Brussels schools reopen, maximum threat alert still in place

When Annelaure Leger dropped off her two children at school on Wednesday, it was like nearly every other day — except for the machine gun-toting policeman.

After a two-day school shutdown sparked by a threat alert across the Belgian capital, Brussels resident Leger was relieved that classes were back in session, even though she and her kids had to take their bikes since the subway was still not running in her neighborhood.

“It was like Christmas come early for the children,” Leger said. “They stayed at home and played with the neighbors’ kids.” She said the family lives partly in Paris and that the children are very aware of what’s happening both there and in Belgium.

“It would be better if the police had caught the terrorists, but the children know they are trying to do that so that everyone is safe,” she said.

Though the Belgian capital continues to be under the highest-level threat alert, meaning that authorities fear a serious and imminent attack, schools and subways began reopening across the city on Wednesday. That is restoring a sense of normality in the city, parts of which have been deserted since the alert was first raised to the top level in the capital on Saturday.

The threat level is expected to be in place until at least Monday unless there are significant developments, like the capturing of some suspects linked to the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, who are believed to be in Belgium.

Some experts warned that without a further explanation of the situation, officials risked undermining the public’s trust.

“It seems paradoxical to say that (Brussels) is still at the highest threat level but it’s OK to open schools and subways,” said Neil Greenberg, a professor of mental health at King’s College London. “It’s not very helpful to reassure people that everything is safe without sharing more information about what has actually been done.”

At Brussels’ College Saint-Jean-Berchmans, many parents had a quick word with school officials or the police officers guarding the entrance before kissing their kids goodbye. Security at the upscale school is normally already very tight since Belgium’s Princess Eleonore is among the students.

“I’ve told my children they have to be careful, but life must go on and they have to go back to school now,” said Dimitri De Cra Yencour, a father of four.

At other schools in the region, officials sent parents letters and emails explaining security measures being taken under police orders, like limiting access to the school and not allowing children to play or gather in large spaces like courtyards.

Some children looked visibly worried as they arrived at the College Saint-Jean-Berchmans on a grey Wednesday morning and many were distracted by the presence of camera crews capturing the moment.

Didier Nkoy Balengola, another father, said he had explained to his children that “there are some bad men who for no reason want to hurt innocent people” but that he had confidence in the police.

West Valley mural celebrates students’ cultural narratives

University of Utah student artists Beth Adams, left, and Hannah Miller, center, talk with U. graduate Kelsey Watts as a 1,500-square-foot mural at Esperanza Elementary School is unveiled in West Valley City on Friday. Artists from the U.’s special topics art class, led by professor V. Kim Martinez, painted the mural, which honors the cultural heritage of the school’s almost 98 percent Latino student body. Martinez and her students created a tapestry of cultural narratives that reflect the interests, curricula, identities and loves of the students who inspired the mural’s many themes: chess, sugar skulls, soccer, mountains, mariachi bands, sunflowers and folklorico dancers. However, the importance of the project goes far beyond vibrancy and color. The Title I Language Immersion charter school specializes in creating inclusive educational spaces that serve and empower underrepresented children from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds. Principal Eulogio Alejandre sees the mural as culturally and socially empowering. “I never wanted to be in a school that tolerated culture,” Alejandre said in a press statement. “I wanted to be in a school that celebrated culture. With this mural, we are letting kids know that their culture is valuable.” The project was part of a class offered by Martinez that focuses on the public politics of art, along with encouraging artists to become invested in public funding projects and the myriad processes those projects entail.

Pleasant Grove student who allegedly triggered lockdown charged with making a false report

PLEASANT GROVE — A Pleasant Grove High School student has been charged with initiating a massive police response at the school after falsely reporting a gunman in the school.

The boy, who was 15 at the time of the incident and has since turned 16, was charged Wednesday in 4th District Juvenile Court with making a false report, a class B misdemeanor, according to the Utah County Attorney’s Office.

Because the juvenile was not charged with a felony, his charging documents are not public.

