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Open letter to Betsy DeVos

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Dear Mrs. DeVos

  My name is Bryan Diaz and I am a senior at Atlantic Community High School. I am a direct product of the public school system. I am grateful for what the public school system has allotted me, as well as the opportunities it has presented to me, such as the International Baccalaureate program. Similar to all great public systems, the public schools system always needs reform in order to move a system forward and obtain the best results for the students.

  I understand the complexity of the position that you hold, as well as the weight of each decision that you make. There are not many jobs that have similar future implications than the United States Secretary of Education does. The pressure and responsibility you hold is immense, and because of this I would like to formally thank you for your service, not only to myself, but to the children of the United States.

  I would like to provide you with some possible suggestions for reform from a student’s point of view of the agency you currently lead. These are many possible areas for reform that I have seen throughout my 12 years in the public school system.

  First and foremost, I would say that the public education system does not provide the proper education for kids at either ends of the intelligence spectrums. Kids who are considered gifted are forced to sit through classes in which they are not academically challenged. There are also many children who have a harder time with school that are forced to sit through classes which do not allow them to get the attention that they need as a member of the public education system. These are students who are as equally deserving of a fitting education as any other student.

  Another issue that I feel is prevalent in the public school system is the fact that there is an agenda of conformity being pushed upon the students. As you know, Common Core is already in 44 of the 50 states and is making the students all go along the same path. I am well aware that you do not support Common Core, and that you personally feel that it is not beneficial for the public school system. Common Core forces a mindset onto the students, in which they are forced to believe that there is only one pathway to success, and this is simply not true. Success itself is defined differently by everyone. Having a Common Core system that supports only one way of thinking does not allow students to fully express themselves.

  I would like to thank you once again for your service to your country, and to the educational future of the United States of America. Although many try to continually criticize the public school system, in my opinion, it is doing a very good job at the moment but there is always room for improvement. I hope this letter will help you get a better look into the way a current student of public school system views public schools and where change could be put into place.

 

Respectfully,

Bryan  Diaz

Betsy Devos, United States Secretary of Education. complements of http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2017/02/07/ap_17017806021690_slide-94eaaab44768d8a2a47a1488bbed932c7fa5935e-s900-c85.jpg
Betsy Devos, United States Secretary of Education. complements of http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2017/02/07/ap_17017806021690_slide-94eaaab44768d8a2a47a1488bbed932c7fa5935e-s900-c85.jpg

Letter from the Editor: Saying goodbye to The Squall

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  During all four years at Atlantic Community High School, I have written on The Squall, and while I changed positions often (from staff writer to Arts and Entertainment Editor to Junior Editor to Editor-in-Chief), there was more change than just that. I have experienced countless new staff writers, three completely different newspaper regimes, and even an entirely new format for The Squall.

   At the beginning of my tenure, I didn’t realize how far I would go with the newspaper and how much it would change my life, as cliché as that sounds. When I first entered the class, I had no actual emotion about journalism; I was indifferent towards the course and was only taking it because it involved writing.

  However, I began to actually enjoy it. I started writing movie reviews, realizing that was the type of writing I wanted to continue doing. So when I was offered the editor position for the arts and entertainment pages, I gracefully accepted, and was placed in charge of ensuring that the layout of those pages were organized correctly.

  I think this was probably one of the most important steps for me during high school. Had I not experienced what editing was like and found the type of writing that I actually loved, I would not have kept up with the course. This was important during the next few years, when I followed The Squall around, through its numerous new teachers and classrooms.

  Last year, we brought home an Honorable Mention from The Palm Beach Post for General Excellence in a Print Newspaper. To me and the other members of The Squall, especially Mr. Swart, who had supported the newspaper even when the class wasn’t even on his roster, this award held significant meaning and represented the perseverance that the newspaper had during all of its struggles.

  As a result, I think it’s a bittersweet feeling to officially leave The Squall. The newspaper has been connected with all four years of my high school attendance, and it would be hard – practically impossible – to disassociate the two. The newspaper told me how to be a leader, how to be persistent, and how to work with others. For that, I want to thank the school and, most importantly, the three newspaper advisors that have taught me: Ms. Radic, Ms. Walls, and Mr. Swart. The Squall will always have a special place in my heart and I hope it means the same to the next Editor-in-Chief.

