Tovia Smith

As efforts increase around the nation to combat campus sexual assault, one aspect of prevention seems to confound schools the most: how to warn students about staying safe — without sounding like they're blaming the victim.

As colleges continue to scramble under federal pressure to overhaul how they handle cases of sexual assault, the list of schools under investigation for botching cases continues to grow.

That's left some wondering if campuses will ever get it right, or if they might be better off leaving the job to others.

A growing number of campuses already have made the choice to do just that: Rather than try to train their provosts and professors to act like prosecutors, they're outsourcing the job to real ones instead.

Just a few months after Harvard University announced a new, tougher policy against campus sexual assault, a group of Harvard law professors is blasting the rules as unfair.

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After years of criticism for being too lax on campus sexual assault, some colleges and universities are coming under fire from students who say the current crackdown on perpetrators has gone too far.

Dozens of students who've been punished for sexual assault are suing their schools, saying that they didn't get a fair hearing and that their rights to due process were violated. The accused students say schools simply are overcorrecting.

Call it a sign of the times that right along with required writing core courses, incoming freshmen at most schools this fall will also face a mandatory crash course on the subject of sexual assault.

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In Boston today, a friend of the Marathon Bombing suspect was found guilty. He was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The man is 20 years-old, a college friend of Jahar Tsarnaev. The friend was accused of helping to remove incriminating evidence from his dorm room following the bombings. And Pete Tovia Smith has our story.

Just three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics that perform abortions, lawmakers there are rushing through a replacement. The new bill, which they hope to pass before the legislative session ends in two weeks, would give police more power to disperse unruly protesters.

The bill has broad support, but opponents say it still goes too far.

A new study holds up a mirror to America's parents. A researcher at Harvard surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students in 33 different schools around the nation about what they thought their folks cared about most: that they achieve at a high level, that they are happy (defined as "feeling good most of the time"), or that they care for others. Almost 80 percent of youth picked high achievement or happiness as their top choice, while about 20 percent selected caring for others.

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The first trial connected to the Boston Marathon bombing is underway. The defendant is not the surviving suspected bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It's Tsarnaev's friend - a 20-year-old from Kazakhstan who is accused of obstruction of justice. NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

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Let's go now to Massachusetts where staffs at abortion clinics are scrambling to adjust their plans after that ruling. From Boston, NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

As the federal government presses colleges to improve the way they handle cases of sexual assault, schools are turning their focus to defining "consent" — how to distinguish between activity that's consensual and activity that's not.

The rampage that left six dead in California last week has once again revived the debate over gun control around the nation. In Massachusetts — a state that is already one of the toughest on guns — lawmakers are considering sweeping new legislation that includes some of the nation's tightest restrictions on sales of shotguns and rifles, and more focus on the mentally ill.

Ten years ago this week, attorney Mary Bonauto woke up with more than just your average case of pre-wedding jitters. It had been six months since her arguments had persuaded Massachusetts' highest court to allow the nation's first legal gay marriages, but opponents were still trying to stop the weddings before they started.

"I had been so scared, so many times, during really what had been really a ferocious onslaught to try to keep marriages from ever happening, so I continued to worry," Bonauto recalls.

Thursday, the federal government sent a message that it's taking sexual harassment on college campuses seriously. Education officials released the names of 55 schools facing investigation for their handling of sexual abuse allegations.

Returning to watch the Boston Marathon was never a question for Heather Abbott. After losing her leg in the bombing last year, watching the race is just one item on a long list of things she did before and intends to do again. Also on that list: wearing 4-inch heels.

"Sometimes, I think: Why am I doing this to myself? Because I could just wear regular flat shoes," Abbott says. "I don't want to give things up that I love to do, so I'm going to get used to it and figure it out."

The phrase Boston Strong emerged almost immediately after last year's marathon bombings as an unofficial motto of a city responding to tragedy. But now some are wondering whether the slogan is being overused.

The words are everywhere: Boston Strong is plastered on cars, cut into the grass at Fenway, tattooed on arms, bedazzled on sweatshirts and printed on T-shirts (and everything else).

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Got grit? That's the new it-thing in education. New research suggests that perseverance and resilience are key to a student's success. The science is still out on how or if grit can be taught, but schools around the nation are trying. One program in particular called Brainology is showing some promise.

NPR's Tovia Smith checked it out at a public school in Brooklyn.

It's become the new buzz phrase in education: "Got grit?"

Around the nation, schools are beginning to see grit as key to students' success — and just as important to teach as reading and math.

Experts define grit as persistence, determination and resilience; it's that je ne sais quoi that drives one kid to practice trumpet or study Spanish for hours — or years — on end, while another quits after the first setback.

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You might expect students at one of the world's top universities to have occasional moments of doubt about their studies. But at Harvard, some minority students say they feel discomfort that has nothing to do with academics. It has to do with being black on an overwhelmingly white campus. A new photo montage about being black at Harvard has gone viral. NPR's Tovia Smith reports it is giving new momentum to an old issue.

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says he's still hopeful for a deal allowing a gay group to march in South Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Organizers say talks to include gay groups for the first time in two decades have fallen apart. Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, is still trying to bring the sides together.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Gay rights activists called it historic that they were even talking to parade organizers. But now, chances for a deal are slipping.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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Lawmakers are promising new efforts to restore jobless benefits for long-term unemployed, but it may take a while - 1.4 million people who've been out of work long term saw their benefits disappear three weeks ago. Congress failed to agree on funding to renew them. NPR's Tovia Smith visited with a few people who are without work in Boston.

Ross Miner is among those competing for a spot on the U.S. Men's figure skating team Friday night in Boston. He is a hometown favorite who is bringing some local flavor to his performance — he's going to tell the story of last year's Boston Marathon bombing.

As much as Dec. 14 will forever be a day of unfathomable grief for Nelba Márquez-Greene, Dec. 13 will be one of unending gratitude.

"I will never forget that day," she says.

On that day, Márquez-Greene stopped the usual frantic drill: rushing to activities and errands, worrying about the dishes and laundry, even cleaning up the mess on the floor.

The shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December has left families of the 26 victims, most of them children, struggling to heal in different ways.

Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel are one such family. They lost their only child, 6-year-old Avielle, in the shooting. In the year since, they've responded as any parents would: Asking why such a tragedy could have happened.

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If you are like many Americans, on thing now stands between you and your Thanksgiving turkey: A long trip by plane, train, bus or car. And stormy weather is slowing things down. Airports are experiencing delays, even some cancellations.

And as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, the story is no better on the road.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: This would of course be a bad day to travel, even in the best case scenario. So many trying to get to turkey tomorrow left early today.

STEPHANIE CORRADO: I'm a little concerned...

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Victims wept in court today as a federal judge sentenced Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger to two life terms in prison, plus five years, ensuring that the now 84-year-old will never walk free. Bulger was convicted in August of running a massive racketeering operation that spanned decades and included extortion, drug running and at least 11 murders. NPR's Tovia Smith was in court and joins us now. Hi, Tovia.

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The sentencing hearing of convicted mobster James Whitey Bulger began in federal court in Boston today. Bulger was convicted in August of taking part in 11 murders while running a massive criminal enterprise going back to the 1970s. Sentencing takes place tomorrow, but no matter what jail time he gets, it's pretty clear that the 84-year-old Bulger will spend the rest of his life in prison.

As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, it is an anti-climactic end to a long, expensive trial that has left many frustrated by what it didn't accomplish.

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