By Holly Yan and Vivian Kuo, CNN
(CNN) - Terrilynn Monette had no problem uprooting her life to help children.
When the California native learned of the "teachNOLA" program, which sends educators to New Orleans to teach in impoverished areas, she packed her bags and headed to Louisiana.
"I always wanted to be a teacher, and what better place to teach than New Orleans, where passionate teachers are needed most?" Monette said in a 2011 video.
Her dedication and excellence in the classroom earned her a "Teacher of the Year" nomination in her district.
But after a night celebrating the accolade with friends, the 26-year-old vanished.
That was almost two weeks ago. With each passing day, her family's anxiety compounds.
"There's total emptiness in my life right now. I miss my daughter so, so much, no one can hardly believe the impact that she has had on our family," said Monette's mother, Toni Enclade.
"She's a beautiful person. She walks in the room, she lights up with her beautiful smile. I can't imagine anyone that would take her away from us."
Hundreds of volunteers and police have scoured New Orleans, but are no closer to finding Monette.
She left no clues behind.
By Vivian Kuo and Michael Pearson, CNN
(CNN) - The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual assault cases at the University of North Carolina at the request of current and former students, and a former administrator who say the university has long turned a blind eye to such allegations.
"We love UNC," said Annie Clark, the lead complainant. "We're not trying to vilify the university, we're just trying to make it better."
Clark and other students named in this report agreed to be identified by CNN, which does not typically identify the victims of sexual assault.
The investigation comes amid outrage on campus and nationwide over intimidation charges filed in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, school's student-run honor court against one of the women involved in the complaint.
Investigators from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights will look into the women's allegations that school administrators brushed aside concerns about sexual violence on campus and failed to adequately investigate complaints of sexual assault, according to a March 1 letter sent to Clark by the agency.
Editor's note: John S. Wilson is a contributing writer for Forbes, Huffington Post and Black Enterprise. He frequently writes about health and education policies and politics. He's on Twitter at @johnwilson.
By John S. Wilson, Special to CNN
(CNN) – When I was around 12 or 13, one of just a few black students in my entire grade, a substitute teacher made inappropriate remarks about slavery. When I got home, I just knew my mother would do something about it; this was a woman who visited my school as though she had to punch a clock.
She listened, said the teacher was wrong, and that was it. No angry phone calls, no marching to the school, no request for anyone to be reprimanded or fired. I was shocked. But she told me that my school didn’t share the same values as that teacher, and she was confident the unfortunate incident was temporary but the values the school instilled were permanent.
That’s what a school’s mission is all about: permanency. Instilling character that cannot be tarnished by temporary incidents – even when very offensive – over which it has little control.
But Oberlin College in Ohio made a very poor decision this week. Classes were canceled in response to a rash of racist and anti-gay incidents aimed at students and a student’s report she had seen someone on campus dressed in a white hooded robe. (Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket, but couldn’t say whether the incidents were related.)
On Monday, the campus held a “Day of Solidarity,” which consisted of diversity programming, an Africana teach-in, and what Meredith Gadsby, chairwoman of the Africana Studies Department, called “positive propaganda.” If you're at a loss for exactly what that is, think a collegiate version of a “Sesame Street” marathon, minus Oscar the Grouch.
Oberlin passed up an opportunity. Instead of canceling classes, they should have continued normal business while finding ways to draw upon their incredibly strong history of diversity and inclusion.
By canceling classes and generally overreacting – let's face it, racism and baseless discriminatory scrawls on posters and walls will never go away – Oberlin is only sheltering students, instead of assisting them to overcome adversity, an action that would truly fortify their character. What example does this set for students, many of whom will soon be in the workforce? If a supervisor or co-worker offends them, who will be there then to host their day of solidarity?
By CNN Staff
Oberlin, Ohio (CNN) - A day after students at Oberlin College put down their books to focus on how to respond to a spate of hate messages targeting blacks, Jews and gays on campus, classes resumed Tuesday amid tension.
The messages included graffiti with swastikas, posters containing racial slurs and other derogatory statements targeting various student communities and fliers bearing racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic language.
A student's report on Monday that she had seen someone on campus dressed like a member of the Ku Klux Klan led the school to suspend classes for the day.
"I saw someone in what seemed to be KKK paraphernalia walking on a pathway, like, a pathway that leads to South Campus," the student, Sunceray Tavler, told CNN affiliate WJW. "Just seeing that and having that sink in, this is something that's real, that actually happens."
Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket on his or her shoulders but could not say whether the incidents were related.
Two students have been identified as being involved in the postings from February and will be subject to college disciplinary procedures, Oberlin police said.
Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns
By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
(CNN) - A few hours before he announced the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Vice President Nicolas Maduro repeated the claim that Chavez's fatal illness was caused by outsiders, and he labeled the opposition the "enemy of the nation." With that, he gave voice to one of the principal legacies of the Chavez era, one of divisiveness and scapegoating.
The Chavez legacy, however, includes much more than animosity between rich and poor, between left and right.
Chavez played a pivotal role in bringing the plight of Latin America's impoverished people to the top of the political agenda.
It was as if the former paratrooper grabbed a continent by the lapels and shouted "You must fight against poverty!" And the continent listened.
Even the people who vehemently disagreed with Chavez's neosocialist, populist ideology realized that economic inequality required urgent attention.