Back Row (Left to right): Derek Shavell, Carrington Hanna, Nafisa Nazir, Alexandra Moore. Front Row (Left to right): Kenneth Swart, Bela C. Aqidah, Rachel Cohen, Sarah Galati, Catucha Morand.  The Squall staff was awarded an Honorable Mention last year in General Excellence for a Print Newspaper. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Swart.
Back Row (Left to right): Derek Shavell, Carrington Hanna, Nafisa Nazir, Alexandra Moore.
Front Row (Left to right): Kenneth Swart, Bela C. Aqidah, Rachel Cohen, Sarah Galati, Catucha Morand.
The Squall staff was awarded an Honorable Mention last year in General Excellence for a Print Newspaper. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Swart.

Learn about global peace exchange

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This press release was originally published by 2015 Atlantic High School graduate Alisson Sealy

 Global Peace Exchange (GPE) is a non-profit, student-run international development organization founded in 2006 at The Florida State University. GPE establishes partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in developing countries, allowing ambitious and dedicated students the opportunity to work on sustainable projects at a grassroots level.

 

   Beginning Monday, April 10th, Global Peace Exchange’s Annual “Week of Giving” will highlight the organization’s efforts within the Tallahassee community and communities around the world. Monday’s kickoff will commence with an event on Landis Green from 7:30AM – 11:30AM. GPE invites students to join for coffee before class and learn about the organization. There will be opportunities to win a gift card to The Melting Pot or a ticket to Jam for Peace, GPE’s annual benefit concert at The Strip. From 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM Monday night, Global Peace Exchange will launch a Q&A during a Facebook Livestream. The following days will feature each of this year’s partnerships on social media: Children with Hope for Development on Tuesday, Centre d’ Education et de Formation des Jeunes on Wednesday, Clinic Nepal on Thursday, and Esperanza Verde on Friday. Follow GPE at “Global Peace Exchange” on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @GPE_FSU to stay updated.

 

Learn more and donate at www.globalpeaceexchange.org/give

 

Internet providers set their sights on you

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Amid the masquerade of a hectic newsweek, the US Senate quietly passed a proposal that would eliminate broadband privacy laws, allowing internet service providers to access their customer’s search histories and having the ability to sell and share information, putting all users at a significant risk.

The proposal, which would allow ISPs to sell the data they have to conglomerates, can be used to gain information, or even be sold to advertisers to enable targeted ads shown.

The aforementioned broadband laws, approved in October 2016, protected users’ privacy and were passed by the then Democratic-lead Federal Communications Commission. Similar to the majority of governmental positions, the FCC is now headed by Republicans, leading to the proposal passing through the house with a 50-48 vote.

Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts says, “President Trump may be outraged by fake violations of his own privacy, but every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result [from] the Republican roll-back of broadband privacy protections.”

To add even more conspicuity to an unfastidious situation, ISPs such as Verizon and AT&T have made “donations” to state senators in hopes of persuading them to vote for the bill to pass. This creates an unethical precedence for corporations to be able to take advantage of the public. Verizon is known to have given $27,000 to senator Ted Cruz.

Violation of privacy presents a very modern yet real conflict within not only politics, but everyday life with the proposal’s potential signing as a law. Affecting the everyday citizen, a consumer’s search history can be exploited by potential employers or colleges. An otherwise lackadaisical search can prove to be socially fatal and tarnish the record of an individual, in a sense that should otherwise be a method of anonymity.

What senators seemingly fail to realize is that if made a law, the bill can be harmful to themselves. In a hypothetical situation in which the highest bidder could access the search history of a presidential candidate, made possible with the signing of this law, every candidate would likely be chastised for one thing or another.

The “big brother’ -esque worlds of dystopian novels could become a reality as online privacy is vanquished, a future that many feared would come one day.

To prevent this possible future, large numbers of people are signing petitions and writing letters to their local senators, warning them of the dangers that may follow suit.

Gradual removal of arts education is not beneficial

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  While some may argue that the importance of arts education being pushed in the school setting is small, arts education benefits students in more ways than people seem to realize.

 

  A big concern for parents of arts-involved students is whether, in the long run, it will help or hurt the student. Most of this fear stems from concerns including time management as well as just being an overall distraction. On the opposite side of the authority, the school system is set up in a way that attempts to motivate the students to strive towards higher test scores, instead of activities that they may truly have a passion for.

