Friday, December 28, 2012

ABC Meteorologist fired from TV station for defending herself against racial comments on Facebook

Why would anyone complain about this beautiful woman's hair? But someone did, creating a teachable moment. America needs to take advantage of such moments, and I'm glad Rhonda Lee did just that.

KTBS-TV: Give Rhonda Lee her job back ASAP!
Claudia Zayas
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
December 28, 2012

A female meteorologist, Rhonda Lee, has been fired from the ABC affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana (KTBS-TV) because she responded to a racial remark posted by a viewer on the station's Facebook page.

In October, a viewer posted an offensive remark about Lee and her appearance on KTBS’s Facebook page. The comment included: "the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient” [sic].

After the comment was left on the station’s page for days without any response or moderation and after Lee claims the station refused to offer a reply to the comment at her request, Lee wrote a thoughtful and respectful response. In her comment, Lee stated, “I am the 'black lady' to which you are referring... I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair... I'm very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn't a reason to not achieve their goals.”

In November, Lee responded to a comment on KTBS’ Facebook page from a viewer complaining about a segment that feature predominantly children of color to clarify that “the children are picked at random.” She added: “I would like to think it doesn't matter who the child is.”

KTBS has stated that Lee was fired for allegedly violating a social media policy for staff members. However, Lee said that in a meeting with her supervisors, they told her the policy she violated “isn't written down, but was mentioned in a newsroom meeting (a meeting she did not attend) about a month-and-a-half prior.” Lee also claims, “There isn't anything in our employee manual talking about social media dos and don'ts.”

Lee said that initially she was told that she would be having a discussion with the station’s managers about clarifying the social media policy, but instead, allegedly without any discussion, Lee was terminated.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Castle Park Elementary, scene of multiple fiascoes, finally gets some help

I'm happy that the Castle Park area in Chula Vista has been chosen for $60 million in grants. Castle Park Elementary, where I attended as a child and as a teacher, desperately needs assistance after having been managed poorly by the CVESD board and administration. Before the current principal arrived, the school had 11 principals in 11 years, during which time there was a crime wave among the ruling clique of teachers and a $20,000 embezzlement by the PTA president who was hand-picked by those teachers.

Perhaps Maria Guasp, board member of South Bay Community Services, chose Castle Park Elementary because she feels somewhat guilty for her role in damaging the school when she was an Assistant Superintendent at CVESD, promoting Libia Gil's discredited agenda.

Unfortunately, sticking on band-aids won't fix the basic problem: the underlying culture of the district. Long-term board members Pamela Smith and Larry Cunningham have maintained a culture of carelessness, making decisions reflexively and refusing to engage in serious assessment of problems.

Larry Cunningham and Pam Smith covered up illegal actions at Castle Park Elementary

Then the CVESD board and administrators depend on the lawyers at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz to silence critics. Stutz law firm managed to find a judge, Judith Hayes, who doesn't mind violating the constitution to help CVESD silence me. Even after I won in the California Court of Appeal, CVESD's lawyers and Judge Judith Hayes are still trying to quash legitimate criticism. Here's a recent court transcript.

Nonprofit one of 7 nationwide to receive federal Promise Neighborhood funding to revitalize schools, area
Caroline Dipping
Union-Tribune San Diego
Dec. 22, 2012

$60M--Total in grants and matching funds for programs to help South Bay students improve.

Selected from more than 200 applicants nationwide, South Bay Community Services has been awarded a grant of nearly $30 million to improve schools in Chula Vista’s Castle Park neighborhood and revitalize the area.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced in Washington, D.C., on Friday that the nonprofit organization was one of seven winners to receive a 2012 Promise Neighborhood implementation grant.

South Bay Community Services will receive $4.9 million to fund the first year of the five-year $27.8 million grant for cradle-to-career programs that improve schools and inspire students, provide health services for families and fight crime in the neighborhood. The Castle Park area has some of the lowest test scores in Chula Vista and a median household income of $41,000 — 30 percent lower than the countywide median.

Not to be outdone, 28 local government agencies, nonprofit organizations and businesses, including Manpower, United Way and Parker Foundation, have signed on to provide more than $33 million in matching funds, for a total investment of more than $60 million. The grant will also create about 100 jobs the first year alone, according to South Bay Community Services.

“The community really came together and worked so hard to get this grant,” said Kathryn Lembo, president and CEO of South Bay Community Services. “What makes it so special is knowing how much the schools, parents, and kids are going to benefit.

“This will give our young people an incredible opportunity to be healthier and more successful in school and in life.”

The target is the area served by Castle Park Elementary School. Funds will also be used to create improvements at Castle Park Middle School and Castle Park High School designed to inspire all students to stay in school and aspire to a college and career track, Lembo said.

“It’s a great thing because it means they are going to be able to fund a lot of extra academic intervention and academic assistance,” said Manuel Rubio, spokesman for Sweetwater Union High School District. “It’s the holistic approach of educating the student, but assessing what their family’s needs are, too. It has the potential to make a pretty significant impact.”

South Bay Community Services will lead the project. It was chosen in part because of its 41-year history providing bilingual, culturally competent social service, education and community development programs for youth and families.

Last December, the agency received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a plan to revitalize.

Nancy Kerwin, executive director of Chula Vista Elementary School District’s Student, Family and Community Services, said the grant will create an “infusion of services and support, from newborns to high school youth.”

“At Castle Park Elementary, we will see more in-class tutoring for students, an enhanced wellness program for students, and bullying prevention activities,” she said.

The other recipients of the 2012 Implementation Grants are the Boston Promise Initiative, East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood, Five Promises for Two Generations in Washington, D.C., Indianola Promise Community in Mississippi, Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood, and Mission Promise Neighborhood in San Francisco.

The Promise Neighborhoods program was created in 2010 to give at-risk children wraparound community services to help them close the achievement gap between them and their more affluent peers. To date, the program has awarded nearly $100 million to more than 50 communities representing more than 700 schools.

Friday, December 21, 2012

$60,000 Ruling Against Truthful Blogger Tests Limits of the First Amendment

"...[S]peech does not lose its protection – as the jury in Hoff's case seemed to conclude – merely because it has an effect on those it criticizes. To conclude otherwise would give true speech less protection than false speech since it is more likely to do harm."

$60,000 Ruling Against Truthful Blogger Tests Limits of the First Amendment
September 12th, 2011

One of the first things I learned as a journalist, and later again as a media lawyer, was that under the First Amendment the "truth" could not be subject to a viable defamation claim. True statements are simply constitutionally immune and plaintiffs cannot sidestep all of the common law and constitutional protections for true speech through creative pleadings that would merely re-label defamation as another cause of action. The Supreme Court has flatly held as much in a long line of cases going as far back as the 1980s.

Enter then the seemingly bizarro Minnesota case of Moore v. Allen.

In a recent ruling, the Minnesota District Court in that case refused to set aside a jury verdict awarding the plaintiff $60,000 in damages against a blogger who posted truthful information about him that contributed to his losing his job. In other words, although the jury found the statement at issue was truthful and therefore not defamatory, they still ruled in favor of the plaintiff under a claim of "tortuous interference with employment contracts." This ruling seems on its face to be a flagrant violation of a constitutional precept and a prime candidate for reversal on First Amendment grounds. Yet this strange decision out of Hennepin County, Minnesota, merits a closer look.

According to public court filings and news reports, Jerry Moore sued John Hoff and six others in June 2009 for five allegedly biased and defamatory statements on Hoff's blog "The Adventures of Johnny Northside." The blog seeks "to help with a process of turning a rapidly revitalizing neighborhood into something approaching Urban Utopia" and is said to attract about 300 to 500 visitors daily.

Mr. Moore claimed in case filings, reported as well in various news reports, that he had lost his job at the University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center, where he was hired to study mortgage foreclosures, a day after Mr. Hoff posted statements that claimed Moore had been involved in "a high-profile fraudulent mortgage."

According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, District Judge Denise Reilly dismissed four out of the five statements saying that they were either non-actionable opinion or comments authored by others on the blog, which are not the blogger's liability. With respect to the remaining statement, the jury found that it was true but still an unlawful interference with Moore's employment at the university. They awarded the plaintiff $35,000 for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress. The court subsequently rejected a motion by the defendant to set aside the jury verdict or start a new trial, noting that it found "direct and circumstantial evidence adduced at trial ‘supports the findings of the jury and can be reconciled.'"

