Students all over Texas returned to the classroom this week, and the transition from summer break was hardly seamless. A handful of headlines—most of them of the strange or shocking variety—have already emerged from week one.
Kicking off the school year was a Fort Worth federal judge’s ruling that allowed an injunction on President Barack Obama’s transgender-friendly school restroom guidelines. The decision, which was released on Sunday, follows a Texas-led lawsuit against the federal guidelines. The guidelines said public schools should provide transgender students the opportunity to use whatever restroom corresponds to their gender identity, and if schools refused to comply they’d risk losing federal funding. Attorneys for Texas argued that the guidelines were an overreach of presidential power.
Attorney General Ken Paxton also finally agreed this week to sit down and eat dinner with the Denton family of an eight-year-old transgender student, according to the Dallas Morning News. The kid’s mom has been an outspoken critic of Paxton for his starring role in the fight against transgender protections in schools, so that dinner date is pretty much guaranteed to be excruciatingly awkward.
On Tuesday, the Texas Education Agency fined the Educational Testing Services, which is responsible for administering the statewide STAAR tests. ETS got slapped with nearly $21 million in fines—according to the Texas Tribune, it’s the most that the TEA has ever fined a testing vendor. And surely TEA would say they deserved it. Last year’s test was full of embarrassing mistakes: booklets were undelivered or were sent to the wrong districts, some packets had questions without correct answers, and a technical glitch deleted completed tests for thousands of students. The fine isn’t exactly a vote of confidence going forward.
On Thursday, dildo-wielding activists descended on the University of Texas-Austin campus to protest the statewide campus carry law, which went into effect August 1. There were literally thousands of dildos out there. Just, like, out there. The Morning News said it was probably the biggest anti-gun rally Texas has ever seen: organizers handed out 4,300 dildos the day before, and hundreds of students participated in the protest. The rally made national headlines (as is expected anytime thousands of dildos show up on a major college campus). “These laws won’t protect anyone,” Jessica Jin, one of the protest’s organizers, told the New York Times. “The campus doesn’t want them. It’s absurd. So, I thought, we have to fight absurdity with absurdity.”
Absurdity might just be the theme for Texas’s back-to-school extravaganza. Earlier this week, a ten-foot snake (an actual snake, not a sex toy) went missing from its owner’s home near several Needville schools in Fort Bend County. According to the Houston Chronicle, Needville ISD officials were alerted to the king cobra’s great escape, but were apparently unbothered by the venomous snake’s presence since they decided not to cancel or postpone classes. Needville Middle School, however, did cancel all outdoor activities on Wednesday, according to KTRK. The snake was eventually recovered Wednesday afternoon after escaping the night before.
— Kevin Quinn (@imkevinquinn) August 24, 2016
Texas’s plague of inappropriate student-teacher relationships is already off to a running start, as we’ve had our first such scandal of 2016 revealed before the school year even officially kicked off. Nicole Jakubiak, a former elementary teacher at Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, was booked last Friday for allegedly fooling around with an eighteen-year old foreign exchange student for several months toward the end of last year. The Swedish kid was living with Jakubiak and her husband. The couple often hosted foreign exchange students, according to the Morning News. On her school website, Jakubiak referred to him as her “son from Sweden,” which, even without the benefit of hindsight, sounds pretty gross. According to the Morning News, Jakubiak admitted she was having an affair to a few colleagues and the school principal. One of her colleagues told police that the jig was up after she asked Jakubiak how she met the guy she was messing around with, and Jakubiak responded, “Well, it’s not hard when they live with you.”
That’s not all from this week’s tales of Texas school-house crime. On Monday, the former chief financial officer for Grand Prairie ISD was arrested by U.S. Secret Service agents and charged with theft after allegedly operating a robbery scheme involving armored cars that netted her over half a million from the district. According to the Morning News, Carolyn Foster allegedly stole $600,000 over the course of a year until she left the district in August 2015. She is accused of gaining access to a vault in the district’s administration building which held cash meant for awards for teachers, then using armored trucks to deliver the stolen cash to different district offices, before apparently running off with it herself. By the time law enforcement officers caught up to Foster, she had already moved on to another job. She was working for a charter school system with several campuses in Dallas-Fort Worth when she was arrested at her office in Richardson. She pled not guilty on Monday.
Texas sure knows how to start the school year! That’s all the weird stuff (that we know of) to go down in Texas’s first week of school. We can only imagine what’s in store for week two.