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I Just Saved Rahm and CPS Millions During My Lunch Period

Thu, 2016-03-24 15:07
Dear Rahm,

You live in a fantasy world. Don't you realize that by canceling school and making teachers take an unpaid furlough day on March 25th that you shortchange the learning of our students? Yet now you want to criticize us for having no options left but to strike.

We teachers have tried darn near everything to get you to realize that there are many ways to get additional funding for our schools and you refuse to do them. So we are left with no choice but to strike.

We do not want to strike. We wanted to negotiate with you, which is why there are 50 teachers representing us on the big bargaining team (that is called Democracy) when we negotiate.

We teachers work with students every day. We communicate with parents constantly.
Unlike you, we are parents of children in CPS. We work in the neighborhoods that you only visit when it is time for an election photo op.

So Rahm, we will shut down Chicago on April 1st in attempt to force you and your buddy Bruce down in Springfield to hear us.

Make no doubt we would rather be teaching our students. Make no doubt that we do not want to strike, but we will do it because we know that seems to be the only option left to get you to hear us.

There are ways to fix this and avoid future strikes. Start with finding funding for our schools.

Here are some options on how to fund our schools.
1. Ask your buddy Rauner to stop with his austerity budget.

2. Man up and ask your bank buddies to renegotiate the toxic bank deals that have and continue to steal money from our schools, our neighborhoods, and cities. This has cost CPS over $500 million dollars.

3. Use TIF surpluses to help our neighborhoods and schools instead of just siphoning the money downtown in an attempt to beautify an already beautiful downtown. There is $350 million in unused TIF money.

4. Cancel Aramark's contract. Clearly our schools are dirty and privatizing our custodial services cost the district money and does not keep our schools clean. This would save $260 million. Yes, we would need to hire back many custodians, but they would be hired back by the schools and it would still be less expensive.

5. Relinquish your power of Chicago Public Schools. Your last CEO cost our district $20 million and the CEOs (I hate that title, no one in charge of schools should be called that) you appointed before as well as your current appointment continue to harm, not help our city.

6. It is time for an elected school board. The voters who have been allowed to have a say overwhelmingly demand an elected board. 90 percent of voters who were allowed to vote on this issue want an elected school board.

7. Stop paying the military $17 million a year to be in our schools. Our streets are violent enough, we do not need the military model of solving conflicts taught to our students.

8. Require that the Mercantile Exchange pay a transaction tax. This would create $2 billion in revenue annually.

9. Take the Chicago Police out of schools and instead train teachers on Restorative Justice practices so we can teach our students how to de-escalate situations more effectively. This would also reduce some of the violence across our city as well as save money.

10. Don't fund DePaul (a private university) to build a basketball stadium. This would save $173 million.

11. Stop building the new Obama High School. Savings of $60 million.

12. Get Teach for America out of CPS. The majority of them are only here for two years anyway. This is not the way to build relationships with parents and students. This would save $1.5 million.

13. Stop the incessant amount of standardized testing that wastes instructional time and costs the district millions.

14. Listen to the people, if you would've done that you wouldn't have closed 50 schools. This contrary to your lies actually cost and still costs the district money. Still costing CPS $3 million per year.

I am sure there are many more ways to save money. I just wrote, researched, and brainstormed this list during my lunch period. This list not only saves money by cutting costs, but it also creates revenue options. Now you don't need to threaten to cut our paychecks by 7 percent. Schools can hire back all the staff that has been cut. We can fully fund our schools with teachers, counselors, security, and librarians. We can have programs and opportunities for our students.

Surely your "experts" can come up with your own or figure out ways to make these ideas work. Or better yet you can listen to the experts, us teachers, who through the Chicago Teachers Union's research have come up with solutions.

Teachers are problem solvers and we are working to solve the issues that your policies have created. But until you listen to us we will have to Shut Down Chicago on April 1st to fight for funding.

P.S. Rahm if you do decide that you like my ideas, you can show your appreciation by paying me for this lunch period. I could've been planning or grading papers, but I was instead solving your problems.

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Making the Connection Between Gender Bias and Economic Security

Thu, 2016-03-24 13:27
March is Women's History Month. This time of year can be quite joyous and reaffirming as a woman, particularly for one who runs a women's foundation. Women's achievements through history should be documented and celebrated, though it does not move us to address the small and large inequities women and girls face now. Wage disparity - in the forms of the gender pay gap, work that is less valued, and diminished statewide efforts to support low-income women, to name a few - is one of the greatest barriers facing women and girls today. Left unattended, we stand to create a very bleak future.

The national statistic is well known: the gender pay gap is roughly 78%, or $.78 to the dollar. This statistic is based on the median women's wage vs. the median men's wage. There have certainly been improvements since the 1970s, but the disparity is real. That reality varies state to state: Washington, DC has the closest median income ratio at $.90; while Louisiana has the greatest disparity, at $.65. Illinois is closer to the national average at $.79. Not surprisingly, that reality also varies along ethnic, racial and age lines. The pay gap is disappointingly wider for women of color. For Latina women, the gap is more like 54%, and for African-American women, it's 65%.; and the pay gap is wider yet as women grow older.

Fortunately, this topic is gaining traction. From the tech industry to the nonprofit sector, more conversations are being had around the existence of the pay gap and how best to address it. It is an issue of substantial public interest and debate. If the challenge was a simple disparity in the pay rate, we would campaign to resolve the matter with government policy, legislation and required compliance. In truth, the issue is much more complex. There are technically laws and policies on the books, but are not being enforced.

So what stands in the way of progress? Gender bias sits at the root of it all. It is something that affects us in our families, on the job, religious institutions, and as we navigate our daily lives. Understanding and addressing the more subtle, indirect factors which contribute to the pernicious disparity in pay have surfaced some compelling revelations.

1. Pay Packages: Even where salary offers are equitable, disparity is hidden in sign on bonuses, annual bonuses, stock plans, expense accounts, stipends, offers of training programs, retirement packages and other benefits.

2. Pay Transparency: 19% of current commercial enterprises prohibit any discussion of pay rates among workers. 31% strongly discourage this communication. Such secrecy only contributes to the atmosphere of mystery and ultimately, inequity. Such secrecy can inhibit the negotiation process.

3. Minimum Wage Factor: Women are 47% of the total workforce, but 56% of women in the workforce would be benefited by increasing the minimum wage to just $10.10.

4. Maternity and Sick Leave: Even when starting positions are compensated equally, exercise of leave benefits has been shown to be detrimental to women's long-term salary potential. As 40% of women seek leave at some time in their careers against 20% of men, this indirectly results in disparity. It is also interesting to note that fewer institutions offer paternity leave and that leave is shorter. This forces women to have to take maternity leave more often, and for a longer period of time.

5. Overtime: Women are the default caretakers and often miss out on overtime hours. That results in men working more overtime hours than women, thus elevating their earning power and median average. Modernizing and standardizing overtime policies would make access to this compensation more equitable.

6. Career Choices: Women are under-represented in the careers with highest hourly wage rates: information services, utilities, mining and logging. By contrast, women comprise significantly more than half the population in the lowest paid career paths: leisure, hospitality, retail and services.

7. Education and Career Choices: In 2013, women earned 57% of all BA degrees awarded, but only 35% of them sought careers in STEM (science/technology/engineering/math). Of those women who did elect careers in these areas, more than half left their positions in mid-career (double the rate of men) citing the negative "macho" work environment and challenging work/life balance issues.

At Chicago Foundation for Women, we recognize that addressing gender bias is a sizeable task, but it is not an insurmountable one. In September 2015, we launched The 100% Project, a partnership-driven effort to end gender bias and increase economic security for women in our region by 2030. If everyone across sectors, faiths, communities, and gender (because we need men and boys, too) addresses gender bias in their own lives and work, we could not only close the pay gap, but also create a safe, healthy, and just environment for all women and girls - something CFW works toward every day.

