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Texas high school spends $60 million on new football stadium, feeds rivalry

Two rival schools in Texas have taken their rivalry to a new level.

Allen High School in Allen, Texas, built a $60 million stadium, complete with a high-definition video screen, a three-tier press box and a capacity of 18,000 seats that nearly matches the Staples Center.

Could a high school football stadium really be any bigger?

Yes. The answer in Texas is always yes. 

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The Los Angeles Times reported that Allen's neighboring school district in McKinney, Texas, plans to outdo the Eagles' stadium with a nearly $63 million facility -- what could be the nation's most expensive high school stadium. It will be outfitted with a 55-foot-wide, high-definition video screen, an artificial grass field, seating for 12,000 and an adjacent 500-seat event center.

"Oh, it's a rivalry," said Adam Blanchet, a junior at one of the three high schools in the McKinney Independent School District that will use the new stadium. "I have pride knowing my district is going to have the most expensive stadium in the country."

The median household income in McKinney is $83,000. School taxes for property owners amount to $1.63 per $100 of assessed valuation, the Times reported.

To read more on how McKinney is funding the stadium and what students have to say about it, click here.

'Sit With Us' app finds lunch buddies for lonely children

A new app created by a 16-year-old California girl aims to make sure no child eats his or her school lunch alone.

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Natalie Hampton developed the idea for the Sit With Us app, which launched Sept. 9, to help students find kindness and welcoming groups with whom to eat in school lunchrooms across the country.

"Lunch might seem really small, but I think these are the small steps that make a school more inclusive," Hampton told the Washington Post. "It doesn't seem like you're asking that much, but once you get people in the mindset, it starts to change the way students think about each other. It makes a huge difference in how they treat each other."

The now-high school junior told the Los Angeles Daily News that she was inspired to create the app after she ate lunch alone for her entire seventh-grade school year. She said the experience made her feel lonely and vulnerable and made her a target for bullying, which lasted into her eight-grade year.

Hampton told the Daily News that she suffered from nightmares, stress and depression as a result of the bullying, and at one point, she was hospitalized for health issues.

>>Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  

"I was a shell of the person I was. When I walked into a classroom, I was planning an escape route," Hampton said.

The app allows students to connect with other students at their schools, chat with other users to coordinate a lunch, post featured lunches for others to join and search for lunches nearby.

Users create a profile, add friends and describe their interests. Users have the option to designate themselves as "ambassadors" who create "open lunch" events and invite others to join them. The open lunch events serve as go-aheads for all interested students to join the ambassadors' table.

"Sit With Us was born because I am committed to making sure that other kids don't suffer as I did. I believe that seemingly small, incremental changes in the overall dynamic of a school community can bring about change, so that everyone feels welcome and included, " Hampton wrote on the app's official website. "I believe that every school has upstanders like me, who are happy and willing to invite anyone to join the lunch table. It is my hope, with people pledging to be ambassadors at their schools, that no one will feel left out."

Hampton said the new app is especially helpful because the electronic process prevents children from being publicly rejected and being considered social outcasts by their peers. 

"This way it's very private. It's through the phone. No one else has to know," Hampton told Audie Cornish on NPR's "All Things Considered." "And you know that you're not going to be rejected once you get to the table."

The Sit With Us app is free and recommended for children of middle school age and older.

'Free the thigh' protest planned at Washington high school to resist dress code

A student has organized a protest at Aberdeen High School in Aberdeen, Washington, to challenge the school's dress code.

A Facebook page titled "Free the Thigh" created an online event scheduling the protest for Wednesday.

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The Facebook page was allegedly started by a student who got into trouble for wearing jeans that were "too ripped."

"I got dress coded today for wearing these jeans because of the rip on the very top of my leg," Stephanie Ann Stopsen wrote in the caption of a photo of ripped jeans. "This is the first time I have ever had this happen to me, and I was told never to wear these jeans to school again because they're 'inappropriate.'"

Stopsen said she wasn't the only student who was addressed for the same reason by school officials. One post on the page said "at least 40 people along with me (got reprimanded) too for ripped jeans."

"Something needs to change," Stopsen wrote.

