Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal wedding today

I got up at 4am this morning and watched the Royal Wedding. Yay!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

America is bleeding competitiveness

"With anti-immigrant sentiment building across the nation, and clouds of nativism swirling around Washington, D.C., skilled immigrants are voting with their feet. They are returning home to countries like India and China. It’s not just the people we are denying visas to who are leaving; even U.S. permanent residents and naturalized citizens are going to where they think the grass is greener. As a result, India and China are experiencing an entrepreneurship boom. And they are learning to innovate just as Silicon Valley does."

Read more here.

The number one reason I returned to Canada with my family was to get away from this hatred of immigrants. It doesn't matter if you naturalize, the nativism is so bad you will always be considered an "alien".

As a bonus the part of Southwestern Ontario we live in is known as the "technological triangle". My sons, who are good at science and math, will have plenty of opportunity here in Canada.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Should US citizens be required to carry passports within the US?

One morning we were driving around the American town where hubby was born and raised, when he realized that all the identification he was carrying on him was foreign. Our car was registered to Ontario, our driver licences were from Ontario, and he had absolutely no proof that he was an American citizen. Come on, no one thinks to carry a passport when you’re going to get coffee and donuts. I’ve traveled all over Europe, and if I was not crossing a border, I kept my passport back at the hotel for safekeeping.

As anti-immigrant hysteria sweeps the US, more and more states are passing laws similar to Arizona’s draconian SB1070. This law requires the local police force to ask for US identification and proof of legal residence if they have any reason to interact with you. In hubby’s case, in the absence of proof of lawful presence in the US would require the police to report him to Homeland Security for immediate removal to an Immigrant Detention Center. How ironic that he could be arrested and detained by immigration authorities in the town he was born and raised in.

Now obviously we can produce a US passport for him, but immigration authorities will still incarcerate him pending presentation of that document.

It is only a matter of time before all states have passed their own form of SB1070 and more and more US citizens and legal immigrants will be detained.

For the first time hubby felt like an outsider in the town where he was born and raised.

Spring in Ohio

We went to southern Ohio for Easter to see the family. Had a great time. US border guard did not harass us (always impressed when that happens).

We had only been driving on I75 for about 20 minutes when we saw a Homeland Security vehicle pull over a driver near us. We often see that, and find it weird. Many people don’t know that, within the US, if you are within 100 miles of the US border you are in a constitution free zone. Homeland Security has the power to stop and detain ANYONE, even if you are not crossing the border.

In Ontario spring hasn’t really started yet, so we have brownish grass and sticks for trees. We don’t have any grass on our street yet since winter came before the developer could put it in, so our yard is brown mud.

There has been a lot of rain in Southern Ohio, and the temperature is 15 degrees warmer (70F – 20C). There the grass was so green and lush it looked like we were in Ireland. The trees were starting to get leaves, and there were flowers and blossom trees blooming.

We felt like we had gone from brown muted colours to vibrant colours. Then we realized, since we lived in Florida, it’s been at least 20 years since we have seen a Spring, and the kids have never seen one.

We are now back in Ontario, and it’s raining. I’m looking forward to seeing green grass and flowers blooming here asap.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

6 year old Florida child taken from her parents by police and forcibly held in psych ward.

Photo 1: another child being arrested from school in Texas: Flickr
Photo 2: actual child who was handcuffed by police, taken from her parents, and sent to a psych ward

I just don’t understand what is happening to children in the US, and particularly Florida.

Recently in Keystone Heights, Florida, a 6 year old girl’s parents had taken her to the doctor to be evaluated for mood swings in connection with her ADHD medicine. Without explanation the little girl was given a long medical questionnaire to fill out. During the evaluation she bubbled in the answer “yes” to the question “have you ever thought of killing yourself”. Did a 6 year old child really understand the full ramifications of the question she was bubbling in the answer to?

Suddenly, the mental health professionals told her parents they were invoking the Baker Act. The police were called, the child was handcuffed and taken away from her parents and held in a psychiatric ward overnight. Her parents were not permitted to see her.

