More potpourri: local, statewide, national and international


By Marsha Sutton

A journalism class at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad that was threatened with closure was saved after students rallied to defend the class.

Speaking before the San Dieguito Union High School District’s Board of Education this past spring to oppose the decision, editor of the school newspaper, Megan Mineiro, used her well-honed journalism skills to reach out to other local media to broaden her appeal and make her case.

Although it took a long while, the class has been re-instated this fall and updated to include the teaching of new skills to prepare journalism students beyond traditional print media.

A win-win for the journalism students at LCC. They get their class back, plus more.

Congratulations to Megan and her team for not taking this one sitting down. Her efforts galvanized prominent San Diego media to cover the story, and her compelling arguments brought about the reversal of a bad decision.

Miranda rights for students

On the subject of students’ rights, an interesting story in Education Week on May 8 summarized a Kentucky Supreme Court verdict that ruled that students must be read their Miranda rights before school district administrators can question students about possible illegal activity.

In this case, according to the story, “A high school student’s statements to an assistant principal about giving prescription pills to other students had to be suppressed in a criminal proceeding because the student had not been given a Miranda warning.”

The student was expelled after being charged with felony possession and dispensing a controlled substance. He was sentenced to jail and appealed the ruling, arguing that admitting his statements to the assistant principal “violated his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”

Although kids selling drugs at school should never be tolerated, school administrators have to walk carefully. When kids are taken away by a principal or assistant principal and questioned with only their accusers in the room, we deny them basic rights of American citizens.

I’ve heard too many cases of students who were questioned about inappropriate activity with no one present during the questioning except the student – a child after all – and the school official. Parents were never contacted until afterward.

Good ruling in Kentucky.

Yoga balls in the news

A story back in February by the Associated Press caught my eye. The headline reads: “Yoga balls replace students’ desk chairs in the classroom.”

A fifth-grade teacher in West Chester, Pennsylvania, replaced regular chairs with large, inflatable yoga balls, also known as stability balls, for students to sit on. The teacher said the change has raised productivity, increased focus and improved balance and core strength.

“By making the sitter work to stay balanced, the balls force muscle engagement and increased blood flow, leading to more alertness,” the story reads.

The user has to work to stay balanced, and researchers say there is a link between physical activity and better learning. Standing desks are also being piloted in some schools, as a way to give kids the chance to “fidget without disrupting class.”

Reading this story, I was reminded of our own local yoga controversy in the Encinitas Union School District, where yoga classes to help students with balance and relaxation was challenged and called religious indoctrination.

The lawsuit resulted in a verdict in favor of the school district, but not after a boatload of money – taxpayer money – was spent to defend against this silliness.

I’m wondering if yoga balls as substitute seats would be considered by some to be religious indoctrination. Hopefully, no one in Pennsylvania has heard about the Encinitas case.

AP classes don’t pass the test

A story in January in Education Week states that Dartmouth College will no longer give credit for Advanced Placement classes, “after faculty members voiced concern that the high school courses aren’t as rigorous as what the college offers.”

Anyone who’s gone to college after taking an AP class in high school knows that college courses are quite different than AP classes in high school. AP in high school varies in technical difficulty depending upon the teacher, despite the requirement that the curriculum be standardized to the highest levels.

AP classes, and the increasing demand (from both social and academic quarters) to take them, are a huge – and I mean HUGE – money-maker for College Board. Dollar figures are staggering, at $90-plus a test.

And what does it get you, besides the status of saying you took XXX number of AP classes? High pressure, sleepless nights and a final realization when you are a senior that it really didn’t matter a whit since no colleges look at AP test scores when evaluating you for admittance.

Good for Dartmouth. Let them lead the way for all colleges to refuse to accept AP credit, and see what eventually happens to the high school AP frenzy.

Teacher suffers from fear of children

This one I love. Here’s a story from Education Week earlier this year about a Cincinnati teacher who’s suing the school district, saying “administrators discriminated against her because she has a rare phobia: a fear of young children.”

She claims young children cause her physical distress. The woman has no children of her own. Of course.

Why, you may ask, did she become a teacher? She was happily teaching to teens in a high school when the K-12 district transferred her to a different post teaching younger children.

According to the story, “the younger students triggered her phobia, caused her blood pressure to soar and forced her to retire.” She’s claiming the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I’m trying not to snicker. No comment necessary.

The Great Wall of Del Mar

I’m watching contractors build the Great Wall of Del Mar, to rival China’s, at Del Mar Heights School this summer. This is the last bastion of fence-free facilities in the Del Mar Union School District, about to come to an end.

Breaking up the concrete, according to workers, took eight days instead of the expected two, because the cement was more than three times as deep as they were told. That would explain why they are now working Saturdays.

It’s like they have been drilling to the center of the earth to break up the concrete. Neighbors report borderline insanity as they’ve had to shut their doors and windows in this heat to the ear-splitting noise.

It’s not just the decibel levels. It’s the massive structure being erected. It looks like something that could be seen by astronauts from outer space.

DMUSD superintendent Holly McClurg said the cost for the project is $212,000. One worker on the site told me it was a waste of taxpayer money. He said it, not me.

Well, at least the children will be safe and secure – as safe and secure as prisoners in a penitentiary. Enjoy your confinement, kiddos.

Malala Day July 12

Since this column is titled Education Matters, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the world’s newest hero who knows better than any of us why education matters so much.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating education rights for girls, spoke to the United Nations at a special youth assembly on July 12, her 16th birthday.

After a long and miraculous recovery, this incredible girl was honored by the U.N. which declared July 12 “Malala Day,” a designation that, according to reports, sparked demonstrations of support worldwide.

In a remarkable 18-minute address at the U.N., Malala exhibited the poise, grace and dignity of a woman thrice her age.

A symbol of determination and resilience, Malala embodies the definition of true courage. As we fuss around with fences, AP squabbles, teacher tenure and yoga in the schools, Malala fights the real fight – for every child, girl and boy, to have the right to an education free of gender discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bloodshed.

Good lord, certainly free of bloodshed.

If you haven’t already heard her address at the U.N., search the Web for it. It’s well worth the time to hear her speak. Diminutive and unassuming, she is articulate, forceful and eloquent.

Once in a lifetime, people like Malala come along. With her bravery and the power of her message, this extraordinary young woman reminds all of us why education matters.

Following are some quotes from her U.N. speech. As you read, pinch yourself if you have trouble believing this is from a 16-year-old girl. And then believe it.

“Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, boy and girl who has raised their voice for their rights.”

“I don’t want revenge on the Taliban. I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.”

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them.”

“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”

“There was a time when women asked men to stand up for women’s rights. This time we will do it for ourselves.”

“I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

— Marsha Sutton can be reached at