So how do we get to that 2030 goal? First, have a conversation. This week, we are asking residents to participate in Talk It Out, a citywide conversation series on gender bias. It is one thing for a women's foundation to talk about gender bias, but we recognize that not everyone is having the conversation. We cannot collectively address what we collectively do not know is there, even if it is happening everywhere. These conversations will surface issues and examples of gender bias in daily life. It is our hope that the candid discussions will raise the consciousness of the participants. Though that conversation in and of itself will be valuable, CFW will seek to collect the stories of bias and make them a part of the context and backdrop of The 100% Project.

The challenge is not a new or easy one to address, but in sectors where bias and inequity have been eradicated, productivity has improved and the return on investment has been enormous. Increasing the economic security of women increases the economic progress of us all.

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An Obituary for the Wrigleyville McDonald's

Thu, 2016-03-24 13:01
On March 21st of our Lord's 2016, we said goodbye to a dear friend and neighbor, the Wrigleyville McDonald's located at Clark and Addison, as it was torn down to build a hotel that people will inevitably regret staying in.

She was a loving late-night aide to us all, mixing sausage biscuits with french fries when we didn't know what to do with ourselves. Even amidst recent controversies, including (but not limited to) allegations that your food looks the same after 6 years of incubation, that it won't burn properly, and that it contains processed horse meat, we stood by your side-as you stood by ours in our most drunken times of need.

From 4 a.m. gang fights to bros who over-bro'ed, the Wrigleyville McDonald's was a nurturer to us all-the tired, the poor, the too drunk to function. She gave cab drivers a reason to still exist in a world full of Ubers and Lyfts. She gave girls named Tabatha a place to take off the heels that had been hurting all night. She gave Boystown travelers a safe haven to blast Rihanna from their phones while simultaneously trying to scream an order. Every sobering thought begins with attempting to read a sign that says, "The milkshake machine is broken."

You will be deeply missed.

She is survived by the late-night Taco Bell across the street, the Rock 'n Roll McDonald's in River North, and a Cubs pendant covered in vomit somewhere in the general vicinity. Pour out some $4 vodka mixed with red Fruitopia in remembrance of our dear friend, the Wrigleyville McDonald's.

"Party Rock Anthem" is playing in heaven tonight. And probably 24/7 for the rest of eternity.

Written by Martin Morrow. This post originally appeared on secondcity.com

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These Are The 16 Best Players Of The Sweet 16

Thu, 2016-03-24 10:30

There is no better place to cement your legacy as a hoops star than the NCAA Tournament.


Stephen Curry, Harold “The Show” Arceneaux, Shabazz NapierKemba Walker, Miles Simon, Bryce Drew, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony are America's Darlings of March Madness past.


With the opening weekend now in the books, it's time to examine the best of the bunch, a list strictly comprising the top 16 players (not ranked) remaining as we get set to embark on the Sweet 16. Keep in mind: There is no Diamond Stone, Robert Carter, Justin Jackson, Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ, Monte Morris, Thomas Bryant, Wayne Selden, Jr., Tyler Lydon or Malachi Richardson. 


For my 16 best "prospects," please watch latest for Bleacher Report, here.



 


Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out Bleacher Report Video for my full college hoops analysis throughout the entire tournament. And tune in to my SiriusXM Radio show Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. EST on Bleacher Report channel 83.

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32 School Districts in Illinois Placed on "Financial Watch" List for 2016

Wed, 2016-03-23 17:03
A new analysis of the financial health of Illinois' school districts shows the majority remain in precarious positions, with many borrowing and tapping into cash reserves just to keep their schools running. In large part, this is because of diminishing state funding and declining property wealth in less affluent parts of the state.

The Illinois State Board of Education's 2016 School District Financial Profile Scores report uses fiscal year 2015 annual financial reports to provide an overview of each district's finances. Scores are calculated using five indicators:

  1. Fund balance to revenue ratio

  2. Expenditure to revenue ratio

  3. Days cash on hand

  4. Percentage of remaining short-term borrowing ability

  5. Percentage of remaining long-term borrowing ability


School districts are placed into one of four categories based on their fiscal health: Financial Recognition (best), Financial Review, Financial Early Warning and Financial Watch (worst).



Eighteen of the 32 districts in Financial Watch also were on last year's list, while 14 are new additions, according to board of education. The map below shows where the districts with the worst fiscal health are located. Those with asterisks either have been dissolved, formed into a new district or did not submit their FY 2015 annual financial report.



You can find a complete list of the schools in Financial Watch here.

NEXT ARTICLE: Funding cuts to the Illinois tourism industry would cost the state thousands of jobs, billions in revenue, study warns

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6 Afro-Latinos Open Up About What It Means To Be Black And Latino

Wed, 2016-03-23 11:27







Too black to be Latino and too Latino to be black is a feeling many Afro-Latinos know too well -- but the reality is that these two identities are far from mutually exclusive. 


Not only is it possible to be both black and Latino, it's also fairly common within the Latino community. In the United States 24 percent of Latinos self-identify as Afro-Latino, according to survey results the Pew Research Center released in March. 


HuffPost Latino Voices asked six Afro-Latinos to share what it really means to grow-up black and Latino. Because as writer Janel Martinez explains, it can be quite complicated at first.


"Growing up black Latina, was a bit complex for me," she said in the video. "I didn't always want to identify as Black, there were times when I didn't want to identify as Latina." 


Watch Martinez and others discuss everything from pride in their African roots to the challenges with erasure in the Latino community in the video above.

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How I Quit My Job and Started a Successful Business

Tue, 2016-03-22 11:51
And how you can do it too!



It takes planning and courage to leave a job and start your own business.

Friends and family might tell you that it's not worth the risk, but I know from personal experience that it's a very rewarding, life-changing decision.

More than anything, taking the leap sets you free to make your dreams come true.

Security Isn't Always Enough

I understand how hard it is to imagine walking away from an established position and a steady paycheck.

By the time I was 24, I had an excellent job with the deputy commissioner for Children's Services here in Chicago. It was secure employment with all the benefits, and I really loved my work.

I've always wanted to make a difference, and this position gave me the opportunity to help so many people.

For the first few years, I was sure that I would be happy until retirement.

My confidence grew with my responsibilities that included managing the budget for the city's Head Start Program. I began applying for better positions within the department, and my bosses agreed that I was a great candidate, but the promotions never happened.

It became clear that I'd reached a plateau. That's when I knew that I wanted and needed more.

Success Takes Time and Patience
From start to resignation, I put in 10 years, and I value that experience very much.

However, I knew that I wasn't fulfilling my potential or satisfying my need to do more.

It's true that you can wake up one morning and realize that you just have to make a change. I'm so grateful that my husband was supportive, and together we sat down and began to make our plans.

We decided to launch our own fire and water damage cleanup company in Chicago because we both had strong backgrounds in helping other people.

We gave ourselves five years to transition from salaried jobs to independent entrepreneurs. That's sounds like a long time, but we knew that we had to be realistic.

It was very hard.

Between my job and our new company, I worked seven days a week, but we were determined to make our business a success.

It's Worth the Wait


Today, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba is one of the three largest restoration & cleaning services companies of its kind in Illinois.

Our first offices weren't much bigger than a walk-in closet, and we worked in the field every day.

By the two-year mark, we hired a full administrative staff and expanded our field teams. We also earned our franchise, and that really helped because our industry is very competitive.

Since opening our doors in Chicago in 2008, we've enjoyed enormous success, and I credit our commitment, hard work and incredible teams in the office and the field.

I've never regretted leaving the government sector world behind. I'm the boss now, and I'm in a position to make a positive difference in people's lives every day.

I also feel a deep responsibility to share the knowledge I've gained.

If you're ready to take the leap and follow your dreams, friends and family will give you plenty of input.

My advice comes from my real-world experience and my heart.

1. Don't just walk into the boss's office and quit your job. Give yourself between two and five years to make the transition. Dreams don't come true overnight.

