When you think about the wizarding world of Harry Potter—J.K. Rowling’s famous “Boy Who Lived” from the book and film series—the last thing that likely comes to mind is sex… unless you had a crush on Emma Watson’s character Hermione.
And yes, I am referring to Hermione in the later films, when she ceased to be jailbait. Shame on anyone who entertained naughty fantasies about her before she crossed this important legal threshold.
Thinking about sex in Harry Potter terms may conjure up images of strippers wearing “pumpkin pasties” or Hogwarts students doing inappropriate things with their wands. But last month at Boston University, two graduate students from the school’s Wellness and Prevention Services program used this magical context to offer an interactive class called “Sex-Ed at Hogwarts”. Here’s how the event was advertised on their Facebook page:
“At this event, half-bloods, house-elves, and muggles alike will learn the proper way to get consent to enter one’s chamber of secrets and how to snog without getting Hogwarts. We’ll be casting some sensual spells in CAS room 313. Hope you can apparate there.”
Michelle Goode and Jamie Klufts—both huge Potter fans—came up with this idea because Rowling herself never really addressed sex or sex education in her novels. Of course, students at Hogwarts took classes in Divination and Defense Against the Dark Arts, so it stands to reason that Sex Ed appeared somewhere in the curriculum.
After all, with so many magical creatures running around—from elves and mermaids to goblins and giants—safe sex would have to be a serious issue, don’t you think?
And don’t even get me started on magically-transmitted diseases!
High school students face all sorts of challenges these days, from cyberbullying and gun threats to ridiculous end-of-year testing and increasingly competitive college admissions requirements. This makes getting to the so-called “head of the class” even more difficult—unless you attend Kellyville High School in Oklahoma, that is.
Creek County police recently arrested 25-year-old teacher Kalyn Thompson and charged her with the second-degree rape of a 17-year-old male student. Apparently, she was caught exchanging text messages of a sexual nature with this young man—messages that were eventually intercepted by his mother—and the subsequent police investigation revealed even more: Thompson had sex with her student on two occasions and even altered his grade as a result!
He must have been very skilled in the bedroom—or motel room, whatever the case may be.
According to police, the victim was “flunking English last semester but currently has a 98 percent grade point average.” That’s quite a turnaround for any student, much less one who’s been tapping his teacher. Of course, this raised a red flag for the parents of this mediocre student—more so than a C or D would have, I’m sure.
Staff at Kellyville High discovered Thompson’s naughty affair last month after spotting her in the victim’s truck away from school grounds. They took photos and reported the clandestine relationship to authorities, who likely would have arrested Thompson if she hadn’t turned herself in last week. She had already resigned from her position at the school, so it was only a matter of time before she “faced the music” anyway.
Although the age of consent in Oklahoma is 16—which seems a little low to me—Thompson still faces rape charges because teachers are considered to be authority figures—people who are supposed to know better, in other words. And even if she is cleared of these charges, odds are she will never work in education again.
That’s a real shame for any other students hoping to complete “extra credit” in her English class!
It seems as if every time I check news sources for new blog material, I find stories about kids committing crimes or doing harm to themselves or others. Most of the time, teenagers are responsible for these disturbing acts, which makes sense considering how tumultuous the teenage years can be. I experienced some of this myself—as I’m sure most (if not all) of you did when you were younger—but teenagers today have a lot more to deal with than we did at that age. Granted, this doesn’t justify bad behavior and criminal activity, but it certainly makes it easier to understand.
The most notable teen criminal in recent years was, of course, Adam Lanza. On December 14, 2012, he murdered his mother as she slept in their home, went to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School “armed to the teeth,” killed six staff members and twenty children in cold blood, and then turned the gun on himself. One fateful day was all Lanza needed to perpetrate the second-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in our nation’s history. Unfortunately, we will never know what prompted these violent acts since the truth died the moment Lanza placed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Juvenile crime and youth violence are nothing new, mind you. Numerous government agencies release crime statistics every year that show just how troubled our young people can be. According to 2010 statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau, for instance, there were “225 arrests for Violent Crime Index offenses for every 100,000 youth between 10 and 17 years of age.” That same year, “juvenile offenders were known to be involved in 8% of all homicides in the United States.” These numbers may not seem all that significant, but I have no doubt victims’ families would disagree.
