A senior at Hickory Ridge High School in Harrisburg, North Carolina was recently suspended for wearing a shirt that showed her collarbones. Summer, an honor roll student with a 4.4 GPA, told NBC Charlotte that she was sitting in the cafeteria last week when the school s principal asked her to put on a jacket because her shirt went against the school s dress code. According to NBC Charlotte, Summer s shirt partially showed her shoulders and exposed her back. Although Summer reportedly told her principal she thought her shirt was fine to wear at school, she complied with the principal s request and put on a jacket. Unfortunately, the principal was still not satisfied and asked Summer to change her outfit all together.
Watch the full news clip of Summer s story below.
Instead of accompanying the principal to change her clothes, Summer asked the principal to call her mother. According to NBC Charlotte, Summer has had a number of issues with her principal over the past four years, and because of this, Summer s mother has asked the school to call her before taking any disciplinary action against her daughter. The principal was unable to reach Summer s mother, so Summer went about her day. Later, during a school assembly, the principal came in with a school security guard and asked everyone to leave except Summer.
[The security guard] was within five feet of me, he had his hand on his gun, Summer said. [The principal] said I m gonna give you an ultimatum. We have tried to call your mother. You either come with me to the control room to change your shirt or we will arrest you. Right before the security guard could handcuff the high school senior, Summer s mother called.
Thankfully, Summer was not arrested but Yahoo reported she was given a 10-day suspension from school and was banned from all senior activities including high school graduation. According to the letter sent home to Summer s mom, the high school senior was suspended for insubordination.
Summer told NBC Charlotte that she thinks the principal is still considering expelling her.
It s just sad because I worked so hard for four years to walk across that stage, she said. We have drug dealers walking across that stage, we have sex offenders walking across that stage and then the 4.4 student who showed her shoulders can t.
By Ames Alexander and Gavin Off The Charlotte Observer (TNS)
CHARLOTTE Bertie Correctional Institution was understaffed the month that Sgt. Meggan Callahan was killed there allegedly by an inmate who beat her to death with a fire extinguisher. State figures show that in April, when Callahan died, roughly one of every five correctional officer positions at the eastern North Carolina prison was vacant. Bertie isn t the only state prison with staffing problems. Statewide, about 16 percent of officer positions are vacant.
It s unclear whether better staffing would have saved Callahan s life. But some experts interviewed by the Observer said that s a possibility. Brian Dawe, executive director of the American Correctional Officer Intelligence Network (ACOIN), said Bertie like most of the nation s prisons appeared to be badly understaffed, based on the numbers that state prison officials provided to the Observer. Dawe, whose group shares research to help correctional officers, said that prison leaders who operate without sufficient staff roll the dice with people s lives.
And this time it came up snake eyes, he said.
Said Gary Harkins, former research and information director for ACOIN: People can get killed when you don t have enough staff. It s as simple as that. David Guice, the state s chief deputy secretary for adult correction and juvenile justice, said he does not yet know whether better staffing at Bertie would have made any difference the day that Callahan was killed. But he said that Gov. Roy Cooper has asked him to review the circumstances to ensure this doesn t happen again.
Prison leaders plan to examine many factors, including staffing patterns, Guice said. Many of North Carolina s maximum-security prisons are operating dangerously short of staff, current and former correctional officers told the Observer. One former officer, who rushed to a colleague s defense after she was slashed in the neck by an inmate at Lanesboro Correctional Institution, said the attack might have been prevented with more staff. At Bertie, Callahan was responding to a fire set inside a trash can on the evening of April 26 when an inmate beat her to death with the fire extinguisher she d brought to douse the flames, state officials say. Inmate Craig Wissink, who has been serving a life sentence for murder since 2004, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Callahan s death.
When Callahan was attacked, two other officers were nearby, according to Anthony Jernigan, who heads the State Bureau of Investigation office that covers northeastern North Carolina. One of those officers fell and hurt her knee when she went to Callahan s defense, Jernigan said. About 60 inmates were also near Callahan when she was attacked on April 26, Jernigan said. Experts said that better staffing at the prison likely would have meant more eyes and ears on what inmates were doing, faster response times and more officers on the scene.
