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Clemson University bans Harambe memes for promoting racism, rape culture

Clemson University is putting the kibosh on all public displays of Harambe, the oft-memed gorilla who was shot and killed in the Cincinnati Zoo in May, claiming that his image promotes racism and rape culture.

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In an email obtained by Campus Reform, Clemson Graduate Community Director Brooks Artis informed resident advisors that "We are no longer allowing any reference to Harambe (or any other spelling) to be displayed on doors, halls, billboards, or windows."

"Harambe should not be displayed in a public place or a place that is viewed by the public," the email said.

>> Related: RAs criticized after sending email telling students not to make Harambe jokes

Artis, who claimed that Harambe memes have been used to "add to rape culture" and can be a "form of racism," said that the announcement was spawned after a Harambe meme was used maliciously toward a student, though he did not get into further detail about that incident.

Artis also threatened that anyone who violated the new rules would "get in some trouble" and may be reported to the Office of Community and Ethical Standards or Title IX for the use of biased language.

>> Related: Cincinnati Zoo deletes Twitter account after being trolled by Harambe memes

"While we are not banning the word, I want to encourage you to think about what you are saying and how someone who may be a different gender, race, culture, or sexuality than you may take the comment," Artis wrote.

The one exception to the Harambe meme display ban, Artis clarified, is in dorm rooms, "where people would have to be invited into the space to see said decoration."

School requires background checks for parents to eat lunch with students

One Alabama school system has a specific requirement for parents wanting to be involved at their school.

WBRC reported that if a student's mom, dad or guardians want to eat lunch with them within the Pelham City School System in Pelham, Alabama, they will need to pass a background check.

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“We have so much parental involvement that the question came up, ‘How do we know everyone in our school is safe to be around our kids?’” Dr. Scott Coefield, the superintendent of Pelham City Schools, told WBRC.

The background checks cost $15.

WBRC reported that some parents expressed concerns about the policy, with one mother saying she wonders how the policy may affect families who are unable to pay for the background check and those who may not be able to complete one because of their immigration status.

Coefield told WBRC there have already been cost cuts made to make the background check more affordable, in addition to a decrease in other fees for parents. But he won't "bend the rules for people who can't get the proper documentation."

The school system, which became independent in 2014, also has a background check policy for parents accompanying students on field trips.

Superintendent says worker who resigned over ‘lunch shaming' never told to take away student's lunch

Canon-McMillan School District Superintendent Michael Daniels spoke with WPXI on Thursday to clear up what he calls misinformation concerning a former cafeteria worker’s decision to resign over the district's new lunch policy.  

The policy, which affects students whose accounts are delinquent, has gained national attention since Stacy Koltiska went public, saying she resigned after having to enforce the new rules, which she considered a “lunch shaming” policy.   

Under the guidelines of the new policy, “After overdrawing the cafeteria account $25, students in grade K-six will be able to charge an alternate lunch, which will consist of a sandwich, a fruit/vegetable serving and milk. Students in grades seven-12 will not be allowed to charge any additional lunches.”

>> Read more trending stories    

Koltiska, who worked in the cafeteria at Wylandville Elementary School, told WPXI on Monday that she was told to take food away from a young boy because his lunch account was overdrawn by more than $25.  

“And he was like, ‘Oh, chicken!’ And his eyes welled up with tears and it was so heartbreaking and I'll never forget it,” she said.   Daniels disputed her claims.  

“It’s my understanding the kid never had tears in his or her eyes, and there was no food thrown away. And ultimately, the child ate a hot meal that day,” the superintendent said. “I would never stand by, knowing that we had humiliated or embarrassed a child. That is not OK, and that did not happen.”

>>Read: School lunch policy prompts resignation of cafeteria worker  

Daniels said the student did have a delinquent account earlier that week, but by lunchtime the day of the alleged incident, the boy’s balance was paid and he ate a hot meal.  

The Canon-McMillan School District is not the first in the area to implement such a policy.

Daniels said since implementing the policy, the district has seen overdrawn lunch balances shrink.  

“As of Aug. 11, we had 302 delinquent accounts that were at the $25 or over mark. As of Sept. 16 – three weeks in – those delinquent accounts went down to 66,” he said.  

Daniels said that no matter how much a student owes, no child will go hungry. He said the district will examine the program in the future.  

“Because of the heightened awareness of our policy, the board will look at whether there are other options to consider,” Daniels said.  

District leaders said applications for free and reduced lunch plans have also increased because of the new rules. They said they’ll look at the lunch policy again in October to see if anything needs to be changed. 

Boy allowed to run for homecoming queen after high school initially denies request

An Orange County, Florida, high school student said he wants to be homecoming queen, but school administrators initially wouldn’t allow it because of his gender.

That changed when WFTV's Mike Manzoni began asking questions about the policy.

