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Hitler-themed homework assigned to middle-schoolers angers parents

Parents in a Chicago suburb are furious after their kids brought home a homework assignment called “If You Give Hitler a Country.” The assignment reportedly told the students to “create a comic strip for little kids that exemplifies Europe’s appeasement towards Hitler.”

>> Watch the news report here

At Woodland Middle School in Gurnee, Illinois, eighth-grader Michael Masterton told WGN that “everyone in the class was given the paper and it tells you all the requirements.” His mother, Kelly, was a bit more taken aback by the homework, telling the Chicago station, “I asked him, ‘Did you ask the teacher if you could use these images?’ and he said yes. … I’m not sure what the appropriate manner is to use a swastika.” The concerned mother posted the image to her Facebook page and said, “[I] don’t think [the teacher] did it to be anti-Semitic. I think she was trying to teach that there was propaganda. ... It did not come through that way.”

>> Read more trending news

On the handout, a cartoon character is shown wearing a Nazi uniform and sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache while giving a Nazi salute. Michael told NBC Chicago that he asked for an alternative assignment, saying, "Some kids were being a bit immature and trying to make this assignment a little bit funny, and it’s disgusting.”

School board president Carla Little apologized in a statement and said the assignment was aimed at teaching students about the appeasement negotiations between the Nazis and opposing countries and the events leading up to World War II. Kelly said she’s not satisfied with the school's explanation and wants to know “that they’re not going to go ahead and give more assignments and make light of it.”

Read more here.

Titans, Vols players offer support to bullying victim who made heartbreaking viral video

When a boy from the Knoxville, Tennessee, area was revealed to be a victim of bullying, players for the Tennessee Titans and Vols football teams decided to step up.

>> Read more trending news

A video went viral Friday afternoon of a Knoxville boy detailing the bullying he had endured at school.

>> Watch the heartbreaking clip here

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

University of Tennessee sophomore receiver Tyler Byrd and freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano both pledged to visit the boy and offer support.

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker responded with his own video and invited the boy and his family to an upcoming game.

>> Click here to watch

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Atlanta duo goes viral with photos of black girls with natural hair

The kinks. The waves. The twists. The blooming afro.

Atlanta photography duo Kahran and Regis Bethencourt want to celebrate the versatility and beauty of natural hair.

A year ago, the owners of CreativeSoul Photography launched the “AfroArt” series, which features African-American girls in all their natural hair glory.

“We really feel that it’s important for our girls with natural hair to see themselves positively represented in the media,” said Kahran, a native of Greenville, S.C. “I definitely think when we started, there were not a lot of kids with natural hair. It’s been a struggle to get brands to buy into it.”

Although the series was shot a year ago, it recently went viral, thanks in part to social media shoutouts from celebrities like Taraji P. Henson, Morris Chestnut and Tia Mowry.

The collection is powerful in its entirety.

The collection includes 25 photos shot around the nation with various themes.

There was steampunk in New York. The Baroque period in Dallas. Bejeweled and crowned queens in Los Angeles and AfroEarth in Oakland, where natural elements were used to adorn the models’ hair. The girls range in age from 4 to 13.

“It was cool to showcase those eras in a new light,” she said. “This was not something people had seen before.”

The Bethencourts have released a calendar featuring some of the photographs (Henson recently bought 10) and are in talks with a publisher about a coffee-table book to be released perhaps in 2018. They also sell some of the photographs as prints or on canvas, ranging from $40 to $300.

When the husband-and-wife team first sent out calls for young models, parents would sometimes get their children’s hair straightened for the session, “because that’s what they thought they needed to get into the industry — to be a top model or actor.”

One of the girls pictured in the series is Phoenix Lyles, 10, a fifth-grader at King Springs Elementary School in Smyrna, who has worn natural hair since she was even younger.

Related: » Best protective plans for natural hair » Girl won’t be expelled over natural hair » Gifts for black women with natural hair » Beyoncé’s mane man talks famous client

The attention doesn’t faze her. “I feel pretty good with natural hair,” she said.

It’s more acceptable in many circles. Commercials, print ads and films and television shows often feature children and teens with locs, Afros, twists and the like.

Rita Harrell, co-owner of Big Picture Casting in Atlanta, which has worked with clients like Nike and Wal-Mart and on projects like “Hangman” and “Vengeance: A Love Story,” said it’s much more commercially acceptable, “even desired” than it used to be.

