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Florida principal armed with gun to protect against school shootings

A Florida charter school principal is packing heat.

>> Watch the news report here

The principal of San Jose Academy & Preparatory High School in Jacksonville is one of the first Duval County charter school employees to graduate from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s training academy for “safe school officers.”

Principal and Executive Director Alan Hall now walks through school hallways with the weight of a heavy responsibility on his belt.

If a school shooting happens there, it’s on him to respond.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Discussion of armed officials, teachers inside schools

“I’ve always worried, 'Oh my gosh, what would happen?' How am I going to put myself in those principals’ shoes that have actually had to live this? And I say, now, I at least have a chance to do something about it,” Hall said.

>> Read more trending news 

Before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, many charter schools in our area hired private armed security guards.

The new law requires all Florida schools to have either a sworn law enforcement officer or a safe school officer, which is a school employee who receives high-level firearms training.

In August, ActionNewsJax was the first to report JSO would provide armed officers at all Jacksonville charter schools until the Sheriff’s Office could train school employees to take over.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Charter schools scramble to comply with law requiring armed officers

At San Jose Academy & Preparatory High School, Hall and another employee just completed their four-week JSO training.

“I’ve always had the leadership style that I’m not going to ask any of my people to do something I’m not willing to do,” Hall said.

Hall said the schools’ board approved a full-time safe school officer position. He plans to hire someone this school year.

JSO said employees at Seacoast Charter Academy and Global Outreach Charter Academy have also completed JSO firearms training.

Texas school district closed after threat posted on Snapchat; student arrested

Schools in a Texas school district were closed Monday because of a threat made on Snapchat, the Houston Chronicle reported. A student was later taken into custody Monday afternoon, the newspaper reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The student, who is a juvenile, gave a full confession, Columbus Police Chief Skip Edman told the Chronicle. The student will be charged with terroristic threat, a third-degree felony, the Edman said in a news release.

Officials in the Columbus Independent School District, located west of Houston, received word of a threat on social media just before midnight Sunday, school authorities said in a message on the district’s website. 

"Columbus ISD takes the safety of our students and employees very seriously and it is our top priority," the message said. "This situation has been turned over to the local law enforcement authorities, and Columbus ISD will continue to cooperate with our local authorities. It is the hope of the Columbus Independent School District, that the person who made the threat is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Authorities have not said what kind of threat was made or which social media platform was used to convey it, KHOU reported.

Indiana bus driver arrested on suspicion of letting students drive vehicle

An Indiana bus driver was arrested Friday, accused of allowing three teenagers to drive her bus, the Chicago Tribune reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Joandrea McAtee, 27, was arrested by the Porter County Sheriff’s Office and charged with felony neglect of a dependent after she allegedly let three students, ages 11, 13 and 17, drive her vehicle, the newspaper reported.

Videos posted on Twitter allegedly showing the incident have gone viral, WBBM reported.

In one video on Twitter, a woman is hovering over a child steering a school bus. “Don’t you tell no other adults,” she can be heard saying.

In another Twitter video, the woman cannot be seen but the girl is steering the bus, the television station reported. “It’s all good, it’s all good. I’m letting her stop at Michael’s stop,” a woman’s voice can be heard saying.

Jeff Biggs, chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Department, said in a release that a Boone Grove parent contacted the high school’s school resource officer, because McAtee allegedly let students drive her assigned bus. According to the release, McAtee allegedly allowed three students to drive her bus short distances as they dropped students off after school around 3 p.m. Thursday.

McAtee was immediately relieved of all duties, Biggs said.

“The students and parents that immediately came forward with this information should be commended for doing exactly what we teach, which is see something, say something,” Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds said in a prepared statement.

“An investigation was immediately started and no one was injured or harmed. The sheriff’s office and the Porter Township School Corp. take safety and security of every student seriously and every parent must understand that this case will be investigated thoroughly.”

First Student, the company that operates buses in Porter Township, released a statement to ABC News that said it was “incredibly disappointed” by McAtee’s alleged actions.

