Category Archives: Educational Indoctrination

Baltimore 7-year-old suspended for making ‘gun’ out of a pastry

NBC News | Mar 5, 2013

By M. Alex Johnson

A 7-year-old boy Baltimore boy was suspended from school after his teacher complained that the boy chewed a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, the boy’s father says.

In a note that was sent to parents Friday, Park Elementary School officials told parents only that “a student used food to make an inappropriate gesture,” WBFF-TV of Baltimore reported.

The boy, Josh Welch, a second-grader, told the station he was actually trying to shape a mountain, “but it didn’t look like a mountain really, and it turned out to be a gun, kinda.”

Josh’s father, B.J. Welch, called Josh’s two-day suspension “insanity.”

“With all the potential issues that could be dealt with at school —  real threats, bullies, whatever — the real issue is, it’s a pastry,” he told WBFF. “You know?”

Educators have been extra sensitive to representations of weapons in the wake of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six educators were killed.

In January, a 5-year-old girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” at a kindergarten in the Mount Carmel Area, Pa., School District for saying she was going to shoot classmates and herself with her pink “Hello Kitty” bubble gun.

NBC Philadelphia: Kindergartner suspended for pink bubble gun threat

“This is a good-natured little girl,” said Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl, who hasn’t been identified because of privacy laws. “And this shows how hysterical people who work at schools have become since Sandy Hook.”

Parents horrified after learning primary schoolchildren aged just 10 are playing ‘the raping game’

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Shock: Pupils have been banned from playing ‘the raping game’ – a playground activity that Stanford Junior School in Brighton (pictured) has stepped in to stop

One game called Rapelay sees the main character try to rape a mother and two daughters.

‘As soon as we found out this inappropriate word was being used, we spoke to the children concerned and they now no longer use it.’

Daily Mail | Feb 15, 2013

Primary school children have been banned from playing a new break time game they called ‘the raping game’.

The playground activity had been named after a violent video game which depicts violent sexual assaults on a mother and two daughters.

More than a dozen boys, some as young as nine, were caught playing the ‘the raping game’ at Stanford Junior School in Brighton, East Sussex.

The school confirmed it had been taking place and headteacher Gina Hutchins said she had spoken to children about the vile name. It has now been called ‘the survival game’ following the head’s intervention.

Mrs Hutchins said: ‘As soon as we found out that this inappropriate word was being used, we spoke to the children concerned and they now no longer use it.’

The game has been played mainly by boys in Year 5 at the school for the past two to three weeks.

It involves one person being ‘on’ who has to catch others until only one is left uncaught and that person is the winner.

About 13 boys, aged nine and ten, played the game in the school playground but have since changed the title.

One concerned parent said: ‘I was horrified that my son had learnt that word.

‘He is only nine. Thankfully he did not know what it meant but it was that horrible thought he might use it elsewhere.

‘Most people assume children learn these words at home.’

The parent added she did not blame the school saying it is almost impossible to stop children bringing words into the playground.

They commended the headteacher for her swift actions in taking decisive action and stamping out the use of the word.

It is unsure what video game led to the naming of the game, but several on the market contain scenes of rape.

One game called Rapelay sees the main character try to rape a mother and two daughters.

Cops nab 5-Year-Old for wearing wrong color shoes to kindergarten

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Wearing the wrong shoes can get kids thrown into one of these in Mississippi. (Photo: Mitch Kezar)

Cops Nab 5-Year-Old for Wearing Wrong Color Shoes to School

In Mississippi, if kindergarteners violate the dress code or act out in class, they may end up in the back of a police car.

takepart.com | Jan 18, 2013

By Suzi Parker

A story about one five-year-old particularly stands out. The little boy was required to wear black shoes to school. Because he didn’t have black shoes, his mom used a marker to cover up his white and red sneakers. A bit of red and white were still noticeable, so the child was taken home by the cops.

The child was escorted out of school so he and his mother would be taught a lesson.

Ridiculous? Perhaps. But incidents such as this are happening across Mississippi. A new report, “Handcuffs on Success: The Extreme School Discipline Crisis in Mississippi Public Schools,” exposes just how bad it’s become.

