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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.

Posted in CDCR, Homeboy Industries, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LAUSD, Los Angeles Times, Mental Illness | No Comments »

Who has the right to be educated in LA County Jail?…Homeboy Goes to Scotland…Gov’t Sued Over Not Protecting Endangered Species…and More

May 30th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



YOUNG, LEARNING DISABLED, AND LOCKED-UP—AND IN NEED OF EDUCATION

Michael Garcia, who is about to turn 23 in a California state prison, was sentenced as an adult to 12 years in lock-up for his part in a gang-related crime that occurred in 2006 when he was 15. Garcia will be released in 2016, when he’s 26, at which point he is determined to reboot the trajectory of his life toward a positive—and legal—future. One important step along the way to that new life, Garcia knows, is a high school diploma.

Garcia, however, has a learning disability meaning that he does not fit well into conventional classes or instruction. Nevertheless, until he turned 22 years old, the state of California is legally required to provide him with the rest of his high school education, if he desires it, even if he’s incarcerated.

But once Garcia was moved from a juvenile facility to the LA County jail, no state or county educational agency seemed to want to be the ones to provide him with that education—although everyone seemed to cheerily agree that it was in the best interest of society, and all that good stuff, for someone to do it. The question was: who?

Joanna Lin, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, has the story about Garcia and the growing number of young, learning disabled inmates like him who are falling through a yawning gap in the special education laws, never mind that education is one of the biggest predictors when it comes to determining how well or poorly a person does when he or she gets out of prison and attempts to reenter the legal, working world.

Here’s a clip from Lin’s story:

School ended for Michael Garcia with a routine transfer from juvenile hall to adult county jail. There was no fanfare, diploma or cap and gown. He hadn’t graduated or dropped out.

He’d simply turned 18.

For the next 19 months, he was in limbo, unable to receive the high school diploma that he’ll need for most jobs and to attend college. Despite being eligible for special education under state and federal laws – Garcia has a learning disability, an auditory processing disorder and a speech and language impairment – in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, he was a student that no one wanted to teach.

California and federal laws allow students with disabilities to receive special education services until age 22. But the laws are vague enough that deciding who should provide that education is unclear.

Garcia has spent nearly five years in legal battles trying to hold someone accountable. This year, the California Supreme Court is expected to hear Garcia’s case to determine whether an incarcerated student’s local school district – the one in which his or her parents reside – is responsible for his or her special education.

The case has implications for county inmates with disabilities and school districts across the state that could be required to send teachers into jails to instruct special education students. In L.A. County jails alone, attorneys for Garcia estimate, between 400 and 700 young adults are eligible for special education on any given day.

The court’s decision will come too late for Garcia, who is incarcerated at a state prison – a system beyond the scope of his petition. Still, said Garcia, who turns 23 in June, “it’s the least I can do.”

“I know other people are struggling to get education too but don’t have the courage to keep pushing,” he said. “I already went through that struggle. Why not keep going to help everyone else?”

NOTE: just to be clear, it is not the job of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to educate people like Garcia. It’s LAUSD and/or the state of California that is dropping the ball with young inmates with learning disabilities. (The LASD’s Education-Based Incarceration program is an entirely different kind of program.)


HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES GOES TO SCOTLAND

Father Greg Boyle and former prison lifer, James Horton (who now works for Boyle’s Homeboy Industries) were asked to visit Scotland in order to consult with local law enforcement about the uptick in crime and violence that is plaguing the country’s poorest urban areas.

Now Boyle and Horton—plus my pal, UCLA violence reduction expert, Jorja Leap—are on the ground in the land of kilts and poets, and the local media has been reporting on their peregrinations. Here’s a clip from the BBC’s coverage by Huw Williams :

Former gang member James Horton spent 12 years on death row in the US but was later cleared of a murder charge. He now works with Homeboy Industries.

“Joining a gang was like a rite of passage, and you did it because you wanted to be accepted by those in your community,” he said.

“I was drug dealer too. I was a criminal. Every opportunity that I had to do something to make some money I was most likely involved in doing that.

“You have to deal with the issue as a whole. You can tell someone ‘come join us, be with us’ but if you don’t give them no hope, or no job, then the gang will always have access to them.

“Father Greg teaches us that you can never take away a person’s hope.”

[BIG SNIP]

Police Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) said one of the biggest challenges for ex gang members and those recently out of prison was finding a meaningful job, so they could contribute economically and socially.

Father Greg Boyle and former gang member James Horton are in Glasgow working with the VRU
The VRU said Braveheart Industries, a social enterprise based on the Los Angeles experience, could improve public safety, make communities healthier and safer, and break the cycle of gang violence.

VRU director Karyn McCluskey added: “Giving people an opportunity and a job has a huge impact on their life and it has a halo effect on their family, it affects the lives of their children and their partners, and I think we can use that experience here.

“We’ve had great policing, Stephen House has driven down violence in Scotland, but the thing that really stops reoffending is giving people a positive destination and I think we can really take some of the experience from Father Greg and Homeboy Industries and use it in Scotland.”

Meetings are to be held in Glasgow, with similar sessions planned in Edinburgh and Kilmarnock later in the week, to see if the work can be replicated across Scotland.


FOSTER CARE YOUTH COVERED FOR HEALTH CARE UNTIL AGE 26 (UNLESS THEY HAVE MOVED STATES IN WHICH CASE THEY’RE OUT OF LUCK)

This is one of those bureaucratic gaps that needs to be fixed immediately.

The California Report has an podcast on the topic.

Anna Challet of New America Media has still more on the issue. Here’s a clip from her story:

There are over 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system, and almost all of them are enrolled in Medicaid. Brooke Lehmann, the founder of Childworks, an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., says that 80 percent of foster youth have one or more chronic medical conditions that must continue to be treated after they age out of care.

“There’s simply a cliff where they were once provided for,” she says.

To qualify for the extended coverage [to age 26], youths must have been in foster care at the time of their 18th birthday or have aged out of foster care based on their states’ age limits, and have been enrolled in Medicaid. Until now, states had an option (known as the Chafee Option), but not a mandate, to extend Medicaid coverage to former foster youths, and only until age 21. Only 33 states had adopted the Chafee Option. Now all states will be required to cover eligible youth through age 26.

But, under the extended eligibility provision, there is not currently a requirement that states must cover former foster youth who aged out of care in a different state.


