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Cheating Is Harder When Your Teacher Is Not an Idiot.

When I chose teaching as my profession, I did not anticipate the amount of energy I would expend to confront and quash cheating. But then, I began my career before Google revolutionized students’ abilities to deprive themselves of actual learning.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the 2020-21 school year, our school district began using Google Classoom as the primary vehicle of instruction for teaching and learning. Students were assignmed Chromebooks with restricted settings, and by way of Google Classroom, teachers could choose to lock those Chromebooks when students were assigned a quiz.

The only problem is the all-or-nothingness of locking the Chromebook if the quiz includes a research component requiring use of the internet. As a teacher, at this point, I cannot approve certain sites and block others in order to facilitate the security of my research-based quiz in Google Classroom.

What I learned this week was that some of my students had copied and pasted test items into sites such as Quizlet and were able to get Quizlet to take their test for them. Of course, the problem for them was that I am not an idiot, and I do notice that as the school day proceeds, increasingly more of my students have become geniuses at taking my test, some even at record speed.

And since I am not a machine but an actual human being who cultivates relationships with my students, I am able to get confessions out of some when I speak with them one-on-one. Then, when I delete that marvelous perfect or near-perfect test grade from those I suspect have cheated and get no blowback whatsoever– just sheepish looks– well, it’s then that I know that it is I who have actually learned a lesson via online “instruction,” so to speak.

What my students learned is that I will now lock their Chromebooks during those quizzes and that they will have to go “old school” and have any notes and such written only on paper as opposed to accessing info via links and pdf documents.

There will be no more education-depriving back door for copying and pasting test questions because their teacher is committed to providing opportunities to learn– whether her students value them or not.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Teen Heroes

In this pandemic-riddled time of readily-abundant bad news, let’s have a bit of the uplifting, shall we?

To this end, I offer enticing excerpts from several stories celebrating the heroic (often split-second) actions of a number of teens.

Follow the links or watch the videos for full details and feel encouraged about the generation who seem to be umbilically melded to their iPhones.

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Scotch Plains (NJ) Teen Saves Man Whose Kayak Overturned on Jersey Shore (VIDEO)

August 22, 2021

MANASQUAN, NJ — What started as a family fishing trip on Saturday would up being a life-saving adventure for 19-year-old Anton Zambell, a Scotch Plains resident who was in the right place at the right time to rescue a man whose kayak had overturned in waters off Manasquan. 

Around 7:00 a.m. Zambell, his dad, and his younger brother, Jordan, were taking their boat through the Manasquan inlet when he noticed a man holding onto a kayak that had flipped over when a motorboat roared past him. The kayaker could not flip his boat back over to the upright position and was barely able to hold on, according to Zambell.

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Stow (OH) Teen Saves Mother and Son While Vacationing in North Carolina

A Stow teenager is being credited for saving the lives of a mother and son while on vacation in the Carolinas. Travis Shrout saw the two struggling while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, so he sprang into action to help. WKYC Channel 3 (Cleveland and Northeast Ohio).

From the July 15, 2021, Akron Beacon Journal:

A Stow teen only served as a lifeguard for a year and a half, but that training and a great amount of adrenaline took over earlier this month when he saved two people from drowning at a North Carolina beach. 

On July 3, Travis Shrout, a Stow-Munroe Falls High School graduate and a rising sophomore at Hiram College, was spending his last day at the beach with his family in Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

The 18-year-old had spent the day catching waves on bodyboards with his brother and a family friend, and noticed that the waves were a little rougher than usual. 

Everyone decided to go back to shore, but family friend Thad Unkefer asked Shrout to go back out so that Unkefer could try a new tracking feature on his drone. 

Shrout swam out with his bodyboard and noticed Ashley Batchelor of North Carolina and her 10-year-old son, Conner, were farther out into the ocean and seemed to be struggling.

“I thought I heard ‘help’ but it was such a weird situation. I said, ‘Are you alright?’ and she said, ‘No,'” Shrout said. “I immediately started swimming out to her.” 

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Teen Saves Neighbor’s Life after House Catches Fire from Lightning Strike

July 09, 2021

WEBSTER, N.Y. – Isabella Marlin happened to be awake early on July 6 when a nearby home was struck by lightning, starting a raging fire. Not only did the teenager jump into action, but she’s being hailed a hero for saving her neighbor’s life.

According to Marlin, she had just returned home from a late-night flight, which was delayed two hours, and was upstairs unpacking when she noticed the flames. 

