Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scathing report on for-profit colleges and their $32 billion in tax dollars

Scathing report on for-profit colleges and their $32 billion in tax dollars
July 30, 2012
by Maureen Downey
AJC Get Schooled blog

The for-profit colleges are taking billions in tax dollars with little to show for it, according to a report that will be issued today from a U.S. Senate committee.

Despite $32 billion in federal student aid to the colleges, most of the students never earn a degree, indicating that taxpayers are being saddled with a losing investment. However, the for-profits colleges don’t fail everyone, least of all their executives — the CEOs of the colleges were paid an average of $7.3 million, according to the report.

The scathing report states that more than 80 percent of the for-profit college revenues comes from taxpayers. Because of its larger and larger claim on tax dollars, the for-profit college industry has come under greater scrutiny. Latest numbers show that the for-profits enroll 13 percent of the nation’s college students. Yet, those students represent nearly half of all the defaults on college loans.

And government loans are the oil that keeps the for-profit college industry running. Nearly 96 percent of students at for-profit schools take out loans, compared with about 13 percent at community colleges and 48 percent at four-year public universities.

According to Sen. Tom Harkin, who led the Senate investigation:

Enrollment at for-profit schools has grown dramatically over the past decade. Between 1998 and 2008, the number of students attending for-profit schools has grown from 553,000 to 1.8 million, an increase of more than 225 percent.

In order to drive enrollment growth, for-profit schools spend heavily on television advertisements, billboards, phone solicitation, and web marketing. The pressure on recruiters to enroll as many potential students as possible can give rise to recruiting practices that are overzealous or misleading.

For-profit schools are far more expensive than comparable programs at community colleges or public universities. The average tuition for a for-profit school is about six times higher than a community college and twice as high as a 4-year public school.

For-profit schools provide access to many students who have historically not been well served by traditional institutions of higher education. But data collected by the Senate H.E.L.P. Committee shows that many for-profit schools are not providing the support structure to help these students succeed. The data shows that fifty-four percent of students who enrolled in the 2008-2009 school year withdrew by summer 2010.

Close to one in four students who attends a for-profit school defaults on his or her federal student loans within 3 years of leaving school. This high rate of default combined with the fact that nearly all students at for-profit schools must borrow money to pay the cost of tuition, has resulted in a sector that enrolls approximately 13 percent of American higher education students but accounts for nearly 50 percent of all student loan defaults.

Despite poor student outcomes, for-profit schools are highly profitable companies. Profits at 16 of the largest for-profit schools totaled $2.7 billion in 2009.

According to The New York Times:

“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation,” Mr. Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement on Sunday. “These practices are not the exception — they are the norm. They are systemic throughout the industry, with very few individual exceptions.”

In a statement on Sunday, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the leading trade group of for-profit colleges, called the report “the result of a flawed process that has unfairly targeted private-sector schools and their students.”

Over the last 15 years, enrollment and profits have skyrocketed in the industry. Until the 1990s, the sector was made up of small independent schools offering training in fields like air-conditioning repair and cosmetology. But from 1998 to 2008, enrollment more than tripled, to about 2.4 million students. Three-quarters are at colleges owned by huge publicly traded companies — and, more recently, private equity firms — offering a wide variety of programs.

Enrolling students, and getting their federal financial aid, is the heart of the business, and in 2010, the report found, the colleges studied had a total of 32,496 recruiters, compared with 3,512 career-services staff members.

Among the 30 companies, an average of 22.4 percent of revenue went to marketing and recruiting, 19.4 percent to profits and 17.7 percent to instruction. Their chief executive officers were paid an average of $7.3 million, although Robert S. Silberman, the chief executive of Strayer Education, made $41 million in 2009, including stock options.

With the Department of Education seeking new regulations to ensure that for-profit programs provide training for “gainful employment,” the companies examined spent $8 million on lobbying in 2010, and another $8 million in the first nine months of 2011.

Many of the for-profit colleges, the report found, set tuition at almost exactly what a student could expect in maximum federal aid, including Pell grants and Stafford loans. According to a Bridgepoint Education document, when a new $400 “digital materials fee” would make students pay more than would be available from federal aid, the chief executive frantically wrote an e-mail to the finance officer to complain that the change was going to cause a “shortfall.” And documents from Alta Colleges mention restructuring schedules “so we can grab more of the students’ Stafford.”

Homework overload gets an 'F' from experts

Homework overload gets an 'F' from experts
By Corey Binns

It seems the smoke has barely cleared from those Fourth of July celebrations, but in many parts of the U.S., parents are trying to light fires under their kids in an effort to get them studying for the new school year.

Unfortunately, new research shows the amount of time kids clock in out of school may not pay off.

Kids who do more homework actually perform worse on standardized tests, according to research by Sydney University educational psychologist Richard Walker, author of the forthcoming book, Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies.

Homework only boosts student scores in the final three years of high school, says Walker, and only these older high school students should be doing a couple of hours of homework a night. Younger students only benefit from small assignments, if they’re getting help at home.

But that's not the end of the homework hurdles.

High-achieving students who are swamped with homework can suffer from poor mental and physical health,says Stanford University professor Denise Pope.

In fact, findings consistently show that homework has very limited value in the elementary grades...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Chula Vista Educators president Jennefer Porch conceals identities of CVE board members just as her predecessor did

The annual CTA Presidents' Conference is taking place at Asilomar State Beach (see photo) near Monterey.

New Chula Vista Educators president Jennefer Porch is up at Asilomar this week at the annual CTA Presidents' Conference, but she left instructions with her staff not to release the names of CVE officers. It's a deeply ingrained habit at CVE. The names have been left off the CVE website for over a year.

Perhaps CTA President Dean Vogel can give Jennefer some tips about how to run CVE. I myself had a nice chat with Mr. Vogel at the conference a few years ago. (I was a lowly CTA member, not a chapter president, but Mr. Vogel was very nice.)

Jennefer replaced Peg Myers as president of CVE when Peg took a job as Director of Human Resources for the same school distsrict, but Jennefer doesn't seem to have replaced Peg's policies regarding secrecy. Furtiveness has been in force since 2001 when former presidents Gina Boyd and Jim Groth and executive director Tim O'Neill decided to cover up crimes by Gina's friend Robin Donlan at Castle Park Elementary.

Jennefer held a meeting on July 10, 2012. It was advertised as the meeting when a decision would be made as to who the new officers would be. Obviously, the job of vice-president was up for grabs. CTA advertises itself as a democratic institution, but it is actually hierarchical, and the power structure is decided through back room politics, not elections. Some locals are democratic, but Chula Vista Educators is obviously not one of those. Secrecy and democracy can't co-exist.

Greenland melts, open water in Arctic Ocean-scientists

Greenland melts, open water in Arctic Ocean-scientists
Jul 25, 2012
By Deborah Zabarenko

For a few days this month, NASA's images of the Greenland ice sheet turned red, indicating that for a while, almost the entire surface of the vast frozen island was melting.

The big melt in Greenland is part of an overall picture of an unusually warm season across the Arctic, with much of the sea route from Western Europe to the Pacific as free of ice in July as it normally would be by summer's end, the chief of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said on Wednesday.