This is not an isolated incident in Florida. Last year more than 11,000 Florida children were Baker Acted from school. Sometimes these children are given strong psychotropic drugs, all without parental consent.

The Baker Act is the name given for the Florida Mental Health Act which is a Florida statute giving schools and medical professionals the right to involuntarily commit someone (or a child) to a mental health facility for up to 72 hours for observation if it is thought they are a threat to themselves or to others.

A couple years ago a 7 year old boy had a tantrum in class, and
he was taken away by police and Baker Acted into a psych ward overnight.

A few years ago I met a family who were home schooling their 7 year old son. He had been bullied at school and the school was ignoring it. When he broke down in tears one day the school principal decided he was a threat to himself and decided to Baker Act him. He was handcuffed and taken in a police patrol car to a psychiatric ward overnight for evaluation. His parents were also refused permission to contact him. As soon as custody of the child was returned to the parents, they withdrew him from school and home schooled him. This child has nightmares about his time in the psychiatric hospital.

I think the Baker Act is being used too often. A USF Report shows fewer children are Baker Acted during the summer months when school is not in session. It appears schools are resorting to using the Baker Act to avoid dealing with students who have problems by shipping the student off somewhere else. Kind of the same way they don't have a bullying problem by ignoring it or blaming the victim.

When you take your child to the doctor, or send them off to school in the morning, you don't expect to be stripped of your parental rights by the end of the day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Life is like coffee

click link here to play video, photo did not load properly.

Life is Like Coffee

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything...they just make the best of everything."

Sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in the details of life and forget about the things that bring us true happiness.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Olly Olly Oxen Free. No recess for you!

In the most recent PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results, published in December 2010, Canadian students scored in the top 6 in reading, science and math.

Why do Canadian students score higher on international tests than American students?

Could this be one of the answers? Recess twice a day for 25 minutes, which includes snack time as well as play. After recess students are refreshed and more attentive in class.

As a mother of 3 boys, I can tell you they are full of energy. If they are chained to a desk all day they will become fidgety and will not be able to concentrate.

In Florida recess is only available in Kindergarten, once a day for 15 minutes. I remember eldest boy starting 1st grade and coming home very unhappy because he had to sit still at a desk all day.

After kindergarten, recess is unknown in Florida. Is it a coincidence that Florida schools rank behind most other states?

During middle school at the end of the school day my children were told they had 4 minutes to leave the building and get on the bus or they would be given detention. You had to rush from the classroom to the locker, and to the bus. Forget going to the bathroom on the way, or saying hello to a friend. To make matters worse, Florida does not have neighbourhood schools. Kids are bused all over town to make up racial quotas, so the only time they might see their friends would be at school.

In Ontario children get recess through 8th grade. The entire school goes out for recess. There are 3 different play sections depending on grade. Younger children to 2nd grade in one area. 3rd to 5th grade in another area. 6th to 8th grade in a separate area. There are 3 teachers per area. Injuries, if they happen, tend to be minor, and lawsuits virtually unknown.

I live near a school and love hearing the children outside playing during recess. They go outside during the winter, except when it is very cold. I would often see the school children out tobogganing at recess.

Playtime is a necessary part of growing up because children learn important social skills and they need to burn off energy.

Sometimes recess in the US is replaced by PE. While kids need PE it is a structured activity and does not replace recess. In addition to PE, kids need free time to play with other kids.

Many states have either eliminated recess, or are considering it, in order to devote more time to instruction to increase test scores. How sad and ill advised.

Goodbye recess, hello Ritalin.

In Canada hockey trumps politics

As you know we are in the middle of an election in Canada.

Last night there was a televised political debate between the candidates, in English. A televised political debate in French was due to take place tomorrow, Thursday, at the same time that the Montreal Canadiens faced the Boston Bruins. Certain to lose this battle the political parties agreed to move the date of the French language political debate to this evening to avoid a conflict with the Canadiens’ playoff game.

Only in Canada, eh?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April showers

Photo of Heffernan Bridge on a rainy day courtesy of Alan Norsworthy. To see more of Alan Norsworthy’s photos click here.