This is not the first time where a court has permitted liability for truthful speech. See e.g., Johnson v. Johnson, 654 A.2d 1212 (R.I. 1995)(man calling former wife a "whore"; court held statement was true but actionable); Noonan v. Staples, Inc., 556 F.3d 20, 26 (1st Cir. 2008)("Massachusetts law . . . recognizes a narrow exception to [the otherwise absolute] defense [of truth]; the truth or falsity of the statement is material, and the libel action may proceed, if the plaintiff can show that the defendant acted with ‘actual malice [in the constitutional sense of entertaining serious doubts as to truth] in publishing the statement."); Young v. First Bank of Bellevue, 516 N.W.2d 256 (1994)(dicta)(truth not an absolute defense under Nebraska statute, permitting liability for true defamatory statements made in malice). Yet, the fact that this case has some company, if few and far between, does not make it any less constitutionally suspect.

As forcefully argued in its amicus brief to the court, the Minnesota Pro Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists pointed out that the case appears to be a textbook example of a plaintiff making an end run around a prohibited lawsuit by re-labeling the same tort under a different name. Citing to the 1988 Supreme Court case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 57 (1988), the brief argued that "injuries to reputation are defamation-type damages, for which plaintiffs must prove the elements of a defamation claim regardless of how the claim is labeled." Such requirements did not seem to be imposed by the Minnesota court, according to filings.

Moreover, speech does not lose its protection – as the jury in Hoff's case seemed to conclude – merely because it has an effect on those it criticizes. To conclude otherwise would give true speech less protection than false speech since it is more likely to do harm...

Another defamation case in Minnesota: The WWII Vet vs. The Doctor

Dr. David McKee v. Dennis Laurion

After the District Court dismissed defamation charges, the plaintiff appealed seeking separate adjudication of interference with business.

I wonder how the results of Moore v Allen will compare to the results of McKee v Laurion.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Employers Hire Potential Drinking Buddies Ahead Of Top Candidates

Teachers on interview panels ask: Do we want you teaching at our school? Or, more importantly, do we want to go out for drinks with you?

I saw teachers in my district, Chula Vista Elementary, being chosen in exactly the manner described in the article below. One job applicant made his addiction problems an asset by highlighting his drug problem and then charming the teachers on the hiring panel who were looking for someone to support their agenda. Weak personalities delight in the power they get from weaker personalities.

In the same manner, excellent, experienced teachers are pushed out of the district. Compromised individuals have little trouble as long as they excel in school politics.

See also Were CVESD and Chula Vista Educators negligent in Kinloch child molestation case?

Employers Hire Potential Drinking Buddies Ahead Of Top Candidates
Susan Adams

I’m pretty sure I once got a job because the person who interviewed me decided that she liked me. Looking back, I couldn’t have been the most qualified person to apply for the position at the nightly television news program where I got hired. I had never worked in TV and though I had seven years of journalism experience under my belt, it was at a specialized trade magazine, The American Lawyer. But the producer who hired me knew that we would be working very closely together on a four-person team that put together nightly discussion segments with hard on-air deadlines. She knew she wanted to have good chemistry with the person she hired.

Now an academic study by an assistant professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management confirms what I experienced when I got hired at the TV news show: Hiring managers don’t always pick the most qualified applicants. They hire people they like and want to spend time with. They hire people who they think could be their friends.

The study, by Professor Lauren Rivera, looked at hiring in elite investment banks, law firms and management consulting firms. Rivera conducted 120 interviews with hiring managers over the space of two years. What she found: “interviewers often privileged their personal feelings of comfort, validation and excitement over identifying candidates with superior cognitive or technical skills.” In other words, they hired people they could relate to, whom they liked. Writes Rivera, “in many respects they hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners.” Though Rivera focused on a narrow range of professions, I would venture a guess that her findings apply in a broad range of fields.

Why It's Better To Hire The Least Qualified Person For The Job
New Study: Leaders Are Less Stressed Than Their Subordinates
Everybody's Getting Drunk at the Holiday Party - And Not Because It's Fun

The stories in Rivera’s report are revealing. One of her findings: The majority of employers in her study described their firms as having distinct personalities that come from the hobbies and presentation styles of their employees. For instance, some firms are “sporty” and “fratty,” while others are “egghead” or “intellectual.” Rivera quotes a hiring partner at a consulting firm who says, “We want people who fit not only the way we do things but who we are.” These findings underline the perils and advantages of listing interests in the “other” section of a résumé.

One striking example from Rivera’s paper: A legal hiring manager at a “scrappy” firm rejected an otherwise qualified applicant because “I’m looking at the interests [on his résumé]—lacrosse, squash, crew [laughs]. I’m sort of giving him a personality type here, and I don’t think he’s going to fit in well here. . . we’re more rough and tumble. . . . I’m going to let him go.” She tells another story of a hiring manager who rejected a candidate who had expressed an interest in 18th-century literature and avant-garde film because he seemed too “intellectual.”

To put it more broadly, one investment banking hiring manager said, “One of my main criteria is what I call the ‘stranded in the airport test.’ Would I want to be stuck in an airport in Minneapolis in a snowstorm with them?”

Among law firms, investment banks and consulting firms, demand for cultural fit was most prized in law firms, where more than 70% of evaluators said “fit” was an important part of the hiring decision. At investment banks, it was important in a bit more than 60% of cases and at consulting firms, in 40% of cases. Because evaluators at consulting firms often use case-based business questions, they link the hiring process more closely to skills. Rivera quotes one consulting firm hiring manager: “Even if someone’s a perfect fit, if they absolutely bombed the case, they’re out.”

Rivera’s paper underlines how important it can be to include non-work interests on your résumé. She quotes a banker who says, “She plays squash. Anyone who plays squash I love,” and ranked the squash-playing applicant first among potential hires. A banker who was interviewing candidates says, “She and I both ran the New York marathon. . . we talked about that and hit it off. . . we started talking about how we both love stalking celebrities in New York. . . we had this instant connection. . . I loved her.”

Though nothing in Rivera’s paper surprises me, it’s striking to read work by an academic who has systematically measured the extremely subjective aspects of job interviewing. The paper underlines what all job seekers know: There is an aspect of the hiring process that is profoundly subjective and ultimately unfair. You can’t control who your interviewer will be and whether they will share your personality and interests.

There are a couple of things you can control however. As you’re researching a firm where you might want to work, do ask questions about the culture and think about whether your personality would fit in. Along with speaking to competitors and to people who work there and who used to work there, spend some time on a website called, that lists worker reviews of employers. Also do include a section under the heading “Other” or “Interests” on your résumé, and include hobbies, sports and foreign travel. Your passion for squash or for running marathons might wind up getting you the job.


Here's an example of workplace politics that apparently was the last straw for a hospital nurse. Obviously, the nurse must have had other problems, but her death was a more serious loss to the hospital than was the approval of the royal family.

The royal family is far more high-maintenance than the United States president's family, and the royals don't even do any work beyond their appearances at events. But it seems that co-workers of Jacintha Saldanha felt that the need to cater to royals warranted the harassment of a colleague.

Can you imagine an American nurse committing suicide because she accidentally told a radio show that the first lady was throwing up? Not likely. Those mean English co-workers need to put things in perspective: a nurse deserves as much consideration as the royals do.

Nurse Jacintha Saldanha criticized hospital staff in suicide note after DJs' prank call: report
Saldanha wasn't happy with how her coworkers treated her after she was tricked into helping two Australian DJs secure private information about Kate Middleton's pregnancy, British media reported.
By Rheana Murray
December 14, 2012

Jacintha Saldanha reportedly left behind three suicide notes.

The London hospital nurse who killed herself after being pranked by a pair of Aussie shock jocks reportedly condemned her coworkers in a suicide note.

Jacintha Saldhana criticized the hospital staff for her treatment after the hoax in one of three notes she left behind, British media reported.

Saldhana, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found dead by hanging days after she was duped into helping two radio DJs secure private information about newly pregnant Kate Middleton, who was staying at the hospital for a bout of severe morning sickness.

She killed herself inside the nurses’ quarters of the King Edward VII Hospital...

“Needless to say, Ben wants a full inquiry into what happened and he wants to make sure the truth comes out,” a source told the Daily Mirror.

In another suicide note, Saldhana reportedly explained how she dealt with the aftermath of the DJs’ hoax, which sparked trouble for the hospital as the royal family became infuriated by the breach of privacy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary shooting leaves 28 dead

Will gun rights advocates at last agree to gun control in all states?

Sandy Hook Elementary shooting
By Sari Horwitz and David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post
December 14, 2012

A shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. on Friday morning killed 27 people, including 20 children, law enforcement sources said.

