Lessons from the Destrehan Sex Scandal

If you hadn’t heard of Destrehan, Louisiana before, you probably certainly have now. Reports of a male Destrehan high school student having a tryst with two of his female teachers have been in the national spotlight since the story erupted last week and has competed with ISIS and Ebola as the lead stories for several major media outlets.

While the story is shocking, we really shouldn’t be particularly shocked in an age where the media glorifies lewd conduct by celebrities and makes celebrities out of others due to outlandish behavior. In fact, celebrity sex scandals are so commonplace that there is even a band called Celebrity Sex Scandal and one of their songs is entitled “Ode to Katy Perry,” a tribute to a popular but controversial American singer, whose own breakthrough hit is entitled, “I Kissed a Girl.” And, of course, there are the Kardashian sex tapes, Miley Cyrus twerking and other types of outlandish behavior by celebrities that occurs on an almost daily basis.

I’m certainly not excusing the conduct of the two teachers involved, who violated a trust that is considered sacred to the teacher-student relationship. Teachers are supposed to be role models for their students, not menage a trois partners. But are we really surprised by this conduct when the popular culture and mainstream media fill the airwaves with stories that would even make the ancient Romans blush?

Another lesson from the scandal is that parents need to talk to their children about what parents don’t particularly like to talk to their children about. If parents don’t try to educate their children about sex, then their only teacher will be constant blare of social media, the airwaves and the popular culture, which are all pushing sex.

Parents also need to take the time to understand, listen, be available and be a friend to their children, who are often struggling with puberty and peer pressure. Otherwise, kids may be driven to seek affection and attention in ways that could knock their young lives off track before they even get started.

It is apparent that the Destrehan sex scandal, which is just getting started, is going to hurt and possibly ruin many lives, which include the parents, spouse and children of the accused. Sex is a powerful part of our culture and claims many victims. We need to do our best to protect our loved ones from its lure.

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Department of Education Response on Common Core Concerns

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I am doing my best to get to the bottom of common core. The attached is a response from the dept of education that I requested on this important issue to address some of the concerns waged. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Department of Education Response

Thank you for soliciting information on this important topic, Representative Burns. Louisiana went through a very thorough review process to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2010, involving ten different Louisiana education organizations, numerous reviewers, and several public meetings. All believed the standards represented an increase in rigor and opportunity for our students. Since the adoption of the standards, Louisiana’s educators and students have been working hard each year to transition to the higher expectations. This presentation offers a detailed overview of that process, from 2009 through the 2013-2014 school year:

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/webinars/ccss-implementation—oct-2013-bese.pdf?sfvrsn=4

We are excited about the progress that our educators and students have made, and we are committed to staying the course with them. Change is never easy, but we owe it to our students to strive for the very best education for them. They are just as capable as students in any other state. We are already seeing a tremendous improvement in the quality of teaching in the classroom, and also in student achievement. Now is not the time to revert back to lower expectations.
To provide ongoing support in this last year of transition, the Louisiana Department of Education is continuing to provide a wealth of information for teachers and parents through newsletters, teacher trainings, and the LDOE website, which includes the actual Common Core standards, parent guides, instructional resources, our state transition plan, frequently asked questions, information on assessments, curriculum and assessment guides, and much more:

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/academics/common-core-state-standards/louisiana’s-transition-to-higher-expectations

Some have recently questioned the way the state is scoring student assessments throughout this period of transition. LEAP and iLEAP tests have always been scored to mirror results Louisiana achieves on the National Assessment of
Education Progress (NAEP), so as to provide a reliable basis for grading the tests. Results in Spring 2014 were no different; students scored roughly as they did on the NAEP. Here is a detailed fact sheet explaining how this grading is done.

http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/links-for-newsletters/scoring-statewide-assessments-overview.pdf?sfvrsn=2

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Common Core: Stay, Go or Fix

I’m very concerned about all of the lawsuits and legal commotion surrounding the Common Core State Standards that were adopted by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the BESE Board in 2010. These standards are described as fundamental descriptions of reading, writing, and math skills that focus on the ability to think independently.