“I just started yelling to my parents that our neighbor’s house is on fire,” Marlin told FOX Television Stations. 

Her family called 911 while she ran to the burning home and started pounding on her neighbor’s door. 

“It was really scary. I didn’t know what to do at first,” Marlin shared. “When it hit, I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s probably someone in the house. I need to go and get them out before anything happens.’” 

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Teen Saves His Mom’s Life Using Hands-Only CPR He Learned in School

June 01, 2020

It was late August 2019, and Saturday morning in the Walenga household was off to its typical All-American start. Kristen Walenga sent her husband off to work and geared up for her team mom duties as she made breakfast for her four children. Her daughter Rose, 14, got ready upstairs for cheerleading pictures and her youngest sons, Sam, 11, and Nate, 9, ran around outside to burn some energy before their youth football game.

The family’s eldest child, Eddie, 15, was in the basement playing video games when he heard a loud crash coming from the kitchen above him, followed by screams for help from his younger brothers who had just come inside. Then the family pet, a certified therapy dog, started howling. That’s when Eddie realized this wasn’t a typical Saturday at all.

He raced up the basement stairs to find his mom in a heap on the floor, and his two little brothers standing there in disbelief. At first, they thought their mother was just playing around.

Eddie, who had taken a Hands-Only CPR class a few years earlier in middle school, quickly realized his mom wasn’t breathing and had no pulse.

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Just One Day after Completing CPR Training, a Teen Saves Her Friend’s Life

March 19, 2021

(CNN)With 30 compressions and two rescue breaths, 16-year-old Torri’ell Norwood saved her best friend’s life, just a day after completing a basic life support class at her high school.”I never would have thought that I would be the one, out of all the students in my class to have to perform it on someone,” she said.Norwood was driving three friends home in St. Petersburg, Florida, on February 20 when another driver slammed into her from her left and sent her car careening.

“We crashed in someone’s yard and I hit the tree,” Norwood said.

The impact jammed shut the driver’s side door, so Norwood climbed out the front window. Two of her friends managed to get out of the car unharmed, but the collision caused her 16-year-old friend A’zarria Simmons to hit her head on the backseat window.

“When I turned around, I didn’t see A’zarria running with us,” Norwood told CNN. “So, I had to run back to the car as fast as I can. She was just sitting there unresponsive.”

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Lincoln (NE) Teen Saves 7-year-old from Drowning in Local Pond

July 19, 2021

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A north Lincoln teen took quick action Sunday when he saw a 7-year-old drowning in a pond near 14th and Superior.

Abbie Wilson received a knock on her door Sunday evening, a knock she never expected. When she opened her door she found two teenage boys standing on her porch holding a child that was soaking wet.

“They had told us, they just pulled him out of the pond and he was under water and it looked like he was really struggling to get up and get some air,” Wilson said. …

But the story starts far before Wilson.

A 16-year-old boy, who we’re calling mystery man, jumped into the pond to save that little boys life.

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Teen Saves Young Girl From Being Led Away by ‘Creepy’ Stranger

June 17, 2021

A young girl in England was rescued from a terrifying encounter thanks to the intervention of a quick-thinking onlooker.

According to The Liverpool Echo, 15-year-old Emma Carlile was walking home from her high school in Wallasey Village when she saw a child being approached by a man. …

The stranger reportedly told the girl, who looked to be around aged 11 or younger, that he was friends with her father.

“No, I don’t remember,” replied the young girl. But that didn’t stop the man. …

At that point, the child reportedly tried to take out her phone, possibly to call one of her parents. “No you don’t need to ring anyone, you know who I am, I’m your dad’s mate,” the man allegedly told her.

Suspecting that something was wrong with the encounter, Emma followed the pair around a corner.

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Thank you, teens, for taking risks for the well being of others.

For more uplifting tales about altruistic teens, Google “teen saves” and enjoy the read.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

La BESE Abruptly Adjourns Due to Unruly Public Response to Masking

On August 18, 2021, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) was supposed to consider whether it had the final say on masking requirements in Louisiana’s school and not the governor.

On August 02, 2021, Louisiana governor, Jon Bel Edwards, reinstated a statewide mask order indoors effective August 04, 2021, for all individuals aged five and older, with some exceptions (i.e., no mask when eating).

A number of individuals attending the meeting refused to abide by the governor’s mandate. BESE member Holly Boffy made the motion “Due to the fact that the audience has ignored the request to wear masks, I move that we adjourn the meeting.”

Amid yelling from the audience, Boffy’s motion was seconded.