2.Use that first year to formulate a solid business plan. Even if you have a strong background in your future field, now is the time to get to know it inside out. You have to be prepared when you strike out on your own.

3. Save money, cut back on expenses, and keep driving that old car. Figure out how much you'll need to invest, and know that you'll probably need more. The first few years can be very lean.

4. As you approach your resignation date target, be sure to take advantage of any benefits that you've accrued. Don't walk away from things like tuition reimbursement or health-care savings balances.

5. Be proactive. That's not a cliché when you're starting your own business. You're positioning yourself to be in control, so make things happen. Don't let them happen to you or your plans for the future.

6. Find out everything you can about the competition. Learn from their success, but figure out what they're doing wrong so that you can get it right from the minute you open your doors.

7. Be willing to barter your services with other businesses. If you need help building a website or printing business cards, figure out what you can do in trade. This strategy also expands your new professional network.

8. Have a backup plan until things turn around - even if it's just waiting tables. Returning to your old corporate job isn't an option, so figure out what you can do if your new business gets off to a slow start.

9. Spread the good news about yourself. Let friends and family know that you're ready to go to work. Don't feel shy about selling your services to people you know. Do a good job, and they'll be your best customers.

10. Harness the promotional power of social media, but put social consciousness into your work too. Volunteer your services to local organizations, and establish your business as one that really cares about the community.

When You're Ready


Sometimes, big dreams and everyday realities collide. It happens in the corporate workspace, and it happens when you start your own business.

However, when you wrestle with obstacles that belong to you instead of the head office, you become stronger with every victory.

In the end, leaving the comfort of a stable job is something that you can do because you want to and you know that you have to.

That determined spirit will see you through anything.

You may only be dreaming today, but tomorrow is yours when you're ready to take the leap.

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Civility in Government

Tue, 2016-03-22 10:38
"I look with increasing horror, along with a growing number of other Americans, at the great and bitter division that is taking place in our politics, and the cynicism that is the end result of power for power's sake. We are losing sight of civility in government and politics. Debate and dialogue is taking a back seat to the politics of destruction and anger and control. Dogma has replaced thoughtful discussion between people of differing views."

These words were spoken by then-New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey in his farewell address to the state in 2004, and I fear that they are truer today than ever before.

With Congress back in town for just three days before a two and a half week break, all anyone wants to know is if, not even when, we might actually get some real work accomplished for the American people. We are three months into the Second Session of the 114th Congress, and what do we have to show for it? Sadly, our record of accomplishments is short and sweet.

To top it off, all our constituents are hearing in the media is the hateful rhetoric and vengefulness spewing from some of the mouths of our presidential candidates. And now unfortunately our third branch of government can't even escape the partisanship that is choking our federal government.

This is not a new struggle for our great democracy. In fact, John Adams wrote to his wife about this same issue over 200 years ago.

He wrote, "I fear that in every assembly, members will obtain an influence by noise, not sense. By meanness, not greatness. By contracted hearts, not large souls. There must be decency and respect, and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank, or we are undone. In a popular government, this is our only way."

I couldn't agree with his words more.

Our constituents, our allies, this world deserve so much more from us. Because today, America definitely doesn't look like the "shining city upon the hill" or "beacon of hope" that we once were.

But all hope is not lost. James McGreevey finished his farewell address with these wise words.

"I urge you, my fellow citizens, to seek those who will build bridges between us. Those who do not need to shout in order to be heard. We must have leaders who value their words as much as they do their actions and who, above all, believe in their heart what they say and do. Demand good and effective government from wise leaders who speak softly with great ideas, who inspire people to work together for a common purpose. We as a nation have done this in the past and I know we can do it again."

As the leaders of this great country, I urge my fellow colleagues in the House, governors, and presidential candidates alike to hold ourselves up to a higher standard. Because as Herbert Hoover once said,

"When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned."

U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley (IL-05) gave this speech on the House floor on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

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Illinois Among Top 10 States Where You're Most Likely To Catch An STD

Tue, 2016-03-22 10:20


The Prairie State is one of only two northern states to make Roadsnacks' Top 10 list of states where you're most likely to catch a sexually transmitted disease.

Roadsnacks studied which states have the highest rates of common STD infections compared to population and compiled data from the Centers for Disease Control on three of the top STDs: chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

According Roadsnacks, Louisiana is by far the state where you are mostly likely to catch an STD, even with Mississippi ranking at the very top of two categories.

But Illinois has its own health care struggles, due in part to the budget impasse. Without a budget, funding isn't available to some health services, including mental health care and HIV/AIDS prevention.

As shown in the map above, here are the 10 states in which you're most likely to catch an STD, along with individual rankings for the prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

NEXT ARTICLE: Are lawmakers taking advantage of the state's lax campaign finance laws?

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Hello? How About We Vent Our Anger At Springfield Politicians?

Tue, 2016-03-22 09:58
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek



Hello, it's me

I was wondering if, after all these years, you'd like to meet

To go over everything

They say that time's supposed to heal ya

But I ain't done much healing


Hello, it's me, your friendly neighborhood political observer.

I'm right here in Illinois, wondering what to make of that primary.

Seems like Adele's mega-global hit lends itself to Illinois voters' psyches these days.

Hello, it's me ...

Illinois voters said to the political ruling class involved in federal politics and in Cook County,

... I've forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet

So, congratulations, Illinois voters, we showed up like never before. And we sent a loud message to the establishment.

There's such a difference between us

And a million miles


The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform reported 44.6 percent of us cast ballots last week. That's 3.35 million out of 7.5 million eligible voters. And nearly a million of us cast ballots for Bernie Sanders, very nearly giving him a victory in Hillary Clinton's home state. And nearly 550,000 of us gave our votes to Donald Trump in the GOP primary. Record numbers of voters participated in Cook County, too, giving Kim Foxx a 2-to-1 victory over establishment Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

The pundits have been saying the nation is raging, and Illinois went along with the nation.

Hello from the other side

I must have called a thousand times ...


What about within all of Illinois? Gov. Bruce Rauner lost a few high-profile primaries in which he was heavily involved. Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan left him quite a message, but it seems Rauner isn't checking his voicemail, having issued a statement the day after the primary that essentially said, "I'm not listening. Come back to work and give me what I want."

Madigan, of course, believes his election victories mean Rauner and Republicans should bow to his dominance.

His message? "Over the last year, you will find the times that the governor and the Legislature were able to work together, ... is when the governor was willing to put aside his agenda that hurts middle-class families and work directly with the Legislature on the most important issue at hand."

So, the Illinois observers and pundits again are saying it's even more likely nothing gets done about Illinois public colleges and disabled and vulnerable Illinoisans who don't get automatic or court-ordered funding until after the Nov. 8 general election.

Unfortunately, Rauner wasn't on the ballot and most Illinoisans never will have a chance to send a direct message to Madigan, the premier political class ruler for most of the past three decades, who has led the overspending charge that drove Illinois taxpayers into debt calamity.

The only and best option we have now against Springfield politicians is to pressure our individual state representatives and senators to do their jobs. And to demand that Rauner and Madigan do theirs and find a compromise solution. Do. Your. Jobs. It's not that difficult. Give up tort reform, governor. Allow a vote on term limits, Mr. Speaker. Let Democrats and Republicans together take credit for some type of property tax break and move on.

Why aren't angry Illinoisans delivering that message to the ruling class within Illinois? Hello?! We should be ringing their phones off the hook, sending emails, carrying signs outside their district offices.

Our lives matter.

The political ruling class does respond when enough of us leave a strong, demanding message. And, as Rich Miller noted in a Crain's column, Republican state Sen. Sam McCann's win in central Illinois demonstrates you can defy your party's leader, side with your constituents and win. We need to let our lawmakers know what we want.

