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Michigan students broadcast 13 reasons to live

Students in a Michigan high school are giving 13 reasons to live, the Oakland Press reported.

>> Read more trending news

During a 13-day period that began Monday, the morning announcements at Oxford High School have included recordings of students revealing problems they are experiencing, and thanking classmates who have helped them. The project is a takeoff on the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why,” where the main character gives 13 reasons why she wants to die. But, for students at Oxford High School, they are giving 13 reasons to live.

This project was conceived by Oxford High dean Pam Fine in memory of Megan Abbott, a freshman who committed suicide four years ago.

“I watched the series. I thought it accurately depicted the problems that teenagers in high school are facing now,” Fine told the Oakland Press. “But it was incredibly troubling to me that suicide was portrayed as being, almost, inevitable, like she had no other option.

“The idea was to come up with 13 reasons why not, because that was not portrayed in the show. … Even though it can get very dark, there is always hope. Our message is that there are no 13 reasons why. Suicide is not an option.”

The project was kept secret, Fine said. So, while students were expecting to hear the normal Monday morning announcements, they were surprised to hear the voice of senior Riley Juntti.

“Worthless. Self-centered. No morals. Easy. Grimy. Cake face. You would be better off dead. That’s just the start of what you would label me as every day for two years,” Juntti said in her recording.

At the end of the recording, instead of naming the person she was talking about, she thanked a classmate. “This tape is for you Elise Godfrey. You saw me when no one else did and continued to listen, share and appreciate the small things with me. Thank you for your kindness I can not repay. You are one of my 13 reasons why not.”

Afterward, Juntti’s telephone and social media accounts were swamped with support from her classmates – some of whom she has never met. One tweet read, “Riley Juntti is braver than anyone for doing what she did,” the Oakland Press reported.

Juntti said she was not afraid of any backlash her announcement might cause.

“Standing up for what is right has always been more important to me than my peers’ approval, and this project wasn’t an exception,” she told the Oakland Press. “Oxford has come together to create an environment this past week where talking about mental illness is socially acceptable. ... I’ve helped people come forward with their struggles and that’s more than what I can ask for from this project.”

Tuesday morning’s announcement was by Jordan Jadan, the captain of the Oxford Wildcats’ basketball team. Unknown to his classmates, Jadan has had a rough year, the Oakland Press reported. He moved in with his grandmother after his mother moved to Florida for a job. He said he has been receiving several explicit and degrading text messages from a previously close family member.

“I’ve had no one to talk to, and it’s been hard,” Jadan told the Oakland Press. “I know I could have given up a long time ago. … My reasons to live are my two little sisters and my mom.

“There’s always someone who cares about you. You’re never alone. There’s always something to live for.”

The remainder of the recordings, which will air daily until May 17, will be selected from submitted stories, Fine said.

Teachers are squirming over fidget spinners

Fidgeting in class has taken on a new meaning, and teachers don’t like it.

Fidget spinners are toys with a ball bearing in the middle with three prongs, USA Today reported. Hold the spinner with your thumb and forefinger, and then spin it by tapping one of the prongs.

>> Read more trending news 

Kids love them — but schools are rapidly becoming a no spin zone for the toys because they are becoming a distraction, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“Frankly, we've found the fidgets were having the opposite effect of what they advertise," Kate Ellison, a principal of Washington Elementary School in Evanston, Ill., told the Tribune.

Schools in other states, including Minnesota and Massachusetts, also have banned fidget spinners.

“We found that early on they were a distraction to learning, because kids were pulling them out of their pockets,” John McDonald, assistant principal at Delano Elementary School in Minnesota, told the Star-Tribune.

In Hawaii, teachers are telling students to leave the toys at home. David Gaudi, head of school at Saint Mark Lutheran School in Kaneohe, told Hawaii News Now that the fidget spinners were causing noisy, disruptive classrooms.