Released on January 17, the report is a joint project between state chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Mississippi Coalition for the Prevention of Schoolhouse to Jailhouse and the Advancement Project.

The report examined more than 100 school districts and claimed that black students are affected by harsh disciplinary actions at a much greater rate than their white peers. It notes that “for every one white student who is given an out-of-school suspension, three black students are suspended, even though black students comprise just half of the student population.”

Carlos McCray, an associate professor at Fordham University Graduate School of Education in the Education Leadership Administration Program, says, “Research has shown that students who are subjected to multiple suspensions and expulsions are more likely to drop out of school. And we all know where this leads.”

More: In Mississippi, Dress Code Violations and Back-Talk Send Students Straight to Jail

This isn’t something new in Mississippi. Last October, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against officials in Meridian, Miss., for operating a school-to-prison pipeline.

“The needless criminalization of Mississippi’s most valuable asset—its children—must be dealt with immediately by school leaders and the communities they serve,” said Nancy Kintigh, the ACLU of Mississippi’s program director, in a statement.

“Zero-tolerance policies were originally designed to protect students from individuals who pose a threat on school grounds. Instead, they are being used to send children home for trivial things that should be solved in the principal’s office.”

Mississippi has long struggled with its education system.

It ranks sixth lowest among the 50 states in graduation rates. On a recent Science and Engineering Readiness Index, the state ranked 50th for high school students on their performance in physics and calculus. It came in last on the National Assessment of Educational Progress survey in 2012.

More out-of-school suspensions result in a school’s lower academic success, Thursday’s report noted. Some Mississippi schools have out-of-school suspension rates that are more than nine times higher than the national average.

Judith Browne Dianis, codirector of Advancement Project and longtime advocate for an end to extreme school discipline policies, said Thursday in a press release that “Implementing a graduated approach to discipline, and using non-punitive measures focused on preventing misbehavior by providing supportive interventions, have been proven to reduce suspensions and expulsions while creating safe, effective learning environments for our youth.”

The report cited several examples of unfair disciplinary measures, including the story of the child with the “black” shoes. Other incidents include:

• Students on a school bus were throwing peanuts at one another. Because one of the peanuts hit the female bus driver, five black male high school students were arrested on felony assault charges.

• A student was sent to a juvenile detention center for wearing the wrong color socks. It was considered to be a probation violation from a previous fight.

Kelly Welch, an associate professor in sociology and criminal justice at Villanova University, said that zero-tolerance policies are often harsher in schools with large minority student populations.

“Since we know that the effects of exclusionary punishments, such as suspension and expulsion, are so detrimental for student learning as well as future involvement in criminal justice, it is imperative that these policies be examined to ensure that they are only used when absolutely necessary and that they are not racially discriminatory,” Welch said.

Majoring in Minors: Turning Our Schools Into Totalitarian Enclaves

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huffingtonpost.com | Feb 2, 2013

by John W. Whitehead

Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks created a watershed between the freedoms we enjoyed and our awareness of America’s vulnerability to attack, so the spate of school shootings over the past 10-plus years from Columbine to Newtown has drastically altered the way young people are perceived and treated, transforming them from innocent bystanders into both victims and culprits. Consequently, school officials, attempting to both protect and control young people, have adopted draconian zero-tolerance policies, stringent security measures and cutting-edge technologies that have all but transformed the schools into quasi-prisons.

In their zeal to make the schools safer, school officials have succumbed to a near-manic paranoia about anything even remotely connected to guns and violence, such that a child who brings a piece of paper loosely shaped like a gun to school is treated as harshly as the youngster who brings an actual gun. Yet by majoring in minors, as it were, treating all students as suspects and harshly punishing kids for innocent mistakes, the schools are setting themselves and us up for failure — not only by focusing on the wrong individuals and allowing true threats to go undetected but also by treating young people as if they have no rights, thereby laying the groundwork for future generations that are altogether ignorant of their rights as citizens and unprepared to defend them.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the increasingly harsh punishments and investigative tactics being doled out on young people for engaging in childish behavior or for daring to challenge the authority of school officials. Whereas in the past minor behavioral infractions at school such as shooting spitwads may have warranted a trip to the principal’s office, in-school detention or a phone call to one’s parents; today, they are elevated to the level of criminal behavior with all that implies. Consequently, young people are now being forcibly removed by police officers from the classroom, strip searched, arrested, handcuffed, transported in the back of police squad cars, and placed in police holding cells until their frantic parents can get them out. For those unlucky enough to be targeted for such punishment, the experience will stay with them long after they are allowed back at school. In fact, it will stay with them for the rest of their lives in the form of a criminal record.

