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Florida Education Commissioner Orders Miami-Dade Schools To Open Ahead of Schedule

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  • Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a letter to leaders at Miami-Dade County Public Schools demanding that they fully open for five days a week in-person learning by October 5, nearly two weeks ahead of schedule. 
  • If the district thinks that the deadline is not possible for their schools, they must send an analysis and plan explaining the reasons why for each school that will be delayed. 
  • The county initially planned to open schools starting September 30, but after a 29-hour school board meeting, opted to begin staggering students between October 14 and October 21.
  • Miami-Dade is the epicenter of Florida’s outbreak and the fourth largest school district in the country. School officials believe opening their doors there could be dangerous.

State Orders Schools to Open Early

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran made an announcement Friday, ordering schools in Miami-Dade County to open for full in-person learning nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.

Miami-Dade has by far the largest coronavirus case count of any county in Florida. Because of its strong outbreak, it was one of few schools in the state allowed to open with remote learning instead of in-person classes. The district’s initial plan was to phase its students back from September 30 through October 7.

That window was bumped last week following a 29-hour school board meeting. The updated schedule was instead supposed to stagger students in between October 14 and October 21.

Now, Corcoran’s order puts that plan in jeopardy, writing in a letter that schools must be open on October 5. If the school board does not think it will be possible for schools open by then, they must submit an analysis for each school detailing why, and outlining issues and data for each school.

Florida state leaders, starting at the top with Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been insistent that schools in the state reopen quickly. As for why Corcoran felt compelled to move Miami-Dade’s plans up, he wrote that they were behind schedule compared to other at-risk counties. He also said their choice to delay reopening contradicted the plan they submitted to the state and clashed with the fact that the county has already been in Phase 2 of reopening, which allows schools to open, for two weeks. 

He also wrote that delaying in-person instruction harms students who require special instruction or other services provided by schools, as well as students who might be experiencing violence, abuse, or food insecurity at home. Corcoran also claimed that it was unfair to parents who were eager to get their students back in class, but the desire parents have to get their kids back to school is not overwhelming. According to the Washington Post, a poll taken among parents in the county shows they are split on the issue, with 51% wanting their kids in physical classes, and the rest wanting to keep learning remotely. 

Responses

The district’s superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, said that their choice to push back in-person learning gave the school board “additional time to redouble our efforts in terms of ensuring all protocols are what they are expected to be.”

The choice was supported by many in the community, as well as the teachers’ union, the United Teachers of Dade. After Corcoran sent out his letter demanding in-person learning be moved back up, the UTD’s president, Karla Hernandez-Mats, put out a statement condemning his order. 

“We are the fourth largest school district in the country with an on-boarding of almost 400,000 students and teachers in the epicenter of the virus in Florida,” she wrote. “Those parameters require a much more thoughtful approach which is why the school board voted to push back the reopening and implement a staggered start. We cannot risk suffering the consequences of a rushed return to class when we know our buildings are not yet ready.” 

Hernandez-Mats fears that if the reopening is rushed, the county could face another lockdown. She also fears that voting for the upcoming presidential election could be in jeopardy if there is another large outbreak. She was not the only official shocked by the state’s order. Miami-Dade’s school board president Perla Tabares Hantman told the Miami Herald she found Corcoran’s letter to be “strange.”

I think it took everyone by surprise. I’m very much in favor of opening schools but when it’s safe,” she said. 

What Happens Next?

Fears that opening schools could be unsafe are valid in the state of Florida. In early September, after many schools in the state had been forced to open their doors, The Washington Post reported that many schools had to temporarily shut down because of outbreaks. There was also a 34% increase in cases among school-aged children. 

The Miami-Dade School Board will hold an emergency meeting to discuss their next steps on Tuesday. Any letter proposing they keep their delay must be sent to the state by October 2. 

Miami-Dade was also not the only county to receive this kind of letter from Corcoran. Broward County, which also has one of the largest outbreaks in the state, received a similar order. School officials have already responded, writing in a letter that they plan to keep their reopening plans as-is for the safety of their community. 

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Miami Herald) (NBC Miami)

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Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates

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The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.


Same War, New Battlefield

Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.

Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.

Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.

Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources. 

Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.

According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.

Xbox Under Fire

To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture. 

While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.

“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.

“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,”  Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.

Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”

The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.”  That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want

Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.

The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.

“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (VICE)

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Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools

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Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.


Abuse Allegations

Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has launched an investigation into a system of private schools for kids with disabilities after ProPublica and the Seattle Times reported on allegations of abuse.

The series of articles focused on Northwest School of Innovative Learning (NWSOIL). NWSOIL is a set of private schools that serve 500 Washington public school students with serious disabilities. ProPublica and the Seattle Times found years of complaints from parents and school districts against NWSOIL alleging abuse, overuse of isolation rooms, and unqualified aides teaching instead of certified professionals.

