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Middle School Dropouts, Bill Passes to End Prison Sterilizations, Ferguson Protests…and More

August 21st, 2014 by Taylor Walker

CALIFORNIA HAS THOUSANDS OF FORGOTTEN MIDDLE SCHOOL DROPOUTS

More than 6,400 California middle-schoolers (7th and 8th graders) dropped out of school in the 2012-2013 year, more than 1,000 of which were LAUSD students. The number seems relatively low when compared with California’s more than 94,000 high school dropouts each year, so these younger kids are often overlooked and underserved. Most schools do not even have the resources to track them down once they stop showing up.

KPCC’s Sarah Butrymowicz takes a closer look at the issue in a story produced by the Hechinger Report. Here’s how it opens:

Devon Sanford’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was in the eighth grade. After barely finishing at Henry Clay Middle School in South Los Angeles, he never enrolled in high school. He spent what should have been his freshman year caring for his mother and waiting for police to show up asking why he wasn’t in school.

No one ever came.

“That was the crazy part,” he said. “Nobody called or nothing.”

Thousands of students in California public schools never make it to the ninth grade. According to state officials, 7th and 8th grade dropouts added up to more than 6,400 in the 2012-13 school year – more than 1,000 in the Los Angeles Unified School District alone.

Like Sanford, many of them just disappeared after middle school and never signed up for high school.

But their numbers are so tiny in comparison to California’s more than 94,000 high school dropouts each year that few school districts are paying attention to middle school dropouts.

One sign of the inattention: a 2009 state law mandating California education officials calculate a middle school dropout rate has gone largely ignored, although districts do publicly report the raw numbers.


CALIFORNIA BILL TO BLOCK STERILIZATION OF FEMALE INMATES MOVES ON TO GOVERNOR’S DESK FOR SIGNING

Last year, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that California prison doctors performed 148 unlawful (and ethically questionable) tubal ligations (or “tube-tying”) on female inmates in violation of state law, often without proper legal consent from the women, between 2006 and 2010.

On Tuesday, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill, SB 1135, that would prohibit prisoner sterilizations as a means of birth control, except in the event of a medical emergency or treating an illness.

The bill, now headed for the governor’s desk, would also require the CDCR to provide counseling to women receiving the procedure, as well as post data online about any sterilizations performed. The bill would also provide safeguards for those who might report future misconduct.

Gov. Jerry Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign (or not sign) the bill into law.

CIR’s Corey G. Johnson has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

The bill, passed unanimously today by the state Senate, would ban sterilizations for birth control purposes in all state prisons, county jails and other detention centers. Surgeries would be restricted to treating life-threatening medical emergencies and addressing physical ailments.

Women would receive extensive counseling, and correctional facilities performing such surgeries would be required to post data about the procedures online. The bill also protects whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting violations.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, pushed for the bill after The Center of Investigative Reporting found more than 130 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules from 2006 to 2010. Former inmates and prisoner advocates told CIR that prison medical staff pressured women, targeting inmates deemed likely to return to prison in the future.

“It’s clear that we need to do more to make sure that forced or coerced sterilizations never again occur in our jails and prisons,” Jackson said. “Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent violates our most basic human rights.”


WHAT MADE PROTESTS IN FERGUSON, MO, TURN INTO A WEEK OF VIOLENCE AND DISORDER

NBC’s Andrew Blankstein and Tom Winter have delved into why protests over Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, spiraled out of control, while nearby protests over an unconnected fatal shooting of a young black man did not turn violent. Here’s how it opens:

The fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri has led to angry protests and violent clashes with police that reached a fresh crescendo earlier this week. A second, unrelated fatal police shooting of a young black man just a few miles east on Tuesday, however, sparked protests, but no violence.

Why did events spiral out of control in Ferguson? Why did this little-known St. Louis suburb, with just 21,000 people, explode into more than a week of unrest? Part of the problem seems to have been a series of missteps by local authorities.

Experts from around the nation, including law enforcement officials, academics and civil rights attorneys, cite four factors: A poisoned relationship between a virtually all-white police force and a majority black city; heavy-handed police tactics both before and after the shooting — including a military-style response to the initial protests; and mixed messages from local authorities, some of whom attempted to focus attention on an alleged robbery by the dead teen, Michael Brown, instead of updating the public about the investigation into Brown’s death.

“Put that all together and you have a ready-made disaster,” L.A.-based civil rights attorney Connie Rice told NBC News.

The Police vs. the Public: Rice and others said most of the problems in Ferguson flowed from the almost non-existent connection between the city’s police and its residents. Detective Gabe Crocker, president of the St. Louis County Police Association, which represents many of the area’s officers, told NBC News he thought there had been early friction in Ferguson between police and protesters because there had been “no established lines of communication with community leaders.”

While two-thirds of Ferguson’s citizens are African-American, there are only three blacks on its 53-member police force. Where larger urban departments like the NYPD have used so-called “community-based policing” in recent years to build trust with a diverse public, Ferguson focused on old-fashioned top-down policing and revenue generation. That meant most contact with civilians involved traffic stops and writing tickets – an extraordinary number of tickets for traffic and other offenses. Jeff Smith, an assistant professor of politics at the New School in New York City and a former resident and legislator in St. Louis County, described Ferguson as “a constant, simmering state of tension and mistrust.” Smith said community policing could have reduced tensions, but that “it’s like (Ferguson) missed the whole phenomenon.”

[SNIP]

Changing the Subject: Two related moves last week appeared to defuse tensions. Missouri State Police took over command of the scene from the local cops, and designated Capt. Ron Johnson, an African-American who grew up near Ferguson, as the on-site commander and liaison with the community.

But then Ferguson Police Department Chief Thomas Jackson held a press conference and released documents and surveillance video — over Justice Department objections — allegedly showing that Michael Brown had robbed a convenience store a short time before he was fatally shot. Hours later, Jackson held another press conference to announce that the white officer accused of shooting Brown was unaware of Brown’s alleged involvement in the robbery when he shot him.

Eric Rose, a crisis management expert who advises police organizations across the country, called Jackson’s revelations “foolish,” saying they served “to further incite tensions.”

“The goal should have been to calm things down,” said Rose. “Releasing that information did not serve that purpose.” In high-profile cases, he said, “You never want to go public without truly knowing all the facts and you want to have a clear strategy. In this case, the stakes of being wrong could have meant riots. And that’s exactly what happened.”


CHILD WELFARE TRANSITION TEAM AND SUPERVISORS DIFFER ON HOW TO MOVE FORWARD

At the end of June, the LA County Board of Supervisors appointed a nine-member transition team to assist in the creation of a child welfare czar meant to oversee the implementation of child welfare reforms suggested by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection.

On Tuesday, in their first progress report to the Board of Supervisors, transition team members outlined qualifications the Office of Child Protection should have. Co-chairs Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and Mitchell Katz and team member Janet Teague also asked for an executive director to keep the group focused and moving forward on reforms until the czar can be put in place.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that the hiring of a child welfare czar was of higher importance than the hiring of an executive director, and that the BOS never approved staff for the transition team. Yaroslavsky also suggested that there might be a calculated delay on hiring a czar until he and Supe Gloria Molina are termed out of office in December.

Supe Mark Ridley-Thomas urged the board to continue implementing the Blue Ribbon Commission’s other recommendations while the search for a czar continues.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

In its first report to the Board of Supervisors, transition team co-chairs Leslie Gilbert-Lurie and Mitchell Katz and team member Janet Teague presented the group’s work over the course of the past month. Those efforts have largely centered on clarifying the role and desired qualifications of the incoming director of the Office of Child Protection.

“The founding director of the Office of Child Protection will have the opportunity to forge a transformational process for the children of Los Angeles County and we hope you see it the same way,” Gilbert-Lurie said while addressing the Board of Supervisors at the August 19 meeting.

But the transition team remains hindered by confusion about its responsibilities beyond assisting in the search for a leader of the new office and questions about staffing support that team members say would help speed up the implementation of reforms suggested by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

“What bothers me is that we’re not seeing eye to eye on what’s the most important thing for us,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “The most important thing is getting the Office of Child Protection person hired. The search firm in my opinion is moving very slowly, too slowly, and is responding to too many people. It’s August 19 and we’re no closer to hiring, or even searching for the office of child protection than we were a month ago.”

Transition team member Gilbert-Lurie argued that the team needs additional resources and support in the form of an executive director to accelerate efforts at implementing further recommendations.

“You have herded a group with a wide range of talents—we have doctors, Ph.D.s, judges, lawyers,” Gilbert-Lurie said. “But we need someone whose eye is on the ball of moving this forward. We believe there’s a lot of information that could be helpful in working with department heads. [We could] leverage the best of what you have in the county if there is someone available to take our ideas and help implement them when we’re working in our day jobs. We don’t believe we have access to that sort of person with that executive experience right now on a full enough time basis.”

Posted in DCFS, Education, LA County Board of Supervisors, LAUSD, Police, prison, women's issues | 18 Comments »

Los Angeles School Police Announce Important Reforms to Decriminalize School Discipline….& More

August 20th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon



TELLING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STUDENT MISBEHAVIOR AND CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

In a drastic change in approach when compared to the policies and protocols that ruled the day in the Los Angeles Unified School District as recently as three years ago, the head of the district’s school police, Chief Steven Zipperman, announced on Tuesday that his force will no longer criminalize the less serious forms of school rule breaking—a move that is expected to significantly reduce student contact with the criminal justice system.

Instead, multiple categories of student actions that previously would have led to citations or arrests, will be now be handled by referring the student to rehabilitative forms of intervention by school officials.

These newly re-classified behaviors include such infractions as tobacco possession, alcohol possession, possession of small amounts of marijuana, minor damage to school property (under $400), trespassing on school property, and most fights between students, which usually account for 20 percent of school arrests.

The policy of treating non-serious student misbehavior as criminal behavior was part of the zero-tolerance mania that came into fashion 25 years ago when fear about youth gang violence was hitting its apex, then continued to ramp up further in the panic after school shootings like Columbine in 1999.

The new policy, said Zipperman, “contains clear guidelines” that will help LASP officers “in distinguishing school discipline responses to student conduct from criminal responses.”


HARD WON CHANGES

Tuesday’s reforms are the latest in a series of hard-won changes that began to gain traction after national reports showed that the broad-brush of zero-tolerance did not, in fact, make schools safer, and that contact with police was a strong predictor of school performance and whether a kid would graduate from high school or drop out. (A single arrest doubles a student’s chances of dropping out of school.)

Significant progress was made in Los Angeles in 2012, when police agreed to dial back much of the disastrously punitive policy of truancy ticketing, in which thousands of students per year were issued $250 tickets, often resulting court fees on top of them, for being late or absent from school. Instead, students with chronic absences began being referred to school counselors, rather than courts.


CONCERN OVER RACIAL INEQUITIES

The urgency for reform was further recognized after data surfaced showing that school arrests and school suspensions in California consistently cut disproportionately against students of color and those with disabilities. In 2013, in Los Angeles, for example, LA School Police made nearly 1,100 arrests, 94.5 percent of those arrests involved students of color.

That same year, black students represented just 10 percent of the student population, but accounted for 31 percent of the LASP arrests.

