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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 »

15 Reasons Why We’re Thankful This Year

November 21st, 2012 by Taylor Walker

As we near the end of 2012, we at WitnessLA believe there is quite a bit to be thankful for within the social justice sphere–breakthroughs, big wins (and smaller wins), opened doors, and steps in the right direction. Here are fifteen items on our list, in no particular order:


1. We’re thankful to Senator Leland Yee for drafting SB 9, the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act, and to Gov. Brown for having the good sense to sign the bill that gives certain juvies serving life-without-parole the possibility of a second chance.


2. We’re thankful that Californians passed Prop 36, the three-strikes reform legislation.


3. We’re thankful that California’s education system will not have to find out what would have happened if Prop 30 had not passed.


4. We’re thankful for the rigor with which the members and staff of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence approached their task, which led to a strong set of findings, and a thorough list of recommendations.


5. We’re also thankful for the many LASD people—present and former— who have courageously come forward: to us, to the LA Times, to the commission and to those guys and girls on Wilshire Blvd.


6. We’re thankful to Judge Michael Nash for shining light on Child Dependency Court proceedings by allowing media access, and to the 2nd District of the California Court of Appeals for denying petitions against Judge Nash’s decision.


7. We’re thankful for the passage of marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado as steps toward rectifying the harm done by a failed drug war.


8. We’re thankful for SCOTUS’ ban of mandatory juvenile life-without-parole sentencing. (It’s one step in the direction of banning juvie LWOP altogether.)


9. We’re also thankful to SCOTUS for ruling preposterously long sentences for youth unconstitutional.


10. We’re thankful for the wise and important findings of the California State Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color created by Assembly speaker John Perez, and chaired by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson.


11. We’re thankful that, slowly but surely, the US is making progress toward equal rights for the LGBT community (shout out to Washington, Maryland, Maine, and Minnesota).


12. We’re also thankful to Gov. Brown for making CA the first state to ban gay conversion therapy for youth.


13. We’re thankful for all those who are pushing for zero-tolerance reform in LAUSD schools and across the nation.


14. We’re thankful to SCOTUS for striking down most of the harsh AZ immigration law, SB 1070.


15. We’re thankful that, a year after the program commenced on Oct. 1, 2011, people are finally starting to talk sense about California’s prison realignment process—rather than painting it counter-factually as a plot to endanger public safety by releasing prisoners early. (We are particularly grateful to the LA Times Rob Greene for snapping some of the worst fact-offenders out of their stupor.) We’re also thankful for the programs that are starting to spring up in various counties that see realignment as an opportunity, rather than a burden.

Posted in California Supreme Court, criminal justice, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), FBI, Foster Care, juvenile justice, LASD, LAUSD, LGBT, LWOP Kids, Marijuana laws, Realignment, Uncategorized, War on Drugs, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 4 Comments »

Unmasking Out of State Elections Donors, Voter Disenfranchisement…and More – UPDATED

November 5th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

SECRET OUT OF STATE DONORS POURING $$ MILLIONS INTO CA ELECTIONS ARE ORDERED TO ID THEMSELVES (NOTE: UPDATE AT END)

A large last minute elections drama continues to unfold after the California Supreme Court ordered an Arizona group attempting to influence the outcome of two of the state’s ballot proposition races to hand over its donor records. The group has funneled $11 million into campaigns to defeat Governor Jerry Brown’s Prop. 30, and to pass Prop. 32, both ballot propositions that could have a large effect on the state’s future. In the hope of stalling any such revelations until after Tuesday’s election, the AZ group has appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The LA Times’ Chris Megerian and Maura Dolan are following this still-developing story. Here’s a clip from their report:

An Arizona group was scrambling late Sunday to keep secret the individuals behind its $11-million donation to a California campaign fund after California’s Supreme Court, in a rare and dramatic weekend action, ordered it to turn over records that could identify the donors.

The order followed days of frenzied legal battles between California regulators, who have tried to get documents related to the anonymous contribution before election day, and attorneys for the Arizona nonprofit who have resisted delivering them.