Then, BESE member Ronnie Morris tried to reason with the audience: “As board members, we’re required to follow the protocol. We’re asking you guys to help us out,” adding, “personally, I’d like to hear from everybody here. The rest of the Board does, too. We’ve got to follow protocol. We ask you to consider that.”

Once the motion was seconded, the vote needed to happen. However, as BESE proceeded with the vote to adjourn, several individuals began talking and yelling at the BESE members, with one especially loud voice yelling, “We’ll wear the mask.”

Members of the audience continued to try to talk at BESE members straight from the audience. Another board member (Sandy Holloway ?) tried to reason with the audience, as did (it seems– hard for me to tell from the video) Superintendent Cade Brumley.

The audience continued to talk at BESE members and argue among themselves, and that was their undoing. BESE did indeed vote 8 – 2 to adjourn. (See the last five minutes of the BESE meeting video, starting at 2:14:00.)

As the August 18, 2021, Advocate reports, one BESE member said that the medical experts refused to testify in a room filled with maskless people. That reluctance ought to send a message to the unmasked, but if Louisiana’s rising COVID deaths and scarce ICU beds do not, then I am at a loss tho think what would.

The next BESE meeting is scheduled for October 2021. If those in attendance cannot manage themselves appropriately as audience members to a formal, public meeting, we might just have *deja vu all over again.*

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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“Best for My Child” Unmasking: Like a “No Peeing” Section in a Pool.

About 20 years ago, I was driving across Colorado en route to Louisiana, and I stopped in Kit Carson, Colorado, to eat lunch.

I walked into a diner that was filled with the haze of smoking. A quick look around revealed that everyone in that diner was smoking except for me.

The man who waited on me pointed to a distant booth enveloped in the haze.

“That’s the non-smoking section.”

True. I was the only one seated in that section, and I was not smoking. No one else was nearby. Just me and the haze.

As effective as a “No Peeing” section in pool.

Tagging a booth as the “non-smoking section” without taking any steps to seal the area off from the smoke nixes the point of having a non-smoking section.

And yet, here we are in the midst of not just the COVID pandemic but the Delta variant version of the COVID pandemic, and we have parents wanting to unmask their children despite the advice of pediatricians and despite the fact that there are no pediatric beds available in the region, all in the name of parents “knowing what’s best for their own child.”

I realize I’m stepping in it (you know what “it” is) with this post.

I also know that every year, I have to complete professional development on child abuse, mistreatment, and neglect, so there must be some parents out there who either “don’t know” what’s best or don’t care to act upon what’s best for their children. And frankly, readers, parents not always acting in the best interests of their children hits home for me personally.

It’s why we have child labor laws, infant car seat laws, minimum drinking ages, and compulsory education.

Moreover, I believe it is possible for some parents to be so caught up in taking a political stand that they do not see the forest of completely-occupied pediatric ICU beds for the trees of My Rights.

And just like the smoke in that diner in Colorado, the Delta variant will find its way around a room.

You have a right to smoke. I have a right not to smoke. But let’s not ignore the smoky haze that envelops everyone– forcing me to become a de facto smoker. (I’ll forego extending the urine-in-pool metaphor.)

On August 13, 2021, a district court in Texas blocked the Fort Worth Independent School District’s (ISD) mask mandate for going against Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order forbidding Texas schools and districts from issuing mask mandates.

The whole parents-get-to-decide does not work if the parents cannot prevent their children from passing COVID on to other children.

I hate wearing a mask. Hate it. And I am among those who vaccinated and who are miffed at American adults who both refuse to be vaccinated and refuse to mask up. Viruses are able to mutate into worse versions so long as they have an ample, vulnerable population with which to work.

I am vaccinated. As a result, I am much less likely to end up with Delta COVID than is someone who is unvaccinated and much, much, less likely to land in one of those increasingly-scarce ICU beds if I do. But I wear my mask without needing any overtaxed hospital staff begging me to do so, and I apppreciate others who are joining me in this effort.

Still, here we go, America, with so many aiding a potential, new COVID variant that might make ICU-packing Delta look like the good ol’ days.

Parents, I hope that thoughts about your rights will occur in concert with your responsibilities to the children and families of others and to the greater good.

Smoking and nonsmoking sections in a Michgan diner. From “A Non-smoking Section in a Restaurant Is Like a No-peeing Section in a Pool…”

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

Comey Barrett Supports University Requiring Student COVID Vax

On Friday, August 06, 2021, students at Indiana University appealed to Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett to grant an emergency request to block the university’s COVID vaccine requirement for its students.

