Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gubernatorial Candidate Moffett claims Perry Central Officials "monkey with the numbers"

But Moffett's Solution is Unrelated to the Problem

Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett's claim that school choice would eliminate problems related to adults monkeying with student test scores makes no sense at all. Whenever student testing is used for high-stakes decision-making people will be motivated to look good. That motivation will exist in every kind of public school. ...and from time to time, folks will forget the rules.

But Moffett says he has confirmation that trouble is brewing at Perry Central High School.

This from Moffett Campaign Manager David Adams by email:

Another embarrassing scandal will soon attract national attention to Kentucky schools after one eastern Kentucky high school had all of its 2009 ACT test scores thrown out, Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett said.

ACT testing officials informed Moffett [last] Friday that an investigation of test administration irregularities at Perry Central High School in Hazard will be completed within a month. ACT says wrongdoing by students has been ruled out.

"My understanding is you had some parents who moved outside the district, enrolled their kids in other public schools and found out the kids really couldn't read well at all but they had ACT scores in the high 20's if not the 30's," Moffett said. "Obviously it's impossible to get an ACT score that high if you can't in fact read."

Moffett said scandals of this magnitude would be eliminated if Kentucky offered parents and students greater freedom in choosing which school to attend because people would be more diligent in staying informed about school quality.

"Things like this wouldn't happen if we had more public school choice," Moffett said. "People who would be shopping for schools would understand if certain school districts monkey with the numbers."

"For decades we've been undereducating kids and telling the public that all things are okay. We're undereducating about three-quarters of our kids. They simply can't compete in today's global market with that level of education. We've been doing that for generations and we need to stop now."

Moffett is campaigning for governor on a platform which includes major education reform implementing market solutions as opposed to the traditional practice of just throwing money at school officials who are shielded from accountability by their political power.

"Our current district monopolies absolutely strangle parents and take away their ability to get a clear picture of how well their children are being educated," Moffett said.

Quick Hits

Rural Ohio district to pilot online learning for snow days: Some 700 students in a rural Ohio school district will test Internet-based instruction as an alternative during days their schools are closed because of inclement weather. Online classes could help schools avoid having to add days at the end of the year. The district's superintendent said the move could help prepare students for taking online courses in college. (The Columbus Dispatch)

50% of high-school students report participation in bullying: Roughly 50% of high-school students say they have participated in bullying behavior in the last year, while almost as many report being victims, the results of a study show. Researchers with the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics conducted the survey of more than 40,000 high-school students, a third of whom said violence is a concern for them at school. (CNN)

Program pushes students to be active participants in learning: Teachers at a Utah junior high school have developed a program that combines the teaching of English, history, science and technology into an interdisciplinary curriculum aimed at getting students to be active participants in learning. Students research and create multimedia presentations, interview business leaders and participate in hands-on science. "We're into changing the world of learning, and get right to the root of it. It should be a lifelong experience," one of the teachers said. (The Daily Herald)

Gifted students learn forensic science through modern version of Clue: Students in a gifted and talented program at an Ohio middle school are participating in a modern version of the board game Clue, designed to warn students about Internet dangers while teaching them about forensic science. The students, who also visited the forensic science department at Marshall University, will use anthropology, ballistics, handwriting analysis and other skills to solve the mystery. (WSAZ-TV)

Rhee warns ineffective teachers as she ends tenure in D.C.: Outgoing Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee issued a warning Thursday to ineffective teachers and teacher-training programs as she wrapped up her contentious tenure. "Now we have a new teacher-evaluation system where we know who's ineffective, minimally effective and highly effective," Rhee told attendees at a College Board forum. "We're going to back-map where they came from, which schools produced these people. And if you are producing ineffective or minimally effective teachers, we're going to send them back to you." (The Washington Post)

How Chicago's first turnaround school is faring: Improvements are slowly taking root at Chicago's first school to undergo a turnaround process. Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- then Chicago's schools chief -- implemented the turnaround process at the long-struggling William T. Sherman Elementary School in 2006 and has brought the model nationwide to at least 5,000 schools. At Sherman, a new team of teachers and administrators was put in place and achievement is up, but scores still lag behind city averages and the turnaround has taken longer than some had hoped. (Education Week)

Students can learn fractions using new iPhone app: A new iPhone app is aimed at helping elementary-school students better understand fractions through a game that uses the phone's motion sensors. Motion Math is based on the notion of embodied cognition, which the developers say will help students develop a visceral understanding of fractions. (The Wall Street Journal)

Opinion - Relationships are crucial to successful school turnarounds: A Cincinnati principal was able to turn around a struggling high school by keeping the same teachers in place and working to build relationships among staff and the community. While many turnaround efforts focus on test scores and data, journalist and author Laura Pappano makes the case that relationships factor just as significantly into real change. "For turnaround to be meaningful, it must be deeper and more durable than test results," she writes. (Education Week)

Identifying and reaching students with depression: Students with depression can improve academically if teachers recognize the symptoms and apply effective measures, write R. Marc A. Crundwell, a school psychologist, and Kim Killu, an associate professor of special education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. They identify the characteristics of depression and what form they might take in school, such as not completing class work. They also offer strategies on how to help students with depression. (Educational Leadership)

Fewer students are being classified as learning-disabled: The number of students nationwide classified as having a learning disability dropped from 2.9 million in the 2000-01 school year to 2.6 million in the 2007-08 school year -- or 5.2% of all students, according to Department of Education statistics. The percentage of students enrolled in special-education courses also dropped recently -- from 13.8% in the 2004-05 school year to 13.4% in the 2007-08 school year. Officials say the decreases could be linked to improved achievement in reading because of Response to Intervention and better lessons. (Education Week)

Study shows academic-proficiency standards vary widely across states: Academic-proficiency standards on state exams may vary by as many as four grade levels from state to state, according to a study by the American Institutes for Research. The researchers measured the results of state tests against international testing benchmarks to compare the standards and recommended that states develop common proficiency goals. "It documents again what we've long known, which is on current state tests, the bar for proficiency is literally all over the map," said the president of one education-focused nonprofit group. (Education Week)

Teacher-accreditation groups plan merger: A higher bar could be set for teacher preparation after the merger of the two national accreditation groups for teacher education -- the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. Under the agreement, the groups would merge within the next two years to become the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation. While the action will have no immediate effect on teacher education, a potential long-term goal for the group is to "raise the bar for quality educator preparation." (Education Week)

Why aren't more high schools opting for later start times?: Research shows that teenagers are more alert if they can sleep later, but many high schools across the country have resisted delaying start times because of political and logistical concerns. High-school schedule changes often lead to child-care issues for families whose older children are responsible for younger siblings after school, as well as concerns about after-school activities, with some athletics events running into the evening. (

The effects of bilingualism on student learning: New research using neuroscience and other methods suggests that learning a second language -- even at a later age than previously thought -- might have additional learning benefits for students. One study found early social interaction with native speakers is critical to language learning and might also have implications for general learning, while another showed students who are multilingual are more flexible problem-solvers. (Education Week)

Baltimore considers proposals for charter, transformation schools: A K-5 school that integrates arts into the curriculum, a K-8 academy that is focused on project-based learning and two charters that feature single-gender instruction are among those being proposed to open next year in Baltimore. Schools chief Andres Alonso is expected to make recommendations today on which of the 11 proposed charters and transformation schools should receive school-board approval. (The Sun)

