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Beyoncé, Google announce more HBCU scholarships 

Beyoncé has partnered with Google to give more scholarships this year.

The singer’s BeyGOOD initiative initially announced a $100,000 donation to four historically black colleges April 16, just after Beyonce’s Coachella headlining set.

>> Read more trending news 

The announcement last week said that $25,000 each will go to Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama; Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida; Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans; and Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, as part of the Homecoming Scholars Award Program for the 2018-2019 school year.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

On Monday, BeyGOOD announced that Google.org will match Beyoncé’ original $100,000 grant with scholarships to benefit HBCUs at Texas Southern University in Houston; Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; Morehouse College in Atlanta; and Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana.

Related: Beyoncé donates $100,000 to historically black colleges in four states

Texas Southern is in Beyoncé’s hometown, and Fisk University of the alma mater of her father, Mathew Knowles. Knowles is also a professor at Texas Southern’s School of Communication.

Mother says preschool banned daughter, other students from using term ‘best friend’

A Georgetown, Massachusetts, preschool is causing controversy by banning students from using the term “best friend.”

WFTXT reported that mother Christine Hartwell said she is outraged after a teacher at Pentucket Workshop Preschool told her 4-year-old daughter she couldn’t call one of her classmates her “best friend.”

The preschool defends its stance, saying banning the term promotes inclusion in the classroom, while Hartwell said it can end up having a negative affect on her daughter.

“How do you police a 4-year-old from expressing their feelings?” Hartwell told WFXT. “It’s outrageous. It’s silly (and) it hurts.”

>> Read more trending news 

Hartwell said she first learned of the ban after her daughter Julia came home from school one day acting differently. Julia told her mother she was upset because her teacher told her she couldn't call one of her classmates her best friend.

“When I asked her what was wrong, she said she was really sad about what her teacher did that day,” Hartwell said.

Hartwell said her daughter is now hesitant to call anyone her best friend, adding that she and her husband went to the director at Pentucket Workshop to find out more about the policy. Hartwell said it’s not spelled out in the school handbook.

The preschool sent a letter to the Hartwell family in response to the issue, saying they’ve done research on the pros and cons of using the term best friend, and that they’ll continue to discourage children from using it in group settings.

“It has been our experience (which spans decades) that the use of the term ‘best friend,’ even when used in a loving way, can lead other children to feel excluded (...) which can ultimately lead to the formation of ‘cliques’ and ‘outsiders,’” the letter said in part.

Hartwell said having a best friend allow a child to feel more secure at school, and she is removing Julia from the preschool to find a new one where her daughter can still call someone her best friend.

“I want her to be able to express her thoughts and feelings in a healthy way, as children should,” said Hartwell.

The school said it has no comment on the issue.

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. 

Police: Mother facing charges after student, 7, attends school with cocaine in system 

An Ohio woman is facing charges after her 7-year-old child allegedly was high on cocaine while attending class Monday, police said.

>> Read more trending news

The child is a student at North Elementary School in Urbana, one of the district’s kindergarten and first-grade schools, and was acting very unusual in the late morning, police and school officials said.

“The student was drowsy, groggy and they thought there might be a blood sugar question,” Urbana Superintendent Charles Thiel said.

Thiel said the student’s classroom was quarantined and administrators called 911.

The student was taken to Urbana Mercy Health Hospital, where it was determined the substance in the student’s system was cocaine.

The child received treatment and was later released, but it’s not known whether the student has returned to school after the incident.

“It’s a terrible situation for one of our youngest students to have to be in an environment in which the ingestion of an illegal substance occurs,” Thiel said.

The child’s mother appeared to be under the influence of multiple drugs, including cocaine and fentanyl, when she showed up at the hospital, according to police.

Police said it’s likely the student inhaled the drug prior to the start of the school day while staying at a Springfield home.

The mother is currently being held at Tri-County Jail and is facing multiple felony drug abuse charges, police said.

Texas schoolwork asking for 'positive aspects' of slave life 'unacceptable'

U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, took to Twitter on Thursday to call out a San Antonio school assignment about slavery that he called “unacceptable.” 

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Castro tweeted an image of the assignment, which asked students to list both positive and negative aspects to living as a slave. 

The charter school where the assignment came from, Great Hearts, has since responded in a statement on Facebook saying that it would conduct an audit of the textbook the assignment at its Monte Vista North campus came from and decide whether or not to use the textbook in the future. The statement also said that the assignment had only been used by one teacher, at one campus: 

"We fully intend to make sure something like this does not happen again and will keep parents posted as we address this issue further," Great Hearts said of the incident.

Unauthorized field trip could cost Ohio high school teacher her job

An Ohio high school teacher is facing possible termination for taking 50 students on a college visit in March that was not approved by the school.

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The future employment of Trotwood High School teacher Khalilah Forte will be considered by the Trotwood City School Board in a special meeting Thursday. According to documents from last week’s meeting, the board plans to vote on whether or not to renew Forte’s teaching contract, effective May 24, the day after students’ last day of school. 

Community leaders and parents said Forte was helping students who don’t have the chance to experience a college visit. They also said parent and local organizations raised the money for the trip. 

The Rev. James Washington, pastor of Phillips Temple Church, said he knows Forte personally and that “she loves children, she loves the instruction of children and she loves what she does.” 

