Planned Student Walkout Against Guns is Honorable, Though Misguided


Although fighting for school safety is honorable, Philadelphia school students should be in class during the instructional day, not engaging in walkouts organized by adults with underlying political agendas.  

by Christopher Paslay

Outraged by the recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, students at Philadelphia area schools have decided to take a stand—or at least they’ve been encouraged by adult activists to do so.  At exactly 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14th, they plan on walking out of class for 17 minutes in an effort to change current gun laws.  The walkout is being organized by the Women’s March Network, the same activist group behind the Women’s March that protested President Trump’s inauguration.

The group states on its website that its aim is “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.  We need action.”

By “action” the group means baiting teenagers to ditch instruction.

How does William Hite, Superintendent of the Philadelphia School District, feel about the walkout during school hours?

“I’ll probably participate,” he said, explaining that students who decide to get up and leave class in the middle of the lesson will not be penalized.

With all due respect to Dr. Hite, his unofficial endorsement of the walkout, although well-intentioned, is misguided.

School safety is a priority, and a holistic plan to protect our students and communities—one that involves social, psychological, and mental health components—is needed.  Improved gun laws may be part of this equation, too; we need to better enforce the laws that already exist, for starters.

But the school day is no time for a protest, especially one being organized by adults—not students.  I’ve been teaching in Philadelphia for over 20 years, and during that time, there have been dozens of protests.  A massive movement opposing the takeover of the School District by the for-profit Edison Schools, in conjunction with Mayor Street, comes to mind.  But even at its most contentious, students were not permitted to walk out of the building during school hours; the protests were officially held after the school day was over.

In fact, the School District’s policy has been to strictly forbid walkouts during instructional hours.  In 2011, Hope Moffett, a schoolteacher at Audenried High School, was suspended by Superintendent Arlene Ackerman for supposedly organizing a protest during school hours.  Although Moffett was later cleared, the School District argued such protests were a danger to student safety, and put an undue burden on police to keep order on city streets.

Even when 10-year-old Faheem Thomas-Childs was gunned down outside Peirce Elementary School in North Philadelphia in 2004 by a drug dealer’s bullet, students did not walk out of class; a march was organized, but not involving teenagers during instructional time.

The protest planned for March 14 is not without safety concerns.  Keeping track of students once they exit the building is going to be difficult, as is enforcing the 17 minute time limit.  No doubt truancy rates will rise during this time, opening up the possibility of mischief and further rule breaking.

Academics will also suffer.  Lessons will be interrupted, and the learning environment before and after the walkout will be compromised.

This doesn’t even begin to address the political side of the protest, and the fact that it’s clearly indoctrinating students to one-side of the gun control debate.  Is it really the School District’s place to take a side on an issue as sensitive as gun control?  What will parents of students who are gun-supporters think when they learn their child’s education has been interrupted for a gun control protest?

Sure, the walkout’s not being directly labeled as such, but the gun reform narrative is clear enough.  Which begs the question: why now?  Where’s the outrage been for all the gun homicides in our own neighborhoods for the past 10 years?  For the hundreds of Philadelphians murdered each year, not by a lawfully purchased assault rifle, but by an urban felon’s weapon of choice—an illegal handgun?

And why a walkout?  Perhaps a more respectful way to make a statement and remember victims of the Florida school shooting would be to have a vigil, not a protest.  Why not have students and staff come in 17 minutes early before the school day starts, and light candles or read poems?  Have an informational picket to make the community aware of concerns?

Interestingly, the students I’ve spoken with don’t even know why they’re walking out.  Some have told me it’s to protest Trump.  Others have said it’s to stand in solidarity with Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  My response to this is, To stand in solidarity to what end?  The answer to this question is obvious: To stand in solidarity for gun reform.  Words like “solidarity” and “walkout” have clear political connotations, which reveal the true underlying agenda of the supposed altruistic event—to politic for gun control.

Those schools who genuinely want to show support for the victims of the Florida school shooting may want to drop the politically charged “walkout” for “solidarity,” and have a memorial or extended moment of silence.  This could be done during an advisory period or special assembly schedule, one that includes all students, not just those who stand on the liberal side of the gun reform debate.

Interestingly, many students don’t have an opinion on the matter either way.  All they know is that they get to walk out of class, and the chaotic nature of the protest is troubling, especially since it’s being directed from the Women’s March Network from afar.

Philadelphia school students should be in class during the instructional day, not engaging in walkouts organized by adults with underlying political agendas.


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White Flight Makes ‘In the Margins’ 2018 Top 10 Award List

White Flight.JPGBoy

From the School Library Journal:

Now in its sixth year, the In the Margins Book Awards has revealed the top picks in the Fiction, Nonfiction, and Social Justice/Advocacy Award categories, from books published in 2016 and 2017 that appeal to the reading needs and wants of marginalized young adults.

The committee is comprised of librarians who currently work or have recently worked with youth in these challenging circumstances. Not only do we read and discuss the multitude of books that we consider, but have the unique experience of having young adults assisting us in selecting the books by reading and sharing their opinions with us. With all of the enthusiasm that these young people make, we have created a reading list that is unlike many others.

The fall of 2016 and 2017 brought an abundance of quality books appealing to the reading needs and wants of marginalized young adults along with books addressing the myriad of social issues faced by these youth.  While this complicated our task of selecting the best books to recommend, it did lead to many passionate discussions, and all of us were thrilled by the number of meaningful books that filled our reading boxes.

