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Welcome to the organization’s newest initiative: PEN – The Quarterly Journal of the Progressive Education Network! Overseen by the National Board of Directors with contributions from members, partners, and invited guests, this resource is yet another way the national office is encouraging continued dialogue and inquiry about progressive education principles and practices. We believe the best resource we have, as teachers, is each other. As such, we continue to develop new ways to forge relationships, spur conversation, and deepen connections between teachers, classrooms, and schools. A recognized thought leader in the field of progressive education, the Progressive Education Network is recognized for the breadth of its intellectual scope and its penetration in the field. Thousands of educators and education administrators rely on us to inform their teaching and enhance their connection to the field of education. Each issue of the journal will include articles, vetted resources, communications from the national office, as well as event information from the organization and our partners. Four issues are published annually and sent digitally to members and partners. Back Issues of PEN will also be available at Individuals, institutions, and agencies wishing to become members or partners, please visit our website for information. Thank you for all you do for yourselves, your students, and your schools through your connection to the Progressive Education Network. Warmest Regards, The Board and Staff of the Progressive Education Network SUBMIT AN ARTICLE

The national office of PEN seeks your entries for publication in the journal - articles, images, and ideas related to the Network and the Progressive Education movement. Email your ideas and questions to Charles Stanton at

























2017 PEN Conference: Continuous Lines Our national conference will take place in Boston this fall; the theme this year comes directly from the first principle of progressive education: “Education must amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.” Keep an eye on the website ( for registration information and details! We hope to see you in Boston this October!

(a featured speaker at the PEN Jesse Hagopian Conference in NYC) is a Seattle area educator, activist, and author (More Than a Score) who has been on the leading edge of standardized testing resistance.

REFLECTING ON NIPEN Katie Coplin Second/ Third Teacher Wickliffe Elementary National Board Certified Teacher NIPEN ALUMNA

Progressive Education is all about love. Love for life long learning. Love for children for who and where they are in life. Love for colleagues who become your close friends, allies, and think thanks. Love for schools and learning communities full of joy. Places where all individuals feel safe and valued. Learning environments where learners are actively engaged, critically thinking, wondering, and playing. Love for the rich history of an educational philosophy filled with knowledgeable and influential people who were and are dedicated to real learning and changing the ways we look at and approach teaching and learning. Love for our society, our world. A world that is far from perfect let alone just, clean, fair, or safe but that we face every day with our students and colleagues to try to change and improve. This was part of the definition of Progressive Education that I developed at the end of my NIPEN experience. This year, I was blessed to have the chance to be a part of the NIPEN 4.0 cohort. In January, I traveled to Rosewell, Georgia where I got to spend three days immersed in High Meadows a pre k-8th grade independent progressive school. I went into the experience excited and looking forward to learning with other like-minded teachers, but little did I know how much I would be impacted by my time there. As a cohort we learned about the rich history of Progressive Education and developed Call to Action projects. We spent time observing teachers and students working in a school that embodies the idea that learning can happen anywhere. In those three days I connected with teachers across the country. The people, who I thought at first, were simply other participants, quickly transformed into deep friendships that will last for years to come. It was easy saying good-bye, because we knew we would see each other in three months. In April we traveled to Saint Paul, Minnesota. There we became a part of the Open World Learning Community a 6th-12th grade public progressive school. As soon as the group got back together, we reconnected as if we hadn’t been apart for three months. We spent the second three days learning and growing together. We observed students sharing their learning with Minnesota’s state senators, teachers connecting with students in multi-age homeroom meetings (Crew), and students of all ages connecting over foursquare. When we did our closing activity, my tears were flowing. I was so sad. This time saying good-bye was difficult- we knew goodbye meant “see you soon, I hope.” As I reflect on my NIPEN experience I can truly say it was the best professional development experience I have ever had in my fourteen years of teaching. I grew as a progressive educator because of the deep relationships I built with 24 other educators. The three women from my Call to Action project group have become my own personal think tank- we are already planning trips to visit each other’s schools.

