Senator Blackburn Introduces Bill to Defund 1619 Project Curriculum

This week, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) assisted in the introduction of a bill to prohibit federal funding for schools using the 1619 Project as curriculum. The Saving American History Act also notes that federal funds couldn’t be used by school boards and other local educational agencies to support the teaching of the 1619 Project.

The act explained that the respective secretaries of Education, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Defense, and Interior would determine the cost of teaching the 1619 Project – including planning and teaching time. This determination would come from pre-established formulas. No reductions would affect the free and reduced price school lunch program, or any low-income student programs, or students with disabilities. 

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Nashville Mayor Says Taxpayer Referendum Isn’t ‘Constitutional,’ Supporters Are ‘Uninformed’

Nashville Mayor John Cooper says voter control over property tax rollbacks and increases is unconstitutional – and that voters are uninformed for supporting it. The mayor made this assertion during a Wednesday press conference explaining Metro’s new budget. 

The mayor responded to reporter questions about what potential consequences would occur if the taxpayer referendum – the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act led by 4 Good Government – were to pass, and what the city would do about the potential financial blow. Cooper said that government officials have the ultimate control and final say on that matter. He noted that the 34 to 37 percent property tax increase last year “never really was that high.” Cooper said that community upset over the increase was no longer relevant because “that is so last year – that is so 2020.”

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Tennessee Educators Marched Against Critical Race Theory Ban Last Weekend; Event Organized by Black Lives Matter

Last weekend, around 50 Tennessee educators marched through Memphis to oppose the state’s new ban on critical race theory in the “Downtown Memphis Solidarity Walk.” The educators gathered at the site where a historical slave market run by Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest once stood, then walked by the Schools for Freedman historical marker and the Memphis Massacre marker before concluding at the National Civil Rights Museum. 

The march was part of a national pledge called “Day of Action.” The effort was organized by Black Lives Matter (BLM) At School, a national coalition with loose ties to the original BLM, and the Zinn Education Project, which provides supplemental curriculum for “a more accurate, complex, and engaging” version of U.S. history. Some of their materials include information on the 1619 Project, reparations, environmental racism, and antiracism.

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Behind the Scenes of the Effort to Recall Six Pro-Critical Race Theory Loudoun County School Board Members

Parents are organizing to recall six members of the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) School Board who kept schools closed and reportedly allowed and encouraged critical race theory curriculum. LCPS parent Ian Prior – one of the leaders behind Fight For Schools, the recall effort – informed The Virginia Star that they have secured more than the 10 percent of votes each member obtained during the last election – and they’ve been busy gathering more. 

“At last count last Sunday, we were at 60 percent for Beth Barts, 54 percent for Ian Serotkin, 42 percent for Denise Corbo, 27 percent for Leslee King, 24 percent for Brenda Sheridan, and 20 percent for Atoosa Reaser. That was 10 days ago. People are out there collecting signatures: going door-to-door and attending events,” explained Prior. “We want to make sure that we have more signatures than required, which will obviously protect us from any challenges or whatnot. We’re still determining the best way forward.”

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Metro Nashville City Council Votes to Increase Police Spending by $10.5 Million in Finalized Budget; Activists Disrupt Meeting

Activists Disrupt Meeting

Metro Nashville City Council voted to increase its spending on Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) by $10.5 million, per the finalized budget. Mayor John Cooper approved the budget on Wednesday. Some of this funding will go toward the new southeast precinct, totaling up a 5 percent increase. Overall, the budget sits at around $2.6 billion. 

Following passage of the budget during Tuesday’s meeting, the Nashville People’s Budget Coalition shouted down the council members during its 45 minute recess. As a result, the council was unable to continue its business on time.

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Metro Nashville Continues to Administer Pfizer Vaccines Ahead of CDC Emergency Meeting on Heart Inflammation Reactions

Metro Nashville health officials will continue to administer Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which will be discussed in an upcoming emergency meeting called by the CDC. According to preliminary reports, there have been double the expected cases of heart inflammation occurring in both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine recipients. 

