Wednesday, October 31, 2012

U.S. probes deaths for links to Monster energy drink

U.S. probes deaths for links to Monster energy drink
October 23, 2012
By Martinne Geller and David Morgan

The Food and Drug Administration said on Monday that it was investigating reports of five deaths that may be associated with Monster Beverage Corp's namesake energy drink, and the company's shares fell more than 14 percent.

Monster is also being sued by the family of a 14-year-old Maryland girl with a heart condition who died after drinking two cans of its Monster energy drink in a 24-hour period.

Kids who smoke menthol more likely to get hooked

Kids who smoke menthol more likely to get hooked
By Amy Norton
Oct 30, 2012
(Reuters Health)

Kids who experiment with menthol cigarettes are more likely to become habitual smokers than their peers who start out with the regular variety, new research findings suggest.

In a study of tens of thousands of U.S. students, researchers found that kids who were dabbling with menthol cigarettes were 80 percent more likely to become regular smokers over the next few years, versus those experimenting with regular cigarettes.

Menthol is added to cigarettes to give them a minty "refreshing" flavor. Critics have charged that menthol makes cigarettes more palatable to new smokers - many of whom are kids - and may be especially likely to encourage addiction...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Man charged $56,000 for requesting records from school district

See Court of Appeal brief for Tim Crews v. Willows Unified School District.

If publisher Tim Crews loses his public records case, we all lose as well.
October 15, 2012
Jim Newton
LA Times

The ability of Californians to scrutinize their government may rest on the outcome of a little-known case unfolding in a tiny Northern California town.

It began routinely enough. Tim Crews, the pugnacious, 69-year-old editor and publisher of the Sacramento Valley Mirror, a twice-weekly newspaper that serves Glenn County, filed a request under the California Public Records Act for records held by the local school district. Specifically, Crews was looking for evidence that district officials might have spent public money to influence the outcome of a local election.

District officials did what public officials in California all-too-often do when confronted with a request they don't like. They stalled. At first, they refused to turn over anything. Then they turned over some of the records Crews had asked for, but in a format that made it impossible to search them. And when Crews asked for attachments referred to in some of the emails released in the request, the district refused to hand them over.

Crews is nothing if not dogged. He kept at it, finally persuading a judge to review thousands of the documents in chambers. The judge spent 45 minutes going through the material and then declined, without explanation, to release any more of it.

Up to that point, the case was fairly unremarkable, one of thousands of disputed but ultimately resolved Public Records Act requests that wind their way through public agencies and courts every year. But then the judge in Crews' case, Peter Twede, did something extraordinary: He concluded that Crews' request had been frivolous, and he ordered Crews to pay not only his own legal bills but those of the school district. For the privilege of obtaining documents that were his legal right to have, Crews was ordered to pay more than $100,000, an amount later reduced to $56,000.

If the judgment stands — Crews has appealed — it would have a devastating effect on the newspaper, which only has about 2,800 paid subscribers. "It would wipe us out," Crews told me last week.

It would do more than that. If upheld by the appellate courts, the judgment would radically alter the contours of the Public Records Act in California. Imagine if every time citizens asked for records under the act, they faced the possibility of having to bear not only their own legal expenses but also those that the agency might run up defending itself. Who could afford such risk?

The consequences of Crews' case are so far-reaching that a number of organizations have come to his defense, including the First Amendment Coalition (on whose board I serve without compensation). William T. Bagley, who wrote California's public records law while in the Assembly in the late 1960s, has also filed an amicus brief in support of the editor.

Crews is used to conflict. He went to jail for five days in 2000 for refusing to identify a source. It wasn't so bad, he recently recalled. "I watched a couple movies; wrote some long, long columns." Over the last five years he's filed more than a dozen cases seeking public records or claiming violations of the state's open meetings laws. It's easy to see why some officials are annoyed by him, but he doesn't scare easily.

Still, with the future of his newspaper at stake, Crews is taking the threat seriously. The paper has never missed a publication date in the 23 years he has been there, and it has served as an important watchdog of local government, in the best tradition of community newspapers.

All that is reason enough to be troubled by the action of the judge in the Crews case. But the potential damage to the public extends well beyond Glenn County and even beyond the Public Records Act itself.

If upheld, this ruling would fundamentally reorient the relationship between the people of California and those who represent them. It would require members of the public to put themselves at risk to learn about their own government. It would recast government agencies and elected officials as immune from public scrutiny rather than accountable through that scrutiny.

As the Public Records Act itself states: "The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them." For that reason alone, Crews deserves to win and his paper to survive.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Schools protecting rapists: victims's website has issue in spotlight

Student’s Account Has Rape in Spotlight
New York Times
October 26, 2012

AMHERST, Mass. — This year has brought news of student athletes charged with sex crimes at Boston University and at Temple, along with countless other less publicized cases. There have been claims that Wesleyan University tolerated a fraternity house where the abuse of women was common. A gang rape at the University of Massachusetts was reported just this week.

But none has generated more soul searching, or scrutiny from beyond, than a woman’s wrenching account, published in a campus newspaper last week, of being raped in May 2011 by a fellow student at Amherst College and then being treated callously by college administrators.

“Eventually I reached a dangerously low point, and, in my despondency, began going to the campus’ sexual assault counselor,” the woman wrote in The Amherst Student. “In short I was told: No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape?”

Within hours, the story of the woman, Angie Epifano, became the most-examined episode in memory on this campus of 1,800 students, the subject of online commentary from around the world. It prompted other Amherst students, past and present, to step forward publicly and say that they, too, had been sexually assaulted here, treated poorly afterward, and in many cases had left campus rather than be around assailants who were allowed to remain...

Meet the Players Who Shaped Poway Schools' Bond Deals

I'm also curious about the identities of the lucky dogs who BOUGHT these bonds, and whether they have links to the people in this article. Heaven forbid that they might BE some of the same people in this article.

Meet the Players Who Shaped Poway Schools' Bond Deals
In August, dozens of residents showed up to a Poway Unified school board meeting to voice their concern over the district’s controversial bond program.
Oct 9, 2012
Voice of San Diego

Over the last few weeks, we’ve learned a lot about the Poway Unified School District’s controversial bond deals. We’ve learned they will saddle future residents with more than $1 billion worth of debt. We know the district squeezed $21 million in extra up-front cash to pay attorney’s fees and other costs associated with the bonds. But what we haven’t focused on, until now, are the people behind these extraordinary deals.

We decided to put together a quick guide to Poway’s players, so we could share what we know about the individuals responsible for putting together Poway’s bonds. Here’s more information about the players in our suburban saga.

John Collins, superintendent

• Collins began his career in education at the San Diego Unified School District in 1976. In 1989, he was hired by Poway as an assistant principal and worked in school administration at three different schools during the next seven years. For nine years he was the deputy superintendent in charge of business and learning support services and he became Poway’s superintendent in July 2010, following the retirement of Don Phillips.

