Monthly Archives: January 2019

Swamp Watch: College Park Academy needs to serve Prince George’s County students equally

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The ribbon cutting ceremony for the College Park Academy in Riverdale Park on Tuesday, October 3, 2017. (Tom Hausman/The Diamondback)

By Olivia Delaplaine 

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh has big plans to develop College Park into a world-class college town. We’ve seen the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center, MilkBoy ArtHouse and The Hotel pop up in the last few years as part of that vision.

The architects of the Greater College Park plan hope to recruit world-class faculty by building a community that caters to their interests. Instead of creating affordable housing for students, they are building luxury condominiums geared toward higher-earning university professionals. To ensure that those professionals stay in College Park, Loh came up with a plan: create a charter school.

The College Park Academy first opened in 2013 and relocated to a permanent building in the Discovery District in 2017. In 2017, the school served over 550 students from sixth through eleventh grades, and will soon become a sixth through twelfth grade middle and high school.

The school uses blended learning, an increasingly popular instructional method. With a curriculum designed by Pearson, one of the largest education corporations in the country, students at CPA are given online lectures to view at home, then come to class to apply what they have learned with feedback from the teacher.

The school also offers a wide variety of extracurricular activities, from cheerleading to robotics, many of which are facilitated by undergraduates at this university. And to its credit, the school reports stellar scores on standardized tests.

There’s nothing immediately wrong with wanting to improve the university community, recruit faculty or build a new school. Yet something feels hollow about its success. Perhaps it is the images of student ambassadors dressed in Maryland flag-patterned bowties just like Loh, or perhaps it is the fact that the school’s most vocal supporters seem to be elected officials and private donors from the Edward St. John Foundation, not parents. A look at the data and the demographics makes it clear that the school is not serving Prince George’s County students equitably.

Initially, the academy was intended for children of members of the College Park community, especially the children of the faculty members that Loh hoped would settle down in College Park. Yet a Maryland charter schools rule states that such schools “must be open to all county students and must admit students by lottery if more apply than can be enrolled.”

Early in CPA’s history, school leaders tried to change the school from a charter school to a contract school, so they could request that 50 percent of the seats be reserved for children of College Park residents employed by the university. That request was denied by PGPS chief Kevin Maxwell, who reminded the school that charter schools are not allowed to reserve seats for residents of a certain area or students of certain employees.

Regardless, the school forged ahead and has since reserved 35 percent of its seats for students from College Park. Though the academy’s students may score higher on tests, the academy also serves more white students, fewer Latinx students, fewer low-income students and fewer English language learner students than the rest of the county’s schools.

In addition, CPA does not provide transportation to its students. Even if other students do get into the school through the county-wide lottery system, transportation barriers would make it difficult for children from households where both parents work to attend CPA. Each of the after-school activities that the school offers comes with a $50 semesterly fee, adding an additional barrier for students from low-income families who can’t rely on their parents to pick them up at 3 p.m. and denying students the resources instrumental to their success.

CPA diverts resources away from Prince George’s County’s most vulnerable students. It is an experimental laboratory in which Loh and elected officials seek unilateral control over curriculum and leadership decisions to benefit their own friends and colleagues.

By serving the children of university faculty, they are implicitly valuing the lives of children from wealthier, higher educated backgrounds over those of their peers. Creating a shielded pipeline through which the university can funnel those students that it deems worthy into its classes to increase its rankings is classist and discriminatory.

To truly fulfill its educational mission, create opportunities for area students, this university should instead be investing in the entire county’s student population and reforming the educational system consistently across multiple schools rather than hoarding resources for its own.

Olivia Delaplaine is a senior government and politics major. She can be reached at odelaplaine15@gmail.com.

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Maryland Senator Miller announces cancer diagnosis in surprise move

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Maryland Senate President Mike Miller is well known for causing injustice around Maryland and the role he played to have Governor Larry Hogan reelected in the fall 2018 after undermining Ben Jealous a democratic nominee for governorship in Maryland.  

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Senate President Mike Miller opened the Thursday morning senate session with a voice that shook with emotion from time to time, even as he worked to begin the mechanics of the lawmaking routine. His voice quavered as he said, “We’d like everyone to record their presence in the chamber.”

Miller’s voice shook with emotion as he introduced a Catholic priest who offered a prayer before the start of the session. “As you can see, I’m not off to a good start,” he said with a small chuckle.