The asked for “relief” by Friday, August 13, 2021.

Comey Barrett did not take the full week to respond. As noted on Twitter by Amy Howe of the SCOTUS blog:

Rejected without referring to the full Court. End of story.

Here’s some of the backstory, as reported by Howe on August 06, 2021:

Indiana University announced the rule on May 21. It requires all faculty, students and staff to be vaccinated unless they qualify for an exemption, such as having a medical reason not to get the vaccine or a religious objection. The students say that a failure to take the vaccine, which has not yet received full approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration, will result in “strong consequences” that “amount to virtual expulsion,” including having class registration canceled.

In their 31-page filing in the Supreme Court, the students – represented by James Bopp, the conservative lawyer who brought the landmark campaign-finance case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – argue that they must give up their constitutional rights to “bodily integrity, autonomy, and medical choice” and “comply with Indiana University’s mandate” so that they can “receive a government benefit (matriculating at IU).” The students urge the justices to step in to address these issues and provide the lower courts with guidance for what they predict will be a “flood of COVID vaccine mandate-related cases.”

Howe continues with noting that the student request for a court order blocking Indiana University’s vaccine mandate was denied by a district judge on July 18, 2021, and by a three-judge panel in the 7th Circuit Court on Monday, August 02, 2021.

And now, on Thursday, August 12, 2021, Comey Barrett wouldn’t hear of it. Literally.

Get your shots, guys.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

Florida, School Vouchers, and “COVID Harassment”

Florida continues to break records for the number of COVID cases in the state. NBC News reports that on Frida, August 06, 2021, Florida had 23,903 new COVID cases IN ONE DAY. Jacksonville.com reports the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stat that 507 Floridians have died in the past week. On Friday morning, August 06, 2021, Jacksonville’s Wolfson Children’s Hospital had admitted 12 children with COVID, three of whom were in intensive care. An unvaccinated 16-year-old with no underlying conditions died of COVID at Wolfson on Thursday, August 05, 2021.

According to HealthData.gov, on August 06, 2021, Florida had 50 children hospitalized with confirmed COVID, raising the total to 168.

If the total is 168, with 50 of those children being hospitalized just one day prior, and the pandemic has been around for a year and a half, this means that serious COVID– COVID that lands children in the hospital (or worse)– is an imminent threat.

Even so, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, wants no masks in Florida’s public schools– and the Florida State Board of Education has found a way to do his bidding and allow students to dodge mask mandates in any public school district that defies DeSantis’ no-mask dictate:

“COVID harrassment.”

From the August 06, 2021, News4Jax.com:

DeSantis had ordered the state education department to come up with ways to pressure school districts to not create mask mandates and punish them if they do. He said the rules could include withholding money from school districts or other actions allowed under Florida law.

The board then invoked an existing law meant to protect children against bullying, adding “COVID-19 harassment” as a prohibited form of discrimination. It defined this as “any threatening, discriminatory, insulting, or dehumanizing verbal, written or physical conduct’’ students suffer as a result of COVID-19 protocols such as mask or testing requirements and isolation measures that “have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance.”

At a news conference Friday, DeSantis reiterated his general opposition to restrictions, such as lockdowns, business closures and mask mandates.

“In terms of imposing any restrictions, that’s not happening in Florida. It’s harmful, it’s destructive. It does not work,’’ he said, noting that Los Angeles County had a winter surge despite all its restrictions. …

DeSantis has repeatedly claimed there was little difference in COVID-19 cases between schools with and without mask mandates, but at least one study of Florida school districts last year fall challenges that claim.

A CDC review of data from the Florida Department of Health and other state sources found schools without mask mandates had 42% more cases per 100,000 students.

According to the “Notice of Emergency Rule” by the Florida Department of Education and Florida State Board of Education, the “emergency” is not that the COVID Delta variant has not only made Florida a premier COVID hotspot in general but also a hotspot for increasing numbers of children hospitalized for COVID. No, no. The “emergency” is that something must be done to placate a governor who insists that people have a right to disregard safety protocols in the face of this pandemic just as he does. That’s the emergency,” the twisted nature of which is evident throughout the document.