On an average summer, about half of Greenland's surface ice melts, according to NASA. This summer, satellites showed about 97 percent of the ice sheet thawed at some point in mid-July.

The change was swift, as seen in images...

On July 8, there was a big white area in the middle of the image, indicating that 40 percent of Greenland's surface had thawed; by July 12, virtually the whole island was pictured as red, showing widespread defrosting.

For Mark Serreze, director and senior research scientist at the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center, one interesting aspect of the Greenland event is its relative rarity.

This kind of comprehensive surface melting might happen about every 150 years or so in Greenland, which would make this year unusual but not unprecedented, Serreze said by telephone.

However, he said, most of the previous events were clustered around a period 7,000 years ago known as the Holocene Thermal Maximum, when variations in the sun's tilt on its axis sent more sunshine to extreme northern latitudes, warming them up. There is no such solar tilt going on now, but the melt is occurring just the same...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Priest who knew about abuse and kept quiet given 6-year prison term

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Edmund Burke

Sexual predators in Philadelphia Catholic Churches (and schools!) could not have continued if Msgr. William Lynn had gone to the authorities. Lynn's silence allowed many priests to continue their predation, so it is perhaps appropriate that he got a longer sentence than one priest who abused children. (Of course, there are other cases where it is obvious that the less guilty person got a more severe sentence.)

Philadelphia Monsignor Gets Up to Six Years in Prison
Peter Loftus
Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2012

A Roman Catholic monsignor was sentenced Tuesday to as many as six years in prison for allowing a priest suspected of sexual misconduct with a minor to have continued contact with children.

The penalty for Msgr. William Lynn, 61, came a month after a Philadelphia jury found him guilty of child endangerment. The verdict marked the first time a senior U.S. Church official was convicted of a criminal charge related to allegations of covering up sexual abuse of minors by other priests. Msgr. Lynn, served as secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, a job that included investigating abuse allegations lodged against priests in the diocese.

"You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong," Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told the cleric before handing down a sentence of three to six years in a state prison.

Before the judge sentenced him, Msgr. Lynn apologized to the abuse victim at the center of the case. "I did the best with what I could…but the fact is my best was not good enough to stop the harm, and for that, I am sorry." Msgr. Lynn wasn't charged with abusing any children.

His conviction was based on evidence that in the 1990s he recommended a new assignment for a priest, Edward Avery, to live in a rectory near a church school despite having determined that Mr. Avery committed sexual misconduct with a boy several years earlier. In his new assignment, Mr. Avery sexually assaulted a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999; the now-defrocked Mr. Avery is serving 2½ to five years in prison after pleading guilty in March to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy.

Monsignor William Lynn, shown in June, was sentenced to six years in prison for allowing a priest suspected of sexual misconduct with a minor to have continued contact with children.

Msgr. Lynn's sentence fell short of the maximum of 3½ to seven years in prison but was above court guidelines of nine to 18 months. Judge Sarmina said she exceeded the guidelines because Msgr. Lynn endangered children who were exposed to Mr. Avery for several years after Msgr. Lynn became aware of the prior abuse allegations against Mr. Avery. She also said Msgr. Lynn facilitated and supported other accused priests, including one she called a "monster in clerical garb."

"A lesser sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime," said Judge Sarmina.

Victims' advocates and prosecutors were hoping for the maximum but said Tuesday the sentence would still send a message. "The message is clear: Victims have to come first, before institutions," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said after the sentencing.

Msgr. Lynn's supporters called the sentence excessive, arguing that his hands were tied because his superiors controlled assignments for priests. Some said it was unfair that Mr. Avery, who pleaded guilty to committing abuse, received a lesser prison term than Msgr. Lynn...

Monday, July 23, 2012

San Diego student exchange sponsor PIE suspended; our own Danielle Grijalva is an international advocate for students

Danielle Grijalva, San Diego advocate for exchange students, helped expose problems.
See all Danielle Grijalva posts.

Student exchange sponsor suspended
Associated Press
July 19, 2012

Hundreds of high school exchange students could be affected by a State Department decision to suspend the sponsor-company that was to bring them to the United States.

A department official told The Associated Press on Thursday that Pacific Intercultural Exchange, or PIE, of San Diego was suspended from the popular exchange program on Tuesday.

The official said the agency is working with at least four foreign students now in the U.S. Other sponsoring organizations are trying to find host families for 455 students from 18 countries who had been recruited by the company, but they may have to put off their exchanges until later.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said PIE was suspended for "violating exchange program regulations," but wouldn't elaborate.

The State Department put the company on probation last year, reduced the number of students it could sponsor by 15 percent and ordered it to improve program administration.

A message seeking comment from PIE wasn't immediately returned Thursday. The company's website says it is a nonprofit organization that has facilitated exchanges for more than 25,000 high school students from all over the world since 1975.

The Exchange Visitor Program brings close to 30,000 high school students to the United States each year. Foreign students live with a host family and attend U.S. schools.

...Advocacy groups often blame the sponsoring organizations, designated by the State Department, for problems that have led to neglect and abuse of the participants, like not properly vetting host families.

Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, said it's rare for the State Department to suspend an organization from sponsoring students.

"I believe this action by the State Department exceeds sending a simple `wake-up' call to its sponsors," Grijalva said. "We have nearly 30,000 high school students from across the globe anxious to come to the United States to learn more about American culture and spend thousands of dollars to do so. These students must leave our country at the end of their program with nothing less than a positive impression of the United States."

A lawsuit filed last year in Portland, Ore., alleges that a German student was molested after PIE placed the student in a home with a host father who had a criminal record for fraud.

The complaint, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, said the host father pleaded guilty in December 2010 to four acts of sexual abuse against the student. The lawsuit alleges that PIE did not do an adequate background check.

Earlier this year, AP obtained internal State Department documents that said a review by the agency last year found that 15 of its 39 "largest fee-charging" sponsors were in "regulatory noncompliance," though it didn't say what rules were violated. The memos said the State Department took steps to sever its relationship with one sponsor after the company placed a student "with a host family whose criminal background check revealed a murder conviction."

The State Department told AP in March that it had received 43 allegations of sexual abuse since the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, but it's not clear if any of those were students sponsored by PIE.

The State Department has adopted several rules designed to safeguard students in the high school program, including requiring all sponsors to photograph the exterior of the house, the kitchen and student's bedroom. Host families also must provide outside character references. Previously, family members and sponsors could be such references.

But the State Department documents also showed that the agency considered but dropped a plan to require FBI background checks similar to what are used by the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts because it wasn't "feasible."

Important information for students going to USA under exchange programme
News Central Asia
23 July 2012

Ashgabat (nCa) — For the young students traveling alone for the first time, it is a big leap into the unknown when they leave home for a year of study in the United States, and stay with a family they never met before.

All kinds of things can happen out there when the students are disconnected from their familiar support system of family, friends and the society – and, unpleasant things do happen from time to time.

Except for those funded by the Department of State, most of the exchange programmes are fee-based. Spending several thousand dollars for a year of schooling and stay in the United States means big investment for an average family in Central Asia.

What if the dream turns into a nightmare? What if your daughter gets placed in a family headed by a sex offender? What if someone confiscates here passport and money under some dubious pretext? What if she has a problem but doesn’t know who to talk to you? —- She is thousands of kilometers away from you and she needs immediate assistance or advice: Who should she turn to?

