TIME Family

See This Dad’s Powerful Response to Principal over His Kids’ Absence from School

His children were going to support him at the Boston Marathon

Pennsylvania dad Mike Rossi had been planning for years to run the Boston Marathon and bring along his family to see him make it to the finish line.

“It was an important moment for our family,” Rossi tells PEOPLE about his decision to run this years’ grueling race. It was about teaching his kids about “accomplishing a goal and the value of hard work and dedication.”

Before the 26-mile race, his wife emailed teachers letting them know that their two third graders would be out of school for three days.

“They knew for months we were going,” says Rossi. “My wife emailed them and told them they would be out and why they wouldn’t be there. We were truthful: ‘Their father is going to run the Boston Marathon.’ ”

However, when they returned, Rossi got a letter, dated April 22, from Rochelle Marbury, the principal of Rydal Elementary School, saying the time off the children took had been officially marked as “unexcused.”

The letter also warned Rossi that, “an accumulation of unexcused absences can result in a referral to our attendance officer and a subsequent notice of a violation of the compulsory school attendance law.”

“It struck me as nasty,” says Rossi. “Getting the letter rubbed us the wrong way and I reacted.”

Rossi posted the letter on his personal Facebook page along with his own critical response. The letter and his response quickly went viral and Rossi has since become the father of the moment, viewed by many as fighting back against the zero-tolerance policy of the school district that is thought to be outdated and nonsensical.

In his response, Rossi argued that in the three days his children missed school they not only learned about “dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history, culinary arts and physical education” but “watched their father overcome injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.”

“While I appreciate your concern for our children’s education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school,” he wrote.

While in Boston, Rossi wrote that they walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and visited the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

“It was a life-teaching moment they will never forget,” he says. “It was teaching them lessons about life. It was one of those moments. In 25 years, they will remember being with dad at the Boston Marathon.”

In a letter posted on the Abington School District website, school board president Raymond McGarry wrote about his support for principal Marbury and their district policy.

“It’s up to an individual family to decide whether a particular trip is worth taking their children out of school,” he said. “And when that happens, it’s the school district’s obligation to let the parents know what the law and policies are – and what the potential consequences are if the policies are abused.”

Since his post went viral, Rossi says he met up with school officials to discuss the policy Wednesday.

“It was a good meeting,” says Rossi. “It was productive. They are obviously not thrilled how this has taken off and the light it has cast them in. It was not my intention. It is this policy I don’t agree with. It is one of those ‘zero-tolerance policies so no one has to make a decision’ policies.”

Rossi says he has no regrets about posting his response but says he feels badly about the viral attacks directed towards the principal.

“The principal unfortunately has become the bad guy and has taken a lot of heat and personal attacks and I feel really badly about that,” he says. “I didn’t intend that to happen. My letter was not personal. I have got some personal attacks myself. It should not be me against the principal. I had a disagreement with the policy and let’s have some good dialogue about it.”

“I feel strongly as a parent that we have the right to be able to take our kids on a trip like that or any other trip,” he adds. “I was just trying to say how important this trip was.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The Trouble With Foods Kids See Advertised on TV

TIME.com stock photos Food Snacks Chips Cheetos
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

More than half the foods advertised to kids do not meet federal nutrition guidelines

A new study shows that 53% of food products approved for advertising on TV programs that cater to kids do not meet U.S. recommended government nutrition guidelines.

Kids see 10 to 13 food-related TV ads every day, says the study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, and about half of those ads air during programs that specifically cater to children. The researchers looked at two sets of nutritional guidelines designed specifically to recommend whether a food should appear in a commercial aired during kids’ programming: one set is from a food-and-beverage industry group called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), and the other is from a government group that represents the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, called the Interagency Working Group (IWG).

The study authors looked at the 407 foods approved by the CFBAI to see how they matched up to the recommendations from the IWG. More than half of the foods fell short of the IWG standards, they found.

The researchers evaluated the foods based on the IWG’s “nutrients to limit” list, which includes caps for things like saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. They found that 32% of the CFBAI-approved foods were above the suggested limit for sugar, 23% were above the limit for saturated fat and 15% were over for sodium. Fewer than 1% were over the limit for trans fat.

These are the foods that appeared most often on television commercials, they concluded. “Companies manufacture food and beverage products that meet IWG recommendations; however, these are not the products most heavily marketed to children,” the study reads. “Evidence shows that 96% of food and beverage product advertisements (excluding those for restaurants) seen by children on children’s television programs were for products high in nutrients to limit.”

