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Breadsticks as main entree? School parents upset in Indiana

Parents at an Indiana school are upset after learning their children were served two breadsticks as their main lunch entree this week, WCPO reported. But the state’s department of education claimed it was a valid lunch option, the television station reported.

>> Read more trending news 

One parent, whose child attends kindergarten at Greenfield Central Schools, said he has unhappy when his daughter’s lunch this week included breadsticks, carrot coins and applesauce, WCPO reported.

“I just couldn’t believe that you could actually just give them regular breadsticks, you know, it has no nutritional value,” said the parent, who wished to remain anonymous. “A lot of kids, it’s their only meal of the day – they don’t get to go home and have a nice meal that a lot of our kids are blessed with.”

Parents may be miffed, but officials at the Indiana Department of Education called the meal a full lunch because it offers cheese dipping sauce.

“Cheese, per the USDA, is considered a protein and therefore we see schools that offer that sometimes as a protein,” Department of Education press secretary Adam Baker told WCPO.

Tennessee students find bugs in school cafeteria meals

Several students who found bugs in their meals at a Tennessee middle school were instructed to write notes to the cafeteria staff to express what they were thankful for, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Parents attended a meeting of the Monroe County School Board on Thursday night, hoping to address the discovery of what officials called flour mites in granola bars on Tuesday and bugs in blackberries during a Thursday breakfast session, the newspaper reported.

The incidents took place at Madisonville Middle School. On Tuesday, Brandy Shubert said her daughter, Madison Smith, sent a video of insects or maggots crawling in her granola, the News Sentinel reported.

"She starts zooming in and it's maggots. What in the world? How can someone feed children maggots," Shubert told WBIR.

On Thursday, another student at the middle school recorded video of a bug in his blackberries as he ate the school-provided breakfast, the television station reported. 

"I was just blindsided by this video that I saw today," the boy’s mother, Misty Neal, told WBIR

Shubert and Neal attended Thursday’s school board meeting but were cut off by members when they tried to bring up the incidents. Members told the parents that the issued had “been addressed” and would not be discussed further because it was not on the school board agenda, the News Sentinel reported.

"They said they contacted the distributor and the health department has already been out there, and that's all they can do," Shubert told the newspaper. "We were not happy with that answer and so we told them we would go further with the issues and contact the state health department again."

School board Chairwoman Janie Harrill told the News Sentinel on Friday that the steps were taken to handle the issue.

“We’ve done everything that we possibly can to answer to this situation,” Harrill said before hanging up, the newspaper reported.

Monroe County Schools Director Tim Blankenship said Friday that school officials believed the incidents were an isolated problem.

Shubert showed the News Sentinel a photo her daughter sent from class, showing assignments written on a classroom whiteboard. 

The board instructs students, after finishing a math assignment, to "write a letter to the cafeteria ladies" and "use descriptive language" to say what the students are thankful for. 

"We are making an effort to be positive," the note said. 

"It's like they are bullying our kids," Shubert told the News Sentinel.

Shubert and Neal said their children will take their meals from home from now on, WBIR reported.

Watch: Alligator roams through Florida school grounds

Parents in north Florida posted several videos Sunday of an alligator roaming the grounds of a school in St. Johns County.

>> Read more trending news 

One video shows it walking through the grass inside the fence surrounding Valley Ridge Academy in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman said someone alerted the Nuisance Alligator Hotline Sunday morning and a trapper was dispatched, but the alligator got away before the trapper arrived at the school.

“I would be scared of it if I was on school campus right now. I was hoping no one else was there,” fifth-grader Jake Romano said.

He was among several students and parents alarmed when they heard the gator was so close to the school -- and where children play.

“If you got kids around, it could be something serious,” Carlos Arroyo said. “Worst-case scenario something bad could happen, and you never want that.”

Parents said they are warning their children to be careful at school.

“If there’s a body of water, my kids know you don’t go near it, because there’s always a potential of being a gator -- that’s Florida,” Michelle Shelton said.

