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University of Texas elects first Latina, physically disabled student president

Fourth-year government and Mexican-American studies major Alejandrina Guzman made University of Texas history Thursday when she was elected to be the Austin campus’ first Latina and physically disabled student-body president.

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A campus-wide runoff election concluded with Guzman and running mate Micky Wolf capturing 54 percent of the vote and winning the election by an almost 800-vote margin Thursday evening.

As part of the "Alejandrina and Micky" campaign, Guzman said she ran for student-body president because she realized how important it was for her to represent and advocate for underserved communities on campus.

 Zooming around campus these past four years, I’ve learned to navigate campus and expand my comfort zone, but not always...Posted by Alejandrina Guzman on Friday, February 17, 2017

The campaign ran on a platform with six points:

  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Accessibility for disabled students
  • Addressing sexual assault
  • Affordability of college
  • Service
  • Spirit and tradition.

The motto was "Let’s RALLY," which stood for Represent All Longhorns Like You.

Outgoing student-body president Kevin Helgren congratulated Guzman and Wolf in a Facebook post.

"Running for student body president and vice president at one of the largest universities in the world is no small task – it takes a tremendous amount of courage, vulnerability and sacrifice ... I’m excited to see where leadership takes our passionate student body," he said.

Helgren also acknowledged the other two campaigns for their hard work.

Candidates for student-body president and vice president at UT have been more diverse in recent decades, according to UT spokesman J.B. Bird.

However, it has been 17 years since the last African-American student-body president, Daron Roberts. Six years have passed since the last female student-body president, Natalie Butler — until Guzman.

High school installs showers, laundry facilities for homeless students

A high school in Utah that operates a food pantry on campus has expanded its offerings to help students in need.East High has installed showers and laundry facilities on campus for homeless students to use, according to KSTU.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  School officials estimate between 50 and 100 students do not have access to such facilities on a daily basis.Principal Greg Maughan became aware of the issue after students were seen using the theater department's laundry facilities for personal clothes. Maughan told KSTU, "Everyone who enters this school has the right to be clean."The school has installed two new wash rooms, each with a shower and a washing machine and dryer. The washing machine was donated by a local nonprofit. Donations have helped fund the new additions as well as the popular food pantry.

Middle school dean plans revenge attack on student

A school dean at Nolan Middle School in Bradenton, Florida, has been demoted after text messages revealed that she plotted a revenge attack on a student she believed injured her son. 

Wende Pendleton-Wicks, the dean, texted a 15-year-old boy, asking him to hurt a student she believed had broken her 8-year-old son’s arm, the Bradenton Herald reported.

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Pendleton-Wicks’s son broke his arm in December while playing with some other boys in the bus lane at the school.

The dean admitted that while she was at the hospital with her son, she sent text messages to a former Nolan student who offered to retaliate against the boy believed to be responsible for the injury, according to the Herald.

“Don’t you worry I’ll pick (the student) up and drop him,” the student wrote to Pendleton-Wicks.

The dean replied, “Please do.”

The student later reached out to the boy who allegedly hurt Pendleton-Wicks’s son, asking him to meet up at the playground to fight. Both the dean and the student told investigators that she eventually texted the student and instructed him to not harm the other student. However, she claims she had deleted all of the messages and was unable to provide proof of her change of heart.

“I guess he was just being protective of me is all I can think of,” she said when asked why a middle school boy would offer such a service to her, adding that he had gotten her phone number from his grandmother.

Pendleton-Wicks has since been demoted to a floating substitute teacher and will become a regular classroom teacher next school year, according to The Associated Press

Read more at the Bradenton Herald.

School lets sleepy students nap

It sounds like a dream, being able to nap during class without getting in trouble with the teacher. 

Students in several New Mexico high schools are seeing that dream come true, sort of. 

Instead of pushing back start times, a few schools in Las Cruces have brought in sleep pods, NBC News reported.

