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Alabama student dies weeks after being hit in head with soccer ball

A University of Alabama freshman died Saturday, three weeks after she was hit in the head with a ball while playing soccer with friends.

Allie Brodie, 18, of Danville, California, succumbed to complications of pneumonia, according to the Tuscaloosa News. She was in a medically-induced coma at the time of her death.

“Heaven has gained a beautiful guardian angel, and we continue to seek peace in God’s plan for our sweet girl,” her mother, Cindy Brodie, wrote in announcing her death, according to a GoFundMe page in her name

The fundraising page, established to help with her medical costs, stated that Brodie was struck in the head with a soccer ball as she played Oct. 7 with new friends she had made on campus. Over the next few days, she suffered worsening symptoms that led her to the emergency room.

Surgery soon followed, after doctors discovered bleeding in Brodie’s brain.

“The emergency surgery for intracranial hemorrhage required her to be put into a medically-induced coma and led to a diagnosis of a very serious condition: brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a condition she was born with,” the GoFundMe page read. “The trauma of being hit by the soccer ball and AVM triggered internal bleeding in her brain stem.”

>> Read more trending news

According to the Mayo Clinic, AVM is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels that connect the arteries and veins in the brain. The condition, which affects fewer than 1 percent of the population, most often occurs in the brain or spine.

An AVM in the brain disrupts the veins’ ability to carry oxygen-depleted blood back to a person’s lungs and heart. Though some cases of AVM cause symptoms, like headaches or seizures, it is common for them to be diagnosed when a person is being treated for another medical issue, or for them to be discovered only after the vessels rupture and cause a brain bleed. 

Brodie is survived by her mother and two sisters, including a twin sister who is studying at Kings College in London, the GoFundMe page said

The University of Alabama’s Alpha Delta Chi chapter, of which Brodie was a member, is holding a candlelight vigil Wednesday night in her honor. 

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our sister, Allie Brodie,” the Christian sorority’s Facebook page read on Sunday. “Though we only knew her a short time, Allie made a significant impact on our sisters.”

A high school friend, Stephen Zipkin, wrote on social media that Brodie’s death had “absolutely torn (him) apart.”

“There are so few people on the earth as intelligent, kind or passionate as she is,” Zipkin wrote. “I have been lucky to learn and graduate alongside her, to talk to her and to know her. I am happy that she was here and saddened that she was not here longer.” 

2 teens charged with attempted murder after alleged threats to school, staff

A Cherokee County, Georgia, community is counting its blessings.

>> Watch the news report here

Parents, officials and students have only to imagine what could have happened if an incendiary device found in a fellow student’s possession had been used at Etowah High School. 

That’s because someone knew something and called Woodstock police.

Alfred Dupree and Victoria McCurley, both 17, now face attempted murder charges after allegedly threatening staff members and the school itself, the sheriff’s office said. 

The teenagers are being charged as adults.

It all started Monday, when police met with Dupree and his parents about the alleged threats.

Police and the sheriff’s office acted quickly, taking the threats seriously and informing parents Tuesday.

“I am so thankful for the person who reported them,” Woodstock parent Paige Post told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I can't begin to imagine what kind of destruction could have been done.”

Authorities discovered the duo threatened specific people, whose identities have not been released, at the high school, Cherokee County sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Marianne Kelley said Wednesday. 

They also had a homemade incendiary device, authorities said.

>> Watch Wednesday's news conference here

When Andy Waldron, a parent of a senior at Etowah, heard about the threats Tuesday, he said he’d hoped it was just a kid mouthing off on social media.

He didn’t even think of keeping his son home from school.

Waldron told the AJC that his son has attended Cherokee County schools since kindergarten, and he has complete confidence in the sheriff’s office.

“They would not have put the kids in danger,” Waldron said. “I have enough faith in that and in the school district.”

>> On AJC.com: 2 students to be charged as adults after school threats, sheriff’s office says

Cherokee County schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby confirmed that the students were accused of plans to harm students and staff at their school.

“We will not tolerate violence — or threats of violence — at any of our schools,” Jacoby said in a statement sent to parents. “This stand will be reflected in the severe administrative disciplinary actions we will take against these students.” 

Waldron said the rumor mills were “ridiculous” and students were talking about a “hit list” and worried about the homecoming parade. “It’s terrifying,” Waldron said. 

He recalled the only other major incident he could remember at a local school: A student was stabbed following a fight at Woodstock High School last year.

>> On AJC.com: School stabbing suspect, 16, charged with aggravated assault

But when he learned more about what Dupree and McCurley were accused of, he was glad the authorities took such swift action.