Ravitch - Why NYC should not use value-added data to rate teachers: School officials in New York City should abandon plans to release teacher ratings that were created with value-added data, education expert and author Diane Ravitch writes in this opinion piece. She argues that "the methodology is both inaccurate and unstable" and ignores other external factors -- such as family income -- that greatly influence student performance. Making public such ratings will only serve to demoralize effective teachers and lead educators to avoid the neediest students, she writes. (Daily News)

NYC schools chief defends planned release of teacher-effectiveness data: In this opinion article, New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein defends the city's use of value-added data to rate 12,000 individual teachers, as well as plans to release the ratings to the public. Klein concedes that the data may offer an incomplete picture of teacher performance, but he argues that the data does offer important information about which teachers are consistently performing above or below their peers. (New York Post)

Obama enlists schools, educators to curb student bullying: The White House is asking educators to help prevent bullying and protect students, saying that in some cases the harassment might violate students' civil rights. The Obama administration is offering guidance to school districts and colleges on how to address discrimination resulting from bullying that in some cases has led students to commit suicide. "We've got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage," President Barack Obama said. (The Washington Post)

Poll highlights misperceptions about learning disabilities: There are many misperceptions and stigmas about learning disabilities that lead some parents to delay seeking help for their children who display early signs of a disability, according to a recent poll. The survey of 1,000 teachers, parents and others was conducted by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and GfK Roper. Experts, however, encourage interventions from an early age and say such attitudes about learning disabilities put students at a disadvantage. (Early Ed Watch blog)

How will state elections affect education reform in Indiana?: Education reform is expected to be a priority when Indiana's legislature reconvenes in January. But which reforms are pursued could be decided in state elections held Nov. 2. Some of the policy priorities outlined by state schools chief Tony Bennett -- such as greater school choice and merit pay for teachers -- may face more opposition if a Democratic majority remains in place. But other priorities, such as the expansion of charter schools, have bipartisan support. (Evansville Courier & Press)

Religious Discrimination by Principals of Good Character in Carlisle Co?

"The Muslims are planning a great jihad against America.
Arise, be viligent and don't let it happen."

This is part of a controversial email message passed around the Carlisle County Schools this past week. But it was not circulated by political activists. It was circulated by public school principals Keith Edging and Jessica Thomas. They sent it to the entire faculty.

The Carlisle County Schools have an anti-discrimination policy but Superintendent Keith Shoulders ignored it taking the stunning position that since the principals did not write the email, and only forwarded it to hundreds of people, that it was not discriminatory.

Shoulders did acknowledge a violation of school technology policy but instead of disciplinary action, Shoulders chose to praise the principals as "outstanding people" whose character he knew.

After all, who among us has not forwarded a bigotted email that made unfair claims and shamefully denegrated the faith of millions of non-Christians at one time or another?

This from WPSD:

With a simple click of the mouse, an e-mail was sent on its way Sept. 16.

It went from the high school principal to the elementary school principal, then to an entire school faculty.

One of the readers, who declined to share her name, remembers reading it, "I was just appalled that school e-mail would be used to send something so hateful."

It was a forwarded e-mail that read, in part, Muslim women were "slaves" who were
"hit" by their husbands.

It also claimed Muslims were planning an attack on Americans.

"The Muslims are planning a great jihad against America. Arise, be viligent and don't let it happen," the woman shared, reading from the e-mail.

She read it over and over, each time a new sentence catching her eye like this one: "They have an Army that is willing to shed blood in the name of Islam."

The Carlisle County School District has anti-discrimination policy. But Superintendent Dr. Keith Shoulders said the e-mail did not violate school policy because the women in question were not the authors and had simply forwarded it.

"The real thing it violates is our technology policy that school e-mail should be used
for school work," Shoulders said Thursday.

Shoulders said the two principals have already been talked to.

"They're outstanding people and I know their character. They just did
something we have all done at times: got an e-mail, scanned it and sent it on."

Still he admitted, the email was troubling.

"Obviously not every Muslim is a terrorist. That's an unfair statement."

And that's why the woman who spoke under the condition of anonimity said it is the educators who need an education in tolerance.

"They just need to be taught."

No disciplinary action will be taken against the two principals.

The woman we talked to has contacted the ACLU. The group's William Sharpe confimed they sent an open records request to the district to obtain the e-mail.

Superintendent Shoulders said he had received the request.

Sharpe told Local 6 the ACLU wants to investigate further before deciding whether to press on with the case.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Anti-Gay Bullying a Civil Rights Violation?

This from guest blogger Christina A. Samuels at Politics K-12:

Anti-Gay Bullying May Violate Civil Rights, Ed. Dept. Warns

Certain types of harassment rooted in sex-role stereotypes or religious differences may be a federal civil rights violation, even though members of those groups are not specifically protected in federal law, according to new guidance released [recently] by the U.S. Department of Education's office of civil rights.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin; Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibit discrimination based on disability status. Many local districts and schools have anti-bullying and harassment policies that go beyond those protected groups, said Russlyn H. Ali, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights.

But even when local agencies do not have such policies, federal law imposes obligations on schools, she said....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Feds Issue Guidance on Harassment & Bullying

Yesterday, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education issued a "Dear Colleague letter" concerning public school officials' obligations to protect students from student-on-student harassment.

The letter cites various legal authorities and clarifies the relationship between bullying and discriminatory harassment while providing examples of harassment and guidance on how a school should respond in each case. The letter is reprinted below. More information will be forwarded to Kentucky Superintendents by Education Commissioner Terry Holliday in the near future. It will add informatin relative to state law.

October 26, 2010

Dear Colleague:

In recent years, many state departments of education and local school districts have taken steps to reduce bullying in schools. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) fully supports these efforts. Bullying fosters a climate of fear and disrespect that can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of its victims and create conditions that negatively affect learning, thereby undermining the ability of students to achieve their full potential. The movement to adopt anti-bullying policies reflects schools’ appreciation of their important responsibility to maintain a safe learning environment for all students. I am writing to remind you, however, that some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal antidiscrimination laws enforced by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). As discussed in more detail below, by limiting its response to a specific application of its anti-bullying disciplinary policy, a school may fail to properly consider whether the student misconduct also results in discriminatory harassment.

The statutes that OCR enforces include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 19641
(Title VI), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 19722 (Title IX), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 19733
(Section 504); and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 19904 (Title II). Section 504 and Title II prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.5 School districts may violate these civil rights statutes and the Department’s implementing regulations when peer harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability is sufficiently serious that it creates a hostile environment and such harassment is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed, or ignored by school employees.6 School personnel who understand their legal obligations to address harassment under these laws are in the best position to prevent it from occurring and to respond appropriately when it does. Although this letter focuses on the elementary and secondary school context, the legal principles also apply to postsecondary institutions covered by the laws and regulations enforced by OCR.

Some school anti-bullying policies already may list classes or traits on which bases bullying or harassment is specifically prohibited. Indeed, many schools have adopted anti-bullying policies that go beyond prohibiting bullying on the basis of traits expressly protected by the federal civil rights laws enforced by OCR—race, color, national origin, sex, and disability—to include such bases as sexual orientation and religion. While this letter concerns your legal obligations under the laws enforced by OCR, other federal, state, and local laws impose additional obligations on schools.7 And, of course, even when bullying or harassment is not a civil rights violation, schools should still seek to prevent it in order to protect students from the physical and emotional harms that it may cause.

Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name-calling; graphic and written statements, which may include use of cell phones or the Internet; or other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating. Harassment does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents. Harassment creates a hostile environment when the conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school. When such harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability, it violates the civil rights laws that OCR enforces.8

A school is responsible for addressing harassment incidents about which it knows or reasonably should have known.9 In some situations, harassment may be in plain sight, widespread, or well-known to students and staff, such as harassment occurring in hallways, during academic or physical education classes, during extracurricular activities, at recess, on a school bus, or through graffiti in public areas. In these cases, the obvious signs of the harassment are sufficient to put the school on notice. In other situations, the school may become aware of misconduct, triggering an investigation that could lead to the discovery of additional incidents that, taken together, may constitute a hostile environment. In all cases, schools should have well-publicized policies prohibiting harassment and procedures for reporting and resolving complaints that will alert the school to incidents of harassment.10

When responding to harassment, a school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred. The specific steps in a school’s investigation will vary depending upon the nature of the allegations, the source of the complaint, the age of the student or students involved, the size and administrative structure of the school, and other factors. In all cases, however, the inquiry should be prompt, thorough, and impartial.

If an investigation reveals that discriminatory harassment has occurred, a school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring. These duties are a school’s responsibility even if the misconduct also is covered by an anti-bullying policy, and regardless of whether a student has complained, asked the school to take action, or identified the harassment as a form of discrimination.

Appropriate steps to end harassment may include separating the accused harasser and the target, providing counseling for the target and/or harasser, or taking disciplinary action against the harasser. These steps should not penalize the student who was harassed. For example, any separation of the target from an alleged harasser should be designed to minimize the burden on the target’s educational program (e.g., not requiring the target to change his or her class schedule).

In addition, depending on the extent of the harassment, the school may need to provide training or other interventions not only for the perpetrators, but also for the larger school community, to ensure that all students, their families, and school staff can recognize harassment if it recurs and know how to respond. A school also may be required to provide additional services to the student who was harassed in order to address the effects of the harassment, particularly if the school initially delays in responding or responds inappropriately or inadequately to information about harassment. An effective response also may need to include the issuance of new policies against harassment and new procedures by which students, parents, and employees may report allegations of harassment (or wide dissemination of existing policies and procedures), as well as wide distribution of the contact information for the district’s Title IX and Section 504/Title II coordinators.11

Finally, a school should take steps to stop further harassment and prevent any retaliation against the person who made the complaint (or was the subject of the harassment) or against those who provided information as witnesses. At a minimum, the school’s responsibilities include making sure that the harassed students and their families know how to report any subsequent problems, conducting follow-up inquiries to see if there have been any new incidents or any instances of retaliation, and responding promptly and appropriately to address continuing or new problems.

When responding to incidents of misconduct, schools should keep in mind the following:

  • The label used to describe an incident (e.g., bullying, hazing, teasing) does not determine how a school is obligated to respond. Rather, the nature of the conduct itself must be assessed for civil rights implications. So, for example, if the abusive behavior is on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability, and creates a hostile environment, a school is obligated to respond in accordance with the applicable federal civil rights statutes and regulations enforced by OCR.When the behavior implicates the civil rights laws, school administrators should look beyond simply disciplining the perpetrators. While
    disciplining the perpetrators is likely a necessary step, it often is insufficient. A school’s responsibility is to eliminate the hostile environment created by the harassment, address its effects, and take steps to ensure that harassment does not recur. Put differently, the unique effects of discriminatory harassment may demand a different response than would other types of bullying.

Below, I provide hypothetical examples of how a school’s failure to recognize student misconduct as discriminatory harassment violates students’ civil rights.12 In each of the examples, the school was on notice of the harassment because either the school or a responsible employee knew or should have known of misconduct that constituted harassment. The examples describe how the school should have responded in each circumstance.

Title VI: Race, Color, or National Origin Harassment

Some students anonymously inserted offensive notes into African-American students’ lockers and notebooks, used racial slurs, and threatened African-American students who tried to sit near them in the cafeteria. Some African-American students told school officials that they did not feel safe at school. The school investigated and responded to individual instances of misconduct by assigning detention to the few student perpetrators it could identify. However, racial tensions in the school continued to escalate to the point that several fights broke out between the school’s racial groups.

In this example, school officials failed to acknowledge the pattern of harassment as indicative of a racially hostile environment in violation of Title VI. Misconduct need not be directed at a particular student to constitute discriminatory harassment and foster a racially hostile environment. Here, the harassing conduct included overtly racist behavior (e.g., racial slurs) and also targeted students on the basis of their race (e.g., notes directed at African-American students). The nature of the harassment, the number of incidents, and the students’ safety concerns demonstrate that there was a racially hostile environment that interfered with the students’ ability to participate in the school’s education programs and activities.

Had the school recognized that a racially hostile environment had been created, it would have realized that it needed to do more than just discipline the few individuals whom it could identify as having been involved. By failing to acknowledge the racially hostile environment, the school failed to meet its obligation to implement a more systemic response to address the unique effect that the misconduct had on the school climate. A more effective response would have included, in addition to punishing the perpetrators, such steps as reaffirming the school’s policy against discrimination (including racial harassment), publicizing the means to report allegations of racial
harassment, training faculty on constructive responses to racial conflict, hosting class discussions about racial harassment and sensitivity to students of other races, and conducting outreach to involve parents and students in an effort to identify problems and improve the school climate. Finally, had school officials responded appropriately education programs and activities (e.g., by causing some Jewish students to avoid the library and computer lab). Therefore, although the discipline that the school imposed on the perpetrators was an important part of the school’s response, discipline alone
was likely insufficient to remedy a hostile environment. Similarly, removing the graffiti, while a necessary and important step, did not fully satisfy the school’s responsibilities. As discussed above, misconduct that is not directed at a particular student, like the graffiti in the bathroom, can still constitute discriminatory harassment and foster a hostile environment. Finally, the fact that school officials considered one of the incidents “teasing” is irrelevant for determining whether it contributed to a hostile environment.

Because the school failed to recognize that the incidents created a hostile environment, it addressed each only in isolation, and therefore failed to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment and prevent its recurrence. In addition to disciplining the perpetrators, remedial steps could have included counseling the perpetrators about the hurtful effect of their conduct, publicly labeling the incidents as anti-Semitic, reaffirming the school’s policy against discrimination, and publicizing the means by which students may report harassment. Providing teachers with training to recognize and address anti-Semitic incidents also would have increased the effectiveness of the school’s response. The school could also have created an age-appropriate program to educate its students about the history and dangers of anti-Semitism, and could have conducted outreach to involve parents and community groups in preventing future anti-Semitic harassment.

