Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Louisiana House votes unanimously on a bill to allow student-initiated prayer in public schools

Posted By and on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 10:07 PM

A bill that originally allowed teachers to fully participate in student-initiated prayer underwent major alterations limiting what teachers can do before passing unanimously in the Louisiana House Wednesday. 

An amendment offered by state Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, limited teachers’ participation to only being allowed to bow their heads during prayer. The amendment, which passed 68-21, also eliminated a requirement for parents to provide permission slips.

“As long as there are geometry and algebra tests in schools, there will be prayer in schools,” said state Rep. Robert Shadoin, R-Ruston, who presented the bill on behalf of state Sen. Ryan Gatti, R-Bossier City. “You cannot take away prayer in schools.”

The House erupted in applause.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Anti-bullying bill that would have authorized use of force against students shelved in House committee

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 5:08 PM


An anti-bullying bill that would have permitted public school officials to use physical force against students taking part in bullying was shelved Tuesday in the Louisiana House Education Committee.

The unsuccessful bill, authored by state Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, aimed to strengthen current anti-bullying procedures and give additional protection to victims to prevent suicides by children who are victims of bullying.

“It’s time for us to get back to discipline, respect, values, and some teeth in our anti-bullying law so that next year we do not have pictures of other children that are lying in the coffin,” Milkovich said.

“Children are bullied over a period of time, the complaints are made to the school system over and over and the school system essentially does nothing,” he added.

The bill would have authorized any school employee who witnessed an incident of bullying to “take all steps deemed necessary to stop the behavior,” including using reasonable force, physical restraint or law enforcement to remove the offending student from school grounds.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

School 'lunch shaming,' prayer by permission slip: What the Louisiana Senate education committee was doing yesterday

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 1:08 PM


The Senate Education Committee on Thursday voted 4-2 to reject a bill that would have prevented schools from punishing students with lunch debt even though the bill had easily passed the House earlier this month.

The committee also voted 5-1 in favor of a bill allowing school employees to participate in student-initiated prayer during the work day if all of the students had obtained signed permission slips from their parents.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

ABCs and AR-15s: State Senate approves bill to allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks to school

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 3:43 PM

State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, presented a bill to the Senate that would allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks. - PHOTO BY DREW WHITE/MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
  • State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, presented a bill to the Senate that would allow Louisiana students to wear bulletproof backpacks.

In the latest effort to fortify schools, Louisiana children may be able to start wearing bulletproof backpacks to class.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday that would let students wear body armor on school grounds or buses. The bill, which passed 34-2, now heads to the House.

Current Louisiana law prohibits body armor on school property.

“Members, we’ve seen the headlines,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, said. “Currently there is nothing that a parent can do that says to a child that you are protected.”

Two members — Sen. J.P. Morrell and Sen. Karen Peterson, both New Orleans Democrats  — voted against the bill.

“A Kevlar backpack is not a Captain America shield,” Morrell said. “You are not going to run out there blocking bullets with a good outcome.”

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Sports-entertainment scholars unafraid to mix it up in the ring

Posted By on Sat, Apr 7, 2018 at 1:44 PM

The conference program
  • The conference program
There's never just one thing happening in New Orleans. At the same time WrestleMania week is slowly, multifariously unfolding across the region, beautiful wrestle-blossoms of different sizes and pay scales blooming in every available metro auditorium or high-school gym, the Southern Sociological Society is holding its annual meeting and conference at the Marriott across from WWE Axxess.

This year's conference theme is "Racial Theory, Analysis, and Politics in Trump's America." Digging into the program, I was gratified to discover multiple panels about pro wrestling, one of which I attended Friday morning.

Dr. Jack Karlis of Georgia College opened, detailing his research into how media framed (or failed to cover) the longstanding connections between President Donald Trump and WWE's owners, the McMahon family. I knew Trump and the McMahons were chummy; I hadn't known that Linda and Vince McMahon were the largest single contributor to the Trump Foundation, a gift Karlis estimates to be around $5,000,000.

JH Roberts
  • JH Roberts
Next up, the University of Georgia's J.H. Roberts discussed activism in pro wrestling during the Trump presidency. Usefully, or perhaps crushingly for some, she defined activism as "not just saying things on Twitter, but doing things." Roberts provided a survey of some forms this has taken, both outward-facing (WWE Superstar Sami Zayn bankrolling a mobile medical clinic in Syria, indy star Zack Sabre Jr. donating merchandise profits to a transgender law center) and inward-facing, which is activism focused on improving pro wrestling itself.

