Monday, September 23, 2013

Chula Vista Elementary School District, upset over lack of warnings on teacher John Kinloch, sues federal Justice Department

See trial updates for John Kinloch.

CVESD has hired Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost to sue the United States Department of Justice. In its Freedom of Information Act complaint asking for a copy of the immunity deal teacher John Kinloch received in the late 1990s for testifying in a case about child pornography, the school district states, "The public interest in knowing those details far outweighs any privacy interest..."

I couldn't agree more. But CVESD has made clear over the years that it believes its own secrets about illegal actions of staff are not the public's business. CVESD reflexively pays lawyers to quash subpoenas seeking information information about serious problems.

Why didn't CVESD fire accused child molester John Kinloch after Victim #1, a former Feaster student, revealed five years ago that he had been molested for years by Kinloch? Why did he stay in his classroom until his recent arrest?

Who made the decision to keep Kinloch in the classroom? The Superintendent and board have a habit of looking away whenever any employment decision with legal ramifications must be made. They rubber stamp whatever decision the HR head presents after receiving instructions from lawyers. They don't like to know too much or think too much about such things, so they'll have plausible deniability when the decision turns out to be harmful or illegal. The public doesn't know what went on, so the board members are returned to office.

The principals I have worked with in CVESD didn't know most of the teachers on their staffs. Only a few teachers were close to the principals, and those few practically lived in the principals' offices. They served as the principals' eyes and ears. These powerful teachers were often motivated by school politics to sabotage many of their colleagues at the expense of children's well-being and education.

If Raymond Kinloch's principals had met with each member of their staffs for an informal 10-minute chat once a month about what was going on in the teachers' classrooms and the teachers' minds, I believe that CVESD would have found out years ago that something peculiar was going on.

Does CVESD now suddenly believe the public has a right to know? Can we now expect that Chula Vista Elementary School District is going to start seriously investigating problems, and producing information in court cases? Or can we expect more debacles such as the handling of a report by two teachers at Castle Park Elementary that a school shooting might be imminent? Instead of investigating, the board called in lawyers to conduct "investigations". But then the lawyers refused to produce their information in court, claiming attorney-client privilege, and--get this--LOST a slew of documents. Shame on the board, particularly Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham, for showing so little concern about student safety and the education of students. Their neglect caused my school to spin out of control due to the incompetent and malicious handling of the "imminent shooting" hoax. The school ended up having 11 principals in 11 years, and two separate embezzlements by PTA officials, before the district managed to push out the problem teachers and administrators.

Ironically, the federal judge in the infamous Moser v. Bret Harte High School District case ordered Fagen Friedman Fulfrost partner Howard Fulfrost to take ethics training because of "lying and obstruction" by his former firm, Lozano Smith. Apparently Mr. Fulfrost has a higher opinion of truth-telling now that the shoe is on the other foot.

See all posts about arrested CVESD teacher John Kinloch.

By Greg Moran
Sept. 21, 2013

Chula Vista Elementary School District officials are suing the federal Department of Justice, trying to figure out why no red flags came up when the district went to hire a teacher who had been involved in a child pornography ring.

The lawsuit filed in San Diego federal court on Tuesday says the government has refused to acknowledge it made an immunity deal more than 15 years ago with the man, 42-year-old John Kinloch.

The deal had been reported in the media as far back as 1998, and Kinloch himself testified about it in court.

Kinloch was arrested in December and charged with molesting a former student and persuading other boys to send him nude photographs. He pleaded not guilty and is on unpaid leave from his job as a teacher at Wolf Canyon Elementary School.

The district says it needs the federal documents to figure out why Kinloch’s past did not come up in the background check it conducted before he was hired, and determine whether any legislative fixes could prevent a repeat in the future.

The Justice Department cited a provision of the federal Freedom of Information Act that said confirming or denying any records of a deal with Kinloch would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The department refused requests to turn over information, and last week declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

“We would hope the Department of Justice would share our concerns of preventing this from ever happening again,” school district spokesman Anthony Millican said. “Why did the background check fail? We need their records to explain how this happened, so we can change it and stop it from happening again.”

Kinloch was hired by the district in 2000 and taught at two schools, most recently at Wolf Canyon.

Two years before he was hired, Kinloch testified in a trial in England against a man charged with what was then the relatively new crime of transmitting child pornography over the Internet. The investigation into the man in England led police to Kinloch, who would later testify he had traded child pornography with the man since 1995.

Kinloch struck a bargain with U.S. authorities: He would get immunity here from child pornography charges, so long as he went to England and testified. The agreement wasn’t really a secret, since Kinloch spoke about it in open court.

“They said they would not prosecute me if I told the truth and cooperated,” he testified, according to a news account of the trial in a British newspaper.

Also, the San Diego Reader in 1998 published a story about the case and Kinloch’s role, quoting Mitchell Dembin, the prosecutor who arranged the plea deal and is now a U.S. magistrate judge in San Diego.

When Kinloch returned to the states, he completed his course work at San Diego State University and got a teaching credential. When Chula Vista hired him in September 2000, nothing about his involvement in the ring, or the immunity agreement, turned up in his background check.

That could be because Kinloch was never formally charged here, so no court or arrest record would be in the system. The news stories did not turn up because the district did not conduct Internet searches then on potential employees and does not now.

Background checks for teachers in California are handled through a program administered by the state Department of Justice when applicants apply for teaching credentials.

The exact reason the background check didn’t uncover Kinloch’s past isn’t known, and the district wants to find out. It wants copies of the immunity arrangement as well as any correspondence with the department and with officials from Great Britain.

The public interest in knowing those details far outweighs any privacy interest, the district contends. Millican said that the public relies on the integrity of background checks to identify people like Kinloch, who testified that he was attracted to boys who were teenagers, and younger.