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Spelman College to admit transgender female students

Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell announced Tuesday the all-women institution will accept students, starting next school year, who “consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth.”

The college sent a letter to students, faculty and staff explaining the new policy. The Historically Black College & University (HBCU), located near downtown Atlanta, had been considering such a policy since the prior semester, according to news accounts. A task force of students, faculty, staff and alumnae looked at the potential changes, Campbell said.

“In adopting this admissions policy, Spelman continues its fervent belief in the power of the Spelman Sisterhood,” the letter said. “Students who choose Spelman come to our campus prepared to participate in a women’s college that is academically and intellectually rigorous, and affirms its core mission as the education and development of high-achieving Black women.”

The letter also contains frequently asked questions about the policy. Transgender students who identify as men will not be admitted, Spelman explained. Housing accommodations will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students who transition to male after they’ve enrolled at Spelman will still be awarded a degree.

Spelman, one of the nation’s most prominent single-gender institutions, has about 2,100 students. Spelman’s decision was a hot topic for alumni and on social media. Some blasted the college while others called the change progress.

“I applaud my beloved alma mater’s proactive stance while still honoring the institution’s traditons,” said Charmagne Helton, a 1994 graduate. “I am as proud of Spelman College as I was the first moment I set foot on campus more than 25 years ago.” 

Campbell’s letter said Spelman will have a committee to consider the impact on the campus resulting from the new policy. 

In recent years, more single-gender colleges and universities are admitting transgender students. Since 2014, at least eight women’s colleges have moved to allow transgender women, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Agnes Scott College, located in Decatur, adopted a policy in 2015 that accepts students who were assigned female at birth as well as those who were assigned male or female at birth who now identify as female or transgender.

Bennett College, the nation’s only other all-female HBCU, located in Greensboro, N.C., also allows transgender female students.

Staff writer Ernie Suggs contributed to this article.

Brad Pitt, Michael B. Jordan sign on to Atlanta school cheating movie

Michael B. Jordan will star in a movie about the test cheating scandal that resulted in criminal convictions for 11 former Atlanta educators and Brad Pitt will be one of the producers, Deadline Hollywood reports.

The movie will focus on Parks Middle School, one of dozens of Atlanta schools where educators cheated on the state tests Georgia students take each year in an effort to meet ever-increasing performance targets set by then-Superintendent Beverly Hall.  

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on highly improbable improvements in student test scores in 2008, and in a series of articles uncovered the extent of a cheating conspiracy that included dozens of schools. State investigators eventually found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools examined and implicated about 200 educators  in the cheating and cover up.

Parks Middle School was among the most egregious cases and its former principal, Christopher Waller, became the self-described “poster child” for the Atlanta school cheating scandal. 

In the movie, titled Wrong Answer, Jordan will play Damany Lewis, a former Parks teacher profiled in a 2014 New Yorker story. Ryan Coogler will direct and Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the script,  Deadline Hollywood reports.

U.S. News: Best high schools in metro Atlanta

More than 30 Atlanta area high schools are among the top high schools in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best High Schools list.

The list initially included 11 Gwinnett County high schools, eight in Cobb Countyseven in Fulton County, three in DeKalb County and two in Clayton County. No non-charter Atlanta Public Schools high school made the list.

Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, which U.S. News ranked as the number-one school in Georgia last year, at first didn’t even make this year’s list.

U.S. News later said a data software error was to blame for the school being completely excluded from the list.

DeKalb County’s Arabia Mountain High School - Academy of Engineering was also initially excluded because of the error.

The rankings are based on how student performance on state tests compares to schools with similar proportions of low-income, black and Hispanic students. They also take into account graduation rates and how many students take AP exams and pass at least one.

Here are the top high schools in metro Atlanta, according to U.S. News. The schools are listed by their metro Atlanta rank, followed by their statewide rank in parentheses.

NOTE: U.S. News has since corrected the rankings. The new rankings put Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology tied for 35th nationally and tied for number one in Georgia. Arabia Mountain High School - Academy of Engineering in DeKalb County is now tied for 1,874th nationally and tied for 51st in Georgia.