“A viable solution to this would be for companies to choose to advertise food and beverage products on children’s programming from the 47% of products from their approved list that do meet the IWG recommendations,” says study author Rebecca Schermbeck, a research specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Until then, the study suggests, kids who watch TV are probably still seeing ads for foods that don’t square with recommended national nutritional guidelines.

TIME Innovation

Save the Planet With More Energy, Not Less

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. What if to save the Earth, we need more energy and development, not less?

By Eric Holthaus in Slate

2. No big deal: Kids can now send their science experiments into space.

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

3. We basically know how to end — or at least stop the growth of — homelessness.

By Tim Henderson in Stateline

4. Soon, you could 3D-print your dinner.

By Heidi Ledford in Nature

5. Is this the technology that will finally give us flying cars?

By David Morris in Fortune

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Infectious Disease

Researchers Link Virus to Mysterious Paralysis in Children

Study finds more evidence linking enterovirus D68 to mysterious paralysis in kids

From last summer to this March, 115 children in 34 states suddenly developed sudden unexplained paralysis—called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)—that has kept medical experts scratching their heads about what could be causing it. But in new research published on Monday from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), researchers suggest a specific strain of a common virus could be contributing.

MORE: Parents Hunt for Answers on Kids’ Mysterious Paralysis

Scientists and doctors have long thought that an enterovirus called EV-D68 somehow played a role in the clusters of kids who became partially paralyzed, since the emergence of their symptoms happened at the same time U.S. emergency rooms experienced an unprecedented wave of children coming in with severe EV-D68. But in children who’ve been tested for the virus, it’s very rarely been found in their spinal fluid—the location doctors expect to find it if it’s responsible for paralysis.

The other problem is that enteroviruses are incredibly common, so discovering the virus in children is by no means an anomaly. That makes it difficult to pin the paralysis problem on EV-D68. But now, UCSF scientists have discovered more evidence to link the two. In their study, published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the researchers analyze 25 cases of sudden unexplained paralysis from recent clusters of children. Through nasal swabs, the researchers were able to identify EV-D68 in 12 of those children and found that all of the cases testing positive for the virus were related to a strain called B1, which emerged four years ago with mutations similar to those seen in the polio virus. Even though some of the children in the study were from Colorado and others were from California, they shared the same B1 strain of the virus.

The researchers also discovered this specific strain in the blood of one of the children who developed AFM for the first time. The child was sampled much earlier than the others, though, and researchers think the late timing of testing may have been the reason they didn’t detect the virus in the blood or spinal fluid of most of the children. Even though the researchers couldn’t identify EV-D68 in the children’s spinal fluid, they say they’re not ruling it out, since they also couldn’t find any other infections.

Notably, the researchers also studied the virus in a pair of siblings. One sibling developed AFM, but the other remained normal after symptoms of the respiratory disease went away. This suggests that the reactions to the virus could be genetic, the researchers say.

“The question is, is this coincidental or [are the two] really associated? I think it’s more than a coincidence,” says study author Dr. Charles Chiu, director of UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center. “I think our study answers some of those questions.”

The researchers also sequenced the genome of EV-D68 in six children with AFM and two children without it. They hope that analyzing the virus can help inform future research.

“What’s needed at this point is fundamental biology,” says Chiu. He and his team plan to infect the cells of sibling pairs, where one child got AFM and the other did not, to see if their cells respond differently. Any differences the researchers discover may lead to more knowledge about the underlying causes of the disorder, they say.

TIME Crime

California Woman Arrested for Trying to Steal Two Babies, Leading to One Death

Shooting Baby Death
Scott Varley—AP Long Beach police chief Robert Luna, left, and Mayor Robert Garcia stand during a news conference in Long Beach, Calif., on March 25, 2015

Giseleangelique Rene D'Milian wanted to convince her boyfriend that he was the children's father

In a crime that authorities could only describe as “evil,” a 47-year-old woman in Long Beach, Calif., stands accused of attempting to snatch two infants, resulting in the death of a 3-week-old girl and serious injuries to both of their mothers.

Colluding with three other suspects, Giseleangelique Rene D’Milian, of Thousand Oaks, hatched a plot to steal two children in order to convince her boyfriend that she had given birth to his twins while he was abroad, according to police.

D’Milian spotted her first victim in January, a woman with a newborn who had gotten off a bus and was walking home, reports the Associated Press. Accomplice Anthony McCall, 29, of Vista, waited a couple of hours before he kidnapped the newborn Eliza Delacruz, shooting both of her parents and an uncle in the melee. Eliza’s body was found the day in a dumpster around 100 miles south.

Then in February, D’Milian used a fake charity as a front for luring an acquaintance with a son who was only 4 months old to a hotel, where McCall then assaulted her with a baseball bat. However, he fled when staff were alerted to the ruckus.

