part, we are getting very, very nice compliments and encouragement and positive remarks from our community members and they are applauding us for taking a stand and doing what we are doing," he said.

Baggett hopes to get those he chooses to arm trained this summer and have them ready and on campus before the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

"I have reservations about putting weapons in employees' hands," he said. "We are trained educators and it's a shame that it's gotten to the point in society that we are having to arm our school employees to protect their kids. But my philosophy is I want to do everything I can to protect our kids."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec312012

More Teachers Learning How to Handle Guns in Wake of Newtown Shootings

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BENNETT, Colo.) -- With the shootings in Newtown, Conn., still fresh in the minds of most teachers across the nation, some have decided to take matters of protection into their own hands.

In Bennett, Colo., for instance, police officer Graham Dunne is offering courses in the handling and use of firearms and acknowledges that a number of new students are local teachers.

Dunne admits, "I think there’s a certain amount of hysteria anytime something comes up.  After the last school shooting, I got a mass influx of teachers and other school employees wanting to take my course."

The cop runs a one-day course through his site, ColoradoConcealedPermit.com, that normally charges $160.  But seeing how many teachers are now scared about what happened in Newtown, Dunne gave 20 teachers a free lesson and charged others half-price.

One middle-school teacher from Jefferson County said, "When something happens it kind of hits close to home like that, it's just that added reminder that gives you that extra push, to just make the right choices and prepare yourself, just in case."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct082012

Former NFL Cheerleader, Teacher Avoids Jail Time for Student Affair

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sarah Jones, a former high school English teacher in Kentucky who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 17-year-old student, will not go to jail or have to register as a sex offender, according to the terms of a plea deal entered Monday.

Jones, 26, who is an ex-Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader, pleaded guilty to custodial interference and sexual misconduct, in place of more serious charges that could have sent her to prison for years.

"We are ecstatic about this plea agreement," Jones' attorney, Eric Deters, told ABC News. "It's a great deal for Sarah. She can go on with her life."

Central to the case were text messages between Jones and her victim but, Deters said, prosecutors would have had an uphill battle proving when and where the sex took place.

The former teacher walked out of court hand-in-hand with the victim, who is now 18. The pair would not comment on the plea deal or their relationship, ABC News' Cincinnati affiliate, WCPO-TV, reported.

Jones was indicted in March on charges of first-degree sexual abuse and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited acts. Police say the charges stem from an investigation that began in November at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood, Ky.

The former freshman English teacher stepped down from her position at the school in November after the investigation began, citing "personal reasons."

A federal charge was also handed down against Jones' mother, Cheryl Jones, for allegedly tampering with physical evidence in her daughter's case. The elder Jones also accepted a plea deal Monday and was given two years of conditional discharge and will have to pay court costs.

Copryright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep182012

Chicago Teachers Vote to End Strike

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Chicago's first teachers strike in 25 years will come to an end after a week and a half when the teachers union's delegates Tuesday decided to return to school Wednesday.

Public school teachers emerged from a delegates meeting Tuesday evening and revealed that a huge majority had elected to suspend a walk-out that had dragged on for seven school days and featured bitter disagreements between teachers and the city of Chicago.

It had appeared that the strike was nearing an end Sunday, after both sides said Friday that they had settled on the framework for a new labor agreement. But to the surprise of many, the teachers decided to stay on strike Sunday, claiming that they needed more time to assess the deal.

The move infuriated Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who filed an injunction Monday to end the strike. However, Emanuel's move was not successful and it took until the delegates' meeting Tuesday for the union to call off the walk-out on their own terms.

 

The strike, the city's first in more than two decades, had kept some 29,000 public school teachers and 350,000 students out of the classroom. For the last week and a half, students had gone to "safe haven" sites during the school day.

The two main sticking points in the talks had been the city's new proposed teacher evaluation system and the process for re-hiring laid-off teachers.

The teachers' union had argued that the proposed evaluation system would emphasize students' standardized test scores too heavily and unfairly penalize teachers, while the district countered that the system already includes input from teachers and can be adjusted to change the weighting of the test scores.

In the end that is just what the district did, reducing the emphasis on student testing and making the evaluation system more forgiving for teachers.

