Denver teachers strike for 2nd day, negotiations to resume
By COLLEEN SLEVIN
Tuesday, February 12
DENVER (AP) — The teacher strike in Denver entered a second day Tuesday with educators disputing pay back on the picket lines and union and school officials set to resume negotiations in an effort to end the walkout.
The strike affecting about 71,000 students in the school district began Monday after last-minute negotiations broke down over the weekend.
All schools were open and staffed by administrators, substitutes and teachers not participating in the strike. The negotiations were scheduled to start late Monday morning.
According to preliminary reports from the school district, 58 percent of teachers stayed away from district-run schools, slightly more than on the first day of the strike Monday.
The walkout came about a year after West Virginia teachers launched the national “Red4Ed” movement with a nine-day strike in which they won 5 percent pay raises. Most recently, Los Angeles teachers went on strike last month.
There are 71,000 students in district-run schools. Another 21,000 are enrolled in charter schools unaffected by the strike.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, told a crowd of picketing teachers outside the Colorado State Capitol on Monday that theirs was the latest in a national movement to provide just compensation to educators.
“You are unique here in Denver because here you are saying, ‘Can I just know what I’m being paid?’” she said. “Let me tell you: You are going to change this.”
In Denver, the dispute is over the school district’s incentive-based pay system. The city’s school district gives bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 a year to teachers who work in schools with students from low-income families, in schools that are designated high priority or in positions that are considered hard to staff, such as special education or speech language pathology.
The union is pushing to lower or eliminate some of those bonuses to free up more money that would be added to overall teacher pay.
Kimberly Beckeman, a ceramics and sculpture teacher at South High School, said she cried when the union announced teachers would go ahead and strike after 15 months of negotiations failed to produce a deal. She said she did not want to leave her students, but it was time for teachers to act.
“It’s what’s right. It’s not ideal. I don’t want to be out here,” she said on the picket line outside the school Monday.
The district sees the disputed bonuses as key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students.
Denver teachers say the reliance on bonuses in the district leads to high turnover, which they say hurts students, and that spending money on smaller class sizes and adding support staff, like counselors, is the best way to help disadvantaged students learn.
The district has proposed raising starting teacher pay from $43,255 to $45,500 a year. That’s $300 a year less than the union’s proposal, which would add $50 million a year to teacher base pay, according to union officials.
Associated Press writers P. Solomon Banda and James Anderson in Denver contributed to this report.
Opinion: Oops Journalism
By Bill O’Keefe
The coverage of the Covington Catholic (Kentucky) High School incident during this year’s March for Life may have shown journalism at its worse. Depending on your bias, you could find a version of the event to confirm it.
In this age of 24/7 news and instantaneous coverage of events, journalists and the media that employ them have incentives to be first with a piece of news. If they get it wrong, many don’t engage in introspection; they simply move on.
Partly this is a result of two conflicting definitions of what constitutes journalism — writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation and writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest. The second definition, which seems to be the one followed today, has no emphasis on facts without attempted interpretation.
Interpretation moves an article from reporting to opinion without acknowledging it.
The pejorative Fake News is not new but today, more journalists appear to follow Mark Twain’s counsel; “get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
That this is taking place so frequently can be attributed to the 24/7 news cycle and the explosion of sources of media. Seventy years ago, George Orwell wrote “1984.” Almost 60 years ago, Daniel Boorstin, historian and former librarian of the Library of Congress, wrote “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America.” One insightful observation by Boorstin was, “By harboring … and enlarging our extravagant expectations, we create the demand for the illusions with which we deceive ourselves. And which we pay others to make to deceive us.”
This was not a new finding. Boorstin points out that P.T. “Barnum’s great discovery was not how easy it was to deceive the public, but rather, how much the public enjoyed being deceived.”
Unfortunately, Boorstin offers no quick fix. “There is no formula for mass disenchantment. … Each of us must disenchant himself, must moderate his expectations, must prepare himself to receive messages coming in from the outside.”
The lessons that not only journalists should take from the Covington Catholic incident and similar ones is one that I learned from a former colleague, Phil Goulding, who wrote a book “Confirm or Deny” after his tenure as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. That lesson is “first reports are always wrong — or so often wrong that they always must be considered suspect.” He amended that later to say third reports should be taken with a grain of salt. At least that is my recollection.
The volume of what is described as news is so great and comes at us so rapidly that all of us would be better served by starting with the view that I am not convinced and then look for information to confirm or deny. This can be accomplished by not being a slave to a single or small set of sources and by recognizing the dangers of confirmation bias — tendency to not view information objectively.
