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May 19, 2016

U.S. House Approves Bill With Amendment to Ban Confederate Flags at VA Cemeteries

By adreher

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Veteran's Affairs spending bill that had contains an amendment that will ban Veteran Affairs cemeteries from flying Confederate flags. The vote on U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman's (D-CA) amendment ignited debate yesterday in the House but passed this morning by a vote of 265-159. The bill has a ways to go to become law, however, as it will head to the U.S. Senate next.

U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) released the following statement regarding today’s vote in the House of Representatives to approve an amendment to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs spending bill that will limit the display of Confederate flags at national cemeteries:

“I am very pleased with the result of today’s vote to approve an amendment from my colleague Representative Jared Huffman to limit the display of confederate flags at national cemeteries. The Confederate flag belongs in a museum along with other relics of the past and not in a place of prominent display such as cemeteries run by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.”

“Although it was very disappointing that many in the Republican party voted to cling to the last vestiges of slavery and support the flag that represents the darkest times in our country, I am encouraged that many hearts and minds have been changed and that this symbol will no longer fly above VA cemeteries.”

May 18, 2016

ACLU of Mississippi Responds to GOP House Reps Letter to Dr. Wright

By adreher

The following is a statement from American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins in response to the group of Mississippi House Republicans who have asked state Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright to step down if she follows the White House’s directive on protecting transgender students’ rights. Some Mississippi Republican Senators have also sent a letter to Wright, asking her to not follow the White House's directive:

“The Mississippi GOP Representatives’ response and threat to the State Superintendent is, yet, another step in the wrong direction. Transgender youth are entitled to the same educational opportunities, anti-harassment protections, and expressive freedoms as other students.

The Obama administration’s guidance is simply providing schools with clarity as to the legal obligations that they already had under Title IX. With this guidance, there should now be absolutely no question as to what schools need to do to ensure they are upholding their obligations under federal civil rights law regarding the treatment of transgender students.

Schools must enforce their dress codes equally and equitably. Schools should permit transgender students to comply with the dress code that reflects their gender identity. The obligation of schools to keep transgender students safe extends to bathrooms and locker rooms. A transgender student should be able to use the bathroom that reflects his or her gender identity. Isolating transgender students, as well as threatening a government official who is asked to follow the law (Title IX), sends, yet, another message that it is acceptable to discriminate in Mississippi.

The ACLU of Mississippi stands ready to defend any student treated differently because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. School should be a safe place for all students.”

May 18, 2016

Mississippi GOP Senators Call for Board of Education to Ignore White House Directive

By sierramannie

Following a letter from Mississippi House GOP members, 27 Mississippi Senate GOP members have signed a letter penned to the Mississippi Board of Education and state superintendent Dr. Carey Wright, urging them to resist the White House directive to protect the rights of transgender students.

This morning, Wright said that MDE would halt action on the directive pending a discussion with the State Board of Education.

Below is the text of the letter:

Dear MS Board of Education and Dr. Wright:

Members of the Mississippi Senate, along with our constituents and fellow Mississippians, stand with Governor Bryant and demand the Mississippi Department of Education disregard the joint guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding Title IX funding and accommodations for students with gender dysphoria. The federal government is, in effect, trying to blackmail our state by implying that funding for public schools will be withheld should we continue to recognize biological sex when setting safety and privacy policies for our schools. Dr. Wright made the decision to usurp the board’s authority and unilaterally issue the policy decision to acquiesce to the illegal demands of the federal government. For this, the superintendent must be held accountable.

Section 203 of our state constitution establishes the Board of Education. The Board holds the sole responsibility to “formulate policies according to law for implementation by the State Department of Education.” Dr. Wright’s decision to forego the will of the Board and impose her political will on the entire state is fundamentally unconstitutional. It is the Board’s job to formulate policy, not the superintendent’s. Dr. Wright’s policy statement issued on May 13, 2016 is non-binding and should be immediately withdrawn.