The dead at Sandy Hook Elementary, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, included the suspected gunman. One other person was injured. Police said that the shootings were carried out in two rooms, located in the same section of the school.

They said 18 of the children had died at the scene, and two more died after being taken to hospitals.

In addition, police described a “secondary crime scene,” elsewhere in Newtown, where another adult was found dead. A Connecticut State Police spokesman, Lt. J. Paul Vance said that the second scene was discovered during the investigation into the school shootings...

Man kills 26 at Conn. school, including 20 kids
Associated Press
December 14, 2012

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A man opened fire Friday inside two classrooms at the Connecticut elementary school where his mother worked as a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children, as youngsters cowered in corners and closets and trembled helplessly to the sound of gunfire reverberating through the building.

The killer, armed with two handguns, committed suicide at the school and another person was found dead at a second scene, bringing the toll to 28, authorities said.

A law enforcement official identified the gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a teacher. A second law enforcement official said his mother, Nancy Lanza, was presumed dead.

Adam Lanza’s older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned, the first official said. Earlier, a law enforcement official mistakenly identified Ryan as the shooter.

Don’t talk about gun control!
Gun rights advocates tout "political correctness" to shut down talk of gun restrictions. We can't let them continue
By David Sirota
Dec 14, 2012

How many right-wing media voices were citing the shooting in Portland, Ore., this morning to trumpet the sanctity of gun rights and say we shouldn’t even talk about gun control? How many of them were making this perverse argument at the very moment the Newtown, Conn., shooting was taking place? And how many of those voices are the same ones who, when it comes to other issues, decry “political correctness”?

The answers to these questions should be obvious: almost certainly, a lot of them. And that is a sign that for all the conservative histrionics decrying liberal “political correctness,” the most powerful and most committed “p.c. police” in America are on the right — specifically, those on the right who claim that any critical discussion of the limits of the Second Amendment must be suppressed because they insult the political ideology of conservatives.

This form of “political correctness” is so routinized that we barely recognize it as the censorship system that it truly is. And as mass shootings become a staple of American life, this system is now ubiquitous.

We saw it after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., when conservatives rolled out their hallowed Now Is Not the Time talking point to insist that it was inappropriate to even discuss limits to assault-style weapons and ammunition magazines. We saw it last week with the over-the-top reaction to Bob Costas daring to suggest that America have a tempered discussion about gun control in the wake of the Kansas City Chiefs murder-suicide. We see it once again here in Colorado, where Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is today facing withering criticism for merely floating the idea that his Legislature debate gun control in the upcoming session. And, no doubt, we will see it in the wake of the Newtown shooting, when the right will inevitably insist nobody has any right to criticize existing gun policies in America (except, of course, to criticize them as somehow too restrictive)...


Chinese man attacks 22 children, 1 adult with knife outside primary school
No deaths have been reported.
December 14, 2012

BEIJING — A knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult outside a primary school in central China as students were arriving for classes Friday, police said, the latest in a series of periodic rampage attacks at Chinese schools and kindergartens.

The attack in the Henan province village of Chengping happened shortly before 8 a.m., said a police officer from Guangshan county, where the village is located.


The attacker, 36-year-old villager Min Yingjun, is now in police custody, said the officer, who declined to give her name, as is customary among Chinese civil servants.

A Guangshan county hospital administrator said the man first attacked an elderly woman, then students, before being subdued by security guards who have been posted across China following a spate of school attacks in recent years. He said there were no deaths among the nine students admitted, although two badly injured children had been transferred to better-equipped hospitals outside the county.

A doctor at Guangshan's hospital of traditional Chinese medicine said that seven students had been admitted, but that none were seriously injured.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The San Diego Reader article that CVESD missed when it hired a pedophile

See all posts regarding CVESD teacher John Kinloch.

Two years after the story below was published in the San Diego Reader, John Raymond Kinloch, who testified to having an attraction to young boys, was hired as a teacher by Chula Vista Elementary School District.

Perhaps all teacher candidates should be required to sign under penalty of perjury that they are not sexually attracted to children. It's not a crime to be sexually attracted to children, but it should be a disqualification for working in elementary schools.

It would seem that a pedophile who truly wanted to avoid harming children would stay away from occupations involving children. There are lots of jobs that Kinloch could have found that don't include long, unsupervised hours as the authority figure and caregiver of children. Kinloch knew he was a danger to children, yet he chose give himself the sexual pleasure of constant contact with young boys. Perhaps he should have been paying the taxpayers for seven hours a day of sexual stimulation, rather than having the taxpayers pay him.

A Unique Warmth for Youngsters
By Abe Opincar
San Diego Reader
June 4, 1998

'How did you get this number?" snarled an unidentified male voice at the other end of the line. "John isn't involved involved in anything! Don't ever call here again!"

John's phone number isn't hard to find if you know anything about the enormous amount of information available online. And anyone answering John's phone should already know a little something about the Internet's hair-raising variety of resources.

Last month, John Raymond Kinloch, a history major at San Diego State University, went to Staffordshire, England, to testify in the three-week criminal trial of Christopher Wrigley, a 28-year-old college student accused of trafficking in kiddie porn on the Internet. Wrigley, a psychology major, had been nabbed in Operation Sunburst, a 1995 investigation conducted by English law enforcement to crack down on Internet transmission of child pornography to and from Great Britain. Wrigley's computer files, bristling with almost 700 nude and sexually graphic images of boys aged 5 to 15, also contained information that led investigators to Kinloch in San Diego.

Working through the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs in Washington, D.C., Staffordshire police last year informed the U.S. Attorney's San Diego office of their intention to prosecute Wrigley and of their need for Kinloch to testify at trial. While no legal mechanism permits foreign courts directly to compel U.S. citizens to testify abroad, treaties with certain nations, such as England, allow the U.S. Attorney to cooperate with foreign courts in securing the testimony of American witnesses.

"Of the two young men -- Wrigley and Kinloch -- the Staffordshire police convinced us that Wrigley was clearly the more dangerous," says Mitch Dembin, Chief of General Crimes Section in the local U.S. Attorney's office. "We approached Kinloch and offered him immunity in exchange for his testimony at Wrigley's trial. He agreed."

Because British law is very cautious about who may be interviewed and what may be printed about a criminal proceeding in progress, Wrigley's trial has received little publicity in England's national press. But in Staffordshire, the case is well known.

"Probably because it was revealed that just before he was arrested, Wrigley got a job as a high school teacher," says Gill Abbott, a reporter for the Staffordshire Sentinel who covered the trial. "And because Wrigley is very attractive. He's handsome. He's got that Hugh Grant floppy hair.

"He's also very well-spoken and very self-confident. John Kinloch was also very self-confident and well-spoken, but he's not as good-looking as Wrigley. Kinloch's sort of short and slight with a full head of dark, almost black hair, and a very thin mustache. I think the jury sort of took to [Kinloch] because he had that all-American college boy sort of thing."

In the course of his testimony, Kinloch stated that he was "homosexual" but was attracted only to "teenage boys and younger." He admitted that in 1995 he had exchanged pictures of boys as young as five with Wrigley after the two had struck up a friendship in an Internet discussion group about music.

Kinloch told the Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, "In the beginning it was discussion and e-mail, then it moved into transmission of pictures. At first it was pictures of ourselves, later it was boys. At first it was nothing indecent, later on you could class it as indecent." When asked if he believed Wrigley shared his sexual tastes, Kinloch answered, "I would not just tell anyone about my sexual preferences. There would have to be trust-building. I think you could say we both knew about each other. If I had not thought he had similar tastes, I would have not divulged information to him."

Wrigley, too, admitted to a unique warmth for youngsters. When the jury was told he had been on a Cub Scout weekend two days before he was arrested, Wrigley said he liked to help children and had consoled one Cub Scout in particular. Wrigley said, "[The Cub Scout] was a child who was experiencing many problems both in and out of school, and I took him under my wing to help him out."

But Wrigley maintained his innocence of the child-pornography charges. In his testimony he stated that rather than being a pedophile he was simply a psychology student engaging in an elaborate experiment involving child pornography and pedophile sexuality. The only reason he exchanged images with Kinloch and another American named Sonny Delite, he said, was to determine what sort of pornography interested pedophiles. Testifying in Wrigley's defense, Cambridge professor Donald West, a pedophilia expert, told the court he believed Wrigley's alleged experiment would be useful in research into pedophilia.

