SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – At least two people have been injured in a shooting at a school in the US state of Georgia in the latest of gun violence in the country.
The incident took place at Price Middle School in southeast Atlanta on Thursday.
School officials said a 14-year-old student was transferred to Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta after being shot in the head.
“The student was alert, conscious and breathing” while being transferred to the hospital, police said in a statement.
The second victim is a teacher, who had suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene.
No details were released about the shooter and the weapon used.
Earlier in the day, an assistant district attorney was shot dead near the North Texas county courthouse.
On December 14, 2012, twenty children and six adult victims were fatally shot by a gunman -- who later killed himself -- at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the town of Newtown in the US state of Connecticut. Earlier in the day, the assailant killed his mother in another location.
There have been reports that the twenty-year-old killer, Adam Lanza, suffered from a personality disorder, was on the antidepressant Prozac, and was fond of first-person shooter games.
Every year, more than 30,000 people are shot and killed in the US.
The US averages 87 gun deaths each day as a function of gun violence, with an average of 183 injured, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Centers for Disease Control.
The year 2012 was a record setting year for gun sales in the US.
About 4.5 million firearms are sold annually in the United States at a cost of 2 to 3 billion dollars.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The teacher stood in the classroom, face-to-face with his 16-year-old student, who was holding a shotgun.
Ryan Heber, 40, talked to the teen, trying to persuade him to end an armed assault in which one student had already been shot.
Heber had no idea whether the student -- whose pockets were filled with ammunition -- would put the gun down or pull the trigger.
Campus supervisor Kim Fields helped distract the teen, allowing other students in the classroom to escape, while Heber talked to him, according to CNN affiliate KGET.
Eventually, the teen let go of the gun, and police took him into custody.
That was how police described the frightening situation Thursday at Taft Union High School, about 30 miles outside Bakersfield, California.
"To stand there and face someone that has a shotgun, who's already discharged it and shot a student, speaks volumes for these two young men and what they may have prevented," Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Thursday.
Heber, however, hates the term hero. He told CNN Friday that he doesn't want to be labeled anything except "teacher."
Classes were canceled for Friday, the school website said, and on-campus counseling was being made available for students in the morning.
The wounded student was in critical but stable condition Thursday night, and the shooter was in custody, police said. Heber and his wife, who also works at the school, visited the hospital Friday and met with the father of the victim.
The name of the student in custody was not released. He will be charged as a juvenile with attempted murder, according to Youngblood, who added that prosecutors will decide whether he should be charged as an adult. Authorities searched his home, according to sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt.
Heber, who teaches science, is known as a well-liked teacher at the school, according to his father, David Heber. He is himself a graduate of Taft, where he played football and served as student body president.
David Heber wasn't surprised that his son played a key role in diffusing the situation, saying Ryan Heber makes a point of getting to know his students -- including the suspected gunman -- on a personal level.
"Because he knows the boy and the boy knows him ... I attribute that to why the boy talked and listened to my son," David Heber said. "It's all about kindness. It's all about my son being kind and caring about his students that makes this successful."
David Heber also said his son, who was standing just a few feet away from the student who was shot, had been hit in the head with a shot pellet, but was fine and didn't seek treatment for it.
Nonetheless, Ryan Heber will be coping mentally with a difficult situation, his father said, adding his son slept little Thursday night.
"This was a very upsetting incident," David Heber said, describing his son as "emotionally worn out."
"It was hard for him. ... but he's come to the conclusion that he did everything he could do."
Ryan Heber told CNN that it wasn't just his students he was worried about as he faced the gunman -- it was also his wife, who works in the business office of the school, and his two sons, ages 5 and 3, at home.
As the school went into lockdown amid the shooting, Heber's wife texted him from her office, reminding him to lock his classroom door. His response, according to his father, "The shooter is in my room."
Ryan Heber said the ordeal has really made him want to come home to his family.
The Taft shooting is the latest incident of gun violence that launched a fiery national debate over whether teachers should be armed.
Last month the National Rifle Association called on communities to arm teachers or place armed guards in schools as a solution following a Newtown, Connecticut, shooting spree in which a 20-year-old gunman killed seven adults and 20 children at an elementary school.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said the NRA's Wayne LaPierre. The idea has been rejected by teacher's groups and mayors, including New York's Michael Bloomberg, Boston's Thomas Menino and Philadelphia's Michael Nutter.