Despite these numbers and the perceived increase in youth violence over the last few years, the fact is that there are still good kids out there who seem better equipped to deal with the challenges they face than the troubled teens we often see in the headlines. Since their stories seem to be reported much less frequently than their violent counterparts, though, it seems like very little is being done to change the public’s perception of our young people.
With any luck, these stories will help to do just that.
Last week, I read about 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani, a sixth-grader at Dorseyville Middle School in Pittsburgh whose science fair project not only got the attention of Sarah Frankhauser—one of the founders of the Journal for Emerging Investigators (JEI), a publication founded in 2011 by Harvard graduate students—but also piqued the interest of the U.S. government.
Given his interest in computer science and environmental sustainability—and because he noticed an increase in the number of handouts he received in middle school—Suvir looked for ways to reduce paper and ink consumption at his school. Since recycling and double-sided printing had already been discussed, he decided to focus on something completely different: the fonts (or typefaces) being used.
After conducting a thorough analysis of numerous fonts, Suvir determined that using Garamond—with its thin strokes—could save his school as much as $21,000 a year and reduce their ink consumption by 24%. His teacher encouraged him to submit his findings to JEI, who then challenged him to apply his research to one of the least efficient organizations in our great nation: the federal government.
Just so you know, the U.S. government spends nearly $2 billion each year on printing, which certainly complicated things for Suvir. Fortunately—and after obtaining sample documents from the Government Printing Office’s website—Suvir completed his research and determined that using the Garamond font could cut annual ink and printing costs by almost 30%. This could save the federal government as much as $136 million per year—an extra $234 million per year could be saved if state governments also changed their typefaces.
A representative from the Government Printing Office called Suvir’s work “remarkable,” but couldn’t say whether his advice would be heeded or not. Of course, no one makes a better point for why this change should occur than Suvir himself.
“Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” he said recently, which is true since Chanel No. 5 costs roughly $38 per ounce as opposed to the $75 price tag on HP printer ink. “I definitely would love to see some actual changes, [but] I recognize it’s difficult to change someone’s behavior.”
And when that behavior belongs to an entity like the U.S. government, change can be even harder to achieve. The fact that we have kids like Suvir out there—ready and waiting to improve our nation and our world—at least gives us some hope for the future.
Another young person who deserves to be recognized here is Kwasi Enin, a high school student from Shirley, New York. After posting a nearly perfect SAT score—2250 out of 2400, placing him in the 98th percentile—and being ranked 11th in his graduating class, Kwasi applied to eight Ivy League schools and did the unthinkable: he got into ALL of them!
Despite their strenuous admissions requirements and nearly legendary selectivity, Kwasi still managed to get into Harvard—whose most recent acceptance rate was only 5.9%–Brown, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. He was also accepted to Duke University and three other schools in New York. And though he must decide which to attend by the May 1st deadline, I’m certain this is a problem that Kwasi doesn’t mind having. Congratulations, young man!
It’s true that our young people face all sorts of challenges—from bullying and designer drugs to sexting and active shooters on campus—but people like Suvir and Kwasi prove that one “bad apple” in the headlines simply cannot spoil the whole bunch. And it’s about time we started focusing more attention on the “good apples,” don’t you think?
If you live in Massachusetts and find yourself in need of a condom, give the Massachusetts Department of Public Health a call. They have roughly 40,000 to spare.
Almost that exact number of the latex donations was recently returned to the MDPH by Boston Public Schools—and all because of the wrappers the condoms were wearing at the time.
How’s that for irony?