Manuel Criollo, Director of Organizing for the Strategy Center’s Community Rights Campaign, called Tuesday’s announcement a “civil rights breakthrough” that would help “curb the school to prison pipeline in Los Angeles.”

Supervising Juvenile Court Judge Donna Groman put it another way.. “Juvenile court should be the last resort for youth who commit minor school-based offenses,” she said in a statement. “The education system is better equipped to address behaviors displayed at the school level through restorative justice and other alternative means.”

Groman, along with presiding judge of the LA Juvenile Courts Michael Nash, was among the prominent players who actively supported California-based pro-bono law firm, Public Counsel, and the Community Rights Campaign, in their two years of negotiation for Tuesday’s changes.

“There are enough studies that show bringing them into the justice system is really more of a slippery slope that leads to negative outcomes and poor futures,” Judge Nash told the New York Times this week. “The people who are in these schools need to deal with these issues, not use the courts as an outlet. We have to change our attitude and realize that the punitive approach clearly hasn’t worked.”


A NATIONAL MODEL?

The LA School Police joined Oakland, San Francisco and Pasadena in enacting these much-needed reforms.

However, with more than 640,000 students and nearly 1,100 schools, the LAUSD is the second largest school district in the nation. (New York’s system is the largest.) And its school police force is America’s largest, As a consequence advocates hope that Tuesday’s reforms will lead the way for similar reforms statewide and elsewhere in the U.S.

“If fully implemented,”said Laura Faer, Statewide Education Rights Director for Public Counsel, “this policy will move Los Angeles in the right direction to becoming a nationwide leader in putting intervention and support for struggling students before arrests and juvenile court time.”

May it be so.



AND IN OTHER NEWS:

NEW U.C. IRVINE STUDY SAYS HAVING A FATHER OR MOTHER LOCKED UP CAN BE MORE DETRIMENTAL TO A CHILD’S HEALTH THAN DIVORCE OR THE DEATH OF A PARENT

In a startling new study just released by UC Irvine, Assistant Professor of Sociology Kristin Turney finds that children’s emotional and health disadvantages are an overlooked and unintended consequence of mass incarceration. “In addition,” says Turney, “given its unequal distribution across the population, incarceration may have implications for racial and social class inequalities in children’s health.”

The study will appear in the September edition of the Journal of Health & Social Behavior, a publication of the American Sociological Association.

Here’s a clip from the ASA’s pre-publication write-up:

With more than 2 million people behind bars, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. This mass incarceration has serious implications for not only the inmates, but their children, finds a new University of California-Irvine study. The study found significant health problems, including behavioral issues, in children of incarcerated parents and also that, for some types of health outcomes, parental incarceration can be more detrimental to a child’s well-being than divorce or the death of a parent.

“We know that poor people and racial minorities are incarcerated at higher rates than the rest of the population, and incarceration adversely affects the health and development of children who are already experiencing significant challenges,” said study author Kristin Turney…

[SNIP]

The likelihood of having an incarcerated parent is especially high in certain groups. “Among black children with fathers without a high school diploma, about 50 percent will experience parental incarceration by age 14, compared with 7 percent of white children with similarly educated fathers,” Turney said.

Compared to divorce, parental incarceration is more strongly associated with both ADD/ADHD and behavioral problems in children; compared to the death of a parent, parental incarceration is more strongly associated with ADD/ADHD….


IN THE JOURNALISTIC COMMUNITY WE ARE REELING FROM THE MURDER OF JAMES FOLEY

A veteran war reporter, American freelance journalist, James Foley repeatedly went deep into conflict zones to bring back stories of the suffering and hardship of people most affected by the conflicts. He went to bear witness. Then he disappeared into Syria nearly two years ago on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

On Tuesday, the Islamic extremist group ISIS released a video appearing to show Foley’s execution.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) at least 69 other journalists have been killed in Syria since the fighting there began.

Posted in American voices, campus violence, children and adolescents, Civil Rights, Education, juvenile justice, LAUSD, School to Prison Pipeline, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 12 Comments »

More on the LAPD Ezell Ford Shooting, DOJ to Review Police Tactics, LAUSD Welcomes Immigrant Kids…and More

August 15th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

LAPD UNION MAKES STATEMENT ON FORD SHOOTING…AND QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ANSWERED BY THE INVESTIGATION

On Monday, an LAPD officer shot Ezell Ford, an unarmed, young black man who was reportedly mentally disabled. According to LAPD officials, two officers stopped Ford, a struggle ensued, and Ford tackled one officer and tried to take his gun from its holster, at which point the officer shot Ford with his back-up weapon. The second officer also shot Ford. It is not yet clear how many bullets were fired.

Eyewitnesses are telling a conflicting story, one in which Ford was complying with officers.

Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League urges us not to rush to a conclusion on the matter—that a thorough investigation will take time to determine whether the shooting was within policy. Here’s a clip:

“Increasingly, in the immediate aftermath of any police shooting, unvetted statements by persons claiming to be witnesses are given prominent play. While a factual investigation unfolds at a deliberate and slower pace, an inaccurate narrative can be created before the actual facts are determined. The Ezell Ford incident on August 11, 2014, in Newton Area is no exception, as we have read and viewed some inaccurate reports of what occurred.”

“It is critically important, both for the LAPD and the community to establish what actually happened. The LAPPL reminds everyone that it is necessary for a thorough and transparent investigation to take place so the final conclusion is trustworthy and can withstand critical scrutiny—and that will take time. This thorough and complete investigation is being conducted by Force Investigation Division. The Inspector General and the district attorney monitor the investigation and ensure that it is complete and unbiased. The preliminary facts, according to LAPD officials, are that two LAPD officers assigned to the Gang Enforcement Detail in Newton Area stopped Ezell Ford at about 8:10 p.m. as he walked on a sidewalk near 65th Street and Broadway in South Los Angeles. A violent struggle ensued, and Ford grabbed one of the officers and tried to remove the officer’s handgun from its holster, prompting a deadly use of force.”

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is out of town, but KPCC’s Frank Stoltze spoke with LAPD Commander Andrew Smith and LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger about the Ford incident.

According to Smith, the struggle was chaotic and did end in Ford being shot while on the ground. Here’s a clip from Stoltze’s story:

The incident started when two officers with the Newton Division’s Gang Enforcement Detail confronted Ezell Ford during an “investigative stop” around 8:20 pm, according to Commander Andrew Smith. He did not know what precipitated the stop. Gang officers regularly approach people who they believe may be involved in gang activity.

“As the first officer gets close, the suspect spins around and grabbed the officer around the waist, threw him to the ground and was laying on top of the officer,” Smith said. “There was a struggle over the officer’s weapon and the officer on the ground withdrew his backup weapon and shot the suspect.” Many officers carry backup weapons in ankle holsters or tucked inside pants pockets.

The second officer also fired at Ford. Smith would not say how many bullets were fired or how many struck the suspect. Both officers are “veterans” with at least seven years at the department, he said.

LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger told KPCC that Ford “made suspicious movements, including attempting to conceal his hands.” Paysinger also said Ford “attempted to remove the officer’s handgun from its holster.” He added that “the suspect partially removed the gun from the officer’s holster, and it was indeed a struggle for their lives.”

Whether or not the shooting is determined to be within policy, it had a tragic outcome. Here are some of the questions that we’d like to see answered by the investigation:

Why was Ford stopped in the first place?

Are Ford’s fingerprints on the officer’s gun?

How many bullets were fired by the officers? Which shot proved fatal? After the first shot, were any following shots necessary, or were they products of an adrenalized action that could have been avoided?


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE ISSUE OF QUESTIONABLE USE OF DEADLY FORCE ON MINORITIES AND THE MENTALLY ILL: JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LAUNCHING LARGE-SCALE REVIEW OF POLICE TACTICS

The Department of Justice is conducting an extensive review of police policies with regard to contact with the mentally ill, use of deadly force, and more, according to a federal law enforcement official. The review is expected to be completed early next year. The DOJ is also considering forming a national commission to oversee and direct police protocol and conduct.

USA Today’s Kevin Johnson has the story. Here’s a clip:

In addition to deadly force, the review is expected to examine law enforcement’s increasing encounters with the mentally ill, the application of emerging technologies such as body cameras, and police agencies’ expanding role in homeland security efforts since 9/11, said the official, who is not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

The review is slated to be completed early next year while authorities consider establishing a special law enforcement commission similar to a panel created by President Johnson to deal with problems then associated with rising crime.

Rather than violent crime, which has been in decline in much of the country, police are now grappling with persistent incidents involving use of force and their responses to an array of public safety issues, from drug overdoses to their dealings with the mentally ill and the emotionally disturbed.

The call for a broader federal policy review, while not directly tied to any specific incident, grew out of a meeting involving law enforcement advocacy groups and Justice officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, the official said.

“Nobody has looked at the profession in any holistic way in more than 50 years,” the official said.


LAUSD TO WELCOME NEW IMMIGRANT STUDENTS “WITH OPEN ARMS”

All kids in the United States have a right to attend school regardless of their immigration status. In 2013, 13,000 kids entered the country without a parent or guardian. The number jumped to 25,000 this year, as kids are fleeing violence and poverty in their own countries.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said that he is preparing for about 1,000 new immigrant children to enter the public school system this year, and told the LA Times, “We welcome the new youth with open arms in LAUSD.”

The LA Times’ Howard Blume has the story. Here’s how it opens:

At the low-slung bungalow west of downtown, a youngster screams from a vaccination and a nurse records the height and weight of an older boy. Academic counselors stand by, because it is here that many children who recently crossed the southern border enroll in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

As the line runs out the door of the cramped reception area, José Miguel waits his turn to sign up 17-year-old niece Elena, a native of Guatemala who crossed over from Mexico in March without her parents or a guardian.

Under federal law, these children are entitled to attend public school regardless of immigration status.

“I am planning for 1,000 this year, but I will know more when our doors open,” L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy said just before the nation’s second-largest district started its school year on Tuesday.

Across the country over the next year, federal agencies expect to manage about 60,000 minors who entered or will arrive in the United States without an adult guardian. That figure compares with about 7,500 who came in annually before the numbers surged to 13,625 last year and about 25,000 in the current year.

“We welcome the new youth with open arms in LAUSD,” Deasy said last week in an interview with reporters and editors at The Times.

Many unaccompanied minors land in Southern California; here they can be cared for by relatives who are part of well-established expatriate communities from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — the impoverished and sometimes violent countries from which most have journeyed.

José Miguel, a worker in the garment industry, needs assistance in part because his own education was limited. He speaks Spanish, but his first language is a Guatemalan dialect. Immigration authorities left him a stack of papers for his niece. He’s not sure what district staff need to see.

The center is outfitted to handle Spanish and Korean speakers, and brings in interpreters as needed.

L.A. Unified officials have warned schools to be prepared for students who may be afraid to enroll or who could experience separation anxiety and grief. Some have suffered trauma from witnessing violence. They may be undereducated or even illiterate.

Some of the girls might have been sexually abused; some are parents themselves. Diapers are among the supplies at the school enrollment, placement and assessment center, located in a fenced corner of Plasencia Elementary School.


BILL TO END RACIAL DISPARITY IN CRACK/POWDER COCAINE SENTENCING HEADS FOR GOVERNOR’S DESK

The California Assembly has passed a bill to equalize the punishment for possession (for sale) of powder and crack cocaine. Crack previously held a higher penalty of three to five years, while powder was punishable by two to four years.