There are several volunteer organizations in the US that offer assistance to the exchange students. The best among them, as far as we know, is the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES).

Found by Ms. Danielle Grijalva some seven years ago, CSFES has evolved into a dedicated powerhouse for well-rounded and effective support for the exchange students.

In the United States... Ms. Grijalva has turned the tide nearly single-handedly in favour of exchange students. The tremendous courage to lock horns with the mightiest machinery of the bureaucracy, the moral timbre that never errs, the tireless pursuit to right the wrong, the boundless love that is not limited to just her own children, and the ability to keep a growing team of volunteers fully focused on the challenge are some of the essential traits that define Danielle Grijalva.

We would recommend strongly that any foreign exchange students in the United States (and also their parents), when faced by a problem should immediately contact CFES.

There are several ways to get in touch with them. The easiest is to go to visit the contact page on their website and send them a message.

It is also possible to phone them at 760-583-9593.

Their postal address is: Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, P.O. Box 6496, Oceanside, CA 92056, U.S.A.

Before you leave for the United States, it would be advisable to go the website of CSFES and read carefully the guidelines and tips provided by them. There is a wealth of information, gathered and created by them over the years.

Tips for Parents – When searching for an organization
(from CSFES website)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rapists withdraw motion to charge 17-year-old sexual assault victim for tweeting names of attackers


Savannah Dietrich Doesn't Face Contempt Charge For Revealing Names Of Sexual Attackers
Huff Post

Savannah Dietrich was threatened with a contempt charge for tweeting the names of the teens who sexually assaulted her.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A 17-year-old Kentucky girl who defied a court order by tweeting the names of two teenagers who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her won't face a contempt charge.

David Mejia (meh-HEE'-yah), an attorney for one of the accused boys, says the motion to hold 17-year-old Savannah Dietrich of Louisville in contempt was withdrawn Monday.

Mejia says the decision had nothing to do with public sentiment in the case, although an online petition campaign had garnered more than 62,000 signatures. He said there's no need for the motion now that Dietrich spread word about the case over the Internet.

Dietrich told The Courier-Journal she tweeted the names out of frustration with what she feels was a lenient deal for her attackers.

I can understand the desire to protect the identities of juvenile offenders, but I do not believe the court can legally silence a victim. She never agreed to be silent, and there is no law that compels her silence. The offenders can give up some rights in exchange for a deal, but the victim isn't the one making the deal. She doesn't have to give up any rights. This wouldn't even be an issue except that most victims are too damaged and intimidated to speak out.

See Petition to judge in this case.

17-year-old sexual assault victim could face charges for tweeting names of attackers
By Dylan Stableford
Yahoo! News
July 22, 2012

A Kentucky girl who was sexually assaulted could face contempt of court charges after she tweeted the names of her juvenile attackers.

Savannah Dietrich, the 17-year-old victim, was frustrated by a plea deal reached late last month by the two boys who assaulted her, and took to Twitter to expose them--violating a court order to keep their names confidential.

"There you go, lock me up," Dietrich tweeted after naming the perpetrators. "I'm not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell." Her Twitter account has since been closed.

Attorneys for the attackers asked a Jefferson District Court judge to hold Dietrich in contempt for lashing out on Twitter. She could face up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine if convicted. The boys have yet to be sentenced for the August 2011 attack. "So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys," Dietrich told Louisville's Courier-Journal. "I'm at the point, that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it. If they really feel it's necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don't understand justice."

Dietrich was assaulted by the pair after passing out at a party. They later shared photos of the assault with friends.

"For months, I cried myself to sleep," Dietrich said. "I couldn't go out in public places."

On June 26, the boys pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism. Terms of their plea agreement were not released.

"They got off very easy," Dietrich, who says she was unaware of the plea agreement before it was announced in court, said in her interview with the newspaper. "They said I can't talk about it or I'll be locked up," Dietrich tweeted after hearing, according to the paper. "So I'm waiting for them to read this and lock me up."

"[Protecting rapists] is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville," she added.

A hearing for the contempt of court charge is scheduled for July 30. Attorneys for Dietrich want it open to the media, while the boys lawyers want it closed. Both the Gannett-owned Courier-Journal and Dietrich's attorneys "have filed motions to open the proceedings, arguing she has a First Amendment right to speak about what happened in her case," the newspaper said.

An online petition asking the judge to throw out the charges against Dietrich, launched Saturday, has already accumulated hundreds of signatures.

"[She] should not be legally barred from talking about what happened to her," Gregg Leslie, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Associated Press. "That's a wide-ranging restraint on speech."

This case actually reminds me a bit of my own case.

School investigation in Claremont USD a waste of taxpayer money?

It seems that a school investigator up in Claremont, Edward Saucerman, is almost as controversial as San Diego's ubiquitous school investigator Robert Price. Well, not quite. Mr. Saucerman's investigation cost $20,000. That hardly compares to the $1.5 million cost of Bob Price's MiraCosta College investigation that exposed $305 in water bills that hadn't been properly remimbursed.

Do Saucerman and Price approach their jobs with a pre-set agenda? I suspect that schools don't spend $1.5 million unless they are determined to find something bad to pin on someone. In this day of school budget cuts, they don't even spend $20,000 unless they're hoping to find something.

Usually investigators work closely with the law firms that hire them, and the law firms work closely with school administrators. I don't think the school administrators wanted an impartial investigation. My guess is that they wanted someone to find as much dirt as he good. It appears the investigator came up empty.

Change of fate for D'Emilio brings questions about investigation
Kathryn Dunn
Claremont Courier
May 31, 2012

After months of investigation and community uproar, Frank D’Emilio has been reinstated as a teacher for the fall. As many residents grapple with what proved to be an emotional narrative, lingering questions about the investigation remain unanswered. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Kevin Ward said that CUSD enlisted Workforce Investigations on the recommendation of the district’s legal counsel to investigate allegations Mr. D’Emilio had failed to report suspected child abuse. This is the first time CUSD has utilized the services of Workforce Investigations or its lead investigator, Edward Saucerman.

The use of a private investigator, according to Mr. Ward, was recommended because the district’s legal counsel felt the best practice was to hire an outside, impartial party to look into the matter. Brian Bock of Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost, who has worked with Mr. Saucerman for 10 years, made the recommendation.

“When an organization anticipates that a matter might become emotionally charged, conducting an internal investigation can unintentionally create a situation where people are accused of dredging up bias and blame,” Mr. Bock said.

CUSD paid $125 per hour for Mr. Saucerman’s services with the total cost for the investigation, including meetings, interviews, analysis, drafting and transcription, coming in at just under $20,000.

“From the onset, the district’s goal with this investigation was expressly to gather essential facts so the [district] could make an informed decision,” Mr. Bock said. “That is simply what Mr. Saucerman did in this matter.”

Mr. Bock asserts Mr. Saucerman was selected because he worked with other school districts in similar investigations for nearly a decade.

“Given his reputation for reliably providing a thorough, thoughtful and honest work product, it was determined that he would be the right person to handle this matter for the district,” Mr. Bock said.

