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Reading List: SCOTUS Decisions, Suicide Prevention, Head Start, and More

By Lauren Camera — June 19, 2015 3 min read
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It’s Friday. Finally. And what a busy news week we’ve had!

We’ve spent the bulk of the week trying to track the constantly fluctuating timing of looming House and Senate debate on their respective Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bills, as well as the current appropriations process, and presidential election news.

There’s been so much edu-news, in fact, that we at Politics K-12 have had all we can do to keep up with our own beat. Luckily for us, we have some incredibly talented colleagues to help us share the load. So without further ado, here’s your federal education news roundup for this week.

Suicide Prevention on Indian Reservations

The U.S. Department of Education awarded a $218,000 grant to the Pine Ridge School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to aid in its recovery from a recent suicide cluster, reported Evie Blad over at Rules for Engagement.

Seven teenagers have killed themselves in recent months on the 2 million-acre reservation, which is home to members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The new grant is part of the Education Department’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant program, which provides funds to K-12 schools and higher education institutions to help them “recover from a violent or traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted.” That’s the same pot of money used to provide assistance to Newtown, Conn., and other districts recovering from school shootings.

U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Mark Walsh, who runs our School Law Blog, had an especially busy week as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on three education-related cases:

First up, the justices ruled unanimously that a child’s statement to his teachers about physical abuse at home that was introduced at trial without the testimony of the child did not violate the constitutional right of the accused to confront the witnesses against him. The ruling in comes after the Ohio supreme court ruled that the mandatory duty for teachers to report child abuse effectively made them agents of law enforcement because the state expected them to help identify the perpetrators of abuse. You can read more about the ramifications of that decision here.

In addition, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that a Texas program offering more than 350 specialty messages on license plates involves government speech—a decision with implications for speech battles in schools across the country. You can read more about that here.

Finally, higher court also ruled 5-4 that a Louisiana death-row inmate deserved a chance to prove in federal court that he was intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for execution. The case had the justices debating the school records and IQ test scores of a convicted prisoner facing capital punishment. Read more about the decision here.

Changes to Head Start

Head Start released a proposal Tuesday that the agency said would raise education standards, build teacher skills, and pare down the current 1,400 regulatory standards by getting rid of “unnecessary and duplicative rules,” reported Christina A. Samuels, who runs our Early Years blog. The Head Start “notice of proposed rulemaking” appeared in the Federal Register on Friday. Interested parties will have until Aug. 18 to submit comments. As Samuels reported, for many Head Start teachers, professional development would shift to intensive coaching instead of “intermittent workshops and conferences, which are not shown to lead to sustained improved practice.”

Legislation Aimed at Expanding Internet Access

Congressional lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would authorize a federal grant program aimed at promoting fresh approaches to providing children with outside-of-school Internet access, reported Benjamin Herold, who writes for our Digital Education blog. As Herold reported, nearly one-third of low-income households with school-aged children lack a high-speed Internet connection. The “Digital Learning Equity Act of 2015” is sponsored by Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

School Lunches in the Spotlight (Again)

Members of the House education committee grilled U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about school meal programs Tuesday during a hearing that was part of a series of discussions held in anticipation of congressional reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, reported Evie Blad over at Rules for Engagement. Among other things, the conversation focused on controversial nutrition standards the agency set for school meals as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.