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New LA Partnership to Leave Zero Tolerance Behind, African American Activist Says There’s More to Alesia Thomas Story…and More

September 5th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

LA OFFICIALS TEAM UP TO REFORM SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICY

LAPD, LAUSD, LA County Probation, and city officials are finally coming together to change the LA school system’s broken discipline practices. It is heartening to see concrete changes to the student ticketing policy, but correcting and transforming the larger and longstanding zero tolerance policies for school discipline will be something that takes time and is a process we will continue to closely monitor.

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

A new approach is also in the works at the Los Angeles County Probation Department. Officials there are launching alternative programs to keep students out of the court system and provide them instead with counseling, tutoring and other community services.

The move away from punitive law enforcement actions and toward support services reflects a growing awareness, grounded in research, that treating minor offenses with police actions did not necessarily make campuses safer or students more accountable. Instead, officials and activists say, it often alienated struggling students from school, pushing some to drop out and get in more serious trouble with the law.

The shift is being directed by new city and county leaders who community groups say are far more responsive to the groups’ long-running complaints. L.A. Unified Schools Supt. John Deasy, school Police Chief Steven Zipperman and L.A. County Chief Probation Officer Jerry E. Powers — who all took office last year — have embraced the changes for low-level student offenses.

“There’s a very big pendulum shift,” said Robert Sainz, assistant general manager of L.A.’s Community Development Department, which is working with L.A. Unified. “This is the first time the city and school district are working together specifically to bring students back to school.”

WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT, a hearing exploring alternative school discipline policies will be held on Sept. 10th in the LA Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium at 3:00p.m. Speakers and presenters that will highlight school discipline data and explore alternatives to the current California policies that aren’t working include: Russlynn H. Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, and delegates from the Youth Justice Coalition, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Public Counsel, and lots more. The event is sponsored by CA Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, CA Attorney General Kamala Harris, and The California Endowment. (It looks like it’s going to be really dynamic. For more information, contact Melanie Keh at mkeh@calendow.org.)


EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON SAYS LAPD DIDN’T GIVE THE WHOLE ALESIA THOMAS STORY

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, LA African American activist and author, says there is more to the Alesia Thomas story than what the LAPD has presented. (For those who are unaware, Alesia Thomas died in custody after a female officer allegedly stomped on her genital area. Thomas had previously attempted to surrender her children at a police station, and was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment.)

LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero has the story. Here’s a clip:

After meeting with Thomas’ mother and grandmother yesterday he said the cops’ version wasn’t the whole story.

His organization, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, states:

… Family members vehemently dispute the depiction of Alesia as a drug addicted, unfit mother. They revealed many new facts about Alesia’s background, education, work experience, and her relations with her children.

To be fair, we don’t ever recall the police calling Thomas a drug addict. And her own mother did tell CBS Los Angeles / KCAL that she was prone to depression.

However, Hutchinson is one of L.A.’s more credible leaders, and his alliance with the family can’t be good for the LAPD.


ANTI-MEXICAN MESSAGES LEFT ON CARS IN LONG BEACH

Anti-Mexican notes were placed on Long Beach cars on Labor Day saying things like, “Go back to Baja, Wetbacks,” and, “The Mexicans invaded this beach.” The Long Beach police have shrugged off the notes as a free speech issue. We’re not in favor of the cops going around arresting anyone, as it gets into slippery 1st Amendment territory, but it might be prudent to investigate as a potential precursor to escalation.

The OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano has the story. Here’s a clip:

Long Beach is a great town, a town that likes to pride itself on its diversity, unlike us Neanderthals over in Orange County. Nevertheless, it’s a place that boils with racial tension from time to time, as the city has turned from Iowa-on-the-Beach to one of the most diverse towns in the country.

But such incidents usually happen in the working-class areas, definitely not in tony Belmont Shore, where Labor Day found some anonymous pendejo leaving nasty anti-Mexican notes on cars asking “wet backs” to “go back to Baja.”

(Definitely click over to the OC Weekly story, as they have photos of the notes left on cars of beach-goers.)

Posted in Civil Rights, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Free Speech, LAPD, LAUSD, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »

RETURN OF THE REFORMER: Steve Barr Partners With LAUSD

July 20th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


Earlier this week the Los Angeles Unified School District announced an interesting partnership
with a national education reform organization called Future is Now Schools—or FIN—to create a group of “teacher-driven” academies within the LA school district.

The plan is for these new “hybrid learning” academies to be located in Silverlake, the Fairfax area and Venice, although no sites have, as yet, been firmly established. They are scheduled to open in time for the 2013-14 school year.

“I’m excited about the potential of this partnership to reinvigorate innovation in our school system,” Superintendent John Deasy said in a district-released statement. “We have the opportunity to make LAUSD a leader in collaborative education reform.”

While LAUSD’s partner— FIN—may not be a name familiar to most Los Angeles education watchers, its founder and board chair, Steve Barr, is very well known in LA as the founder of the influential Green Dot charter schools, which now runs 18 schools in the LA area.


THE BACK STORY

The emergence of Green Dot, which Barr began in 2000, is viewed by many as being greatly influential in stimulating—and at times forcing—reform in the Los Angeles public school landscape during a period when LAUSD’s disastrously failing inner city middle and high schools often made national news.

Back then, Barr pushed reform from outside the LAUSD tent, even going so far to engineer what the district viewed as a hostile takeover of Alain Leroy Locke High School by Green Dot in 2008. This was at a time when Watt’s-located Locke—with its 28 percent graduation rate and 90 percent of its students performing below basic or far below basic on standardized tests—was emblematic of the worst of the LAUSD’s institutional failures.