DOJ FAILS TO GUARD AGAINST KILLING OF ENDANGERED SPECIES, SAYS NEW LAWSUIT

The US Department of Justice, which is not exactly having a good month (what with their poorly received new habit of spying on journalists and all), is now rightfully being sued by environmental advocacy groups for their weak-kneed enforcement of protections against killing endangered species.

Julie Cart of the LA Times has the story. Hee’s a clip:

Environmental groups are taking the Justice Department to court over a policy that prohibits prosecuting individuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be proved that they knew they were targeting a protected animal.

Critics charge that the 15-year-old McKittrick policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors and whooping cranes as well as 48 federally protected Mexican wolves.

The policy stems from a Montana case in which Chad McKittrick was convicted under the Endangered Species Act for killing a wolf near Yellowstone National Park in 1995. He argued that he was not guilty because he thought he was shooting a wild dog.

McKittrick appealed the conviction and lost, but the Justice Department nonetheless adopted a policy that became the threshold for taking on similar cases: prosecutors must prove that the individual knowingly killed a protected species.

The lawsuit charges that the policy sets a higher burden of proof than previously required, arguing, “The DOJ’s McKittrick policy is a policy that is so extreme that it amounts to a conscious and express abdication of DOJ’s statutory responsibility to prosecute criminal violations of the ESA as general intent crimes.”

WLA agrees

And to validate the casualness with which the feds seem to view the protection of endangered species, there is this story from early last month regarding the “mistaken” killing of a highly endangered Mexican Gray wolf by a USDA Wildlife Services employee, who said he thought he was killing a coyote.


Posted in bears and alligators, Education, environment, Foster Care, Gangs, health care, Homeboy Industries, LA County Jail, LAUSD, wolves | 5 Comments »

Gov. Brown Calls Out Trutanich on Realignment, LAUSD Bans Suspensions for “Willful Defiance”…and More

May 16th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

TRUTANICH “MISLEADING VOTERS” ON REALIGNMENT, SAYS GOVERNOR

With just a few days until the May 21 general election, Gov. Jerry Brown has recorded a message to voters calling out City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for spreading misleading information about prison realignment. Trutanich, who is running a decidedly uphill battle for reelection was originally a supporter of realignment. Now, he has changed his tune, and is bashing opponent Mike Feuer for supporting it, inaccurately pronouncing realignment the “get-out-of-jail early law,” and more.

LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a mailer, Trutanich calls the plan “the get-out-of-jail early law.” The mailer describes Tobias Summers, the alleged Northridge kidnapper, as “one of Feuer’s get-out-of-jail free graduates.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has disputed that, saying that Summers was not released early.

Brown endorsed Trutanich in his failed D.A. campaign, but is now supporting Feuer for city attorney. In the robocall, Brown faults Trutanich for “misleading voters by suddenly attacking a public safety plan he once supported.”

We’d kind of like a city attorney who bothers to check his facts on legal matters, but that’s just us.


WILLFUL DEFIANCE NO LONGER GROUNDS FOR SUSPENDING L.A. KIDS

Tuesday, the LAUSD school board voted to ban suspensions for the catchall, “willful defiance,” in favor of alternative behavioral disciplines. L.A. is the first district in the state to take this large step toward school disciplinary reform.

The state bill on the same issue is making its way through the legislative process. According to Public Counsel spokesman Michael Soller, “AB 420 passed the Assembly Education Committee, and is headed for an appropriations vote on May 24 or 25. If it gets out of that committee, then it’s on to the Senate.”

WitnessLA will certainly be keeping an eye on it.

LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe has the story on LAUSD’s vote. Here’s a clip:

The packed board room erupted in cheers after the 5-2 vote to approve the proposal, which made L.A. Unified the first school district in the state to ban defiance as grounds for suspension. The action comes amid mounting national concern that removing students from school is imperiling their academic achievement and disproportionately harming minority students, particularly African Americans.

“Now we’ll have a better chance to stay in school and become something,” said Luis Quintero, 14, a student at Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles. He attended the board meeting, along with dozens of other students and community activists who have been pushing the proposal by board members Monica Garcia and Nury Martinez.

But the vote came after an impassioned discussion over whether the proposal would give a “free pass” to students and shield them from the consequences of misbehavior. Board members Marguerite LaMotte told students that they needed to pay for their mistakes, while Richard Vladovic said no student had the right to disrupt learning opportunities for classmates.

“I’m not going to give you permission to go crazy and think there are no consequences,” LaMotte said.


U.S. KIDS’ HIGH EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA

According to a new report from JAMA Pediatrics, four out of ten kids in the U.S. were exposed to physical violence in the last year. In addition, an alarming 13.7 percent of the 4,500 children surveyed reported repeated mistreatment from their caregivers.

The Examiner’s Sharon Gloger Friedman has the story. Here’s a clip:

…Survey results showed:

*Physical assault in the past year was reported by 41.2 percent of respondents.

*Assault-related injuries were reported by 10.1 percent of respondents.

*Nearly 11 percent of girls ages 14 to 17 reported sexual assault or abuse.

*Repeated maltreatment by a caregiver was reported by 13.7 percent of respondents; of that group 3.7 percent said they experienced physical abuse.

More than 13 percent of kids reported being physically bullied; one in three said they had been emotionally bullied.
According to Dr. Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist in Potomac, Md., these numbers may be low.

“I think, unfortunately, this [violence] is so endemic to our society, it’s overlooked. It is considered like a cold,” Brody, who often works with victims of childhood violence, and who is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, told HealthDay News.

Brody added that witnessing or experiencing violence as a child can result in rage, lack of security, feelings of powerlessness, nightmares and other psychological aftereffects that last long into adulthood.

Of particular concern are children and teens who suffer frequent exposures to violence. Survey results showed that nearly 15 percent of study participants had been exposed to violence six or more times in the past year and about five percent had been exposed to 10 or more violent acts.

A similar study by the National Survey of Children’s Health found that nearly 48 percent of US youth had experienced at least one major childhood trauma.

Jane Stevens expertly lays out the consequences of this exposure to violence and trauma on her blog, ACEs Too High. Here’s a clip:

Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NHCS). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data.