Last year, the school committee adopted a policy that allowed high school students access to free condoms if they first received safe-sex counseling. Parents had the option of opting out if they preferred. And now it appears that some who opted in may be rethinking their decision.
Apparently, the packaging of each individual “shrink wrap” in the latest shipment of donations was deemed offensive by parents who found it inappropriate.
“I was deeply offended,” mother of three students Helen Dajer said of the questionable wrapping. “As a health care provider, I’ve given out countless condoms, but never any like these. The wrappers need to be neutral, maybe just blue or red, not these suggestive slogans, which are offensive to women.”
My personal favorites are the “busy beaver” and “hump one,” but she might have a point.
Needless to say, Boston school officials moved quickly and took to the airwaves to announce their efforts. Boston Public Schools Director of Media Relations Brian Ballou told WBZ NewsRadio on Thursday that the condoms would soon be “out of school circulation” in favor of some with “different, generic wrappers.” The state has even intervened and provided more condoms with dull, non-stimulating wrappers.
And maybe that’s part of the plan. After all, a condom in a boring wrapper might be less tempting to use than one with lots of flair. It seems like an even riskier proposition to me, though, because what if teens decide not to use them at all? Better to lure them into contraception through creative packaging than to drive them away, don’t you think?
Make the call, Boston Public Schools! It might not be too late to get those 40,000 condoms back!
Last week, officials at Rockport Middle/High School in Massachusetts attempted to enforce a ban on yoga pants, which they claim are in violation of the school’s policy regarding “leggings worn as pants” and “overly tight” clothing. A number of faculty members had expressed concern over the pants being a distraction to other students—particularly hot-blooded, heterosexual males—so administrators felt more strict enforcement of the policy was in order. School Principal Philip Conrad even asked several girls to change last Friday, some into clothes available at the school—like gym attire—and some into clothes retrieved from home.
And as you might expect, many Rockport students were not happy.
“Rockport has a tendency to address these things in an explosive manner,” said 16-year-old Alex Arnaud, who was among the students wearing the banned leggings last week. And freshman Jade Barry—who felt the administration’s decision was just another form of sexism—confessed to wearing yoga pants simply because “they’re comfortable.”
Of course, 16-year-old sophomore Thomas Beaton put it best when he pointed out that yoga pants on girls are no different from sweatpants on guys, which often leave little to the imagination given everything jangling around down there. “I think there are bigger school problems to worry about than what girls wear for pants,” he said.
Loosely translated, this means “please let girls wear what they want and don’t ban the tight pants I love so much!” Trust me. I speak fluent hetero-male. It’s a blessing and a curse.
At any rate, resistance to the yoga pants ban grew so quickly that Rockport Superintendent of Schools Robert Liebow and Principal Conrad lifted the ban—meaning it will not be strictly enforced—and vowed to form a committee to review the controversial dress code.
“This is the prudent approach,” Liebow explained. “To have everyone weigh in on what should be acceptable dress for school.”
So for now, it seems students like junior Olivia Keating can continue to wear the popular pants in school, but their days certainly could be numbered. And I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I support the right of these young women to wear yoga pants in school.
And no, I don’t frequent local high schools to ogle young girls in tight pants. I leave that to my high school brothers and sisters.
The reason I think yoga pants should be allowed is because honestly, girls are the distraction, not the pants they’re wearing. Granted, we didn’t have pants like these when I was in high school, but gym shorts, leotards—worn with short skirts, mostly in the 80s—and eventually biker shorts could have been blamed for distracting students just as easily. The difference is that we all knew it wasn’t the clothing that grabbed our attention; it was the lovely lady upon which that clothing was fortunate enough to rest—a place guys like me longed to inhabit once that clothing was balled up on the floor beside the bed, if you know what I mean.
And I’m sure you do since I’m laying it on pretty thick.
