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Student born without hands wins handwriting award

Anaya Ellick was born without hands, but that has not stopped her from taking home a national award for penmanship.

At a time when students are not being taught cursive writing, Anaya, who is 9 years old, won the 2018 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest for her technique, WVEC reported.

Anaya’s teachers told WVEC that she had the determination to learn cursive so she could compete in the category after winning a similar competition for her printing.

>> Read more trending news 

The Nicolas Maxim Award is given to students with a cognitive delay or some sort of intellectual, physical or developmental disability. Occupational therapists serve as judges who review entries, WVEC reported.

The Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest has awarding students for their writing for more than 30 years. Students in kindergarten through 8th grade can compete for state and nation. 

Oklahoma billboards encourage teachers to move to Texas

A new billboard campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Norman and Stillwater hopes to poach current and future teachers from Oklahoma schools and bring them to Fort Worth, Texas.

>> Watch the news report here

The Fort Worth Independent School District (ISD) is funding the campaign. It simply lays out the pay disparity between Oklahoma teachers and of those in Texas, even after recent legislation to increase teacher pay in Oklahoma kicks in.

>> Teacher Appreciation Week: Here are a few last-minute gift ideas

The billboard highlights that the starting salary for Fort Worth ISD teachers is $52,000 – a rate that some teachers in Oklahoma will not be able to make, regardless of seniority they may have in a district. Others in districts with more money could reach that rate after multiple years of service.

>> Teacher Appreciation Week: 5 things educators really want

Tulsa area drivers and parents told KOKI that they felt like Fort Worth ISD is trying to cash in on the fact that Oklahoma lawmakers haven't provided adequate cash and salaries to state classrooms for years now.

Some described the signs as a slap in the face, but they said the situation presents a wakeup call that other states still have it better when it comes to education spending and teacher salaries.

>> Read more trending news 

The Fort Worth ISD superintendent said in a statement that many saw the passion for teaching educators in Oklahoma have, and they simply want to give them a place that has adequate funding and a good paying salary for them to explore their passions in.

Florida middle school teacher accused of 'foot fetish' loses teaching license

For six years, suspicions persisted about Kenneth Phillips’ relationship with his adolescent students at a South Florida middle school and his seeming infatuation with bare feet. 

>> On MyPalmBeachPost.com: Jupiter Middle teacher accused of ‘foot fetish’ loses teaching license

Nearly a decade after the first concerns were documented, the 60-year-old former teacher at Jupiter Middle has now been compelled to give up his teaching license

His co-workers began worrying about his behavior as early as 2009, when a school technician told police he walked into the English teacher’s classroom unannounced and spotted him with a student in his classroom, the lights dimmed and Phillips’ shoes off. 

>> Read more trending news 

In 2012, a teacher concerned about Phillips’ overly friendly relations with students reported him to police, saying she had seen him with a student’s bare feet in his lap. 

School district police learned that Phillips permitted students to remove their socks in class and store them in his mini-refrigerator.

Read the rest of the story here.

Oklahoma State University professor's parody of ‘Cups’ song goes viral

Kyle Eastham’s entrepreneurship students are gonna miss him when they’re gone.

>> Read more trending news

Eastham, a professor at Oklahoma State University, sent a parody video of the “Cups” song to his students before uploading it to Facebook.

“I love teaching at Oklahoma State University! Here’s the end-of-semester video I just sent to my OSU Entrepreneurship students in Spears Business,” Eastham wrote. “It’s not quite Pitch Perfect. Apologies to Anna Kendrick fans.”

Eastham’s a cappella performance, recorded in an empty classroom, uses cups as percussion as he sings:

“Semester’s over, now the grades are in,

Some are happy, some are sad.

But regardless of which letter grade you’ve earned,

I hope that you have learned.”

The song became popular after Kendrick performed it in the 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect.” It is a version of the Carter Family’s 1931 song, “When I’m Gone.”

University of Florida apologizes for 'aggressively' ushering graduates offstage

Doing the stroll across the stage at graduation did not play well at the University of Florida on Saturday. Some of the graduates said they were ushered off too quickly.

>> Read more trending news

A university faculty member was caught on the big screen in the O’Connell Center rushing and manhandling students -- most of them African-Americans -- who were attempting to stroll or dance during Saturday’s commencement ceremony, The Gainesville Sun reported. 

