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Transgender middle school student barred from locker rooms during active shooter drill

A transgender middle school student in Virginia was left sitting alone in the gym during an active shooter drill because teachers were unsure of which locker room to shelter her in, an LGBTQ advocacy group said earlier this month. 

A group of concerned parents, friends and neighbors plan to protest at the Stafford County School Board meeting Tuesday night, WUSA in Washington, D.C., reported

Equality Stafford members spoke out about the issue on the group’s Facebook page last week.   

“When the drill began, a particular class of children took shelter in the bathroom/locker room nearest them as they were in PE,” the post read. “One student was prevented from entering either the boys’ or girls’ locker room while the teachers discussed where she should go. The student was forced to watch the adults charged with her care, debate the safest place (for the other students) to have her shelter.” 

The girl was told to sit in the gym with a teacher until the drill was over, the post read. After further debate by the teachers, the girl was told to sit in the locker room hallway, away from her classmates. 

“Let me be clear,” the Facebook post read. “During an event that prepares children to survive an attack by actual assailants, she was treated as if she was so much of a danger to peers that she was left exposed and vulnerable.”

Sherrie Johnson, a spokeswoman for Stafford County Public Schools, told WUSA in a statement that the district’s new superintendent, Scott Kizner, has requested a review of all protocols and procedures “to ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect.”

“We take such matters very seriously and they will be addressed,” Johnson said. “The welfare of all students is of the utmost importance for SCPS.”

When a reporter for the news station asked Johnson if the student should have been allowed in the girls’ locker room because she identifies as female, Johnson would only say that policies and procedures are under review. 

>> Read more trending news

Commenters on the Equality Stafford page were aghast at the teachers’ actions. 

“So, if this had been an actual emergency, would they have let this child die while they tried to identify for this child which locker room would save this child’s life?” one woman wrote

Others questioned why the children were being separated during the mock emergency. A woman who identified herself as a pediatrician called the issue one of “human dignity on all fronts.”

Another woman who appeared to be an elementary school or preschool teacher wrote that the teachers should be reprimanded. 

“The goal is how fast you move, not if you are in the right space,” she wrote. “I had to evacuate 4-year-olds during a tornado and we all went into the women’s bathroom. These kids should have been placed into the closest room, no debate needed. A murderer doesn't care (about) your gender, adopted or born with.”

The Equality Stafford member who wrote the original post wrote that it was “important to highlight that the child’s PE teachers are not the bad guys.”

“They are teachers without guidance in a county without guidance for these issues,” the post read. “They were following that they were told to do.”

One commenter pointed out that schools hold drills to figure out the logistics of keeping the children safe before an actual emergency. He called the criticism of the teachers short-sighted and said that, as the issue of transgender students becomes more common in the schools, incidents like the one at the middle school will become less frequent.

“In a brand-new situation, people stopped and talked about the best solution, so this problem only has to happen once,” the man wrote. “I say bravo to those who took action.”

Kansas City students rescued from bus stranded in floodwater 

Heavy rains in the Kansas City area caused a school bus with more than 20 students to become trapped in floodwaters early Monday, KMBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The bus was traveling shortly before 7 a.m. when it became trapped. A caller to 911 said water had seeped into the vehicle and had risen to the third step, WDAF reported. The water rising above the bus steps caused the vehicle to stall out, KMBC reported.

Police and firefighters responded and were able to evacuate the students and driver through the back door of the bus. No one was injured, the television station reported, although the occupants got wet while walking to dry ground, WDAF reported.

More than 3 inches of rain fell in Kansas City on Monday morning, KMBC reported.

Nationwide EpiPen shortage keeping some kids out of school

The nationwide EpiPen shortage is now forcing some children to stay home from school until their medication can be filled, KIRO-TV in Seattle is reporting.

Chiquita Morris said her 5-year-old son, Eden, had just started kindergarten at Spanaway Elementary School in Spanaway, Washington, when she was told by school officials that Eden couldn’t come back until he has an EpiPen.

