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Policy

Tennessee state senator gives fiery speech on arming teachers

Every once in a while a state's bill will make a blip on national media that causes people to dig a little deeper into what's happening. One such bill made headlines last year for a brief time before a new bill from another state took it's place.

After a tragic school shooting in the state of Tennessee where six people were killed, including three young students, state politicians began talking about arming the teachers. The idea was if teachers were armed then they would be able to stop school shooters, but the bill was widely unpopular among teachers and many parents. That didn't stop the state legislature from drawing up the bill and putting it up for a vote April 2024.

Many parents showed up to Tennessee State Senate to protest the bill, but it was the fiery speech of State Senator London Lamar that has people talking.


The new mom held her infant son in her arms while she addressed her colleagues who saw fit to laugh after moms protesting the bill were asked to leave. Lamar did not hold back in not only expressing her disappointment in her colleagues behavior but their disregard for very real concerns that she also shares with the people asked to leave.

"We are literally talking about arming educators who took an oath to teach our kids writing and arithmetic and how they can one day contribute to Tennessee's great economy, and we're now turning them into law enforcement agents by arming them with guns. We think this piece of legislation is going to keep kids safe which is probably going to enable the next school shooter, and it's not going to be someone coming in from the outside. It's unfortunately going to be a teacher with this piece of legislation," Lamar declares.

You can watch her passionate speech below:

Author Mark Tyler Nobleman and Batman and Robin.

Over the past few years, "Don't Say Gay" bills have been introduced across the U.S., sparking widespread controversy about how LGBTQ issues should be addressed in schools. Supporters argue they protect children from inappropriate content by restricting discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in educational settings.

Opponents believe these bills marginalize LGBTQ individuals by fostering stigma and potentially infringing on teachers' ability to openly address students' questions or experiences.

Currently, 11 states have banned LGBTQ discussion in public schools, and 5 require parental consent.

Author and comic book expert Marc Tyler Nobleman recently found himself at the center of the controversy, and his simple rationale for using the word “gay” in his school presentations presents an age-appropriate and inclusive way to approach at the issue.


Nobleman has spoken in schools in “about 30 states and almost 20 countries” to inspire children to write and do research. He’s the author of the book “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-creator of Batman” about the fabled superhero’s unsung co-creator.

Artist Bob Kane is known as the creator of Batman; however, Bill Finger is believed to have refined the costume and given the character his secret identity as Bruce Wayne, amongst other contributions.

Nobleman notes in his speeches that one of the significant reasons why Finger lives in obscurity is that he died in 1974, and his son, Fred Finger, was gay and died of AIDS complications at 43 in 1992. Without an heir, the movement to get Finger the proper credit lost any hope.

However, the twist in Nobleman’s presentation is when he reveals that through his research, he discovered that Fred Finger had a daughter, Athena. This led to DC Comics officially recognizing her grandfather as Batman’s co-creator in 2015.

“It’s the biggest twist of the story, and it’s usually when I get the most gasps," Nobleman told the Associated Press. “It's just a totally record-scratch moment.”

After a presentation at Sharon Elementary in Forsyth County, Georgia, on Monday, August 21, where he mentioned Fred FInger's orientation, the principal handed Nobleman a note saying, “Please only share the appropriate parts of the story for our elementary students.” So, he removed any reference to Fred Finger’s sexuality over his next two days of presentations.

The school’s principal, Brian Nelson, sent a letter to parents after the initial presentation that read: “This is not subject matter that we were aware that he was including nor content that we have approved for our students,” Nelson wrote. “I apologize that this took place. Action was taken to ensure that this was not included in Mr. Nobleman's subsequent speeches and further measures will be taken to prevent situations like this in the future.”

But after some soul-searching, in a presentation two days later, Nobleman said the word “gay” once again. After discussing the situation with the school, the remaining assemblies were canceled.

Nobleman shared his reasoning for using “gay” on X, formally known as Twitter, and his rationale makes a lot of sense. “And as I've told Jennifer [Caracciolo, the school’s chief communications officer] and her colleagues, mentioning a sexual orientation is NOT the same as discussing sexuality.”

That’s a huge point missed in much of the debate surrounding LGBTQ visibility in education. There is a big difference between discussing sexual acts—whether heterosexual or otherwise—and someone’s orientation, especially when there’s a good chance that there are children of LGBTQ parents in the audience.

Further, in a world where same-sex marriage and heterosexual marriage are treated equally, why is mentioning one orientation any different than the other?

“If a child asks me if I am married, can I say I have a wife? This is discrimination. It is also extremely insulting and dangerous to our children," Nobleman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We have so much LGBTQ teen suicide because they are not welcome to speak up about their own lives in their own community.”'

Caracciolo likened saying “gay” in front of third graders to talking to kindergartners about one of the greatest atrocities in world history. “It would be almost like if someone was doing a speech to kindergartners and they talked about the Holocaust and the horrors of the Holocaust,” the district’s chief spokeswoman, Jennifer Caracciolo, said, according to The New York Times.

“I asked her not to compare a kind of love to mass murder,” Nobleman wrote in Newsweek.

After his remaining presentations were canceled, Nobleman emailed administrators involved in the controversy and asked them to take three specific actions:

-Apologize to their community for the principal's apology.

-Apologize to their community for censoring an established author who did what he was hired to do: Pump up their kids about reading, writing, and research.

-Challenge the standards that stigmatize any mention of LGBTQ people.

Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

There's a reason you can't smile in passports and it's surprisingly practical.

