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Video showing high school cheerleaders yelling racial slur prompts investigation

Administrators in a Utah school district are investigating a disturbing video that appears to show a group of cheerleaders shouting a racial slurKSTU reports. The 10-second recording, which was posted to Instagram, features a group of teenage girls who individually and as a group repeatedly yell a profane phrase with the N-word while laughing.

>> Watch the news report here

“We are shocked by the conduct of these students and the contents of the video,” read a statement from the Weber School District. “School officials have started an investigation and the matter is being taken very seriously. We are trying to determine when the video was made, where it was filmed, why the students would engage in such conduct, and how the clip ended up on social media.”

School officials first became aware of the footage on Monday after it began making rounds on social media. While they confirmed three of the girls in the video are cheerleaders, there is no indication the footage was filmed during extra-curricular activities. The IT department has been instructed to look into whether the clip was created with a video-editing app capable of generating the offensive phrase.

>> Read more trending news 

“The video was then possibly uploaded into an app that plays it backwards, producing an entirely different-sounding phrase. In this case, a very derogatory, offensive racial slur,” the district explained, adding that the girls may have actually been saying the phrase “surgeon cuff” and playing it backwards.

Other students were quick to point out that, forwards or backwards, the intent was the same.

Weber School District spokesman Lane Findlay told the Desert News that the students could be expelled or kicked off the cheerleading squad, saying, “All of those things would be on the table. Obviously, they knew what they were doing. It’s just completely inappropriate.”

Philando Castile fundraiser nets over $72,000, eliminates students’ lunch debt

Philando Castile is still ensuring that the students he served in Saint Paul, Minnesota, are eating a good lunch, despite his death last year at the hands of a police officer.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, visited J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School on Friday to help deliver a special gift -- a check for $10,000 to pay off the lunch debt for the school’s students. The money was part of more than $72,000 raised by a project designed to honor the beloved nutrition supervisor, who was known to pay for students’ lunch out of his own pocket if they had no money. 

The remaining $62,000 raised in his name will go toward eliminating the lunch debt of students throughout Saint Paul Public Schools, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported. The funds raised so far are enough to pay off students’ debt for a year. 

Philando Castile was shot to death July 6, 2016, after he was pulled over by St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez and a colleague in nearby Falcon Heights. The immediate aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was also in the car, as was Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter. 

Yanez, who pulled the trigger, was charged with manslaughter in Castile’s death, but was acquitted in June. The shooting and the officer’s acquittal touched off protests across the country. 

>> Read more trending news

The fundraising project, called Philando Feeds the Children, was started by Pamela Fergus, a professor at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, as a project for her diversity and ethics class. 

“Philando was ‘Mr. Phil’ to the students at J.J. Hill. He supervised their food program and interacted with the kids every day,” the fundraising page at YouCaring.com reads. “He knew their names and their diets. He loved his job!”

The page states that Castile’s death affected all the children who knew and loved him. 

“This fund hopes to provide the kids with a lasting connection to Mr. Phil,” it states.

The Star Tribune reported that Fergus set a goal of raising $5,000 for the project. Within the first two weeks, donors gave more than $50,000.

“We just had this little idea that we were going to help do Mr. Phil’s job and make sure you guys have good lunch to eat every day,” Fergus told the children gathered in the lunchroom where Castile worked, according to CBS Minnesota.  

About 70 percent of students in Saint Paul schools qualify for free lunch, the Star Tribune reported. About 2,000 students end up owing the district lunch money at the end of each school year. 

Fergus told the students Friday that the project would continue to raise money so they could “always get a good lunch,” the newspaper said. 

The fundraising website bears out that promise. As of Tuesday morning, the total funds raised had jumped to almost $74,000. 

Valerie Castile said the feedback on the project had been overwhelming and that she was considering involving other school systems across the country.

“No child should go hungry,” she said. “And this project helps keep my son alive.”

The project received praise from a commenter on the fundraising site, who called Philando Castile’s death “senseless.”

“Philando worked at Chelsea Heights Elementary before J.J. Hill,” one woman wrote. “My oldest two boys remember him. I remember him hairnet and all.”

The woman called Castile a “gentle soul.”

“Thank you for giving voice to the importance of his life,” she wrote. 

Cookie Monster has a new job: Food truck owner, chef

The next season of “Sesame Street” begins Nov. 11 on HBO, followed by a spring debut on PBS.

What’s new for the season? Definitely more kindness episodes, more episodes talking about differences and recognizing that people can be different because of race, ethnicity, economics, abilities and more.

>> Read more trending news

Last season, “Sesame Street” introduced Julia, a muppet with autism.

>>RELATED: WE All WIN WHEN “SESAME STREET” INVITES MUPPET WITH AUTISM TO PLAY

But also new this season, Cookie Monster is getting his own food truck.

He’s teaming up with a new friend named Gonger. The two will go on a road trip to find the main ingredient, Fox News reported.

For example, in the opening episode, he needs apples, so he heads to an apple orchard. Throughout the season he’ll investigate where cranberries, avocados, tortillas, pineapples, maple syrup, pasta and milk come from.