SB 1010, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has to go back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, after which it will land on the governor’s desk.

The Drug Policy Alliance has more on the bill’s progress. Here’s a clip:

“As Assemblymember Bradford said in presenting the bill today, the current disparities in our drug laws amount to institutional racism,” said Lynne Lyman of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The Fair Sentencing Act will take a brick out of the wall of the failed 1980’s drug war era laws that have devastated communities of color, especially Black and Latino men. The time has long come.”

Crack and powder cocaine are two forms of the same drug. Scientific reports, including a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, demonstrate that they have nearly identical effects on the human body. Crack cocaine is a product derived when cocaine powder is processed with an alkali, typically common baking soda. Gram for gram, there is less active drug in crack cocaine than in powder cocaine.

People of color account for over 98 percent of persons sent to California prisons for possession of crack cocaine for sale. From 2005 to 2010, Blacks accounted for 77.4 percent of state prison commitments for crack possession for sale, Latinos accounted for 18.1 percent. Whites accounted for less than 2 percent of all those sent to California prisons in that five year period. Blacks make up 6.6 percent of the population in California; Latinos 38.2 percent, and whites 39.4 percent.

“It’s time to end discriminatory sentencing for cocaine: whether possessed or sold as crack or as powder, it’s the same drug and violators should get the same treatment under the law,” said Senator Mitchell, chair of the Black Legislative Caucus. “Let’s stop demonizing drug-use when committed in communities of color while minimizing consequences for the white-collar version.”

Posted in LAPD, LAPPL, LAUSD, Mental Illness, Sentencing, War on Drugs | 52 Comments »

LAUSD Questionable Budgetary Choices…School Discipline…Mental Health in Schools…and Considering Chief Beck for 2nd Term

June 10th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

JUDGE NASH SAYS LAUSD MONEY FOR DISADVANTAGED KIDS SHOULD NOT BE SHIFTED TO SCHOOL COPS

Head LA Juvenile Court Justice Michael Nash has sent a letter to the LAUSD opposing a plan to use $13 million in funding earmarked for disadvantaged kids to beef up the school police force.

Nash’s letter says that increasing police presence on campus does not fall under the umbrella of providing better learning experiences and outcomes to kids in low-income families, foster kids, and English as a Second Language (ESL) students, which is what the money is set aside for.

The Center for Public Integrity’s Susan Ferris has the story. Here are some clips:

An unprecedented new California funding plan is poised to distribute billions across the Golden State, which has long been beleaguered by inequities in educational support in low-income communities and waves of budget cuts in more recent years. Earmarked funds are supposed to be slated specifically for low-income and foster-care kids, as well as students classified as still learning English as a second language.

In a June 6 letter to the Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash said this particular pot of money should not be diverted to support the L.A. district’s own school police force, which has an annual budget of around $57 million.

Nash expressed “great respect” for recent efforts to reduce school suspensions and referrals to police, but said he did “not see a reasonable nexus between law enforcement and specifically improving the educational experience and outcomes for our most vulnerable student populations.”

“On the contrary,” the judge said, “there has been a wealth of research that indicates that aggressive security measures produce alienation and mistrust among students which, in turn, can disrupt the learning environment.

“This explains why, as part of a nationwide discipline reform process that has gained significant traction of late, there is a specific focus on reducing police involvement in routine school discipline matters,” Nash wrote.

[SNIP]

In another letter to the district in April, a group of legal aid and community groups involved in school-discipline reform in California praised the L.A. district for proposing to direct $37 million of the new supplemental funds to 37 of the district’s most troubled middle and high schools.

But the groups also objected to the idea of diverting more than $13 million to L.A. school police, for the same reasons as Nash. The groups additionally protested that the district’s draft proposal initially allocates only $2.6 million for certain methods of managing student clashes and misbehavior known as “restorative justice” counseling.

Restorative justice methods are key to the L.A. district’s own adopted “School Climate Bill of Rights,” the groups noted. That bill of rights aims to reduce suspensions and referrals of students to police for fights or misbehavior. The relatively modest proposed spending to hire a relative handful of counselors to lead this effort is “extremely disturbing,” the letter says.

The groups asked for many millions more to be invested in such counseling, including all the $13 million slated for police. But no additional money for restorative justice appears in the latest version of the plan.


SANTA ROSA SCHOOLS SAVE MONEY AND KEEP KIDS IN SCHOOL WITH RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

While the LAUSD is only earmarking $2.6M for restorative justice next year, there are plenty of examples across the state (and country) of schools using restorative justice to lower suspensions and expulsions, keeping kids in class and saving money.

The Santa Rosa City Schools District spent $125,000 implementing restorative justice practices at two schools during the 2013-14 year. With a small investment and a citywide push for more effective school discipline, Santa Rosa Schools cut total suspensions and expulsions nearly in half and saved $550,000 in ADA (average daily attendance) money.

The Press-Democrat’s Susan Kinder has the story. Here are some clips:

Santa Rosa schools were suspending and expelling students at a much higher rate than most schools in the state. In fact, in the 2011-12 year, Santa Rosa schools had the fourth highest rate of suspensions per capita in the state.

Eager to find a different approach to school discipline, the Santa Rosa school board did its research and wanted to implement restorative justice, a nationally recognized method of conflict resolution that often involves meeting in restorative circles — with victims, offenders, students, teachers, parents and administrators — in an effort to repair the harm, make amends and get to the very core of the problem.

[SNIP]

In the 2013-14 school year, Restorative Resources served 219 students in suspension diversion program and 188 students in expulsion diversion programs.

At Elsie Allen High School, suspensions were down 60 percent, with 25 suspensions this year compared to 62 suspensions in 2012-13…

At Cook Middle School, suspensions were down 67 percent, with 27 suspensions in 2013-14 compared to 82 suspensions in 2012-13.

But the reduction in suspensions and expulsions was not limited to these two schools. It was part of a districtwide trend that added up to huge suspension and expulsion reductions this year and a total savings of more than $550,000 in ADA (average daily attendance) money.

The savings in suspension diversion in 2013-14 amounted to $340,976. This school year, 1,863 students were suspended for 3,558 days at a cost of $304,173 in lost ADA money. In the 2012-13 school year, 3,206 students were suspended for 7,546.5 days at cost of $645,150.

The savings from expulsion diversion in 2013-14 amounted to $213,840. This year, only three students were expelled at a cost of $40,920. In the 2012-13 school year, 53 students were expelled at cost of $254,760.


STUDY: CALIFORNIA A LEADER IN THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE CONVERSATION

Although many California schools still lag behind in reforming harsh discipline policies, overall, California is high on the list of states swapping out zero tolerance policies and narrowing the racial gap, according to an important new report released Thursday by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Susan Frey of EdSource has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

“Research and data on school discipline is clear,” according to a synopsis of the 400-page report, School Discipline Consensus Report: Key Findings, Recommendations and Examples of Action. “Millions of students are being removed from their classrooms each year, overwhelmingly for minor misconduct. Students experiencing suspensions and expulsions are disproportionately nonwhite, disabled and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

Suspending students, particularly for minor offenses, is a serious issue because it “substantially increases the likelihood they will fall behind academically, drop out and enter the juvenile justice system,” according to the report.

California’s recent efforts to reduce suspensions and encourage more positive approaches to discipline puts the state “at the top of the list together with a handful of other states” in promoting a healthy school climate, said Michael Thompson, director of the Justice Center.

“California has become a real leader in this conversation,” Thompson said. “Top policy makers and school officials have made a positive school climate a priority.”

At the unveiling of the report in Los Angeles on Thursday, one of the policy makers who has been leading efforts to reform school discipline policies, Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said the report is important because it represents a consensus-based approach “for all of those who have an investment in making sure young people stay in school.”

The report involved more than 100 advisers representing policy makers, school administrators, teachers, behavioral health professionals, police, court leaders, probation officials, juvenile correctional leaders, parents and youth across the country. Another 600 individuals shared examples of promising practices that are outlined in the report, which took three years to complete.

In conjunction with the release of the national report, The Center for Civil Rights Remedies on Thursday provided an analysis of state data that showed that 500 out of 745 California school districts reduced out-of-school suspensions between 2011-12 and 2012-13. Although African American students were still over-represented, the racial gap is narrowing, the center reported. The results included only the 745 districts that had discipline data for both years and excluded county offices of education, according to the center, which is part of the Civil Rights Project at University of California, Los Angeles.

The center also reported an overall reduction in suspensions by 14 percent and a 24 percent reduction in suspensions for willful defiance, which has been criticized as being too subjective and for being used disproportionately with African American students. Dickinson has introduced a bill, Assembly Bill 420, this legislative session to limit the use of willful defiance suspensions. A similar bill passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Dickinson said he is working with the governor to get his support of the current bill.


…BACK TO THE LAUSD BUDGETARY ISSUES

While the LAUSD plans to increase the $57 million school police budget to $70 million, still another subset of students are being underserved. A recent study found that 8 in 10 kids attending LA’s high-poverty schools had experienced three or more traumatic events during the previous year, yet the mental health budget allows for just one counselor per 2,200 LAUSD students.

This means that nearly the only kids actually receiving school counseling are the those whose circumstances are so extreme the district is required to treat them under federal law.

The new California funding plan will allow LA to hire 97 new counselors (but almost all of them are going to a few schools to settle a lawsuit and increase services for foster kids).

The state will also be spending an extra $50 million on “wellness centers” to provide a number of mental and physical health services to students both on and off campus.

KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson has more on the issue in part two of her series on poverty in LA schools. Here’s a clip:

The district currently employs about 300 psychiatric social workers to serve roughly 800 schools — a ratio of about 2,200 students to one counselor.

As researchers work to solve one of the most persistent problems in public education – why kids in poor neighborhoods fail so much more often than their upper-income peers – more and more they’re pointing the finger at what happens outside the classroom.

Shootings. Food insecurity. Sirens and fights in the night. Experts are finding that those stressors build up, creating emotional problems and changes in the brain that can undermine even the clearest lessons.

In a recent study at high-poverty schools, L.A. Unified officials found that eight in 10 kids had suffered three or more traumatic events in the preceding year alone.

One solution cropping up at a smattering of schools across the country: school-based therapy.

“These children need to feel empowered to be able to feel like they are agents of their own change,” said Dr. Victor Carrion, a professor and psychiatrist at UC Berkeley who’s working on interventions for kids suffering from what’s become known as toxic stress.

“They are going to have themselves for the rest of their life,” he added, “so the best thing they can have is to be equipped to manage traumatic stressors later in life.”

But at the Los Angeles Unified School District, counseling services have been in decline for years.

The issue is money.

Between 2008 and 2013, L.A. Unified lost $2.8 billion in overall funding from the state. School board member Steve Zimmer said it was a battle just holding on to teachers.

“We had a cataclysmic experience in the district with the budget. Everything that was, is no more,” Zimmer said.

A lot of people lost jobs: teachers, librarians, custodians. And counselors.

During those recession-era cuts, prevention and early intervention funds for mental health services all but disappeared said Pia Escudero, director of school mental health at L.A. Unified.

