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Teacher accused of improper relationship smiled because she is innocent, lawyer says

Why did a Texas teacher accused of having an improper relationship with a student smile in her mugshot? Her lawyer has offered an explanation.

According to Dallas-Fort Worth's KXAS, Jason Nassour, attorney for Lockhart High School anatomy teacher Sarah Fowlkes, said she was grinning because she's innocent.

>> On Statesman.com: Lockhart High teacher accused of improper relationship with student

"This isn't a guilty person sitting there like they just got caught," Nassour told KXAS. "When everything's fleshed out, it won't be as it appears."

Lockhart police began investigating the incident March 10 after a school administrator reported that "an educator at the school may be having an inappropriate relationship with a currently enrolled student," according to the arrest affidavit. A 17-year-old student claimed that Fowlkes, 27, touched his genitals and that he "made contact with the defendant's breasts," the affidavit said.

>> See the affidavit here

Fowlkes was arrested on a charge of "improper relationship between educator and student," police said. The school district also suspended Fowlkes, The Austin American-Statesman reported.

"Lockhart parents entrust their children to us every day, and it is something we do not take lightly," Lockhart Superintendent Susan Bohn said in a statement, the American-Statesman reported. "The district does not and will not tolerate any improper communication or contact between a teacher and child."

Bohn also alerted parents about the arrest and suspension in an email, the American-Statesman reported.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Teacher accused of improper relationship with student smiles in mugshot 

Nassour told KXAS that Fowlkes "was arrested on the statement of a 17-year-old kid with no corroborating evidence."

>> Read more trending news

According to the American-Statesman, Fowlkes, who taught anatomy and physiology and environmental systems at Lockhart High, previously taught science and social studies at Plum Creek Elementary School. The Houston Chronicle, citing Fowlkes' social media accounts, reported that she has been married since 2013.

Teacher accused of improper relationship with student smiles in mugshot

A 27-year-old science teacher at a Texas high school has been arrested after being accused of having an improper relationship with a student, the Lockhart school district announced Monday.

>> UPDATE: Teacher accused of improper relationship smiled because she is innocent, lawyer says

Lockhart High School teacher Sarah Fowlkes, a school district employee since October 2014, also was suspended from her job. The district said it was alerting the State Board for Educator Certification about the case.

The district said it first received a report about the relationship on March 10, before the start of spring break, and alerted Lockhart police and Child Protective Services. Police said the student was 17 years old.

>> Read more trending news

“Lockhart parents entrust their children to us every day, and it is something we do not take lightly,” Superintendent Susan Bohn said in a statement. “The district does not and will not tolerate any improper communication or contact between a teacher and child.”

Bohn emailed Lockhart High parents on Monday to notify them of the arrest and Fowlkes’ suspension. The superintendent also asked parents to speak with their children about what happened.

“If any student or parent has information about this situation, please contact the Lockhart Police Department at 512-398-4401,” Bohn wrote. Counselors also would be available at the high school for support, she said.

Fowlkes, who grew up in Dripping Springs, taught anatomy and physiology and environmental systems, according to a cached webpage that has since been deleted from the district’s website. According to the webpage, Fowlkes earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from St. Edwards University and went through the UTeach program at the University of Texas before earning an alternative teaching certification. She previously was a third- and fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at Plum Creek Elementary in the district.

University bumps up graduation date for student with dying father

Ken Brown’s dying wish was to see his son, Collin, graduate from the University of Minnesota.

When university officials learned that the Champlin man, who is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was not likely to survive until his son’s May graduation date, they decided to do something special for him, according to KARE-TV in Minneapolis. They brought the graduation to him, two months early. 

Brown is in the late stages of ALS, with which he was diagnosed four years ago, during Collin Brown’s freshman year. 

“It’s been a big formative part of all of my college years,” Collin Brown said. “So I think it’s a good kind of end and conclusion to all of that.”

University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler hosted the makeshift ceremony, attended by a few dozen people, on Monday at the Browns’ home. KARE-TV, which was there for the occasion, reported that Kaler’s voice cracked as he welcomed Ken Brown and the other guests to the ceremony.

“I’m really glad we were able to do it for the family,” Kaler told the news station. “I know it means a lot to them.”

Ken Brown saw his daughter, Keegan, graduate from the university two years ago. He wanted to live long enough to watch Collin walk across the stage, as well. 

Doctors don’t believe that he will live until May, his wife, Patti Brown, said.

“The hospice doctor thought that it would be about Easter, and May would be a stretch,” Patti Brown said

Ken Brown said he would be at the May commencement ceremony, in which Collin still plans to participate, if he lives that long.