Now, four years later, a UCLA study showed the Locke schools to be “significantly outperforming their counterparts on a number of state test score measures, as well as in remaining in high school over time, and in taking and passing challenging courses.”

Barr left Green Dot in 2009, and formed the national organization Green Dot America, which morphed into FIN. Thus far, FIN is in collaboration on schools in both New York City and New Orleans, in New York especially, working closely with the teachers’ union.


COMING INSIDE THE TENT

So what brought Barr’s focus back to LA, and drew him into a partnership with the district that had, in the past, often treated him as an antagonist?

When I spoke to Barr after the announcement, he told me that one of the factors was his warm relationship with district Superintendent John Deasy, whom he said, he views as one of the most innovation-friendly administrators he’s ever met.

But, most important to his decision, Barr said, was the fact that his daughter, Zofi age 6, was already at school age, with his son Jack, 4, rapidly zooming that direction.

“I’m committed to sending them to public school, and to an LAUSD public school,he said. “Los Angeles should have the best public school system in America. That’s what I want for my kids. I want my kids to go through LAUSD from kindergarten through the 12th grade”

But right now LAUSD is far from the greatest. And, given the state’s economic woes, if it is to just stay even, it needs additional tax revenue.

So what to do?

“Here’s the thing,” Barr said, “If you want to change your school district the fastest, you ‘ve got to be able to knit some coalitions together, and you’ve got to work with the [teachers'] unions.”

When Barr began Green Dot, he discovered that UTLA—LA’s often obstructive teacher’s union—had little interest in speaking with him, much less partnering with with him. In fact, UTLA’s then president A.J. Duffy, lost few opportunities to make clear his disdain of Barr and his charter ideas.

So Barr says he began talking to the union members themselves and, over time, developed relationships with some of UTLA’s more progressive factions, the members of which wanted more innovative approaches to education and helped to vote in UTLA’s current president, Warren Fletcher.

According to Barr and Deasy, the LAUSD-FIN partnership schools will be teacher-centric with teachers and administrators making most of the significant organizational and curriculum decisions, while the district oversees the operation of the physical plant.


TARGETING THE LAUSD EX-PATS

Most of Green Dot’s original charters were in traditionally underserved, lower income neighborhoods in South LA, East LA, Watts and Inglewood, where many of the existing schools were underperforming in the extreme.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Education, Green Dot, LAUSD | No Comments »

LAPD Rise in Shootings Vs. Assaults on Officers, OCSD Removes Security Officers’ Off-Duty Powers, and a New ACT Testing Tool

July 3rd, 2012 by Taylor Walker

NO CORRELATION BETWEEN RISE IN OFFICER SHOOTINGS AND ASSAULTS ON OFFICERS, SAYS LAPD WATCHDOG

According to Alex Bustamante, the inspector general for the Los Angeles Police Commission, there is no link between the rise in LAPD officer-involved shootings and the reported rise in assaults on officers–a claim Chief Charlie Beck made in November. The findings are detailed in a report Bustamante will present to the commission on Tuesday.

LA Times’ Joel Rubin has the story. Here’s a clip:

Los Angeles police fired their weapons in 63 incidents last year, a total which marked a roughly 50% increase over the shootings in any of the previous four years, according to the report. Beck has explained the increase by pointing to what the LAPD said was a 22% increase in assaults on officers from 2010 to 2011. Police officials counted 193 such incidents in 2011, which were recorded as assaults with a deadly weapon or attempted murders, according to the report.

“Officer involved shootings are also up — largely in response to these kind of attacks,” Beck told the Police Commission in November.

But the inspector general found several reasons why he said this cause-and-effect relationship wasn’t accurate. For one, from 2007 to last year, the number of assaults on officers fluctuated dramatically from one year to the next. The number of officer-involved shootings, however, remained relatively flat until last year, when they jumped. If there had been a connection between the two, the year-to-year totals should have climbed and dropped in sync, according to the report.

The way the department tracks shootings and assaults on officers also muddied matters, Bustamante found. Attacks on officers are tallied based on the number of officers present when assaults occur. By contrast, the department counts an officer-involved shooting as a single event regardless of how many officers open fire. In an incident in April 2011, for example, in which a suspect shot at police from inside a house, the LAPD counted 16 assaults on officers and one officer-involved shooting, despite the fact that 15 officers fired their weapons.

When Bustamante recalculated last year’s assault total to count the number of incidents instead of officers, he counted 106 attacks — a 45% drop from the department’s total. And, instead of a double-digit increase that Beck had contended, Bustamante said the number of assaults was actually about even from 2010 to 2011.


OC SHERIFF TAKES AWAY SECURITY OFFICERS’ ABILITY TO CARRY GUNS OFF-DUTY AND MAKE ARRESTS

OC Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, removed security officers’ ability to carry firearms off-duty and make arrests after she received a notice in May that the officers may not meet the minimum requirements of the state commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training–POST. A union representing the officers said they are planning to sue the OCSD over the sudden gun protocol change.

FYI–LASD spokesperson Steve Whitmore told WitnessLA that their security officers have specific training to carry weapons on duty, but cannot carry off-duty. Regarding arrest powers, Whitmore said that the officers can only make citizens’ arrests–”We ask them to be ‘armed witnesses’.”

The OC Register’s Tony Saavedra has the story on the OC security officers. Here’s a clip:

The state commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training notified Sheriff Sandra Hutchens in May that the department’s 200 special officers may not meet minimum requirements for training. The officers have limited police powers and provide security at John Wayne Airport, county courthouses and county buildings. They undergo four months of academy training, while full deputies undergo six months.