National Institute of PEN 4.0 Our 4th NIPEN met for 6 amazing days at two wonderful schools: High Meadows (Roswell, GA) and Open World Learning Community (St. Paul, MN). Katie Coplin featured on the opposite page is among our esteemed NIPEN alumni and we hope you and your colleagues will join us! We are also looking for site schools for NIPEN 5.0. Please write to us at if you would be interested in hosting 3 days of our national institute at your school! Join us as partners and advocates!

RESOURCES Guest Contributor Ronelle P. Swagerty, M.B.A., M.S.Ed. Chief Executive Officer New Beginnings Family Academy NIPEN 4.0 ALUMNA

The featured Resources Contributor this issue is Ronelle Swagerty with New Beginnings Family Academy and is a proud alumni of the National Institute of PEN (NIPEN). Ronelle has wonderful suggestions for schools that are looking to engage their parent population. As Ronelle put it, “the New Beginnings Family Academy school community is at the beginning of a long process, but is taking meaningful baby steps toward engaging parents in the school's mission of progressive practice.� RONELLE RECOMMENDS: Family Power, Engaging and Collaborating with Families by Elizabeth Smull, Joshua Wachtel, & Ted Wachtel Beyond the Bake Sale, The Essential Guide to FamilySchool Partnerships by: Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies PEN seeks your suggestions for the best resources related to progressive education. Email us at:

Ronelle kindly shared a few accomplishments at NBFA: We engaged our school's governance council, a state-mandated parent advisory group, as a conduit to the broader community. The committee was asked to read Alfie Kohn's article and we began to intentionally use our time together to discuss what it means to be a progressive school and the active role families can play in it (guest teachers, advocates, classroom parents). We also seized every opportunity when parents were in the building to share progressive education infomercials - short clips and/or photos - to provide a visual of the work we're doing versus just talking about it. We revised our intake process to include mandatory 20-minute story-gathering sessions for every parent of a new child. This info session has been incredibly meaningful. We held "Coffee with Mrs. Swagerty" sessions to solicit questions, feedback, etc. We are currently holding a 4-week "Spring Into Shape" daily exercise class to bond, solicit questions, feedback, etc. Congratulations to Ronelle and her team. Thank you for sharing your journey!


Our network is growing! Interested in becoming a partner?

Submit your request at before Sept 30 2017

Partner Criteria

P lease che ck the Part ners pa ge of ou r s it e to pro v ide us w it h info rmation; w e w ill be rev iew in g new part n er requests b etw een Ma y 30 and Septem ber 30

Schools and institutions that partner with us are: • Independent, 501 c3 • Public/Public Charter • Fully operational for a minimum of 3 years • Accredited by regional/national group • Have an Inclusive admissions policy • Have explicit articulation of progressive pedagogy/values in school mission, vision, and curriculum • Affirm and practice PEN Principles of Progressive Education

Partner Benefits

We are happy to offer the following with your yearly registration: • Partner school name, logo, and website link are part on our website • Partners can post employment opportunities and school-based events • Partners receive/contribute to our newsletter • Partners can contribute to our blog • Partners can post the PEN Logo to their website

Subscription Fee: $75.00/year


In 2015, PEN members and friends raised more than $20,000 to provide access for teachers to attend our national conference. Our goal this year is to double that amount! Please consider a gift today to help defray the cost of attending CONTINUOUS LINES this October!



Article By Ann Banks Originally published by EDUTOPIA EDUTOPIA.COM

TEACHING TOLERANCE THE TEACHER WHO STARTED GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCES Teacher Bob Parlin (above) launched the first gay-straight alliance in a public school. Today, this national network provides a powerful dose of social and emotional learning for students of every orientation.