Now, she said, her staff’s caseload consists almost entirely of students whose problems are so severe the district is required to treat them under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Students…aren’t likely to see a school counselor unless they get so sick a psychiatrist diagnoses them as emotionally disturbed.

“You are always summoned to put out fires versus really embedding programs,” Escudero said.

The financial tide is only now starting to turn at L.A. Unified.

California is sending more money to schools to help the neediest students. L.A. Unified will see its budget increase by $332 million next year for a total of about $6.8 billion. But that still leaves the district – and California – near the bottom of school funding in the nation.

Even with the influx of cash, very few students will see a counselor.

The district is adding 97 counselors, but they’re going to a select group of schools to settle a lawsuit, and to help foster kids stay on track.

Yet Escudero said the need across the district is overwhelming…

Read on.


EFFECTS OF INCARCERATION ON KIDS WITH PARENTS BEHIND BARS

Having an incarcerated parent is one significant source of trauma for kids in Los Angeles and across the nation, but is largely under-researched. A recent National Academy of Sciences study on the rise of the national incarceration rate takes a look at the effects incarceration has on kids (and families) with a locked up parent.

NPR’s All Things Considered has more on the report. Take a listen, but here’s a clip from the accompanying story.

Jeremy Travis, one of the authors of the National Academy of Sciences report, says despite the rate of incarceration quadrupling over the past four decades, no one has really studied its effects on the family — especially kids — before.

“This is an important social question which is not getting enough attention from the research community — not because there is not enough interest, but because we’ve not been willing to pay for it,” Travis says.

Travis says the numbers of kids with an incarcerated parent is “staggering.” He says in the 1970s there were about 350,000 minors with a parent in prison; now, it’s well over 2 million.

“That simply tracks [with] the fact that we’re putting more people in prison,” he says. “And the consequences of that are pretty profound, we think, although they’re not as well documented as they should be.”

What we do know, he says, is that there are higher rates of homelessness among families when the father is in prison, poor developmental outcomes for the children in those families, and that there’s greater family instability in those families.

Travis says the children in those families often end up in foster care and have difficulties in school forming attachments with their peers. All of those difficulties, he says, present challenges for the communities, social workers, educators and family members who want to support that child through such a difficult time.

The first step, he says, is that we should have fewer people in prison, but it is more complicated than that.

“We will always have people in prison, and we should pay attention to the collateral consequences of incarcerating … parents,” Travis says.


EDITORIALS: REAPPOINTING LAPD CHIEF BECK SEEMS OBVIOUS, BUT COMMISSION SHOULD STILL CONDUCT THOROUGH REVIEW

Starting this week, public hearings will be held throughout the month on whether or not LAPD Chief Charlie Beck should serve another five-year term. The Police Commission will then have until August 20 to decide to reappoint Beck or end his term.

Two LA Times editorials take a look at how Beck has served the department and the city and give suggestions on what the civilian commission should consider as it goes about making its decision.

The first editorial says that while Beck appears to be a “shoo-in,” the commission should not skim over the process, but should still examine the statistics, including crime rates over the last five years, complaints against the department, and arrests. Here’s a clip:

Beck is seeking reappointment at a time when the Los Angeles Police Department is free of major controversy and scandal. When he became chief, the LAPD was still under a consent decree the city had agreed to to avoid a lawsuit that would have dredged up the department’s sometimes sordid record of brutality and racism. Chief William J. Bratton embraced the requirements of that decree, and when Beck took over, he steered the department through the final reforms needed to end federal oversight. Crime has continued to decline under his leadership, with gang crime reduced by half. Community relations appear strong — the seething antipathy toward the department that was a fact of life just a decade or two ago no longer dominates the city’s concerns. To Beck’s credit, the LAPD has managed this despite budget constraints, including a cost-cutting policy that keeps some 400 officers home each day rather than pay them overtime.

Given all that, Beck would seem to be a shoo-in for reappointment. It would, however, be wrong for the commissioners to skip through this process. This is an opportunity for the commission to take stock of its chief and imagine the future of the department. It should start by looking at the numbers.

Crime. Last year marked the 11th in a row that crime decreased in the city. Crime has declined in good economic times and bad, and those who deny the role of police in this revolutionary trend are arguing against facts. Los Angeles added officers in those years, and tailored policing strategies to address crime. The result: The number of serious and violent crimes in 2008, the year before Beck took office, was 127,374. The number last year was 100,521. That means that 27,000 Angelenos were spared a misery last year. No one should be cavalier about how much that affects the life of a city.

Yes, it’s true that other forces influence crime, and yes, crime was declining before Beck’s tenure, but the number of violent crimes and major property crimes has continued to drop each year. There are some on the City Council and elsewhere who continue to question whether the police played a significant role in those numbers, and thus whether the city could allow the department to shrink. They’re wrong. Some cities — Chicago, for instance — have seen a resurgence in violence of late, while smart policing has made Los Angeles safer. Indeed, the LAPD’s achievements in this area are all the more noteworthy given the overtime cuts. Beck deserves credit for balancing the department’s budget without sacrificing safety…

Read the rest.

The second editorial says that although there are no strong guidelines for the commission must follow in its decision-making process, it should take cues from the history of the process and the reasons recent chiefs—Williams, Parks, and Bratton—were either reappointed or replaced at the end of their first five years. Here’s a clip:

The current system for naming, retaining and replacing chiefs grows out of the breakdown of civilian oversight of the department in the early 1990s. In those days, Chief Daryl F. Gates and Mayor Tom Bradley feuded nastily, and their mutual dislike was stoked by the controversy that engulfed Los Angeles after the release of a videotape showing LAPD officers beating Rodney G. King in 1991. By the time of the riots in 1992, the two had not spoken for more than a year.

The Christopher Commission, named for Los Angeles attorney (and future U.S. secretary of State) Warren Christopher, concluded that the chief was too unaccountable to the city’s civilian Police Commission, which was supposed to set policy for the LAPD and to supervise its chief. Partly to blame, the Christopher Commission concluded, were civil service protections that in effect created a “chief for life.” Instead, the commission recommended that chiefs be limited to 10 years in office, with a midpoint review. Voters approved that change as a charter amendment over Gates’ furious objections — indeed, on the night that the riots broke out in 1992, Gates was attending a fundraiser to defeat the amendment.

At the same time that the Christopher Commission was trying to put limits on a chief’s tenure, it also wisely suggested that it should be the norm for chiefs to serve the full 10 years. Its final report described the structure as a single term broken into “two five-year increments.” And though the Police Commission was given broad authority to get rid of a chief who had lost its confidence, the midpoint review was intended as an opportunity for a course correction when something was going wrong, not as a routine opportunity to make a switch. That was meant to strike the balance between accountability and stability, both important for leading an organization as complex and powerful as the LAPD.

Since then, three chiefs have applied for renewal. Two, Willie L. Williams and Bernard C. Parks, were denied the additional five years; one, William J. Bratton, was given the extra time. Their experiences are instructive and should guide the commission.

By 1997, with Williams approaching the end of his first five years, there was a strong consensus among the city’s political leadership that he had failed. Though he had helped patch up the LAPD’s relations with parts of the city, notably among blacks, the department’s performance measures were mixed and its leadership was demoralized. Most significant, Williams lost the commission’s confidence when he lied about accepting free accommodations from a Las Vegas hotel.

Parks’ case was more difficult…

Posted in Education, LAPD, LAUSD, mental health, Restorative Justice, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 1 Comment »

Pre-Primary Election LASD News, Some LA Schools May be Using “Off-the-Books” Suspensions, and Pope Francis on Juvenile Life Without Parole

June 2nd, 2014 by Taylor Walker

LASD NEWS ROUNDUP BEFORE THE JUNE PRIMARY ELECTION (TOMORROW, JUNE 3)

Throughout the campaign season, KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has had good coverage of the sheriff debates and fundraising numbers, along with helpful profiles on (most of) the candidates.

With the June 3 primary nearly upon us, Stoltze asked the sheriff hopefuls three jail-related questions. All but Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers and Patrick Gomez responded. Here is the first question:

Question: The Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence said one of the problems with inmate abuse is that deputies trained to patrol the streets are assigned to serve as jail guards in their first few years on the job. The panel recommended that the next Sheriff adopt a “dual track” system whereby deputies are recruited and trained specifically as jail guards for careers inside the jails. Do you support this recommendation – why or why not? How would you overcome objections from the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which has vowed to fight the change?

This may have been the easiest question for Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who wrote: “Not only do I support the recommendation for a ‘dual track’ system, I helped craft it as a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence.”

But as the only person running who’s never served in the department, McDonnell would have to deal with the powerful labor union that represents deputies for the first time. “I have experience working successfully with police unions at the LAPD and in Long Beach and am confident that I could work with the deputy union,” he wrote.

Only former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka refused to commit to the dual track system. “I believe that we must explore the options available to us,” he wrote. “I do believe that we should make sure that those assigned to the jails and want to move on to patrol, should be able to do so – we need those individuals keeping our neighborhoods safe.”

Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold, former Sheriff’s Commander Bob Olmsted and LAPD Sgt. Lou Vince all committed to a dual track system for deputies.

Hellmold said all deputies should receive the same training, however, in case jail guards must also end up working in the field during emergencies. He also said he’d limit street deputies to serving no more than two years in the jails.

“I have already been involved with communicating my vision with [the deputies' union] leadership and members and confident my vision reflects that of our members,” Hellmold wrote.

Olmsted included this in his response: “Although the dual-track is one method to resolving the problems in the jail, however, the primary concern is the lack of good leadership and adequate managerial oversight.” He noted he reduced use of force at Men’s Central Jail by 25 percent when he ran the facility.

Vince, a former Sheriff’s Department reserve officer, said he would convince the deputies’ labor union to accept any changes by offering perks: “I would also ‘sweeten’ the deal by seeking to implement organization-wide compressed work schedules and returning ‘gym time’ (they would get 15-20 minutes for on duty physical fitness),” Vince wrote.

Read the remaining questions and responses.

(Here are Stoltze’s profiles on Todd Rogers, James Hellmold, Bob Olmsted, Paul Tanaka, and Jim McDonnell. They are worth reading, if you haven’t yet had the chance.)

The LA Times Robert Faturechi also has an interesting profile on Paul Tanaka, and what both his supporters and opponents have to say about his tenure at the Sheriff’s Dept. Here are some clips:

A county commission concluded that he helped foster problems with brutality inside the jails. And the FBI is investigating allegations that he played a role in obstructing their investigation into the abuse.

Supporters say his reputation has been unfairly tarred by former subordinates whom Tanaka cracked down on for being lazy or inept. They describe him as hard-working, good at managing budgets and hyper-focused on lowering crime.

“If you’ve worked hard, he liked you…. If you were lazy, didn’t do your job, he didn’t give you the time of day,” said sheriff’s Capt. Louie Duran.

[SNIP]

In 2003, Tanaka drew federal scrutiny for helping funnel hundreds of sheriff’s bulletproof vests to Cambodia through Gardena without declaring them to customs officials. The odd transaction, which did not become publicly known until 2013, did not result in charges.

Eventually, Baca’s loyalty to Tanaka eroded.

After a sergeant pointed a gun at another sergeant at the sheriff’s Compton station, Tanaka and other top officials ignored a recommendation to demote the supervisor, instead giving him a 15-day suspension. Baca was upset, stripping Tanaka of his role in making discipline decisions.