 

  Throughout their early childhood, children are often told to use their imagination. However as they get older, slowly but surely there is less and less time for creativity. They become too busy with homework, or projects, or even for some teenagers, work. However, if arts education is pushed the way it used to be, and time management skills are implemented into the arts and standard curriculum, this issue would easily be avoided.

 

  A large amount of adults look back on their teenage years and remember them as their “prime,”  and sadly, in many cases, these originally imaginative children will end up in a job in which earns them more money, opposed to one that is focused on a passion of theirs, out of fear of financial instability.With the deterioration of arts education, there will be less and less extraordinary talents and individuals represented through their creativity.

 

  Many schools appropriately deter their money into academics due to the never ending chase towards high test scores. However, there are many studies showcasing instances in which “arts involved” students tend to score higher on tests, such as the SAT, than those which are not. Thus proving a positive correlation between academics and involvement in the arts. Students involved in music have been shown to perform better in the mathematical area, than those who aren’t. Dancers have displayed extensive and impressive memorization qualities. In other studies, it has been proven that students with the discipline that musicians, dancers, and artists require, have been better equipped to submerge themselves into their schoolwork due to the quality of knowing what needs to get done, when it needs to be done.

 

  If the school system permanently loses sight of the importance found in arts education, the creative

future of generations to come is in jeopardy. It is hard to believe that there is absolutely no money left for the arts. With refinancing and prioritizing there could likely be an effective way to fund the arts and still leave money for the test strategy courses and “extras” that students so often see shoved into their school environment.

Apopka High School Chorus at High School Music Performance Assessment (MPA). Photo Courtesy of Apopka Chorus Director, Sandra Shafer.
Apopka High School’s Bel Canto women’s choir at High School Music Performance Assessment (MPA). Photo Courtesy of Apopka Chorus Director, Sandra Shafer.

Prisons cut visitation in order to maintain financial status

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    Walking through the hallways of jail. Source: http://phobia.wikia.com/

   In New York, 13 prisons are being closed under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s watch. It has become evident that the budget for the 2017-18 year has become tight. In order to accommodate the decreasing budget and the increasing rate of prisoners, Cuomo called for the state to slash family visiting hours at all of the remaining 17 of New York’s maximum security prisons. This action would save the state budget a small sum of money but would work against inmates’ connection to their families.

   In the 90’s, visitations were offered seven days a week in New York prisons. Cutbacks occurred as prisons became overcrowded, enabling visits only on weekends and holidays. By cutting visits to only on weekends in 2011, the prison system saved $2.6 million per year out of an annual correction budget of about 3 billion a year.

    No one disputes how influential these visits are to the inmates and their families. Research shows that prisoners who get frequent visits from family members are more likely to do well when they are released. They are less prone to violence and committing another crime as well as being more functional in society.

   In the perspective of the inmate’s family, the 100,000+ children who have a parent behind bars in New York, visits are a crucial part of developing healthy, long-term relationships. The state should be working to make things easier on these families.

  Fortunately, the state has not yet taken Cuomo’s proposal into serious consideration. The small costs of keeping visiting hours in prisons makes an enormous difference in prisoner’s life.

More Federal funds should go to education, less to defense

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    American solider oversees. Photo Courtesy of Heritage.org

 On March 16, 2017, the Trump administration made public its budget cut for the entire year. With these budget cuts the president hopes to enforce the country’s defenses. The money will go towards the military and aid in the building of the border wall that will separate the United States and Mexico. Although this might sound like a good idea, since it is deemed to protect americans, is too much? Since 54% of the United States’ annual budget goes to the military, spending the money on things such as education and space travel will be a far better use for government funds.

   The main reason for increasing the defense budget, according to president Trump himself, is because, “We never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win. So we either got to win or don’t fight it at all.” The main reason why Donald Trump wants to fund the military, is because fight are not being won.

Although it makes sense to keep on spending more on the United States’ defenses, when looking at how much the United States already spends on the military it seems excessive to raise the amount. According to nationalpriorities.org, “In fiscal year 2015, military spending [was] projected to account for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending, a total of $598.5 billion.” This is more than China ($146 billion), Russia ($90.7 billion), and North Korea (estimated to be around $8.77 billion), and Trump still sees a need to increase the figure.

The United States, despite being the country in the world with one of the most thriving economies and the strongest military, “the U.S ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with higher education (42%),” according a study by OECD. Being a world leading country and not having a great (at least top 5 ranking) education system is embarrassing for the country.