Title IX: Sexual Harassment

Shortly after enrolling at a new high school, a female student had a brief romance with another student. After the couple broke up, other male and female students began routinely calling the new student sexually charged names, spreading rumors about her sexual behavior, and sending her threatening text messages and e-mails. One of the student’s teachers and an athletic coach witnessed the name calling and heard the rumors, but identified it as “hazing” that new students often experience. They also noticed the new student’s anxiety and declining class participation. The
school attempted to resolve the situation by requiring the student to work the problem out directly with her harassers.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Thus, sexual harassment prohibited by Title IX can include conduct such as touching of a sexual nature; making sexual comments, jokes, or gestures; writing graffiti or displaying or distributing sexually explicit drawings, pictures, or written materials; calling students sexually charged names; spreading sexual rumors; rating students on sexual activity or performance; or circulating, showing, or creating e-mails or Web sites of a sexual nature.

In this example, the school employees failed to recognize that the “hazing” constituted sexual harassment. The school did not comply with its Title IX
obligations when it failed to investigate or remedy the sexual harassment.
The conduct was clearly unwelcome, sexual (e.g., sexual rumors and name calling), and sufficiently serious that it limited the student’s ability to participate in and benefit from the school’s education program (e.g., anxiety and declining class participation).

The school should have trained its employees on the type of misconduct that constitutes sexual harassment. The school also should have made clear to its employees that they could not require the student to confront her harassers. Schools may use informal mechanisms for addressing harassment, but only if the parties agree to do so on a voluntary basis. Had the school addressed the harassment consistent with Title IX, the school would have, for example, conducted a thorough investigation and taken interim measures to separate the student from the accused harassers. An effective response also might have included training students and employees on the school’s policies related to harassment, instituting new procedures by which employees should report allegations of harassment, and more widely distributing the contact information for the district’s Title IX coordinator. The school also might have offered the targeted student tutoring, other academic assistance, or counseling as necessary to remedy the effects of the harassment.16

Title IX: Gender-Based Harassment

Over the course of a school year, a gay high school student was called names (including anti-gay slurs and sexual comments) both to his face and on social networking sites, physically assaulted, threatened, and ridiculed because he did not conform to stereotypical notions of how teenage boys are expected to act and appear (e.g., effeminate mannerisms, nontraditional choice of extracurricular activities, apparel, and personal grooming choices). As a result, the student dropped out of the drama club to avoid further harassment. Based on the student’s self-identification as gay and the homophobic nature of some of the harassment, the school did not recognize that the misconduct included discrimination covered by Title IX. The school responded to complaints from the student by reprimanding the perpetrators consistent with its anti-bullying policy. The reprimands of the identified perpetrators stopped the harassment by those individuals. It did not,
however, stop others from undertaking similar harassment of the student.

As noted in the example, the school failed to recognize the pattern of misconduct as a form of sex discrimination under Title IX. Title IX prohibits harassment of both male and female students regardless of the sex of the harasser—i.e., even if the harasser and target are members of the same sex. It also prohibits gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping. Thus, it can be sex discrimination if students are harassed either for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for their sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity. Title IX also prohibits sexual harassment
and gender-based harassment of all students, regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the harasser or target.

Although Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based solely on sexual orientation, Title IX does protect all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, from sex discrimination. When students are subjected to harassment on the basis of their LGBT status, they may also, as this example illustrates, be subjected to forms of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX. The fact that the harassment includes anti-LGBT comments or is partly based on the target’s actual or perceived sexual orientation does not relieve a school of its obligation under Title IX to investigate and remedy overlapping sexual harassment or gender-based harassment. In this example, the harassing conduct was based in part on the student’s failure to act as some of his peers believed a boy should
act. The harassment created a hostile environment that limited the student’s ability to participate in the school’s education program (e.g., access to the drama club). Finally, even though the student did not identify the harassment as sex discrimination, the school should have recognized that the student had been subjected to gender-based harassment covered by Title IX.

In this example, the school had an obligation to take immediate and effective action to eliminate the hostile environment. By responding to individual incidents of misconduct on an ad hoc basis only, the school failed to confront and prevent a hostile environment from continuing. Had the school recognized the conduct as a form of sex discrimination, it could have employed the full range of sanctions (including progressive discipline) and remedies designed to eliminate the hostile environment. For example, this approach would have included a more comprehensive response to the situation that involved notice to the student’s teachers so that they could ensure the student was not subjected to any further harassment, more aggressive monitoring by staff of the places where harassment occurred, increased training on the scope of the school’s harassment and discrimination policies, notice to the target and harassers of available counseling services and resources, and educating the
entire school community on civil rights and expectations of tolerance, specifically as they apply to gender stereotypes. The school also should have taken steps to clearly communicate the message that the school does not tolerate harassment and will be responsive to any information about such conduct.17

Section 504 and Title II: Disability Harassment

Several classmates repeatedly called a student with a learning disability “stupid,” “idiot,” and “retard” while in school and on the school bus. On one occasion, these students tackled him, hit him with a school binder, and threw his personal items into the garbage. The student complained to his teachers and guidance counselor that he was continually being taunted and teased. School officials offered him counseling services and a psychiatric evaluation, but did not discipline the offending students. As a result, the harassment continued. The student, who had been performing well academically, became angry, frustrated, and depressed, and often refused to go to school to avoid the harassment.

In this example, the school failed to recognize the misconduct as disability harassment under Section 504 and Title II. The harassing conduct included behavior based on the student’s disability, and limited the student’s ability to benefit fully from the school’s education program (e.g., absenteeism). In failing to investigate and remedy the misconduct, the school did not comply with its obligations under Section 504 and Title II.

Counseling may be a helpful component of a remedy for harassment. In this example, however, since the school failed to recognize the behavior as disability harassment, the school did not adopt a comprehensive approach to eliminating the hostile environment. Such steps should have at least included disciplinary action against the harassers, consultation with the district’s Section 504/Title II coordinator to ensure a comprehensive and effective response, special training for staff on recognizing and effectively responding to harassment of students with disabilities, and monitoring to ensure that the harassment did not resume. 18

I encourage you to reevaluate the policies and practices your school uses to address bullying19 and harassment to ensure that they comply with the mandates of the federal civil rights laws. For your convenience, the following is a list of online
resources that further discuss the obligations of districts to respond to harassment prohibited under the federal antidiscrimination laws enforced by OCR:

Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic (Revised 2008):
Dear Colleague Letter: Sexual Harassment Issues (2006):
Dear Colleague Letter: Religious Discrimination (2004):
Dear Colleague Letter: First Amendment (2003):
Sexual Harassment Guidance (Revised 2001):
Dear Colleague Letter: Prohibited Disability Harassment (2000):
Racial Incidents and Harassment Against Students (1994):

Please also note that OCR has added new data items to be collected through its Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which surveys school districts in a variety of areas related to civil rights in education. The CRDC now requires districts to collect and report information on allegations of harassment, policies regarding harassment, and discipline imposed for harassment. In 2009-10, the CRDC covered nearly 7,000 school districts, including all districts with more than 3,000 students. For more information about the CRDC data items, please visit

OCR is committed to working with schools, students, students’ families, community and advocacy organizations, and other interested parties to ensure that students are not subjected to harassment. Please do not hesitate to contact OCR if we can provide assistance in your efforts to address harassment or if you have other civil rights concerns.

For the OCR regional office serving your state, please visit:,
or call OCR’s Customer Service Team at 1-800-421-3481 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-800-421-481 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure equal access to education, and to promote safe and respectful school climates for America’s students.



