Kids get “baby booked” in Baltimore: The real Chain Gang deal

It's actually happening in Baltimore--just turn them around

This is grim. The violence is so bad in one Baltimore community that the cops are hauling nine- year-old girls out of Morrell Park Elementary School in handcuffs. This follows playground fights in which a child was nearly drowned and another forced to lie on railroad tracks.

Parents have criticized the perp walks (and holding the girls for nealry twelve hours), but police defent thie actions — and also paint an ominous picture of what they’re dealing with in this neighborhood.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

“We handled the detentions as we would any felony suspect,” department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “I think what they did to the victims speaks for itself. We worked with the school administration to get them out of class. Once we brought them to the office, they were arrested.”

State regulations limit the authority of police on school grounds, requiring immediate notification of parents and forbidding interrogations in the school. The regulations also say: “When possible and appropriate, arrest by police should be made during non school hours and away from the school premises.”

Police in this case arrested the youths Thursday afternoon for an altercation they said occurred nine days earlier. Parents and other critics argue that officers could have detained the youths after the school day had ended — and with much less fanfare.

“It’s virtually impossible to imagine a scenario where it is appropriate to take 8- and 9-year-olds out of a school in handcuffs,” said Sonia Kumar, an attorney with the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union who works with juvenile issues.

“The notion that this was treated like any other felony case is totally sickening,” Kumar said. “What universe is that?”

Read more.



PTA embezzlement: “You wouldn’t think this would happen”

I would.

And she faces such a heavy, heavy penalty.

This one’s from New Jersey:

ROSELLE PARK — A Roselle Park woman has admitted stealing more than $8,000 from the local Parent Teacher Association, where she served as treasurer, Union County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Barnes said.

Jamie Amato, 41, pleaded guilty in Superior Court in Elizabeth Thursday to taking $8,659 from the Robert Gordon Elementary School PTA account last year.

This amounted to nearly a third of the PTA’s annual budgetm and Amato gets off with probation if she pays back the money. Otherwise, she has to serve a whopping 90 days in jail.

Money quote: “You wouldn’t think this would happen but everybody’s a volunteer,” (the PTA president) said. “The people you work with are your friends but you just never know.”

Read more.

Zany? Yes. Gripping? Sure. Offbeat? You betcha!

“Grant provides trenchant criticisms of educational policy … (with) acerbic wit.” – Publishers Weekly

Book Tackles Difficult Issues of Education, Parenting, and Bake Sale Embezzlement

 Chain Gang Elementary is a tale of war between a PTO president and a grade school principal, with casualties. “And jokes,” author Jonathan Grant adds. “It’s funny. It’s not so funny. I tell people it’s my revenge for being forced to read Lord of the Flies in high school.”

Setting PTO embezzlement and testing scandals against a backdrop of “diversity fails” and bitter culture wars, the novel’s plot seems like it’s been lifted from recent news headlines. Grant spent years working on the book, however. “When I was an elementary school PTA president, I wanted to write a non-fiction book—a how-to guide for parent leaders,” he explains. “Then I saw Murder at the PTA Luncheon. Actually, I came across this phrase: ‘Every good school is fundamentally the same, but every bad school is unique.’ This got me thinking, and being a novelist, I decided instead to tackle the subject as a cautionary tale, a “how-not-to” guide for parent-educator relationships.”

Grant also publishes the Chain Gang Blog (, his Darwin Award-ish take on crime, education, public policy, and whatever else he find weirdly fascinating. A typical headline: “Contrary to popular opinion, duct tape does not fix children.”

* * *

Book Description: After a murder at Bonaire Elementary, Richard and Anna Lee Gray seek a good school for their son Nick in a safe neighborhood. Their search leads them to Malliford, a “school of excellence.” When redistricting sends scores of minority students to Malliford, iron-willed Principal Estelle Rutherford declares war on kids to raise test scores and save her reputation. Dissident parents revolt, electing Richard to head the Parent-Teacher Organization, and tensions explode. Welcome to Chain Gang Elementary, home to vast right-wing conspiracies, 3rd-grade gangsters, and bake sale embezzlers–where toxic childhood secrets boil over, reformers go stark raving mad, and culture wars escalate into armed conflict.

Author Bio: Jonathan Grant grew up on a Missouri farm and graduated from the University of Georgia. The former journalist and state government spokesman lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children. He is the author of the novel Brambleman and co-author/editor of The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia, a Georgia “Book of the Year.”

Chain Gang Elementary
A Novel by Jonathan Grant
336 pp., Thornbriar Press
ISBN 978-0-9834921-0-8
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9834921-1-5

Atlanta cheating scandal: Heads continue to roll

There’s been a lot of personnel activity at Atlanta Public Schools lately, as the system continues its cleanup in the wake of last year’s devastating report. In the latest news, three more teachers face firing.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

That brings to 19 the number of educators the district has taken steps to terminate after months of delay and millions spent in payroll and legal expenses. APS is paying about $1 million a month to some 110 educators accused of cheating who remain on leave, but the system is trying to resolve the cases by the end of the school year.