Six of the 12-member Stoke-on-Trent jury believed Wrigley's defense. On May 16, after deliberating for six hours, the jury foreman informed the judge that it was unlikely that the jury would be able to arrive at a verdict. The Crown Court intends to try Wrigley again sometime in the next six months in Birmingham, where the case has received less attention.

Staffordshire police are unable to comment on the matter and declined to state whether or not John Kinloch would be brought again to England to testify. Mitch Dembin of the U.S. Attorney's office says that Kinloch is still bound by the terms of his immunity agreement.

"It's a two-way street. Kinloch agreed to testify wherever, whenever. As long as he complies, we don't prosecute. None of his words will be used against him."

Wrigley is free on bail until his retrial.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Were CVESD and Chula Vista Educators negligent in Kinloch child molestation case?

See also "California Teachers Association protects child molesting teacher."
See all posts regarding CVESD teacher John Kinloch.

Updated Jan. 12, 2013

It seems that CVESD and California Teachers Association were more interested in protecting powerful teachers than in conducting serious investigations of extremely urgent allegations. When a teacher was accused of being likely to "come to school and shoot everybody," the district never did an investigation, and the teachers union never insisted on an investigation.

I recall listening to former Chula Vista Educators grievance chair Frank Luzzaro a few years ago complaining that the district had placed a male teacher on administrative leave due to unproven allegations of child abuse.

John Raymond Kinloch might been that teacher--unless perhaps there were TWO suspected child molesters at CVESD at the same time!

(I've been trying to remember exactly what year it was that Frank Luzzaro called me in response to a letter I sent him. I am certain that it was after my 2003 OAH hearing. At first I though that it was around 2003 or 2004, but then I remembered that I had my website going at the time of the call. That would make it more likely that the call was in 2005.)

The District Attorney's office says a child at Feaster was molested in 2004 or 2005. It seems the District Attorney and I are zeroing in on the same time period. Obviously, the school district knows exactly when the teacher was placed on administrative leave, and it knows if the teacher was John Raymond Kinloch.


Superintendent Lowell Billings, Asst. Supt. for Human Resources Richard Werlin, and Asst. Supt. Dennis Doyle were in charge when the critical events occurred in the Kinloch case and in other cases in CVESD covered-up wrongful actions and falsified and concealed various documents.

Asst. Supt. Maria Guasp and Superintendent Libia Gil seemed to rubber-stamp whatever the three men decided on. Libia Gil chose covering-up events rather than investigating serious allegations.

Rick Werlin claimed to have "lost" all his notes about a teacher who was accused of being likely to come to school and "shoot everybody." CVESD's lawyer, Dan Shinoff, says he lost about half of the documents he collected at Castle Park Elementary. He lost a few pages here and a few pages there from a single set of about 87 documents. Here are some of the documents that were produced. Those missing pages about a possible mass shooting at Castle Park Elementary would be very interesting to see!

Chula Vista Educators, particularly Jim Groth, who is now on the Board of Directors of CTA, also seemed to support district decisions, especially when the goal was to conceal crimes by teachers who were favored by the administration. (Of course, it was different when one of Jim's pals got in trouble. CVE paid $17,000 in legal fees to contest a district decision to dock Frank Luzzaro one day's pay.)

A 1998 San Diego Reader story revealed Kinloch's connection to an English child pornographer, and Kinloch's admitted attraction to young boys.

An important part of this picture is the fact that California Teachers Association is quite reliable in protecting child molesters such as Albert Truitt.

Obviously, Mr. Kinloch was not fired. CVESD and CVE have a bad habit of protecting the guilty. Perhaps CVESD and CVE don't like effective investigations because facts might interfere with their political goals.

See "California Teachers Association protects child molesting teacher."


At the same time that it flubbed the Kinloch investigation, CVESD administrators, with the approval of CVE's Jim Groth and other CVE officials, flat-out refused to investigate anonymous allegations against another teacher. Depositions later proved that the allegations against the "dangerous" teacher were false, but that teacher had already been fired. Depositions also proved that teachers who made the anonymous accusations were covering up their own crimes!


The district then realized too late that the accusers, who called themselves "The Castle Park Family," had become out of control. The "Castle Park Five" were prominent members of the Family. The Family felt that it, not the administration, should be in charge. They can't be blamed for thinking this since they had successfully demanded that CTA and the district help them by violating longstanding policies as well as the law, to defend Family members in court. The district spent $100,000s of taxpayer dollars on lawyers to conceal the truth.

Coincidentally, both Frank Luzzaro and his wife work for the Reader, which had profiled John Raymond Kinloch in 1998 as a child pornographer. I have noticed that the Reader avoids delving into problems at CVESD. I have provided information directly to Frank Luzzaro and the Reader, but neither has expressed any interest.

Longtime CVESD board member Pamela Smith
Longtime CVESD board member Larry Cunningham

The school board in 2004 consisted of Pamela Smith, Larry Cunningham, Cheryl Cox, Patrick Judd (who was successfully sued for sexual harassment by a female principal) and Bertha Lopez. All five of these individuals supported the hiring and firing tactics of the administrators named above.

Arraignment for suspect in child porn and molestation case
Dec 06, 2012

CHULA VISTA (CNS) - A South Bay elementary school teacher accused of molesting a student and possessing child pornography to get boys to expose themselves online is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

John Raymond Kinloch, a first-grade teacher at Wolf Canyon Elementary in Chula Vista, was initially arrested last Friday after agents with the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force served a search warrant at his home. He was released on bail that evening.

Authorities began looking into the online activities of Kinloch based on tips received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said San Diego police sex-crimes Lt. Anastasia Smith.

The investigation allegedly showed that the 41-year-old Kinloch, while posing as a girl on a website called "MeetMe," had persuaded boys to disrobe during live one-on-one webcam interactions, according to Smith.

Kinloch, a San Ysidro resident, was re-arrested Wednesday on suspicion of 11 counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under age 14 after the alleged victim came forward, according to San Diego police.

The accusations involve sexual contact that allegedly occurred several years ago, when Kinloch was teaching at Feaster Charter School in Chula Vista, Smith said.

The defendant was being held in lieu of $1.15 million bail pending arraignment.

Teacher facing porn charges arrested in molestation
Pauline Repard
Dec. 6, 2012

CHULA VISTA — A Chula Vista elementary school teacher arrested last week on suspicion of child pornography is facing new charges alleging he molested a student several years ago, authorities said Thursday.

John Raymond Kinloch, 41, was jailed Wednesday on 11 counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14, and one count of an attempted lewd and lascivious act on a child age 14 or 15.

His bail is set at $1.1 million, jail records show.

“This is a case many years delayed in reporting,” said San Diego police Lt. Anastasia Smith. “It appears this victim was previously a student of his.”

She said the student attended Feaster Charter School. Kinloch taught there from 2000 to 2009, then transferred to Wolf Canyon Elementary School, where he was teaching first grade, school district officials said.

Kinloch has been placed on administrative leave, district spokesman Anthony Millican said.

“This new case raises the question of whether there are other students involved,” Millican said Thursday.

Kinloch was investigated by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for allegedly posing online as a girl and soliciting young boys to send him pictures of themselves naked, Smith said. The task force is a joint effort by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Federal authorities arrested Kinloch on Friday on suspicion of possessing child pornography, using a minor in an obscene manner and luring a minor for a sexual offense. He was booked into jail, then released on bail. Authorities said earlier in the week that no Chula Vista students were involved in the pornography.

On Wednesday, a former student reported being molested, and Kinloch was arrested about 9 p.m. as he was leaving his South Bay home.

“Our hearts go out to the child,” Chula Vista Superintendent Francisco Escobedo said Thursday in a statement. “The allegations raised in the charges against Kinloch are appalling. For a teacher to betray a child in this manner is very upsetting. We are very dismayed by this.”

School district officials were upset that a federal background check on Kinloch when he was hired failed to turn up his connection to a 1998 child pornography case in England.

Millican said the San Diego Reader published a story in June 1998 that said Kinloch, then a San Diego State University student, went to England to testify in the criminal trial of a college student accused in trafficking in child pornography. That student’s files contained information that led investigators to Kinloch, and he was offered immunity by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego to testify, the Reader reported. He testified during the trial that he was attracted to young boys, the Reader said.

The district is investigating how the past case was not flagged during Kinloch’s background check and plans to work with the state’s Teachers Credentialing Commission on how to improve the process.

Photo: December 13, 2006 , Chula Vista,- Second grade teacher John Kinloch at the Feaster Edison Charter School in Chula Vista. — John Gibbinsng Commission on how to improve the process.