Even more concerning, nearly a third of U.S. youth age 12-17 have experienced two or more types of childhood adversity that are likely to affect their physical and mental health as adults. Across the 50 U.S. states, the percentages range from 23 percent for New Jersey to 44.4 percent for Arizona.

The data are clear, says Dr. Christina Bethell: If more prevention, trauma-healing and resiliency training programs aren’t provided for children who have experienced trauma, and if our educational, juvenile justice, mental health and medical systems are not changed to stop traumatizing already traumatized children, many of the nation’s children are likely to suffer chronic disease and mental illness. Not only will their lives be difficult, but the nation’s already high health care costs will soar even higher, she believes. Bethell is director of the National Maternal and Child Health Data Resource Center, part of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI). The Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Service Administration, sponsors the survey.

Those numbers are already formidable, and they get much higher when looking at kids in the juvenile justice system.


KRIS KRISTOFFERSON CONCERT TO RAISE MONEY FOR HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES

And on a happier note, Kris Kristofferson will be performing a benefit concert for Homeboy Industries’ 25th anniversary, at Pepperdine’s Smothers Theater on June 23. (WitnessLA plans to be there.)

FishbowlLA’s Richard Horgan has more details on the concert.

Posted in children and adolescents, City Attorney, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Education, Homeboy Industries, LAUSD, prison, Realignment, Uncategorized, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 3 Comments »

Foster Mother’s Day, LAUSD Voting to Reign in School Discipline…and More

May 13th, 2013 by Taylor Walker

FAMILIES AND ADVOCATES GATHER TO CELEBRATE FOSTER MOTHERS

This past Sunday, the non-profit organization Foster Care Counts hosted the Fifth Annual Foster Mother’s Day event in LA, home to the nation’s largest foster care system. Fifteen-hundred foster moms and their families gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day and National Foster Month with food, family activities, and entertainment.

We received some excellent photos of the festivities, like this foster mother with her sweet baby…

…and this happy group of kids getting ready to play some carnival games:

As journalists, we so often cover the tragedy and letdowns in foster care, it’s nice to take a moment and recognize the many decent folks who are giving kids homes.


WILL LAUSD VOTE TO BAN SUSPENSIONS FOR “WILLFUL DEFIANCE?”

Tuesday, the LAUSD Board of Education will vote on a resolution authored by LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia to ban suspensions for “willful defiance,” and to provide new guidelines for school discipline. (For more on the resolution, hop over to our April post.)

The LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Damien Valentine knows painfully well about a national phenomenon that is imperiling the academic achievement of minority students, particularly African Americans like himself: the pervasive and disproportionate use of suspensions from school for mouthing off and other acts of defiance.

The Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore has been suspended several times beginning in seventh grade, when he was sent home for a day and a half for refusing to change his seat because he was talking. He said the suspensions never helped him learn to control his behavior but only made him fall further behind.

“Getting suspended doesn’t solve anything,” Valentine said. “It just ruins the rest of the day and keeps you behind.”

But Valentine, who likes chemistry and wants to be a doctor, is determined to change school discipline practices. He has joined a Los Angeles County-wide effort to push a landmark proposal by school board President Monica Garcia that would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for willful defiance.


BROOKLYN D.A. REVIEWING FIFTY MURDER CONVICTIONS INVOLVING RENOWNED NYPD DETECTIVE

The Brooklyn D.A.’s office has ordered a review of around fifty closed homicide cases involving retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella. The review comes after the release of wrongfully convicted David Ranta, who was locked up for twenty-three years on a false confession obtained by Scarcella. It was also triggered by the findings from an NY Times review of a dozen other cases.

We urge you to read the entirety of this wild and alarming tale.

The New York Times’ Frances Robles and N. R. Kleinfield have the story. Here’s a clip:

The office’s Conviction Integrity Unit will reopen every murder case that resulted in a guilty verdict after being investigated by Detective Louis Scarcella, a flashy officer who handled some of Brooklyn’s most notorious crimes during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

The development comes after The New York Times examined a dozen cases involving Mr. Scarcella and found disturbing patterns, including the detective’s reliance on the same eyewitness, a crack-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions and his delivery of confessions from suspects who later said they had told him nothing. At the same time, defense lawyers, inmates and prisoner advocacy organizations have contacted the district attorney’s office to share their own suspicions about Mr. Scarcella.

The review by the office of District Attorney Charles J. Hynes will give special scrutiny to those cases that appear weakest — because they rely on either a single eyewitness or confession, officials said. The staff will re-interview available witnesses, and study any new evidence. If they feel a conviction was unjust, prosecutors could seek for it to be dismissed.

Posted in criminal justice, Foster Care, Innocence, LAUSD, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

Will LAUSD Regulate School Discipline & Ban “Willful Defiance?”….Far Right Lawmakers Say Let States Regulate Weed….LAPD’s Zero Tolerance,

April 17th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


MONICA GARCIA’S STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS

On Tuesday, LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia introduced a motion that, if adopted by the board, would establish a Student Bill of Rights for school discipline.

It’s a carefully constructed motion that is supported by a range of organizations including Public Counsel, Liberty Hill, The California Endowment, Community Coalition, and a host of student groups, and it lays out a set of rules and guidelines for schools regarding the way they discipline students. Among other things, the motion mandates transparency and good record keeping in the discipline process, and a clear delineation of the role of school police on campus.

It also mandates that all students have access to what is known as School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions (SWPBIS), a strategy that has been shown to reduce suspensions, increases attendance, and even to improve academic performance.

But, if passed, the biggest change the motion would put into place is the removal from the school discipline tool kit the use of “willful defiance” as a reason for suspension or expulsion.

Here’s the wording:

Beginning Fall 2013, no student shall be suspended or expelled for a “willful defiance” (48900(k) offense

Willful defiance is a blunt instrument that youth advocates and education reformers have been working hard to get taken off the table at a state level, but the state legislature and the governor have, thus far, balked. Thus for LAUSD to lead the way would be a positive development indeed. (And perhaps it would lead the way for passage of AB 420.)

Oddly, Tuesday’s LA Times editorial that discussed Garcia’s resolution, praised most of it, but took is issue only with the removal of “willful defiance” as an option.

We believe the Times is wrong-headed in its objection.