I love this photo. It is the Heffernan Bridge which is a footbridge over the Speed River in downtown Guelph. It’s a beautiful bridge near the neighbourhood where I grew up.

I think I can finally tell hubby that winter is over. I don’t think there will be any more snow, but this is Canada and sometimes you can get a late spring snow. Let’s not focus on that, I’ll just enjoy the warmer weather. Yesterday it was 20C (70F). Everyone is out and about doing something. It’s so nice to see activity again.

We’ve had several days of rain. The trees still look like sticks and the grass is shredded wheat, so we need the rain to green everything up again. I haven’t seen any flowers yet, but this is early Spring.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Million Dollar Boy

Photo courtesy: Health Insurance is Obsolete. J. Walters.

Million Dollar Boy.

That is what the Respirologist (Pulmonologist) calls our middle boy. Middle boy has had a chronic cough since he was 2 years old. He is now 14 years old.

Some days when the cough was bad it would interrupt his sleep, his school studies, and is just no way to live.

Sometimes the cough would go away, but not for long.

When we lived in Florida the doctors could not find the cause of this cough. Depending on what our healthcare plan of the moment covered, we tried to find out what was causing this. Our son was diagnosed with “acid reflux”. We had a “bravo scope” and some other expensive test done which ruled out acid reflux. These were outpatient procedures in a hospital and our son had to be sedated. They were very expensive tests. There were many diagnoses, and many expensive tests that followed, each ruling out another diagnosis.

In February we went to see the Respirologist in Ontario for the first time. We brought a file filled with his US test results, ex-rays, and doctors notes. She reviewed these and said our son was the “million dollar boy”. She examined him and said that he had a nasal drip from an infection that had never cleared up properly. She put him on a nasal wash and nasal spray and told us to see her again in two months.

Within a couple of weeks of the nasal wash and spray, cough cleared up.

A few days ago the Respirologist's office called to remind us it was time to make an appointment. Very efficient. Went went for the follow up checkup, and everything is cleared up.

It’s a shame he suffered for so many years when his cough was so easy to treat. I wonder if medicine for profit was driving all these expensive tests, rather than finding the cause of the cough.

Cost of treatment: $15.00 for 100 saline packets for the nasal wash.

Cost to see the Respirologist: $0.

A few years ago in Florida our youngest fell off his bike and broke his arm. We were insured, but our insurance carrier paid $0 and we were charged $8,000 for a broken arm. Read our story here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

My child was assaulted so badly by a bully at school that he stopped breathing....and the school did not call me.

I think that schools routinely ignore bullying behaviour. The problem seems especially bad in Florida.

Last December a fight broke out in a 7th grade classroom in West Palm Beach, and the teacher stood by and did nothing while a student was pummelled during math class. A classmate caught the fight on a cell phone, and both the bully and victim were SUSPENDED from school.

Schools are getting more violent in Florida. Why doesn’t anyone notice that students are being bullied and assaulted?

Some schools are better than others in preventing bullying. Many schools “tolerate” bullying and even blame the victim. They don’t care about bullying and tend to ignore it.

When my middle boy was in 6th grade at Seminole Middle School in Florida another 6th grade student had been making credible death threats toward my son. He said several times that he would bring a knife into school and slit my son's throat until he bled to death. Often in the school hallways this bully would slam my son's head against the wall. 

Then one morning during PE the bully grabbed my son by the neck, kicked his legs out from under him, and body slammed him hard on to the ground. As a result, my son was unable to pull air in, and two students ran to get the teacher saying my son was “on the ground and not breathing”. He had to have his rescue inhaler as the assault had triggered an asthma attack.

The assault happened at 10:00am and no one from the school even called me. I didn’t find out about it until 5:00pm when my son came home. When I asked the school why they failed to notify me about the attack, they stated they have 70 kids in that PE class and they “can’t call every parent every time a kid needs their rescue inhaler”. Well, I should know if he used his inhaler so I don’t over-medicate him, and yes I should know if he has been assaulted at school and goes into respiratory arrest. Was the school certain my son didn’t need any further medical attention? This statement shows the school downplaying that my son was assaulted during class.