Footage showed that while some students attempted to dance, they were grabbed by the usher, who rushed them offstage, WCJB reported.

University President W. Kent Fuchs issued an apology Sunday on Twitter, calling the actions “inappropriately aggressive.”

“During one of this weekend’s commencement ceremonies, we were inappropriately aggressive in rushing students across the stage,” Fuchs wrote. “I personally apologize and am reaching out to the students involved.”

Monday morning, one student told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the incident was “kind of embarrassing, kind of degrading.”

"In general, I don't think I've ever been handled in that manner, not even by my parents," Oliver Telusma said.

Telusma, 21, who received his bachelor’s degree in political science, said the usher reached under his armpit as he danced and lifted him.

“I had just started ... and he picked me up and turned me around, which I thought was kind of embarrassing and degrading to be handled in that manner,” Telusma told the Sun. “It was just really uncalled for, especially for anyone not martially trained to do that.”

Christopher Garcia-Wilde, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, said he was “too afraid” to stroll because he saw the usher push one of his friends while putting another “in an entire bearhug,” the Sun reported.

“Both of my friends wanted to celebrate by strolling, which is a cultural tradition in historically black fraternities and sororities,” Garcia-Wilde told the Sun. “It’s a tradition to stroll at graduation if you choose to, and people have been doing this for years.”

Nafeesah Attah told “Good Morning America” that the usher’s actions were “not arbitrary.”

"It was definitely contingent on your race. ... other white students who were dancing were not perceived as a threat," Attah said.

UF spokeswoman Margot Winick issued an apology Sunday.

“We very much believe that this was a time for celebration,” Winick told the Sun. “So the university just regrets that the acts of those who were monitoring the lineup could dampen the spirits of the day. That’s not at all what commencement is about — it’s about celebration.”

Winick said administrators will not release the faculty member’s name until they obtain more information and review the incident.

During Sunday’s 2 p.m. commencement, Fuchs addressed the issue to the audience and said the university “inappropriately, physically rushed a number of students across the stage,” the Sun reported.

“I want our students to know that we’ve changed that practice, and we also want each of you to know that we celebrate you, your graduation, and your accomplishments,” Fuchs said. “Congratulations all.”

Teacher Appreciation Week: 5 things educators really want

What do teachers really want for Teacher Appreciation Week? The Austin American-Statesman's Nicole Villalpando compiled the following list of things you can give educators this week and, more importantly, throughout the school year:

>> MORE COVERAGE: Teacher Appreciation Day 2018: Here’s a list of freebies for the nation’s educators | How to get free Chipotle on Teacher Appreciation Day | More trending news 

  1. Your support. Active parents who are partners, not skeptics, micromanagers, road blocks. Being an active parent means that you read the teacher’s notes. You engage with your child about what they are studying and reinforce it. You read to your child regularly or encourage them to read. You make sure the homework is done, but you don’t do it for your kids.
  2. Your help. Not everyone can sign up for the field trip or to be room parent, but you can volunteer to do something at home to bring to the classroom. I remember one teacher needed someone to cut out paper hearts for the next day’s activity. Easy, peasy. I felt good and it was one less thing on that teacher’s to-do list.
  3. Supplies. This is the time of year when schools are running out of everything: pencils, paper, tissues, hand-sanitizer. Often, teachers supplement using their own funds. Ask teachers what they are running low on and pick up some the next time you’re at the store. Better yet, let fellow parents know as well and organize a supply drive.
  4. Gift cards. Stock them with gift cards to Target or Walmart. If teachers do run low on something, even if it’s for next year, they won’t have to use their own funds. Or gift cards to places that are just for them — a favorite restaurant, coffee spot or bookstore.
  5. Notes of encouragement all year long. If your child came home filled with knowledge or particularly enjoyed a lesson, let your teacher now. So often, our emails to teachers are about what they aren’t doing or logistics about who is sick, when you’re picking up kids for what activity or how your children are getting home. Wouldn’t it be nice to start their day with a nice note from a parent that wasn’t about all of that?

Read more here.

Armed teachers become a reality in some Georgia schools

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, convinced school Superintendent Daniel Brigman that his plan to arm teachers and other Laurens County, Georgia, school personnel needed to go beyond the idea phase.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Parkland shooting survivor calls out NRA over gun ban during Pence speech

“I’ve had this discussion repeatedly with different boards of education for the last 14 years,” Brigman said. His school district is southeast of Macon and the first in Georgia to make the move. “What happened in Florida heightened the level of awareness and concern that we needed a procedure in place to protect the safety of our schools.”