• Late last year, local media reported that Collins’s home was in foreclosure after a public notice stated an auction would be held to settle $1.1 million in unpaid obligations.

• In his own words: “We want to be open, transparent and forthright in our responsibility to the district. If only one member of the community comes forward with questions and concerns, it’s one too many.” Yet, Collins has so far refused to provide even basic information about a proposed review of the district’s bond deals. He won’t say who’s doing the review, how much it costs or why the individual or company conducting it was chosen.

Linda Vanderveen, board president

• Vanderveen has served three consecutive four-year terms on Poway Unified’s board and is up for re-election this year.

• In her own words: “Our newly renovated schools are testimony to the community's commitment to our Building for Success program. People move to [Poway] for the schools. Clearly, we are doing something right.”

• My colleague Will Carless has called and emailed Vanderveen several times seeking comment or an interview. Vanderveen has ignored all of his requests.

Andy Patapow, board vice president

• Patapow has served four consecutive terms on Poway’s board and is up for re-election this year. He was the principal of Poway’s continuation school for 28 years.

• U-T San Diego reported that he accepted more than $300 in meals from Stone & Youngberg, the underwriter of last year’s controversial bond deal.

• Patapow has also ignored repeated calls and emails from Carless requesting comment.

Marc Davis, board clerk

• Davis is the newbie of the group. This is Davis’s first term as a board member; in 2014 he will be up for re-election.

• Davis promoted himself as a businessman and financial adviser during his campaign in 2010. He is the president and founder of Davis & Seiley Wealth Management.

• In his own words: “I am running to share my financial and business expertise to help address the monumental budget problems that we have now and will have in the future. I understand financial markets, contracts, employment rules, pension plans … and tax issues.”

• Davis is one of three board members who has responded to interview requests. In an Aug. 8 e-mail to Carless regarding the extra money Poway squeezed out of its bond deals, he wrote: “[Poway Unified] did not circumvent the will of the people in doing this but followed long standing legal precedent in doing so and the advice of our bond counsel.” Three attorneys not affiliated with the district who were contacted by Carless said Poway’s deals were, in fact, extraordinary, since they pushed the boundaries of state law. The district’s 2011 deal was also deemed illegal by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Todd Gutschow, board member

• Gutschow is in the middle of his second term as a board member; he’ll be up for re-election in 2014. He was appointed to the Citizens’ Oversight Committee for Proposition U.

• In his own words: He told Voice of San Diego in an Aug. 14 interview: “I think most people who take a moment to think about things before they vote would have said, ‘Well, gee. We’re going to be paying more money for a longer period of time. And that’s probably going to mean that’s going to be more expensive.’ I think that general idea is something most people could have and should have recognized. Would they be able to estimate how much? Would they have been able to have that kind of level of detail? No.”

• Of the five board members, Gutschow has been the most willing to communicate with us on this story. He, Collins and Board Member Penny Rantfle met for an interview last month, and Gutschow is the only board member to respond to Carless’s calls. He has, however, ceased communicating with us as of late.

Penny Ranftle, board member

• Ranftle has been on the board the longest; she’s in the middle of her fifth consecutive term, meaning she has spent the past two decades in her position.

• She has virulently defended Poway from criticism over its bond deals. During the Aug. 14 interview, she said the board had acted in good faith and had delivered what voters wanted: more money to construct schools, without raising taxes.

• Rantfle has spoken out against scrutiny of Poway’s bond deals at school board meetings, including one held on Sept. 10, when she said: “It saddens me to see a couple of members of the media that have turned their scrutiny of this district into some sort of a sport. They have taken a single aspect of this massive rebuilding and modernization program and wrapped it into innuendo and inaccurate reporting, without regard to the damage or expense it is causing the district.”

The Consultants: The Dolinka Group: Benjamin Dolinka

• Poway used this group of financial consultants, which specializes in advising school districts about general obligation bonds, for Proposition C.

• According to its LinkedIn profile, the privately held company employs fewer than 50 employees.

• For the past 20 years, Benjamin Dolinka, the group’s president, has served as a financial adviser to Poway. On March 22 last year, a few weeks after receiving the warning letter from the state Attorney General’s Office, Collins submitted a letter of recommendation for the Dolinka Group praising Dolinka:

“[W]orking with Benjamin Dolinka and the finance team, we have been able to minimize our risks while maximizing the benefits,” he wrote.

• According to the group’s website, Dolinka “focuses on creating new financial and demographic services, identifying potential public-public and private-public partnerships.”

The Consultants: California Financial Services: Michael Ogburn

• This small financial planning firm has advised school districts and local governments for 26 years, according to its website.

• Its founder Michael Ogburn specializes in school district finance in Southern California, and has worked with at least two local districts: Escondido Union and Poway.

The Lawyers: Bowie, Arneson, Wiles & Giannone

• Poway used this Newport Beach law firm for advice on its bond deals.

• According to its website, the firm employs 10 attorneys and has been around for about 40 years and provides public agencies, like school districts, with legal services involving planning, financing and construction of school facilities.

• The firm was the recipient of a letter from state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’s office last year warning that the deal it was helping Poway Unified put together was illegal.

ClarieceT posted at 3:16 pm on Tue, Oct 9, 2012.

...[Board member] Jeff Mangum was part of the 2009 Series A which had excessive premiums and he was one the one who moved and Vanderveen seconded the resolution approving the Series B bond which had a premium of $21 million dollars...

Discriminating against winning football team because of their race?

We finally have two sides to this story, thanks to a commenter (see below). Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that everything the commenter says is true. (I must admit that I, too, was wondering how a team in lily-white Calabasas managed to have so many players of color.) It seems to me that we have a bit of a problem here with the white majority accusing the minority team of poor sportsmanship. Even if the allegations of "loud and outspoken" parents and coaches are true, and even if there were penalties for "poor sportsmanship," it seems to be poor sportsmanship not to let the number one team into the playoffs. Obviously, the violations must not have been too serious, or there would have been penalties that would have caused games to be lost.

It seems that the real objection is that the minority players are simply better players, and that they don't match the demographic of the area. Apparently, if the players in question were white, the PYFL and Calabasas Raiders would have no argument at all. A white player could have been imported illegally, but no one has bothered to investigate the actual facts of the situation for either white or minority players.

It is obviously racist to refuse to allow a winning team into the playoffs based entirely on race.

Don't discriminate against winning football team because of their race
Pacific Youth Football League AND Calabasas Raiders: Let the Senior SIlver youth team play in their earned spot in the playoffs
Started by: Myla, Canoga Park, California

Discrimination is unacceptable especially against children. This 13 year old predominantly African-American and Latino youth football team playing in a predominantly Caucasian league, has lost only one game in the season and is ranked #1 in their conference.