Here’s the relevant clip (italics ours):

The resolution, which is scheduled to come before the board Tuesday, would require schools to use other measures to combat willful defiance, including setting clearer expectations and providing counseling to get at the root of bad behavior when possible, both of which have been found to be more effective than suspension. But it also would allow schools to devise additional programs that might prove even more useful, such as detention, or setting up a special classroom, with schoolwork to be done and tutors available, so that students who act up in class aren’t allowed to continue disrupting the education of other students but also don’t fall behind in their studies.

Where the resolution goes off course is with its zero tolerance for suspending defiant students under any circumstances. The district still has not figured out how to deal with the most persistently disruptive students, those who don’t respond to counseling, and it shouldn’t completely tie the schools’ hands....

We don’t agree.

As we briefly outlined here earlier this week, in 2009, Jose Huerta, the principal of Garfield High School in East LA, not only took willful defiance off the table at his school, he took the radical step of doing away suspensions and expulsions altogether (except in extreme instances where demanded by state law). The result was, after less than two years, Garfield had a much healthier, safer campus, and suspensions went from 683…down to one. A year after that, the school’s state achievement scores (API) had jumped 75 points.

There are other examples elsewhere in the country. But Garfield is the closest, and the best.

Garcia’s motion will be voted on next month. We hope those behind the Times editorial will have done some further research and thinking on the issue between then and now.

(You can read Garcia’s motion here, but scroll down to page 24, item 44.)


ARCH CONSERVATIVES URGE CONGRESS TO GET RIGHT WITH STATES’ GANJA LAWS

Tim Dickenson of Rolling Stone has the story. Here’s a clip:

There’s a new congressional push to end the federal War on Pot in the states – and it’s being spearheaded by some of the most conservative members of the Republican conference.

The “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” introduced in the House last week would immunize anyone acting legally under state marijuana laws from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. Depending on the state, the legislation would cover both medical marijuana and recreational pot, and would protect not only the users of state-legal cannabis, but also the businesses that cultivate, process, distribute and sell marijuana in these states.

The legislation is in keeping with poll data released last week from Pew Research that found that 60 percent of Americans believe the feds should allow states to self-regulate when it comes to marijuana. The same poll finds that 57 percent of Republicans also favor this approach, which may explain why this bill is attracting arch-conservative backers in the House.

The three GOP co-sponsors are:

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, who is best known to liberals as a villainous climate denier for theorizing that global warming is the result of “dinosaur flatulence.”

Read the rest, to find out who else—from both the (R) and (D) sides— makes up this ganja gang.


LAPD SAYS ZERO TOLERANCE RE: PERJURY

The story by KPCC reporter Erika Aguilar is a sad one, really. Two LAPD motor cops may have made an innocent mistake in the way they wrote up a DUI stop, which led to the officers perjuring themselves—even though it seems there was no reason to do it. Nothing to gain. But Chief Charlie Beck said (in so many words) that the LAPD is firm about zero tolerance for lying on police reports and perjury.

That is, obviously, as it should be. Holding the line on a principal means holding it everywhere, no excuses. Let us hope the line is consistant throughout the department.

Here’s a clip from Aguilar’s story:

The criminal trial of two Los Angeles police motorcycle cops accused of lying under oath about conducting a DUI traffic stop began this week.

Craig Allen, who was fired, and Phillip Walters, who is on suspension from the force, were charged last year with perjury and falsifying a police report.

The incident occurred in Highland Park just after midnight three years ago. LAPD traffic cops were on watch for impaired driving. A DUI task force was in full force that night.

Officer Cecilio Flores watched a driver roll through one stop sign and then another before pulling her over. He said she had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol. Flores radioed over officers Walter and Allen to assist him with the stop and then take over, a “hand-off” as described in court or a “gimme.”

The DUI stop continued its fairly routine course. The driver was given a field sobriety test, arrested and transported to jail, and Allen began the paperwork.

That last step, the written police report, is the meat of this case.

“He wrote that he was in the area when they observed and pulled over the vehicle,” said prosecutor Rosa Alarcon in her opening statement. “He didn’t mention Flores.”

Alarcon said Walters later testified during a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing regarding the woman’s driver’s license that he saw her driving that night. She added that officer Allen testified at another hearing giving specific details about how they pulled over the driver — but admitted that he hadn’t personally observed the offense after audio of the dispatch recording was played.

“The defendants made a conscious decision to lie,” Alarcon said.

Posted in DEA, Education, LAPD, LAUSD, Restorative Justice, School to Prison Pipeline, War on Drugs, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 7 Comments »

THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE CRISIS: 3 New Bills, a Commission Hearing, a Groundbreaking Report… & LAUSD

April 15th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


The topic of school discipline, school safety
and the so-called school to prison pipeline continues to heat up. We will be reporting more regularly on these issues over the next year, as more and more voices push for change.

In the meantime, here’s an overview of some of the events of the past week and the coming week.


NEW BILLS & WILLFUL DEFIANCE

On Tuesday of this week a cluster of new bills will have their first hearings in the state capital. All are aimed at at reforming some part of what education advocates call a crisis in school discipline. AB 549 would push for more school counselors and better defined roles for school police, and SB 744 would help fix some of the more pressing problems with “community day schools” that, at present, often lead students to drop out, rather than helping students toward graduation.

But perhaps the most important of the new bills is AB420, which would greatly curtail the use of the dangerously vague catch-all category of “willful defiance” as the sole reason for suspending or expelling a student.

We’ll have more on the willful defiance issue as time goes along. But for now what you need to know is that it is defined as, “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school staff,” and that, according to a new report by the California Department of Education, 53 percent of all school suspensions this past year had this kitchen sink category as the primary cause.


A NEW NATIONAL REPORT AND A “SELECT” COMMITTEE MEETS

Last week, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project released a first-of-its-kind new report analyzing the data from more than 26,000 American middle schools, and found that one out of every nine secondary school students was suspended at least once during the year—and that the majority of suspensions were for minor infractions of school rules—things like disrupting class, tardiness, and dress code violations. The suspensions were rarely for serious, violent or criminal behavior.

The report also found that racial disparities in the use of school discipline are so great, and have grown so dramatically since the 1970s, that the matter has become a civil rights issue—especially for African American students who now face an astonishing 24.3% risk of being suspended—that’s a one in four likelihood.

When gender and disability are thrown into the mix, things get worse: According to the report, 36% of all Black male students with disabilities in middle and high schools, were suspended at least once in 2009-2010—more than one in three.

