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Leading Off (1/23/15)

High-Speed Rail Line Likened to Berlin Wall. Judging by the responses we’ve seen in the comments of previous articles about the possibility, Dallas residents seem generally excited about the prospect of a high-speed rail line being built that will mean Houston is just 90 minutes away by train. But WFAA spoke with several Ellis County landowners who are none too excited about their property being divided by the project.

Prime Prep to Merge With Another School. The struggling charter academy, co-founded by former NFL star Deion Sanders, will reportedly hook up with another Oak Cliff campus, Triple A Academy. It’s not clear whether Triple A’s recent 117-10 basketball win had anything to do with the decision.

Cowboys Fan Sues NFL For $88 Billion. Terry Hendrix is upset about the officials’ reversal of Dez Bryant’s catch during this year’s playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, claiming damages for the league’s “negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and also reckless disregard.” The hand-written lawsuit was filed on Wednesday. Also of note, Hendrix is incarcerated in a Colorado correctional institution.

Dogs Mysteriously Disappearing in Wise County. And there’s “not one shred of physical evidence that proves the dogs were taken.” Has the pet rapture begun?

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D Magazine Contest Winner Memorializes Young Wylie Soccer Player

Throughout 2014, D Magazine held a series of giveaways for some pretty great prizes. In December the contest was centered around the “Season of Giving.” The winner would get to choose a charity to which a $2,000 donation would be made via the Communities Foundation of Texas.

The folks at CFT — who work with the people raising money for many worthy causes — were so moved by the story of the winner of our contest that they suggested we tell you a little bit more about her and her family. So that’s what I’m going to do.

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One HPISD Parent Is Still Trying To Ban The Working Poor

Last fall, Highland Park ISD superintendent Dawson Orr suspended seven books following parent complaints. Amazingly, he did this during Banned Books Week. That decision, and its timing, probably would have gotten national attention on its own, but Orr made it even easier by making David K. Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America one of the books. An incredibly rich school district effectively banning a book about poverty in America — throw in some B-roll footage, leave some space for a little Jon Stewart riffing, and The Daily Show segment is almost locked. Orr subsequently reinstated the books, and the district’s policy on how it selects books and how it handles challenges to those selections is being reviewed. (Thanks to the Morning News‘ Melissa Repko for covering this story so well.)

It seemed like the incident was coming to a mostly positive conclusion. But now it comes out that one parent is still unhappy that Shipler’s The Working Poor is being taught to juniors in Advanced Placement English III.

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DMN Reveals Its Bias About DISD

Let’s say you just received the results of a survey. For the sake of argument, let’s say the survey asked whether people agree with, disagree with, or are neutral toward the statement “Overall, pornography is headed in the right direction.” Let’s say 48 percent of respondents agreed, 26 percent disagreed, and 26 percent were neutral.

Now let’s say you wanted to report those results on your website. How would you write that headline? Would you write, “A majority of respondents are neutral or disagree that porn is headed in the right direction”? Or would you write, “A majority of respondents are neutral or agree that porn is headed in the wrong direction”?

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Dallas ISD Climate Survey Mostly Good News for District

The fall 2014 DISD “campus climate” survey was just released, and as you can see from the chart above (click to embiggen), the top-line numbers reveal mostly good news for the district. A whopping 85 percent of teachers filled it out. I know this isn’t what you’d expect if you subscribe to the local media narrative, but it doesn’t surprise me that much. A friend was talking to two DISD assistant principals yesterday, and both said that Miles had been much better this year about communicating with and listening to campus leadership. But, you know, you can choose to ignore this and wallow in the status-quo muck if you so desire. Free country. Here are the full results, btw.

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SMU in Violation of Title IX

The U.S. Department of Education has determined that SMU has violated the federal law prohibiting gender-based discrimination. The Morning News reports:

Investigators determined that SMU violated Title IX “by failing to promptly and equitably respond to student complaints of gender-based harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, and to reports of retaliatory harassment,” according to a Thursday news release.