The school is now reversing its decision, saying the policy will allow Anthony Martinez to run for homecoming queen and the principal who told the boy he couldn’t run never consulted with the district’s central office.

>> Read more trending stories  

Martinez said he became emotional when he was told he couldn’t run for homecoming queen. His boyfriend, Joncarlo Medina, wants to run for homecoming king.

Martinez was first told by Cypress Creek High School Principal John McHale he couldn’t run for queen because he’s a boy.

“I started crying. Like, it made me really emotional considering how hard I was trying to be queen,” Martinez said.

When Manzoni contacted the school district for answers, a spokesperson said Martinez is eligible to run for the king or queen position.

The spokesperson said McHale, “Did not consult with the central office, but made what he thought was an appropriate decision at the time.”

Orange County Public Schools’ anti-discrimination policy says the district cannot discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Martinez said he’s glad to know he can now run for the position.

“I just feel it’s phenomenal,” said Martinez. “I feel like you guys convinced them”

The principal sent Manzoni an email Tuesday night saying that after further research, he realized any student may run for either homecoming king or queen. 

Mom says son was suspended for turning in knife

A Michigan mother says her son was suspended for turning in a knife.

The mother told local Michigan station WWMT that her 12-year-old son found the pocket knife in his backpack. The bag had been bought at a Goodwill store and never checked.

>> Read more trending stories  

When the seventh grader found the knife, which had been in a leather case at the bottom of the bag, he reportedly brought it to a counselor and was suspended from school. The mother also said the school tried to get her son kicked off the local football team, but the organization refused.

The mother said that, per school rules, the situation meant an automatic one-year suspension, which was later knocked down to 30 days. She told WWMT that she didn't think her son would return to the same school following the suspension.

Click here to read more.

Texas high school spends $60 million on new football stadium, feeds rivalry

Two rival schools in Texas have taken their rivalry to a new level.

Allen High School in Allen, Texas, built a $60 million stadium, complete with a high-definition video screen, a three-tier press box and a capacity of 18,000 seats that nearly matches the Staples Center.

Could a high school football stadium really be any bigger?

Yes. The answer in Texas is always yes. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The Los Angeles Times reported that Allen's neighboring school district in McKinney, Texas, plans to outdo the Eagles' stadium with a nearly $63 million facility -- what could be the nation's most expensive high school stadium. It will be outfitted with a 55-foot-wide, high-definition video screen, an artificial grass field, seating for 12,000 and an adjacent 500-seat event center.

"Oh, it's a rivalry," said Adam Blanchet, a junior at one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. "I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country."

The median household income in McKinney is $83,000. School taxes for property owners amount to $1.63 per $100 of assessed valuation, the Times reported.

To read more on how McKinney is funding the stadium and what students have to say about it, click here.

School district official apologizes for 'Scalp the Indians' float

A school in Oklahoma is facing backlash after students built a homecoming float with a phrase considered to be insensitive to Native Americans. The float was a wagon featuring a homemade Native American hanging off the back with the words, “Scalp the Indians,” across the side.

>> Read more trending stories

“Immediate action was taken, and the float has been disassembled,” Coweta Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Holmes wrote in a letter addressed to students, families, friends and neighbors of the school district.

After KOKI posted the image of the float on its Facebook page, it found the reaction to be mixed. Some said the float wasn’t a big deal, but others were glad to see the school respond so quickly.

This really has people talking.  The school responded swiftly.  What do you think about the planned float?Posted by FOX23 News on Friday, September 16, 2016

Student’s grades lowered after she refuses to stand for Pledge of Allegiance

California teen Leilani Thomas has chosen to honor her Native American heritage since the second grade, sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance each morning as her school day commenced.

It was only after San Francisco 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick brought attention to that particular form of silent protest that one of Thomas’ teachers had a problem with her actions, the teen told ABC 10 out of Sacramento.

“She told me I was being disrespectful, and I was pretty mad,” the Lower Lake High School student told the news station. “She was being disrespectful to me also, saying I was making bad choices, and I don’t have the choice to sit during the pledge.”

>> Read more trending stories

The unnamed teacher docked Thomas’ participation grade for refusing to stand up. When Thomas brought the issue to school district officials, however, she found that she had their full support.

Konocti School District Superintendent Donna Becnel told ABC 10 that it is a matter of students’ First Amendment rights.

“They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse than anybody else does,” Becnel said.

Thomas and a friend who decided to protest with her have been transferred to another teacher’s class. The teen has been getting support from other friends and family as well, including on social media. 

Leilani being interviewed by the news for being threatened to have her grade lowered, for not standing for the pledge at school. Proud of you babe, stand up for your rights!Posted by Sandra Thomas on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Beyond proud of you Leilani Thomas. Way to be the voice ❤️ love youPosted by Jordan Rivera on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

“I’m understanding it more, that it means a lot and to a lot of my people also,” Thomas told the news station.