Washington also said Forte was trying to help the children. 

According to the letter, which also was posted to social media, a Trotwood principal warned Forte she could lose her job if she took students on the unsanctioned trip.

Neither school district officials nor Principal David White would comment on the situation. Forte also said she was unable to comment. 

Florida high school teacher killed in car accident after trip to Disney World

Florida students were mourning a high school teacher who was killed in an automobile accident Saturday while returning from Walt Disney World with her husband.

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Melanie Blodgett was killed and her husband, Les Blodgett, was seriously injured when their car was hit by another driver.

“She’s crazy about Disney. Her favorite place to go, her favorite place to be,” said Ashley Morin, a student at Middleburg High School.

The couple spent the day at Disney World on Saturday, just hours before she died. “She was one of the best teachers at Middleburg High School,” said Jordan Morris, another student at the school.

Students saluted her with what they wore Monday, as Mickey and Pumbaa were visible everywhere. And that was her other favorite place, Middleburg High School.

“She was just a really, really special teacher. She wasn’t a teacher, she was a friend,” Morin said.

“Her payment in life was impacting children and helping them, watching them go and help other people,” said John Padgett, Melanie’s brother, who said he is thankful for the time he had with his sister and thankful she spent her last day on earth doing what she loved.

“I’m so glad that I got to tell her that I love her. I didn’t know that it would be for the last time, but you know I have no regrets, and I’m so glad that for whatever reason we were able to have that moment,” he said.

“She made a huge impact in my life,” Morin said.

To help the family with funeral costs, visit the family's GoFundMe page.

Students learn how to do a real-life budget, see how much it costs to be an adult

High school students at a Texas school have found out just how hard it is to live within a budget thanks to a real-world simulation.

It’s called “Dose of Reality,” and students were assigned jobs with a certain income, based on national averages. From their monthly pay, they had to figure out how to pay for rent, car payments and credit cards along with food and any other expenses, KAUZ reported.

>> Read more trending news 

One student was a physical therapist with a monthly salary of $5,000. Another was a member of the armed forces, earning $1,399 a month. By the end of the simulation, he had only $100 left, KAUZ reported.

Garret Box told KAUZ, “It makes you want to know what you need and what you want. I didn’t have a pet or anything. I was riding a bike around. I was riding a bus and I didn’t have a vehicle.”

A junior who was given the job of a food-service manager, and a single mother, earned $2,400 a month. She said she had no idea what it cost to raise a child, paying for a child’s clothes, groceries and child care.

Avery Iles told KAUZ she now has a new appreciation for what her parents did for her family.

Parkland teacher faces charges after leaving loaded gun in public restroom

A chemistry teacher at the Florida high school where 17 people died in a mass shooting in February faces criminal charges after leaving a loaded gun in a public restroom, WPLG reported.

>> Read more trending news

Sean Simpson, 43, who teaches science at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, left his Glock 9mm in a stall at the bathroom at the Deerfield Beach Pier on April 8, and it was later fired by a homeless man who was allegedly intoxicated, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Simpson has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Simpson was at the South Florida high school when Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Feb. 14, killing 14 students and three faculty members at the Parkland school.

Simpson told deputies that after realizing he had left the gun in the stall, he returned to get it and heard a shot. He then saw Joseph Spataro, 69, holding the gun, and Simpson took the weapon away from the man, WPLG reported.

Simpson was arrested and charged with unsafe storage of a firearm because the gun could have been found by a child at the public beach, CNN reported. The second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of 60 days in jail. Simpson posted a $250 cash bond, WPLG reported.

Simpson declined comment to WLPG, but did say he did not believe his actions were a violation of school board policies.

Spataro was charged with trespassing and firing a weapon while intoxicated, deputies said. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Simpson remains on the faculty at Stoneman Douglas High School and school officials are not expected to take action against him, The Miami Herald reported. Simpson said he supports the student activists fighting for gun control and traveled with them to Washington on March 24 for the March For Our Lives rally, the Herald reported.

"Safety and security remain the District's highest priorities," the Broward County School District said in a statement. "The District is aware of an incident, which occurred over the weekend at the Deerfield Beach Pier. At this juncture, no determination regarding employee discipline has been made, pending the final disposition of the charges."

Atlanta charter school teacher suspended after students' blackface performance

An Atlanta charter school teacher deemed responsible for a second-grade Black History Month performance in which the students held blackface masks has been suspended without pay for a month.

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Rachelle Clay, a teacher at The Kindezi School, will serve the suspension through May 14. The school’s principal, Gilberte Pascal, and eight other teachers will receive letters of reprimand, according to documents obtained Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The discipline follows a March 29 program that included students reciting Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” while holding up the controversial masks, which mimicked the look of makeup worn by white minstrel show performers beginning around the 1830s. The production was “not done with ill intent” but “demonstrated a significant lack of professional judgement,” Kindezi Executive Director Dean Leeper wrote in a letter to school families. 

The school’s internal investigation found that some members of the second-grade team had reservations about the use of the masks but did not make their positions known to Clay or administrators. One person did not allow her students to wear the masks in rehearsal, though they were worn by students during the performance, sparking outrage from some parents and a viral video recording on social media.

Earlier this week, Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen called for the charter school that operates within the Atlanta Public Schools district to hand out “appropriate consequences.” A school district spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Kindezi’s investigation. 

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