Their relationship continued to strain after a blue-ribbon commission created by the county to examine inmate abuse found in 2012 that Tanaka had helped foster a culture of misconduct. The commission recommended that Tanaka be stripped of most of his authorities. Baca listened, and months later took it a step further, pushing his undersheriff to step down.

Tanaka has since gone on the offensive, saying that the sheriff’s officials who spoke out against him were former subordinates he had cracked down on for subpar work.

In his interview with federal agents, Tanaka gave an example. He recalled making a surprise visit to a sheriff’s station. There, in the middle of the work day, he found the lieutenant in charge not in uniform, but rather in shorts, T-shirt and sneakers.

According to Tanaka, the lieutenant greeted him, then said: “I was just getting ready to go to softball practice. You need me?”

“He gets in his car like an idiot and drives away,” Tanaka recalled. “I call his chief and I say, ‘I want him gone.’”

That lieutenant later spoke before the jail commission and accused Tanaka of mismanagement.

LASD UNION POLL RESULTS

The Professional Peace Officers Association, one of two LASD unions, polled 1,374 active and retired members on who they thought should be the next sheriff. After considering the results, the PPOA board of directors chose not to endorse any one candidate. Here are the numbers:

Jim McDonnell — 507

Bob Olmsted — 450

Jim Hellmold — 184

Todd Rogers — 170

Paul Tanaka — 54

Lou Vince — 9

(Paul Tanaka and Pat Gomez were not on the ballot because they did not participate in the PPOA debate (which was a requirement). Tanaka’s votes are write-ins.)


LA UNIFIED’S SUSPENSIONS ARE DOWN, BUT SOME SCHOOLS MAY BE USING “WORK-AROUNDS” TO LOWER THEIR NUMBERS

Statewide, and at the LAUSD-level, suspension and expulsion rates are on the decline.

A growing number of Los Angeles schools (Gompers Middle School in Watts, for instance) are lowering their suspension rates by resolving conflicts through “restorative justice” practices. There are reports, however, that some LAUSD schools are sending kids home without officially suspending them, in order to appear in compliance with the local, state, and federal push against harsh school discipline.

The LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe has the story. Here’s a clip:

In the heart of Watts, where violence in nearby housing projects can spill over onto campuses, two of the city’s toughest middle schools have long dealt with fights, drugs and even weapons.

Administrators typically have handled these problems by suspending students. But this year Markham and Gompers middle schools have reported marked reductions in that form of discipline — as has the L.A. Unified School District overall, where the suspension rate dropped to 1.5% last year from 8% in 2008.

The drop came after the Los Angeles Board of Education and L.A. schools chief John Deasy called for fewer suspensions as concern grew nationwide that removing students from school imperils their academic achievement and disproportionately harms minorities, particularly African Americans.

But have suspensions really become rarer?

Several African American parents at Markham recently alleged that administrators were sending their children home without officially suspending them. Markham Principal Paul Hernandez flatly denied that practice, known as “off-the-books” suspending.

Similar charges have been made elsewhere in L.A. Unified. The principal at Manchester Elementary in South Los Angeles was removed earlier this year following allegations that he sent at least 20 students home while directing staff not to mark them absent or suspended, according to two knowledgeable sources who asked for anonymity to avoid retaliation. A district official confirmed Gregory Hooker’s removal “pending the outcome of an investigation” but declined to provide further details.

A confidential report by two community organizations in 2012 found that some principals were using “work-arounds” to district mandates to reduce suspensions. Maisie Chin, executive director of CADRE, a South Los Angeles nonprofit that has long worked on the discipline issue, declined to release the report but said it showed that some students were being sent home, sometimes with no given reason, depriving them of the due process rights in the formal suspension process.

“We do think the pressure to reduce suspensions is probably causing a lot of unintended consequences,” Chin said.

[SNIP]

Last year, the L.A. school board became the first in the state to ban defiance as grounds for suspension; legislation would expand that ban statewide.

But those in the trenches say it hasn’t been easy to comply with the mandates — especially since years of tight budgets have left limited funding for the extra staff and training they say are critical.

At Gompers, Principal Traci Gholar said she readily suspended disruptive students in 2011-12, her first year at the helm, to drive home to families that she was intent on building a safe, orderly and positive school climate.

When superiors questioned her high suspension rate, Gholar asked for new resources that would support alternative disciplinary approaches: a conflict resolution specialist, a restorative justice coordinator, more campus aides, performing arts events and other activities.

The extra help appears to have made a difference. According to school data, incidents involving student misbehavior declined from 1,035 in the last school year to 663 as of May of this year. And although most of the misbehavior was serious enough to warrant suspensions, Gompers made a greater effort to address it in alternative ways, reducing the suspension rate to 3% from 30% last year.


POPE FRANCIS’ ANSWER TO 500 LETTERS FROM PEOPLE SERVING JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE IN UNITED STATES

Pope Francis responded to a group of 500 letters written by young people across the US who were sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.

Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, coordinated the project and collected the letters, and Father Mike Kennedy, chaplain at Sylmar Juvenile Hall, sent the letters to the pope.

Writing for America Magazine, Kennedy shared Pope Francis’ response, along with his own thoughts on the issue of juvie LWOP. First, here’s a clip from the pope’s letter:

Dear Father Kennedy,

I have read the letters which you kindly sent to me from hundreds of young people throughout the United States sentenced as juveniles to life imprisonment without parole. Their stories and their plea that this form of sentencing be reviewed in the light of justice and the possibility of reform and rehabilitation moved me deeply. I would ask you kindly to assure them that the Lord knows and loves each of them, and that the Pope remembers them with affection in his prayers…

Read the rest here.

Now, a clip from Father Kennedy:

Jody Kent in Washington, D.C., the leader of the national campaign to end LWOP and insure that no children ever get sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, collected 500 letters in many states from incarcerated youth who received a sentence of LWOP. These letters were addressed to Pope Francis because they had faith that this world leader would advocate for them. Some Jesuits and I helped forward them to the pope three weeks ago.

The pope answered these letters by writing me acknowledging receipt of them and to give hope to those who now have no hope. The pope’s letter is strong and clear. He believes our youth deserve a second chance. Each prisoner who wrote a letter will be receiving a copy of the pope’s letter.

As we know, a youth’s brain has not developed to the level of an adult at the ages when they commit these crimes. They should be tried in juvenile courts not adult courts. It is very clear that Pope Francis understands this and has taken this issue of youth locked up as a personal concern.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD, LAUSD, LWOP Kids, Paul Tanaka, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 16 Comments »

New LA Program for Child Victims of Sex-Trafficking, Reopening LAUSD Libraries, Holder Takes on Disenfranchisement, and Jerry Brown—Prisons and Playing Cards

February 13th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

LA DISTRICT ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES PROGRAM TO AID VICTIMS OF CHILD SEX-TRAFFICKING

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the launch of an innovative program to help kids victimized by sex-trafficking, called the First Step Diversion Program.

The DA’s office is partnering with local law enforcement and DCFS to identify girls under the age of 18 who have been arrested for prostitution. For a year after entering First Step, young participants will receive services such as counseling, substance abuse treatment, and education programming. At the end of the year, those who complete First Step will have the arrest cleared from their record.

Here are some clips from Jackie Lacey’s announcement:

Until now, minors between the ages of 12 to 17 who were arrested for sex-related crimes were deemed juvenile delinquents. Between 2000 and 2010, the Juvenile Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed 2,188 petitions against minors caught soliciting or loitering for solicitation.

Those arrested were processed through juvenile courts with little or no resources devoted to addressing the underlying issues that forced them into prostitution.

“We believe that minors who engage in sex for pay are victims not criminals,” District Attorney Lacey said during a news conference. “We believe that we should help these children, not detain them.

[SNIP]

Lacey said the District Attorney’s Office is joining forces with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Probation Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to identify girls under 18 who have been arrested for sex related offenses.

First Step will be rolled out in two Juvenile Division Branch Offices – Sylmar and Compton. These juvenile offices were selected due to the volume of arrests and because those girls arrested actually reside in that community.

A supervising deputy district attorney will be assigned to oversee First Step within each juvenile office.

For a period of one year, minors who agree to enter the First Step program will receive referral services, such as crisis intervention, sexual assault and mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, education and other appropriate social services.


SHUT DOWN LAUSD LIBRARIES MAY REOPEN THEIR DOORS

In December, we pointed to a story about the inordinate number of LAUSD school libraries that have been shuttered because there’s no staff to run them.

On Tuesday, the LA Unified school board approved the creation of a task force to address the issue. The task force will draft a library funding plan and present a budget to the board within 90 days.

KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson has a welcome update on her previous story. Here’s a clip:

There are only 98 librarians in a district 768 school libraries. Many elementary schools opt for library aides instead – a lower-pay, part-time position. But even with aides, 332 school libraries do not have staff. State law says only librarians or aides can run school libraries.

“We all know that one immediate solution is the staffing of all our libraries,” said board member Monica Ratliff, who authored the task force resolution. “Few are openly opposed to the concept of staffing all our libraries and many are currently interested in addressing the current system of inequity in which some students have access to library books and others don’t.”


ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER CALLS FOR AN END TO FELON DISENFRANCHISEMENT

Earlier this week, US Attorney General Eric Holder called on states to restore voting rights to the millions of felons who are still disenfranchised after serving their time.

The NY Times’ Matt Apuzzo has the story. Here are some clips:

In a speech at Georgetown University, Mr. Holder described today’s prohibitions — which in some cases bar those convicted from voting for life — as a vestige of the racist policies of the South after the Civil War, when states used the criminal justice system to keep blacks from fully participating in society.

“Those swept up in this system too often had their rights rescinded, their dignity diminished, and the full measure of their citizenship revoked for the rest of their lives,” Mr. Holder said. “They could not vote.”

Mr. Holder has no authority to enact the changes he called for, given that states establish the rules under which people can vote. And state Republican leaders made clear that Mr. Holder’s remarks, made to a receptive audience at a civil rights conference, would not move them.

“Eric Holder’s speech from Washington, D.C., has no effect on Florida’s Constitution, which prescribes that individuals who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote,” said Frank Collins, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.

[SNIP]

Like mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine offenses, laws banning felons from the voting booth disproportionately affect minorities. African-Americans represent more than a third of the estimated 5.8 million people who are prohibited from voting.

Nearly every state prohibits inmates from voting while in prison. Laws vary widely, however, on whether felons can vote once they have been released from prison. Some states allow voting while on parole, others while on probation.

Some states require waiting periods or have complicated processes for felons to reregister to vote. In Mississippi, passing a $100 bad check carries a lifetime ban from voting.

In four states — Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia — all felons are barred from the polls for life unless they receive clemency from the governor.

“This isn’t just about fairness for those who are released from prison,” Mr. Holder said. “It’s about who we are as a nation. It’s about confronting, with clear eyes and in frank terms, disparities and divisions that are unworthy of the greatest justice system the world has ever known.”

And here’s what an NYT editorial had to say about Holder’s move:

Despite some progress, the United States remains an extreme outlier in allowing lifetime voting bans. Most industrialized nations allow all nonincarcerated people to vote, and many even allow voting in prison.