The showdown continued into the night Sunday, with no records produced nearly seven hours after the justices’ late-afternoon deadline. Lawyers for the nonprofit said they were trying to comply even as they rushed to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt to the audit.

The $11 million went to a committee that is fighting tax increases proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in Proposition 30 and promoting an initiative that could limit political spending by unions, Proposition 32. The donation has been among the most controversial moves of this election season, with Brown railing against the “shadowy” contributors at campaign appearances.

The case, which has the potential to reshape a growing sector of political giving, has put California at the forefront of a national debate over concealed political donations. Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which initially sued the Arizona group, called the California high court’s decision historic.

EDITOR’S UPDATE: This morning, there was a whip-lash-producing about face by Americans for Responsible Leadership, the nobody’s-ever-heard-of-them AZ nonprofit that had funneled $11 million into what are arguably CA’s two most important ballot proposition races—32 (they wanted YES) and 30 (pushing for NO votes). Surprising everyone, this morning the nonprofit dropped its move of last night to try to get a stay from SCOTUS in order to avoid having to reveal its secret donors.

Now that the secret has been revealed, we see one of the two reasons the AZ folks likely stopped fighting. (The first reason was probably that their lawyers advised them that they were not going to win the battle, since—as corporation-friendly though SCOTUS might at times seem to be—even the court’s most conservative justices are loath to trample on state laws when they differ from federal laws, which is the case here. [See above clip.])

However, reason number 2 was perhaps more to the point. By revealing their list of donors, Americans for Responsible Leadership, looked like they were cooperating but….revealed exactly NOTHING. Zero. Zip. Nada.

As with a set of nesting Russian dolls, when one opens doll number one and looks inside one finds…..more dolls. (Another analogy might be a series of secret offshore bank accounts that some types of….um….investors use when they want to launder obscure the provenance of large piles of money. But I digress.)

Anyway, the donors to the nonprofits are—ta da!—more nonprofits (as the LA Times story on the topic points out).

KPCC’s Julie Small reports that, to be specific, the AZ money came from Virginia-based Americans for Job Security (after first passing through yet another AZ nonprofit called the Center to Protect Patient Rights). Americans for Job Security, Small learned, is headed up by Stephen DeMaura, “a former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party.”

Then with a bit more searching Small found this:

An online search reveals that Americans for Job Security shares an address in Alexandria with Crossroads Media, which is a top media buyer for Republican candidates and causes. Its clients include Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads, a political action committee co-founded by Karl Rove.

Just so you know.


UPCOMING ELECTION DAY AND FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT

Almost six million Americans convicted of felonies—half of whom have served their sentences—will be banned from voting on Tuesday. That number is made even higher by eligible voters that are sometimes turned away by election officials who have misinterpreted the law.

The NY Times editorial thinks we should take another look at this outdated practice. Here’s how it opens:

The United States maintains a shortsighted and punitive set of laws, some of them dating back to Reconstruction, denying the vote to people who have committed felonies. They will bar about 5.85 million people from voting in this year’s election.

In the states with the most draconian policies — including Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Virginia — more than 7 percent of the adult population is barred from the polls, sometimes for life.

Nationally, nearly half of those affected have completed their sentences, including parole or probation.

Policies that deny voting rights to people who have paid their debt to society offend fundamental tenets of democracy. But the problem is made even worse by state and local election officials so poorly informed about the law that they misinform or turn away people who have a legal right to vote.


LAUSD AND PARTNERS RECEIVE GRANT MONEY TO HELP KIDS DEALING WITH TRAUMA

The LAUSD, together with UCLA, USC, the Rand Corp. and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, recently received a grant of $2.4 million to further their work with students who have been exposed to trauma.

The LA Times’ Marisa Gerber has the story. Here’s a clip:

The grant is the latest in an ongoing partnership among the district, UCLA, USC, the Rand Corp. and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a group of trauma centers funded within the Department of Health and Human Services.

