Penn State sorority sisters denigrate Mexicans in party photo
Penn State's Chi Omega chapter apologized for this photo that was posted on Tumblr.
December 6th, 2012
04:10 PM ET

Penn State sorority sisters denigrate Mexicans in party photo

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – Penn State has had its share of controversy for a while, but this week it is getting some more unwanted attention.

The university's Chi Omega sorority chapter is under investigation after a photo with Mexican stereotypes surfaced on a social media site.

It shows a group of sorority members dressed in ponchos and sombreros and wearing fake mustaches. One woman holds a sign that says: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign says: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."

The photograph was taken at a Mexican-themed party around Halloween, according to the independent college blog, Onward State. It was posted last week on Tumblr.

The university's Panhellenic Council said it had received concerns about the photo and that the council does not condone derogatory behavior from members.

"The Penn State Panhellenic Council recognizes the offensive nature of the photo and is therefore taking the matter very seriously," the executive board said in a statement.

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Opinion: Confronting challenges of American education, 'civil rights issue' of our time
In a speech Wednesday, Mitt Romney proposed dramatically expanding school choice for low-income and disabled children.
May 25th, 2012
02:44 PM ET

Opinion: Confronting challenges of American education, 'civil rights issue' of our time

Editor's note: Pedro Noguera is a professor at New York University and director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. He is editor of "Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation's Schools" and author of "The Trouble With Black Boys ... And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education."

By Pedro Noguera, Special to CNN

(CNN) – For the past 25 years I have been working as an educator, researcher and policy advocate.

I am also the parent of four children who have attended public schools.

In each of these roles I have tried to improve public education and advance the educational rights of children, particularly those who have historically been poorly served.

Given my background, I was pleasantly surprised by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's recent assertion that education was "the civil rights issue of our time".

Romney is only the most recent politician to connect changes in education to civil rights. Similar remarks have been made by President Obama as well.

Typically, the politicians who make such declarations link it to a call for reform.

Romney has chosen to connect his declaration to the issue of choice and vouchers.

The question is: Why does Romney believe that simply by promoting school choice the problems that plague public education in America will go away?

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May 10th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

Voters in America: Vets Wanted? Educator and Parent Guide

(CNN Student News) - Teachers and Parents: Watch with your students or record "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" when it airs on CNN on Sunday, May 13 at 8 p.m. ET and PT, or Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and PT. By recording the documentaries, you agree that you will use the documentaries for educational viewing purposes for a one-year period only. No other rights of any kind or nature whatsoever are granted, including, without limitation, any rights to sell, publish, distribute, post online or distribute in any other medium or forum, or use for any commercial or promotional purpose.

The Educator and Parent Guide is provided for teachers and parents to use as a catalyst for discussion and learning if they choose to watch "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" with their students.

Documentary Description: Multiple deployments interrupt lives and careers and can lead to health and financial challenges. Narrated by former U.S. Army infantryman and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez, "Voters in America: Vets Wanted?" looks at the unique burdens for families of men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it follows the reintegration of members of the Georgia National Guard's 877th Engineer Company into civilian life. Deployed to Afghanistan in December 2010, half of these veterans faced unemployment when they returned to the U.S. The documentary also examines whether the bipartisan Veterans Jobs Bill passed in November 2011 is of any help as our nation's heroes make full transitions back to the lives they left to defend America, and it offers insights into how veterans' unemployment may impact their decisions as they head to the polls this November.

All of the In America parent and teacher educator guides are developed by CNN Student News. CNN Student News is a ten-minute, commercial-free, daily news program for middle and high school students produced by the journalists and educators at CNN. This award-winning show and its companion website are available free of charge throughout the school year.

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April 19th, 2012
02:23 PM ET

Opinion: All kids should take 'Poverty 101'

Editor’s note: Donna Beegle is president and founder of Communication Across Barriers, a consulting firm that works to increase communication across poverty, race, gender and generational barriers, in part with “Poverty 101” workshops. She has a doctorate in education leadership from Portland State University.

By Donna Beegle, Special to CNN

(CNN) – My dream is that a person will not be able to graduate from college without taking a Poverty 101 course. Poverty hurts all humanity and it’s the responsibility of everyone to bond together to eradicate it. Our ignorance about poverty perpetuates it and divides us as a nation.

