A Girl Named Ehlena And A Dog Named Wonder Win At U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a disabled Michigan girl whose school refused to let her bring her service dog to class, making it easier for students like her to seek redress for discrimination in federal court.

The justices ruled 8-0 that Ehlena Fry, 13, and her parents may not be obligated to go through time-consuming administrative appeals with the local school board before suing for damages for the emotional distress she said she suffered by being denied the assistance of her dog, a goldendoodle named Wonder.

Ehlena was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that severely limited her mobility. Wonder was trained to help her balance, retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, turn on lights, take off her coat and other tasks.

“I saw with my own eyes how Wonder helped my daughter grow more self-reliant and confident,” Stacy Fry, Ehlena’s mother, said in a statement. “We are thankful that the Supreme Court has clarified that schools cannot treat children with disabilities differently or stand in the way of their desired independence.”

The justices sent the case back to a lower appeals court to determine whether Ehlena’s complaint involves the impermissible denial of a proper special education.

The dispute arose in 2009 when Ehlena’s elementary school in Napoleon, Michigan refused to allow her to attend school with Wonder. The school said she already had a one-on-one human aide, as part of her individualized special education program.

The family eventually moved to a different school district where Wonder was welcomed. They filed suit in 2012 in federal court, claiming discrimination under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which permits service dogs in public institutions.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the family, said the ruling will remove unfair legal hurdles for victims of discrimination that prevent students from seeking justice guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Napoleon Community Schools Superintendent Jim Graham said he had no comment.

Ehlena and her parents sued the school district seeking money damages for emotional harm, claiming the school deprived Ehlena of her independence, including in intimate settings such as the bathroom.

Wednesday’s ruling overturned a 2015 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio upholding a dismissal of the lawsuit. The appeals court had said that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law governing special education, the family had to exhaust all of the administrative hearings in its service dog dispute with local and state officials before filing suit.

Writing for the court on Wednesday, Justice Elena Kagan said that if the substance of a lawsuit does not claim the denial of a proper special education under IDEA, then exhausting the administrative remedies is not required.

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Elon Musk Digs In His Heels In Tesla Feud With United Auto Workers

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday brushed off efforts by workers at his California factory to unionize, insisting that joining the United Automobile Workers would yield no benefits. 

“There are really only disadvantages for someone to want the UAW here,” Musk said during a call discussing Tesla’s earnings with analysts and investors.

The billionaire repeated claims he made to Gizmodo this month that an employee who wrote scathing blog post about conditions at the company actually worked for the UAW, one of the country’s largest unions. The worker, Jose Moran, 43, and the UAW both denied he was paid by the union.

“There is quite a strong effort by the UAW to unionize Tesla,” Musk said Wednesday. “Actually, a lot of people at Tesla have been approached by the UAW and expressed concerns about this.” He called Moran a “de facto UAW employee.”

“A lot of workers believe we have a right for union representation and a right to represent ourselves and our own interest,” Moran said during a conference call with reporters earlier this month. “We don’t believe the company is doing that for us.”

The UAW said recently that it “can confirm that Mr Moran and others at Tesla have approached the UAW and we welcome them with open arms.” Reached by The Huffington Post on Wednesday evening, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said, “Our statement stands.” 

Musk’s remarks, during the company’s first earnings call since November’s election, comes amid heightened public scrutiny of his political views. The South African-born entrepreneur, who also is CEO of rocket firm SpaceX, serves as an adviser to President Donald Trump, with whom he has cultivated what The New York Times described as a “budding bromance.” 

Moran, in a Feb. 9 post on Medium, described working long hours with machinery that leaves workers prone to injuries. Employees on the assembly line earn hourly wages of $17 to $21, he said, making it difficult to afford rent in the notoriously pricey Bay Area. He cited $25.58 as average pay in the auto industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average hourly wage for motor vehicle manufacturing in December as $29.53.