We used our mission statement as our guide when deciding which books we would honor as our Top Ten.  Mission Statement: To seek out and highlight fiction and nonfiction titles (Pre-K through adult) of high-interest appeal to youth, ages 9–21, that reflect marginalized and/or street culture with a preference for marginalized books (books that are self-published or from small independent publishers).

Our Top Ten List recognizes books that appeal to and reflect the marginalized youths’ daily lives and many are either self-published or small press books often overlooked by book awards.  Our list of fifty-two additional books contains books with the same focus, but also includes titles from major publishers.

Click here to review In the Margins 2018 Top 10 Titles.

In the Margins

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The Real Reason Admission Standards Are Being Cut In Philly Trade Schools


by Christopher Paslay

District officials are using “equity” as an excuse to fill seats and maximize space.   

The Philadelphia School District’s recent decision to cut admission standards at its four career technology education (CTE) schools has sparked debate.  The question of “equity versus excellence” has been brought up in the media, and folks on both sides of the issue have voiced their concerns.

The only problem with this debate, though, is that it’s not about equity versus excellence at all; it’s about enrollment versus excellence.  There are indeed enrollment issues with the city’s four trade schools.  But equity issues?  Not at all.

Let’s first look at enrollment.  According to data on the Philadelphia School District’s website, Murrell Dobbins had an enrollment last year of 606 students, yet has a building capacity of 900; Jules E. Mastbaum had an enrollment of 754, with a building capacity of 1313; A. Philip Randolph had an enrollment of 518, with a building capacity of 569; and Swenson Arts and Technology had an enrollment of 668, with a building capacity of 875.

Granted, the building capacity numbers may not be totally accurate, as in Swenson’s case; as a teacher at Swenson I know our building can only safely accommodate at most 700 students.

Still, open seats and space are an issue.  If you do the math, there are hundreds of open seats in Philadelphia’s trade schools.  And from a budgetary standpoint, filling these seats makes sense financially.  And how do you fill the seats?  One way is through promotion and recruitment—increase interest in CTE programs citywide while keeping in place a minimum level of student accountability and excellence.  Another way is to simply ditch the admission standards and pack in anybody and everybody.

The school district chose to do the latter.  Why?  Because it’s quick and easy.  Load-up the schools with any student who wants to apply, regardless of whether or not that student is a good fit for a trade program.  And if this hurts the tradition or culture of the school—or sacrifices excellence—so be it.

Of course, the school district can’t sell it to the public like this, so they are hiding behind the idea of “equity”.  This is a great strategy.  Set it up so it looks like you’re fighting for social justice, and no one can say anything to you.  When you’re fighting for social justice, you can do lots of unfair things to lots of people, but it’s okay, because you’re leveling the playing field.

The only problem with this approach is that there are no equity issues when it comes to Philadelphia’s CTE programs.  For the record, Dobbins is 89% black, 8% Latino, and 3% other; Mastbaum is 48% black, 44% Latino, 5% white, and 3% other; Swenson is 30% black, 26% Latino, 37% white, and 7% other; and Randolph is 91% black, 7% Latino, and 2% other.  These schools also serve high numbers of special education students and economically disadvantaged children in poor neighborhoods; nearly 25% of Swenson students are special education.  And of course, these schools serve girls as well as boys—girls and boys who travel from all parts of the city to attend these programs.

The media, as well as school district officials, would have you believe otherwise.  The school district is currently citing Pew Charitable Trusts’ recent report as a way to suggest CTE schools are not equitable.  Pew states that CTE schools’ admission processes are “complicated” and that they “systematically disadvantage” Latino students, particularly boys.  How?  Because Latino boys whose credentials qualify them for top schools don’t apply enough to make their numbers proportionate to Philadelphia’s population at large.

Yet Mastbaum and Swenson are 44% and 26% Latino (which are located in neighborhoods with a notable Latino population), and Dobbins and Randolph are 89% and 91% black (in neighborhoods that are predominantly African American). This sure seems equitable to me; interestingly, Pew doesn’t make a fuss about the fact that white girls are not nearly represented enough in any of these CTE schools.

But that’s how the game of “equity” is played—manipulate statistics and throw around phrases like “systematically disadvantaged”.  Take WHYY’s article “New lottery system for Philly trade school admissions stokes debate” for example.  This article, although it tries to remain objective, is misleading.

An early paragraph in the article states, “By shedding admissions criteria, officials say, these schools can serve all interested students, rather than casting aside those who may have tripped up in seventh or eighth grade.”

Tripped up?  See, that’s what the school district wants the public to believe: that middle school kids who get rejected from CTE schools have simply “tripped up” in seventh or eighth grade.  But that’s not the reality of the situation.  Generally speaking, CTE schools have very reasonable admission standards: students who apply must have at least a “C” average academically, no “unsatisfactory” grades in behavior, and no more than 10 unexcused absences.

In other words, students who get rejected from a CTE school have D’s and F’s, unruly and disruptive behavior, and are chronically truant.  This is a far cry from an “oops” or a “trip-up” in middle school.

The article goes on:

“This is all about creating access for children and making sure that regardless of where children live they have access to some of our more successful programs,” said superintendent William Hite. “There’s a lot of interest in CTE. We have children on a wait list, we have CTE programs that are not filled.”

Again, this is nonsense: Philadelphia CTE schools accept children from every neighborhood in the city.

The article continues:

District officials want to open the doors wider, by both adding seats at CTE schools and shedding the admissions criteria that, they believe, bar too many motivated students from entry.

“Interest is the criteria,” said Hite. “If children are interested in pursuing cosmetology or building trades or culinary arts…I want the children in those programs.”