I didn’t always know this. I was born into generational poverty; for many decades, most of my family members were uneducated, unskilled and, like 44 million Americans, illiterate. They survived in temporary, minimum wage jobs that didn’t pay in respect, nor provide opportunities for advancement.

My dad worked temporary seasonal jobs, the only ones he could get with limited literacy, no education and no specific job skills. My mom, like her widowed mom, picked cotton. We were highly mobile and survived mostly on migrant labor work in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. We followed the fruit season to pick cherries, strawberries, oranges and grapefruits. We picked green beans and dug potatoes. They were workers of the land, never owners. My family worked very hard and worked very long hours, but we were still evicted.

In school, I did not know the middle-class life examples teachers used to explain academic subjects. I was unable to understand and speak in their middle-class language; I said “ain’t,” didn’t know whether to use “gone” or “went,” didn’t know a difference between “seen” or “saw.” When told to “go look it up,” I dutifully went to the dictionary, only to find five more words I did not know and words no one in my world used. This just reinforced there was something wrong with my family, friends and me. It reinforced that education was not for me.

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Opinion: Racial inequality is a shared burden for whites as well as blacks
Browne-Marshall says: 'Ending affirmative action after only thirty years ignores the vestiges of the last 300 years.'
March 19th, 2012
03:45 PM ET

Opinion: Racial inequality is a shared burden for whites as well as blacks

Editor's note: Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College (CUNY), is the author of "Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present" and the "U.S. Constitution: An African-American Context." The Founder/Director of The Law and Policy Group, Inc., she is a former civil rights attorney, and a freelance correspondent covering the U.S. Supreme Court.

By Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Special to CNN

(CNN) –I was born into a country with immense opportunity and a deep history of racism.

Jennifer Gratz, the plaintiff in Michigan’s “reverse discrimination” case, and other opponents of affirmative action inherited this conflicted state of affairs as well. Yet, they want the great weight of America’s racial legacy to fall only on the shoulders of people of color. This inheritance belongs to all of us.

In the fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas. Then, the Court may deem affirmative action in higher education as unconstitutional, thus locking generations of people of color into an inherited inequality. In its present eviscerated state, affirmative action may be a mere bandage on the festering wound of American racism. It is neither a panacea nor a cure-all. However, for now, it is quite necessary.

Challengers of affirmative action focus on the last thirty years of alleged inequality. Unfortunately, for all of us, the seeds of racial injustice were planted centuries ago. Africans were part of the Jamestown Colony before the landing of the Mayflower. Anthony and Mary Johnson, a married African couple, with servants and land, resided in that Virginia colony in the 1600s. Before the century ended, laws were enacted to take their land and create chattel slavery. This is American history. For nearly 300 years, legal inequality subjugated people of color who lived, loved, hoped, and died praying for justice.

When slavery ended due to the efforts of Black and White abolitionists, the 14th Amendment was ratified. The 14th Amendment gave citizenship and equal protection to African-Americans whom the U.S. Supreme Court had previously designated under the Dred Scott decision as non-persons, outside the protection of American laws. The backlash was immediate. African-Americans became the object of terrorism unprecedented in American history. This malevolence by law and tradition would continue for 100 years, assuring every inch of progress would be hard fought and uncertain. Despite Black Codes designed to re-enslave African-Americans and Jim Crow segregation, the quest for equality under law remained the battle cry of people of color.

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Opinion: Russlynn Ali: 'Stark inequity' in our schools demands attention
A survey done by the Dept. of Education showed that African-American and Latino students receive less resources in school.
March 15th, 2012
03:18 PM ET

Opinion: Russlynn Ali: 'Stark inequity' in our schools demands attention

Editor's note: Russlynn Ali is the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. She was a teacher, an attorney and worked at the Children's Defense Fund, and she has also taught law at the University of Southern California Law Center. Ali was appointed to the Department of Education by President Barack Obama in 2009.