Consider this first paragraph. In speaking of “emergency, one does not expect that by paragraph’s end, what is needed to address “an immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare” is to provide a means to enable the public to escape from protocols that could directly confront Florida’s obvious and growing ravaging by the Delta variant:

SPECIFIC REASONS FOR FINDING AN IMMEDIATE DANGER TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY OR WELFARE: Given the recent rise in COVID-19 infections, largely driven by the spread of the delta variant, and the impending start to the 2021-2022 school year, the Florida Department of Education has been working to assist the Florida Department of Health in the development of minimum protocols governing the control of COVID-19 in public schools. As public school districts seek to impose new COVID-19 restrictions on students, emergency rulemaking is necessary here to protect the rights of students and their parents or guardians.

In other words, *in the name of protecting the rights of some students and their parents and guardians, we are willing to run roughshod over others.*

From the August 06, 2021, Washington Post:

The Florida state school board did not respond to a woman who spoke in the public comments section of the meeting to ask whether the vouchers would be available for students who want mask mandates and attend districts that do not require them.

Given the rise in COVID hospitalizations among children in Florida, this latter stance would make more sense. But no. Instead, Florida’s state school board offers this nonsense justification, as if “a heightened showing of actual illness or serious risk of illness to other students” is not already demonstrating itself in increasing COVID-induced, pediatric hospitalization:

Because of the importance of in-person learning to educational, social, emotional and mental well-being, it is important to protect parents’ right to make health care decisions for their minor children at school and provide in-person education for their children. Unnecessarily isolating, quarantining, or subjecting children to physical COVID-19 constraints in schools poses a threat to developmental upbringing and should not occur absent a heightened showing of actual illness or serious risk of illness to other students.

Again, the beginning of the paragraph seems to justify a mask mandate, but then comes the DeSantis-placating logic-twist.

But sense is not the name of the game for DeSantis.

Defying sense is.

As for enabling Florida parents to move their children to private schools in order to escape mask mandates in public schools, there is no guarantee that a private school will not change its stance on mask usage. There is also no guarantee that a school voucher will readily translate into admission at any given private school. The private schools have no obligation to make space for all who wish to enroll under the Florida school board’s emergency order.

There is no guarantee that a school voucher student will be admitted to a private school before the school year begins, or that there will not be other difficulties introduced by a change in schools (i.e., transportation issues, additional fees, expected parental commitments, more stringent academic or behavioral expectations, availability of auxiliary services, availability of extracurricular activities, admission to sports teams or clubs).

If the private school requires the voucher student to quarantine, or to take a COVID test, despite the student not being required to mask, is this also harrassment?

According to the Florida school board’s emergency rule, the answer is yes:

“COVID-19 harassment” means any threatening, discriminatory, insulting, or dehumanizing verbal, written or physical conduct an individual student suffers in relation to, or as a result of, school district protocols for COVID-19, including masking requirements, the separation or isolation of students, or COVID-19 testing requirements, that have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits.

So, what then? Another voucher to escape from the “COVID harrassment” of the first?

COVID harrassment happens when COVID is allowed to ravage a state because its governor is more interested in politcal posturing than in public welfare.

Masking is not harrassment. Masking is a hassle. Masking is incovenient. But you know what actually does “have the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits“?

COVID-induced hospitalization.

Delta Variant

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

Psychological Pivot

In my Louisiana district, teachers return to school tomorrow (08/03) to begin the 2021-22 school year, and students return Friday (08/06).

Today, our governor reinstituted a mask order. (“Do you give a damn?”)

I had so hoped for a normal beginning of our school year.

I bought new lipstick to complement the heels and stylish, professional dress that I missed last year due to my choosing to dress down given the constant cleaning I had to effect for every new set of students.

Now we’re back in masks. Why?

The short answer is that you can lead the vaccine-resistant to Walgreens, but you can’t make ’em choose the shot.

So incredibly frustrating.

Wearing a mask is one thing. Returning to wearing a mask because It’s America and I Have Rights to Enable Delta to Run Rampant is ((censored)).

The blindside brought me the closest that I have been thus far to losing heart about trying to teach in this pandemic.

However, I aired my grievances aloud to my Maker, and not long after, I realized that I had succeeded in the necessary psychological pivot.

The day before I must begin, I will not lose heart.

A relief.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

Follow me on Twitter (don’t be scared) @deutsch29blog

An Open Letter to the Class of 2022

Dear Class of 2022:

You are the third group of high school seniors to have your senior year during the COVID pandemic.

The Class of 2020 did not see this pandemic coming. In the spring of their senior year, our nation abruptly shut down in the face of a pandemic we did not understand. No senior proms. No senior trips. No spring sports, conventions, contests, or gatherings. And no anticipated, traditional, in-person, graduation ceremony.

It was awful.

And no vaccine available for anybody, which made everybody all the more vulnerable.