The CDC meeting is scheduled for this Friday. Officials will discuss whether there exists a definitive link between the two vaccine types and the reported cases of myocarditis and pericarditis. The Tennessee Star inquired with the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) if they would continue administering the Pfizer vaccine up until the CDC holds its emergency meeting. MPHD spokespersons confirmed to The Star that they would.

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Legislator Behind Tennessee’s Critical Race Theory Ban Weighs In on Shelby County Schools Racial Justice and Equity Training

Tennessee State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) offered his thoughts on Shelby County Schools’ (SCS) consideration of implementing racial justice and equity training. Ragan shared with The Tennessee Star that a requirement of this training as a condition of employment could potentially be an issue – it would have to be voluntary.

As The Star reported this week, SCS may invest up to $480,000 for the racial justice and equity training offered by the nonprofit New Leaders. Upon review of New Leaders’ materials, The Star discovered that it encourages participants to adopt “culturally responsive” practices in schools – a synonym for critical race theory. Additionally, materials repeatedly assert the need for white people to be aware of their race, privilege, and power.

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Moms for Liberty Williamson County Lays Bare Evidence of Critical Race Theory, Suicide Ideation, Violence, and More in Curriculum Across 33 Counties

  FRANKLIN, Tennessee – After around 1200 hours of investigation, a parent-led deep dive team uncovered how a widely-used English curriculum in Tennessee pushes narratives on history and introduces K-5 students to a range of concepts such as Critical Race Theory, suicide ideation, gender fluidity, alcoholism, promiscuity, torture, cannibalism, and more.…

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Vanderbilt University Chair Says Supreme Court Ban on Race-Based College Admissions Would Hold Back Minorities from Leadership, ‘Influential’ Employment

Vanderbilt University

A Vanderbilt University chair said that race-based admissions would prevent minorities from attaining leadership positions and “influential” employment. Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair Professor of Law and Economic Joni Hersch made this assessment in a legal studies research paper, “Affirmative Action and the Leadership Pipeline.” The paper is expected to appear in Tulane Law Review soon.

Hersch wrote the article in response to the ongoing court case, Students for Fair Admissions (SSFA) v. Harvard. In the lawsuit, SSFA alleges that Harvard University discriminates against Asian applicants in its admissions process by engaging in racial balancing.

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City of Memphis Gives Away Car in COVID Vaccine Sweepstakes

The City of Memphis, in partnership with a nonprofit, gave away a car as part of a COVID-19 vaccination sweepstakes. The winner was announced on Thursday.

According to the sweepstakes page, the maximum value of the car could’ve totaled $30,000. The winner had a choice between a Chevy Camaro, Chevy Colorado, Nissan Rogue, Nissan Altima, or any similar vehicle of equal or lesser value.

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Shelby County Schools May Pay Up to $480K for Racial Justice and Equity Training

Shelby County Schools (SCS) may pay up to $480,000 for two racial justice and equity trainings offered by a social justice nonprofit. New Leaders, the nonprofit, offers trainings to develop equity-focused, anti-racist educational leaders, with an emphasis on teaching about race in the classroom and the end goal of achieving social justice.

The SCS Board of Education discussed the plan to contract this training during its Academic Performance Committee meeting on Monday.

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Senator Blackburn and Fauci Go Toe-to-Toe Over His Emails and Relationship with Big Tech

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) challenged Dr. Anthony Fauci this week over his handling of COVID-19 and apparent collusion with Big Tech. Following the mass release of Fauci’s emails through an open records request last week, Blackburn published a video Tuesday to offer some summarized insight on Fauci’s involvement in the COVID-19 outbreak and his email correspondence with Facebook.

“Here are the facts on Fauci that big tech doesn’t want you to know,” tweeted Blackburn.

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Nashville Mayor Launches Another Vaccination Freebies Campaign

a health care provider places a bandage on the injection site of a patient, who just received a vaccine

Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced the launch of another campaign offering freebies in exchange for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The “Shots on Goal” campaign launched Thursday. If individuals get their vaccination from any of the five pop-up clinics listed, they will receive a coupon booklet with 11 different incentives valued at over $100 from 20 different businesses.