She thinks it’s the general trend toward multiculturalism in advertising. “They want to make sure all types and all walks of life are represented.”

They often hear from parents who said they showed their daughters the photos “so they can love their natural hair. They go to school and they want to cover it up.”

The two enjoyed a bicoastal romance before marrying in 2011. Kahran, 37, lived in Oregon and Regis, 40, lived in his native Maryland. They met during an online graphics design forum. They decided to move to Atlanta, when Regis enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College to study photography.

His wife, who nurtured a love for photography, would learn along with him.

In 2009, they started a photography business. It was satisfying, but something was missing.

They slowly backed away from the part of the business they didn’t enjoy as much, such as shooting weddings and newborns.

“It did not make us as happy as when shooting kids,” she said. “They (children and youths) can be interesting. They like being in front of the camera, and they’re usually full of personality. A little bribe with Skittles and they’re good.”

Adults, on the other hand, were found to be more stressful, said Regis.

“I’m a child myself,” he said. “Adults are too worried about how people see them or things like their weight.”

The goal, said Regis, is to take the project global.

He said they’ve gotten requests from the United Kingdom and various nations in Africa. How are they dealing with their newfound fame?

“It’s weird to go to another country and people recognize you on the street,” he said. “I don’t think that’s normal for photographers.”

Expecting mom says pregnancy photos show late husband's spirit

An expecting mom is honoring her late husband in a touching photo shoot.

Kelly Luethe’s husband, Jarrett, was killed in a car crash in August by a man who police say admitted to driving after drinking, the Star Tribune reports.

>> On HotTopics.TV: Military mom spreads smiles with creative holiday card

The couple from New Prague, Minnesota, had two children and another on the way in January.

Kelly recently had a maternity photo shoot ahead of the baby’s arrival. Photographer Jessica Brandau shared the stunning images to her Facebook page last week.

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

Many of the photos captured rainbows and lens flares, which Brandau calls “orbs.”

“As we were doing the shoot, I noticed that a rainbow had popped up in a few of the photos,” Brandau wrote on Facebook. “Kelly and I talked about how neat/cool/weird it was, and I literally had goosebumps/was on the verge of tears for most of her session.”

>> See one of the photos here

According to the Epoch Times, orbs are usually caused by light reflecting off dust in photographs, but some believe they represent the supernatural – like spirits or ghosts.

“Imagine how insane it was when I opened up the files on my computer and realized that the rainbows and orbs (yes I totally believe in orbs. Read up on them if you haven’t heard of them!) show up in almost all of the photos that we took that day,” Brandau wrote. 

>> Read more trending news 

Kelly shared her story with news personality Frank Sommerville on Facebook. Kelly said she believed her husband was watching over her that day.

She wrote: "There is a rainbow on my belly in almost every picture and we had a miscarriage earlier this year and so our little man (who will be named after his Daddy) is our rainbow baby. And the orbs that are shown are of my favorite color green and from doing some research on what the color of an orb means, green is from a happy spirit visiting, sending healing energy. I truly believe my husband was there and is watching over the kids and I."

>> See more photos here

Facebook unveils parent-controlled messenger app just for kids

Facebook on Monday announced it would be rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids in the United States, a new parent-controlled app to make it easier for kids to video chat and message with loved ones.

>> On AJC.com: How to keep your kids safe on social media

In a company blog post, Antigone Davis – public policy director and global head of safety at Facebook – wrote that the media site has been working on the product for the past 18 months, working closely with leading child development experts, parents and educators.

Davis named some reasons Facebook decided to create Messenger Kids and why they decided to create it right now.

>> Facebook wants users' nude photos to fight 'revenge porn'

She cited research that shows some 93 percent of U.S. kids ages six to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones — and 66 percent have their own device, often using apps meant for teens and adults.

In a collaboration with the National Parent Teacher Association on a study with more than 1,200 American parents of children under the age of 13, Facebook found three out of every five parents surveyed said their kids under 13 use messaging apps, social media or both, while 81 percent reported their children started using social media between the ages of 8 and 13.

>> On AJC.com: Did you fall for these fake ads? How Russian trolls got into your Facebook feeds

Kids said they want to use the platforms to have fun and connect with family. But safety is a growing concern among parents.

“My concern is safety, getting friend requests from people you don’t know, chatting with people you don’t know, giving out information to strangers,” one parent participant in the National PTA roundtable said.