He said that he concluded that schools were imposing “barriers to entry” for admission to programs that could actually change students’ attitudes about school.

Bar too many motivated students from entering?  Seriously?  Does a child with D’s and F’s, who has unruly behavior and is absent dozens of times sound motivated to learn a trade?  Would a student like this be willing to get up early and take several buses across the city to go to a special CTE school every day?  Should a student like this handle a circular saw in carpentry and a butcher knife in culinary?

Make no mistake: dropping the admission standards of Philadelphia’s trade schools is not about equity, but about enrollment.  Instead of filling seats through promotion and recruitment, which would allow CTE schools to keep a minimum standard for admission, the district is taking the easy way out.

We can only hope this new approach won’t sink what’s left of a once-great trade school tradition in Philadelphia.


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White Flight: Preview Free Ebook on Amazon

White Flight.JPGBoy

Amazon is offering White Flight for free today.  Any teacher interested in previewing the high interest novel for reluctant readers can download the ebook free of charge on Amazon (today only). 

When 16-year-old Daryl Kerns (black) witnesses a shooting on the basketball courts one summer evening in Philadelphia, he vows to keep silent. It isn’t until Daryl’s best friend Alex Murphy (white) persuades him to cooperate with authorities does Daryl come forward and agree to testify. But when Daryl is killed in front of Alex several weeks later in retaliation for talking to police, the tables quickly turn: Now Alex must decide if he will be strong enough to take his own advice and speak to detectives about Daryl’s murder.

White Flight is young adult novel in verse. Through 82 interconnected open form poems, Alex tells the story of his slowly deteriorating neighborhood, and of his struggle with his crushing secret: the brutal shooting death of his best friend, Daryl. Alex also reflects on the issues of white flight, urban police, sexual harassment, and the no-snitch culture.

Purchase the ebook free of charge on Amazon below:

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‘White Flight’: A Teen Novel for Urban Boys (in a Market Saturated by Suburban Girls)

White Flight.JPGBoy

In a genre dominated by teen girls, White Flight is a high-interest young adult novel written specifically for teen boys. 

by Christopher Paslay

Let’s face it: Young adult literature is dominated by girls.  A quick peek at Amazon’s teen list proves this fact (as does Goodreads, and the Young Adult Library Services Association). The large majority of YA books are written by women, represented by female literary agents, purchased and promoted by female editors, and read by girls.  I’m not suggesting the industry is sexist, as many so-called “social justice” activists would if the situation were reversed and boys dominated the YA lists.  No; the fact that the ladies rule the teen book kingdom is due to something called the free market—AKA supply and demand.  For the most part, when it comes to fiction and literature, girls buy and read books, and boys don’t.

In 2014, I experienced this reality firsthand.  Sara Megibow, an agent at KT Literary, read my manuscript for White Flight and agreed to represent me; KT Literary is an agency that specializes in juvenile and YA literature, is run and operated by five agents (all women), and has a total of 81 clients (65 of them women).  To my delight, Sara was very interested in my novel, and felt confident she could sell it relatively quickly to one of the Big Five publishers—either Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, or Simon and Schuster.  After all, she’d made these kinds of deals before.  Multiple times, in fact.  Plus, KT was non-fee charging (as are all reputable literary agencies), so if she didn’t sell it, she didn’t get paid.

So I signed a contract and Sara started shopping White Flight around the big houses in New York.  She sent it to Sharyn November at Viking/Penguin.  And she passed.  Joy Peskin at FSG/ Macmillan.  And she passed.  Sara Sargent at Simon Pulse/ S&S.  And she passed.  Connie Hsu at Roaring Brook/Macmillan.  And she passed.  In fact, after nearly nine months of shopping the book, Sara was 0 for 21.  Sara loved the novel and believed in it, but the publishers weren’t biting.

Interestingly, nearly all of the purchasing editors at these houses were white females (like Sara and her partners at KT Literary), and all of these editors talked incessantly about diversity and social justice, and how they wanted to expand YA literature to be more inclusive of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Yet when these white female purchasing editors were offered a novel about two teen boys from Philadelphia—one white, one black—who confront racism, sexual assault, aggressive police officers, and try to reverse the deterioration of their neighborhood by testifying against a known drug dealer who committed first-degree murder, they didn’t get it.

It’s too edgy, they said.  Too much about crime and neighborhood disputes.  Lost on them were the themes of white flight and communities sticking together; confronting the no-snitch mentality; the peer pressure involved with snitching (and the differing viewpoints from a social and racial standpoint); street fights; and the biggest no-no for boys: being viewed as soft by your friends.  These editors wanted diversity and social justice—they wanted to expand YA literature to be more inclusive—but only as long as it conformed to their sheltered, over-simplified, cookie-cutter version of “diversity,” with all the standard cheeseball stereotypes.  Basically, they wanted a liberal, white, suburban female version of “diversity,” one custom made for, well, liberal white suburban females.  And why not?  That’s what the YA market demands.

The tragedy is that teen boys (especially minority boys who don’t like to read) get left out.  Not always, but most of the time; again, just look at the YA lists.  The tragedy is that a decent little book like White Flight can’t get into the hands of teen boys who’d actually appreciate (and enjoy) reading it.  After thinking about this for nearly three years, I’ve decided to self-publish White Flight via Amazon Direct Publishing, and see if I can get some of these reluctant male readers reading.  The book is now available in the Amazon Kindle store for $2.99, and the paper back is only $6.99 (the paperback will be available within the week).  I am donating all profits to Swenson High School’s track team, to pay for new uniforms and entry fees to invitational track meets.