Consider the case of Wilson Reyes, a seven-year-old elementary school student from the Bronx who got into a scuffle with a classmate over a $5 bill. In response to the incident, school officials called police, who arrested Reyes, transported him to the police station and allegedly handcuffed the child to a wall and interrogated him for ten hours about his behavior and the location of the money. His family is in the midst of pursuing a lawsuit against the police and the city for their egregious behavior.

A North Carolina public school allegedly strip-searched a 10-year-old boy in search of a $20 bill lost by another student, despite the fact that the boy, J.C., twice told school officials he did not have the missing money. The assistant principal, a woman, reportedly ordered the fifth grader to disrobe down to his underwear and subjected him to an aggressive strip-search that included rimming the edge of his underwear. The missing money was later found in the school cafeteria.

And in Chicago, a 15-year-old boy accused by an anonymous tipster of holding drugs was taken to a locker room by two security guards, a Chicago police officer, and a female assistant principal, and made to stand against a wall and drop his pants while one of the security guards inspected his genitals. No drugs were found.

That students as young as seven years old are being strip searched by school officials, over missing money no less, flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Safford Unified. Sch. Dist. v. Redding. Insisting that Arizona school officials violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her on the suspicion she was hiding ibuprofen in her underwear, the justices declared that educators cannot force children to remove their clothing unless student safety is at risk.

Precedent-setting or not, however, the Court’s ruling has done little to improve conditions for young people who are the unfortunate casualties in the schools’ so-called quest for “student safety.” Indeed, with each school shooting, the climate of intolerance for “unacceptable” behavior such as getting into food fights, playing tag, doodling, hugging, kicking, and throwing temper tantrums only intensifies. And as surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug sniffing dogs and strip searches become the norm in elementary, middle and high schools across the nation, the punishments being meted out for childish behavior grow harsher.

Even the most innocuous “infractions” are being shown no leniency, with school officials expelling a 6-year-old girl for bringing a clear plastic toy gun to school, issuing a disciplinary warning to a 5-year-old boy who brought a toy gun built out of LEGOs to class, and pulling out of school a fifth-grade girl who had a “paper” gun with her in class. The six-year-old kindergarten student in South Carolina was classified as such a threat that she’s not even allowed on school grounds. “She cannot even be in my vehicle when I go to pick up my other children,” said the girl’s mom, Angela McKinney.

Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension after school officials discovered that one of his LEGOs was holding a 2-inch toy gun. That particular LEGO, a policeman, was Patrick’s favorite because his father is a retired police officer. David Morales, an 8-year-old Rhode Island student, ran afoul of his school’s zero tolerance policies after he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and tiny plastic Army figures in honor of American troops. School officials declared the hat out of bounds because the toy soldiers were carrying miniature guns. A 7-year-old New Jersey boy, described by school officials as “a nice kid” and “a good student,” was reported to the police and charged with possessing an imitation firearm after he brought a toy Nerf-style gun to school. The gun shoots soft ping pong-type balls.

School officials are also exhibiting zero tolerance for the age-old game of cops and robbers, a playground game I played as a child. In a new wrinkle on this old game, however, it’s not the cop who gets the bad guy. Now, the game ends when school officials summon real cops who arrest the kindergartners for engaging in juvenile crime. That happened at a New Jersey school, from which four little boys were suspended for pretending their fingers were guns. Most recently, two children at two different schools in Maryland were suspended in the same month for separate incidents of pretending their fingers were guns. In another instance, officials at a California elementary school called police when a little boy was caught playing cops and robbers at recess. The principal told the child’s parents their child was a terrorist.

Unwittingly, the principal was right on target: These are acts of terrorism, however, the culprits are not overactive schoolchildren. Rather, those guilty of terrorizing young children and parents nationwide are school officials who — in an effort to enforce zero tolerance policies against violence, weapons and drugs — have moved our schools into a lockdown mentality.