The UCLA study warned that the findings should be of “serious concern” given that new research shows being suspended even once in ninth grade means “a 32% risk for dropping out” before graduation.

“There is something terribly wrong,” wrote Daniel Losen, report author and director of The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, “when, despite very effective alternatives, so many middle and high schools quickly punish and exclude students of color, students with disabilities and English Learners. We know these schools can change because, in many large districts, we found many low-suspending schools where suspension is still a measure of last resort.”

All these points and more were discussed in Sacramento this past Friday morning as testimony was presented at the Select Committee on Delinquency Prevention and Youth Development, chaired by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D).

The special hearing, called: Beyond Newtown – Promoting Safe, Supportive, and Healthy Schools, heard some affecting testimony from all over California.

Yet, not surprisingly, our own LAUSD was front and center more than any other district.


SCHOOL DISCIPLINE AT LA UNIFIED

The UCLA report found that LAUSD had 54 schools out of its 215 secondary schools that suspended at least one segment of its student body (African American males, let’s say) more than 25%, and 13 schools that suspended one group or segment more than 50%. The report designated these high suspension campuses as “hot spots.”

Nationally, LA Unified ranked as 4th in the nation, when it came to these “hot spot” schools.

That’s the bad news. However, like many districts, LAUSD is a very mixed bag when it comes to school suspensions. This means there is also good news—namely the fact that the district ranked first in the nation when it came to low suspending schools (81 schools) that “suspended no group over 10%.”

Here’s a break out of the LAUSD part of the UCLA Civil Rights Project report


THE MIRACLE OF GARFIELD HIGH

Of all the low-suspending LAUSD schools, the one with the most dramatic story of change is James A. Garfield High School, which is located in an unincorporated area of East Los Angeles. Garfield draws from some of LA’s most impoverished communities, as a consequence, it has traditionally dealt with a host of social problems that often lead to discipline issues, including gangs, drugs, and the family dysfunction that often accompanies poverty.

Thus it was nothing out of the ordinary that, in the 2008/2009 school year, Garfield instituted 683 suspensions and one expulsion.

But in January 2009 Garfield got a brand new principal named Jose Huerta, who was part of a new reorganization plan for the desperately troubled school. Among other changes he and his team instituted, Huerta decided that he was going to take suspensions and expulsions entirely “off the table.”

It was a radical promise but, amazingly, Huerta made good on it. At the end of the 2010/2011 school year, Garfield had suspended one kid, and expelled zero kids. The next year, it was the same, suspended 1, expelled none.

Thus far for the 2012/2013 school year there have been no suspensions.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Garfield in the coming weeks—as we think you’ll find its transformation to be an important and instructive story.


AND IN OTHER NEWS

That’s all for now. Tomorrow some interesting LA Sheriff’s department news, plus news about a proposed LA Unified Board resolution—-and more soon on LA County Probation.

So stay tuned.


Posted in LAUSD, Restorative Justice, School to Prison Pipeline, Youth at Risk, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

LASD to Appeal $1.1 Million Judgement ….and other stories

April 1st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


THE LASD WILL APPEAL RECENT HIGH $$ JUDGEMENT IN CASE OF DEPUTY SHOOTING OF PALMDALE TEENAGER WITH TOY GUN

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department now plans to appeal the recent $1.1 million judgement that a jury awarded 19-year-old William Fetters, who was shot by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, Scott Sorrow, four years ago.

The award, which amounted to $1,127,600, included reembursement for medical bills, plus damages for pain and suffering. [Go here for our previous report on the case.]

On on May 10, 2009, Fetters—then 15-years-old—was riding his bike with his brother and friends, playing “cops and robbers,” on a residential street in Palmdale, when Sorrow said he saw the boy waving what he said he believed was a real gun.

The “gun” was, in fact, a toy cap gun . But, according to Whitmore, it was minus the orange tip that representational-looking toy firearms are required to have, thus making it look real when seen quickly.

[WLA obtained the photo above of Fetters' actual toy gun, taken at the scene.]

According to Fetters, he was riding his bike down the street toward a local baseball diamond, pretending to “shoot” back and forth with his brother and friends as they went. As the boys rode, Sorrow approached in his LASD patrol car and barked at Fetters to get off his bike and drop the gun. Scared, Fetters said he dropped the toy gun instantly, and tried to get off the bike, but the deputy shot him anyway.

Sorrow testified to the contrary that Fetters was brandishing what appeared to be a real gun, which he did not drop at all, but instead pointed it at the patrol car causing the deputy to fear for his life and that of his partner. As a consequence, he fired a single shot at Fetters.

The jury believed Fetters’ version of events.

According to Whitmore, after the incident, Fetters was convicted of the misdemeanor charge of pointing a firearm at deputies. “And, don’t forget, both our internal affairs investigation and the OIR [Office of Independent Review] found the deputy’s actions within department policy.”

Whitmore added, “This is not how anyone wants an encounter with a teenager to end.”

Whitmore also noted that the judge in the Fetters case excluded Fetters’ misdemeanor conviction from coming into court, thus the jury was unaware of it.

By the same token, the jury did not hear of another Palmdale incident also involving Deputy Sorrow that occurred in August 26, 2009, three months after the shooting of Fetters. This second incident resulted in Sorrow and two other deputies being sued by a local apartment manager, Noel Bender, for assault and battery, and civil rights violations. [See this Daily News story for additional details on that lawsuit.]

In the Bender case, the jury also decided in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding Bender $581,000 for “false arrest, battery, Civil Rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” after acquiting the other two deputies but finding that Sorrow had acted “with malice.”

In Fetters’ case, the jury could not decide whether or not Sorrow had acted “with malice,” thus that part of the matter will be retried later this month, according to Fetters’ attorney, Bradley Gage, who also represented Bender.


LA TIMES URGES “PAY THE DORNER AWARDS”

In an editorial on Sunday, the LA Times editorial board explained why reneging on the $1 million in awards offered for the capture of Christopher Dorner is a very bad idea.

