10 of the biggest school controversies of the year

NetflixThe graphic content in ’13 Reasons Why’ is controversial.
  • The graphic content in the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” raised concerns among teachers.
  • A controversial school assignment asked students to list “positive aspects” of slavery.
  • School dress code rules continue to punish girls for “distracting” boys in the classroom.

Dress codes, students’ freedom of expression, and teaching sensitive subjects are just a few issues that proved controversial in schools this year.

Here’s a look back at the biggest school controversies of 2018 that got students, teachers, and parents talking.

A New Jersey school superintendent pleaded guilty to pooping on school grounds.

NJ.com/YouTubeThomas Tramaglini (center) with his lawyer.

In March, New Jersey school superintendent Thomas Tramaglini was arrested on charges of lewdness, littering, and defecating in public for pooping on the grounds of Holmdel High School in Monmouth County, New Jersey. At the time, high school staff said that the track team found poop nearby “on a daily basis” for months.

Tramaglini pleaded guilty to public defecation in October, but said that he only did it once due to a “medical emergency.” According to his lawyer Matthew Adams, Tramaglini experienced a condition called Runner’s Diarrhoea that causes loose bowel movements during physical exercise.

He was fined $US500 for the non-criminal municipal offence and paid an additional $US33 to cover court costs.

A school assignment asked students to list “positive aspects” of slavery.

Deyan Georgiev/ShutterstockNot your typical homework assignment.

In April, an eighth grade American history teacher at Great Hearts Monte Vista in San Antonio, Texas, assigned a worksheet entitled “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View” in which students were asked to list both “positive aspects” and “negative aspects” of slavery.

A parent posted a photo of the assignment on Facebook, and other parents and community members began sharing it. It caught the attention of Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, who called it “absolutely unacceptable” on Twitter.

The school issued an apology in a statement on Facebook.

“To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity,” the statement reads. “It was a clear mistake and we sincerely apologise for the insensitive nature of this offence.”

However, current and former students argued that the lesson was being misconstrued.

“I had to do this assignment once, but before he handed us this EXACT assignment we had a good discussion of how in the end there was really no ‘pro’ side to slavery,” a former student wrote on Instagram. “Mr. Thomas never put any student to fight in the position of the ‘pro’ side of slavery. THE POINT OF THIS PROJECT WAS TO SHOW WHY PEOPLE ALLOWED FOR SLAVERY TO GO ON FOR SO LONG, NOT TO APPROVE OF SLAVERY.”

A federal appeals court ruled that schools can allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.

Wikimedia CommonsStudents can use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Boyertown Area School District in Pennsylvania’s bathroom policy allowed students to use the bathroom and locker room that matched their gender identity.

A student filed a lawsuit alleging that the policy violated his right to privacy, according to NBC News. Five other students joined the lawsuit and were aided by the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom. In May, a federal appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision to keep Boyertown’s bathroom policy in place.

Per NBC, Ria Mar, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, praised the rule, saying that, “Choosing to use that individual space and being required to use it because of who you are – that your very presence is unacceptable to others – is a very different thing.”

The graphic content in “13 Reasons Why” raised concerns among teachers.

Netflix/Facebook’13 Reasons Why’ contains graphic content.

13 Reasons Why” was the most tweeted about show in 2017, and continued making headlines for its graphic portrayals of sexual assault and suicide in its second season.

The Parents Television Council issued an urgent warning about the series’ second season that premiered in May, citing statistics such as a 26% increase in Google searches for “how to commit suicide” following the release of the first season.

Educators across the US began warning parents about the series. One teacher told the Los Angeles Times that they heard students quote the show by saying things like “Miss, wait until you get my tape.”

Creator Brian Yorkey defended the show’s controversial scenes, saying that “talking about it is so much better than silence.”

There have been many instances of girls being told to change their clothes due to “distracting” boys in the classroom.

Fox 5 DCDress codes often penalise female students.

Lizzy Martinez, 17, from Braden River High School in Bradenton, Florida, alleged that she was told to put Band-Aids on her breasts after school officials claimed her nipples were distracting male students.

A seventh-grader at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Waldorf, Maryland, told Fox 5 DC that school officials made her cover ripped jeans that violated the dress code with duct tape.

Fifteen-year-old Isabella Messer wore a T-shirt to Hopkinsville High School in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, with the message “Do my shoulders turn you on?” printed across the front and “If so, go back to the 1920s” on the back. She was arrested and spent six days in juvenile detention. Officials said Messer violated the dress code twice and had an altercation with a school resource officer.