Students can now take a 20-minute doze between classes, which is helping them learn.

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The pods, made by MetroNaps, include a chair that reclines and is covered by a sensory-reduction bubble that envelops the napper's head and body, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

One school has the pods installed in its health center. They are not just being used for students and staff who feel sleepy.

Linda Summers, who secured the grant to purchase the pods, said that someone with a headache or high blood pressure, is sent to the pod. It has also helped calm down students after fights.

Instead of leaving school when they don't feel well, students were able to return to class 99 out of 100 times when school officials tracked the results.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, teenagers need 9 to 10 hours a sleep a day. But the institute's research says that 40 percent of teens report being too sleepy. Teens not only have eight hours or so of school; many have homework, sports, part-time jobs and chores to accomplish every day that cut into their sleep schedules.

For more on how to get more sleep, click here.

Parents upset after teen with Asperger's arrested for altercation with teacher

The parents of a freshman at a Florida high school are questioning the way officials handled their son’s outburst.Ashton Gelfand, 14, was arrested Thursday after a physical altercation with a teacher at the school.

The teen has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD and bipolar disorder, which can lead him to lash out, according to his father, Bryan Gelfand.

“All I see is red, like I want to either hurt something, or just break something,” Ashton Gelfand told WFTV, referring to those moments.

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Bryan Gelfand said that West Orange High School officials were aware of the 14-year-old’s conditions, but things got out of hand when the boy got into an argument with a substitute teacher.

As the situation escalated, the school’s vice principal and school resource officer got involved, and it ultimately became physical, Bryan Gelfand said.

Ashton Gelfand was arrested and taken to the Orange County Juvenile Detention Center, where he made a frantic call to his parents.

“All he kept saying was, ‘I want to come home, I want to come home,’” Bryan Gelfand said. “And he’s just not comprehending that you can’t yet.”

The father doesn’t believe the situation warranted his son’s arrest, and is pushing for the charges to be dropped because he doesn’t feel like the school handled the situation the right way.

“To be 14 years old with Asperger’s, ADHD and puberty at the same time, he doesn’t deserve to have four misdemeanors and a felony,” Bryan Gelfand said.

WFTV reached out to Orange County Schools seeking comment on what the policy is for informing substitute teachers about students’ disabilities.

District officials said they were looking into the situation, but did not comment further.

Students find worm, moldy bread in school lunches

A school district in Pennsylvania has sent a letter home to parents addressing moldy bread and a worm that was found in students’ school lunches.

"After the corn ear worm was reported, this product was immediately pulled from all serving lines," Chartiers Valley School Superintendent Brian White said in the letter to parents.

The corn is a USDA product that is commonly provided to school districts. A complaint was filed with USDA provider, Bonduelle USA, Inc., and an investigation was conducted.

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The company’s response said in part:

"When we process the raw corn we employ multiple steps to eliminate such material from the raw agricultural product… Unfortunately, all these steps have not been 100 percent effective and we apologize for the occurrence."

The reportedly stale and moldy bread was disposed.

A new food-service director was appointed. 

Parent upset with kindergarten teacher who used Ouija board in class

A mother is upset after she says her son told her his kindergarten teacher at Zablocki Elementary School in Milwaukee used a Ouija board in the classroom.

WISN reported that the mother, who did not want to be publicly identified, wants the teacher fired and is asking Milwaukee Public Schools officials to do so.

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"They were shutting off the lights and making it dark and talking to spirits," the mother told WISN. "That's not something that should be at school."

The Ouija board is a game that has a flat board with letters of the alphabet printed on it and numbers 0 -9. It was marketed as a talking board that Smithsonian magazine reported was associated with the belief that the game communicated messages from the dead to the living.

"The kids have been asking for a scary story and I got the board and moved the paper clip to answer some of their questions," the teacher said in an email to the mother. "They asked about scary characters in movies. I did not say there were spirits. It was all done in fun. I understand your concern. It was silly and I'm sorry. I will take the board home and this won't happen again," the teacher said.