An article in Psychology Today made this observation, “Confirmation bias occurs when people would like a certain idea/concept to be true. … They are motivated by wishful thinking. … Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it.”
The bottom line for readers and listeners is to avoid jumping to conclusions. For journalists, it is to focus on getting it right rather than fast.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Bill O’Keefe is the founder of Solutions Consulting in Midlothian, Va. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: ‘Free Expression/Free Speech’ for Students Getting Muzzled
By Jared Schroeder
Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the right of a 13-year-old and her friends to protest peacefully against American involvement in Vietnam at their school.
The justices’ decision in the landmark free expression case Tinker v. Des Moines provided us with indelible imagery and a lasting statement about student free speech and symbolic expression.
In upholding the students’ decision to wear black armbands to school in 1965, the court reasoned, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Fifty years after that moment, it is difficult to celebrate this benchmark ruling without a little disappointment. Tinker just isn’t what it used to be.
Years of Supreme Court decisions have undermined and confused the 1969 precedent, leaving student expression rights at a crossroads, even as justices have expanded safeguards for nearly every other area of free expression:
—Corporations and advertisers have found increasing amounts of protection.
—Safeguards for hateful, offensive speech, such as the ideas communicated by the Westboro Baptist Church, have been reinforced.
—Justices have struck down laws that limited flag burning, lying about military honors, and selling videos that depict animal cruelty.
Free speech in the public schools might just be the only area where First Amendment safeguards have narrowed, rather than expanded, in the past half century. It seems the court has hung Tinker out to dry.
In Bethel v. Fraser in 1986, the court concluded that a student’s speech, which was filled with sexual innuendos, could be limited. Justices explicitly stated their decision did not overturn Tinker, but they reasoned that administrators have a right to maintain the educational goals of the school environment.
This is a reasonable concern, but administrators have taken the “educational environment” rationale to extreme levels, halting expression rather than using it to teach students about civil discourse and the long-standing American value of protest and free speech.
Two years after Bethel, the court greatly narrowed student press rights in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, providing school administrators the power to censor information students sought to publish in school media if it did not align with educational objectives. Many administrators have used the ruling as an excuse to censor student publications at whim.
An Arkansas high school suspended its newspaper and threatened to fire the adviser in December after students published a story that questioned whether the district had violated its own transfer policy when five football players switched high schools. A principal in Texas censored multiple student newspaper pieces last spring because they were “incorrect, not uplifting, and did not voice all 3,000 students at their school.”
In 2018, the Student Press Law Center, marking Hazelwood’s 30th anniversary, hosted a day of action and started the hashtag #curehazelwood.
Most recently, the court ruled against a student’s banner in Morse v. Frederick. Joseph Frederick, while not in attendance in school that day, joined his classmates on a public street along the Olympic torch run parade route. As the parade passed, he unfurled the large banner, which read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” The principal took the banner down and Frederick was suspended.
In a 5-4 decision, justices determined the banner, though Frederick said it did not mean anything, was a pro-drug message, which administrators had a right to limit.
Justices could have made this decision a turning point in the downward slide of student free expression rights. They could have chosen to emphasize that Frederick’s banner was displayed in a public forum, did not disrupt the educational environment, and that the principal, as a government actor, had halted his speech.
Justices, however, took another chunk out of Tinker.
The argument regarding student free expression rights is far from resolved.
As more and more issues become political and divisive, student free expression will continue to be a challenging topic. Earlier this month, for example, a school district in Wisconsin banned the Confederate flag from its campuses, citing the need to protect the educational environment.
New technologies are also complicating what constitutes the schoolhouse gate, as students use personal devices and social media accounts to threaten, harass and shame classmates in ways that have repercussions on campuses. Last spring, a high school senior in Alabama was given in-school suspension for criticizing administrators for not allowing students to take part in a walkout regarding gun-violence in schools. Does the school have the power to penalize student expression when its done on their own time on their personal devices?
Tinker remains a valid Supreme Court precedent — something justices can draw from in future rulings — and its imagery of the schoolhouse gate remains a compelling and commonly cited argument for student expression rights.