What happened next is the awful way the school handled this.

Of course this happened on a Friday, so I had all weekend to fret about it. I called the school on Monday to find out the details from the PE coach, and then made an appointment with the assistant principal (principal not available).

This is what happened next.

PE was first period. I did not feel my son was safe during PE, so I dropped him at school at the beginning of second period. I was determined not to place him in PE until I felt he would be safe at school.

Assistant Principal (AP) called and said that my son had to make a written and then oral statement to the School Resource Officer (school cop) so the police could check for discrepancies to see if my son was lying. AP told me it this was mandatory and I was not permitted to be present during his police statement, even though my son is a minor. I refused, and instead I made an appointment to see the AP who then became irritated with me.

When I arrived at the school a large Sheriff’s Forensics Unit truck was parked outside the school and a couple of police were talking into walkie talkies. I showed my driver licence to the secretary proving that I was the same person I was a few days ago when I turned up for a teacher conference. I asked her if the science class was studying forensics. She told me that a student sitting in the office had been beaten up, and the forensics unit were at the school to take photos of her injuries. I asked her why the school didn’t call an ambulance for an injured student and she said “we never do that, we always call forensics instead”.

I went into the 6th grade house and it was a zoo. An ill child, sniffling and looking pale, sat in a chair and covered his mouth and nose with his clothing. He said to me that he felt like he had pneumonia. The 6th grade house secretary got off the ‘phone and said to the sick child “your mother says you’re good to go to class”. I felt bad for the child, because he was obviously ill and would spread illness to the other students. I waited a long time and found out that the AP forgot we had an appointment.
Finally, when we saw the AP, he listened to my son’s statement. He then gave him a Police report to fill out and told me, again, that it was mandatory for my son to fill in a police statement. I told AP my son was a minor and would not fill it out.

AP refused to tell me the name of the bully due to confidentiality. My son was not sure what his name was since there were 70 kids in the class, so he had to identify the kid’s photo off a school computer screen.

All I wanted the school to do was to separate these two boys. Put my son in another class, or even if the front office, just take him out of PE. AP said he would talk to the other student and call me back.

A couple of days later the AP called me back, and this is what happened.

The AP said that he had spoken to the other student and he believed the other student when he said that he was “messin’ around” and this student thought my son was playing also. AP told me that he reminded the student that Seminole Middle School was a ”bully free” zone, and he should not play so hard with other students in case they mistake it for bullying. The other student told AP he now understood that he should not play rough with other kids. AP told me that the "bully's" story was more “credible” than my son’s, therefore no action would be taken, and if I didn’t put my son back in PE immediately, he was calling a truant officer and would have me arrested.

AP said the death threats were not to be taken seriously, since they had only my son’s word for it. The other student told the AP that he didn’t threaten to kill my son. 

Since the school was refusing to separate these boys, I told AP that I was withdrawing my son from Seminole Middle School immediately. AP told me that didn't believe that I would pull my son from school (just watch me). He said he would have the Principal call me.

The next day (Friday) I went to the local school board and filled out a withdrawal form for my son, and returned his textbooks to his school. Since the school refused to provide a safe learning environment for my son I was going to home school him. 

Pulling my son out of the school system wasn't a fun thing to do. I knew that I was effectively ending many friendships he had while he was in the school system. As the Southern US has a school busing system due to racial desegregation and most of his friends lived in different neighbourhoods which were miles apart so most of them only socialized at school.

The Principal didn't bother to call until almost a week after I withdrew my son to persuade me to send him back to Seminole Middle. I know the school wanted him back because he scores well on standardized testing which gives the school more money, so he is a valuable commodity to the school. The Principal told me that my son and this student were “more similar than you know”. I asked how and he said “I can’t tell you, that’s confidential”. No, the Principal was not Leslie Neilsen.

The Principal told me that my son still needed to fill out a written police report since it will help the school if there is another incident with this student. Why would they need that, since he was so credible? I again refused. I asked if my son were to return to school could he be separated from this student. The Principal agreed with the AP and told me that my son would have to continue PE (in a poorly supervised class of 70) with this student.