"There is nothing more important than the safety of the students we transport,” the statement said. “Behavior such as this is completely unacceptable and totally at odds with what we stand for as a company. The driver has been terminated. We have a zero-tolerance policy for employees whose actions may harm or put others at risk."

Ole Miss considers changing name of journalism school after namesake's social media post

The University of Mississippi is considering changing the name of its School of Journalism after receiving major backlash stemming from a controversial post made on Facebook by the school’s namesake. 

>> Read more trending news 

Ed Meek is a well-known and respected alumnus of Ole Miss, as well as a significant booster for the journalism program, WHBQ reported.

The journalism school is named after Meek. 

However, after a post he made on Facebook last Saturday night, school officials are going through the process to consider changing the name. 

Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said the post had “racial overtones,” according to the school newspaper, WHBQ reported.

Meek has since deleted the Facebook post and subsequent apology, but screengrabs were captured by media outlets.

Vitter sent students and faculty a letter Friday following meetings school officials had with students to voice their concerns and opinions Thursday night

The school issued a statement Friday regarding the name change proposal.

Michigan high school scraps homecoming queen title for excellence award

With high school football in full swing, many students are looking forward to homecoming week. Traditionally, homecoming kings and queens are crowned with much fanfare during halftime of football games.

>> Read more trending news 

A Michigan high school decided to move away from that tradition.

The student council at Chelsea High School's Student Council voted to end the “outdated” homecoming queen title because of the negative experiences it causes, MLive reported.

“We don't want one of the biggest awards at our school to be associated with 'pretty' or 'popular' stereotypes or to be limited to a specific category of students," Student Council President Drew Vanderspool wrote in a letter explaining the award change to school families.

Instead of crowning a queen, a Chelsea student will receive an excellence award during the school’s homecoming game on Sept. 21. The excellence award will be open to students of all genders, MLive reported.

During the 2016-17 school year, Chelsea students created a #WhyYouMatter campaign that highlighted unique contributions of students and staff members. Student council members this year wanted to expand the campaign and believed that the homecoming queen process undermined the message of #WhyYouMatter, MLive reported.

"(The excellence award) helps to shift what we value," said Adam Schilt, an English teacher at Chelsea who also is a student council adviser. "When you put a sash and a crown on someone, you are implicitly saying this person represents what we value at the school."

The student council produced a YouTube video explaining the changes.

Breadsticks as main entree? School parents upset in Indiana

Parents at an Indiana school are upset after learning their children were served two breadsticks as their main lunch entree this week, WCPO reported. But the state’s department of education claimed it was a valid lunch option, the television station reported.

>> Read more trending news 

One parent, whose child attends kindergarten at Greenfield Central Schools, said he has unhappy when his daughter’s lunch this week included breadsticks, carrot coins and applesauce, WCPO reported.

“I just couldn’t believe that you could actually just give them regular breadsticks, you know, it has no nutritional value,” said the parent, who wished to remain anonymous. “A lot of kids, it’s their only meal of the day – they don’t get to go home and have a nice meal that a lot of our kids are blessed with.”

Parents may be miffed, but officials at the Indiana Department of Education called the meal a full lunch because it offers cheese dipping sauce.

“Cheese, per the USDA, is considered a protein and therefore we see schools that offer that sometimes as a protein,” Department of Education press secretary Adam Baker told WCPO.

Tennessee students find bugs in school cafeteria meals

Several students who found bugs in their meals at a Tennessee middle school were instructed to write notes to the cafeteria staff to express what they were thankful for, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Parents attended a meeting of the Monroe County School Board on Thursday night, hoping to address the discovery of what officials called flour mites in granola bars on Tuesday and bugs in blackberries during a Thursday breakfast session, the newspaper reported.

The incidents took place at Madisonville Middle School. On Tuesday, Brandy Shubert said her daughter, Madison Smith, sent a video of insects or maggots crawling in her granola, the News Sentinel reported.

"She starts zooming in and it's maggots. What in the world? How can someone feed children maggots," Shubert told WBIR.

On Thursday, another student at the middle school recorded video of a bug in his blackberries as he ate the school-provided breakfast, the television station reported. 

