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September 26th, 2012
03:38 PM ET

CNN's David Mattingly reports on Tennessee fraternity suspended over alcohol enemas

The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the "University Of Tennessee At Knoxville" was suspended along with 12 students who have been cited for underage drinking, one for disorderly conduct over alcohol enemas. One student was rushed to the emergency room over the weekend with alcohol poisoning. The hospital reports indicate that the student’s blood alcohol level was at 5 times the legal limit. The student is out of the hospital and back in the classroom now.

-CNN National Correspondent David Mattingly is reporting from in Knoxville, Tennessee with the latest.

Filed under: Education • Fraternity
September 26th, 2012
01:06 PM ET

USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon on the new school food program from the Obama Administration

A growing uprising this morning over school lunches over the new guidelines from the Obama Administration that kicked in this year. The new regulations are designed to make school food healthier and more nutritious, ultimately limiting caloric and sodium intake. The program however is sparking a lunch room rebellion from students and educators alike. In Kansas, the new program prompted two teachers and some high school students to create a parody video which recently went viral on YouTube. Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition at the USDA, Kevin Concannon helped launch the program and has been visiting schools to see how students are adjusting. This morning Concannon joins “Starting Point” to discuss the new school menus and address the concerns of students, parents and teachers.

Concannon says from his nationwide visits it is apparent that “schools have made the adjustment to a much healthier diet.” “We’re serving just about the same number of calories s most schools were in the past. The difference being these are healthier calories. More fruits and vegetables and less pizza, less of those tater tots and generally … a much healthier meal for kids.”

The Undersecretary says the USDA is more than willing to help schools provide snacks for students. The new snacks would encompass food items such as whole wheat cheese pizzas, raw grape tomatoes and low-fat milk as opposed to a regular cheese pizza, canned pineapples and tater tots.

Concannon says the program is “a systemic effort to provide healthier foods to kids – 32 million American kids who have lunch at school everyday,” and for the most part students and school administrators have been pleased with the changes. Concannon recounts a visit with a first grader in New Orleans, “The little girl…we sat next to each other and she said ‘Sir if you don’t finish your broccoli, I’ll finish it for you’ and I declared hey that’s victory. We’re winning”

Concannon says he has “no hard feelings” over the video created by Kansas students and teachers and actually thought it was quite funny.

Filed under: Education
September 25th, 2012
02:43 PM ET

PBS documentary 'Dropout Nation' follows students in Houston on the verge of dropping out

It’s a staggering number - but more than 3-million students each year - drop out of high school. Many students attend what have commonly been called, "dropout factories." There are about 1,500 "factories" nationwide where 60% or less of students graduate. In a new documentary, PBS's frontline spent time at one of the schools - sharpstown high school in Houston, Texas and followed four students on the verge of dropping out. Sharpstown high school principal Rob Gasparello and FRONTLINE producer Frank Koughan join “Starting Point” to discuss the students in "dropout factories" and the teachers, counselors and principals who wage a daily struggle to guide them to graduation day.

Gasparello says there are a lot of frustrated and angry students but “there are a lot of students who we sort of redirect that anger and get them back on track.” Koughan agrees but says he worries that he is “stacking the deck against Sharpstown by following especially problematic kids for the course of the documentary.” Koughan adds that the high school has “as many successes if not more.”

From his director’s point of view, Koughan says “it seems like 70–75% percent of the problems these kids are dealing with are all outside of school. They’re all home-life related work-life related” like gangs and drugs.

Gasparello says “despite the fact that kids come to us with lots of anger, poverty and lots of tough life situations - they can be successful.” The Sharpstown principal adds that having mentors at the school who care and connect with the children adds to his school’s behavioral turnaround rate.

FRONTLINE'S “Dropout Nation” premieres on PBS Tuesday, at 9pm ET/PT.

Filed under: Education
September 24th, 2012
03:17 PM ET

NYC parents union Pres. and Assist. Commissioner, NYC Health Dept. on schools dispensing "morning after" pill

A controversial new program in some New York City's public schools is sparking a heated debate among parents this morning. The program called "CATCH,” allows a school nurse to dispense the morning-after pill and birth control pills to students without parental consent.
Currently CATCH is a pilot program at 13 high schools and parents can opt out but many might not even know they can.

This morning on “Starting Point” President of the New York City parents union, Mona Davids and Assistant Commissioner, NYC Health Department, Deborah Kaplan weigh in on the Pilot program.

“40% of young people are sexually active,” says Kaplan. “While we totally encourage them and believe it so critical they talk with their parents not all young people can or feel they can.”

Although all parents have the option to bar their kids from getting pregnancy tests or contraceptives via the opt-out statement, Davids says this is still problematic because “many parents are already not involved.”

