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Judge Temporarily Blocks High Schooler’s Suspension Over Rapist Warning

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  • A high-school sophomore in Maine was suspended by her school for three days after she posted a note in the girl’s restroom reading, “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.”
  • The American Civil Liberties Union then sued the school district for violating the student’s First Amendment rights, with the school arguing that the note was defamation and bullying.
  • A judge issued a temporary block of the suspension, saying that the student, 15-year-old Aela Mansmann, was protected under her right to free speech even if “her viewpoint offends the sensibilities of school administrators.”

Posting the Note and Suspension

A judge blocked a teen’s suspension after she posted a rape awareness note in the girls’ restroom at her at high school, citing the student’s right to freedom of speech.

The note in question was posted on Sep. 16 at Cape Elizabeth High School and reads, “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.”

“The public has an interest in knowing that neither she nor any other student who expresses a comparable view in similar fashion will be denied access to school simply because her viewpoint offends the sensibilities of school administrators,” U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said

The sophomore who posted the note, 15-year-old Aela Mansmann, said she did so because she believed school administrators were overlooking other students’ claims of sexual harassment and assault. In fact, footage of a school board meeting in June later surfaced, showing Mansmann bringing similar concerns directly before administrators.

Soon after posting the note, however, a different student brought it to school administrators. Those administrators then discovered Mansmann had posted the note by reviewing security footage.

While Mansmann’s mother said the school originally told her daughter that she wouldn’t be punished for the incident, after Mansmann went public about the story to the media, she and two other girls were suspended for three days.

School officials said the note constituted bullying and added that if it happened again, the girls could be expelled. Mansmann’s family then appealed that decision, with administrators saying Mansmann could continue to go to school while an investigation was pending.

Principal Jeffrey Shedd said he conducted 47 interviews over three weeks, later calling the girls’ note well-intentioned but also noting that they “made a really bad choice.”

During that investigation, a male student stepped forward and claimed he felt targeted by the note and had been ostracised by classmates. That student then said he’d missed class because of what happened.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 7, about 50 students at the school of 550 walked out in protest of the school’s decision to suspend the three girls. 

Some local outlets even reported waves of gossip and fear at the school.

ACLU Sues the School District

On Oct. 13 the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school district on behalf of Mansmann. It argued that the girls had taken a “public stance as an ally for victims and survivors of sexual violence” by using their First Amendment rights.

Specifically, Mansmann lawyers had requested a restraining order that would block the school from suspending her until the incident was resolved.

Mansmann, who has spoken with a variety of media outlets on the issue, has questioned why the school is focusing on her rather than on the accusation of rape.

“I was really surprised that my school took that report and decided to open an investigation into whether or not I’m a bully versus opening an investigation on whether or not this person who self-identified is a perpetrator,” she told Business Insider.

The Cape Elizabeth School District hasn’t commented on how it handled the accusation, but school officials did say they don’t believe there’s a rapist on the campus.

In court, the district argued the note was nothing more than defamation, saying that it wasn’t protected under the First Amendment.

Judge Blocks Temporary Suspension

On Oct. 24, Judge Walker ordered a temporary block to the suspension, saying it would likely be overturned on the grounds of free speech. The judge also said it could be overturned on the basis of Title IX, which is a federal law banning gender discrimination in education.

In his argument, the Walker wrote that the notes was “neither frivolous nor fabricated, took place within the limited confines of the girls’ bathroom, related to a matter of concern to the young women who might enter the bathroom and receive the message, and was not disruptive of school discipline.”

He then said that more information would be necessary to justify punishment and that the school shouldn’t have the right to crack down on topics of social justice in areas of free student communication.

The ACLU hailed the decision, saying it’s a reminder that students “do not check their rights at the schoolhouse gate.” 

As far as the school goes, Superintendent Donna Wolfrom said, “We will continue to review and update district policies to align with state law and meet the needs of the district.”

See what others are saying: (WMTV) (The Washington Post) (Bangor Daily News)

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Veteran Burial Problem: Why Veteran Cemeteries Are Running Out of Space & What’s Next

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Over the last few decades, veteran cemeteries throughout the US have been facing an ongoing problem — they’ve been running out of space. In an effort to address this, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically the National Cemetery Administration, has been working to acquire new land to expand current national cemeteries and establish new ones.

They’ve also launched the Urban Initiative and the Rural Initiative in order to improve accessibility for veterans living in densely populated cities and in more rural parts of the country, respectively. But the challenges don’t end there. As it stands, national cemeteries are still at risk of running out of room within the next twenty to thirty years. And as a result, new changes are being proposed; changes that would impact eligibility requirements and potentially limit which veterans can and cannot be buried below ground. Watch the video to find out more.