The negotiations featured a bitter back-and-forth battle between Emanuel, whom the teachers portrayed as a bully, and union president Karen Lewis, whom the city denounced for overseeing what they felt was an unnecessary strike.

After the teachers elected to return to school, Lewis told reporters that "we feel very positive about moving forward" and "grateful that we have a united union." Lewis said "98 percent" of the delegates at the meeting Tuesday wanted to return to school.

Lewis said that while the strike is suspended, teachers have not officially signed off on the new deal. It could take up to two weeks for the union's members to do so, she said, but the decision to end the strike was a clear-cut one.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Chicago Teachers' Strike Nearing an End as 'Tentative' Agreement Reached  

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Chicago’s first teachers’ strike in a quarter of a century is coming to an end after a five-day lock-out full of heated negotiations, which resulted in both sides reaching a “tentative agreement” that could put some 29,000 public school teachers and 350,000 students back in the classroom Monday.
 
Representatives from both the teachers’ union and the city announced Friday that they have agreed on the framework of a deal and they hope to finalize it by Sunday, at which time the union’s members would vote on it.
 
Robert Bloch, the attorney for the teacher’s union, said negotiators have reached “the outlines of an agreement on the major issues.”
 
“We are hopeful that we will have a complete agreement done by Sunday,” he said.
 
That sentiment was echoed by David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, who noted that "the framework" of a deal is now in place.
 
Vitale’s message to parents was blunt: "They should be prepared to have their kids in school on Monday."

A source close to the negotiations told ABC News that the “important thing” about the “tentative agreement” is that “kids will be back in school on Monday.”
 
“[The agreement] gives them the time in school and all the things we believe necessary for a good education,” the source said.
 
Negotiators had worked into the early hours of Friday morning before breaking for the night; they then returned to the bargaining table Friday at 9:00 AM. Signs of a potential resolution had first emerged Thursday morning when the tone of top negotiators turned from angry bitterness to cautious optimism.
 
“We had what we think is pretty good movement, but of course the board always has to do a little bit of backsliding,” Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, told reporters Thursday outside the Hilton on Michigan Ave., the site of the negotiations.
 
After a marathon bargaining session Thursday, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the chief education officer for Chicago Public Schools, told reporters Friday morning that it had been a “beneficial night” that had brought the two sides “closer.”
 
“We are so close that I do believe on this sun-shiny day that it is very possible that we will have an agreement,” Byrd-Bennett said Friday.
 
The two main sticking points in the talks had been the city’s new proposed teacher evaluation system and the process for re-hiring laid off teachers. The teachers’ union has argued that the proposed evaluation system would emphasize students’ standardized test scores too heavily and unfairly penalize teachers, while the district countered that the system already includes input from teachers and can be adjusted to change the weighting of the test scores. In the past day that is just what the district did, reducing the emphasis on student testing and making the evaluation system more forgiving for teachers.
 
While a final agreement has yet to be reached, both sides now emphasize that a tentative one is in place, a final one appears imminent, and teachers and students will likely be able to return to the classroom on Monday.
 
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep112012

Chicago Teachers Union Says It’s Been Given an Ultimatum

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The Chicago teachers’ strike will stretch into a third day Wednesday after negotiators failed to reach a deal yet again Tuesday evening.

After another long day of talks, David Vitale, the president of the Chicago Board of Education, told reporters that his side had presented the teachers’ union with an updated proposal Tuesday night and he would not return to the negotiating table until the teachers responded with a written proposal of their own.

“It is time for us to get serious,” Vitale said.

While Vitale said the two sides had reached agreements on various issues, a key sticking point remained a new system for teacher evaluations.

“I would not say that we came to an agreement on the fundamentals of all that,” Vitale said.

Minutes later, Jesse Sharkey, the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, came to the cameras to explain that, in his view, his side had essentially been given an ultimatum.

“We do feel like it’s sort of an attempt to throw down the gauntlet, and that’s an unwelcome development,” Sharkey said. "At the end of the day, they basically dug in their heels.”

Sharkey said the main topic of discussion Tuesday was the evaluations. He expressed frustration that the latest offer from the city would, according to him, leave 28 percent of Chicago teachers in jeopardy of losing their jobs within the next two years.

“The idea that 28 percent of our teachers could be fired due to poor performance is really an insult to the profession,” he said.

