Many stories in play behind U Missouri protests, football team boycott threat & president resignation

U Missouri Race Issues
Source: found at
ABC provides good framing for Pres. Wolfe’s resignation from University of Missouri: The Concerned Student 1950 campus group named for the year “the first black student was admitted” began a month-long series of protests that culminated in a list of demands calling for Wolfe’s removal…

.. as a part of a protest over the way the university handles racial harassment … (including a request) for a comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum, and an increase of black faculty and staff.

The backstories to the Mizzou uprisings are many: The school chancellor has also resigned. Graduate student Jonathan Butler 7 day hunger strike to bring awareness to the systemic racism on campus, was the immediate catalyst to the football players threat of a games boycott. And of course, Mizzou is in Missouri – just as Ferguson, MO is.

The students had support from powerful allies. Gov. Jay Nixon weighed in today, saying the students’ “concerns must be addressed.” And football coach Gary Pinkel tweeted a message of solidarity with his players, whose boycott threat was the straw that ultimately broke the trustees’ back and caused Wolfe’s resignation. Sports coaches are the highest paid personnel on any college campus and they wield tremendous power.

Mizzou Students Association VP Brenda Smith-Lezama shared her thoughts about student protests and how they are linked with events in Ferguson following Mike Brown’s death:

Well, I think that, for most students, there has been a shift post-Ferguson and going back to that year, year-and-a-half period, the activism on campus has been at an all-time high. I think that, for the first time, movements were being led in a very systematic and very intentional manner … prior to Ferguson and all the events that followed, there was obviously racial issues and there was a lot of issues of systematic oppression with itself. However, after Ferguson was — one, we were met with a lot of silence from our administration. And I think what is most frustrating, is that when students were crying out for help, our administration left us stranded.

ABC shares a list of recent racist events at the university that preceded the protests:

Alleged Racial Slurs
The protests began this semester after the school’s student government president, who is black, said he was called a racial slur on campus, according to The Associated Press. Members of the Legions of Black Collegians also said racial slurs were directed at them, the AP said.

Swastika Drawing
This semester a swastika drawn in feces was found in a dorm bathroom, the AP reported.

Homecoming Confrontation
During the school’s Oct. 10 homecoming parade, a protest group gathered around Wolfe’s car (to confront him, but he refused to get out of his car and talk to them).

Another story playing in the background is mentioned by Howard Bryant of ESPN in an NPR interview:

If the players wanted to push the envelope, I think that one thing that this day in Columbia showed was that they can shut the NCAA down if they want to. The players have far more power than I think they realize. And if they choose to use it, we’ll have a brand-new day here.

Check out Jonathan L. Butler’s Facebook page for additional excellent coverage.

Newark Students’ May 22 walkout and protest over 2000 strong

Newark 1505 student walkoutOn May 22 2015, over 2000 students and supporters shut downtown Newark NJ down for several hours to create visibility and bring awareness to the horrors Newark students have experienced at the hands of Chris Christie, Cory Booker and Cami Anderson, who jointly created a plan to break the back of public education in this city.

Anderson’s “One Newark” plan has young children from a single family barred from attending the school local to their home and instead, being sent far outside their neighborhood to 4 different schools in different corners of the city. Each child must take 2-3 bus rides and spend an hour of commuting time each way to reach school. Throughout the city, public school students are denied books and sanitary food; the principals and administrative staff of the city’s most successful schools are fired; and police charges were filed against a PTA president for hanging flyers announcing the PTA’s next meeting.

As the walkout and protest clearly show, a growing number of students and their supporters are completely fed up. In the words of my esteemed friend and public education advocate Johnnie Lattner, “Enough is enough.”

Here’s some news coverage of yesterday’s walkout, many links courtesy of Bashir Akinyele, host of All Politics Are Local, America’s #1 political Hip Hop radio show

Newark students – heroes in spite of being deprived of books and food

Support Newark studentsThe Student Heroes of Newark is a phrase coined by Daniel Katz in a Huffington Post article on how Newark, New Jersey students are handling the challenges of being starved by the Christie Administration and Cami Anderson, Newark Schools superintendent for classroom books and even food.

One student explains that there may be four textbooks in a classroom of over 30 children. Another, that there isn’t enough food in the cafeteria for both lunch and breakfast: if the staff serve one meal, they run out of food for the other. Take a look for yourself at this 3 minute video – these young people are powerful advocates and know how to tell their story.


Join Newark students in mass rally & boycott for local control on Mon. Nov 4

Newark Student Union/No ChristiebuttonsThe Newark Students Union (NSU) organized a massive 1,000 student walkout last April and on Monday Nov 4, they will stage another mass boycott demanding that quality education be returned to Newark. The students want Gov. Christie to fund schools at court ordered levels and to repair school buildings, which are currently unsafe – two legal obligations which Christie has refused to honor. Spread the word about the rally and be there if you can. The social media hashtag is #npsboycott.