POST also requires that the department notify the agency whenever a deputy or special officer is hired or terminated, which the department has not done with the special officer classification.

In response to the commission’s concerns, Hutchens on Wednesday took away, for the time being, the special officers’ ability to make arrests. Under previous guidelines, the officers were allowed to make misdemeanor arrests if a deputy wasn’t available. Hutchens also sidelined the officers’ ability to write misdemeanor tickets. And Hutchens took away their ability to carry weapons while off duty, suggesting they apply for a concealed weapon permit from the department.

The changes will remain in effect while Hutchens, the commission and the Orange County Employees Association work out a plan to handle the training concerns, said Assistant Sheriff Timothy Board.

LA Times’ Richard Winton has the story on the planned lawsuit. Here’s a clip:

…Jennifer Muir, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., said Hutchens overstepped her power in deciding the officers will no longer carry weapons off duty and directing them to carry a concealed weapons permit if they want to resume doing so.

“We plan to go to court later this week,” Muir said. “It is a matter of officer safety.”

Muir said there is a very real danger that an off-duty officer could come into contact with a suspect they handled while off duty.


NEW ACT TESTING TOOL TO HELP BRIDGE EDUCATION GAP

The ACT testing company–the college entrance exam people–has developed a new tool to assess students’ behavioral and academic abilities across K-12. The testing tool focuses on gaps between compulsory education and skills necessary for success in college and the work force.

Salon has the AP story by Josh Lederman. Here’s a clip:

ACT, the organization that developed the ACT college-entrance exam, will start testing the tool in the fall. It will be available to schools starting in 2014.The tool tracks students’ career interests, academic performance and progress toward goals. It’s designed to follow students from kindergarten through high school.

Jon Erickson, president of ACT’s education division, said the goal is to identify and address gaps in skills needed for college and the workforce. The assessment combines traditional testing with teacher-led projects to generate an instant, digital score.


Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Flickr user Karppinen.

Posted in Charlie Beck, Education, guns, LAPD, LASD, LAUSD, law enforcement, Orange County | 2 Comments »

Eight School Discipline Bills Move Forward and Roosevelt High School Hosts Youth Justice Conference

June 7th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

8 BILLS TO CURB HARSH SCHOOL DISCIPLINE MOVE FORWARD IN LEGISLATURE

Eight nice, new bills meant to address the over 700,000 student suspensions, that take place in California schools every year, have taken the next step in the legislative process.

“Students, parents, teachers, school board members, law enforcement, and superintendents from around the state are calling for real change in the way we treat children who are struggling in our schools and their voices are finally being heard in Sacramento,” said Laura Faer, Education Rights Director at Public Counsel.

According Public Counsel spokesman, Michael Soller, the bills would address some of the worst problems with school discipline. For instance, SB 1235 would bring evidence-based alternatives that improve school climate and attendance rates and raise academic achievement at schools that use harsh discipline police to suspend more than 25% of students every year.

Another bill, AB 2616, would utilize outside resources like PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) and Restorative Justice instead of doling out harsh student suspensions.

A third bill, AB 2537, addresses the issue of state rules that require school officials to immediately suspend for certain infractions and instead,would allow principals and superintendents more discretion.

Public Counsel, a not-for-profit law firm, cosponsored several of the bills and has been a major advocate against the once fashionable zero tolerance policies that now are seen as  harmful strategies that mostly serve to push students out of the state’s public schools at an alarming rate.

Fix School Discipline, a project of The Public Counsel, has brought together partner groups that include law enforcement, civil rights organizations, parents groups and children’s advocates, all dedicated to working for the bills’ passage.

(The Fix School Discipline site has more info, including the full list of bills, and a section where students and parents are urged to video their own stories of school suspension or expulsion.)

According to the site, “more than 80% of Californians want to fix school discipline rules to reduce out-of-school suspensions and expulsions and give teachers more tools to manage classroom behavior.”


AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF SCHOOLS & SCHOOL DISCIPLINE, ROOSEVELT HIGH IS HAVING A YOUTH-LED CONFERENCE

Boyle Heights-located Roosevelt High School is holding a youth-led conference, Saturday, June 9, “to work toward serious changes to unjust education policies,” including out of school suspensions and other issues that the organizers say cause the “school to prison pipeline.”

This is from the press release on the conference:

Organized by a group of Roosevelt High School educators and students, the conference—East Side Stories: Youth Transformation Across Los Angelesseeks to foster youth empowerment and community activism. The conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at Roosevelt High School, 456 South Mathews Street, Los Angeles. Admission is free and includes breakfast and lunch.

Jorge Lopez, a Roosevelt teacher who is one of the organizers of East Side Stories, said that the school’s faculty looked at the large number of student clubs on campus focused on social justice issues, and began meeting with student leaders to discuss how they could build a youth activism movement.

The meetings birthed the East Side Stories, which Lopez said is intended to bring youth leaders from around LA together with workshops, panels, live music, food, poetry readings, etc. to address the issues that affect students the most.

“The idea of hosting a large youth empowerment conference at Roosevelt …we felt would have a tremendous effect on, not only uniting progressive educators and youth on campus, but throughout the East side and Los Angeles,” he said.

“The topics addressed in the conference,” said Lopez, “are the most pressing issues generated by youth in a survey that our collective circulated at our schools.  In turn, our students developed workshops on those issues.”

Lopez said he hopes that the conference’s youth-talking-to youth format will have a real effect. “Young people listen closely when other young and empowered youth speak.”