>> On AJC.com: Georgia high school student in trouble after ‘threatening’ social media image

With the guidance of experts at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Center on Media and Child Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics among others, Facebook developed a set of principles for Messenger Kids:

  1. Putting kids first
  2. Providing a safe space that fosters joy, humor, play and adventure
  3. Enabling kids to mine their own potential by building for empowerment, creativity and expression
  4. Helping kids build a sense of self and community
  5. Recognizing the relationship between parent and child, and that we take our responsibility and their trust in us seriously.

>> On AJC.com: Google celebrates 50 years of kids coding languages – 5 ways to get your kid engaged

“We created Messenger Kids with the belief that parents are ultimately the best judges of their kids’ technology use, and the parents we’ve spoken to have asked for a better way to control the way their children message,” Davis wrote.

Because research on the long-term effects of screen time and technology on children is still limited, Facebook also announced a $1 million research fund to work with experts to explore the growing concerns.

>> On AJC.com: Study finds best way to control kids’ time online

About the new Messenger Kids app

The Messenger Kids app, aimed at kids ages 6-12, rolled out Monday on iOS in the U.S. An Android version is coming soon.

It’s important to note that kids under 13 are still not allowed to sign up for a Facebook account. Instead, parents can download the app on their child’s iPhone or iPad, create their profile and approve friends and family for their kids to chat with directly from the main Messenger app.

Kids will not show up in Facebook search results, so if a kid wants to chat with a friend, the parent will have to work with the friend’s parent to get them both approved. “This is by far the most clumsy part of Messenger Kids,” TechCrunch reported.

>> Read more trending news

Facebook added special proactive detection safety filters to prevent children from sharing sexual content, nudity or violence. A dedicated support team will work 24/7 to address any flagged issues. Parents won’t be able to spy on their kids’ chats.

To ensure an enjoyable experience, the company created a kid-friendly version of the Giphy GIF sharing engine. Kids can also play around with augmented reality masks and stickers, including fidget spinners and dinosaur AR masks.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook will not be directly monetizing the kids app, but hopes they will become dedicated Facebook users in the future.

More at newsroom.fb.com.

Donor found for toddler born without kidneys; Tyler Perry buys mother car

A Georgia mother whose toddler has been waiting for a kidney transplant his whole life was given a car on Tuesday — hours before a kidney donor was found.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Toddler’s kidney transplant stalled due to dad’s latest arrest

Carmellia Burgess of Gwinnett County brought her son home from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Nov. 8, where he’d been since Oct. 29. 

The family expected to wait for the news that his father, Anthony Dickerson, would be permitted to donate a kidney after a battle with the transplant team over his criminal history.

>> On AJC.com: Toddler heads home from hospital to wait for kidney transplant

AJ battled a potentially deadly infection, contracted pneumonia, had surgery to implant a new port for his dialysis treatments and received blood transfusions before he was released from the hospital, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

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

But his mother didn’t have a car to get AJ to his hemodialysis appointments three times a week, she posted on Facebook.

That trouble ended Tuesday, when actor Tyler Perry gave Burgess a new car.

>> See her Facebook post here

The family later learned a deceased donor kidney will be given to AJ on Wednesday, attorney Mawuli Davis said.

>> Read more trending news 

“Father and mother are there excited and are being supported by Mr. Dickerson’s mentor, David Manuel, and Pastor Derrick Rice from Sankofa Church.

5-year-old seriously injured in restaurant bounce house

An Oklahoma boy is recovering after suffering a serious injury in a restaurant bounce house. 

>> Click here to watch the news report (WARNING: Linked video includes graphic images.)

A trip to an Incredible Pizza location in Warr Acres on Nov. 5 ended with the Lambert family’s 5-year-old son Bentley, who had been playing in a bounce house, asking if he was going to die.

>> Bounce house takes flight with children inside it

Incredible Pizza, known fully as America’s Incredible Pizza Co., shows on its website that it offers both food and entertainment at its restaurants, listing a bounce house among the number of attractions.

Shali Lambert spoke to KFOR about her son’s condition and said that, while he is on a long road to recovery, it was immediately clear to her and doctors how serious it was when a hook inside the bounce house came loose and tore into the child’s arm.

>> Read more trending news 

A hook inside of a padded wrecking ball came loose and seriously injured Bentley.

“He was screaming, ‘I’m stuck!' I just remember picking him up, and I had to unhook the clip and slide it out of his arm,” Lambert said. “He was asking if he was going to die. He saw all the blood in his arm, and so he was asking if he was going to die.”

