Failing Students with Disabilities in Texas
An extensive multi-part series by The Houston Chronicle has revealed the devious tactics the Texas Education Agency and school administrators have deployed to reduce the number of students with disabilities their schools serve, masking an alarming decrease in support beneath the glean of “improved pedagogy” and “early intervention.” An arbitrary, unscientific 8.5% benchmark was set across the state for the percentage of students taught in special education classes, which necessitated a dramatic and at times aggressive reduction in the number of students evaluated and identified as in need of special education. From stories of families trapped in bureaucratic labyrinths to data on the disproportionate negative effect on English-language learners, the Chronicle series investigates the broken system responsible for the education of children with disabilities and the political struggle to right the listing ship.
“Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of kids out of special ed” (The Houston Chronicle)
(Image Credit: Marie D. De Jesús/The Houston Chronicle)
U.S. Supreme Court rejects restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin
- The Court ruled 5-3 in favor of blocking restrictions enacted through a 2013 Texas law on the standards necessary for clinics to be allowed to operate within the state, the most expansive decision on abortion rights since 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
- The majority opinion found that the restrictions—which included requiring admitting privileges of doctors in nearby hospitals and heightened operational standards for the clinics—were medically unnecessary and reduced women’s access to safe abortion procedures.
- The justices also declined to hear cases involving abortion provision restrictions in Mississippi and Wisconsin, and Alabama announced it would no longer pursue restrictions on abortion doctors in the wake of the Court’s decision.
“Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Abortion Restrictions” (The New York Times)
“Supreme Court spurns abortion restrictions in two more states” (Reuters)
“How the Texas abortion ruling will affect access across the US” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Michael Reynolds/EPA, via The Guardian)
Texas prepares to execute man despite recognition of mental illness
- Adam Ward was convicted of the 2005 murder of a code enforcement officer and sentenced to death, now set to become the fifth person executed in Texas in 2016.
- On appeal, the federal district court acknowledged Ward’s documented bipolar disorder and paranoid delusions, which had been recognized and treated off and on since Ward was 3, but argued that it was insufficient to disqualify him from the death penalty.
- Ward’s lawyers have appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, including an argument that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Execution Set For Man Courts Recognize as Mentally Ill” (The Texas Tribune)
“Texas Set To Execute Man Amid Claims Of ‘Severe Mental Illness’” (BuzzFeed News)
“Texas to execute Adam Ward unless Supreme Court intervenes” (AP via AL.com)
(Image Credit: tdcj.state.tx.us, via BuzzFeed News)
Latino immigrants flock to naturalization campaigns across the U.S. ahead of November elections
- Naturalization applications increased by 14.5% between June and December 2015 over the same period in 2014, with some analysts attributing part of the influx to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates.
- Of the 8.8 million authorized residents eligible for naturalization, an estimated 3.9 to 4.5 million are Latino, but hefty costs deter many from gaining citizenship.
- Mexican immigrants in particular are under-naturalized, with only 36% of eligible immigrants having become citizens, leading to drives in states like Colorado, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Nevada to promote naturalization among the remaining 2.7 million.
“Latinos line up to get naturalized and stop Trump” (CNN)
“More Latinos Seek Citizenship to Vote Against Trump” (The New York Times)
“In Citizenship Drives, Latinos Sign Up to Vote Against Trump” (Vibe)
(Image Credit: Theo Stroomer/The New York Times)
U.S. government begins detaining asylum-denied Central American families
- At least six families in Texas and five in Georgia have been detained as the Obama administration begins implementing its 2016 plan to deport undocumented families denied asylum in the U.S.
- Families were transported to detention centers in south Texas as advocates rushed to provide legal assistance.
- An ongoing wave of families fleeing Central America has created a political firestorm as anti-immigration politicians have accused the migrants of flouting the immigration system and pro-immigrant advocates have accused the opposition of downplaying the increase in violence in what is already one of the world’s most violent regions.
“Families are taken into custody as push to deport immigrants denied refuge begins” (The L.A. Times)
“U.S. Begins Immigration Crackdown on Central Americans” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Immigration Crack Down on Central Americans in US Begins With First Arrests” (teleSUR English)
(Image Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images, via the L.A. Times)
Texas Supreme Court rules Houston must repeal LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance or submit to popular referendum
- The court overruled a state district judge who ruled that opponents of the ordinance’s passage failed to submit enough valid signatures to the city for a repeal referendum.
- Houston’s mayor and city attorney overrode the city secretary’s sign-off on the petition, declaring many signatures invalid due to improper paperwork.
- The city is expected to choose to submit the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity as locally protected classes to ballot, which observers expect to draw national attention and money to Houston’s local elections in November.
“You’re going to have money pouring in from all across the country on this issue because it’s extremely important. … We’re going to be looking at mayoral candidates, city council candidates that stand with us on this important issue. The eyes of the country are going to be looking at Houston.”
Read the full story at the Houston Chronicle.
