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Wildfires burn through Colorado causing thousands to evacuate, and protests in Turkey are in 13th day. Tune in at 7am ET.
June 14th, 2013
09:39 AM ET

Stories of nine extraordinary girls and the power of education

Ahead of the CNN film "Girl Rising" airing this Sunday night on CNN we're sharing the stories of girls who are trying to get an education.

Thousands of schools in Haiti were damaged or destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. Amid the devastation, Wadley wants nothing more than to return to class.

Filed under: Education • Haiti
May 31st, 2013
09:36 AM ET

13-year-old Arvind Mahankali wins 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee: 'I still haven't really fully understood what has happened'

Thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali beat out 281 participants in the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee last night, earning his place as this year’s national champion along with $30 thousand in prize money.

Mahankali talks about his big win with John Berman and Christine Romans on "Starting Point" this morning. He says, "I still haven't really fully understood what has happened."

Talking about placing third in the competition the past two years Mahankali says, "I didn't feel any pressure because I didn't think about any of that when I was going to the finals."

Next year Mahankali says he plans to participate in the Math Olympiads and Physics Olympiads.

Filed under: A little fun • Education • Spelling Bee
May 27th, 2013
08:41 AM ET

Former University of Tennessee student Kim Obiala weighs in on abuse allegations against former coach & new Rutgers hire, Julie Hermann

Rutgers University's newly hired athletic director, the one hired to clean up its scandal-ridden program, may have been guilty of the same type of abuses that got the school's men's head basketball coach, Mike Rice, fired in the first place. The university faced tough criticism in the days after a video surfaced of Rice being abusive towards players. Now Julie Hermann is under fire for similar conduct.

Kim Obiala played under Hermann for two years at the University of Tennessee. She's a member of the team that wrote a letter to Hermann in 1997 that mentioned the unbearable mental cruelty they suffered under her. They recently gave it to "The Star Ledger" in Newark, New Jersey. Obiala weighs in on the scandal “Starting Point” this morning.

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Filed under: Abuse • Education
March 28th, 2013
10:44 AM ET

Chicago Teachers Union president: 'Local control of schools has been usurped for mayoral control'

Hundreds of public school teachers and their supporters took to the streets yesterday to protest Chicago's school consolidation plan, which will close 54 of the city's public schools.

The demonstration was non-violent, but more than 100 protesters were escorted away by police. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears to be holding his ground, saying that the time for negotiations is over. The Board of Education votes on the plan in late May, and it's expected to pass.

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis joins Starting Point today to discuss the measures the city is taking to address their budget shortfall and to explain why she opposes closing the schools.

"Changing children from one building to the next is not going to ensure that their education is going to be that much better," Lewis says. "Where we have a problem is that you cannot just pick a number out of the sky and this is the number of schools we’re going to close. Mayor Rahm Emanuel went around town talking to anybody who would listen to him that he wanted 50 schools closed... I’m telling parents to take control of their school. We have local school councils. The whole purpose is so we can have local control of school and that has been usurped for mayoral control."

Filed under: Education
March 11th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

Md. State Sen. pushes legislation for 'responsible school discipline' in wake of child punished for making pastry gun

More than a week ago, children at Park Elementary School in Maryland went home with a letter explaining there was a disruption in school caused by 7-year-old Josh Welch. He was accused of biting a breakfast pastry to shape it into an object that resembled a gun, while allegedly saying "bang bang" with it. Welch was suspended for two days, but insists he did not do anything inappropriate.

Now, a lawmaker in that district has introduced a bill to make sure something like this does not happen again to other kids. This morning, Maryland State Senator J.B. Jennings joins “Starting Point” to discuss his proposed legislation.

“The boards of educations have handcuffed the teachers and principals in these schools with this zero tolerance,” Jennings says. He adds that his proposed bill will give “discretionary back to the principals, back to the teachers.”

Senate Bill 1058, otherwise known as "The Responsible School Discipline Act of 2013" was introduced in Maryland State Senate on Friday. Jennings says his legislation has started a necessary discussion that he hopes the boards of education will take and “move forward with it.” He adds that his constituents want the zero-tolerance policy addressed so, “that these school boards will lay off some of these children [and] give the teachers and principals more flexibility to handle this in the classroom.”

Filed under: Education • Law
March 4th, 2013
10:22 AM ET

Seven-year-old suspended from school for alleged 'pastry gun,' dad says offense and punishment don't add up

Officials at an elementary school in Maryland are suspending seven-year-old for taking a breakfast pastry and shaping it into what looked like a gun, and allegedly saying "bang bang" with it.

Second grader Josh Welch and his father share what happened on “Starting Point” today.

“I was trying to shape it into a mountain, and it turned out to be a gun,” Josh says. “And I did not say bang bang.”