>> On AJC.com: “He had an AR-15, but so did I.” Sutherland Springs hero hailed by NRA

As students across metro Atlanta and the country head to school each day, the adults in their lives grapple with how to keep kids safe. More police? More guns? Fewer guns? More locks? More cameras? More technology?

Laurens County’s school board approved arming teachers last month. The Florida shooting seemed to set the dominoes falling. Georgia made it legal for school systems to arm teachers in 2012, but this month the Fannin County Board of Education will consider a similar decision, and there are discussions in others, such as Floyd and Bleckley counties. Most metro Atlanta school system leaders have so far declined to consider it, though Clayton County Superintendent Morcease Beasley said after Florida that the issue was “more complicated than a simple yes or no (for or against); it will require a multifaceted response from more than a single entity making a decision.”

>> On AJC.com: Campus carry attracts opinions, but no problems as school opens

As for arming classroom instructors, teachers, parents and law enforcement are on both sides of the issue. And the conversation has gained volume with recent events, from school shootings to school walkouts and a school-violence and gun protest march in Atlanta that drew an estimated 30,000 people.

According to data compiled by the Washington Post, 210,000 students at 213 schools have experienced gun violence at school since the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. When you consider the tens of millions of schoolchildren, that number is tiny. But this year alone, there have been 13 school shootings, according to media reports.

>> What are the worst school shootings in modern US history?

Laurens is a rural county with a population of less than 50,000, with about 25 percent of those under 18. The spread of the county — its 807 square miles make it the third largest in the state — demonstrate a safety safety issue for it’s two high schools, two middle schools and four elementary schools.

It’s no secret that it can take more than half an hour to get from one of the high schools to the other, so emergency response times are an issue. The school doesn’t have school resource officers. It shares the cost of rotating Laurens County deputies among schools, but the officers also help police the rest of the county.

>> On AJC.com: Georgia’s law allows mentally ill to buy guns after 5 years

“Look at the shootings that have taken the most lives,” Brigman said. “The shooter was done in about 10 minutes.”

The sheriff’s department is working with Brigman to develop a training plan, but doesn’t want people to equate the teachers with what its deputies do.

Chief Deputy Stan Wright said, “We are the law enforcement, but arming the teachers is like giving them a tool that we hope will never need to be used.”

Not all police officers think it’s a tool teachers need.

>> What to do if you are in an 'active shooter' situation

Officer Donald Rene, a Fulton County Schools police officer, said he’d hate to add another duty to the long list already placed on teachers. “I don’t grade tests and (the teachers) shouldn’t carry guns,” he said.

The National Association of School Resource Officers and at least one of Georgia’s teacher associations are not in favor of arming teachers. But a recent poll by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators show that 53 percent of teachers would not carry a gun to school if permitted, but more than 17 percent said they would.

Katie Vanburen, who had a harrowing experience some years ago involving a gun in school, is for arming teachers.

“As long as it’s on a voluntary basis, with controls in place like requiring weapons to be holstered and secured with biometrics, agreements that use is for encounters with deadly weapons,” she said.

Biometrically controlled guns use technology to keep unauthorized users from being able to fire a weapon, though the technology can be expensive and is not widely developed.

She was a student at Etowah High School in Cherokee County when Brian Head came to school on March 26, 1994, armed with a handgun.

“He ended up killing himself in the classroom the period before lunch. But not before he attempted to shoot my boyfriend, Keith Herring. He was friends with Keith and both Keith and our history teacher, Coach Watkins, tried to talk him down with a gun pointed in their faces,” she said.

>> PHOTOS: Remembering Parkland Florida school shooting victims

“That day was chaos. A lot of changes have been put in place since then, and parents and teachers are wholly unappreciative of the work that’s already been done since then.”

Technology alone isn’t enough, in the mind of the school chief whose district pioneered arming teachers.

While horrific school shootings in Colorado, Connecticut and most recently Florida have become wake-up calls for community action, the so-called “Amish school massacre” in 2006, was the clarion call for a school superintendent 1,500 miles away in rural Texas. A delivery man who was known to the Amish community shot 11 girls in a one-room schoolhouse, killing five.