Davids adds, “ the parents have a right to know,” for several reasons- two being pre-existing conditions and medical allergies.

Filed under: Education
September 11th, 2012
10:43 AM ET

'Teachers are people, too' – Tony Danza on the difficulties of being a high school teacher, weighs in on the Chicago teacher strike

Beloved television actor Tony Danza spent one year in a different kind of role: a 10th grade English teacher in a Philadelphia public school for the 2009-2010 school year. The “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss” actor talks about the Chicago teachers strike and his new book, “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had," which chronicles his experience as a public school teacher.

“There’s so much budget cutting, so much changing of the way it’s been – there’s a reaction,” Danza says of the Chicago strike. “People are scared, like anybody else. Teachers are people too.”

“What I saw [in my year of teaching] were discouraged teachers,” Danza adds. “30% quit after three years, 50% after five. It’s like just as you’re getting good, you say, ‘I can’t do it.’”

Filed under: Chicago Teacher Strike • Education
August 20th, 2012
12:05 PM ET

Test cheating in Philadelphia schools may be more widespread than thought – CNN education contributor Steve Perry on damage it could do to kids

According to new evidence, cheating in Philadelphia schools may have been more widespread than originally revealed. A total of 53 schools are being investigated for cheating that took place across different grades, subjects and years. Wrong answers were allegedly erased and changed to the right ones on standardized exams.

CNN Education Contributor Steve Perry, founder of Capital Prep, Magnet School, weighs in on the frequency of these cases across the country, and discusses how schools can legitimately improve their test scores.

Filed under: Education
August 13th, 2012
11:52 AM ET

Is Miss. school a 'school-to-prison pipeline'? CNN education contributor Steve Perry on 'disgusting, reprehensible' behavior alleged against educators

A school in Meridian, Miss. is under fire for the way it put into effect its disciplinary actions. According to a Justice Department probe, students in a predominantly black school were being incarcerated for minor disciplinary infractions, including dress code violations and using profanity.

Civil rights investigators claim that the Lauderdale County Youth Court, Meridian Police Department and Mississippi Division of Youth Services operated "a school-to-prison pipeline whereby children arrested in local schools became entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the U.S. constitution," basically being arrested without probable cause and failing to have due process in court.

The town itself denying any wrongdoing despite the findings from the Department of Justice. The federal agency is giving local officials 60 days to negotiate an end of the constitutional violations or face a federal lawsuit.

Steve Perry, CNN education contributor and founder of Capital Prep School in Connecticut, says if the allegations against the school are true, it's not typical and should not be tolerated.

"This is not normal behavior," Perry tells Soledad. "It's disgusting, reprehensible, and every single child in the school needs to be given the opportunity to go to another school because the people who are offensive are the ones, to me, who are calling the police for actions that they should be taking care of themselves as skilled educators."

Filed under: Education
August 8th, 2012
12:52 PM ET

ACLU director: Louisiana school's policy forcing pregnant girls to leave is 'absolutely illegal'

A charter school in Louisiana is reviewing a controversial policy that forces pregnant teens to leave the school.

Delhi Charter School requires students suspected of being pregnant to take a test, and if they are pregnant, they cannot attend classes on campus. If a student refuses the test, they'll be treated as if they are pregnant, and faced with the same consequences.

The ACLU is threatening to sue over the policy, saying that it violates a number of constitutional rights.

In a statement, the school says it's rethinking the rule and has forwarded the current policy to a law firm to "ensure necessary revisions are made" so that the school is in full compliance with constitutional law.

"We are pleased they are looking into the policy. It's blatantly illegal," ACLU deputy director Louise Melling says on Starting Point today. "You can't force girls who are pregnant out of school any more than you can force women out of the workplace because they are pregnant. So what a correct policy would entail is that girls have a right to equal education, the same as everybody else, whether they are pregnant or not. They can't be pushed out of the classroom."

Filed under: ACLU • Education
July 30th, 2012
01:46 PM ET

Do students still need to learn algebra? CNN education contributor Steve Perry weighs in

CNN education contributor Dr. Steve Perry debatest whether every student needs to learn algebra.

Filed under: Education
July 26th, 2012
11:47 AM ET

Civil rights complaint filed against one of America's top high schools

The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia is considered one of the best magnet schools in the country. The prestigious school is ranked the number two high school by US News and World Report and tenth by Newsweek.

However, a new federal civil rights complaint says the school is essentially shutting out minority students.

This year's incoming freshman class will be just 2.7% Latino and 1.4% black.

Tina Hone is the founder and executive director of the "Coalition of the Silence," which filed the complaint against the school with the Board of Education in conjunction with the NAACP this week.

Hone sits down with Soledad on Starting Point today to explain why the complaint was filed and to discuss diversity in America's schools.

Filed under: Education
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