WLA agrees. Here’s a clip:

….some of those who pledged reward money are interpreting the matter as one of contract and are looking for loopholes to withdraw their support. The city of Riverside, for instance, declared that “because the conditions were not met, there will not be a payment of a reward by the city.” That’s penny wise and pound foolish, not to mention a cavalier disregard of public safety. Officials should realize that it will undermine the efficacy of future reward offers if the public senses that the game is rigged. In an effort to save itself a few dollars in this instance, Riverside and others may end up paying dearly in the future when residents, told that a reward is on the table, decide to let police handle it themselves because the money may not be forthcoming.

[BIG SNIP]

Finally, there is this dystopian alternative to consider: If public agencies offer rewards for arrest or conviction and then withhold them in cases in which a suspect dies, they have, in effect, created a financial incentive for police to kill suspects rather than arrest them. That’s a troubling bit of motivation.


HOW MUCH DOES RACIAL BIAS FEED THE “SCHOOL TO PRISON PIPELINE?’

The Christian Science Monitor adds a new and disturbing story to the growing body of evidence that, not only are zero tolerence school discipline policies ineffective and damaging to overall student well-being but, statistically speaking, they are gravely biased when it comes to race.

Here’s a clip from the story by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, which draws from extensive data gathered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Two students set off fire alarms in the same school district. One of them, an African-American kindergartner, is suspended for five days; the other, a white ninth-grader, is suspended for one day.

•An African-American high-schooler is suspended for a day for using a cellphone and an iPod in class. In the same school, a white student with a similar disciplinary history gets detention for using headphones.

•Two middle-schoolers push each other; the white student receives a three-day, in-school suspension, while the native American student is arrested and suspended, out of school, for 10 days.

Civil rights groups have been saying for years that school discipline is not meted out fairly, citing examples like these reported last year from around the country by the US Department of Education.

[SNIP]

Data from 72,000 American public schools in the 2009-10 school year, for example, show that while African-Americans make up 18 percent of the students in this large sample, they account for 46 percent of students suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of students arrested on campus.

White students, by contrast, represent 29 percent of multiple suspensions and 33 percent of expulsions – but 51 percent of the students.

[BIG SNIP]

Many people might assume the racial breakdown of discipline simply reflects higher rates of misbehavior by some groups of students, perhaps explained by factors such as poverty.

Research has shown that’s not an adequate explanation. “There’s quite a bit of literature that supports the finding that it’s not just about kids behaving badly,” says Russell Skiba, a professor at Indiana University in Bloomington and an expert on school violence and discipline.

His recent study of discipline data in one Midwestern state found that even after controlling for types of student behavior and poverty, African-Americans still had 1.5 times higher rates of suspension or expulsion than whites did….

I’m just scratching the surface with the clips. There’s lots and lots more to the story so

read the rest here.

Posted in How Appealing, LAUSD | 2 Comments »

Mayor…City Attorney…City Controller…School Board – Some Help in Deciding

March 1st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


WitnessLA isn’t offering any endorsements at the moment.
(Okay, maybe one little endorsement. But we’ll get to in a minute.)

Instead, we have linked to some of the more interesting and informative articles, interviews, mini-debates and what not that we thought you might find helpful as you make your decisions:



FIRST AN OVERVIEW: SO WHO REALLY HAS THE POWER IN LA ANYWAY?

Obviously, everyone knows in general what the Mayor does, and the City Council Members, and the City Attorney. But, past the generalities, a great many of us don’t have a really firm grasp on the details of who has control over what in Los Angeles.

With this in mind, LA Magazine has put together a handy GUIDE TO POWER IN LA that explains…well….everything (or nearly so.)

We highly recommend taking a look.


WHO’S GOT WHAT ELECTIONS $$$ AND WHERE DID THE MONEY COME FROM?

KCET has a great Who’s Funding Whom Database, which you can find here.

And here’s a rundown about how to get the most out of the database.


MAYOR

Warren Olney interviews the top 5 mayoral hopefuls—and the interviews are particularly good. Here’s the link, but scroll down, for each interview.

And for individual takes on the candidates:
KPCC’s Frank Stoltze looks at Eric Garcetti and asks if the candidate is tough enough to do what needs to be done as mayor.

Gene Maddeus writes about Wendy Greuel, whom he portrays as a down-to-earth, no-nonsense fix-it woman—with strong union support, namely by the DWP’s powerful workers union, IBEW Local 18—whose backing some voters find worrisome.

UPDATE: Greuel moved to counter that fear on Thursday when she told the Daily News that there would be no DWP raises if LA has a deficit.

Dakota Smith at the Daily News looks at Jan Perry and wonders if she’s too beholden to business groups.

Similarly the LA Times’ Jim Newton wonders if Eric Garcetti is too beholden to the teachers’ union.

In terms of endorsements, the Daily News thinks Wendy Greuel is strong and gutsy enough to take on “stubborn interests”—the unions and others—who “would make L.A. proud as the first woman to lead the nation’s second most populous city.”

The Los Angeles Times goes for Eric Garcetti, whom it says is the candidate with the most potential to “rise to the occasion…” and “the power to inspire.” “He could be just what Los Angeles needs.”


CITY ATTORNEY

While we aren’t endorsing anyone, we do have a strong anti-endorsement. Here it is: ABC—anybody but Carmen. Incumbent Carmen Trutanich has good points, but the negatives greatly outweigh the positives. We went into more detail when Mr. Trutanich ran for District Attorney.

If you’d like a good one-stop-shopping destination that allows you to get a broad strokes idea of the three main candidates—Mike Fuerer, Greg Smith, and Carmen Trutanich—we recommend the on air debate, again, with Warren Olney.

We think it is fascinatingly character revealing for all three of the candidates. For some in a good way. For others, not so much.


CITY CONTROLLER

Once more we refer you to the on-air debate between the candidates with Warren Olney on Which Way LA?

As for sorting out the candidates for voting purposes: LA City Counsel member, Dennis Zine, is the best known and, as such, has a long list of endorsements from unions and elected officials. However persons like former City Controller Laura Chick—and the LA Times, the Daily News, La Opinion, the Daily Breeze and others—are going for Ron Galperin.

Not endorsing, just sayin’…


SCHOOL BOARD

For years, the teachers’ unions have poured gobs of money into the coffers of certain school board candidates whom they could then count on to vote the unions’ direction on any reform issue that the union didn’t like. And true to form, the unions’ presence is being felt in this year’s race too.