A record 44.6 percent of primary voters stopped their normal routines and sent quite a message. Nearly a million Illinoisans voted against the grain in the Democratic primary. Another 976,891 voted either for Trump or Ted Cruz, the anti-establishment Republican options. That's more than a quarter of eligible Illinois voters jumping into a closed primary to say we are against the status quo. We're angry.

You can find out who your state representatives and senators are with Reboot Illinois' Sound Off tab at the top of the home page. In four mouse clicks, you can use that tool to send an email about the budget to them, Rauner, Madigan and the other legislative leaders. That's just one way we can send a message we're angry.

Hello from the outside

At least I can say that I've tried


NEXT ARTICLE: Will Sanders voters turn to Trump in November?



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The People Have Spoken

Tue, 2016-03-22 08:43
The 2016 Illinois primaries are now behind us. Although it wasn't fraught with too many surprises, there were a few upsets, affectionately dubbed "proxy races", by the media, in this election.

One headline grabber was the 5th district house seat in the Illinois General Assembly. Newcomer Juliana Stratton annihilated incumbent Ken Dunkin at the polls, garnering over 60% of the vote. Unfortunately, Dunkin committed political suicide, by breaking ranks with the Democratic Party on several issues-most directly, going against House Speaker Madigan by voting with Governor Rauner on a key human services bill. What made this a proxy race? Well, that would be the fact that both Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan, and their interests, contributed just over $5 million dollars in this District race, a starch contrast to the typical war chest of around $100,000.

The democratic nod went to Kim Foxx in the State's Attorney race, sweeping away the two-term incumbent Anita Alvarez with 60% of voters taking her to victory, and she's on the brink of making history. If elected in the general election come November, Foxx will be the first African American to hold office as Cook County States Attorney.

The political climate in Chicago was extraordinarily contentious due to the recent police shooting of Laquan McDonald. The public illustrated much outrage and called on her to resign, based on her 400-day delay of charging the Chicago Police officer responsible for McDonald's death, with his murder. By many accounts, it appears it took a 17 year-old loosing his life in the manner that he did, for people to hold their government officials accountable.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "When the government fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."

This past Tuesday's polls bear witness to what can happen to an elected official when the people are fed up and what change and want it now. Smart money typically bets on the incumbent; but not this go round. Two "established" politicians were asked to see their own way out the door. According to the Cook County Clerk David Orr, typical primary elections have a 25-30 % voter turn out. It's believed the actual voter turnout hovered around the 40% and not to mention, there was a record breaking early voting turnout as well.

And on a side note, without fail, there were people who attempted to make correlations between some of the candidates running for office and Mayor Emmanuel, including presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton. Furthermore, for the love of GAWD, what did reporters mean when they wrote commentary such as the "Rahm effect" was hurting candidates? Let's take a glance at that, shall we? Hillary Clinton....WON. Illinois State Representative Christian Mitchell...WON. And not to be outdone, Juliana Stratton's opponent spent one million dollars on ads linking her to Mayor Emanuel in an unfavorable manner and you guessed it, Juliana Stratton, WON! So again, readers beware of those distracters. Some people will stop at nothing to further their agenda regardless of facts or accuracy.

Perhaps the times have changed and now more people are engaged in their civic duties and the political process. We shall see if the momentum continues through November.

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This is not winning

Mon, 2016-03-21 14:25
It was shocking recently to see on-line videos of high school students, all white, taunting the players from another, mainly minority, school with chants of "Trump, Trump, Trump." It felt like it was just an isolated event, representative of the ugly nature of the current presidential campaign. In fact, the whole thing was easily dismissed by the next day's set of events on the campaign trail.

But then I heard a heartbreaking story from my adult niece. Earlier this week, her junior high school age daughter was confronted at school by another student. In short, this other student told my great niece that when Donald Trump is President, she will have to go back to Mexico.

So, this campaign is no longer just a Saturday Night Live skit for me. This is personal.

A couple of important facts here. Yes, my niece is married to a man originally from Mexico. And, of course, my great niece is an American citizen, just as much as me, you or likely the child who made the thoughtless and ignorant taunt.

That said, I cannot let this event go - largely because it was so devastating for someone that I love so very much. It saddens me and makes me wonder about our society at large - and what role leaders (even those seeking a leadership role) have in trying to tame the monster of bias and hatred which we know always percolates just below the surface of our society. The challenge is compounded by the changing nature of our society - the growing racial and religious diversity, the shrinking availability of well-paying manufacturing jobs for those without a college education and other societal pressures - all of which appear to enhance and magnify the racial, ethnic and religious feelings in some Americans.

My adult life has been spent defending basic freedom, including the right to free speech. It is an article of faith for me that each person, no matter what their viewpoint, have the right to speak without governmental interference. This freedom extends even to those, like Mr. Trump, who seek to manipulate and capitalize on the hatreds and biases that many Americans still harbor. For this reason, I do not propose that we ban or censor Mr. Trump's speech even though his language and theatrics encourages and authorizes precisely the sort of brutal hatred faced by my great niece.

Neither can we turn a blind eye to the real harm done by this. Sitting idly by, treating hatred like a reality television show, and simply scoffing at the latest outrage from Mr. Trump or his supporters is an abdication of our responsibility as citizens. We are headed toward a long, dark summer of hate and misogyny. It will not go away if we ignore it.

Instead, each of us must speak up and confront this scourge. We should remind ourselves, our families, our colleagues and our neighbors that our society is not weakened by diversity but strengthened. We can point out that hatred of any sort never advances the society, it only seeks to pull us backward. This will make for some confrontational and uncomfortable conversations, but who said that being a contributing member of a free society was supposed to be easy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great of a burden to bear." In the face of the angry, visceral hatred that is being unleashed on our society by this campaign, it is not enough to stick with love and not give into the hate. We must confront it and speak out against it.

I will be doing that for my niece. She deserves my protection and attention.

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African Leaders Should Not Flee from Justice

Fri, 2016-03-18 12:37
There is something seriously troubling and painful happening in Africa which should worry the rest of the world. At their recent meeting in Addis Ababa, African leaders under the aegis of African Union voted to withdraw from the international criminal court (ICC). If African nations proceeded with this proposal, this will not be a first. The US, for instance, is not a signatory to the Rome statute of 2002 which created the ICC as the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

Whereas the US is reluctant to ratify the Rome statute because it wants to protect the rights of American soldiers from frivolous and politically motivated trials, African leaders are threatening to withdraw from ICC as a strategy for protecting themselves from being held accountable for atrocities which they committed while in power. As Kenya's national newspaper, Daily Nation said in a recent editorial, "leaving the ICC with no credible mechanism for justice for mass crimes in sight would be an error of colossal proportions."http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Editorial/Bid-to-pull-out-of-ICC-is-deceptive-ill-conceived/-/440804/3059820/-/s8w8wpz/-/index.html

This decision by African leaders only reinforces the fear of many Africans that victims of genocide and war crimes in Africa will never get justice if the process is left in the hands of self-serving African leaders. Furthermore, unless perpetrators of these crimes are held to account no matter their position or status, there is no guarantee that even more heinous atrocities will not occur in the continent in future. Many current and former African leaders are complicit in some of the worst forms of atrocities in the continent within the last three decades. They must be brought to justice.

The argument that Africa is being unfairly targeted flies in the face of logic. No African leader has picked holes in the process, protocol, and procedure of ICC. In addition, the chief prosecutor of the court, Fataou Bensouda who is African, in a recent interview with the London-based International Bar Association was equivocal in rejecting any claims of bias against Africans. According to her, "there has never been an African bias, there is no African bias and there never will be an African bias. If you look at the reality on the ground you will see... that it's actually African governments, African countries and African Member States that are coming towards the ICC to request intervention."http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=f97baf93-ad16-4c94-8956-480a8d3a9d4f

What is unfair is the fact that the perpetrators of some of these crimes are still in power or are protected by African governments while the memories of their victims are forgotten. The more fundamental question that needs to be answered by African leaders is not why or where perpetrators of these crimes should be tried but rather why so many of these atrocities are being committed in African soil. I do not see how the security, sovereignty and dignity of Africans which President Kenyatta claims as reason for pushing for this withdrawal will be imperiled by the trial of African leaders who committed crimes against humanity.