New Jersey college students can minor in medical marijuana 

Students at a New Jersey have high expectations for courses of study in medical marijuana, NJ.com reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Stockton University begins its fall semester next week and is offering “Cannabis Studies” as a minor, WNYC reported.

"This is a growing industry and we want to prepare our students from a variety of academic viewpoints," biology professor Ekaterina Sedia, the program coordinator for cannabis studies, said in a statement.

"We will not be telling students what is the right thing to do," Sedia said. "We will be providing a context and information that they can use to make their own decisions. Offering a program is not an endorsement."

University spokeswoman Diane D'Amico told NJ.com that the 25 students in the program will take a cannabis law course this fall, followed by a class on medical marijuana in New Jersey in the spring.

Sedia, the coordinator of the program, called medical marijuana “an industry that is developing and certainly there are a lot of possibilities and new jobs.”

“Oftentimes, colleges get criticized for not offering students real-life skills, and that certainly is going to be a life skill regardless of whether New Jersey stops at medical or goes to the recreational side of it,” Sedia, an associate professor of biology, told WNYC

Detroit schools shut off drinking water over lead, copper contamination

Four years after reports surfaced that tap water in Flint, Michigan, was contaminated with lead, Detroit's public school district is shutting off drinking water after tests revealed large amounts of lead or copper at a majority of its schools.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti decided to turn off the water at the district's 24 schools after "water in 16 of them was found to have high levels" of the substances.

>> Read more trending news 

"Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools," Vitti said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday.

District officials said aging water fixtures may have caused the contamination, the AP reported. The Great Lakes Water Authority, which provides water to the schools, "says its water surpasses all federal standards," according to the AP.

Over 40,000 students attend schools in the district, whose school year begins next week.

Read more here or here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Student faces charges for taking ‘MAGA’ hat off classmate’s head, says it was political statement

A California high school student could face battery charges after a cellphone video shows her taking a hat off a classmate’s head. 

The hat was one of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” or “MAGA,” hats.

Jo-Ann Butler, a student at Union Mine High School in El Dorado, California, was angry that her classmate was wearing the hat and she took it off his head, saying, “That’s a racist and hateful symbol,” KOVR reported.

Butler said she did it to show her political feelings. 

>> Read more trending news 

“Maybe just wake people up in some type of way, because it’s not cool the environment our classroom is in,” Butler told KOVR.

Her father said how she behaved in class was not OK. 

“I don’t agree with grabbing someone’s hat and verbally talking to them in that way,” Chris Butler told KOVR. “But as far as the issue being brought up, maybe this is something that needs to be brought up.”

The school suspended Jo-AnnButler for a week, and the El Dorado County district attorney has to decide whether she will be charged with two counts of battery -- one for taking the hat off the student and one for slapping a teacher who was trying to calm her down as he escorted her from the room, KOVR reported.

5th-grader doesn’t fight back against bullies, says it isn’t Jedi way

A fifth-grader in California had to go to the hospital after a classmate punched him after the alleged bully took his backpack.

It all started Monday morning before school.

Aiden Vasquez said that he had a feeling that he was going to have a bad day, KMIR reported.

His day, Vasquez said, started with the classmate calling him names. Then the boy took Vasquez’s backpack. When he tried to get it back, Vasquez said the classmate punched him in the face.

>> Read more trending news 

When his mom saw his injuries, she was furious. But he told her he didn’t fight back. 

“I told my mom, I got it from Star Wars, that it’s not the Jedi way,” Vasquez told KMIR.

Vasquez mom, Lizette Casanova, took a photo of her son and posted it to Facebook, saying that the school, Two Bunch Palms Elementary, didn’t do enough to protect her son. 

The school’s principal sent a letter home to parents saying, “There are times when what is posted does not convey the complete story and can cause multiple rumors to circulate,” KMIR reported.

The television station reached out to the Palm Springs Unified School District which said it could not comment because of confidentiality, but officials did tell KMIR that student safety is the district’s priority.