With permission from my principal, I’d like to pilot the book in my Drama class this semester, and see how students respond.  Below is a link to the ebook on Amazon (the paperback will be available soon), and any teacher interested in previewing the book can read a summary and the first 25 pages for free.  One advantage of the novel is that it is written in verse—82 interconnected poems—each of which can be studied or analyzed as an individual activity or lesson.

Thanks for reading.  And if you find White Flight to be useful or a good fit for your students, please pass the word along to your fellow educators.


Filed under African American Literature, Multiculturalism, Textbook Shortage

Why Jeff Sessions is Great for Public Schools


by Christopher Paslay

Jeff Sessions’ objective application of the law will be a positive change from the racial divisiveness of Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, whose race-based policies demoralized teachers and tied the hands of school administrators. 

According to a study published in the Washington Post in July of 2016, America is more racially divided than it’s been in decades.  Despite President Obama’s promise to bring Americans together (“. . . there’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America . . .”), the tone of his administration could be more aptly summarized by his statement, If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon.

The irony, of course, is that a bi-racial president was so racially polarizing.  This divisiveness was felt by many Americans, including our nation’s public school teachers.  Following the lead of Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to label public schools and their teachers as institutionally racist and hit them with suffocating regulations.

According to a 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Black students were more than three times as likely as their White peers to be suspended or expelled.  That was noteworthy information, being that 84 percent of America’s public school teachers in 2012 were White.

The result of this report, of course, was not only the demoralization of public school teachers, but the implementation of regulations which made it harder to discipline students and maintain workable classroom environments.  Teachers were forced to rethink the way they approached their jobs, planning lessons which accommodated the unruly behavior of minority students who were no longer allowed to be removed from the classroom; these challenged children were forced to coexist with their functional hard working peers, and the integrity and quality of everyone’s education, Black and White alike, was compromised.

So how is our new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session going to remedy the situation?  By being a fair and objective arbiter of the law.  Throughout his confirmation hearing, Sessions insisted he would uphold and protect the United States Constitution, unlike Barack Obama and Eric Holder, who selectively enforced the law.  In other words, Sessions will not use race to set policy or interpret the Constitution — a simple enough premise.

In short, Sessions won’t play the part of an aggrieved activist, using skin color to either prosecute — or refrain from prosecuting — American citizens.  The new culture of “colorblindness” will hopefully set the tone for the rest of the DOE.  This would mean the race card might be put away for a while, and teachers will be free to teach once again.  Disciplinarians will be free to discipline, too.  Regardless of race.

Perhaps the morale of public school teachers may improve as well.  Not being labeled a racist — along with having a manageable classroom environment — will go a long way in terms of school performance.  In Sessions, teachers now have an Attorney General whom they can respect as a fair arbiter of the law, an attorney General who will work for everyone equally, not just those minority groups the government deems worthy of preferential treatment.

Unfortunately, though, the campaign to slander Sessions has been in high gear as of late.  His critics don’t want a neutral arbitrator of the law but a social justice activist like Holder and Lynch — someone who will selectively prosecute based on skin color, the way Holder did in 2009 when the DOJ dropped the case against the New Black Panthers for intimidating voters in Philadelphia.

The fact that Sessions will be colorblind is the main reason why his opponents label him . . . get ready for this, racist . . . and continue to use smear tactics and spread misinformation sessions-bridge-3-1024x683about him.  In the world of race-baiting and identity politics, being colorblind is akin to committing a hate crime.  Despite the disingenuous attacks from fellow senators, Sessions is a good man with a glowing record on civil rights.  During a march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” Jeff Sessions held hands with civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

According to the Weekly Standard:

Sessions’s actual track record certainly doesn’t suggest he’s a racist. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted Klansman Henry Francis Hays, son of Alabama Klan leader Bennie Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a Black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays. When he was later elected the state Attorney General, Sessions followed through and made sure Hays was executed. The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan, effectively breaking the back of the KKK in Alabama.

Jeff Sessions is hardly a racist.  On the contrary, he’s an honest man with character and integrity, and will have a positive impact on both public school performance and teacher morale.


Filed under Achievement Gap, Multiculturalism

Arne Duncan is Right: Protesters Shouldn’t be Blocking DeVos from Public Schools


by Christopher Paslay

Obama Education Secretary is right to condemn agitators for verbally assaulting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and for physically blocking her from entering a D.C. public school.    

On Friday afternoon, after Betsy DeVos was physically prevented from entering a Washington D.C. public school and verbally assaulted by a group of agitators (allegations that DeVos was physically assaulted are still being investigated), Arne Duncan tweeted out the following:

Agree or disagree w @BetsyDeVos on any issue, but let’s all agree she really needs to be in public schools. Please let her in.

Duncan, who served as Obama’s Education Secretary for seven years, should be commended for remaining above the fray and calling for civil treatment of DeVos, the newly confirmed United States Secretary of Education. Whether you agree with her stance on education or not, the all-out smear campaign on her background and character is inappropriate.

Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson actually likened DeVos to a murderer, tweeting that her policies “will kill children” and lead “queer kids” to “more suicides” because of a lack of access to supports in religious schools.

Interestingly, if you take a closer look at her agenda, you’ll find that many of her views aren’t that different from Arne Duncan’s, which might be why he went out of his way to defend her right to be heard. Duncan’s record as Obama’s education chief reveals he did quite a lot to dismantle traditional public education and attack schoolteachers, turning neighborhood schools into charters and trampling collective bargaining rights in the process.