Playoffs start this Saturday and this team was told they are not welcome in the playoffs. Excuses such as poor sportsmanship, running up the score, etc. has been given, however, no coach or player has ever been suspended, ejected, or even verbally warned. There was no knowledge that there was even an issue, until the playoffs when they were told that their team is "SPOOKY" and too aggressive. This is TACKLE football and the word spooky is very insulting and ignorant and carries a racict connotation. These boys have played their hearts out all year and deserve to play. Please help us stand up for whats right and not allow money and power to be abused. Say no to racism and discrimination and let the Calabasas Raiders Senior Silver Team play in the playoffs where they belong.

Sign Myla's Petition

UPDATE OCT. 28, 2012

This comment was left by someone who seems to know something about the situation:

theothersideofthestory has left a new comment on your post "Discriminating against winning football team becau...":

Seriously...This team had many penalties for poor sportsmanship. Their coaches and parents, by there own admission, were loud and 'outspoken' on the sidelines, earning them many of those penalties while the boys supplied the rest. Another strange issue I find with this is; that the population of Calabasas is approximately about 1% African American, according to the sources I searched online. How is it possible for them to be able to field an almost entirely black team? There have been rumors floating around for years that they actually pull players in from LA all the way down to Orange County to stack their teams. The PYFL has specific territory rules, and my understanding is that they are not supposed to stack your teams even with what actually is your rightful pool of boys. The Playoffs are by invitation only, and if you don't play well with others, you don't get invited. Other teams from Lancaster, Palmdale other locations have, African American players in higher quantities (with their demographics backing it up-mind you) and they are in the playoffs. Cheaters and bad sports got caught at their game and now - guess what? They are being bad sports about it....shocking, don't you think???

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lisa Berlanga is wrong about what is needed to turn around schools

UPforED will not make anything better as long as it thinks that teachers are the only interest group that is sabotaging education.

The entrenched and corrupted power of school district politicians and administrators is just as big a problem as the teachers' union. For BOTH groups, kids come second to personal agendas. In order to keep power in the hands of powerful administrators, board members and their union official secret pals, school districts and the teachers union cooperate behind closed doors a lot more than most people know.

It's just too tempting for the leaders of both groups to maintain the status quo.

I agree with Lisa Berlanga that the California Teachers Union has stood in the way of meaningful teachers evaluations--but administrators and politicians are equally guilty. Lisa's organization seems to want to let the wolf replace the fox in the henhouse.

UPforED could actually do some good if it got an effective system of teacher evaluation instituted. The evaluation system would not need to put much, if any, emphasis on student test scores. But it's about time we had eyes in the classrooms, simply recording what teachers are doing.

Principals are not doing, and probably can not do, a proper job of evaluating their own teachers. They have to play politics with powerful teachers to make their schools function. Evaluations should be done by people from outside a school, or, better yet, from outside a school district. Perhaps even volunteer parents could do some of the basic information gathering on teacher performance.

Why not work for meaningful teacher evaluations, Lisa?

Is it just too easy to target the teachers union?

School Board Election Key to Turning Around San Diego Schools
Oct 18, 2012
Voice of San Diego

On Nov. 7, San Diego Unified School District moves forward with three new or re-elected board members reconfiguring a board of five, beleaguered by governing questionably in the students' best interests.

In the last few years, we've seen more than our share of controversies that United Parents for Education, or UPforEd, believes served the political expediency of adults to the personal disappointment of parents, and the educational letdown of students. Let's consider just a few decisions made by five people, elected by the majority of San Diego Unified voters that leads us to question their motives.

Recently, San Diego Unified decided not to pursue $15 million dollars in funds under Race to the Top. The Obama administration put forward Race to the Top criteria and guidelines, in an effort to improve student outcomes and close the achievement gap. Yet, San Diego Unified chose not to even apply for these funds. A parent has to ask why wouldn't the district pursue another source of funding during such tight budget times?

In another confounding example, the district faced spiraling healthcare expenses in 2010 to the tune of $167 million — the biggest share of cost aside from payroll. The issue came up this year and the unions blocked hearings on proposals from competitors of the California Schools Voluntary Employees Benefits Association without even a public hearing on the matter.

The media brought the issue to light discovering that in 20 years, the district hasn't put the healthcare bid out once despite best practices suggesting soliciting new bids every three to five years.

Because of decisions like these there is not enough money left in the budget to fund teachers. So our teachers, sometimes the best and brightest, get pink-slipped each year.

Yet for all these poor fiduciary decisions, voters continue to elect school board members who maintain the status quo and put what's best for kids' achievement second, placing the full burden on parents and teachers...

Lisa Berlanga response:

Lisa B
posted at 12:10 pm on Fri, Oct 19, 2012

Just for clarification my article was referencing school board members, not the teacher's union. However, I agree with you Maura, let's create a meaningful teacher evaluation system that would provide teachers with ongoing realevant feedback, supports, mentoring and professional development. Let's design a system that actually recognizing exceptional teachers and rewards them in some way. Let's share best practices and what is working amoung all the schools. Let's give the principals the authority to create teams of teachers who work together for years on a population of student's figuring out what works best for them. UPforEd is all for that but we need parents, teachers, administrators, board members and the teacher's union to work together to accomplish this. Anyone who agrees this is a great goal for our district, join us,

Maura Larkins response:

Hi Lisa:

It sounds like UPforEd is planning to sit around waiting for "parents, teachers, administrators, board members and the teacher's union to work together" to create a teacher evaluation system.

In the meantime, you're hoping to give administrators more power.

You say, "Let's give the principals the authority..."

If you give principals more authority over teachers BEFORE you have meaningful AND INDEPENDENT teacher evaluations, then you're just supporting the current system of personal agendas and school politics.

That's not exactly the same thing as getting all stakeholders to work together, is it?

You already have about 10% of teachers who have figured out what students need. Successful teaching is not a mystery. The expertise of those teachers should be accessed instead of giving principals more power to reward their (often mediocre) teacher cronies for loyalty.

UPforEd has a huge amount of money--enough to hire you as executive director, which is pretty impressive for a new organization. I suspect that Irwin Jacobs is your major benefactor. If this is true, it should be noted when you publish an opinion piece in VOSD, which is also flourishing due to Jacobs' generosity.

Instead of trying to get rid of the board members who failed to apply for Race to the Top (which means, of course, board members who are supported by the teachers union), why not put your huge amount of cash toward designing a teacher evaluation system, and then campaigning for it?

After you make it inevitable that effective teacher evaluations will be implemented, then the "parents, teachers, administrators, board members and the teacher's union" can finalize the details.

But that's not your goal, is it? You don't want effective, unbiased teacher evaluations. You just want more arbitrary power for administrators.


Wiz1 posted at 11:35 am on Wed, Oct 24, 2012.