But lack of information about Mr. Saucerman’s experience, his relationship with the law firm that recommended him, and conflicting reports on what was said and how some interviews were conducted, has given pause to some community members as to whether the investigation was truly impartial.

It’s clear Mr. Bock and Mr. Saucerman had a business and personal friendship based on photographs of Mr. Saucerman, Mr. Bock and law partners Peter Fagen and Howard Friedman—attorneys from Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost—at an Angels baseball game that were posted to Facebook on April 6, during the time of the investigation.

A Thursday morning call to Interim CUSD Superintendent Gloria Johnston as to whether she considered this off-the-job association appropriate had not been answered as of that afternoon.

As part of the investigation, Mr. Saucerman interviewed and collected written documentation from Sumner School staff, with Claremont Teachers’ Association President Joe Tonan sitting in on at least one interview.

Mr. Tonan contends the interview included leading and hypothetical questions, and the teacher was told that she could be fired depending upon the answers given.

“The teacher was in a tough bind,” Mr. Tonan said.

Mr. Saucerman denies the claim.

“I was very shocked when I was reading [in the newspaper] that I had threatened someone, a teacher or a party. I didn’t threaten anyone,” Mr. Saucerman said. “That’s a fabrication. I treat everyone with respect.”

Lita Abella, a current board member of the California Association of Licensed Investigators—a professional association of private investigators—has known Mr. Saucerman for many years. She also owns her own investigation firm and spent 20 years with the Los Angeles Police Department.

“If you’re a good investigator, you don’t need threaten anybody. That’s not what a professional does in any industry,” Ms. Abella said.

Mr. Saucerman’s LinkedIn page states he completed the LAPD police academy in 1989 and, beginning in 1997, acted as a field-training officer with the Pasadena Unified School District for 8 years. Although not noted on his LinkedIn page, Mr. Saucerman also worked as a school police officer with Fontana Unified School District beginning in 1994 and ending with his resignation in May 1998, according to Riverside Press-Enterprise article. Dates of employment with LAPD and the Pasadena Unified School District Police could not be verified.

“What I can speak to is, first of all, I’ve been doing this for 23 years. I’m a retired police officer of 16 years,” Mr. Saucerman said. “I retired from the Pasadena Unified School District police department. I’ve taught police officers and I’ve trained officers on interview techniques and investigative techniques.”

A request for Mr. Saucerman’s formal resume from Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost was not fulfilled.

The report and the Sumner staff

The use of a private investigator in what was considered a personnel matter exacerbated an already-tentative situation among Sumner staff. The report itself raised concerns with Mr. Tonan, who felt some of the responses to questions were not accurately reflected in the report. Additionally, terms like “founded,” “unfounded” or “sustained” were used liberally throughout the report to establish credibility or to discredit those who were interviewed, according to Mr. Tonan.

At one point, Mr. Saucerman’s report expressed the following conclusion about Mr. D’Emilio.

“This investigator did not find Mr. D’Emilio credible during the investigation…Although he admitted to being dishonest with [redacted], this investigator must question the overall integrity of Mr. D’Emilio.”

Mr. Bock explained that Mr. Saucerman applied “the legal standard of the preponderance of evidence” to make a determination about the credibility of Mr. D’Emilio and other parties involved.

“This preponderance standard is dictated by California courts and in layman’s terms means that it is ‘more likely than not’ that something occurred or did not occur,” Mr. Bock said.

Jan B. Tucker, a private investigator out of Torrance and 7-term chairman of CALI, noted that this kind of legal terminology would be used more appropriately in police disciplinary actions, not in personnel investigations.

“The use of terms like ‘sustained’ makes me think that Saucerman is running it like an internal affairs investigation at a police department,” Mr. Tucker said. “It’s a little like a kid playing dress-up. It is ridiculous for investigators to use terms like that. We are not judges.”

Mr. Tucker, who has been a full-time, licensed private investigator in California since 1979, added that investigators are typically hired to conduct investigations and collect data through interviews, but not to draw conclusions.

However, Mr. Saucerman contends that a private investigator’s task goes beyond just fact-finding, as investigators are paid to collect information and make a recommendation to the client based on what is gleaned.

“We’re hired to do an investigation and make a determination,” he said. “Collecting evidence is part of the investigation, but it’s not all of it. An investigation is to make a determination on whether or not something occurred.”

Mr. Bock stands by the report and investigation, stating, “It is a standard and proven practice to hire an outside, impartial investigator to thoroughly examine the situation, gather and report the facts.”

Through community support and reconsideration by the board, Mr. D’Emilio will begin to put the ordeal behind him and return to the classroom. The methods used in the investigation, by CUSD and the board of education have undoubtedly impacted the community, but the lasting effect this has on future personnel matters remains to be seen.

[Maura Larkins comment: In this incident, a 7-year-old girl kissed and laid on top of an 8-year-old girl. Is that child abuse? Usually an abuser is older than the abused child, not younger. I can understand why a principal might not report the matter to the district. He probably decided it was experimentation between children of the same age rather than abuse. I don't see this as immoral behavior by the principal. It was a tricky judgment call. Do you want to label an inquisitive 7-year-old as a child abuser?

On the other hand, I have concern for the 7-year-old. Is she being abused? That is the question that needs to be investigated. But apparently the matter was reported to Child Protective Services before it was reported to the principal. So that's not an issue.

If there is a district policy that principals should keep the district in the loop in every case, then I can see why the district would be unhappy. But it seems a stretch to say the principal was immoral. Districts need to be constantly vigilant about this issue. They should be doing their own oversight on a regular basis, not calling in an investigator to find something once in a blue moon. Districts should know a lot about every employee. But they don't bother. In my district, Chula Vista Elementary, the district basically did not know, and didn't seem to care, what kind of people were working in its schools.]

EARLIER REPORT CUSD dismisses principal over handling of student incidents
Claremont Courier
May 17, 2012

Sumner Elementary School Principal Frank D’Emilio has been placed on unpaid leave after failing to notify officials of suspected child abuse incidents.

The decision by the CUSD board stems from occurrences in May 2011 where 2 female students, ages 7 and 8, allegedly participated [with each other] in acts on campus that were sexual in nature.

Mr. D’Emilio was suspended by the CUSD board as a result of an investigation and closed-session discussion at the Thursday, May 3 meeting, where the board dismissed the principal for violating the state’s Education Code relating to “immoral or unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, evident unfitness for service and for persistent violation of or refusal to obey the school laws of the state.”

In his response to the Statement of Charges provided by the district, Mr. D’Emilio submitted his resignation as the principal of Sumner, but stated that he would like to return as a classroom teacher for the 2012-2013 school year.

Mr. D’Emilio was contacted for comment, but declined to elaborate beyond what was submitted in his written response to the district.

Mr. D’Emilio has 30 days from Thursday, May 3 to file a Request for Hearing before an administrative law judge in order to maintain employment with the district.

“I cannot comment other than to say he is allowed due process,” said Kevin Ward, assistant superintendent of human resources. “The hearing is a time when he can enter evidence, review testimony and have witnesses appear on his behalf. The decision of the judge at that time is final.”