During his seven year tenure, Duncan fought to:

  • Use performance pay to compensate teachers based on student performance on standardized tests.
  • End teacher seniority to give principals the autonomy to pick their own staffs.
  • Turn “failing” schools into charters.
  • Overhaul entire staffs of teachers and principals at failing schools.
  • Reduce suspensions and expulsions to deal with unruly and disruptive students.

Then there was his whole plan to shame teachers into improving performance, endorsing the public release of information about how well individual teachers fare at raising their students’ test scores.

This doesn’t sound like a man who respected teachers’ unions, traditional public education, or educational privacy rights, but other than an occasional editorial in the newspaper, not a whole lot was said about it. The Obama/Duncan “Reform Train” railroaded public schools, students, and teachers from coast to coast, for seven long years. And how many times did raving agitators, holding Black Lives Matter signs, block his entrance into schools?


How many times did Chuck Schumer insist that Obama’s appointment of Duncan to office should “offend every single American man, woman, and child who has benefitted from the public education system in this country,” the way he did of Trump’s appointment of DeVos?


How many times were Duncan’s policies accused of killing children?



Politics as usual.

Take education in Philadelphia, for example. There’s this notion floating around that the appointment of Betsy DeVos marks the end of Philly public schools as we know them, that teachers’ unions—along with collective bargaining—will be irrevocably dismantled. I’ve heard it mentioned, in fact, that Betsy DeVos is the biggest threat to collective bargaining ever.



Dwight Evans wins this title. In the late 1990s, he fought to pass the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, which opened the floodgates for school choice and took millions of dollars away from traditional public schools and pumped them into privately owned charters.  Evans also supported Acts 46 and 83, which enabled Harrisburg to take over the Philadelphia School District, and replace the local school board with a state-run School Reform Commission.

It also took away the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ right to strike.

Now, fast forward to 2017. The city doesn’t have a local school board, and contract terms can be unilaterally forced on the union by the SRC.  The school budget has been slashed by hundreds of millions, and staffs are running on bare bones.  Many schools lack adequate nurses and counselors. It’s been over 1,000 days since teachers have had a contract.  Their seniority has been cut, their degrees marginalized, and they haven’t received a raise in nearly four years.

Was Dwight Evans ever blocked from entering a school?

No. On the contrary, he’s been continually voted into office by establishment Democrats, many of whom are the same folks throwing a temper tantrum over Betsy “Doomsday” DeVos.

Why isn’t DeVos the biggest threat to collective bargaining to date in Philadelphia? Because under Act 46 and 83, there is no real power to collective bargain.   You can’t take away something you don’t technically have.

Yet somehow DeVos remains the ultimate boogiewoman, and has been relentlessly smeared before even being given a chance to develop her vision for American education.

Kudos to Arne Duncan for remaining above the fray and calling for the civil treatment of DeVos. You can agree or disagree with DeVos on any issue, as Duncan stated, but at least know she must be allowed to visit public schools so we can have an appropriate and responsible dialogue.


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10 Reasons to Skip ‘Black Lives Matter Week’ in Philadelphia



Christopher Paslay

If you’re thinking of joining BLM’s Action Week in Philadelphia, you should reconsider.  

My name is Christopher Paslay, a 20-year veteran of the Philadelphia School District, and I’m officially skipping the Black Lives Matter “Week of Action” planned for Philadelphia public schools. For two decades I’ve been a dedicated English teacher, mentor, and coach, and have written hundreds of articles demanding respect, equality, and justice for our children, communities, and schools.

But I won’t be wearing a BLM button or t-shirt next week, or implementing any BLM curriculum in my English classes (even though I have an M.Ed. in Multicultural Education).

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Students shouldn’t be shunned for supporting Trump or being Republican. Ironically, although “Diversity” is the first of BLM’s 13 “Guiding Principles,” which states they are committed to “acknowledging, respecting and celebrating differences and commonalities” which include race, religion, age, gender identity, sexual identity, economic status, and immigration status, nowhere in BLM’s 13 Guiding Principles do they acknowledge accepting differing political ideologies. In other words, it doesn’t appear that conservatives and/or Republicans are welcomed by this group.

Perhaps I’m misinterpreting BLM’s website and mission, and if I am, I apologize. However, after reading BLM’s calendar of events for their planned “Week of Action” in Philadelphia, it becomes quite clear that they have no tolerance for political diversity.

In a “kick off event” titled “Courage for Racial Justice in the Era of Trump,” which was scheduled for Friday, January 13, BLM’s discrimination is quite clear. The event description reads, In this time of mass incarceration, mass deportation, anti-Muslim sentiment, profound economic inequality, and the election of Trump, all of our social justice movements are coming together to build powerful resistance to the death culture. Additionally, people of all backgrounds are becoming active for the first time and looking for direction, as many are horrified by what the election of Trump means for our country.

 The death culture? Strong words. So it’s obvious this “Week of Action” does not include any Philadelphia teacher, student, parent, or community member that voted for or supports Trump. This is quite interesting, because 105,418 people voted for Trump in the City of Philadelphia. 105,418. And apparently none of these Philadelphians are being made to feel welcome.

2. Students shouldn’t be taught to obsess over race, religion, gender, and sexuality. Sure, teens must be taught not to discriminate (consciously or unconsciously), but BLM’s fixation on race, religion, gender and sexuality is excessive and counterproductive. Teens should be taught to see people as people, and judge them by their character—not by their gender, skin color, etc. Viewing the world through the lens of various isms is unnatural and unhealthy.