"Is Mr. Parlin Gay?" That startling question, asked by a senior in Ernest Van Seasholes' current affairs class, is how Seasholes recalls the beginning of a new era at Newton South High School, in Newton, Massachusetts. "I said, 'Give me a minute,'" Seasholes says, "and I ran upstairs to where Bob Parlin was teaching. 'One of my students wants to know if you're gay. What should I say?'" Parlin said to tell her yes, but also to ask why the question was important to her and to discuss with the class why it might be a challenging issue. That is how, in the fall of 1991, Bob Parlin came out to the students at Newton South, and in the process, helped spark a dialogue that continues in high schools across America today. Parlin had disclosed his sexual orientation to colleagues at the suburban Boston high school the previous spring -- fittingly, at a meeting of the Newton South Committee on Human Differences. Homophobia had been on the agenda for discussion, and Parlin arrived a few minutes late, just in time to hear a committee member declare that homosexuality wasn't an issue at Newton South so they might as well move on to the next topic. This wasn't California, after all, and in his 20 years at the school, the committee member had never encountered a single gay student.

Parlin had been teaching history at Newton South for four years, but only a few friends on the faculty knew he was gay. Despite a fear that he might be putting his job on the line, he couldn't let his colleague's remarks pass unchallenged. Parlin recalls what happened next: "I said, 'Let me explain why I think we do have a problem here.'" He described his experiences growing up gay in Grafton, Massachusetts, in the 1980s. Figuring out he was gay in middle school was a deeply traumatizing experience -- one that drove him far into the closet. "By the time I was in high school, I was deep undercover," he told the committee. "I had a girlfriend. I tried to make sure there were no questions." From the outside, everything looked perfect; he'd been valedictorian, student body president, and editor of the newspaper. He'd played football, hung out with the popular kids, and brought a date to the prom. Successful as this imposture had been, it had made Parlin feel intensely lonely and isolated. He had to constantly monitor how he talked and acted for fear of giving himself away. Kids were regularly beaten up for being gay, and the word fag was the common parlance for dumb. He'd hated deceiving people and had felt overwhelmed with shame at being gay. He described what it was like to feel so alone and to feel unsafe in school. With no role models and no one to talk to, he had ended up attempting suicide his first year in college because he could not envision a life in which he could be happy and whole. “ It would have helped enormously, he told the Committee on Human Differences, if he'd had even one openly gay teacher in high school to serve as a role model. � Many of his colleagues were moved to tears by the time Parlin finished talking at the meeting, and from then on at Newton South High School, the social and emotional consequences of being gay entered the public consciousness. Recounting this oft-told story, Bob Parlin expounds on what he took from that afternoon: It's better to act out of hope than fear, and empathy is a powerful tool in dissolving prejudice. He has put that wisdom to work ever since, advocating for the rights of gay students to learn in an atmosphere free of harassment, discrimination, and threats of violence.

Gay and Straight Kids Align

Coming out at school galvanized Parlin. Within six months, he started Newton South's Gay-Straight Alliance -- the first such group at a public school. The concept had been pioneered by teacher Kevin Jennings, Parlin's then-partner, at Concord Academy, a private school some 17 miles from Newton. (The two met when they were just out of Harvard.) The goal of these gay-straight alliances is to make school communities feel safe and welcoming to all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

To support these student groups, Jennings also started a coalition of teachers, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN. Until then, advocates for tolerance had based their appeals on the importance of multiculturalism and appreciation of diversity. Shifting the emphasis to safety was crucial for building broad support, says Parlin. "Even conservative critics find it hard to argue with the proposition that bullying and assaults against gay students need to be stopped," he explains. Parlin's activism at Newton South put him in the vanguard of what became first a statewide and then a national movement. In 1992, Massachusetts Governor William Weld established a commission on gay and lesbian youth, the first in any state. After uncovering overwhelming evidence that gay students were subject to ostracism and bullying and were at increased risk of suicide, the commission urged that Massachusetts schools develop corrective policies. Among them was a mandate to establish "school-based support groups for gay, lesbian, and heterosexual students" -a gay-straight alliance. The state education department was charged with implementing the recommendations under the auspices of the Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students. Bob Parlin signed on as a consultant, and for the next two years, he was the Johnny Appleseed of the Safe Schools Program. He and a few colleagues crisscrossed the state, giving weekend workshops for teams of students, teachers, and administrators on ways to address homophobia in school communities.