But the school board races that are up for a vote in Tuesday’s election have featured a new and muscular funding stream. The money comes from what is collectively known as the school reform movement—a coalition that does not think reform can take place if board members are forever hogtied by unions who put their own interests ahead of those of LA’s kids, with year upon year of demonstrably disastrous results. As a consequence, the the national reform movement has come up with its own big bucks, with some of the money even coming from outside the state. (Not surprisingly, the latter fact has caused controversy.)

Here’s what Education Week has on the matter.

So whom does one vote for in light of all this competing campaign funding?

Well, here’s what the Daily News has to say on the subject.

And here is the LA Times’ list of School Board endorsements.

(You will note both papers’ LAUSD board endorsements are exactly the same.)

The Daily News goes on to explain how it selected its three choices and why it thinks this school board election is of real importance:

What’s at stake is more than just three faces on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. The result could either confirm the slow move toward innovation and reform in the nation’s second-largest school district. Or it could reverse the course, destroying the few steps the district has taken in recent years to shake up the old, failing education structure.

For that reason, these races have attracted an astonishing amount of money – $4 million so far – as the unions and reform groups battle it out. How this election goes next week could well decide the fate of education reform in the city, state and nation.

That’s why we are strongly encouraging voters in the three districts - 2, 4, and 6 – to go to the polls and strike a victory for the students by choosing these three people:

Monica Garcia in District 2…Kate Anderson in District 4…Monica Ratcliff in District 6

We agree—most particularly about the choice of Kate Anderson. And, we don’t think the Daily News is overstating its case when it talks about how important this election is to LA’s educational future, and probably to the state’s.

So, yes, that’s an endorsement.

(Oh, and one more thing: Vote NO on Measure A.


NOTE: For more on LA’s schools, and education issues—including Tuesday’s board race—-start reading the lively, smart, and very tuned in LA School report.


BUT WHATEVER YOUR CHOICE….PLEASE VOTE ON TUESDAY, MARCH 5.

Posted in City Attorney, City Budget, City Controller, Education, elections, LA city government, LAUSD | 2 Comments »

Unusual Bedfellows for CA Realignment Reform….The Homeboy 5K….The Anti-Suspension School…..& More

December 11th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


UNLIKELY NEW BFFs UNITE OVER PUSH FOR BETTER REENTRY PROGRAMS & NO NEW JAILS IN CA REALIGNMENT

No labor union in California has been more obstructive when it comes to criminal justice reform than the CCPOA—the prison guards’ union.

And few foundations have been more progressive and reform minded on the topic of criminal justice and prison and parole policy than the Rosenberg foundation.

That’s why it’s very cheering to see the prez of the CCPOA, Mike Jimanez, and the prez of Rosenberg Timothy Silard collaborating on a push for reform as evidenced in this Sacramento Bee Op Ed written jointly by the two men..

May it be a sign of things to come

Here’s a clip:

In polls and with their votes, Californians are sending a strong message that they are ready for the state to move in a new direction when it comes to public safety.

With realignment, local law enforcement has an unrivaled opportunity to lead us in this new direction, but the jury is still out on whether local officials will take up this challenge by adopting strategies that will make neighborhoods safer while maximizing scarce resources.

It’s been more than a year since the state – prompted by a major corrections crisis and a directive from the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce prison overcrowding – instituted realignment. In doing so, the state finally acknowledged that simply putting more people in prison was not the answer to its public safety woes. In fact, the Legislature recognized that California must reduce prison overcrowding and invest its limited resources to support programs and practices proven to keep people safe.

The state also gave local law enforcement and county officials the power to solve a problem that has plagued California for decades – how to keep our communities safe by stopping the revolving door of recidivism. Unfortunately, so far, many counties seem to be choosing to replicate the decisions that left the state’s criminal justice system broken in the first place.

Today, more than half of California’s counties are investing funding they received from the state to build or expand their local jails. Only a few are making real investments in proven crime-fighting strategies, such as re-entry centers, supervised pretrial release, rehabilitation and alternatives to incarceration – evidence-based practices that would lessen jail overcrowding and increase safety for California communities…..


THE HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES 5K IS THIS SATURDAY: WHERE YOU CAN….STAY IN SHAPE, HELP SAVE LIVES, GET A COOL T-SHIRT!

Honestly, this is a great event!. However, if you really, really don’t want to run, you can sponsor runners, or just donate to one of So Cal’s most important and life-saving organizations.

It’s on Saturday, December 15, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. (runners check in at 6 a.m,), at Los Angeles State Historic Park

You can find the rest of the info here.


BEFORE THE NEW PRINCIPAL ARRIVED, GARFIELD HIGH HAD 100 SUSPENSIONS A YEAR. LAST YEAR THEY HAD ONE

When Principal Jose Heurta came to big, historically gang-troubled Garfield High School in 2010, his first move was to get rid of school suspensions.

Heurta mandated that, instead of tossing a misbehaving student out of school for a day or a week, thereby causing the student to fall even farther behind in his or her classwork, instead the staff would reach out to the kid and spend time with him or her.

Now So Cal Connected has done a terrific story on the exceptionally sane approach that is getting very heartening results. Brian Rooney reports with Karen Foshay producing.

Here’s a clip from the show’s transcript:

Last school year there were just over 700,000 suspensions throughout the California public schools. Kids sent home as punishment about one for every nine registered students. So you might be surprised to hear that at Garfield it was one. Just one suspension last year.

Rooney [to Huerta]: You came here mid-year and there were more than a hundred suspensions, and immediately you said, “No more suspensions?”

Huerta: Right. I talked to my team. And that’s off the table. I know what it’s about. These kids need to be in school. For us to help a kid, we need them in school.

Rooney: The vast majority of suspended students in California are Black and Latino. This school is 99 percent Latino.

[HUGE SNIP]

Rooney: Last year, Garfield’s academic performance score jumped 75 points. The graduation rate last spring was just over 79 percent, three points better than the state average, and eight points better than the entire Los Angeles Unified School District.

Huerta: There’s gotta be trust in there with the teachers, the parents, and the students that everybody’s on the same team, that everybody has the same focus, which is students’ achievement.

Go Principal Huerta! Go Garfield!


RESOLUTION PROPOSES HANDCUFFING LAUSD’S SUP’T DEASY WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING OUTSIDE FUNDING TO HELP THE BUDGET-STRAPPED DISTRICT. (THE HORROR!)