The school refused to provide a safe learning environment.

Since the bully was more credible and just playing, I guess my son was too stupid to remember he needed to breathe when he hit the ground.

The entire experience was to make my son feel like a criminal, while the bully was protected.

Oh, and the sign outside the school while all this was going on said “Bully Free School”. Of course it’s a bully free school if you ignore all the bullying.

This school was sought after by parents and not one of the "rough" schools in the County. When Hubby was a teacher he saw schools that were much worse than this.

I removed my son from school the day after the AP told me my son was "not credible" and home schooled him through 6th and 7th grade. Excellent decision!

My son was lucky that I was able to pull him from school and home school him, but many parents are unable to do this.

I think the reason we are having so much school violence in Florida (and elsewhere in the US) is because of rampant bullying which the school ignores. 

Instead of victim blaming they need to take the problem seriously.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Florida's school to prison pipeline

Courtesy of Chris Matthews, St Petersburg Times. Kenny Stoltman, 7th grader at Carwise Middle School.

Less than a month ago a student at Seminole High School, near our old neighbourhood in Pinellas County, Florida, was planning to gun down 10th graders in a Columbine style massacre.

This week there has been another incident at a Pinellas County school. On Tuesday a 13 year old student, who had been bullied, snapped and brought eleven 12 oz bottles of gasoline and a lighter in to school in an attempt to set the school on fire. He wanted to scare the bullies to make them stop. Instead he was caught and stabbed the school police officer 3 times.
These are only two schools local to our former neighbourhood in Florida. These stories are played out daily in US schools. Why are children in US schools becoming so violent?

Schools routinely ignore bullying.Where is a child to get help if their home life is not stable? There comes a time when the child cannot take it anymore. I have read several stories where the school has ignored the victim, and the student later turns to violence in a desperate attempt to end the bullying.
I really feel these incidents could be avoided if these kids were given a little help and counselling before things got out of hand, and the schools did something to end the bullying. The solution is that simple.

Another kid’s future ruined, and the school to prison pipeline works again. Very sad.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On top of the world

Photo of This Land arctic expedition, courtesy Diane Whelan, National Film Board of Canada.

The north can grow on you.

If you enjoyed the documentary “This Land”, here is Diane’s interactive story of her trip giving a day by day account of her journey, showing distance travelled, temperatures, and hours of daylight.

To quote Diane “I had never ridden a snowmobile before. I arrived in Yellowknife a few days early to teach myself the basics. After just a few hours on a rented machine I was doing well, so, I set off for one last quick ride across a frozen lake. The machine stalled. After 20 minutes of struggling to get the machine to start, I knew I was in trouble. In a half hour it would be total darkness, and I had at least an 8 kilometre walk back to town, no flashlight, cellphone, or water. Just 100 useless dollars in my pocket. I was thinking “great, my journey hasn’t even started, and I’m going to freeze to death in Yellowknife, how freaking embarrassing." In the dimming light I noticed a small black speck in the distance. I jumped up and down waving my hands in the air and, sure enough, 10 minutes later a local 10 year old boy named Henry was there. He said “My mom saw you in the telescope in her kitchen and sent me to help”.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Horizonal Everest in the Canadian arctic

For the best effect when you watch this film, don't forget to toggle for large screen. Documentary courtesy Film Board of Canada. "

In March 2007, seven Canadian and Inuit rangers and one documentary filmmaker set out to cover more than 2000 km of the harshest terrain on the planet. They confront blizzards, labyrinths of crushed sea ice and near-impassable glaciers, with temperatures hovering around -50°C, to raise a flag on the northernmost tip of Canadian soil. With a mesmerizing soundtrack by Nunavut-born throat singer and narrator Tanya Tagaq and spectacular footage of the Arctic landscape, Dianne Whelan's documentary captures the epic adventure with raw immediacy."

If you like Tanya Tagaq’s singing, the song is called ”
Force” and is available for download.