The debate prompted CNN commenter Adika to weigh in Thursday, saying, "So let me get this straight. The NRA wants to have police officers in schools ... yet an unarmed teacher talked a student into surrendering his gun. Besides being one heck of a hero, that teacher just might have some advice for the NRA."
Another CNN commenter, Frank455444, countered: "Well if the schools are armed and another nut shows up HE GETS SHOT! PROBLEM SOLVED!"
In Utah it's been legal for a dozen years for teachers to be armed in class. Since the law took effect, there have been no school shootings in the state, nor accidents or incidents involving educators' firearms.
Immediately after the Taft shooting Thursday, amid the frenzy of desperate parents coming to the school to retrieve their children, parents expressed concern about school security.
"It just goes to show you that we're going to have to do a lot more to protect our students in this small town," an unidentified parent told KGET. "It might be a small environment, but there's always that one bad apple."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Amnesty International has denounced a decision to uphold prison sentences against two former leaders of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association.
On Sunday, Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to five years in prison while Jalila al-Salman, who was not present in the courtroom, was handed a six-month sentence when an appeal court upheld guilty verdicts against them.
While the ruling reduced their sentences from ten years and three years respectively, family members immediately expressed their dismay, calling the ruling a “nightmare”.
Their lawyers have said they will appeal the decision before Bahrain’s Court of Cassation.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa director, said: “All these teachers did was to call for a strike in their role as trade union leaders - this is merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association and is certainly not a crime.
“With this guilty verdict, Bahrain’s justice system has added to a growing list of outrageous injustices.
“Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally, and Jalila al-Salman must not be put behind bars - these convictions must be quashed as a matter of urgency.”
Following his arrest after calling for a teachers’ strike in early 2011, Abu Dheeb has already spent some 18 months in prison, while al-Salman spent five-and-a-half months in prison before being released on bail.
Amnesty said in a statement that it considers Abu Dheeb to be a prisoner of conscience and will grant the same status to al-Salman if she is returned to jail.
Abu Dheeb and al-Salman were initially sentenced before a military court last year for using their positions as vice-president and president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association to call for a strike by teachers, halting the educational process, and attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A Coptic teacher who was arrested last week on charges of contempt for religion and insulting Prophet Mohamed has been released, and all charges dropped, her lawyer confirmed to Ahram Online.
The case is one of several recent incidents in which Egypt's Coptic minority found itself under fire.
On Thursday, two Coptic boys, aged nine and ten, were released from detention pending the completion of investigation after a Muslim imam accused them of tearing up pages of the Quran in Upper Egypt. Less than two weeks ago several Coptic families in the city of Rafah in Sinai were forced to flee to Al-Arish after a Coptic shop was attacked and threats allegedly levelled against them by Islamist militants.
Nevine Gad, a social studies teacher at a preparatory school in Manfalout village, in Assiut in Upper Egypt, was explaining a lesson on Islamic history with a section on the life of the Prophet Mohamed in a class on Wednesday last week.
The next day she was told that a pupil, Mohamed Moustafa Ahmed Hashim, had filed a complaint against her, claiming that she had said something offensive about the Prophet.
Following that, more than 20 teachers working with her at the same school also complained about her to the school administration, based on the student's story.
After investigating, the administration dismissed the complaint because of the conflicting accounts of the students from the class, and a lack of evidence. To avoid problems, Gad was suspended from teaching temporarily.
However, on Sunday afternoon, police arrested Gad and took her to an Assiut police station, on charges of contempt of religion and insulting Prophet Mohamed, following a complaint from Moustafa Ahmed Hashim, the student in question's father, who is known locally to be a Salafist.
Gad denied all charges, but was detained and spent the night in a solitary confinement cell, her lawyer told Ahram Online, causing her family great worry as she is eight months pregnant.
The next day, she went before the attorney-general of Assiut, who asked her about the validity of the statements, and she again denied all the allegations.
Lawyer Magdy Farouk told Ahram Online exclusively that during the investigations, he had noticed inconsistencies in the statements and complaints of the student in question.
