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Francis W. Parker School

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The Rundown: A private school defends LGBTQ sex ed

Good afternoon. What a miserable day we’re having here in the Chicago area. The weather makes me wonder if we’ll ever see the sun again. So here’s something that’ll hopefully brighten your day. And here’s what you need to know.

1. An elite private school in Chicago defends a sex ed course and tightens security after a viral right-wing video

Francis W. Parker School has disabled its social media accounts and requested an increased police presence after a high-ranking administrator was secretly videotaped discussing the school’s LGBTQ sex education curriculum, reports my colleague Char Daston.

The video, which was edited, comes from Project Veritas, a far-right organization that seeks to discredit left-leaning groups and mainstream news media.

In the video, the dean of students describes Pride Week events for high schoolers, including a lesson on queer sexual health that showed sex toys to students. The video does not mention the lesson, presented by educators from a locally well-known LGBTQ health provider, was optional for students.

In a letter to parents and students, school officials said they are “heartbroken that one of our colleague’s words have been severely misrepresented for a malicious purpose.”

They said the school will continue to provide an “inclusive, LGBTQ+ affirming, and comprehensive approach to sex education.” [WBEZ]

2. Illinois has yet to deliver on jobs and workforce training promised under an ambitious clean energy law

State lawmakers last year approved a major clean energy bill that phases out fossil fuels in favor of clean energy sources.

And to help win support for this plan, officials promised job-training programs for minority contractors or workers, an effort aimed at diversifying the industry’s workforce.

But 15 months later, not a single new “equity” job has been created, report the Chicago Sun-Times and Inside Climate News, a nonprofit newsroom covering environmental issues.

State officials say they are taking the time to get things right, but entrepreneurs say the delays hurt the businesses and potential new employees the law was designed to help.

“The people at the bottom — lots of people — hear about this stuff and ask, ‘Why is it taking so long?’ ” said Rev. Tony Pierce, a pastor and solar entrepreneur in Peoria who worked to get the law passed. [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Chicago Police have denied hundreds of undocumented crime victims a path to citizenship

The Chicago Police Department has “denied hundreds of U visa certification requests from undocumented crime victims this year, many of them at odds with federal certification standards and some that appeared to violate state law,” reports Injustice Watch, a nonprofit newsroom focusing on criminal justice issues.

U visas provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were victims of certain crimes.

But attorneys and legal advocates who deal with these visas said the Police Department denied an “unprecedented” number of applications in the last year, Injustice Watch reports.

Sources told the news organization that officials are revising the department’s policies regarding U visas. [Injustice Watch]

4. Brittney Griner landed in the U.S. this morning

WNBA star Brittney Griner arrived in San Antonio today after being detained in Russia for nearly 10 months.

According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden “spoke by phone with Griner. U.S. officials said she would be offered specialized medical services and counseling.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in Moscow in February after authorities said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. The Biden administration accused Russia of wrongfully detaining Griner.

In exchange for Griner’s release, the Biden administration agreed to hand over notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout. But negotiations failed to win the freedom of Paul Whelan, an American who has been jailed for nearly four years in Russia. [AP]

5. More than 330 Starbucks stores held votes to unionize over the last year

And to date, 268 stores have voted in favor of forming a union, reports NPR.

“In labor, this has been the year of the coffee shop,” the network reports.

Workers at the coffee shop chain are organizing with Workers United, an affiliate of the much larger Service Employees International Union. And their efforts came as Starbucks pulled in record sales this year.

But as NPR reports, unionized stores represent only about 3% of all company-operated locations across the country. Workers United accuses Starbucks of intimidating workers and discouraging them from organizing unions.

And some employees said they’ve experienced retaliation, such as firings and shuttered stores, for their union involvement. [NPR]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Cook County’s chief judge is investigating court employees who got COVID-19 relief loans. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • A UChicago Medicine program will provide legal aid to survivors of violence during treatment. [WBEZ]
  • In the Roseland neighborhood, Chicago’s “other” Michigan Avenue is poised for a comeback. [WBEZ]
  • Here’s a roundup of local groups holding holiday toy drives for families in need. [Block Club Chicago]

Oh, and one more thing …

I mentioned yesterday that WBEZ’s Curious City is celebrating its 10th anniversary. And I’d like to share some personal favorites from the show, which answers questions submitted by listeners.

Questions like: Why did Chicago boys swim naked in high school? How did that start and why did it stop? And was it unique to Chicago?

Or: What’s with all the gym shoes hanging from power lines?

But the show has also tackled complicated and challenging issues, such as this award-winning story looking back at how Chicago once had a “Nazi neighborhood.”

Tell me something good ...

What is your favorite way of giving back to your community during the holiday season?

Jon writes:

“My wife helps organize and run the Chicago Survivors Gift Drive each year and I volunteer! It’s an amazing gift that helps bring some joy to families impacted by violence in Chicago!”

And Maurice Washington writes:

“I like to switch it up each year to volunteer in different ways, which rejuvenates the excitement for giving back; although, all giving is intertwined in some way or another.

“This year, I volunteered with the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade helping to set up the night before the parade. And I would like to volunteer assisting the new arrivals of migrants to Chicago during Christmas with sorting winter clothes.”

Thanks for all the responses this week. I’m sorry I couldn’t share them all, but it was nice hearing from you.

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