Most of us have been trained since before we could talk to smile when someone is taking our picture. It's almost a Pavlovian response at this point, especially when that picture is going to be representative of you for years to come in an official capacity. Driver's license pictures usually involve people attempting to look their best, or at least as presentable as possible, complete with a smile.

Passport photos are no different, except when you get to the passport photo place with your freshly coifed hair, showing off that beautiful smile, you're told to cut it out. Well, maybe in nicer words, but the sentiment is still the same. Keep your teeth behind your lips; there's no smiling in passport photos. But why?

I've personally never understood why this was a thing for the government to be concerned about. You're likely getting your passport to go somewhere exciting or visit family in another country (which is also exciting), so why no smiles?


Technically, according to the State Department, you can smile, but only if you look like you don't want to. Kidding. In its Frequently Asked Questions, the State Department explains that smiling is allowed, "but make sure both your eyes are open and your mouth is closed in your photo." So essentially a closed-mouth smile rather than a big toothy grin. But it also can't be a smile that emits a lot of emotion since the website states also states that you must have a "neutral facial expression."

So it's not that you can't smile, it's that you can only do a very specific type of smile. In an interview with HuffPost, Karolina Turowska, a biometric photography and travel expert at Passport Photo.Online said, “The main reason for banning smiling is the introduction of facial recognition software at airports and other border control checkpoints.”

Seems the actual reason for the "ban" on smiling in passport photos doesn't have anything to do with postal service workers trying to keep you from living your best life. It's because of the robots...or at least the algorithms. Evidently, it's difficult for computer-based software programs to tell humans apart if our faces are contorted in a joyous way.

“Algorithms don’t work as we do. To compare a 3D face with a 2D passport photo, they need to pinpoint and measure the users’ facial features. It includes the distance between the pupils, ears, nose and mouth, the mouth’s and the eyes’ width, and many others. Smiling can make it harder, as it alters facial proportions,” Turowska told HuffPost.

Smiling isn't the only no-no in passport photos. According to US Passport Service Guide, you can get your passport rejected for a number of reasons and only one of them is smiling like The Joker. Wearing glasses, submitting an edited picture and using the wrong background are all reasons your passport photo can be denied.

If you're due to renew your passport or if you're going for your first one, it's best to review all the rules before submitting your photo or showing up at your nearest Walgreens. It's better to lead with caution on this one or it could delay you receiving your little book of world stamps. Happy traveling, folks.

Photo by Igor Ferreira on Unsplash

Florida principal fired after showing statue of "David."

If you ask most teachers why they went into education, they'll share that it had nothing to do with the money and everything to do with their passion for teaching. Even with rapid changes in curriculum and policies, teachers who remain in the classroom are lovers of education and are doing their best to help kids learn.

Hope Carrasquilla, the former principal of Florida's Tallahassee Classical School, was one of those teachers who simply enjoyed teaching. As the principal, Carrasquilla was required to teach two classes. During her sixth grade lesson about Renaissance art, which is also a requirement of the school, Carrasquilla showed a picture of Michelangelo's "David" statue.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, three parents complained about their children being shown the picture. Two of those parents were mostly upset that there wasn't sufficient notice given before the photo of the sculpture was shown. The third parent reportedly complained that the statue of the Biblical figure was pornographic.


Michelangelo's sculpture wasn't the only source of the complaint. It was essentially the entire lesson, which also included "The Creation of Adam," another Michelangelo piece, and Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus." These are classic works of art that are easily recognizable by just about any layman, even if they can't name the artist.

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

"The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo

commons.wikimedia.org

Carrasquilla admitted that there was a bit of a kerfuffle with notifying parents of the lesson, which is a new policy implemented just two months ago. The policy requires that parents receive written notification two weeks prior to teaching potentially controversial content, according to The Independent.

Shortly after her lesson, Carrasquilla was called into an emergency school board meeting where she was forced to choose between resignation or being fired. She chose to resign, leaving the school less than a year after starting her tenure there.

While three parents were upset over the lesson, others were blindsided by the termination of the school principal. Carrie Boyd, who has a third and a seventh-grader at the school, told the Tallahassee Democrat that the principal's abrupt resignation was shocking to her and other parents. Boyd also voiced concerns over the "non-secular" direction the school appeared to be taking.

Classic painting of the Birth of Venus

"The Birth of Venus "by Botticelli

en.wikipedia.org

Tallahassee Classical School is a private charter school that has only been open for three years and is affiliated with Hillsdale College, a private conservative college located in Michigan, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Barney Bishop, the school board chair, told HuffPost, "Parental rights trump everything else."

But it seems Carrasquilla is gaining support across the internet. Comments range from frustration to people comparing it to a "Simpson's" episode about censorship that remarkably also depicted the statue of "David."

"Heavens to Betsy, a body part depicted in one of the most famous pieces of art in all of history! What next?!?," David Weiss wrote.

Another commenter pointed out that the statue is in Animal Crossing, which is a video game that children play.

Statue of "David" by Michelangelo

"David" by Michelangelo

commons.wikimedia.org

The greatest confusion seemed to stem from classical artwork being considered controversial enough to require parental notification when the school markets itself as a "classical school" and Renaissance art is a requirement. Renaissance art isn't exactly known for its elaborate depiction of clothing; it's quite the opposite.

Surely, the ousted principal will find other employment, but for now, she and the rest of the internet are left feeling a bit flabbergasted by the seemingly drastic response to classical works of art.