Kate Wilson, a student at Honesdale High School in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, claimed that her outfit of a baggy T-shirt and leggings was called “inappropriate” by her vice principal. Wilson told INSIDER that he said her outfit was “making the teachers uncomfortable” and “made a point of how distracting it was to see me walk up stairs.”

Students and parents across the US have also begun pushing back against school dress codes which they say objectify female students.

An 11-year-old black girl was sent home from school because her hair wasn’t “natural.”

Google MapsChrist the King Elementary School.

An 11-year-old student named Faith Fennidy was sent home from Christ the King Elementary School in Terrytown, Louisiana, because her hair was not “natural,” according to her family.

The school’s handbook says, “Only the student’s natural hair is permitted. Extensions, wigs, hair pieces of any kind are not allowed.”

But her brother, Steven Fennidy, said this policy doesn’t take black students into account.

“How do you make a policy without even having a discussion. It’s because you don’t care and it’s just one more barrier to entry for black people,” he wrote in a post on Facebook. “This decision is going to affect black children more than white children.”

In a statement to INSIDER, the Archdiocese of New Orleans said parents were told of the change during the summer.

“This policy was communicated to all parents during the summer and again before the first day of school, and was applied to all students,” the archdiocese said. “Furthermore, the school leadership worked with families as needed to ensure compliance.”

A high school principal was ousted after reportedly forcing a student to remove a Trump jersey at a patriotic-themed football game.

WTVDHarnett Central High School.

Harnett County Schools in North Carolina announced that Harnett Central High School’s principal, Cindy Gordon, would be replaced after she reportedly asked a student to take off a Trump jersey he had worn to a football game where students were encouraged to wear patriotic clothing.

The jersey the student wore was red, white, and blue, and featured “USA” and the Statue of Liberty’s torch on the front, with “Trump” and the number 45 on the back. His father said that his son was “humiliated” and that the jersey had been a gift from a family friend.

“We want to emphasise that Harnett County Schools supports and affirms students’ rights to express themselves – including wearing clothing expressing political messages or supporting political candidates or officeholders – in ways that are not expected to disrupt school or school events,” the district said in a news release.

A high school athletic director who said girls “ruin everything” was put on leave and then restored to his post.

Chattanooga Times Free PressSoddy Daisy High School athletic director Jared Hensley.

Jared Hensley, the athletic director and a vice president at Soddy Daisy High School near Chattanooga, Tennessee, made a video announcement in September to inform students about a dress code banning athletic shorts.

“If you really want someone to blame, blame the girls because they pretty much ruin everything,” Hensley said. “They ruin the dress code, they ruin … well, ask Adam. Look at Eve. It’s really all you really gotta get to, OK. You can really go back to the beginning of time. So, it will be like that the rest of your life. Get used to it, just keep your mouth shut, suck it up [and] follow the rules.”

The video was originally uploaded to YouTube and caused uproar among parents and school administrators. But students were quick to support Hensley and used the hashtag #TeamHensley on Twitter.

Hensley was put on leave, but resumed his position at the school having issued an apology, according to the Times Free Press. He will also complete Title IX training and sensitivity training.

A Texas teacher was fired after insulting an autistic student in texts to his mother.

Tiffany Lynn ElfstromJayden Elfstrom and Tiffany Lynn Elfstrom.

Jayden Elfstrom attends a special needs class at Levi Fry Intermediate School outside Houston. His mother, Tiffany Lynn Elfstrom, told INSIDER that she was talking to the teacher on the phone while she received the crass texts, which were apparently intended for someone else.

“This lil mother f—er is crying like a baby for mummy because he wants to go home,” the texts read according to a screenshot posted by Elfstrom. “Omg I just want to omggggggg pull all my damn hair out.”

After the phone call, Elfstrom drove to the school and spoke to the assistant principal, who apologised. In a statement, a spokesperson for the school district said the teacher was fired.

“The teacher admitted to sending the text but did not intend to send it to the parent,” the spokesperson said. “No matter her intention, the text is highly inappropriate and does not represent the character of people we want teaching our students. She was immediately removed from the classroom. We investigated the incident and she no longer has a contract with our district.”

UK schools are getting rid of analogue clocks because students can’t read them.

antb/ShutterstockBig Ben.

The Telegraph reports that some schools in the United Kingdom are ditching analogue clocks because students can’t read them.

One of the top members of a school leaders association in the UK, Malcolm Trobe, said they’re installing digital clocks after students complained they couldn’t understand the clocks in classrooms.

“Schools will inevitably be doing their best to make young children feel as relaxed as [they] can be,” Trobe said. “There is actually a big advantage in using digital clocks in exam rooms because it is much less easy to mistake a time on a digital clock when you are working against time.”

People on Twitter had opinions.


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