Supreme Court rules states can’t police video game content

Not even close, with Clarence Thomas (?) on short end of a 7-2 vote. Parents will have to keep up with what’s going on in their homes.  Or not.

From The Associated Presss:

WASHINGTON — States cannot ban the sale or rental of ultraviolent video games to children, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, rejecting such limits as a violation of young people’s First Amendment rights and leaving it up to parents and the multibillion-dollar gaming industry to decide what kids can buy.

The high court, on a 7-2 vote, threw out California’s 2005 law covering games sold or rented to those under 18, calling it an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia, said, “Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply.”

Scalia, who pointed out the violence in a number of children’s fairy tales, said that while states have legitimate power to protect children from harm, “that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

Read more:

Ex-official: Atlanta school chief ordered test evidence destroyed

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Superintendent Beverly Hall ordered the destruction of investigative documents that detailed “systematic” cheating on standardized tests in the Atlanta Public Schools, according to a former high-ranking district official.

Hall also instructed subordinates to omit “adverse findings” from a new version of the report and then publicly cited the revised document in an aggressive rebuttal of the cheating allegations, the former official says.

When she protested, the former official says, her supervisor said the district had the right to “sanitize” the investigation and that “the matter was closed” because Hall “had directed that all other documents be destroyed.”

Destroying or altering government records is a felony in Georgia, carrying a prison sentence of as much as 10 years.

In a statement Tuesday, district officials broadly denied the former official’s allegations.

The accusations appear in a letter to the superintendent from a lawyer representing Colinda Howard, who from 2005 to 2010 headed the district’s internal investigations office. The lawyer was seeking a monetary settlement for Howard, who resigned under pressure after she was accused of making lewd comments to male employees. The lawyer alleged the district investigated Howard as retaliation for her vocal opposition to “illegal and unethical actions she was directed to undertake by her superiors.” The district later cleared Howard and paid her a small settlement.

Lawyers for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained a copy of the letter and related documents, which came to light in a criminal investigation of cheating by teachers and school administrators on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. A team of special investigators, appointed last August when state officials found the district’s own inquiry inadequate, is expected to report its findings to Gov. Nathan Deal this month, which could result in prosecutions of district officials. The investigators declined to comment Tuesday.

The inquiry’s conclusion coincides with Hall’s departure after 12 years as superintendent. Amid the cheating scandal, she announced last fall she would not seek an extension of her contract past its June 30 expiration.

To read the entire article, click here.


Life imitates art: PTA crime wave continues

Update: Read the editorial.

Volunteer groups are susceptible to embezzlement, especially during hard times. It’s an issue in CHAIN GANG ELEMENTARY, and out there in the real world, the latest case comes from New Jersey. Brian Freskos reports in the StarNewsOline:

Embezzlement charges directed against two area women active in parent support organizations that strive to better education underscore the financial vulnerability of volunteer groups when safeguards are lacking or neglected, experts said.

Deputies in New Hanover and Brunswick counties drew warrants earlier this month, accusing the women affiliated with the Sunset Park Elementary PTA and the Lincoln Elementary PTO with stealing thousands of dollars from their groups. Though filed within a day of each other, authorities say the cases are unrelated.

The allegations raised questions about the strengthening of financial protections in an era where experts have noted an anecdotal rise in white-collar crimes. Those interviewed in the past week believe the upswing is at least partially attributable to economic hardship.

Authorities charged Dana Leigh Brooks, 38, with 12 counts of embezzlement over accusations she stole more than $5,000 from Lincoln’s PTO between February and June. She came to the attention of authorities after the group received multiple complaints from parents concerning a recent fundraiser where ordered items were never delivered. Sgt. April Stanley, a spokeswoman for the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, said that when the funds were examined, it was discovered the goods were never paid for and there was a discrepancy in the finances.

Freskos goes on to deal more deeply with the vulnerability of volunteer groups and some of the remedies being pursued. To read more, click here.

There is such a place …

. . . as Chain Gang Road.

It’s in Eastover, South Carolina (shock!), which is southeast of Columbia.  Kids who live on Chain Gang Road go to Webber Elementary School, which is kind of funny. (Look at the cover of CHAIN GANG ELEMENTARY and you’ll see why.) There’s also a Chain Gang Hill Road near Spartanburg. That one is supposedly haunted, not by the ghosts of prisoners, but by the spirits of young girls victimized by the Gaffney strangler.

National PTA took 112 years to elect male president. Or did it take that long for a guy to volunteer?

As a guy and former PTA president, I’m very conscious of gender roles and disparities in education and parent-teacher groups. Still, I was surprised to see a news item put out by the National PTA, proudly recounting the accomplishments of its first-ever male president, Charles J. “Chuck” Saylors, who is now ending his two-year term. For details, click here.

Believe me, I know that PTA leadership is overwhelmingly female, but I didn’t realize it had been exclusive from 1897-2009. You can build up a lot of stereotypes in that amount of time.

I deal with this issue in Chain Gang Elementary, when Richard Gray fights gender stereotypes and breaks a 20-year “females only” tradition at the Malliford PTA to begin his ill-fated tenure. The last guy to take the job had messed up big-time, so people are watching Richard with a skeptical eye, waiting to see if he can break the curse. 

Are the hostilities that arise caused by his male attitudes, or is something else at work at Chain Gang Elementary? It will be interesting to see what readers think.