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Robbinsdale School District scolded for church field trip

  • February 7, 2014 - 6:42 PM

A Washington, D.C.-based group sent a letter to the Robbinsdale School District Monday scolding administrators for taking students to a church to do charity work.

Attorneys for the American Humanist Association said the parent of a Robbinsdale student complained that the district’s School of Engineering and Arts had taken students to Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley for a program run by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian effort aimed at eliminating world hunger. Students packed meals for needy families in Haiti.

Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said the field trip was a clear violation of the separation of church and state.

“We fully understand that at least one purpose of this field trip was to have the children participate in charity work intended to assist poverty stricken people,” she wrote. “Such good intentions, however, can be pursued in innumerable other ways that do not involve immersing the unsuspecting children into a theologically-charged environment.”

Latisha Gray, a district spokeswoman, said school officials did not believe the activity violated the law. “There was absolutely no proselytizing,” she said.

The American Humanist Association, which represents atheists, agnostics and other non-theists, asked the district to notify them within two weeks that it will no longer take the field trip in the future.

Kim McGuire

 

State plans to raise standards for schools

Two years ago, Minnesota was freed from the much-loathed No Child Left Behind, the federal education law that many believed took a punitive approach to struggling schools.

Now, it’s time for the state to renew its waiver and it has already received preliminary approval from the U.S. Department of Education, state education officials announced Wednesday.

Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said that the department is intending to hold schools to a higher performance standard under a new waiver.

Under the original waiver, schools needed more than 40 students in one subgroup (minority student, English language learners, students living in poverty) to be held accountable for meeting established targets. Revisions would reduce that minimum to 20 students.

“We’re raising our expectations,” Cassellius said. “The bar just got higher, and now more kids count — that’s a good thing.”

The deadline for Minnesota to submit its letter to renew the waiver is due by Feb. 28.

Kim McGuire

 

Schools squeezing in weather makeup days

The Centennial school board in Anoka County wasn’t keen on an idea to extend the school day by 15 minutes for the rest of the year to make up for five cold-weather cancellations.

Rather, the board is joining other Twin Cities school districts that are squeezing in makeup days this spring.

Centennial students will make up days on Feb. 14 and March 14. Superintendent Brian Dietz floated several ideas, including extending the school day.

After hearing from parents, many Twin Cities districts are avoiding extending the school year into the summer or carving into spring break.

Shannon Prather

© 2014 Star Tribune