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College Student, 12, To Major In Astronomical Science To Become NASA Engineer

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A gifted 12-year-old is now a soon-to-be college student

What We Know:

  • Alena Wicker will be virtually attending Arizona State University this May after she graduates high school. The young Texas native plans to dual major in astronomical and planetary science and chemistry to further her dream of working as an engineer at NASA. 
  • Her mother, Daphne McQuarter, told Good Morning America that her daughter’s natural talent first garnered her attention when she started playing with Legos. Her passion for building, rearranging, and creating new lego projects began when she was 4-years-old. 
  • Aside from continuing to create Lego masterpieces, like the Taj Mahal, Alena has also created a number of programs to help other young women of color. Her website Brown Stem Girl acknowledges the racial and gender disparities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields and provides resources for girls of color interested in STEM. Among other projects, Alena plans to debut a children’s book soon called “Brainiac World” to discourage kids from teasing and also has her own podcast about featuring women in STEM
  • Despite being a child prodigy, Alena insists she’s just like other kids. She loves hanging out with her friends, going to the movies, watching TV, singing, and running track and field. She knows her journey through college might be challenging, but Alena is not one to be discouraged. “All my life, people are trying to hold me down because of my age,” she stated.  

We’re excited to see what Alena’s future will hold!

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Coronavirus

Schools Are Disciplining Kids With Virtual Classes, Advocates Say That Could Violate Their Rights

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Advocates are calling these actions the “new face of denial of access to public education”.

What We Know:

  • A six-year-old named Raynardo Antonio Ocasio has been banned from his classroom since September. Raynardo was banned from in-person learning for failing to wear a mask. The school, Zeta Charter School in Manhattan, has stated that pushing Raynardo out was necessary to keep teachers and students safe during the pandemic. Administrators and other schools across the country made similar decisions during the reopening process.
  • Raynardo has a speech and language impairment that makes it challenging for him to comply with instructions. He had difficulty expressing himself while wearing a mask. A psychologist was brought to the school in order to support Raynardo, but after numerous efforts, his school decided to send him home for virtual classes. The decision to send Raynardo home wasn’t intended to be permanent.
  • Student advocates in six states informed NBC News that they’re working with students impacted by these actions. Critics argue that removing students because of their behavior is a violation of students’ rights. Federal law requires public schools to provide all students with the support they need to succeed. This could entail bringing in a counselor or working with parents to improve a child’s behavior.
  • Advocates argue that the students they’ve seen removed from in-person classes are the same ones who’ve traditionally been more likely to be removed from class. These kinds of students include children with disabilities, those with a hard time following some rules, and Black or Latino children who are more likely to be punished for their behavior than their white classmates. Those students were already more likely to struggle in school than their peers according to civil rights and educational justice advocate, Lorraine Wright.

Raynardo has been attending school virtually for more than seven months and advocates say what happened amounts to an informal removal.

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Education

Idaho Legislature Passes Bill Banning Critical Race Theory In Classrooms

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The state’s senate approved a bill on Monday that would ban public schools and universities from teaching critical race theory, which examines how race affects American society.

What We Know:

  • The bill passed in the Idaho Senate with a vote of 27-8. Included in the measure is a language that forbids educators from teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” In addition, the bill also bans teaching that members of certain groups (race, sex, ethnicity, etc.) are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by members of that same group.
  • Supporters of the measure claim those teachings are often found in critical race theory and that students are being “indoctrinated” by it. Opponents say teaching critical race theory will only divide students. Idaho Senator Carl Crabtree said students need a learning environment “free of prejudice,” according to CNN.
  • However, detractors of the legislation say the bill is looking for a nonexistent problem. “The bill could stifle free speech in the classroom on topics related to race and sex,” said Democratic Senator Ali Rabe to Fox News. Another lawmaker criticized the bill for using vague and undefined concepts that would allow parents to sue over anything they find offensive.
  • The legislation comes during a time when many states are seeking to reform the education systems to become more inclusive. Teaching critical race theory is used as a way to shed light on the history and long-term effects of White supremacy.

With the bill passed in the Idaho House and Senate, it now goes to Republican Governor Brad Little to be signed into law.

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Education

Michigan Father Angry As Teacher Cuts Bi-Racial Child’s Hair

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The father moved his daughter into a different school after a classmate and teacher cut the young girl’s hair on separate occasions.

What We Know:

  • Jimmy Hoffmeyer, who is biracial himself, is the father of 7-year old Jurnee Hoffmeyer. Hoffmeyer stated he was considering taking his daughter out of Mount Pleasant Public Schools and enrolling her into a private one instead. Mount Pleasant is about 150 miles northwest of Detriot, and less than 5% of its residents are Black.
  • The incident occurred on March 25th when Jurnee came home from Gainard Elementary School with most of the hair on one side of her head cut. She told her father that a classmate had cut her hair on the bus home using scissors. Two days after this, Jurnee came home with the hair on the other side of her head cut as well.
  • Hoffmeyer said his daughter was crying, afraid that she would get in trouble. Hoffmeyer told his daughter not to let any other student touch her hair, but Jurnee told him it was a teacher this time. The teacher had apparently tried to even her hair out, but Hoffmeyer hasn’t accepted any of the excuses offered by the district.
  • Hoffmeyer said the school’s principal told him the most that would happen to the teacher involved was a note in her work file. The principal repeatedly asked Hoffmeyeer what she could do to make it go away. The district’s superintendent called and offered to have “I’m sorry” cards mailed to the family, but Hoffmeyer said he “got mad and hung up.”
  • In a statement, District Superintendent Jennifer Verleger stated, “Regardless of their good intentions, these actions were unacceptable and show a lack of judgment on the part of our two employees.” Verleger personally apologized to Hoffmeyer’s family as well.

Hoffmeyer has two other daughters besides Jurnee, aged 8 and 4. Hoffmeyer filed an incident report with the police but has not received a follow-up to his complaint.

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