The 76-year-old Democrat, who’s entering his 33rd year as state Senate president, made clear he’d work as long as his health would allow. He’s the longest-serving state Senate president ever in Maryland and in the nation.

He handed out a printed statement about his diagnosis and allowed reporters, as well as members, to read before telling them, “The issue should not be about me. The Senate should not be about me. It should be about the Senate and the great work we’re going to do.”

“With your continued support and indulgence, I fully intend to fight this disease as so many have and to fully carry out my Senate responsibilities,” Miller said in the statement, released as he addressed his colleagues on the second day of the state’s 90-day session.

Miller said he had been experiencing significant back pain after hip and knee replacement surgery “that never seemed to heal appropriately.” He was diagnosed in July with prostate cancer, and prescribed medication and physical therapy.

“Despite these treatments, the pain did not subside, and on Dec. 27, I awoke with a sharp pain in my leg,” Miller said.

“After another series of tests at Johns Hopkins, the oncologist informed me and my family that the prostate cancer could no longer be managed through pharmaceuticals alone and that additional treatment would be necessary.”

Miller didn’t get into specifics on the course of his treatment, or his state of mind, other than to say of the diagnosis, “It affects every decision you’re making — so you look in the morning and you see if your hair is still there.”

He laughed, then added, “It’s thinning out!”

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, a Democrat who represents Baltimore County, is the Senate president pro tem and told reporters, “I’m very saddened by the circumstances, and I hope that the whole world will just keep praying for our great president of our Senate. Whatever he needs me to do, I will do, and I don’t think I’ll do quite the job he does.”

Republican Sen. Adelaide Eckardt told reporters that Miller “truly looks out for all of us. He supports all of us, he has an open-door policy. He’s always here on the floor.”

She said Miller steps out of his role as he needs to, “To chide, correct, play, tease. He’s been a well-rounded figure. He clearly knows his role. I think he coaches very well.”

Republican Sen. Steve Hershey, the minority whip, said that Miller “truly is a friend to many of us, and we’ve worked with him for a long period of time.”

Hershey talked about Miller’s willingness to work across the aisle, while throwing a few barbs, too. “He’s been great about being inclusive with us here, not just on our jobs,” Hershey said.

Hershey mentioned that his mother visited on the first day of the session, and Miller extended a welcome to her. “He’s all about family.”

Hershey added, “We have a working relationship, and the Senate president has been great about being inclusive of the Republican Party here. But, at the same time, we’re able to go into his office, we joke around a lot of the time. We see each other outside of chambers. And he just wants to make sure that we have everything we need to operate properly; and he truly believes the best policy is both sides getting together and coming to some kind of compromise.”

Hershey does not believe that dynamics in the Senate will change. “I don’t think so yet. As (Miller) mentioned, so much of the work here is based on the committees.”

Undermining Democracy in Maryland. 

There have been many reports on the role Maryland Senate President Mike Miller played in causing injustice around Maryland. He is also accused of roles he played to have Governor Larry Hogan reelected in the fall 2018 after undermining Ben Jealous a democratic nominee for governorship in Maryland.  There were many reports of flyers circulated widely in parts of Maryland with his picture and that of Republican Governor Hogan which was seen as an endorsement of the opposite party and their candidate.

One voter Terry Cleaver  felt the election was stolen and stated the following : ….30 precinct without ballots in one of the two most democratic counties in the state. …..An honorable and decent man would want a run off to know if he, LARRY HOGAN, was truly elected…..GOP slime will grab power “at any price” and to hell with your voting rights…..I’m betting on the latter. …..Jealous won and IT WAS STOLEN….We can lay down and take it or start making NOISE to the media…..Just demand a run off every time you see Hogan’s name.”

There are allegations Maryland judges, senators and other local leaders work at his pleasure which is one reason the crime in Maryland has been very high.

Outpourings of support have come from both sides of the aisle.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan released a statement, saying:

“My heart goes out to President Miller on what I know must be one of the toughest days he’s faced. I know firsthand how hard it is to receive a diagnosis like this. But I also know firsthand that Mike Miller has earned his place in Maryland political history because he’s a fighter who always gives it everything he’s got, no matter how tough things get. Mike’s tenacity, bravery, and perseverance will ensure that he wins this battle, and he has my full support.