For example, the BLM curriculum for Wednesday, 1/25, deals with the themes of “Queer Affirming” and “Trans Affirming,” and aims to teach teens to free themselves “from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking,” and to combat “trans-antagonistic violence.” Seriously? Instead of allowing our teens to naturally interact with one another and develop relationships organically, we’re going to burden them with such intellectual concepts as trans-antagonistic violence?

3. Students don’t need more lessons in rebellion and resistance. One of the central tactics of BLM is resistance and civil disobedience, as is documented by their disruptive (and sometimes destructive) past. Although there is value in learning about political activism, Philadelphia youth should master the skills of teamwork and collaboration before being exposed to the thrills of shutting down a highway via a protest rally or march. Interestingly, BLM’s city-wide MLK march scheduled for Monday, 1/16, calls for a day of “action” and “resistance”.

4. Students shouldn’t be taught to oppose Two-parent families. One of BLM’s 13 Guiding Principles, titled “Black Villages,” states, We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.

Why would BLM want to commit to disrupting the nuclear family when 40 years of educational research proves that children raised in two-parent families have higher academic achievement, better emotional health, and fewer behavioral problems than children born out of wedlock or raised “collectively” in alternative situations? I’m not sure. All I know is that BLM’s curriculum for Thursday, 1/26, addresses their “Black Village” theme which indeed calls for the disruption of nuclear families.

5. Students shouldn’t be taught to demonize those with opposing views. It’s clear that the 105,418 people who voted for Trump in Philadelphia are not accepted by BLM (or by the Caucus of Working Educators, who are co-hosting the “Week of Action”). The same goes for any Philadelphia teacher, student, parent, or community member who voted for Trump or supports him for any number of reasons. But it’s not enough that these Trump supporters and/or Republicans are rejected and ostracized, no; the various policies that they believe in and voted for must be defined as hateful.

“Join us in the necessary work to oppose policies based in hate,” states the itinerary for BLM’s city-wide MLK Day march.

6. Students shouldn’t be taught to glorify repressive dictators who violate humans rights. It’s no secret BLM glorifies Fidel Castro. According to Human Rights Watch, “During Castro’s rule, thousands of Cubans were incarcerated in abysmal prisons, thousands more were harassed and intimidated, and entire generations were denied basic political freedoms. . . . Many of the abusive tactics developed during his time in power – including surveillance, beatings, arbitrary detention, and public acts of repudiation – are still used by the Cuban government.”

What does BLM say about Castro’s recent death? “We are feeling many things as we awaken to a world without Fidel Castro. There is an overwhelming sense of loss, complicated by fear and anxiety. Although no leader is without their flaws, we must push back against the rhetoric of the right and come to the defense of El Comandante,” BLM posted on the internet after his death.

7. Students shouldn’t be taught to value some black lives more than others. BLM’s selective morality is troubling. What are our youth to think when young black lives are taken on a daily basis—mostly by other young black people—and BLM remains silent? When Philly youth die at the hands of gangbangers or drug dealers, and BLM are nowhere to be found? No marches. No rallies. No nothing. Day in, and day out. What are our students to think? That these black lives don’t count? In 2015 alone, nearly 6,000 blacks were killed by other blacks in the United States, and BLM didn’t say a word.

8. Students shouldn’t be taught by a group that was built and perpetuated on false narratives. BLM came to national attention when Michael Brown was reportedly shot and killed in cold blood—kneeling on the ground with his hands up—by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. I say reportedly because after the case was properly investigated, it was discovered that Brown was actually shot after punching Wilson in the face, and trying to take his gun. The Washington Post called the “hands up, don’t shoot” meme one of the biggest lies of 2015.

 Another false narrative is the Trayvon Martin killing. After an investigation at the local, state, and federal level—and after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did all he could to nail Zimmerman on Civil Rights violations—it was discovered that George Zimmerman indeed shot Martin in self-defense . . . after, according to multiple witnesses, Martin knocked Zimmerman to the ground and was pounding his head on the cement. This doesn’t stop BLM from still propagating the myth that Martin was killed in cold blood by an angry white racist, who, by the way, isn’t white but Hispanic. According to the Caucus of Working Educators website which is promoting BLM’s Week of Action, “In 2012, Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman and the victim was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder.”

9. Students shouldn’t be taught by a group that celebrates JoAnn Chesimard, a convicted cop killer. Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi publically praise convicted cop killer JoAnn Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur, who is currently living in exile in Cuba and wanted by the FBI for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. Words from a letter Shakur wrote, titled “To My People,” have been recited at BLM meetings. Mumia Abu Jamal, H. Rap Brown, and George and Jonathan Jackson are also convicted cop killers that BLM activists have praised.

10. Students shouldn’t be used as political pawns. What is BLM’s “Week of Action” really about? Growing their organization by indoctrinating our city’s children with their “social justice” curriculum. Curriculum which, at the time of this writing, still doesn’t exist. I’ve looked for it on the internet far and wide—I’ve even clicked on the links provided by the Caucus of Working Educators—but it’s not there.

Perhaps it will be posted soon, so educators have adequate time to vet it. Either way, I won’t be teaching it. Nor will I be wearing the BLM buttons or shirts. I’m going to pass on BLM’s “Action Week,” and if I were a parent of a Philadelphia school student, I’d demand that my child’s teachers and principals pass on it, too.


Filed under Free Speech, Multiculturalism, Politically Neutral Classrooms

Drexel Professor Ciccariello-Maher Must Apologize For His Racist Tweets



Christopher Paslay

Drexel University mustn’t let one professor’s obsession with white supremacy taint its rich history of academic excellence.