As for Up for Ed, it started in 2011

ScrippsDad posted at 1:25 pm on Wed, Oct 24, 2012.

...UPforED started well before 2011, and again, you ignore the facts and you don't bother to do the research. I'm not sure how you can lay claim to the truth when you weren't there; I was and have been throughout so folks can take what you say as an uniformed outsider...

Maura Larkins posted:

Dear Scripps Dad:

I tried to take your advice about researching the beginnings of UPforEd, but it wasn't easy. I couldn't find this information on the UPforEd website.

I looked through three pages of Google results, and the earliest date I could find connected with UPforEd was Feb. 20, 2011, the date the organization registered its domain name.

I assume that most of the people involved in UPforEd had made efforts to change schools before the organization started--but you can't predate the start of the organization to the time when some members first started making efforts for schools.

In fact, weren't most of the founders of UPforEd once organized under the name San Diegans 4 Greater Schools? And didn't they start UPforEd after SD4 garnered some bad publicity during its failed effort to pack the SDUSD board with unelected members?

Perhaps you intend to say that UPforEd and SD4 are the same organization? Is that how you justify saying that UPforEd started before 2011?

If that's the justification for your statements, then you need to come out and state that UPforEd is simply a new name for an older organization. Otherwise, it will appear that you're trying to fudge the facts.

Until you make that argument, I think Wiz1 is correct when he states that UPforEd started in 2011.

ScrippsDad posted at 4:10 pm on Thu, Oct 25, 2012

Maura - so not true about UPforED being an offshoot or newer iteration of SD4 and I can tell you that straight because I am not or ever was in agreement with SD4 and was not a participant in SD4 and I'm a founding Board member of UP4ED.

Maura Larkins posted at 10:45 am on Tue, Oct 30, 2012

Dear Scripps Dad,
Where did UPforEd get so much money so quickly? Is Irwin Jacobs a major contributor? How about Rod Dammeyer and Buzz Woolley? Were assets transferred to UPforEd from SD4GS?

ScrippsDad posted at 7:54 pm on Tue, Oct 30, 2012

Maura - keep grasping at straws. No, Irwin Jacobs is not a major, or even, minor contributor. No assets (what assets might those be anyway?) were transferred fromSD4GS.

Seems you guys will believe what you want, make up what you want to believe regardless of facts...

Maura Larkins posted

Dear Scripps Dad:

I’ll respond to your statements one at a time.

“Maura - keep grasping at straws.”

Since when is asking questions the same as “grasping at straws”? Well, I suppose it is somewhat similar when the only answers that are forthcoming are as flimsy as stalks of dried grass. For example, what does it mean when you say that something is “not so true”? It sounds that you’re saying that it’s somewhat true. I believe you when you say that you did not support SD4, but why not admit that many SD4 people joined UPforEd when SD4 shut down? Here are just a couple of them:

1. Erica Holloway, spokesperson for SD4, is now spokesperson for UPforEd.
2. David Page, a major figure in SD4 (he would have been one of a small group of people given the responsibility for choosing several board members), is a board member of UPforEd.

“No, Irwin Jacobs is not a major, or even, minor contributor.”

Did you forget to include Rod Dammeyer and Buzz Woolley in this statement? Or am I to conclude that Dammeyer and Woolley are contributors? Now that you mention it, this does feel like grasping at straws. You seem to offer answers, but when I examine them, I see that there’s really not much there.

“No assets (what assets might those be anyway?) were transferred fromSD4GS.”

I suspect you’re being disingenuous when you ask what assets I might be talking about. Surely you read the stories Emily Alpert wrote about the big donors who gave many hundreds of thousands of dollars to SD4, enabling it to hire the La Jolla Group to circulate its petition. Nevertheless, I’ll take your answer at face value.

“Seems you guys will believe what you want, make up what you want to believe regardless of facts.”

Well, now, Scripps Dad, that is a very personal observation. You have no justification for saying this to me. And by the way, I was surprised when the editor published your insulting comment to Wiz1 when you said that he must be a bad science teacher since he expressed views for which you have contempt. I thought that VOSD had a policy of no ad hominem attacks. I am happy to see that your comment has now been removed. But I wonder, why are you so angry? Do you feel that the privacy of UPforEd is not being respected adequately? What’s wrong with having a calm, civilized discussion about who’s who among those who are spending large amounts of money to affect San Diego schools?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Former UCLA player Reeves Nelson's defamation lawsuit is thrown out of court

See all posts re UCLA.

See all posts on UCLA from Thank Heaven for Insurance Companies blog.

Former UCLA player Reeves Nelson's lawsuit is thrown out of court
By Chris Foster
Los Angeles Times
October 18, 2012

Former UCLA basketball player Reeves Nelson's lawsuit against Sports Illustrated and reporter George Dohrmann was thrown out of court Wednesday.

Nelson filed a defamation lawsuit against Time Inc., Sports Illustrated's parent company, in May over an article that portrayed Nelson as a bully who had had tried to injure teammates at times. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy ruled that the suit infringed on freedom of speech rights for the magazine and writer.

She also found that Dohrmann had numerous sources to back up the facts in the article.

Nelson was thrown off the UCLA team in December. He had been seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock

Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock
October 16, 2012

Many parents know the scene: The groggy, sleep-deprived teenager stumbles through breakfast and falls asleep over afternoon homework, only to spring to life, wide-eyed and alert, at 10 p.m.—just as Mom and Dad are nodding off.

Fortunately for parents, science has gotten more sophisticated at explaining why, starting at puberty, a teen's internal sleep-wake clock seems to go off the rails. Researchers are also connecting the dots between the resulting sleep loss and behavior long chalked up to just "being a teenager." This includes more risk-taking, less self-control, a drop in school performance and a rise in the incidence of depression.

Few parents realize that the common practice of letting teens set their own bedtime can fuel further mutations in the biological processes that knocked them off track. Sue Shellenbarger and Brown University's Dr. Mary Carskadon discuss details on Lunch Break.

Tips for Improving Teens' Sleep

One 2010 study from the University of British Columbia, for example, found that sleep loss can hamper neuron growth in the brain during adolescence, a critical period for cognitive development.

Findings linking sleep loss to adolescent turbulence are "really revelatory," says Michael Terman, a professor of clinical psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and co-author of "Chronotherapy," a forthcoming book on resetting the body clock...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Anti-SLAPP motion wins: Court of Appeal Says Online Comments by Mother, Grandmother of Plaintiff’s Child Were Opinions

Update Dec. 2013: Darren Chaker Sentenced to Federal Prison for Bankruptcy Fraud

See my earlier post about Darren Chaker.

See Court of Appeal decision in Chaker v. Mateo.

