Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seniors turned their backs on speaker, Sweetwater trustee Jim Cartmill

Mar Vista grads protest at ceremony
Seniors turned their backs on speaker, Sweetwater trustee Jim Cartmill
Caroline Dipping
May 30, 2012

Protesting teacher layoffs, dozens of Mar Vista High School seniors turned their backs on the keynote speaker at their graduation ceremony Tuesday on the Imperial Beach campus.

Shortly after Sweetwater Union High School District board member Jim Cartmill began his remarks at the podium, the capped and gowned students stood and turned their backs to him. They held their stance for about 20 seconds before taking their seats at the request of Mar Vista Principal Wes Braddock.

The commencement exercise continued without interruption. Braddock said the fact the seniors resumed their seats within seconds indicated “they are respectful in their hearts,” but he was still disappointed by the demonstration...

A member of Occupy Sweetwater, a community activist group leading an effort to recall trustees Arlie Ricasa, John McCann and Cartmill, said the group was not involved in prompting or planning the students’ actions. The group has collected more than 500 of the 18,000 signatures needed by Aug. 27 to recall the board members in light of a district attorney’s investigation into construction contracting procedures.

“We’re just very proud that students took such a risk and stood up for themselves and their classmates,” said Lauren McLennan, an Occupy Sweetwater member. “Some adults are already trying to blame us, but it was the students’ decision and they organized it themselves.

Hours after his graduation ceremony, Mar Vista High senior Josh Cade posted on Occupy Sweetwater’s Facebook page.

“We took a stand against their corruption and we recommend other graduating students mimic our actions to show the school board that they can’t continue this outrageous mishandling of their budget,” Cade wrote. “They are ruining lives of our cherished teachers, mentors, and friends; students, we need to show our disapproval.”...

Is there really a mystery in Rani Goyal's resignation from Helix High? She “worked with the teachers to help them better their own practices”

I'm not sure what happened at Helix, but I know what's happened at three of the four schools where I taught. Here's what I've seen time and again:

A principal comes in with plans to improve teacher performance. At first you just hear griping, and there's no problem if the principal just picks on teachers who aren't part of the ruling teacher clique.

Heaven help the principal who dares to ask for change from politically powerful teachers. That's when the secret teacher meetings and the petitions start. Pretty soon you have a school where teachers refuse to behave professionally. It rarely gets as bad as Castle Park Elementary, which had eleven principals in eleven years, but it's a remarkably common scenario. The fact is, even if the principal is excellent, he or she has to go, because the teachers simply refuse to function properly as long as the principal is there.

Helix Mystery: Head of Charter High School Quits After Less Than 2 Years
Rani Goyal resigns as executive director despite legacy of accomplishments at La Mesa school.
By Ken Stone
La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch
May 30, 2012

A dozen days before graduation and less than two years after taking the school’s top job, Rani Goyal resigned Friday as executive director of Helix Charter High School.

No explanaton was given publicly.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, we are limited by confidentiality laws that affect our ability to comment on personnel issues,” Helix spokeswoman Jennifer Osborn said late Tuesday night in reply to a Patch query.

“I know you understand that it is not an unwillingness to answer questions, but an inability to do so.”

Osborn shared a memo dated May 25 from the Helix Charter school board to “Helix Community Stakeholders” with the subject line “Change in Executive Director Position.”

The note said:

This letter is to notify the Helix community that, effective today, Executive Director Rani Goyal has resigned from employment. We wish her the best in the future and want to thank her for all her efforts and contributions to the School and the community.

With the goal of identifying and securing a future leader for HCHS who will carry on Helix’s legacy of educational innovation and excellence, the Charter Board will immediately begin seeking an extremely qualified pool of candidates from which to select its future Executive Director.

Please be assured that it is the Charter Board’s goal to ensure that our students and families experience little to no disruption of the day-to-day routine of the school.

All end-of-the-year activities will proceed as usual, and Helix staff members will assume various roles to make sure this happens. Further information concerning contact information for high level operations decisions will be forthcoming.

Thank you for your continued support of our School.

Goyal resigned just days before senior boards—portfolio presentations and interviews with community members—that began Tuesday and senior awards on Thursday.

Graduation is June 6.

Goyal was hired in the summer of 2010 in the wake of a battle with the Grossmont Union High School District over its charter status after a series of teacher-student sex incidents.

She succeeded Doug Smith, who resigned after 21 years as part of a settlement between the school district and Helix Charter High.

“We need to start focusing on the positive,” Goyal told Patch in an October 2010 interview. “Let’s focus on the present and the future and where we’re going.”

Brian Kick, chater board president at the time, called Goyal a perfect fit for Helix because of her past experiences as an instructional leader.

Goyal took over the top Helix job in early September 2010 after serving as principal for three years at Temecula Valley High School in Riverside County.

“I worked with the teachers to help them better their own practices,” she said at the time—having started a schoolwide intervention program, curriculum teams and increased training for teachers.

At Helix,” she said two years ago, “the board wants me to lead the school in a direction that promotes student achievement.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Arizona girl, 8, humiliated with "catastrophe" award

UPDATE: I watched this video of a report on this story and was delighted to get a look at the girl's actual homework. Some of the assigned work looked like excellent reinforcement, assuming it was actually at the girl's independent reading level. But then I spied the spelling work. Experts long ago found that copying spelling words more than three times is completely useless, in addition to being mind-numbingly boring. I could see that the words were repeated well over three times each. It is busy work, pure and simple. Shame on the teacher.

Experts say that children should be given no more than ten minutes homework for each year they have been in school. I wonder if this girl's teacher followed best practices in assigning homework. Did she give more than half an hour's homework to this eight year old? Yes, I know that parents often want more homework for their kids. They think it will make them better students. Instead, the parents should be reading to their kids, discussing what they've read, discussing everyday math, and exchanging ideas and opinions with their kids. A lot of parents do this, and their children do better in school.

Also, I'd really love to know what the assignment was. Many teachers give work that they didn't have time to cover in class, so they expect parents to teach it. This girl's parents may not have been able to give her the needed help.

Many teachers think respect is a one-way street, something kids owe to them, but they don't owe to kids. One teacher at my school contemptuously referred to kids without homework as "losers".

Arizona girl, 8, humiliated with "catastrophe" award
Teacher pointed her out for not having homework
May 28, 2012

An Arizona teacher gave her 8-year-old student a "catastrophe" award for not having her homework.

The dog ate her homework, so third-grader Cassandra Garcia got a serving of humiliation that some are finding hard to swallow.

The 8-year-old was called in front of her laughing classmates recently to receive a “catastrophe” award for “most excuses for not having homework” at her Tucson elementary school, KGUN9 News reported.

The colorful certificate included a giant cartoon ice cream cone, her teacher’s signature and a smiley face in black marker.

“It’s cruel, and no child should be given an award like this,” the girl’s mom, Christina Valdez, told KGUN. “It’s disturbing.”

She said her daughter was crushed by the hazing, so she complained to the principal at Desert Springs Academy.

“She blew me off. She said it was a joke that was played and that the teachers joke around with the children,” Valdez said.

Sheri Bauman, a psychologist at the University of Arizona College of Education, agreed.

“That isn’t an award,” Bauman told KGUN. “It doesn’t fit the criteria."

Being humiliated after making mistakes is counterproductive to learning, she said.

Administrators prevail over teachers and students who follow them to lunchtime trysts

This case interested me because it is somewhat similar to what happened at Castle Park Elementary, except that it was not students, but teachers, who followed a district administrator to a lunchtime tryst in the California case. Castle Park Elementary had a very disturbed culture among the teachers, who wanted to retaliate after several teachers had been transferred out of the school.

The teachers didn't seem to appreciate that the district was in the middle of a court case in which it paid $100,000s to lawyers to defend these very teachers for illegal actions. The teachers styled themselves as "The Castle Park Family", and they were furious.

They caused a big public brouhaha, but the lunchtime stalking incident did not reach the newspapers. The board and the district administrators should have disciplined the teachers at the beginning instead of paying $100,000s of tax dollars to conceal their illegal actions. They became drunk with power, and could not be controlled by any principal. The school had eleven principals in eleven years. Also, one of their leaders, Peg Myers, became the President of Chula Vista Educators, and retains that position today. During the strife at Castle Park Elementary, Peg Myers worked closely with CTA director Jim Groth.

Court Decisions Favor Schools
National Association of Secondary School Principals
Nov. 2000

Principal Prevails

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas found in favor of a school principal on legal issues related to the intended use of dubious photographs that could have potentially compromised the principal’s integrity.