Boycott & Rally to Protest Gov. Christie’s Control of Newark Public Schools
November 4 2013 @ 9am
30 Clinton Street in Newark NJ

“The boycott and protest will demonstrate that Newark Public Schools students care deeply about our education,” says Luis Marquez, a high school senior and member of the Newark Students Union. “We’re rebelling against the control of politicians that don’t care about or respect for us. A few months ago Christie bragged, ‘I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.'”

Davian Rodriguez, a senior at Science Park High School, expands on this theme, “The education of Newark’s students directly affects the future of the city. Christie-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson is purposely ignoring the cries of protest echoing across the city. She and Christie are in effect, condemning Newark to a perpetual cycle of state-sponsored ignorance and poverty. If the government won’t support the students it is legally pledged to protect and nurture, then we students need to come together and take the fate of Newark Public Schools into our own hands.”

“Students of the Newark Public School System have come together to speak with a single, clear voice,” says Josephine Stewart, a grandparent of one NPS student. “Our students deserve a seat at the table whenever decisions are being made that will shape their future. And, after nineteen years of political meddling it is high time for the supervision of Newark students’ education to be returned to the local residents who care deeply for our youth and have a personal interest in chaperoning them on to successful educations, careers and lives.”
The social media hashtag is #npsboycott

Free prom dress programs across NJ and US

Prom couple

Prom coupleApril is prom month. If you’re a young lady of modest means you can be the belle of the ball with a free or low-cost designer dress ($10 is low, right?) in beautiful condition from one of the prom dress giveaway programs in New Jersey and around the country. Act soon though. Giveaways are going on right now all over the New York/New Jersey area and in many cities across the country! Some programs provide accessories and shoes to match gowns … and they may share tasty treats and other gifts with “shoppers” and their moms, as well. The idea is, that every young person should have the chance to attend prom dressed fabulously and fashionably, whether they have lots of money or don’t.

There aren’t nearly as many resources for young men looking for a suit or help renting a tux, but that doesn’t mean help is not available! My own son was gifted a free tuxedo rental from Operation Prom, so we know that as of last week, this program was working great (see details below). Post-high school women can find a fancy dress at Catherine’s Closet in Newark, so if you are a woman past high school age, visit there or just ask other giveaway shops if they can help you out. There’s never any harm in asking.

If none of the resources on this page get you the results you need, don’t be discouraged. Keep looking! There are quite a few organizations providing free or low cost prom dresses in New Jersey and around the country. Students, also ask your guidance counsellor if they know of a local program which provides free or low-cost dresses, suits or tuxes, or try reaching out to a church or youth center in your neighborhood. Remember: help is always one ask away. If you spend some time searching the net, you may turn up some good resources (this is how I found most of what’s listed here). And consider enlisting the help of a reference librarian – they are extraordinarily good at this sort of thing and most of them are delighted to assist.

If you’re a person wanting to give away a fancy dress, prom dress, accessories, or you would like to volunteer at a prom giveaway drive, I’m certain any of these organizations would love to hear from you, so just reach out!

NEWARK – Catherine’s Closet, Inc.
Distribution at 550 Broad Street, Newark NJ 973-616-2060
On Two Dates from 8:30am – 12pm (noon)
Saturday, April 13, 2013 and Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cost: $10 for student gowns & $10 dressy dresses for adults – Cash only!
Everyone is welcome, but you must come on one of the distribution dates. No ID required. All proceeds will benefit Catherine’s Closet, Inc. and scholarship funds.

Provided: Designer gowns, accessories and fancy dresses in all sizes by Armani, Jessica Mcclintock, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s

Volunteer Opportunity!
Volunteers needed to sort the collection on Saturday, April 6, 2013 and on both Distribution Dates to be Personal Shoppers. Personal Shoppers, please wear black tops!

PATERSON AREA – Cinderella For A Day prom dress giveaway
Distribution at 105 Church Street, Totowa NJ
Saturday April 20 2013 12pm (noon) – 5pm

Cost: Free!
No one will be turned down! But students who pre-registered will get first choice.

Provided: In addition to getting a free prom dress, there are also free shoes, jewelry and accessories. There will be music, snacks, games, raffles, crafts, cool make-up tips and on-the-spot hair styling. “It’s set up like a store,” said Petrasek, “with changing stations and different stylists.”

This event is run by Natasha Civil of Bloomfield with support from Team HOPE, the Paterson Free Public Library and other community groups. For more information, feel free to contact Natasha Civil 973-393-7503 or Michelle Petrasek 973-321-1223

Beautiful prom dresses, free or very affordableTRENTON AREA – The Wish Shop
Distribution: Shop is open April through May 2013, but only Saturdays!
The Wish Shop
228 Scotch Road, Ewing NJ
Open at 10am on Saturdays. No closing time posted, so go early.