1. DeKalb School of the Arts - DeKalb County (2) 

2. Walton High School - Cobb County (5) 

3. Fulton Science Academy High School - Fulton County (6) 

4. Cambridge High School - Fulton County (7) 

5. Northview High School - Fulton County (8) 

6. Alpharetta High School - Fulton County (9) 

7. North Gwinnett High School - Gwinnett County (10) 

8. Johns Creek High School - Fulton County (11) 

9. Chattahoochee High School - Fulton County (12) 

10. Chamblee Charter High School - DeKalb County (14) 

11. Roswell High School - Fulton County (15) 

12. Lassiter High School - Cobb County (16) 

13. Decatur High School - Decatur City (20) 

14. Brookwood High School - Gwinnett County (21) 

15. Pope High School - Cobb County (22) 

16. Harrison High School - Cobb County (24) 

17. Parkview High School - Gwinnett County (26) 

18. Mill Creek High School - Gwinnett County (27) 

19. Peachtree Ridge High School - Gwinnett County (28) 

20. Duluth High School - Gwinnett County (31) 

21. Buford High School - Buford City (32) 

22. Norcross High School - Gwinnett County (33) 

23. Hillgrove High School - Cobb County (34) 

24. Mountain View High School - Gwinnett County (36) 

25. Martha Ellen Stilwell School for the Performing Arts - Clayton County (37) 

26. Dacula High School - Gwinnett County (39) 

27. Elite Scholars Academy School - Clayton County (41) 

28. Collins Hill High School - Gwinnett County (42) 

29. Wheeler High School - Cobb County (45) 

30. KIPP Atlanta Collegiate - Atlanta Public Schools (49) 

31. Kennesaw Mountain High School - Cobb County (51) 

32. Central Gwinnett High School - Gwinnett County (56) 

33. Allatoona High School - Cobb County (62) 

34. DeKalb Early College Academy - DeKalb County (81)

RELATED: Find complete data on Georgia schools on the AJC’s Ultimate Atlanta School Guide

Children find Spirit Airlines pilot, wife dead in apparent overdose

Four children found their parents – including their airline pilot father – dead Thursday in their Centerville, Ohio, home in what investigators said appears to be the latest incident in a scourge of drug deaths plaguing Montgomery County and Ohio.

>> Read more trending news 

The husband, Brian Halye, was an active pilot for Spirit Airlines, flying for them nine years, and captaining a passenger jet as recently as last Friday.

He and his wife, Courtney Halye, were found in a bedroom of their home on East Von Dette Circle, a suburban cul-de-sac.

RELATED: Centerville pilot, wife deaths may be fentanyl-related

The deaths appear “drug related due to paraphernalia found at the scene,” Centerville Police Officer John Davis said. Ken Betz, director of the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, said the incident resembles other opioid cases and “could be consistent with what we’re seeing with fentanyl products in our community.”

“We’ve been talking about this for how long now?” Betz said by phone. “Here I go again … year-to-date, accidental drug overdoses exceeded 160 already this year.”

Official causes of death for the couple have not been released, as a full medical exam will be performed today.

‘They were very cold’

The couple each had two children from previous marriages. In two 911 calls to Centerville police shortly before 8 a.m., the children ages 9 to 13 told dispatchers their parents are on the floor and “not waking up.”

“They were very cold,” said the oldest child, politely answering “yes, ma’am” to the dispatcher as his sisters cried in the background.

The children ran outside the home to relatives as police conducted an investigation. By 10:30, police and emergency response vehicles cleared the usually tranquil neighborhood.

The Halyes purchased their home in summer 2013. The neighborhood, Pellbrook Farm, is just southwest of the Ohio 725-Wilmington Pike intersection. The quiet suburban cul-de-sac features homes valued around $150,000 to $225,000.

Warren County Court records show Brian Halye was divorced in 2011 in a shared parenting case. Courtney Halye was convicted of a felony drug possession charge in 2009, but the case was expunged. Her previous husband Jacob Castor, the father of two of the children, died in 2007 at age 27.

Neighbors were stunned by Thursday’s news.

“There’s never much activity going on over there,” said a neighbor, who declined to be named. Added another neighbor, “That’s what surprises us, because he was an airline pilot, and he flew for Spirit.”

Pilot flew last week

Halye last flew for Spirit on Friday, according to the “ultra low fares” carrier. The pilot’s social media accounts indicate he was based at its Detroit operations center. The airline does not provide service to Dayton International Airport.

“Captain Halye served at the airline for just over nine years,” Paul Berry, the company’s spokesman, said in a statement expressing the company’s sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.

The Dayton Daily News asked Spirit Airlines officials to provide more details about Halye’s last-flown routes and upcoming flights, as well as the dates and results of any drug screenings. Spirit declined to answer.

Federal regulations require employers to administer drug and alcohol testing in pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, random, post-accident, reasonable cause and follow-up situations, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said.

MORE: Spirit Airlines pilot suspected in OD flew 6 days ago

Pilots must hold valid medical certificates in order to fly. The Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which Halye held, requires a first-class medical certificate, which must be updated every 12 months for a pilot under the age of 40. Halye was 36.