  President Trump thinks that his motto of “making America great again” would be fully realized if the army won more wars, but that isn’t necessarily true. Funding education can help grow the economy even more, because according to an article by Bloomberg,the more industries can use United States workers instead of Chinese workers, the more industries will base their production in the U.S. This will feed local economies, boosting the profits of stores and other service businesses. That also feeds into your stock portfolio.” So not only will bring back jobs, funding education will bring in more money to the country.

So rather than spend more on the military the United States should spend more on programs that would be help us the American people in the future, thing such as education or another good alternative: space travel or NASA.  the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is especially important for the American population because they were the first to take to the moon during the space race (1957-1975).

   Now, with even more technology and more planets being discovered, space is closer than ever. This can help us learn more about our universe and again educate us more. According to Universe Today, “NASA’s annual budget for fiscal year 2009 [was] $17.2 billion.” They also added that, “NASA’s cut of the US budget [was] less than 1%.” Imagine what NASA will able to do if it had only a quarter of the Military’s budget or if it got another 18.7 billion added to its annual budget. There’s no need to dream too far because privately funded programs such as SpaceX program by Elon Musk have already beaten NASA to put humans on Mars, expecting to do start doing this in 2018 while NASA remains years behind. These departments (department of education and NASA), would be help President Trump’s motto of “making America great again.”

Choosing Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court: Bad for the disabled

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  On Feb. 1, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to take the place of Judge Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court bench. Scalia died suddenly in Feb. of 2016 of natural causes. Appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court bench is not the best for the people because he has had a past track record of not protecting people with disabilities. Some people approve of him though, saying he will rule justly and not be biased.

  People have been voicing their disapproval of Trump’s nomination for one main reason: he has had past rulings that make people believe that he will not judge fairly. In the past he has had rulings that failed to protect people with a disability.

  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García says that, “Everyone should be concerned by the trend in Gorsuch’s records.” She also said that, “He’s endorsed the lowest expectations for students with disabilities, and he’s allowed schools to provide our highest need students with the bare minimum of an educational benefit.”

Even though some people say Gorsuch is not a good judge, there has to be a reason why Trump choose him. At a highly anticipated evening ceremony where he announced that he nominated Gorsuch, Trump said, “Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,”

However, there was also another case where he failed to protect a disabled assistant professor. Assistant professor Grace Hwang worked at Kansas State University for 15 years with a lot of success. After she was diagnosed with cancer, she requested a six month leave that covered the fall semester of 2009.

  While she was preparing to return to school, the campus had a big flu epidemic that could be dangerous to her because of a compromised immune system. She asked for more time off, during which she could work from home. She was denied more time off, so she sued. The case went to Gorsuch, who ruled that the request for more time off was simply unreasonable.

  What the people can do is protest.  This is  American, the government represents the people, and the citizens of the United States  have the power of protest to say when we do not like something that is happening in the government. Judge Neil Gorsuch has had rulings in the past of not protecting the rights of disabled people, why should the people of America believe him now saying he will rule justly? He says himself, “I have no difficulty ruling against or for any party other than based on what the law and the facts of a particular case require.” All we have to do know and see if he passes the Senate.

Missing Tennessee student ran off with teacher

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Officials released a photo of Cummins and Thomas together in school January

     Teachers are vital to a student learning and development. Most teachers you can trust with issues that are blocking your learning process. A Tennessee (TN) student was reported missing with her teacher. Background checks are not rigorous enough to screen out potential threats to students.

     If the process of becoming a teacher is difficult, then many people would not pursue a career as a teacher. The amount of teachers in the world will decrease dramatically because the process to become a teacher will become harder. Tad Cummins, resume says he was respiratory therapist and a percussionist. Recently he is a high school health science teacher in TN. Cummins disappeared with Elizabeth Thomas, his student, March 13. Cummins put ideas into Thomas’s head.

     He convinced her he was a former CIA and FBI agent that was flushed with cash. No teacher shall put beliefs in a student’s head, especially when they are at the age where they believe everything they hear. Taylor is a 15 year old freshman. “He convinced her he had been a secret agent and … that he had access to all kinds of money,” Anthony Thomas, Elizabeth father, told HLN. A teacher should not swoon a student by telling them lies. Teachers are supposed to protect students when the students are in their care.