"So it was the teachers who approached me with the issue of it being a major distraction," Gaudi said. "We did hear about a lot of arguing over the fidget spinners."

Experts say fidget spinners can help children with ADHD and autism, Hawaii News Now reported.

“A fidget spinner helps gives kids focus,” said Jessica Wong-Sumida, executive director of the Hawaii Autism Society. “It gives them something to do while they are listening to the teacher. It really gets them to concentrate.”

While some educators agree, they also claim that fidget spinners are a distraction.

“It's a tool. We recognize that. But it's also a toy,” Matt Barbini, deputy superintendent of an Illinois school district, told the Daily Herald. “Some students may very well require a fidget or sensory device as part of an individual plan, so we can't ban it ... but if it disrupts instruction, or creates an unsafe environment, we need to act responsibly.”

Exasperated teachers can be found condemning the fidget spinners on Twitter under the hashtag #teacherproblems.

PHOTO: Teacher finishes lesson plans while in labor

A teacher in Burleson, Texas, is being praised for completing her lesson plans while she was in labor.

>> Read more trending news

Photographer Andrea McDonald of Rooted in Love Photography captured pictures of educator Jennifer Pope finishing up her lesson plans before handing them off to her husband, who was to deliver them to a substitute teacher in the parking lot.

>> Related: Mom completes college exam while in labor 

She posted the photo to Facebook, along with some words of admiration.

“This post is about showing the dedication of a teacher,” wrote McDonald, who was a teacher for many years. “No lie, she gave birth less than an hour later.”

The photo quickly went viral, getting more than 21,000 likes and 7,000 shares.

Many people commented about their appreciation for teachers.

“I once went dumpster diving for a missing retainer a student accidentally threw away. You would be amazed at what a teacher will do for her students!” Jenni Picard wrote on Facebook.

“Been there! I did my final grades between contractions. Way to go! You are amazing!” wrote Tabitha Benter.

McDonald said Pope’s husband is also a teacher. 

“Teachers love their students as their own. Even in labor and when they’re home sick, they care,” McDonald told parenting site Scary Mommy.

School hosts early graduation ceremony for student with cancer

A Texas teen who is receiving aggressive treatment for cancer was granted an early graduation ceremony.

Matthew Menara, 18, was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor in December, according to WFAA. The cancer had spread and required specialized treatment in Houston.

Menara worked hard to complete his schoolwork so that he would be able to graduate on time. Since he remains in Houston for treatment, and may still be there when his class at Western Hills High School graduates in June, school officials traveled four hours last weekend to hold an early graduation ceremony for Menara.

>> Read more trending news

The ceremony was held at a Houston hotel, and included Menara's extended family. Menara received his cap and gown, a diploma and a program, all especially printed for him, according to WFAA. 

It is the hope of school officials that this was just a dress rehearsal, and Menara will return to Fort Worth in time to walk during his school's graduation ceremony. Menara began a high-dose chemotherapy regimen days after the ceremony ahead of stem cell treatment.

The family has established a GoFundMe account to assist with travel expenses while Matthew receives treatment.

Teacher accused of sex with 2 students at same time could face more charges

A former teacher from Lufkin, Texas, who reportedly has admitted to police that she had sex with four students, including two at the same time, may be in more trouble than she thought.

>> Watch the news report here

Heather Robertson, a 38-year-old mother of two who faces four counts of improper relationship between educator and student and a DWI charge from a separate incident, also may face sexual assault charges.

According to KTRE, if found guilty, this could double her maximum prison time. Even now, Robertson faces 20 years maximum behind bars. A sexual assault charge would tack on an additional 20 years.

>> Teacher accused of improper relationship with student smiles in mugshot

KTRE reported that Robertson was arrested last month. An affidavit shows that the investigation began on April 20 and that a high school student began “chatting and sexting with Robertson through Snapchat," KTRE reported. When she asked him to come to her apartment, the student asked to bring a friend. Robertson reportedly had sex with the students simultaneously.

