Dallas Parents Keeping Kids Home from School, and "Wondering How Much to Freak Out"

Emily Mathis
One student at Conrad High School has been possibly exposed to the ebola virus. Many parents kept their kids home from Conrad, and other DISD schools yesterday.
As a rule, high school sucks. Now imagine going to high school thinking you could get infected with one of the most deadly viruses known to man.

There are a few caveats to that, of course. One, ebola is not nearly as deadly as we like to think -- far more people are killed by, say, the common flu every year than by ebola. Two, the chances of anyone at these schools becoming exposed to the virus is almost absurdly miniscule.

See also: Dallas ISD Puts Parents on High Alert for Ebola Symptoms as CDC Monitors Five Students

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Dallas ISD Puts Parents on High Alert for Ebola Symptoms as CDC Monitors Five Students

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At least one student at Emmett Conrad High School has been exposed to Ebola.
Early this morning, Dallas ISD received word from the Centers for Disease Control that five district students have been exposed to the Ebola virus. The students attend Emmett Conrad High School, Sam Tasby Middle School, Dan Rogers Elementary, and Hotchkiss Elementary. Jack Lowe Elementary, which is located close to Tasby and Conrad High, is also being closely monitored.

See also: Ebola Has Landed in Dallas

The five students have been identified as within the patient's immediate family circle. They are being kept at home for the 21-day incubation cycle of the virus, but are not being quarantined. While CDC and local health officials are in close interaction with the families, they will be allowed to leave their homes until or if they exhibit symptoms.

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Dallas ISD Prioritizes Pre-K (Just Don't Ask How They'll Pay For It)

Kids who receive pre-K education are less likely to end up in jail or on welfare, and more likely to graduate high school and get into college.

"Universal pre-K" is the universal mantra of every school board member and education official in the city. It's the elusive idea that all future, predominantly poor, kids in Dallas ISD will have gone through an aggressive early childhood education program, and that earlier exposure to vocabulary and learning will put DISD kids on a more even playing field with more privileged children.

A new reportfrom the Houston-based non-profit Children At Risk points to the importance of early childhood education in preventing later academic struggles. The study focused on several districts, foremost among them Dallas ISD, and drew attention to the district's financial prioritization of pre-K. Representatives of Children At Risk, along with Mayor Mike Rawlings, will be speaking in Dallas today to release the report and discuss continued efforts to expand pre-K education in Dallas.

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How Do We Determine What Books Are and Are Not Appropriate For Kids?

Joe Crawford
Should parents have a say in what classroom books their kids read? Actually, probably not.

Highland Park ISD announced at the end of last week that it would be suspending seven books from the high school reading list: Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, John Green's An Abundance of Katherines, Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, David K. Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America and Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle.

See also: Highland Park ISD Bans Books Because Sex

The books were removed after parents decried the books over the last several months. Many object to the books on the grounds that they are not age-appropriate for high school kids. In a letter sent out to parents in May, HPHS Principal Walter Kelly defended the selections, saying the school works to "meet the developmentally appropriate balance of challenging our students' thinking while upholding community values and standards." Now, it seems the district is more anxious to brush the controversial selections under the rug, rather than defend them to angry parents.

Still, the books' inclusion in school curriculum raises the question: How do teachers, parents, publishers, writers, and students determine whether or not a book is "developmentally appropriate?"

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Why There Are 3,400 Homeless Students in Dallas ISD

Joe Mabel
At North Dallas HS, homeless students can get school supplies, clothing, food and counseling services at Drop-In centers.

In Dallas, the estimated number of homeless kids has been dismal recently. The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance reports that the population of unaccompanied homeless kids is up 108 percent in just the last few years, and the number of homeless families is up 60 percent. And a recent Department of Education report now indicates that the number of homeless students across the country has also increased over the past year.

See also: Dallas Homeless Population Sees a Jump in Kids and Families, but Fewer Chronic Homeless

In Texas, the number of homeless students is up about 7 percent in the last year. In Dallas ISD, the number of homeless students is estimated to be over 3,000 -- there were around 3,400 homeless students at the end of the last school year, and that number can only go up with the increased student population.

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Highland Park ISD Bans Books Because Sex

American Library Association
We're not sure all Highland Park parents understand exactly what celebrating banned books week means.