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Officials released a picture of Cummins and Taylor in school January. Photo Courtesy: www.cnnnews.com

     Elizabeth reportedly looked at Cummins as a counselor. She looked at him for guidance. Even though he was believed to be a guiding figure, he was found giving her a peck on the lips. Thomas and Cummins both deny the claims. He referred to her as “a good friend.” Cummins resigned from his position due to the. No one dared to pay it much attention, until Thomas was reported missing March 13. The next day, an AMBER ALERT was sent out.

     If district officials knew Cummins’ mental state, all of this probably would have been avoided. There is no way we will know if it will guarantee prevention of future situations like this because a person can change their mind daily. This is just a start to protecting students from teachers with a “comforting” appearance.

     Thomas is still missing and Cummins is still out there with her. They are believed to gotten married and they were last seen near Decatur, Alabama. The districts should implement stricter background checks. If districts were to be more cautious about the staff they hire, students may be protected.

 

15 year old Elizabeth Thomas is still missing
15 year old Elizabeth Thomas is still missing

Gun control debate rages on

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    With the Pulse nightclub shooting in summer 2016, people assumed that there would be some form of hiatus on shootings; they believed with more discussions, it would happen less frequently. However, this proved untrue when, on March 26, a club in Cincinnati experienced true chaos in the form of a gunman, in which he killed one person, hurting 17 others.

  After recent events such as this, it once again forces people to discuss and debate the possibility of having gun control in the U.S, a conversation that has resulted in zero progress in the past few years. While a significant portion of the United States argues against gun control because of personal rights, gun control seems to be a necessary evil, as regulations could be crucial in terms of the protection of life.

  The Second Amendment by itself is one of the most controversial components of the American government at the moment, which does not clarify the gun debate at all. For example, gun supporters disagree with regulation due to the explicit language of the Amendment, and the “right to bear arms.” To them, the idea of governmental regulation on guns translates to an infringement on rights and unconstitutional actions.

  However, the multiple interpretations of the Second Amendment has created a discrepancy. Those in support of gun control assert that this piece of law was created in 1776, with no precedent for the government or the American Revolution, making them unaware of what the future held. As a result, this “right to bear arms” that was proclaimed was only in reference to the creation of a militia. In addition, the musket was the preferred “arm” at the time, as there were no industrially produced guns, such as the assault rifles or semiautomatic weapons that are currently being utilized. Due to this, the “right to bear arms” does not seem just when being used to support a form of weapon that the Forefathers could not foresee.

  Moreover, gun control is vital to this nation’s safety, as the increased presence of firearms throughout the country (especially with this recent debate to arm teachers in schools) has the potential to cause even more death, despite the intention being self-defense. Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times said, “In 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation had more than 33,000 firearms deaths: 70 percent of all homicides (11,208), more than half of all suicides (21,175), and hundreds of accidental and unsolved deaths.”

  The occurrence of mass shootings, although tragic, has been exponentially increasing in the past few years, dating all the way back to Columbine. In some instances, gun control felt like one of the major causes, such as the shooting in San Bernardino. The main argument against this is that gun owners do not want to kill, they simply want to feel safer, and it can be used in order to prevent an attack such as the Pulse or Aurora shootings. In the long-run, relaxed rules on gun ownership will hurt more Americans through shootings and incidental killings.

  Jay Croft, Shawn Nottingham and Joe Sutton of CNN stated, “Police said several people had been able to sneak guns into the club and they believe more than one person was involved in the shooting.”

  Consequently, it seems that the current background check system may not be adequate in preventing attacks on the large scale that the United States has been experiencing. While current background checks prohibit the sale of guns to dishonorably discharged soldiers, mentally disabled people, or felons, it is not sufficient.

  For example, in 2015, controversy struck once again when a man named Dylann Roof shot nine people at a church in South Carolina. While it sparked the discussion of racism, it also caused some to question the effectiveness of background checks. Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times said, “He should have failed a background check…because he had previously admitted to illegal drug possession.” A similar event happened in the Sandy Hook shooting of 2012, in which mental illness came into the picture.

  Although gun supporters say that in the past decade, gun ownership and crime have had an inverse relationship, it still seems that some change needs to occur with gun control. While there are numerous organizations present that have attempted to create legal action, something still needs to happen. Stricter gun control and more stringent background checks – ones that allow people like Roof to slip through the cracks – are necessary to improve this nation’s safety.

This Cincinnati shooting is the latest in a series of incidents. Photo courtesy of abcnews.go.com.
This Cincinnati shooting is the latest in a series of incidents. Photo courtesy of abcnews.go.com.
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