Cost: $10 gowns, accessories for $2 each, shoes $5
Or, everything free with a voucher from a community partner agency

You can visit the shop on any Saturday during prom season and buy a gown, accessories and shoes for $25 or less, or contact One Simple Wish at 609-883-8484 or and ask for a referral to get a voucher so you can have everything for free. I exchanged several emails with One Simple Wish, and still wasn’t able to learn who their community partners are, so I’m thinking that they prefer to have students to contact them individually.

The Wish Shop is the public outlet for One Simple Wish’s Project Prom. The shop offers prom gowns, shoes, jewelry and accessories to hundreds of young women, and the organization tries to connect their teen clientele with hair stylists, make-up artists, crafters, food vendors and others who wish to donate their services to help make prom a fun occasion for all. Most Saturdays when the shop is open, treats like chocolates and pastries are also served to shoppers while they peruse the collection.

Volunteer and Donation Opportunities:
Donate a Dress or Accessories: One Simple Wish collects gently worn dresses, costume jewelry and NEW dress shoes from March 1 – April 30 of each year. To arrange for a drop off or discuss a pick up, please contact the organization at 609-883-8484 or Check the One Simple Wish Meetup Group page for volunteer opportunities.

Distribution: April at various locations around the city, in Westchester, Hudson and Dutchess Counties and some New Jersey locations
Register on the website for a free prom dress or to request a free tuxedo rental.

To qualify for a free dress or tuxedo, you must be a student, and be passing your classes (proof may be requested). Donations of dresses or money are gladly accepted.

In New Jersey also check

Becca’s Closet
Locations: Freehold, Hackettstown, Washington Township (in central-west Jersey)

Cinderella’s Closet of Monmouth County – Freehold
Contact: Katie Adams and Stephanie Tomasetta 732-252-8327

And here’s a national directory of prom dress giveaway programs

Expanded student demographic data now on ELC website

chart of funding weighted per pupilOver the years, Education Law Center (ELC) has become the “go-to” source where parents, policymakers and advocates can find high quality, in-depth data and other useable information on New Jersey’s public schools. This organization is committed to continuing to provide timely and relevant data in a highly functional and interactive format and is pleased to announce that visitors can now find an expanded range of student data on their website: racial/ethnic composition, poverty rates, limited English proficiency rates, and special education rates of NJ public school students, whether enrolled in district schools or charter schools.

A visitor to the “Data & Research” page on the ELC site will see highly interactive charts and maps displaying student enrollment data by race/ethnicity for school districts across the state. Below that, a second data set displays enrollment in special programs. Interactive elements are in red.

The maps permit a quick scan of the current statewide landscape and identify spatial patterns. Bar charts, organized by District Factor Group (DFG; the classification system used by the New Jersey Department of Education to organize districts by socioeconomic status), illustrate how dramatically student characteristics differ by district type. Data can also be filtered by county, and charts can be sorted in multiple ways (for example, by district or by a chosen indicator in ascending or descending order).

The ELC website also makes it easier to examine historical trends by providing two options for viewing data. The first option compares counties, districts or schools within the same year, with over a decade’s worth of data. Using the second option, a site visitor can choose state, county, district or school level data in order to view longitudinal trends. Using the tabs at the top of the display, it’s possible to toggle between views. Any selections made on one tab will carry over to a subsequent tab.

Telling the Story with Data

The map displaying NJ’s diverse student population illustrates the high degree of racial segregation across the state. The DFG chart can be used to filter the data to show the interplay of geography, socioeconomic status and racial segregation. Filtering the map to view only DFG “A“ districts, for example, it is clear that these districts with the lowest socioeconomic status are predominately located in the northeastern and southern portions of the state and serve large numbers of black and Hispanic children. Alternatively, DFG “J” districts – the wealthiest in the state – are almost exclusively found in the northern part of the state and are more likely to be majority white districts.

The second tab shows student enrollments by race/ethnicity for counties, districts and schools from 1999-2000 through 2011-2012. For example, the data show that in 2011-12, Bergen County student enrollment was the highest in the state (over 130,000 students), while Salem County enrollment was the lowest (less than 12,000 students). Scanning the chart also shows that Sussex County enrolled the largest proportion of white students (88%) and Essex County the smallest (27%). The racial distributions of students in districts and individual schools are available in this view.

In the second set of charts and maps, the data show that while the number of students classified as free and reduced lunch or Limited English Proficiency is related to a district’s socioeconomic status, special education is more evenly distributed across the state. The second tab displays the three indicators together, making it possible to explore how these student characteristics are related. The chart can be expanded so that district data within counties can be viewed and then further expanded to show the schools within districts.