Time passed. In the fall of 2020, the Class of 2021 started their senior year, the pandemic still with us. Remote learning, hybrid instruction, or full attendance were our options. Masking. Social distancing. No water fountains. Intentional limiting of opportunities for students to congregate. Incessant cleaning. And quarantine for those who came into contact with a person testing positive for COVID. It was a nuisance, but at the time, very few students ages 17 or 18 were contracting COVID and showing any symptoms. Sure, school admin may have tried to institute social distancing, but let’s be real: Seniors and other high-school-aged students were hanging out, business as usual, on their own time. Even some parents, in the name of giving students a normal senior year, arranged social situations that involved students gathering together in large groups. Sometimes these gatherings resulted in mass quarantine.

It seemed that teens were for the most part immune to COVID, with very few who did test positive actually experiencing symptoms.

COVID seemed to be a problem for older people, especially the elderly.

Not teens. Not us.

In December 2020, amazingly, COVID vaccines became available, but only for certain individuals, including the elderly. And just as the Class of 2021 was wrapping up its odd-at-best, COVID-beset senior year, in April 2021, vaccines became available to 17-year-olds.

No vaccine for the Class of 2021 until the end of their senior year. Still, that didn’t seem to be much of a problem since COVID was An Issue for Older People.

Not teens. Not us.

So here we are, ready to begin a new school year.

The Class of 2022’s time has come.

So has the Delta Variant.

Think of it as COVID that has learned some lessons of survival.

The Delta Variant is much more likely to lead to hospitalization and death in those who are not vaccinated. I’m not exaggerating. It is more contagious that original COVID. And consider this, from, “5 Things to Know about the Delta Variant,” published in Yale Medicine:

“As older age groups get vaccinated, those who are younger and unvaccinated will be at higher risk of getting COVID-19 with any variant,” says Dr. Yildirim.  “But Delta seems to be impacting younger age groups more than previous variants.”

Uh oh.

Could be teens.

Could be us.

So, here’s the deal, Class of 2022:

I want you to have a senior year as close to pre-pandemic “normal” as is possible. I want you to be able to enjoy as much of the social aspect of being a high school senior as you can.

The best way to promote normalcy and confront the Delta Variant is to be vaccinated.

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a country with ample COVID vaccine available for anyone 12 years of age and older who wants to walk in off of the street and receive a shot at any number of locations, including thousands of pharmacies.

That includes you, Class of 2022. Right now, even as you are reading this post, COVID vaccine is available to you.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your friends and family to boost their confidence in your safety against this frenzied Delta Variant.

If you have no condition preventing you from being vaccinated against COVID, please do your part to help prevent yourself from possibly becoming hospitalized from that Delta Variant in your senior year.

I would much have Healthy You seated in my classroom.

Sincerely,

–Dr. Schneider

Vaccinated, Senior English Teacher

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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FL: Student Data Used to Tag Kids as Potential Criminals

In September 2020, the Tampa Bay Times published a piece, “Targeted,” about an intelligence-enabled invasion of privacy The writers waste no time getting to the point:

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco took office in 2011 with a bold plan: to create a cutting-edge intelligence program that could stop crime before it happened.

What he actually built was a system to continuously monitor and harass Pasco County residents, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

First the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

If that’s not bad enough, this terrible program was allowed access to student data with the local school district’s blessing.

In November 2020, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Pasco County (FL) Schools was sharing student data with law enforcement without parental knowledge in order to enable the Pasco Sheriff’s Office to categorize students according to the alleged likelihood that a given student would “fall into a life of crime.”

Those students’ names were then put on a list.

Yep.

The criteria are outlined in a Sheriff’s Department manual. From the Tampa Bay Times article:

The Pasco Sheriff’s Office keeps a secret list of kids it thinks could “fall into a life of crime” based on factors like whether they’ve been abused or gotten a D or an F in school, according to the agency’s internal intelligence manual.

The Sheriff’s Office assembles the list by combining the rosters for most middle and high schools in the county with records so sensitive, they’re protected by state and federal law. …

The process largely plays out in secret. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t tell the kids or their parents about the designation. In an interview, schools superintendent Kurt Browning said he was unaware the Sheriff’s Office was using school data to identify kids who might become criminals. So were the principals of two high schools. …

Ten experts in law enforcement and student privacy questioned the justification for combing through thousands of students’ education and child-welfare records.

They called the program highly unusual. Many said it was a clear misuse of children’s confidential information that stretched the limits of the law.