By Russlynn Ali, Special to CNN

(CNN) – If a society based on the ideal of fundamental equality is to fulfill its promise, it cannot afford to look away when confronted with stark inequity. Last week, the Department of Education released a trove of data from Part II of the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), a self-reported survey of more than 72,000 schools that serve 85 percent of the nation’s students.

The findings demand our attention.

This survey quantified how school resources are distributed in schools and districts; whether in teacher salaries, the assignment of experienced teachers, or access to college and career preparatory coursework like algebra, calculus or gifted and talented programs. And it showed that African-American and Latino students routinely receive less.

These disparities stand out even more when contrasted with the one area where African-American and Latino students are consistently overrepresented – discipline, including the rates of suspension, expulsion, and in-school arrests.

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Jennifer Gratz: It's time for 'equal' to mean equal
Jennifer Gratz challenged affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan’s undergraduate school in 2003.
March 11th, 2012
01:53 PM ET

Jennifer Gratz: It's time for 'equal' to mean equal

Editor’s note: Jennifer Gratz was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Gratz v. Bollinger which challenged affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has since led efforts against racial preferences. Gratz graduated from the University of Michigan, Dearborn, with a degree in mathematics in 1999.

By Jennifer Gratz, Special to CNN

(CNN) – There is a short phrase, just four words, inscribed up above the main entryway into United States Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law.”

I took note of this inscription on April 1, 2003, when my case, Gratz v. Bollinger, and a companion case, Grutter v. Bollinger, were heard by the high court. My case challenged affirmative action policies in admissions at the University of Michigan’s undergraduate school; Barb Grutter’s challenged affirmative action policies at the law school. By the time my case was heard by the Supreme Court the University of Michigan admitted that their affirmative action policy gave a 20 point boost to blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans on an admissions rating scale.

When I applied to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for admission in 1995, I thought it was my path to medical school. When I received a rejection letter, I ultimately reconsidered my career choice, and pursued a degree in math at another University of Michigan campus. My confidence was shaken.

The court’s inscription brought confidence as I sat listening to oral arguments on that cold spring day. After all, how could anyone – especially legal scholars – conclude that “equal” meant unequal?

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Valedictorian facing deportation gets reprieve in Florida
An immigration judge ruled last week that Daniela Pelaez was to be deported for being in the country illegally.
March 7th, 2012
02:10 PM ET

Valedictorian facing deportation gets reprieve in Florida

by the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) – A Florida high school valedictorian and her sister who were facing deportation will instead meet Wednesday in Washington with Sen. Marco Rubio, after being granted a reprieve.

An immigration judge ruled last week that Daniela Pelaez, 18, and her sister Dayana were to be deported for being in the country illegally.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tuesday gave the sisters a two-year reprieve. The decision was made under the policy of prosecutorial discretion, which is designed to prioritize deportation for illegal crossers with a criminal record, instead of those who pose little or no risk.

"The agency exercises prosecutorial discretion, on a case by case basis, as necessary to focus resources on our stated priorities," ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias said in a statement Wednesday

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March 5th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Miami valedictorian fighting deportation

By John Couwels, CNN

(CNN) – An immigration judge has ruled two teenage girls, including a Miami high school valedictorian, are to be deported for being in the country illegally.

Daniela Pelaez, 18, and her sister Dayana came to the United States with their parents from Colombia 14 years ago and never left – overstaying their tourist visas.

A Miami immigration judge ruled this week that the two girls must be deported to Colombia, leaving the teenagers in shock.

"Education not deportation!" chanted fellow students Friday during a protest outside the North Miami Senior High School, where Pelaez is valedictorian.

The high school senior has a 6.7 grade point average and is at top of her class out of 823 students, said a school administrator.

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February 23rd, 2012
01:47 PM ET

Black male teachers becoming extinct

By Allen Huntspon and George Howell, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – Take a moment and think of all the teachers you had between pre-K and twelfth grade.

Now, how many of them were black men?

For most people, this question won’t take too long to answer. That’s because less than two percent of America’s teachers are black men, according to the Department of Education.

That is less than 1 in 50 teachers.

Terris King, 25, a kindergarten teacher at the Bishop John T. Walker School in Washington D.C., believes that for African-American children, having a strong role model in front of them can make a huge difference.

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