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Supreme Court Debates 8th Grade Strip Search

Supreme Court (Photo by Chuck Kennedy/KRT)
Have you been following the Supreme Court case about middle school strip searches? The case stems from a 2003 Arizona middle school incident where a 13-year-old girl was stripped to her skivvies by two female school administrators, who’d been tipped off by another student that the girl had prescription-strength ibuprofen. You know, Advil. But the school officials found absolutely nothing, even after making the child pull aside her bra and panties to check. Now we have the spectacle of Supreme Court justices grappling with “crotching” – yeah, the word was new to us too – and “ick factors,” as incurring audience laughter over their verbal missteps. After Chief Justice John G. Roberts noted that searching a bra for contraband “doesn’t seem as outlandish as the underpants,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, “In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day. We changed for gym, O.K.? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”

Well, the New York Times’ account of this case is certainly more entertaining than the usual courts coverage, but we can’t help but be alarmed that a child was strip-searched at school – on nothing more than a classmate’s say-so. Is it just us? Click “comments” and tell us your thoughts.

Posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
Under: politics, Schools | No Comments »

INAUGURATION: Concert at the Lincoln Memorial

Bruce Springsteen at the Inaugural Concert  (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
The Zittels check in from D.C., where they’re soaking up the icy delights of these pre-Inauguration Days. This post came in from Linda, a Richmond school teacher, this evening. Enjoy!

January 18th
What a day! It was 36 degrees outside. After three days with temperatures in the teens, it seemed almost balmy.

There was a special inaugural event open to the public at the Lincoln Memorial at 2 p.m. We just followed the crowds of people until we reached the jumbo-tron next to the Washington Monument. The theme of the event was “We are One.” Performing artists sang songs of patriotism and unity; actors read the inspiring words of presidents past, both Democrat and Republican. President Lincoln was referred to often; his words and deeds were linked to this historic moment.

* A children’s choir singing in bright red and blue shirts
* Bruce Springsteen singing, and Garth Brooks doing “Bye Bye Ms. American Pie,”
* Obama giving a speech about working together to make a better union, to a jubilant crowd
* Pete Seeger and friends singing, “This Land is Your Land,”
* Standing with a crowd of people I did not know, cheering and singing with them.

Even though we could have been watching this comfortably at home on HBO, I’m glad Adam and I were there, in the moment, part of it.

Posted on Sunday, January 18th, 2009
Under: Inauguration 2009, politics | No Comments »

INAUGURATION: The Latest Zittel Report

The latest report from guest bloggers Linda Zittel, a Richmond schoolteacher, and her son Adam, from Inauguration Central: Washington DC…

January 17th – From Adam
Saw the Air and Space Museum today. Very interesting exhibits. There were many real airplanes hanging from the ceiling, and lots of hands on exhibits. I was fascinated.

From Linda
Today the National Mall was bustling with activity Several people were riding around on two-wheeled vehicles they could stand up on. Turns out they’re called “Segways,” and people who were riding them had booked a special tour of D.C. I met a woman and her son who had flown in from New Orleans.

News trucks were parked up and down the mall, and MSNBC set up a temporary building right next to it. There were food trucks and equipment trucks, with men setting up metal frames and wiring for the festivities. I was interviewed by Scott Peterson from C-Span, and got a short tour of their news van. There was a little interview room inside, complete with arm chairs and a big flat screen TV.

By the way, the “HOPE” signs I saw yesterday did NOT include the Obama campaign logo. They had a different red, white, and blue logo representing the web site,, a Pepsi sponsored site encouraging everyone to make a video for our new president.

Posted on Saturday, January 17th, 2009
Under: Inauguration 2009, politics | No Comments »

INAUGURATION: The Zittels Check Out the National Mall

Smithsonian Museum of American HistoryOur intrepid guest bloggers, Linda Zittel and her son Adam check in after their first day in Washington, D.C. This one’s from Adam…

January 16th, 2009
It’s cold. VERY cold. I wore four layers, so my body was warm, but most of my face was left exposed.
The result? After about three minutes, my nose was burning cold. Luckily, we didn’t stay outside long. As we walked to the Smithsonian, our route crossed the mall where we will stand and watch the inauguration on Jumbo-Tron TVs. The entire field was ringed with a double layer of Porto-Potties. Five thousand of them, said a friend. Never have I seen so many in one place.

Stepping into the museum from the freezing outside, the sudden warmth fogged my glasses. We wandered the Smithsonian for a few hours. After about three hours, I’d seen all I wanted to see, but my mom was still looking, so I returned to my favorite exhibit. It was a simulation of a train ride in the 1950s. The car shook slightly, and on the wall was projected a looped scene in which passengers got on, talked, and got off. The simulation was believable enough that I almost took a nap. I sat there for a good twenty minutes, watching real and virtual passengers enter and exit.

And from Linda…
We’re staying with friends in Fort Mead, Maryland, and coming into D.C. by Marc Train and Metro Subway (think BART.) My favorite place today was Union Station. This huge, ornate marble station was filled with people, food shops, and inaugural souvenirs. There were stores selling Obama T-shirts, sweatshirts, key rings, and buttons. People were taking pictures of themselves next to life-size cardboard cut-outs of a smiling Obama. Over one station doorway there were three identical signs saying, “Hope,” with the round symbol from Obama’s campaign, a sun rising over the horizon, in place of each “O.” Even my Metro ticket had a picture of Obama on it.