In addition, Gad remembered that this student was absent on Wednesday and Thursday, and therefore could not have attended the lesson.
"The educational administration in Assiut supplied us with the official student attendance lists for those two days...it showed that the student, Mohamed Moustafa Ahmed Hashim, who accused her, was absent and didn't attend that lesson. The police then released her yesterday [Wednesday] and closed the case file, considering it a malicious complaint," said Farouk.
"Most lawyers had refused to get involved in this case, fearing for their lives, but I agreed to defend her and to attend the investigations with her after I got security guarantees from a well-known businessman from Upper Egypt," he added.
Farouk cited concerns related to a case a month ago when lawyers defending, Bishoy Kamel, another Coptic teacher accused several months ago of contempt of religion, were attacked at the courthouse in Sohag in Upper Egypt.
Since her release, Gad has refused to give any interviews to the media, due to fear and shock regarding her experiences being detained, said Farouk. Her case has received less media coverage than other similar cases, like that of Kamel and Albert Saber.
Coptic rights activist Mina Thabet did manage to meet her, and in her meeting with him she described the moments of her arrest as a moment of horror. She likened her experience to that of Albert Saber, a young Egyptian Copt currently being tried on charges of defaming religion.
"A bitter sense of despair and frustration has taken hold of me, because of what we see every day, from the victims of such accusations," Gad reportedly told Thabet.
Gad said that the "hand of God" had intervened quickly in her situation by sending Coptic businessman Amir Abu Ghali to support her defence.
Ghali has reportedly said that he will take up the cause of those in similar situations.
Thabet stressed that Nevine Gad is the first person to be safely released in these recent cases of religious defamation.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that he will seek a court order to end the first teachers' strike in the city in 25 years, which escalated on Sunday when the teachers' union decided to extend their walk-out.
The strike has cancelled classes for 350,000 kindergarten, elementary and high school students in the United States' third-largest school district and will enter its sixth day on Monday.
It risks friction within President Barack Obama's political coalition, where many Democrats differ over approaches to education reform, ahead of the November 6 Presidential election against Republican Mitt Romney. Emanuel is Obama's former top White House aide.
The mayor called the strike "illegal" on Sunday and said he would go to court to seek an injunction to block it.
"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Emanuel said, adding that the union walked out over issues that are not subject to a strike under Illinois state law.
Teachers revolted last week against sweeping education reforms sought by Emanuel, especially evaluating teachers based on the standardised test scores of their students.
They also fear a wave of neighbourhood school closings that could result in mass teacher layoffs. They want a guarantee that laid-off teachers will be recalled for other jobs in the district.
The showdown left in doubt a deal on wages, benefits and education reforms for 29,000 unionised teachers that negotiators had hoped would end the biggest labour dispute in the US in a year.
Union delegates will reconvene on Tuesday to discuss the feedback from members, union President Karen Lewis said, adding that parents should plan for their children to be out of school until at least Wednesday.
Before the meeting of delegates on Sunday, Lewis had called the agreement a "good contract". But after the decision to extend the strike she backtracked, saying: "This is not a good deal. This is the deal we got."
Emanuel's chief negotiator, School Board President David Vitale, said the union should allow children to go back to school while the two sides complete the process.
"We are extremely disappointed that after 10 months of discussion reaching an honest and fair compromise that they decided to continue their strike of choice and keep our children out of the classroom," Vitale said.
An Emanuel overreach?
During the first week of the strike, opinion polls showed parents and Chicago voters backing the union, with some parents and students joining boisterous rallies. A key question is who the public will support now that the strike is dragging on.
Former Chicago city council member Dick Simpson said Emanuel may have made a mistake by going to court to block the strike.
"If I were advising the mayor, I would have advised him to be patient for a couple of days," said Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
By waiting, Emanuel could have put the onus on the teachers if they rejected the contract later this week, Simpson said.
Both sides appeared to win some concessions, according to details of the tentative agreement released by the parties.
Emanuel compromised on the design of the first update of the evaluation system for Chicago teachers in 40 years. He agreed to phase in the new plan over several years and reduced the weighting of standardised test results in reviewing teachers.
Teachers won some job-security protections and prevented the introduction of merit pay in their contract.