Teaching Teachers Parlin has continued to address similar gatherings, both in schools and in the community. He also teaches fellow advocates the framework he helped develop for conducting Safe Schools workshops, called the CEFA model (context, empathy, facts, action). The workshops are designed to help teachers empathize with the educational and emotional needs of gay youth and to understand the problems they face. The teachers hear students telling their own stories and learn strategies for appropriately addressing name-calling and other forms of harassment. They are encouraged to identify actions they can take to make their schools safe and welcoming for gay students and staff. For example, when witnessing harassment, Parlin instructs teachers to "stop the behavior with a quick remark such as, 'That comment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.'" But stopping the action is not enough. In a set of instructions Parlin wrote for teachers, he encourages teachers to "ask the harasser to explain what he or she meant by the comment, forcing the student to recognize the hurtful nature of his or her behavior."


The national office of PEN seeks your entries for publication in the journal - articles, images, and ideas related to the Network and the Progressive Education movement. Email your ideas and questions to Charles Stanton at

Most important, Parlin believes, is for teachers not to be immobilized by fear of consequences for their actions when calling out harmful behavior. "Making a mistake is far less serious than not acting at all. You can always go back to the student and say or do something else, if, on reflection, you feel you did not respond correctly." He cautions teachers to try not to embarrass the perpetrator: "Humiliating the harasser is rarely an effective strategy."

Standing Out: Bob Parlin, pausing in front of a mural painted by his partner, Bren Bataclan, embodies self-confidence. Credit: Sage Sohier

Nearly two decades on, the movement that started at Kevin Jennings and Bob Parlin's kitchen table has expanded beyond anything they might have imagined. Gay-straight alliances currently exist in more than 3,000 schools nationwide. Parlin remains in front of a classroom, as passionate about teaching as he was on the day he spoke up at the Committee on Human Differences meeting. Says his friend Jennings, "I was a gay person who was into teaching. Bob was a teacher who happened to be gay." He calls Parlin "the most dedicated and effective teacher I have ever known. He makes every kid feel appreciated because he understands what it's like to feel left out."

On a recent afternoon, Parlin stood before his freshman world-history class ready to hand out graded tests. "Some of you did very well -- others, not so well," he says. Gloating is gently discouraged. He cautions the high performing students to be mindful of their other classmates. One boy, who seems ready to blurt out his good grade, thinks better of it and subsides. "Kids may forget what you teach them, but they won't forget how you treat them," Parlin says. That mantra of respect defines his role as an educator. Whether he's talking to students, administrators, fellow teachers, or conservative parents concerned about homosexuality in the schools, Parlin allows people "to be in different places in their comfort levels with the subject and lets that be OK," says Kim Westheimer, who teamed up with him in the Safe Schools Program. Sam Donovan, a 2009 graduate of Newton South, is among the students Parlin has inspired. Donovan, who now attends the New School university, felt at ease enough to come out during his freshman year of high school. "I knew I wasn't going to be judged

negatively at school." Bob's influence was a big part of that, Donovan believes. "He's made sure there is zero tolerance for homophobia at Newton South." In the beginning, Donovan took the supportive environment for granted and had no interest in the GayStraight Alliance. After getting to know some gay students from less-accepting school communities, he came to understand the significance of the organizations. "After sophomore year, I was talking to some kids in Colorado who said they couldn't come out at school for fear of getting beaten up. It was so heartbreaking," Donovan says. "That made me realize what the Gay-Straight Alliance was all about. It's meant to change the perspective on homosexuality in the schools and to enable more people to be comfortable with themselves."

