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They were targeted by a cruel TikTok challenge. How they responded is an example to us all.

As kids have prepared to go back to school in recent weeks, a cruel prank has circulated on TikTok. Dubbed the #NewTeacherChallenge, parents are sharing videos of them telling their kids that they have a new teacher, showing the kids the face of someone who is disabled or who has a facial deformity or disfigurement, and then filming the child's reaction.

If that sounds horrible, it's because it is.

The people whose faces are being used in this challenge have every right to be angry and hurt. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior, and no one would blame them if they colorfully told the whole internet to shove it.

But two of the targets in these challenges are well-known disability activists who somehow manage to always take the high road, serving as an example to the rest of us. Their ability to respond to people's basest behaviors with dignity and strength, calling out the cruelty with clear and calm eloquence, saying over and over again, "It is absolutely not okay to treat me or any other human being this way and here's why," is awe-inspiring. If you want a role model for your kids, look to these ladies.


Lizzie Velasquez was born with a rare congenital disease called Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome, which prevents her from putting on weight, among other physical symptoms After being dubbed "The World's Ugliest Woman" at age 17, she became a popular of advocacy for people who are different, for anti-bullying, and for teaching empathy and compassion. She continues to be an ongoing target of horrible memes and jokes, and yet she continues to respond by teaching valuable lessons and showing her own kind heart with her motivational speaking.

She shared a video when the New Teacher Challenge first started surfacing, explaining how the prank was not okay:

This week, she posted another video showing how not to teach your kids about empathy utilizing this challenge. Some parents might use it as a teaching opportunity, getting kids to see why their own reactions are unkind, but if the parent's own reaction to the reaction is to laugh, then kids can get confused and the lesson gets lost.

Responses to Velasquez's videos have been largely positive, but of course she has also received even more cruel messages. And again, she reacts by stating that these people "need help figuring out how to channel their own anger/hate in a way that doesn't hurt someone else." (I would personally like to tell these people to shove it on her behalf, but I will try to follow her example.)

Melissa Blake is another disability activist and writer who has been the subject of countless jokes, memes, and pranks on social media. She wrote an article for Refinery29 about her face being used as a prop for unkindness-as-entertainment in the New Teacher Challenge.

One thing she pointed out was that the parents making these videos aren't just being cruel to her and others with disabilities, but also to their own children.

"I can't help but feel sorry for their children," she wrote. "Imagine your mom filming a vulnerable moment, one where you can't help but burst into tears, and they actually post it for the whole world to see. How is humiliating your child, or watching other children go through that, a source of amusement?"

She was also direct about the impact this cruel treatment has on her personally:

"I want to be clear: I am violated. Every single time. Each photo, taunt, and cruel word is a clear violation of my dignity and my worth as a human being. And every time these platforms fail to take action, they're sending the message that this bullying is okay. So many disabled people have become inured to our appearance being mocked. That's not something we should ever have to get used to."

Blake battles the trolls in a delightfully subversive way—by insisting she be seen in all her glory, refusing to hide away the way some tell her she should, and letting bullies know they will not win in her world.

Not only should we be teaching our kids to understand and embrace that some people are going to look different or move differently or have different abilities, but we should also show our kids outstanding examples of strength, resilience, and respect they can look up to. These women fit that bill to a tee.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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RumorGuard by The News Literacy Project.

The 2016 election was a watershed moment when misinformation online became a serious problem and had enormous consequences. Even though social media sites have tried to slow the spread of misleading information, it doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

A NewsGuard report from 2020 found that engagement with unreliable sites between 2019 and 2020 doubled over that time period. But we don’t need studies to show that misinformation is a huge problem. The fact that COVID-19 misinformation was such a hindrance to stopping the virus and one-third of American voters believe that the 2020 election was stolen is proof enough.

What’s worse is that according to Pew Research, only 26% of American adults are able to distinguish between fact and opinion.

To help teach Americans how to discern real news from fake news, The News Literacy Project has created a new website called RumorGuard that debunks questionable news stories and teaches people how to become more news literate.

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Family

A mom describes her tween son's brain. It's a must-read for all parents.

"Sometimes I just feel really angry and I don’t know why."

This story originally appeared on 1.05.19


It started with a simple, sincere question from a mother of an 11-year-old boy.

An anonymous mother posted a question to Quora, a website where people can ask questions and other people can answer them. This mother wrote:

How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won't tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I've already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?

It's a familiar scenario for those of us who have raised kids into the teen years. Our sweet, snuggly little kids turn into moody middle schoolers seemingly overnight, and sometimes we're left reeling trying to figure out how to handle their sensitive-yet-insensitive selves.


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