Metro government will provide a partial reimbursement to the businesses involved. If a vaccinated individual takes advantage of every coupon in their booklet, the total cost to Metro would be $36. The mayor’s office clarified that these funds would come from their CARES Act reserves. The campaign didn’t mention a limit on the number of coupon booklets handed out.

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MTSU First in Tennessee to Join Biden’s ‘COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge’

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is the first university in the state to join President Joe Biden’s “COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge.” MTSU announced their decision on Thursday.

Since MTSU made their announcement, East Tennessee State University (ETSU) and Lane College have also joined the COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge. MTSU President Sidney McPhee said that the vaccinations were just another common sense step to control COVID-19.

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Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act Launches Videos Explaining Proposed Amendments to Roll Back, Prevent Property Tax Hikes, and More

Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act

Earlier this week, 4 Good Government published a video series explaining the purposes and benefits of their voter referendum, the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act. The 7 short videos addressed each of the 6 amendments in the referendum. 

Jim Roberts, the attorney and founder behind 4 Good Government, explained that he founded the organization to improve Metro Nashville government.

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After a Year of COVID Lockdowns and Restrictions, Representative Cooper Writes Letter to Biden Administration to Save Nashville’s Dying Live Music

After a year of supporting mandated COVID closures, Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN-05) begged the Biden Administration to save some of Nashville’s historic live music venues. On Wednesday, Cooper penned a letter to the Small Business Administration (SBA). The representative asked the SBA to expedite their Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) for the businesses that faced several months of mandatory closure and a year of lockdowns and restrictions in his district.

“Nashville’s live music venues and theaters are in dire need of help through the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant program,” tweeted Cooper. “I’ve urged the @SBAgov Administrator to immediately expedite the applications of our cultural centers. Music City can’t lose these treasures.”

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Tennessee Education Commissioner to Publish Guidance on Critical Race Theory Ban Compliance by August 1

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn promised to publish educator guidance on the state’s critical race theory ban by August 1. The ban was first proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly by State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge). The law itself doesn’t mention critical race theory by name, but it does address the theory’s tenets and practices at length.

Schwinn revealed the plan to issue guidance in an exclusive interview with Chalkbeat on Wednesday. The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) guidance will also address the question of how the commissioner would uphold the ban, including a complaint evaluation process and financial penalty system. Ragan’s amendment noted that the commissioner would determine how much state funding to withhold for violations.

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Nashville Mayor’s Affordable Housing Task Force Cites Racial Equity, Anti-Racism, Reparations as Guides for Progress

Nashville’s Affordable Housing Task Force declared that racial equity, antiracism, and reparations are several goals for affordable housing development. These goals were outlined in Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s affordable housing report, published Wednesday. The task force wrote in the report that these goals would bolster their recommendations, leading to significant progress for the next four years.

“Racial inequity permeates Nashville’s past and present – and housing is no exception. While existing Fair Housing policies are intended to protect vulnerable communities, many Black and Brown Nashvillians still face housing discrimination,” read the task force report. “Current status-quo practices and policies continue to perpetuate harm, so we must intentionally work to design and implement solutions that are anti-racist both in outcomes and processes.” [emphasis added]

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Miley Cyrus Held Free Pride Month Concert for Vaccinated People Only at the Ryman

fans

Pop star Miley Cyrus held a free Pride Month-themed concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on Wednesday – but only for vaccinated people. Less than 2,500 people were granted entry; no phones or cameras were allowed.

In order to get a free ticket, fans had to flash their vaccination cards as proof of immunization. Although those in line were likely vaccinated, several still wore masks. Local historian David Ewing documented pictures and video of fans standing in line waiting for their free tickets. It appears from the video that the line wrapped around the building and down Commerce Street. 

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Metro Nashville Schools Allows Faculty to Implement ‘Gender Support Plan’ for Students Aged 16+ Without Parental Consent or Knowledge

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) faculty may implement a “Gender Support Plan” for students aged 16 and over without parental consent – or knowledge.