Russlynn Ali
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

1 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. 2 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.3 29 U.S.C. § 794.4 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.5 OCR also enforces the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. § 6101 et seq., and the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, 20 U.S.C. § 7905. This letter does not specifically address those statutes.6 The Department’s regulations implementing these statutes are in 34 C.F.R. parts 100, 104, and 106. Under these federal civil rights laws and regulations, students are protected from harassment by school employees, other students, and third parties. This guidance focuses on peer harassment, and articulates the legal standards that apply in administrative enforcement and in court cases where plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief. 7 For instance, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has jurisdiction over Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000c (Title IV), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin by public elementary and secondary schools and public institutions of higher learning. State laws also provide additional civil rights protections, so districts should review these statutes to determine what protections they afford (e.g., some state laws specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation).8 Some conduct alleged to be harassment may implicate the First Amendment rights to free speech or expression. For more information on the First Amendment’s application to harassment, see the discussions in OCR’s Dear Colleague Letter: First Amendment (July 28, 2003), available at, and OCR’s Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties (Jan. 19, 2001) (Sexual Harassment Guidance), available at A school has notice of harassment if a responsible employee knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, about the harassment. For a discussion of what a “responsible employee” is, see OCR’s Sexual Harassment Guidance.10 Districts must adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of student and employee sex and disability discrimination complaints, and must notify students, parents, employees, applicants, and other interested parties that the district does not discriminate on the basis of sex or disability. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.106; 28 C.F.R. § 35.107(b); 34 C.F.R. § 104.7(b); 34 C.F.R. § 104.8; 34 C.F.R. § 106.8(b); 34 C.F.R. § 106.9.11 Districts must designate persons responsible for coordinating compliance with Title IX, Section 504, and Title II, including the investigation of any complaints of sexual, gender-based, or disability harassment. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.107(a); 34 C.F.R. § 104.7(a); 34 C.F.R. § 106.8(a). 12 Each of these hypothetical examples contains elements taken from actual cases. 16 More information about the applicable legal standards and OCR’s approach to investigating allegations of sexual harassment is included in OCR’s Sexual Harassment Guidance, available at 17 Guidance on gender-based harassment is also included in OCR’s Sexual Harassment Guidance, available at 18 More information about the applicable legal standards and OCR’s approach to investigating allegations of disability harassment is included in OCR’s Dear Colleague Letter: Prohibited Disability Harassment (July 25, 2000), available at 19 For resources on preventing and addressing bullying, please visit, a Web site established by a federal Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. For information on the Department’s bullying prevention resources, please visit the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools’ Web site at For information on regional Equity Assistance Centers that assist schools in developing and implementing policies and practices to address issues regarding race, sex, or national origin discrimination, please visit

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cheerleader Required to Cheer for Man Who Assaulted Her

This from Ms Magazine:
If someone assaulted you, would you want to then cheer for his performance on a basketball court? A 16-year-old Texas high school student sure didn’t.

High school football star Rakheem Bolton and two others were indicted for sexual assault of a child–identified only as H.S.–at a post-game party in 2008. According to H.S.–a fellow student and cheerleader at Silsbee High–Bolton, football player Christian Rountree and another juvenile male forced her into a room, locked the door, held her down and sexually assaulted her. When other party-goers tried to get into the room, two of the men fled through an open window, including Bolton, who left clothing behind. Bolton allegedly threatened to shoot the occupants of the house when the homeowner refused to return his clothes.

This from OnPoint:

The cheerleader, identified only as H.S., sued the principal of Silsbee (Texas) High School and other officials after they removed her from the school's cheerleading squad because she refused to cheer for Rakheem Bolton when he took free throws during a basketball game in February 2009. Bolton had allegedly assaulted her at an off-campus party the previous October.

Under Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969), students cannot be punished merely for expressing their personal views on the school premises unless school authorities have reason to believe that such expression will “substantially interfere with the work of the school or impinge upon the rights of other students.”

“It seems blatantly oppressive for Defendants to condition H.S.’ participation in [the cheerleading] program on whether she cheers for her rapist when he was being individually rewarded for having been allegedly fouled in a game,” her attorney, Larry Watts of Missouri City, Texas, said in a brief. Bolton is no Kobe Bryant and the Silsbee High School team is not the Lakers!”But in a Sept. 16 opinion, the 5th Circuit showed the same indifference to H.S.'s ordeal as the school officials.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Early Childhood Education: The Path to School Success

KET dedicated its latest broadcast of Education Matters - on early childhood education - to Bob Sexton.

Host Bill Goodman and his guests explore why early childhood education is so important to intellectual and academic development. The panelists also discuss innovative programs here in Kentucky that improve access to high-quality educational experiences for the state's youngest students.

Prichard Committee member Lynda Thomas was the content producer for the program, which features:
  • Annette Bridges, Director, Division of Early Childhood Development, Kentucky Department of Education;
  • Cindy Heine, Interim Executive Director, Prichard Committee;
  • Thomas Floyd, Superintendent, Madison County Public Schools; and
  • Rick Hulefeld, Executive Director, Children Inc.

Quick Hits

Political e-mail sparks controversy at N.C. university: A Winston-Salem State University administrator sparked debate recently after forwarding an e-mail with early voting information that also appeared to support the Democratic ticket. The e-mail was sent to all those with university e-mail accounts. University officials sent a follow-up e-mail asking that the first e-mail be ignored, but Republican leaders say the retraction did not go far enough and called for equal time. Feeling that they needed “to do something, even though it wasn’t the best thing,” said Nancy Young, the spokeswoman. The university sent out a campus-wide e-mail identical to the original message, but with promotional material from the GOP. Because that e-mail also violated state law, the university was forced to publish a retraction for the Republican-leaning message, too. “The second one was just as illegal as the first one,” Ms. Young said.. (Wired Campus)

Are Calif. charter schools meeting the nutritional needs of students?: California was unable to complete an audit of school-meal programs at charter schools because of incomplete reporting, officials said Thursday. Many charters reported serving a subsidized daily meal to students, but charters are not bound by federal requirements that schools provide meals to needy students. State officials were unable to determine the level of participation. Some advocates say the exemption may be forcing low-income families to choose either their children's academic or nutritional needs. (Los Angeles Times)

Fla. maritime charter school to pilot 4-day school week: Riviera Beach Maritime Academy, a charter high school in Palm Beach County, Fla., is planning to become the first in the area to switch to a four-day school week. The schedule change -- to take place in January -- is designed to allow students more time for school activities, part-time employment and dual-enrollment options that earn students college credit. (Sun-Sentinel)

New Report Focuses on Funding Inequities Nationwide: A new report that provides the most up-to-date data on the extent of funding inequities nationwide was released this month by the Education Law Center (ELC) in New Jersey. “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card” grades states on their level of school funding through four statistical indicators. (ACCESS)

Prayer at school events silenced: Jim Scales knew it was only a matter of time before someone complained about prayers said aloud at school-sponsored sporting events. The Hamilton County Schools superintendent attends local high school football games regularly and said he's heard prayers over the loudspeaker. He always wondered when someone would protest. Someone did. After receiving a letter of complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation this week on behalf of students from Soddy-Daisy High School, Scales sent an e-mail to all local principals on Tuesday, saying the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled prayer before football games and graduation ceremonies to be unconstitutional and that the practices should be stopped. PDF: Email to principals. (Times Free Press)