Posted in Education, LAUSD, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 1 Comment »

Prop. 8 Heads for SCOTUS, Lawsuit Challenges LAUSD Teacher Protections…and More

June 6th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


PROP 8 CASE MAKES IT PAST 9TH CIRCUIT (AGAIN)

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal on the February ruling that California’s Prop 8 was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This follows a ruling against DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Both cases are key milestones in the battle for gay rights and are advancing toward a SCOTUS decision next year.

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has a particularly interesting take on the story. Here’s how it opens:

Last week a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals found a central provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. This morning, the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to disturb a ruling by a panel of that court that Proposition 8—California’s anti gay marriage initiative—also violated the Constitution. Both cases represent big wins for the gay rights movement. And both appeals now turn to the Supreme Court for ultimate answers. The two cases are on parallel tracks to get to the court next fall, to be briefed and argued next spring, and to be decided by next June. The question now becomes which appeal the court will hear, and why.

It’s important to emphasize that the two appeals raise different issues. The DOMA case out of Massachusetts challenged the federal law denying federal marriage benefits to gay couples. It doesn’t implicate the right to marry per se but how states define marriage, thereby affecting whether gay couples receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. The Prop 8 case, on the other hand, was filed by opponents of the statewide referendum banning same-sex marriage. Judge Vaughn Walker struck that law down in 2010. It was then deemed unconstitutional on more limited grounds by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last winter. Both cases have been handcrafted to mirror the analysis in the Supreme Court’s 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, which struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment that did away with state laws protecting homosexuals.

LA Times’ Maura Dolan also reports on the issue.


LAWSUIT AGAINST LAUSD’S TEACHER PROTECTIONS

A lawsuit against LAUSD and California officials claims teacher protections are a violation of kids’ constitutional rights to an equal education. The lawsuit, Vergara v. California, has the potential to change LAUSD’s hiring and firing policies, to be now based on teacher seniority, not competency.

KPCC’s Adolpho Guzman-Lopez has the story. Here’s a clip:

“Our California constitution says every child has a fundamental right to education that will prepare them for society, prepare them to be effective participants in democracy and the economy,” Olson said.

The lawsuit argues that access to such an education depends on a student’s race and wealth. It blames an unspecified number of grossly ineffective teachers who disproportionately teach in predominately poor Latino and African-American neighborhoods. The suit targets laws that it claims protect these teachers.

One gives teachers permanent employment after a year and a half on the job. Three others grant teachers greater protections against dismissal than other public employees. Another state law orders that school districts lay off teachers starting with the least senior ones, not the least effective.


REPORTER EXPLAINS BROKEN LOUISIANA PRISON SYSTEM

Recently, WitnessLA posted about New Orleans Times-Picayune’s Cindy Chang’s expose on Louisiana’s prison system. NPR Air Talk’s Terry Gross interviewed Cindy on the investigative series and what makes Louisiana the prison capital of the world.

It’s absolutely worth listening to. Here’s a clip:

Conditions at the [for profit] rural sheriffs’ prisons differ remarkably from those in larger state institutions, says Chang.

“They’re usually dormitories, and there’s typically 80 or 90 women or men sleeping in a large room in bunk beds,” she says. “And the difference is that people are just lounging around that dorm. They will literally sit there day after day, year after year, until their sentence is over. Whereas in a state prison, which is where most states house almost all of their inmates, you’re busy whether you like it or not — you have a job or you take classes or you’re learning a trade that will help you get a job when you get out.”

Each inmate is worth $24.39 a day in state money. Housing the inmates cheaply and providing few services means there’s more money left over for the sheriff’s department, says Chang.

“It’s kind of a vicious cycle,” she says. “If you can reduce the prison population, then hopefully you’ll have more money to give the ones who are in the system more help. [But] the Sheriff’s Association is one of the most powerful lobbies in the state. And they’ve consistently opposed any change that would reduce the prison population.”


Photo by Beck Diefenbach for REUTERS.


EDITOR’S ELECTIONS NOTE: As you may have seen, at 1:30 a.m., with 25 percent of the vote tallied, the surprise in the DA’s race is that Jackie Lacey is leading with 31 percent of the early returns, Alan Jackson and Carmen Trutanich battling for second, with 24 and 23 percent, respectively.

We’ll know more in a few hours.


UPDATE: In a surprising upset, Lacey, with 32 percent, easily won the first slot in the runoff, with Alan Jackson still appearing to take the second slot, Trutanich, running a close third. The results are still unofficial although 100 percent of the districts have reported.

Posted in Education, LAUSD, LGBT, prison, prison policy, Supreme Court, unions | No Comments »

Louisiana Prison Capital of the World, Brian Banks Exonerated, and more…

May 29th, 2012 by Taylor Walker

 
LOUISIANA LEADS THE WORLD IN INCARCERATION RATES

Louisiana has more people behind bars per capita than anywhere else on earth, with a rate of one in 86 residents incarcerated. From the for-profit prisons that keep their facilities over-crowded to keep cash flowing, to the minimal rehabilitation opportunities at the local level, to the preposterously lengthy prison sentences–New Orleans Times-Picayune’s eight part series sheds light on the poor infrastructure that makes Louisiana the prison capital of the world.

NOLA’s entire series is worth reading, but here is a clip from Part 4: Unusual Punishment:

Brian Martin is serving 24 years behind bars — without the possibility of parole — for a car burglary. The 22-year-old had two other burglaries on his record when he was arrested near Abita Springs on June 8, 2011, after stripping a BMW of its stereo and steering wheel. If charged as a three-time offender, he could have received life without parole. His attorney, Doyle “Buddy” Spell, persuaded prosecutors to consider only the two most recent car break-ins, taking a life sentence off the table, but doubling the 12-year maximum for a first-timer.