The Tennessee Star obtained a copy of MNPS’s Gender Support Plan. After listing the student’s preferred name, if any, the plan includes a questionnaire asking if the parent or guardian is aware and in support of the student’s gender status. It also notes that Gender Support Plans involving students under the age of 16 must be consulted with Student Services. Additionally, the plan asks what considerations must be accounted for concerning student safety if parental or guardian support is low, and if it would be necessary to develop a “safety plan.”

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Murfreesboro Expands Juneteenth Celebration to Three Days, Nothing for Memorial Day

Murfreesboro announced Tuesday that they would be expanding their Juneteenth celebration to three days – but had nothing for Memorial Day. The Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department will oversee the Juneteenth festivities. 

For the three-day Juneteenth celebration, the city displayed a specialized logo decorated with a black power fist and Pan-African colors. The announcement and logo were displayed on the city’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. The city didn’t post any announcements about Memorial Day on their website or social media platforms.

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Trial Update on Tennessee Principal Placed on Leave for Warning Students About Social Media Censorship

A lawsuit filed by a Shelby County Schools (SCS) principal placed on leave for warning students about social media censorship is making steady progress. As The Tennessee Star reported in January, Cordova High School Principal Barton Thorne had lectured students during a weekly “principal’s message” on the importance of free speech and the marketplace of ideas following the Capitol Hill riot, which he condemned.

Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) reinstated Thorne the day that he filed the lawsuit against them. The Liberty Justice Center (LJC) is representing Thorne in the case, Thorne v. Shelby County Board of Education. In the lawsuit, Thorne alleged that SCBE violated his right to free speech and had damaged his career, reputation, and family through their response to the public and media.

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Mental Health Clinicians to Join Metro Nashville Police on 911 Calls by June 28

Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) announced Monday that mental health clinicians will join officers on 911 calls through a Co-Response Crisis Intervention Program starting June 28. The pilot program was reportedly modeled after the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) pilot program in Denver, Colorado.

“The MNPD’s first ever Co-Response Crisis Intervention [Program] (officers teamed with clinicians) begins 6/28. 16 officers from the North and Hermitage Precincts today begin 40 hours of crisis intervention training alongside Mental Health Co-Op staff in preparation for the start,” wrote MNPD.

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Lipscomb University Removes Free Public Access to Ibram Kendi Speech

Ibram X. Kendi

Lipscomb University appears to have removed free access to their session featuring “How to Be Antiracist” author Ibram Kendi. The anti-racist thought leader is slated to appear as a guest speaker during the university’s Christian Scholars Conference this week.

Last Wednesday, The Tennessee Star registered with Lipscomb University for a link to Kendi’s webinar. The university made it clear that the session was open to the public. Following reporting from The Star on the event, the university closed the signup form. We never received the link that was promised.

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Trial Begins for University of Tennessee, Knoxville Science Professor Allegedly Hiding Chinese Research Affiliations

A previously tenured science professor from University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) faced trial Monday for allegedly covering up his research affiliations with China. The professor, Anming Hu, was first indicted last February by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). His trial is a part of the DOJ’s “China Initiative,” an investigative effort by the DOJ’s National Security Division (NSD) to identify and prosecute individuals engaged in trade secret theft, hacking, economic espionage, foreign direct investment threats, and supply chain compromises to benefit the Chinese government.

The trial, United States v. Anming Hu, began Monday at 9 a.m. EST in the Eastern. According to court documents, the hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. In addition to facing charges for false statements about his affiliations with the Beijing University of Technology (BJUT), Hu is facing charges of wire fraud. 

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United Women of Tennessee to Host ‘Freedom Fest’ with Vendors, Live Music This Saturday – Proceeds to Go to Scholarship Fund

This Saturday, United Women of Tennessee (UWTN) is hosting a “Freedom Fest” with live music, crafters, and food. Proceeds from Freedom Fest will go to the Alicia Lundquist Memorial Scholarship Fund for Conservative Women. Admission is free.