“In my notes, I had the word evil several times, and my staff told me to take it out but I can’t summarize it any other way,” police chief Robert Luna told reporters.

D’Milian and McCall are being held on suspicion of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and conspiracy.

[AP]

TIME Research

If Either of Your Parents Smoked, Go and Get Your Heart Checked Out

450770777
Getty Images

Lasting damage may have been done

A study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulati suggests smoking in front of children may increase their chances of developing dangerous carotid plaque later in adulthood.

For the study, researchers used data gathered on Finnish children between 1980 and 1983, and were able to identify which children grew up in smoking households by noting the amount of cotinine that had been found in their blood samples. (Exposure to smoke increases the presence of cotinine in the blood.)

They then correlated this with examinations of the carotid artery conducted on those same — but now fully grown — individuals between 2001 and 2007.

They concluded from this that participants who had one or two parental smokers had an almost two times (1.7 times) greater risk of developing carotid plaque in adulthood compared with participants whose parents did not smoke, regardless of other factors.

The buildup of plaque can lead to the narrowing of the carotid arteries, which is linked to strokes.

The study’s findings add to the mounting evidence that exposure to smoking from parents has lasting effects on children’s physical health later in life, reports Science Daily.

Read next: 9 Subtle Signs You Could Have a Heart Problem

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TIME health

Study Shows Benefits of Breast-Feeding as Popularity Continues to Rise

May 21, 2012, cover of TIME
Cover Credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTIN SCHOELLER FOR TIME The May 21, 2012, cover of TIME

A look back at TIME's 'Are you mom enough?' cover story, which charted the rise of attachment parenting

Word that a new study has found that children who were breast-fed for longer ended up smarter and richer will be welcome among one group of mothers in particular, those who practice the “attachment parenting” style that supports a longer-than-average time before weaning. (The study looked at babies who were breast-fed for at least a year, versus those who did for less than a month; some attachment-parenting adherents breast-feed their children for far longer.)

Those mothers — and the man who introduced the world to attachment parenting, Dr. Bill Sears — were the subject of a 2012 TIME story which, controversially, ran with a cover image of real-life mom Jamie Lynne Grumet breast-feeding her 3-year-old son. And, as the story explained, even as some criticized Sears and his ideas, at least one of his pieces of advice seemed to be permeating society: breast-feeding was more common than it had been in decades.

As TIME’s Kate Pickert put it:

Fans and critics of attachment parenting can agree on two things: there has been a sea change in American child rearing over the past 20 years, and no one has been a more enthusiastic cheerleader for it than Sears. Slings and carriers, like the kind Sears sells on his website AskDrSears.com, are now on every list of must-have baby gear. Breast-feeding is more popular than at any other time since the baby-formula boom of the 1950s. And despite public-health warnings against it, in 2005, according to the CDC, 19% of 2-month-old babies slept in beds with their mothers, a phenomenon almost unheard of 20 years ago.

“So many of the ideas of attachment parenting are in the culture even if you don’t believe in Dr. Sears per se,” says Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé, a new book on French parenting, which Druckerman says demands far less of mothers than its American counterpart. “This is a new common sense.”

According to a 2014 CDC report, about a quarter of U.S. babies were still breastfeeding (though not necessarily exclusively) at 1 year.

Read the rest of the story, here in the TIME archives: The Man Who Remade Motherhood

TIME Infectious Disease

Parents Hunt for Answers on Kids’ Mysterious Paralysis

Mikell Sheehan Eight-year-old Bailey Sheehan was diagnosed with mysterious paralysis in October.

"Over 100 kids are paralyzed and no one’s talking about it"

In August 2014, a small number of children began turning up at emergency rooms around the country with symptoms of severe respiratory disease.

“Our hospital was overflowing,” recalls Dr. Sam Dominguez, a microbial epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, in Aurora.

From the last week of August through the first three weeks of September, the hospital admitted 325 patients with respiratory symptoms, compared to an average of 130 during the same period the previous two years. “This disease was unprecedented for that time of the year,” says Dominguez.

Soon, it was discovered that many of the children were suffering from a specific strain of enterovirus: EV-D68. Many children who get enteroviruses have no symptoms at all; others develop what amounts to a nasty flu. But in this new outbreak, some kids were turning up with weak or paralyzed limbs, stumping doctors.

When the first case of sudden and unexplained partial-paralysis turned up at his hospital, Dominguez says the situation was unusual but not completely unheard of. Two weeks later, another child showed up with limb weakness and paralysis. The following week, there were four more cases. “We were very worried,” says Dominguez. The hospital called the health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for insight.

