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Michigan high school scraps homecoming queen title for excellence award

With high school football in full swing, many students are looking forward to homecoming week. Traditionally, homecoming kings and queens are crowned with much fanfare during halftime of football games.

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A Michigan high school decided to move away from that tradition.

The student council at Chelsea High School's Student Council voted to end the “outdated” homecoming queen title because of the negative experiences it causes, MLive reported.

“We don't want one of the biggest awards at our school to be associated with 'pretty' or 'popular' stereotypes or to be limited to a specific category of students," Student Council President Drew Vanderspool wrote in a letter explaining the award change to school families.

Instead of crowning a queen, a Chelsea student will receive an excellence award during the school’s homecoming game on Sept. 21. The excellence award will be open to students of all genders, MLive reported.

During the 2016-17 school year, Chelsea students created a #WhyYouMatter campaign that highlighted unique contributions of students and staff members. Student council members this year wanted to expand the campaign and believed that the homecoming queen process undermined the message of #WhyYouMatter, MLive reported.

"(The excellence award) helps to shift what we value," said Adam Schilt, an English teacher at Chelsea who also is a student council adviser. "When you put a sash and a crown on someone, you are implicitly saying this person represents what we value at the school."

The student council produced a YouTube video explaining the changes.

Breadsticks as main entree? School parents upset in Indiana

Parents at an Indiana school are upset after learning their children were served two breadsticks as their main lunch entree this week, WCPO reported. But the state’s department of education claimed it was a valid lunch option, the television station reported.

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One parent, whose child attends kindergarten at Greenfield Central Schools, said he has unhappy when his daughter’s lunch this week included breadsticks, carrot coins and applesauce, WCPO reported.

“I just couldn’t believe that you could actually just give them regular breadsticks, you know, it has no nutritional value,” said the parent, who wished to remain anonymous. “A lot of kids, it’s their only meal of the day – they don’t get to go home and have a nice meal that a lot of our kids are blessed with.”

Parents may be miffed, but officials at the Indiana Department of Education called the meal a full lunch because it offers cheese dipping sauce.

“Cheese, per the USDA, is considered a protein and therefore we see schools that offer that sometimes as a protein,” Department of Education press secretary Adam Baker told WCPO.

Tennessee students find bugs in school cafeteria meals

Several students who found bugs in their meals at a Tennessee middle school were instructed to write notes to the cafeteria staff to express what they were thankful for, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

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Parents attended a meeting of the Monroe County School Board on Thursday night, hoping to address the discovery of what officials called flour mites in granola bars on Tuesday and bugs in blackberries during a Thursday breakfast session, the newspaper reported.

The incidents took place at Madisonville Middle School. On Tuesday, Brandy Shubert said her daughter, Madison Smith, sent a video of insects or maggots crawling in her granola, the News Sentinel reported.

"She starts zooming in and it's maggots. What in the world? How can someone feed children maggots," Shubert told WBIR.

On Thursday, another student at the middle school recorded video of a bug in his blackberries as he ate the school-provided breakfast, the television station reported. 

"I was just blindsided by this video that I saw today," the boy’s mother, Misty Neal, told WBIR

Shubert and Neal attended Thursday’s school board meeting but were cut off by members when they tried to bring up the incidents. Members told the parents that the issued had “been addressed” and would not be discussed further because it was not on the school board agenda, the News Sentinel reported.

"They said they contacted the distributor and the health department has already been out there, and that's all they can do," Shubert told the newspaper. "We were not happy with that answer and so we told them we would go further with the issues and contact the state health department again."

School board Chairwoman Janie Harrill told the News Sentinel on Friday that the steps were taken to handle the issue.

“We’ve done everything that we possibly can to answer to this situation,” Harrill said before hanging up, the newspaper reported.

Monroe County Schools Director Tim Blankenship said Friday that school officials believed the incidents were an isolated problem.

Shubert showed the News Sentinel a photo her daughter sent from class, showing assignments written on a classroom whiteboard. 

The board instructs students, after finishing a math assignment, to "write a letter to the cafeteria ladies" and "use descriptive language" to say what the students are thankful for. 

"We are making an effort to be positive," the note said. 

"It's like they are bullying our kids," Shubert told the News Sentinel.