Adding insult to injury, felon disenfranchisement laws — which are explicitly permitted by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — are devoid of both logic and supporting evidence. They undermine the citizenship of people who have paid their debt to society, and possibly at a cost to public safety. As Mr. Holder pointed out, a study by a parole commission in Florida found that formerly incarcerated people banned from voting were three times as likely to re-offend as those who were allowed to vote.

[SNIP]

Regardless of which party might benefit most at the polls, repealing felon disenfranchisement laws is in the interest of upholding American ideals. And it has increasing bipartisan support; Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, Republicans who have promoted criminal-justice reform on a larger scale, are also pushing to scale back or end these laws. Even after someone has completed a sentence, Senator Paul said in September, “the punishment and stigma continues for the rest of their life, harming their families and hampering their ability to re-enter society.”


TWO LA TIMES ESSAYS WITH DIFFERENT VIEWS ON GOV. JERRY BROWN’S TWO YEAR PRISON OVERCROWDING REPRIEVE

George Skelton in his Capitol Journal column says California’s deadline extension is a “win-win” for all parties involved. It’s an obvious victory for Governor Jerry Brown, who fought an uphill battle to gain the extra time, but Skelton says everyone—including inmates, lawyers and taxpayers—will benefit from the judges’ ruling.

Here’s a clip:

The judges, lawyers and inmates will gradually obtain — although not as quickly as they’d liked — more breathing room in the lockups and, consequently, better medical and mental healthcare. Moreover, the felons will be provided improved rehab, education, job training and treatment for drug abuse.

And some prisoners will be given early release, although Brown certainly won’t be calling it that.

The taxpaying public will be saving money in the long run. They’ll be paying for incarcerating fewer prisoners. And those released will be more likely to go straight and not return as expensive wards of the state.

At least that’s the theory. And it’s worth trying, given that California’s old stack-’em-like-cordwood mentality resulted in a recidivism rate — repeat lawbreaking — of 70%, twice the national average.

A Times editorial does not share Skelton’s optimism, and suggests that the judges should not have been quite so lenient with the governor, but pushed him to lock more rehabilitation into his plan.

Here’s how it opens:

There’s always one kid in class who gets away with it. You know the one. The teacher says the homework is due Friday and if you don’t turn it in, you flunk. But this kid pleads for more time. Just give him the weekend and he promises to get it done. The teacher says OK, then Monday comes and he asks to be given until the end of the week. And then he promises to turn it in at the end of the year. Then he says he can get it done by next April. Promise.

Now, how about two years from now?

Gov. Jerry Brown is the kid who got away with it, persuading a three-judge federal court panel to give him until February 2016 — long after this year’s elections — to reduce the state’s prison population by 5,500 inmates and to put in place anti-recidivism programs to keep the numbers down permanently. Even the judges expressed surprise at their own leniency, acknowledging that they’ve heard similar promises from California governors many times since 2009, when they ordered the state to shrink the inmate population to comply with constitutional strictures against cruel and unusual punishment. The judges noted that in the intervening years, prisoners have continued to be mistreated, that Californians have paid a financial price for the state’s delay, and that “this court must also accept part of the blame for not acting more forcefully with regard to defendants’ obduracy in the face of its continuing constitutional violations.”


AND A VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE ON THOSE SUTTER BROWN PLAYING CARDS

California’s first lady, Anne Gust Brown, came up with the adorable corgi playing cards with a state deficit chart on the back that were handed out during the governor’s State of the State speech.

The cards were such a massive hit that there may be a reprint in the works.

The SF Gate’s Carla Marinucci has the story. Here’s a clip:

She said the brainstorm had occurred to her as her husband was writing his speech. “This was about the governor sending a message … actually, not to the whole public,” but specifically to the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Gust Brown said.

And “how do you keep getting a message out to a group that wants to declare victory?”

Certainly, state legislators “made a lot of hard decisions to get us to a surplus,” and had reason to want to celebrate, she said. “We’ve done a lot to get out of these horrible deficits,” she said.

But Brown wanted to “keep reinforcing the decisions” based on fiscal prudence, she said.

And the challenge: Talking about issues like a rainy day fund “is boring,” she said. “People roll their eyes. You can say it in a speech, or put it in a chart, and they forget it.

“So I liked having some way where Jerry could reconfirm the point … and Sutter being there, I knew, would make it more memorable.”

Along with the dog’s photos on the front of the card, she added a flip side: a chart showing the persistence of the state’s deficits.

Posted in DCFS, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), juvenile justice, LAUSD, prison | No Comments »

LA Child Sex Trafficker Pleads Guilty…Gov Brown to Increase Spending on Private Prisons…State School Board to Decide on New School District $$$ Rules…and More

January 16th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

US ATTORNEY BIROTTE ANNOUNCES GUILTY PLEA OF LOS ANGELES CHILD SEX TRAFFICKER

On Tuesday, US Attorney André Birotte’s office announced that Paul Edward Bell, an alleged member of the Rolling 60s Crips, pleaded guilty to the sex trafficking of young girls in LA. Specifically, Bell housed four girls between the ages of 15 and 17, who were recruited in the Inland Empire, and forced them to work as prostitutes in Lynwood and Compton in 2011. Bell faces 30 years in federal prison, and is the last of eight defendants convicted after an investigation by the Inland Child Exploitation/Prostitution Task Force. (The task force is made up of officers from the FBI and law enforcement agencies across Southern California.)

Here’s how the investigation began, according to the FBI’s announcement regarding Bell’s conviction (Alberti and the Rogers brothers are three of the other aforementioned defendants):

The investigation in this case began in January of 2011, when the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department learned that teenage girls attending schools in the Inland Empire were being recruited to work as prostitutes. The investigation later revealed that Alberti attended one of the schools and recruited underage females by “grooming them”—or gaining their trust and telling them that they could make large sums of money by working as prostitutes for Alberti’s pimp. The girls who were successfully recruited to work as prostitutes were brought to the Los Angeles area, where they were housed by Bell and the Rogers brothers at hotels on and near Long Beach Boulevard or at Bell’s apartment.

Bell also admitted to physically abusing one of the girls. Here’s a clip from the plea agreement detailing the incident:

In April 2011, Victim 4, then 17, worked as a prostitute for defendant while Samuel Rogers [one of the other eight defendants] was incarcerated. During that time, defendant harbored Victim 4 at the Euclid Residence with other prostitutes defendant employed. Also, during that time, defendant knew that Victim 4 was 17 years old. While working as a prostitute under defendant’s supervision and direction, on our about April 6, 2011, defendant physically abused Victim 4 for not performing as a prostitute and for acting up. Therefore defendant used force to cause Victim 4 to engage in commercial sex acts.

Here’s what US Attorney Birotte had to say about Bell’s case, according to the FBI’s announcement:

“Sex trafficking is an abominable crime that condemns its victims to physical and psychological trauma, hardship and abuse,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Mr. Bell and his cohorts coldly and brutally victimized young women and juveniles, subjecting them to treatment that can only be described as inhumane. Bell exploited his victims for profit and now he will be held accountable and punished for his predatory conduct.”

We’ve reported on this issue before. Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe are working to put a focus on child sex trafficking, with an emphasis on decriminalizing and aiding the child prostitutes. (These arrests were actually made in Mark Ridley-Thomas’ district.)

Here are a couple of clips from Supe MRT’s website regarding this issue:

“Every day, children as young as 12 are bought and sold by adult men,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas…“We will shine a light on this despicable behavior. You, who come here days, nights, weekends to buy these girls, we see you. And we will bring changes throughout Los Angeles County and the state of California.”

[SNIP]

Human sex trafficking is a $32 billion dollar business increasingly run by gangs. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 100,000 children in the United States are sold for sex each year. In Los Angeles, it is estimated that as many as 3,000 children are trafficked.


GOV BROWN TO PUMP MORE MONEY INTO PRIVATE PRISONS REGARDLESS OF JUDGES’ PENDING DECISION

Governor Jerry Brown’s recently proposed budget, which banks on federal judges pushing back California’s prison overcrowding deadline by two years, would still increase spending on private prisons and jail leasing. We at WLA are not thrilled with this news. (Read the backstory here.)

The LA Times’ Paige St. John has the latest on the prison saga. Here’s a clip:

Detailed expenditure records released after Brown announced the highlights of his proposed budget for 2014-15 show that the governor expects to increase the use of outside prison contracts. His plan sets aside nearly $500 million to pay for and administer prison contracts to take nearly 17,700 inmates, increases of $100 million and 4,700 prisoners over the current year.

A little more than half of those prisons are out of state. The rest are community correctional centers, which could be run by local governments or private prison operators.

The governor’s planning documents show that even with that increase in spending, California prisons would remain 3,000 inmates over what federal judges say they can safely hold and still provide adequate healthcare and psychiatric services. The documents do not show how Brown plans to address further growth of the state’s prison population.


STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO VOTE ON SPENDING RULES REGARDING HIGH-NEEDS YOUTH

Today, the California Board of Education is expected to vote on important new rules to ensure school district accountability on spending extra budget money on at-risk students.

Ana Tintocalis has the story for KQED’s California Report. Here’s a small clip from the transcript:

The first draft of these spending rules was trashed by education advocates three months ago. They said districts would have the freedom to spend extra money however they pleased. Now the state board is back with new rules that require each school district to show how they’ll use the money to increase services for low-income students, foster youth, and english-learners…but student advocates are not entirely satisfied…

Go listen to the rest.


PATT MORRISON DISCUSSES THE STRANGER THEORIES REGARDING THE LOWERED CRIME RATE

Last week, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that citywide violent crime rates were down by 12% and property crimes were down 4%, in 2013, keeping up an 11-year crime reduction streak.

In an LA Times editorial, Patt Morrison offers some of the loonier circulating theories on what factors may have contributed to the decline in crime. Morrison says the crime rate drop is cheering, but that it cannot go on forever, and advises the mayor and police chief to be prepared for a time when the numbers move in a different direction.

The mayor and the police chief, Eric Garcetti and Charlie Beck, respectively, were justifiably over the moon this week about the winning streak, 11 years of plummeting crime rates, the lowest overall since 1949.

Both of them credited community policing, community groups and the use of computerized crime data for the laudable numbers.

Some other theories have been floated, some more far-fetched than others, but there’s a master’s thesis lurking in each and every one of them:

Full prisons. The more people you put behind bars, the fewer criminally inclined are out and about to commit more crimes. Although that seems right intuitively, the numbers don’t necessarily bear that out.

Recession. Also counterintuitive because you’d expect that poverty would drive people to desperate, violent measures. Researchers are puzzling over why this didn’t happen. Maybe the potential evildoers just couldn’t afford to buy guns and bludgeons.

[SNIP]

Whatever’s making crime diminish, I am, as an Angeleno, delighted that it’s happening. But logic argues that this decline can’t go on indefinitely; there has never been a zero-crime society in human history, insofar as I know.

The difficult part for both Garcetti and Beck will be in tempering their deserved pleasure at the good numbers and getting some talking points and research ready for the inevitable day when the numbers are not so good.