“Preventable injuries happen often,” wrote Moran, who has worked at the Fremont, California, assembly plant since 2012. “In addition to long working hours, machinery is often not ergonomically compatible with our bodies. There is too much twisting and turning and extra physical movement to do jobs that could be simplified if workers’ input were welcomed.”

Musk fired back on Wednesday, insisting his employees are hurt far less frequently than those at rival auto plants.

“Tesla’s injury rate is less than half of the industry average, contrary to allegations made,” Musk said.

He added that employee equity in the company, whose historically jittery stock price has hovered around $270 this month, places Tesla workers among the best paid in the industry.

The labor feud wasn’t the only political topic Musk broached during the 73-minute earnings call. Musk said he urged Trump not to ax government incentives for renewable energy and electric vehicles unless he does the same to the oil, gas and coal industries.

Musk, one of 17 executives advising the president, said Trump did not respond when he briefly raised the issue at a recent summit.

“It’d be fine to get rid of incentives and subsidies, but that should be uniformly applied to all industries,” Musk said during the call. “It would be wrong to get rid of any sort of government intervention in sustainable energy while retaining it in fossil fuels.”

Trump, who has repeatedly said he doesn’t believe in climate change, vowed to boost the U.S. economy by slashing environmental regulations and bolstering fossil fuel production. He stacked his Cabinet with climate science deniers and oil industry allies. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt cultivated a cozy relationship with oil and gas players during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general, an office from which he repeatedly sued the agency he now leads. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previously served as CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., the oil giant that bankrolled a decades-long disinformation campaign against climate scientists.

Citizens for the Republic, a grassroots conservative group with ties to ring-wing radio commentator Laura Ingraham, launched a campaign last year calling on the new Republican-dominated Congress to pass a bill stripping the solar and electric vehicle industries of subsidies. The group made Musk its poster boy, setting up websites with names like StopElonFromFailingAgain.com. 

Tillerson, during his confirmation hearings, denied that oil and gas producers receive subsidies.

The companies actually enjoy a vast array of incentives, including direct subsidies to offset the cost of extracting from wells that are nearly spent. Exxon Mobil alone receives between $700 million and $1 billion per year in deductions that tax analysts told HuffPost function like subsidies.

“If the principle is to get rid of government intervention, that should be uniformly applied, not unfairly applied,” Musk said. “That was my comment, but there was no response given.”

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Inauguration Singer Jackie Evancho Wants To Meet With Trump About Transgender Equality

Jackie Evancho, the singer who performed the national anthem at Donald Trump’s inauguration, is asking the president to meet with her and her sister about the need for transgender equality. 

Evancho’s sister, Juliet, is transgender and sued her Pennsylvania school district over its rule that students must use the restroom that corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth

The request from Evancho, 16, came shortly after the Trump administration announced Wednesday it was rescinding guidance put in place by President Barack Obama’s administration that barred schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against transgender students, including blocking them from using the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

Evancho was one of the few performers to agree to appear at Trump’s inauguration. She has said she’s proud and supportive of her sister’s fight.

Juliet was unable to attend the inauguration because she was undergoing gender confirmation surgery. Jackie said she was upset they couldn’t be together for each other’s big moments. 

“It sucks for me to not be there for her but I’m going through something really big on the same time,” Jackie told ABC’s “Nightline” in January. “So, I guess we both just wish we could be there for each other. It’s unfortunate it’s on the same time but we were there in spirit.”

Mike Evancho, the girls’ father, has said that the family will continue to fight for transgender rights. 

“We’re fighting this discrimination at the high school,” he told The New York Times in January. “It doesn’t matter who’s going into the office, we would still fight that fight.”

Under Obama, the departments of Education and Justice issued guidance mandating that any school that receives federal money must treat a student’s gender identity as his or her sex

The federal government said at the time that transgender students were covered under Title IX, the statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. This interpretation had been on hold, however, after more than a dozen states sued the Obama administration and a judge issued an injunction in August. 

On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that the Obama policy “did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.” Both he and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos argued that they were still committed to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students from harassment and bullying. 