Shubert and Neal said their children will take their meals from home from now on, WBIR reported.

Watch: Alligator roams through Florida school grounds

Parents in north Florida posted several videos Sunday of an alligator roaming the grounds of a school in St. Johns County.

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One video shows it walking through the grass inside the fence surrounding Valley Ridge Academy in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman said someone alerted the Nuisance Alligator Hotline Sunday morning and a trapper was dispatched, but the alligator got away before the trapper arrived at the school.

“I would be scared of it if I was on school campus right now. I was hoping no one else was there,” fifth-grader Jake Romano said.

He was among several students and parents alarmed when they heard the gator was so close to the school -- and where children play.

“If you got kids around, it could be something serious,” Carlos Arroyo said. “Worst-case scenario something bad could happen, and you never want that.”

Parents said they are warning their children to be careful at school.

“If there’s a body of water, my kids know you don’t go near it, because there’s always a potential of being a gator -- that’s Florida,” Michelle Shelton said.

New Jersey college students can minor in medical marijuana 

Students at a New Jersey have high expectations for courses of study in medical marijuana, NJ.com reported.

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Stockton University begins its fall semester next week and is offering “Cannabis Studies” as a minor, WNYC reported.

"This is a growing industry and we want to prepare our students from a variety of academic viewpoints," biology professor Ekaterina Sedia, the program coordinator for cannabis studies, said in a statement.

"We will not be telling students what is the right thing to do," Sedia said. "We will be providing a context and information that they can use to make their own decisions. Offering a program is not an endorsement."

University spokeswoman Diane D'Amico told NJ.com that the 25 students in the program will take a cannabis law course this fall, followed by a class on medical marijuana in New Jersey in the spring.

Sedia, the coordinator of the program, called medical marijuana “an industry that is developing and certainly there are a lot of possibilities and new jobs.”

“Oftentimes, colleges get criticized for not offering students real-life skills, and that certainly is going to be a life skill regardless of whether New Jersey stops at medical or goes to the recreational side of it,” Sedia, an associate professor of biology, told WNYC

Detroit schools shut off drinking water over lead, copper contamination

Four years after reports surfaced that tap water in Flint, Michigan, was contaminated with lead, Detroit's public school district is shutting off drinking water after tests revealed large amounts of lead or copper at a majority of its schools.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti decided to turn off the water at the district's 24 schools after "water in 16 of them was found to have high levels" of the substances.

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"Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools," Vitti said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday.

District officials said aging water fixtures may have caused the contamination, the AP reported. The Great Lakes Water Authority, which provides water to the schools, "says its water surpasses all federal standards," according to the AP.

Over 40,000 students attend schools in the district, whose school year begins next week.

Read more here or here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Student faces charges for taking ‘MAGA’ hat off classmate’s head, says it was political statement

A California high school student could face battery charges after a cellphone video shows her taking a hat off a classmate’s head. 

The hat was one of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” or “MAGA,” hats.

Jo-Ann Butler, a student at Union Mine High School in El Dorado, California, was angry that her classmate was wearing the hat and she took it off his head, saying, “That’s a racist and hateful symbol,” KOVR reported.

Butler said she did it to show her political feelings. 

>> Read more trending news 

“Maybe just wake people up in some type of way, because it’s not cool the environment our classroom is in,” Butler told KOVR.

Her father said how she behaved in class was not OK. 

“I don’t agree with grabbing someone’s hat and verbally talking to them in that way,” Chris Butler told KOVR. “But as far as the issue being brought up, maybe this is something that needs to be brought up.”

The school suspended Jo-AnnButler for a week, and the El Dorado County district attorney has to decide whether she will be charged with two counts of battery -- one for taking the hat off the student and one for slapping a teacher who was trying to calm her down as he escorted her from the room, KOVR reported.

5th-grader doesn’t fight back against bullies, says it isn’t Jedi way

A fifth-grader in California had to go to the hospital after a classmate punched him after the alleged bully took his backpack.

It all started Monday morning before school.

Aiden Vasquez said that he had a feeling that he was going to have a bad day, KMIR reported.

His day, Vasquez said, started with the classmate calling him names. Then the boy took Vasquez’s backpack. When he tried to get it back, Vasquez said the classmate punched him in the face.