Highland Park High School announced it would be suspending seven books from the high school reading list, just in time for Banned Books Week. So what's wrong with the books? Each of the seven, award-winning texts feature themes about sexuality or include passages that some parents find too racy.

See also: Park Cities Parents Want Their Kids to Read the Classics, Not These Newfangled Porn Novels

Highland Park parents first raised their objections to the "Recommended Outside Reading" list last spring. The list contains more than 250 titles, and is a supplement to classroom required reading. The Approved List includes ROR titles, summer reading, and classroom curriculum. Each book must go through a review process through a selection committee, which is composed of parents and teachers. The seven books that have been suspended from the list will undergo another review process that, The Dallas Morning News reports, could take several months.

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The North Texas School Districts That Still Allow Corporal Punishment, Mapped

Texas Education Agency
"X"s are places to avoid if you don't want your kids' teachers to rough them up.
Since allegations surfaced that NFL star Adrian Peterson abused multiple children at his Texas home, debate has swirled between pro- and anti-spanking parents. For the majority of North Texas schools, though, there's no question: Spare the rod, spoil the child is official district disciplinary policy in all but a handful of DFW districts.

The actual percentage of paddled or spanked kids varies from district to district. Some more actively employ the punishment than others: In Wylie ISD, for example, the district has an official policy in place allowing administrators to use corporal punishment, but district employees rarely spank or paddle. Meanwhile, DeSoto ISD is much more eager to dole out physical punishment, paddling students more than 200 times last year.

See also: The DeSoto School District Paddled Students 227 Times Last Year, But Won't Say How or Why

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State Board Proves Unwavering Loyalty to Biased TEKS Standards Twice This Week

David Shankbone
"We just flunked the AP U.S. History test! What, Moses wasn't a founding father?"
It's been a rough week for State Board of Education members, who have upheld their loyalty to TEKS social studies requirements despite bipartisan opposition (although for different reasons, of course).

On Tuesday, the board heard public commentary against proposed social studies textbooks. The publishers, required to conform outrageously biased state social studies standards in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum, produced products with historical and scientific inaccuracies that angered both left- and right-wing advocates.

See also: SMU Academics Speak Out Against Political and Religious Bias in Texas Social Studies Textbooks

Undaunted, on Wednesday, the board voted 12-3 to emphasize TEKS standards in AP U.S. History classes over College Board material. Almost no one was opposed to the idea of incorporating, or even emphasizing, state curriculum over a national test. But the problem, say insiders, is that the state social studies curriculum is just plain bad.

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The DeSoto School District Paddled Students 227 Times Last Year, but Won't Say How or Why

A similar scene takes place in the DeSoto High School principal's office.
The internet has gone wild over the past few days with news that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is facing child abuse charges after disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch, and was separately accused of leaving a scar on another 4-year-old son's face. A native of Palestine, Texas, Peterson's charge has spurred an impassioned debate between corporal punishment advocates and fierce opponents. But in nearby DeSoto ISD, the practice is a long-standing tradition, and one that is shied away from public eyes.

See also: Star-Telegram's Mac Engel Says Adrian Peterson Just Got a Little Carried Away

Last school year, DeSoto ISD administered corporal punishment 227 times. DISD spokeswoman Beth Trimble points out that some of those kids were repeat offenders, so the actual number of children paddled is unclear. Nevertheless, the incident is indicative of a continuing trend across Texas public schools for corporal punishment. According to Dr. George Holden, a psychologist and family violence researcher at SMU, Texas leads the nation in cases of corporal punishment.

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Texas Judge Backs School District That Suspended Boy for Refusing Handshake

Seth Anderson via Flickr
Buck up, P.M. Someday you may be on a mural.
A kid who was suspended 10 days from high school is super awesome, according to a federal lawsuit filed by his parents. "He is currently taking honors classes and a higher level math class than most of his peers," says a suit filed by his mother, Tiffany Macklin. The boy, identified in court documents only as P.M., was valedictorian of his eighth-grade class in the Petrolia Consolidated Independent School District, a rural district about 140 miles northwest of Dallas. The suspension, his parents warn, could be disastrous.

"P.M. will likely be labeled a 'troublemaker,'" the suit says. "P.M. is going into high school with new teachers that do not necessarily know he has never been in trouble before."

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