The White House has said Trump believes transgender rights are a “states’ rights” issue. 

The Trump administration’s latest decision could also affect the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teenager in Virginia who sued his school for the right to use the boys bathroom. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on March 28, and the rescinding of the federal guidance could give the court an excuse to throw it back to the lower court. 

LGBTQ advocates emphasized Wednesday that even though the Trump administration rescinded the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance, the legal foundation that interpretation was built upon is still solid. 

“While it’s disappointing to see the Trump administration revoke the guidance, the administration cannot change what Title IX means,” said Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union who is lead counsel for Grimm. “When it decided to hear Gavin Grimm’s case, the Supreme Court said it would decide which interpretation of Title IX is correct, without taking any administration’s guidance into consideration. We’re confident that the law is on Gavin’s side and he will prevail just as he did in the Fourth Circuit.”  

Want more updates from Amanda Terkel? Sign up for her newsletter, Piping Hot Truth, here.


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German Environment Minister Bans Meat At Official Functions

Animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change and environmental degradation, which is why a German ministry says it’s taking a stand for vegetarianism in a new — and controversial — ban.

Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s environment minister, announced that her ministry would no longer be serving meat, fish or meat-derived products at official functions. Hendricks said her ministry must serve as a “role model” on environmental and sustainability issues. 

We want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish,” the ministry said in a statement this week, according to The Daily Telegraph. The ban reportedly took effect at the end of January. 

The ministry mandate also states that meals served at official functions should be organically sourced, with a preference for seasonal, local and fair-trade products, reported German newspaper Bild. Ingredients should only be transported a short distance, the mandate said.

In a land known for schnitzel and currywurst, it perhaps comes as little surprise that the meat ban has been met with controversy.

Some members of the German government have accused Hendricks, a member of the Social Democratic Party, of overreaching.

“I’m not having this Veggie Day through the back door. Instead of nanny-stateism and ideology, I believe in diversity and freedom of choice,” said Christian Schmidt, minister of food and agriculture and a Christian Democrat.

The environment ministry defended its no-meat edict. The ministry said in a statement that it wasn’t “telling anyone what they should eat,” but rather was promoting sustainable food choices.

Tensions have been running high between the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in the lead-up to this year’s German election, which promises to be a close fight between the two parties. The clash over the meat ban shows rising tempers, the Telegraph said this week.

Research is divided on the issue of vegetarianism’s environmental benefits. Some studies suggest the climate impact of certain fruits and vegetables may be as great as some meat products. Still, the evidence in favor of a reduced-meat diet — specifically with less beef and some kinds of seafood — remains compelling from a sustainability perspective.

Animal agriculture has been linked to climate change, fisheries depletion, species extinction, deforestation, soil degradation and other environmental impacts. Livestock production alone accounts for almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the emissions from the entire transportation sector, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

A 2015 study suggested that meat eaters may be the top cause of worldwide species extinction, due to livestock production’s detrimental land impacts. Animal agriculture is also the world’s leading consumer of freshwater, requiring an average of 55 trillion gallons annually, according to a 2015 report in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal.

Beef in particular has been pinpointed as particularly costly to the environment. According to Global Footprint Network, it takes 14 times as much biologically productive land to produce 1 ton of beef as it takes to produce 1 ton of grain.

Some types of seafood also are environmentally problematic. According to the U.N., about 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are either exploited or depleted from overfishing. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with fresh and frozen shellfish production are the highest per calorie, compared with other common foods, Carnegie Mellon University researchers found in a 2015 study. 

Despite Germany’s fame for bratwursts and other meat dishes, vegetarianism is reportedly on the rise. According to the nonprofit European Vegetarian Union, almost 10 percent of Germany’s population chooses to go meatless, making it one of the most vegetarian countries in Europe. 

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As SEALs Fought For Their Lives, Trump’s Account Sent And Deleted A TV Tweet

WASHINGTON ― As a team of elite U.S. commandos found themselves under unexpectedly heavy fire in a remote Yemeni village last month, eight time zones away, their commander in chief was not in the Situation Room.