Additionally, if Dr. Wright, in her capacity as State Superintendent of Education, does not recognize the danger that such an irresponsible policy decision will impose on the children of our state, then it is obvious that her ideals and values do not represent those of the state of Mississippi and the board should act accordingly. WE look forward to your swift and decisive action on the urgent matter and each of us stand ready to meet or speak with you if necessary.

Thank you in advance for your immediate attention on the issue.

Senate David L. Parker Senator Michael Watson Senator Kevin Blackwell Senator Jennifer Branning Senator Nicky Browning Senator Chris Caughman Senator Videt Carmichael Senator Lydia Chassaniol Senator Buck Clarke Senator Denise Dollar Senator Sally Doty Senator Joey Fillingane Senator Tommy Gollott Senator Josh Harkins Senator Angela Hill Senator Billy Hudson Senator Gary Jackson Senator Dean Kirby Senator Chris Massey Senator Chris McDaniel Senator Chad McMahon Senator Phillip Moran Senator Rita Parks Senator John Polk Senator Mike Seymour Senator Sean Tindell Senator Chuck Younger

May 18, 2016

Mississippi Department of Education Stalls on Directive to Protect Trans Students

By sierramannie

The Mississippi Department of Education said Friday that they would adhere to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as the joint guidance issued that day by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to curb discrimination against trans students in order to "provide a safe and caring school environment" for Mississippi's students. A May 18 statement from state superintendent Dr. Carey Wright, however, is now directing the state's Department of Education to take no action.

"Pending a discussion with the Mississippi State Board of Education, I am instructing the Mississippi Department of Education to follow the lead of state leadership and take no action at this time regarding the non-regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education," Wright said in the press release.

This is a day after a letter from Mississippi House Republicans yesterday called for Wright to step down from her position if MDE honored the White House directive to protect transgender students, claiming that the "policy of allowing boys or men into bathrooms and locker rooms with girls poses a threat to the safety and well being of every school-aged girl in this state."

Gov. Phil Bryant also asked MDE Friday not to follow the directive, calling it the “president’s social experiment.

Sierra Mannie is an education reporting fellow for the Jackson Free Press and The Hechinger Report. Read more at jfp.ms/education.

May 17, 2016

Mississippi Democratic Party Issues Statement on Cleveland School District Desegregation

By sierramannie

From a press release from the Mississippi Democratic Party:

Jackson, MS – Following the court's order to desegregate schools in Cleveland, Mississippi, Mississippi Democratic Party spokesperson, Ouida Meruvia, issued the following statement:

"It is fitting that on the eve of the 62nd anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the court has ordered Mississippi to make a significant stride forward in achieving the ideal set forth in Brown - equality in our public school system.

"However, with the court's ruling, we're reminded that equality in our state's public education system has not been pursued 'with all deliberate speed,' but instead has been a long, hard struggle that many Mississippians have fought for, and continue to fight for, to this day.

"Democrats in Mississippi will continue our work to ensure that all students, regardless of race or zip code, will have equal access to a quality, fully-funded public education system."

Sierra Mannie is an education reporting fellow for the Jackson Free Press and The Hechinger Report. Email her at sierra@jacksonfreepress.com.

May 13, 2016

Charter Founder with School in Jackson Plans to Step Down

By sierramannie

Ravi Gupta, the CEO of RePublic Schools, announced today that he will be stepping down as chief executive officer of the organization. Gupta opened ReImagine Prep in Jackson, which opened in fall of last year. Gupta plans to leave his position by December of this year. Read his letter below:

Dear Friends,

In 2011, RePublic Schools made a promise. We committed to a small group of founding families that we would reimagine the public school experience—not just for them, but for all the underserved children in the South.

Five years later, we are closer to realizing that dream: RePublic serves nearly 1,300 students in five schools across two states (and counting), and has leveraged the success of those schools to set in motion a movement for universal computer science education.