As a legislator, complaints I’ve received about Common Core from parents include its educational “sticker shock” on students, who are unable to complete the work, even after several hours per night that the parents spend helping their children, and from teachers, who don’t have current material or sufficient direction. Others have warned that the standards are nothing more than a vast conspiracy masterminded by East Coast mad scientists and financed by West Coast techies to be shoved down the throats of the rest of us and that Common Core is nothing more than the educational version of Obamacare.

On the other hand, its supporters insist that it is essential to upgrade Louisiana educational outcomes, which we all know have been at the bottom or towards the bottom of rankings for decades. By ignoring the standards, Common Core proponents warn, Louisiana students are just going to fall further behind.

So who’s right? Is Common Core so fundamentally flawed that it needs to be thrown out and start over? Common Core does not have the best connotation these days and has come to personify everything bad about an overreaching federal government ruining education and brainwashing our children.

Still we do live in a standardized test world, and those pesky test scores, more than anything else, determine a student’s choice of college or graduate school or scholarship assistance, be the test the ACT, SAT or the Graduate School Exams like the LSAT. If the standardized tests are undergoing change, is it risky to ignore this?

Now the matter is apparently in the courts and do we really want public policy dictated by the courts?

I would like to hear from people on the front lines that are dealing with Common Core directly. Is it working or not? Does it need to be scrapped? Does it need to be fixed? Can it be fixed?

I would like to try to initiate a blog discussion on this very important topic so that I as a legislator can get some direction and possibly help address the issue in the next legislative session.

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2014 Legislative Session Wrap

Attached below is a PDF with highlights and information from the 2014 legislative session provided by House Legislative Services.

2014 Final Legislative Session WRAP

 

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Sarcastic Varney Editorial Disrespectful to St. Tammany Citizens

The recent editorial by James Varney entitled “The anti-fracking concert tour continues in St. Tammany” was unnecessarily disrespectful to St. Tammany citizens by making fun of legitimate community concerns over fracking in St. Tammany Parish.  Mr. Varney apparently has little regard for the  microbiologist who spoke at the Monday night meeting and summarily discounted her presentation.  Perhaps he might be more influenced  by a fellow journalist, namely Wall Street Journal energy reporter Russell Gold, who wrote the recent book entitled The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World.  

In addition to outlining the history of fracking, the author points out serious problems which developed in certain communities in Texas, New York and Pennsylvania where concentrated drilling activity outpaced proper planning and precautions.  Gold concludes his book as a general proponent of fracking activity, but with the following caveat “What’s the rush?”

That seems to be the same sentiment of St Tammany citizens and public officials who are trying to understand the impact of the activity on their daily lives.  The author also points out, contrary to Mr. Varney’s unsubstantiated speculation, that energy use is actually decreasing in the United States due to conservation and more energy efficient vehicles, including the trucks and SUV’s that Mr. Varney apparently has such a problem with

Mr. Varney concludes his article with the statement that “disaster is neither guaranteed nor likely.”  This “don’t worry” attitude is contrary to some of the serious fracking issues that some of my colleagues in the legislature have confided to me and which include noise, smells, pollution, congestion and ruined roads.  In fact, one of my colleagues compared the scope of fracking operations in his area to a large military maneuver and contrasted his remote rural location with the much more populated site of the proposed drilling in St. Tammany. 

In fact, the fracking site chosen off I-12 and Highway 1088 is zoned residential and is 2000 feet from a school.  St. Tammany citizens have a right to be concerned as their community and quality of life is at risk. 

 

Tim Burns

State Representative District 89

 

Link to the above referenced article:  http://bit.ly/1nGPuLR

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Legislation Requires Notice and Public Hearing for Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee of the Louisiana House Of Representatives today approved HB 406 by Representative Tim Burns by substitute, which requires certain persons seeking a permit from the Office of Conservation of the Department of Natural Resources for an operation that involves hydraulic fracture stimulation in a parish in which hydraulic fracture stimulation has not occurred to follow certain notice and public hearing requirements.