Panel Says Online Comments by Mother, Grandmother of Plaintiff’s Child Were Opinions
Defamation Suit Over ‘Deadbeat Dad’ Reference Held SLAPP
Metropolitan News-Enterprise
October 5, 2012

Two women who referred to a San Diego man, in an online posting, as a “criminal and a deadbeat dad” who “may be taking steroids” were expressing protected opinions and cannot be liable for defamation, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday. Div. One affirmed a San Diego Superior Court judge’s ruling that the suit by Darren D. Chaker against Wendy and Nicole Mateo was a strategic lawsuit against public participation. The justices agreed with Judge Timothy Taylor that the suit arose from speech on a public issue, and that the action is barred by the First Amendment.

The evidence, Justice Patricia Benke explained, showed that Nicole Mateo became pregnant during a brief relationship with Chaker, resulting in contentious paternity and child support litigation in Mateo’s home state of Texas. In 2010, comments about Chaker and his forensics business, including claims that he was involved in fraud and prostitution, as well as the deadbeat dad and steroid references, began showing up in the comments sections of websites such as Topix, where he had posted a profile, and the Ripoff Report.

Anti-SLAPP Motion

Chaker attributed some of those statements to Nicole Mateo and her mother Wendy Mateo, and sued both of them, as well as others. Wendy Mateo brought an anti-SLAPP motion, which the judge granted.

Benke, like the trial judge, rejected Chaker’s argument that the allegedly defamatory statements related to a purely private dispute, thus falling outside the scope of the statute. The justice cited Wilbanks v. Wolk (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 883, which held that the Internet is a public forum, as well as cases holding that public statements about private conduct—such as criticism of the treatment of young athletes by their coaches— may be matters of public interest for purposes of Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 425.16.

“Like the court in Wilbanks, we view the Internet as an electronic bulletin board open to literally billions of people all over the world,” the jurist wrote. “...The Internet is a classic public forum which permits an exchange of views in public about everything from the great issues of war, peace, and economic development to the relative quality of the chicken pot pies served at competing family restaurants in a single small neighborhood.”

She went on to say:

“The statements posted to the ‘Ripoff Report’ Web site about Chaker’s character and business practices plainly fall within in the rubric of consumer information about Chaker’s ‘Counterforensics’ business and were intended to serve as a warning to consumers about his trustworthiness.”

By posting his profile on Topix, she added, Chaker “made his character a matter of public interest as the term has been interpreted.”

Because the comments deal with a matter of public interest, Benke wrote, the burden shifted to Chaker to show that he was likely to prevail. But because the First Amendment protects opinion, she said, he could not make such a showing.

Opinion, Not Fact

Citing a number of recent cases holding similar online comments to be opinion, rather than assertions of fact, the justice said the statements challenged by Chaker had to be understood in the context of the litigation between him and Nicole Mateo, particularly since they “were made on Internet Web sites which plainly invited the sort of exaggerated and insulting criticisms of businesses and individuals which occurred here.”

Attacking Chaker as “dishonest and scary,” the justice said, “is on its face nothing more than a negative, but nonactionable opinion.

A different result might have been reached, Benke suggested, if, instead of mere generalized attacks on the plaintiff’s character, the defendants made allegations of specific wrongdoing at specified times and places.

The reference to Chaker as a “criminal,” the justice added, was arguably defamatory, but is nonactionable because Chaker was convicted of a crime, although the conviction was expunged.

The case is Chaker v. Mateo, D058753

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why the teen brain is drawn to risk

"...[W]hile adults tend to prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty, as family therapist Virginia Satir once put it, the same may not be true for teens."

Why the teen brain is drawn to risk
By Maia Szalavitz
October 8, 2012

If you're the parent of a tween, be warned: your cautious 10-year-old is bound to turn into a wild child in a few short years, with seemingly no regard whatsoever for safety. Indeed, teenagers have the double the risk of dying compared to their preteen selves.

Adults have long reckoned with ways to protect adolescents from their own misjudgments. Only recently, however, have researchers really begun to understand how the teen brain is wired and that some of what appear to be teens' senseless choices may result from biological tendencies that also prime their brains to learn and be flexible.

Take teens' perception of risk. It's certainly different from that of adults, but not in the ways you'd expect.

Research shows, for instance, that teens tend to wildly overestimate certain risks -- of things like unprotected sex and drug use -- not to lowball them as one would predict.

So, it may be that teens' notorious risk-taking behavior stems not from some immunity to known risks, but rather, as a new study now suggests, from their greater tolerance to uncertainty and ambiguity -- that is, unknown risks.

"Relative to adults, adolescents engage more in unknown risks than they do in known risks," says Agnieszka Tymula, a postdoctoral student at New York University and the lead author of the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Teens, it seems, love the unknown. The half-baked teen brain: A hazard or a virtue?

To examine the differences in risk-taking between teens and adults, researchers studied 33 healthy adolescents aged 12 to 17, along with 30 normal adults aged 30 to 50. They all engaged in a gambling game, in which they could take a definite $5 reward or choose between the possibility of getting a much larger payout or nothing at all.

The payout was based on whether there was a greater number of red or blue poker chips in a stack of 100; to vary the ambiguity, larger or smaller portions of the stacks were hidden from view.

In this way, the trials provided different amounts of information about the risks involved: for example, in some trials, participants could choose between the $5 and a clear 50% chance of winning $50. In others, however, they had a choice between $5 and varying amounts of money, up to $125, but the probability of winning appeared to vary from 25% to 75%. In reality, they always had a 50% chance of winning, but were led to believe their odds varied, which allowed researchers to look at how participants thought about ambiguity.

Survey: 17% of high schoolers drink, smoke, use drugs during school day

"If the risks are known, adolescents engage (in risk-taking) less than adults do, but if they are unknown, this is reversed," Tymula says. In fact, when the payout was known to be $125, adults always gambled -- but this was not so for teens.

"I think (the finding) adds very nicely to the literature," says Valerie Reyna, professor of human development and psychology at Cornell University, who was not associated with the research. "The new breakthrough here is that it extends our knowledge about adolescent risk-taking into the realm of ambiguity aversion."

Reyna's own research has shown how excessively teens tend to overestimate risk: for example, when asked about the risk of AIDS in one study, adolescents estimated that a teenage girl who is sexually active has a 60% chance of contracting HIV. (The actual odds are miniscule for most Americans.)

This perception, however, doesn't prevent teens from engaging in risky behavior. Why? Because teens have a different style of information processing, Reyna argues. They may get lost in the details about specific risks and overly focused on possible rewards, while ignoring the overall "gist" of the problem -- i.e., the ultimate consequences.

In the case of unprotected sex, for example, even if the odds of contracting HIV are low, a bad outcome would be irreversible. Unlike teens, adults tend to focus on the end result and the consequences. Teens' IQ may rise or fall over time

Oddly, teens' information-processing style seems to rely on the uniquely human "rational" parts of the brain. Reyna's work has shown that adolescents carefully think about risks most adults wouldn't even consider taking -- like, say, playing Russian roulette -- using their prefrontal cortex.