The third tab shows longitudinal data illustrating, for example, the recent increase in student poverty. The number of English language learners and special education students, for the years in which data are available, is more stable.

“The beauty of these data sets is that they make it possible to access over a decade of demographic data in one place,” said Dr. Danielle Farrie, ELC’s Research Director. “The information is displayed in an easy to understand format that can be manipulated by visitors to ELC’s website in order to find the exact data they need, whether they are looking for state level trends or the particular characteristics of an individual school.”

Low-income Community College Students Still Without Health Insurance

Added on 20 Feb 2010: I’ve reworded the title of this post to reflect that (in New Jersey) this issue is principally a concern of community college students. Rutgers, New Jersey’s state college, offers two very low-cost options for students: for under $200 they can use clinics on site at the school and for about $500 enroll in a traditional HMO is offered. But the insurance offered by Bergen Community College covers students only in case of hospitalization for a catastrophic incident – which yes, is as serious and rare as it sounds. I supposed other state community colleges have similar policies.

The Obama health care changes ensure that adult students continue to be insured on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26. This is great for students with parents who have private health insurance through their jobs or can afford to buy a private policy if they don’t. But, what about low-income students covered by Medicaid or a state family care program? In New Jersey, students lose their health insurance entirely at exactly age 21 when they are dropped from the New Jersey Family Care program. There seem to be no satisfactory alternatives out there to provide them with affordable, quality health care after that. I wonder if health care limbo plays out for students in other states too.

Two low-income clinics in Bergen County hold little promise for providing students with quality medical care, even though they charge fees on a sliding scale, according to income. Bergen Valley Medical Initiative is a clinic where physicians generously volunteer their time for the benefit of the community, but they will not take any adult who earns less than $10,800 a year. Across the street is the North Hudson Community Action Clinic, which serves low-income residents in nine north Jersey locations – but it took about 20 calls over a two day period, plus almost an hour combined hold time, to finally get a series of three staff members on the phone, none of whom could answer all of my simple questions.

I eventually learned that new patients need to wait 1.5 weeks for their first appointment and when current patients have an urgent need to see a physician, walk-in appointments are available at 8:30am in all locations. However, patients at all times should expect to wait up to two hours to see a doctor. I was left with unsettling questions about how good the medical care can be at a place that provides such dim service at the administrative level. Low-cost medication programs are not available through North Hudson’s service and their clinics provide only general medical care. Additionally, patients needing to see specialists will receive referrals, but then they will need to pay the specialists’ full fees or access a hospital clinic for reduced charges, but they may wait a long time for an appointment to be scheduled.

This is a problem the White House administration may want to direct its attention too, since clearly, college students who can’t receive proper medical care when they become ill are not likely to complete their educations – and college graduation is an initiative President Obama firmly supports. Obama understands that our country’s ability to compete successfully in the global trade exchange depends on the United States college/university system producing students finely educated in the hard sciences and maths-based subjects that an increasingly technology-centric workplace environment requires.

The assistant of dermatologist Dr. James Katz of Elmwood Park told me, “Students can apply for Medicaid directly with the county,” but according to a Bergen County Board of Social Services representative I asked about this a while ago, full-time adult students aren’t eligible for any kind of aid. Another person knowledgeable about government processes recommended applying anyway.

“(The person) should apply for General Assistance. S/he has the right to apply, and (the County) can either approve him or deny him; they will make the eligibility determination. They may ask for proof of attending college full time. The program has a work requirement component, so the question is: does school attendance fulfill that requirement? If a person has to do a certain amount of hours to receive General Assistance benefits – which they do – attend job readiness classes and other activities for which attendance is recorded and mandatory: will those activities equal out to the student taking a 12 credit load of classes at school? Well, the student can apply and (the County social services office) will make a determination; that’s how the process works.”

In summary, there are health care services for students after they age out of family-based Medicaid coverage, but they’re not ideal. The best option would be for the President to champion sending some heavy duty health care love to all the economically challenged college and university students out there focused on completing their educations. The fact that students like these rise to the challenge of overcoming all of the inherent difficulties of poverty to stay in school and try to graduate, demonstrates their dedication, perseverance and the type of work ethic they’ll exhibit once employed. They really need the support and peace of mind health care services can give them, Prez, and, I would say they even deserve to have it.

2011 Year in Review: Eight Ways the Health Care Law Helps You
Resumen del año 2011: ocho maneras en que la Ley de cuidados de salud puede ayudarlo

I’m going to continue posting links to student healthcare resources:

How to Get Affordable Health Care in New Jersey
An extensive guide to healthcare options for people at all levels of society from students through individuals and small business groups.