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BART Apologizes After a Man Was Handcuffed for Eating a Sandwich on a Train Platform

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  • Protestors have staged “eat ins” and spoken out on social media in support of a BART rider who was handcuffed and cited for eating a sandwich on a train platform, a violation of CA law. 
  • BART’s General Manager noted that the man refused to provide identification, and “cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm throughout the entire engagement.”
  • But still, the official apologized to the rider and said the transit agency’s independent police auditor is investigating the incident.

Viral Video 

A transit official in California’s Bay Area apologized Monday after a video showed a man waiting to catch a train being handcuffed and cited for eating a breakfast sandwich on the station platform. 

In a now-viral video posted to Facebook Friday, a police officer is seen detaining a man who has since been identified as 31-year-old Steve Foster. Foster was heading to work around 8 a.m. on Nov. 4 when an officer stopped to tell him he was breaking the law by eating on the platform.

According to Bay Area Transit Authority (BART) General Manager Bob Powers, before the video starts, the officer asked the passenger not to eat and decided to move forward with a citation when he continued to do so. 

The video shows the officer holding onto Foster’s backpack as the two argue. “You are detained and you’re not free to go,” the officer says.

“You came up here and fucked with me,” Foster responds. “You singled me out, out of all these people.”

“You’re eating,” the officer says.

“Yeah, so what,” Foster responds.

“It’s against the law,” the officer says. “I tried to explain that to you. It’s a violation of California law. I have the right to detain you.”

The officer threatens to send Foster to jail for resisting arrest and eventually calls for backup. Foster’s friend, who filmed the encounter, tells the officer that there are no signs in the station that say passengers can’t eat on the platform. 

“Why is there a store downstairs selling food if we’re not allowed to eat up here?” she says. 

“Where is the sign up here that says we can’t eat on the platform? We know we can’t eat on the train.”  

Foster continues to eat and tell the officer he does this every morning. The officer continues to hold onto the backpack to detain Foster for refusing to give his name. Foster becomes more frustrated and throws profanities at him.

“You don’t get no pussy at home. I know you ain’t. When was the last time you got your dick sucked? I know it’s been a while,” Foster tells the officer before asking him to call his supervisor.

“I just missed two trains because of your fa**ot ass. You fucking fa*. Ask your momma what my name is,” he also tells the officer. 

“Show me a sign where it says I cant eat on the platform,” Foster says, but before the officer can respond he shouts in his face. “Shut up n***a. You ain’t got shit to say and now you feel stupid n***a…You nerd. You fucking nerd. Let my bag go.” 

After a few minutes, three other officers arrive and handcuff Foster before walking him down the platform and through the station. One of the officers then tells him he is being held because he matches the description of someone who was creating a disturbance on the platform. 

In a second video, the officer tells Foster’s friend he was initially responding to a report of a possibly intoxicated woman on the platform, whom he never found. That’s when he spotted Foster and let him know there is no eating on BART. He also tells the friend there are in fact signs that say there is no eating in the paid area of BART.

Foster was given a citation for the infraction and released after providing his name to the police. 

Reactions

After the footage circulated across social media, (in some cases, shorter edited clips) many users and BART riders expressed their frustration.

The incident even sparked protests and “eat ins” over the weekend, with more scheduled to continue. One Facebook event for this coming Saturday is called “Eat a McMuffin on BART: They Can’t Stop Us All.” 

According to BART Communications Director Alicia Trost, eating is prohibited in the “paid area” of the transit stations, meaning once passengers pass through the ticketing gate. The specific California law is PC 640 (b) (1): “Eating or drinking in or on a system facility or vehicle in areas where those activities are prohibited by that system.”

Though many social media users thought Foster was arrested for the incident, the BART spokesperson clarified that he was only issued a citation for eating. The spokesperson said Foster was “lawfully handcuffed when he refused to provide his identification,” and added that “the court will determine level of fine he should pay.”

Similar statements were provided on social media to users who had questions about the situation.

BART Apology 

In his Monday statement, General Manager Powers said, “As a transportation system, our concern with eating is related to the cleanliness of our stations and system.”

“This was not the case in the incident at Pleasant Hill station on Monday,” he continued. 

He noted that Foster, “refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement,” but added that context of the situation was important. 

The officer was doing his job but context is key. Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation. We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely.”

“I’m disappointed [by] how the situation unfolded. I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video,” he added.

In response to the statement, Foster told KGO–TV “I’m definitely upset, mad, a little frustrated, angry about it.”

“I hope they start focusing on stuff that actually matters like people shooting up dope, hopping the BART, people getting stabbed.” He also told other news outlets that he believes he was singled out because of his race and want the officer who cuffed him to be disciplined.