Posted on Friday, January 16th, 2009
Under: Inauguration 2009, politics | No Comments »

INAUGURATION: The Zittels Take Off

Inaugural Prep (Chuck Kennedy/MCT)Richmond teacher Linda Zittel and her teenage son Adam are Inauguration-bound, and they’re sharing their sights, sounds and impressions with us. Their first diary entries came in late last night…

Sunday, January 11th
Adam and I arrive at the Wilderness Exchange, a new and used camping and ski gear store, to purchase clothes for very cold weather. There are two women shopping in the store, one from KGO radio news. Both of them are going to the inaugural. We buy layers of polyester, down, fleece, and wool to face the D.C. weather. The sales clerk is overjoyed that we are going to the inaugural and treats us like old friends.

Thursday, January 15th
We get up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a shuttle into SFO for a 9 a.m. flight. There are lots of people at the United Terminal, but the line moves quickly. On the first leg to Philadelphia, the African-American woman sitting next to us is going to the inaugural, and she has tickets! At Philadelphia, as we board the plane, we find out the four people behind us are going too. We exchange stories about the warm clothes we bought. It’s already starting to feel like a party.

Posted on Friday, January 16th, 2009
Under: Inauguration 2009, politics | No Comments »

INAUGURATION Coverage to Come!

Inauguration Preparation (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Inaugural preparations are swinging into high gear. It’s not just Big Tuesday, either. The festivities start this weekend with private parties and the first inaugural balls, including the “Children’s Inaugural Ball,” sponsored by the Every Child Matters Education Fund (ECMEF) this Sunday. It’s a kid-focused, family-friendly event that’s proven so popular, the free tickets are already sold out. That link will take you to the waiting list, if you’re planning to be in DC.

But if – like us – you’re planning to watch the festivities on TV from a warm, cozy spot, we’ll be carrying up-to-the-minute coverage right here on the aParently Speaking blog, via news reports from Times reporter Meera Pal in Washington, as well as Richmond school teacher Linda Zittel and her teenage son, who jet off to DC tomorrow and have volunteered to serve as guest bloggers. If you’re in the DC area and want to join in the fun, shoot us an e-mail or simply click “comments” and tell us what you’re seeing.

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2009
Under: Inauguration 2009, politics | No Comments »

4th Grade Letters to Obama

President-Elect Barack Obama meets with President George W. Bush (Eric Draper/The White House/ MCT)
Every new president deserves congratulation so teacher Linda Zittel put her fourth graders to work writing letters to President-Elect Barack Obama. And we were so charmed by the results, we couldn’t resist sharing. So here, from Mira Vista Elementary in Richmond, are excerpts from “Letters to Obama”:

“I’ve been waiting my whole life for you to win.”
– Yasmin Saif, age 9

“You are the first black president and I love you so much!”
– Anthony Locicero, age 9

“Your speech in Chicago, Illinois, it was great.”
– Miguel Rodgriguez, age 8
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008
Under: politics | 4 Comments »

OBAMA GIRLS bring kids back to White House

It’s been a long time since the White House had two grade school children running through its hallowed halls and playing in the Rose Garden. Chelsea Clinton was 12 when her father took office. Amy Carter was 9, which gets us closer. But the Obamas will bring even more young energy when Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, move to Washington, D.C., in January.

Check out more about what life in the White House will be like for the girls in this video from CNN:

Posted on Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Under: politics | No Comments »

LOCAL School Election Returns

Stickers at Eaton School in Cupertino (San Jose Mercury News)What a night! The presidential election took center stage, of course, but once the hubbub had died down a bit, many parents started anxiously seeking out tallies for ballot battles closer to home.

School funding measures in Acalanes, Dublin, John Swett, Livermore, Martinez, Pittsburg, San Lorenzo and West Contra Costa passed handily. And school boards are being remade across the East Bay. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
Under: politics, Schools | No Comments »

POST-ELECTION: History lost on some youth?

STFI was flipping TV stations last night, looking for the best one for election coverage. At one point, all the major news stations had gone to commercial. That’s when I passed over “Hannah Montana” on the Disney Channel. “We can stop here,” my 11-year-old stepdaughter, Dana, said a little hopefully. Not going to happen, her dad and I explained and then launched into why this election was so important. History was in the making, we explained. Barack Obama was on the verge of becoming the first African-American elected president of the United States. “But I don’t like history,” she grumbled.

When Obama finally sealed the deal at one minute after 8 o’clock, Dana had her headphones plugged into her iPod. “Oh, did he win?” she asked. “Good.” And then she went back to her music. She did stay up to watch Obama’s speech. She listened to all of it, and — I think — seemed to grasp most of the message. Then she fell asleep as we tuned in to check out the early returns on the state propositions.

I recapped Dana’s “experience” with one of my co-workers this morning. It was as if history were lost on her, I said. Maybe that’s a good thing, he replied. And he’s right. Maybe for some of the younger generation, what happened Tuesday night seems less remarkable because it’s part of the world they expect. Dana is fortunate to be growing up in a world that is more color blind than the era in which my parents were raised. She also hasn’t had any experience with racism. She doesn’t see race, age or gender but instead a political candidate who “gives good speeches.” Is it innocence? Sure. But I’d like to think it’s about evolution, too.

Still, Dana’s reaction is not the same for all of the younger generation. Check out how a group of eighth-graders feel.

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
Under: politics | No Comments »