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When his mom saw his injuries, she was furious. But he told her he didn’t fight back. 

“I told my mom, I got it from Star Wars, that it’s not the Jedi way,” Vasquez told KMIR.

Vasquez mom, Lizette Casanova, took a photo of her son and posted it to Facebook, saying that the school, Two Bunch Palms Elementary, didn’t do enough to protect her son. 

The school’s principal sent a letter home to parents saying, “There are times when what is posted does not convey the complete story and can cause multiple rumors to circulate,” KMIR reported.

The television station reached out to the Palm Springs Unified School District which said it could not comment because of confidentiality, but officials did tell KMIR that student safety is the district’s priority.

>>Read: 6-year-old boy hospitalized after standing up to bullies, mom says

Meanwhile, police said officers are investigating the incident as an assault, The Palm Springs Desert Sun reported.

And the day after Vasquez was beaten, he spoke with district officials, first privately with administrators and then publicly at the school board meeting.

He told the board, “All I want is for every single kid to be safe. All I want is for kids not to be bullied,” the Desert Sun reported.

Ironically, the same night Vasquez addressed the board, with a swollen black eye and stitches, Two Bunch Palms Elementary School received an award from the district called Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) for providing a positive and emotionally safe learning environment, the Desert Sun reported.

Other parents also spoke about alleged bullying incidents at the school.

The district voted to support Vasquez and is looking for more dialogue with parents. Board members offered to sit down with parents over coffee to talk about the concerns, the Desert Sun reported.

The district says that all incidents that are reported are investigated.

“All reported incidents related to student safety are taken extremely seriously, investigated thoroughly and responded to appropriately relative to administering appropriate discipline measures to students who threaten the safety of one or more students on or off campuses,” Joan Boiko, the district spokeswoman said. “If a child physically injures or bullies another student, consequences could include school suspension.”

Casanova said that administrators are still not doing enough and is considering moving her son to a different school, the Desert Sun reported

Related video:

Teacher helps former student with child care as student looks for job

LaShonda Carter, like many teachers, is always there for her students. And the offer doesn’t always end once you leave school. 

Larresha Plummer was one of Carter’s students three years ago. 

Last week Carter couldn’t sleep so she hopped on Facebook. That’s where Plummer and her former teacher started chatting, CNN reported.

Plummer told Carter times have been rough, but she was trying to attend a job fair later in the week but didn’t know how to get there. 

Plummer is a new mom and knew that taking her baby on public transit could be bad for the baby’s health, CNN reported

Carter told her former student that there was no way that a baby should be on the bus and that she’d be there to drive them to the job fair. Carter then stayed with the baby as Plummer applied for work, WBBM reported

>> Read more trending news 

After the job fair, Carter then took Plummer to apply for financial help through Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 

Carter also asked her Facebook friends to lend a hand to help Plummer and her daughter in any way she could. 

Not only did the two reconnect, Carter said Plummer was successful in finding a job and hopes to attend college, CNN reported.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

She has also set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to help get Plummer the items she needs for her baby. She had set a goal of $500 but in three days, the amount was surpassed with more than $1,435 raised as of Monday morning.

Florida substitute teacher accused of performing oral sex on teen boy

A substitute teacher in South Florida is accused of performing oral sex on a teenage student, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

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Vernell Hicks, 30, of Pompano Beach, was arrested at Pompano Beach Middle School, The Miami Herald reported. Hicks was charged with committing a sexual offense on a victim 12 to 15 years of age, lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim 12 to 16 and lewd and lascivious conduct by a person 18 or older, WPLG reported.

According to an arrest report, beginning in June 2017 Hicks began sending inappropriate text messages to a 14-year-old boy, the Herald reported. Then, he coordinated meetings where he could perform oral sex on the teen, according to the arrest report. The victim's mother contacted the Broward Sheriff's Office on Wednesday after she said she discovered inappropriate Facebook messages on her son's cellphone from Hicks, WPLG reported.

After his arrest, police said Hicks initially denied the allegations but later admitted to them, the television station reported.

Broward County Public Schools spokeswoman Nadine Drew said Hicks’ employment with the district has been terminated, the Herald reported. He worked as a substitute teacher at Crystal Lake Middle School and Pompano Beach Middle since September 2015, Drew said.

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