Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Canadian Teen Commits Suicide After Alleged Rape, Bullying, CNN

The family of a teenager who committed suicide after she was allegedly gang-raped and bullied is urging Canadian officials to reconsider filing criminal charges.

Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old high school student from Halifax, Nova Scotia, was taken off life support on Sunday, three days after she tried to hang herself. Her family told CNN they met with Canadian justice officials on Wednesday and the officials assured them they would take a fresh look at filing charges.

The teen was bullied for more than a year after the alleged sexual assault, which happened in November 2011 when she was 15, her family said.

Authorities confirmed that a photograph allegedly showing Parsons having sex with one of the boys was circulated to friends’ mobile phones and computers. As a result, her family said she developed suicidal thoughts.

Charter School’s Entry Fee is Illegal, The Houston Chronicle

Houston Gateway Academy, a public charter school that serves mostly low-income families, was charging parents fees to enroll their children in violation of state law, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Applicants to the school received a letter saying the fee – $100 for one child or $200 per family – was required for students to land a reserved spot next fall.

The school described the mandatory payment as an “activity fee” that was “for but not limited to special activities, P.E. equipment and other supplies, bus transportation for field trips, enrichment activities and/or renovations district wide.”

Charter schools and traditional school districts are allowed to charge for materials, student clubs, identification cards and a few other areas under state law, but the fees cannot be tied to admission, said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.

Best and Worst Restaurant Meals for Kids, The Houston Chronicle

A nonprofit consumer advocacy group is urging restaurants to take greater steps to encourage kids to eat healthier.

A recent report by the Centers for Science in the Public Interest looks at nutrition information from kids’ meals in some of the country’s top restaurant chains and evaulates the meals based on nutrition guidelines laid out by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program.

The study, performed by CSPI and the University of North Carolina at Asheville, looked at the 50 top U.S. restaurant chains but could only find nutrition info for 34 of them.

Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Texas Investigator found 30+ Bruises, Cuts on Dead Boy Adopted from Russia, CNN

A 3-year-old adopted boy — whose death in West Texas has drawn stern criticism from Russia — had more than 30 bruises, cuts and other marks on his body soon after he was pronounced dead, according to a report from a Texas medical examiner obtained by CNN.

Along with his 2-year-old brother, Max Shatto arrived in the United States with his adoptive parents in November 2011. Just more than two months later, his adoptive mother told authorities that she found him unresponsive in the family’s Gardendale, Texas, backyard. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital.

Soon after Max’s death on January 21, Russia’s top child rights advocate tweeted that the boy had been “killed” or “murdered.” Children’s Rights Commissioner Pavel Astakhov later acknowledged he might have spoken too soon — though he has remained highly critical of the U.S. handling of the case.

A High School where the Students are the Teachers, Time

If high school students took charge of their education with limited supervision, would they learn? A Massachusetts school is finding out.

“Some kids say, I hate science or I hate math, but what they are really saying is: I hate science class or I hate math class,” says high school senior Matt Whalan.

Whalan is writing a novel. That’s a notable feat for a 17-year-old, and he has a semester to finish it. Whalan is enrolled in the Monument Mountain Regional High School’s Independent Project, an alternative program described as a “school within a school,” founded and run by students. The semester-long program is in its third year, and Whalan has completed the program three times during his high school career and says it has saved his grades.

Torrington Holding Public Meeting on Cyberbullying, NorthJersey.com

The arrests of three high school students on sexual assault charges and the online taunting of an accuser have prompted Torrington officials to organize a community meeting on cyberbullying, statutory rape and social media.

Board of Education Chairman Kenneth Traub said Monday that school officials, local police and religious leaders are organizing a community forum they expect to hold in the first two weeks of April. He said additional public meetings are possible.

“I imagine that the public input section of it would be overwhelming,” Traub told the Register Citizen newspaper of Torrington. “We are working with the city and the police department to put on a forum to discuss the issues at hand.”

Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Ex-TEA Chiefs Concede Too Much Testing, Houston Chronicle

It was the first time these four men and woman had shared a single stage, at least in recent years. The Texas Tribune billed the event as “Ex-Commissioner Confidential.” Four of the five most recent commissioners of the Texas Education Agency had agreed to appear together for an in-public, on-the-record interview that no doubt would include questions about the most controversial topics in education.

There wasn’t much they kept confidential.

Unleashed from the politics of their public office, former commissioners Mike Moses, Jim Nelson, Shirley Neeley and Robert Scott acknowledged that the Texas education system they had overseen had gone too far with high-stakes testing. They didn’t settle on the appropriate number of tests, but agreed that the 15 end-of-course exams  most Texas high school students now must pass to graduate was too many.

Parents Say Bullying Led to 12-Year-Old Son’s Death, CNN

Playing catch in the yard. Walking in the park. Watching a Phillies or Flyers game. Laughing.

It’s the simple things Rob O’Neill said he misses most about his only child, Bailey.

Cupping his chin, O’Neill slowly scans his living room and sighs.

“Honestly, I just miss sitting with him on the couch,” said O’Neill, 39. “I won’t hear ‘Daddy’ anymore. That’s tough.”

O’Neill said his son was punched during a bullying incident at recess at Darby Township School on January 10. He said Bailey, a 6th grader, suffered a fractured nose, a concussion and seizures from the attack. Two weeks after the incident, he was placed in a medically induced coma.

Louisiana Voucher School Students Taught Hippies Were Dirty, Rude, Rock-Loving Satan-Worshippers, Huffington Post

If Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) loses a legal battle over his school voucher program, his state’s tax dollars may no longer go toward sending students to private institutions to learn that hippies were all a bunch of disheveled, drug-addled, godless philistines.

While the controversial law remains mired in the courts after being ruled unconstitutional last year, however, Louisiana taxpayers will continue to fund a program that sends poor and middle-income students to private institutions with curricula often determined by controversial and inaccurate textbooks.

The latest bizarre history lesson comes from the page of an unnamed textbook, via John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, and suggests that the text’s author wasn’t very fond of a particular counter-culture movement of the 1960s.