L.A. Unified and its partners used the first chunk of money from the network in 2003 to do exploratory work about students and trauma.

A study that year found that more than 60% of local sixth-graders had witnessed more than one event that exposed them to trauma, said Pia Escudero, who directs L.A. Unified’s mental health and crisis counseling services.


ENDORSEMENTS 2012

By the way, look for our take-to-the-poll voting recommendation list Tuesday morning (full list of endorsements here).


Photo by: 401K 2012 / Flickr – licensed through Creative Commons

Posted in California Supreme Court, Education, elections, LAUSD, mental health | No Comments »

Juvie Lock-up Alternatives, Youth Crime Rate Record Low, and SCOTUS Considers Drug-Sniffing Dogs

November 1st, 2012 by Taylor Walker

REFORMING JUVENILE DETENTION

Georgia’s Judge Steven Teske explains how he came to see that there was a better way to do things than locking all troubled kids up—which is when he embraced the Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI).

Here’s a clip from Judge Teske’s article for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange:

I did not get that help until 2003, after four years into the job–and it wasn’t in the form of money. My court joined over 100 courts from around the country to participate in the Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI). The JDAI model, along with the networking, taught me to think outside the box.

The foundation of any successful local juvenile justice system is leadership through collaboration, and JDAI helped us to realize this need. Something had to give, and that “something” was us! We had to stop pointing fingers and saying, “Its not my problem,” or coming up with social, legal, political and who knows how many other reasons our creative minds can conjure to excuse why we can’t be and do different for the good of our kids–and ultimately our community.

Judge Teske also recently met with LAUSD higher-ups and other County officials to work toward alternatives to zero-tolerance policies in schools.

It seems that LA County’s probation department hasn’t similarly reached out. Santa Cruz County and to some degree Orange County has embraced JDAI. Why hasn’t LA County?

The Washington Post’s Donna St. George wrote a great article last year on Judge Teske. It’s well worth your time if you haven’t read it.


CA KIDS CRIME RATES AT RECORD LOW

According to new figures released by the Department of Justice’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center, The 2011 California youth arrest rate was the lowest it’s been since the 1950′s, despite the youth population having jumped by three million kids since then.

Here’s a clip about what the new figures mean from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice:

California youth crime rose during the 1960’s, peaked in the 1970’s, and have generally plunged since. In fact, overall rates of youth crime, including all serious and violent offenses, have dropped by 50% since the 1970’s.

In particular, the decline of 100,000 in juvenile arrests over the last decade is notable because it occurred even as the youth population age 10-17 was rising by 200,000. The 36% drop in violent crime rates from 2000 to 2011 included all demographics: Latinos (down 36%), African Americans (down 10%), Whites (down 45%), Asians (down 62%), females (down 33%), and males (down 37%).

Looking at the most recent trend, reports from law enforcement agencies in all 58 counties show California’s youth arrests fell by 21% from 2010 to 2011. Juvenile arrests fell 17% last year, including drops in violent and property offenses (each down 16%), misdemeanor and status offenses (down 21%), and murder (down 26%).

Around 25% of the youth crime decline from 2010 to 2011 is attributable to a legislative change that reduced simple possession of marijuana from a crime to an infraction, which reduced youthful misdemeanor marijuana arrests by 9,000 last year. The remainder, however, appears to reflect a real decrease.

A new supplemental report from CJCJ goes into more detail on the crime drop, and gives possible explanations for the decrease. It’s an interesting read.


SCOTUS HEARS DRUG DOG CASES

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on when it’s okay to use drug-sniffing dogs, and what crosses over into Fourth Amendment territory as an unreasonable search and seizure. (For background on the two Florida drug-sniffing cases heard, go here.)

McClatchy News’ Michael Doyle has the story. Here’s a clip:

With a battery of pointed questions, justices voiced skepticism about a Florida Supreme Court ruling that imposed strict criteria for determining when a dog is qualified to help make a drug bust. At the same time, court conservatives joined liberals in suggesting that a police canine sniffing at the front door of a suspected drug house may be a search that triggers constitutional protections.