They might have had enough officers to subdue that inmate before he got that fire extinguisher from the sergeant, said Robert Webster, a former captain at two North Carolina maximum-security prisons.
When you don t have adequate staff to manage the inmates, and there s an incident, unfortunately people can get hurt and sometimes people even die, Webster said.
State prison officials refused to say how many staff were on duty the day Callahan died. They contended those numbers constitute sensitive public security information. But prison officials did release the monthly figures, which show that the prison had 211 officers available to work in April. Those officers must cover two shifts and a number of them are off, sick or on vacation at any given time so only a fraction of the total staff was likely available to work the day shift on April 26. Bertie now houses about 935 inmates. At other prisons of comparable size, officers told the Observer, it s common for about 50 or 60 officers to work the day shift.
There are no national standards for minimum staffing at prisons, experts say. But Harkins said the numbers provided by North Carolina suggest Bertie was severely understaffed. A prison with 1,000 inmates should have a total of at least 300 to 350 officers, he said.
If you had more staff, then you might have been looking at hurt staff instead of dead staff (on the day Callahan died), Harkins said.
It s so dangerous
At Lanesboro, 45 miles southeast of Charlotte, it was common for 42 officers to watch about 1,200 prisoners on the night shift, according to Gregory McCoy, who worked there as a correctional officer from 2009 to 2016. That works out to about one officer for every 29 inmates.
It s not safe, McCoy said. All it would take is for five or ten guys to decide we re going to take over the prison. And we don t have enough staff to fight back. Early on the morning of Nov. 15, 2013, Lanesboro had just four officers in the chow hall to oversee the 100 inmates who were there for breakfast, McCoy said. Had there been more, he said, one female officer might never have been assaulted.
McCoy heard the officer curse and saw her struggling with an inmate. He ran over and subdued the prisoner. But by that time, the officer was already bleeding profusely. Inmate Donny Mosley, who is serving time for second-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon, had slashed her face and neck with a razor-like weapon.
I think if I hadn t gotten over there in time, (Mosley) probably would have cut her throat, McCoy said. The gashes in the officer s face and neck required 39 stitches.
But if another staff member had been standing beside the officer that morning, there s a possibility (Mosley) would have kept walking, McCoy said. At Polk Correctional Institution, north of Durham, two or three officers are routinely put in charge of monitoring more than 200 inmates in the chow hall, said Sierra Gravitte, an officer who this month resigned from the prison after four years on the job.
It s so dangerous, Gravitte said. It puts officers lives in danger to be honest.
The inmates literally say, You all are understaffed, so if we wanted to, we could overtake this prison. Recruiting challenges
Finding people who are willing to work as prison officers isn t easy. The pay is low an average of the about $35,000 annually at maximum-security prisons and the work is dangerous and demanding.
Guice, the prison leader, acknowledged that the state faces significant staffing challenges. Many of the large maximum-security prisons such as Bertie and Lanesboro are located in rural areas, where recruiting can be difficult. State prison leaders say they are holding many hiring events and partnering with schools and military bases to fill jobs. And they say pay increases approved by the legislature in 2015 will also help with recruiting. The state has recently made offers to about 400 officer candidates, so the vacancy rate will likely drop, Guice said. But while North Carolina typically hires about 1,800 to 2,000 prison officers per year, it usually loses about that many as well.
We ve got to find a way to retain the people who work for us, Guice said. We ve got a lot of folks who are not staying with us.
Prison leaders say they have begun assigning new officers career readiness coaches, who provide pointers on dealing with inmates, keeping themselves safe and attaining career goals. Prison leaders say that when staff vacancies at a prison rise, they make adjustments, such as moving prisoners, reducing inmate programs and sending fewer staff members to special training. Over-reliance on overtime?
To cope with the shortages, many prisons have also paid hundreds of thousands each year for overtime. Statewide, correctional officers received more than $12 million in overtime in 2015, the Observer found. Some correctional officers have more than doubled their income by working overtime. One Polk officer made $29,800 in salary in 2015. She earned an extra $36,500 in overtime that year, records show. In 2014, a Lanesboro officer was paid $29,800 but made another $35,600 in overtime.