Samantha Ottman at the LASchoolReport has the story:

A controversial item on the LAUSD School Board agenda this week proposes drastically limiting Superintendent John Deasy’s ability to seek funding for the district by applying for public or private grants.

The resolution, initiated by School Board Members Richard Vladovic, Bennett Kayser, and Marguerite LaMotte, aims to give the school board veto power over grant applications made by the school superintendent in amounts over $750,000.

According to a source with knowledge about LAUSD grant applications, Supt. Deasy has been awarded about $120 million dollars for the district through grants so far.

Because of the split on the school board between union-backed board members and supporters of reform-minded Deasy, the effect would be to severely limit the district’s ability to attract foundation and federal money.

Really, LAUSD board? You’re really are going to be that power-grabby and control freaky?

This questionable resolution will come before the board on Tuesday.

(You can read it here on the board’s meeting agenda, at Item 35.)


Posted in LAUSD, prison policy, Reentry, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 2 Comments »

OC Sheriff Faces Cancer Diagnosis, Riordan Pension Reform Nixed, and Green Dot Finalist for Major Fed Grant

November 27th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

OC SHERIFF HUTCHENS SAYS BREAST CANCER WON’T STOP HER

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens held a press conference Monday afternoon to publicly address her recent breast cancer diagnosis, and to say that she doesn’t intend to let her health affect her ability to perform her duties as sheriff. (We at WLA are sending wishes for Sheriff Hutchen’s full recovery.)

The OC Register’s Salvador Hernandez has the story. Here’s a clip:

“I will be fully engaged,” Hutchens said during a news conference Monday, accompanied by members of her command staff. “And I plan to run for a second term in 2014.”

Hutchens voice cracked as she described details of her recent diagnosis of breast cancer, but said she is intent in being involved in the day-to-day operations of the department.

“I think the best thing for this is to keep your normal schedule as much as possible and keep engaged,” she said.

A resident of Dana Point, Hutchens, 57, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer Nov. 9, about six months after a mammogram had shown no signs of a cyst. The discovery came as a surprise, she said, especially because there is no history of cancer in her family.

“I’m very optimistic about it,” she said. “I really believe it was caught early.”

Hutchens notified employees in the department in a memo Nov. 19, in anticipation that treatment could change her appearance, her schedule and raise questions about her health, she said.

But there will be no change to the department’s command.

“I’m going to be in charge,” she said. “If at any time I felt I could not carry on my duties, I would make other arrangements. That’s not going to be the case.”

By the way, there’s a video of Sheriff Hutchen’s news conference beneath the body of the story, so be sure to go over to the OC Register.


RIORDAN’s PENSION PLAN GOES UP IN FLAMES

It was announced Monday that former LA Mayor Richard Riordan would drop his controversial city employee pension reform, an intended ballot measure for the May 2013 election.

The LA Times’ David Zahniser and Kate Linthicum have the story. Here’s a clip:

Tyler Izen, president of the Police Protective League, said he was not surprised by the collapse of the signature drive backed by Riordan. Izen said the pension proposal, which had been planned for the May ballot, never received the proper financial analysis in the weeks before Riordan began his push to get 300,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.

“The plan proposed by Riordan to close the defined benefit pension system as a way of saving money was both simplistic and costly … for the taxpayers,” Izen said in a statement.

Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents civilian city workers, released a statement from sanitation worker Simboa Wright, who said Riordan and his allies had failed because L.A. voters value the work of city employees.

“City residents weren’t about to let a bunch of billionaires rewrite city policies,” Wright said. “As city workers have been saying for a long time, Riordan’s half-baked plan wasn’t thought out. It died because it was bad for city workers and the city they serve.”


GREEN DOT CHARTER SCHOOLS BEAT OUT LAUSD IN QUEST FOR FEDERAL EDUCATION GRANT

The Los Angeles charter group Green Dot Public Schools has advanced as a finalist for a $30 million Dept. of Education grant. LAUSD had also applied for the grant, but was unable to get the support of their teachers union—a requirement for school districts to be in the running.

It is a rather amazing turn of events that Green Dot has made the cut, in that the applications were primarily to have been open to full school districts. But evidently (and happily) Green Dot’s presentation was a strong one.

The LA Times’ Howard Blume has the story. Here’s a clip:

Green Dot Public Schools, which operates 18 charter schools, remains in the running for a “Race to the Top” grant, the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday. If successful, Green Dot could receive $30 million over a four-year period.

In the application process, districts were supposed to set out a plan to “personalize education for students and provide school leaders and teachers with key tools that support them to meet students’ needs,” according to the Education Department.

But the devil for L.A. Unified was in the details. Participation by the teachers union was required and United Teachers Los Angeles would not sign on, citing concerns that Race to the Top could commit the school system to long-term spending not covered by the grant. Union leaders in L.A. and elsewhere also were concerned such a grant could commit them to the use of student test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation.


KIDS ON SCHOOL DISCIPLINE: ZERO-TOLERANCE AND RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

The Fresno Bee and kNOw Youth Media partnered to produce a series of first-hand accounts of kids affected by “zero-tolerance” school policies, and alternately, kids who have benefited from restorative justice in the education system.

Here’s fourteen-year-old Jane Carretero’s story:

My name is Jane Carretero and I am 14 years old. Towards the beginning of my 8th grade school year at Fort Miller I started doing drugs, and my mom found out about it.

One day, she and I got into a huge fight and she found a bottle of marijuana in my backpack. It was a difficult choice for her to make, but she ended up calling the police. They ended up taking me in for that.

After three days at juvenile hall, it finally hit me. I remember falling on my knees and I started crying for my mom, and I was like, “Why did I have to mess up so badly?”

When I went back to school, I had fallen behind a lot. A lot of people thought that I snitched them out. Some people even thought that I had gotten pregnant, and a lot of girls wanted to fight me, because they thought I was saying things about them.

The teacher started yelling at everyone, and he turned to me. I said, “You’re yelling at us for no reason.” Then the teacher said, “Don’t talk back to me. I know kids like you. You’re messed up in life, and you’re going to mess up when you’re older, too. You’re going to go off to high school thinking you’re all cool and pretty like that, thinking you’re all hard. And you’re going to get beat up one day by a girl better than you,” he told me.

Posted in Education, Green Dot, LAPD, LAPPL, LAUSD | 1 Comment »

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