>> Read more trending stories

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. As the motor neurons that control muscle movement throughout the body die, the patient loses the ability to move, speak, eat and breathe.  

According to the ALS Association, the average life expectancy after diagnosis is three years. About 20 percent of patients live five years, 10 percent live 10 years and 5 percent live 20 years or more. 

An example of someone in that 5 percent is famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1963. 

Teacher raps 'Bad and Boujee' to teach the Civil War

A teacher at Edwards Middle School in Conyers took an Atlanta rap group’s hit single “Bad and Boujee” and fashioned it for a Civil War lesson for his students. 

David Yancey has picked out artists like Atlanta's own Migos, Chance the Rapper and Adele to help his students learn. 

"I'm trying to get kids to want this,” Yancey said.

>> Read more trending news  

"They're really catchy,” student Allison Adcock said. “So, you remember them, like during tests when you need them."

Mixing a hit with history has paid off in the classroom.

"Because now they're really willing to hear the material to understand it and they're always looking forward to the next song,” Principal Fred Middleton said.

And now subjects like the Civil War and Cherokee Indians bring them to their feet.

"I’m not Migos," Yancey said. "I'm not Adele. I'm an eighth-grade social studies teacher who is trying to reach them."

Besides being an aspiring singer, Yancey also happens to be the school's reigning Teacher of the Year.

OMG my HS friend teaches middle school in atl now and rapped about civil war over migos beat. bad and bougee = mad and losing.pic.twitter.com/XhNqKS16Fc— josie duffy rice (@jduffyrice) March 13, 2017

Elementary school apologizes after students asked to make slave auction posters

Officials at a New Jersey school district have apologized for a fifth-grade history assignment that had students making slave auction posters that were then hung up around their school.

The superintendent of the South Orange-Maplewood School District issued an apology following a backlash from parents, according to WABC-TV in New York. Students at South Mountain Elementary School were studying colonial America when they were asked to draw examples of events that would have occurred during their assigned colonial time period.

The assignment included “a poster for a lecture, speech, protest or slave auction,” the news station reported.

One student who drew a poster for a slave auction included, for sale, “Anne, aged 12 years, a fine house girl,” “Edwin, aged 24 years, a great hunter” and “Sam, aged 18 years, a field (sic) hand.”

Another student drew a “Wanted” poster for a slave accused of stealing food and money. It listed a reward for the female slave’s capture.

The students who drew “Wanted” posters included images of people with brown skin.

MAPSO Community-Have some disheartening news.  While we pride ourselves on our towns culture of progression and...Posted by Jamil Karriem on Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Some parents and community members took offense to the lesson. Jamil Karriem, who posted photos of the posters to his Facebook page, wrote that it was “completely lost on (him)” how the project was effective at teaching students American history.

“These images were on display for all students (ages ranging from 4-10) to see, including those that would lack any context of the underlying 'lesson' or 'purpose,'” Karriem wrote. “Educating young students on the harsh realities of slavery is, of course not the issue here, but the medium for said education is grossly insensitive and negligent.”

He urged parents to contact school and district officials and included the email addresses of the superintendent, the board member representing the school and the school principal.

>> Read more trending stories

Parent Glenn Conover told WABC-TV that he thought the posters were disrespectful to the black students in the school. Caregiver Andrea Espinoza disagreed.

“It’s part of history, of course,” Espinoza told the news station. “It happened. I think it’s good that they know.”

Dr. John Ramos Sr., superintendent of the school district, told WABC-TV that the assignment was part of a colonial America lesson unit that’s been in place for a decade. He said, however, that the district recognizes that the slave auction posters, while historically relevant, were “culturally insensitive.”

“We certainly understand and respect the strong reaction which some parents had to seeing slave auction posters included with other artwork from the assignment," Ramos said in a statement to CNN. "We are rethinking the Colonial America Project for next year, and will eliminate the example of a slave auction poster.”

The posters have been removed from the hallways of the school.

'Hallelujah': School gets musical with snow day announcement

It's a snow day for much of Massachusetts, but one school in particular received the news in a special song from the superintendent.

>> CLICK HERE for the latest weather forecast

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Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School Superintendent Aaron Polansky rewrote the words to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to let students know that they could sleep in on Tuesday morning. 

>> Watch the video here

>> Read more trending news

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University of Texas elects first Latina, physically disabled student president

Fourth-year government and Mexican-American studies major Alejandrina Guzman made University of Texas history Thursday when she was elected to be the Austin campus’ first Latina and physically disabled student-body president.