It’s unclear what he, personally, was doing. But his Twitter account was busy promoting an upcoming appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“I will be interviewed by @TheBrodyFile on @CBNNews tonight at 11pm. Enjoy!” read a tweet from President Donald Trump’s personal account on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Whether it was Trump himself or an aide who sent out that tweet at 5:50 p.m. ― about half an hour into a firefight that cost a Navy SEAL his life ― cannot be determined from the actual tweets, and the White House isn’t saying. Likewise, it’s not clear who deleted the tweet some 20 minutes later, or why the new president, just a week on the job, chose not to directly monitor the first high-risk military operation on his watch.

The CBN interview did not actually air until the following night, Jan. 29, and Trump or an aide may have realized the error and deleted the tweet for that reason. Alternatively, Trump or an aide might have realized that the Yemen operation was going badly and deleted the tweet to avoid looking callous. The tweet appears to have been sent via an iPhone, not via Android. Tweets sent from an iPhone are generally from the president’s staff, often taking his dictation, while tweets sent by Android are usually composed by Trump himself.

The White House did not respond to The Huffington Post’s queries on the issue.

“He was obviously aware of the strike occurring,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the day after the raid. “He was kept in constant contact Saturday night of the status of the mission, both of the success that it had and the tragic loss of life that occurred to that member.”

Spicer, though, has not specifically said what Trump was doing between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, other than to say he was in the White House residence ― not in the Situation Room. That’s the hour ― 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. local time ― when the firefight in Yemen resulted in the deaths of some 30 people, according to news reports. U.S. forces had called in air strikes because of the ferocity of the resistance they encountered. At least 10 of those killed were women or children.

The last event on the presidential schedule released to the media for that Saturday was a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at 5 p.m. According to the White House pool reporter that day, Trump was on the phone with Turnbull at 5:11 p.m. when reporters were taken to witness the call through the Oval Office windows.

“Obviously, if a raid is only 20 minutes in, you should wait to see how it turns out before tweeting,” said one former National Security Council participant under former President Barack Obama. The staffer added that while Obama did not monitor every operation from the Situation Room (as he did during the one that killed Osama bin Laden), it seemed odd that Trump did not monitor this operation. “It is your first one.”

The timing of the CBN tweet and its deletion is the latest detail in the story of a military special operation that went not at all as planned.

Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid, and four U.S. service members were wounded. A $75 million Osprey aircraft was damaged and had to be destroyed to keep it from falling into enemy hands. Subsequent reports pointed out that Trump did not participate in a formal National Security Council review of the plan, but instead was briefed over a dinner meeting three nights before the raid.

Spicer on Feb. 2 said that Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, CIA director Mike Pompeo, then-national security adviser Mike Flynn, National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon took part in that dinner, as did Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“Doing it over dinner with Kushner and Bannon, without someone from the State Department present? I considered that a little odd,” said Luke Hartig, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the NSC under Obama. He added that more comprehensive planning might not have averted problems, but could have ensured that better contingency strategies were in place.

In any event, Spicer on Feb. 2 essentially described the raid as something planned and approved under Obama (a characterization that Obama aides dispute). That places it about midway along the evolution of the White’s House description of the operation ― from immediately afterward, when Spicer declared the raid a complete success, to the following week, when he accused anyone who questioned that assessment of dishonoring the fallen serviceman.

In the initial aftermath, Spicer said the raid had killed 14 fighters with the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Within a few days, as reports spread of civilian deaths which the Defense Department acknowledged, Spicer said the whole point of the mission was “intelligence gathering,” in the form of laptops and cellphones that were taken.

By the following week, amid reports that Yemen had withdrawn permission for U.S. troops to conduct raids there and that the purported main target of the raid, AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi, had escaped and was now taunting Trump, Spicer denounced criticism of the raid of any kind.

“The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid,” Spicer said on Feb. 8. “I think any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took, full stop.”