>> FDA extends expiration date on some EpiPens due to national drug shortage

“Yes, I understand I need to get one, but there’s nothing I can do,” Morris said.

During a nationwide EpiPen shortage, Morris is among those scrambling to find these epinephrine auto-injectors used to treat severe allergic reactions.

Morris said she's been calling multiple pharmacies every day but has had no luck while her son is missing school.

>> FDA approves first generic EpiPen competitor

KIRO looked up the Bethel School District website, and under the health services page, it said: "State law requires children with life-threatening conditions to have a medication and/or treatment order on file prior to the start of school."

Morris said in light of the EpiPen shortage, the school can do more to accommodate parents and help kids stay in school.

“I understand the health concern but I believe the school should have backup EpiPen as well, and not just parents,” said Morris.

>> Read more trending news 

The EpiPen shortage is so bad that in August, the FDA extended the expiration date for some lots of EpiPens by four months.

But the extension does not apply for EpiPen Junior, which is meant for kids weighing 66 pounds or less.

Doctors are advising people who need EpiPens to renew their prescriptions early or get on a waiting list as soon as possible.

Florida boy, 6, hitchhikes home after being dropped off at wrong bus stop

A central Florida school bus driver was placed on administrative leave after a 6-year-old boy was dropped off at the wrong bus stop and was forced to hitchhike home, WFLA reported.

>> Read more trending news 

On Tuesday, Melanie Rain was waiting for her 6-year-old son, Calvin, who was riding for the first time this school year from Southwest Elementary School in Lakeland. Rain said she waited for her son during a rainstorm, but the bus kept going instead of stopping, WTSP reported.

"I was terrified," Rain told WFLA. "I tried to stop the bus driver, but she kept going."

An hour later, Rain got a call from her mother: Calvin was home and safe.

The boy apparently got off at the first bus stop, instead of his proper stop, which was fourth on the route and nearly two miles from his home, WTSP reported. Calvin told his mother the driver spoke Spanish and pointed to the door at the first stop, so the boy got off the vehicle, the television station reported.

Calvin walked in several directions and then realized he did not know how to get home. So, he stuck out his thumb to hitchhike, WFLA reported.

"I thought I was at my neighborhood, but I wasn't," Calvin told the television station.

Rain said Calvin told her, "I put my thumb up, and this lady stopped and helped me," WTSP reported.

A woman in a tan van picked up Calvin and dropped him off after he was able to communicate where he lived, the television station reported.

Rain was relieved but upset.

"What if a sexual predator had picked him up or something?" Rain told WFLA.

The driver, a 14-year veteran of the transportation department, was placed on administrative leave following the mishap, according to Polk County Schools spokeswoman Rachel Pleasant.

"We are grateful that our student is safe, and we apologize for any distress this incident brought to him and his family,” Pleasant said in a statement. “We will determine whether policies and procedures were followed."

Rain said she would drive Calvin to and from school from now on. The boy seemed happy with that decision.

"I don't want to get lost again," Calvin told WFLA

Chance the Rapper pledges $1M to Chicago's mental health services

Chance the Rapper pledged $1 million for mental health in Chicago and an additional $100,000 for 20 public schools in the city, WLS reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The rapper made his announcement on Twitter and in front of Chicago’s health care experts and the city’s educators, the television station reported.

"I'm proud to announce I am pledging $1 million to mental health services in Chicago," Chance told the audience as he introduced his new initiative, “My State of Mind.”

Supporting Chance and his non-profit SocialWorks were stars like Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman and Oprah Winfrey, WLS reported.

"This year, 20 more schools will get $100 K ..." Chance told the audience. "We will be upping the game in terms of equity, in terms of what is rightfully yours. Principals, teachers, we got your back."

Boy, 9, brings gun to school, aims it at classmates, police say

A 9-year-old South Florida boy was arrested Tuesday after he brought a loaded gun to an elementary school and aimed it at students while in a classroom, WSVN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Police in Lauderhill said the boy, a third-grader at Paul Turner Elementary School, pulled the .380 Ruger handgun from his backpack and aimed it at three classmates, the Sun-Sentinel reported. 