In Riggan v. Midland Indep. Sch. Dist. (86 F. Supp. 2d 647 [W.D. Tex. 2000]), Casey Riggan, a senior at Midland (Tex.) Senior High School, along with several o f hi s f r i ends, followed the school’s principal to the house of a teacher and photographed the principal’s car in front of the house. Not long after, administrators investigating rumors of the principal’s sexual impropriety learned that Riggan had photos that might be linked to their investigation. The principal himself also learned of the photos and contacted Riggan’s father for a conference.

Although the parties disputed exactly what was said at that meeting, the principal alleged that Riggan intended to print the photograph on a T-shirt with the statement “I never had sex with that woman” for graduates to wear during graduation to publicly humiliate him.

Additionally, the principal charged that Riggan’s photos were taken in retaliation for prior disciplinary actions and attempted to punish Riggan by suspending him and temporarily assigning him to the Alternative Education Program and requiring him to write apologies or be banned from graduation. Riggan claimed that the photos were absolutely protected under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression and that, as a result, the school could not regulate the photos or their use. The court held that although the photo-bearing T-shirt would be considered an expressive activity, regulation of the photographs in this case would not violate the First Amendment because Riggan did not have the absolute right to publicly humiliate the principal at graduation. Additionally, the court explained that if the p h o t o h a d b e e n p r i n t e d o n t h e Tshirts for graduation, the resulting disruption would have justified Riggan’s punishment by the school.

Top Labor Leader Lorena Gonzalez Hints at Teacher Givebacks

Be sure to click on the following link to get the original story with lots of links to other stories:

Morning Report: Top Labor Leader Hints at Teacher Givebacks
By Randy Dotinga
Voice of San Diego
May 25, 2012

In almost as many words, the top labor leader in the region yesterday told the San Diego teachers union to get off the dime. Lorena Gonzalez's message: It's time for movement already.

What kind of movement? Forgoing pay raises instead of allowing one of every five teachers to be laid off? Well, Gonzalez, the most powerful labor leader in San Diego, didn't quite go that far. But she got close.

"It doesn't make any sense to play a game of chicken, it's not going to work on either side," she said. Gonzalez didn't let the district off the hook, saying it's got to do more to explain the options that exist.

Meanwhile, the teachers union president told the U-T that he wants to survey its members about what to do over the next few days to see how to proceed.

For a quick explainer, check out our Reader's Guide on the district's financial crisis.

• In letters, San Diego teacher Joe Wainio says it's time for his union to negotiate. "To say that our raise is non-negotiable, standing by while hundreds of our fellow teachers and other staff are downsized and the quality of instruction is necessarily compromised, is irresponsible and short-sighted."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Diane Tran, Honor Student At Texas High School, Jailed For Missing School

UPDATE: Lots of good news for Diane Tran!

Diane Tran, Texas Honor Student Jailed For Missing School, Has Contempt Order Vacated
The Huffington Post
By Timothy Stenovec
Diane Tran, the Texas honor student who was jailed last week for missing too much school, will not have to worry about telling future employers or college admissions offices that she has a criminal history.

Lanny Moriarty, the judge who ordered the 17-year-old to go to jail after more than ten unexcused school absences, has set aside the contempt of court order he entered last week, according to Tran's lawyer, Brian Wice.

"She can now truthfully say that she doesn't have a criminal history," Wice told The Huffington Post by phone on Wednesday afternoon. He added that he's now going to find a lawyer to expunge the record.

Tran, a junior at Willis High School who takes AP and college level courses, works both full and part-time jobs to help support herself and two siblings, according to KHOU-11. She sometimes misses class because she's so tired from work.

"She goes from job to job from school," Devin Hill, one of Tran's classmates, told KHOU-11 last week. "She stays up until 7:00 in the morning doing her homework."

Her story resonated across the country and throughout the world. Nearly $100,000 in donations have come in from 49 states and 18 countries, according to, a site established in part by the Louisiana Children's Education Alliance (LCEA), a non-profit that focuses on education reform.

"We read the story and our hearts just broke thinking about what this girl had gone through," Charlie Davis, the president and founder of the LCEA, told HuffPost. "At same time we were infuriated that she'd become a victim of both the public education system and the judicial system, and we wanted to do something to help her, to show her some support."

Davis stressed that 100 percent of the money donated outside of the credit card processing fees will be donated to Tran, and said that he's hoping to give the money to the high school junior next week...


A Texas judge sentenced an honor student to jail because she missed class due to exhaustion. She works one full-time job and one part-time job in addition to a heavy load of advanced classes.

What exactly is the judge trying to teach her? That she should quit working and quit eating? That she should take easy classes so she doesn't need to spend hours studying? Or perhaps she should drop out of high school?

The law was obviously designed for kids who are failing in school due to truancy. But isn't it likely to cause kids simply to drop out of school? And many kids who are never truant are graduating without minimal skills. If schools were offering a more useful and more pleasant experience, they might not have to use the threat of jail to get kids to come to school.

Ten or more unexcused absences within a six-month period is just one-and-a-half days per month. I don't see how that could severely impede the education of a smart kid. And even for a not-so-smart kid, a carrot might be better than a stick to achieve a good educational outcome.

Diane Tran, Honor Student At Texas High School, Jailed For Missing School
The Huffington Post
By Timothy Stenovec

Diane Tran, a 17-year-old honor student in Texas, was forced to spend the night in jail last week after missing too many classes, KHOU-11's Sherry Williams reports.

The Willis High School junior, who helps support two siblings, has both a full time and part-time job. She said that she's often too tired to go to school.

"She goes from job to job from school," Devin Hill, one of Tran's classmates, told KHOU-11. "She stays up until 7:00 in the morning doing her homework."

In an interview with KHOU-11, Tran said she takes AP Spanish, college level algebra and dual credit English and history courses. Her parents divorced and no longer live near her, so she lives with the family that owns the wedding venue where she works on weekends.

According to Texas law, if a student has ten or more unexcused absences within a six-month period, the school district may refer the student to a juvenile court. "In such cases, resolution of the issue is entirely in the hands of the court," reads a statement on the website of the Willis Independent School District.

After being warned by a judge in April about missing too much school, Tran was arrested in court on Wednesday and required to spend the night in jail, according to the above video from KHOU-11. She has also been fined $100.

Tran's case has spread online, with dozens of news outlets across the country picking up her story., a site set up by the Louisiana Children's Education Alliance in partnership with Anedot and Gatorworks, has raised over $28,000.

A petition at that calls for the judge to revoke the teen's fine and sentencing was approaching 26,000 signatures on Monday afternoon.

"This remarkable young woman doesn't deserve jail," wrote a commenter going by Letitia Gutierrez. "She deserves a medal."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Camille Zombro goes off: she appears to want power for herself, and silence from rank-and-file teachers

See all Camille Zombro posts.

Teachers Union President: No Concessions Planned
Updated: May 25, 2012
By Will Carless
Voice of San Diego

Bill Freeman, president of the San Diego Education Association, just called to respond to claims made yesterday in an extraordinary open letter from Camille Zombro, the former teachers union president.

In her letter, Zombro heaped criticism on Freeman, saying the union was close to offering concessions on pay and benefits, and claiming she and a fellow colleague were “purged” from the union because they refused to follow Freeman’s agenda for negotiating an agreement with the school district to solve its fiscal crisis.

Freeman characterized Zombro’s comments as “sour grapes,” and said several of the claims she made are “absolutely untrue.”

“It’s very unfortunate that Camille Zombro would do this during such troubling and difficult times,” Freeman said. “To take this divisive measure is very sad, particularly for someone who has supported her for many, many years.” Sounding emotional and tired, Freeman said he would talk to me more tomorrow. But I managed to ask a couple of quick, specific questions.

I asked why SDEA Executive Director Craig Leedham was removed from his office. Leedham was placed on administrative leave in March and Zombro claimed that he had been forced out, with “no just cause or progressive discipline.” Freeman would only say that Zombro’s claims are “absolutely untrue.” He said he would elaborate Wednesday on Leedham’s removal.

I also asked about Zombro’s claim that the union is close to making concessions. He said that was not accurate. Freeman said the union’s representative council, made up of reps from around the district, voted overwhelmingly to open lines of communication with the district. Just because the union’s talking to the district doesn’t mean it’s going to make concessions, he said.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to have a more in-depth conversation with Freeman on Wednesday.

A couple of other follow-ups to the Zombro story:

• The Breakfast Club blog, which was started to put pressure on the SDEA, and which yesterday featured Zombro’s letter, has a new post. This one is from union secretary-elect Michelle Sanchez, who claims that free speech is being stunted at the union.

Sanchez raises concern that the union is effectively seeking to censor “subversive” groups within it by changing its bylaws.

She writes:

I honestly can’t believe what is happening to our union or that our leadership is spending time, energy, and money on this when we have more pressing issues to deal with like 1,700 laid off members! I assume that these bylaw changes are in response to Camille’s email, and the efforts of myself and a group of other SDEA members to found the Breakfast Club Action Group… A group we founded only after being told repeatedly at the membership meetings to go organize ourselves to fight against layoffs and keep our contract closed.

