City reduces chronic absenteeism in public schools

At Public School 309 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, students wear necklaces with colorful pendants, each marking a month in which they did not miss a day of school, reports the New York Times. At P.S. 75 in the South Bronx, a row of young adults welcomes students each morning as they walk in the door. Some 40,000 city children got daily automated wake-up calls from Magic Johnson and other celebrities to remind them to show up for class, and City Hall offered prizes like baseball tickets and gift certificates…

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Report: Facebook users more trusting, engaged

Facebook, it turns out, isn’t just a waste of time. People who use it have more close friends, get more social support and report being more politically engaged than those who don’t, according to a new national study on Americans and social networks, the Associated Press reports. The report comes as Facebook, Twitter and even the buttoned-up, career-oriented LinkedIn continue to engrain themselves in our daily lives and change the way we interact with friends, co-workers and long-lost high school buddies…

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Mennonite College no longer plays national anthem

Goshen College will no longer play The Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events, school leaders announced, reversing last year’s decision to allow the use of the national anthem for the first time in the Mennonite college’s history, the Huffington Post reports. Some Mennonites had criticized the anthem’s lyrics as glorifying war and offensive to the school’s pacifist traditions. Goshen’s Board of Directors said many felt the school’s “allegiance should be to Christ rather than to country.”

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Companies respond to ACLU’s ‘Don’t Filter Me’ campaign

The ACLU has called for the removal of filters that block content in support of the LGBT community.

Web filtering software companies have started to respond to the American Civil Liberties Union’s call to remove filters that block websites with content geared toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.

The ACLU has launched a national “Don’t Filter Me” campaign, which seeks to remove censorship of pro-LGBT information on public school computer systems.

As part of its campaign, the organization has sent letters to several schools, asking them to reset their filtering software to stop blocking students’ access to such information, which it says is protected free speech. The ACLU also has contacted leading makers of filtering software, asking them to remove websites with content in support of the LGBT community from their block lists.

Lightspeed Systems was among the first to respond to the complaint, removing its “education.lifestyles” filter that blocked access to educational LGBT-related information.

According to the ACLU, many schools activated the filter mistakenly, believing that it blocked sexually explicit content, when in reality it blocked sites such as the Gay Straight Alliance Network; the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; and the official website for the annual Day of Silence that protests anti-LGBT bullying.

Lightspeed told clients that it would discontinue the filter as of May 23, placing the sites currently in the “education.lifestyles” category into a variety of different categories in order to make sure the sites were properly categorized without regard to their “political or moral viewpoint.”

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Wisconsin unions sue over new collective bargaining law

Unions representing public workers in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday to block the state’s new curbs on collective bargaining, which were upheld by the state’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, Reuters reports. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, claims the controversial measure is unconstitutional because it creates two classes of public workers in the state–those covered by the new rules and those exempt from them…

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Alabama’s immigration law: The new Jim Crow

Alabama’s new law — with provisions against hiring, harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants — is bad enough for adults. But it is potentially disastrous for kids? Asks the Huffington Post. By requiring schools to determine the immigration status of every student at enrollment, the law makes it hard to tell the difference between educators and immigration officials. It already has immigrant parents asking, “Should we keep our children out of school in September?”

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Arizona schools chief says Tucson program violates law

Arizona’s superintendent of schools said on Wednesday a controversial ethnic studies program in Tucson public schools violates new state law and he threatened to cut off $15 million in funds for the district, Reuters reports. Schools chief John Huppenthal gave the Tucson Unified School District 60 days to prove that it had followed the law–which forbids promoting resentment of an ethnic group or advocating ethnic solidarity, or programs designed primarily for students of one ethnicity…

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New Orleans schools would answer to three boards under new proposal

With 75% of New Orleans students slated to attend charter schools next year, some stakeholders say a management split between the far-away state capitol and a local school board designed to oversee traditional public schools makes little sense, reports the Huffington Post. That’s why a new proposal for running New Orleans’ schools mandates the creation of three school boards: one general elected board that manages the schools’ overall finances and facilities but cannot directly operate them; one appointed board that oversees charter schools, which are publicly funded and can be privately run; and another that runs traditional public schools…

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Gun at anti-violence film shoot leads to arrests

Police arrested an Oakland student, teacher and school counselor after finding a real gun among props that were being used to shoot a video in a public park about the dangers of gun violence, the Associated Press reports. Oakland police said the group from the United for Success Academy middle school brought two replica weapons and the real gun to a public park on Saturday, alarming other people in the area…

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Ten tips for using social media in school communications

A few tips can help educators tackle social media.

With social media networks ubiquitous in American life, it’s time to shift the debate from whether it’s a good idea for educators to use this new medium to how to use it wisely and well. Here are 10 tips to help get you started in social media for school communications.

1. Use social media networks as a research tool.

To quote a well-known advertising campaign, “Get out there.” Social media are easy to use, and most sites don’t charge a penny. If you do nothing else, find out what others are saying about you, your school(s), and your profession.

2. Do your homework first.

Find out if your school or district has any policies or guidelines regarding employee use of social media. Make sure everything you do online is in keeping with these and other pertinent policies and procedures, as well as state and federal laws or regulations governing school personnel and acceptable use of technology.

3. Start with one site and go from there.

LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WordPress, TeacherTube: Pick one and start posting. Update at least once daily. How much time can typing 140 characters take?

4. Make it official.

Use social media outlets as an extension of your professional life and as an additional way to share important information with key audiences and stakeholder groups. Create an official page. Include your school and district logo, as well as links to your organization’s websites and official social media sites.

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