“Can you imagine having your kid in that county and they might be on a list that says they may become a criminal?” said Linnette Attai, a consultant who helps companies and schools comply with student privacy laws.

It seems that in response to the Tampa Bay Times reporting, the US Department of Education (USDOE) opened an investigation of the practice. The Orlando Sentinel via the Associated Press reported on this on April 19, 2021, though the USDOE has its most recent (and only 2021) investigation related to Pasco County Schools dated May 18, 2021. Apparently the USDOE investigation is pending. From the Sentinel:

NEW PORT RICHEY — The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into whether a Florida school district broke federal law when it shared private information about students with the local sheriff’s office.

The Pasco County School District shared information on student grades, discipline and attendance with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The agency then used the data to compile a list of students officials believed could “fall into a life of crime,” the newspaper reported.

The agency is already facing a federal lawsuit that the intelligence-based policing program violates people’s rights by improperly targeting and harassing them. Sheriff Chris Nocco’ rejects the claims in the lawsuit filed last month in Tampa.

The lawsuit referenced above was filed in March 2021. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is listed as the defendant; plaintiffs are three individuals allegedly harrassed by police in the name of future crime prevention. From the lawsuit’s introduction:

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office punishes people for crimes they have not yet committed and may never commit. It first predicts that certain people may commit future crimes, and then it harasses these people—and their relatives and friends—with relentless visits to their homes at all hours of the day, with unwarranted stops and seizures, and with repeated citations for petty code violations. In the words of a former Pasco deputy, the policy is meant to “[m]ake their lives miserable until they move or sue.” Here, four Pasco County residents sue under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, hereinafter the “PCSO,” has adopted an official policy and widespread custom of harassing individuals and their families because it thinks they are likely to commit unspecified future crimes. The PCSO refers to this policy and custom as its “Intelligence-Led Policing Program,” and for ease of reference this Complaint refers to this policy and custom simply as “the Program.” Under the Program, the PCSO uses questionable criteria (such as whether one is a bystander in other people’s police reports) to compile a list of individuals who, it believes, are likely to commit crimes in the future. The PCSO then subjects these individuals—referred to in the Complaint as Targeted Persons— as well as their families to “relentless pursuit, arrest, and prosecution” to, in the words of Sheriff Chris Nocco, “take them out.”

PCSO deputies repeatedly make unannounced visits to the homes of Targeted Persons—who are often minors—during which deputies demand entry to the home or information about a Targeted Person’s comings and goings. While there, PCSO deputies also gather additional information about a Targeted Person’s familial and social networks so that PCSO deputies can identify, catalog, track, and visit those individuals as well. PCSO deputies routinely threaten friends and family members who allegedly do not cooperate with deputies enforcing the Program. And during visits to listed individuals’ or their families’ homes, deputies initiate pretextual code enforcement actions—actions which have no connection to the original purpose of the visit. PCSO routinely ignores requests that these visits stop. Likewise, PCSO deputies typically do not leave when residents ask them to do so. Instead, when individuals object to the unwanted visits, PCSO deputies subdue,arrest, and sometimes imprison Targeted Persons or their family and friends.

Meanwhile, in May 2021, the Pasco County School Board “updated” its data sharing agreement with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office– sort of.

From the May 04, 2021, WFLA.com:

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Pasco County School Board approved an updated agreement with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office regarding student information that was shared on Tuesday.

“Voluntarily removes School Resource Officers’ (SROs) access to student data, including student grades, attendance, and discipline. Additionally, under the agreement, SROs will no longer have access to the school district’s Early Warning System, which designates which students are considered off-track, on-track, or at-risk.”

Members of the Sheriff’s Office Real Time Crime Center will maintain access as they currently have for use in the narrow instances of school threat assessments and public safety emergencies, such as a missing or abducted child or a threat to a school campus.

However, as stated in the agreement, this access will not include grades. The updated agreement provides for an audit process through which sheriff’s office personnel will create a record of any school district data they access, as well as the reason it was necessary, in line with legislative mandates, according to the joint statement. …

The People Against the Surveillance of Children and Over-policing (PASCO) Coalition sent a letter this week demanding the district stop sharing student information.

