Comment history

District orders changes to 8th grade slavery lesson

I asked my daughter, currently an eight grader at Central, what she thought of this decision. After reading the article and the comments, she told me, "I think this whole thing is ridiculous. When Mr. Wormsley started talking about the simulation, way back in December (including the part about the shackles), people were excited; everyone couldn’t wait to start the project. I know many students will be disappointed that we can’t use the shackles, because it drove home the idea behind the slavery unit; how horrible slavery was.
I think it’s too bad that one person felt uncomfortable about using shackles, but the point is that it should make you uncomfortable. It should make you feel something to be a slave, and to “own” another person, that’s the whole point of the simulation.
Another thing I don’t understand is why it’s a problem all of a sudden. Mr. Wormsley has been doing this for years, and there have never been any problems with shackles; I think this is just another way of “bubble-wrapping” kids, and to prevent the slightest possibility of someone being offended.
And finally, to all those people saying “How can you possibly ask African-American students to participate in this?” How can we not? If you exclude a person based solely on color, and how you fear they will react to something, that’s racism in and of itself. I sincerely hope they reconsider this decision."

February 20, 2013 at 10:33 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

District orders changes to 8th grade slavery lesson

I agree with dougnamy that Mike Wormsley is one of the finest teachers in the district. He is able to make Social Studies come alive for these kids. My two kids still talk about Mr. Wormsley's class and how it made them THINK about things that would have never occurred to them otherwise. The shackles bring home in a very visceral way what slavery was like to kids who will never experience it for themselves. The way that Mike teaches lets his students learn not just what slavery was like in a historical sense, but what it *felt* like to be a slave.

Given that the students have been given boundaries about appropriate behavior during this lesson--and the fact that the parents have a chance to have their student opt-out--I would urge the school district to reconsider this decision.

February 19, 2013 at 8:11 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Growing number of KU professors boycotting academic journal publisher

And much of the research itself is funded by taxpayers through federal agencies like the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, etc.

February 9, 2012 at 10:13 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Dori Villalon named executive director of Lawrence Humane Society

@missmagoo: There's nothing wrong with getting an animal from Craig's List, as long as animal & adopter are a good fit. However, there are more serious concerns about Ms. Villalon: See the comments on for more info.

The board is wise to have a six-month probationary period.

June 29, 2011 at 9:57 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Candidate for Humane Society director visits Lawrence

I wonder where the money will come from for her salary: She earned $145,000 at the San Francisco SPCA.

June 18, 2011 at 11:06 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Candidate for Humane Society director visits Lawrence

The job that she took after leaving SF/SPCA was at the American Humane Association. According to her LinkedIn profile, it ended in March after 9 months. She does not appear to be working with a shelter now.

June 16, 2011 at 12:34 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Candidate for Humane Society director visits Lawrence

I did some homework on this candidate and found something that raises some red flags with me.

In her previous job with the San Francisco SPCA, Dori Villalon was involved in abruptly shutting down the SF/SPCA program that rehabilitated shelter dogs into "hearing dogs" that assisted the deaf.

If you look online, you'll see the stories from San Francisco's local newspapers and blogs about the controvesy, including an article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

If you cut through all the rhetoric, the facts around this appear to be the following:
1. On April 20, 2008, the SF/SPCA held its 140th anniversary celebration, at which the hearing dogs performed for donors and guests.

2. The next day, April 21, 2008, without any previous notice, the staff of the program were told that their program was being eliminated and that they were to leave immediately. The staff were escorted from the premises by Dori Villalon and the shelter's HR staff. The animals in training were immediately put up for adoption as pets.

3. After a period of intense debate, the SF/SPCA released a statement on May 10, many days later, defending its actions because of financial necessity.
(The former staff of the program eventually started The Hearing Dog Program ( to train dogs for the deaf, which is still in operation today. )

4. According to the SF/SPCA website, two years later, in June, 2010, "Dori Villalon has decided to leave the SF/SPCA to pursue other interests." This happened at the same time that the former president of the board stepped down and a new president of the board took office.

What concerns me the most about all this is not just the way that the staff of the program were treated by the management of the SF/SPCA. Shelters rely on their staff and volunteers to keep the shelters running smoothly, so they need to be treated with respect and as an essential part of the shelter team.

What really throws up a red flag with me is the lack of political savvy involved in the closing of a program designed to serve the disabled. There appears to have been no attempt to garner public and staff support for the decision before it was carried out. Reasonable people can be brought to realize that programs that lose money and that are not part of the shelter's core mission can't be continued forever. They were not given that chance and the SF/SPCA suffered a firestorm of controversy as a result.

I'm not sure that Lawrence needs someone directing the Humane Society that doesn't understand that garnering public and staff support for decisions that affect a shelter funded by public money and private donations is an absolute necessity. I would encourage the board to bring in another candidate, one who is able to successfully communicate with shelter staff and the public.

June 16, 2011 at 8:32 a.m. ( | suggest removal )