As at today, the ICC has 23 cases and situations of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Apart from the situation in Georgia and the Comoros the rest are in eight African countries--Kenya, Ivory Coast, Libya, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, and Mali. The ICC has also opened inquiries into crimes against humanity in two other African countries, Nigeria and Guinea. https://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/situations%20and%20cases/Pages/situations%20and%20cases.aspx

While there are many unreported cases of crimes against humanity in many parts of the world, no one can deny that these statistics point to a troubling reality in Africa. Why is it that the lust for power has led many African leaders to stew in the blood of their fellow citizens? Why is it that the African spirit of Ubuntu, that is, the priority of the community over the individual is no longer respected in Africa today especially when it comes to the accession to power and retention of power in many countries in Africa? Why are so many African leaders changing their national constitutions to perpetuate themselves in power while triggering off national crisis which often lead to suppression and crimes against the innocent?

The socio-political history of Africa within the last three decades is littered with violence and blood as a result of actions of serving or former African leaders. Just to give one example, no African can forget the atrocities committed by former President of Chad, Hissène Habré who is standing trial in the Extraordinary African Chambers, a court set up for this trial by African governments under the supervision of the ICC. A truth commission in Chad found that more than 40,000 people were killed and thousands more tortured during Hissène Habré's repressive 17 years in power which ended in 1999. During his time in power, Habré, whom Human Rights Watch called 'the Pinochet of Africa', was the most destabilizing political force in the West African sub-region.https://www.hrw.org/legacy/english/docs/2004/10/14/chad9475_txt.htm He was, however, the friend of the US, France and Britain who saw him as a counter-balancing power to Libya's Ghaddafi.

I remember as an elementary school kid in Nigeria in the 80's seeing the massive influx of Chadian nationals--women, young people and children--especially members of the Zara, Hadjeria and Zaghawa ethnic groups who were particularly targeted by Habre's killing force, the DSS. These unfortunate Chadians were begging in the streets of Nigeria, living under the bridge, and often exposed to the elements. The then Nigerian government did not have a well developed system for Internally Displaced People. Besides, the Structural Adjustment Program was biting hard on the country making it impossible for the Nigerian state to support these Chadians many of whom died from starvation and diseases. The painful recollection of the suffering of these Chadians is still fresh in my memory.

Another former African leader who is standing trial is Laurent Gbagbo, who is indicated of war crimes and crimes against humanity for post-election violence and civil war in Cote d'Ivoire which led to the killing of more than 6000 people. President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have not been convicted of the crimes for which they were charged, but the Kenyan government under him has not fully investigated the deaths of more than 1200 Kenyans in the post-election violence of 2007-2009. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/sep/13/kenyan-tribal-clashes-116-dead

Sudan and South Sudan continue to witness the worst form of violence, semi-permanent humanitarian disaster, and displacement of thousands of people. But these are the result of President Omar al-Bashir's dictatorial regime. He is facing 3 counts of genocide, two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity in ICC but has refused to turn himself in to face trial. He continues to walk freely in Africa while Darfur continues to be in ruin. And the list goes on...

In his speech at the close of the AU summit, the new chairman of AU and Chadian President Idris Deby who has been in power for 25 years since overthrowing Habré bemoaned that Africa is being hunted as if it was the only part of the world where human rights are being violated. It is shocking that President Deby will make such an assertion rather than condemn human rights violations in Africa. Rather than cry that they are being 'hunted' by ICC, African leaders should make a commitment to respect human rights, be faithful to fix-term limits, rule of law, transparency and good governance. They should not flee from ICC. Rather they should co-operate with this court to bring closure to several atrocities committed in Africa and help bring healing, justice and reconciliation to these troubled lands.

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Illinois' Top 25 Most Improved Schools In 2015

Fri, 2016-03-18 11:39


Some Illinois schools have taken big steps up between 2014 and 2015, according to SchoolDigger.

The website tracks school performance and ranks the top schools in the state by calculating an Average Standard Score using recent test scores across grades. By comparing the 2014 and 2015 scores, SchoolDigger calculated which schools improved by moving closer to the top of the state's rankings.

This year's rankings used the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam scores. Since some Illinois students didn't take all or part of the PARCC test, we've included the school's participation rate for both the English and math portions of the exam, using the Chicago Tribune's score tool.

Below you can see the Top 25 most improved Illinois schools by location. Beneath the map you can find a link t can see the full list in text including each school's change in rank since 2014 and its PARCC participation rates.



Here are the state's Top 25 most improved schools in 2015, along with each school's change in rank since 2014 and its PARCC exam participation rates.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois among worst states to be a taxpayer for second straight year, says WalletHub

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Will the Results of the Rauner, Madigan Primary Proxy War Even Matter?

Fri, 2016-03-18 11:25
Gov. Bruce Rauner cast House Speaker Michael Madigan and the "Chicago Machine" as the villains in his effort to elect his preferred candidate and punish a Republican incumbent in a downstate Senate race.

Madigan, meanwhile, cast Rauner and his wealthy political allies as the bad guys in his own punishment effort against a disobedient Democrat who represents a Chicago district in the Illinois House.

In both races, Rauner lost. Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, survived an opposition effort that saw Rauner and his allies spend $3.2 million against him. McCann defeated Rauner's candidate, Bryce Benton, despite being outspent by a factor of more than 4-to-1.

In Chicago, challenger Juliana Stratton trounced Rep. Ken Dunkin, who earned Madigan's enmity by siding with Rauner on some key issues last year and publicly criticizing Madigan's leadership, by a margin of more than 2-to-1.

Rauner needed victories in both races to prove that he could match Madigan's political muscle by punishing Republicans who crossed him -- as McCann did -- and protect Democrats who defy Madigan and side with Rauner, which is what Dunkin did.

This had been the stick with which Rauner had threatened Republicans in the House and Senate as he sought to hold firm on his pledge to boycott budget negotiations until Democrats agreed to some of the business and political reforms he has pushed in his Illinois Turnaround agenda.

Now that the stick has failed its first potency test, the question is whether Republicans in the Legislature, as the budget situation causes greater and greater pain with constituents back home, will consider breaking with Rauner as the November general election nears.

The administration's statement the day after the primaries offered no recognition of this possibility. Instead, Rauner lamented the defeat of a Democrat who had demonstrated "independent thinking" and made no mention of the McCann victory. Nor did he commend McCann for independence.

We're talking about how this week's results might play into the campaign season to come and the ongoing budget crisis on this week's "Only in Illinois."



NEXT ARTICLE: Senate Democrats pass $3.9 billion higher education bill; GOP lawmakers say it's a sham

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Millennials Have No Idea Where Their Water Comes From

Thu, 2016-03-17 18:01

Even after the crisis in Flint, Michigan, has prompted a national conversation about the safety of our water supply, most people still don't understand how the issue applies to their own communities.


In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll of 1,000 people conducted from March 8-10, only 21 percent of respondents said they understood “very well” where the tap water in their homes comes from and how it is treated. Another 40 percent said they understood their water supply “not very well” or “not well at all.”


Breaking down the responses by age, those younger than 30 reported the lowest level of knowledge about their water supply. Nearly half (49 percent) of respondents under 30 said they did not understand where their water came from -- and 22 percent admitted they did not understand their water supply “at all,” compared to just 6 percent of respondents ages 65 and over.


Overall, survey respondents were split over whether a Flint-like crisis could happen to them. Forty-eight percent of respondents across all age groups were either “somewhat” or “very” concerned that a similar water safety crisis could happen in their own communities, while 47 percent were either “not very” or “not at all” concerned.