“The real hero in the whole thing is whoever reported it,” Waldron said. “God bless them because they likely saved lives.”

Sheriff Frank Reynolds said a motive has not been determined, but the mental health of the teens may have been a factor.

“We have a lot of mental health issues and I think that may have been the cause here,” Reynolds said.

Dupree, of Acworth, and McCurley, of Woodstock, each face three counts of criminal attempt to commit murder and four counts of making terroristic threats and acts, Kelley said.

Those charges stem from statements made by Dupree not on social media but in his diary, Kelley said, which was discovered when investigators met with Dupree and his family Monday night. That’s also when authorities learned of McCurley’s alleged involvement. 

>> Read more trending news 

The two teenagers were described as friends and not romantically involved. Neither had been in trouble before with the law, Kelley said.

The threats could have been “moved forward with,” which resulted in multiple counts of the charges, Kelley said.

“Most of the information we received was from the personal diary, what was written down,” Kelley said. “It’s still an open investigation.”

Dupree and McCurley were taken for a medical assessment before being arrested and charged. 

Officials secured a search warrant for both students’ homes and found the flammable incendiary device at McCurley’s house, Kelley said.

Along with Dupree’s personal journal, police said they found firearms and a powdered substance.

“Both substances were turned over to the GBI to have them tested and determine the chemical material,” Kelley said.

The firearms, which Dupree’s family turned over to authorities, are not being considered evidence, Kelley said.

Authorities said the accused students also face charges of criminal attempt to commit arson and possession or transportation of a destructive device or explosive intending to kill, injure or destroy any public building. 

The arrest warrants were sealed by Chief Magistrate Judge James Drane III, Kelley said. 

Dupree and McCurley have a first court appearance scheduled for noon Thursday.

Etowah student Sam Jackson told WSB-TV that he was surprised to learn who was involved.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Because I knew both of those kids. They both rode my bus. They released the names today, everyone found out today, and everyone was just shocked.”

School prohibits senior photo of student holding gun

A high school in Maine has denied a student's senior photo depicting him holding a shotgun.Wade Gelinas told WCSH Friday that hunting is a tradition in his family, so he wanted his senior photo to capture the sport he loves.

>> Read more trending news

 

But officials at Bonny Eagle High School will not allow Gelinas to use the photo in the yearbook.Principal Lori Napolitano told WCSH the school's code of conduct prohibits weapons of any kind and that such photo requests are always denied.Gelinas plans on submitting a senior photo without a weapon.

Northern Michigan University offers marijuana studies degree

A new program at Northern Michigan University gives students a unique opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the business and science of marijuana.

>> Read more trending news 

The four-year degree program, formally called Medical Plant Chemistry, is in its inception this semester. About a dozen students are currently enrolled in the program, and more and more students are showing interest. 

“We’re gaining students every week,” Mark Paulsen, director of Northern Michigan’s chemistry department, said, according to USA Today. “With a full 12 months of recruitment, we expect that to grow.”

But the program isn’t as chilled out as one might think. 

“Obviously, the program is new and different and it might speak to a certain crowd. But for a student to succeed, they’re going to have to be very dedicated and motivated,” Brandon Canfield, the associate chemistry professor who developed the Medical Plant Chemistry curriculum, told the Detroit Free Press. “This is not an easy program. It’s a really intense, biology chemistry program.”

The program, which has basic requirements in general chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry and plant physiology, branches into two tracks: a bio-analytical track and an entrepreneurial track. Those who choose the bio-analytical track are to further their studies with courses in atomic spectrometry, genetics and biostatistics, while those who choose the entrepreneurial track are required to take courses in accounting, entrepreneurship and finance. 

“When (people) hear what my major is, there are a lot of people who say, ‘Wow, cool, dude. You’re going to get a degree growing marijuana,’” said sophomore student Alex Roth. “But it’s not an easy degree at all.”

Other universities across the country offer marijuana-related courses and certificate programs. But according to CNN, Northern Michigan’s program may be the first in the country to offer up a fully focused marijuana-based undergraduate degree.

Roth and other students enrolled in the program understand that their major doesn’t mean they’ll be growing the plant. They want to help bust stereotypes about marijuana and focus on medicinal properties to combat such conditions as chronic pain, nausea, seizures and glaucoma.

Twenty-nine states have legalized marijuana, WITI reported. Eight of those states, including Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington, have legalized recreational marijuana.

According to the San Francisco Gate, the marijuana industry is expected to grow more than 100 percent to $44 billion per year by 2020.

“Many of the states are legalizing different substances and they’re really looking for quality people to do the chemistry and the science,” university trustee James Haveman told the Detroit Free Press. “And it’s the university’s responsibility to produce those kinds of students for those kinds of jobs.”