On May 3, Mr. D’Emilio submitted a 7-page written response to the allegations, where he apologized for not being forthright with the district. Mr. D’Emilio refutes the dismissal on the basis of immoral or unprofessional conduct and unfitness for service, emphasizing that the alleged incidents were between 2 young students, not an adult.

In December 2011, a parent of a district student at Sumner notified Mr. D’Emilio that she suspected her child had been victimized by another student.

The parent of the 8-year-old said that in separate incidents in May 2011, a 7-year-old female student kissed her daughter and laid on top of her while on the playground.

In another incident, the parent claims that the 7-year-old asked the 8-year-old and another classmate to stand upright as a “pole,” then danced, making physical contact with both girls. Other alleged conduct on the part of the 7-year old included using a leaf to inappropriately touch her classmate...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tony Robbins event ends in 'wails of pain' as attendees walk on hot coals


Burning Question: Why Do People Walk Across Hot Coals? By Piper Weiss Yahoo News July 23, 2012 In 1986, motivational speaker Tony Robbins explained his fire walking ritual to a captivated audience: "People have gotten first, second and third degree burns . . . Some have had skin grafts and three people have died...None of them attended my seminar." As of Thursday, that's no longer true. During a four-day seminar in San Jose, California entitled "Unleash the Power Within," 21 participants in Robbins' famed "fire walk experience" suffered injuries, including second and third degree burns. ...But physicist Bernard Leikind, who tried Robbins' fire walk years ago, has a different theory of why walking across burning coals is often less dangerous than it seems.

..."You're walking on things with poor thermal conductivity and poor heat capacity," he says in a Scientific American video. "Even though the coals are at a high temperature, they don't have as much energy as you might think and aren't good at putting it into your foot."

According to Leikand, you don't need confidence or a heightened mental acuity to fire walk successfully, you just need science and a little bit of luck. "Throughout the course of the walk, energy moves from embers to feet, then the walkers' blood carries some away," Leikand tells Yahoo! Shine. "If the energy carried away doesn't equal the energy moving in, then the tissue's temperature will increase... The degree of a burn arises from a combination of temperature and time...If they make it to the end before any damage occurs, the fire walk was successful."

As to why so many weren't successful, Leiklind speculates: "Some people may have walked slowly. Some people may have stepped out of the path of earlier walkers into deeper, hotter coals. Some people may have jammed embers between their toes. The organizers may have built their ember beds differently than they had before, perhaps on a different surface. Gusts of wind might have increased the rate of combustion. It's really hard to say." He does believe other participants who suffered less severe burns may not have even reported injuries. "They just would have headed for home and visited their physicians or the emergency room later."...

Walking on hot coals is not something I can imagine myself doing, but I think I understand how people do it. (Oprah succeeded!) The feat is accomplished, I believe, through concentration, confidence and relaxation. I suspect that those who succeed are able to maintain a steady transfer of weight, keeping a fast, even rhythm and steady pressure of their feet on the coals. If you don't believe it will work, it won't. Maybe it's also a bit like the old English legal test for truth in which a hot coal was placed on the tongue of an accused person to find out if he was innocent or guilty. Theoretically, an innocent person would be relaxed (hmmmm--not necessarily!) and would have a normal, wet tongue, but a stressed, guilty person would have a dry tongue. The innocent would not be burned.

Twenty-one people in California tried walking on coals, and wound up the unhappy victims of old-fashioned peer pressure.

Did twenty-one people suddenly forget all they had learned from Tony Robbins about mind-over-matter control of their bodies? Yes, I think they lost faith (and concentration!) when they heard other people screaming.

So why didn't they back off and say, "I think I'll pass this time. Maybe another time."

That's where the peer pressure came in. It seems that herd instinct took over when mind control was lost.

People stayed in line, kept walking, and ended up miserable. Let's not laugh at them. Normal people do exactly this every day. (We suffer economically, but we don't even institute banking regulations, much less put some bankers in jail. It's business as usual.)

And why didn't somebody step in and stop the catastrophe at the Tony Robbins seminar? Because our normal, everyday culture tells us not to question authority, to keep a low profile, to keep quiet. Lately we've had a lot of books calling this "girl culture", but boys are taught the same thing, just not to the same degree.

Whistle-blowers are too often ignored, and too often punished. If one of the supervisors had stopped the event, would he or she have been fired? If one of the participants had tried to stop it, would he have been thrown out?

Tony Robbins event ends in 'wails of pain' as attendees walk on hot coals
Over 20 people treated for burns after multi-day motivational event encourages attendees to take a leap of faith on coals
Matt Williams in New York
21 July 2012

Burnt soles rather than cleansed souls awaited attendees at motivational speaker Tony Robbins's latest life coaching seminar, with 21 people needing treatment after a painful walk across coals.

During a four-day gathering in California entitled Unleash the Power Within, the famed lifestyle guru encouraged participants to take a leap of faith and test their luck on the red-hot surface.

Emergency services were called to deal with the fall-out, as many in the group suffered second- and third-degree burns. Three needed hospital treatment, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

"I heard wails of pain, screams of agony" one witness told the newspaper.

"First one person, then a couple minutes later another one, and there was just a line of people walking on that fire. It was just bizarre, man," Jonathan Correll, 25, said.

The injured fire walkers were among thousands who attended the Robbins event. As part of the multi-day seminar, a crowd were led to a park where 12 lanes of hot coals had been laid out.

A brochure for the Unleash the Power Within event suggests that once you overcome the fear of walking on coals of between "1,200 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit" you can "conquer the other fires of your life with ease".

A spokesman for the San Jose fire department told the San Jose Mercury News that it does not recommend that people undertake the endeavour.

Robbins has used fire-walking throughout his career as a motivational speaker and life coach.

In a statement, the Robbins Research International told the newspaper: "We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel … We continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible."

Friday, July 20, 2012

Teachers who show contempt for students: the Christine Rubino case

Does Christine Rubino consider herself to be witty? Was she hiding her sadness when she heard a 12-year-old girl had drowned, or was she actually not sad at all? She is no longer in danger of being fired, and instead will get a two-year suspension.

Break for rant teacher
New York Post
July 11, 2012

A Brooklyn teacher fired for posting “repulsive’’ Facebook comments suggesting her misbehaving students should drown now faces only a two-year suspension without pay. That’s the “lesser penalty” decided on by Department of Education arbitrator Randi Lowitt, The Post has learned.

Lowitt first ruled in June 2011 that Christine Rubino, a veteran teacher at PS 203 in Flatbush, should be fired for ranting on Facebook, “I’m thinking the beach sounds like a wonderful idea for my 5th graders. I HATE THEIR GUTS! They are all the devils spawn!”

The comment came a day after a 12-year-old Harlem girl, Nicole Suriel, drowned on a school trip to a Long Island beach.

After Rubino appealed the decision, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe overturned the termination as too harsh.

While “offensive” and “repulsive,” Jaffe concluded, Rubino’s remarks were made outside the school building, after hours, and were only circulated among adult Facebook friends.

Jaffe found no evidence that Rubino meant the kids any actual harm or that her outburst “affected her ability to teach” — and sent the matter back to Lowitt. Lowitt rejected the teacher’s request for back pay and to return to her classroom in the fall. And she insisted on the suspension, citing her finding that Rubino tried to save herself by getting a friend to claim authorship of the comments. The friend later admitted lying to probers, but Rubino denied putting her up to it. Lowitt ruled in her second opinion that Rubino was guilty not only of conduct unbecoming a teacher but “lying and obfuscation.”