Yumi and I send our heartfelt prayers to Mike, his wife, Patti, and his family during this difficult time.”

House Republicans Mic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga wrote:

“We wish the president a speedy recovery and will keep him and his family in our continued prayers. As we have seen so many times, cancer does not discriminate. We are confident that President Miller will face this new challenge with the same vigorous fighting spirit he has shown throughout his long legislative career.”

Miller isn’t alone among top Maryland leaders with health concerns in recent years.

House Speaker Michael Busch, 72, had bypass surgery last year and a liver transplant the year before. Hogan, 62, was diagnosed with B-cell Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015. The governor announced he was in remission in November 2016.

Read more >>>Swamp watch: A PGCPS teenager was robbed and did the ‘right thing.’ Then his family had to move.

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PGCPS Board Member requests free lunch for students as government shutdown continues

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The move to make school lunches free would have to be approved by the CEO.

To make it free, the school district would have to would have to budget for it, similar to what happens during snow days or other unscheduled closings.

“As the child of former federal government employees who lived through many shutdowns, I know the strains placed on families and their budgets. The last thing our students need to worry about is how they will pay for breakfast and lunch.” Wallace said.

Wallace says he hopes to have a measure in place in case of similar circumstances in the future.

“My long-term goal is to propose a Board Policy to charge the PGCPS Administration to set up protocols in cases like this one – long term governmental shutdowns.”

Via Fox 5 DC

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K. Alexander Wallace, represents District 7 in Prince George’s County.

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“What PG county needs are ideologically clear, progressive and visionary leaders who have the capacity, discipline and tenacity to adhere to, uphold and implement the entire Constitution of the USA, as it is, including the entire BILL OF RIGHTS and deliver services to the people” – Munyambu Vinya

 

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Cut back on screen time in 2019 – evidence suggests negative bond.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook: I use my phone too much (Source: CNN Business)

By Kara Alaimo

(CNN) One of the most important New Year’s resolutions every parent should make for 2019 is to ensure everyone in the family spends less time with screens. Since last year, a number of new studies have confirmed that the effects of technology on kids are even worse than many parents feared.

Children between the ages of 8 and 11 who spend more than two hours a day looking at screens were associated with lower cognitive function than those who engaged in less screen time, according to researchers who published a study in The Lancet in September. While researchers noted there is no causal link, they wrote, “Emerging evidence suggests that mobile device and social media uses have an unfavorable relationship with attention, memory, impulse control, and academic performance” — perhaps because the technology encourages multi-tasking and can cut into kids’ sleep time.

As children get older, they tend to use social media more. In a Pew Research Center study published in May, 95% of teens said they either own or have access to a smartphone, and 45% said they’re “almost constantly” on the internet. Teens who spend more time on screen activities were significantly more likely to experience symptoms of depression and have suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts, according to a study published in Clinical Psychological Science last November. The researchers also noted that “in-person social interaction … provides more emotional closeness than electronic communication,” and, according to some studies, is better at protecting kids against loneliness.

And social media platforms also force teens to confront stressful situations, from cyberbullying to photos of friends having fun at parties to which they weren’t invited. A Pew Research Center study released last month found that 45% of teenagers are “overwhelmed by all the drama on social media.”

Social media may also be slowing down the overall development of teens. Today’s adolescents have a “slower life strategy” than in the past, according to another study by San Diego State University and Bryn Mawr College researchers published in Child Development last year. The study found that young people today are taking longer than past generations to do things like work for pay and other activities associated with adults — which the researchers speculated could in part be because of their increased internet use.

Parents in the know are already taking screens away from their kids. The New York Times reported in October that researchers, Silicon Valley executives, and other technologists “don’t want their own children anywhere near” it. One reason is because it appears to be stunningly addictive. Chris Anderson, the head of a robotics and drone company and former editor of Wired, compared screens to sugar and crack cocaine, and told the Times he enforces strict rules for his five children. He said, “I didn’t know what we were doing to their brains until I started to observe the symptoms and the consequences.”

The Times also reported many elite schools are moving towards eliminating or reducing screens, while many public schools are touting technology in classrooms. While fears of a technological divide were once centered on the high cost of technology and high-speed internet access, the concern is now that less affluent children may be spending more time with technology. Already, research by Common Sense Media has found that higher-income teenagers spend less time with screens for entertainment compared to lower-income teens.