The FAA database lists Halye’s medical certificate date as September, 2011, which would mean the certificate expired more than four years ago. Asked to double check, Cory said Halye’s certificate was up-to-date, with it due to expire this fall.

“I’m not sure why the online database does not have that information,” Cory said in an email to the Dayton Daily News. “The system could be in the process of update.”

Dr. Richard Garrison is among the doctors who conducts such tests locally. Garrison said that exam is roughly similar to an annual physical, and also includes vision testing and EKG heart tests for pilots over a certain age. But he said those exams do not include substance-abuse testing.

Drug issues everywhere

Multiple-death overdoses at a single site happened at least four times in Montgomery County in 2016 — including to Jamie Haddix and Darrell Morgan, who were found dead on Christmas Eve. The place where they died, a four-unit apartment building on Wiltshire Boulevard in Kettering, isn’t ground zero in the region’s opioid crisis because there is no ground zero.

“You always hear, ‘It can’t happen in my neighborhood,’ ” said Michael Link, who lives around the corner from the Halyes in Centerville. “But it does.”

Centerville ranked comparatively low on Montgomery County’s 2016 overdose list, with only five residents dying from drug causes, according to preliminary coroner’s data. That’s much lower than comparably sized Trotwood (17), Miamisburg (14) and Riverside (13). But nearly every community in the county had a spot on that list, which included 355 deaths.

Two of the children attended Centerville’s Tower Heights Middle School and two attended another district. Centerville schools Superintendent Tom Henderson said the district “continues to support friends of the students who were part of this family. Centerville had guidance counselors “on call and on deck as needed.”

Henderson said so many students know each other not only from school, but from sports and other cross-community activities that a tragedy like this can have a wider impact that people might think.

“These two students have come up through our district, so we try to be cognizant of that and get out to the other buildings they’ve attended,” Henderson said. “We’ll be ready (Friday) when students come in, and we’ll be ready when the students (in that family) come back to attend school again.”

Staff Writers Chris Stewart, Malik Perkins, Katie Wedell and Hannah Poturalski contributed reporting.

Emory, UGA, Ga. Tech, Mercer among nation’s best universities

U.S. News and World Report ranks four Georgia colleges among the nation’s best on an annual list released today.

Emory University, Georgia Tech, Mercer University and the University of Georgia made the list of best national universities for 2017.

Schools are ranked on up to 15 measures of academic quality including graduation and retention rates, expert opinions, faculty and financial resources.

Mercer was new to the list after being reclassified in a 2015 update as a national university by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The other three Georgia schools outperformed their previous rankings.

See the full story here.

Back to School

Back to School Start Dates July 28th (Thursday) 
  • Rockdale County


July 29th (Friday)  
  • Lamar County Newton County 


August 1st (Monday)
  • Cherokee County: New school opening – the new/replacement Dean Rusk Middle School.  The new facility will accommodate current and projected enrollment and allow for the transition to the State’s Grade 6-8 model, which provides for more challenging coursework and career and fine arts electives for sixth-graders.  The 255,000-square-foot school, in addition to instructional classrooms, also includes a gymnasium, cafetorium, art and music rooms, cyber café media center, global learning center and computer labs.  
  • Cobb County Schools
  • Barrow County 
  • Clayton County 
  • Henry County 
  • Morgan County
  • Paulding County 
  • Pickens County 


August 2nd (Tuesday)  
  • Floyd County 
  • Greene County
  • Haralson County


August 3rd (Wednesday) 
  • Bartow County
  • City of Atlanta
  • City of Marietta
  • Gilmer County
  • Griffin-Spalding 
  • Oconee County
  • Walker County
  • Walton County


August 4th (Thursday) 
  • Carroll County
  • Chattooga County
  • City of Buford
  • Fannin County
  • Forsyth County 
  • Gordon County
  • Stephens County
  • Towns County


August 5th (Friday) 
  • West Georgia College Move-In date for First Year students  
  • Banks County
  • Coweta County
  • Dawson County
  • Habersham County
  • Hall County 
  • Heard County
  • Jackson County
  • Jasper County
  • Lumpkin County
  • Madison County
  • Monroe County 
  • Oglethorpe County
  • Union County


August 7th (Sunday) 


August 8th (Monday) 
  • City of Calhoun
  • Dekalb County 
  • Douglas County
  • Fayette County
  • Fulton County 
  • Gwinnett County 
  • Rabun County
  • White County
  • Whitfield County


August 9th (Tuesday)
  •  University of West Georgia – 2nd Move-in Day for Returning students.  
  • Clarke County 


August 10th (Wednesday)  
  • Butts County
  • City of Decatur
  • Troup County


August 11th (Thursday)  
  • Thomaston-Upson County


August 12th (Friday)  


August 13th (Saturday) 


August 15th (Monday)  


August 18th  (Thursday)


August 19th/20th (Friday and Saturday) 


August 20th (Saturday)  


August 22nd (Monday)  
  • Chattahoochee Tech goes back to school.  First day (No dorms) 
  • Pike County


DeKalb school named for John Lewis; debate sparks racism allegations

When DeKalb County school board member Stan Jester questioned the procedure for naming a school after U.S. Rep. John Lewis, another board member suggested his questions may be racially motivated.