Teacher accused of child porn, molesting a student in court: John Kinloch pleads not guilty 10 News 12/07/2012

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A South Bay elementary school teacher accused of repeatedly molesting a former student and possessing child pornography to get boys to expose themselves online pleaded not guilty Friday to 20 charges, including 18 counts of child molest.

John Raymond Kinloch, 41, was ordered held on $1.9 million bail.

Kinloch, a first-grade teacher at Wolf Canyon Elementary in Chula Vista, initially was arrested last Friday after agents with the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force served a search warrant at his home. He was released on bail that evening.

Authorities began looking into the online activities of Kinloch based on tips received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, San Diego police sex crimes Lt. Anastasia Smith said...

The accusations involve sexual contact that allegedly occurred when Kinloch was teaching at Feaster Charter School in Chula Vista, Smith said.

Deputy District Attorney Enrique Camarena told reporters that the first alleged molestation happened around 2004 or 2005, when the student was about 8 or 9 years old.

Camarena said the alleged victim, a boy, had a close relationship with Kinloch, both inside and outside the school.

Some of the molestations occurred on school grounds, the prosecutor alleged.

Besides the child molest charges, Kinloch is charged with one count of attempted child molest of a person 14 or 15 years old and one count of possession of child pornography. The named victim is not the subject of the child pornography charge, Camarena said.

Kinloch faces 43 years and six months in prison if convicted.

"When a teacher commits a crime, especially of this nature on school grounds that is about the most extreme violation we can have," Camarena said.

Defense attorney Dan Greene told South Bay Judge Katherine Bacal that Kinloch had no prior record and had a master's degree, without being specific...

The attorney said community members have come forward to praise Kinloch as a great person and educator...

[Maura Larkins comment: I've noticed that people often say that teachers and parents know who the good teachers are. In fact, they don't. Effective evaluations are needed, but many principals don't bother doing observations, and simply rely on school politics to decide who's good and who's bad.] 10News reporter Michael Chen asked, "If he's attracted to young boys, why did he petition to be a teacher?"

Greene answered, "I can't [answer] that for you right now ... It's unfair to rush to judgment before going through due process."

School district officials said they were upset that a federal background check on Kinloch failed to turn up his connection to a child pornography case in England in 1998.

District spokesman Anthony Millican said the San Diego Reader published a story in June 1998 that said Kinloch, then a San Diego State student, testified in the trial of a fellow college student accused in child pornography trafficking.

Kinloch was granted immunity and testified that he was attracted to young boys, the Reader reported...

God, Gays, and Casey Gwinn

'On Monday of this week in the San Diego Schools, at Pershing Middle School, where my daughter attends, I had to go and file a sexual harassment complaint against children who were harassing my daughter, ... Ky PlaskonSeptember 2, 1999

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

CVESD hired a teacher profiled in the Reader as a child pornographer

See all posts regarding CVESD teacher John Kinloch.

See also "California Teachers Association protects child molesting teacher."

CVESD is still getting fallout from Rick Werlin's years as Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.

Officials claim to be angry that they did not know in 2000 about John Raymond Kinloch's involvement in a 1998 child pornography case that was described in the San Diego Reader. Kinloch was recently arrested for child pornography.

But the truth is that current Superintendent Francisco Escobedo is pals with Rick Werlin, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources responsible for hiring Mr. Kinloch, and Maria Guasp, who helped Mr. Werlin implement his policy of concealing the truth about teachers who committed crimes.

When Mr. Werlin was running Human Resources, Board Members Pamela Smith and Larry Cunningham were more than willing to allow Mr. Werlin to ignore the law. Then they managed to quash subpoenas to testify about their actions. They supported a criminal cover-up of the actions of administrators, union leaders and Castle Park teachers.

The district managed to unload Werlin, and when West Contra Costa County asked for information about Werlin, CVESD didn't breathe a word about the $100,000s in legal expenses that Werlin incurred. One wonders how much CVESD officials actually care about children.

CVESD seems to have more than its share of child pornographers. October, a
another CVESD teacher was arrested for child porn.

Chula Vista teacher arrested in child porn case
By Pauline Repard and Susan Shroder
Dec. 5, 2012

...Chula Vista Elementary School District officials are angry that they did not know about the case when they hired John Raymond Kinloch in 2000, spokesman Anthony Millican said.

Kinloch, 41, was taken into custody Friday following an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He was booked into jail on counts of possession of child pornography, using a minor in an obscene manner and luring a minor for a sex offense, according to the jail website.

The charges do not involve students in Kinloch’s class or in the district, Millican said.

He said Kinloch has taught at Wolf Canyon Elementary School since 2009 and was currently teaching first grade. Kinloch previously taught at Feaster Charter School.

He is on administrative leave and will not be on campus while the legal proceedings continue, Millican said.

Millican said the San Diego Reader published a story in June 1998 that said Kinloch, then a San Diego State student, was going to England to testify in the criminal trial of Christopher Wrigley, a college student accused in trafficking in child pornography. Wrigley’s files contained information that led investigators to Kinloch, and he was offered immunity by federal officials in the United States and England to testify, the Reader reported. He testified during the trial that he exchanged pornographic images of young boys with Wrigley, according to the Birmingham Post & Mail, a British newspaper.

Debra McLaren, principal at Wolf Elementary, sent a letter to parents Friday informing them of the arrest...

Friday, November 30, 2012

High-tech companies that find certain autistic employees are the best at their jobs

I found this article fascinating. Click on the title to see the entire amazing story. It includes a boy who used Legos to tell the story of his life.

The Autism Advantage
New York Times
November 29, 2012

When Thorkil Sonne and his wife, Annette, learned that their 3-year-old son, Lars, had autism, they did what any parent who has faith in reason and research would do: They started reading. At first they were relieved that so much was written on the topic. “Then came sadness,” Annette says. Lars would have difficulty navigating the social world, they learned, and might never be completely independent. The bleak accounts of autistic adults who had to rely on their parents made them fear the future.

What they read, however, didn’t square with the Lars they came home to every day. He was a happy, curious boy, and as he grew, he amazed them with his quirky and astonishing abilities. If his parents threw out a date — Dec. 20, 1997, say — he could name, almost instantly, the day of the week (Saturday). And, far more usefully for his family, who live near Copenhagen, Lars knew the train schedules of all of Denmark’s major routes.

One day when Lars was 7, Thorkil Sonne was puttering around the house doing weekend chores while Lars sat on a wooden chair, hunched for hours over a sheet of paper, pencil in hand, sketching chubby rectangles and filling them with numerals in what seemed to represent a rough outline of Europe. The family had recently gone on a long car trip from Scotland to Germany, and Lars passed the time in the back seat studying a road atlas. Sonne walked over to a low shelf in the living room, pulled out the atlas and opened it up. The table of contents was presented as a map of the continent, with page numbers listed in boxes over the various countries (the fjords of Norway, Pages 34-35; Ireland, Pages 76-77). Thorkil returned to Lars’s side. He slid a finger along the atlas, moving from box to box, comparing the source with his son’s copy. Every number matched. Lars had reproduced the entire spread, from memory, without an error. “I was stunned, absolutely,” Sonne told me.

To his father, Lars seemed less defined by deficits than by his unusual skills. And those skills, like intense focus and careful execution, were exactly the ones that Sonne, who was the technical director at a spinoff of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecommunications company, often looked for in his own employees. Sonne did not consider himself an entrepreneurial type, but watching Lars — and hearing similar stories from parents he met volunteering with an autism organization — he slowly conceived a business plan: many companies struggle to find workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks, like data entry or software testing; some autistic people would be exceptionally good at those tasks. So in 2003, Sonne quit his job, mortgaged the family’s home, took a two-day accounting course and started a company called Specialisterne, Danish for “the specialists,” on the theory that, given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Huge amount of tax dollars spent unnecesarily for school attorneys

The case of Mike Harris v. Roseville Joint Union High School District (even the name of the school district is redundant!) should be shocking. Sadly, this behavior tends to be the norm for school districts.

"“During the lawsuit, I asked to see the district’s attorney bills so I could keep track of how much the district was spending,” Harris says. “I estimate the district paid around $300,000 total to their lawyers and my attorney to keep me from seeing my son’s records.”

“This is not just a question of them trying to violate my rights,” Harris adds. “This is a question of how much money was wasted in the attempt. $300,000 is a huge amount of money, especially now in hard economic times when so many teachers are losing their jobs and so many school programs are being cut. The $300,000 should have been used to pay for teachers, books, or other costs related to educating our students, not a misguided and irresponsible attempt to deny me my rights as a parent.

