Monthly Archives: January 2019

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


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’


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.


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


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


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


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.


Maryland Elections Officials Change Voter Turnout Prediction After Ballot Shortage

gop-black-voters-d_1By Reform Sasscer Staff:

Prince George’s County elections officials acknowledged mistakes and say they’re changing the way they predict voter turnout after dozens of precincts ran out of paper ballots during the November election. This blog was the first to report widespread voter suppression in Prince George’s County in what appeared to have been an organized scheme to elect certain candidates at the expense of the wider population. Clearly, in a state with democratic voters the elections results left a lot to the imaginations.

Decades ago, amid the most overt privations of Jim Crow, African-Americans used to tell a joke about a black Harvard professor who moves to the Deep South and tries to register to vote. A white clerk tells him that he will first have to read aloud a paragraph from the Constitution. When he easily does so, the clerk says that he will also have to read and translate a section written in Spanish. Again he complies. The clerk then demands that he read sections in French, German, and Russian, all of which he happens to speak fluently. Finally, the clerk shows him a passage in Arabic. The professor looks at it and says, “My Arabic is rusty, but I believe this translates to ‘Negroes cannot vote in this county.’ ”

Old jokes have lately been finding renewed salience. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses, once the most common mechanisms for disadvantaging minority voters, have been consigned to the history books, but one need look no further than the governor’s race in Maryland to see their modern equivalents in action. The race between the Republican, Larry Hogan, and the Democrat, Ben Jealous, the former NAACP leader o—who, had he won, would have been the first black  governor in Maryland. However, that was never to be in what appeared to be a voter suppression in Maryland especially in Prince George’s County and Baltimore city. There was also other violations in which  democratic leaders joined forces with Hogan behind the scenes to dupe voters in violation of laid down processes.

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.”

We reprint the report by NBC4 News below:


Prince George’s County elections officials say they’re changing the way they predict voter turnout after dozens of precincts ran out of paper ballots during the November election. Hundreds of voters waited in lines for ballots for hours after the polls were supposed to have closed. Investigative Reporter Jodie Fleischer explains what the county is doing to keep that from happening again.

By Jodie Fleischer and Katie Leslie

Prince George’s County elections officials say they’re changing the way they predict voter turnout after dozens of precincts ran out of paper ballots during the November election.

The shortage left hundreds of voters standing in line hours after the polls were supposed to have closed and ultimately delayed the reporting of results statewide.

Among the changes: Elections officials will no longer use prior voter turnout to predict the number of ballots needed for each precinct and instead will consider the number of registered voters assigned to each polling place.

Prince George’s County elections officials have previously said they anticipated higher turnout this year than the typical midterm election and therefore used the 2016 presidential election turnout as the basis for the number of ballots it ordered.

However, it still fell short. The report confirms nearly 30 precincts ran out of paper ballots. The News4 I-Team reviewed the ballot allocation numbers for each and found some of those only had roughly 30-35 percent voter turnout.

According to the report, poll workers will now be required to monitor and document the number of ballots the precinct has on hand so they know when to request more. Other ideas include having specific point people to receive and expedite all ballot requests to make sure the response is immediate.

Elections officials will also work with law enforcement on potential traffic solutions in the event additional ballots are needed during rush hour — an issue officials say delayed the delivery of additional ballots in November.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot lambasted Prince George’s County’s performance during a recent Board of Public Works meeting. He was one of many state officials awaiting Prince George’s review of its ballot problems, and in an interview with News4, he called the proposed changes common-sense.

“Each event that happens like this is very corrosive as far as the public’s trust and confidence in the system,” Franchot said.

“Hopefully we will improve,” he added.

The head of Prince George’s elections couldn’t be reached for comment this week, but the report also indicates elections officials will begin a series of “lessons learned” meetings in January.

via NBC4

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14-year-old PGCPS girl arrested for emailing threats to Maryland schools

Still0102_00006_1546448334664_6580642_ver1.0_640_360By Dick Uliano

WASHINGTON — A 14-year-old girl was arrested Wednesday for making threats against two high schools and a middle school in Prince George’s County, Maryland, police said.

The girl confessed to writing a series of emails containing threats against Bladensburg High School, Parkdale High School and William Wirt Middle School. Police concede the student didn’t have the means to carry out her threats, but her emails struck fear among hundreds of parents and students, and required a robust public safety response.

The girl is facing charges, including making threats of mass violence and electronic threats mailed to a minor. Police are still investigating why she sent the threats.

Prince George’s County police Chief Hank Stawinski said threatening mass violence is no prank, and the girl’s emails frightened the public after word spread on social media.

Police also boosted security at all three schools.

“We conducted a search of this juvenile’s home and we seized all of her computer equipment,” Stawinski said in a statement. “The repercussions of making threats such as these are real and should be sobering to any young person … A threat is a threat and it will be dealt with accordingly based on the fear that they generate in the community.”

Police also said one of the girl’s emails included obscene photos, drawing an additional charge of possession with intent to distribute obscene matter.

via WTOP 

Read More >>>Prince George’s County police investigating PGCPS school threats


Prince George’s County police investigating PGCPS school threats as another goes on lockdown.


Parkdale High School (pictured) was listed as one of the schools under threat.

By Reform Sasscer Staff:

– Prince George’s County police increased their presence at three schools early Wednesday morning following threats made by email over the holiday break.

According to police, they are investigating threats at Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) including William Wirt Middle School, Bladensburg High School, and Parkdale High School.

School district officials told the press earlier today that, police had identified the person behind the threats, and that they do not seem to be credible.

Extra officers were at the schools on Wednesday as a precaution.

Earlier in the day, Hyattsville Middle school was on total lockdown for a period of time following rumors of a person with a gun and a car jacking.

Several police cars were on the premises and a Helicopter was seen hovering in the vicinity of the school as police investigated the reports.

The reports of a gun man inside the school ended up being unfounded, one parent say.

No injuries were reported and everyone is safe.unnamed



Prince George’s County Police vehicles