Posted in Child sexual abuse, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), FBI, Foster Care, LAPD, LAUSD, prison, Youth at Risk | 2 Comments »

More on the LASD Hiring Story, False Confessions via the “Reid Technique,” and LAUSD’s Vanishing Libraries

December 3rd, 2013 by Taylor Walker

LA SUPERVISOR YAROSLAVSKY SAYS NEW INSPECTOR GENERAL SHOULD EXAMINE LASD HIRING

On Monday, we shared the LA Times story about disturbing LASD hiring practices in 2010.

On Tuesday, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that Max Huntsman, the incoming inspector general for the sheriff’s dept., should make taking a deeper look at this hiring issue one of his first priorities.

The LA Times’ Robert Faturechi and Ben Poston have the update on the controversial story. Here’s a clip:

“I think the Sheriff’s Department needs to take a look at each and every one of these hires to see what remedies they have,” Yaroslavsky said, “and they need to do it immediately.”…

He said he would meet with Max Huntsman, who is expected to start soon as the Sheriff Department’s new inspector general, and ask him to look at the 2010 mass hire and the sheriff’s hiring in general.

“This should be one of the first things he looks at,” Yaroslavsky said. “This is a very frustrating situation. There’s a rigorous vetting process that goes with hiring any law enforcement employees, and corners should not be cut.… The sheriff needs to be sure this kind of situation does not reoccur.”

In an interview earlier Monday, Huntsman said he was particularly troubled by the finding that dozens of officers who had showed evidence of dishonesty were hired. Investigators noted that some of the new hires had made untrue statements or falsified police records.

“The hiring of people who have not been honest is a dangerous thing to do,” said Huntsman, who is expected to start work as the agency’s inspector general early next year. “Dishonesty is a particularly dangerous area. A use of force can be placed in context … it may or may not reoccur. But dishonesty, that’s always going to be a problem.”

[SNIP]

“At a minimum we would ask questions, gather information and hopefully make suggestions on how to avoid this in the future. Even though I think some of those suggestions are pretty obvious: Don’t do this,” he said. “Hopefully, if we would have existed at the time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Another county supervisor, Michael D. Antonovich, said in a statement that the Board of Supervisors “was assured that full background investigations would be conducted and only those qualified would be hired by the Sheriff’s Department.”
“Those who breached that process should be held accountable,” he said.


MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE: COMMON INVESTIGATION METHOD INDUCES FALSE CONFESSIONS

The New Yorker has an fascinating story about how an oft-used law enforcement interrogation tactic called the “Reid Technique” can (and does) elicit false confessions. The technique involves a series of steps on the part of investigators, including assessing whether the suspect is lying, to pretending to have evidence and minimizing the consequences of the alleged crime.

Unfortunately, the article is hidden behind the New Yorker’s usual paywall. Here’s a small clip from the beginning of the piece (do go read the rest if you have a subscription):

On December 14, 1955, Darrel Parker came home for lunch from his job as a forester in Lincoln, Nebraska. A recent graduate of Iowa State, he had moved to Lincoln with his wife, Nancy, who worked as a dietician for a flour-and-noodle company and had a cooking show on the local television station. He found her dead in their bedroom. Her face was battered, her hands and feet were bound, and a cord had been knotted around her neck. The medical examiner later determined that she had been raped before the murder.

Parker called the police and spent the next several days in a fog of grief and sedation. After the officers questioned him, he took his wife’s body home to Iowa for burial. Several days later, while mourning with her family, he got a call from the attorney for Lancaster County, Nebraska. There was some new information, the attorney said, and he asked if Parker could come in and help with the investigation. When Parker arrived, he was led into a windowless room and introduced to a large, well-dressed man named John Reid.

Reid was a former Chicago street cop who had become a consultant and polygraph expert. He had developed a reputation as someone who could get criminals to confess. Rather than brutalize suspects, as police often did in those days, he used modern science, combining his polygraphic skills with an understanding of human psychology…

The author, Douglas Starr, is co-director of the graduate Program in Science and Medical Journalism at Boston University. (Business Insider’s Erin Fuchs also wrote about the New Yorker piece—you can read it here.)


MANY LAUSD SCHOOL LIBRARIES HAVE GONE DARK WITHOUT $$$

Approximately 145 LAUSD schools may have been forced to shut down their libraries due to lack of funding, according to staffing information obtained by KPCC this week. Because the district no longer pays for school library workers, and state law says that the libraries cannot be run by volunteers, many LAUSD schools (especially middle schools) have lost a crucial tool to help shrink the learning gap between students from lower and higher income families.

KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson has the story. Here’s a clip:

The district has 457 elementary schools, but only 380 schools have at least a part time library aide, according to statistics provided by L.A. Unified. That translates into about one in five schools that can’t open their libraries.

Shortages have hit middle schools the hardest — 83 percent of them are without a librarian, according to district staffing numbers.

Some schools are working around the district the same way they’ve gotten around insufficient arts instruction — with parents chipping in to pay for it.

That’s what parents at Wonderland Avenue Elementary, in Canyon Hills, did.

“We can allocate $40,000 to have our library opened,” said parent Stacey Gonsalves. “I don’t know how many schools in LAUSD are sitting with their doors locked and the lights turned out” because they can’t.

The shuttered libraries are a legacy of years of budget constraints. The district used to pay for library workers directly, but cut them from the budget in 2011. Schools that wanted them had to find room in their discretionary funds, which can create difficult choices.

“You have to make the choice between a school nurse, an office tech, the library aide, counselors, everything – because you can only afford one,” said Franny Perish, a library aide at Dixie Canyon Community Charter School and a member of the The California School Employees Association.

Posted in Innocence, LA County Board of Supervisors, LASD, LAUSD | 2 Comments »

WHO SHOULD BE A COP? LAT’s Disturbing Window into the Hiring Practices of the LA County Sheriff’s Department…and More

December 2nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



On Sunday, the LA Times published an exceptionally well-reported—and disturbing
look into some of the hiring practices used by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

The focus of the data-informed story by Robert Faturechi and Ben Poston is a hiring period that occurred in 2010 after the department took over the patrols of county parks and government buildings from the L.A. County police force. Following the takeover, it seems that the ousted LA County cops were given first consideration as the LASD began hiring to fill the new positions.

Out of 400 county officers who applied, the Times learned that around 280 were hired. Through the acquisition of a pile of LASD internal hiring files, Faturechi and Poston were able to determine that approximately 188—or 67 percent—of those hired from the county cop pool had been rejected for jobs at other law enforcement agencies.

Around one third of those same hires had been disciplined previously by other police agencies for “significant misconduct on duty.”

Slightly over 10 percent—39 people—were either fired or pressured to resign from previous jobs in law enforcement.

If the LASD management has hired that many people who’ve been discipline by other agencies—or actually bounced out of other cop jobs—what kind of background problems have they overlooked in brand new recruits whom they believe they can train from scratch?

NARROWING THE FOCUS

There have long been reports from LASD insiders that during certain periods, department higher-ups have put pressure on background investigators to push through questionable applicants in order to raise the number of sworn officers to a particular threshold.

Yet for this story, the LA Times reporters focused solely on the County police hires, which was a smart decision. By limiting their reporting to that single pool of applicants, it allowed the Times to analyse and quantify a given hiring pattern in hard numbers—numbers that are both startling, and difficult to explain away.

The Times also tells many of the stories behind those numbers, and they too are not reassuring.

For example:

About 50 disclosed to sheriff’s background investigators misdeeds such as petty theft, soliciting prostitutes and violence against spouses.

One hire told investigators of having inappropriate sexual contact with two toddlers as a teenager.

In another case, Linda Bonner was given a job after revealing that she used her department-issued weapon to shoot at her husband as he ran away from her during an argument. He wasn’t hit; he was lucky he was running in a zigzag pattern, she told investigators, because if not the end result “would have been a whole lot different.”

And then there is:

Another officer, Niles Rose, was hired despite being the subject of several unreasonable force allegations.

Rose had been investigated for misconduct 10 times at the Office of Public Safety since 2001. In three of those cases, the allegations were found by investigators to be true, according to the sheriff’s background file. A former supervisor said Rose developed a reputation as being heavy-handed with suspects.

“If you want smart force used, you make sure he’s in the locker room,” Marc Gregory, a former county police captain, said in an interview with The Times.

Once hired by the sheriff’s department, Rose’s behavior reportedly did not appear to improve. Instead, multiple allegations of misconduct seemed to accompany his every assignment, according to the Times.

AND WHAT DOES THE DEPARTMENT HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE LA TIMES REPORT?

When asked for a response to what the Times found, the reactions were what we have, sadly, now come to expect.

Sheriff Lee Baca declined to comment, but his spokesman said Baca was not aware people with such backgrounds were hired.

Before he knew of the newspaper’s investigation, Baca told Times reporters that people with records of violence or dishonesty have no place in law enforcement. He said applicants who had been fired from other agencies shouldn’t be given a second chance, and that he would not hire applicants with histories of illegal sexual conduct.

“Men that take women and use them as a sexual object are going to always come up against my wrath,” he said.

In addition to the “I’m shocked, shocked…!” excuse there was the devil-made-me-do-it excuse. To wit:

Baca’s then second-in-command, Larry Waldie, and a small circle of aides, were responsible for scrutinizing applicants.

Waldie, now retired, said he personally reviewed many of the applicants’ files. He said he was unaware of any hires with histories of significant misconduct.

Presented with some of The Times’ findings, Waldie said: “That information was not brought to me … I don’t recall any of these specifics so don’t ask me anymore.”

Waldie then said he and his aides were under “significant pressure” from the county Board of Supervisors and other officials to hire as many county officers as possible.

“We had to have grave reasons for not hiring them,” Waldie said.

Since the Supervisors have not succeeded in pressuring the sheriff’s department into doing much of anything it didn’t want to in the past decade, the claim of “the board made us do it” is reasonably laughable.

Moreover, other agency heads—such as LA County Probation Chief Jerry Powers—have been under “significant pressure” from the board to get their hiring numbers up, ASAP, in Powers’ case, in order to finish staffing up for realignment. And yet Powers has, if anything, tightened his hiring standards during the intense hiring period.

According to the Times’ repot, the LASD’s reaction to word that reporters had acquired the department’s internal records, was also dismaying predictable.

After sheriff’s officials learned The Times had access to the records, they launched a criminal investigation to determine who had leaked them.

(The Times also reports that sheriff’s officials said they would review whether some applicants had been improperly hired. But it appears that tracking down the leaker was Job One.)

There is a lot more in the article itself, so read it.

Let us hope this issue does not go away, but is investigated further.



AND IN OTHER NEWS:

ON THE TOPIC OF INVESTIGATING THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT…WARREN OLNEY INTERVIEWS NEW INSPECTOR GENERAL MAX HUNTSMAN

It’s just a short, preliminary interview (which you can find here), but it gives us an interesting glimpse of Huntsman and how he sees his new job. Take a listen!

And thanks to Warren for giving us this early window.


NATION’S LARGEST SCHOOL POLICE FORCE—NAMELY THE LAUSD POLICE—WILL STOP TICKETING KIDS 12 YEARS OLD AND YOUNGER

For years, childrens’ advocates have been saying that some school administrators have been bringing in school police too quickly to solve minor issues with young students, most often in lower income areas.

Some of the best reporting on the issue has been that of Susan Ferris and the Public Integrity Institute.