Freedom Fest will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST at the Bunganut Pig in Franklin. A total of 20 crafters and vendors from across the state will be present, selling local goods including jewelry, clothing, and more. Live music will be provided by local talents Doug Mathis, Austin Daniels, and Sami Lin. The Bunganut Pig will feature a variety of food specials. 

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Lipscomb University Lectures How Whiteness Shapes Spirituality, Anti-Racism is Fundamental to Salvation

Lipscomb University

According to Lipscomb University, whiteness shapes spirituality and anti-racism is necessary for salvation. These were topics lectured to students in two mandatory small-group sessions – weekly occurrences called “Breakouts” – offered this past spring semester. 

Lipscomb University requires students to select one Breakout at the beginning of the semester. Once a student chooses their Breakout, they must remain in that group for the entire semester. 

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CDC Awarded Davidson and Shelby Counties Nearly $12 Million to Address COVID Health Disparities for Minorities

CDC

The CDC awarded nearly $12 million collectively to Davidson and Shelby counties to address COVID-related health disparities in racial and ethnic minorities. Overall, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) was awarded nearly $39 million in total this past week, with a rural carveout totaling over $8.3 million. The CDC says this funding to a total of 107 recipients is part of a larger goal to “advance health equity.”

The Metro Public Health Department of Nashville and Davidson County received over $4.9 million in these funds, while Shelby County Health Department received nearly $6.6 million. The Tennessee Star inquired with the CDC how the funds can be used specifically to address COVID-related health disparities among racial or ethnic minorities, and what metrics they would use to measure progress within the awarded states and localities. The CDC didn’t respond by press time.

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Metro Nashville City Council Approved Downtown Sales Tax Increase

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Metro Nashville City Council approved a resolution increasing the sales tax for downtown businesses. The .25 percent tax increase will go into effect July 1. According to the Metro Nashville Finance Department, the estimated revenue from this increase amounts to at least $2.4 million. 

Per the state law, certain businesses are exempted from the sales tax increase: professional services, transient lodging, tickets for sporting or other live events, alcoholic beverages, newspapers or other publications, and overnight or long-term parking. 

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Tennessee’s Republican Congressmen Urge House Speaker Pelosi to Hold China Accountable for COVID-19

Tennessee’s Republican U.S. representatives urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold China accountable for causing the COVID-19 pandemic. The representatives signed onto the four-page letter last Friday, along with 202 other Republican representatives.

Two Republicans – Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16) and Virginia Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) – didn’t sign onto the letter. The House Republican representatives that did sign onto the letter derided Pelosi for dismissing previous President Donald Trump’s speculation of China’s involvement in the COVID-19 outbreak last year. Sources say Pelosi hasn’t responded to the letter yet. 

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Nashville’s Community Oversight Board Submits Hiring Recommendations of Increased Diversity, Implicit Bias History to Metro Nashville Police Department

Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board’s (COB) submitted their hiring recommendations, including diversity increases and bias history requirements, on Friday. 

The COB made the decision to adopt and formally submit the report to the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) during their meeting last Wednesday. 

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Knox County School Board Considering Hire of Outside Consultant to Decide on Putting Law Enforcement Back in Schools; Mayor Says It’s a ‘Waste of Taxpayer Dollars’

The Knox County Schools (KCS) Board of Education is considering whether to hire an outside consultant for reinstating law enforcement in their schools. In a letter submitted to the Knox County Board of Education (KCBOE) last week, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said that the proposed facilitator would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“Please let this letter serve as official notification that I strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay an outside consulting firm to tell the district what every parent in Knox County already knows: armed law enforcement officers are a necessity in schools,” wrote Jacobs. “[I] simply cannot ignore that physical security is absolutely critical in keeping our students safe at school. I am deeply disturbed that any governmental body would even consider removing law enforcement from any of our schools.”

