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Boy allowed to run for homecoming queen after high school initially denies request

An Orange County, Florida, high school student said he wants to be homecoming queen, but school administrators initially wouldn’t allow it because of his gender.

That changed when WFTV's Mike Manzoni began asking questions about the policy.

The school is now reversing its decision, saying the policy will allow Anthony Martinez to run for homecoming queen and the principal who told the boy he couldn’t run never consulted with the district’s central office.

>> Read more trending stories  

Martinez said he became emotional when he was told he couldn’t run for homecoming queen. His boyfriend, Joncarlo Medina, wants to run for homecoming king.

Martinez was first told by Cypress Creek High School Principal John McHale he couldn’t run for queen because he’s a boy.

“I started crying. Like, it made me really emotional considering how hard I was trying to be queen,” Martinez said.

When Manzoni contacted the school district for answers, a spokesperson said Martinez is eligible to run for the king or queen position.

The spokesperson said McHale, “Did not consult with the central office, but made what he thought was an appropriate decision at the time.”

Orange County Public Schools’ anti-discrimination policy says the district cannot discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Martinez said he’s glad to know he can now run for the position.

“I just feel it’s phenomenal,” said Martinez. “I feel like you guys convinced them”

The principal sent Manzoni an email Tuesday night saying that after further research, he realized any student may run for either homecoming king or queen. 

Mom says son was suspended for turning in knife

A Michigan mother says her son was suspended for turning in a knife.

The mother told local Michigan station WWMT that her 12-year-old son found the pocket knife in his backpack. The bag had been bought at a Goodwill store and never checked.

>> Read more trending stories  

When the seventh grader found the knife, which had been in a leather case at the bottom of the bag, he reportedly brought it to a counselor and was suspended from school. The mother also said the school tried to get her son kicked off the local football team, but the organization refused.

The mother said that, per school rules, the situation meant an automatic one-year suspension, which was later knocked down to 30 days. She told WWMT that she didn't think her son would return to the same school following the suspension.

Click here to read more.

Texas high school spends $60 million on new football stadium, feeds rivalry

Two rival schools in Texas have taken their rivalry to a new level.

Allen High School in Allen, Texas, built a $60 million stadium, complete with a high-definition video screen, a three-tier press box and a capacity of 18,000 seats that nearly matches the Staples Center.

Could a high school football stadium really be any bigger?

Yes. The answer in Texas is always yes. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The Los Angeles Times reported that Allen's neighboring school district in McKinney, Texas, plans to outdo the Eagles' stadium with a nearly $63 million facility -- what could be the nation's most expensive high school stadium. It will be outfitted with a 55-foot-wide, high-definition video screen, an artificial grass field, seating for 12,000 and an adjacent 500-seat event center.

"Oh, it's a rivalry," said Adam Blanchet, a junior at one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. "I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country."

The median household income in McKinney is $83,000. School taxes for property owners amount to $1.63 per $100 of assessed valuation, the Times reported.

To read more on how McKinney is funding the stadium and what students have to say about it, click here.

School district official apologizes for 'Scalp the Indians' float

A school in Oklahoma is facing backlash after students built a homecoming float with a phrase considered to be insensitive to Native Americans. The float was a wagon featuring a homemade Native American hanging off the back with the words, “Scalp the Indians,” across the side.

>> Read more trending stories

“Immediate action was taken, and the float has been disassembled,” Coweta Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Holmes wrote in a letter addressed to students, families, friends and neighbors of the school district.

After KOKI posted the image of the float on its Facebook page, it found the reaction to be mixed. Some said the float wasn’t a big deal, but others were glad to see the school respond so quickly.

This really has people talking.  The school responded swiftly.  What do you think about the planned float?Posted by FOX23 News on Friday, September 16, 2016

Student’s grades lowered after she refuses to stand for Pledge of Allegiance

California teen Leilani Thomas has chosen to honor her Native American heritage since the second grade, sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance each morning as her school day commenced.

It was only after San Francisco 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick brought attention to that particular form of silent protest that one of Thomas’ teachers had a problem with her actions, the teen told ABC 10 out of Sacramento.

“She told me I was being disrespectful, and I was pretty mad,” the Lower Lake High School student told the news station. “She was being disrespectful to me also, saying I was making bad choices, and I don’t have the choice to sit during the pledge.”

>> Read more trending stories

The unnamed teacher docked Thomas’ participation grade for refusing to stand up. When Thomas brought the issue to school district officials, however, she found that she had their full support.

Konocti School District Superintendent Donna Becnel told ABC 10 that it is a matter of students’ First Amendment rights.

“They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse than anybody else does,” Becnel said.

Thomas and a friend who decided to protest with her have been transferred to another teacher’s class. The teen has been getting support from other friends and family as well, including on social media. 

