Friday, August 15, 2014

Former student who cyberstalked UMKC teacher pleads gulity

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a former student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has pleaded guilty in federal court to cyberstalking a faculty member.

Kenna Haight, 27, of Virginia Beach, Va., a former student at UMKC, pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief District Judge Greg Kays on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, to the charge contained in a Dec. 11, 2013, federal indictment.

Haight repeatedly sent e-mail messages to a UMKC instructor from Oct. 1, 2013 to Dec. 11, 2013, which she admitted would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to the instructor or her family. Haight admitted that her messages and attempts to communicate with the instructor were done despite repeated requests from the instructor herself, UMKC administrators and law enforcement officers to stop.

On Oct. 4, 2013, the instructor obtained an Ex Parte Order of Protection, which prohibited Haight from communicating in any way with the instructor and included specific orders to not threaten or harass the instructor. On Nov. 21, 2013, FBI agents interviewed Haight. Haight admitted sending the emails to the instructor. Haight was instructed again to stop trying to contact the instructor.

On Dec. 3, 2013, Haight called and made a false report to the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. As a result of that report, a social worker interviewed the instructor and the instructor’s children about the false complaint, causing them substantial emotional distress.

The e-mails Haight sent to the instructor included the following comments, among many other threatening statements:
“I keep having homicidal fantasies that me keep me up at night around you.”
“Am I in the backseat of your car ready to slit your carotid artery? Am I in the closet at your house in [city of the UMKC Instructor’s residence]? Am I underneath your car ready to cut your achilles heal? Are your lug nuts secure on your car??”
“I don’t deal with anger and irritation well…people who cross me wind up living to regret it. Want to be on my list???”
“I seriously want to hurt you, you know that?”
“…you may find yourself tied to your own bed in your own home begging for mercy. Or having your tongue cut out and your spinal cord cut paralyzing you for life so that you can never walk or speak again. Who knows what the universe has in store for you. If someone invades your home and cuts out your tongue…not my fault. Wishful thinking.”

Under federal statutes, Haight is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in federal prison, up to a sentence of five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Wolesky. It was investigated by the FBI.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Teachers accused of cheating to receive a year's severance pay

Four Houston teachers accused of cheating will receive a year's severance pay:

Superintendent Terry Grier recommended firing the teachers this spring after students' statements and suspicious test scores suggested teachers provided improper assistance to students on high-stakes exams.

The school board approved his recommendation, prompting the teachers to appeal to the state commissioner of education. Some of those appeal hearings were scheduled to start this week, said Chris Tritico, an attorney for three of the teachers.

The school board signed off Thursday on packages that give four of the teachers a clean record and the maximum pay they could have received through successful hearings, Tritico said.

"It's a total victory for these teachers," he said. "It's a rare day that (HISD) does something like this."

The teachers' names were not released. Tritico said one accepted a position with a neighboring district earlier this summer and said he is confident the others will also find teaching jobs.

Parents upset with pornographic high school sex ed book

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Twelve-year-old crashes stolen school bus

School officials fire blogger for writing about homophones

A teacher/blogger was fired by officials at his private school after they believed his post about homophones was equating the school with gay issues:

According to NY Daily News, Tim Torkildson updated the school's blog with a post about homophones and how there are some words that sound the same, but have different meanings, (e.g., "peace" and "piece").

 A week after he made the post, Clarke Woodger, the school's owner, fired Torkildson and said the school was going to be associated with homosexuality. "He said, 'I'm letting you go because I can't trust you,'" Torkildson told the NY Daily News. "'I never know what you're going to do next.'" 

Torkildson said the blog was straightforward and only discussed the English language; there were no innuendos, jokes, or mentions of homosexuality.

Teacher who called students lazy whiners loses free speech lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a free speech lawsuit filed by a teacher who was fired after referring to her students as "lazy whiners" on her personal blog:

"Far from implicating larger discussions of education reform, pedagogical methods, or specific school policies, the postings mainly complained aobut the failure of [Natalie Munroe's] students to live up to her expectations," the judge said, according to ABC News. The article said Munroe's blog did not identify her school, district, colleagues or students, though it did include her picture and name.

"My students are out of control," one post said. "They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entilted to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying."

Oklahoma attorney general investigating testing disruptions

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is investigating McGraw-Hill, the company that administered standardized tests for the state's schools, following disruptions that delayed the tests in the spring:

"We've had two, two years of what I would call broken promises to the kids and parents and school districts of the state of Oklahoma," he said.

Pruitt is sending letters to Oklahoma superintendents, asking questions like:

"Was there only a single disruption in online testing or did multiple disruptions occur?"
"Did any students incur adverse consequences because of testing failure?"

"These are very important tests. and we need to make sure that as they're conducted by these vendors that the state retains, that they do their job," Pruitt said. "And when they fail to do their job, they need to be held accountable."