We are hardly “subversive,” as we have a public website, and have been explicitly organizing to pressure the School Board to recall layoffs while keeping their hands off of our contract. How can we be “subversive” if we agree with SDEA’s message of “No Concessions! No Layoffs!”?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Part 2--Should Roland Achtel be disqualified from this case: Silvia Peters deposition

See also Part 1 of this story.
Also see Judge Richard G. Cline.

May 24, 2012
Roland Achtel, Esquire

Dear Mr. Achtel:

It would appear that you have incorrectly remembered what happened at Silvia's deposition [regarding the David L. Bedolla case].

I never said a word to you about the handling of the deposition transcript, nor did I discuss it with the court reporter. I do remember looking up at you in surprise when you said that no copy of the deposition would be mailed to the deponent for review. You suddenly said you wanted to go off the record. The reporter immediately stopped recording, without getting Silvia's agreement to go off the record.

It should be noted that all day long you had unilaterally decided when the court reporter would go off the record, without asking for Silvia's approval. Early in the day I briefly discussed the issue with you, and you claimed to have no knowledge of any rule requiring that both parties agree in order for the reporter to go off record.

When you decided to go off record so you could discuss the handling of the transcript with the reporter, Silvia asked the reporter to go back on the record. The court reporter said to her, "I need to talk to him, and I can't record when I'm talking to him." Then you and the court reporter had a discussion off the record. The gist of your discussion was that the deponent would have to go to the reporter's office instead of your office to read and sign her deposition...

Then you went back on the record and said the transcript would be handled according to code...Shortly after, you stood up and said the deposition was over and you walked out with Alejandra...

I asked the court reporter why she didn't get Silvia's agreement to go off the record. "I never interfere," she said. I said that she should get the approval of both parties before going off the record. She repeated that she never did that. I assume she meant that she never did that when the deponent was in pro per. I asked her for her name and said I wanted to report her to the court reporters' licensing agency. She gave me her business card.

Then you came back in and ordered me to leave. I left within ten seconds. I did not say another word to the court reporter, and I didn't say anything at all to you.

Maura Larkins

Judge Richard Cline opposes putting court documents online, then orders court records destroyed rather than turning them over to party

See all posts re Judge Richard Cline.

This is one of the documents that Judge Cline doesn't want online (see Courthouse News story below).

If I didn't know better, I'd say that Judge Cline is trying to conceal his own actions as a judge in San Diego North County Superior Court

A petitioner in the David L. Bedolla case received notice from the court that her case records would be destroyed if she didn't request that the probate department turn them over to her. She filed an ex parte request to pick up the documents.

On May 22, 2012 Judge Richard Cline refused to allow her to have the documents, ordering them to be destroyed instead.

Interestingly, Judge Cline has told Courthouse News (see next story) that he no longer uses the court's new IT system to post documents online. Why is Judge Cline so opposed to allowing the public, and even the parties in a case, to have access to case documents?

Perhaps he wants to conceal some of his own orders.

On May 24, 2012, in the case mentioned above, he supported the court clerk's violation of law when she refused to file documents. Judge Cline has made it clear that he wants to help Roland Achtel win his case.

The above events put the following story in perspective: it appears Judge Cline doesn't like the public--or in pro per parties--to have access to court records.

Trial Judges Fire Back After Justice's Email Defending $1.9 Billion IT System for Courts
Courthouse News (CN)
February 14, 2011

Trial judges around California are firing back after an appellate justice sent out an email saying trial court judges "uniformly and enthusiastically" support a controversial $1.9 billion IT system. The email was sent just before the release of a blistering state audit that suggested administrators had hid the true cost of the system and failed to make sure it was necessary before plunging ahead.

Mounting dissatisfaction with the massive IT project, where the current version is called CCMS V-3, prompted state administrators to form a set of "oversight" committees two weeks ago. In the first memo coming out of those committees, Justice Terence Bruiniers said, "The judges who actually use CCMS uniformly, and enthusiastically support CCMS."

That statement brought a rapid rebuttal from judges in San Diego, where the system has been put in place.

"I dispute the contention that CCMSV3 works," wrote San Diego Superior Court Judge Richard Cline in a response to Bruiniers.

Cline said in an interview that he no longer uses the system, but did use it during his ten-year tenure as a probate judge. "It takes many more steps to do the same job," Cline said, noting that one staff research attorney in probate had reported that it took 42 steps just to post her work online through the system...

Studies Illustrate Plight of Introverted Students

May 23, 2012
Studies Illustrate Plight of Introverted Students
By Sarah D. Sparks
Education Week

Educators often look for ways to bring quiet children out of their shells, but emerging research suggests schools can improve academic outcomes for introverted students by reducing the pressure to be outgoing and giving all students a little more time to reflect.

"Whoever designed the context of the modern classroom was certainly not thinking of the shy or quiet kids," said Robert J. Coplan, a psychology professor and shyness expert at Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada. With often-crowded, high-stimulation rooms and a focus on oral performance for class participation, he said, "in many ways, the modern classroom is the quiet kid's worst nightmare."

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, published by Random House this year, argues that such children often stop learning when they feel emotionally threatened in a class environment in which being an extrovert is considered the norm.

"There is too often a tendency to see it as inferior or even pathological," Ms. Cain said, "so teachers feel they have to turn the introvert into an extrovert."

Quiet as Stupid?

Take a typical class review session, in which a teacher asks rapid-fire questions and calls on students in turn. "So if a teacher asks a question and the person doesn't answer right away," Mr. Coplan said, "the most common thing is the teacher doesn't have time to sit and wait, but has to go on to someone else—and in the back of their head might think that child is not as intelligent or didn't do his homework."

That slowness to speak can dramatically affect a student's success in classrooms where vocal participation and group activities are critical.

A 2011 study found teachers from across K-12 rated hypothetical quiet children as having the lowest academic abilities and the least intelligence, compared with hypothetical children who were talkative or typical in behavior.

Interestingly, teachers who were identified as and who rated themselves as shy agreed that quiet students would do less well academically, but did not rate them as less intelligent.

As many as half of Americans are introverts, according to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, located in Gainesville, Fla.

There's a distinction between shyness—generally associated with fear or anxiety around social contact—and introversion, which is related to a person's comfort with various levels of stimulation.

VISTA: Students given a false sense of justice in our courtrooms

Photo: Judge Richard G. Cline, attorney Kenneth Feinburg and Judge Ronald Styn in 2005

See all posts re Judge Richard Cline.

VISTA: Students get a taste of justice
August 03, 2011
North County Times

Twenty-six middle school students got a taste of justice at the Vista Courthouse Tuesday through a program that introduces them to the legal system.

One student defended herself against charges of theft, and was ultimately led away in handcuffs for drug possession. Another student, her alleged accomplice, sat silent on the advice of his attorneys. The accuser was reprimanded by the judge for name-calling on the witness stand.

The gifted and talented students, whom their instructor, Gregg Primeaux, called "future leaders of the community," were role-playing a trial in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Richard Cline, a co-founder of the civics curriculum, "On My Honor."

"I learned a lot about how the court works," said Miranda Colvin, 12, the seventh-grader from Aviara Oaks Middle School who played the defendant. "It was really fun because I got to put on handcuffs."

The program began in 1999 with a fourth-grade field trip to the courts, and expanded into a series of regionwide events, including "Youth in Court Day" and, more recently, the week-long summer symposium for gifted students. The programs are sponsored jointly by the San Diego Superior Court, the North County Bar Association, Cal State San Marcos, and local schools.

Cline said he developed the curriculum to supplement dwindling civics education, and counterbalance what he considers the poor depiction of judicial proceedings on television.

"It teaches students factual information about the (legal) process by participating in an active trial," Cline said. "And hopefully it teaches them respect for the law."

During the summer program, gifted students in grades 5-9 prepare a case with attorneys and judges, investigate case studies using technology labs, present legal arguments, debate complex issues, select jury members, explore rights and responsibilities as citizens, and take a tour of the court facilities.

"We wanted to bring a higher critical thinking opportunity for them during the summer, within the courts," Primeaux said, adding that the program aims to both cultivate legal literacy and inspire future legal professionals.

During the mock trial, a student, Emily, faced theft charges for allegedly stealing $200 of charitable donations from a teacher's desk during lunch hour. Fellow students testified that they suspected her of taking the cash, noting that they saw her in the classroom and watched her buy a new iPod.

However, they acknowledged they never saw her steal the money, and school administrators admitted that while they found the new iPod in her backpack, she told them she earned the money through odd jobs.

Throughout the mock trial, Cline offered judicial guidance on examining the evidence, and at one time reproached a witness, Colleen, for calling Emily a "liar and a loser" on the stand.