They use quantitative reasoning and take about twice as long as adults do before responding, while adults immediately have a negative reaction to such risks, stemming intuitively from the insula, and almost automatically say no.

So why might the teenage brain be wired this way? Their greater tolerance for uncertainty and the unknown -- and an increased desire for and focus on rewards -- probably helps them leave the nest.

Such explanations are speculative, Reyna cautions, but notes that "in rats, for example, adolescent rats are more likely to explore a new environment. You don't know what you're going to find: that's sort of the definition of a novel environment. If you are more ambiguity tolerant, that would enable that sort of exploration."

In other words, it takes some acceptance of uncertainty and comfort with not knowing in order to learn and to be open to new knowledge.

"We come into the world with limited knowledge about what kind of consequences we will experience after making decisions and also about how likely these different outcomes are," says Tymula. "But, of course, we want to learn, so this tolerance for unknown risks might stem from an underlying biological feature that makes learning about the unknown less unpleasant for adolescents than it is for adults."

An early part of learning any type of new skill -- from typing to teaching -- is accepting instruction and consciously thinking about all of the tactics and techniques involved in performing the skill.

While novices need to think step-by-step, however, experts will have incorporated the best routines into their brains to the point that they become automatic. This may be why the teen brain uses the higher-order cortex for risk decisions: it hasn't yet made enough of them to develop an intuitive reaction that it can "offload" to other brain regions.

Such new information about how the teen brain works -- and why its characteristics shouldn't simply be seen as negative or dysfunctional -- is only just beginning to inform teen health programs.

Reyna, for example, has studied how teaching "gist"-based reasoning can help teens avoid dangerous sexual choices, finding that teens who are taught to focus on potential, catastrophic negative outcomes, rather than the odds, make fewer risky sexual decisions and have fewer partners.

Tymula suggests that allowing teens opportunities to safely experiment -- for example, a simulator that shows sober teens what drunk driving is like -- could also help, by making an unknown risk seem more real and known. Allowing teens the opportunity to take risks in a safe context could also help them develop expertise that underlies gist-based thinking.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to note that while adults tend to prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty, as family therapist Virginia Satir once put it, the same may not be true for teens. What goes on inside the brain of a misbehaving boy?

This story was originally published on

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Is UCLA illegally profiting off the success of student basketball player?

See all posts re UCLA.

See all posts on UCLA from Thank Heaven for Insurance Companies blog.

Former NCAA Men's Basketball Player Wants To Benefit From His Success
Ran Northam Reporting
06 October 2012

A former UCLA basketball player has sued the NCAA for violating anti-trust laws by profiting from its players when the players themselves are not able to benefit.

Director of the Sports Law Institute at the Vermont Law School Michael McCann joined UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor Dr. Charlie Tuggle on UNC’s Sports Xtra television program Monday to discuss the lawsuit.

***Listen to the Full Interview***

Ed O’Bannon played at UCLA from 1991-95 before a nearly ten-year career in the NBA. McCann says now O’Bannon wants to be able to benefit from some of the money the institution and the school is making as a result of his success.

“O’Bannon’s argument is really focused on what he expresses as an inability of former college players to profit off their image while another entity—namely the NCAA, but also its licensing partner CLC and its member institutions—earning money off of those same things,” McCann said.

McCann says the lawsuit took a major turn last week when O’Bannon added to the filing.

“Last month he filed for an expansion of the class action to include current D-I players (men’s basketball and football),” McCann said. “So, the threat to the NCAA, and also its member institutions, is pretty considerable.”

law The ruling is likely to take a while, but if the NCAA is found guilty of the violations it could face penalties in the billions of dollars.

Friday, October 05, 2012

3 New Jersey high school teachers, 2 administrators charged with student sex or cover-up

3 NJ high school teachers, 2 administrators charged with student sex or cover-up
By Associated Press
October 4, 2012

RUNNEMEDE, N.J. — A student at Triton High School went to Principal Catherine DePaul six months ago with a disturbing story: She believed another student was involved in a sexual relationship with a teacher, and she had seen explicit text messages the two exchanged.

At that moment, prosecutors say, a cover-up was put in motion that unraveled Thursday when DePaul, an assistant principal and three teachers were charged with offenses ranging from child endangerment to sexual assault and official misconduct.

The teachers — all men in their late 20s or early 30s — are accused of striking up relationships with female students during the 2011-2012 school year. Each of the five adults has been suspended from the school in the Philadelphia suburb of Runnemede, and each could face at least five years in prison if convicted.

Sexual relationships between teachers and students are not unheard of. Camden County prosecutor Warren Faulk noted that the media seem particularly fixated on the female teacher-male student cases that are reported around the country each year.

But what distinguished the allegations at Triton High was the inaction by administrators who ignored policies and safeguards that were in place and instead allowed a culture “where teachers thought they could get away with improper relationships with their students,” Faulk said.

Waiting outside the school Friday for her grandson, Donna Bresnock concurred.

“When these kids go a principal or vice principal, they’re the ones who they’re relying on,” she said. “Who do they turn to?”

The defendants either could not be reached or did not return messages left by The Associated Press. All five are due in court Thursday.

According to court documents, math teacher Dan Michielli, 27, of Blackwood, had intercourse with a student multiple times during the school year. He is charged with official misconduct, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and criminal sexual conduct.

Gym teacher and boys’ soccer coach Nick Martinelli, 28, of Cherry Hill, is charged with official misconduct involving an 18-year-old. Prosecutors say he touched and kissed the girl when she was a student and had intercourse with her after she graduated in June.

Math teacher and girls’ track coach Jeff Logandro, 32, of Blackwood, is charged with official misconduct, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child. A court filing says he inappropriately touched a female student. A student who was not among the alleged victims, told a substitute teacher in April that teachers were “hooking up” with students, authorities say. The sub then told DePaul.

The principal met with the student, who told her she’d been to one of the teacher’s homes with a girl who was involved with him and had seen the explicit text messages, prosecutors say.

DePaul asked her to write an account of what she had heard, and Assistant Principal Jernee Kollock stayed with the student to help her write the statement, even helping her with her grammar — but also making it seem less serious, authorities allege.

Around the same time, Faulk said, DePaul learned one of the teachers had driven an alleged victim and another student to Ocean City in violation of district policy. But, he said, the teacher was merely reprimanded.

DePaul told her bosses about the teacher driving a student, but prosecutors say she never passed along the claims of sex. Instead, authorities say, she told at least one school employee to delete text-message exchanges with a student from his phone. It’s not clear from court documents who the employee was.

DePaul and Kollock were charged with official misconduct. DePaul later said she wished she had been more concerned for the students than the teachers, Faulk said.

The teachers were suspended last month by the Black Horse Regional School District; the administrators were suspended Thursday. Superintendent John Golden said in a statement that the district was cooperating with authorities, notifying families of students of the allegations and offering counseling.