Leilani being interviewed by the news for being threatened to have her grade lowered, for not standing for the pledge at school. Proud of you babe, stand up for your rights!Posted by Sandra Thomas on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Beyond proud of you Leilani Thomas. Way to be the voice ❤️ love youPosted by Jordan Rivera on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

“I’m understanding it more, that it means a lot and to a lot of my people also,” Thomas told the news station.

Kindergarten teacher writes heartwarming letter to parents

On the first day of school, kindergarten teacher Rosangela Paine is almost as attentive to the freshly grieving mothers – and fathers — as her new 5-year-old charges.

"They just want to hang for a little bit. There’s tears," says the 26-year veteran of goodbyes.

But parents at Palm Beach Public Elemneary School in Palm got special solace last month. As they departed, Paine had a packet for them, complete with tea, tissue and cotton balls and a letter.

Dearest Kindergarten Parents, Here is a little "gift" for you as you leave your precious one with me on the first day of school. As you hold this cotton ball in your hand, the softness will help you to remember the gentle spirit of your child. After you’ve gone home and dried your tears, make yourself a hot cup of tea and relax. Remember that together you and I work for your child to be the best they can be. "Thank you for trusting your child to me for the coming school year. I will do my very best every day to be your child’s guide in learning and exploring this bright, new world they’ve just stepped into. Sincerely, Mrs. Paine

Paine has handled the children deftly as well. The night before schoool, their parents sprinkled "Jitter Glitter" under their pillows. Their supply came with a poem mailed to their homes earlier that week.

"The glitter will help you to sleep through the night, Letting you wake up feeling fresh and bright" one pastel pink stanza declares.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Paine has dozens more tricks up her sleeves to charm parents and bewitch students throughout this school year, says class volunteer Joy Barr.

"Probably the best teacher your child will have," says Barr, whose bias began when her sons stepped into this room four and five years ago.

Paine, a Jupiter, Florida, resident who has taught at Palm Beach’s only public school for more than a decade, calls her class Kindergarten by the Sea. For years, she’s filled the school months with endless activities from a teddy bear picnic to lots of "celebrity" guests: Her husband, also a teacher, looks suspiciously like Johnny Appleseed each year.

It’s not all fun. Mrs. Paine has a reputation for homework packets that require lots of reading and student presentations in character – students have chosen to be everyone from Goldilocks and the Big Bad Wolf to Henry Flagler and even a very G-rated Donald Trump.

She can’t remember exactly when she created each activity, but she keeps the materials, the notes home, the Jitter Glitter poem, the plans and assignments organized in big binders. And she documents every moment as they play out in class.

Each year, Paine creates a Shutterfly account where she posts pictures and shares with parents. By year’s end, with the help of her grown daughter, she delivers an hour-long movie that captures each of students at play, at work and in character. The movie is screened for the parents at an end-of-school gathering at a local restaurant.

More than a decade ago, Paine was unable to drop off her oldest daughter on the first day of kindergarten so her husband took up that task. He snapped a picture. And that’s when Paine resolved, "I’m not missing one of those moments ever again."

That girl, Nicolee Paine, is now 23, and in her spare time serves as Paine’s filmmaking accomplice.

"According to my husband, the reason I love kindergarten is I have such a hard time watching my children grow up," said Paine, whose other daughter is 19.

It’s easy to see why parents find Paine charming, but what is it about kindergartners that keeps her coming back?

"It is really comforting. They are extremely sweet. They’re honest. They believe everything you say. There is no talk back," said Paine. "There’s no formula. I see what they need. I teach the way I wish someone was teaching me."

9-year-old boy who hanged himself was ‘bullied to death,’ family says

The family of a West Virginia third-grader who hanged himself Saturday at his home said his death came after months of bullying by other children.

Jackson Grubb, 9, of Sophia, died Sept. 10, the date designated as World Suicide Prevention Day. NBC affiliate WVVA reported that the boy’s family and friends are citing schoolyard bullies as the cause of his death.

Betsy Baber, Jackson’s grandmother and guardian, told the news station that the introverted boy used to fight back against the bullies with humor or, occasionally, physical confrontation, but that in recent weeks, he’d become more withdrawn than usual.

“I was spending time with him, trying to get it out of him,” Baber told WVVA. “But Jack’s the type that holds things in and I couldn’t get to him.”

Jackson’s sister went into his bedroom on Saturday carrying a frog that she’d found outside, hoping the amphibian would cheer him up, the news station said. Instead, she found her brother’s body.

>> Read more trending stories

The boy’s biological mother, Diana Crump, said that when she got to the hospital, staff would not let her into the room with Jackson and emergency responders who had brought him to the emergency room were crying. She said that’s when she knew that her son was gone.

Officials at Jackson’s school, Sophia Soak Creek Elementary School, said his family did not report the alleged bullying, WVVA reported. Baber confirmed that the family had not reported anything to the school and that many of the details surrounding her grandson’s death are only now coming to light.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for Jackson’s burial costs.