A dozen student jurors then weighed the testimony and declared Emily not guilty. In a final twist, however, Cline announced that a court search of Emily's backpack turned up a white, powdery substance found to be methamphetamine, and a student actor playing bailiff escorted her out of court in handcuffs...

[Maura Larkins comment: This seemed to be a real exercise in critical thinking--until that "final twist". Shame on the adults for pulling that parlor trick. The students were given the impression that in a typical case, defendants are wrongly found innocent. Obviously, the jury in the above exercise was right to find the girl innocent. Judge Cline would have done these students a service if he acknowledged that the outcome in the story below is more common in the US justice system. The idea that defendants bring methamphetmine to court in backpacks is silly, bordering on dishonest manipulation of children's minds. Judge Cline seems to want kids to believe that courts make mistakes when they find defendants not guilty.

A more typical situation can be seen in the following case, which, interestingly enough, involved a fifteen-year-old girl. (Perhaps Judge Cline should have included in his lesson an admonition not to make false allegations?) The defense attorney in the following case described our justice system to the innocent young man accused by the fifteen-year-old: "When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you're automatically going to be assumed guilty."]

May 24, 2012
Onetime top Calif. football prospect exonerated after serving 5 years on rape charge

A former high school football star whose dreams of a pro career were shattered by a rape conviction burst into tears Thursday as a judge threw out the charge that sent him to prison for more than five years.

Brian Banks, now 26, had pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of his lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.

The district attorney offered Banks a deal -- plead guilty to rape and spend another 18 months in prison, or go to trial and face 41 years to life, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Banks said his defense attorney told him, "'When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you're automatically going to be assumed guilty.' Those are her exact words."

In a strange turn of events, the woman, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison.

In an initial meeting with him, she said she had lied; there had been no kidnap and no rape and she offered to help him clear his record, court records state.

But she refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.

During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told Banks, "'I will go through with helping you but it's like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don't want to have to pay it back,"' according to a defense investigator who was at the meeting.

It was uncertain Thursday whether Gibson will have to return the money.

Prosecutors also said they didn't immediately know if she might be prosecuted for making the false accusation when she was 15...

Banks said he had verbally agreed to attend USC on a four-year scholarship when he was arrested.

He still hopes to play professional football and has been working out regularly. His attorney Justin Brooks appealed to NFL teams to give him a chance.

Banks said outside court Thursday that he had lost all hope of proving his innocence until Gibson contacted him.

"It's been a struggle. But I'm unbroken and I'm still here today," the tall, muscular Banks said, tears flowing down his face.

He recalled being shocked and speechless on the day Gibson reached out to him after he had been released from prison, having served five years and two months...

In court, Deputy District Attorney Brentford Ferreira told Superior Court Judge Mark C. Kim that prosecutors agreed the case should be thrown out. Kim dismissed it immediately.

Banks had tried to win release while he was in prison, but Brooks, a law professor and head of the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego, said he could not have been exonerated without the woman coming forward and recanting her story.

Brooks said it was the first case he had ever taken in which the defendant had already served his time and had been free for a number of years.

Banks remained on probation, however, and was still wearing his electronic monitoring bracelet at Thursday's hearing. His lawyer said the first thing the two planned to do was report to probation officials and have it removed.

"The charges are dismissed now," Brooks said. "It's as if it didn't happen. ... It was the shortest, greatest proceeding I've ever been part of."

Banks had been arrested after Gibson said he met her in a school hallway and urged her to come into an elevator with him. The two had been friends since middle school and were in the habit of making out in a school stairwell, according to court papers.

There were contradictions in Gibson's story, as she told some people the rape happened in the elevator and others that it happened in the stairwell.

A kidnapping enhancement was added to the case because of the allegation Banks had taken her to the stairwell. That enhancement also was thrown out Thursday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm guessing that Sandra Layne was a mean teacher

Did any parents complain about this woman during the 30 years she taught school? If she had made an effort to be an effective teacher, she would have learned how to cope emotionally with misbehaving children.

Shooting someone eight times is an indication of out-of-control anger--especially when the victim is one's own grandson.

Jonathan Hoffman Dead: Sandra Layne Shot Grandson Eight Times, Police Say

Jonathan Hoffman frantically told a 911 dispatcher he had been shot in the chest by his grandmother and was going to die, a police detective testified Monday.

By the time officers arrived at the family's upscale condo in a Detroit suburb, at least four more shots from a .40-caliber handgun had been pumped into the 17-year-old high school senior.

A West Bloomfield Township detective told a judge during Monday's arraignment for 74-year-old Sandra Layne that eight entry and exit wounds were found in Hoffman's body after the Friday afternoon shooting.

Layne has been charged with open murder and held without bond. She stood mute in court when the charge was read, and a not guilty plea was entered on her behalf. An open murder charge allows a jury to decide on whether a first- or second-degree charge applies after hearing evidence.

Hoffman had been attending an alternative high school in nearby Farmington and living with his maternal grandparents so he could complete his senior year while his divorced parents settled in Arizona, according to his father, Michael Hoffman of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Layne's attorneys have said there were problems at the condo, and Layne was afraid of her grandson. One of her attorneys, Mitchell Ribitwer, told reporters Monday that drugs and drug paraphernalia apparently belonging to the teen were found at the condo after Hoffman was killed.

Michael Hoffman said that regardless of his son's behavior, the teen was unarmed and didn't deserve to be shot to death.

Detective Brad Boulet testified about Hoffman's 911 call and said when officers arrived at the condo, Layne was inside, behind a screened door.

"She put the gun on the floor after being ordered so by officers," Boulet said. "She exclaimed she had just murdered her grandson."

Wearing an orange jumpsuit in court, Layne smiled and nodded to her husband and other family members.

Ribitwer described her to the judge as a retired teacher who has lived in the West Bloomfield area for 30 years. His requests for a reasonable bond and electronic tether monitor for Layne were denied. A pre-examination conference for Layne was set for Thursday morning.

Prosecutors had no comment after the hearing. Layne's husband and other relatives attended the hearing but also didn't comment.

Police had responded in March to a domestic disturbance at Layne's home.

"I spoke to the officer who responded, and he indicated this young man was totally out of control in the street," defense attorney Ribitwer told reporters Monday. "He was derogatory to his grandmother. He was yelling and shouting and almost got into it with the police."

Jonathan Hoffman's funeral is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rutgers Trial: Tyler Clementi's nemesis Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail

Trying to gain popularity by abusing outsiders seems to be a typical tactic of human beings. It's the preferred strategy of both student and teacher cliques in schools. It's known as "girl culture" but obviously it's practiced by men, too.

And, of course, witness tampering is very common in schools. I saw it firsthand in Chula Vista Elementary School District. Administrators do it as a matter of course. It's appropriate that there should be some punishment for a crime that undermines our justice system.

Rutgers Trial: Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail
ABC News May 21, 2012

Former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail by a New Jersey judge today for spying on his roommate's gay tryst. Ravi's freshman roommate Tyler Clementi committed suicide days later.

"I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi," Judge Glenn Berman told the court. "He had no reason to, but I do believe he acted out of colossal insensitivity."

Ravi must report to Middlesex Adult Correctional Center on May 31 at 9 a.m. for his probationary sentence.

"I heard this jury say, 'guilty' 288 times--24 questions, 12 jurors. That's the multiplication," Berman said. "I haven't heard you apologize once."...

Rutgers webcam case: Victim's family wants prison for Dharun Ravi
By Tina Susman
May 21, 2012

...A jury last March found Ravi, who is now 20, guilty of invasion of privacy and a host of other crimes, including hate crimes, which could bring at least 10 years in prison. Ravi denied wrongdoing and denied allegations he was motivated by anti-gay attitudes toward Clementi.

“I believe Mr. Ravi exploited my budding … relationship with Tyler Clementi in his vain attempt to gain attention and popularity with others,” M.B.’s statement, read by attorney Richard Pompelio, said in part. M.B. wrote that he was “devastated” to learn he had been “placed under a microscope for the sole amusement of Mr. Ravi and his friends,” and that his emotions had not lessened. In fact, he said, they had only intensified.

“I just wanted him to acknowledge that he had done wrong and take responsibility for his conduct,” M.B. said in asking for Ravi to be sentenced to some prison time. He did not specify how much time Ravi should receive. Neither did Clementi's family members.

The statement was one of several made to Judge Glenn Berman in the run-up to the sentencing. After M.B.’s statement, Clementi’s father, Joseph, spoke, as did Clementi’s brother, James, and his mother, Jane, who said Ravi had given her son the cold shoulder from the moment the two young men had met at the start of classes in the fall of 2010.