>> Read more trending stories

A campus-wide runoff election concluded with Guzman and running mate Micky Wolf capturing 54 percent of the vote and winning the election by an almost 800-vote margin Thursday evening.

As part of the "Alejandrina and Micky" campaign, Guzman said she ran for student-body president because she realized how important it was for her to represent and advocate for underserved communities on campus.

 Zooming around campus these past four years, I’ve learned to navigate campus and expand my comfort zone, but not always...Posted by Alejandrina Guzman on Friday, February 17, 2017

The campaign ran on a platform with six points:

  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Accessibility for disabled students
  • Addressing sexual assault
  • Affordability of college
  • Service
  • Spirit and tradition.

The motto was "Let’s RALLY," which stood for Represent All Longhorns Like You.

Outgoing student-body president Kevin Helgren congratulated Guzman and Wolf in a Facebook post.

"Running for student body president and vice president at one of the largest universities in the world is no small task – it takes a tremendous amount of courage, vulnerability and sacrifice ... I’m excited to see where leadership takes our passionate student body," he said.

Helgren also acknowledged the other two campaigns for their hard work.

Candidates for student-body president and vice president at UT have been more diverse in recent decades, according to UT spokesman J.B. Bird.

However, it has been 17 years since the last African-American student-body president, Daron Roberts. Six years have passed since the last female student-body president, Natalie Butler — until Guzman.

High school installs showers, laundry facilities for homeless students

A high school in Utah that operates a food pantry on campus has expanded its offerings to help students in need.East High has installed showers and laundry facilities on campus for homeless students to use, according to KSTU.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  School officials estimate between 50 and 100 students do not have access to such facilities on a daily basis.Principal Greg Maughan became aware of the issue after students were seen using the theater department's laundry facilities for personal clothes. Maughan told KSTU, "Everyone who enters this school has the right to be clean."The school has installed two new wash rooms, each with a shower and a washing machine and dryer. The washing machine was donated by a local nonprofit. Donations have helped fund the new additions as well as the popular food pantry.

Middle school dean plans revenge attack on student

A school dean at Nolan Middle School in Bradenton, Florida, has been demoted after text messages revealed that she plotted a revenge attack on a student she believed injured her son. 

Wende Pendleton-Wicks, the dean, texted a 15-year-old boy, asking him to hurt a student she believed had broken her 8-year-old son’s arm, the Bradenton Herald reported.

>> Read more trending stories  

Pendleton-Wicks’s son broke his arm in December while playing with some other boys in the bus lane at the school.

The dean admitted that while she was at the hospital with her son, she sent text messages to a former Nolan student who offered to retaliate against the boy believed to be responsible for the injury, according to the Herald.

“Don’t you worry I’ll pick (the student) up and drop him,” the student wrote to Pendleton-Wicks.

The dean replied, “Please do.”

The student later reached out to the boy who allegedly hurt Pendleton-Wicks’s son, asking him to meet up at the playground to fight. Both the dean and the student told investigators that she eventually texted the student and instructed him to not harm the other student. However, she claims she had deleted all of the messages and was unable to provide proof of her change of heart.

“I guess he was just being protective of me is all I can think of,” she said when asked why a middle school boy would offer such a service to her, adding that he had gotten her phone number from his grandmother.

Pendleton-Wicks has since been demoted to a floating substitute teacher and will become a regular classroom teacher next school year, according to The Associated Press

Read more at the Bradenton Herald.

School lets sleepy students nap

It sounds like a dream, being able to nap during class without getting in trouble with the teacher. 

Students in several New Mexico high schools are seeing that dream come true, sort of. 

Instead of pushing back start times, a few schools in Las Cruces have brought in sleep pods, NBC News reported.

Students can now take a 20-minute doze between classes, which is helping them learn.

>> Read more trending news  

The pods, made by MetroNaps, include a chair that reclines and is covered by a sensory-reduction bubble that envelops the napper's head and body, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

One school has the pods installed in its health center. They are not just being used for students and staff who feel sleepy.

Linda Summers, who secured the grant to purchase the pods, said that someone with a headache or high blood pressure, is sent to the pod. It has also helped calm down students after fights.

Instead of leaving school when they don't feel well, students were able to return to class 99 out of 100 times when school officials tracked the results.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, teenagers need 9 to 10 hours a sleep a day. But the institute's research says that 40 percent of teens report being too sleepy. Teens not only have eight hours or so of school; many have homework, sports, part-time jobs and chores to accomplish every day that cut into their sleep schedules.

For more on how to get more sleep, click here.

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