On Christmas Eve, at 10:48 PM, Drexel University Associate Professor Ciccariello-Maher tweeted his 11,000 followers: “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide.”

On Christmas morning the next day, at 11:53 AM, he followed up with another tweet: “To clarify: when the whites were massacred during the Haitian Revolution, that was a good thing indeed.”

Not exactly the kind of tweet that will keep Drexel on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Engineering School’s list, but carefully worded and carefully timed for maximum publicity nonetheless.

Not surprisingly, Drexel issued an official statement on Christmas night addressing Ciccariello-Maher’s inflammatory tweets, saying they were “utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the university.” Drexel also said they were taking the situation “very seriously,” and that they contacted Ciccariello-Maher “to discuss the matter in detail.”

What was Ciccariello-Maher’s response? He published a statement claiming the tweet was satire, just an inside joke to mock America’s real racists and white supremacists:

On Christmas Eve, I sent a satirical tweet about an imaginary concept, “white genocide.” For those who haven’t bothered to do their research, “white genocide” is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it.

Ciccariello-Maher wasn’t sorry or sad, but glad. Glad to have mocked it.

My question is (and I’m sure Drexel has the same question), what exactly is Ciccariello-Maher mocking? That the phrase “white genocide” is a concept invented by white supremacists to denounce multiculturalism? That’s what’s being mocked? That’s the big joke?

I guess I’m not hip to radical, left-wing code phrases, because the joke just isn’t that funny. Especially when you tweet it at 10:48 PM on Christmas Eve, a time when most people, regardless of their race or religion, are putting presents under the Christmas tree, or are at least spending quality time with their family.

Hey, dad! Can I open one present before I go to bed? Please!

No, son. I’m too busy tweeting out jokes about white genocide to all my students and Twitter followers.

But Ciccariello-Maher’s “joke” still doesn’t adequately explain his follow-up tweet on Christmas morning that celebrated whites being massacred during the Haitian Revolution, stating that it “was a good thing indeed.” Slate Magazine tried to connect the dots for Ciccariello, writing, “it seems clear that he was tweaking white supremacists for their repurposing of the term white genocide, which is disingenuously invoked nowadays to pretend that uncontroversial things like interracial dating are as threatening as the slaughter that took place in Haiti in 1804.”

Really? That’s the second punch line? An inference that white supremacists misuse the term white genocide? How is this funny? How is this an appropriate tweet on Christmas morning? The answer is that it’s not. Massacring humans, white or otherwise, isn’t a good thing. But if you look really closely at what Ciccariello-Maher is stating in his second tweet, he’s saying it is a good thing.

The Slate Magazine defense is smokescreen. According to Ciccariello-Maher, there are two kinds of “white genocide,” the real kind (like in Haiti in 1804), and the fake kind (multiculturalism threatening white culture). And which is the good kind? Why, the former, of course. Ciccariello-Maher made this abundantly clear in his Christmas day tweet: “To clarify: when the whites were massacred during the Haitian Revolution, that was a good thing indeed.”

How is this satirical? It’s not. And Ciccariello-Maher still hasn’t adequately explained this.

Drexel has a real problem on its hands. They have a professor who’s condoning violence against an entire group of people, and doing it on a national holiday—not sending out seasons greetings, but ranting about racism and white supremacy like a wild-eyed, 21st century John Brown; all Ciccariello-Maher needs is a broadsword and he can start hacking people up.

“I teach regularly on the history of genocidal practices like colonialism and slavery—genocides carried out by the very same kind of violent racists who are smearing me today,” Ciccariello-Maher went on to state in his statement, apparently referring to the firestorm of reactions his inflammatory tweets provoked. “That violent racism will now have a voice in the White House is truly frightening—I am not the first and I won’t be the last to be harassed and threatened by Bannon, Trump, and co.”

Do you see the irony here? Ciccariello-Maher’s notion that “violent racism will now have a voice in the White House” is just as equally imaginary as white supremacists’ idea of “white genocide” that Ciccariello-Maher rails against. Just because a small fraction of Trump’s supporters are extremists, doesn’t mean they will have any connection to the White House.

Now if I thought like Ciccariello-Maher does (thank God I do not), I might, as a joke, tweet out a satirical message on New Year’s Eve saying something like, “All I Want for the New Year is Violent Racism in the White House.”

That would be funny, wouldn’t it? Really satirical.

As a follow-up, on New Year’s Day, I could also tweet, “To clarify: when all the black slaves were beaten, raped, and killed before the Civil War, that was a good thing indeed.”

Do you see why this deserves to be mocked, according to the Drexel professor’s warped logic? Because Ciccariello-Maher repurposes the term “violent racism in the White House,” which is disingenuously invoked nowadays by radical leftists to pretend that uncontroversial things like Steve Bannon being Trump’s senior advisor are as threatening as pre-Civil War slavery.

Ciccariello-Maher has gotten his 15 minutes of fame, and then some. However, Ciccariello-Maher admits his recent celebrity hasn’t been all roses:

What I am not glad about is that this satirical tweet became fodder for online white supremacists to systematically harass me and my employer, Drexel University. Beginning with—formerly the domain of Special Counselor to the President-Elect, Steve Bannon—and running through the depths of Reddit discussion boards, a coordinated smear campaign was orchestrated to send mass tweets and emails to myself, my employer, and my colleagues. I have received hundreds of death threats.

Death threats, hmm. Never a laughing matter. A death threat from a white supremacist (however you can prove the person issuing the threat is a white supremacist) doesn’t have the same comedic undertone as white genocide, now does it? It’s kind of curious, in a karmic, self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way, that Ciccariello-Maher’s jokes about white genocide are bringing him—and the entire faculty staff of Drexel University, for that matter—dozens of death threats from supposed white supremacists. Who would have thunk it?