“In addition, we have initiated a comprehensive review of our existing policies, protocols and training and education materials to prevent this from happening again at this or any district school,” the statement said.

[Maura Larkins comment: Most school districts seem to have a code of silence to protect politically-connected teachers and administrators. The culture has to change, or the policies are meaningless.]

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Sharon McClain wins against Dan Shinoff and Del Mar Union School District; award is $388,537 plus interest

Sharon McClain

See all Sharon McClain posts.

Former Del Mar Union School District superintendent Sharon McClain won her case for wrongful termination/breach of contract.

McClain's attorney Dale Gronemeier successfully argued that the board didn't want to admit that it couldn't get along with its superintendents, and was worried about the political repercussions of buying out two different superintendents in two years, so it sought to trump up accusations against McClain and fire her for cause. The district was unable to convince the court that the firing was justified.

On October 3, 2012 the Court issued the following order (found on the Court's website):

COURT RULING: The Court finds judgment on the Amended Complaint(First Amended Complaint) for Sharon McClain Ed D and against Del Mar Union School District in the amount of: $388537.00 principal, $0 punitive damages, $0 attorney fees, $ interest, $0 prejudgment costs and $0 other costs. Interest is awarded from the time of breach at the rate of 7%.

The transcript pretty much explains the case.

But apparently somebody doesn't want the public to see the transcript. Who could that be, I wonder? I got a message today from the court reporter telling me I should erase the transcript from my website. But how did she get my private email address?


To its shame, U-T San Diego has not reported on the trial outcome in this case, although it published the details of the district's criticisms of McClain.

It appears that education commentator Marsha Sutton was unable to bring herself to write about the conclusion of this case, although she started out with a bang. I saw Marsha in court during the trial, but something seems to have stopped her from reporting about the outcome.

Fortunately, reporter Karen Billing takes up the slack in these situations:

Judge rules in favor of former Del Mar school district superintendent
By Karen Billing
Del Mar Times
October 9, 2012

While the trial ended Oct. 3 in the case of former Del Mar Union School District Superintendent Sharon McClain versus the district, the specifics of the judgment of the wrongful termination lawsuit won’t be known for weeks.

“I won,” McClain said. “I feel vindicated. … The most important thing was the vindication to me that they did the wrong thing. I’m glad it’s been proven that they were wrong.”

McClain said she will be owed two years and three months in back payments, plus retirement from the California State Teachers Retirement System (STRS).

McClain’s attorney, Dale Gronemeier, emailed this newspaper copy from the court’s statement of intended decision that said: “The Court finds in favor of plaintiff for breach of contract in the sum of $413,500, which includes the district’s STRS contribution plus $32,000 for the tax sheltered annuity less the consulting income earned mitigation of $56,963. The total award to plaintiff is $388,537 plus 7 percent interest from the time of breach.”

However, the district’s attorney Dan Shinoff said that the judge did not blanket order those two years and three months in compensation and he believes the amount owed to be more like $156,000.

“I think that the verdict was in her favor,” Shinoff said. “I think it’s our obligation as officers of the court to make sure we’re never ever critical of a decision that a judge makes, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t issues capable of being viewed from a different perspective.”

The Del Mar school board met in closed session on Monday. Oct. 8, to discuss the case but no action was taken. President Scott Wooden said that they are awaiting the court’s judgment and nothing will happen until that point.

“We’d all like to see it resolved,” Wooden said.

... Doug Perkins and Comischell Rodriguez are the only current board members who were a part of the previous board that fired McClain.

[Maura Larkins comment: Doug Perkins voted to fire McClain, costing the district much time and money. Comischell Rodriguez was the only board member with the courage to vote against the firing.]

...The transcript of the case will be made available later this week...

Read more: Judge rules in favor of former Del Mar school district superintendent


On October 9, 2012 I added the following to this post: "To its shame, U-T San Diego has not reported on the trial outcome in this case, although it published the details of the district's criticisms of McClain."

Later that day, at 6:28 p.m., U-T San Diego published the bizarre and false headline, "Suit settled in favor of former Del Mar Superintendent."

But this lawsuit is most definitely NOT settled.

Why would anyone want the public to believe it was settled?  I think the answer is clear. Schools want to maintain the fiction that when they settle, it isn't because they violated the law, it's just to avoid legal fees, even though they never did anything wrong. The opposite is true. The system is set up so that lawyers, rather than wronged employees and students, receive the largesse of school insurer SDCOE-JPA (San Diego County Office of Education)

A reasonable person would conclude that the court had actually overseen a settlement of the case. The word "trial" does not occur anywhere in the U-T article. The article refers to "legal proceedings" and mentions the name of the judge, and includes a recitation of board complaints against McClain.

The name of Dan Shinoff is entirely missing from the U-T article. Interestingly, the Union-Tribune completely failed to cover the sexual harassment lawsuit of former CVESD board member Patrick Judd, former superintendent of Mountain Empire Unified School District, although the Union-Tribune had endorsed Mr. Judd repeatedly.


Jack Sleeth and Dan Shinoff don't seem to believe that a law requiring 30 days notice actually means 30 days notice is required. We can all be skeptics, can't we?

pages 18-22 of the trial transcript











UPDATE OCT. 10, 2012


From the Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz website:
Robert Mahlowitz Presents “Dragged Into Closed Session”

Attorney Robert Mahlowitz will present “Dragged Into Closed Session: The Ins and Outs of California’s Brown Act & Personnel Discussions” at the Fall Training Institute for the Association of Chief Human Resource Officers/Equal Employment Officers (ACHRO/EEO). The event will be held at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe October 24-26.

HR Professionals are often called upon to appear in closed session with their Boards to discuss personnel issues. Limited budgets may restrict access to legal counsel when HR Administrators have concerns about whether matters have been properly noticed, what notice has been provided to an employee and what to do when the employee wants a public airing of the discussion. Concerns also arise about potential personal liability for violation of the Brown Act. For 30 years, Stutz Artiano has served as legal counsel to community college and school districts in California and we will share insights to empower senior HR/EEO professionals for those times when the Brown Act invades.

[Maura Larkins comment: Stutz provided legal counsel to MiraCosta College throughout the Victoria Richart paroxysm, and to Grossmont-Cuyamaca during the Omero Suarez scandal.

Was newspaper slow to investigate a problems with a child-molesting teacher?

I'm not the only one who is concerned about media friendliness with school districts, and San Diego isn't the only place where newspapers protect bad actors in schools. The following story is from Maryland. I was intrigued by the two comments at the bottom.

School districts and their lawyers seem to have a lot of influence over the media. It seems that the teachers union has influence, too. The California Teachers Association (CTA) defended Albert Truit and Fred Kamper and endorsed Patrick Judd. It appears that both CTA and school districts will defend their own, no matter what they do to children or employees. On the other hand, CTA did not defend Coach Carter when the district retaliated against him for reporting that another coach had told a student to take a substance that caused the student to get kidney failure.