Rise of charter schools
The Chicago strike has shone a bright light on a fierce national debate over how to reform failing inner-city schools. The union believes that more money and resources should be given to neighbourhood public schools to help them improve.
Emanuel and a legion of financiers and philanthropists believe that failing schools should be closed and reopened with new staff to give the students the best chance of improving.
In Chicago, more than 80 neighbourhood schools have been closed in the last decade as the enrollment has declined by about 20 per cent. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that another 120 of about 600 city public schools could be closed.
At the same time, 96 so-called charter schools have been opened. Charters are publicly funded but non-union and not
subject to some public school rules and regulations. Their record of improving student academic performance is mixed.
Lewis and the union argue that charters are undermining public education.
The agreement calls for a 3 per cent pay raise for teachers this year and 2 per cent in each of the next two years. If the
agreement is extended for an optional fourth year, teachers get a 3 per cent increase.
Chicago union teachers make an average of about $76,000 annually. The deal could worsen the Chicago Public Schools financial crisis. Emanuel said the contract will cost $295 million over four years, or $74 million per year.
Debt rating agencies had previously warned that the new agreement with teachers could bust the school district budget
and lead to a downgrade of its credit rating.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A bitter dispute between unionized public school teachers and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has residents of the third-largest U.S. city bracing for a possible strike on Monday in a showdown over education reform that has national implications.
Nearly 30,000 public school teachers and support staff represented by the Chicago Teachers Union have vowed to walk off the job starting at 12:01 a.m. on Monday if an impasse in contract talks with the city is not broken.
Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama and a speaker at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, has made reform of Chicago's troubled public schools a top priority. Emanuel cut short his trip to the convention in Charlotte to deal with the teacher crisis.
Earlier this year, he succeeded in pushing through a longer school day. But the union is opposed to other proposed reforms, including tougher teacher evaluations tied to student test scores and giving principals wide latitude in hiring.
The union also wants a larger pay increase than the 8 percent raise over four years that Chicago is offering.
The threatened walkout, the first in Chicago in 25 years and one of the largest labor actions nationwide in recent years, comes at an awkward time for Emanuel's former boss, President Barack Obama, who spent much of his adult life in Chicago and owns a house in the city.
Obama and Democrats facing voters on November 6 are counting on unions such as teachers to get out the vote around the country in a close election.
Chicago's public school system has more than 400,000 students enrolled, making it the third-largest in the country behind New York and Los Angeles.
Both sides in Chicago agree the city's public schools need fixing. Chicago fourth-grade and eighth-grade students lag national averages in a key test of reading ability, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Until Emanuel forced through a longer school day, which began last week, Chicago elementary and middle school students received instruction for fewer hours a year than any of 30 major cities studied by the National Center on Time and Learning, an education reform group.
Emanuel, a tough negotiator called a bully by the teachers union, wants to close underperforming schools, expand non-union charter schools, and let corporations and philanthropies run some schools.
He also wants principals to have the authority to hire who they want, and he backs the use of standardized test results and merit pay to evaluate and reward teachers.
The union wants to drastically reduce class sizes and increase funding for education. It is suspicious of efforts to erode traditional job protections such as tenure, teacher autonomy and seniority. The union believes charter schools - which are taxpayer-funded but not subject to all public school regulations - will undermine public education.
“What Emanuel represents is a new breed of urban mayors, pushing for a whole system of school improvements ... responding to public demand,” said Kenneth Wong, director of the Urban Education Policy Program at Brown University.
Carroll said the two sides were still meeting late Thursday afternoon and planned to convene again on Friday.
Additional talks were possible over the weekend but a final schedule has not been agreed, she said.
The city of Chicago has allocated $25 million for what school district spokeswoman Becky Carroll called a “last resort” strike contingency fund.
The money would be used to provide breakfast and lunch to students in the district - 84 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced-price meals at school - and to pay for four hours of supervision at 144 of the city's 675 schools.
Children also would be housed in other public facilities and in churches.
Olga Lyandres, whose 6-year-old daughter is in the first grade at Chicago's Nettelhorst Elementary School, said she has not yet told her daughter about the possibility of a strike.(AP photo)
“I've just been waiting to see what's going to happen,” she said. —www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Tehran Times