The State of Texas: Feds Set To Tour Texas Seeking Public Input For Special Ed Investigation
Plus: There’s a movement to make Texas college campuses immigrant sanctuaries, more problems at the Austin police DNA lab, and a former Baylor basketball star is cleared to play again after battling Marfan syndrome.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“You want some corn?”
—An unidentified woman to her son, Dale Delrosario, while watching a movie at a San Antonio theater, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Delrosario tweeted out a strange photo of his mother, who a(maize)ingly snuck corn on the cob into the theater. The Woman of the Corn quickly went viral, eventually getting the attention of theater chain Alamo Drafthouse, which offered to treat her and Dale to dinner and a movie. Just a corny publicity stunt? Maybe, but it’s still pretty shucking nice of Alamo.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Education are headed to Texas for a series of open meetings across the state to feel out the public’s thoughts on the federal investigation into the state’s apparent denial of services to special education students, according to the Houston Chronicle. The feds will hold these “listening sessions” in Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso, and Edinburg from December 12 to December 15, and the public will also have a chance to submit written comments online. You can check out the complete schedule here. “The sessions provide members of the public an opportunity to comment on the timely identification and evaluation of students with disabilities, as well as the delivery of special education and related services to all eligible children,” the department said, according to the Chronicle. Representatives from the Texas Education Agency will accompany the feds at each stop on their Texas tour. The Department of Education began looking into Texas’ special education mess after the Chronicle‘s investigation in September exposed the TEA’s arbitrary 8.5 percent benchmark for special education enrollment in school districts across Texas, a policy that has denied thousands of students the services they need. The benchmark went into effect in 2004, and since then the statewide special education enrollment rate has dropped precipitously from the nationwide average to exactly 8.5 percent, which is the lowest percentage in the nation. Texas is the only state to have an enrollment target for special education. Teachers and parents will probably have a lot to say about that in the listening sessions with the feds.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
There is a growing movement to make college campuses in Texas sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. Petitions have circulated at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, Texas State, the University of North Texas, and Texas Women’s University calling for their respective campuses to be safe spaces for undocumented students and staff. UT’s petition has more than 2,000 signatures, and, according to the Austin American-Statesman, the Texas State petition has about 770 signatures. Students at North Texas and Texas Women’s University have also pledged to participate in a joint walkout at noon today in solidarity with similar sanctuary campus movements across the nation, according to the Dallas Morning News. According to KBTX, faculty members at Texas A&M met with the university’s president and provost on Monday to talk about their petition to make the campus a sanctuary space. The movement is a reaction to the anti-immigrant rhetoric and deportation threats that came from President-elect Donald Trump during the campaign trail.
The Austin Police Department’s DNA lab has been catching heat for months now due to a whole bunch of operational problems that resulted in the lab’s closure in June. A little more light has been shed on what exactly went wrong, and it’s not pretty. A memo obtained by the Austin American-Statesman and KXAN reveals a freezer containing hundreds of chilled DNA samples broke down for eight days in March, reaching temperatures as high as 80 degrees, nearly 100 degrees warmer than the fridge’s normal temperature of between -13 degrees and 23 degrees. That isn’t good. Also not good is the fact that no one notified investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, or judges that the DNA evidence in the freezer/hot box was potentially ruined. Apparently there were problems at pretty much every level of the situation—the lab had subscribed to a service that would alert them if the freezer became too warm, but that safeguard completely failed, which is why the freezer was too hot for more than a week rather than just an hour or two.
Remember Baylor basketball star Isaiah Austin? The seven-footer was hard to miss during his two seasons as a Bear, averaging twelve points, seven rebounds and 2.4 blocks for his college career before he took off for the NBA draft in 2014, when he was projected to be selected anywhere from the late-first round to as high as a lottery pick. But shortly before the draft, Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome—a genetic disorder that can cause heart abnormalities—and was told he couldn’t play basketball anymore. It was devastating, but Austin handled it remarkably well for a guy who was just 20, starting his own foundation to raise awareness for Marfan syndrome. Now, two years after he was first diagnosed, doctors have told Austin he can play ball again, according to ESPN. “I am about to be out here pursuing my dream,” Austin said when he announced the good news in an Instagram video. “Ever since my doctors told me that I was cleared, it’s been in my mind: I want to go chase this.” It’s unclear what’s next for Austin, but it’ll be a welcome sight to see the ex-Bear back on a basketball court.
WHAT WE’RE READING
A Congolese family spent seventeen years in a refugee camp and is now searching for a home in Texas Austin American-Statesman
The Fort Worth Zoo will get to keep its gun ban Fort Worth Star-Telegram
One woman. Fifty cats. Amarillo Globe-News
Rescuers saved a 53-pound snapping turtle that was stuck in a pipe in Houston KTRK
A Beaumont woman celebrated her 107th birthday Beaumont Enterprise