Martin, a drug addict with a mop of unruly blond hair, will be 46 when he is released from prison in 2036. “I would suggest that we just threw away a life and that the punishment did not fit the crime,” Spell said.

Sentences of several decades, or even life, for nonviolent crimes are not unusual in Louisiana. The state’s prisons are filled with Brian Martins — petty criminals who in another state would have received a much shorter sentence or no jail time at all. Unusually tough sentencing laws are one major reason Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

“We see the only goal that is being reflected accurately might be retribution,” said Katherine Mattes, a professor at Tulane Law School and interim director of the university’s Criminal Litigation Clinic.

In Texas, no bastion of liberalism, a two-time car burglar would be guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to a maximum of six months. California’s famous three-strikes law does not kick in unless at least one of the crimes was a rape, murder, carjacking, residential burglary or other major felony. There, Martin would have received no more than a year behind bars.

In Louisiana, about 160 habitual offenders whose most recent crime involved nothing more harmful than marijuana are serving 20 years or more. More than 300 people serving life without parole in Louisiana have never been convicted of a violent crime.


LONG BEACH MAN EXONERATED OF RAPE CONVICTION

Brian Banks was cleared of a 2003 rape conviction with help from the California Innocence Project. His accuser, Wanetta Gibson, was secretly recorded admitting the accusation was false during a meeting with Banks. Now Banks suing California for his false imprisonment.

KPCC’s Patt Morrison had Brian on the show to tell his story. Here’s a clip:

Banks, who was 17 at the time of his trial, pleaded no contest to the charges in order to avoid the possibility of facing 40 years to life in prison in a conviction. He spent six years in prison and was under very restrictive parole until his accuser was recorded saying she wasn’t raped and that she is afraid of coming forward because she might have to return the $1.5 million her family won from the Long Beach Unified School District in a civil suit.

“I received a Facebook friend request last year from the woman who accused me of raping her, where she wanted to reconnect and, in her words, ‘let bygones be bygones,’” said Banks. After receiving this message, Banks hired a private investigator to set up and record their meeting, in which his accuser admitted to falsely accusing him. “From there I took that information to the California Innocence Project, who accepted my case. The rest is history, and here I am today, a free man,” said Banks.

Justin Brooks is the defense attorney handling Banks’ case. He said that in the history of the California Innocence Project, they have never taken a case of someone who had already been released from prison.

The Daily News has the story on Banks’ lawsuit against the state, and includes a video of the emotional hearing. Here’s a clip:

Brooks said that Banks is entitled to $100 a day for every day he was falsely imprisoned under State Law 4900.

If successful, the lawsuit against the state of California would net Banks about $188,500.

Banks, a football standout at Poly, had been heavily recruited by colleges, and had a verbal offer for a scholarship at USC.


KIDS FROM MORE AFFLUENT COMMUNITIES WITHIN LAUSD MAY BE BETTER PREPARED FOR THE SATS

Andrea Lopez, 17-year-old LA Youth writer, felt extremely under-prepared for the SAT prep course she attended at UCLA. Lopez was surprised that she could be one of the top students in her grade, and still be so far behind other students from the same school district. Like many other kids in minority communities, she began to worry that her Sylmar public school education was not adequate enough to get her into a good college.

Here’s a clip from the LA Youth story:

I thought I had a great vocabulary, but I had never heard words like “spurious,” “cogent” and “plaudits.” It’s disappointing that the schools I’ve been to didn’t give me as good an education as these kids. Usually I’m proud of getting some of the best grades in my classes, but I was jealous of what these students knew.

I realized that these kids probably grew up with parents who spoke English and used impressive-sounding words. But having Spanish-speaking parents, I learned most of my grammar and vocabulary on my own. I’ve never been ashamed of having parents who weren’t born here or didn’t graduate high school but sometimes I wish they were more educated so they could help me in school.

Be sure to read the rest of Andrea’s story–it has a very inspirational ending.

Posted in crime and punishment, criminal justice, Education, LAUSD, National issues, prison, prison policy, Probation, Reentry, Sentencing, social justice, Social Justice Shorts, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Bill to Lift Media Ban on Interviewing Inmates, LAUSD Police Still Ticket Too Many Kids, and More…

May 24th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS MAY VOTE TO GIVE MEDIA MORE PRISON ACCESS (IT’S ABOUT TIME)

A controversial new California bill, if passed, would rescind the 1996 ban on in-person interviews of inmates by the media. The purported intent of the ban was to keep inmates from promoting themselves and attaining celebrity status, it has actually served to shield areas of the corrections system that need serious reform from public scrutiny.

This LA Times editorial has the details. Here’s a clip:

Under court order, the state is finally addressing the overcrowding problem by sending newly convicted nonviolent offenders to county detention facilities. But there are indicators that inhumane conditions persist; hunger strikes have arisen to protest the state’s use of Security Housing Units, where suspected gang members are isolated in tiny cells under solitary conditions that psychologists consider mentally destabilizing. Some inmates have been warehoused in these units for decades.

How bad is the situation? In truth, we don’t really know, because inmates in these units have no visitation, telephone or interview privileges. A much-needed bill by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would change that.

AB 1270 allows the media to request interviews with California inmates, including those in Security Housing Units. Officials at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation could still turn down these requests for reasons such as excessive risk to the reporter or prison guards, but they would have to submit a written explanation for such denials.