The CDC reached out to public health authorities in other states and sure enough, states across the country were reporting bizarre cases of children coming in unable to move their limbs. From August 2014 to early March 2015, 115 children in 34 states have been diagnosed with what authorities are calling acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

One of them is an 8-year-old named Bailey. Bailey’s mother, Mikell Sheehan, says that a few days after the family came down with what she describes as a bad cold, she discovered her daughter collapsed in the bathroom in their Oregon home, unable to move her leg.

In December, in California, Megan and Ryan Barr noticed their 6-year-old son Ryder was playing with only his left hand because his right arm felt funny. “It’s hard to explain to a six-year-old what’s happening to them,” says Megan.

One problem for doctors is that the sudden onset of paralysis among children, while rare, happens from time to time with other ailments, including West Nile or Guillain-Barré syndrome. Sorting between the possible causes—and deciphering what’s normal and what’s cause for concern—can be difficult, but experts agree this recent cluster is out of the ordinary.

“The short answer is yes, I think the cluster [of AFM] is connected,” says Dr. Jim Sejvar, a neuroepidemiologist with the CDC investigating AFM. “One of the challenges is there are a lot of different reasons kids can develop [sudden paralysis]. It’s a fruit salad. I think what we saw in the summer and fall of 2014, the vast majority of those children had the same thing. Whether it’s directly related to EV-D68, that’s the part we are trying to sort out.”

No Smoking Gun

Even more confounding to experts is the fact that no two cases are quite alike. Medical officials say a link between EV-D68 and AFM seems obvious, since the two upticks in cases occurred simultaneously. But while some of the paralyzed kids have tested positive for EV-D68, many haven’t. In January, the CDC reported that among 71 paralyzed patients who had their cerebrospinal fluid tested, not a single one was positive for enterovirus.

“The concurrence of EV-D68 and AFM is pretty difficult to ignore,” says Sejvar. “In the absence of any clear alternative, there is a suspicion that EV-D68 could potentially have played a role [in these cases of paralysis and limb weakness]. Unfortunately we don’t have the smoking gun that would allow us to say with absolute certainty that’s the case.”

An early attempt to establish diagnostic criteria for AFM was highly specific, with MRI images of lesions in the spinal chord being a requirement. But now experts worry that criteria set the bar higher than it should have been. “We know we are missing cases,” says Sejvar, who says MRI images can appear different based on when it’s taken. “It’s entirely consistent and possible that some children do have AFM, but for one reason or another were not meeting the CDC case definition that includes the MRI findings.”

While the CDC is still actively investigating what may have caused the recent cluster of AFM cases, it’s hit roadblocks. For instance, the agency developed an antibody test to see whether children with AFM were also more likely to have antibodies against EV-D68 compared to other healthy children. But the researchers discovered that nearly everyone in the general public has those antibodies, making the comparison useless to investigators.

Parents are looking for answers, too. A few days after Sheehan’s daughter was featured in a local news story, a woman named Erin Olivera, from Moorpark, California, sent her a friend request on Facebook. She said she’d gone through the same experience with her 3-year-old son Lucian in 2012. Though Lucian has slowly gained back some control over his legs since the initial onset, Olivera says he’s not “100%” and that she’s still looking for answers.

“I realize it’s frustrating to not have a definitive answer, particularly for parents,” says the CDC’s Sejvar. “We are working as hard as we can to establish the underlying cause.”

Parents Band Together

Together, Olivera and Sheehan created two Facebook support groups—one public, one for members—for families impacted by AFM. They launched the groups in January and now have about 90 members.

“We have a lot of polls going to see if we can figure out similarities,” says Sheehan. The patterns the women have noticed include: Most of the kids, their parents say, developed respiratory infections some time between August and December 2014, and shortly after that, their children had numbness, weakness or paralysis in one or more of their limbs. Many of the children were given steroids to treat their respiratory symptoms. Many had siblings who were also ill with a respiratory virus but had no paralysis. And many of the children have family members who have autoimmune diseases. (Some of these shared experiences are more substantiated than others.)

Some of the parents have signed up their kids for a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins that’s comparing the DNA of children with AFM who had an enterovirus infection to their siblings who also got sick but were not paralyzed. The researchers want to see if there are any genetic mutations that may make one child paralyzed and the other not.

Sheehan and Olivera plan to create a hub where science-based information about the disease can be easily shared by families facing similar situations. They hope growing awareness will encourage more attention for their children and the mysterious disorder. And just as much as the parents share research, they also share frustration. “There’s over 100 kids who are paralyzed and no one’s talking about it,’” says Megan Barr. “We are all kind of feeling around in the dark.”

Read next: Nearly Half a Million Babies Die From Poor Hygiene

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