Survey: Cyberbullying is most common among high-schoolers, girls: About 43% of students who participated in a recent survey by the National Crime Prevention Council say they have been the victims of cyberbullying. The incidents are most frequent among high-school students and females, with 51% of girls saying they have been victims of cyberbullying. (PC Magazine)

Cloud technologies are changing IT skill needs: Nothing stays constant in technology, especially in terms of IT job requirements, as emerging innovations such as cloud development shake up how things are done and managed. Sanjay Mirchandani, EMC's chief information officer, examines how private-cloud deployments now require a "wider, converged skill set" encompassing areas such as virtualization, storage, big data and security. (

Should teachers be Facebook friends with former students?: A Massachusetts district has adopted a policy that bans teachers from communicating with students on social-media websites, such as Facebook, and discourages them from contacting former students or their parents online. Teachers union officials question how the policy will be enforced, since Facebook allows users to keep their friends list private. "It seems like it was written by people who don't understand social media," a union representative said. (WBZ-TV)

Georgia district wins 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education: Georgia's Gwinnett County Public Schools was named the winner of the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education and will receive $1 million in college-scholarship money for the class of 2011. The prize is awarded each year by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to a district that improves student academic performance while narrowing income- and ethnicity-based achievement gaps. Four other districts were finalists and will each receive $250,000 in scholarship money. ( (Education Week)

The why behind RTI: Misunderstanding and misuse of Response to Intervention in some schools means that the right practices have been employed for the wrong reasons. The authors of "The Why Behind RTI," an article featured in the October edition of Educational Leadership, set out to help educators ask the right questions by eliminating the wrong ones. The first wrong question: "How do we raise test scores?" (Educational Leadership)

School featured in documentary challenges "dropout factory" label: Officials at a struggling Pittsburgh high school that was deemed a "dropout factory" in the documentary "Waiting for Superman" say the label does not reflect the current status of the school. Changes are under way, say officials, with zero-tolerance behavior policies in place and higher expectations for students. Beginning next year, the school is adopting longer days and an extended year, career academies and collaboration with a community college. The dropout label "disrespects what is going on here and what students are striving for," the principal said. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Union leaders seek to block the release of value-added data in NYC: New York City union leaders plan to seek an injunction to block the release of teacher-effectiveness data to the media this week, a disclosure similar to that in Los Angeles in August. At issue is whether teachers' names will be attached to the results, which are based entirely on test scores. "The reality is, without any other information, people are going to look at this and think this is the whole [of] teacher evaluations," said a Columbia University education professor. (GothamSchools) (Daily News)

11 teachers sue Arizona over Mexican-American studies ban: A group of 11 Tucson, Ariz., teachers has filed a lawsuit against state education officials ahead of a law set to take effect on Dec. 31 that could prohibit schools from teaching a Mexican-American studies class. The educators say the law violates free speech and that the classes have reduced dropout rates and behavioral issues while improving attendance and achievement among Latino students. But state schools chief Tom Horne, a defendant in the suit, said the courses teach students that the Southwest is "occupied territory" and should be returned to Mexico. (CNN)

NASBE Study Finds Teacher Training and Evaluation are Left Behind in Scramble to Deliver 21st Century Education to Students: The current education model in the United States, a relic of the Industrial Age, is increasingly out of touch with the needs of society and the students it serves. In addition to the continued use of dated models of educating students, our systems for teacher training and evaluation have not kept up with the fast pace of change. Findings from a National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) study group, Next Generation Learning: Transforming the Role of Educators Today for the Students of Tomorrow, call for a reexamination of how America not only looks at teaching, but whether teachers are given even adequate professional development to keep up with the ever-changing demands of society on their students. (NASBE)

Using social media with students: A high-school technology-integration specialist offers several tips on helping students learn to use social media. Andrew Marcinek writes that students should be held to high standards of writing and content in their blogs or other online posts, and that students should be asked to examine whether their Twitter or Facebook messages are contributing "something of substance." "Remind students of the power of digital media and how much their words can impact the lives of others," Marcinek recommends. (Edutopia)

Anti-gay chant at game put school in bad light: North High School Principal Jennifer Chauby met with several students Monday after a group chanted an anti-gay slur during a football game Thursday. During the pregame against cross-town rival Willoughby South, North High students called the football team "Powder Blue [expletive]." A 30-second video of the chant has been posted on YouTube. Chauby said that a number of students admitted that they were just following everyone else and that they didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. Chauby also said that she didn't see what good would come from suspending about 300 students. (

Is your power corrupting you?: Power corrupts, writes John Baldoni, and CEOs are no exception to that rule. To keep yourself from going over to the dark side, examine your real reasons for the decisions you make and don't be afraid to surround yourself with strong deputies willing to challenge your judgment, Baldoni advises. (Harvard Business Review)

Change in AP Exams Should Relieve Stress for High School Pupils: It might not be a millionaire's lifeline, but high school students taking the rigorous Advanced Placement tests should now take a guess if they are unsure of an answer, experts say. The quarter-point penalty for a wrong answer has been eliminated this year, so experts are advising students to play the odds. Kristen Campbell, a vice president of Kaplan Test Prep, said the new scoring system makes life easier for test takers. "That's a significant change from a student standpoint. (Education Week)

Focus on top teachers is gaining bipartisan support: More policymakers from both sides of the aisle support removing the small minority of ineffective teachers from the classroom and rewarding good teachers, Eric A. Hanushek writes. Hanushek, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, argues that there is no "war on teachers" -- as is the view of some unions -- but rather a growing recognition that continuing to prop up a small number of ineffective teachers may not be the best way to serve students. (The Wall Street Journal)

School News from Around Kentucky

Glasgow schools adopt all-day preschool: Preschool students in the Glasgow school district will begin attending all-day classes in January.School board members voted unanimously Monday night to approve the expansion of the preschool programs at Highland and South Green elementary schools. Effective January 2011, both schools will go to five-day-a-week, all-day programs for 3- and 4-year-olds attending preschool. (Glasgow Daily Times)

Four candidates for JCPS District 1 share major issue: Raising student achievement, increasing the quality of instruction and maintaining diversity in schools are the top issues for the four candidates in the District 1 race on the Jefferson County Board of Education. (C-J)

Council Makes Recommendations to Close Achievement Gaps: The Commissioner’s Raising Achievement/Closing Gaps Council (CRACGC) has issued a set of recommendations and strategies to help close achievement gaps between all groups of Kentucky’s public school students. “I’ve directed the Kentucky Department of Education’s leadership team to immediately begin to incorporate these recommendations and strategies into the agency’s core process work,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “The vital work of closing achievement gaps can’t be done by educators alone – community members, parents and others must become involved.” The recommendations cover four major areas:
  • Recommendation #1: Provide information about the overall academic and social status of Kentucky’s schools and districts in a format that is useful and accessible to the general public.
  • Recommendation #2: Ensure that all students, regardless of race, gender, ethnic background or socioeconomic status, have access to a rigorous curriculum and get the support necessary to be successful in a rigorous curriculum.
  • Recommendation #3: Create an environment of high expectations, with administrators, teachers and staff taking ownership for meeting the needs of all students.
  • Recommendation #4: Create open, honest communication about the work of the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), individual districts and schools with all stakeholders. (KDE)