If you haven't already seen this, this is why this has all started. It hasn't just been me that has gotten dress coded...Posted by Free The Thigh on Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Aberdeen High School dress code currently states that "Pants shall be worn at the waist and must not have excessive holes or holes located above mid-thigh." Read the code here.

One local mother, Angela Asbury, shared an image of her daughter's ripped jeans on the protest's Facebook page.

"My daughter got dress coded today at the Jr high. I refuse to make her change," Asbury wrote. "We (are) behind this protest 100%."

My daughter got dress coded today at the Jr high..I refuse to make her change...we r behind this protest 100%Posted by Angela Asbury on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Alabama law mandates cursive writing in schools, parents express mixed views

These days, many school assignments are completed online and essays are typed before being turned in. But a new state law in Alabama requires that schools teach children how to write in cursive.

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Lexi's Law, which went into effect Aug. 1, requires cursive handwriting to be taught by the end of third grade in all of the state’s public schools.

Cursive writing lessons will begin in second grade with instruction for how to write lower-case and upper-case letters. By third grade, students should be proficient in writing words and sentences in cursive. The writing practice is to be continued in fourth and fifth grades, the Montgomery Adviser reported.

"It's an ongoing process, just like reading. You start reading, and you read smaller words than you graduate to bigger words, and I think cursive is the same way," Stephanie Odle, an Alabama mother of five in favor of the law, told WBMA. "You can write your name, but there's more to cursive than writing your name."

Lexi's Law gets its name from State Rep. Dickie Drake, who sponsored the bill after his granddaughter, Lexi, said she wanted to learn "real writing."

"She was in the first grade and wanted to learn 'real writing,'" Drake told TODAY Parents. "After much research of schools in the state of Alabama, I found that it was not being taught all over the state -- hit and miss … This bill is for all my grandchildren and others just like them."

Cursive writing has always been a requirement in the state, but the new law requires schools to impose more standardized teaching methods, with benchmarks each school year to certify they are meeting proficiency standards. Teachers will be given more specific instructional plans, and superintendents will have to sign off that students are meeting the requirements.

State legislatures in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee have passed bills and enacted similar mandates in schools to require teaching cursive.

Reactions from parents have been mixed.

Jared and Chelsea Jones are foster parents that say cursive requires less muscle control for their children, who have fine motor issues.

Andrea Overman, a teacher at Alabama Christian Academy, said cursive writing is easier to read than print.

"With cursive all letters start on the baseline, which is the same place and therefore less confusing," Overman told the Adviser. "Individual words are connected with spaces between words, which helps with word recognition."

One New York mother said she would "definitely feel sad" if cursive writing was taken away from her 6-year-old daughter's curriculum.

"Even if these kids are mostly typing when they grow up, I would still like her to learn script," Lyla Gleason said. 

But others disagree.

"When you shake through the arguments, it becomes clear that the driving force keeping cursive alive is really just nostalgia and romanticism," a June Vice.com column states. "For the average person, it’s a skill that will likely not be retained and will definitely not be needed."

"Is this handwriting requirement based on anything other than the argument that we learned it and turned out fine?" wrote Jarvis DeBerry, a dad and the deputy opinions editor at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, in another column. "It would be nice if my daughter learned cursive, but not at the expense of her falling behind her counterparts around the world, whose fingers will be flying over keys."

A 2013 national survey of 612 elementary school teachers found 41 percent no longer incorporated cursive writing into their lesson plans.

Read more at TODAY Parents.

University of Chicago won't support 'trigger warnings,' 'intellectual safe spaces'

A letter sent out by University of Chicago officials warned incoming students that they won't find any "intellectual safe spaces" on the school's campus.

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The letter goes on to acknowledge that the university is committed to "freedom of inquiry and expression" and encourages each student to challenge and broaden their perspectives on issues.

"You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement," the letter read. "At times, this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.

"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called 'trigger warnings,' we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual 'safe spaces' where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

The letter pointed students to more information on freedom of expression and quotes a former president of the university, Hanna Holborn Gray, as saying that "education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think."

The University of Chicago is ranked as one of the top and most selective universities in the country. Less than 8 percent of the more than 31,000 people who applied to enter the class of 2020 were accepted by the school, according to The Chicago Maroon.

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