But when the responses were broken down by age, the youngest and oldest respondents were less likely to say they were worried about a Flint-like crisis happening close to home.


Only 10 percent of respondents under age 30 said they were “very” concerned about a similar crisis happening in their communities, while 50 percent were “not very” or “not at all” concerned. The only age group that expressed a lower level of concern were respondents over age 65: Only 9 percent of them were "very" concerned," and 61 percent were “not very” or “not at all” concerned.


Compared to a previous HuffPost/YouGov poll on water issues conducted in late January, most Americans' opinions about the safety of their tap water haven't changed much, even as the situation in Flint unfolds and water contamination issues have emerged in other parts of the country.


But overall, respondents did express less confidence that their tap water would remain safe to drink 20 years from now. While 71 percent of respondents said they were at least “somewhat” confident their water was currently safe to drink, only 46 percent believed it would be safe in 20 years. Similarly, while only 25 percent of respondents said they were “not very” or “not at all” confident that their tap water was currently safe to drink, the amount of skeptics rose to 37 percent when respondents were asked about their water 20 years from now.


Responses to the poll also varied based on race. Black respondents were the least likely to report that they knew the source of their tap water. Twenty-eight percent of black respondents also said they were very concerned about a situation like Flint happening in their community, compared to just 14 percent of white respondents.


Research has indicated that minority communities face unequal exposure to environmental health risks like water contamination.



The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 8-10 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.


The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.


Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.


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Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.

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Top 25 Counties in Illinois With The Most Luck O' The Irish

Thu, 2016-03-17 17:07


It's St. Patrick's Day and Illinois could use a little luck o' the Irish. That might not be too hard to find -- according to the U.S. Census, more than 33 million people in the U.S. claimed Irish ancestry in 2013. That's seven times higher than the population of Ireland itself!

And Illinois has plenty of Irish heritage too. In 2010, 1.6 million people in Illinois said they had some Irish background.

Where do all those people live in the state and which county has the most? Using 2010 U.S. Census data, we figured out the top 25 most Irish Illinois counties.

Below is a map showing the percentage of Illinoisans in each county who reported Irish ancestry to the U.S. Census; darker green counties have more, while lighter green have less. There's also a list of the top 25 counties by percentage, including the actual number of people in each county who claimed Irish heritage. If you aren't able to see the map, scroll down for a text version of the Top 25 list.

Irish Ancestry Map
Create your own infographics

Top 25 most Irish Illinois counties

25) Edgar County, IL 16.05%

24) Massac County, IL 16.14%

23) Monroe County, IL 16.19%

22) Scott County, IL 16.27%

21) Coles County, IL 16.28%

20) Macoupin County, IL 16.32%

19) DuPage County, IL 16.44%

18) Putnam County, IL 16.65%

17) Marshall County, IL 16.86%

16) Williamson County, IL 17.08%

15) Livingston County, IL 17.25%

14) DeKalb County, IL 17.32%

13) Saline County, IL 17.98%

12) Will County, IL 18.30%

11) Mercer County, IL 18.35%

10) Franklin County, IL 18.50%

9) McHenry County, IL 18.57%

8) Lee County, IL 18.79%

7) LaSalle County, IL 18.94%

6) Pope County, IL 18.95%

5) Jo Daviess County, IL 19.70%

4) Hamilton County, IL 20.66%

3) Grundy County, IL 22.36%

2) Gallatin County, IL 23.67%

1) Hardin County, IL 26.98%

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois' Top 25 most improved schools in 2015

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Trump Empties Out Chicago?

Thu, 2016-03-17 15:58
Streetlight spilling down through the basement window, splayed out on the polished wooden bar and framing the forearm stamped with the faded boxy lettering that marked the ancient man forever a 13 year old boy out of Auschwitz Birkenau.

He'd been dead for years. Uncle Sol. So why was I not surprised to see him here today? In the bar. Here in Pilsen. Why now? On my last trip to Damek's tavern.

Spring rains and winds blanketing Chicago, the winds blowing so much harder and constantly every day now that President Leader Trump had sent out the Word that we humans have nothing to do with the changes in the climate. That Word came the very first week of the Presidency.

And there were successive Words that were broadcast from Leader Trump pretty much every week since then.

The White House now The Gold House. China calling in our debt and taking over the US Treasury. Leader Trump assuring us what a great triumph that was. Think of the tax payer dollars saved by getting rid of a bureaucracy like the US Treasury.

Leader Trump would protect us. Leader Trump would help us keep the bad guys out. There were good things that happened in these first 100 Days. The "both sides do it" false equivalencies, the liberal/conservative split had gone. There was no more pretending that both parties had their problems. Because now there was only Leader Trump. And we saved time. Much easier to act when there is no need for consensus.

Course it would be hard to leave Chicago. But Leader Trump knew best. Didn't he? And besides, no one had stopped me on this one last visit to Damek's.

Lots had changed since the last time I'd been in Damek's. But I needed one more visit. Not much in a life where you can say, "I want to do that one more time" and be certain it will happen.

But why was Uncle Solly here? Sitting ramrod straight, looking forward. Saying nothing. As if I wasn't even there. "Hey Solly! So good to see you!' But he didn't turn. Didn't answer.

And with the empty streets outside, no music inside, only the stale beer disinfectant smell of the bar for company,

The great migration of Chicago's Mexican community back to Mexico before The Wall got built had left the Pilsen neighborhood with empty streets, washed out colors and a smell of burning rubber where once chilies and onions, chicken and chorizo wrapped in golden tortillas could make you forget your name.

So as the color and music drained out of Pilsen, the ghosts of the old neighborhood had come back. The hard working Czechs. Damek's Bar. Where working families would go to the corner and get their bucket of beer every Friday night.

Chicago is a city of ghosts built upon generations of con men and women, dreamers and drifters, poets and power mongers. And as you dig down through all that, each back alley big shot and Lake Shore Drive swell left behind, you are reminded again of Algren, writing, "Once you've become a part of this particular patch, you'll never love another."

So I had a decision to make. The "Welcoming Centers" were going up all over the country. There was one not so far from this bar on the far southwest side. A safe place, Leader Trump told us in a Word. This safe place is for Muslims. It was just till we got things figured out. Nothing permanent. Just a place to keep folks safe.

And the next safe place was for Italians. My wife was Italian. So she'd have to go.

That meant we had to decide. Did we leave Chicago or did we stay and let ourselves be separated? We had bought the tickets to Banff. We had our boat and were ready to row. But still. . . . was there any other choice?

Maybe there was some way to fight this. To let us stay home.

And that's when I heard it. Uncle Solly. Staring at his spirit, he turned towards me as if there was an actual physical force staring hard, opened his mouth and said two words:

"Never again."

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High Schools Are Failing Girls Who Report Sexual Assault

Thu, 2016-03-17 14:27

Heidi Peterson arrived at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix on Oct. 11, 2014, to pick up her daughter, who we'll call Carly, from a school dance. She couldn't find her.


As Peterson and school staff searched, the 16-year-old, who has special needs, appeared at Peterson's truck with skinned knees and dirt on her face. Peterson said she questioned her daughter about what happened to her, and she replied, "Mom, he told me to stick his penis in my vagina." Peterson was in shock.


"I thought I was going to pass out," Peterson told The Huffington Post. She said Carly was quiet and appeared confused about what had happened to her during the dance.


Peterson called the police, who dispatched officers to the school. Carly showed her mother, an assistant principal and the officers where the incident had taken place, which was near a concrete barrier by the football field. Peterson then took her daughter to have a forensic examination and get a rape kit done -- which included medical personnel taking bodily fluid, hair and fiber samples from her underwear, as well as taking photographs. 


During the Phoenix Police Department investigation Carly told interviewers that she and a boy went outside during the dance and "humped," and had both oral and vaginal sex, but she wasn't sure about the boy's identity other than that he was a student. The girl had a feeling "that this was not going to be good" when she went outside with the boy, according to the police report on her case. Carly described to investigators that she told the boy "no," and that she wanted to go back to the dance, but she wasn't sure if he might have had a weapon on him.