Despite the back-and-forth between Vitale and Sharkey Tuesday night, staffers from both sides are scheduled to meet again Wednesday at 11 a.m. CT. In the meantime, the Windy City’s first teachers’ strike in more than two decades will now extend into a third day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep102012

Chicago Teachers Strike 'Wrong... For Our Children,' Mayor Says

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- As Chicago teachers and administrators walked on picket lines Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it was "wrong ... for our children" and urged negotiators to "stay at the table."

The strike is the first teachers strike for the city in 25 years.

"This is a strike of choice and it's the wrong choice for our children and it's not necessary," Emanuel said at a news conference Monday. "Totally avoidable. ... We need to just finish the job ... given all the work that's gone on ... to make sure that our kids get the education they need."

The strike started Monday after this weekend's last-ditch negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools failed to produce a new labor agreement.

The union represents more than 29,000 teachers in the third-largest school district in the U.S.

Negotiations between the two sides were reportedly stuck on two issues: teacher evaluations that focus heavily on standardized test scores and a benefits package for union members.

The teachers union argued that the evaluation system emphasized students' standardized test scores too heavily and unfairly penalized instructors. Emanuel said that he believed the tests would reflect better on the teachers' performances than the teachers thought.

Jesse Sharkey, the union's vice president, said Monday that teachers were trying to reach a contract with the city.

"I do think it happens to be that the issues we're facing in Chicago are the same issues that people are facing across the country," Sharkey said. "Public education has become an issue that's about people's rights and people's access to a high-quality future and so we think we're fighting for good public schools here and that's something worth fighting for."

Sharkey said that an atmosphere in which the school system took credit for successes and placed blame and failures on educators had created a "sense of resentment and frustration among our members."

With teachers out of the classrooms, 144 schools opened from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to provide breakfast, lunch and care for students.

In a city where shootings have been the story of the summer, keeping nearly 400,000 students safe during the strike immediately has become a top concern.

The teachers' labor agreement ended in June and months of negotiations failed to hatch a new deal.

Karen Lewis, the union's president, said Sunday that the strike was a difficult decision that the group had tried to avoid.

"Throughout these negotiations have I remained hopeful but determined," she said. "We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve."

Emanuel Monday said that the latest offer presented to the teachers union was a fair one.

"This offer is respectful of our teachers," he said. "It does right by our students and it is fair to our taxpayers. It is a 16-percent pay increase over four years."

Emanuel said that the two sides had made so much progress in the negotiations that the walk-out should have and could have been avoided.

The mayor said that his team was ready to resume negotiations immediately.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep102012

Emanuel on Chicago's Teachers Strike: Get It Done 'For Our Children'

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today had a blunt message for negotiators involved in the ongoing teachers strike, the city’s first in a quarter of a century: “Stay at the table. Finish it for our children.”

"This is a strike of choice and it's the wrong choice for our children and it’s not necessary. Totally avoidable,” Emanuel said at a press conference following his visit this morning to Maranatha Church, one of around 60 faith-based organizations serving as safe haven sites for children to use during the strike.

“We need to just finish the job – given all the work that’s gone on – to make sure that our kids get the education they need,” he urged.

Emanuel said the two sides had reached an agreement on every issue except two: teacher evaluations and control over hiring decisions.

“Everything here is down to two final issues. It's not air conditioning, okay? It’s 71 degrees outside. It’s not air conditioning. We don’t go on strike for air conditioning. Two issues, fundamental: an evaluation system designed by teachers, for teachers, revised by teachers [and] a system in which the local principal picks the most qualified teacher to teach or downtown does it. And I am against downtown. I want the local principal, your neighborhood school principal, picking the best qualified teacher.”

While the teachers union has argued that the evaluation system emphasizes students’ standardized test scores too heavily and unfairly penalizes teachers, Emanuel said he believes the tests would reflect better on the teachers’ performances than the teachers themselves seem to think.

"I have a bigger confidence in the quality of our teachers than they do, which I think is a little strange,” he noted.

The mayor claimed the latest offer presented to the teachers union was a fair one.

“This offer is respectful of our teachers, it does right by our students, and it is fair to our taxpayers. It is a 16 percent pay increase over four years. But what we can't do is roll back what is essential to improving the quality of our education,” he said.