In our corner of the world, a child’s odds of rising from the bottom to the top are lower than anywhere else in the United States. These students must navigate the entrenched repercussions of systemic and historic inequity. Even in the face of these challenges, I’ve watched an inspiring collection of children, families, and educators dismantle one obstacle after another. Serving with them has been the greatest privilege of my life.

Leading RePublic has been a gift. And it’s now time to hand that gift to someone else.

After six years, I’ve decided to put an expiration date on my time as CEO of RePublic. I have informed our Board of Directors that I will be stepping down in December 2016.

Although the transition itself is more than seven months away, I wanted to inform you now as we prepare for a new phase here at RePublic and commence a search for the best job in public education. I will continue to serve in my position for the rest of the calendar year, while supporting our Board of Directors in identifying and onboarding our new CEO. (See here for some words from our Board about the search and RePublic generally.)

As for me, I intend to move back home to New York City to give back to the city where I was born and raised. Even from afar, I will always carry with me the tenacity of the families of Tennessee, the soul of the civic community in Mississippi, and the courage of the most swashbuckling group of educators ever assembled.

Onward,

Ravi

Sierra Mannie is an education reporting fellow for the Jackson Free Press and The Hechinger Report. Read more at jfp.ms/education.

May 13, 2016

Congressman Thompson Asks NCAA to Review House Bill 1523

By adreher

Congressman Bennie G. Thompson wrote a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert, asking him to review House Bill 1523 and advise Thompson on the sanctions that the state’s NCAA member institutions may face as a result of the law. On April 27, the NCAA board adopted a new requirement for sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events in all divisions. All sites must "demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event."

In a press release, Thompson announced:

“Today, I wrote to NCAA President Mark Emmert asking him to review Mississippi’s HB 1523 and advise me on all implications that our state’s institutions may face as a result of this bill. Currently, Mississippi is the only state still banned from hosting predetermined NCAA postseason events because of the confederate imagery on the state flag. I am deeply concerned that the governor’s insensitive and ill-advised signing of this discriminatory so-called “religious freedom” law will draw further sanctions from the NCAA so I have called on the organization to review the bill and advise me on just how much the state stands to lose as a result of this law.”

“It is possible that the state may lose the right to host predetermined and non-predetermined events and championships. For example, three of our state’s baseball teams are currently ranked in the Top 25 in the country. It may be possible, that despite their athletic achievements, they will be prevented from hosting postseason tournaments and championships on their home fields because the governor and the legislature felt it necessary to sanction discrimination.”

“Athletics is an important part of our state’s heritage and our sports teams and colleges have historically had a great deal of success. This law may cost our state vital tourism money, opportunities for economic development, and much-needed support for those NCAA member institutions. I would like to have this law reviewed and have the NCAA explain the potential repercussions so that we all know just how much we stand to lose in the name of discrimination and inequality.”

May 12, 2016

JPS Third Graders Top Reading Test Ranks

By sierramannie

The Mississippi Department of Education has released the 3rd Grade Reading Summative Assessment Results. You can view them here.

Of the top ten highest performing schools, three of them were located in Jackson Public Schools. 100% of Casey Elementary, McWillie Elementary and Davis Magnet School third graders passed the test the first time. 79.4% of the district's third graders passed the test the first time. Madison Crossing Elementary School students of Madison County Schools made the top 10 as well.

89.4% of third graders passed the tests, administered in March of April of this year, the first time. Those students who did not pass the test the first time will have two more opportunities to take the assessment: first from May 16 through May 22, and then between June 27 and August 5 of this year.

From a May 12, 2016 MDE press release:

"Local school districts will determine which of their students who did not pass qualify for one of the good cause exemptions for promotion to 4th grade. The remaining students will be retested before a decision is made about their promotion or retention."

Mississippi’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act requires that a student scoring at the lowest achievement level on the 3rd Grade Reading Summative Assessment be retained in 3rd grade, unless the student meets the good cause exemptions specified in the law.