Pinnacle officials did not inform students or parents that a sexual assault was reported on their property during a school dance. "That was a huge problem for me," Peterson said. The school also did not start its own investigation to find out who the boy involved was, Peterson alleged in a complaint she filed with the Department of Education one year after the alleged assault. 


In February 2015, a detective from the Phoenix police called Peterson after months of investigating to tell her the lab results found that there was semen on her daughter's underwear, according to a recording of the phone conversation. The police said, however, they did not have enough evidence to support a charge of sexual assault, even though the boy hadn't been identified and so they hadn't interviewed him. "This case can be reopened if new information becomes available," the police report said.


Having exhausted all of her options with the cops, Peterson wanted to invoke protection for her daughter -- under the federal gender equity law Title IX -- to have Pinnacle take action to ensure she wouldn't encounter her alleged assailant.


High schools clearly do not have the same investigative abilities as law enforcement. Yet under Title IX, schools receiving federal funding must eliminate a hostile environment stemming from gender-based violence. And the Education Department has told schools since at least the Clinton administration that a single incident of severe sexual harassment -- such as an assault -- can constitute a hostile environment. So when a high school gets a report of a student-on-student assault, it's typically supposed to do its own investigation.


While police records show Pinnacle officials cooperated with the criminal investigation, Peterson maintains the school did not look into it on their own. In April 2015, a 16-year-old boy came forward to school officials and admitted he'd had sex with Carly, who her mother said has the intellect of a 12-year-old, but insisted it was consensual. The school told the police, who interviewed the boy. He told the police the same thing he told the school, that he and Carly had had consensual sex. The police decided to keep the case closed.



The police told Peterson, she said, but no one from Pinnacle called her directly to let her know that the boy had broken his silence. Speaking for Pinnacle, the Paradise Valley Unified School District declined to say if they ever punished the boy, but said in a statement that it "followed all proper protocols." They added that the school has "had nothing but the best interest of the student in mind." Peterson said she opted to transfer Carly out of the school in the fall of 2015 as she lost faith that officials had her daughter's best interests at heart. 


The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into Pinnacle in January over the handling of this case, but the school hasn't told the community or parents. The school district told HuffPost in a statement that Pinnacle might tell the community about the investigation when it's completed, "if it makes sense to do so."


Rising Number Of Sexual Assault Investigations

Teenage sexual assault cases at St. Paul's Prep School, in Maryville, Missouri, and in Steubenville, Ohio, have captured national attention, but it's not an extraordinary situation for a high school to deal with. Sexual assault happens at similar rates in high schools as in colleges -- impacting around 1 in 5 female students.


For all the national scrutiny of colleges mishandling rape cases, advocates working on the issue frequently say high schools "are in the dark ages" in comparison, and federal officials are taking notice.


The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has opened 210 investigations into higher education institutions' handling of sexual assault cases, up from 55 in May 2014. But over roughly the same period, the number of K-12 schools and school districts under similar investigations by federal officials has climbed from 23 in July 2014 to 83 as of this month, including Pinnacle.



On Friday, a group of advocacy organizations, including the National Women's Law Center, Girls Inc., the American Association of University Women and Stop Sexual Assault In Schools, are meeting with White House officials to make recommendations for how to address sexual violence at the K-12 level.


"However bad you think that a college campus' lack of accountability is on these cases," said Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, "I think go back 15 years before and that's what you're looking at for high schools."


A common complaint in a number of cases nationwide that were reviewed by HuffPost -- through interviews, confidential complaints, open records requests and in police and court documents -- is that high schools fail to look into reports of student-on-student sexual assault cases at all. Some schools explain this by stating they won't take any action against an accused perpetrator unless police tell them a crime was committed, though experts say this runs counter to federal law under Title IX.


"It's about preserving everybody's right to an education free from discrimination, and that's a very different process than the criminal process and the standards are different," noted Neena Chaudhry, an attorney with the National Women's Law Center. But many schools do not even know who on their staff is in charge of Title IX, according to NWLC.


Title IX is over 40 years old and hasn't changed. The Supreme Court affirmed in a landmark 1999 case that schools must address student-on-student harassment under the law, with sexual assault considered the most egregious form of harassment. The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights issued guidance in 2010 and 2014 further stating what schools should do in cases of student-on-student sexual harassment or assault.


At a minimum, the school should ensure an alleged victim and their accused assailant do not come in contact with each other, and any ongoing bullying related to an allegation of assault should be stopped too. Schools can also conduct their own investigations and discipline a student as it deems necessary, which may include suspending or expelling them.


As the Education Department put it in a 2014 document, "even if a criminal investigation is ongoing, a school must still conduct its own Title IX investigation."



However bad you think that a college campus' lack of accountability is on sexual assault ... go back 15 years before and that's what you're looking at for high schools."
Colby Bruno, Victim Rights Law Center


At North Central High School in rural Indiana, the principal told one girl's family they would wait until the criminal investigation was done "to determine our course of action." That girl, who we'll call Hannah, reported to police on Nov. 5, 2015, that two boys at the school raped her the previous December. One of the boys was also accused of sexually assaulting another student, who we'll call Ashley, a few months earlier, in May 2014. Ashley filed her police report in September 2015. 


When Hannah's family pressed to have North Central at least put the boy on social probation, so that they wouldn't see him at after-school activities, the principal responded in a Nov. 24 email, "we are prohibited from restricting anyone’s attendance" at those events until they got more information from police. The other boy accused by Hannah had dropped out of school before prior to her report to the police.


The Sullivan County prosecutor in Indiana declined multiple requests for comment, but both girls families said his office has told them their cases are still open.


"I just honestly wish he'd get arrested," Hannah said in an interview, speaking of the boy still in school. "I mean that's the law, if you rape someone you should be arrested for it."



"I totally understand the inclination to say, 'Oh that's a police matter, we're going to sit back and wait,' but that's a pretty fundamental point that folks have to understand," said Abby Raphael, a former prosecutor who served as a school board member in Arlington, Virginia, for eight years. Schools can begin their own investigation and issue any sanctions they deem appropriate, regardless of what law enforcement is doing, Raphael noted.


Hannah and Ashley's families say the burden was placed on them to rearrange their schedules by taking some classes after school or at home, rather than moving the accused into a different schedule. They also say they were subjected to ongoing bullying from classmates, who sided with the boys accused of sexual assault. 


The Education Department opened a Title IX investigation of North Central in January, as a result of Hannah's family filing a complaint with the Department against the school. The school declined repeatedly to comment for this story.


"Like so many K-12 schools, this Indiana district was uninformed about its Title IX responsibilities," said Esther Warkov, a co-founder of the activist group Stop Sexual Assaults In Schools, which helped file the complaint against North Central. "It failed to realize that a report of sexual violence is not only a criminal matter: it’s also a civil rights matter."



After a girl was allegedly sexually assaulted in the boys locker room of Thornton Fractional North High School in the Chicago area in September 2014, the accused perpetrator was kept in the same class as the accuser, a federal lawsuit against the school district says. The principal knew about the assault, the suit says, and told his supervisors. But still no restrictions were put on the alleged offender, and there was no information disclosed to community members that a rape was reported on school grounds.


The school responded in court that keeping the alleged assailant and the girl in the same class and on field trips was not a problem because she wasn't sexually assaulted again. It wasn't until the boy threatened to shoot her in the head a couple of weeks after the alleged assault that he was expelled, according to court papers.


Many schools misunderstand whether they legally can remove a student accused of sexual violence, because most states require minors to be in school, said Bruno, of the Victim Rights Law Center.


"I think that is the singular most difficult thing for high schools and below to deal with," Bruno said, "because they say, 'Well I can’t remove this student, he's under 18 and he has a right to go to school and so I can’t restrict access, I can’t do all these things, because the kid has a right to be here.'"