Things have gotten so bad that it doesn’t even take a toy gun, pretend or otherwise, to raise the ire of school officials. A high school sophomore was suspended for violating the school’s no-cell-phone policy after he took a call from his father, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who was serving in Iraq at the time. A 12-year-old New York student was hauled out of school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. In Houston, an 8th grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school in memory of her grandmother (the school has a zero tolerance policy against the rosary, which the school insists can be interpreted as a sign of gang involvement). And in Oklahoma, school officials suspended a first grader simply for using his hand to simulate a gun.

With the distinctions between student offenses erased, and all offenses expellable, we now find ourselves in the midst of what TIME magazine described as a “national crackdown on Alka-Seltzer.” Indeed, at least 20 children in four states have been suspended from school for possession of the fizzy tablets in violation of zero tolerance drug policies. In some jurisdictions, carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick or dying your hair blue are actually expellable offenses.

Students have also been penalized for such inane “crimes” as bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. A 9-year-old boy in Manassas, Va., who gave a Certs breath mint to a classmate, was actually suspended, while a 12-year-old boy who said he brought powdered sugar to school for a science project was charged with a felony for possessing a look-alike drug. Another 12-year-old was handcuffed and jailed after he stomped in a puddle, splashing classmates. After students at a Texas school were assigned to write a “scary” Halloween story, one 13-year-old chose to write about shooting up a school. Although he received a passing grade on the story, school officials reported him to the police, resulting in his spending six days in jail before it was determined that no crime had been committed.

These incidents, while appalling, are the byproducts of an age that values security over freedom, where police have relatively limitless powers to search individuals and homes by virtue of their badge, and where the Constitution is increasingly treated as a historic relic rather than a bulwark against government abuses. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but the future doesn’t look good from where I’m sitting — not for freedom as we know it, and certainly not for the young people being raised on a diet of abject compliance to police authority, intolerance for minor offenses, overt surveillance and outright totalitarianism.

Anticipating domestic surveillance boom, colleges rev up drone piloting programs

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Doctoral candidate Brittany Duncan assembles an unmanned aerial vehicle in a lab at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. John Brecher / NBC News

“We want them to think about how to apply this military hardware to civilian applications.”

The University of North Dakota, which launched its unmanned aircraft systems operations major in 2009, has similar success stories. Professor Alan Palmer, a retired brigadier general of the North Dakota National Guard, said 15 of the program’s 23 graduates now work for General Atomics in San Diego, which makes the Predator and Reaper drones used in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

NBC News | Jan 31, 2013

By Isolde Raftery

Randal Franzen was 53, unemployed and nearly broke when his brother, a tool designer at Boeing, mentioned that pilots for remotely piloted aircraft – more commonly known as drones – were in high demand.

Franzen, a former professional skier and trucking company owner who had flown planes as a hobby, started calling manufacturers and found three schools that offer bachelor’s degrees for would-be feet-on-the-ground fliers: Kansas State University, the University of North Dakota and the private Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

He landed at Kansas State, where he maintained a 4.0 grade point average for four years and accumulated $60,000 in student loan debt before graduating in 2011. It was a gamble, but one that paid off with an offer “well into the six figures” as a flight operator for a military contractor in Afghanistan.

Franzen, who dreams of one day piloting drones over forest fires in the U.S., believes he is at the forefront of a watershed moment in aviation, one in which manned flight takes a jumpseat to the remote-controlled variety.

While most jobs flying drones currently are military-related, universities and colleges expect that to change by 2015, when the Federal Aviation Administration is due to release regulations for unmanned aircraft in domestic airspace. Once those regulations are in place, the FAA predicts that 10,000 commercial drones will be operating in the U.S. within five years.

Although just three schools currently offer degrees in piloting unmanned aircraft, many others – including community colleges – offer training for remote pilots. And those numbers figure are set to increase, with some aviation industry analysts predicting drones will eventually come to dominate the U.S. skies in terms of jobs.

At the moment, 358 public institutions – including 14 universities and colleges – have permits from the FAA to fly unmanned aircraft. Those permits became public last summer after the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The government issues the permits mainly for research and border security. Police departments that have requested them to survey dense, high crime areas have been rejected.