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Angry Constituents Hammer Tom Cotton At Town Hall: ‘Do Your Job’

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) faced hundreds of angry constituents at a town hall Wednesday night who grilled him for two hours on the Affordable Care Act, immigration, President Donald Trump’s administration and other issues. 

The town hall, held at a high school in Springdale, Arkansas, was raucous throughout. About 2,000 people packed the auditorium and frequently drowned Cotton out with cheers, boos and jeers. Some attendees waved red cards when the senator said something they didn’t agree with. 

The uproar hit a peak when a 25-year-old constituent pressed the senator on whether he intends to preserve the Affordable Care Act’s treatment protections for people with preexisting conditions. (Congressional Republicans, including Cotton, have vowed to repeal Obamacare but have yet to lay out a comprehensive plan for replacing it.) She kicked off her remarks by asking who in the auditorium was affected by the Affordable Care Act: 

She then explained she suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that affects the body’s connective tissues and blood vessels.

“Without coverage for preexisting conditions, I will die,” she said. “Will you commit today to replacement protections for those Arkansans like me who will die or lose their quality of life or otherwise be unable to be participating citizens, trying to get their part of the American dream? Will you commit to replacement in the same way that you’ve committed to repeal?”

The auditorium erupted in cheers as the crowd gave her a standing ovation. Cotton then attempted to dodge the question and asked for others in the audience to offer comments before he gave an answer.

That didn’t go over well with the bulk of the crowd, which began booing and chanting, “Do your job.” Cotton eventually returned to her question but largely evaded her request for specifics on how he intends to preserve coverage for preexisting conditions.

Watch part of their exchange:

Another woman then confronted Cotton on his support for Obamacare repeal. She said her husband is dying, and she challenged Cotton to sit down with her and her family and hear about their experiences with public health care. 

“You want to stand there … and expect us to be calm, cool and collected,” she said. “Well, what kind of insurance do you have?” 

Cotton faced many other questions on his support for Trump ― one attendee asked how he could support a president who “wants to grab women by the pussy” ― and his congressional record. He was pressed on his opposition to gun control measures, his proposed immigration policies and the president’s tax returns. Almost every answer was met with boos. 

The last question went to a 7-year-old boy concerned about Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and his reported plan to cut funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important to people who are in Arkansas who like Mexicans, like me,” said the boy. “He’s deleting all the parts in PBS Kids just to make a wall. He’s going to do that. He shouldn’t. He shouldn’t do all that stuff just for a wall.”

Cotton attempted to answer by praising America as a “melting pot,” a comment met with jeers.

“You should listen to the next generation,” yelled one attendee. 

“We want Mexico to be a healthy, strong partner,” Cotton said. “We also have to protect our own citizens … and that’s where the wall comes in.”

You can watch the full town hall meeting here.

Other Republicans have faced similarly tense crowds at town halls across the country during the congressional recess. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was berated by a woman who was upset with Republican accountability on jobs and health care. Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Dave Brat of Virginia have been confronted in recent days.

And some Republicans are avoiding the meetings altogether, turning to conference calls. Some are threatening to cancel public appearances if people disrupt them. 

Trump, meanwhile, has attempted to dismiss the town hall demonstrations as “planned out by liberal activists.

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Protecting Trump Tower Cost New York City $308,000 A Day

NEW YORK, Feb 22 (Reuters) – It cost New York City about $24 million to provide security at Trump Tower, President Donald Trump’s skyscraper home in Manhattan, from Election Day to Inauguration Day, or $308,000 per day, New York’s police commissioner said on Wednesday.

The revelation prompted renewed calls for Congress to reimburse the city for the cost of protecting Trump’s private residence on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, where his wife and their son continue to reside.

“We are seeking full federal reimbursement for all costs incurred related to security for President Trump and his family at Trump Tower,” Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, wrote in an email to Reuters.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement that the Police Department now has a dual role in protecting the first family while also serving and protecting residents in the city.