During the investigation, two more students came forward to reveal sexual histories with Robertson, the affidavit said. Both students said they would sneak out, and Robertson would pick them up and take them back to her apartment, the affidavit said.

>> Read more trending news

When confronted, Robertson admitted to the charges and said she “had recently become a heavy drinker and would sometimes not remember the details of the encounters," according to the affidavit. According to the Lufkin Daily News, Robertson was arrested when a police officer pulled her over in traffic.

The investigation led to Robertson’s resignation.

Read more here or here.

Ohio quadruplets will all attend Yale

UPDATE, May 1: All four quadruplets from Lakota East High School in Liberty Township, Ohio, have made their college choice.

>> Read more trending news 

During an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Monday morning, the four announced they all will attend Yale University in the fall.

The quadruplets, Nick, Zach, Aaron and Nigel Wade, drew national attention for their academic prowess and admissions acceptance by Ivy League universities and other top-tier colleges across the nation.

>> Original video and story: Lakota East quadruplets all accepted to Ivy League schools


The Wade brothers of Lakota East High School in Liberty Township, Ohio, are somewhat of a Fantastic Four.

The quadruplet seniors earned the nickname by accomplishing an amazing feat. All four just learned they have been accepted at top Ivy League universities of Yale, Harvard and others.

The Wades -- Aaron, Zachary, Nigel and Nick -- are drawing national media attention for their achievement. They were profiled in the Washington Post and spent most of Wednesday afternoon being followed by a national TV network news crew during their classes.

“I have had the honor of knowing these boys since they were young because of knowing their mom and dad,” said Lakota East High School Principal Suzanna Davis. “I have watched these boys grow up into young men … and as students, they epitomize what we would want from high school students.

>> Read more: College essays by quadruplets reveal their individuality

“They are the epitome of academic focus but well-rounded in every way we would want a child to be well-rounded, but each one of them is so very distinct from one another. Their individual personalities are what truly set them apart as high school students and as great young men.” 

The four are uniformly good natured, so much so that their version of an argument is to disagree over which sibling is the smartest.

“Aaron is brilliant,” said Nick Wade.

“No, no,” said Aaron Wade. “You’re the guy who got a state department scholarship to study Arabic.”

>> Read more: Lakota teens part of hospital internship

What they do all agree on is crediting their parents and teachers for helping to earn such an exciting opportunity.

“We’re grateful to our parents and the Lakota school district because it’s really something we couldn’t have done on our own without all the support we have had through our lives. It has been awesome,” said Nick Wade, who along with Nigel and Zachary Wade, is leaning toward attending Yale.

Aaron Wade, however, currently has Stanford University as his leading choice.

“It’s really our parents our friends and our community who have come together and taught us how to be disciplined. We feel like getting into these schools show who the people around us are,” said Nigel Wade.

>>Read more: Quads, their mom say desire to stand out from siblings drove success

Zachary Wade nodded in agreement and said, “There has never been a time in our life whenever we said something (career goals), and they said, ‘Oh, that’s a big goal.’”

“They said, ‘I know you guys can do it. You guys are hard workers, and the sky’s the limit,’” said Zachary Wade. “We were never told that we couldn’t get somewhere.”

Nigel Wade said while they were all surprised by college acceptances, another bonus has been “we’ve all, kind of, grew closer to each other.”

Watch video of the brothers discussing their accomplishment at Journal-News.

Florida principal under fire for allegedly telling staff to put white students in same class

A Florida principal earned a swift reprimand after allegedly instructing her staff to put white students in the same class.

Christine Hoffman is principal of Campbell Park Elementary in St. Petersburg. Her school is majority African-American, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

>> Read more Floridoh! stories

Earlier this year, Hoffman reportedly sent an email to school staff with instructions on assembling classrooms for the 2017-2018 school year. The Times reported that Hoffman asked teachers to assemble classrooms with “a mix of reading levels,” an “equal number of boys and girls" and “no more than two students who frequently misbehave per class.” She also reportedly said the few white students per grade should be placed in the same class.