>> 5 children hurt after bounce house goes airborne at church carnival

The child had to be rushed from the pizza place to the hospital, where doctors performed an emergency surgery. The boy’s arm has since been sewed up, but he may have to undergo physical therapy and additional surgeries in the future.

“No kid should have to go through that,” Bentley’s mother said.

It’s not clear at this time if the cost of the child’s surgery will be covered by the company, but its insurance company is involved.

On its website, Incredible Pizza says its mission is “to bring families and friends together through great food and fun,” adding that it operate its business “by Christian principles, delivering a positive family experience and a fair return to our company.”

Kevin Hart announces the birth of his son, Kenzo

Kevin Hart is a dad again. He and his wife, Eniko Parrish, welcomed baby Kenzo early Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news

"God is truly amazing," Hart tweeted. "Kenzo Kash Hart was born at 1:45am ....He is Healthy & already smiling. Thank you all for your prayers!!!! We love & appreciate ya."

>> See the tweet here

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

Looks like mom was ready for her new bundle to get here!

>> See her Instagram post here

Girl Scouts say not to force your kids to hug relatives this holiday season

A parenting story on the Girl Scouts of the United States of America website is discouraging parents from forcing their daughters to hug relatives at holiday gatherings -- and any time during the year.

Titled, “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays,” the Nov. 2 article says encouraging young girls to go give a relative a hug or kiss as a greeting can lead to compromised views of consent.

“Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,” the article said.

>> Read more trending news

Girl Scouts parenting expert and developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald explained the impact of telling young girls, “Go give your relative a big hug!” or “Give them a big kiss!”

“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children, but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older,” Archibald said.

Archibald said that unfortunately, people who prey on children exist and young girls need to be taught at an early age what consent means and how to get help if their rights are violated.

Comments on the organization’s Facebook post of the article were mixed.

“No girl is going to seriously think she has to get physical with a guy to be polite, just because she had to give Aunt Betty a hug at Christmas when she was little,” one woman wrote.

“Our kids deserve to decide what they do with their own bodies,” one mother commented. “Forcing them to give hugs takes that away from them. Sure, teach kids to be respectful. But give them choices for how they show affection.”

“Please,You have gone overboard. One, no one MAKES a child gives a hug. Two, Don't assume physical affection leads to negative behavior,” a self-identified senior scout wrote.

“Of course we all want our kids to be loving and kind,” another mother wrote. “But doing something that doesn’t feel right to them just because an adult wants you to is wrong.”

“Boys don't owe hugs either. I only ‘made’ my kids hug and kiss my dad 1x...it was the day before he died...other than that, never have made them hug or kiss anyone if they weren’t wanting to,” another Facebook user commented.

The Girl Scouts story says that the placement of boundaries isn’t meant for children to be rude, but that a high-five, a wave, or a “hello” or “thank you” can be alternatives to hugs and kisses. The organization also says that if a child decides to show affection in a hug or kiss on their own accord, that’s fine -- as long as it’s her decision. 

Mom makes son do free yard work for neighbors as punishment for school suspension

A mother’s tough-love approach to her son’s bad behavior at school is getting a lot of praise online.

Shreveport, Louisiana, mom Demetris Payne shared a post on Facebook asking if anyone needed some free yard work, KSLA reports.

>> On HotTopics.TV: Grocery store employee goes above and beyond for boy going through tough time

“My son has been suspended for three days from school for discipline. He will do you lawn service, he will rake your yard, mow if you supply the mower, pick up trash or wash your car for free. Maximum three hours. If anyone has a rake they would like to donate will be awesome,” Payne wrote on Facebook.

Payne said she got a lot of responses to the post.

>> Read more trending news 

“He’s booked up for this weekend,” Payne wrote in the comments section of the post. Videos and photos shared on Facebook show her son working and cleaning up yards.

>> See the photos here

Another video showed Payne’s son mowing a second yard later that day.

>> See the video here

On Tuesday, Payne shared an update, saying her son was back at school.

“Look who’s back at school. Meeting with all his teachers and set up a plan so we can make sure he stays on track,” she wrote.

>> See the post here

People online praised the mom for teaching her son a valuable lesson.

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

“Raising children in this day and age is difficult,” wrote B Lori Watkins. “Great job young man… One day you will thank her for doing this.”

>> See the comment here

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