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Metro Nashville City Council Declares June ‘Nashville Pride Month’ and One Week in May ‘Black Restaurant Week’

For the Metro Nashville area, the month of June will be “Nashville Pride Month” and one week in May will be “Black Restaurant Week.” Metro Nashville City Council passed two resolutions confirming these celebratory declarations at their last council meeting on Tuesday.

The Tennessee Star reached out to the sponsors for both resolutions. We asked “Nashville Pride Month” sponsor Zach Young what he meant by the statement that the LGBTQ+ communities had given “enormous contributions to the quality of life in Nashville and Davidson County[.]” 

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Tennessee Receives $53 Million in Federal Funding for COVID-Related Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Tennessee announced that it received an additional $53 million in federal funds for COVID-19-related mental health and substance abuse treatments. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) will rely on that funding for the next four years. $27 million of those funds will go to mental health services, and almost $26 million will go to substance abuse services.

The funds come from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Biden allocated $3 billion for mental health and substance abuse services nationwide.

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Lipscomb University’s Christian Scholars Conference to Host Ibram Kendi, ‘How to Be Antiracist’ Author, as Featured Speaker, Scrubs Website After Tennessee Star Inquiries

Lipscomb University, a self-proclaimed Christian institution, chose “How to Be Antiracist” author Ibram Kendi as a featured speaker for its 2021 Christian Scholars Conference (CSC). The Tennessee Star reached out for more details to CSC Chair David Fleer, Lipscomb University spokespersons, Lipscomb University President Randy Lowry, and Lipscomb University Board of Trustees Chair David Solomon. None of them responded by press time.

After The Star reached out to each of those individuals, Lipscomb University completely scrubbed the original contents of its CSC page. An archived version of the website from Tuesday shows that the original CSC page was largely dedicated to Kendi’s appearance as a featured guest speaker. It also included positive remarks from Fleer about Kendi.

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University of Tennessee at Knoxville Says It Can’t Speak to Why Its Test-Optional Admissions Excludes Home-Schooled Students

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) told The Tennessee Star that no one there can explain why home-schoolers are excluded from its test-optional admissions. Also excluded are those students whose schools didn’t use alpha or numerical grading systems. UTK’s test-optional policy will last until fall 2025.

“Unfortunately, we do not have anyone who can comment around that topic in particular at this time,” stated the UTK spokesperson.

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Federal Appeals Court Hears Case Against Tennessee’s 48-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions

A federal appeals court held a hearing Wednesday in the ongoing case against Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held an en banc hearing for the case, Bristol Regional Women’s Center v. Herbert Slatery III, et al.

The court heard arguments from Sarah Campbell, counsel on behalf of the attorney general’s office, and Autumn Katz, the counsel representing Bristol Regional Women’s Center.

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Review Board Finds Metro Nashville Police’s 2019 Response to Nashville Bomber Was Inadequate

An after-action review board found that the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) 2019 response to a report of the Nashville bomber was inadequate. They noted that the follow-up to the August 2019 incident had multiple issues: namely, lack of documentation and insufficient information gathered. However, the review board also asserted that its analysis doesn’t mean that the bombing was preventable.

The After-Action Review Board concludes that there is no way to know for sure if the suicide bombing on December 25, 2020 could have been prevented. Law enforcement followed protocols and procedures regarding the 8/21/19 incident, however deficiencies were identified in how the follow-up investigation was conducted. An after-action report, by its very nature, invites the examiners to employ hindsight in reaching their conclusions. But there is danger in that. One must not assume that because certain good practices were not followed or certain actions were not taken, the outcome would have necessarily been different had those proper steps been taken. All we can say for sure is that following the best practices and being diligent creates the best opportunity for a good result next time.

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Metro Arts to Expand Racial Equity Leadership Program to Two Years, Will Fund Participants’ Art Projects With $50K Grant

Metro Nashville Arts will expand their racial equity leadership program from six months to two years, and will fund participants’ art projects using a $50,000 grant. Metro Nashville City Council reviewed a resolution awarding the grant to the Racial Equity in Arts Leadership (REAL) Program on Tuesday.

