School Discipline, Lisa Nowak, Terry Abbott, GHCVB Gay Ads

Some people still favor Texas's zero-tolerance rules

The state Legislature will be considering a number of bills this session that seek to put some leeway in the harsh world of school discipline.

One would make it okay for a kid who, if he discovers he accidentally brought his Boy Scout knife to school, takes it to the principal's office. Right now, that kid's getting arrested.

Another would mandate that schools consider a kid's disciplinary history, intent and other mitigating factors when assessing punishment. Current law says only that schools may take such things into account.

Which seems a bit harsh, but not to Ted Melina Raab, legislative associate of the Texas Federation of Teachers.

"If a student creates a dangerous situation at a school, regardless of whether it's intentional or not...there needs to be a consequence," he says.

He doesn't buy the horror stories of a kid's academic career being ruined over an innocent mistake. (See "Cut Short," June 29, 2006.)

"We hear these stories that people come there [to the legislature] with about kids who unintentionally have a weapon in a car, in a backpack, you know," he says. "Somebody's got to take responsibility to make sure those things don't come into schools."

But students -- especially sometimes-addled high schoolers -- do occasionally make innocent mistakes, right? People testified to that, didn't they?

"[T]here are quite often references made to situations that may or may not have occurred," he says, "as opposed to looking at real cases."

The TFT: Zero tolerance for lying. Or, maybe, reality.

Who's That Woman?

So a couple of weeks ago a visiting couple from Baton Rouge came to town and, of course, headed down to NASA.

They were taking the guided tram ride around the facility and had to wait in the lobby of the shuttle training area while an earlier group exited. As with most such tour groups, the couples and individuals were largely keeping to themselves, waiting patiently for their young, eager, blue-jumpsuited guide to move them on.

Then someone noticed one of the framed pictures in the lobby. "Is that her?" she asked her companions. Discussion ensued, and our Baton Rouge visitor joined in.

Finally, he called out to Eager Jumpsuited Tour Guy. "Is that her?" he asked.

"Who?" EJTG says.

"You know -- the diaper lady," he answers.

EJTG pauses. "I don't know," he says.

"Give me a break," says a woman, as the rest of the group began mumbling. "That's her."

EJTG, apparently sensing an imminent mutiny, goes for the honesty card: "They told me to say 'I don't know.'"

Satisfied, the tour continued, with the addition of a lot of diaper jokes by everyone but the guide.

Working Two Jobs

Houston school district spokesman Terry Abbott makes out pretty well for a government employee without a college degree -- $158,000 a year.

The man whose spinning skills were so awesome they enabled a guy like Rod Paige to rise to educational glory deserves a big salary, of course. But for that amount of money you'd think he'd give the district his full attention.

Instead Abbott has been working as a consultant for the Broad Center, the organization created by billionaire Eli Broad to improve urban education.

He visits districts across the country, telling them how to deal with the media.

How much does he make doing this? The Broad Center won't say, and neither will Abbott.

"It wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss any additional work I do on my own time," he says by e-mail. (Taking reporters' question by e-mail only is part of Abbott's mad PR skillz.)

OK. But what about the district? Does it approve of the moonlighting?

"The leadership of the district, dating back to Dr. Paige's tenure here, has been informed that I will work to help other organizations at their request and on my own time," he writes. "HISD employees clearly are allowed to be involved in outside activities on their own time."

Especially when it's so hard getting a good salary these days.

It's A Gay Kinda Town

The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has targeted a new audience in its never-ending search to get people to believe Houston's a great tourist town. Now they're going after gays and lesbians.

GHCVB spokesman Lindsey Brown says the group is "covering as many segmented groups and the general [public] as possible." Tourist ads run in African-American and Hispanic publications, she notes; now they'll also run in gay magazines.

So far, not so good. Go to the GHCVB Web site's "What To Do" in Houston page, type in "gay" in the search engine and you get "No listings found in the selected category."

Type in "Fisting" and you get the same sad result.

Still, we are optimistic that the visitors bureau will get it right eventually. Why? Because we've gotten our hands on a rough draft of their new, gay-targeted brochure. Get a load of the rough draft of the visitors bureau's new gay-targeted brochure. Click here.

 
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