The Literacy-Based Promotion Act was amended in 2016 and will require students starting in the 2018-2019 school year to score above the lowest two achievement levels in order to be promoted to the 4th grade.

Also, starting in the 2015-2016 school year, students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan who have received either intensive remediation for more than two years or who were previously retained for one year can now qualify for a good cause exemption."

In an extensive interview with the Jackson Free Press, state superintendent Dr. Carey Wright said she was pleased with the increased proficiency standards in the amended Literacy-Based Promotion Act.

Sierra Mannie is an education reporting fellow for the Jackson Free Press and The Hechinger Report. Email her at sierra@jacksonfreepress.com.

May 10, 2016

Report: Brandon GOP Legislator Drafting Legislation to Take Over Control of Jackson?

By Donna Ladd

WLBT is reporting that Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, is "currently drafting legislation that would grant Governor Phil Bryant direct control over Jackson's city government," much as the Michigan state government did in Detroit and Flint.

“I’m working on it. This is something I’m looking at," Baker told WLBT.

The TV station, however, quotes Gov. Phil Bryant denying that he's part of such a plan: "I don't see any universe in which I would takeover responsibility for the City of Jackson."

Note, the Jackson Free Press has not confirmed any of this information, which WLBT is reporting tonight.

UPDATE: We're finding more information about this possibility. Rep. Mark Baker threatened to do this in a comment on Facebook: "Pete: if you think what we dos with the airport is so bad, you're going to really hate it when we pass a conservator law for municipalities like we have for school districts. Fair warning, they get it together or we will."

And then there is this screenshot of a Facebook exchange with Hinds County Republican Party leader Pete Perry (who is a member of the 1-percent sales-tax commission), so said he would help Baker with it, who responded: "I'm going to start drafting something this summer. I'll send you a draft for review."

See the longer exchange in the screenshot below.

http://jacksonfreepress.com/users/photos/2016/may/10/25667/

May 10, 2016

Legislative Leadership: General Fund Revenues 'Overestimated by $56.8 Million'

By adreher

Below is a verbatim press release from Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn:

JACKSON – "Late last week, we were made aware of a staff error that led to expected general fund revenues to be overestimated by $56.8 million during the FY2017 budget negotiations,” said Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn in a joint statement. “This error has no impact on the current year budget."

As a reminder, the Legislature anticipates unallocated balances of an approximate total of $490 million, including $347.7 million in the Working Cash Stabilization Reserve Fund, $32.8 million in the Capital Expense Fund, and $108.5 million in the Budget Contingency Fund,” they continued. “Unless revenues outperform expectations during the first six months of the next fiscal year, this anticipated shortfall will be addressed during the 2017 legislative session."

May 9, 2016

Forest Hill Mom Who Brought Gun to School Arrested

By sierramannie

Via Jackson Public Schools:

"Today, JPS Campus Enforcement and the Hinds County Constable arrested Shawana Smith. She is charged with possession of a weapon on school property. She received a $10,000 bond. She is a 39 year-old Jackson resident. As a result of the investigation, other complainants were identified who signed affidavits in Justice Court which resulted in additional criminal charges and warrants issued by a judge."

Forest Hill parents, students and teachers met at a community chat with JPS administration to discuss violence the day after Smith brought the weapon to the school.

Sierra Mannie is an education reporting fellow for the Jackson Free Press and The Hechinger Report. Email her at sierra@jacksonfreepress.com. Read more education stories at jfp.ms/education.

May 4, 2016

Governor Signs Jackson Airport 'Takeover' Bill into Law

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant has signed the Jackson airport 'takeover' bill into law. Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, announced the news on his Facebook page today, with a photo and a message that said:

"Gov Phil Bryant just signed the airport bill, SB 2162. I believe that this will have a great impact on the future of our airport and its economic impact on our state. I am proud to have authored this bill and appreciate my good friend, Rep. Mark Baker, for carrying the bill in the house. I also appreciate the Lt. Gov, Speaker, Senate and House members that supported the bill."