"I believe there needs to be some common sense," dad BJ Welch says. "I believe when you compare the caliber of the offense to the caliber of the punishment, they don't match up. It's a lack of common sense, in conjunction with the use of rules. Honestly. I believe there's some personal bias in the decision as well."

Park Elementary School's principal was unable to talk with CNN, but the school sent a letter home with the students saying "one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class."

Josh will be suspended for two days, but says he doesn't do anything inappropriate.

"When I'm trying to create stuff like drawing...I don't try to draw inappropriate stuff," he saysl.

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Filed under: Children • Education • Gun violence • Guns
January 17th, 2013
12:50 PM ET

Empowering students through the arts – hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz and Music Unites's Michelle Edgar on 'Music-versity' workshop

Schools across the country are cutting funding for the arts, and many private groups are stepping in to help save them. Music Unites is one of them, a non-profit group that helps empower students through arts and music education.

It works with musicians like Grammy-award winning producer and hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz, who offer in-studio sessions and workshops. Today, Swizz and "Music Unites" will hold a workshop with the Bronx Charter School in New York to stress the importants of arts education.

Swizz Beatz and Music Unites founder Michelle Edgar talk with Soledad O'Brien about their mission.

Filed under: Arts • Education • Music
January 14th, 2013
10:21 AM ET

From 'Breaking Bad' to doing good: Actor Steven Michael Quezada running for school board in Albuquerque

One of the stars of the award-winning TV drama "Breaking Bad" may soon have a new role: As a school board member.

Steven Michael Quezada, who plays D.E.A. agent Steven Gomez in the hit AMC show, is running unopposed for a seat on the school board in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Quezada joins “Starting Point” to discuss why he wants to make a difference in the state that he and his show call home.

Filed under: Education • Entertainment
December 20th, 2012
11:12 AM ET

Students discuss their hoax of an eagle snatching a baby and dropping it going viral

The saying, “too strange to be true” certainly applies to a video created by three students in their fifth semester at Centre NAD in Canada. Normand Archambault, Loïc Mireault and Félix Marquis-Poulin created a video depicting an eagle snatching a toddler in a Montreal park that went viral on YouTube with over 10 million views. The video which took the students 400 hours to create fooled a lot of people but several were able to figure out the video was a hoax created by using computer-generated images. This morning Archambault and Marquis-Poulin join “Starting Point” to discuss the hoax and all the attention it has received.

Marquis-Poulin says he and his classmates researched favorite subjects on YouTube and “came out with animals and babies,” which gave them the idea of an eagle catching a baby. Archambault says the point of the project was that they had to “integrate computer generated images into real footage.” He adds the first part of the project was building the “geometry of the model” which meant building the baby and the eagle in 3D. Archambault says the next step was rigging it, “making a bone system for both of them… shaping them and add texture” and then integrated it” within the computer to make the final product.

Filed under: A little fun • Education
December 18th, 2012
10:38 AM ET

Fmr. Governor Frank Keating (R-OK) says ‘the climb out’ for Newtown will be long, searing and very difficult

On Tuesday, Newtown students returned to schools marking the beginning of a new reality after last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Students at neighboring schools are receiving counseling along with teachers and administrators who are expected to discuss the tragedy with students in an age appropriate manner, according to the teachers' union. Classes for the young children of Sandy Hook are not resuming just yet, as a new school in neighboring Monroe, Connecticut is prepped for their arrival. A tragedy of this magnitude for many brings to mind other senseless acts that claimed innocent lives like the Oklahoma City bombing at the federal building downtown in 1995 that killed 168 people – 19 of them children. Frank Keating was the governor of Oklahoma when that bombing occurred. He joins “Starting Point” this morning to discuss the Newtown tragedy and weigh in on the renewed gun control debate.

Keating who won national acclaim for his compassionate and professional handling of the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing says for Newtown the climb out will be long, searing and very difficult. He adds that 17 years after the bombing, “with private funds we are still putting children through college, providing counseling – particularly the first responders, firefighters and police officers and even proving medical care for the number of the badly injured.” Keating goes on to stress the importance of the community putting together a plan to address certain problems like long term counseling, particularly for the first responders who were some of the first to see the victims.

On the topic of gun control, Keating who received his first shotgun at the age of 11 says the question of whether people should, “be able to access, to purchase semiautomatic weapons with these clips, these magazines that provide for... unlimited firepower” needs to be debated and discussed. He adds, “We did once. I think we should do it again to ban those assault weapons.”

Keating says mental health, divorce, video violence and movie violence should also be topics of discussion moving forward. Reflecting on his own childhood he says, “We had guns. We went hunting after school, but none of us slaughtered out classmates.”

Filed under: Education • Gun control • Gun violence • Guns • Sandy Hook
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