The third panelist, Chris Maverick of Duquesne University, talked about models of performative masculinity in leadership, comparing Trump to Lincoln, an accomplished amateur wrestler, and then to various comic book villains and pro-wrestling characters. The highlight, for me, was the connection Maverick drew between Trump's compelling, crowd-pleasing yet contradictory or semantically incoherent rhetoric and the promos of Dusty Rhodes and the Ultimate Warrior.

Perhaps defying assumptions about those that do vs. those that teach, I discovered both Roberts and Maverick are or have been wrestlers themselves. Roberts is actively training as a pro wrestler, and is part of a collective she describes as "a pro wrestling promotion dedicated to exploring within the boundaries of pro wrestling what you can do with feminist and gender performance."

"For example," Roberts told me, "within pro wrestling there's Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Dragon, Super Dragon ... Drago, in Lucha Underground ... but [in our promotion] we have potentially the first-ever female dragon character. In her storylines she addresses things a female dragon would have to deal with that male dragons wouldn't — aspects of reproduction and female bodily autonomy."
Chris Maverick
  • Chris Maverick

Wrestling is brutal. "I'm in pain pretty much all the time," Roberts says of her training. "At the same time, it's nice to do something so purely physical because it lets me turn my brain off. It's also exciting to push myself in new ways and confront things I'm terrified of, like front flips— since if you don't do those you can't wrestle."

Chris Maverick is on the other side, having retired from in-ring competition. "I did it for six years," he told me. "My last match was maybe eight years ago. I wrestled exactly 50 matches in my career and mostly jobbed," meaning he lost to more prominent wrestlers.

Maverick, a lifelong wrestling fan, joined a wrestling school and started training at age 29. His overwhelmingly younger classmates all dreamed of getting to WWE. "My goal was a little different. I said to myself, 'I'm going to wrestle one match, maybe write a paper about it.' There were 15 of us in the class and only three of us finished because it was so grueling." Maverick's wrestling career did include a stint as a tag-team champ in a West Virginia promotion; it so happened I'd just seen his erstwhile tag-team partner, DJ Z, wrestle at Evolve 102 the night before.

"I wasn't great," Maverick said. "I was older and had bad knees when I started, so I knew my time was limited. I dislocated my shoulder four times... it's hard. It's a very rough sport."

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dillard announces 2018 commencement speaker Chance the Rapper

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 3:15 PM


Grammy Award-winning artist and activist Chance the Rapper will deliver the class of 2018's commencement address at Dillard University next month.

The university announced this year's speaker in a video shared on social media:
Chance won a Best Rap Album Grammy for his acclaimed 2016 mixtape Coloring Book; he also took home awards for Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance and received nominations for Best Rap Song ("No Problem") and for his contributions to Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.

In his activism, Chance has promoted an end to gun violence, particularly in his hometown Chicago, and has been a vocal advocate for racial justice and public school investment.

Musician Janelle Monae delivered Dillard's 2017 address. Other recent speakers have included then-First Lady Michelle Obama, Denzel Washington and Soledad O'Brien.

The school's 2018 graduation ceremony is Saturday, May 12.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

New Orleans students march against gun violence in a March for Our Lives through French Quarter

Posted By on Sat, Mar 24, 2018 at 6:00 PM

New Orleans-area students joined a nationwide March for Our Lives March 24.
  • New Orleans-area students joined a nationwide March for Our Lives March 24.

New Orleans-area students, their teachers, parents and others calling for stronger gun control measures and an end to gun violence rallied through downtown New Orleans March 24, joining a national March for Our Lives movement organized in the wake of the killings of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Hundreds of people spanning at least eight blocks marched from the Marigny through the French Quarter, past Jackson Square and into the CBD, then ending with a rally where students and elected officials called on legislators to adopt a platform promoting stronger gun control measures.

The movement is calling for universal background checks, a ban or age restrictions on so-called assault weapons, the repeal of the National Rifle Association-backed Dickey Amendment preventing the Centers for Disease Control from work that promotes gun control, and an end to the NRA and other lobbying groups' influence in politics.