People should also remember that just because yoga pants are allowed in school doesn’t mean every encounter will be distracting in a good way. I apologize if this sounds means, harsh or insensitive, but there are some people who have no business wearing tight pants… and I am referring to both men and women. Yes, people should be able to wear what makes them comfortable or happy. This is America, after all. The trouble is that on occasion, an individual’s physical build runs contrary to the design of a particular item of clothing, in this case yoga pants. And we all know the result can sometimes be horrifying and sad, even if we don’t care to admit it.
I know that I would look like shit in tight pants—given my complete lack of ass and some other “shortcomings”—so the fact that others choose to risk it never ceases to amaze me.
At the end of the day, though, the primary reason I feel yoga pants should be permitted in schools is because in terms of distractions, they just don’t seem very important. Better to focus on more serious distractions—like school shootings and teachers having sex with students—don’t you think?
When he was just 14 years old, Jimmy Pallais was adopted from Costa Rica and came to America to live with his new parents—Alex and Jenny Pallais—in Houston, Texas. Despite speaking very little English and being a literal “stranger in a strange land,” Jimmy was excited about his new life and went to his first day at Memorial Middle School anxious to see what his future would hold.
Little did he know that by the time he was 15, he would be getting extra special attention from the person assigned to tutor him in Language Arts: former English support teacher Kathryn Camille Murray. And when I say extra special attention, I of course mean the sexual kind.
In the beginning, Jimmy found comfort in Murray’s classroom—getting help with his homework and learning to communicate more effectively—and like many boys at his school, developed a little crush on his attractive young teacher. And who could blame him? Teachers certainly didn’t look as good when I was going in middle school… damn it.
Eventually, Jimmy summoned the courage to write his tutor a love letter, but lost his nerve before giving it to her. He tore it up and dropped it in the trash on his way out of class. Murray apparently saw this and when Jimmy returned to her class the next time, she told him so.
“I read your letter,” she said. “I really like you, like, for real… but we can’t have anything.”
This last statement obviously turned out to be false, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
When Jimmy’s parents discovered that their son had a crush on his married teacher—he often referred to her as pretty and would spend hours after school getting one-to-one “tutoring” with her, alone—they emailed Murray and also contacted the school principal, who assured them Jimmy would be moved to another class. This obviously didn’t help because Jimmy continued to communicate with his teacher through Facebook. And the following Monday morning, the young student decided to take his shot, so to speak.
Arriving at school early, Jimmy marched straight into Murray’s classroom and kissed her. Then he walked out and went to his first class. When he returned to Murray’s class later, she told Jimmy that she wanted him to kiss her again. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Jimmy and his young, apparently sex-starved—and possibly mentally ill—teacher had sex in her classroom, at a local hotel and even in his own bed at his parents’ house. Once they even hooked up after Jimmy’s father dropped him off for a school dance. Murray parked her car at the church next to the school and waited for Jimmy, who snuck over to meet her once his father was out of sight. And their secret affair likely would have continued if not for a series of unfortunate events… unfortunate for them, I mean.
Suspicion first arose after Jimmy confided in another teacher and told her that he had kissed Murray. Jimmy also claimed to have taken some “selfies” of them kissing using the cell phone his mother loaned to him. He eventually returned the phone to her, and that’s when the next disturbing clue surfaced. Jenny Pallais received a text message from Murray that was clearly intended for her son: “You know I love you… I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re going to be happy together… I’m worried about how obvious we are at school… I miss you.”
As if this wasn’t a dead giveaway, 12-year-old Fernando Pallais—Jimmy’s younger brother—told his mother he had walked in on Jimmy and Murray having sex in her own home. They were in bed together and even though he never saw sexual activity, per se, the young man did notice several condoms and Murray’s bra lying on the floor. And no, these condoms were not in their wrappers, either.
Jenny Pallais—who obviously missed her calling as a crime scene investigator—immediately collected her son’s sheets, contacted the police and had everything sent to a lab for DNA testing. And when the results were returned, they confirmed that Murray had been in the home with Jimmy. The police arrested Murray and charged her with sexual assault of a child, but soon released her on bail with the understanding that she would cease all contact with her young student.