"I was just blindsided by this video that I saw today," the boy’s mother, Misty Neal, told WBIR

Shubert and Neal attended Thursday’s school board meeting but were cut off by members when they tried to bring up the incidents. Members told the parents that the issued had “been addressed” and would not be discussed further because it was not on the school board agenda, the News Sentinel reported.

"They said they contacted the distributor and the health department has already been out there, and that's all they can do," Shubert told the newspaper. "We were not happy with that answer and so we told them we would go further with the issues and contact the state health department again."

School board Chairwoman Janie Harrill told the News Sentinel on Friday that the steps were taken to handle the issue.

“We’ve done everything that we possibly can to answer to this situation,” Harrill said before hanging up, the newspaper reported.

Monroe County Schools Director Tim Blankenship said Friday that school officials believed the incidents were an isolated problem.

Shubert showed the News Sentinel a photo her daughter sent from class, showing assignments written on a classroom whiteboard. 

The board instructs students, after finishing a math assignment, to "write a letter to the cafeteria ladies" and "use descriptive language" to say what the students are thankful for. 

"We are making an effort to be positive," the note said. 

"It's like they are bullying our kids," Shubert told the News Sentinel.

Shubert and Neal said their children will take their meals from home from now on, WBIR reported.

Watch: Alligator roams through Florida school grounds

Parents in north Florida posted several videos Sunday of an alligator roaming the grounds of a school in St. Johns County.

>> Read more trending news 

One video shows it walking through the grass inside the fence surrounding Valley Ridge Academy in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman said someone alerted the Nuisance Alligator Hotline Sunday morning and a trapper was dispatched, but the alligator got away before the trapper arrived at the school.

“I would be scared of it if I was on school campus right now. I was hoping no one else was there,” fifth-grader Jake Romano said.

He was among several students and parents alarmed when they heard the gator was so close to the school -- and where children play.

“If you got kids around, it could be something serious,” Carlos Arroyo said. “Worst-case scenario something bad could happen, and you never want that.”

Parents said they are warning their children to be careful at school.

“If there’s a body of water, my kids know you don’t go near it, because there’s always a potential of being a gator -- that’s Florida,” Michelle Shelton said.

New Jersey college students can minor in medical marijuana 

Students at a New Jersey have high expectations for courses of study in medical marijuana, NJ.com reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Stockton University begins its fall semester next week and is offering “Cannabis Studies” as a minor, WNYC reported.

"This is a growing industry and we want to prepare our students from a variety of academic viewpoints," biology professor Ekaterina Sedia, the program coordinator for cannabis studies, said in a statement.

"We will not be telling students what is the right thing to do," Sedia said. "We will be providing a context and information that they can use to make their own decisions. Offering a program is not an endorsement."

University spokeswoman Diane D'Amico told NJ.com that the 25 students in the program will take a cannabis law course this fall, followed by a class on medical marijuana in New Jersey in the spring.

Sedia, the coordinator of the program, called medical marijuana “an industry that is developing and certainly there are a lot of possibilities and new jobs.”

“Oftentimes, colleges get criticized for not offering students real-life skills, and that certainly is going to be a life skill regardless of whether New Jersey stops at medical or goes to the recreational side of it,” Sedia, an associate professor of biology, told WNYC

Detroit schools shut off drinking water over lead, copper contamination

Four years after reports surfaced that tap water in Flint, Michigan, was contaminated with lead, Detroit's public school district is shutting off drinking water after tests revealed large amounts of lead or copper at a majority of its schools.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti decided to turn off the water at the district's 24 schools after "water in 16 of them was found to have high levels" of the substances.

>> Read more trending news 

"Although we have no evidence that there are elevated levels of copper or lead in our other schools where we are awaiting test results, out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our students and employees, I am turning off all drinking water in our schools until a deeper and broader analysis can be conducted to determine the long-term solutions for all schools," Vitti said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday.

District officials said aging water fixtures may have caused the contamination, the AP reported. The Great Lakes Water Authority, which provides water to the schools, "says its water surpasses all federal standards," according to the AP.

Over 40,000 students attend schools in the district, whose school year begins next week.

Read more here or here.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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