The banner of "Enough" has waved throughout the last several weeks leading up to the march, following February's Parkland murders and more than 130 deaths in schools since the 2012 killings of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

"Until today I have been silenced," said Olivia Keefe, a 17-year-old Benjamin Franklin High School student and co-organizer of the New Orleans march. "I'm silenced by the words 'you kids don't know what you're talking about.' I'm silenced by the words 'you're too young to understand why these policies will never be changed.' ... How many school shootings has the average member of your generation been a survivor of? ... You're not the one who grew up with active shooter drills."

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Orleans students join massive nationwide walkout against gun violence

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 6:45 PM

Lusher and Sci High students linked arms March 14 as part of a nationwide walkout against gun violence. - PHOTO BY ROBERT MORRIS/UPTOWN MESSENGER
  • Lusher and Sci High students linked arms March 14 as part of a nationwide walkout against gun violence.

Elementary and middle school students from Morris Jeff Community School spilled out onto green space outside the building at 10 a.m. March 14, joining a nationwide student walkout protesting gun violence in the wake of the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Hundreds of students joined the walkout in New Orleans, from The Net and Benjamin Franklin in Gentilly and George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy in Desire to Lusher Charter School and its neighboring New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School in Uptown.

Students from Lusher and Sci High linked arms around the block and held signs demanding congressional action on gun control, or wore the names of victims of school shootings. The national Gun Violence Archive counts 239 school shootings since the murders of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. There have been more than 400 victims of school shootings since then — 138 people were killed.

Under a banner of “Enough,” thousands of students around the U.S. held a 17-minute-long walkout, each minute representing a person killed in Parkland. Loosely organized under the umbrella of the Women’s March Youth Empower coalition, each walkout was led and coordinated by students at each school, a display of the growing collective power among young people mobilizing to have their voices’ heard.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

New Orleans students organizing March for Our Lives for gun control

Posted By on Sat, Mar 10, 2018 at 11:30 AM

Students organizing in Minnesota in February. Student-led March for Our Lives events are planned nationwide this month. - PHOTO BY FIBONACCI BLUE/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Students organizing in Minnesota in February. Student-led March for Our Lives events are planned nationwide this month.

In the wake of the killings of 17 people — mostly students — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, thousands of students around the U.S. have galvanized against gun lobbyists, manufacturers and the elected officials to which they've donated millions of dollars.

That mass student-level organizing has been amplified by social media, acting not only as a living document of the violence committed in schools but a platform on which conservative thinktanks and politicians are routinely ratioed to death by teenagers who aren’t at all interested in thoughts and prayers followed by inaction.

“It was inspiring seeing students who are passionate this stand up and saying, ‘OK, that’s it. That’s enough,’” says Benjamin Franklin High School student Olivia Keefe says. “As someone who can’t vote, you feel like there’s nothing you can do.”

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lawmakers upset over proposal to slash TOPS scholarship program by 80 percent

Posted By and on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 3:50 PM

Jay Dardenne, Gov. John Bel Edwards' commissioner of administration (left) and State Budget Director Barry Dusse answer questions about Edwards' budget proposal yesterday. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY WOLF
  • Jay Dardenne, Gov. John Bel Edwards' commissioner of administration (left) and State Budget Director Barry Dusse answer questions about Edwards' budget proposal yesterday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposal to slash the TOPS college scholarship program by 80 percent to staunch an upcoming budget shortfall has raised concerns among both Republican and Democratic legislators and the nearly 49,000 students who rely on it.

The governor proposed cutting the popular program in a doomsday budget released on Monday. Edwards made clear that he was not in favor of the cut. But he said that it might be necessary if he and Republican lawmakers could not agree on how to close a $1 billion shortfall in state revenues expected in July.

Edwards’ proposal eliminates the state general fund dedication to the Taylor Opportunity Program, aka TOPS. The program will still be funded through the statutory dedication of a dedicated tobacco settlement fund, “a very meager, token amount,” Jay Dardenne, the governor’s commissioner of administration, said.

The proposal recommends a further cut in tuition aid with a 50 percent decrease in funding for Go Grants, a need-based grant for low to moderate-income college students.
Overall, the proposed reductions would total $272 million.

There is “not a cut on the list that I support making,” Edwards said.

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