The three educators from Parkside and Usher Collier Heights elementary schools were sent “charge letters,” outlining the reasons why the district plans to fire them.

Donald Bullock, who worked at Usher Collier Heights, is accused of making test available to teachers so they could change answers. Selena Wyatt and Terance Shipman of Parkside Elementary are accused of cheating by verbally prompting students to change incorrect answers on state exams.

Employment hearings will be held in April and May for educators who receive charge letters and want to fight for their jobs. Earlier this week, five educators received letters, including Cedric Carwise and Sabrina Luckie from Fain Elementary, Derrick Broadwater, Arlette Crump and Angela Williamson from Dobbs Elementary.

The newspaper also reports that 10 of 11 teachers who received charge letters resigned ratther than face a hearing, and the one teacher who went through a hearing lost.

Read more.

This parent-teacher conference did not end well

The parent got detention. He also reportedly assaulted a deputy, got tasered four times, and couldn’t keep his clothes on for the mugshot. By the way, this story comes from Tennessee. Just sayin’.

What caught my eye abou this story at first was the headline from a TV station: “Man Arrested After Arriving Drunk To PTA Meeting.”

Oh, like that’s never happened before. Do you know how many PTA committees get together in Mexican restaurants? I remember a bylaws meeting where I was the only one not drinking magaritas. But I digress.

This was apparently some kind of Freudian slip by the headline writer. The article makes no mention of the PTA. It was a parent-teacher conference–to which sheriff’s deputies were called.

Keith Pippin, 32, was arrested on March 22nd at Lafayette Elementary School in Macon County, Tennessee, and charged with public intoxication, assault, and resisting arrest.

According to the Macon County Chronicle:

While being placed under arrest (for public intoxication), Deputy Carter stated that Pippin struck him in the chest, shoved him against the wall and began to run.

According to his report, Deputy Carter deployed his Taser as Pippin entered the hallway, where he went down but “got back up very fast, and took off running down the hallway.”

Deputy Carter then deployed his Taser a second time.

“At this time the Deputy thought the defendant was going to obey verbal commands and surrender, but as the defendant was rolling over, he grabbed the wires from the Taser and pulled them loose and took off running down the hallway,” stated Sheriff Gammons.

Deputy Carter was able to catch up to Pippin, but Pippin continued to resist, shoving the officer again.

According to the report, Pippin then escaped through an exit door, and Deputy Carter Tasered him a third time.

“As the Deputy was trying to get him into custody, he was fighting with the Deputy,” remarked Sheriff Gammons, “and while the Deputy went to try to Taser the defendant, the Deputy was Tasered and the defendant got away.”

Deputy Carter was able to catch up to Pippin a short distance away, Tasered him again and successfully got him into custody.

New book examines Forsyth County’s infamous history

News from Thornbriar Press
For release upon receipt
Download pdf version of release

Brambleman Examines Forsyth County’s Racist Past

A new novel by an award-winning writer and editor focuses attention on one of the most horrific acts of racism in U.S. history and its repercussions “unto the third and fourth generation.”

Brambleman tells the story of down-and-out Atlanta writer Charlie Sherman, who is convinced by a mysterious stranger to finish a dead professor’s book about a crime that’s gone unpunished for decades. What Charlie works on is an unwieldy manuscript about the mob-driven expulsion of more than 1,000 blacks from Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912. However, Charlie also uncovers a terrible secret involving a Forsyth County land grab. Due to its proximity to Atlanta, the stolen farm is now worth $20 million—and a sale is pending. When he finds the land’s rightful owner, Charlie becomes convinced he’s been chosen by a Higher Power to mete out justice and wreak vengeance on those who profit from evil. That’s when things go horribly wrong.

Author Jonathan Grant says the story will probably be controversial. “Many people don’t want to be reminded about Forsyth County’s past—especially because, to many people, that past has become the county’s defining characteristic—what made it what it is today.”

“The way I tell the story will ruffle even more feathers,” Grant admits. “Brambleman isn’t a dry, documentary treatment of historical events. It’s definitely not preachy. It’s wildly funny, with a heavy supernatural twist and a protagonist who often resorts to very non-heroic tactics and, along the way, doubts his sanity, motives, and who he’s actually working for.”

The novel is an outgrowth of Grant’s work on his late father Donald L. Grant’s magnum opus, The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia (University of Georgia Press), named Georgia’s “Book of the Year” when it was published. “The last narrative my father wrote was on Hosea Williams’s two Forsyth County marches in 1987,” Grant says. “While I worked on the book, I became painfully aware that Forsyth County never received its proper due from historians. I wanted to give it the attention it deserved. Two decades later, Brambleman is here.”

Author Bio: Jonathan Grant grew up on a Missouri farm and graduated from the University of Georgia. The former journalist and state government spokesman lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children. He is the author of the novel Chain Gang Elementary and co-author/editor of The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia.


A novel by Jonathan Grant
 Thornbriar Press, Atlanta
ISBN 978-0-9834921-2-2 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-9834921-3-9 (ebook)
Suggested retail: $18.95 (paperback), $8.99 (ebook)