But if a student came to school brandishing a weapon, Bruno said, "you would think about the safety of the other student -- you wouldn’t think this kid has a right to be here. I think that is the disconnect."


Expelled After Reporting An Assault

In a case out of Warren, Michigan, Dea Goodman said her daughter, who we'll call Kena, was expelled after she was forced to perform oral sex on a boy at the school.


Goodman said Kena was kicked out of Cousino High School after an older boy brought her out to a car and forced her to perform oral sex on May 14, 2015. The day after the incident, Goodman said, her daughter was pulled out of class and questioned about rumors she'd had sex in the school parking lot that previous morning. Kena told the school she had been forced to perform oral sex by the boy, who had locked the doors, according to a police report. The school brought in its on-site police officer. 


The boy was later questioned by a detective, and he said it was consensual and planned, police records show. He had recorded a 15 second video of the incident, police said, and had photos of other females performing oral sex on him.  


Joseph Konal, a spokesman for Warren Consolidated Schools, told HuffPost that Kena "did not 'report' a sexual assault," though the police report is labeled a "sexual assault" report, alleging an act of "forcible sodomy," which under Michigan law includes coerced oral sex.



The school apparently decided to go with the boy's side of the story, and considered the sexual encounter consensual. Cousino put Kena under temporary expulsion for 180 days, according to letters from Warren Consolidated Schools sent to Goodman. The boy Kena accused was suspended, and on his return to school he continued his academic career and went on to graduate, according to Goodman.


"The discipline imposed by the District was not based on the fact that the student participated in the sex act," Konal said.


However, that's not what a letter sent to the Goodman family would suggest. Kena was charged by Cousino with "sexual misconduct," because she "admittedly engaged in oral sex" during instructional time and impeded a school investigation, according to a copy of a letter Goodman received from Cousino. The school board upheld the decision to expel her, school documents show.


"That is the definition of retaliation," said Adele P. Kimmel, a senior attorney at the firm Public Justice. "When you report that you are a victim of gender violence by another student, the school cannot punish you, even if they ultimately find that the perpetrator that was accused is not responsible for sexual misconduct and they think it's consensual. They're not permitted to punish the alleged victim."


As surprising as it may seem to expel an alleged victim of sexual violence because a school decided it was consensual, Kimmel says she's seen that before. In one case she's currently working on, a girl reported to administrators that she was sexually assaulted at school by a student right after classes. Kimmel said the school, which she's declined to name publicly at this point, suspended the girl and the alleged perpetrator. That's against the law, according to Kimmel, because reporting that someone sexually assaulted you is a protected civil rights activity.



How is that fair to a victim of sexual assault to continue to punish the victim?"
Dea Goodman, speaking about her daughter, who was expelled after reporting a sexual assault.


"I see that a lot, unfortunately," Kimmel said. "This has a terrible chilling effect."


The Education Department said in a 2014 Q&A document that whenever a student "complains formally or informally about sexual violence … the school is prohibited from retaliating" against them because of the complaint to the school.


"Yes, reporting a sexual assault is a protected activity. However, that is not what happened here, nor was the student disciplined for doing so," insisted Konal. "Her claim was thoroughly investigated but was not the basis for her discipline."


Detectives referred the case to prosecutors, who declined to charge the boy accused by Kena, simply citing "Prosecutor discretion, consensual act" in the police report. The prosecuting attorney's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


Goodman filed a complaint with the Education Department on behalf of Kena, against Cousino. The department opened the complaint for investigation in October.


Kena is currently home-schooled while Goodman searches for another school for her daughter to enroll in, but Goodman worries about whether Kena will be accepted to a college with her disciplinary record.


"This is going to follow her, and she will have to explain all over again why she was expelled," Goodman said. "[The school is] going to continue to revictimize her for something that wasn't her fault. You're an education system. You're supposed to help students not hurt them."


"Every day when she's at home, she sits behind a computer to do her school work and has to constantly be reminded why she's at home, why she's here," Goodman added. "How is that fair to a victim of sexual assault to continue to punish the victim?"


The Huffington Post used pseudonyms in this story to protect the identity of minors who have said they were sexually assaulted. 


View The List Of K-12 Schools And Districts Under Title IX Investigations For Sexual Assault Cases:






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75 K12 Districts Under Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations (PDF)


75 K12 Districts Under Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations (Text)


 


  


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Tyler Kingkade is a national reporter who covers sexual violence and is based in New York. You can reach him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or find him on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.


 



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Removing the Violence Model from Chicago Youth

Thu, 2016-03-17 13:19
This piece is written by my father, Arnold Stieber who is the Chicago coordinator for Veterans for Peace. He was infantry in the Army stationed in Vietnam from 1970-1971.

__________


"ISIS Trains Child Soldiers" and "Terror Trainees: New ISIS Video Shows Indoctrination of Kids".

Serious stuff - dressing youth in military garb, training them to follow orders, having them do calisthenics and march in formation, exposing them to weapons, and telling them they are defending their freedom. It certainly looks like "terror training" when it's done by "others". But when this form of training is done in Chicago Public Schools it's called "leadership".

In 2013 several members of the Chicago Chapter of Veterans For Peace attended the annual Memorial Day parade along State Street. It is billed as the largest Memorial Day parade in the nation. Expecting to see a somber parade commemorating all those killed in wars, the veterans were appalled to see thousands of Latino and black children in military uniforms marching in precision.

Upon investigation and a Freedom of Information request, the members of Chicago Veterans for Peace found that Chicago Public Schools is the most militarized school system in the world with over 10,000 children receiving some form of military training, at a cost of over $17 million/year.

$17 million funded by Chicago Public Schools, while CPS claims that is "broke".

Many myths have been offered for having the military in the lives of youth. "Children do better academically in military academies". Children thrive when they are given opportunities, resources and recognition in any environment. Give them opportunities, resources and recognition in a music academy, a science academy, a poetry academy, or a traditional classroom, and they will thrive. "Military training is good for children" and for some "it's a way out". These myths and others have been built up over many years. More than $600 million of our tax dollars are spent each year selling us the military. Repetitively we are told that the military is about "freedom", "honor" and "service" and that we should feel proud when our children join the military. We are not told that the military model is conflict resolution by violence. We are not told that the military model is humanly, environmentally and financially expensive. We are not told that the military model is the antithesis of democracy. We are not told that war is a business and that many corporations are committed to expanding their business.

The military taught me how to dehumanize and kill. That is what the military teaches.

Despite the common claims of recruiters, generals, corporate media and politicians, as veterans we can tell you that when the military is sent in, they are there to dominate any person or group that is rightly, wrongly or unnecessarily identified as an enemy, and that the military's core method is violence. Domination and violence, and consequently the military, have no place in the lives of youth or our schools.

Thus we, the Chicago Chapter of Veterans for Peace, are pursuing a many-pronged campaign to raise awareness of the epidemic of militarization in public education. Our initiative is called "Education Not Militarization". Most visibly we will soon roll out a billboard campaign whose goals are to generate dialogue and action and remove the military from the lives of Chicago youth. See NoMilitary.org. Our Speakers Bureau consisting of veterans of various conflicts, with a focus on youth and classrooms, is also available.

We seek to build a movement to remove the military model of domination and conflict resolution by violence from the lives of youth, and to turn Chicago Public Schools into a national model for teaching cooperation, nonviolent conflict resolution skills, and restorative justice. Join us.

17 million a year could do a lot to help educate CPS students instead of indoctrinating them with the lies of the military. Remember Education Not Militarization.


If you are interested in finding out about the campaign to get the military out of Chicago Public Schools please click here. Please click here to find out about the Chicago chapter of Veterans for Peace. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Veterans For Peace is an international 501(c)3 organization of military veterans and allies whose main focus is to abolish war. Our motto is Peace at Home, Peace Abroad. We are the only veterans organization in the world that is recognized by the United Nations.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.