We have almost reached our goal thanks to some awesome, caring individuals out there. Thank you doesn't seem to say enough.Posted by Shane Baber on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 800,000 people die each year by their own hands. In the United States, more than a million people attempt suicide annually; the American Association of Suicidology has identified it as the 10th leading cause of death in the country.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). 

Princeton and Harvard are the best colleges in the nation again

Princeton and Harvard are still at the head of the class when it comes to the best colleges in the nation. At least, that's according to the 2017 rankings list from U.S. News & World Report

>> Read more trending stories

Princeton scored the No. 1 spot again for the sixth straight year, and Harvard remained in second place. But there were some slight changes to the top five in this year's Best Colleges list. 

The University of Chicago moved up a spot to tie with Yale for third place and Columbia and Stanford tied for the fifth-place spot on the list. No college ranked fourth.

The authors of this year's annual report included data from more than 1,800 colleges and universities across the country and ranked about 1,300 of them. They considered graduation rates, faculty resources, financial strength, test scores of incoming students and other factors to determine where each school should fall in the rankings.

But U.S. News' chief data strategist told the New York Daily News "student outcomes" — like graduation and retention rates — carry the most weight.

It's really no surprise that the top half of the list has stayed pretty much the same for years now.

As The Washington Post points out, many of the data points taken into consideration only change slightly from year to year.

The top five ranked college are:

  • 1. Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey
  • 2. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 3. University of Chicago in Chicago
  • 3. Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
  • 5. Columbia University in New York
  • 5. Stanford University in Stanford, California

To see where your favorite university landed in the rankings this year, you can check out the full list on U.S. News & World Report's website.

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Grandmother says first-grader was left on bus for hours

A grandmother is furious after she says her granddaughter was left to ride the school bus for hours on her first day of first grade.

"My blood is boiling inside me, I can't relax since this happened and I just want answers," Olga Curto told WFXT.

Talia Brown attends the Dante Alighieri School in East Boston. From there, Curto said she is supposed to be taken by school bus to an after school program at the East Boston YMCA on Ashley Street. When school let out at 1:30 p.m., Curto said Talia got on the bus, but never made it to the Y.

>> Read more trending stories  

"My daughter went to the YMCA at 5:05 to pick her up and they told her she wasn't there. At that moment, my daughter had a heart attack. She just basically almost fell to the floor," said Curto.

Curto said that an hour later, the Boston Public Schools Transportation Department called to say they had Talia. They said she had been on a school bus the entire time.

"The driver just continued on to his to four other routes whatever those routes were I don't know," Curto said.

Olga said she's doesn't understand why the school bus driver didn't notice her granddaughter or why the YMCA didn't call to tell her Talia never showed up

"I haven't gotten any response.  The only response I have gotten if from your news station," she said.

WFXT has reached out to Boston Public Schools Transportation and the YMCA, but hasn't heard back.

Students rally behind deaf teen whose backpack was stuffed in toilet by bullies

High school students in Omaha, Nebraska, are rallying behind a deaf classmate after he was the target of bullies.

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>> Watch the video from Newsy

Earlier this month, students at Burke High School shoved Alex Hernandez's backpack into a toilet during lunch.

"It's not OK to bully someone who is disabled, deaf or hard of hearing," Hernandez, who's been deaf since he was 1 year old, told Newsy's partners at KMTV. 

According to KMTV, Hernandez left his backpack on a chair in the school cafeteria while getting some food. And when he returned, the backpack was gone.

Hernandez immediately told school administrators about the missing bag, and they found surveillance footage that showed two male students walking off with it.

Another student later found Hernandez's belongings stuffed in a school toilet.

>> Read more trending stories

The backpack contained some valuable items, including a battery for his cochlear implant, his debit card, school supplies and his English project.

"I was very upset because I know I work really hard on my project and homework because I just want to make my mom to be happy and know that I did a good job on the homework," Hernandez said.

Other students said they are outraged by the incident. 

"It just absolutely sickened me," Burke High School student Devon Fuller said.

Some of Hernandez's friends even set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to replace his ruined belongings. They raised more than $800 in just three days.

“Due to the increase and high donations, we decided to stop the fundraiser,” a student who helped organize the fundraiser tweeted. “We raised enough money for the student to replace his school supplies!”

Hernandez, who has said he wants to transfer schools, said he was grateful for the support.

"I wanted to thank all of my friends and those who wrote me for supporting me," he told KMTV. "I am very happy. It made me feel like I am not alone."

Hernandez says he wants to talk to the two students responsible and their families about doing the right thing. School officials investigating the incident issued a statement saying that the students involved "targeted an unattended backpack versus an individual student."

>> See the Facebook post here

So today at school my brother was bullied super hard at his high school. Some kids stole his back pack from the lunch...Posted by Analy Luevano on Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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