Officers said excessive overtime work can leave them burned out and exhausted. Angela Smith, who worked as an officer at Tabor Correctional Institution from 2010 to 2014, said she was often asked to work overtime because the prison was so understaffed.
When your shift starts at 5:30 a.m. and you work 12 hours and you get told you re held over till 9 (p.m.) you re not alert. You re tired. Your morale goes down, she said. The staffing shortages also put officers in danger, Smith said.
You can only spread people so thin, she said. If inmates wanted to jump another inmate or take somebody out that day, that would be the time to do it when you re understaffed.
Father David Randolph of Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson looks at the Holy Fire candle in the church. Father Randolph said the flame was originally from Israel and transported to New York, then to Anderson.(Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)
Across America, hundreds of Christian Orthodox churches have candles that are burning with a flame that originated in the spot venerated as the tomb of Jesus a flame that is being carried in cars in a religious relay by people like South Florida-based rapper Jamey Bennett. It s the first time the flame, known as the Holy Fire, has spread in churches across America after a millennium of that tradition in Eurasia. Bennett, one half of a hip-hop duo called Royal Ruckus, is among those who is ferrying the flame in his car as he drives around on tour in the Southeast and Midwest. He has candles sitting in sand-filled buckets as well as in his cup-holder.
I may be the only rapper, at least in America, who is on tour with a flame from Jesus tomb, Bennett said in a phone call from Nashville, where candles bearing the flames rested for the night on a friend s dining room table.
The fire has made its way to Anderson and Greenville Orthodox churches and to churches in every state. This year is believed to be the first time the fire has made it to America, and even if it has been secreted here before, it has never spread to multiple churches like it has this year, said Father Lawrence Farley, an author who writes a blog for the Orthodox Church in America and leads a church in British Columbia, Canada. His church received the flame Saturday.
Jamey Bennett with the Holy Fire he is carrying on tour with his group, Royal Ruckus. (Photo: Contributed)
The fire originates in what the faithful believe is an annual miracle that is well known to Orthodox Christians but not to many outside the church, said Bill Stathakis, an Anderson man who went to Jerusalem this year in April to witness the birth of the flame.
Father David Randolph of Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson stands by a window near the Holy Fire candle inside the church. Father Randolph said the flame was originally from Israel and transported to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)
Each year the Patriarch of Jerusalem goes into the Tomb of Jesus with candles, after having been searched for anything that could light a candle and stripped down to almost nothing. He says prayers before the candles, which believers say spontaneously ignite. He emerges and shares the light with others.
Bill Stathakis, of Anderson, carries in April a bundle of candles lit from a candle that had shortly before emerged from the Tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem. (Photo: Contributed)
Stathakis said he was in awe of receiving the flame when a security guard began yelling at him, Go, go, go. He thought he had done something wrong but was actually being told to go bring the flame to an old section of Jerusalem where others were waiting to take it.
The flame he carried lasted for less than a half hour before it came close to burning his hand. He had no idea he d be able to see this year s Holy Fire again at his home churches of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville and Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson. The flame this year made the leap to America aboard a private plane that took off from Moscow, with embers in a mining lantern, and landed in New York where it went to two churches that spread the fire to others, according to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The fire has spread from those two throughout the country.
The fire came to South Carolina from Charlotte, said Hannah Hunt, who drove from there to Greenville, Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida. She drove it in a sports car, with her husband and son, who was graduating from Florida State University.
We had the AC vents pointed up and had beeswax, which is pure, but still puts out carbon monoxide, Hunt said. So we had to open the windows every hour. And gas station stops were interesting. Bennett picked up the fire in Greenville from Anderson s Pelegia Miller who got it from Hunt, and he has been to Ohio and Nashville and other cities. He plans to bring it at last to his home church in South Florida.
The Holy Fire, carried from candles by Pelegia Miller from North Carolina to Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson, was part of a Holy Fire sharing journey from Israel and to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Courtesy of Pelegia Miller)
He keeps candles in his cup holders and has singed his arm hair a few times when he puts in it park. There s also a small lantern in Bennett s front seat floorboard, nestled in a 5-gallon bucket filled with dirt and more candles in another bucket in the back seat. Turn on the air conditioning just a bit too high and the lantern, as well as the cup holder ones, could get snuffed.