>>Read: 6-year-old boy hospitalized after standing up to bullies, mom says

Meanwhile, police said officers are investigating the incident as an assault, The Palm Springs Desert Sun reported.

And the day after Vasquez was beaten, he spoke with district officials, first privately with administrators and then publicly at the school board meeting.

He told the board, “All I want is for every single kid to be safe. All I want is for kids not to be bullied,” the Desert Sun reported.

Ironically, the same night Vasquez addressed the board, with a swollen black eye and stitches, Two Bunch Palms Elementary School received an award from the district called Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) for providing a positive and emotionally safe learning environment, the Desert Sun reported.

Other parents also spoke about alleged bullying incidents at the school.

The district voted to support Vasquez and is looking for more dialogue with parents. Board members offered to sit down with parents over coffee to talk about the concerns, the Desert Sun reported.

The district says that all incidents that are reported are investigated.

“All reported incidents related to student safety are taken extremely seriously, investigated thoroughly and responded to appropriately relative to administering appropriate discipline measures to students who threaten the safety of one or more students on or off campuses,” Joan Boiko, the district spokeswoman said. “If a child physically injures or bullies another student, consequences could include school suspension.”

Casanova said that administrators are still not doing enough and is considering moving her son to a different school, the Desert Sun reported

Related video:

Teacher helps former student with child care as student looks for job

LaShonda Carter, like many teachers, is always there for her students. And the offer doesn’t always end once you leave school. 

Larresha Plummer was one of Carter’s students three years ago. 

Last week Carter couldn’t sleep so she hopped on Facebook. That’s where Plummer and her former teacher started chatting, CNN reported.

Plummer told Carter times have been rough, but she was trying to attend a job fair later in the week but didn’t know how to get there. 

Plummer is a new mom and knew that taking her baby on public transit could be bad for the baby’s health, CNN reported

Carter told her former student that there was no way that a baby should be on the bus and that she’d be there to drive them to the job fair. Carter then stayed with the baby as Plummer applied for work, WBBM reported

>> Read more trending news 

After the job fair, Carter then took Plummer to apply for financial help through Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 

Carter also asked her Facebook friends to lend a hand to help Plummer and her daughter in any way she could. 

Not only did the two reconnect, Carter said Plummer was successful in finding a job and hopes to attend college, CNN reported.

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

She has also set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to help get Plummer the items she needs for her baby. She had set a goal of $500 but in three days, the amount was surpassed with more than $1,435 raised as of Monday morning.

Florida substitute teacher accused of performing oral sex on teen boy

A substitute teacher in South Florida is accused of performing oral sex on a teenage student, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

>> Read more trending news 

Vernell Hicks, 30, of Pompano Beach, was arrested at Pompano Beach Middle School, The Miami Herald reported. Hicks was charged with committing a sexual offense on a victim 12 to 15 years of age, lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim 12 to 16 and lewd and lascivious conduct by a person 18 or older, WPLG reported.

According to an arrest report, beginning in June 2017 Hicks began sending inappropriate text messages to a 14-year-old boy, the Herald reported. Then, he coordinated meetings where he could perform oral sex on the teen, according to the arrest report. The victim's mother contacted the Broward Sheriff's Office on Wednesday after she said she discovered inappropriate Facebook messages on her son's cellphone from Hicks, WPLG reported.

After his arrest, police said Hicks initially denied the allegations but later admitted to them, the television station reported.

Broward County Public Schools spokeswoman Nadine Drew said Hicks’ employment with the district has been terminated, the Herald reported. He worked as a substitute teacher at Crystal Lake Middle School and Pompano Beach Middle since September 2015, Drew said.

School superintendent accused of racist rant placed on leave

Geye Hamby, the superintendent of Georgia's Buford school system, has been placed on administrative leave amid allegations he made racist comments that were captured on audio recordings.

>> Watch the news report here

“The board anticipates further action on this matter at a specially called meeting in the next several days,” the school system said in a statement. “The district will continue to focus on the mission of empowering our students to reach their full potential.”