According to the resolution, Metro Arts plans on focusing the second year in the REAL Program to fund the participants’ community art projects. Metro Arts clarified to The Tennessee Star that these funds will only offset the expenses of the community projects. No participants will receive funding resembling wages.

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Knoxville City Council Considering $50K Funding for ‘Violence Interruption’ from Nonprofits

Knoxville City Council is considering whether to grant $50,000 to community nonprofits for their “violence interruption” services. The resolution would award the funds to United Way of Greater Knoxville (UWGK). According to the resolution, UWGK would appoint a committee of community leaders to determine how the $50,000 would be spent.

Violence interruption is a community-based mechanism for preventing violence by intervening in conflicts through violence interrupters. The idea is that individuals encountered by violence interrupters have greater needs that the community can meet through services and programs, therefore eliminating that individual’s need for violent crime. Last month, the Biden Administration released a statement extolling the value of community violence intervention, under which falls violence interruption mechanisms. 

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Metro City Council Resolutions Propose to Make June ‘Nashville Pride Month,’ One Week in May ‘Black Restaurant Week’

Metro Nashville City Council is considering two resolutions, one declaring June to be “Nashville Pride Month” and the other reserving a week in May as “Black Restaurant Week.”

The first resolution declared that LGBTQ+ communities add to the Metro area’s quality of life. The resolution said that it would also recognize the 33rd anniversary of the first Nashville Pride event. If adopted, the Nashville Pride Board of Directors would receive an official copy of the resolution. 

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Apparent Break-In Occurred at Georgia Warehouse Housing Ballots at Center of Pending Election Audit

Downtown Atlanta

An apparent break-in occurred at the ballot-holding warehouse where the ballots for the pending Fulton County, Georgia audit were housed. According to reports, security guards hired by Fulton County left the facility. About 20 minutes later, the facility’s alarm was set off. A security detail hired by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Bob Cheeley, relayed to reporters that the facility door was wide open.

The audit concerns over 145,000 ballots from the presidential election. President Joe Biden won Georgia with just over 12,600 votes.

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University of Tennessee, Knoxville to Require SAT, ACT Scores For Home-Schoolers, But Not For Public School Students Through Fall 2025

Person filling in exam answers

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) will be test-optional until fall 2025 for all applicants – unless you were home-schooled. UTK will prohibit home-schoolers from capitalizing on their test-optional policy, as well as those students from schools that didn’t use alpha or numerical grading systems. UTK said their decision reflected a commitment to equity in a press release issued on Thursday.

The test-optional policy doesn’t mean that eligible applicants get a free pass entirely from admissions. According to the UTK admissions page, applicants that don’t submit their ACT or SAT scores will be considered a “test-optional applicant” and must submit an additional essay. However, the essay has less to do with academics and more to do with character – the current prompt this year asks applicants to recount an example of their leadership in a personal essay.

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Metro Nashville City Council Considering Increase on Sales Taxes Downtown

Downtown Nashville, Tennessee

The Metro Nashville City Council is considering a resolution to increase downtown sales taxes for generalized safety and cleaning. This .25 percent increase would apply to the Downtown Central Business Improvement District (CBID), and would result in an estimated $2.4 million in revenue. The Tennessee General Assembly authorized the increase during this past legislative session.

The resolution didn’t include an exhaustive list of what safety and cleanliness measures would be funded with this sales tax increase, but did note that it would include public safety, social services, and sidewalk cleaning. Additionally, the resolution noted that the funds would be deposited into the city’s event and marketing fund to assist in promotional materials and the recruitment of major conventions and group meetings.

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Congressman Cohen Hosted Forum Featuring Ex-Black Panther Implicated for Torturing, Executing Suspected Police Informant

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) hosted a forum featuring an ex-Black Panther member implicated for torturing and killing a suspected police informant, as well as speakers who praised imprisoned cop killers. The May 10 congressional forum focused on Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), an illegal and secret FBI program that surveilled, infiltrated, and disrupted political groups such as the Black Panther Party (BPP).