It wouldn t be a crisis of faith to lose the flame. As a practical matter, there are so many others that it would be easily replaced. And as a spiritual matter the faith isn t contained in a glass candle holder or a flickering flame, said Father David Randolph, of the Anderson Orthodox church. He said the flame, and Jesus tomb, bear special meaning to him but it is all in service of a bigger faith. Randolph has been inside the tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, about six years ago on a trip with two dozen Protestant preachers.
He spent five minutes, alone in the darkness, meditating on Jesus death and life.
I had the realization that he was in this tomb for me, Randolph said. Miller, one of the members of his church, heard about the Holy Fire in a Facebook group that connects churches and people who wish to get, and to transport the fire.
The Holy Fire had never traveled across the United States before, Miller said. It was too incredible to miss. The fire carries layers of meaning, said Father Marcus Burch of St. John of the Ladder Orthodox Church in Greenville.
He said the Holy Fire inside his church is on an alter for worshipers to see and to bring to their own homes if they choose. There are elements of the ancient world in today s candles, reaching back into a time when Jesus words about light were more directly linked to fire than today s time, when light can be easily separated from fire.
Christ is the light of the world, fire is such a rich symbol on so many levels, Burch said. In older times, the gospel was passed from person to person, spoken from one to the next, he said.
The Holy Fire candle at Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson inside the church. Father Randolph said the flame was originally from Israel and transported to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)
The spread of the Holy Fire this year is a similar reminder that people are still spreading the word of God, touching one candle to another and sending the flame in a new direction, Burch said. Hunt, who spread the fire to Greenville and Atlanta before Florida, said it was a leap of faith.
We went to a lot of trouble to take it to people we didn t know, she said. In our faith we talk about the love of God as a river of fire. And each person received it just as the love of God is always there to be received. She said it was an amazing feeling that came with a spur-of-the-moment decision to take the fire with her on her trip to Florida.
Farley, the pastor in Canada, said there are certainly skeptics of the miracle of the Holy Fire. He said there may be ways to spontaneously light a candle, as shown in videos that attempt to debunk the Holy Fire, but those videos cannot replicate other parts of the fire including the people who dip their beards in the fire without lighting their faces on fire. For 15 minutes or so after the fire emerges from the tomb, Farley said, people can be seen on video touching the flame and touching it to their beards with no damage.
But in time, the flame becomes just as warm as one ignited from a lighter, he said. Randolph, from Anderson, said it is a miracle.
It s like faith itself, and love, he said. I can tell you what love looks like but until you experience it, you may not know. Bennett, still on the tour he has since renamed the Holy Fire Tour, said the flame gives him an unexplainable feeling of warmth, a warmth that is distinct from the heat of a candle.
He hasn t used the candles in his performances and while his partner has created a beat with religious chants, he hasn t found the right moment or words to pay tribute to the fire.
It needs to be genuine, Bennett said. He s taking advantage of being on the road for his tour as a chance to spread the flame to churches and the faithful as he passes, and if the right respectful lyrics come to him, he ll turn it into a project, but he s in no rush.
The Holy Fire, carried from candles in a bucket by Pelegia Miller from North Carolina to Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson, was part of a Holy Fire sharing journey from Israel and to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Courtesy of Pelegia Miller)
Bennett sees himself as a rapper who is Orthodox rather than an Orthodox rapper. And as an Orthodox man, being able to handle the fire is a miracle.
It s hard to say if the depth of meaning to me is personal or if it s the miracle of the flames, he said. Even if you didn t believe in the miracle, and I do believe in the miracle, it is something special to have a flame carried from the tomb of Christ all across America. I literally have a fire from the tomb with me. He said carrying that fire from the tomb is both absurd and incredible.
The message of Christ in the gospel has been called foolish, but for those who believe, it is quite special and miraculous, Bennett said. It tells us Jesus is risen and that is a reality.
Follow Mike Ellis on Twitter @MikeEllis_AIM
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