So what should Drexel do about the position Ciccariello-Maher has put them in? It’s obvious Ciccariello-Maher is too proud and too self-righteous for any self reflection. It’s obvious that the mass tweets, and emails, and death threats Ciccariello-Maher and his colleagues at Drexel University have received are in no way any fault of his own. And as for Drexel’s official statement calling his tweets “reprehensible” and “disturbing,” well, Drexel must be too dumb to understand the joke.

“Drexel University issued a statement on the matter, apparently without understanding either the content or the context of the tweets,” Ciccariello-Maher said in his statement. “While Drexel has been nothing but supportive in the past, this statement is worrying.”

Apparently, Drexel University, like most Americans not familiar with radical left-wing code phrases, assumed that “white genocide” meant white genocide.

Ciccariello-Maher continued: “On the university level, moreover, this statement—despite a tepid defense of free speech—sends a chilling message and sets a frightening precedent. It exposes untenured and temporary faculty not only to internal disciplinary scrutiny, but equally importantly, it encourages harassment as an effective means to impact university policies.”

Loose translation: it’s unfair that associate professors must be subjected to disciplinary scrutiny when their highly unprofessional, highly inappropriate tweets (though carefully worded and timed for optimal publicity), cause the reputation of an entire school and it’s staff to be dragged through the mud. It’s unfair that a radical, self-proclaimed communist professor with a history of racist tweets and an unhealthy obsession with white supremacy, can’t tweet out his racist, white supremacist view of the world on Christmas Eve and Christmas day without any blowback from his bosses who sign his paycheck.

Boo-hoo. Life is so hard for a white-privileged, elitist, American man with a PhD in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley.

Hey Drexel University—you don’t need this garbage. Despite the old adage, all publicity isn’t necessarily good publicity. A university specializing in math and science, a school with a prestigious engineering program, doesn’t need to delve into the swamp of radical left-wing agitprop.

So Drexel, if you’re reading this, you must demand an apology from Ciccariello-Maher. A sincere apology, not just to the university and its staff, but to the public at large. Ciccariello-Maher needs to realize that white genocide isn’t a funny Christmas Eve anecdote, and that his obsession with white supremacy is toxic and disturbing. If he doubts this reality, ask him to open his eyes and look at the turmoil he’s brought to the entire community of Drexel University.

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Filed under Free Speech, Multiculturalism

School District Mishandles New Act 153 Background Check Law


by Christopher Paslay

The Philadelphia School District’s amended background check requirements do not align with new state law.

The Philadelphia School District sent out an email late Friday afternoon explaining that all District employees hired on or before December 31, 2014 must obtain updated clearances under Act 153 by November 30, 2015.

“The school district is requiring you to obtain updated clearances even if your current clearances were obtained less than 36 months ago to ensure compliance with the Act going forward,” the email stated.

The only problem is, that’s not what the new Act 153 law requires.

According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association:

  • If one or more of your background checks was issued between Dec. 31, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2014, each document renewal is due by its five-year anniversary date of issue.
  •  If all three background checks were issued Dec. 30, 2009 or earlier, these document renewals are due by Dec. 31, 2015.
  •  If you have no background checks because you have been continuously employed prior to Jan. 1, 1986 (the first date a background check was required), you must obtain all three documents by Dec. 31, 2015.

(A very helpful flowchart of the new Act 153 law can be found here.)

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan delivered a letter to Superintendent William Hite questioning the District’s background check requirements:

The District’s approach presents multiple concerns. Although not required by law, the District is requiring anyone who was hired on or before December 31, 2014 to obtain new clearances within the next seven weeks. This means that an employee hired, for example, in August of 2014 and who obtained all the requisite clearances at that time is now required to obtain those clearances again despite having just gotten them months ago. Under the law, such an employee would have until August 2019 to obtain those clearances.

Indeed, it appears as if the District is mishandling the new Act 153 background check law. It’s not just that the District informed its employees of the requirements in a Friday-news-dump style email, but because they waited until October 9 to send out this message—seven weeks before the November 30 deadline.

“Failure to comply with this State of Pennsylvania mandated requirement could result in disciplinary action or your inability to remain in an active employee status,” the District states on its website.

But again, the District’s deadline is not in accordance with PA state law.

Why would the District unnecessarily require ALL employees hired on or before December 31, 2014 to obtain new clearances, even if many of these employees have valid background checks that don’t expire for up to four years?

The District claims it’s so they can track their employees’ renewed clearances:

Currently, the District has no way to track individual clearance expiration dates.  The only way we can comply with the law is to create accurate tracking as employees provide renewed clearances.

The new cycle system will allow the District to track and notify employees of their clearance status with the District, and, by extension, ensure compliance with Act 153 now and in the future.

But this isn’t necessarily true, either. The District could solve this “tracking” problem by allowing any District employee who possesses clearances issued between December 31, 2011, and December 31, 2014 (which remain valid 60 months from their issuance), to resubmit them to the District, which would provide the District with an expiration date; there is no need for these employees to pay for new clearances. Any employee who doesn’t have copies of their valid background checks—or any employee whose clearances have expired by PA state law—would have to obtain new clearances.

Perhaps Dr. Hite and the Office of Talent might consider such a plan? This would cut down on the paperwork backlog in Harrisburg, and collectively save thousands of dollars in application fees—money that could be better spent in the classroom where it’s needed.


Filed under Dr. William Hite