This appears to be a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids schools from segregating on the basis of race or national origin verbatim.

Hoffman did not detail why she sought to segregate classes in the original email and has not done so since the incident. It’s worth nothing that she only sought to separate white students from the rest of the student body; Hispanic, Asian and multiracial students were not mentioned in any context.

>> Read more trending news

Maria Scruggs, president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, said she is “at a loss for words,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“I thought it was a joke,” she said when interviewed last week.

Hoffman has apologized for the email and will “leave campus," according to the Times. She is currently undergoing an “administrative review” by Pinellas County school officials. They will determine her fitness to return to a role with the district, where she’s taught since 1991.

Although parents have called for Hoffman’s resignation, she’s apparently not going quietly. Hoffman joined two officials for a Monday morning meeting with parents and supposedly told those present that she was the “best thing that has happened to Campbell Park.”

On Thursday, she wrote an email to her school’s staff, apologizing for her “poor judgement,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

She apologized to parents on Friday.

“As a white woman leading a predominantly black school, I am approaching this as an opportunity to learn,” Hoffman wrote in a letter to parents, according to the Huffington Post. “Although I have participated in training on diversity and implicit bias, this recent incident makes it clear that I need to seek additional opportunities to apply racial sensitivity and cultural competence in my work.”

According to Hoffman’s apology last week, she did not intend to group all white students in one class together. 

“The guidelines included a statement on assigning white students together, and I explained in the meeting that I was asking that there not be a class with only one white student,” she said. “I was not asking that all white students in each grade be clustered, as that is not our practice in creating class lists. I understand how racially insensitive the guideline was.”

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report.

Teachers: Get free Chipotle this week

Chipotle is giving all educators buy-one/get-one-free burritos, bowls, salads and tacos Tuesday.

Just show up at any U.S. Chipotle from 3 p.m. to close with your school ID and order away.

>> Read more trending news

The offer’s open to teachers from preschool all the way through college.

The fine print: One free entree item per teacher customer. And it’s only valid for in-store orders.

Read more here.

Mom writes school, says daughter is ‘done with homework’

We know what you’re thinking: Where was this mom when we had stacks of homework to do as kids?

>> Read more trending news 

Bunmi Laditan, a mother, author and blogger, sent an email to her 10-year-old daughter’s school, WJW reported, telling officials that “my kid is done with homework.”

Laditan told teachers she is allowing her daughter Maya to cut down on her work because she is “very stressed” and has begun experiencing chest pain, WJW reported.

Laditan, a contributor to the Huffington Post whose next book, “Confessions of a Domestic Failure,” will be released May 2, said children need to wind down after school, just like adults do after work. 

Maya “is in school from 8:15 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily,” Latidan writes in her Facebook post, “so someone please explain to me why she should have two-three hours of homework to do every night?

“How does homework until 6:30, then dinner, then an hour to relax (or finish the homework) before bed make any sense at all?”

Laditan’s Facebook post, containing a portion of her email, has received more than 68,000 reactions and more than 18,000 shares.

Family sues after school janitor charged with raping teen

A family in Tennessee is suing a school district and the employer of a female janitor who is accused of raping a 16-year-old boy at school.

Jessica E. Galyon, 29, was arrested Feb. 23 and charged with aggravated statutory rape and related charges, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel

The lawsuit claims that Galyon began to harass the boy, a student at Midway High School, last August, making unwanted sexual advances. The actions escalated to the point where the boy confronted Galyon at school, and Galyon took the boy into a room and raped him, according to authorities.

>> Read more trending news

Galyon's obsession with the boy was well-known to other students and faculty members, who bullied the boy, according to the lawsuit. The boy dropped out of school after the assault and is now being home-schooled and attending counseling sessions.

The boy's family is suing Roane County Schools and Galyon's employer, Compass One Services, for $4.5 million in damages.

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