“I'm not going to allow another generation to go on the shortest school day in the shortest school year. I’m not going to allow another generation to go that doesn’t make sure that we make improvements in our most rigorous curriculum,” he added.

Before concluding, Emanuel denounced Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement today on the teachers strike as nothing more than “lip service.”

“I don’t really give two hoots about national comments scoring political points or trying to embarrass, or whatever, the president.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar302012

Alabama Teachers Caught Mistreating Special Needs Student

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEWTON, Ala.) -- Two Alabama teachers have been put on administrative leave after the mother of a 10-year-old student with cerebral palsy attached an audio recorder to the bottom of his wheelchair and caught them scolding him about drooling, among other things.

Jose Salinas, or as his friends and family call him, "Little Joe," is in fourth grade at Wicksburg High School, a public school in Newton, Ala.  Jose has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair at school, but is high-functioning and can walk with a walker.

His mother, Melisha Salinas, a nursing student, knew he didn't enjoy school and would come home sick many days, but he would tell her he had a "good day" every day when she asked.

A psychologist told Salinas, 31, the problem could be stress or anxiety, but she didn't know the source.

One day, a little girl in Jose's class who lives in the neighborhood told Salinas that the teacher's aide had been mean to Jose three times that day.  Salinas got Jose to confirm two of the instances, but wanted to be sure.

"I went ahead and put a recorder on his wheelchair to make sure for myself," Salinas said.

She recorded several days of class in mid-March and was "shocked" with what she heard.

"You drooled on the paper," a male's voice, allegedly that of teacher's aide Drew Faircloth, could be heard saying impatiently.  "That's disgusting."

"Keep your mouth closed and don't drool on my paper," a woman's voice said, allegedly teacher Alicia Brown.  "I do not want to touch your drool.  Do you understand that?  Obviously, you don't."

Over the three days of recordings, Salinas said Jose received about 20 minutes of actual instruction and spent almost the entire day sitting in silence with no one speaking to him.

After Salinas listened to the recordings, she took Jose out of school.  She said that when Jose is at home, she can't get him to stop talking, but in the tapes he was "dead silent."

Salinas took the recordings to the school board and the teachers were put on administrative leave.  But last Friday, the teachers were back at school.

"They were back at the school and my children were there so I got them out of school and so did several angry parents," Salinas said.  "I just lost all hope.  Nobody was listening to me."

The normally "shy and reserved" Salinas had hoped to handle the matter quietly with the school, but when the teachers were returned to their positions, she shared the recordings with her local newspaper.

By Monday, the teachers were back on paid administrative leave, and on April 9 the school board will meet to decide what further action to take.

For now, Jose is back in school and his mother said he has been doing much better.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb242012

Fifth Graders Suspended for Putting Rat Poison in Teacher’s Coffee

Hemera/iStockpoto/Thinkstock(FRESNO, Calif.) -- A group of three California elementary school students are facing expulsion for attempting to poison their fifth-grade teacher with rat poison.

The students at Balderas Elementary, ages 10 and 11, put rat poison in their teacher’s cup of coffee last December. Before the teacher drank any, the student who put the poison in had a change of heart, knocking over the coffee during class, Fresno Unified School District PIO Susan Bedi told ABC News.

At home that day, that student told his parents that he had saved a teacher’s life, leaving out the details, Bedi said.

This month, while waiting for the child at the end of the school day, the student’s parent asked an administrator at school if the teacher was doing O.K. From there, the story unfolded.

Eventually, all three students admitted involvement, although it still isn’t clear why they did it, and the school district took disciplinary action.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for violence, and the students are currently in the process of suspension, with a recommendation for expulsion,” Bedi said. “They will not be returning to that school.”

No criminal charges have been filed against the students by the Fresno Police Department, ABC’s Fresno affiliate KFSN reports.

There were some reports that a cupcake had also been poisoned and given to the teacher, but Bedi says there is no evidence to support that.

The Fresno Teachers Association released a statement saying they appreciate the swift action by the school district, but that this case is indicative of a larger problem in the city’s schools.

“This is but the latest example of the dangerous conditions that exist in Fresno Unified due to inconsistent enforcement of discipline and lack of consequences for students daily,” FTA President Greg Gadams said. “Something has to be done and this is a prime place to start insuring teacher safety and student accountability.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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