KPCC Air Talk’s Larry Mantle interviews Julie Small, KPCC’s Sacramento Reporter, and  Jim Ewert, California Newspaper Publishers Association and General Counsel and Legislative Advocate on the issue.


SCHOOL POLICE STILL WRITE TOO MANY TICKETS FOR MINORITY KIDS, SAYS STUDY

The non-profit Center for Public Integrity has compiled data pointing to the fact that not only did LAUSD school police write an excessive number of tickets for African American and Latino students in 2011, but that 40% of those tickets were for kids under the age of 14. There were 438 citations given to middle-school-aged African Americans, 1394 citations given to Latinos, and 28 given to all other ethnicities for things like tardiness, vandalism, and disturbing the peace.

KPCC’s The Madeline Brand Show addresses the issue. Here’s a clip:

The district recently reported that during the last three years school police issued more than 33,000 tickets for alleged violations like vandalism, tardiness, and disturbing the peace.

The non-profit Center for Public Integrity is one of several groups compiling data about school policing throughout the country. It reviewed L.A. Unified’s numbers and found that 40 percent of those tickets went to kids 14 and younger — mostly middle schoolers.

The Center also found that school police wrote an overwhelming number of tickets at schools with large numbers of Latino and African-American students.


ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL PROFILES PEERS WHO’VE BEEN LOCKED UP

Through the Youth Justice Coalition’s Free L.A. High School, Claudia Gomez interviews students who have been incarcerated to shed light on juvenile corrections and those youth that have come out on the other side.

The California Story’s Jake de Grazia interviews Claudia Gomez about her work at Free L.A. Here’s a clip from the introduction, but the entire interview is extremely worthwhile:

South Los Angeles has a long history of feeding California’s overflowing prisons. And for a school that accepts previously incarcerated youth, the goal is to prevent young people from flowing back in. This is the story of a young woman who wants to make change through intimate conversations widely broadcast.

Here’s an excerpt from the Youth Justice Coalition’s Free L.A. site:

FreeLA High School, a partnership between the John Muir Charter School, the Youth Justice Coalition and the Workforce Investment Act, is dedicated to helping young people earn a high school diploma and find work with a focus on careers in social justice movement building. We serve 16-24 year olds based on their probation requirements and difficulty enrolling in other schools. Most of our students have been pushed out of several other high schools before coming to FreeLA, including Probation School or Los Angeles County Education programs within juvenile facilities.

Posted in Courts, criminal justice, Education, jail, journalism, juvenile justice, LAUSD, race | 3 Comments »

Lawsuit Says LAUSD is Paying $10 Million Extra for Waste Pick Up

May 8th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon


WitnessLA has acquired some interesting documents this week regarding the ongoing dispute around LAUSD’s choice not to select the lowest bidder
when, this past December, it awarded the district’s five year contract for waste management—which is a fancy way of saying trash and recycling pick up.

The contract is worth tens of millions of dollars so—given all the cuts elsewhere in the district—although usually we don’t spend LOTS of time thinking about the waste management business, it is in all of our best interest that LAUSD gets the most bang for its buck, even when it comes to garbage collection.

A recently filed lawsuit contends that the district is not getting the most for its money at all due to an improper bidding process.

Here’s the back story leading up to the dispute:


HOW THE LOS ANGELES SCHOOL DISTRICT DECIDES WHO TAKES OUT THE TRASH

Every five years, the Los Angeles Unified School District awards some worthy company or other the contract pick up the district’s waste. In order to select the vender, an RFP (Request for Proposal) goes out, specifying the scope and requirements of the job and what kinds of companies may bid. Then bids and proposals come back in, and the district gives the contract to the firm with the lowest bid, as long as other general criteria laid out in the RFP are met.

On December 6, 2011, however, LAUSD handed its business for the district’s newest waste management contract, not to the low bid company, which was a firm called BMAKK Apex, whose bid came it at $30 million. Instead LAUSD gave its business to Consolidated Disposal Service, for $40 million—-or a price tag that was a not inconsiderable $10 million higher for what is reportedly the same scope of service.

(Originally Consolidated’s bid reportedly came in even higher, at $50 million, but we’ll get to all that in a minute.)

To make matters more confusing, BMAKK Apex is a combination of a couple of companies who had the LAUSD waste contract for the previous five years, according to their president, Anthony Uwakwe, with no complaint and plenty of praise. (Although we’ve not confirmed these evaluations.)

Only three companies qualified to be able to put in bids at all, BMAKK Apex, Consolidated, and a third big LA County company, WM or Waste Management.

According to the RFP, in addition to the bids, each of the three firms had to make a technical proposal based on the district’s published criteria explaining how they’d carry out their services, et al. The three proposals—with the company names redacted—- were given to a panel of experts who then rated the proposals on a point system.

BMAKK Apex got the most points of the three, plus it had the lowest price, at $30 million. Whereas WM came in second, with Consolidated reportedly coming in third out of three with a bid price—at that time—of $50 million, a full $20 million higher than BMAKK Apex.

At that point, BMAKK figured they’d won the contract process, but unexpectedly the district said, no, that there would be a round of interviews to clear up a few questions.

The interviews took place, BMAKK figured they’d done fine, but after the interviews were completed the companies were informed that the new metric for handing out the contracts would be as follows: 30 percent for the bid price, 70 percent for the interview, and 0 percent for the points gathered from the previously scored blind proposal process, which the district folks had now decided to toss out entirely.

And, with this new interview-centric process, the contract was awarded to Consolidated, which had the “most comprehensive program,” the other two companies were told, although “comprehensive” was reportedly not defined, nor—according to BMAKK Apex—-were the losing companies provided with any reports or documentation from the interviews that would explain the discrepancy in the process and outcomes, that differed so greatly from the process that the district had used in past years.