“It makes absolutely no sense to spend so much money that way. It would never happen if they had to spend their own money—but apparently they operate using different standards when they spend the taxpayers’ money.”

See remarks of Justice for Ninth Circuit in Ka. D. v. Solana Beach School District.

Parent: Trustees' Fight to Keep Records Secret Cost $300K
by Terry Francke, General Counsel
Californians Aware
December 5, 2011

A Northern California school district’s commitment to unlawful secrecy cost it an estimated $300,000 in attorney’s fees—most of it paid to two different law firms to unsuccessfully defend against a parent’s lawsuit to obtain access to his son’s pupil records, the parent says.

Almost two years ago, Mike Harris asked the Roseville Joint Union High School District to show him records in connection with his son’s expulsion from the basketball team for having created a satirical video—off campus and on his own time—about adolescent drug use in the affluent Granite Bay community, and posting it on Youtube. The district showed him some, but not all the requested records.

“They gave me what they said were my son’s complete official record but what they gave me was nowhere near the complete record. They claimed the electronic records and emails that they maintain and use on a daily basis were not official records and that they did not have to give them to me. They were wrong,” Harris says.

When Harris’ efforts to persuade the school to let him see more of his son’s pupil records failed, he hired Paul Nicholas Boylan, an attorney specializing in records access law, to file a lawsuit to help him gain access to the withheld information.

Last January Boylan commenced the court action arguing that the California Constitution, Education Code and Public Records Act gave Harris the right to view his son’s records and that the school district violated Harris’ rights as a parent when they decided to them secret.

The district hired Trujillo & Vinson, a San Francisco Bay Area law firm, to defend against Harris’ lawsuit.

[Maura Larkins comment: Why didn't Trujillo & Vinson tell the school that it must release the records? Because they wanted to keep taxpayer money flowing to their firm.]

“The District’s defense was vigorous,” Boylan says. “They did everything they could to prevent Mike from seeing records that any parent should be allowed to see. But in the end the court decided to defend not just Mike’s rights, but all parents’ rights to see their children’s school records.”

On May 20, Placer County Superior Court Commissioner Margret Wells entered judgment holding that the district violated Harris’ rights and ordered the district to provide Harris with access to a complete copy of his son’s records, including emails and other electronic records.

“It was a huge victory,” Harris says.

But the dispute wasn’t over. As the winning party, Harris asked the court to order the district to pay his attorney’s fees and court costs.

“That’s when things got really nasty,” Boylan says. “As hard as the district fought to avoid letting Mike see his son’s records, they fought even harder to avoid reimbursing Mike for what it cost him to enforce his rights.”

When Harris filed his request for reimbursement, the district hired a second law firm, Meyers & Nave, a large law firm with offices in six cities, to work with Trujillo & Vinson to oppose the claim. However, right before the hearing on Harris’ motion, the case settled when the district agreed to pay Harris’ attorney’s fees and court costs.

“During the lawsuit, I asked to see the district’s attorney bills so I could keep track of how much the district was spending,” Harris says. “I estimate the district paid around $300,000 total to their lawyers and my attorney to keep me from seeing my son’s records.”

“This is not just a question of them trying to violate my rights,” Harris adds. “This is a question of how much money was wasted in the attempt. $300,000 is a huge amount of money, especially now in hard economic times when so many teachers are losing their jobs and so many school programs are being cut. The $300,000 should have been used to pay for teachers, books, or other costs related to educating our students, not a misguided and irresponsible attempt to deny me my rights as a parent.

“It makes absolutely no sense to spend so much money that way. It would never happen if they had to spend their own money—but apparently th

ey operate using different standards when they spend the taxpayers’ money.” As part of the settlement, the district has agreed to let Harris meet with the district board of trustees.

“Over the past two years I have often wondered who was in charge and if they would be held responsible for wasting our taxpayer dollars,” Harris said. “I am certain the Board of Trustees does not know the real story of what happened in my case. They should know so that this does not happen to anyone else. We can’t afford it.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Solana Beach School District loses after using more tax money for yet another appeal in the Ka. D. v. Solana Beach case

See all Solana Beach School District posts.
See all Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz posts.

Irony alert: One of the partners of the Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm, Leslie Devaney, has been a board member of CALA, Californians Against Lawsuit Abuse, an organization that criticizes unnecessary litigation!

The only good thing that Solana Beach School District did for the taxpayers with its excessive spending on the Ka. D. v. Solana Beach case was to cause trustee Art Palkowitz to decide not to run for reelection. The District didn't intend to do this, of course. It probably thought no one would notice what it was up to.

After a justice on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal expressed astonishment that Solana Beach had already wasted so much taxpayer money on the case, Solana Beach School District paid even more public money to the firm to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Ninth Circuit seemed to be wondering what the school board members were thinking when they decided to pursue the case.

Here's what the justice said on Feb. 17, 2012 in Pasadena:

"I am curious.

"This whole dispute is about counsel [attorney] fees, I assume.

"Nobody in their right economic mind would be carrying this case to the Ninth Circuit that seems to me to involve something like $67,000 [in attorney fees]....

"What's really at stake here in terms of the lawsuit itself is whether you should reimburse somewhere between 6 and 7 thousand dollars [to the parents].

"For this amount of money you've gone through a hearing before a hearing officer, a proceeding in the District Court, and now you're appealing to the Ninth Circuit.

"It seems to me, and I don't blame you necessarily, I just want to be clear. This whole dispute is about counsel fees, isn't it?"

On Nov. 26, 2012 the Supreme Court denied the appeal.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cheating scandal: Feds say teachers hired stand-in to take their certification tests

I've been saying for years that we need more highly-capable teachers.

Cheating scandal: Feds say teachers hired stand-in to take their certification tests
By Adrian Sainz
The Associated Press
Nov. 25, 2012

It was a brazen and surprisingly long-lived scheme, authorities said, to help aspiring public school teachers cheat on the tests they must pass to prove they are qualified to lead their classrooms.

For 15 years, teachers in three Southern states paid Clarence Mumford Sr. — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.

Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.

Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created fake driver's licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.

The hired-test takers went to testing centers, showed the proctor the fake license, and passed the certification exam, prosecutors say. Then, the aspiring teacher used the test score to secure a job with a public school district, the indictment alleges. Fourteen people have been charged with mail and Social Security fraud, and four people have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the scheme.

Mumford "obtained tens of thousands of dollars" during the alleged conspiracy, which prosecutors say lasted from 1995 to 2010 in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Among those charged is former University of Tennessee and NFL wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who is accused of employing a test-taker for a Praxis physical education exam. He was charged in late October with four counts of Social Security and mail fraud. He has pleaded not guilty and is out of jail on a $10,000 bond. He has been suspended by the Memphis City Schools system.

If convicted, Mumford could face between two and 20 years in prison on each count. The teachers face between two and 20 years in prison on each count if convicted.

Lawyers for Mumford and Wilson did not return calls for comment.

Prosecutors and standardized test experts say students were hurt the most by the scheme because they were being taught by unqualified teachers. It also sheds some light on the nature of cheating and the lengths people go to in order to get ahead.

"As technology keeps advancing, there are more and more ways to cheat on tests of this kind," said Neal Kingston, director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas. "There's a never-ending war between those who try to maintain standards and those who are looking out for their own interests."

Cheating on standardized tests is not new, and it can be as simple as looking at the other person's test sheet. The Internet and cell phones have made it easier for students to cheat in a variety of ways. In the past few years, investigations into cheating on standardized tests for K-12 students have surfaced in Atlanta, New York and El Paso, Texas.

Still, most of the recent test-taking scandals involved students taking tests, not people taking teacher certification exams. Cheating scams involving teacher certification tests are more unusual, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

Schaeffer notes that a large-scale scandal involving teacher certification tests was discovered in 2000, also in the South. In that case, 52 teachers were charged with paying up to $1,000 apiece to a former Educational Testing Services proctor to ensure a passing grade on teacher certification tests.

Teachers from Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi took tests through Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark., in 1998. The college was not accused of wrongdoing.

Educational Testing Services also writes and administers the Praxis examinations involved in the Memphis case. ETS spokesman Tom Ewing said the company discovered the cheating in June 2009, conducted an investigation and canceled scores. The company began meeting with authorities to turn over the information in late 2009, Ewing said.

"These cases are rare, but we consider them to be very serious and something we have to guard against happening for all the honest test-takers, students and teachers," Ewing said.

Ewing said ETS observes test-takers and reviews test scores to try to root out cheaters. ETS also has received anonymous tips that have led them to cheaters, Ewing said.