A teacher’s dismissal
By Editorial Board
Washington Post
September 29, 2012

THE MARYLAND State Board of Education has upheld the firing of a Montgomery County teacher who engaged in a pattern of suspect behavior with students. The decision is far from vindication of the county’s handling of the case. Rather it’s a stinging indictment of a school bureaucracy that for almost two decades believed it had a problem but reacted with a seemingly endless flow of ineffective warnings, letters, reprimands and — most appalling — reassignments of the teacher to other schools and other students. Montgomery officials boast about their skill at weeding out troubled and ineffective teachers. This disturbing case should temper the boasts and cause some soul searching.

Daniel J. Picca, most recently a teacher at Kemp Mill Elementary School, also taught at Candlewood, Rachel Carson and Luxmanor elementaries. He was dismissed in 2011 for insubordination and misconduct in office. The proximate cause for his dismissal stemmed from an April 12, 2010, incident in which another teacher at the Silver Spring school reported what she viewed as alarming contact with a male student. Mr. Picca, as was detailed by a hearing examiner who heard the case in 2010 and affirmed by an administrative law judge in July of this year, had been admonished over a 17-year period about his contact with students, mainly young boys. Reported contacts included inappropriate touching, having boys sit on his lap, wrestling and inviting boys to an after-school “Strong Boys Club” in which students said they were encouraged to take off their shirts. One 1995 incident resulted in a finding, upheld in subsequent appeals, by county child protective services that named Mr. Picca responsible for “indicated child abuse.” School officials say that the system’s central personnel office did not become aware of the child abuse findings until June 2010 when information was requested from child protective services as part of its then- ongoing investigation of Mr. Picca.

Mr. Picca, in a telephone conversation with us, labeled as false any allegation that he did anything improper. He noted that — despite investigation by police and the state’s attorney in 1995 — he has never been charged with a crime. He characterized the proceedings against him as a setup, partly in retaliation for his advocacy as a union activist. He noted that the parents of the boy involved in the April 2010 incident said that their son was pressured into making a false statement.

But three principals and two superintendents over many years raised red flags. “The evidence is overwhelming,” Administrative Law Judge David Hofstetter concluded in his July ruling upheld last week by the state board, that Mr. Picca “engaged in a pattern of conduct over many years which was reckless, brazen, unjustified and, most importantly, of grave potential harm to his students.”

How could school officials for so long do no more than put another strongly worded letter into his personnel file and move him to another school? Read the letter then-Superintendent Jerry D. Weast gave to Mr. Picca in February 2000 and consider whether you would entrust your child to such a teacher. The letter instructed Mr. Picca not to engage in any “bodybuilding”-type of activities with students or have contact with them outside the classroom. Shouldn’t the expectation be, as the state board wrote, that “when confronted with such obvious inappropriate behaviors on the part of a teacher toward his students . . . that the teacher will be removed from contact with students with alacrity?”

Mr. Picca was judged to be an effective teacher. He received high ratings on performance standards, but disciplinary proceedings are kept separate from professional evaluations. It’s not clear whether his principals even were aware of all the information that had accumulated in his central office file; as the state board noted, it is as if each reprimand stood alone without reference to past directives. School officials told us that procedures have been tightened, notably better communication between child protective services and the school system. We hope that they are following the advice of the Maryland school board directed to all the state’s systems to scour their personnel files and review policies to ensure “there are no cases, like this one, lurking in their schools.”

This case did feature a few bright spots. The Kemp Mill teacher who walked in on Mr. Picca and a student she saw to be uncomfortable immediately reported what she saw to the principal, who requested investigation by the central office. Mr. Weast rightly rejected a suggestion from Mr. Picca’s counsel for a voluntary resignation or early retirement and insisted on termination, a decision the Montgomery County Board of Education backed in the face of community pressure for a teacher who enjoyed considerable popularity. Montgomery officials said they have requested that the state revoke Mr. Picca’s teaching license.

Mr. Picca is contesting that move and said he may appeal his termination in Circuit Court. Currently he operates UpperHand Promotions, which describes itself as an outfit intended to aid high school athletes in the college recruiting process.


10:11 AM PDT
This is also a 'stinging indictment' of Post editor Vernon Loeb, who is responsible for coverage of Montgomery County, including MCPS. For years the Post has had a cozy relationship with MCPS superintendents and staff. This editorial only appeared after the Parents' Coalition broke the story and posted the documents. For the real story go to These crocodile tears from the Post editors come as too little, too late.

mcps teacher
10:30 AM PDT
I agree with freestategal. Check out Dana Tofig's tweets. Out to lunch with the principal from College Garden's Elementary and Michael Birnbaum of the Post.

Washington Post, you are being cozy with Weast's leftovers and they've been doing a lot of covering up in their school system. Finally, it looks as if the door is opening. There is an opportunity to stand up and declare "NO MORE DISHONESTY" from MCPS and their BOE.

Please, Post, do the right thing and investigate what is going on in MCPS. This editorial is just the tip of the iceberg...

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Key witness in Sandusky sex abuse case sues Penn State for defamation, whistle-blower violations

Key witness in Sandusky sex abuse case sues Penn State
By Ian Simpson
Oct 2, 2012

A key witness in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal sued Pennsylvania State University on Tuesday for more than $8 million on whistleblower, defamation and misrepresentation grounds.

Mike McQueary, a former Penn State assistant football coach, claimed in the suit filed in Center County Court that he lost his job, was misled and publicly scorned because he had told about one of the attacks.

Sandusky, a retired Penn State football defensive coordinator, was convicted in June on 45 counts of child molestation in a case that riveted national attention on child sexual abuse. Sentencing is set for October 9.

McQueary testified that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a football locker room in 2001. He told jurors he then told head coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and university Vice President Gary Schultz about the incident.

The assault was never reported to police or child welfare officials. McQueary testified about it before a grand jury and Schultz and Curley were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected abuse.

McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback, was placed on administrative leave shortly after Sandusky, Curley and Schultz were charged in November 2011. He later lost his $140,000-a-year job as receivers coach.

McQueary is seeking at least $4 million in damages for alleged defamation arising from then-President Graham Spanier's public support of Schultz and Curley after the charges against them were announced.

He is asking for at least $4 million for misrepresentation because Schultz, who headed the university police, and Curley alle

gedly told him that appropriate action would be taken over the locker room incident. The former coach alleges he lost his job because he cooperated with law enforcement and will be a witness in Curley and Schultz's trial. He is in part seeking reinstatement to his job or payment of lost wages...

Penn State is facing lawsuits from at least three of Sandusky's victims. It said last month it wanted to try to settle suits by the end of the year...