One district claimed NWSOIL staff kicked a fourth-grader. Another alleged that a child with autism was dragged around by his thigh.

Many former NWSOIL employees also claim that they were pressured by their parent company to to enroll more students and skimp on basic resources, like staffing.

Investigation Launched

In a seven-page letter, OSPI reminded NWSOIL of its authority to revoke or suspend a school’s approval, meaning that it could shut NWSOIL down. 

“Given the serious nature of the allegations made in the articles, OSPI is examining what, if any, actions need to be taken with respect to Northwest SOIL’s approval to contract with Washington school districts,” Tania May, assistant superintendent for special education at OSPI, wrote in the letter.

OSPI has demanded any records of mistreatment, maltreatment, abuse, or neglect as well as documents pertaining to restraint or isolation of students and calls to the police. They are also seeking information about the student-to-teacher ratio and staff qualifications. 

In the letter, OSPI claims that all of this was previously unknown to them as well as to police, Child Protective Services, and local school districts. They are asking NWSOIL for an explanation as to why the allegations were not reported. 

NWSOIL defended itself in a public statement.

“Use of restraints and seclusion are always used as a last response when a student is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others, it said. “We strongly deny any allegation that we understaff and/or pressure staff to increase admissions in order to maximize profits.” 

Washington state representatives are considering a reform bill that will give them more oversight on the publicly funded system of private special education schools. 

In this legislation, OSPI and at least one district that sends students to this program would be required to visit before approving the contract. It would also standardize district agreements with programs like NWSOIL, including financial safeguards to make sure funds are being used appropriately.

See the full series: (ProPublica) (The Seattle Times)

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Mass Shootings in Half Moon Bay, Oakland Rock California

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Just since Saturday, at least 19 people have been killed and 17 have been injured in mass shootings in California.


California Sees Third Attack in Under a Week

Two California localities experienced separate mass shootings Monday, just days after an attacker killed 11 and injured nine others in a suburb of Los Angeles.

The first of the most recent shootings took place in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal town about 30 miles outside of San Francisco, where a gunman killed seven and critically injured an eighth at two different locations.

According to authorities, police were dispatched to the first location around 2:20 pm and found four people shot to death and a fifth victim also suffering gunshot wounds. Shortly after, three more people were found dead at another site nearby.

About two hours later, police discovered the suspect in his car in the parking lot of a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office substation with a semiautomatic handgun in the vehicle that officials later confirmed he had purchased legally.

Sheriff Christina Corpus said the man was taken into custody “without incident” and is “fully cooperating.” He has been identified as a 66-year-old Half Moon Bay resident of Asian descent.

Currently, the gunman’s motive is unknown, but the Sheriff told reporters Monday that both of the locations he targeted were nurseries, and it has since been reported that they were mushroom farms.

“All evidence we have points to this being an instance of workplace violence. The Mountain Mushroom Farm, the first location, is where the subject was employed,” Corpus said in a press conference Tuesday, though she added that, so far, the “only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.”

As of writing, it remains unclear why he targeted the second location. A mushroom farm called Concord Farms has told reporters that it was the site of the second shooting — which a law enforcement official confirmed to The Washington Post.

In a statement to the media, a spokesperson said the farm had “no past knowledge” of the alleged gunman or his possible motives. Little has been released about the victims, though Corpus said Tuesday they were all adults and a “mixture of Asian and Hispanic descent,” some of whom were migrants. 

Authorities had previously stated that, because people both live and work on the farms, children were among those who witnessed the shooting. However, on Tuesday, one official walked that back and said while children were indeed in the vicinity, police do not have information about specific witnesses.

Just hours after the violence in Half Moon Bay, seven people were injured, and one other was killed during a shooting at a gas station in Oakland. Very little has been reported about the incident, but police have said that the shooting was “between several individuals.”

Renewed Calls for Gun Control

Californians continue to reel from the rapid succession of mass shootings in a state known for its strict gun control laws.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates against gun violence, the state ranks No. 1 in the country for gun law strength. An analysis led by the organization found that California has the sixth-lowest rate of gun ownership and the eighth-lowest gun death rate.

Many of California’s top lawmakers have argued that the state’s relatively low gun violence statistics emphasize the need for more federal regulations.

“The Second Amendment’s becoming a suicide pact,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told CBS News in an interview.

“We’ll continue to find whatever loopholes we can and continue to lead the national conversation on gun safety reform. And the data bares out. It works. It saves lives,” he continued. “California’s 37% lower than the death rate of the rest of the nation, and yet, with all that evidence, no one on the other side seems to give a damn. I can’t get anything done in Congress.”

Following the Monterey Park shooting, U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.), alongside other Democratic colleagues, introduced two gun control bills in the upper chamber. The first would ban assault weapons, while the second aims to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21.

President Joe Biden quickly threw his support behind the measures, urging Congress to pass them.

“The majority of the American people agree with this commonsense action,” he said in a statement Monday. “There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation.”

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

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