Joseph Clementi accused Ravi of acting “without a thought” of how his actions might affect his son or his son’s date when he set up the secret video cam. “And he did it in a cold and calculating manner and then he tried to cover it up,” said Clementi, who at one point seemed about to break down but who kept on speaking after briefly halting.

“Mr. Ravi still does not get it, he has no remorse, and he has said he was genuinely surprised that a jury could find him guilty,” Clementi said before his surviving son, James, delivered another impassioned statement tinged with bitterness toward Ravi.

“My family has never heard an apology…the behavior I saw in the courtroom…suggests a complete lack of concern for my brother or the pain inflicted on him,” said James Clementi. “I watched as Dharun slept through court as if it were not something worth staying awake for,” he said of the trial, which ended with the guilty verdicts in March.

“Through it all, I bit my tongue.” But James Clementi added that his brother’s “fate was sealed” from the moment a computer randomly assigned him to share a room with Ravi. “He could never have known the viper’s nest he was walking into,” he said...

Guilty verdict in Rutgers webcam spying case
By David Ariosto
March 17, 2012

...His roommate, Tyler Clementi, killed himself in 2010 after learning of webcam spying
Ravi was not charged directly with Clementi's death

A former Rutgers University student accused of spying on and intimidating his gay roommate by use of a hidden webcam was found guilty Friday of all counts -- including invasion of privacy and the more severe charges of bias intimidation -- in a case that thrust cyberbullying into the national spotlight.

Dharun Ravi, 20, was also found guilty of witness tampering, hindering apprehension and tampering with physical evidence, and could now face up to 10 years in jail and deportation to his native India.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part 1: Should attorney Roland Achtel be disqualified from this San Diego Superior Court case?

This blog has long been concerned about the fact that our legal system is often used to keep wrongdoing in schools hidden from the public, and to protect the wrongdoers. The following case is not about a public entity lawyer, but tax dollars are used to conduct cases like this.

The Bar Association seems to be happy with the current arrangement. After all, both plaintiff lawyers who represent the citizens who have been wrongly damaged, as well as the public entity lawyers who defend public officials, reap huge financial benefits from the system. Does it do any good to complain to the California Bar Association about lawyers who use unethical tactics? I doubt it. The Bar Association has officially expressed the opinion that public entity attorneys should represent the interests of public officials, not the public.

Roland Achtel

The following case, featuring attorney Roland Achtel, was discussed HERE. A motion to disqualify Judge Richard Cline was also filed.


Name of Attorney:
Attorney Roland Achtel State Bar No. 215031

Other Attorneys
Olga Alvarez State Bar No. 222557
Jenny K. Goodman State Bar. No 177828
Jennifer W Chang State Bar No. 259643

Law Firm:
Sullivan Hill Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel
550 W "C" St Ste 1500 San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 233-4100 Fax Number: (619) 231-4372

Location of Court:. Superior Court of California San Diego North County Dept. NC-2
Dates of Incident:. March 1, 2012 And For The Past One And a Half Years
Name of Case:. In Re David L. Bedolla Living Trust
Case No.: 37-2010-00150345-PR-TR-NC


This Complaint is not filed with the intent to ask the Office of The Chief Trial Counsel for legal advice; to correct errors, rulings, decision, or to issue an order in the case.

This Complaint if filed because we believed attorneys Roland Achtel, Olga Alvarez, Jenny Goodman, and Jennifer Chang engaged in an egregious pattern of misconduct that infringed the constitutional and statutory rights of our father their former client and our rights as petitioners in the above named action. These said acts by attorney Achtel and the above named attorneys were not isolated; rather, they reflected a disturbing and persistent pattern of conduct that is completely at odds with the standard of conduct expected of licensed attorneys in the State of California.

The above named attorneys, violated the American Bar Association rules of professional conduct; violations under Business and Professions Code; violations under California Rules of Professional Conduct; California Civil Rules of Procedure; Local Court rules; codes of conduct and ethics that are required guidelines for Members of the American Bar Association.

The above named attorneys actions were negligent, in bad faith, and violated public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary process. The Board of Governors has the power to discipline members as provided by law for a willful breach of any of these rules.

The exhibits attached to this complaint will support our Complaint and the facts stated in this complaint as true and correct as to the event and proceedings.


In the instant, this is a Probate/Civil case about our father who is now deceased. Our father who had been married to our mother for over 58-years before he passed away. Our father and mother had nine biological children. There were no other marriages and no other children.

Our father was emotionally and financially abused, neglected, denied medical care, and died an early horrific death. He was dehydrated, had multiple bed sores, and was isolated by our youngest sister Alejandra and our brother who is now dismissed from the complaint. Alejandra and our brother exploited their relationship with our father, and through verbal threats and abuse, manipulation, fraud and undue influence bullied our father to gift my brother and Alejandra the properties he jointly owned with his wife Maria, without Maria's knowledge or consent.

Our father was diagnosed on May 14, 2007 with terminal cance. Alejandra the Respondent did not inform any of the family members of our father's terminal diagnosis including our father and mother.

Instead By May 25, 2007 Respondent Alejandra had taken our father to the Law Office of Roland Achtel to draft a living trust under the name of David L. Bedolla Living Trust. No one knew that our father was terminal or that Respondent Alejandra Bedolla had taken our father to draft a living trust.

On May 25, 2007 Respondent Alejandra wrote a check to the Achtel Law Firm APC; check number 548 from the Bank of America Bank account of David L. Bedolla and Trinidad V. Bedolla for an amount of $ 1,200.00 signed with the name of David L. Bedolla. Alejandra Bedolla send a cashier's check from her San Diego Credit Union Account to pay for the trust.

Respondent Alejandra (a). drove David L. Bedolla to the law office of Achetel Law APC, (b). wrote the checks equal to $ 2, 400 from David L. Bedolla and his wife Maria's Bank of America checking account. (c). Alejandra made herself the, "Successor Trustee" of David Bedolla L. Living Trust. Giving herself, (d). "Financial Power," (e). "Power of Attorney" and sole decision making of David L. Bedolla "Power of health and directive (f) Conservator and (g). the, "sole beneficiary of the so-called David L. Bedolla Living Trust."

Based on attorney records Achtel Law Firm APC, staff member RHA wrote: under description as a flat fee for preparation of a living trust; certificate of trust, power of attorneys, designation of conservator (s); pour-over will (s); health care directive(s); one quit claim deed; general assignment of personal property and other ancillary living trust documents. The total charges were $ 2, 400.00 from David L. Bedolla and Maria V. Bedolla Bank of America Account balance of $ 1,200.00.

Our father died on February 4, 2010, a few months later our mother was contacted by the San Diego Assessors/Recorders Office about the name change of her home property her main residence in Cardiff CA the home value at that time was $650.000. The home our mother jointly owned with our father and marital community property. This is when we found out that our youngest sister Alejandra had taken our father to the law office of Roland Achtel and caused a living trust to be transcribed. Whereby Alejandra would be the sole beneficiary of our father's marital community property estate.

We filed a Petition in Superior Court of California San Diego North County Division [July 15, 2010] in the Probate department to have the David. L. Bedolla Living Trust nullified and have the property returned to the Bedolla estate. Alejandra Bedolla being the Respondent in the Probate Petition.

The David L. Bedolla Living Trust was fraud and flawed, in many ways. The trust gifts community property belonging to our mother [her main residence/ the Bedolla estate] to Alejandra Bedolla.

• Alejandra made herself the "Successor Trustee" of David Bedolla L. Living Trust Giving herself, (d). "Financial Power," (e). "Power of Attorney" and sole decision making of David L. Bedolla "Power of health and directive (f) Conservatorship and (g). the, "sole beneficiary of the so-called David L. Bedolla estate."
• Though our father presumably paid for a conservatorship, none was established.
• Our mother did not quit claim deed the property to the trust.
• The Living Trust is a couple of dozen pages long (on or about 30-plus) written only in English.
• Our father did not speak read or write English and only had a third grade education.
• A declaration of attorney Olga Alvarez states that she personally translated the trust to our father. Yet our father never saw the trust until the day he signed it. On the day he signed the trust our father was in the hospital gravely ill from En Vibrio Cholera and under over twenty one strong medications.
• All trust communication, email, mail, calls, faxes, translations with the Achtel law firm were made by Alejandra Bedolla not our father. All and other means of communication was conducted between these above named attorneys and Alejandra Bedolla and not our father David L. Bedolla.

Respondent Alejandra Bedolla is being represented by attorney Roland Achtel and Olga alvarez from the onset of this present action. Attorney Achtel and attorney Olga Alvarez joined the law firm of Sullivan Hill Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel prior to representing Alejandra Bedolla.

Olga Alvarez

Blogger note: Sullivan Hill attorneys Roland Achtel and Olga Alvarez were named San Diego Top Attorney Semi-Finalists for The San Diego Daily Transcript’s 2011 Top Attorneys. Achtel and Alvarez were recognized in the Estate Planning/Probate & Trust category.