Here are a couple of clips from Ferris’ most recent story:

Responding to demand for reforms, the nation’s largest school police force — in Los Angeles — will stop issuing tickets to students 12-years-old or younger for minor infractions allegedly committed on or near campuses during school hours.

A memo this month to officers from Los Angeles Unified School Police Department Chief Steven Zipperman outlined the new policy, which goes into effect in December. The announcement comes in the wake of community demands for the school district to “decriminalize” minor school disciplinary matters and use more discretion when involving law enforcement personnel.

The move by the LAUSD police came after a new report released this fall showed how frequently younger kids were being ticketed for minor issues.

In October, the Labor-Community Strategy Center issued a report analyzing recent police ticketing data. The group found that more than 48 percent of approximately 4,740 school police tickets issued during the 2012-2013 school year were given to kids 14 or younger. Students who were 12 or 11 received 545 tickets. The single biggest offense for younger kids was disturbing the peace.

In calendar year 2011, records examined by the Center for Public Integrity showed that more than 960 kids 12 and younger were ticketed. More than 10,200 tickets in all were issued to students that year, with more than 43 percent going to kids 14 and younger.

In April of 2012, two first graders, six and seven, were ticketed after they got into a shoving match and the mother of one called police, the principal of the kids’ school told the Center. In September, the Center found, a 10-year-old was ticketed for trespassing.

Getting a ticket used to mean that students were forced to miss school and appear in court with parents — and pay dollar fines or perform community service. Students were saddled with misdemeanor records if they didn’t show up at court, which many failed to do.

We applaud the LAUSD Police Chief Zipperman from taking this much needed step, and thank Ferris and the Center for Public Integrity for staying on the issue.


STATEWIDE ACTIVIST GROUP ISSUES REALIGNMENT “REPORT CARD” FOR COUNTIES & LOS ANGELES GETS A “DOUBLE FAIL”

The San Bernardino Sun reports on the five counties who merited the “double fail’ designation for their productive use of realignment funds, in a rating issued for the statewide activist group CURB.

Here’s a clip from Melissa Pinion-Whitt’s report:

“A lot of counties are not utilizing a lot of the alternatives to incarceration that are available to them,” said Diana Zuñiga, statewide program coordinator.

The group, known as CURB, has released report cards the last three years, grading counties based on their use of realignment funding.

Only two of the 13 counties graded by CURB passed, another six failed and five more received a “double fail” grade. Kern, Riverside, Los Angeles and San Mateo counties joined San Bernardino with the lowest grades.

CURB supports funding to “connect people to housing, health care, education, job training and re-entry services that reduce recidivism…”

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is CURB’s report card that includes LA’s double fail

Posted in 2014 election, LASD, LAUSD, Los Angeles Times, School to Prison Pipeline, Sheriff Lee Baca, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 45 Comments »

LA Jail Deal with Kern County May Be Nixed, a New Women’s Facility, California Prison Pepper Spray Policy Update…and More

October 24th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

CONTRACT TO MOVE LA COUNTY JAIL INMATES TO KERN COUNTY MAY BE VOIDED NEXT WEEK, AND A NEW WOMEN’S JAIL IS IN THE WORKS

A controversial $75M contract to move 500 LA county jail inmates to Taft Correctional Institution in Kern County that the Board of Supervisors approved last month will likely be canceled at next Tuesday’s board meeting. Supe Gloria Molina has introduced a motion to void the deal after learning of an ongoing legal dispute between the state and Kern County over leased beds. (Find the backstory here.)

KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the contract in late September as a means of alleviating crowding in the jails. Two supervisors, Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Riddley-Thomas abstained from the vote, citing questions about funding the contract and where the move fit into the county’s long-term jail plans. Supervisors Gloria Molina, Mike Antonovich, and Don Knabe supported the contract as a way of adding jail space and potentially reducing the practice of releasing inmates early because of a lack of beds.

Now, Supervisor Gloria Molina has indicated she’s withdrawing her support for the contract and introduced a motion to void it. That item will likely be on the board of supervisors’ agenda on October 29. The motion will need three votes to pass.

Roxane Márquez, a spokeswoman for Molina, said the supervisor changed her mind after the county uncovered legal hurdles to quickly sending inmates to the Community Correctional Facility. It is run by the City of Taft, which is near Bakersfield.

“We did not know that the State of California and the City of Taft were involved in litigation about the use of those beds,” Márquez said. “We’re not interested in getting involved in the lawsuit.”

The Supes also moved forward with a plan to fund a new women’s jail facility in Lancaster at the Mira Loma Detention Center. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Is it just us, or does it feel like the board approves a gigantic new jail expenditure nearly every week without ever having approved any kind of overall plan or strategy? Seriously, people!)

The LA Daily News has the story. Here’s how it opens:

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to shift $100 million in state funding for a women’s jail facility near Castaic to a new project site — the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster.

The county was in danger of losing that grant money, which had been allocated for a “women’s village” at Pitchess Detention Center, but easements owned by oil and utility companies have stalled the planning process.

Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka recommended moving the project to Mira Loma, previously used as a federal detention site for undocumented immigrants but now closed. “If we don’t take today’s action … we will lose that $100 million,” he said, warning the deadline is the end of this month.

Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald supported the change, saying a Mira Loma Women’s Village would offer more capacity for innovative programs and the possibility of a re-entry facility to help ease the transition back to society.

The village would operate under “indirect supervision,” with guards moving freely among inmates rather than being stationed in a central control room, and housing in the proposed re-entry facility would be outside the confines of the jail, so women would have some freedom to come and go.

“The county has an opportunity with this facility to design a national model for the treatment of female offenders,” McDonald said, though she added that the site was “not without its challenges.”

One obstacle is the traveling distance for inmates’ families as compared with the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood, currently the county’s all-female jail.


CDCR SAYS PEPPER SPRAY POLICY CHANGES ARE ON THE WAY

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Wednesday that it will be changing protocol on when and how much pepper spray can be used on mentally ill inmates. The policy shift comes amid federal hearings on alleged abuse of California’s mentally ill prisoners. (You can catch up on that story here, if you missed it.)

The LA Times’ Paige St. John has the story. Here’s a clip:

In testimony Wednesday before a federal judge, the state official in charge of adult prisons said he sought the changes in part because of videotapes, introduced as evidence in the case, showing half a dozen inmates who were repeatedly sprayed with large amounts of pepper spray — even while naked and screaming for help.

Those tapes, he said, “are honestly one of the reasons we will be revising our policy to provide additional guidelines,” said Michael Stainer, deputy director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Stainer said the new rules would limit the amount of pepper spray guards may use on a prisoner, including banning the use of pepper spray canisters — designed for crowd control — on prisoners in small cells.

“I would love to have this policy in practice by the end of the year,” Stainer told the Los Angeles Times.

The Associated Press also reported on the CDCR’s policy changes. Here are some small clips:

The corrections department will limit how much pepper spray can be used and how quickly, said spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman. The rules are still being written and would not apply to emergency situations.

[SNIP]

“Obviously, it’s our goal to use a minimal amount of force. Having it spelled out may help these situations stay more in control,” Hoffman said.


LA TIMES GETS IPAD NUMBERS WRONG, OTHER PUBLICATIONS FOLLOW SUIT

The LA Times falsely reported yesterday that the LAUSD’s deal with Apple to buy thousands of iPads would cost more than originally agreed upon. Many publications picked up the info and ran with it without bothering to fact-check.

LA School Report’s Chase Niesner has the story. Here’s a clip:

“This is not new news and [is] part of the original board-approved contract,” said LA Unifed spokesperson Shannon Haber.

The article, “School iPads to cost nearly $100 more each, revised budget shows,” circulated by numerous media outlets including LA School Report, reported that the iPads now cost $770 per tablet, stating, “the newly disclosed price, a 14 percent increase per iPad, appeared in a revised budget released in advance of a public meeting Tuesday on the $1-billion project.”

But there was no revision. The “newly disclosed price” was available by reading the July contract, which states that the district would receive a significant discount upon purchasing 520,000 devices, totaling $400 million.

The folks at the LA Times weren’t the only ones confused about the iPad deal, another story by the LA School Report’s Vanessa Romo says that the LAUSD school board was shaky on the details. Here’s a clip:

...two months into the school year, with more than 30,000 iPads deployed, $50 million already spent and another $500 million on the line, school board members still have more questions than answers about the most basic details of getting a sleek new(ish) tablet into the hands of every student. And what has become painfully obvious is that school board and committee members alike are only now asking questions that should have been asked long before the project got off the ground.

For instance, board members seemed not to know what was actually in the contract with Apple, or what it would actually cost per unit.

(Read the details here.)


LA COUNTY DEPUTY CHARGED WITH ASSAULTING HIS GIRLFRIEND MULTIPLE TIMES, THREATENING TO KILL HER AND MOTHER OF HIS CHILD

LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Eric Hibner was convicted Tuesday of beating his girlfriend after she found out that he was seeing another woman. He was also charged with threatening to kill both his girlfriend and the mother of his child. (Yet another story that makes the case for more thorough background checks.)

Here’s a clip from the Orange County DA’s website:

On Dec. 25, 2012, Hibner got into an argument with Jane Doe #1 after the victim discovered a sexually suggestive voicemail from another woman on the defendant’s cell phone.

The following day, Dec. 26, 2012, Hibner continued to argue with Jane Doe #1 over his relationship with the other woman. Over the next few days, Hibner physically assaulted Jane Doe #1, spit on the victim, repeatedly swore at her, and threatened to kill her.

On Dec. 30, 2012, Hibner woke Jane Doe #1 and dragged her to the living room by her hair. Hibner threw the victim on the floor and got on top of her. Jane Doe #1 cried, begged Hiber to stop, and banged her foot on the floor to wake the neighbors. Hibner then covered the victim’s mouth, pinched her nose, and threatened to make her pass out. He got off of Jane Doe #1, spit on her, threw a lit cigarette at her, and called her derogatory names.

On Feb. 19, 2013, Hibner met with Jane Doe #2, with whom he formerly had a romantic relationship and minor child, for a child custody exchange. During the meeting, Hibner threatened to kill Jane Doe #2 if she appeared in court at a hearing scheduled for two days later regarding a protective order for the crimes against Jane Doe #1.


LA WILL LIKELY BECOME FIRST CITY TO BAN ELEPHANT BULL HOOKS

On Wednesday, LA City Council moved to ban the use of bull hooks and other objects used to inflict pain on circus elephants, and asked that a city ordinance be drafted and presented to the council for a final vote.

The LA Daily News’ Dakota Smith has the story. Here’s a clip:

Swayed by graphic undercover video showing elephants being prodded with the tools, City Council members unanimously backed a ban on the steel-pointed rod resembling a fireplace poker. The tool is used to inflict pain on the animals, argued City Councilman Paul Koretz, who has sponsored numerous laws in support of animals’ rights.

“It causes great harm and great pain to elephants,” said Koretz, who held a bull hook aloft as he spoke on the council floor.

With the vote, the City Council ordered a draft ordinance, which must return to the council for a final vote. If ultimately approved, the ban would take effect in three years.

The delayed ban allows local workers dependent on Ringling Bros.’ annual show to find replacement work, officials said.

With the move, Los Angeles is set to become only city in the country to ban the bull hook. Animal activists contend the tools are cruel, and point out that progressive zoos and habitats ban their use.

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