>> What is a mass shooting? Definitions can vary

“I tried everything – bean bag guns, tranquilizer guns, cameras. I’ve got more cameras per square foot than probably any other school district – you name it,” said David Thweatt, superintendent of Harrold Independent Schools. In 2008, it became the first in Texas to arm teachers.

“The only thing that’s going to be 100 percent fool-proof is arming teachers with lethal force,” he said.

The identity of these so-called “guardians” are known only to the superintendent and the school board, who approve each individual.

Harrold hasn’t had an “active-shooter” incident, nor any weapons discharged on campus.

Both Brigman and Thweatt believe arming teachers is an effective use of resources. For the cost of one full-time police officer, Thweatt said he can have about 20 people armed and trained to protect the school.

But some argue that it won’t save money in the long run: expenses such as insurance and training costs will eat short-term savings. Any school employee who carries a gun on campus raises insurance rates. Those who determine those costs say the presence of guns, no matter who carries them, makes any place susceptible to injury or death. Who pays for the insurance depends mainly on who that person works for — the school district, an independent law enforcement office such as city police or county sheriff or an independent security firm.

>> How to talk to your child about traumatic events like school shooting

With Laurens being the first in the state planning armed teachers, the Georgia School Boards Association didn’t have figures available. “We are still exploring this to determine what the actual costs will be,” said spokesman Justin Pauly. “We anticipate it could be the same or similar to insuring School Resource Officers.”

Safety itself is another argument. Opponents fear authorizing guns for teachers will lead to innocent people getting hurt or killed.

No schools in the U.S. with armed teachers have had active-shooter events, but there have been gun mishaps.

>> Who are the Top 10 recipients of NRA money?

A few weeks after the Parkland shooting, a teacher in a Northern California school accidentally discharged a firearm while teaching a public safety class. One student was injured by a bullet fragment or debris.

A third-grade boy in Minnesota was able to snake a finger into a school police officer’s holster earlier this year, firing one shot from the department-issued Glock 22 into the floor of the school gymnasium.

Closer to home, two Georgia teachers in the last 12 months brought guns to school illegally. One fired off a shot and the other tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide.

Even those who’ve been face to face with a gunman don’t agree on the best course of action.

Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy who talked an armed man at the school into surrendering on Aug. 20, 2013, has become a national school safety advocate.

At the March For Our Lives Rally on March 24 on downtown Atlanta’s Liberty Plaza, she recalled telling the suicidal 20-year-old: ” ‘It’s going to be all right sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you…OK?’ “

She’s adamant that if she’d had a gun the situation wouldn’t have ended peacefully.

>> Read more trending news 

Michelle Haberland, a volunteer with the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, agrees.

“Arming educators is a bad idea, period. In fact, research shows that the presence of guns in schools will actually increase the risk to students,” she said. “Instead of doing dangerous things like arming teachers, our elected leaders should focus on passing policies to keep guns out of the hands of people with violent intentions.”

>> Father of Parkland shooting victim Meadow Pollack sues 'coward' deputy who didn't enter school

But eighth-grader Tatiana Jones said she understands the benefits and the dangers.

“Having more people to help if a shooter comes to the school is a good thing, but teachers are human,” she said. “What if they snap and pull that gun on a student or someone else. If it came to my school I don’t think I’d be against it, but it would give me one more thing to worry about.”

A recent poll by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators of 7,204 members across the state show:

— 53 percent of teachers would not carry a gun to school if permitted

— 20.8 maybe would carry a gun

— 8.7 percent probably would carry a gun

— 17.5 percent would carry a gun

*numbers are rounded and may not add up to 100 percent.

Lafayette College: No evidence that tweets threatening attack are credible, authorities say

Update 2:28 a.m. EDT May 7: Investigators have not found evidence that social media threats of an attack on Lafayette College’s Easton, Pennsylvania, campus over the weekend were credible, school officials said in a statement.

“I want to thank everyone for the care you showed for one another last evening and outline next steps for the community as we strive to recover from this difficult incident,” Lafayette College President Alison Byerly said in the statement. “As noted in our message late last night, law enforcement officials did not find any indication that the threat made to the campus was credible. They advise a return to normal operations, including the return to campus of those who remained off campus last night. While Public Safety remains vigilant, the investigation, led by the FBI with the assistance of the Easton Police Department and Public Safety, is now focused on identifying the source of the threat.”

Read the full statement here.