He told his classmates, “You see this? This is a real gun” and made other threatening comments, Lauderhill police spokeswoman Yvette Marquez-Perkins said.

Police said the student also made a reference to being bullied by his classmates, according to the television station.

The boy faces charges of possession of a firearm on school property and three counts of aggravated assault, police said.

The teacher in the classroom called the school’s vice principal and the resource officer, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The resource officer was able to disarm the boy and no one was hurt, Marquez-Perkins said.

“We don’t know yet where (the child) found the weapon,” she told the newspaper.

“The child’s parents were visibly upset,” Marquez-Perkins said. “There are no charges against them at this time.”

The student was transported to the Broward Juvenile Assessment Center, WPLG reported

Police did not release the names of the boy or his parents. 

“An investigation needs to be done to take appropriate actions and resolve the situation so it doesn’t happen again,” Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan told the Sun-Sentinel. “A 9-year-old is way too young to be dealing with a weapon. I’d love to know where he got it.”

There are no metal detectors at the school, the newspaper reported.

Texas AG backs school that expelled black student for sitting out Pledge of Allegiance

The Texas attorney general has intervened in a 2017 lawsuit filed by a Houston teen who said she was expelled from school for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Attorney General Ken Paxton last week filed a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit filed by India Landry and her mother, Kizzy Landry. In the motion, Paxton defends a Texas law that requires students to stand and recite the pledge, unless excused from the “time-honored tradition” through written request from a parent or guardian. 

“School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge,” Paxton said in a news release

>> Related story: Student says she was expelled for sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance

India Landry, now 18, argues in her October 2017 federal lawsuit that she sat out the reciting of the pledge approximately 200 times, with no consequences, while a student at other schools in the Cypress-Fairbank Independent School District. As a senior at Windfern High School, things changed, the lawsuit says.

India was sent to the office multiple times during the spring semester for failing to stand during the pledge, the lawsuit states. That fall, she was in Principal Martha Strother’s office on another matter when the pledge was recited over the intercom.

According to the lawsuit, when India again refused to stand, Strother told her, “Well, you’re kicked outta here.”

The lawsuit alleges that Assistant Principal Penny Irwin-Fitt called India’s mother and told her she had five minutes to pick her daughter up before police officers would escort the girl from the school. 

The suit also alleges that the school secretary told India, “This is not the NFL.”

India told Houston news station KHOU that she, like the dozens of NFL players who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem, chose to sit out the pledge as part of a silent protest of police brutality against people of color.

“I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that,” India told the news station. “It’s not obviously what’s going on in America today.” 

>> Read more trending news

The protest that got India kicked out of school came just days after President Donald Trump suggested NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the anthem, The Washington Post reported.

The NFL protests initiated by quarterback Colin Kaepernick launched similar protests in other arenas, including the nation’s schools. The protests quickly saw backlash from those who saw them as unpatriotic.

“Before this case, never one time did I hear of any school forcing kids to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance,” the Landrys attorney, Randall Kallinen, told the Post Wednesday. “Then, in two weeks, I had three calls.”

Paxton also cited patriotism as the reasoning for requiring the pledge to be recited each school day.

“Requiring the pledge to be recited at the start of every school day has the laudable result of fostering respect for our flag and a patriotic love of our country,” Paxton said in his news release. “This case is about providing for the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance while respecting the parental right to direct the education of children. The district court should uphold the education code and the right of parents to determine whether their children will recite the Pledge of Allegiance.”

>> Related story: Do students have to stand for the Pledge, anthem?

The American Civil Liberties Union said last year that students have the right to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That right comes from a 1943 caseWest Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forcing students to recite the pledge -- and punishing them if they refuse -- violates the students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

The Landrys’ lawsuit states that school administrators refused to allow India to return to class until after KHOU reported on the controversy. Following the negative publicity, she was allowed to return to school and sit during the pledge as she had for years. 