The next regular monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. Aug. 27. The board hasn’t said when the specially called meeting will be. 

Hamby’s leave was effective on Tuesday, the day The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Hamby is accused in a federal lawsuit of using racist slurs. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, includes recordings in which a person identified as Hamby used racial epithets repeatedly when referring to African-American workers at a construction site. 

>> On AJC.com: Buford schools superintendent recorded in racist rant, lawsuit says

“(Expletive) that (N-word). I’ll kill these (expletive) — shoot that (expletive) if they let me,” the person identified as Hamby can be heard saying. The person speaking repeatedly refers to African-Americans as “deadbeat (N-word).” 

Walt Britt, a Buford attorney representing the five-member school board, said the board has “been unable to determine its veracity and authenticity and whether the recording was altered and was at the consent of at least one party or the product of illegal surveillance. Our investigation continues into this matter, but we are hamstrung in that the plaintiff has failed or refused to produce the original recording for testing or provide any information concerning the background or foundation of the recording.” 

Hamby said in an email to the AJC, “This is a personnel and legal matter pertaining to a disgruntled employee.” And he wrote that he’d been instructed “not to comment.” 

An employee working the front desk at the Buford City Schools central office said no one was available for comment on Wednesday, while the tight-knit community struggled to reconcile the image of the popular schools superintendent with the disturbing allegations. 

“He was always nice and kind,” said Buford High School senior Arieonna Vaker, 17. “He was always super-sweet to all the kids. He was never mean to anyone.” 

She has experienced racism during her years in the city’s school system, but never dreamed the district’s top administrator would be accused of discrimination. 

“When I was younger and was wearing my hair natural, another kid said I should go back to the cotton fields where I belong,” said Vaker, who is African-American. “I used to get mad. Now I just ignore it. People are going to be ignorant.” 

She isn’t surprised to hear of racism accusations in general — “We live in the South. Everyone says (the N-word) all the time” — but was stunned to hear of the claims lodged against Hamby. 

“I’m very disappointed,” she said. “Everyone’s saying he should just quit.” 

Penny Poole, president of the Gwinnett County chapter of the NAACP, said the school board must fire Hamby if that is indeed his voice on the recordings: “It’s the only right thing to do.” 

Buford High School freshman Gary Winthorpe, 14, said the lawsuit and recordings were all the buzz on Wednesday. 

“He should apologize. It’s not acceptable,” he said of Hamby’s alleged comments. Like other past and present students the AJC interviewed, Winthorpe said Hamby is known as a genial administrator on friendly terms with the school community. 

“He says ‘hey’ to everyone,” Winthorpe said. 

The lawsuit was filed in June against the Buford school system by Mary Ingram, 66, who worked as a paraprofessional. She was fired in 2017 after two years of being written up, which she said started only after she circulated a petition calling for a change to the school system’s emblem. She had always received sterling evaluations before pressing the emblem change, the lawsuit states. 

Ingram wanted the color gold, representing the city’s black school district before the system was integrated in 1969, added to the district’s green and white color scheme. 

“I was afraid we were about to lose our heritage,” Ingram said in a recent interview with the AJC. “I wanted them to know it was important to the community.” 

Jenipher Rea, a 2012 Buford High School graduate, recalled Ingram as a kind and caring employee. 

“She was like everybody’s grandma,” Rea said. “She was really sweet and always in a great, positive mood.” 

Soon after learning of the lawsuit and recordings, Rea thought Hamby should hold a meeting and discuss the matter with students and parents. 

“Buford is a tight-knit community,” she said. “We refer to each other as family. He definitely owes the students and community an answer. He needs to hold a meeting and just apologize.” 

>> Read more trending news 

That was before the controversy started dominating her social media feeds. 

“Everybody is saying they want to see him step down,” she said. 

One comment from a fellow student struck her as particularly poignant: “Well, dang. I thought we were cool. I thought he liked us.”

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