Further Attorney Roland Achtel has brought in two additional attorneys into the litigation Attorney Jenny K. Goodman and Jennifer Chang. We the Petitioners in the above named action are representing ourselves.

Continued HERE.
Jennifer Chang
came to Sullivan Hill in Jan. 2011. Previously, she was an attorney at Sempra Energy and Analyst at DaimlerChrysler. Education: University of San Diego School of Law and Duke University

Sullivan Hill attorney Jenny K. Goodman has experience defending professionals, including attorneys, real estate professionals and stockbrokers, for malpractice.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sweetwater Activist Cleared of Allegations Made by Boardmember

UPDATE MARCH 20, 2013: Superintendent Ed Brand's claim that this matter would cost the district $2,400 was way off. The actual amount, revealed by Susan Luzzaro on March 20, 2013, was $6,336. But why should Mr. Brand worry about such details when the money is coming from taxpayers?

Occupy Sweetwater Activist Cleared of Allegations Made by Boardmember
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
May 10, 2012

For weeks, activist Stewart Payne has had headlines written that pertain to him: “Violent Threats By Occupy Sweetwater Result in Restraining Order” (San Diego Rostra), “Keep Payne Away” (The Star News), and “Court Protects Sweetwater Board Member” (U-T San Diego).

All of this because, on the night of April 16, before a meeting of the Sweetwater Union High School District, Payne and the group Occupy Sweetwater initiated a recall petition against boardmember John McCann and two other trustees.

After the meeting, words were exchanged in the parking lot, and McCann called the police to report Payne had physically threatened him. (Payne had gone home before McCann made the call to police.)

McCann subsequently received a temporary restraining order against Payne and sought a permanent one. On May 9, judge Ana Espana determined that Payne had not threatened McCann and denied the injunction.

Aside from why certain media outlets seemed to mischaracterize Payne's role in the incident, other questions remain. Should the temporary restraining order ever have been issued? And why were inconsistencies in the police report — which became crucial during the hearing — overlooked?

Here are the details of what happened: After the April 16 board meeting, McCann gave an interview with KUSI. During the interview, McCann criticized the people who went to the San Diego district attorney — Payne among them — alleging corruption in the Sweetwater district. McCann characterized the activists as “disgruntled employees” and during the interview said Payne was someone who had been looking for work in the school system.

After the interview, according to the police incident report, “McCann made his way over to Stewart Payne and extended his hand to Payne. McCann stated he wanted to use this as a gesture that there were no hard feelings and as a way to hopefully resolve the tension between the two.”

In a May 9 interview, Payne reasoned with McCann's statement and actions, saying, “Why would you throw me under the bus on camera and then try to come shake my hand? It doesn’t make sense.” Payne said the hearing that resulted in the judgment in his favor centered on inconsistencies in the police report and a follow-up investigation report.

A follow-up investigation, during which Chula Vista police detective Michael Varga interviewed McCann, states, “Payne then raised his balled and clenched fist in preparation to strike McCann.”

However, Varga’s follow-up report with security guard Jorge Sanchez states, “I asked Sanchez about Payne’s physical posture…. Sanchez stated that Payne had one hand extended, and one finger of that hand extended, into McCann’s face…. I asked Sanchez if Payne’s hands were balled into a fist, or if Payne was in any type of fighting stance. Sanchez did not see Payne’s hands balled into a fist and did not recall seeing Payne in any type of fighting stance.”

Jimmy Delgado, an employee of the San Ysidro Elementary School District, provided a witness statement for McCann. According to Delgado, Payne “...aggressively pointed his finger in McCann’s face.” Delgado's description of Payne's gestures agree with Payne’s formal response.

Payne says he backed away from McCann’s advances that night: “I had retreated so far that I could feel other people on my heels…. At this point I became concerned that Mr. McCann was becoming irrational and intending to do me harm. It is at this point that I extended my hand pointing my finger to establish my personal boundary and told him not to come closer or I would protect myself.”

Payne, who defended himself during the May 9 proceedings, said, “Have you ever seen anyone who was going to hit someone with their finger?”

McCann was represented by an attorney at the hearing. According to a May 10 U-T report, “Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand approved the legal expense. He said the affair may cost the school district around $2,400 in attorney’s fees for McCann.”

Does our society want science education? Or do we think knowledge is elitist--or worse?

Microsoft, Pfizer and Comcast are funding the people who made this:

Heartland equates climate change with terrorism
Sum of Us
May 11, 2012

Are you part of the “radical fringe”? According to an ad campaign by the Heartland Institute, if you believe in climate change, you’re a radical on par with the likes of Osama bin Laden, the Unabomber, and notorious mass-murderer Charles Manson.

An ad campaign planned by the corporate front-group the Heartland Institute — which is funded in part by Microsoft and Pfizer – features the faces of these notorious killers alongside the phrase “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” Tell Microsoft, Pfizer, and Heartland’s other funders to stop funding Heartland and its dirty climate change denier smears.

Even as people are literally dying from increased flooding, drought, freak storms, and other climate impacts around the world, the fossil fuel industry continues to deny that climate change even exists. Their strategy has been incredibly effective — they’ve stopped the US from taking any serious action to end its addiction to oil and coal, which in turn has made it impossible for the world to reach a global climate treaty. And Heartland, a key climate change denier, also depends on Microsoft, Pfizer, and other corporations who claim they believe in climate change out of one side of their mouth — while simultaneously funding an organization that runs despicable ads like these out of the other side. That’s why we’re joining up with our friends at Forcast the Facts to call for corporations to stop funding Heartland.

The Heartland Institute has a long history of playing dirty. Last year, Heartland was caught trying to sneak industry-written pro-coal propaganda into elementary schools, and previously they have acted as hired guns for the cigarette industry, distributing a paper titled “Joe Camel is Innocent!”.

Corporations have begun fleeing from Heartland. In March, General Motors announced it would no longer fund Heartland. Just yesterday, Diageo — the company behind Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnny Walker, and other brands — also announced they were pulling funding. Now is the time to give Microsoft, Pfizer, and Heartland’s other funders — many of whom have explicitly stated they care about fighting climate change — a push to follow GM and Diageo’s lead.

Criminal contempt is the appropriate charge for destroying and creating evidence at trial

Chula Vista Elementary spoliated evidence in this case. Obama jokes with Clooney at star's gala fundraiser By JIM KUHNHENN Associated Press May 11, 2012 ...Obama told the crowd that his famed "Hope" poster from the 2008 campaign was based on a photograph of Obama sitting next to Clooney when Obama was a U.S. senator. Clooney had been in Washington advocating on behalf of Darfur. "This is the first time that George Clooney has ever been photo-shopped out of a picture," Obama said. "Never happened before, never happen again." In fact, the artist who created the poster, Shepard Fairey, used another photograph of Obama but said he relied on the Obama-Clooney picture to avoid a copyright infringement case with The Associated Press. He pleaded guilty in February to criminal contempt for fabricating and destroying evidence...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Associated Calexico Teachers and the Calexico Unified School District in Hopes of an Agreement

Associated Calexico Teachers and the Calexico Unified School District in Hopes of an Agreement
By Mario Conde
Tribune Weekly Chronicle
May 10, 2012

Negotiations continue between the Associated Calexico Teachers and the Calexico Unified School District in hopes of an agreement.

Teachers, parents, and students protested on a rally outside the District office and show support to the negotiating team that was going to meet with district officials Monday evening. The Calexico School Board voted to lay off 86 teachers in order to solve budget deficit. The meeting started at 4p.m. Monday and they were still meeting at 6 a.m. Tuesday. The fact-finding meeting ended round 8 a.m.

At the rally there were teachers from other valley school districts such as Calipatria and Brawley showing support to the teachers and students. The District and the ACT have not come to an agreement for many months and are hoping to reach an agreement at the end of the year.

Members of the California Teachers Association Board of Directors were present at the rally to show support to the negotiating team. Jim Groth, Board member of CTA, said that they are with Calexico teachers and they will be supporting them until all the teachers that were layoff are re-instated.

Mikkie Cichocki, CTA Secretary/Treasurer, said to be proud of Calexico because they always stick together in the hard times.

“It is amazing what this board has done to you but we are here with you until the end and will not leave you alone.” She said.

The teachers union has protested the board’s decision to terminate the teachers and have gone picketing to their houses and their workplaces.

ACT President Enrique Cervantes said it was a typical tactic and let the board know they will not give up the fight.

“We are doing it because we want to tell them that we don’t play games.” He said.

The ACT and the District have not come to an agreement since they don’t see eye to eye on the budget presented, he said.