The PASCO Coalition issued the following statement today after the changes were approved:

“The PASCO Coalition is extremely disappointed by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (“Sheriff”) and the Pasco County School Board’s (“District”) announcement of “revisions” to their data-sharing agreement. While these revisions were touted as reforms that were responsive to the “distracting” criticisms the program was receiving, these revisions do not go far enough in limiting the Sheriff’s access to student records. The revisions claim to remove SROs’ access to student data, but maintain access for various other agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office itself. There continues to be a lack of transparency. The Sheriff and the District have again excluded the community, including parents from this process. Our coalition also has outstanding concerns about the way that this predictive policing program has and will continue to impact Pasco County families. These are fully addressed in the open letter we sent to the District today, in advance of the school board meeting. We urge the District and Sheriff to carefully consider and engage with the numerous issues that we have identified in our open letter as they move forward.”

“In today’s school board meeting, the District unanimously voted to approve an undisclosed revised data sharing agreement with the Sheriff that does not significantly change the original one. However, the item was not on the agenda, there was no opportunity for public comment, and, to our knowledge, there still has been no opportunity for the public to review and provide feedback on the revised agreement. The PASCO Coalition obtained a copy of the revised agreement through a public records request to the District, and the revisions are insufficient to protect the rights of children whose information will still be accessible to the Sheriff’s Office.”

“The PASCO Coalition is extremely concerned about the continued lack of transparency, community-driven solutions, and public input around this program. Neither the District nor the Sheriff has addressed what the Sheriff is doing with the 20 years of student records in its possession. Further, there is no process to notify parents and guardians about whether their children’s information was provided to the Sheriff, and if so, how it was used. Given the Sheriff’s and District’s admissions about the unfettered access that was permitted for decades, these concerns must be addressed. In addition, questions remain about the ways in which this program especially targets children of color, children with disabilities, and low-income students for police monitoring and surveillance. Those students and their parents or guardians deserve to have their questions answered by the Sheriff and the District.”

“Furthermore, we have no assurances that the District will permanently prevent similar predictive practices from re-emerging once national attention has abated. This was only a revision to the contract that expires at the end of the 2020-21 school year. Nor is it clear that the current agreement has substantially limited access to federally-protected student records by the Sheriff’s Office as a whole, given vague language in the revised agreement that allows the Board to disclose student data to “other appropriate individuals” at its discretion,  the fact that other staff members of the Sheriff’s Office will still have access to this protected data, and the absence of any stated parameters around how this data may be used or shared within their office.”

“We need comprehensive policy overhauls and systems of accountability for meaningful reform and to prevent this from happening in the future. That process requires community at the table to design long-term solutions and to begin the process of rebuilding trust in the District and Sheriff’s Office.”

A school district agreeing to such an arrangement is ________. (You fill it in. I’m at a loss.)

I’m guessing they haven’t been touched by that list.

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House Appropriations Prohibits Fed Funds for… Electric Shock to Students(??)

I am reading the House Appropriations Committee’s budget proposal for the Department of Education (which begins on page 138 of the entire, 198-page document), and I noticed on pages 164-165 what I thought to be an strange prohibition for federal funding:

Sec. 313. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Education to support an educational institution that engages in the use of electric shock devices and equipment for adversive conditioning or disciplining of students.

I wondered what in the world prompted legislators to include such a prohibition, so I Googled, “schools electric shock devices,” and found my answer.

A Massachusetts school has been using electric shock as a means for controlling behavior in students with limited intellectual ability. In March 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the practice, and in July 2021, the FDA ban was overturned on appeal. From the UK Independent:

The Judge Rotenberg Center, Canton, is the only school in the US that uses electric shock treatment on its students, and has suffered heavy criticism from disability rights advocates, including Mental Disability Rights International (DRI) and the United Nations, which considers the practice “torture”.

“The idea of using electric shocks to torture children has been recognised as unconscionable around the world,” DRI’s president, Laurie Ahern, told the Guardian.

“The real torture is what these children are subjected to if they don’t have this programme,” institute and treatment founder Matthew Israel previously said to ABC News. “They’re drugged up to the gills with drugs that cause them to be so sedated that they essentially sleep all day.”

However, a 2006 report by the New York State Education Department found that the device was regularly used for minor disobedience and “behaviours that are not aggressive, health dangerous or destructive, such as nagging, swearing and failing to maintain a neat appearance”.

The report also found no evidence that the school “considers the potential negative effects, such as depression or anxiety, that may result from the use of aversive behavioural strategies with certain individual students”.

So, there’s the answer: One school is using electric shock on some of its special needs clientele; the FDA prohibited such usage; some parents sued and won on appeal to have the use of electric shock continue, and House Appropriations cannot prohibit the practice but wants to prohibit the use of federal money funding any schools using electric shock on students.

Well. I didn’t see myself writing about this today.

Electric shock device attached to ankle

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