Update 7:35 p.m.: Mayor Tony Yarber issued this statement regarding SB 2162, "The City of Jackson maintains its position that this unconscionable legislation hijacks the City's authority to operate its municipal airports. Gov. Phil Bryant's signing of the bill shows he has sided with the cell of lawmakers and entrepreneurs commissioned to commandeer the City's municipal airports. We will not yield to the legislation, but will challenge its constitutionality. Senate Bill 2162 is unconstitutional and not supported by either state or federal law. Be assured that the officials with the City of Jackson will continue to stand up for its citizenry when it comes to unconstitutional measures."

For coverage of the airport 'takeover' bill visit: jacksonfreepress.com/airport.

May 4, 2016

Gov. Bryant: 'I Will Support Donald Trump'

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant released the following statement after Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign:

"Tonight, Sen. Ted Cruz ended his hard-fought run for the Republican nomination for president. I congratulate him on his effort. I believe he is a true patriot and admire his stand. He will continue his conservative mission for a better America. We now turn our attention to the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and the election in November. I will support Donald Trump to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president of these United States. He now has the responsibility and certainly the ability to unite this Grand Old Party and go on to victory. As a conservative, I will find common cause in this election because the possibility of a Clinton victory is unacceptable. We now join together."

May 3, 2016

No Confirmed Measles Cases in Mississippi; Health Dept. Takes Precautions

By adreher

Below is a press release from the Mississippi Department of Health, with an update on the measles outbreak in Shelby County, Tennessee and Mississippians affected by the outbreak:

The Mississippi Department of Health is monitoring four unimmunized Mississippi residents who were exposed to measles in Shelby County, Tennessee. The Shelby County measles outbreak began in early April 2016.

While no cases have been confirmed in Mississippi, MSDH is monitoring these exposed individuals closely. They are under home quarantine and the supervision of a physician. State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs says this is why getting and remaining up to date on vaccinations is critically important.

“Measles is literally knocking at our back door. This is a highly contagious, airborne disease and is easily spread from person to person. Unvaccinated individuals are highly susceptible to infection. This is a potentially deadly virus; infants and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.”

The MSDH is strongly recommending that Mississippi children 12 months of age or older who are behind on measles vaccination call their primary healthcare provider immediately.

As of yesterday, Tennessee reported six confirmed cases. The Shelby County Health Department has a website listing location sites and times where infected individuals may have exposed others. Mississippi residents who have recently traveled to the area can go to http://www.schdresponse.com/content/measlesoutbreak for more information and instructions. People can get sick up to 21 days after exposure to measles.

Mississippi residents with possible exposure should call his or her medical provider immediately if they develop fever or rash within 21 days. Symptoms of measles include a high fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash.

Mississippi healthcare providers have been made aware of the situation; measles is a Class One reportable condition requiring notification to MSDH within 24 hours. The MSDH is working closely with health partners in Memphis and Tennessee to maintain awareness of this evolving outbreak.

May 1, 2016

Zoo Blues Goes Forward Despite the Weather

By Todd Stauffer

Despite overcast skies, Zoo Blues appears to be getting a reprieve and the folks at the Jackson Zoo say the show will go on.

April 28, 2016

Rep. Kimberly Campbell to Leave House of Representatives

By adreher

Rep. Kimberly Campbell, D-Jackson, will leave the Mississippi House of Representatives by the end of May. She broke the news on her Facebook page last night, announcing that she had accepted the role of state director of AARP in Mississippi.

Campbell represents District 72, which includes parts of northwest Jackson, and she served in the House for almost nine years. In her Facebook post, Campbell said she was leaving on he own terms. Parts of Campbell's Facebook post is reproduced below:

"Having held Vice-Chairman roles under both Democratic and Republican leadership in the House, I have been committed to working across partisan lines to better all of the citizens of MS. However, there are seasons we all find ourselves. This is my season for change. My work at the State House is complete. It's time to release the reins for someone else to have an opportunity to serve and lead District 72. I will ALWAYS love the citizens of House District 72. But when God says, 'move'... You must heed his call! There are some offers, you just CANNOT refuse! I'll be resigning from the House of Representatives by the close of May."

