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N.J. school district’s anti-bullying director fired for alleged bullying

A New Jersey school district’s anti-bullying director was fired last week for allegedly trying to threaten a student to keep quiet about an altercation between the director and a 16-year-old girl, the New Jersey Herald reported.

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Ron Rivera, 55, a retired New Jersey State Police captain who also served as the security director for the Vernon Township School District, was fired following an internal investigation into the matter, the Herald reported.

The matter was first publicly disclosed at the May 18 Vernon Board of Education meeting. An 18-year-old student at Vernon Township High School, who asked that his name not be published, said that he had been confronted by Rivera in the school stairwell after the alleged altercation and "threatened" by him not to say anything about what he had witnessed.

The altercation, which was confirmed by a school official requesting anonymity, involved a 16-year-old female sophomore on whom Rivera allegedly used physical force, the Herald reported.

The student who witnessed it said he later reported the details of what occurred to Assistant Principal Nancy LoPresti, who contacted school district officials, the Herald reported.

A retired 27-year veteran state trooper, Rivera took over in January as the Vernon Township School District's security director and anti-bullying coordinator, the Herald reported. He could not be reached for comment, the newspaper reported.



S.D. teen with brain cancer allowed to graduate 

A 17-year-old South Dakota student with brain cancer will be allowed to walk with her class at graduation on Sunday after school officials reversed their decision, the Rapid City Journal reported.

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Originally, Meridith Erck was told by the Rapid City School Board that she could not participate in graduation ceremonies for Central High School because she was six credits short of earning a diploma. She wanted to graduate with her twin brother, the Journal reported.

Schools Superintendent Lori Simon and Central Principal Mike Talley had rejected the request of Erck and her mother. The Journal reported that the district reversed itself after an outpouring of support for Erck.

Erck was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015, and previously had colon cancer. Her illness prevented her from completing all of her classes on time.



Police called after adults brawl at kindergarten graduation

A fight broke out at an elementary school graduation ceremony in New Mexico Wednesday, but no kids were involved.

A scuffle among adults broke out at Dolores Gonzales Elementary School during the kindergarten graduation ceremony.

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A school spokesperson told KRQE that the incident began when two adults sitting in the parents section began fighting. A parent who witnessed the incident told KRQE that instead of helping break up the brawl, more adults joined the fight. Police were called and the ceremony was temporarily suspended until order could be restored.

The graduation ceremony then finished without further incident.

Dozens of seniors barred from graduation ceremonies after ‘dangerous’ prank

Dozens of Middle Georgia high school seniors won’t be able to attend their graduation ceremonies, after they participated in a “dangerous and unsafe” prank, school officials said.  

The 35 Baldwin High School seniors met in the parking lot of the Milledgeville school before classes Thursday, wearing black clothes and white masks, the Macon Telegraph reported.  

The students sprayed water guns and threw water balloons in the cafeteria and nearby hallway, the newspaper reported.  

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Schools Superintendent Noris Price said in a statement the incident “created a very dangerous and unsafe situation.”  

Two other students suffered panic attacks, and paramedics had to be called to help one of them, school spokesman Byron Wellman said.  

The students will still receive their diplomas and any honors they’ve earned, officials said.

‘Choking game’ claims life of New Jersey student

A New Jersey school superintendent said a child recently died from a “choking game,” where students seek euphoria by briefly stopping oxygen from reaching the brain, Fox News reported.

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The victim, whose name and age have not been released, was a student in the Bernards Township School District in central New Jersey. Superintendent Nick Markarian sent a letter to parents earlier this week, encouraging them to talk to their children about the game, Fox News reported.

The game is also known as space monkey, the fainting game, or flatliner. Markarian’s letter said the death was "one of the tragic losses of student life we have experienced this year.""The early-adolescent brain does not process information in the same manner as an adult brain, and so children in this age group are not able to fully understand the serious consequences," he wrote.Parents have been cooperative in the wake of the student's death, the district said. A spokeswoman declined to say when exactly the death occurred.Current statistics on deaths caused by the choking game are unclear, WABC reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the game was responsible for 82 deaths between 1995 and 2007.

Mother upset over child's math homework involving hair extensions

The mother of a charter school student in the nation's capital is upset about a math homework question that she feels is inappropriate.

Sarah Jackson told WUSA9 that her 7-year-old daughter, Aria, a KIPP DC Quest Academy student, brought home math homework recently that asked students to count bundles of hair. The product, also known as a weave or hair extensions, is popular with African-American women, WUSA9 reported. 

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Jackson thought the question was inappropriate for first-graders and that it singled out a single group of people. When she posted her concerns about it on Facebook, some parents disagreed with Jackson, saying that the question was culturally inclusive, according to WUSA9.

The academy sent a letter to parents, apologizing for the question. Jackson wants to see the question pulled from all first-grade classes at KIPP charter schools.

