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Teacher suspended for making pancakes for students during state tests

A Pennsylvania teacher was suspended last week after he cooked breakfast for his students as they took state assessments.

LancasterOnline reported that Kyle Byler, an eighth-grade teacher at Hand Middle School, was suspended without pay and warned that he would be fired for “causing a distraction” while his students took the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSAs. 

Byler told local media that he brought an electric griddle to school the morning of April 10 and cooked each of his students a whole-grain pancake to eat while they took their exams. An assistant principal walked in and questioned why he was making the children breakfast.

>> Read more trending news

The teacher, who many parents consider the “eighth-grade dad” at the school, was called into a meeting with administrators within 24 hours and told he would be fired, LancasterOnline reported

Byler said in an interview Monday that he did not understand what he did wrong. The state education department does not have a rule against serving food during the PSSAs.

Pennsylvania Department of Education spokeswoman Nicole Reigelman told LancasterOnline, however, that “those activities would likely interfere with ‘actively monitoring’ the assessment, which is a key task.”

Byler said the pancakes did not deter the students. 

“At no point was it any distraction for any of the students,” Byler said. “They worked their butts off.”

A student told the news site that the assistant principal was the only distraction.

“The moment she walked in, everybody turned,” Alizea Rodriguez told LancasterOnline. “She was the distraction. Not pancakes. Not Byler.”

Rodriguez and other students were distraught when Byler was not in class the next day. Many of those students showed up at a Tuesday night school board meeting, at which Byler expected to learn his fate. 

School district officials dismissed the claim that he was to be fired Tuesday, saying that there was never a dismissal action on the meeting agenda and that a teacher cannot be fired without the board approving a written notice setting a hearing in the matter. None of that had taken place.

“Nor will it occur in this situation, as the personnel matter has been resolved with the employee, who is scheduled to return to work,” School District of Lancaster officials said in a statement

The district statement said that free breakfast and lunch are offered to all students every day, including testing days. 

“Moreover, the Pennsylvania Department of Education strictly requires that teachers who proctor PSSA testing focus their full attention on monitoring students during the test,” the statement read. “All teachers serving as PSSA test proctors receive specific training on testing protocol. Had permission been sought by a teacher to cook in the classroom during PSSA testing and serve food to the students, the response would have been that such activities would distract the teacher from the required duties as a test proctor.”

LancasterOnline reported that about 100 concerned residents, including both parents and teachers, turned out at Tuesday’s board meeting to support Byler. 

“It takes a village to raise children,” mother of two Crystle Martinez said. “He’s part of that village.”

Students and teachers were not Byler’s only fans. Officials at Holiday Inn Express sought to gift him and his students a one-touch pancake machine -- like those on the breakfast bars in Holiday Inn Express hotels -- and enough pancake batter to get them through the remainder of the school year. 

“As a hotel brand that knows how important an energizing breakfast is to being ‘THE READIEST’ for the day ahead, Holiday Inn Express salutes Byler for taking the initiative and making pancakes for his students,” said a Holiday Inn Express brand spokesperson. “The brand welcomes this teacher back to school, and hopes he and his students enjoy their very own one-touch pancake machine as much as Holiday Inn Express guests do,” read a statement from the company. 

It was not clear if the school district would allow Byler to put the pancake machine in his classroom. 

The Oak Ridge Boys attending Barbara Bush funeral

Country and gospel vocal quartet The Oak Ridge Boys are will attend the private funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush.

The group made the announcement Friday. Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban are lifelong friends of the Bush family, starting in 1982, when former President George H.W. Bush was vice president to Ronald Reagan.

>> Read more trending news 

Barbara Bush died Tuesday at age 92. Family spokesman Jim McGrath said earlier that week that Bush would no longer seek medical treatment and would “instead focus in comfort care.”

Related: Former first lady Barbara Bush dead at 92

“The Oaks and their wives have been the guests of President and Mrs. Bush at their homes in Kennebunkport and Houston, or on one of the numerous occasions where the Bushes have attended the Oaks’ shows, most often at the Opera House in Galveston, Texas,” the group said in a news release.

“They have also been guests at and/or performed at the White House at the behest of the Bushes. During President Bush’s re-election campaign, the group traveled on Air Force One with the First Couple.”

The public can pay respects to Bush Friday at St. Martin’s Church in Houston, where she lays in repose from noon to midnight.

Swedish musician Avicii dead at 28

Swedish DJ Avicii was found dead Friday in Oman, his publicist confirmed. He was 28.

>> Read more trending news

Man mistakes van for Amber Alert vehicle, rams, shoots it, police say

A man, thinking a van was involved in an Amber Alert, rammed, then fired gunshots at it Tuesday, police said. 

>> Read more trending news

An Amber Alert was issued at 1:18 a.m. for a 2006 Hyundai Sonata with two missing children from Toronto, Iowa, not a white panel van, which Matthew Golden saw and called police about, according to the Des Moines Register

He followed the van then rammed it with his Toyota Sequoia, then shouted commands at the driver, investigators said. 

Dispatchers told Golden to stop. However, he went into his vehicle, got a handgun and fired two shots at the driver’s side of the van, according to police. 

The van’s driver, who is from Florida and was traveling alone to Illinois, also called 911, where dispatchers told him to take cover, according to the Des Moines Register.