“If this was a white man’s name going on this building, would it be a problem?” asked Joyce Morley. “No.”

Morley said she asked some of the same questions Jester did, but came back confident that the due diligence was proper.

Jester said policy required three meetings for naming the school, though only two were held. He also mentioned that the district policy on naming anything for someone says a person should be deceased five years before it can happen.

Member Vickie Turner noted Jester supported renaming a gymnasium in his own district for an educator who passed away last year, which was against the district’s naming policy. It struck her odd that he had an issue with shirking the policy now.

Jester said race had nothing to do with his decision.

“I’m disappointed and somewhat offended,” Jester said. “This is not about race, it’s local control.”

The board voted 6-1 to name the school after Lewis. It also voted unanimously to approve naming a school for President Barack Obama.

‘Pro-white’ group’s Stone Mountain rally prompts school to move prom

A Gwinnett County high school is moving its prom from Stone Mountain Park, citing concerns about a “pro-white” rally scheduled there earlier the same day.

Peachtree Ridge High School announced Wednesday it has moved its prom from the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Resort in Stone Mountain Park to the Westin Buckhead Atlanta, school district officials said. The prom will be on the same date and time, Saturday, April 23, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Evergreen Marriott released the school from its contract, officials said.

Gwinnett school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said some parents were worried about student safety upon learning a “pro-white” group, Rock Stone Mountain, planned a rally at the park the same day. Two other groups announced plans to protest the Rock Stone Mountain rally.

The school’s principal alerted parents earlier this month about the rally and said Peachtree Ridge was working with park authorities to ensure students would be safe at the prom.

Several groups have had rallies at the park in recent months after officials announced plans last year to create a monument there to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

School worries Stone Mountain ‘pro-white’ rally may disrupt its prom

A Gwinnett County high school is working with law enforcement to ensure the safety of students planning to attend its prom at Stone Mountain Park because it’s scheduled the same date as a rally by a self-proclaimed “pro-white” group and counter demonstrations.

Peachtree Ridge High School has scheduled its prom on Saturday, April 23 at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Resort in Stone Mountain Park. A “pro-white” group, Rock Stone Mountain, has planned a rally at the park the same day. A Confederate Heritage group has also scheduled a rally to protest Rock Stone Mountain.

Additionally, the “All Out Atlanta” coalition group is organizing a protest.

Peachtree Ridge High School principal Jeff Mathews sent an email to parents late Wednesday alerting them about the issue.

“As always, the safety of our students is our primary focus and we do not anticipate any issues, as the two events do not overlap in time or location,” Mathews wrote. “Please know that we are working closely with local law enforcement and Stone Mountain Park officials to ensure the safety and security of our students during this special school event.”

The Rock Stone Mountain rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. The prom is scheduled from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

A Stone Mountain Park police spokesman told Channel 2 Action News that they plan to bring in extra security to keep the demonstrators away from each other.

Several groups have had rallies at the park in recent months after officials announced plans last year to create a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Prior coverage:

Rebel rebel: Planned ‘white power’ rally at Stone Mountain draws opposition from other flag backers

Stone Mountain Park police prepare for April 23 ‘pro-white’ rallies

A monument to MLK will crown Stone Mountain

Why students don't have to stand for Pledge of Allegiance in Florida

Compiled from Associated Press and Florida News Service reports.

Trending on Facebook

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Students excused from having to daily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Florida public schools would no longer have to stand and hold their hands over their heart either, under a bill that is headed to the House floor.

The House Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill (HB 1403) that would change how students are notified of their right to skip the daily pledge and what the excused student must do during the pledge.

Current law requires schools to conspicuously post a notice, telling students they don’t have to recite the pledge if a parent asks in writing for a student to be excused. The law also requires excused students to still stand and hold their hands over their hearts while the pledge is recited.

The bill would allow the notice to instead be placed in a student handbook, and excused students would no longer be required to stand or hold their hands over their hearts.

The bill was filed after a parent of a child at a Panhandle school told the school district it was not following notice requirements. A Senate companion bill has not yet been heard in the first of its three required committees.

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