“The [suspension] penalty is based on the lie, the continued lie, and the inability to acknowledge the lie,” Lowitt wrote.

Rubino plans to appeal, saying she has “suffered enough.” A two-year suspension without pay comes to a loss of $150,000.

The DOE’s Long War on Christine Rubino
The Assailed Teacher
JULY 16, 2012

When we last saw Christine Rubino, the New York State Supreme Court vacated the Department of Education’s penalty for comments she made on her private Facebook page.

The penalty was termination. The arbitrator who came up with the penalty, Randi Lowitt, knew that this was the outcome the DOE wanted. She was probably the only arbitrator ever to have the head of the DOE’s Administrative Trials Unit, Theresa Europe, stare daggers at her throughout the hearing to ensure she came to the right decision.

As we have seen, in June of 2010, Christine wrote on her private Facebook wall that it was a perfect day to take her students to the beach. This was a day after a NYC student drowned off the coast of Long Island.

Christine was one of the first, if not the first, teacher in NYC to be brought up on charges for something she wrote on Facebook. This was before the DOE’s social media policy. This was also at a time when working people nationwide were being fired for things they said on the internet, especially teachers. The case of Christine Rubino was the morning star of a movement aimed at depriving working people of their freedom of speech.

This movement found many well wishers in the media and the general public. Newspaper articles made Christine out to be some sort of loose cannon. Readers who left comments on the NY and Huffington Post were quick to call for her termination, to exclaim that she was unfit to be around children and to say that this warranted her being deprived of her livelihood.

The drums of hypocritical American Puritanism beat heavy and constant in the case of Christine Rubino. The general public wants to bully teachers, call them names, blame them for low test scores and poverty, say we are underworked and overpaid and are drawn from the meanest part of the intellectual bell curve. Yet, at the same time, they want us underworked, overpaid idiots to be held to a moral system that Oliver Cromwell himself could not follow. They want us to smile at the grocery store, wave hello to them every morning and, if we use Facebook, to do nothing but post pictures of us grading exams and write thoughts about how every child is special like a snowflake.

[Maura Larkins comment: "Special like a snowflake" is a pejorative term, apparently used by some teachers. Actually, I've only heard it once from one of my fellow teachers. My colleague Robin Donlan used it to describe visitors to Comic-Con who brought their complaints to her (she moonlights as a Comic-Con officer). Today I found the phrase in a blog called "The Assailed Teacher", apparently written by an anonymous teacher (see second story below). The Assailed Teacher writes, "They want us underworked, overpaid idiots to be held to a moral system that Oliver Cromwell himself could not follow." Oliver Cromwell? The guy who committed genocide? In England, he allowed the occupants of besieged fortresses to walk free. In Ireland, the occupants were slaughtered, and populations of entire towns were exterminated. This behavior qualifies Oliver Cromwell as an expert on moral systems?]

Ann Romney: "We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation"

““We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life.”

She won’t release tax returns to “you people”
Ann Romney loses patience, while a blogger wonders if Mitt's mistake was simply loving to pay his taxes too much
JUL 19, 2012

What’s Mitt Romney hiding, exactly? Why won’t he release his long-form birth certificate college transcripts tax returns? Well, his tax returns are probably just the words “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS PEASANT WORK I’M QUITE RICH YOU SEE” scrawled in a Montblanc on an otherwise blank 1040EZ, but we’ll likely never know: He refuses to release any returns from prior to 2010 (he claims he’ll get around to showing us his 2011 return), which is all sort of weird because the guy has been planning on running for president for a while, and one thing presidential candidates do is release a whole bunch of tax returns, a practice pioneered by this guy named George Romney, the kindly puppeteer/scientist who crafted/programmed young Willard.

Ann Romney, whose horse is competing in the Olympics, went on the TV to patiently explain that, no, the Romneys would not be sharing any more information on their finances. This is an actual thing she said, on ABC: ““We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life.”

Whoa, there, Ann. When you’re being painted as a living embodiment of out-of-touch plutocratic wealth, maybe avoid the construction “you people.” Even if you just mean it to refer to “the press,” which it seems like you probably did.

People have some theories about what is so bad in Romney’s tax returns. Some people think he might not have paid any taxes at all one year, which Romney’s campaign denies. (But how do we know?) Matt Yglesias, who points out that the guy already ran for president once so you’d think he’d have cleaned his tax situation up a bit, says maybe there’s something in the very recent past that Mitt doesn’t want exposed (like his disclosing his secret Swiss bank account to the IRS to avoid criminal prosecution in 2009?).

There are a bunch of other reasons, too, and all of them can be summarized as “he won’t release them because they will confirm what we already basically know about Romney’s wealth and business practices.”

But Ben Domenech and Erick Erickson have a different idea of exactly what Romney’s hiding. A brilliant, counterintuitive idea. This is for real their actual theory:

Ben Domenech has been doing some pretty solid reporting in The Transom (you’ve subscribed, haven’t you?) about what might be in Mitt Romney’s taxes. He offers this morning the best and most informed theory.

Why most informed? Well, he talked to people who were familiar with the veep vetting process for McCain in 2008.

Here’s what he reports:

So what about the years before 2009? We know he turned over more than two decades of returns to the McCain campaign during the veepstakes vetting process. What was in them? “Mitt’s taxes were complex, but clean. He overpaid his taxes…”

That’s so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before. Mitt Romney doesn’t want anyone to know that he… overpaid his taxes. The guy whose effective rate was 14 percent in 2010, the one return he released to the public, definitely paid way more than that in his secret, hidden, earlier returns. He is embarrassed, I guess. He doesn’t want his rich financier friends to laugh at him.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rumor about Mitt Romney's birth in a Mormon colony in Mexico is ridiculous

I believe that our political discourse would be far more civil and reasonable if our schools offered better educations.

An example of our unreasonable discourse is the foolish rumor that presidential candidate Mitt Romney's mother returned to land of her husband's birth when she was pregnant. She must have known that her own country offered far better hospitals. The rumor that Mitt Romney was born in a Mormon colony in Mexico is just as ridiculous as the rumor that Barack Obama's mother went to the land of her husband's birth when she was pregnant.

Just because her husband was born in a foreign country doesn't mean that an American woman is going to risk her life and her child's life to give birth in an undeveloped country. Why would she do that? The hospitals in Mexico might have been better 65 years ago than the hospitals in Kenya were 50 years ago, but they weren't as good as the ones in the United States.

Mitt's father, George Romney, was born in Mexico, the descendant of American Mormons who had fled bigamy laws in the US.

Then, in July 1912, the Romney family fled the Mexican Revolution and returned to the United States. The family subsisted with other Mormon refugees on government relief in El Paso, Texas for a few months before moving to Los Angeles, California, where George's father worked as a carpenter.

In kindergarten, other children mocked [George] Romney's national origin by calling him "Mex".

But that doesn't make George Romney's American-born son a Mexican citizen. He's a natural-born American citizen, every bit as much as Barack Obama.