Some of the schools that have permits have been flying unmanned aircrafts for decades; others, like Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, received theirs recently to start programs to train future drone pilots.

Alex Mirot, an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle who oversees the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science program there, said this generation of students will pioneer how unmanned aircraft are used domestically, as the use of drones shifts from almost purely military to other applications.

“We make it clear from the beginning that we are civilian-focused,” said Mirot, a former Air Force pilot who remotely piloted Predator and Reaper drones used to target suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere for four years from a base in Nevada.

“We want them to think about how to apply this military hardware to civilian applications.”

Among the possible applications: Monitoring livestock and oil pipelines, spotting animal poachers, tracking down criminals fleeing crime scenes and delivering packages for UPS and FedEx.

With U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, drone manufacturers also are eager to find new markets. AeroVironment, a California company that specializes in small, unmanned aircrafts for the military, recently unveiled the Qube, a drone designed for law enforcement surveillance.

The FAA hasn’t allowed police agencies to fly drones over populated areas – because of concerns about airspace safety, as drones have crashed or collided with one another abroad. But that hasn’t stopped some agencies from buying them in anticipation of their eventual approval. The Seattle Police Department, for example, has two small aircraft, which two officers occasionally fly around a warehouse for practice. For now, a police spokesman said, federal rules are too restrictive to use them outside.

The domestic market is so nascent that there isn’t even agreement on what to call unmanned aircraft – “remotely piloted aircraft,” “unmanned aerial vehicles” – UAVs – or by the most mainstream term, “drones.” The latter makes many advocates bristle; they say the term confuses their aircraft with the dummy planes used for target practice – or with the controversial planes used to kill suspected terrorists abroad.

Industry attracting engineers and pilots

Students at Embry-Riddle train on flight simulators that closely resemble the Predator, an armed military drone with a 48-foot wingspan, because the FAA will not issue a drone license to a private institution.

Without guidance from the FAA, Embry-Riddle has struggled with how to create a robust program that will turn out employable graduates.

“As of now there aren’t rules on what an (unmanned aircraft) pilot qualification will be,” Mirot said. “You have to go to employer X and ask them, ‘What are you requiring?’ And that becomes the standard.”

The bachelor’s degree program also includes 13 credits in engineering, so students understand the plane’s whole system, Mirot said.

Embry-Riddle recently graduated its first student with a bachelor’s degree, but those who graduated earlier with minors in unmanned aircraft systems have fared well, Mirot said.

“I had a kid who deployed right away and he was making $140,000,” Mirot said. “That’s more than I ever made. Yeah, he’s going into Afghanistan, but he had no previous military experience or security clearance.”

Mirot said many of his students aspire to be airline pilots. But with salaries for commercial airline pilots starting as low as $17,000 in the first year, they plan to start in unmanned systems to pay off their loans, then maybe apply for an airline job, he said.

The University of North Dakota, which launched its unmanned aircraft systems operations major in 2009, has similar success stories. Professor Alan Palmer, a retired brigadier general of the North Dakota National Guard, said 15 of the program’s 23 graduates now work for General Atomics in San Diego, which makes the Predator and Reaper drones used in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Engineering and computer science students, too, are in demand by the drone industry. At least 50 universities in the U.S. have centers, academic programs or clubs for drone engineering or flying. Many of the engineering students work on projects making the drones “smarter” – that is building more sensitive sensors – and studying how the robots interact with humans.

George Huang, a professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, who builds drones the size of hummingbirds, said nearly all his 20 students work as researchers for the Air Force. This means they’re earning between $60,000 and $80,000 a year while still enrolled, instead of the $15,000 stipend that graduate students typically receive from their schools.

At the University of Colorado in Boulder, doctoral candidate Sibylle Walter said unmanned systems appeal to her because the results are immediate. In the past, she said, aerospace students typically ended up at Boeing or another big company and spent years working on one element of a project. Instead, she is working with her adviser to build a supersonic drone capable of flying up to 1,000 mph.

“The link between education and application is much more compact,” Walter said of the unmanned aircraft. “That translates to this new boom. You can build them inexpensively – you don’t need $100 million to build one.”

Ethical warfare?