The next Calexico School Board meeting will take place Thursday, May 10, 2012 at William Moreno Jr. High Multi-Purpose Room and will begin at 6:00p.m.

Does it matter if Mitt Romney was a bully in high school?

See all posts on bullying.

The important question is whether Mitt Romney's character has changed since his high school bullying days. Obviously, he has learned to restrain his urges, if they still exist, toward physical aggression in public. But does he still have the urge to force others to think like him? To make them suffer for being different? And is he telling the truth when he says he does not remember the incident, to which other participants have confessed? (See second story below.)

Does it matter if Mitt Romney was a bully in high school?
When Mitt Romney was a senior at suburban Detroit’s Cranbrook school, he led a 'posse' that forcibly cut the long blond hair of a nonconformist junior, according to a Washington Post report.
By Peter Grier
Christian Science Monitor
May 10, 2012

Does it matter if Mitt Romney misbehaved in high school? That question arises due to a report in Thursday’s Washington Post that when he was a senior at suburban Detroit’s Cranbrook school, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee led a “posse” that held down and forcibly cut the long blond hair of a nonconformist junior.

In this video, Romney apologizes for any pranks he may have pulled in high school that hurt or offended his fellows. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Mitt said at the time, according to fellow student Matthew Friedemann, quoted in the Post.

Mr. Romney himself said Thursday that he cannot remember the incident. The longhaired student in question, John Lauber, is now deceased. But Romney gave some legs to the story by apologizing repeatedly for any pranks he may have pulled in high school that hurt or offended his fellows.

“As to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all. But again, high school days – if I did stupid things, I’m afraid I've got to say sorry for it,” said Romney in an interview on Fox News Radio.

Romney’s opponents say they are torn by the relevance of an alleged incident that would have occurred some 50 years ago. But they forge ahead nonetheless, saying that if true, the forcible haircut could provide some insight into the character of a man who wants to sit in the Oval Office.

“Romney was 18 – old enough to vote, old enough to serve in the military, and old enough to know not to attack a vulnerable teenager unprovoked...

Here's a quote from the Washington Post story:

"The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be identified...“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” said Buford, the school’s wrestling champion, who said he joined Romney in restraining Lauber...“It was a hack job,” recalled Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney who was in the dorm room when the incident occurred. “It was vicious.” “He was just easy pickin’s,” said Friedemann, then the student prefect, or student authority leader of Stevens Hall, expressing remorse about his failure to stop it...Friedemann, guilt ridden, made a point of not talking about it with his friend and waited to see what form of discipline would befall Romney at the famously strict institution. Nothing happened."

Mitt Romney forced to apologise after he 'mocked and assaulted' high school classmate who was 'presumed gay'
Daily Mail
10 May 2012

Mitt Romney has been forced to apologise for forcibly shaving the head of a high school classmate who was regularly taunted for being gay.

The Republican presidential candidate grabbed tearful John Lauber and hacked away with a pair of scissors because he thought his bleached blond hair was ‘wrong’.

Mr Romney also supposedly mocked another student who was a closeted gay by shouting ‘Atta girl!’ when he tried to speak in class.

The damaging claims come a day after Barack Obama said he was in favour of gay marriage.

Mr Romney has made it clear he opposes it but issued an apology for fear of being seen as homophobic.

He said: ‘Back in high school, you know, I did some dumb things. If anyone was hurt by that or offended by that, obviously I apologize.

‘But overall, high school years were a long time ago'.

Interviews with Mr Romney’s former classmates at the $54,000 a year Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, reveal he was fond of jokes that were mostly good natured by sometimes had a hard edge.

After the shaving incident Mr Lauber ‘seemed to disappear’ from life in school and was later expelled for smoking and died in 2004 of liver cancer.

Torment: The Republican presidential hopeful was said to have taunted students who were known to be gay and those from poor backgrounds at the exclusive Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Decades after it happened he ran into one of Romney’s friends who helped hold him down and told him: ‘It was horrible.

‘It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.’

The incident supposedly happened in the Summer term in 1965 when Mr Lauber, who was a year below Mr Romney, came back from Spring Break with his hair dyed blond and styled so it was draped over one eye.

According to the Washington Post Mr Romney would not let it go and told his friend Matthew Friedemann: ‘He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!’

A few days later Mr Romney assembled a posse which found Mr Lauber, tackled him to the floor and held him down whilst the future governor of Massachusetts snipped away.

When it was completed the crowd cheered Mr Romney as he walked out of the room.

The incident was recalled by five former Cranbrook pupils including Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor, who helped hold Mr Lauber down.

He said: ‘It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me. ‘What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.’

Phillip Maxwell, who is now a lawyer, added: ‘It was a hack job. It was vicious.’

Mr Friedemann, who is now a dentist, also felt bad for not stopping it happening and admitted Mr Lauber was ‘easy pickins’.

Mr Romney’s time at Cranbrook is credited with shaping into the hard-working, driven man he is today. It was also the time in his life when sports and socialising governed his life more than at any other time. Friends recalled how he and his friends would be up all night larking around, the sound of his laughter filling the corridors at 2am.

In English class however things took a more sinister twist - Mr Romney had a habit of interrupting fellow pupil Gary Hummel, a closeted gay at the time, by shouting ‘Atta girl!’

According to the Washington Post he also behaved in a ‘sour’ fashion towards scholarship student Lou Vierling when he found he he was from a poor area of Detroit.

Mr Romney’s wife Ann has claimed that contrary to his public image as a ‘tin man’, as one friend has claimed, he is actually a ‘wild and crazy man’.

And details about his pranks have come to light before, notably in the biography, ‘The Real Romney’, by Boston Globe investigative reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman

The problem with the latest revelations however is that they suggest a cruelty which voters might find hard to stomach.

Romney’s most famous such incident is also his most controversial - when he strapped his dog to the top of his car whilst on a 12-hour drive from Massachusetts to Canada in 1983...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Chula Vista Elementary School District addresses bullying by kids--but not bullying by teachers

Sadly, teachers often model bullying behavior, yet they are put in charge of stopping bullying by kids.

Some teachers bully kids, parents, other teachers, and even administrators. The following would be true if "teachers" were substituted for "girls": "Girls, in particular, tend to engage in rumor spreading, gossip and exclusion to target other[s]..."

We need to teach the teachers how to deal with their competitive feelings before they can genuinely help children.

The following sentence would also be true if we substituted "teacher" for "second grader": "At one local school, a second grader endured bullying daily during lunch when she went to find a seat. She would go to sit at a table and [peers] would tell her to keep going, that there wasn’t a place at the table for her...She was pushed out from the social circle and isolated in a way that was causing suffering for her..."'

But bullying by teachers doesn't just cause hurt feelings--it sets back the entire educational program.

It is one of the reasons that schools are unable to achieve true reform. Political and personal agendas of teacher cliques, particularly those cliques with strong connections to the teachers union or powerful administrators, trump the agenda of improving education.

I suspect that one of the reasons that CTA (the California Teachers Association) doesn't want test scores published is that poor teachers often resort to school politics to protect their positions, and CTA is very responsive to teachers with political influence.

Schools combat bullying through awareness, prevention programs
Karen Kucher
May 7, 2012

...With the acclaimed documentary “Bully” in theaters and a new anti-bullying state law poised to take effect, the persistent problem of bullying in school remains at center stage these days.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than one in four students in middle and high schools reported being bullied at school in 2009 and 6 percent reported being cyberbullied, the latest statistics available. In a survey of San Diego County students in 2009, 32 percent said they had been made fun of because of their looks or the way they talk while 23 percent of eleventh graders said they had been targeted by cyberbullies.

“It is more people seeing it for what it is,” said Mara Madrigal-Weiss, a project specialist with the county Office of Education who works on bullying prevention and intervention. “There is concern about what can happen.”

...At Allen Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, students start each day promising to be “bully busters,” reciting a pledge to treat others with kindness and respect and promising to tell an adult if they notice someone being bullied. The pledge ends, “Being a buddy begins with me.”

Principal Toni Faddis said students are reminded about good citizenship and character traits frequently at the K-6 school She uses student surveys to identify problem areas and respond. This year, she said she put additional supervisors on the playground and has staff systematically check on restrooms after seeing survey results.

She said incidents of bullying have decreased in the five years she’s been at the school.

Faddis and others say parents sometimes confuse bullying with other types of inappropriate behavior, such as when a child is pushed down on the playground by a classmate. To fall into the category of bullying, educators say the action needs to be repeated, intentional and involve a social or physical power imbalance between the bully and the victim.

Even young children can be victimized by bullying. Girls, in particular, tend to engage in rumor spreading, gossip and exclusion to target other students, teachers and anti-bullying experts say.

At one local school, a second grader endured bullying daily during lunch when she went to find a seat. She would go to sit at a table and classmates would tell her to keep going, that there wasn’t a place at the table for her, recalled Madrigal-Weiss, who was conducting anti-bullying training at the school.