Of course, raising Luddites isn’t necessarily a smart strategy, either. Some screen time can be important for helping kids learn to use technology they’ll need in their careers. They might also use it in beneficial ways to access educational games and programs, and stay connected to family and friends, for example. So what’s the right amount of screen time for kids? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping screens away from children younger than 18 months, other than for video-chatting.

Children between 18 and 24 months can watch some high-quality programs with their parents, according to the AAP. It also recommends a limit of 1 hour of screen time per day for kids between the ages of 2 and 5. Then, as kids get older, the trick is to limit screen time and promote healthy non-screen activities like exercise, sleep and family conversations about the dangers kids confront online.

And before parents blame their kids’ bad behavior on their technology use, it’s also important to take a look in the mirror. Moms and dads need to reduce their own screen time, too. A study published in June in Pediatric Research found that there’s a vicious cycle: The parents’ use of phones and its interference in parent-child interactions is associated with kids acting out. This might then prompt parents to continue using their phones as a way to cope with stress.

New Year’s celebrations are the perfect time to get the whole family to look up from their screens by offering some fun alternatives like board games, scavenger hunts, baking treats or getting together with family and friends. Kids will soon discover that there are plenty of things that aren’t on Facebook to “like.”

Read more >>> Cut back on screen time in 2019

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Surgeon General Warns Youth Vaping Is Now An ‘Epidemic’

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U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Tuesday that local restrictions, including bans on indoor vaping, are needed to reduce youth e-cigarette use.

By Rob Stein:

Vaping by U.S. teenagers has reached epidemic levels, threatening to hook a new generation of young people on nicotine.

That’s according to an unusual advisory issued Tuesday by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams about the the dangers of electronic cigarette use among U.S. teenagers.

“I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” Adams said at a news conference. “Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”

The surgeon general’s advisory called on parents and teachers to educate themselves about the variety of e-cigarettes and to talk with children about their dangers. Health professionals should ask about e-cigarettes when screening patients for tobacco use, the advisory said. And local authorities should use strategies, such as bans on indoor vaping and retail restrictions, to discourage vaping by young people.

The advisory was prompted by the latest statistics on vaping among youths, which found e-cigarette use among high school students has increased dramatically in the past year.

“We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the briefing. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”

Federal officials singled out Juul electronic cigarettes for fueling the epidemic, noting that the sleek devices are by far the most popular electronic cigarettes among young people.

The company defended its products, saying it has taken steps to prevent young people from using them. For example, the company has stopped distributing some flavorings to retail stores and has taken other steps to make sure young people don’t buy the devices online.

“JUUL Labs shares a common goal with the Surgeon General and other federal health regulators – preventing youth from initiating on nicotine,” according to a statement from Victoria Davis, a Juul spokesperson. “We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products.”

The company’s move came after the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to young people.

Officials say they are especially alarmed by the proportion of young people who don’t realize that electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. A single Juul cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 tobacco cigarettes.

Via NPR

Hookah water pipe

Graphic describing the components of the “hookah” water pipe and how it works; social smoking with the Middle Eastern hookah is attracting an increasing number of European teens and young adults.

 

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DC mom blows whistle on unlicensed business serving charter school students

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The Future Family Enrichment Center serviced special needs students who were suspended from their charter schools.

Author: Delia Goncalves

Questions remain unanswered on how an unlicensed alternative charter school was able to operate in D.C. while taking in special needs students from at least six different charter schools.

“Trust me. If you push me I’m going to fight back,” said Loretta Jones, “especially when it comes to my kids.”

Jones’ 10-year-old son Frederick is a 5th grader but was getting busy work on a 2nd grade level at The Future Family Enrichment Center.

That’s when his mother started asking questions. Jones didn’t know it then, but she exposed a major crack in the charter school system.

The center, which has no website and no business license, was operating out of an unassuming row house on Minnesota Avenue, in Southeast D.C. The facility ran completely under the radar. The Office of the State Superintendent wasn’t even aware it existed. OSEE and the Public Charter School Board are now investigating the center. Charter schools, including Monument Academy, referred special needs students to the center on a temporary basis after they were being suspended. 791fa31a-ea07-462c-a325-ceaae37db43c_750x422

According to federal law, those students still need to get their Individualized Education Plan fulfilled so sending them to the center was the charter school’s way to make sure that happened until that student was placed at a different school.