On Dec. 3, an estimated 200 officers from 19 local, state and federal agencies — many wearing tactical gear and carrying assault rifles — cleared the high school, room by room, as they looked for a man carrying a gun. It wasn’t until the school was almost completely cleared that the teenager told police he had lied about seeing a man with a gun, allegedly to get out of a class assignment.

Alpine School District officials said last week that the boy’s status with the school would be reviewed pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

CNN honors Delaware teen who started literacy program

A Delaware teenager who started a literacy campaign that brings men into schools to read to children is among those honored as heroes by cable news network CNN.

The network is honoring 14-year-old Imani Henry of Wilmington as a Young Wonder as part of its annual CNN Heroes tribute recognizing those who have distinguished themselves by helping others.

Henry will be among those recognized by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in a telecast airing Sunday evening.

Henry, who started a program called 100 Men Reading, also was one of five winners picked from more than 1,100 nominees nationwide last year to receive $25,000 prizes, given by Peace First, a national nonprofit that encourages young people to work for positive social change

Tragic deaths of home-schooled kids rarely lead to new rules

A Detroit brother and sister vanished more than two years before they were found dead in a freezer in their home, and an 11-year-old Florida girl disappeared more than a year before she, too, turned up in a family freezer. And a 7-year-old Kansas boy hadn’t been seen for more than a month before authorities found the gruesome remains of a child in a pigsty inside his family’s barn.

All of them were home-schooled, but despite their disappearances going unnoticed for so long, opposition from the government-wary home-schooling community means it’s unlikely these states will start keeping closer tabs on home-schooled children.

“It’s largely a conservative thing, but even progressive home-schoolers tend to resist oversight,” said Rachel Coleman, co-founder of the nonprofit Coalition for Responsible Home Education. “Part of it is because there is an assumption that parents always know what’s best for their children.”

The most recent case, at a home near Kansas City, Kansas, is still being investigated and authorities said it could be weeks before they positively identify the child whose remains officers found in the barn. The officers were responding to a reported domestic disturbance at the home the day before Thanksgiving and were told of the 7-year-old’s disappearance.

His stepmother, Heather Jones, told The Associated Press that her husband, Michael A. Jones, abused her and their son, Adrian, and that she feared he was going to kill her and their six daughters because she found out he had killed the boy.

Authorities haven’t said when they believe the boy went missing, but they said they think he was abused between May 1 and Sept. 28.

Michael Jones has been charged with child abuse, aggravated battery and aggravated assault with a firearm. No charges have been filed in connection with his son’s disappearance or the discovery of the remains. He didn’t have an attorney as of Friday, but his father has described him as a “caring and outstanding person” who wouldn’t hurt a child.

Such cases are horrific but they don’t typically lead to new restrictions on home-schooling, which many parents see as their deeply personal right, said Rob Kunzman, director of the International Center for Home Education Research at Indiana University.

“They oftentimes create a short-term effort to increase regulation in the state where it happens, but rarely does this result in increased regulation because of the influence of home-school advocacy groups,” he said.

Although the number of home-schooled students jumped nationwide to about 1.7 million between 2003 and 2012, they still represent just over 3 percent of all students, Coleman said, adding that the relatively low number plays into the general public’s apathy toward home-schooling issues.

For home-schoolers, the emotionally charged argument against additional oversight is that parents, not the government, know what’s best for their children.

“As many as two-thirds are home-schooling in part for religious reasons,” Coleman said. “Part of that for conservative Christians is that God has given that child to the parents, not the state. The state doesn’t own my child, God has entrusted my child to me.”

Eleven states do not require parents to notify state or local officials that their children will be home-schooled, while 10 states require parents to file a one-time notice when they first start home schooling, but nothing further, Coleman said.

The other 29 states require parents to file an annual notice of home schooling. The information required to be included varies from state to state, with some requiring only the name of the home school and its administrator, while others require basic curriculum plans, student names and ages, and in some cases a copy of each student’s birth certificate.