“It seems to me crucial that this officer went onto the portion of the house as to which there is privacy, and used a means of discerning what was in that house that should not have been available,” Justice Antonin Scalia said at one point.

The two cases heard separately Wednesday morning will help shape law enforcement agencies’ growing canine dependency. Twenty-four states – including Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Idaho – have sided with Florida law enforcement officials, noting in a legal brief that “drug-detecting canines are one of the essential weapons in the states’ arsenal to combat this illegal traffic.”

While tracking questions can lead court observers astray, a majority of the justices who spoke Wednesday sounded protective of the privacy inherent in a home. In a previous case that involved thermal imagers used to locate household marijuana-growing operations, the court said obtaining details of the home’s interior was a search that required a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. Similar reasoning could apply to a dog’s finely tuned nose, some justices hinted Wednesday.

Posted in Education, juvenile justice, LAUSD, Probation, Supreme Court, Uncategorized, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

UTLA Blocks LAUSD’s Hopes for Race to the Top $$…The Advantages of NOT Locking Up Kids…AND Brain Surgery & the Storm (One Sandy Story)

October 31st, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


WANT FEDERAL $$$ FOR LA SCHOOLS? TOUGH, SAYS THE LA TEACHER’S UNION

The Los Angeles Unified School District hoped to get $40 million in federal Race to the Top grant money with a 150-page grant application that envisioned a rigorous program designed to help 9th graders who didn’t have enough credits to move up to 10th grade, which has become a problem of depressing proportions at the district.

However the application required a sign-off from the LA’s teachers union.

And the UTLA higher ups declined to put their collective signatures on the dotted line. (The actual rank and file teachers were not consulted about their opinion in the matter.)

The deadline for the application’s submission was originally this week, but has now been extended because of the storm. (No one seems to know the date of the new deadline.)

UTLA Prez Warren Fletcher says his union’s objection to the grant ap is that the federal RTTT grant will leave the district holding the bag fiscally for some of the future costs of the program.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy says this objection is nonsense—or words to that effect.

Most observers figure the real reason is something having to do with the union’s aversion to teacher evaluations, although Fletcher says otherwise.

This is not the first time a teachers union has spiked California’s chances for Race bucks.

According to reform advocates, the primary reason that California missed out on Race to the Top. grants for two years running in the past was due to a similar lack of enthusiasm (which some have called pig-headed obstructiveness) on the part of the statewide union, the California Teachers Association.

Tammy Abdollah for KPCC and Howard Blume for the LA Times and Hillel Aron at the LA School Report all have more.

Here’s a clip from Abdollah’s story:

Citing long-term budget concerns, the union for schoolteachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District has refused to sign off on the district’s Race to the Top grant application, effectively taking the nation’s second-largest school district out of the running for $40 million in federal funds.

L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy, sounding deflated, said Tuesday morning that the district had tried to work with United Teachers Los Angeles and couldn’t understand why no deal was reached.

“They gave a number of different reasons and every single reason they gave we accommodated,” Deasy said.

Initial concerns about ongoing discussions to meet a Dec. 4 court-imposed deadline for a new teacher evaluation system were addressed by the district. The Race to the Top competition requires districts to adopt an evaluation system that incorporates student test scores. Deasy said L.A. Unified provided the union with a legal assurance that plans for Race to the Top would be treated separately from negotiations.

But UTLA President Warren Fletcher said “a big part of the problem” was the cost.

L.A. Unified’s 150-page application proposes a $43.3 million budget for reforms that would require $3.3 million in funds outside of the $40 million government award. Deasy said union officials were informed that the additional money would have been granted through philanthropy.

But Fletcher said it wasn’t just about the money for the grant right now that was the problem.

“When you sign on to a Race to the Top grant, you make commitments that go on long beyond the four-year period of the grant itself,” Fletcher said.

Vexing.