The news came after school police said early Sunday that “no malicious or hazardous materials” were found “after an extensive room-by-room search of the campus.”

ORIGINAL STORY: A Twitter user who claimed to attend Lafayette College and support the Islamic State group reportedly threatened to attack the school's Easton, Pennsylvania, campus Saturday, sparking an FBI investigation.

According to Lehigh Valley Live, the person, using the name "Jafar Saleem (Brendan)" on Twitter, pledged to "destroy the Christianity within the school and make Allah proud." The Twitter user also posted a photo of several weapons with the caption, "Allah has graced us with these weapons of destruction to carry out his needs," Lehigh Valley Live reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The Twitter account has since been suspended, officials said.

In a pastebin.com post, the person claimed to have placed "several pipe bombs, pressure cookers and nail bombs around the campus and plan to inflict the most damage possible," Lehigh Valley Live reported.

The college tweeted late Saturday that students on campus should "stay where they are" and off-campus students should "stay away while the threat is assessed."

The college's public safety department tweeted early Sunday that the campus is "not on lockdown."

Read more here.

Florida math teacher accused of unzipping student's jacket, fanning her stomach 

Florida middle school teacher was escorted from campus last week after a student accused him of some inappropriate behavior, according to a police report. 

>> Read more trending news

A school resource officer at Millennium Middle School in Sanford reported that the video showed the teacher unzipping the student's jacket and then fanning her stomach with his hands.

But the victim said that's not all that happened.

According to the incident report, math teacher Miguel Nieves took his first period class outside Friday to get some air since they were not testing.

The victim told the school resource officer that Nieves asked if she was hot in her jacket she was wearing. 

She said Nieves asked her to take her jacket off, but she told him she couldn’t do that because her undershirt was in violation of the dress code, according to the report. 

The victim said Nieves asked to see her undershirt and she refused, the report said. 

When they returned to the building, Nieves and several students went to use the bathroom and get a drink of water. That's when Nieves allegedly unzipped her jacket, began to fan her stomach and said, “You need air.”

She returned to class and at the end of the period, the victim said Nieves called her over, zipped up her jacket and told her, “You are my favorite student. I love you,” according to the report.

Nieves denied the incident to the school resource officer but was escorted from campus and placed on paid leave pending an investigation by the school district. 

Sanford police have asked the state attorney's office to decide if criminal charges will be filed in this case.

Police said school surveillance footage showed the teacher making physical contact with the student, unzipping her jacket and waving his hand back and forth in a fanning motion.

Investigators said they haven't released the video because it's part of an active investigation.

Travel company's closure prevents Ohio students from taking DC trip they paid for

Sixth-graders at an Ohio school and their parents were notified Friday that the annual trip to Washington, D.C., probably won’t occur.

>> Read more trending news

Troy City Schools district isn’t alone. School districts across the state have reported their trips were being canceled because Discovery Tours, based in the Cleveland area, allegedly had not paid for reservations at hotels and bus lines.

The students and chaperones had paid nearly $200,000 total.

By late Friday afternoon, the company had sent Troy school officials an email that said:

“Subject: Discovery Tours -- Status

We regret to inform you that Discovery Tours Inc. has suspended its operations, effective immediately. All future trips are cancelled. Further information will be provided when available.”

Students at Van Cleve school in Troy were notified Friday afternoon of the “unfortunate development,” Principal Matt Siefring wrote in a letter to parents.

“To say I am disgusted by the prospective loss of this learning opportunity for our students is a tremendous understatement,” Siefring wrote. “That said, my focus and that of the staff of Van Cleve remains the safety, education and well-being of our students.”

Troy City Schools filed a complaint Friday against Discovery Tours with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Complaints, Superintendent Eric Herman said. Parents were being notified by a phone message, along with letters and postings on the school website.

“We are not giving up hope, but right now it doesn’t look good,” Herman said of the message to students.

He said 192 students had paid for the trip, which is scheduled to begin May 20. Another 58 adults were planning to attend. The cost per person was around $800.

District leaders have been unable to reach the company and were told by the hotel and bus company that reservations were made but not paid. The district has used the company for five years, Herman said.

The attorney general’s office said Friday it had received more than 170 complaints about Discovery Tours, primarily from parents who were concerned about canceled trips after they paid for their child’s trip.

“Like many schools and families, we are concerned about what’s happening with Discovery Tours and we want answers,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a media release.

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