“Trump Tower itself now presents a target to those who wish to commit acts of terror against our country, further straining our limited counterterrorism resources,” O’Neill said.

Trump’s spokespeople could not be reached immediately for comment.

De Blasio asked the U.S. government in December for up to $35 million to cover security costs for protecting Trump in his home atop the 58-story skyscraper, which is located on Fifth Avenue near Central Park, an area popular with tourists.

At $24 million, the final cost was less than that. Trump spent most of his time from Election Day on Nov. 8 until his inauguration on Jan. 20 at his penthouse apartment in Trump Tower.

In addition to the police protection, the Fire Department incurred $1.7 million in costs during the time period Trump was in New York, according to O’Neill.

On days when first lady Melania Trump and the couple’s son, Barron, are the only ones in the city, security going forward will cost between $127,000 and $145,000 per day, less than when the president is in residence, O’Neill said.

When Trump is in town, the cost of police protection will go back up to $308,000 on average per day, O’Neill said. It will cost about another $4.5 million per year for the New York City Fire Department to protect the building, he said.

“We anticipate these costs will increase significantly whenever the president is in New York City,” he said.

Trump has not been back to Manhattan since his inauguration.

New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said in a statement on Wednesday that the city’s taxpayers should not be forced to pay for a “national security obligation” and that “Congress must provide city taxpayers a full reimbursement.” (Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Leslie Adler)

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Gavin Grimm To Trump: Transgender Students Just Want To Learn In Peace

Gavin Grimm has a message for the government officials who maneuvered to roll back federal protections for transgender students: He and other transgender students just want the ability to enjoy school. 

“Transgender students pose no threat to the safety or privacy of non-transgender students. We all just want to be able to do well and succeed in school while still being able to be ourselves,” Grimm said by phone Wednesday.

Grimm is the transgender teen whose fight to use the school bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity will soon be heard by the Supreme Court. Grimm’s case has been in the spotlight for years, but it has become even more relevant in recent weeks.

At the Grammy Awards this month, actress Laverne Cox gave Grimm a shoutout onstage. On Wednesday, the Trump administration reversed the Obama-era guidance that promoted protections for transgender students. It had instructed schools to allow students to use the restrooms that match their gender identity, but the Trump administration said that decision should be left to states and localities.

Grimm’s case ― for which oral arguments will begin in March ― could definitively resolve these questions. But while Grimm anticipates the case’s outcome, President Donald Trump’s actions do not make life easier for the teen, who is a high school senior. 

“As a transgender student and thinking about transgender students everywhere, hearing that your presidential administration has gone out of its way just to further discriminate against you … it’s very upsetting and disappointing news,” Grimm said. 

The guidance issued by the Obama administration in May 2016 argued that prejudice against transgender students violated Title IX, the statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education. However, after a number of states sued, a judge preliminarily blocked implementation of the guidance. The Trump administration cited this legal confusion as a reason for withdrawing the guidance. 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement that the department remains committed to protecting LGBTQ students but said the issue was “best solved at the state and local level.”

“We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate,” said the statement. 

Still, the action is considered a major blow for transgender students and activists. 

“This is about justice, it’s about what’s right, and it’s about our children. If this Administration truly wants America to be great, it can start by making it a place in which our children needn’t fight every day just to be themselves,” said a statement this week from Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Grimm, however, is an eternal optimist. He hopes that Trump’s actions will serve as a rallying call for transgender people and their allies to pull together and “make sure positivity and love and progress is still predominant in the community. I hope that this is only a small bump in the road that is otherwise trending forward.”

It is unclear how many students identify as transgender. Those who do regularly experiencing discrimination, according to a 2015 survey from GLSEN. More than half of transgender students who participated in the survey reported being forced to use the restroom that matched their legal sex, as opposed to their gender identity. Transgender people face staggeringly high suicide rates

In a news conference Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump thinks “this is not something that the federal government should be involved in, that this is a states’ rights issue.” Spicer also denied that there had been infighting within Trump’s Cabinet on the issue. The New York Times previously reported that DeVos resisted the reversal but that she was railroaded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In the days after Trump’s election, there were reports of increased harassment against LGBT people. Still, if there has been increased hostility toward trans people in his community, Grimm says he hasn’t noticed it. Cars in his Virginia community are peppered with pro-Trump bumper stickers, but he hasn’t been paying too much attention to whether there has been a change in attitude. 