Representative Burns filed the bill by substitute because of his concern that the current accelerated timetable for approving hydraulic fracture stimulation would not allow time for adequate public input and consideration.

“There has never been hydraulic fracture stimulation in St. Tammany and the citizens and public officials of St. Tammany need to be fully informed about the full impact on the parish of hydraulic fracture stimulation. I had requested that the applicant voluntarily delay the application, but I received no response to my request. Adequate notice and public input is an important part of the democratic process and activities with such a profound effect on a community require such notice and input,” said Representative Burns.

Representative Paul Hollis said, “House Bill 406 by my colleague and neighbor Representative Tim Burns is common sense legislation that enhances transparency and encourages citizen engagement. By requiring a 30-day public notice from companies looking to expand operations in parishes where hydraulic drilling is non-existent, the citizenry will have adequate time to meet with their elected officials and voice their support or concern.”

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Taking the Politics Out of Political Sex Scandals

Just when we thought that we had heard it all with political sex scandals; including the shirtless “Craigslist Congressman” and Wienergate, parts 1 and 2, we have a brand new Made for You Tube scandal featuring Louisiana’s own “Kissing Congressman,” U.S. Rep Vance McAllister. This new saga combines the best of sensational journalism with reality TV, as the Duck Dynasty supported Congressman admitted that his amorous conduct with an office aide “fell short,” as did his awareness of office surveillance cameras. Now McAllister seeks redemption not only from his family and the Lord, but also from the famed Duck Commander, who already has a proven track record for political miracles in Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District.

As this sad episode plays out, political figures are urging the Congressman to do the “right” thing, which is, of course, to resign immediately and focus the necessary attention on family reparations, while hopefully un-focusing attention on the pesky scandal, so that it does not interfere with party’s prospects in the looming fall elections.
And there seems to be no immediate end in sight to the saga, with the media featuring a scorecard of previous political scandals, while it compares and speculates on the fate of the latest errant politician in this newest episode of Survivor: Sex Scandal.

But there are nonpolitical considerations to be examined as well, one of them being the trauma being inflicted on Congressman McAllister’s family. Kelly Duncan McAllister seems to be a really nice lady, who enjoys raising their five children. Like most political spouses, including mine, she never asked for the limelight of the political stage, but agreed to go along with the campaign for the benefit of her spouse. Now she has likely become the scandal’s most grievously injured victim, with emotional scars being branded on her and her children, her life being cruelly assigned a permanent asterisk as the scorned wife of the Kissing Congressman. I have been involved in some brutal campaign slug-fests in my career and know they were traumatic to my family. But they were a peck on the cheek compared to what the McAllister family is having to endure.

Another nonpolitical consideration is the sheer hypocrisy of the situation, the public outcry and condemnation of another for their “sin.” Sure politicians should be held to a higher standard as public office holders, but they are hardly alone when it comes to committing adultery. Infidelity permeates every walk of life, including the media, and there is concern that straying is becoming more commonplace. Today, there are even commercial websites devoted exclusively to promoting adultery. The best known infidelity hookup site is Ashley Madison, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” In fact, the site even offers a money back guarantee if a customer is unsuccessful in breaking the Seventh Commandment. Ashley Madison must not have to issue too many refunds since it made headlines recently by attempting to buy a pricy Superbowl ad.

When an infidelity promoting website is successful enough to afford the most expensive thirty seconds in advertising, society has a much bigger moral problem than a Kissing Congressman.

While McAllister’s conduct is certainly deplorable, let’s not be overly judgmental, but instead realize “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” The sad but true fact is that today’s society is saturated with temptation and indiscretion, and unfortunately infidelity can happen to anyone who is not vigilant.

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