Clearly, this didn’t happen.
Over the course of a few months, Jimmy confessed everything to his mother and then to police, who confirmed his story using hours of video surveillance footage from the school and even from the hotel the pair visited together. Prosecutors charged Murray with two more counts of sexual assault of a child, added one count of an improper relationship with a student and ordered her to wear an ankle bracelet. Of course, none of it helped since Jimmy and Murray began seeing each other secretly again.
And once again, their secret didn’t last, this time because Jimmy’s parents hired a private investigator to follow him. One late evening as she was “staking out” the Pallais’ home, the P.I. noticed Jimmy sneaking out and walking a short distance to meet a friend, who then drove him across town to an upscale, gated home. Jimmy jumped out and went inside, at which point the investigator contacted police and discovered who actually owned the house.
It belonged to Murray’s father. And she was already inside waiting for him, too.
The P.I. called Jimmy’s parents and by the time they arrived, police had surrounded the home and were using a loudspeaker to try to coax out the forbidden lovers. Eventually, Jimmy returned to his parents while police arrested his naughty teacher again. Murray’s bond was revoked and this time, she was thrown in jail.
Kathryn Murray had her day in court this week and, much to the chagrin of Jimmy’s parents and countless others around the country, her punishment seemed like little more than a slap on the wrist. Murray received a “felony deferred adjudication” and will serve only one year in Harris County jail. She has been ordered to surrender her teaching license—duh—and must also register as a sex offender.
And she must never contact Jimmy again, which is a directive I certainly don’t expect her to follow. Now 17 years old—and despite dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts and a host of other troubling emotions—Jimmy still has feelings for her. Granted, he claims that the love he feels for her isn’t the same as before, but it is still love. And since Jimmy answered “maybe” when asked if he would ever see Murray again, I suspect that the real answer is “yes.”
Just be sure to wait until you’re 18, okay Jimmy? At least then you’re officially responsible for your own bad decisions.
As if this kind of thing never happens.
Basically, 16-year-old Stephanie White told her history teacher that she preferred to attend some other class where they were showing a movie. This apparently didn’t go over well and an argument ensued, one that ended with White‘s teacher slamming a desk on the ground and shoving her into some other desks nearby.
As is normally the case, the whole altercation was caught on video by another student who was quick on the draw with his cell phone. I can only assume it has found its way onto YouTube as well, though I didn’t look for it there.
The teacher was, of course, placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. And police may charge both White and her stressed-out teacher for the incident, although no details have been released yet.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people allow their emotions to get the best of them in situations where they know others will witness their bad behavior. And though I have no idea what prompted this attack—aside from the whole “let me watch a flick in some other class” thing—it is possible that White was behaving badly, too.
The difference is that when you’re a teacher, you have to learn to deal with this sort of thing because it happens a lot. And to me, the best approach—if you’re not getting through to a disruptive or annoying student—is simply to kick them out and/or send them to the principal’s office.
Collectively, we all want to bring an end to school violence, especially given all the shootings recently. There’s even talk of arming teachers with handguns and training them to handle violent situations, including active shooters on campus. But I ask you this: What might this teacher have done if he was packing a gat?
I shudder at the thought. And I hope stories like this will convince the “powers that be” that when it comes to guns in schools, the best approach is to ban them altogether. Otherwise, things could get much, much worse.
UPDATE: It was just reported that the history teacher responsible for this unwarranted attack—33-year-old Peter J. Sheppard—has been charged with third-degree assault. Thankfully, though, no charges were filed against the student. I think she’s been through enough, to be sure.
To steal a phrase from Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin.” And I, for one, couldn’t be happier.
Administrators at Carmel High School in New York just distributed yearbooks today and students flipped excitedly through the pages to see which superlatives were added to their friends and classmates, likely even themselves. Among them were the winners for “Cutest Couple,” but they weren’t your typical boy-and-girl combination.