Several of her teachers did not allow her to make up assignments, however, which caused her grades to slip, the lawsuit says. 

The lawyer representing the Landry family argues that the administrators’ actions violated India’s constitutional rights and that she was discriminated against based on her race. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages. 

It also seeks to have all Cypress-Fairbanks ISD employees trained in students’ right to choose whether to recite the pledge and to have any employee who interferes with that right disciplined. 

High school assistant principal bans athletic shorts, tells boys to ‘blame the girls’ 

A Tennessee assistant principal was placed on administrative leave Wednesday after he recorded a video addressing a ban on athletic shorts, in which he suggested male students “blame the girls” for the ban. 

“If you really want someone to blame, blame the girls, because they pretty much ruin everything,” Jared Hensley, who also serves as Soddy-Daisy High School’s athletic director, said in the video. 

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that the video, addressed to students and called “A Helping of Hensley,” was removed from YouTube shortly after Hensley posted it, but another YouTube user reposted a 60-second clip of Hensley’s statements.

“I’m sure most of you heard about the (now deleted) video of Jared Hensley, the vice principal of Soddy-Daisy High School, sharing some super interesting thoughts on the role girls have played in the history of mankind,” Robert Parker, of Chattanooga, wrote on Facebook, where he linked to the YouTube video. “But just in case, here’s a clip of the most egregious part.”

The clip begins with Hensley addressing the ban on athletic shorts.

“I know, boys, you’re thinking, ‘I don’t understand why. It’s not fair. Athletic shorts go past your knees,’” Hensley said in the video. “I didn’t make the rules. Well, I kind of did.”

He goes on to tell the students that anyone who breaks the rule will get detention. After addressing the punishment, he begins blaming female students. 

“They ruin the dress code,” Hensley said. “They ruin … Hey, ask Adam. Look at Eve. That’s really all you really got to get to. You can really go back to the beginning of time.

“It’ll be like that the rest of your life. Get used to it. Just keep your mouth shut, suck it up and follow the rules.”

Later in the video, Hensley addressed public displays of affection at the school.

“Take that down a notch, or 10; save some for the honeymoon, it’ll be fine,” Hensley said. “No kissing and hugging in the halls; we’ve seen enough.”

Hensley then got more serious, addressing the heavy rains and flooding in the area that left one person dead. Soddy-Daisy is located less than 20 miles southwest of Chattanooga. 

“On a serious, serious note, please be careful on the way home,” he said. 

The backlash against Hensley’s video was swift and sharp. Many Twitter users called the educator’s comments misogynistic, disgusting and unacceptable. One user called the footage the “I’m going to be fired” video of the day.

Another user tweeted a note directly to Hensley, saying he would not be the man he is today without the women in his life.

“My wife makes me stronger and loving,” the man, who uses the Twitter handle Mr. Rattlebone, wrote. “My little sister makes me wiser and caring. My friends make me compassionate and welcoming.

“You’re (sic) view of women is not only wrong, it’s repulsive. Do better!” 

Others defended Hensley on social media. One user, who appeared to be a student, called him “a great coach, a great assistant principle (sic) and a great man.”

A second student posted a photo of Hensley directing traffic outside the school Wednesday afternoon in a downpour. 

“You cannot tell me that this man doesn’t care for the students of Soddy-Daisy High School,” the student wrote alongside the hashtag #TeamHensley.

Student Paige Dunny wrote on Facebook that Hensley is one of the most caring members of the school’s faculty. 

“I’m not trying to defend what he said, which was distasteful and shouldn’t (have) been said in the first place, but I will defend Hensley as a person,” Dunny wrote. “I personally had him as a gym teacher, and I can say that not once did he make any sexist remarks or treat us any less because we were girls.”