Kindergarten teacher writes heartwarming letter to parents

On the first day of school, kindergarten teacher Rosangela Paine is almost as attentive to the freshly grieving mothers – and fathers — as her new 5-year-old charges.

"They just want to hang for a little bit. There’s tears," says the 26-year veteran of goodbyes.

But parents at Palm Beach Public Elemneary School in Palm got special solace last month. As they departed, Paine had a packet for them, complete with tea, tissue and cotton balls and a letter.

Dearest Kindergarten Parents, Here is a little "gift" for you as you leave your precious one with me on the first day of school. As you hold this cotton ball in your hand, the softness will help you to remember the gentle spirit of your child. After you’ve gone home and dried your tears, make yourself a hot cup of tea and relax. Remember that together you and I work for your child to be the best they can be. "Thank you for trusting your child to me for the coming school year. I will do my very best every day to be your child’s guide in learning and exploring this bright, new world they’ve just stepped into. Sincerely, Mrs. Paine

Paine has handled the children deftly as well. The night before schoool, their parents sprinkled "Jitter Glitter" under their pillows. Their supply came with a poem mailed to their homes earlier that week.

"The glitter will help you to sleep through the night, Letting you wake up feeling fresh and bright" one pastel pink stanza declares.

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

Paine has dozens more tricks up her sleeves to charm parents and bewitch students throughout this school year, says class volunteer Joy Barr.

"Probably the best teacher your child will have," says Barr, whose bias began when her sons stepped into this room four and five years ago.

Paine, a Jupiter, Florida, resident who has taught at Palm Beach’s only public school for more than a decade, calls her class Kindergarten by the Sea. For years, she’s filled the school months with endless activities from a teddy bear picnic to lots of "celebrity" guests: Her husband, also a teacher, looks suspiciously like Johnny Appleseed each year.

It’s not all fun. Mrs. Paine has a reputation for homework packets that require lots of reading and student presentations in character – students have chosen to be everyone from Goldilocks and the Big Bad Wolf to Henry Flagler and even a very G-rated Donald Trump.

She can’t remember exactly when she created each activity, but she keeps the materials, the notes home, the Jitter Glitter poem, the plans and assignments organized in big binders. And she documents every moment as they play out in class.

Each year, Paine creates a Shutterfly account where she posts pictures and shares with parents. By year’s end, with the help of her grown daughter, she delivers an hour-long movie that captures each of students at play, at work and in character. The movie is screened for the parents at an end-of-school gathering at a local restaurant.

More than a decade ago, Paine was unable to drop off her oldest daughter on the first day of kindergarten so her husband took up that task. He snapped a picture. And that’s when Paine resolved, "I’m not missing one of those moments ever again."

That girl, Nicolee Paine, is now 23, and in her spare time serves as Paine’s filmmaking accomplice.

"According to my husband, the reason I love kindergarten is I have such a hard time watching my children grow up," said Paine, whose other daughter is 19.

It’s easy to see why parents find Paine charming, but what is it about kindergartners that keeps her coming back?

"It is really comforting. They are extremely sweet. They’re honest. They believe everything you say. There is no talk back," said Paine. "There’s no formula. I see what they need. I teach the way I wish someone was teaching me."

9-year-old boy who hanged himself was ‘bullied to death,’ family says

The family of a West Virginia third-grader who hanged himself Saturday at his home said his death came after months of bullying by other children.

Jackson Grubb, 9, of Sophia, died Sept. 10, the date designated as World Suicide Prevention Day. NBC affiliate WVVA reported that the boy’s family and friends are citing schoolyard bullies as the cause of his death.

Betsy Baber, Jackson’s grandmother and guardian, told the news station that the introverted boy used to fight back against the bullies with humor or, occasionally, physical confrontation, but that in recent weeks, he’d become more withdrawn than usual.

“I was spending time with him, trying to get it out of him,” Baber told WVVA. “But Jack’s the type that holds things in and I couldn’t get to him.”

Jackson’s sister went into his bedroom on Saturday carrying a frog that she’d found outside, hoping the amphibian would cheer him up, the news station said. Instead, she found her brother’s body.

>> Read more trending stories

The boy’s biological mother, Diana Crump, said that when she got to the hospital, staff would not let her into the room with Jackson and emergency responders who had brought him to the emergency room were crying. She said that’s when she knew that her son was gone.

Officials at Jackson’s school, Sophia Soak Creek Elementary School, said his family did not report the alleged bullying, WVVA reported. Baber confirmed that the family had not reported anything to the school and that many of the details surrounding her grandson’s death are only now coming to light.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for Jackson’s burial costs.

We have almost reached our goal thanks to some awesome, caring individuals out there. Thank you doesn't seem to say enough.Posted by Shane Baber on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 800,000 people die each year by their own hands. In the United States, more than a million people attempt suicide annually; the American Association of Suicidology has identified it as the 10th leading cause of death in the country.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). 

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