April 26, 2016

Prominent LGBT Attorney Gives State May 2 Deadline Before Lawsuit: HB1523 Raises 'Serious Concerns'

By adreher

New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan, who litigated and won the case to end Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage, sent a letter to Mississippi leaders regarding House Bill 1523 on Monday, Slate reported, saying she and her legal team at Paul, Weiss LLC had "serious concerns" about the bill violating a permanent injunction issued last July in the Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant case.

The letter states that "the July 2015 injunction requires that Mississippi, in accordance with the dictates of the United States Constitution, treat any gay or lesbian couple that seeks to marry the same as any straight couple that seeks to do so." The letter was addressed to Gov. Phil Bryant, Attorney General Jim Hood and Judy Moulder at the State Registrar for Vital Records. Kaplan asks that they ensure that the 2015 injunction is complied with and that those state officers provide them with:

  • notices for any individual who has filed recusal notices pursuant to HB 1523
  • a full and complete explanation of all steps that each individual seeking recusal (or any person acting on behalf of that individual, including in a supervisory capacity) will take to ensure that gay and lesbian couples are not impeded or delayed when seeking to marry in the relevant county
  • whether the individual seeking recusal intends to continue issuing marriage licenses to straight couples, while at the same time refusing to participate in issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples

Kaplan also asks Mississippi leaders to "agree to provide us with this same information in connection with any clerks who seek to recuse themselves in the future within one week after such information becomes available."

In her letter, Kaplan sets a deadline of May 2, 2016, for state officers to comply with their request "either in whole or in part, so we can be in a position to evaluate whether we will need to seek further relief from the Court."

April 26, 2016

MDE Report: Mississippi Graduation Rate Swells, Dropout Rate Falters

By sierramannie

The Mississippi Department of Education reports that Mississippi's graduation rates have seen significant improvement between 2011 and 2015.

"Districts showed a four-year graduation rate of 78.4 percent for the 2014-15 school year, up from 74.5 (percent) in the 2013-14 school (year)," an April 26, 2016 MDE press release said. The press release also reports America's high schoolers as having graduated at a rate of 82 percent for the 2013-2014 school year.

Dropout rates were down to 12.8 percent in the 2014-2015 school year from 13.9 percent the school year prior. National Center for Education Statistics reports the percentage of high school dropouts as 6.8 percent in 2013.

Mississippi's graduation and dropout rate figures are based on students who entered 9th grade for the first time as of the 2010-2011 school year.

“Those efforts, as well as the Mississippi Department of Education providing more technical assistance to districts and school counselors to help students explore multiple pathways to college and careers, have contributed to dramatic decreases in students leaving school and increases in graduation,” Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education said in the press release. “However, there are districts in the state that still struggle to keep students on the path to a high school diploma, which means we have more work to do.”

The graduation rate for students with disabilities was 27.5 percent.

"We are far from where we need to be when it comes to graduation rates for students with disabilities. The MDE will continue to provide technical assistance to districts to help them support the educational needs of all students,” Wright said in the press release.

Read the full press release, which includes a link to MDE's full report, here.

April 23, 2016

Traffic Delays for First Lady's Commencement Speech

By Maya Miller

It's graduation day for Jackson State University, and First Lady Michelle Obama will be the featured speaker for the commencement ceremony. 55,000 people are expected to attend, and with large numbers comes major traffic delays.

Below is a verbatim statement from The Fondren Renaissance welcoming the First Lady and warning residents of traffic delays:

*55,000 people are expected to attend Jackson State University‘s commencement on Saturday, a ticketed, not “general admission” event. First Lady Michelle Obama will be the featured speaker for the ceremony that begins at 3pm at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.