In one case, investigators found that SMU did not respond “promptly and equitably” to a complaint of a sexual assault of a male student by another male student. The student withdrew from SMU after other students harassed and retaliated against him.

They also found SMU’s sexual harassment and sexual violence policies and nondiscrimination notice didn’t comply with Title IX requirements, according to the news release.

SMU has already reached an agreement on steps it can take to comply with the law, including revision of its grievance procedures, and the university’s official response to the Morning News tried to spin the news as a positive (which is what PR departments are supposed to do.)

“We appreciate OCR’s recognition of the new policies and procedures SMU has implemented prior to and during its investigation, as well as recognition of the work of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct. Although we take issue with some of OCR’s conclusions and generalizations, we look forward to taking additional actions as outlined. The well-being of our students is our highest priority.”

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Learning Curve’s 10 Suggestions for the Dallas ISD Home Rule Commission

Over on LC, I’ve put all 10 of my recommendations for the Home Rule Commission onto one post. I’ve also added a few additional links at the bottom of the post that I think are worth reading. And I’ve emailed it to the Home Rule commissioners, because I’m a full-service advocacy journo.

Oh, also, I’m about to send out my first Learning Curve newsletter, if I can ever figure out MailChimp. If you want to be added to the distribution list, send an email to eric.celeste@dmagazine.com with the words “SUREWHYNOT” in the subject line, and I will make it so.

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Leading Off (11/26/14)

Dallas ISD Administrator “Fear[ed] Coming in Close Contact” With Bernadette Nutall: That’s the gist of a complaint filed by the HR administrator Tonya Sadler Grayson, which the DMN got its hands on. Nutall denied the “unpleasant” interactions with Grayson; DISD has hired former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins to look into the complaints. I don’t know, guys, this just doesn’t sound like the Bernadette I know.

Fort Worth Policer Officer Helps Deliver Baby on Highway: First of all, this happened on November 15. Someone sat on this bundle of news joy for 10 days. Fort Worth Officer Robert Scott was helping with traffic control when a man ran to his patrol car seeking help. Scott ran to the car, saw the man’s daughter in labor, and promptly helped deliver the baby. In a past life, Scott was an EMT.

“Dallas Man Who Made Fake Government IDs and Had Illegal Steroids and Child Porn Admits Guilt”: I cribbed that headline right from the story, because it was just too good, perfectly capturing the ludicrous nature of this case. Nicholas Freed was originally under investigation for receiving steroids by mail. When he went to go pick up that package, he was dressed as a federal officer, complete with a U.S. Marshal badge. Note: Freed is not a U.S. Marshal. When police raided his house, they found a “sophisticated government identification counterfeiting operation.” And child porn. Can’t forget the child porn.

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Highland Park ISD Votes Not to Ban Book

At issue Monday night by a Highland Park schools “reconsideration committee” was whether the book The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, should still be taught in English classes. Park Cities People reports that committee members voted to allow the novel, which is about a race car driver and his dog, and is told from the dog’s point of view. The controversy centered on the appropriateness of Park Cities teenagers reading one section in which an underage girl falsely accuses the driver of sexual molestation and tries to force herself on him.

From PCP:

There were 32 votes for “confirm the present use of the book for whole class required use;” three votes for “designate the book for required outside reading only;” and one vote for “restrict the use for certain grades.”

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SOPS Presents Draft of a Charter to Home Rule Commission

Last night, Support Our Public Schools, the organization that began this home rule movement early this year, presented its proposed charter to the Home Rule Commission. It contains several things I’ve been talking about on Learning Curve, including moving trustee elections to November, adding a student trustee, and starting the school year earlier. I’ll have a dissection of it on Learning Curve in the next few days, but here it is for your perusal.

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Moss Haven Elementary Students Sing ‘We Are The World’ to Fight Ebola

As the Advocate notes, some youngsters over at Moss Haven Elementary in Lake Highlands have produced their own remake of “We Are The World,” the well-intentioned all-star tune we all were made to get thoroughly sick of thanks to its constant play on MTV in 1985.