“She was pushed out from the social circle and isolated in a way that was causing suffering for her,” said Madrigal-Weiss. A teacher ended up talking to the girls in the class about how hurtful their actions were...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Lawyers donate to school board members, who then channel tax dollars back to them, says lawsuit against Garcia Calderon Ruiz

“Lawsuits are generally filed by people that are upset and angry,” according to Sergio Feria. I say give that man a genius award. Here's a quote from someone else: "Disgruntled ex-employees (or ex-founding partners) are usually the only ones who will tell the truth about an organization." I notice that Mr. Ruiz didn't file his suit until after he left the law firm.

Bonny Garcia has donated to the election campaigns of trustees Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricasa and Sandoval. Campaign finance records show donations of $1,000 to Ricasa in 2001-02, $1,000 to Sandoval in 2002 and $975 to Cartmill in 2002.

Complaints preceded raids on South County school officials
Parents, retired teachers urged prosecutors to investigate Sweetwater board members
By Jeff McDonald, Ashly McGlone
December 21, 2011

...Another lawsuit filed this summer raises questions about the relationship between vendors for the district and the elected officials who award public contracts.

Rogelio Ruiz, a founding partner for GCR LLP, the longtime Sweetwater legal counsel formerly known as Garcia Calderon Ruiz, is suing his former partners, claiming they used company profits to make political donations to help secure work.

In his suit, Ruiz said partners Bonifacio Garcia and Yuri Calderon used $15,000 in law-firm proceeds to fund Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay, a political action committee that supported Sweetwater board members and others.

The committee “could funnel thousands of dollars in political contributions to Calderon’s and Garcia’s friends without attracting unwanted media attention and to avoid allegations of conflict of interest and pay-to-play schemes,” the suit states.

Ruiz also accuses his former partners of donating thousands of dollars to political candidates and groups around the state “in an effort to impress and curry favor with certain elected officials,” the suit adds.

Attorney Mark Isola, who is representing Ruiz, said Garcia and Calderon “took those funds and used the monies to get business.”

Sergio Feria, the San Diego attorney representing Calderon and Garcia, denied allegations in the suit and called it an accounting dispute between former partners.

“Lawsuits are generally filed by people that are upset and angry,” he said...

Sunday, May 06, 2012

13 charged, alumni cover-up cited, in Florida A & M hazing death of drum major Robert Champion

FAMU Hazing Death Included Cover Up Conspiracy, Parents Claim
ABC News
May 3, 2012

The parents of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, who died from a hazing attack, alleged today that there was a "calculated conspiracy" to cover-up their son's death.

The accusation follows Florida State Attorney Lawson Lamar's announcement Wednesday of charges brought against 13 individuals in connection to Champion's death in November 2011.

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's famed "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game.

The death was ruled a homicide and Lamar said Champion's torso was covered with bruises that he said were inflicted during a brutal hazing ritual that contributed to his death.

"It did not take five months to figure out who murdered Robert Champion. This is not a murder mystery," Champion family attorney Christopher Chestnut said at a news conference today in Atlanta. "There is no excuse for the lack of accountability."

"We have learned that there was a calculated conspiracy to cover up Robert Champion's murder," he said. "We have heard that alumni were communicating with students on that bus, telling them how to respond, what to say, what not to say in order to ensure that no one would be arrested and charged for murder. That is simply inexcusable."

Chestnut said he has statements from students who revealed these communications. He would not say how many statements he has, but said that he suspects several of the statements came from the same 13 people who have been charged in the hazing.

Eleven of the 13 individuals were charged with hazing resulting in death, a third-degree felony, as well as two counts of misdemeanor felony. The other two people were charged with one count each of misdemeanor hazing. The maximum sentence for hazing resulting in death is six years...

"Obviously, someone should be charged with murder," Chestnut said. "The most severe sentence is six years. Robert Champion has a life sentence."

Chestnut said he understood that there is currently not enough evidence for murder charges, but said this was because law enforcement had "botched" the investigation.

He said the case was compromised when authorities let the students on the bus go back to school and that the physical evidence was tainted when the bus was sent back to the company without collecting sufficient evidence.

Chestnut said the Champion family "absolutely, unequivocally" will be suing FAMU.

"Robert Champion...did not pass peacefully away at night," Chestnut said. "He died after being beaten to death. He was murdered. This is a murder case."

Chestnut also expressed anger at the fact that none of the students on the bus were ever put on academic probation or arrested. Four students were briefly suspended, but they were allowed to go back to school. The school's band director Julian White was fired, but later reinstated and put on administrative leave.

"Robert Champion wasn't in class at FAMU last week, but his murderers were," he said.

"FAMU cannot go on with business as usual," Champion's mother Pam Champion said at the news conference. "They need to clean house...

Saturday, May 05, 2012

San Diego Faculty Supervisor Arrested For Alleged Child Molestation

Faculty Supervisor Arrested For Alleged Child Molestation
Kettrell Berry, a faculty supervisor from the San Diego Children's Center, was arrested on 25 counts of child molestation
By Monica Garske
NBC San Diego
May 5, 2012

A faculty supervisor from the San Diego Center for Children -- a non-profit organization and school for troubled youths in Kearny Mesa -- has been arrested on 25 counts of child molestation, according to Dave McCaslin, CEO of the Center.

According to the sheriff department's jail booking log, Kettrell Berry, 49, was taken into custody Friday for allegedly having sex with children, among several other child molestation charges.

The log confirms Berry has been booked into San Diego Central Jail, where his bail is set at $1,120,500. His arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

On Saturday, McCaslin released a statement regarding Berry's arrest.

"We are saddened by the breach of trust that has occurred. In the Center’s 125 years of service in San Diego we have been a lifeline for over 10,000 children. We took immediate action by contacting the San Diego Police Department and Child Protective Services and have been partnering with them throughout the investigation," said McCaslin. "The safety of our children is always our first priority and we are taking action to ensure their continued safety. We are committed to helping and protecting children and the action of one person will not deter us from providing the best possible care and hope for these children," he continued.

Camille Zombro is gone, but it seems the top CTA brass in Burlingame have an unchanged agenda

No Signs of Talking, Yet: Checking Up On the Teachers Union
May 3, 2012
By Will Carless
Voice of San Diego

I’m checking up on various recent high-profile stories at the moment, to see how those stories have progressed since we first reported on them.

Earlier this year, I spent a few weeks researching and writing about the San Diego Education Association, the union that represents local teachers. I wrote about the union’s move towards a more hard-line, isolationist philosophy over the last few years, and I covered a couple of big shifts in leadership at the SDEA.

The union’s being watched very closely at the moment because of the dire fiscal situation at the district. San Diego Unified issued more than 1,600 layoff notices to employees in March in order to close a projected deficit of at least $80 million. District officials say the only way to avoid those layoffs is for all employee unions to make concessions on their pay and benefit packages.

A large chunk of that projected $80 million deficit is due to a pay raise currently owed to educators that the school board agreed to in 2010. It comes into effect later this year.

The teachers union is far and away the biggest of those unions, and the school board, teachers and parents are all waiting to see if the recent ouster of two hard-line leaders will result in a softer stance from the union. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening:

Where We Left It

In March, controversial union Vice President Camille Zombro was voted out of office. Zombro’s ouster followed the removal of SDEA Executive Director Craig Leedham from his position two weeks earlier.

Zombro and Leedham were the architects of the SDEA’s shift towards its more hard-line stance. Under their leadership, the union cut off almost all non-formal communications with the district, drifted apart from fellow unions and even cast off an affiliated group of retired educators.

As detailed in this story, the union’s shift worried several former SDEA officials, who considered the isolationist approach largely counter-productive and urged the union to work with the district to forge solutions to the current crisis.

With Leedham out and Zombro coming to the end of her term, I’ve been watching for a thawing in relations between the union and the district.

Incoming Vice President Lindsay Burningham told me in March that she wanted to push the union in a more “positive direction.” And SDEA President Bill Freeman began to soften his rhetoric.

What’s Happened Since

District officials and board members have told me there has been no movement when it comes to discussing concessions. The union is not meeting with the district to negotiate at all, they said.

Burningham confirmed this Wednesday. But she said there have been several other positive steps forward. Union reps are meeting regularly with district personnel to talk about a whole host of things, she said.

“We’re communicating about the budget, being able to ask and answer questions, and move forward in other areas,” Burningham said. “In some areas, the communication has opened up a little more, as people are more comfortable speaking with each other.”

There are also other recent signs that the union’s ready to start working with the district to find a solution to the fiscal crisis.

During two-and-a-half minutes of public comment to the San Diego Unified School District board meeting Tuesday night, SDEA President Bill Freeman used the phrase “come together” three times.