“The brunt of the program with its most outrageous abuses were reserved for people of color, particularly Black Americans. The Black Panther Party was literally in the FBI’s crosshairs,” asserted Cohen. “The United States was born of dissent, and alternative perspectives should be welcomed, not neutralized, and protests should be encouraged. We may disagree, but every American has the right and freedom to speak their mind, to petition their government, to protest to be engaged and active in civic life, and contribute their energy and efforts to pursue a more perfect union. The FBI attempted to snuff out minorities and minority viewpoints.”

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Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order Last July Contradicts Claims to Sean Hannity That He’s Been Against Masking Kids

Governor Bill Lee claimed that he’s been against masking kids, but his executive order last July contradicts his remarks. Lee made that claim during a special panel interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. Lee was featured alongside fellow Republican Governors Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Ron DeSantis (Florida), Kim Reynolds (Iowa), and Christopher Sununu (New Hampshire). Near the very end of Executive Order No. 55, Lee “strongly encouraged” schools to impose mask mandates.

Local education agencies, schools, and institutions of higher education are strongly encouraged to implement a policy requiring the use of face coverings by students and staff, with appropriate exemptions, and consistent with any policies issued by the Tennessee Department of Education. No policy, local order, or official may prohibit a student, teachers, school employee, or visitor from voluntarily wearing a face covering except to the extent that such face covering presents a safety or security risk. (emphasis added)

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Tennessee Lawmakers Drafting Legislation to Prevent Traffickers, Cartels from Taking Migrant Children Under Guise of Sponsorship

Tennessee legislators will draft legislation to increase transparency and establish protective measures for the sponsorship of unaccompanied migrant children. The federal government says that sponsors are “almost always a parent or close relative” – but that’s not always the case. Lawmakers’ urgency to increase transparency and establish protective measures for sponsorship heightened after it was revealed that Governor Bill Lee’s administration has continued licensing for a Chattanooga shelter without apparent provisions in place to protect the housed migrant children from traffickers and cartels. 

The Chattanooga shelter is run by the Baptiste Group, a Georgia-based national group that provides emergency shelter services for unaccompanied migrant children – usually for up to 30 days, excepting complications. Last May, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families contracted with the Baptiste Group for a conditional Residential Child Care Agency License in Chattanooga. The three-year contract, set to expire last August, anticipated nearly $7.5 million in costs to house up to 100 children.

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Tennessee’s First Conservative Female Mentorship Group Launched Through United Women of Tennessee

The United Women of Tennessee (UWTN) is gaining traction as a novel mentorship program for young conservative women statewide. UWTN started off with a bang: their first guest speaker was Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who discussed her book “The Mind of a Conservative Women.”

In an interview with The Tennessee Star, UWTN Founder Gloria Giorno explained that she couldn’t find groups connecting and empowering young women with conservative-leaning older women, opportunities, and education. Giorno said her goal is to show them that conservative women are educated and successful mothers, daughters, sisters, Christians who are able to work and have a family life, if they so choose. 

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Biden Administration Offers No Details to The Tennessee Star About Contracts for Transporting Migrant Children into Chattanooga

The Biden Administration didn’t give The Tennessee Star any specifics about the unaccompanied migrant children being imported into the state. They didn’t disclose which companies they contracted to transport the children.

In response to a request for specifics concerning one of several midnight flights from earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relayed to The Star the basic objectives of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

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Research Showed One in Five Tennessee Public School Students in Six Districts Chronically Absent During Pandemic

Woman sitting alone with a mask on.

One in five Tennessee public school students from across six districts were chronically absent last year during the pandemic. Vanderbilt University’s Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA) discovered this during a study of around 150,000 students across about 250 schools. They also discovered that the majority of chronic absenteeism cases occurred among English Learners, minority students, and economically disadvantaged students. The state classifies 10 percent or more of classes missed as chronic absence.

Nowhere did the report mention which six districts were studied. The Tennessee Star asked TERA spokespersons which districts they’d researched. They didn’t respond by press time. TERA noted that these districts’ chronic absenteeism rates have been climbing since 2018, but they’d jumped significantly last year with virtual learning.

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