Foster said he is looking into his legal options as of now. According to Powers, the transit agency’s independent police auditor is investigating the incident.

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (NBC Bay Area) (CNN)

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ABC News Defends Its Epstein Coverage After Anchor Blasts the Network in Leaked Video

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  • In video leaked by Project Veritas, ABC anchor Amy Robach is seen criticizing the network for not airing a 2015 interview with one of Jeffrey Epstein’s most prominent accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
  • “She told me everything,” Robach said in the video. “She had pictures, she had everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. It was unbelievable what we had.”
  • Both ABC and Robach now say the network, at the time, could not corroborate the evidence presented in the interview but continued to investigate and report on Epstein.

Project Veritas Leak

ABC News is defending its decision to not air a 2015 interview with a prominent accuser of Jeffrey Epstein after a leaked video showed anchor Amy Robach blasting the network for the decision.

In the video leaked Tuesday by the right-wing activist group Project Veritas, Robach — caught on a hot mic — told an off-camera employee about how she had worked for three years to convince ABC to air the interview with Virginia Giuffre, then Virginia Roberts.

“She told me everything,” Robach said. “She had pictures, she had everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. It was unbelievable what we had: Clinton, we had everything. I tried for three years to get it on to no avail and now it’s all coming out and its like these new revelations and I freaking had all of it. I’m so pissed right now. Like, every day I get more and more pissed, ’cause I’m just like, ‘Oh my God! It was — what we had, was unreal.’”

The same year as her interview with ABC, Giuffre filed a civil lawsuit against Epstein claiming that he had held her as a teenage sex slave. She also claimed that, among other people, Epstein trafficked her to the United Kingdom’s Prince Andrew.

Following the accusation, both Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace denied the claim, calling it “false” and “without foundation;” however, the two are known to have met at some point, with a photo showing Prince Andrew and a then-17-year-old Giuffre side-by-side. In the photo, the prince holds her midriff while she wears a crop top.

Source: Florida Southern District Court

In fact, in her castigation of ABC’s handling of the interview, Robach references the situation with Prince Andrew. 

“First of all, I was told, ‘Who was Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story,’” she said. “Then the palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways. We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will that we, that also quashed the story.”

The video was reportedly recorded in August, two days after NPR published a story where Giuffre told the outlet that she had spoken with ABC in 2015 but had never been told why the story didn’t air. She said, at the time, she had viewed the ABC interview as a “potential game-changer.”

“Appearing on ABC with its wide viewership would have been the first time for me to speak out against the government for basically looking the other way and to describe the anger and betrayal victims felt,” she told NPR.

Robach and ABC Exec Responds

By Tuesday evening, both ABC and Robach confirmed the footage to be real and explained why the interview never aired. According to Executive Vice President John Rouse, the network had been unable to corroborate the details of Giuffre’s claims, so it chose not to air the piece.

Notably, Rouse also said ABC never stopped investigating Epstein, which is true. The network has repeatedly published or aired stories regarding Epstein since Giuffree filed her lawsuit against him in 2015. Despite never broadcasting her interview, in July, Nightline aired an interview with two other alleged Epstein victims.

In another statement sent out by ABC, Robach backtracked from the comments she made in the leaked video.

“I was caught in a private moment of frustration,” she said. “I was upset that an important interview I had conducted with Virginia Roberts didn’t air.”

Like Rouse, she then said the interview did not meet ABC’s editorial standards. 

“My comments about Prince Andrew and her allegation that she had seen Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private island were in reference to what Virginia Roberts said in that interview in 2015,” she adds. “I was referencing her allegations — not what ABC News had verified through our reporting.”

“In the years since, no one ever told me or the team to stop reporting on Jeffrey Epstein, and we have continued to aggressively pursue this important story,” she ends the statement. 

Epstein’s Lawyer Calls ABC About the Interview

NPR’s August interview with Giuffe, however, also reveals another incident involving that 2015 interview. 

After receiving word that ABC had flown Giuffre to New York to interview her, one of Epstein’s top lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, reportedly called ABC to keep the network from going through with the story. Dershowitz said he believed he spoke with two producers and a lawyer.

“I did not want to see [Giuffre’s] credibility enhanced by ABC,” he told NPR. 

Along with Prince Andrew, Giuffre has alleged that Epstein trafficked her to Dershowitz, but he’s denied those claims.

Also in that article, unlike ABC, Julie Brown of the Miami Herald said she found Giuffre’s claims credible and went on to say there were other pieces of evidence that supported Giuffre’s story. Because of her reporting, Brown has been credited with helping to reopen and bring national attention to the Epstein case.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (Washington Post) (Page Six)

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