The mother says her 5-year-old son is having nightmares because of the Ouija board.

"He's scared now to go to bed at night, to be in the dark, anything alone," she said.

Milwaukee Public Schools officials told WISN the matter is being investigated and the teacher has been removed from the classroom.

Betsy DeVos calls historically black colleges pioneers of school choice, sparks outrage

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sparked a social media firestorm Monday after she called historically black colleges "pioneers" in school choice, a move that critics said ignored the racial conflict that necessitated the schools.

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"Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) … started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education," DeVos said in a statement. "They saw that the system wasn't working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.

"HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice."

DeVos has long supported charters schools and school choice programs, which give students and parents an alternative to traditional public school education.

Her comments come as representatives from the nation's HBCUs meet this week with DeVos and lawmakers in Washington.

The statement appeared to run counter to information posted on the Department of Education's website which states that HBCUs stemmed from racial segregation in education.

"Prior to the time of their establishment, and for many years afterwards, blacks were generally denied admission to traditionally white institutions," according to the Department of Education. "As a result, HBCUs became the principle means for providing postsecondary education to black Americans."

Devos' comments were met with incredulity on social media.

Is this a joke? HBCUs exist because racist white folks wouldn't let black people into their school. We didn't have a "choice." pic.twitter.com/yQkrgeNWlN— Brandon E. Patterson (@myblackmindd) February 28, 2017

HBCUs were pioneers in "school choice?" pic.twitter.com/vdXyuzOIhi— Vann R. Newkirk II (@fivefifths) February 28, 2017

Secy Betsy DeVos appears ignorant of racial segregation in US. #HBCUs are byproduct of racism during Jim Crow era. pic.twitter.com/XV4VS9UVye— Kristen Clarke (@KristenClarkeJD) February 28, 2017

No, Sec. DeVos- the segregation and inequality that forced the establishment of HBCUs is not a model of "school choice." https://t.co/CIotGpKzBH— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) February 28, 2017

President Donald Trump is expected on Tuesday to sign an executive order related to HBCUs. A senior White House official told The Associated Press that the order is aimed at prioritizing the White House Initiative and Historically Black Colleges and Universities by moving it from the Department of Education into the White House. 

Florida teacher to keep job after 'inappropriately' mentoring troubled student

Update: March 1

The Florida high school teacher who faced being fired after she informally mentored a troubled student is keeping her job.

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Samantha Major, 27, was the reigning “New Teacher of the Year” and a participant in Boca Raton High School’s mentoring program for struggling students when she became close with a 15-year-old student of hers. Major had been asked by her principal to participate in the school’s mentor program, in which teachers took students under their wings, and she’d accepted gladly. 

Conversations with the teen student were largely typical adolescent banter at first: college plans, boys, difficulties finding a part-time job. But as the last weeks of 2015 wound down, school records show that Major began to sense the girl was troubled.

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa, whose administration tried unsuccessfully to arrest Major and then moved to fire her for violating school district policies, reversed his decision to terminate Major Tuesday in the wake of large public outcry and opposition from some school board members after a story about the case was published this past weekend in The Palm Beach Post.

To read the full story, click here.

Original story: Feb. 25

Samantha Major is a teacher whom a supervisor once dubbed “an absolute powerhouse of compassion, kindness, thoughtfulness, professionalism and excellence.”

Now she’s been banished from the classroom, relegated to months of paperwork duties in a school bus depot, targeted for criminal investigation and slated for termination. The county school board will consider the proposal to fire her Wednesday.

Her dizzying reversal of fortunes is, in large part, a story of the pitfalls that await teachers who make extended efforts to aid troubled students.

It is also one of how public schools push teachers to make extra efforts, often with little guidance or preparation, and then leave them to face the fallout.

Read the full story here.

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