As mentioned above, originally, Consolidated bid $50 million, but then the number reportedly got dropped to $40 million after the other companies questioned the humungous dollar discrepancy.

When the contract was awarded, LAUSD sent out a memo saying that, under the new contract, Consolidated Disposal Service, would be doing more aggressive recycling efforts with the schools, thus cutting still further the amount of junk that ended up in the public landfill, all worthy goals to be sure. But BMAKK says that it offered similar outcomes for less money.

In any case, unhappy at what they saw as an inexplicable contract decision, BMAKK Apex filed suit on March 31, asking the court to overrule LAUSD’s circumventing of their own RFP process.

WitnessLA has acquired a copy of the court filing.

Predictably, LAUSD asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. The court has declined, saying that BMAKK Apex may proceed.


IF YOU FIND YOU DON’T LIKE FOLLOWING THE RULES—CHANGE THE STINKING RULES

Today, Tuesday, LAUSD’s Chief Operating Officer will ask the school board to vote to amend the district’s procurement manual—after the fact—to retroactively make this non-low-bid contract awarding okay, now that it’s being challenged in court.

Certainly, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the district’s new oddball bidding process that has resulted in a contract going to the highest bidder, not the lowest one.

However, according to section 20111 of the California Public Contract Code, which would sure appear to govern such transactions, the parameters are pretty clear. To wit:

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Posted in LAUSD | 4 Comments »

FBI Stings Inept Anarchists, Dim Views of the Supremes, Adult Ed….and More

May 2nd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

A song for May Day, 2012, “Jack of All Trades”



THE FBI HEROICALLY STINGS, THEN LOCKS UP INEPT AND RIDICULOUS ANARCHISTS ON MAY DAY

This is from Alex Pareen at Salon. It will make you very sad for the FBI, very sad for the idiotic anarchists, very, VERY sad for the rest of us who are paying our hard earned tax dollars to fund this nonsense. A clip:

Happy May Day, fellow travelers! If you’re not currently disrupting capitalism and/or having your wrists zip-tied for exercising your right to freely assemble, you probably read about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s latest, not-at-all suspiciously timed terror sting. The Bureau, in an inspired bit of early-20th century nostalgia, has railroaded a bunch of dangerous anarchists. (Or “dangerous” “anarchists.”) America will not waver in the face of the Galleanist threat!

Five young men from Cleveland are now in jail, accused of plotting to “blow up a bridge in the Cleveland area,” according to the FBI’s triumphant press release/criminal complaint. As is always the case with FBI terror stings, the “sting” part involved the bureau’s informant/agent provocateur mostly inventing the plot the accused have now been arrested for. In this case, the five planned to detonate smoke bombs as a distraction as they “topple[d] financial institution signs atop high rise buildings in downtown Cleveland.” But the informant (as usual, a sketchy unnamed character with a checkered past) strongly pushed the group to seriously consider different, more extreme plots. At the end, some or all of them were going to plant C-4 on the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park….

To give you an idea of the…um.. ept-ness of the group: among their discussed strategies to avoid capture was to get tacks to throw in the road behind them in the event of a chase.

The LA Times also reports on the arrest, albeit in a more serious tone.


PEW CENTER FINDS WARM & TRUSTING FEELINGS ABOUT SCOTUS REACH A QUARTER CENTURY LOW

Yeah, now that’s a shocker. (cough) Bush v. Gore, Citizens United (cough, cough).

Actually, the interesting part is that the grim view of the Supremes is shared almost identically by Democrats, Republicans and independents. Moreover the survey was taken right after the health care hearings in the high court. So where ever you fell ideologically on the matter, it seems you were mighty disgruntled. Or at least half of those surveyed were.

Check out the rest here.


ADULT ED: SHOULD LAUSD REALLY TURN ITS BACK ON A QUARTER MILLION STUDENTS?

Former Adult Ed teacher John McCormick challenges the wisdom of eviscerating adult education in Los Angeles in an LA Times Op Ed. Here’s a clip from the center of the essay:

….The repercussions of cutting or losing adult education would extend far beyond the staffs and students at the schools. Many local businesses, such as pharmacies, hire students who have been certified by adult school skill centers. High school dropouts return to adult school to get their diplomas. Eliminating adult schools would diminish the workforce. And people who make less money pay less in taxes, they spend less, and they often have to depend more on government to meet their basic needs.

Closing adult schools would also result in collateral damage to K-12 children. My students often attended the same schools at night that their children attended during the day. Because kids usually pick up English faster than their parents, if the parents don’t learn the language, they become marginalized in their own families. They cannot communicate with teachers, help with homework or even understand what their kids are saying. So instead of being able to help their kids assimilate, parents are more likely to remain isolated.


THE OTHER BIG SUPREME COURT CASE: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin writes about another potentially far reaching US Supreme Court case that we should all be tracking. As usual everything rests on Justice Kennedy. Here’ a clip from Toobin’s story:

As the legal and political worlds await the Supreme Court’s verdict on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Justices have another case in the near future which may prove nearly as significant. The health-care case will be decided by June, but next fall the Court will return, perhaps for the last time, to the fraught subject of affirmative action in university admissions.