In the years after he came to power, aggressive anti-poverty programs have been launched in a number of Latin American countries, with impressive success.
Chavez improved the lot of the poor in Venezuela, and he had an impact on the reduction of inequality elsewhere in the region. But in the process, he deeply undermined Venezuelan democracy, and he created a model of authoritarianism that other autocrats copied, harming democracy in many countries.
By Laura Ly, CNN
(CNN) - Oberlin College in Ohio suspended classes Monday after a student reported seeing a person resembling a Ku Klux Klan member near the college's Afrikan Heritage House.
The sighting of the person wearing a white hood and robe was reported early Monday morning and follows a string of recent hate incidents on Oberlin's campus that have ignited shock and confusion among the student body.
"Since the beginning, there's been anger, frustration, sadness and fear, but we've been working toward a concentrated effort toward change," said Eliza Diop, 20, a politics and Africana Studies major who serves on the college student senate and is a resident of the Afrikan Heritage House, which offers programs focused on the African diaspora, according to the college's website.
Oberlin College is a small liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, with almost 3,000 students. An emergency meeting among the college's officials was immediately called after the report.
In lieu of classes, college administrators asked students, faculty and staff to "gather for a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks," a statement on Oberlin's website said.
"We hope today will allow the entire community — students, faculty, and staff —to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual," the statement said.
By Laura Ly, Special to CNN
(CNN) - A math homework assignment that asked fourth grade students to tally the number of slaves on a ship has sparked outrage among parents and administrators in Manhattan.
The assignment was devised by another group of students, after they apparently expressed interest in the transatlantic slave trade. It required fourth graders to calculate the remainder of those not killed by a mutiny aboard the vessel, and to determine the number of times slaves were beaten in one month.
“This is really inappropriate,” student teacher Aziza Harding told CNN affiliate NY1 on Friday. “It should not be a homework assignment, and I did not want to make copies of this.”
Harding was asked to photocopy the assignment by another teacher, but refused because the questions made her uncomfortable and she thought it desensitized students to the horrors of slavery.
The first question read: "In a slave ship, there are 3,799 slaves. One day, the slaves took over the ship. 1,897 slaves are dead. How many slaves are alive?"
The second question read: "One slave got whipped five times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month (31 days)? Another slave got whipped nine times a day. How many times did he get whipped in a month? How many times did the two slaves get whipped together in one month?" FULL POST
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
(CNN) - When Erika Andiola's mother and brother were detained by immigration agents this month, she jumped to action.
She summoned the help of undocumented youths like herself, known as DREAMers, and within hours, immigration officials were flooded with dozens of phone calls.
Andiola's mother and brother were released.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the detention of the pair and their eventual release had nothing to do with Andiola's activism.
But that does not dampen her spirit. As far as she is concerned, the DREAMers snatched her mother from the brink of deportation.
"For us to get them to do that, it takes a lot of pressure," she said.
Her work, along with other DREAMers, has increasingly become a powerful voice shaping discussions on immigration reform, which President Obama has vowed to pass in his second term.
Dubbed DREAMers, their name is derived from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which, if passed, would have granted some undocumented immigrant youth legal status in return for attending college or joining the military.
In 2009, DREAMers knocked on doors and begged for support of the DREAM Act, a bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for certain youth who came to the United States as children and live in the country illegally.
Today, the movement is enjoying a certain amount of clout. FULL POST
By Brad Lendon, CNN
(CNN) – Schools must give students with disabilities equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletics, including varsity sports, the U.S. Department of Education said Friday. And if existing sports don't meet the needs of those students, schools must create additional athletic programs.
Some advocates compared the move to Title IX, the 1972 amendment that mandated gender equity in education and sports programs at schools receiving federal funds. The department’s Office for Civil Rights pointed to a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office that said disabled students were not getting equal opportunities to participate in sports, a right they were granted under the Rehabilitation Act, passed in 1973.
Denying disabled students’ participation meant that they “may not have equitable access to the health and social benefits” of playing sports, the education department said in a statement Friday.
“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the statement accompanying the guidelines.
Examples of the kinds of accommodations the department is seeking included offering a visual cue, along with a starter pistol, to allow deaf students to participate in track races or allowing a one-hand touch to end swimming races, rather than a two-hand touch, which would allow students with only one arm to participate.
Editor's Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin ... by your family ... by what society says ... or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT this Sunday, December 9.
By Kiran Khalid - CNN
(CNN) - High school is tough for any teenager, but for Albert Anderson, it was the subtle looks and unspoken words that made him realize he was different.
“High school is when people start with the judging,” he said.
Anderson grew up in the projects of New York City’s lower East Side, and commuted an hour each way to attend a prep school in the affluent upper west side of Manhattan. No one said anything offensive, but he missed out on experiences, and was never felt fully accepted.
“It’s possibly the best high school education you can get,” he said. “I’m grateful I could attend, but the social part goes with that.”
He spoke about his experiences in “Allowed to Attend,” a revealing documentary that tells the stories of five of Trinity's students of color who navigated the socioeconomic and racial planes at the elite private school.
It’s a conversation being had at several prestigious prep schools, some for the first time. But Trinity took the rare step to address the sometimes loaded topic of inclusion by turning the spotlight on itself. FULL POST
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at email@example.com.
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