After dispute, school allows student to wear eagle feather for graduation

A high school senior in New Mexico won a battle with school officials over the right to add a tribal symbol to his cap and gown for graduation.

Alex Bean told KRQE that he asked Highland High School officials if he could wear an eagle feather on his cap, a symbol of success in the Lakota Sioux tribe. Bean said he's the first member of his family to graduate high school. 

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Initially, the school refused to allow any alterations to the cap and gown ensemble, per Albuquerque Public School guidelines. But Bean and his mother persisted, and school officials reversed their decision.

Bean's mother told KRQE that earning the eagle feather is a "huge honor" in their tribe. Bean will wear the feather Saturday at the graduation ceremony.

14-year-old graduates from college with physics degree

Last week, 14-year-old Carson Huey-You became Texas Christian University’s youngest graduate, earning a bachelor of science degree in physics and minors in math and Chinese.

His mother, Claretta Kimp, said he started learning calculus when he was 3, and she credits her availability as a stay-at-home mother, as well as TCU’s community of faculty and teachers, to her oldest son’s achievements.

“It feels like it was meant to be he would come here,” senior associate dean Dr. Magnus Rittby said of Carson. “There are a lot of reasons why it was successful, and I think it’s very hard not to love Carson and the person he is. He’s not some abrasive kid who think he’s smarter than everyone else, but actually, he is smarter than everyone else.”

Carson enrolled at TCU when he was 11

“When I used to get bad test scores or something like that, I would go home and be disappointed and think about, ‘Oh, I should have known this, I should have done way better,’” he told the Star-Telegram.

Now, he’s learned how to react to an unexpected result.

“I know better how to deal with that disappointment, knowing that I will bounce back,” he said.

Carson’s aptitude for subatomic particles and learning will continue this fall, when he will return to TCU to pursue his master’s degree. The young scholar hopes to eventually earn a Ph.D. and teach in the field.

>> Related: Move over, Mozart! History’s newest premiere pianists are among us, and they’re in Houston

Genius seems to be a family affair: His 11-year-old brother, Cannan, is set to join Carson at TCU this fall, studying for a degree in astronomy.

While the curriculum and environment of college can be quite adult, the boys’ advisers and mother are dedicated to providing the boys with opportunities to be young.

>> Related: Texas lawmakers want you to be able to get your bachelor’s degree at community colleges

“This is where they can continue to learn and grow physically, spiritually, emotionally in every aspect of which your child needs to grow,” Kimp said of TCU’s investment in hers sons. “They don’t feel like, ‘Oh, I’m in a school with a bunch of grown-ups,’ and everything. They feel more like, ‘Hey, this is my family. This is my team. These are the people who really care about me.’”

“TCU is where I’ve grown up,” Carson said. “It’s home.”

High school to allow sister to walk at graduation for sibling who died

Administrators at Belleview High School in Belleview, Florida, changed their minds Friday about allowing the sister of a student who died in December to walk across the stage during graduation to pick up an honorary diploma.

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For days, administrators did not budge on their refusal to allow Summer Lynn to walk for her sister, Nikki Collins, who died of viral pneumonia days before Christmas.

The school said the decision was made because it didn't want to set a precedent.

They reversed course Friday and told Lynn she could walk in her sister's place.

"(They) apologized to me that it went the way it did," Lynn told WFTV. "And that they're going to allow me to walk in honor of my sister."

The decision to allow Lynn to walk for her sister came after WFTV told the story of another woman who was allowed to accept her brother's diploma after he was killed by a drunken driver in 2010.

"They allowed me to wear his robes, sit in his section, in his seat, and walk across the stage to accept his diploma," Ashley Smith said of her brother. 

Marion County Schools realized the precedent in this type of situation had already been set by Smith after checking their video archives. 

"In our minds, that set precedent," spokesman Kevin Christian said. "Unbeknownst to us at the district. Unbeknownst to that administration at the school today."

When Lynn walks in Collins' place next weekend, the school will allow her to wear her sister's cap and gown, and she plans to wear a charm containing her sister's ashes as well.

"I was, like, thinking of Nikki and said, 'There you are, baby, you're gonna walk,'" Lynn said.

Teen sandwich lover opts for wacky senior photo shoot at Subway

Zach Sweeney is not shy about his love for sandwiches.

The 18-year-old's sandwich obsession is so strong that he decided he wanted his senior photo shoot to be at one of his favorite locations: Subway.

Arizona photographer Chad Castigliano, of Chronicker Photography, was happy to oblige the offbeat request, according to KPNX. Castigliano posted the photos on Facebook on May 9, and the results have gone viral.

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Sweeney appears to be a natural in front of the camera as he poses inside the Subway restaurant and enjoys a sub sandwich.

Sweeney is surprised by all of the attention his senior photos have received, telling KPNX that he just wanted to do something different and be himself instead of taking traditional senior photos. He hopes his photo shoot will inspire other teens to be themselves.

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