Parlin's Influence

Today, Parlin and his partner of 14 years, artist Bren Bataclan, share an apartment in a blue Queen Anne house in Cambridge, not far from Harvard Square. A framed photo atop a bookcase shows Bob surrounded by a group of cheerful teenagers in a celebratory mood. This is the Newton South Gay-Straight Alliance lofting a banner in a recent Boston gay pride parade. The students -- gay and straight -- are drawn to the organization because of an interest in justice, according to Parlin. "For teenagers, justice is critical, and they want to feel like they're making a difference." Yet even with all of the group's efforts and Newton South being the poster school for tolerance, homophobia has not been eradicated there. A recent incident -- someone scribbled antigay epithets on blackboards in several classrooms -- demonstrated that there is still work to be done. The school and the Gay-Straight Alliance responded promptly and forcefully. The faculty and students held meetings, and the student newspaper ran stories and editorials calling for the school to "prevent future occurrences of hate." Parlin urged people in the school community to become more supportive of students who struggle with their sexuality. The challenge Bob Parlin put before the Committee on Human Differences 20 years ago is as relevant as ever. Partly through Parlin's efforts, homophobic behavior is neither overlooked nor minimized at Newton South and at public schools across the country. The school has created a culture of respect for new generations of at-risk students who can feel safe and free to concentrate and succeed at school in a way that previous generations could not. ANN BANKS HAS WRITTEN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, THE WASHINGTON POST, AND VOGUE AND HAS PUBLISHED SEVEN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN.


A TALK TO TEACHERS S AN EXCERPT OF BALDWIN’S ICONIC VISION FOR EDUCATION Since I am talking to schoolteachers and I am not a teacher myself, and in some ways am fairly easily intimidated, I beg you to let me leave that and go back to what I think to be the entire purpose of education in the first place. It would seem to me that when a child is born, if I’m the child’s parent, it is my obligation and my high duty to civilize that child. Man is a social animal. He cannot exist without a society. A society, in turn, depends on certain things that everyone within that society takes for granted. Now the crucial paradox that confronts us here is that the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society. Thus, for example, the boys and girls who were born during the era of the Third Reich, when educated to the purposes of the Third Reich, became barbarians. The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change. Delivered October 16, 1963, as “The Negro Child – His Self-Image”; originally published in The Saturday Review, December 21, 1963.


Over the last year, the PEN National Board has been having conversations with interested people throughout the country who are ready to establish a regional group or chapter in their area. A vehicle to encourage continued dialogue about progressive education in the years between conferences, regional groups will be a vital resource to PEN. We seek to build out our regional networks by supporting groups through our website, providing resources, and forging deeper relationships.

To inquire, email Charles Stanton at


PEN’S STATEMENT ON RACIAL JUSTICE One hundred years ago, John Dewey described the pages of Democracy and Education as “an endeavor to detect and state the ideas implied in a democratic society and to apply these ideas to the problems of the enterprise of education.” One hundred years later, we continue to explore and to map the intersections of education and democracy in our classrooms, our schools, and our communities — promoting a vision of progressive education for the 21st century that advances diversity, equity, and justice in our schools and our society, and engages students as active participants in both those spheres. As members of the Board of Directors of the Progressive Education Network, we wish to amplify the voices and to serve the needs of our member schools. As part of a broader project more intentionally to refine PEN’s mission and its service to progressive educators and schools, we have been supporting programming — through our national conference; in NIPEN, our cohort-based national institute; and by supporting emerging regional consortia — to be responsive to the needs of our times, and listening more carefully than ever to your feedback in order to make our work even more responsive still in the months and years ahead. For example, we have wondered for some time, along with many of you, if various iterations of “The Principles of Progressive Education” — most recently articulated by PEN, and by the Progressive Education Association and the Network of Progressive

Educators before us — have adequately asserted our moral and professional obligations to interrogate matters of systemic inequity and injustice in American society. In October 2015 we gathered in Brooklyn, New York under the banner of the conference theme, “Access, Equity, and Activism: Teaching the Possible” to explore such matters collaboratively and in greater depth. Inspired by a call to action issued at the close of the conference, in the new year we embarked on an effort to refine “The Principles of Progressive Education,” an initiative you will hear more about in the months to come. And our 2017 conference in Boston will be designed to explore the first of these newly revised principles of progressive education:

Education must amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. We are sharing this principle with you sooner than we had originally intended because we find ourselves at a historical moment that demands we all remember, as Paulo Freire wrote, that the progressive educator must always be “continually reinventing…what it means to be democratic in his or her own specific cultural and historical context.” We recognize, with you, the importance of continually pushing ourselves to build on the legacy of progressive educators who came before us, and to expand our definition of what it means to be a progressive educator in the 21st century. For example, we recognize as American citizens the unspeakable violence that has been serially and disproportionately perpetrated against black lives by those who have been charged by our society to protect them, and we reject the suggestion that these are merely the aberrant acts of isolated individuals. Instead, we see these acts as symptomatic

of broader racial inequities throughout the legal and criminal justice system, and resonant with broader patterns of bias and injustice throughout our society and its economy. Crucially, we also recognize the degree to which these inequities are further embedded in and perpetuated by our school system through education policies and practices such as punitive school discipline, grossly inadequate funding, the segregation of school communities, testing and accountability policies, and a narrowing of the training, support, role, and agency of teachers. All of these disproportionately impact students, families, and communities of color and threaten our democracy as a whole. Yet there seems some ambiguity, in certain corners, whether the interrogation of these issues is the “proper” business of schooling. At this juncture, therefore, the PEN Board of Directors implores progressive schools and progressive educators to acknowledge the urgency of addressing racial justice inside and











students’ exploration of systemic inequities in our schools and society, partnering with individuals





communities that advance the work of racial justice, and amplifying the voices of student leaders who are actively working to make this a better world. In addition, we believe the work of conscientized progressive pedagogy carries with it an imperative to examine the complicity of our own institutions in racial bias and inequitable representation in our curriculum and pedagogy, and in our institutional systems, structures, and rituals. To put it plainly, a progressive pedagogy must ensure that Black lives matter not only generally in our society, but more visibly in our schools. Our schools must ensure that inequity, bigotry, and White supremacy in all its forms are interrogated and mitigated in our classrooms, amplifying students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world. Our students deserve, and increasingly demand, no less.

Sincerely, The PEN Board of Directors

Submitted to the PEN blog by: Theresa Collins, PEN Board President

PEN’s Vice-President, Chris Collaros, and I have the unmitigated privilege to lead a cohort of amazing educators from across the country in the 6-day school immersion workshop called NIPEN (National Institute of PEN). Begun in 2014 by Maureen Cheever and Dan Schwartz, the workshop provides teachers veteran and new - with the rare gift of time and space to think, with likeminded colleagues, about what it means to be a progressive educator. The purpose: to help educators learn about, affirm their engagement with, and see in “real time” progressive practice in two progressive school communities. During the first half of the workshop, teachers get to know each other, get to know a school and get to know a little more about this work that we believe is the best way to educate children. Cohort participants create a “call to action” project— they define a question to pursue in the months between sessions, vet it with a consultancy group, and depart with a project in mind. High Meadows School was the site for our January session. Kate McElvaney (Director of Educational Advancement), along with the entire HMS School faculty and staff were our wonderful hosts. We are so grateful to the folks at High Meadows who welcomed us into their classrooms, allowed us to take over the library computer room, and who shared some great Friday afternoon conversation, food, and fun. In April, we traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota and spent three days at the amazing Open World Learning Community, a public expeditionary learning school on St. Paul’s West Side. We enjoyed touring the building with students, hearing from a panel of progressive educators and school leaders, and traveling to the Minnesota State Capitol building where math students were presenting their research projects asking the question “Does the state budget reflect our values?” Students created posters on topics ranging from youth homelessness to support for local veterans; legislators wandered through the gallery to hear from the students-- it was an amazing example of a learning “expedition,” one of the hallmarks of EL schools. Dave Gundale and his faculty were the embodiment of “Minnesota Nice,” and the Idea Lab provided us with plenty of space to meet, reconnect, and learn. In both locations, Chris and I were overwhelmed at the quick connections made, the brilliance of each person, the diversity of experience and backgrounds, and how much fun we had together! We are looking forward to NIPEN 5.0. Do consider it for yourself or a colleague!

Progressive Education Network PO Box 5540 Evanston IL 60204


The national office of PEN seeks your entries for publication in the journal - articles, images, and ideas related to the Network and the Progressive Education movement. Email your ideas and questions to Charles Stanton at

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