Prosecutors in the Mumford case say he, the teachers and test-takers used the Internet and the U.S. Postal Service to register and pay for the tests, and to receive payment. The indictment does not say how much he allegedly paid the test-takers.

An experienced educator, Mumford was working for Memphis City Schools when the alleged scam took place. Authorities say Mumford defrauded the three states by making the fake driver's licenses.

"What happens at many testing centers is that a whole bunch of test-takers show up simultaneously, early on a Saturday morning, and the proctors give only a cursory look to the identification," Schaeffer said. "It's not like going through airport security where a guy holds up a magnifying glass and puts our license under ultraviolet light to make sure it has not been tampered with."

Mumford was fired after news of the investigation came out, and others, like Wilson, have been suspended. But at least three teachers implicated in the scandal remain employed with their school district.

Kingston, the university professor, said prospective teachers may not be confident in their knowledge base to pass the test. Or, the cheaters may believe they are smart enough to pass on their own but also know they are poor test takers.

Kingston said his research has shown that cheating on exams is getting more prevalent.

"The propensity to cheat on exams both through college and for licensure and certification exams seems to be increasing over time," said Kingston. "People often don't see it as something wrong."

The pressure of passing the test could make people do things they normally would not do. And it could take a while for authorities and test-taking services to catch up with the cheaters.

"When people come up with a new method for cheating, it takes some time for folks to figure it out, partly because this has been an understudied area in the field of assessment," Kingston said.

Nina Monfredo, a 23-year-old history teacher at Power Center Academy in Memphis, has taken Praxis exams for history, geography, middle school content, and secondary teaching and learning.

Monfredo, who passed all her tests and is not involved in the fraud case, said the exams she took were relatively easy for someone who has a high school education. She said some people use study aids to prepare, but she didn't. And she didn't feel much pressure because it was her understanding that she could take the test again if she did not pass.

"If you feel like you can't pass and you hire someone it means you really didn't know what you were doing," she said. "I think it would be easier to just learn what's on the test."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Elementary teacher was abusive, parents say

Three comments on the story below:

Ken Platt · Works at Dept of The Navy

If there was really anything to this case then charges would have been filed and the teacher would have been name by now. Especially since this has been supposedly going on for 5 years.

Aaron Burgin [reporter]· Vista, California

Not necessarily, Ken. One of the points of the article is that the administrators haven't filed charges in cases of emotional abuse. So, no, charges might not have been filed even if there was anything to the case.

Maura Larkins

Here we have yet another reason why schools should conduct meaningful evaluations of teachers. The current system is a joke. Evaluations by principals are virtually useless because they are compromised by school politics. Many abusive teachers are protected by administrators and the teachers union. Outsiders should be coming in to schools and observing teachers, and the observations should be stepped up when the question of abuse arises, to protect both students and teachers.

Elementary teacher was abusive, parents say
Humiliation of kids should be reported beyond administrators, they contend
Aaron Burgin
Nov. 21, 2012

SAN DIEGO — For five years, a group of parents complained that one Hardy Elementary teacher’s behavior toward students went beyond discipline — they said it was abuse.

According to their children, the teacher would hurl books across the class or publicly humiliate kids who had body odor by spraying them with aerosol. The teacher would instruct classmates to “think bad thoughts” about students who misbehaved, forgot homework or did poorly on an assignment.

The parents complained to the College Area school principal and followed up with a written complaint to the district. Eventually they were told their complaints lacked merit.

Now, the parents are pressing for the San Diego Unified School District to take a stronger stance against emotional abuse — with steps including reporting accused teachers to law enforcement for investigation.

Although that might sound excessive for a teacher who never laid a hand on a student — and in fact, nonphysical abuse is a crime that’s rarely, if ever, prosecuted — state law and district policy call for just that response.

“The district administrators have turned their backs on our kids,” said Susan Hopps-Tatum, who has emerged as parent advocate for the district to better address cases of reported abuse by its employees. “Emotional abuse has as much of an effect on our children as physical abuse, and the district fails to recognize this.”

The state penal code includes emotional abuse in its definition of child abuse and requires teachers and administrators to report even suspected abuse to child welfare or the police.

According to the school district’s administrative code, “Examples of emotional abuse include such things as belittling, screaming, threats, blaming and sarcasm.”

School district and law enforcement officials would not comment on the specific complaints by the Hardy parents.

They did say the requirement for reporting emotional child abuse is not nearly as clear cut as the parents are reading it.

Area Superintendent David Lorden, who reviewed the Hardy complaints, told The Watchdog he believes the district has the right to conduct its own inquiry to determine if a case “rises to the level of abuse.”

“Until we prove otherwise, they are just allegations,” Lorden said. “It can’t be like, ‘I don’t like the way my teacher talked to my child.’”

That process — letting district officials conduct their own review and decide whether to involve other authorities— seems to be the prevailing practice.

Officials with the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, which would prosecute local emotional abuse cases, said it has never handled a straight emotional abuse case.

“When we do handle those cases, they are usually the underlying count of a sexual, spousal or physical abuse case,” said Gina Coburn, spokeswoman for Jan Goldsmith’s office. “There hasn’t been one tried by itself.”

Judith Neufeld-Hernandez, a substitute teacher who pulled her son out of San Diego schools in response to his complaints about the Hardy teacher, said her son would beg his parents on Sunday nights not to make him go to school on Mondays.

“He told me that being in her class was like being a gladiator: You don’t know whether you are going to the lion’s den or if it will be your classmate,” Neufeld-Hernandez said.

Hardy Principal Kathy Wolfe declined to comment. A reporter was not allowed to speak to the teacher involved in the complaint. The U-T is withholding the teacher’s name because the district deemed the complaint unsubstantiated.

School district officials said they do not track complaints against teachers. They said the language of the law gives the district latitude in responding.

“To some parents, if their kid gets screamed at by their teacher, they consider that abuse,” district spokeswoman Linda Zintz said. “If we were to report each of these complaints, law enforcement would be inundated.”v Rod Pacheco, the state assemblyman who sponsored the bill updating the state’s child abuse and mandated reporter laws, said school officials have a duty to report teacher behavior such as what was alleged at Hardy to authorities.

“You’re not entitled to do things like that; it’s not 1910 anymore,” Pacheco said. “It’s 2012. You just don’t get to treat kids that way.”

Pacheco, who handled several high-profile sexual abuse cases during his tenure as Riverside County’s district attorney, disagreed with school officials’ interpretation of the law.

“Clearly, they are not supposed to be evaluating the complaint,” Pacheco said. “If some child says, ‘Teacher X has abused me,’ it is not incumbent on them to decide if that is true. That is not the foundation of whether they report it.

“When they get a complaint they have a duty to report it, period. If it is false, the authorities will determine it is false.”...

Monday, November 19, 2012

How Free Speech Died on Campus

It is important to note that Mr. McShane did not block Ann Coulter's speech. A country with free speech needs to teach students the difference between serious discussion of issues and irrational, anti-social ranting. I'm not saying that Ann Coulter is an irrational, anti-social ranter, but one would need to stop and think carefully before deciding one way or the other. I think this is exactly what the Fordham students did. I think it is reasonable to conclude that the Republican students at Fordham decided they didn't want their organization to be identified with Ann Coulter.

How Free Speech Died on Campus
A young activist describes how universities became the most authoritarian institutions in America.
November 16, 2012

At Yale University, you can be prevented from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on your T-shirt. At Tufts, you can be censured for quoting certain passages from the Quran. Welcome to the most authoritarian institution in America: the modern university—"a bizarre, parallel dimension," as Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, calls it.

Mr. Lukianoff, a 38-year-old Stanford Law grad, has spent the past decade fighting free-speech battles on college campuses. The latest was last week at Fordham University, where President Joseph McShane scolded College Republicans for the sin of inviting Ann Coulter to speak.

"To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans . . . would be a tremendous understatement," Mr. McShane said in a Nov. 9 statement condemning the club's invitation to the caustic conservative pundit. He vowed to "hold out great contempt for anyone who would intentionally inflict pain on another human being because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed."

To be clear, Mr. McShane didn't block Ms. Coulter's speech, but he said that her presence would serve as a "test" for Fordham. A day later, the students disinvited Ms. Coulter. Mr. McShane then praised them for having taken "responsibility for their decisions" and expressing "their regrets sincerely and eloquently."

Mr. Lukianoff says that the Fordham-Coulter affair took campus censorship to a new level: "This was the longest, strongest condemnation of a speaker that I've ever seen in which a university president also tried to claim that he was defending freedom of speech."