Teen jailed for refusing principal: A Rineyville teen was jailed Monday morning after allegedly refusing to comply with directions from his principal and then demands of police.
Court records show Vine Grove police responded to Brown Street Education Center at about 8:30 a.m. Monday in response to complaint that 18-year-old Gabriel James Partlow refused to follow the principal’s directions. Police state in their criminal complaint against Partlow that they had to forcibly remove the teen from the cafeteria after his refusal to comply with their commands and his use of profanity in front of other students. (News Enterprise)

Former Bullitt schools employee files harassment suit: A former employee is suing Bullitt County Public Schools, claiming she was threatened and harassed after reporting alleged irregularities involving the use of grant money in the district's Adult and Community Education Center. Paula Ratliff filed suit in Bullitt Circuit Court Sept. 22. Her suit says she was employed from September 2007 to June 2010 to help monitor grant funds for the Jobs for America's Graduates or JAG program. Her supervisor was Jim Boswell, the former administrator of the Adult and Community Education Center. (C-J)

KY Registry of Election Finance investigating school board complaint: WAVE 3 News has confirmed that the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance is now investigating a complaint filed last week by a Jefferson County Public Schools board member. Board Chair Debbie Wesslund is crying foul over a meeting that the Jefferson County Teachers Association President had with her opponent. At Tuesday night's PTA School Board Candidates Forum, Wesslund told us, state law was broken during the October meeting that included her District 3 opponent, David Toborowsky, JCTA President Brent McKim and JCPS Superintendent Dr. Sheldon Berman. (WAVE)

Man jailed after gun was found on school property: An unemployed Ekron man was jailed Monday afternoon on criminal charges that he brought a gun to North Hardin High School in Radcliff after threatening to shoot a teenage girl who attends the school. According to a criminal citation filed against Kyle D. Thompson, 20, police responded to a report that Thompson drove onto school property after sending a female student threatening messages a day earlier.
The report stated that inside the console of the green Ford Thompson was driving, police found a .38 caliber handgun. (News Enterprise)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Laughter, Tears and a Call to Action

...and, an old secret revealed.

Last Saturday's memorial celebration of Bob Sexton's life was a moving tribute to an historic figure in Kentucky education. Surpassing his mentor, Ed Prichard, in terms of impact, Sexton stands with Bert Combs, and above all others, for his influence on modern schooling in the Commonwealth. His fingerprints were on every piece of school legislation that moved and other state leaders looked to him for guidance before committing to their own positions on educational issues. Opponents also wanted to know where Sexton stood on the issues of the day. He was the very definition of influential.

Saturday's tributes came from across the state and around the country. The beautiful fall afternoon at Transylvania University was marked by a mixture of smiles and tears. Laughter was frequently followed by an impenetrable lump in speakers' throats as they tried to express what Bob had meant to their lives, and our children.

I can't imagine any Kentucky-lover not being moved by the stories of Sexton's work and the enormity of the effort he undertook.

Sexton's story is all the more astounding since he didn't like school - despite being "one of those kids who got all the breaks because of who I was." Bob found high school boring and when he began his school reform advocacy, he couldn't see how it had changed much in far too many Kentucky classrooms. High quality teachers existed but they were too few and far between.

Too little was being asked of Kentucky students, Sexton believed. Disadvantaged and struggling students found too little support. Capable students were not being challenged. And since Sexton was not challenging himself at the time, he initially found himself underprepared for Yale.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that he did benefit from the social life, which he enjoyed. He quickly became a BMOC at the fledgling Waggoner High School rubbing shoulders with Seneca's young Mitch McConnel, with whom he worked on a few service projects. In those days, both boys were Republicans. Perhaps it was there that he began to learn his remarkable interpersonal skills.

Once Sexton's children entered the Fayette County schools in the late 70s he remained unimpressed. Students with learning difficulties, for example, found little support. But when he transferred one of his children to a private school for a better education he was disappointed. "They just didn't want him," Sexton said. "They didn’t know a hell of a lot in the public school, but at Sayre they knew zero."

Sexton's advocacy was born of twin interests in political movements and improving public education. But one of the most surprising lessons he learned was how painstakingly long and hard the work is.

Scenes from a Celebration
of Bob Sexton's Life

This from H-L:

Robert F. Sexton was remembered Saturday for the several decades he spent lobbying for better schools for Kentucky children, sometimes in the face of public apathy and official hostility...Sexton, who died Aug. 26 at age 68, following a long battle with cancer, was executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and a leading force for education reform in Kentucky as well as nationally.

Several hundred people attended a memorial service for Sexton at Transylvania University's Mitchell Fine Arts Center. Leaders in academia, business, government, the arts and the news media lined up to speak about Sexton's legacy, as did his widow, Pam Sexton, and his five children. Gov. Steve Beshear and others sent videotaped tributes.

"Bob was trusted by all factions in the education community," said former Lexington Mayor Pam Miller, a past chairwoman of the Prichard Committee, an independent nonprofit group that pushes for continuing school improvements in Kentucky.

"He was frequently the only person who could assemble different powerful interests on an issue," Miller said. "Why? Because they could see his sincerity and his determination to move beyond pettiness toward the larger goal. He was not afraid to criticize and point out shortfalls, but he was never mean..."

Bob's favorite - The Reel World String Band
Few people have the will and courage to tackle problems that have become so entrenched as to become accepted. Few people have the intellectual honesty to examine a problem form all angles, down to its roots, unafraid to broach topics that others shy away from. And fewer still can communicate with passion, urgency, and zeal in language anyone can understand and move people to join together to help solve these problems. This is what Bob Sexton did with regard to education in the Commonwealth through the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

---Reginald & Linda Thomas

I recall with pride the alignment of the "stars" across the state
as the reform "train" began to move - the equity lawsuit
on behalf of the Council for Better Education;
the appeal to the Supreme Court; the expose' in Cheating our Children;
the outrage and "constructive dissatisfaction"
that was created across the Commonwealth.
And in the background, stirring the pot,
was Bob Sexton and the Prichard Committee.

--Lois Adams Rogers

" The last time I talked to Bob, on the afternoon that he died,
he was in the hospital sneaking a call to me when the nurses had left him alone.
We talked for a few minutes and suddenly he said, 'I've gotta go.' Click.
He called back about 15 minutes later and said, 'OK, I can talk now.
Where were we?'"

--Cindi Heine

Bob was the one who scripted, directed and produced.
We were simply the characters.

--Lois Weinberg

Bobisms: from the Prichard Staff

  • Be careful about what not to say.
  • Don't gather people just to see us and talk. Give them something to do.
  • Don't take the attacks personally.
  • The job got done didn't it. It doesn't matter who gets the credit.
  • Thank people for what they're going to do.
  • Think openly. Don't let emotions cloud your judgment.
This afternoon we share one thing in common.
At one point or another, to a small degree or large,
the life of Bob Sexton has been woven into our own in myriad ways...
In gathering together today, and in the days ahead, to tell stories,
sing songs, laugh at our humanity, ache over our mortality;
the depth of sorrow can subside to an awareness
of gratitude and an abiding trust in love's immortality;
in love's consecrating power.