Instead, Grimm is grappling with the heightened attention his situation is receiving. 

“I’ve never really been someone who likes a whole lot of attention on himself, so I’ve had to really get used to that and learn how to manage it and take care of myself,” Grimm said. “I didn’t even expect to be someone who was well known in school.” 

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These Students Are Adopting The Climate Goals That Trump Dismisses

Two days after President Donald Trump’s stunning election victory in November, about 80 high school students crammed into the classroom of a suburban Seattle science teacher for an emergency meeting.

The students from Tesla STEM High School were worried that Trump, an occasional climate change denier, would follow through on his campaign promise to abandon the 2015 Paris Agreement on reducing global carbon emissions, and cause irreversible harm to the environment. Rather than wait for the newly elected president to show a commitment to fight warming global temperatures and rising sea levels, the students opted for a more grassroots approach.

The teens would hold their school to the same tough standards on greenhouse gas emissions that the accord had set for the U.S., even if Trump wanted to walk away from the agreement. With any luck, they figured, other schools and institutions would notice and follow their lead.

Today, between 80 to 100 of the around 600 students attending the Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Washington, have joined a project to enforce the agreement. They’ve called their group “Schools Under 2C,” a reference to the Paris deal’s stated goal of capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

“This is our future that’s being affected,” said the group’s president Anne Lee, a 16-year-old junior. “We wanted to show that kids care about climate change.”

In December 2015, representatives of 196 countries gathered in Paris agreed to a landmark environmental agreement that would help reduce the effects of global warming by preventing the earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. The countries agreed to reduce the use of fossil fuel and to set targets for greenhouse gas production for each country. The United States committed to cutting its emissions by 2025 to 26 percent to 28 percent below their 2005 level.

But those goals appear to be at risk under a Trump administration, as the president campaigned to abandon the landmark treaty. He had also claimed that global warming was “an expensive hoax” perpetuated by China.  

Tesla STEM science and engineering teacher Mike Town had begun including the Paris agreement in his curriculum last year and knew that many teenagers felt passionately about its prospect for staving off worldwide disaster. Now, the hopes for the accord are in the hands of Trump, who had said he’d “cancel” the deal.

“This is something they want to see and it gets taken away so fast,” Town said. “They were just devastated by the results of the election.” He organized the first student meeting about the Paris climate goals under Trump and what they would do.

“The idea was that our students would do something that would be productive and get actual results,” said Town, who now serves as the group’s adviser.

The students won faculty support with a Powerpoint presentation showing plans to reduce the school’s carbon emissions by targeting some of the largest sources of inefficiency and greenhouse gas emissions: food waste, lighting, transportation and heating.

While drafting the program, the students began measuring energy usage and waste at the school. They learned there was lots of room for improvement by making simple behavioral changes. For example, about 75 percent of the school’s garbage could actually be recycled or composted, the students said.

After three months of preparations, the green reforms took effect at the start of February. For the first time, the school has a composting program that reduces the quantity of trash hauled long distances to a landfill in Oregon. Electricity use is down as teachers have pledged to shut the lights when classrooms are not in use.

Thanks to the composting and lighting conservation, the students estimated they could reduce their school’s emissions in those areas above their initial goal of 28 percent. That translates into 2 fewer tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere this month, according to their calculations. Plus, they say they’re saving the district money.

“I’m really amazed at how this is going and how much we can do to help solve this issue,” said 17-year-old junior Fred Qin, who maintains the group’s data.

University of California, Davis professor Kurt Kornbluth, who’s working to make the 35,000-student university campus carbon-neutral by 2025, applauded the Tesla STEM students for making an environmental impact, and, more importantly, for taking action themselves.