What Tinker lacks, and requires as it settles into middle age, is a renewed appreciation — from the courts, school administrators and parents — for what young people can contribute when they engage in matters of public concern and a recognition that safeguarding student speech is crucial to raising a generation that is not only aware of its rights, but knows how to exercise them.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jared Schroeder is an assistant professor of journalism at Southern Methodist University — Dallas, where he specializes in First Amendment law. He is the author of the 2018 book “The Press Clause and Digital Technology’s Fourth Wave: Media Law and the Symbiotic Web.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
How to keep your pets safe from marijuana poisoning
February 7, 2019
Dogs are more sensitive than humans to the psychotropic (mind-altering) effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis products.
Authors: Colleen Dell, Professor and Research Chair in One Health & Wellness, University of Saskatchewan
Erin Wasson, Clinical Associate, Veterinary Social Work, University of Saskatchewan
Kevin Cosford, Assistant Professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Saskatchewan
Disclosure statement: Colleen Dell receives funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research & the University of Saskatchewan. Erin Wasson and Kevin Cosford do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Saskatchewan provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA. University of Saskatchewan provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA-FR.
If you live with a pet, there is a good chance you consider it to be a member of your family. It is well established that companion animals, ranging from cats and dogs through to birds and rodents, can have a positive health benefit in our lives.
When cannabis was legalized in the parts of the United States, there were substantial increases in marijuana-related visits to children’s hospitals and calls to poison control centres. Pets are just as vulnerable — just like our human family members, pets are susceptible to getting sick.
Working as a researcher, a veterinarian and a social worker at the University of Saskatchewan, we have teamed up to help prevent the same occurring this side of the border in Canada.
Dogs are attracted to cannabis
The latest estimate and purchase data shows that a sizeable amount of recreational cannabis has been purchased since it was legalized in October 2018.
Alongside an available illegal supply, this increases the chance of pet intoxication from cannabis.
Also, with the production and sale of cannabis edibles in the works for October 2019, the risk of exposure will be even greater. Pets may also be exposed to medical cannabis.
At the University of Saskatchewan we are studying the effectiveness of service dogs as psychiatric support for veterans who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A large percentage of the veterans we work with are prescribed medical cannabis, and we know first-hand that dogs are attracted to it. Planning for the animal’s safety is key for both the dog and the veteran.
Dogs more sensitive to psychotropic effects
Intoxication typically occurs from eating recreational or medical cannabis, but second-hand smoke can affect animals as well.
Signs of poisoning can include uncoordinated movement, disorientation, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, drooling and dribbling urine.
How long cannabis intoxication will last depends on such factors as the amount consumed, the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration and the size of the pet.
Although considered rare, in some cases cannabis toxicity can be fatal. This is of particular concern for dogs because of their remarkable ability to locate interesting smells, and sometimes ingest the source. We also know that dogs are more sensitive than people to the psychotropic (mind-altering) effects of THC.
Following the ABCs of cannabis safety for pets should help keep all members of your family safe. Here is what you need to know.
How to keep your pets safe
Appropriate storage: All cannabis, cannabis products and accessories should be securely stored and be kept out of reach of pets. This includes byproducts such as cigarette butts, roaches or bong water. An empty 900 gram coffee can, with a secure top, can work well.
Be aware of poisoning signs and symptoms: In pets this can present as uncoordinated movement, balance disturbances, disorientation, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, vocalization, drooling, variations in temperature and heart rate rhythms and possibly dribbling urine.
In severe cases, seizures, tremors and coma can result. It is really important to tell your veterinarian if you think your pet has consumed cannabis. A quick diagnosis may save your pet’s life and possibly money on your vet bill.
Connect with support when needed : If your pet is showing signs of poisoning, it is important to get them immediate medical care. Your veterinarian can help monitor and regulate your pet’s vital signs and keep them safe. A specific treatment plan will be made by the attending veterinarian based on the patient’s current clinical condition.
Signs of poisoning can be immediate or may occur hours after exposure and can be short-lived or last for several days. For a $50 USD fee, you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline.
Hemp is not approved for animals
Many people are unaware that both recreational and medical cannabis products can be harmful to our pets. Because medical cannabis is prescribed, it is often thought to be made up of mostly non-psychotropic CBD (cannabidiol), but it can contain high levels of THC. It is also common for medical cannabis products to be in concentrated forms, such as oils, and therefore potentially more harmful if ingested by pets.
Pets are also being increasingly exposed to hemp products — specifically as a remedy for pet ailments such as pain and anxiety. Hemp contains a very low level of THC, less than 0.3 per cent.
Although there is an abundance of stories about people using it to improve their pet’s health, it is important to know that there is little scientific evidence. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association notes that cannabis use of any type is not approved for animals and could interact with other medications and have unknown side effects. There is a need for research in this area.