"It's no different than what we tell police officers who aren't working: Your eyes are our best resources, not your actions," police chief Greg Stallman told the Des Moines Register. "If you see something, say something. But we don't necessarily want you to act on it." 

Golden was arrested and charged with assault with intent to inflict serious injury, intimidation with a dangerous weapon and possession of marijuana, according to police. He was being held on $23,000 bond.

Democrats sue Trump campaign, Russian government, WikiLeaks for alleged election conspiracy

The Democratic National Committee filed a wide-ranging, multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, President Donald Trump’s campaign officials and WikiLeaks, alleging the group conspired to meddle in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.

>> Read more trending news

The 66-page lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleges that members of Trump’s inner circle, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner, conspired with Russian government officials and the country’s intelligence service to sway the election for Trump.

>> Read the lawsuit

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement released to The Washington Post. “This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency.”

The president was not named in the suit, in which Democrats said, "Russia mounted a brazen attack on American Democracy" with a cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee’s servers. 

>> Related: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers

"In 2015 and 2016, Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC's computers, penetrated its phone systems and exfiltrated tens of thousands of documents and emails," according to the lawsuit. 

"Russia then used this stolen information to advance its own interests: destabilizing the U.S. political environment, denigrating the Democratic presidential nominee and supporting the campaign of Donald J. Trump, whose policies would benefit the Kremlin. In the Trump campaign, Russia found a willing and active partner in this effort."

Democrats said the stolen data was shared with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who released thousands of emails last year that were allegedly taken in a hack of the DNC's servers. The lawsuit alleged Assange shared the emails because he “shared the defendants’ common goal of damaging the Democratic party in advance of the election.”

>> Related: Julian Assange: WikiLeaks source was 'not the Russian government'

Assange said in late 2016 that his source for the DNC emails “was not the Russian government.” The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the hack.

Democrats did not mention in their lawsuit that FBI officials warned the DNC that it was being hacked or that officials at DNC headquarters in Washington ignored the warning for weeks, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported.

>> From Jamie Dupree: Democratic Party sues Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, Russia, others over 2016 elections

The suit seeks millions of dollars in damages, as Democrats said the hacks hindered the party’s ability to communicate with voters or effectively operate, according to the Post.

Officials, including special counsel Robert Mueller, continue to investigate whether people who worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign worked with Russian government officials to sway the election. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion allegations. The Kremlin has denied that officials meddled in the election.

Shirtless man wearing American flag shorts steals beer delivery truck, police say

A shirtless man clad in a pair of American flag shorts stole a beer delivery truck Thursday while it was making a stop at a liquor store, police said.

>> Read more trending news

Matt Lane Hermsmeyer, 46, jumped in the beer truck and drove off around 11:51 a.m., according to Santa Rosa Police. Because the truck had GPS tracking, it was located within minutes. 

Witnesses called police to say they saw Hermsmeyer running across Highway 101 in only the red, white and blue shorts, according to investigators. He was found hiding in some bushes about 45 minutes after the theft.

Hermsmeyer was arrested and charged with stealing a vehicle, possession of stolen property, resisting arrest and violation of probation, according to police. He had a prior arrest for auto theft, police said.

Florida man guilty of stalking ex-ballerina for 31 years

It was the night after Christmas in 2011, just before 9 p.m. on Seabreeze Avenue in Palm Beach, and Elizabeth and Mark Schulhof had just returned to their vacation home from a dinner out with their two young sons.

Elizabeth Schulhof remembered that she was with her 7-year-old boy and was headed to check on the 12-month old baby she’d left behind with a nanny when she heard a knock on the door — one that took her back more than two decades and left her frozen with fear. 

>> Read more trending news 

“From the minute I heard the knock, I knew it was him,” Schulhof, 49, told a Palm Beach County jury last week. “I don’t know why. I just knew.” 

She said the man at the door was the same man who, since April 12, has been on trial in an aggravated stalking case that hinged on the man’s twisted belief that the Schulhof and he were star-crossed lovers destined to be together. 

Johnathan Rosen, 52, of Miami stood accused of stalking Schulhof after they dated briefly many years before. Not just a few months of stalking. Not even a few years.

>>Read full story here

McDonald’s promotion: You want free fries with that?

If you’re craving free McDonald’s fries, today is the day. McDonald’s is offering free fries for customers today and next Friday, WGN reported.

If customers use the Mobile Order & Pay app, they can choose to participate in Free Fries Friday, according to the company website.

>> Read more trending news 

There’s a catch, of course. Customers have to buy at least $1 worth of food, for the free medium fry. They can also only use the free fry deal once each week at a participating McDonald’s, the website’s fine print states.

Free fries aren’t the only deal being offered. The site also says customers can get a free medium McCafé with a $1 purchase and $2 off a signature crafted sandwich once a week for most of April.

For more on the deals, click here.

Woman breaks into house, takes bath, eats homeowner’s Cheetos, police say

A woman came home Tuesday and found a naked woman taking a bath and eating Cheetos, according to police. 

>> Read more trending news

Evelyn Washington, 29, was arrested and charged with simple burglary and criminal damage to property, according to police.

Washington told police an unknown man told her to break into the house. Washington used a tall cooler to break a window and gain entry, police said. 

A plate of food, including the homeowner’s Cheetos, was found on the toilet next to the bathtub, according to police.

Washington is held on $500 bond.

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