“You get them the information and then they can do something about it,” Kornbluth said.  

To make an even bigger dent in the school’s carbon footprint will require coming up with more efficient heating and transportation options.

And the Tesla STEM students are hoping to do just that. They are working with local transportation officials to develop an app to encourage carpooling, biking, walking and taking the bus to school. Rayan Krishnan, 15, who is involved in developing the app, said students may get incentives to participate from local shops. He hopes the app will foster competition among schools to have green transportation.

“We’re going to be the ones who inherit this country,” Rayan said. “We can’t vote, but we can have an impact.”

In some respects, the students’ initial fears over a Trump victory became realities. Soon after the election, Trump sought ways to withdraw from the Paris agreement. He’s since said he has “an open mind” about the climate agreement. Then, Trump picked former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency despite a record of opposition to environmental regulations and the agency.

The Tesla STEM students’ actions fit in with the Pacific Northwest’s reputation as a hotbed for pioneering environmental causes. They’ve learned about former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who in 2005 declared the Emerald City would meet the Kyoto Protocol goals even though then-President George Bush opposed the precursor to the Paris agreement.

Town, had previously created an environmental challenge when he taught at neighboring Redmond High Schoo. The program, which won an EPA award and is now a program offered to 5,000 schools by the National Wildlife Federation.

We’re going to be the ones who inherit this country.
Rayan Krishnan, student

There’s also an ongoing lawsuit in the state filed by eight young people, 12-year-old to 16-year-olds, who allege that state officials have failed to protect them from pollution.

Starting locally makes sense, according to Cooper Martin, program director of the National League of Cities’ Sustainable Cities Institute. He said that city and town officials are more responsive to environmental concerns than politicians in state and federal government.

“It’s become an issue that local elected officials have to respond to like education and public safety,” Martin said, emphasizing that student activism pushes local environmental initiatives.

The Tesla STEM students are doing what they can. The group developing the transportation app is hoping to launch before May, which is National Bike Month. Each day, student monitors check that teachers have switched off the lights before leaving their rooms. And after school, a team weighs what’s been tossed into the compost to tabulate the day’s carbon savings.

“People think climate change is scary, but really you just need to make small changes,” Rayan said.

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At A Town Hall, Constituents Literally Turn Their Backs On GOP Senator

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) was forced to abandon his PowerPoint presentation on the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan at his town hall in Metairie, Louisiana, on Wednesday, after a packed room of angry voters drowned him out and literally turned their backs on him. 

From beginning to end, the event was a disaster for Cassidy. By the time the senator arrived 30 minutes late, voters had already co-opted the town hall and turned it into a rally for the Affordable Care Act. Protesters outside the building held signs demanding that Republicans “Support the ACA” and “Dump Trump,” while the crowd of 180 people inside the room chanted “Shame!” as Cassidy entered.   

Cassidy then tried to present a slideshow on his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, but voters drowned him out with boos and demanded that he take questions from the audience instead of giving them information they could read on the GOP’s website. One woman sat in the front row knitting a pink “pussyhat,” a symbol of the women-led resistance against Trump, and several voters stood up and faced the back of the room to protest the senator’s scripted presentation.

A similar scene has been playing out at Republican town halls all over the country as lawmakers go home to face voters who are skeptical about the GOP’s vague health care plan. The party has not been able to guarantee that the 20 million previously uninsured people who are now covered by Obamacare would be able to stay covered once the health care law is repealed. Some lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), have simply chosen to duck the town halls and avoid the testy crowds.

Cassidy eventually dropped his planned presentation and took questions, but he was unable to soothe the crowd. One woman pointed to the child standing next to her and shouted, “This child is uninsurable!” Another vocal audience member was escorted out by security as he demanded that the senator answer whether he would vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement in place. 

After the testy 50-minute shouting match, Cassidy walked out of his town hall to chants of “Do your job!”

“I’m trying to,” the senator responded. 

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