The idea behind the few feature is to have kids learn how food’s made and then eat healthier because of it.

They will also have some big-named chefs helping them create meals like Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi who will visit for the “international street food fair,” Fox News reported.

Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Fired Florida cheerleading coach accused of allowing squad to drink alcohol

Florida cheerleading coach was fired after she was accused of allowing her high school squad to drink alcohol, school district officials said.

>> Read more trending news

An internal investigation was launched after a sleepover at Kristy King’s home.

The former Heritage High School varsity cheerleading coach, who was terminated by Brevard County Schools on Aug. 15, denied the allegations.

“They’re coming from my soon-to-be ex-husband, all of this,” she said.

According to district records, an anonymous complaint was made about underage drinking at her home. 

That complaint was later attributed to King's estranged husband, who told district officials he was monitoring the couple’s home security system in July, when he, "observed some of the cheerleaders consuming alcohol." 

He said the issue was not about his pending divorce. 

“If Brevard Public Schools wants to talk about this, all the allegations, all the accusations, all the issues, it's not coming from parents. Where it's coming from is my soon-to-be ex-husband,” King said. 

District officials interviewed several cheerleaders who were at King's home for a sleepover ahead of a cheerleading camp. 

Some said they saw no drinking, but one cheerleader told investigators, "One of the girls got out some alcohol for everyone." 

Another student said, "The girls wanted to drink, so they took the alcohol from the pantry and began drinking." 

Police went to the home the night of the sleepover, and after speaking to some of the cheerleaders outside the home, officers cleared the call with no findings. 

But Brevard Public Schools concluded King knowingly provided and allowed juvenile cheerleaders to drink at her home. 

In its final report, the district sustained allegations of unprofessional and unethical conduct. 

King was with the district for less than a year. 

Drexel professor put on leave after Las Vegas shooting, white supremacy tweets

A Drexel University professor whose tweets suggested a link between white supremacy and the shooting massacre at a Las Vegas country music festival has been put on leave.

>> Read more trending news

Associate professor George Ciccariello-Maher wrote in an op-ed piece published Tuesday by The Washington Post that the Philadelphia university placed him on leave following a series of tweets about the shooting prompted death threats.

Last week, the political science and global studies professor posted a tweet reading, “It’s the white supremacist patriarchy, stupid.” That tweet was followed by a series of similar statements. The professor wrote in the op-ed that threats came in after conservative media outlets highlighted his tweets.

Ciccariello-Maher wrote that the shooting was “a morbid symptom of what happens when those who believe they deserve to own the world also think it is being stolen from them,” The Washington Times reported. “It is the spinal column of Trumpism, and most extreme form is the white genocide myth. The narrative of white victimization has been gradually built over the past 40 years. White people and men are told that they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don’t get what they want.”

Drexel said the decision was necessary to ensure campus safety.

The professor has not responded to an emailed request for additional comment. 

In his op-ed piece, Ciccariello-Maher wrote that “By bowing to pressure from racist internet trolls, Drexel has sent the wrong signal: That you can control a university’s curriculum with anonymous threats of violence.

“Such cowardice notwithstanding, I am prepared to take all necessary legal action to protect my academic freedom, tenure rights and most importantly, the rights of my students to learn in a safe environment where threats don’t hold sway over intellectual debate.”

Mom outraged after son called slave during 'Civil War Day' at school

A so-called "Civil War Day" at a metro Atlanta school led to a new battle.

>> Watch the news report here

Many of the students dressed up in Civil War-era clothing for the event at a Cobb County, Georgia, school. A mother says a classmate dressed in costume called her son a slave.

"It was a gut punch. It was a gut punch,” said the mother, Corrie Davis. Davis said she could almost see this coming.

>> Dove apologizes after Facebook ad called racially insensitive

“They told me about this day, and I knew then that it was divisive,” she said.

WSB-TV's Justin Wilfon obtained the flyer explaining the lesson. It's a day at Big Shanty Intermediate School when students not only learn about the war but also dress up in Civil War-era clothing.

Several years ago, Davis kept her older son home from the event, but this year her 10-year-old son wanted to go, without knowing what he would face.

“He went to school that day and saw one of his friends, and he said, 'Hey, what are you dressed up as?' And he said, 'I’m a plantation owner and you’re my slave,'” she said.

>> Read more trending news

Davis said her son, who was not dressed up, walked away and didn’t tell her until a week later.

In a statement to WSB-TV, Cobb County Schools spokesperson John Stafford did not address what the student allegedly said but did say the following:

"No student was required to dress in period attire and any student that did so was not instructed, nor required, to dress in any specific attire."

Davis wants Big Shanty to teach kids about the Civil War but wants the dress-up portion of the lessons to go away – a battle she’s willing to keep fighting.

“I talked to the school several times. They refused to tell me they wouldn’t do it anymore. She didn’t say yes. She didn’t say no. And that’s not good enough,” she said.