I caught up with Mr. Lukianoff at New York University in downtown Manhattan, where he was once targeted by the same speech restrictions that he has built a career exposing. Six years ago, a student group at the university invited him to participate in a panel discussion about the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that had sparked violent rioting by Muslims across the world.

When Muslim students protested the event, NYU threatened to close the panel to the public if the offending cartoons were displayed. The discussion went on—without the cartoons. Instead, the student hosts displayed a blank easel, registering their own protest.

"The people who believe that colleges and universities are places where we want less freedom of speech have won," Mr. Lukianoff says. "If anything, there should be even greater freedom of speech on college campuses. But now things have been turned around to give campus communities the expectation that if someone's feelings are hurt by something that is said, the university will protect that person. As soon as you allow something as vague as Big Brother protecting your feelings, anything and everything can be punished."

You might say Greg Lukianoff was born to fight college censorship. With his unruly red hair and a voice given to booming, he certainly looks and sounds the part. His ethnically Irish, British-born mother moved to America during the 1960s British-nanny fad, while his Russian father came from Yugoslavia to study at the University of Wisconsin. Russian history, Mr. Lukianoff says, "taught me about the worst things that can happen with good intentions."

Growing up in an immigrant neighborhood in Danbury, Conn., sharpened his views. When "you had so many people from so many different backgrounds, free speech made intuitive sense," Mr. Lukianoff recalls. "In every genuinely diverse community I've ever lived in, freedom of speech had to be the rule. . . . I find it deeply ironic that on college campuses diversity is used as an argument against unbridled freedom of speech."

After graduating from Stanford, where he specialized in First Amendment law, he joined the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an organization co-founded in 1999 by civil-rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate and Alan Charles Kors, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania, to counter the growing but often hidden threats to free speech in academia. FIRE's tactics include waging publicity campaigns intended to embarrass college administrators into dropping speech-related disciplinary charges against individual students, or reversing speech-restricting policies. When that fails, FIRE often takes its cases to court, where it tends to prevail.

In his new book, "Unlearning Liberty," Mr. Lukianoff notes that baby-boom Americans who remember the student protests of the 1960s tend to assume that U.S. colleges are still some of the freest places on earth. But that idealized university no longer exists. It was wiped out in the 1990s by administrators, diversity hustlers and liability-management professionals, who were often abetted by professors committed to political agendas.

"What's disappointing and rightfully scorned," Mr. Lukianoff says, "is that in some cases the very professors who were benefiting from the free-speech movement turned around to advocate speech codes and speech zones in the 1980s and '90s."

Today, university bureaucrats suppress debate with anti-harassment policies that function as de facto speech codes. FIRE maintains a database of such policies on its website, and Mr. Lukianoff's book offers an eye-opening sampling. What they share is a view of "harassment" so broad and so removed from its legal definition that, Mr. Lukianoff says, "literally every student on campus is already guilty."

At Western Michigan University, it is considered harassment to hold a "condescending sex-based attitude." That just about sums up the line "I think of all Harvard men as sissies" (from F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1920 novel "This Side of Paradise"), a quote that was banned at Yale when students put it on a T-shirt. Tufts University in Boston proscribes the holding of "sexist attitudes," and a student newspaper there was found guilty of harassment in 2007 for printing violent passages from the Quran and facts about the status of women in Saudi Arabia during the school's "Islamic Awareness Week."

At California State University in Chico, it was prohibited until recently to engage in "continual use of generic masculine terms such as to refer to people of both sexes or references to both men and women as necessarily heterosexual." Luckily, there is no need to try to figure out what the school was talking about—the prohibition was removed earlier this year after FIRE named it as one of its two "Speech Codes of the Year" in 2011.

At Northeastern University, where I went to law school, it is a violation of the Internet-usage policy to transmit any message "which in the sole judgment" of administrators is "annoying."

Conservatives and libertarians are especially vulnerable to such charges of harassment. Even though Mr. Lukianoff's efforts might aid those censorship victims, he hardly counts himself as one of them: He says that he is a lifelong Democrat and a "passionate believer" in gay marriage and abortion rights. And free speech. "If you're going to get in trouble for an opinion on campus, it's more likely for a socially conservative opinion."

Consider the two students at Colorado College who were punished in 2008 for satirizing a gender-studies newsletter. The newsletter had included boisterous references to "male castration," "feminist porn" and other unprintable matters. The satire, published by the "Coalition of Some Dudes," tamely discussed "chainsaw etiquette" ("your chainsaw is not an indoor toy") and offered quotations from Teddy Roosevelt and The college found the student satirists guilty of "the juxtaposition of weaponry and sexuality."

"Even when we win our cases," says Mr. Lukianoff, "the universities almost never apologize to the students they hurt or the faculty they drag through the mud." Brandeis University has yet to withdraw a 2007 finding of racial harassment against Prof. Donald Hindley for explaining the origins of "wetback" in a Latin-American Studies course. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis apologized to a janitor found guilty of harassment—for reading a book celebrating the defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in the presence of two black colleagues—but only after protests by FIRE and an op-ed in these pages by Dorothy Rabinowitz.

What motivates college administrators to act so viciously? "It's both self-interest and ideological commitment," Mr. Lukianoff says. On the ideological front, "it's almost like you flip a switch, and these administrators, who talk so much about treating every student with dignity and compassion, suddenly come to see one student as a caricature of societal evil."

Administrative self-interest is also at work. "There's been this huge expansion in the bureaucratic class at universities," Mr. Lukianoff explains. "They passed the number of people involved in instruction sometime around 2006. So you get this ever-renewing crop of administrators, and their jobs aren't instruction but to police student behavior. In the worst cases, they see it as their duty to intervene on students' deepest beliefs."

Consider the University of Delaware, which in fall 2007 instituted an ideological orientation for freshmen. The "treatment," as the administrators called it, included personal interviews that probed students' private lives with such questions as: "When did you discover your sexual identity?" Students were taught in group sessions that the term racist "applies to all white people" while "people of color cannot be racists." Once FIRE spotlighted it, the university dismantled the program.

Yet in March 2012, Kathleen Kerr, the architect of the Delaware program, was elected vice president of the American College Personnel Association, the professional group of university administrators.

A 2010 survey by the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that of 24,000 college students, only 35.6% strongly agreed that "it is safe to hold unpopular views on campus." When the question was asked of 9,000 campus professionals—who are more familiar with the enforcement end of the censorship rules—only 18.8% strongly agreed.

Mr. Lukianoff thinks all of this should alarm students, parents and alumni enough to demand change: "If just a handful more students came in knowing what administrators are doing at orientation programs, with harassment codes, or free-speech zones—if students knew this was wrong—we could really change things."

The trouble is that students are usually intimidated into submission. "The startling majority of students don't bother. They're too concerned about their careers, too concerned about their grades, to bother fighting back," he says.

Family Claims Football Coach Injured Boy

This story is remarkably similar to the LeBlanc v. Poway Unified case.

Family Claims Football Coach Injured Boy
By Diana Guevara
Oct 4, 2012

Tamara Hansel tells NBC 7 reporter Diana Guevara that a football coach for the San Marcos Pop Warner Football League allegedly harmed her son.

A mother has filed a restraining order against a youth football coach after she claims her son was injured by him.

Tamara Hansel’s 10-year-old son began playing with the San Marcos Pop Warner Football League last month. She claims when the boys began misbehaving, Coach Greg Stephens singled her son out and caused assault injuries to her boy.

“When he got to our son he grabbed him by the front of his chest plate, dug his fingers into his neck and shook him front to back side to side very roughly,” Hansel said. “Which left my son with whiplash and a concussion. He's actually been out of sports now for three weeks.”

Hansel and her husband took their son to the hospital after he began vomiting, she said. Then they called the police and on Sept. 14 they filed a restraining order. Hansel said her husband, Dan Hoffman, argued with the coach just days before the incident, saying that he was punishing his son too hard by making him run too many laps in the heat.

“He has specifically said I will punish your son for your actions he was speaking to my husband,” she said. “Then this happened the following Sunday.”

NBC 7 San Diego tried to reach Stephens, who is also the current president of the Pop Warner Football League, but he has not returned any phone calls.

Court documents show his response to the allegations, where he defends his coaching. "I don't find either one of these activities to be punishing as football requires running, strength and mental awareness,” court documents state. “I am not a coach who strives on punishment.”

Hansel says her son has since been switched to another football team within Pop Warner and that they still come in contact with Stephens. She said Stephens has to remain at least 25 feet away from her and her son.

There are no criminal charges pending at this time.