“We’ve had an overwhelming response from growing operations, dispensaries and other businesses who want to take on our students as interns,” Canfield said. “I expect in the next couple years we’ll see quite a few of these programs popping up.”

Read more at USA TodayDetroit Free Press, and Northern Michigan University.

ACLU: Oklahoma school's national anthem policy is unconstitutional

The American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that an Oklahoma school's national anthem policy is unconstitutional.

>> Read more trending news

The statement was released after Stuart Public Schools enacted a policy requiring all students, staff and spectators to stand for the national anthem, prohibiting any form of protest.

The Hughes County school's policy was announced amid a nationwide conversation about kneeling during the national anthem. Professional football players started kneeling in protest of police brutality against minorities. The protests received increased scrutiny after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who chose to join the protests.

While some say the protests are disrespectful to U.S. service members, other say they fall under free speech and raise awareness to an important domestic issue in the country.

The ACLU of Oklahoma's legal director released a statement Wednesday:

“Stuart Public Schools’ new policy is blatantly unconstitutional and unenforceable. The Supreme Court has made clear that students have the right to express themselves. Our Constitution guarantees that public schools can neither mandate forced displays of patriotism and nationalism, nor forbid lawful protests against injustice. Stuart Public Schools has chosen to violate both of these guarantees. This school district’s school’s leaders are in desperate need of a First Amendment lesson, one that they are likely to receive swiftly in the event they actually attempt to enforce this unlawful policy.”

The organization's director of external affairs also released a statement:

“Forcing students to stand for the National Anthem is irresponsible and flies in the face of every conceivable understanding of the First Amendment. If this school district were actually interested in real patriotism, they would do their duty as a government actor to uphold the values of the Constitution rather than waste taxpayers’ time and resources with an unlawful attempt to shut down the expression of their students and staff.”

White nationalist Richard Spencer at University of Florida: Live updates

Florida’s flagship public university braced Thursday for a speech and rally by a white nationalist that was expected to bring thousands of protesters – and, some feared, violent demonstrations -- to its campus. 

>> Read more trending news

Richard Spencer is due to speak from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, about 2 miles from the center of the University of Florida campus.

School named after Confederate president to be renamed after Barack Obama

A Mississippi school that was named after a Confederate president is to be renamed next year after former U.S. President Barack Obama after an Oct. 5 vote by the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees.

>> Read more trending news 

Davis IB Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi, has operated for years under the namesake of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. But by the time the 2018-2019 academic year rolls around, the school will be renamed Barack Obama Magnet IB Elementary School.

The decision was announced Tuesday after months of discussion. Parents of students who attend the school, including PTA President Janelle Jefferson, expressed excitement and approval, saying the new name is more appropriate for the school, which has a population of 97 percent black students.

“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” Jefferson said, according to The Clarion Ledger.

Jefferson said the new name reflects “a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves.”

The decision came soon after the Mississippi State Board of Education requested Gov. Phil Bryant declare Jackson Public Schools in a state of emergency for lack of certified teachers and proper procedures, among other issues, Newsweek reported. If Bryant approves the request, the school board will be disbanded, according to The Clarion Ledger

The potential for the disbandment led board members to encourage PTA members at three schools in the Jackson Public Schools system to consider renaming at a hastened pace. 

There’s no word on the renaming developments of two other schools in the county: George Elementary, named after Confederate Gen. James Zachariah George, and Lee Elementary, named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

As of January, at least 19 U.S. schools had been named after Obama, according to Education Week.

Rapper Lil Jon opens school in Ghana in honor of his mother

Lil Jon often talks about the value of education.

>> Read more trending news

Now, the award-winning rapper and producer has put his influence behind helping children go to school in rural eastern Ghana.

He recently partnered with the nonprofit Pencils of Promise to open a school in Abomayaw in memory and honor of his mother, Carrie M. Smith.

Students in that community have been “taught in unfavorable learning conditions. Kindergarten students are learning in open pavilions with unfinished walls and dirt floors, and without formal doors or windows,” according to Pencils of Promise.

Lil Jon is known for hits like “Get Low”, with the East Side Boyz, and “Yeah” with Usher and Ludacris. To help raise money he asked friends and fans to donate to the project in lieu of birthdays gifts earlier this year.

The three-unit school will also have an ancillary office and washroom facilities. According to PoP’s website, the school will impact hundreds of students.

In addition to the new kindergarten classrooms, repairs will be made and windows fitted to the primary students’ classrooms, providing the students with more light during class hours and better ventilation. The Abomayaw community committed to providing up to 20 percent of the labor and resources needed to complete construction.

