The State of Texas: December 8, 2015
SCOTUS hears Texas voting district case today, legislators drill into the student-teacher problem, and cops are really having fun with the new ’Star Wars’ movie.
‘Tis the season for…dubstep! The San Antonio Express-News highlights one family’s spectacular light display, in which over 7,000 LED lights are programmed to illuminate in time with a Christmas electronic mix. The Express-News notes that daddy Johnson know his way around aural Christmas decs—last year’s display was featured on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” Bet the neighbors love it just as much as we do!
Gerry-Rigged — There’s a Texas-based Supreme Court case being heard on Tuesday, and for once it doesn’t have to do with abortion, guns, or executions. This time the high court will weigh in on if political districts should be determined by actual population or the number of eligible voters. As the Dallas Morning News puts it, the case “essentially asks the high court to clarify the one-person, one-vote standard it articulated half a century ago by explaining that what it really meant was ‘one-voter, one vote.'” That of course is opposed to the other idea that non-voters—such as children and, probably more importantly for Texas, non-citizens—should be counted when considering districts, as Texas and other states do now. If the two plaintiffs succeed, “legislatures in all 50 states, as well as city councils, county commissioners courts, school boards and any other political entity with population-based districts could be required to undergo the chaotic process of redrawing district lines based on the total number of registered voters (or possibly eligible voters), not the total population, as has been the case for decades in practically every state in the country,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. The plaintiffs’ efforts are being financed by Edward Blum, the person behind behind Project on Fair Representation, which is also responsible for the affirmative action case being presented to SCOTUS on Wednesday “as well as the lawsuit that led to the 2013 decision that wiped away a key element of the federal Voting Rights Act.”
Trip to the Principal’s Office —Senators made good on their promise to start looking into why a growing number of Texas teachers seem to have a problem keeping their hands off of students. Although any number is bad, the state has seen an alarming increase in improper student-teacher relationships in the past seven years. Unsurprisingly, “members of the Senate Education Committee wavered between outrage and caution as they took invited testimony on the issue,” according to the Texas Tribune. School officials weren’t entirely helpful, with the Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson describing the issue “as an ongoing professional development challenge but said there are already clear rules in place that prohibit improper contact and communications.” But bureaucracy, one of the oldest roadblocks to predatory adults, is also a problem. The Tribune paraphrased Doug Phillips, the director of educator investigations for the Texas Education Agency, in detailing the issues: “It can be difficult for the state to prove educators have incited inappropriate relationships with students because their actions — particularly when it comes to technology and social media — often are not illegal” and the “agency … struggles to swiftly revoke teaching certificates after those educators have pled no contest and received deferred adjudication; the process can take up to two years.” Among more accountability for school officials in reporting incidents, Phillips also suggested what seems like an obvious change, namely that “the automatic revocation of a teacher’s certificate upon conviction would also be helpful.”
Syrians in Texas — The Syrians are here, the Syrians are here! And they’ll likely keep coming thanks to a ruling on Monday from a judge who denied the state’s motion for an emergency hearing concerning the acceptance of refugees. “The judge’s decision should ensure that dozens of Syrian refugees can be resettled in Texas over the next few weeks — including 21 this week — although that already was likely after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last Friday withdrew a motion requesting an emergency order barring refugees,” according to the Houston Chronicle. It’s another defeat of what seems to be confused and disorganized efforts from the state’s top officials. “An amended lawsuit filed by Paxton’s office Monday confirmed that he now is more interested in learning more information about Syrian refugees, rather than blocking them from entering the state. That surprising reversal seems at odds with Gov. Greg Abbott, who has maintained that he opposes Syrian refugees due to security fears inflamed by the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.” In related, ironic news, it would seem that those Syrians who crossed the border last month aren’t exactly the kind of Islamic terrorists patriots are railing against. As was previously reported, the group is actually comprised of two Syrian families (not a horde of young angry men) and, now, it appears that they’re, um, Christian. Awkward!
To Parody and Serve — It’s sort of inevitable that with the arrival of the new Star Wars movie, we’d start seeing a lot of loving video parodies by fans. But who would’ve thought law enforcement agencies would be so into it, too? The Fort Worth Police Department put out a cute video in which Darth Vader is interviewed for a position. The spoof is a clever little way to promote the department’s recruiting efforts pulls over an Obi Wan Kenobi and it goes down about as you’d expect. The Stafford Police Department has its own video as well, this one really high quality complete with John Williams score and the classic scrolling introduction text. In Stafford’s spoof, a stormtrooper (why do they keep utilizing bad-guy Imperial characters?!) is being trained for duty. Keep the parodies coming officers, it’s great to see y’all have some fun. One word of warning: avoid doing anything Jar Jar Binks related.