As with any visitor of Mrs. Obama’s caliber, major traffic delays will begin on Saturday as early as 9am. (No streets will be affected on Friday).

Jackson Police Department District Commander James McGowan said by phone Lakeland Drive should not be affected but the interstate, from the airport to Woodrow Wilson (on to West Street) will be. Streets immediately surrounding the stadium will be blocked. This, he says, will not affect the streets of the historic Fondren business district. “If you have a business, you should have a captive audience to sell to Saturday as cars will be all over the neighborhood.”

One place they will NOT be allowed to park is Woodrow Wilson. McGowan says, “Vehicles will be towed if left parked along this route.”

It is believed the First Lady will speak shortly after 3pm and leave the stadium around 4pm. Street closures from earlier in the day will once again occur. Expect heavy traffic congestion most of Saturday. “In this area, no one should expect to get anywhere in any hurry on Saturday, period,” he noted.

A University of Mississippi Medical spokesman says hospital employees are advised to anticipate delays. “We don’t know how bad (delays) will be but we’re planning as best as we can. We are opening extra lots on campus to allow to them to park here instead of at the stadium.”

They also advise calling 911 in an emergency. “Persons experiencing a condition such as a heart attack, a severe laceration or other potentially life-threatening condition or obstetrical emergency on Saturday should not attempt to reach any of the three hospital emergency departments in a private vehicle if at all possible.”*

http://fondren.org/news/fondren-welcomes-first-lady-michelle-obama-to-jsu-commencement

April 22, 2016

Belinda Carlisle Will Perform in Mississippi, Despite HB1523

By adreher

Solo artist Belinda Carlisle, the former lead vocalist of the Go-Go's, has decided to go ahead with her Mississippi concert as scheduled, despite having strong objections to House Bill 1523.

On Tuesday, the singer posted an open letter to Gov. Phil Bryant on her Facebook page and GLAAD's website, saying that while she originally planned to cancel her shows in Mississippi, after speaking with local LGBTQ groups, she changed her mind. Carlisle contrasted her pop song "Heaven is a Place on Earth" to the "hell on earth" that House Bill 1523 creates for LGBT Mississippians.

"As the very proud mother of a gay child I can't imagine anything less Christian than using the law as a weapon against others," Carlisle wrote.

Carlisle is scheduled to perform on Saturday night in Biloxi and is holding a candlelight vigil after her concert.

Carlisle's letter is reproduced verbatim below:

Governor Bryant,

I am scheduled to perform in your great state this Saturday, however given the very recent anti-LGBTQ attacks that your administration has leveled against some of your own citizens I very nearly cancelled my appearance. After discussion with various LGBTQ groups, however, I've decided to go forward with the show in order to say a few things to those who live in the Magnolia State -- and I want to start off by addressing you directly.

As the very proud mother of a gay child I can't imagine anything less Christian than using the law as a weapon against others. Because of my career as a performer and the privilege that has brought to our family, my son will be all right, but the pain you're causing LGBTQ Mississippians is devastating, especially the transgender folks and LGBTQ people of color who will be most directly impacted by these attacks. Brave organizers like Kaylee -- a black transgender Mississippian -- and Brandiilyne -- a lesbian pastor in Mississippi -- are just two of the people who will be directly impacted by hateful bills like these. Their bravery in organizing against these attacks is stunning.

Nearly 30 years ago, I released a song titled "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." I was proud of the message of that song then and I continue to be proud of it today. Unfortunately, Governor Bryant, you and those around you are making life hell on earth for many Mississippians.

So I'll go forward with my show on Saturday and I'll use it as an opportunity to speak the truth about the bravery of people like Kaylee and Brandiilyne and so many others across your state who are resilient and loving and brave. Finally, it is my call, as a mother, that you bring a little bit of heaven to Mississippi by repealing HB1523.

Belinda Carlisle

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