NEW JERSEY EXPERIMENT SHOWS ITS BETTER NOT TO LOCK UP JUVENILE DEFENDANTS

In a multi-part series, the Philadelphia Enquirer tells about a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that shows, among other things, how New Jersey found that, except for the most serious cases, kids who ran afoul of the law were less likely to reoffend if they were given some kind of alternative sanction that did not involve lock-up.

Here’s their report that ran Wednesday:

For years, New Jersey sent juveniles awaiting trial to county detention centers, locking them up even for minor crimes. But a new report on juvenile justice reform shows that there is another, more effective, alternative that saves taxpayer money and protects society.
The number of juveniles jailed across New Jersey has declined by more than half since the state started a program eight years ago to divert them to other options, according to the Kids Count Special Report.

Funded by a $200,000 grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the program has been implemented in 16 counties. Similar programs have been adopted in other states. The results in New Jersey are staggering. Last year, there were 4,093 juveniles admitted to county detention centers, compared with 10,191 before the program began in 2004.

For young defendants not considered a threat to public safety, the program changed the misguided focus of solely locking them up to allowing alternatives, such as electronic monitoring and home visits. They also receive job training, counseling, and other services more in line with the intent of juvenile justice – giving youths a second chance.

Providing compelling evidence that some youths are good candidates for rehabilitation, the report found that only 3 percent of participants committed another crime while in the program.

According to the report released by Advocates for Children of New Jersey, youths detained are more likely to commit another crime, more likely to have trouble in school, and more likely to have difficulty finding a job.

In a continuation of a disturbing trend, minority youths still make up the majority of those being locked up – about 89 percent. But that mirrors national statistics that must be addressed.

With fewer juveniles held in lockup facilities, some counties, including Gloucester, were able to close their detention centers. Across the state, $16 million a year has been saved as a result.

New Jersey’s laudable efforts should be replicated elsewhere to help prevent so many of today’s youthful offenders from becoming tomorrow’s adult criminals.

Here’s one of the earlier parts to the story.


A 17-YEAR-OLD-GIRL WAS ABOUT TO HAVE A SECOND BOUT OF COMPLEX SURGERY—AND THEN THE STORM HIT

It is just one of the many stories that will continue to unfurl from this still ongoing catastrophe, but the snapshot of fear, coping and caring by the New Yorker’s David Remnick is worth reading. Here’s how it opens;

Virginia Rossano is seventeen years old and has been suffering from epileptic seizures since she was six. She and her family live north of Boston. After consulting with Orrin Devinsky, a renowned neurologist and epilepsy specialist at the N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center, the Rossanos decided to pursue a surgical course for their daughter. Virginia and her mother, Cathy, came to N.Y.U. last week, and on Thursday Virginia underwent a craniotomy. Surgeons removed skull tissue and connected electrodes to the brain to monitor her brain functions. The next step was to wean Virginia from her medications and induce a seizure. Doctors could then locate the source of the seizures and remove the offending tissue. “Dr. Devinsky said that surgery could be a home run for us,” Cathy Rossano told me.

Then came Hurricane Sandy.

Virginia’s first surgery was a success. While she and her mother waited, word came that the ominous storm approaching New York would be powerful beyond prediction. Doctors and nurses started discharging patients from the Langone Medical Center, in the East Thirties, near the East River. Hundreds of patients were sent home or to other facilities. But many of the sickest and most fragile patients—some of them infants—stayed in the hospital. What no one had counted on was that when the power failed all over downtown Manhattan on Monday night, so, too, did the hospital’s backup generator. Now everyone would have to be evacuated, and in terrifying conditions.

“It was incredibly frightening for the patients,” said Alyson Silverberg, a nurse practitioner at N.Y.U. “There were babies that had to be evacuated down nine flights. We had to do their breathing manually for some of them.” One of the patients that was evacuated was Kenneth Langone, the chairman of the hospital, who is suffering from pneumonia. Langone gave N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center two hundred million dollars in 2008….

Read on.


Posted in Education, LAUSD, Life in general, unions, UTLA | No Comments »

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