The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into the claims of discrimination filed by the Education Law Center — PA, regarding the School District of Philadelphia’s treatment of children with disabilities.

The complaint claimed the district did not appropriately address pervasive and severe bullying or harassment by students with disabilities who were bullied or harassed.

“We are thrilled that OCR will exercise its enforcement authority to investigate these critical civic rights allegations,” said ELC Staff Attorney Alex Dutton in a statement. “We look forward to working with the district to attempt to resolve the individual and systemic concerns raised in the complaint to the benefit of students and their families, and hope to forge a swift and amicable path forward in the best interest of students.”

Attorney’s for the parents hope the investigation will result in the implementation of new district policies and training to ensure school staff promptly and properly intervene to resolve bullying of students with disabilities in an appropriate, non-discriminatory manner that ensures their right to a free appropriate public education.

“Many of these children, having now secured school transfers that the district denied them for months, are thriving in new schools, free from bullying,” added Dutton. “These families had no business being in truancy court. We are grateful that someone will finally view the district’s practices with respect to its bullying investigation procedures and referrals to truancy court.”

District marks Computer Science Education week

The School District of Philadelphia celebrated Computer Science Week for the sixth year in a row with a roster of activities highlighting digital literacy curriculum and other activities.

On Wednesday more than 140 schools in the district participated in the Hour of Code, designed to expose students to computer science through the basics of computer programming in a fun, hour long activity. The program is sponsored by Code.org.

“Computer science Education Week showcases the meaningful digital learning experiences the school district provides students every day across the city and is part of our continued effort to expand access and opportunity to all students,” said Superintendent William Hite in a statement. “Computer classes, digital learning, coding and robotics programs are critical because they allow students to build foundational computer science skills that can be applied to what they learn across all academic subjects. “

Over the last six years, 144 k-8 schools in the district have implemented a digital literacy and technology curriculum. Additionally, the district has provided new laptops for teacher and principals; each district school received a new computer lab, and k-8 schools are in the process of receiving training in teaching coding, using popular instructional robots such as Spheros and Ozobots.

District marks grand opening of labs

The district celebrated the official grand opening of its Agriculture Center and Environment Center and Outdoor Garden at Pratt Early Learning Center, 2200 N. 22nd St., last week. The new resources include an agricultural and environmental lab and an outdoor pollinator garden. The project is funded by a $20,000 grant through a 2017 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Partners Grant Program.

“We are excited to be able to significantly enhance the learning experiences available for pre-k students at Pratt and across Philadelphia,” said District Superintendent William Hite in a statement. “Providing hands on STEM activities for such young learners will expose them to different ways of thinking and new areas of study, and will hopefully inspire a lifelong appreciation for the environment and greater understanding of agriculture.”

The agricultural lab features interactive resources so that students receive a hands on education, including aquaponics systems where vegetables are grown and fish are raised. An indoor educational garden, and learning stations that include real animal, human, shell and insect X-rays so students are able to study organisms’ interiors.

“Agriculture is the perfect medium to teach STEM skills,” said Russell C. Redding, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, in a statement. “The school garden becomes a living laboratory, literally sowing the seeds for students to pursue careers ranging from food scientists to equipment service technicians drone pilots. Even if they don’t enter a STEM related career, these children will have greater agricultural literacy and appreciation for the people who produce the food they eat.”

The grant is aligned with the district’s five-year sustainability plan, GreenFutures. The Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, and Patrick McDonnell, the state’s Secretary of Environmental Protection, were also in attendance.

MathWorks named sponsor of SIAM

The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) announced MathWorks as the title sponsor of the newly named MathWorks Math Modeling (M3) Challenge, which will take place March 3-5, 2018.

The Moody’s Foundation ended its 12 year sponsorship of the competition, that was previously known as the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge, after the 2017 contest.

“SIAM’s math modeling challenge helps students develop and sustain an interest in computational thinking, helping them consider future careers as scientists and engineers,” said Lauren Tabolinsky, an academic program manager for MathWorks. “We see this opportunity to support SIAM as another step in our efforts to motivate and inspire young students to consider and pursue STEM careers.”

Nicholas Higham, SIAM President and Richardson Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Manchester, added, “We are excited to partner on the challenge with MathWorks, whom we know well and have collaborated with in the past, and whose goals and mission are closely aligned with our own. We anticipate a seamless transition and are confident any changes that may occur will be positive ones.”

According to Higham, SIAM will remain owner, organizer and administrator of the challenge.

Third graders visit La Salle University

Over 300 third graders visited La Salle University on Tuesday as part of the Junior Achievement of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s JA Step to Success, a program that develops a foundation for college aspiration for elementary school-aged children.

Following the welcome, small groups of students received campus tours, visiting the TruMark Financial Center, Connelly Library and more.

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