“At first we weren’t able to run because for the title, they were only allowed to pick a boy and girl,” Taylor told CNN recently. “But a bunch of our friends made an uproar and they changed it. So now you vote ‘student one’ and ‘student two.’ And I guess a lot of people voted for us and we won. So many people came up to us saying, ‘You guys are going to win.'”
Chelsea Blaney, a friend of the young couple, posted their yearbook photo on her Tumblr account with the following message: “Two of my best friends won ‘Cutest Couple’ of our senior class. First time in my school’s history that a same-sex couple has even been able to run for this category, not to mention winning it. So proud of them and my school.”
And believe it or not, but the majority of the feedback Blaney has received from “outsiders” has been positive. The times are definitely changing because just five or ten years ago, comments would have likely consisted primarily of hate-filled, gay-bashing threats and other negativity.
Thank goodness people are starting to come around, and this includes administrators at Carmel High, which to me seems far more progressive than many schools in our nation. In fact, school principal Kevin Carroll mentioned that it “hasn’t really been a big deal in the school,” which means students are opening their minds to the possibilities more, too.
What a great day for same-sex couples and gays across the nation!
After decades of fighting for the same rights afforded most Americans—the same civil rights, mind you—the U.S. finally seems to be turning a corner. More and more states are legitimizing gay marriage, our President is a huge supporter of gay rights and now, schools are starting to do their part, too.
The times, they are a changin. And let’s hope they keep on changing until finally, all Americans aren’t just considered equal; they are actually treated that way.
Teaching can be a rewarding profession—maybe not financially, but in other meaningful ways—and it takes a rare breed to decide to educate our youth rather than pursuing more lucrative careers. In many cases, teachers teach because somewhere deep inside them, a passion for knowledge and for helping others burns so intensely that it simply cannot be ignored.
Such was the case for Maureen Oleskiewicz, a suburban 6th and 7th grade language arts teacher at Independence Junior High School in Palos Heights, Illinois near Chicago—a school she once attended as a student and returned to in order to “give something back.”
For the last six years, Maureen worked tirelessly to make learning fun for her students. This is the way she learned best and her goal was to give her own students a similarly positive experience. Nothing was too crazy as long as it was educational and fun. And if learning meant she had to make a fool of herself, so be it.
Maureen was up to the challenge, and everyone loved her for it.
Unfortunately, the life of this amazing teacher was cut short during a Chicago Cubs baseball game last Sunday.
A die-hard Chicago fan—and a “brainwashed Cubs fan,” according to her mother—Maureen went to as many games as possible each year. And last Sunday, she and her brother Martin had a chance to visit Wrigley Field together.
Before the game began, the siblings grabbed some food and went to their seats to enjoy the beautiful weather and to wait for the opening pitch.
Ironically, Maureen would not live to see that pitch.
The young teacher was enjoying a hot dog when suddenly, a large piece got lodged in her throat and she began to choke. At first, Martin thought his sister was joking around, but he quickly realized she was in serious danger when she fell to the ground, her hands grasping her throat.
Maureen Oleskiewicz was 28 years old.
Losing someone so young—and in such a senseless way—is always a tragedy. But when that person is also an amazing teacher, someone devoted to our youth and so focused on improving our collective future, the loss takes on added significance, at least to me.
I work in education and believe me, we can’t afford to lose any skilled and passionate teachers. If anything we need many, many more.
What’s funny is that even after her death, Maureen is still helping people. She was kept alive for several days—despite being brain-dead—so her organs could be harvested for others.
Maureen was an organ donor. Was there ever any doubt about this sweetheart of a woman?
“Someone got a liver, two people got kidneys and a 14-year-old girl got her heart,” her mother Margaret said. “I hope they take that and run with her kind and beautiful heart.”
That makes two of us, Mrs. Oleskiewicz. Farewell, Maureen…