Lil Jon is also helping build a second school in Ghana.

Pencils of Promise currently works in Ghana, Laos and Guatemala.

Read more at Pencils of Promise.

Related:

Lil Jon turns up and turns out to vote

‘Walking Dead’ superfan Lil Jon shows up on ‘Talking Dead’

Video showing high school cheerleaders yelling racial slur prompts investigation

Administrators in a Utah school district are investigating a disturbing video that appears to show a group of cheerleaders shouting a racial slurKSTU reports. The 10-second recording, which was posted to Instagram, features a group of teenage girls who individually and as a group repeatedly yell a profane phrase with the N-word while laughing.

>> Watch the news report here

“We are shocked by the conduct of these students and the contents of the video,” read a statement from the Weber School District. “School officials have started an investigation and the matter is being taken very seriously. We are trying to determine when the video was made, where it was filmed, why the students would engage in such conduct, and how the clip ended up on social media.”

School officials first became aware of the footage on Monday after it began making rounds on social media. While they confirmed three of the girls in the video are cheerleaders, there is no indication the footage was filmed during extra-curricular activities. The IT department has been instructed to look into whether the clip was created with a video-editing app capable of generating the offensive phrase.

>> Read more trending news 

“The video was then possibly uploaded into an app that plays it backwards, producing an entirely different-sounding phrase. In this case, a very derogatory, offensive racial slur,” the district explained, adding that the girls may have actually been saying the phrase “surgeon cuff” and playing it backwards.

Other students were quick to point out that, forwards or backwards, the intent was the same.

Weber School District spokesman Lane Findlay told the Desert News that the students could be expelled or kicked off the cheerleading squad, saying, “All of those things would be on the table. Obviously, they knew what they were doing. It’s just completely inappropriate.”

Philando Castile fundraiser nets over $72,000, eliminates students’ lunch debt

Philando Castile is still ensuring that the students he served in Saint Paul, Minnesota, are eating a good lunch, despite his death last year at the hands of a police officer.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, visited J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School on Friday to help deliver a special gift -- a check for $10,000 to pay off the lunch debt for the school’s students. The money was part of more than $72,000 raised by a project designed to honor the beloved nutrition supervisor, who was known to pay for students’ lunch out of his own pocket if they had no money. 

The remaining $62,000 raised in his name will go toward eliminating the lunch debt of students throughout Saint Paul Public Schools, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported. The funds raised so far are enough to pay off students’ debt for a year. 

Philando Castile was shot to death July 6, 2016, after he was pulled over by St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez and a colleague in nearby Falcon Heights. The immediate aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was also in the car, as was Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter. 

Yanez, who pulled the trigger, was charged with manslaughter in Castile’s death, but was acquitted in June. The shooting and the officer’s acquittal touched off protests across the country. 

>> Read more trending news

The fundraising project, called Philando Feeds the Children, was started by Pamela Fergus, a professor at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, as a project for her diversity and ethics class. 

“Philando was ‘Mr. Phil’ to the students at J.J. Hill. He supervised their food program and interacted with the kids every day,” the fundraising page at YouCaring.com reads. “He knew their names and their diets. He loved his job!”

The page states that Castile’s death affected all the children who knew and loved him. 

“This fund hopes to provide the kids with a lasting connection to Mr. Phil,” it states.

The Star Tribune reported that Fergus set a goal of raising $5,000 for the project. Within the first two weeks, donors gave more than $50,000.

“We just had this little idea that we were going to help do Mr. Phil’s job and make sure you guys have good lunch to eat every day,” Fergus told the children gathered in the lunchroom where Castile worked, according to CBS Minnesota.  

About 70 percent of students in Saint Paul schools qualify for free lunch, the Star Tribune reported. About 2,000 students end up owing the district lunch money at the end of each school year. 

Fergus told the students Friday that the project would continue to raise money so they could “always get a good lunch,” the newspaper said. 

The fundraising website bears out that promise. As of Tuesday morning, the total funds raised had jumped to almost $74,000. 

Valerie Castile said the feedback on the project had been overwhelming and that she was considering involving other school systems across the country.

“No child should go hungry,” she said. “And this project helps keep my son alive.”

The project received praise from a commenter on the fundraising site, who called Philando Castile’s death “senseless.”

“Philando worked at Chelsea Heights Elementary before J.J. Hill,” one woman wrote. “My oldest two boys remember him. I remember him hairnet and all.”

The woman called Castile a “gentle soul.”

“Thank you for giving voice to the importance of his life,” she wrote. 

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