Wilfon asked the district if it would consider getting rid of the dress-up portion of Civil War Day. So far, officials have not responded.

NYC teacher accused of sending nude photos, videos to teen girl

A New York City teacher was arrested and accused of sending naked photographs of himself to a teen girl who was a former student — and asking her to do the same, The New York Daily News reported.

>> Read more trending news

Michael Cognato, 35, who worked at Intermediate School 93 in Queens, allegedly began sending the girl naked pictures of himself over the summer, the News reported.

The girl had been an eighth-grade student in Cognato’s class. Following her graduation, Cognato tutored her and communicated with her via Skype and Facebook messaging, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

During the summer, prosecutors allege, Cognato began sending indecent pictures and videos of himself to the girl and convinced her to send nude photos of herself.

Cognato, of Bethpage, New York, was charged with using a child in a sexual performance, promoting a sexual performance by a child, and acting in a manner injurious to a child after the teen’s mother contacted the police, the News reported.

Education Department officials said Cognato began working as a teacher at IS 93 in 2001, and has no disciplinary history.

Education Department spokesman Michael Aciman said that the alleged actions “are deeply disturbing and have absolutely no place in our schools.”

According to Brown, Cognato sent the girl at least 15 videos of himself masturbating between August and October, and that she sent a similar number of videos of herself to the teacher, the News reported.

“This case should serve as a clear and unmistakable warning that law enforcement is prepared to apprehend and prosecute sexual predators,” Brown said.

Oregon elementary school bans Halloween costumes during school hours

Citing a desire to respect religious and/or cultural beliefs, an Oregon elementary school has banned Halloween costumes during the school day this year, KPTV reported.

>> Read more trending news

Scholls Heights Elementary in Beaverton sent an email Wednesday afternoon to parents that explained the school’s decision to prohibit children from dressing up in costumes until they leave the school building.

Principal Monique Singleton wrote in the email that the decision was made after “we heard appreciation and support from many families last year when we canceled the Costume Parade because they finally felt their religious and/or cultural beliefs were welcome and being respected. Some shared that in prior years they had opted to keep their child home rather than their child be teased or made to feel uncomfortable for having to choose between their family's beliefs and the school's activities during the school day.”

Another reason was because “teachers overwhelmingly feel that the time lost from instruction caused by costumes is too valuable when they already do many other community-building activities throughout their classrooms.”

Parents like Nicole Lewis said children look forward to the yearly tradition and it's not fair it's being taken away.

"It's important for the kids to stay motivated and have some fun things to look forward to, and just to have them, you know, be able to let loose a little,” Lewis told KPTV. “I think really Halloween is about promoting imagination and creativity and having a little fun, and I just don't think there's anything wrong with that.”

Instead of allowing costumes, Scholls Heights Elementary will stage a “Crazy Sock Day” on Halloween, KPTV reported.

Teacher asked students to design Nazi mascot 

School district officials in Gwinnett County, Georgia, said Thursday that they are addressing a teacher’s recent homework assignment to sixth-graders asking them to draw a Nazi mascot.

>> Read more trending news

The assignment was given Monday at Shiloh Middle School, said Sloan Roach, a school district spokeswoman. A parent contacted Gwinnett school officials to raise concerns about the exercise, Roach said.

“The year is 1935 and you have been tasked with creating a mascot to represent the Nazi party at its political rallies,” the assignment read. “Think about all of the information you have learned about Hitler and the Nazi party. You will create a COLORFUL illustration of the mascot. Give the mascot a NAME. You will also write an explanation as to why the mascot was chosen to represent the Nazi party.”

Gwinnett officials said the unidentified teacher was teaching a social studies class that was studying, in part, the rise of Nazism and its use of propaganda and events that led to the Holocaust.

“This assignment is not a part of the approved materials provided by our social studies department and is not appropriate and the school is addressing the use of this assignment with the teacher,” Roach said.

School sues parents over damage caused by child

A Salem, Oregon school district is taking parents of a student to court to have them pay for the thousands of dollars worth of damage he caused to a classroom.

Oregon Live reported that a student, who was 12 years old at the time, broke into a science classroom after school and poured hydrochloric acid in the room. He also poured sulfuric acid, iodine and food coloring in room 106, damaging floors, desks and computers, The Statesman Journal reported.  He allegedly caused about $19,000 worth of damage. School officials said it happened in June 2016.

>> Read more trending news 

Salem-Keizer Public Schools is suing not only the student’s parents, but also the student himself, to recoup some of the money to repair the damages.

The district said in the suit that the mother and the boy’s stepfather failed to “exercise reasonable control” over the boy. The school said the boy had a dozen disciplinary cases over eight months while he was a student at Crossler Middle School. He had two issues that were described as behavioral episodes that needed calls home, Oregon Live reported.

There is a law on the books in Oregon that says that parents are liable for property damage done by their children, but the law limits the amount parents are held liable for to $7,500 or less than half than the total cost of the damage.  But there is no cap for students, so he could be forced to pay more than $11,000, The Statesman Journal reported.

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