Can your cannabis
As with any beloved family member, knowing the facts is essential. This enables us to make informed choices and behave in responsible ways on our pets’ behalf.
University of Saskatchewan Peer Health has led the development of a Can Your Cannabis container outlining the ABCs of cannabis safety for pets and people. This is available for free to campus students and clients of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
And if an accident does occur, after receiving medical attention most dogs will recover. Following the ABCs of cannabis safety for pets can help prevent unnecessary suffering for all family members.
Opinion: National Popular Vote — Making Every Vote Unequal
By Tara Ross
Anti-Electoral College advocates see a window of opportunity to eliminate America’s unique presidential election system. They are seizing the moment, working to implement change before anyone realizes what happened.
They even think they can do it without a constitutional amendment.
National Popular Vote (NPV) is a California-based effort that has been running under the radar. Its proponents ask state legislatures to agree to an interstate compact. By the terms of that simple contract, each participating state would agree to allocate its entire slate of electors to the winner of the national popular vote. This is a change from the current system in which states award electors based on the internal state popular vote.
NPV claims it is simply using constitutional provisions in a unique way. In reality, the compact would effectively eliminate the Electoral College.
NPV’s plan goes into effect when states representing 270 electoral votes (enough to win the presidency) have agreed to the compact. To date, 11 states plus D.C. have approved the measure. Those states hold 172 electoral votes among them. NPV hopes to reach 250 electors by the end of the year. They would need just 20 more during the early months of 2020 to put their plan into action before the presidential election.
The idea is gaining steam. Legislative committees in Colorado and New Mexico approved NPV just last week. A House committee in New Hampshire is scheduled to consider the legislation this week. More efforts can soon be expected in places like Oregon, Minnesota and Virginia, where the legislation is pending.
NPV proponents rely heavily on simple sound bites such as “every vote equal” or “one person, one vote.” The sound bites are certainly appealing: They sound fair-minded and democratic. Ironically, though, NPV would ensure the precise opposite of its stated goal. If its compact goes into effect, NPV would guarantee unequal treatment of voters.
Some of the reasons are obvious. Others less so.
First, small to mid-size states can never receive equal treatment under a national popular vote system. How can they? Candidates have limited time and resources. They will not work to build support across state and regional lines without an Electoral College to force the subject.
Consider that Hillary Clinton won fully 20 percent of her individual votes from only two states: New York and California. The mistake cost her the election. But without the Electoral College, she would be rewarded for such behavior, and candidates would be sure to double down on the strategy. New Hampshire, Wyoming and other small-population states would easily be lost in the shuffle.
NPV guarantees unequal treatment of voters for a second, less obvious reason: NPV is state legislation, not a constitutional amendment. States participating in NPV cannot tell non-NPV states what to do. Thus, NPV cannot authorize creation of a single, national election code to govern everyone nationwide. Instead, some people will be given more time to vote, simply because of their state of residence. Others might have an easier time getting an absentee ballot than those in neighboring states. Some people might have ballots that contain more third-party options.
Today, no one cares if Texans have more time to early vote than voters in Colorado. A ballot cast in Texas can’t change the identity of Colorado’s electors. But with NPV in place, a ballot cast in Texas could dictate the outcome in Colorado. Suddenly, it matters a great deal that Texans had more opportunities to vote.
If the most basic rule of democracy is that the same set of laws should apply equally to everyone in the same election pool, then NPV will violate this rule egregiously, every presidential election year, without fail.
Don’t worry. Someone, somewhere will file an Equal Protection claim. The litigation will make Florida 2000 look easy.
NPV guarantees unfair treatment of voters in one final way: It acts as if “consent of the governed” is unimportant, pretending that a simple interstate compact can be used in lieu of the constitutional amendment process.
“We the People of the United States” consented to a Constitution that creates a state-by-state presidential election system. The Electoral College is just one of many checks and balances in our constitutional republic, preventing a bare, emotional or tyrannical majority from running roughshod over the rest of the country. “We the People” agreed that this process can be changed only if three-quarters of the states agree. Yet NPV attempts to skirt this process entirely. It is prepared to radically change the presidential election system, whether “We the People” consent or not.
Apparently, NPV doesn’t care so much about fairness after all.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Tara Ross, a retired lawyer and a former editor-in-chief of the Texas Review of Law & Politics, is the author of “The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule.” She wrote this for InsideSources.com.