---Rev Kelly Flood

Reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (the same passage read during
Bob & Pam's wedding)and passages from Kahlil Gibran -
the children of Bob and Pam Sexton:
Rebecca, Robert, Ouita, Paige and Perry.
(Photo by Jason Sankovitch at H-L.)

(Bob Sexton's granddaughter, Willa Dru Michel, 6, played her violin
at his memorial service Saturday. Photo by Jason Sankovitch.)

Everett and Alicia Helm McCorvey

"Bob possessed, and I with him, an abiding faith in the goodness of people,
the richness of work done in the community,
and the creative and lasting effects of both.
I know that he believed and expected that all of us in this room,
and beyond, would continue to concern ourselves
with educating our children and grandchildren...
I am asking...that you do so.
And I think you from the bottom of my heart - and his -
for trying with us all these years and in the future.
Make them hear you."

--Pam Sexton

Rest assured that those of us involved with the Prichard Committee.
whether they be staff, board members, committee members, parents,
or financial supporters will continue to monitor public education closely,
identifying areas of concern, and advocate of improvement.
bob was relentless in pursuit of these goals. He would expect no less of us.

--Current Prichard Chair, Sam Corbett

"He talked to me, in our first meeting, about his love
for his home state, Kentucky. He was proud
and he was hopeful about what we were about to
venture into together on behalf of the children of the Commonwealth...
Tom Boysen, Bill Cody, Kevin Noland and Gene Wilhoit can attest
that over the last quarter of a century,
every single piece of education reform in Kentucky
had its influence from Bob Sexton."
---Gene Wilhoit

Bob's focus on results that matter
- real learning for Kentucky's kids -
should be a lesson to all of us who care
about leaving this country a better place."

--Vicki Phillips

"More than anyone else in America, he and his band of Kentucky citizens
exemplify Margaret Meade's adage about
the power of a small group of people to change the world.
Nor only did they bring about change in Kentucky,
but they inspired similar activists all over the country."

--Kati Haycock

Bob's roommates at Yale:
"We knew Bob in a little different context,
some of which we'll share
and some of which we won't..."
On Sexton's toughness and persistence:
"He simply would not give up.
And we saw this at Yale when he would continue to turn out for football
long after it was clear that he was not going to be one of the stars on the team.
When football didn't work, he then turned to rugby.
So, he was one tough, tough man."
"Invariably, I would call...and ask, 'Where is Bob on this issue?
Where is the Prichard Committee?' because that would help me calibrate
what a responsible position would be."

--David Atkisson, Ky Chamber of Commerce

[The press corps has been decimated.
There's no one on the education beat in Frankfort anymore.
The Herald-Leader and Courier-Journal cover education from the newsroom
and are increasingly focused on local schools.
Nobody has the time to stay up on the issues at the state and national level.]
"Bob Sexton was a crusading influential voice for schools.
When the media revolution sifts out content quality
will still be critical for democracy. We will need
champions of our children's future, like Bob.
And journalists who know how important it is to
listen, challenge, and report what they say."

--Al Smith
Many years ago, when KERA was first implemented,
many people were bent out of shape...
[Bob] called me one morning and asked me if I would go to a distant town.
And that's just what Bob would do. He'd ask you to do this
and then after you said 'Yes', he'd tell you what he wanted you to do.
The superintendent there had his foot on the neck of teachers
and the teachers were fighting back. The teachers
wanted the Prichard Committee to send an observer to the meeting.
I said, 'I'd be glad to go, Bob.' He said, 'Now, you're not going to be very welcome.
You have a license plate from out of county, and I want you to
park at the bottom of the hill and walk up to the school.'
And I said, 'Bob, will they shoot at me?'
And he said, 'Walk faster.'

--Elissa May-Plattner

"The low was in the late 80s when we we getting some momentum going and the Prichard Committee had no money to pay Bob or the part-time secretary." [Bob turned to consulting to keep the enterprise going.] "The high was in 1990" when the legislature passed and the governor signed KERA.

---Wade Mountz, Prichard Chair
and self-described conservative "with a big R after my name"
who Ed Prichard described as being 'of the other persuasion.'
"Never in 30 years did that divide come between us," Mountz said.

(L to R) Kati Haycock, Education Trust
Virginia Edwards, Education Week
Vicki Phillips, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

" Bob had 'IT' - that special something that sets a person apart from the crowd."

--Judith Clabes

While [many] argued that it was time for despair and disengagement,
Bob Sexton staked out the opposite claim,
marshaled his evidence and made his case.
He strengthened our shared institutions, expanded civic engagement,
and accomplished large things through democratic institutions.
He changed our state and inspired new effort across our nation,
at a time when many claimed such things were no longer in reach.

--Susan Perkins Weston at the Prichard Blog

"He was that rare public intellectual who actually loved people.
He knew that being an effective agent of change
requires more than statistics and righteous indignation."

--Phillip & Audrey Shepherd

"The Capitol will long miss Bob Sexton's brand of advocacy:
a supurb combination of skill, temperament, and knowledge.
He never lost his calm, but most importantly,
he never lost his compass."

--Ernesto Scorcone

"As Kentucky's first Education Commissioner from 1991 to 1995,
I came to understand how essential Bob Sexton was to the advent
of the Kentucky Education Reform Act and to its implementation and sustainability.
Working quietly on many fronts...and with disparate and sometimes
disputatious personalities and parties, Bob kept his head up and his vision strong.
His good will, civility, persistence and practical know how were inspirational."

---Thomas Boysen

(L to R) Mary Dean, Assoc Commish for Communications under Boysen
Kentucky's First Education Commissioner, Thomas Boysen
Vicki Phillips, Education Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Kevin Noland, Oft-Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner and co-KERA author

"'Call Sexton.'
I wish I had a dollar for every time some variation of those words
was spoken in a Kentucky newsroom.
Journalists relied on Bob for several reasons:
He was smart. He was honest. He always called us back."
--Jamie Lucke, Herald-Leader editorial writer

(Photo by Jason Sankovitch at H-L.)

... and a mystery revealed.

I caught Lois Combs Weinberg after the celebration and asked her a question that has been on my mind for more than a decade; one of those little loose ends from earlier research on Kentucky school reform.

The Prichard Committee's signature strategy - the first big thing that launched the committee as a force to be reckoned with - was the 1984 Prichard Town Forum which I wrote about in my dissertation. That telecast and the initial funding to kick-start Prichard came from an anonymous donation collected by Weinberg. Saturday, I asked her if she would reveal the donor's identity.

"I don't think there's any secret," Weinberg said. "He's passed on. It was B F Reed." Boyd F Reed was "a self-made man who started out shovelling coal himself" and rose to become the largest coal operator in Floyd County by the 1960s, and Weinberg "was advised to go visit him."

That little chore was assigned by her father, Bert Combs. Reed was a friend of Combs who had an extra $50,000 laying around.

This means that, even before he agreed to become lead attorney for the Council for Better Education, Bert Combs was already laying the groundwork for what would become the grassroots movement that ultimately made KERA possible. Political scholars are in agreement. The conditions that existed in Kentucky at the time of KERA were unprecedented. The Supreme Court decision was one thing. But getting the legislature to move on reform legislation required what many have called a "perfect storm." Bert Combs and Bob Sexton were rainmakers.