(Image Credit: Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle)
The March of Impropriety in the Arrest of Sandra Bland
The New York Times has published a multimedia feature breaking down the legality of the police interaction with Sandra Bland, a black woman with professed mental health afflictions found dead in a Houston-area jail cell under contested circumstances three days after her arrest. Legal experts find improper police behavior involving statement of cause, escalation, and use of force as ongoing investigations have revealed a range of behaviors that have pushed and breached the boundaries of police power leading up to her death.
View the feature at the New York Times.
(Video via the Texas Department of Public Safety YouTube channel; the Sandra Bland interaction begins at 1:30)
Immigrants file suit against Texas for denying birth certificates to their U.S.-born children
- Texas has cracked down on the documentation required to obtain a birth certificate for U.S.-born children, accepting only a U.S. driver’s license, visa, or home-country voter identification.
- State registrars are no longer allowed to accept the popularly held matriculas, or consular-issued identification cards, because of alleged verification concerns.
- The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizenship to children born on U.S. soil, which has formed the basis of the legal claim by immigrant parents.
“It says we need a U.S. license we don’t have; a [Mexican] passport we have, but with a visa we don’t have; voter ID card I have, but it expired. … It’s not fair. She has a right to her birth certificate. What are we supposed to do?”
Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.
(Image Credit: Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times)
First Indian-born player drafted into the NBA by Dallas Mavericks
- Satnam Singh Bhamara, 19, was introduced to basketball by his father while growing up in Ballo Ke, a Punjab village.
- An early standout due to his extraordinary size (7’2″ and 290 lbs), Bhamara trained at the Indian government-funded Ludhiana Basketball Academy before traveling from India to Florida on scholarship at the age of 14 to the renowned IMG Academy, a player development program.
- In a league that has 85 international players from 39 countries, Canadian Sim Bullhar became the first player of Indian descent to play earlier in the year when he played in three games for the Sacramento Kings.
“I feel good about it because in India there are a lot of Indian players who could have a chance to come here and play in college and high schools. … I think I can open the door for everyone to come here and play. So it’s good for India and all the players. It’s good for me and my country.”
Read the full story at the Hindustan Times.
(Image Credit: NBA/Twitter photo, via the Hindustan Times)
Across U.S. Southern states, Charleston massacre gives fresh momentum to calls for removal of Confederate imagery from public sites and symbols
- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the removal of the Confederate flag from state grounds.
- After a 2001 referendum that saw resounding support for retaining the design of the flag, Mississippi legislators are again pushing for the removal of the “stars and bars” portion of the state’s flag.
- In Austin, a push to remove a statue of the President of the Confederacy from the University of Texas campus continues, while in Baltimore, city officials hope to rename Robert E. Lee Park.
“We should have been having this conversation a long time ago in the South … because now with every instance of violence you keep seeing the same symbol — the symbol on our state flag.”
Read the full story at BuzzFeed.
(Image Credit: Rogelio V. Solis/AP, via BuzzFeed)
Federal appeals court upholds Texas restrictions on abortion providers, worrying reproductive rights advocates
- The U.S. 5th Court of Appeals has ruled that the requirement that clinics meet ambulatory surgical center standards (including infrastructural requirements) does not impose undue burden on such clinics.
- With only a handful of clinics meeting those standards, many clinics face closure unless they are able to make the costly upgrades.
- In its lawsuit against the state, the Center for Reproductive Rights asked for exemptions for two clinics from the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from the clinic, which was granted to one of the two.
“The 5th Circuit has once again put their political ideology above the law and failed to recognize that HB 2 is an undue burden on Texans’ access to safe, legal and timely abortion. … Your zip code should not determine your health care.”
More on this story at the Texas Tribune.
(Image Credit: Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune)
Trans-ideological coalition works to reform truancy laws in Texas.
- The alliance of government officials, policy analysts, and organizational leaders is pushing back against the more than 100,000 criminal charges brought against truant minors.
- Convicted youth–disproportionately black and Latino–face fines and detention.
- As Governor Greg Abbott prepares to take action on a reform proposal, leaders call for the redirection of resources towards prevention and intervention services.
“If Reggie was not in school, not the judge, not the school resource officer — Coach White got on the phone to find out why he wasn’t in school…If your truancy prevention ever gets to the courts, I look at that more as a system breakdown.”
More on this story at BuzzFeed.
U.S. family detention centers face renewed scrutiny following attempted suicide of 19-year-old immigrant mother.
- The young Honduran had been held with her four-year-old son in the Karnes detention camp in Texas for eight months.
- She was detained for attempting to enter the country for a second time without proper immigration papers, the result of a crackdown following last summer’s dramatic increase in border-crossings by families and unaccompanied minors.
- The policy has subjected families (including young children) to up to a year of detention, leading to extreme stress and suicide attempts.
“I don’t feel I can live going back to my country. But you have treated us like an animal, you look down on us.”
More on this story at The Guardian.