Jones’ 10-year-old son was suspended from Monument 10 times in about a month’s time.

“They (Monument educators) determined the stuff they were suspending him for was because of his IEP,” explained Jones.

That is illegal. Federal law says a child cannot be suspended if that behavior is due to his special needs.

Jones worked with parent advocate Jennifer Fox-Thomas with the support organization So Others Might Eat, or SOME. They said educators at Monument Academy gave Jones an ultimatum: either they continue to suspend her son, or she agree to send him to the “interim alternative educational setting” – that’s what they called the unlicensed center.

“I was stressed, I was about to go out of town and my child needed to be in school, so I said I’ll send him to the lateral placement and I’ll fight you later,” she recalled.

Now thanks to Jones, the center is under investigation by OSSE and the PCSB to make sure the owner complied with the federal disability law and that children weren’t just housed at the so-called center but not educated.

“There’s a real problem with the governance, monitoring and oversight of children in D.C.,” said Maria Blaeuer who is an attorney and program director with Advocates for Justice and Education.

It is still unclear how long the facility was operating and how many children were referred there.

Jones finally got her son in a different school, but he was stuck at that center for three months because she said Monument didn’t approve his transfer.

She said the school failed her son by not being able to provide his special needs services like they promised and then sending him to a facility that was not fully vetted. We reached out to Monument Academy for their side of the story but have not been able to reach school leaders because classes are not in session from the winter break.

Via WUSA 9

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Swamp Watch: Trans teacher sues P.G. County alleging ‘horrifying’ abuse

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Jennifer Eller is suing Prince George’s County Public Schools, alleging years of horrific anti-trans abuse.

By Lou Chibbaro Jr.

A lawsuit filed against Prince George’s County Public Schools and the county’s Board of Education charges that a female transgender teacher was subjected to five years of discrimination, harassment, abuse and retaliation by school administrators, fellow teachers, students and parents after she transitioned in 2011 from male to female.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 28, 2018 in United States District Court for the District of Maryland by the nationally known law firm Arnold and Porter on behalf of Jennifer Eller, an English teacher. On Dec. 20, the LGBT litigation group Lambda Legal joined Arnold & Porter in representing Eller.

The lawsuit says Eller taught at three schools in the P.G. County public school system from 2008 to 2017, when the lawsuit says she was forced to resign after school officials allegedly refused to adequately address the anti-trans harassment and abuse Eller encountered beginning in 2011.

“For years, I was aggressively misgendered, attacked and harassed in the hallways and even in my own classroom by students, peers and supervisors,” Eller said in a statement released by Lambda Legal.

“I woke up each day afraid to go to work because I didn’t know where the next attack would come from, but I already knew full well that the school administrators would do nothing to support me,” she said. “My pleas for help, for sensitivity training on LGBTQ issues for students and staff, fell on deaf ears,” she said.

“Finally, the harassment and the humiliation became unbearable and I had no other alternative than to resign,” she said in her statement. “No one – student or teacher – should go through the hell I was put through at school just for being who they are.”

The lawsuit charges that the treatment to which the school district and its administrators subjected Eller violated Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, the Equal Protection Cause of the U.S. Constitution, the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, and the nondiscrimination provision of the Prince George’s County Code.

In addition to Prince George’s County Public Schools and the Prince George’s County Board of Education, the lawsuit names as a defendant Monica Goldson, the school system’s Interim Chief Executive Officer.

John White, the official spokesperson for the Prince George’s County public school system, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the school system doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Under court rules the school system, school board, and Goldson have 21 days from the time they were officially served papers naming them as defendants in the lawsuit to file an answer to the lawsuit.

The statement released by Lambda Legal says the alleged discrimination and harassment against Eller began in March 2011, three years after she began working as an English teacher at Kenmoor Middle School in Landover, Md. It was at that time, the statement says, that Eller informed the principal at the school that “she would be transitioning to live authentically as the woman she is.”

According to the statement, when she began to present as a woman she was subjected to verbal abuse by students and was instructed by school officials to “stop wearing skirts or dresses.”

via washington blade

Monica Goldson

the lawsuit names as a defendant Monica Goldson (seen here), the school system’s Interim Chief Executive Officer.

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