An end to zero tolerance for willful defiance in L.A. schools?
California schools have long brought about swift punishments for instances of so-called willful defiance, which have disproportionally led to suspensions of many minority students not just in our home state, but nationwide.
Take the case of Damien Valentine, a Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore fighting against the practice, who says that several such punishments earlier in his school accomplished nothing but setting him back.
So just what is “willful defiance?”
That offense is now widely criticized as an arbitrary catchall for any behavior a teacher finds objectionable, such as repeatedly tapping feet on the floor, refusing to remove a hat or failing to wear the school uniform. It accounted for 48% of 710,000 suspensions issued in California in 2011-12, prompting both state and local efforts to restrict its use in disciplinary actions.
A resolution moving through Los Angeles County would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for the aforementioned offenses.
Said Tonna Onyendu of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit:
“This will be a transformational shift. Instead of punishing students, we’re going to engage them.”
Read more on the matter in
Christina House / For The Times
Justice Department secretly taps into AP reporters’ phone records
In a surprising declaration a short time ago, the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had obtained two months of phone records tied to numerous reporters and editors in various cities, in what the news organization is calling a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The reason for the government’s actions, which the AP was alerted to in a letter Friday, are as of now unknown.
From the Associated Press’ story on the emerging scandal:
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
AP’s President and CEO, Gary Pruitt, issued a strongly-worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder:We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news. While we evaluate our options we urgently request that you immediately return to the AP the telephone toll records that the Department subpoenaed and destroy all copies.
Photo: Molly Riley / Associated Press
What It’s Like to See Again with an Artificial Retina
Elias Konstantopoulos gets spotty glimpses of the world each day for about four hours, or for however long he leaves his Argus II retina prosthesis turned on. The 74-year-old Maryland resident lost his sight from a progressive retinal disease over 30 years ago, but is able to perceive some things when he turns on the bionic vision system.
“I can see if you are in front of me, and if you try to go away,” he says. “Or, if I look at a big tree with the system on I can maybe see some darkness and if it’s bright outside and I move my head to the left or right I can see different shadows that tell me there is something there. There’s no way to tell what it is,” says Konstantopoulos.
A spectacle-mounted camera captures image data for Konstantopoulos; that data is then processed by a mini-computer carried on a strap and sent to a 60-pixel neuron-stimulating chip that was implanted in one of his retinas in 2009.
Nearly 70 people around the world have undergone the three-hour surgery for the retinal implant, which was developed by California’s Second Sight and approved for use in Europe in 2011 and in the U.S. earlier this year (see “Bionic Eye Implant Approved for U.S. Patients”). It is the first vision-restoring implant sold to patients.
Currently, the system is only approved for patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that strikes around one in 5,000 people worldwide, but it’s possible the Argus II and other artificial retinas in development could work for those with age-related macular degeneration, which affects one in 2,000 people in developed countries. In these conditions, the photoreceptor cells of the eye (commonly called rods and cones) are lost, but the rest of the neuronal pathway that communicates visual information to the brain is often still viable. Artificial retinas depend on this remaining circuitry, so cannot work for all forms of blindness.
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