Despite the promise of numerous civilian applications, drones continue to be controversial because of their role as weapons of war.

At Texas A&M University, which has an FAA permit to fly drones, computer science student Brittany Duncan is unusual among her peers: She’s a licensed pilot, a computer scientist and a woman. She probably could land a high-paying job for a military contractor, but she’s intent on staying in academia, studying robot-human relations, specifically how robots should approach victims of a natural disaster without scaring them.

On a recent hot, dusty morning, Duncan, 25, pulled a small aircraft from the back of a 4×4 pickup. Wearing black work boots and Dickies, she quickly assembled a remote-controlled aircraft that resembled a flying spider, then launched the aircraft – equipped with sensors and a video camera – over a pile of rubble to practice capturing footage.

At her side was Professor Robin Murphy, her adviser and a veteran of real-world unmanned aircraft operations, having flown over the World Trade Center after 9/11, the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, Japan, after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster there (although she stayed in Tokyo). She believes drones could revolutionize public safety.

“I could show you a photo of firefighters from today, and it could be a photo of firefighters from 1944,” Murphy said. “They haven’t had a lot of boost in technology. [Unmanned aircraft] could be a real game-changer.”

Duncan knows there is resistance from communities where drones have been introduced. In Seattle, for example, the ACLU argued that drones could invade privacy. But as Duncan sees it, this makes her work even more relevant.

“That’s the most important thing to me – that people understand good can come from drones,” Duncan said. “Every technology is scary at first. Cars, when they went only 6 mph, people thought there would be a rash of people getting run over. Well, no, it’s going slow enough for you to get out of the way. And it’ll change your life.”

Duncan said she considers the implications of working on machines that are for now mostly used for war. Despite conflicting reports on civilian casualties in drone strikes, she’s convinced that unmanned aircraft offer a more-ethical battlefield alternative because they take the pilot’s “skin” out of the game.

“If you’re flying a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter and look down and think someone has a surface-to-air missile, you’re going to shoot first and figure it out later because you’re a pilot and your life is in danger,” she said. But with drones, “(You) can afford to make sure that someone is a combatant before they engage – because you don’t have your life on the line. It takes your emotion out of the equation.”

While that debate continues, the Department of Defense is showing no loss of appetite for drones, despite the drawdown in Afghanistan. This year, it plans to spend $4.2 billion on various versions of the unmanned aircraft, 15 times more than it did in 2000.

For Professors Mirot and Palmer, that is evidence that their programs will stay relevant, no matter how the domestic deployment of drones plays out.

Looking ahead

There is an ironic twist to Randal Franzen’s move to climb aboard the cutting edge of aviation: When he went to Afghanistan, he learned that his assignment was to monitor surveillance video from a tethered balloon near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border – a military technology that – minus the cameras – dates to the Civil War.

From the base miles away, he monitored the rural area for Taliban activity, but mostly watched Afghans going about their daily lives. The retrained drone pilot said he found it fascinating.

“I grew up in Montana, swam in irrigation ditches, and they do the exact same thing – they’re just trying to make a living, raise some cattle and kids and do the exact same thing as everyone else,” Franzen said. There were moments that caught him by surprise – such as when he saw a man leading 10 camels through the desert while talking on a cellphone, walking several feet ahead of his wife, who was dressed in a full burqa.

Now home in Colorado, Franzen figures he’ll take at least one more far-flung military assignment as he waits for the domestic drone market to open. This time, though, he’d like to put his newfound remote flying skills to better use.

“I had three offers yesterday to go back and do the same thing for three different companies,” he said. “I talked to them about flying. I’d rather pilot something. I’d like to go play with something cooler.”

White House considers funding for police in schools after Newtown

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Vice President Joe Biden says a consensus is emerging over proposals such as tightening background checks and banning high-capacity magazines. Biden says he will deliver recommendations to President Obama on steps to curb violence by Tuesday.

washingtonpost.com | Jan 10, 2013

By Philip Rucker

The Obama administration is considering a $50 million plan to fund hundreds of police officers in public schools, a leading Democratic senator said, part of a broad gun violence agenda that is likely to include a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips and universal background checks.

The school safety initiative would make federal dollars available to schools that want to hire police officers and install surveillance equipment, although it is not nearly as far-ranging as the National Rifle Association’s proposal for armed guards in every U.S. school.