Get a grip, birthers. ALL the birther rumors are silly.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How pervasive is the 'Penn State culture' in college athletics?

How pervasive is the 'Penn State culture' in college athletics?
By Karin Klein
LA Times
July 12, 2012

By this point, it comes as no surprise that an exhaustive inquiry into the sexual abuse scandal involving Penn State University and former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky found that it wasn't just a matter of people high and low in the hierarchy who didn't do the right thing. The failure to end the long-term molestations resulted from a university culture in which athletics reigned supreme, football coaches were revered and even feared, and the foremost concern among top officials wasn't to protect children or do the just thing but to protect the university.

I don't doubt any of this, but I can't help wondering whether Penn State was some kind of anomaly in the world of universities with major team-athletics programs. If we looked with equal intensity at the top 50 or so universities in this group, would we find similar disproportionate power among key coaches, similar fear among the people who work for them and a similar culture of protecting the institution above all else?

This isn't to let Penn State off the hook in any way, or to imply that sexual abuse of children is a problem in the world of higher education; the question is whether universities have overlooked longstanding cultures that have the potential to hide a wide range of problems. Have we bowed too much to the mighty athletic program?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

14 mothers sue LAUSD, charging 'Culture of Silence' hides teacher misconduct

The suit also seeks reforms to the Los Angeles Unified School District, which "has a practice and custom of maintaining a 'Culture of Silence' to hide teacher misconduct, and to ignore teacher misconduct," the suit said.

Mothers in Los Angeles school child sex abuse case sue district
By Michael Martinez, Natalie Brunell and Jaqueline Hurtado
July 11, 2012

Fourteen mothers, whose children prosecutors say were sexually abused by a Los Angeles teacher facing 23 felony charges, sued the school district on Tuesday seeking damages for "generalized shock and trauma."

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, also seeks unspecified "compensatory economic and special damages for medical expenses," which include psychological therapy, according to court papers and attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The suit also seeks reforms to the Los Angeles Unified School District, which "has a practice and custom of maintaining a 'Culture of Silence' to hide teacher misconduct, and to ignore teacher misconduct," the suit said.

The legal action stems from a criminal case against former teacher Mark Berndt of Miramonte Elementary, who is being held on $23 million bond and faces 23 felony counts of lewd acts on children.

Berndt, 61, pleaded not guilty in February to allegations he bound young students, then photographed them with semen-filled spoons held at their mouths and three-inch cockroaches crawling across their faces, among other graphic depictions.

L.A. schools review past 40 years of teacher discipline cases in misconduct crisis The 23 victims were between 7 and 10 years old, and all but two of them were girls, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.

The 14 mothers' lawsuit says Berndt took photographs of their children "with cookies in the mouths of plaintiff's children, and/or blindfolded the children, and/or placed cockroaches on the bodies of plaintiff's children, for the intent of arousing and gratifying the lust, passions and sexual desires of Mark Berndt."

One of two mothers who spoke at a press conference on Tuesday said her now 10-year-old daughter was victimized by Berndt while a student at Miramonte from 2009 to 2010. CNN, which has interviewed the mother in recent months, isn't identifying the mother or other parents in order to protect the identities of the children.

"I am asking for justice and I want justice to be done to this man," the mother, 43, said. She wants the district to be held accountable for its "negligence," she said. In a recent CNN interview, the mother said her daughter went to Berndt's classroom, where "he would give her some cookies. My daughter told me that the teacher would say the cookies had sugar and some white stuff that was on it," the mother said.

In that CNN interview, the mother was joined by her daughter, who told CNN: "We would help him clean his class and he would give us cookies.

"They were white and they had a white stuff on top, and he would put some sort of powder" on the cookie, the girl said. The parents told CNN they didn't tell their daughter what could have been on the cookie.

The girl's father, 46, who joined his wife at Tuesday's press conference, told CNN the couple doesn't want money but rather justice, so other families won't "suffer what's happening to us," the dad said. Their daughter is now enrolled at another school. The daughter and mother are both in counseling, he said.

"We don't want money, because our children's health physically and mentally is not going to be the same," the father said.

The other mother at Tuesday's press conference told reporters that her daughter is now rebellious and is also in counseling.

Five of the children in the civil lawsuit are among the 23 alleged victims in the criminal case, said Luis A. Carrillo, the attorney for the 14 mothers.

Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives are investigating the accusations of the nine other children identified as victims in the civil suit, Carrillo said.

Sheriff's Lt. Carlos Marquez, the lead investigator in the case, said Tuesday that detectives interviewed more than 100 Miramonte students and have presented all those cases to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office for review.

It's up to the district attorney whether to bring charges on behalf of additional victims, beyond the current 23, Marquez said.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, declined to comment Tuesday on whether additional charges would be filed.

Berndt's attorney, public defender Victor Acevedo, declined to comment Tuesday because he hadn't seen the lawsuit.

David Holmquist, general counsel for the Los Angeles school district, said student safety was the system's "paramount priority."

"The district is committed to working with the Miramonte community and everyone impacted by these incidents to improve trust and promote healing," Holmquist said in a statement. "While the district has yet to receive the latest complaint, we are continuing our efforts to ensure that we are doing everything possible to provide a safe learning and working environment for our students and staff."

In May, another civil lawsuit was filed against the school district on behalf of 22 children who claimed they were sexually abused by Berndt, said Carrillo, who also is the attorney for the plaintiffs in that case.

The lawsuit, also filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleged that Berndt "engaged in sexual assault, sexual harassment, which includes sex discrimination per LAUSD's policies, and/or sexual exploitation of the plaintiffs that included lewd, obscene and/or lascivious acts" with the 22 children age 6 to 9 years old between 2002 and 2011, court papers said.

The children of the 14 mothers in Tuesday's lawsuit are also part of the May lawsuit, Carrillo said.

In December 2010, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department began investigating Berndt after authorities learned of hundreds of "questionable photographs of children on film that Mr. Berndt had brought (to) a local store to have developed," according to Tuesday's lawsuit.

Berndt was removed from his teaching job in January 2011 after school officials learned of the police investigation, authorities said.

Authorities have said they have discovered roughly 600 images allegedly taken by Berndt in his classroom.

A teacher for 30 years, Berndt initially challenged the school district's decision to dismiss him. But he eventually dropped his appeal and resigned in spring 2011. His arrest in January led to broader fallout over the adequacy of safeguards for the school's students and the prospect of more victims.

Days after Berndt was taken into custody, another Miramonte Elementary teacher -- Martin Springer, 49 -- was arrested and charged with three felony counts of lewd acts with a girl younger than 14. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Los Angeles Unified School District board subsequently shut Miramonte for two days, during which the board reconstituted the entire staff in the 1,400-student school. Miramonte is in unincorporated Los Angeles County within the Florence-Firestone area, about six miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

Misconduct scandal prompts L.A. schools to send 604 teacher discipline cases to state

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bridgepoint shares fall on accreditation denial

Bridgepoint shares fall on accreditation denial
AP News
July 09, 2012

Shares of Bridgepoint Education Inc. dropped more than 30 percent Monday after the for-profit education provider said a group that certifies schools denied an accreditation for one of its institutions.