The Moss Haven video is part of an effort to raise $5,000 for Doctors Without Borders to help fight the Ebola epidemic.

If you have anything snarky to say after watching it, what kind of monster are you?

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Leading Off (10/24/14)

Porsche at Center of New Allegations Against DA’s Office. The car was parked for months at the courthouse parking garage before Ace Parking (which manages the garage) asked United Tows to haul it away. Thing is it was a vehicle belonging to the county government and intended to be used in drug stings. The owners of United Tows says Craig Watkins’ staff accused them of car theft, even though it appears the company followed all the legal procedures required of it. The Morning News sought records detailing the process by which the DA’s office bought back the car from United Tows, but has had to file a lawsuit to get those details released.

It’s Going to be in the 90s This Weekend. Yes, we’re getting to the later part of October, when things would — you’d expect — be cooling down a bit. But instead the forecast calls for unusually high temperatures for the season. Meanwhile the continued drought is prompting more significant watering restrictions, and we have an unusually cold winter to look forward to.

SMU Makes Offer to Mack Brown. The school’s football team is looking for new leadership after former coach June Jones bolted after the second game of what’s been a dreadful season for the Mustangs. They’ve reportedly had “preliminary discussions” with Brown, the former University of Texas at Austin head coach who led the Longhorns to a national title for the 2005 season. The dollar figures they’ve discussed are $4 million a year for eight years.

Lawn Care Company Flying Too Many Flags. If you’ve ever trekked up to my hometown of Denton and exited onto Dallas Drive on your way to the Courthouse Square, after you descended the hill along which I received the first two speeding tickets of my life, you saw a fleet of orange trucks sitting along the right side of the road, usually adorned with letters spelling out some community announcement about a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast or a VFW barbecue or somesuch.  And you saw a whole lot of American flags.  The orange trucks belong to Frenchy’s Lawn Care, which is owned by Vietnam vet Andre “Frenchy” Rheault. Well, after many years of displaying as many Old Glories as he likes, the city’s code enforcement department has told Rheault that the flags have to come down. Only one American flag, one Texas flag, and one miscellaneous flag are allowed on any one property. Rheault plans to fight.

Topless Cheerleaders Use Drugs. Photos of the Lamar High School students engaging in naughty behavior made the rounds of social media and have caused quite a ruckus in Arlington.

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Harvard Club of Dallas Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Yes, yes. The Harvard Club of Dallas’ own website says it was founded in 1913. But operations didn’t begin until the next year, 1914, so they are counting this year as their centenary. You know what else happened in Dallas in 1914? The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas got up and running. Lo, the current president and CEO of the Dallas Fed, Richard Fisher, is himself a Harvard grad. And, even further lo, tomorrow Fisher will give the keynote at the Harvard Club’s birthday shindig at the Anatole. Details are here. Even Yalies are welcome.

UPDATE (10/20/14) As has been pointed out in the comments, I got the date wrong. This Harvard thing happens this coming weekend. It starts Friday, and Fisher speaks Saturday. My apologies.

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Highland Park ISD to ‘Deep-Clean’ Its Schools

Park Cities People reports:

Highland Park ISD just released a memo on behalf of superintendent Dawson Orr saying that the school district will commence a deep-cleaning of each campus this weekend and into next week. Custodial staff will also “step up” daily cleaning measures.

“We have checked the CDC guidelines for recommended cleaning products and the commercial grade anti-viral disinfectants currently in use on every campus exceed those recommendations,” Orr said in the memo.

In the spirit of rumor control, the district wished to emphasize that no member of the Bradfield Elementary community was on the Frontier Airlines flight with Ebola patient Amber Vinson — a parent and student did fly from Cleveland to Dallas on Oct. 13, but on a different plane.

You’ll remember that earlier there was some minor hysteria within the Bubble about the risks posed by County Judge Clay Jenkins, who came into contact with acquaintances of deceased Ebola patient Thomas Duncan and whose children attend the district’s Armstrong Elementary.

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