The facts of the new case are straightforward. Abigail Fisher, a white high-school student in Sugar Land, Texas, was rejected for admission to the University of Texas-Austin. The state requires all students in the top ten per cent of their high-school classes to be admitted to state universities, but students who fall just short of that threshold, like Fisher, are admitted according to a formula; race is one factor in the equation. Fisher’s lawsuit is based on a claim that any consideration of race by a university in admissions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The case amounts to a direct challenge to the most famous decision authored by Sandra Day O’Connor during her long and consequential service on the Court. In 2003, the Court held, by a vote of five to four, that the University of Michigan Law School could consider race as one factor among many in determining whom to admit. In Grutter v. Bollinger, O’Connor said that diversity was such an important goal in American life that universities could engage in some level of race-consciousness in screening candidates. But O’Connor’s opinion imposed a time limit:

We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.

Now, less than a decade after her ruling, the Court appears poised to throw it out….


“SAVING OUR SONS: A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION” WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT LA TRADE TECH

This is from the press release on the event, which is sponsored by a bunch of good folks:

California Community Foundation invites parents, educators, employers, community, civic and religious leaders, and all concerned members of the public to participate in a historic town hall on the need to change and improve conditions for Black male youth in Los Angeles that are adversely affecting their futures.

Twenty years after the civil unrest in Los Angeles, Black male youth have significant challenges related to their educational and employment prospects. Additionally, while Black male youth make up 10 percent of L.A. County’s youth population, they comprise approximately 33 percent of all youth under probation supervision.

The event on May 2 is supported by Brotherhood Crusade, Community Coalition, Liberty Hill Foundation, Los Angeles Urban league, Youth Justice Coalition, Youth Mentoring Connection, and the Office of the Mayor, City of Los Angeles, and will feature a personal appearance by actor and activist Larenz Tate (TV’s “Rescue Me”, and films such as, “Ray”, “Love Jones”, “Crash”, and “Menace II Society”).

The event will take place on Wednesday, May 2, at 6 p.m., in the North Tent at Los Angeles Trade-Tech College, 1937 Grand Ave., Los Angeles 90015


Photo by David Maxwell, European Pressphoto Agency / May 1, 2012

LYRICS FOR “A JACK OF ALL TRADES”

…after the jump

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Posted in Education, FBI, How Appealing, LAUSD, Occupy, Supreme Court | No Comments »

Tuesday Must Reads: Same Sex Divorce, Loving or Hating LAUSD’s Deasy…& More

April 10th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

by Taylor Walker



CAN MARRIED GAYS DIVORCE IN NON-GAY MARRIAGE STATES?

Washington Post’s Ellen McCarthy reported Monday

on a same-sex couple seeking divorce in Maryland, where gay marriage itself has not been legalized.

Here’s a clip:

The electronic board outside the courtroom identified the case as “No. 69, Jessica Port v. Virginia Anne Cowan.” That title is misleading. Port and Cowan are on the same side of this case: They both want to get divorced. But a Prince George’s County judge said they could not, reasoning that because same-sex marriage is not legal in the state, neither is same-sex divorce.

Now the highest court in Maryland will decide whether he was right, and whether the women will be required to maintain a bond they’ve tried for almost two years to sever. The case represents just one of the many blind spots in the legal infrastructure of same-sex marriage in America. Couples often have different rights when they cross jurisdictional lines and may not have the same status in the eyes of the federal government as they do in their home states. The laws are constantly evolving and election-year politics promise to heighten the already divisive passion surrounding the issue.


VISIONARY LEADER OR AUTOCRATIC BULLY? WHY DO THOSE WHO WORK WITH LAUSD’S SUPT. JOHN DEASY SEEM TO EITHER LOVE OR LOATH HIM?

The LA Times’ Teresa Watanabe and Howard Blume took a look at LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s aggressive methods for cleaning up the K-12 school system and the wildly divergent opinions of his efforts thus far.

Here’s a clip:

Deasy is pushing to change the culture of a behemoth school system with 660,000 students on 743 campuses across 710 square miles of urban sprawl. Some see Deasy as a dynamic leader driven by a moral urgency to give all students a quality education. But others view him as a relentless taskmaster intolerant of dissent.

“Either you do what he wants or you’re gone,” said one senior administrator who, like most senior aides and top administrators contacted, asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Antonia Hernandez, president of the California Community Foundation, is one of many civic leaders who believes Deasy should press harder to improve a district where just over half the students graduate on time and half are not proficient in reading and math.

“We all know what LAUSD has been doing in the past hasn’t worked,” she said. “He needs to be even more aggressive. People are hungry for leadership.”

Deasy admits he can be impatient and undiplomatic but otherwise makes no apologies for his style. He says he wants to find common ground with teachers and administrators; consensus is his preference rather than his priority.


THE NY TIMES ASKS WHY IN SOME STATES KIDS ARE STILL HOUSED WITH ADULTS IN ADULT PRISONS A NY Times Sunday Op Ed called on the DOJ to reform the juvenile justice system nationwide and eliminate the unethical placement of youth in adult facilities. An estimated 10,000 youths under 18 can be found in adult jails or prisons on any given day, according to federal statistics. As [32 members of Congress] pointed out, data from a 2005 study showed that youths made up only 1 percent of the inmates in jails and prisons, but 21 percent of the victims of sexual violence.

Numerous studies show that placing children in adult prisons leads to more suicide, victimization and recidivism, which is costly in both human and economic terms.


EDITOR’S NOTE; A RALLY FOR KENDRIC MCDADE WILL BE HELD TUES. 6 PM ON THE STEPS OF PASADENA CITY HALL

According the the email from the Youth Justice Coalition, the NAACP of Pasadena will be attending, so will the Pasadena Foothill ACLU, the League of Women Voters, the Pasadena Community Coalition, various religious leaders and a list of others.

Posted in juvenile justice, LAUSD, LGBT, Must Reads | 1 Comment »

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