THE SPARK: Bridgepoint's Ashford University, which has a campus in Clinton, Iowa, but mostly serves online students, was denied accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Without accreditation, a school can lose its access to federal financial aid, which can comprise as much as 90 percent of for-profit schools' revenue.

THE BIG PICTURE: The Western Association of Schools and Colleges is one of seven regional accrediting commissions. It has jurisdiction over schools located in California. Bridgepoint is based in San Diego.

In its letter to Ashford denying accreditation, the association said it found that the university hadn't shown substantial compliance with its accreditation standards related to student retention and graduation, the alignment of resources with educational objectives and the implementation of a core of full-time faculty that can oversee the university academic policies and ensure the integrity of its programs.

WASC noted that a large number of students who start degree programs at the university drop out, most within a short period of time. It said that over the past five years, 128,000 students have withdrawn from the university, while 240,000 new students have enrolled.

In addition, the university needs to put in place an effective system for assessing student learning and an "empowered and independent" governing board that has an acceptable relationship with Bridgepoint, WASC said in its letter...

‘Twilight’ fan struck and killed by car--Why doesn't Comic-Con just give tickets to the people who are camping in line?

San Diego Comic Con rocked by tragic death: ‘Twilight’ fan struck and killed by car outside convention center The 53-year-old woman, identified as Gisela Gagliardi of Kingston, N.Y. - was racing against the light to get back to the line of Twi-hards, which had started to move, that she had been on since Sunday.
JULY 10, 2012

A "Twilight" fan was struck and killed by a car in front of a horrified crowd of fellow Twi-hards camping out two days ahead of the opening of San Diego Comic-Con.

The 53-year-old woman was running across a busy crosswalk against the light at 9:20 a.m. She was racing to return to her group on a line organizers were moving, when she was hit, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

A police spokesman told the newspaper that the woman - identified as Gisela Gagliardi of Kingston, N.Y. - had tried to stop herself before she stumbled and fell into the side of a Suburu Outback.

Gagliardi was unconscious and bleeding from the head when an ambulance arrived. She was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

“If you pray pls do so now for Twi fan G! She was just hit by a car in front of the convention center! She was unconscious when taken hosp,” one fan (@RobKris13) tweeted.

Fellow Twi-hards mourned the death on Twitter with the hashtag "IPTwiFanG" and have started an online petition to have a moment of silence before Thursday's panel for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2," which will feature stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.

The Outback's driver, an unidentified 67-year-old San Diego man, was questioned by police, but not charged.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we offer our heartfelt condolences,” San Diego Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said in a statement. “Our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved in this tragic incident.”

San Diego Comic-Con, running from July 12-15, is considered the biggest event on the sci-fi, fantasy and comic book lovers' calendar, regularly drawing 250,000 attendees to the four-day event. A seat inside the Convention Center's Hall H, where Hollywood studios often fly in A-list actors to unveil footage of upcoming movies for the 6,000 fans that can cram inside, is especially coveted.

Gagliardi had been with a group of Twi-hards that had been camping out since Sunday.

“It’s such a sad loss for our community,” a fellow fan, Melissa Sandate of Tucson, told the Union Tribune.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Higgs Boson: Why You Should Care About the God Particle. And, Sadly, Why You Don't

Ainissa Ramirez giving a TED Talk. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Ainissa Ramirez, a Yale University materials scientist, likes to call herself a science evangelist, and her passion and expertise at science education is unparalleled. So this week, with the announcement about the discovery of the Higgs Boson, was both exciting–because of an amazing opportunity–and frustrating–because she thought the science world largely blew it.

The Higgs Boson: Why You Should Care About the God Particle. And, Sadly, Why You Don't
By Ainissa Ramirez

Here’s what you need to know about the God Particle.

The Higgs boson (Higgs is a guy’s name, BTW, and a boson is a particle that’s smaller than an atom) is the biggest scientific discovery of the 21st Century. Period.

This discovery is up there with Copernicus. If we did not find the Higgs boson, everything that we understood about how the universe works would have been wrong. We would have had nice equations that describe things we observed in the world, but they would have been crap. That would have been $10 billion flushed down the toilet with the creation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and we would have gone back to the drawing board with our tail between our legs after fifty years of an aimless pursuit.

It was a big gamble, and we won. It is that big...

So what’s the problem?

One of the founders of the Higgs theory, Gerald Guralnik, was quoted in the New York Times saying he was glad to be at a physics meeting “where there is applause, like a football game.”

The problem is that it’s only physicists that are excited. A few thousand scientists (less than 1 percent of the population) are losing their minds, not taking any calls, getting buzzed in the middle of the day, and crying and hugging each other.

The rest of society is trying to figure out why this is a big whoop.

The biggest discovery of the 21st century, which connects you (and the world and the universe) to the Big Bang, was barely a whimper to over 99 percent of the population.

As Strother Martin said in Cool Hand Luke, “ What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

I think the nerds got it wrong by not inviting everyone to the party. The biggest discovery of the 21st century may actually widen the gap between scientists and the general public...

I think we should do a better job at teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) using events such as this as a catalyst. Since science is right now part of the national conversation, let’s strike while the iron is hot and create ways to get more people excited about science...

CERN should have hired a PR firm to develop a website for the general public on the Higgs Boson. Maybe CERN should have hired a TV personality to be a spokesperson...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Disturbing e-mails could spell more trouble for Penn State officials

As I have said for a decade, there is too much secrecy in schools, including K-12 public schools.

Disturbing e-mails could spell more trouble for Penn State officials
By Susan Candiotti
July 2, 2012

With convicted serial child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky behind bars, new questions are surfacing about what Penn State officials knew about a 2001 incident involving the former assistant football coach's encounter with a boy in the shower -- and whether they covered up the incident.

Sandusky sexually abused other boys in the years after the 2001 incident and before his arrest.

CNN does not have the purported e-mails. However, the alleged contents were read to CNN.

The messages indicate former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other former university officials knew they had a problem with Sandusky after a 2001 shower incident, but apparently first decided to handle it using a "humane" approach before contacting outside authorities whose job it is to investigate suspected abuse.

"This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,' Gary Schultz, who was a university vice president at the time, allegedly wrote.

Sandusky e-mails revealed Sandusky still eligible for pension Attorney: Sandusky disappointed in son Analysis: Jerry Sandusky verdict

Records show no authorities were ever contacted and Sandusky was eventually charged with having sexual contact with four more boys after the 2001 incident. On June 22, Sandusky was convicted of abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

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In an exchange of messages from February 26 to February 28, 2001, Spanier allegedly acknowledges Penn State could be "vulnerable" for not reporting the incident, according to two sources with knowledge of the case.

"The only downside for us is if the message (to Sandusky) isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Spanier purportedly writes.

The alleged e-mails among Spanier, Schultz, 62, and former Athletic Director Tim Curley, 57, never mention Sandusky by name, instead referring to him as "the subject" and "the person." Children that Sandusky brought on campus --some of whom might have been victims -- are referred to as "guests."

The purported exchanges began 16 days after graduate assistant Mike McQueary first told Head Coach Joe Paterno on February 9, 2001, that McQueary believed he saw Sandusky make sexual contact with a boy in a locker room shower...