The idea is gaining currency among some Democratic lawmakers, who see it as a potential area of common ground with Republicans who otherwise oppose stricter restrictions on firearms. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a liberal Democrat from California, said she presented the plan to Vice President Biden and that he was “very, very interested” and may include it in the policy recommendations he makes to President Obama.

“If a school district wants to have a community policing presence, I think it’s very important they have it,” Boxer said in an interview Thursday. “If they want uniformed officers, they can do it. If they want plainclothed officers, they can do it.”

But hope of finding an accord over gun laws dimmed considerably Thursday after the NRA lashed out publicly against what it called the administration’s “agenda to attack the Second Amendment” after meeting with Biden and senior White House officials.

Biden plans to present recommendations from the administration’s working group on gun violence to Obama next Tuesday. The vice president said Thursday that he sees an emerging consensus around “universal background checks” for all gun buyers and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Obama, meanwhile, has said he also supports a ban on assault weapons.

The gun industry has long opposed these restrictions,and the NRA said after its 95-minute White House meeting that it would have nothing more to do with Biden’s task force, foreshadowing a partisan and emotionally charged fight over gun control.

“It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems,” the NRA said in a statement. “We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.”

Biden met with other gun-owner groups as well as representatives of hunting and sporting organizations Thursday as he surveys interest groups in the wake of last month’s elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. met separately Thursday with major gun retailers, including Wal-Mart. Biden already has spoken with law enforcement leaders, gun violence victims and gun-safety groups and has had conference calls with governors and other state and local elected officials of both parties.

Biden said that, going into Thursday’s meetings, his task force heard repeatedly about the need to strengthen background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He said the proposals would go beyond closing a loophole that exempts some private firearms sales, such as transactions at gun shows, from background checks.

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Judge: Texas school can force teenagers to wear locator chips

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In this Oct. 1, 2012 photo, Kayla Saucedo, an 8th grader at Anson Jones Middle School, uses her new ID card to check out a book in the library in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio school district’s website was hacked over the weekend to protest its policy requiring students to wear microchip-embedded cards tracking their every move on campus. A teenager purportedly working with the hacker group Anonymous said in an online statement that he took the site down because the Northside school district “is stripping away the privacy of students in your school.” All students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip. They are tracked by the dozens of electronic readers installed in the schools’ ceiling panels. (AP Photo/San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen)

Reuters | Jan 9, 2013

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – A public school district in Texas can require students to wear locator chips when they are on school property, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday in a case raising technology-driven privacy concerns among liberal and conservative groups alike.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia said the San Antonio Northside School District had the right to expel sophomore Andrea Hernandez, 15, from a magnet school at Jay High School, because she refused to wear the device, which is required of all students.

The judge refused the student’s request to block the district from removing her from the school while the case works its way through the federal courts.

The American Civil Liberties Union is among the rights organizations to oppose the district’s use of radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology.

“We don’t want to see this kind of intrusive surveillance infrastructure gain inroads into our culture,” ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said. “We should not be teaching our children to accept such an intrusive surveillance technology.”

The district’s RFID policy has also been criticized by conservatives, who call it an example of “big government” further monitoring individuals and eroding their liberties and privacy rights.

The Rutherford Institute, a conservative Virginia-based policy center that represented Hernandez in her federal court case, said the ruling violated the student’s constitutional right to privacy, and vowed to appeal.

The school district – the fourth largest in Texas with about 100,000 students – is not attempting to track or regulate students’ activities, or spy on them, district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said. Northside is using the technology to locate students who are in the school building but not in the classroom when the morning bell rings, he said.

Texas law counts a student present for purposes of distributing state aid to education funds based on the number of pupils in the classroom at the start of the day. Northside said it was losing $1.7 million a year due to students loitering in the stairwells or chatting in the hallways.

The software works only within the walls of the school building, cannot track the movements of students, and does not allow students to be monitored by third parties, Gonzalez said.

The ruling gave Hernandez and her father, an outspoken opponent of the use of RFID technology, until the start of the spring semester later this month to decide whether to accept district policy and remain at the magnet school or return to her home campus, where RFID chips are not required.