>> Read more trending news

Teachers also defended Hensley, with English teacher Link Sparks writing, in part, on Facebook that the “silly incident, which is not newsworthy, has been blown out of proportion, has tarnished a good man’s reputation, and could cost him his livelihood.”

Another male Twitter user stated that Hensley was just being direct.

“This is what high school kids need to hear,” the man wrote

Still, others wrote that Hensley should never work in a school again. 

“He needs to be fired,” a female Twitter user wrote. “He is an educator. I repeat -- Hensley is an educator. He is supposed to be the adult in the room, not the resident misogynist. Every female in that school district needs to demand his resignation.”

Bryan Johnson, superintendent of Hamilton County Schools, responded to the video Wednesday night

“In Hamilton County Schools, we are committed to serving all students well,” Johnson wrote in a statement. “We have reviewed the video content. We find the comments about young women in this video inexcusable, as the sentiments expressed do not align with the values of Hamilton County Schools. 

“The situation is under investigation, and this employee has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately. We hold our employees and our leaders to a high standard, and these comments do not match the high expectations we have for our employees.”

Soddy-Daisy principal Steven Henry also apologized Thursday for Hensley’s comments, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported

“As the principal of Soddy-Daisy High School, I believe students are the focus of our work, and we value all students as we seek to create opportunities for success for our graduates,” Henry said in a statement. “The recent comments about young women by Assistant Principal Jared Hensley are not representative of who we are as a school, and I do not condone his comments. 

“I sincerely apologize that the video was played at school and that the inappropriate comments may have upset any member of our community. It is my desire that teachers, students, parents, and the community work together, focused on supporting all students at Soddy-Daisy High.”

Florida principal armed with gun to protect against school shootings

A Florida charter school principal is packing heat.

>> Watch the news report here

The principal of San Jose Academy & Preparatory High School in Jacksonville is one of the first Duval County charter school employees to graduate from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s training academy for “safe school officers.”

Principal and Executive Director Alan Hall now walks through school hallways with the weight of a heavy responsibility on his belt.

If a school shooting happens there, it’s on him to respond.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Discussion of armed officials, teachers inside schools

“I’ve always worried, 'Oh my gosh, what would happen?' How am I going to put myself in those principals’ shoes that have actually had to live this? And I say, now, I at least have a chance to do something about it,” Hall said.

>> Read more trending news 

Before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, many charter schools in our area hired private armed security guards.

The new law requires all Florida schools to have either a sworn law enforcement officer or a safe school officer, which is a school employee who receives high-level firearms training.

In August, ActionNewsJax was the first to report JSO would provide armed officers at all Jacksonville charter schools until the Sheriff’s Office could train school employees to take over.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Charter schools scramble to comply with law requiring armed officers

At San Jose Academy & Preparatory High School, Hall and another employee just completed their four-week JSO training.

“I’ve always had the leadership style that I’m not going to ask any of my people to do something I’m not willing to do,” Hall said.

Hall said the schools’ board approved a full-time safe school officer position. He plans to hire someone this school year.

JSO said employees at Seacoast Charter Academy and Global Outreach Charter Academy have also completed JSO firearms training.

Texas school district closed after threat posted on Snapchat; student arrested

Schools in a Texas school district were closed Monday because of a threat made on Snapchat, the Houston Chronicle reported. A student was later taken into custody Monday afternoon, the newspaper reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The student, who is a juvenile, gave a full confession, Columbus Police Chief Skip Edman told the Chronicle. The student will be charged with terroristic threat, a third-degree felony, the Edman said in a news release.

Officials in the Columbus Independent School District, located west of Houston, received word of a threat on social media just before midnight Sunday, school authorities said in a message on the district’s website. 

"Columbus ISD takes the safety of our students and employees very seriously and it is our top priority," the message said. "This situation has been turned over to the local law enforcement authorities, and Columbus ISD will continue to cooperate with our local authorities. It is the hope of the Columbus Independent School District, that the person who made the threat is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Authorities have not said what kind of threat was made or which social media platform was used to convey it, KHOU reported.

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