Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teachers union head Elba Gordillo, who made big bucks fighting teacher accountability in Mexico, has been arrested

Teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo fought against assessments for teachers in Mexico. I guess she figured that's what teachers pay dues for. American teacher union leaders seem to feel the same way.

Mexican union boss arrest sounds warning to reform foes
The arrest of Mexico's best-known trade union leader on fraud charges has thrown down the gauntlet to powerful interests standing between President Enrique Pena Nieto and his plans to shake up Latin America's second-biggest economy.
By Dave Graham
Feb 28, 2013

The arrest of Mexico's best-known trade union leader on fraud charges has thrown down the gauntlet to powerful interests standing between President Enrique Pena Nieto and his plans to shake up Latin America's second-biggest economy.

For a generation, even presidents shied away from taking on teachers' union boss Elba Esther Gordillo, making her Mexico's most prominent female politician and a formidable enemy to those who accused her of fostering corruption rather than education.

Pena Nieto, who has been in office for less than three months, crossed that line on Tuesday when police arrested Gordillo and three other people with her at Toluca airport near Mexico City.

Mexican television showed Gordillo, 68, wearing a prison uniform and standing behind bars as a state prosecutor formally charged her with embezzling around $200 million from union coffers and using the money to pay for U.S. property, luxury goods, designer clothes, works of art and plastic surgery.

She is not allowed to apply for bail under the charges.

Gordillo, who deferred comment to her lawyers, faces a maximum jail sentence of 30 years, though prisoners can apply to be moved to house arrest at age 70.

"It is clearly a criminal case," Attorney General Jesus Murillo said in a television interview. "The case is very solid."

A former grandee of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, Gordillo has denied accusations of corruption.

She was snared a day after Pena Nieto signed a law aimed at improving education standards that she had opposed because it would weaken her union's clout.

Mexico union leader Elba Esther Gordillo arrested
26 February 2013

Union head Elba Esther Gordillo, known as Mexico's most powerful woman, has been arrested on corruption charges.

Ms Gordillo, who runs the 1.5 million-member Mexican teachers' union, is alleged to have diverted about $200m from union funds to personal accounts.

No-one from her legal team has responded to the allegations, but in the past she has denied any wrongdoing in handling the funds.

The arrest came after major reforms to the education system on Monday.

President Enrique Pena Nieto signed the sweeping reforms, which seek to change a system dominated by Ms Gordillo in which teaching positions could be sold or inherited.

"We are looking at a case in which the funds of education workers have been illegally misused, for the benefit of several people, among them Elba Esther Gordillo," Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said.

His office alleges Ms Gordillo, 68, spent the funds on plastic surgery and a luxury home.

Real influence

The BBC's Will Grant in Mexico City says that Ms Gordillo is one of the highest profile figures in Mexican political life, known simply as "la maestra" or "the teacher".

For more than 20 years she has led the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE).

With an estimated 1.5 million members, Ms Gordillo has held real influence over governments and individual presidents by persuading her union members to vote as a single bloc, our correspondent says.

The teachers were also responsible for manning polling stations on election day.

Her union is also very wealthy, and can count on an annual budget of tens of millions of dollars.

It is on claims that she mishandled those funds, allegedly diverting money intended for the union's coffers to her personal accounts, that she has now been arrested.

The reforms appeared set to weaken the powerful teachers' union, which has largely controlled access to the profession.

The union has argued that reforms could lead to massive lay-offs.

Critics also say the changes could signal the start of the privatisation of education in Mexico.

Mexico's education system currently ranks bottom in a list of members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The reforms will require teachers to undergo regular assessments, something that has previously never taken place inside Mexico's primary and secondary schools.

Many teachers in Mexico are said to have a very low standard of education themselves, with some only having graduated from high school.

Another change is intended to tackle the problem of absent or even deceased teachers receiving wages.

Ms Gordillo has been an outspoken critic of the current education minister and his approach to the reforms.

Monday, February 25, 2013

San Diego County teacher of the year finalist arrested for sex crimes

Smith was one of ten finalists for Teacher of the Year in San Diego County this year.

Arraignment Canceled for Chula Vista Teacher Accused of Sex Crimes
Prosecutors did not file charges Wednesday against the freshman English teacher accused of engaging in sexual activity with a teen on school grounds
By Artie Ojeda, Lauren Steussy, R. Stickney and Monica Garske
NBC 7 San Diego
Nov 1, 2012

The scheduled arraignment of a Chula Vista High School teacher accused of having sex with a minor was canceled as prosecutors considered whether to press charges.

Terrance Smith, 32, was arrested Monday and accused of 14 charges of sexual abuse, including oral copulation on a female CVHS student, said Lt. Gary Wedge with the Chula Vista Police Department.

However, just before a scheduled arraignment, prosecutors canceled the hearing saying the charges are still under review.

No charges have been filed against Smith as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“At the very least it's encouraging they are doing their homework instead of making a rush to judgment," said Smith's defense attorney David Shapiro in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The alleged activity happened between 2006 and 2008, starting when the victim was 16 years old, according to the victim's mother, who reported Smith to police this week. The former student was not his student and is no longer a minor, Wedge said Tuesday.

"We interviewed the former student," Wedge said. "She is now an adult, and during that interview she disclosed a number of sexual acts that occurred over a two year period."

...Smith, right, taught 9th grade English and was one of ten finalists for Teacher of the Year in San Diego County this year.

Smith has been placed on paid administrative leave after being turned over to police at the Sweetwater Union High School District offices, district officials said.

"We can't believe someone like Mr. Smith would do that," said Josue Garcia, a former student of Smith's. "The way we know him, the way he is, we would always go to him for advice and everything. We never thought he would do that."

The students have also expressed their support on social media, calling for other students to attend the rally and wear white in support of Smith.

Since the District Attorney's office did not charge Smith on Wednesday, he was released from San Diego Central Jail.

On Wednesday night, he was able to return home with his family. Smith was able to avoid NBC 7 news cameras as he left jail.

Source: Arraignment Canceled for Chula Vista Teacher Accused of Sex Crimes | NBC 7 San Diego

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Backbiting, hypocrisy, dishonesty at the Vatican; where are the grownups on this planet?

I used to think that teachers lounges were particularly good examples of backbiting, hypocrisy and dishonesty. But as I learned more about the world, I found that almost every organization I came across exhibited this very same behavior. I used to think 90% of people were honest--but that might be because I spent 27 years of my life teaching elementary school.

But in 2001 I was introduced to the real world, and I've gotten to know the layers of society that have some power. Now I think that 90% of people are dishonest. I came to this conclusion after doing a series of depositions of elementary school teachers, administrators and lawyers, and examining the actions of administrators and board members.

I now think that 90% of organizations are corrupt. I happen to be personally familiar with corruption in schools. When our schools and our clergy fail our children, it's more shocking than when some faceless corporation violates the law.

The thing that bothers me most about the clique in the Vatican is the hypocrisy and dishonesty. It's become very obvious over the past twenty years that the Church would be a better institution if priests were allowed to marry, and if women were allowed to be priests. After all, this isn't the first time in history that the Catholic Church has behaved in a heinous manner.

The world has changed, and the inability to marry has become a deal breaker for too many of the people who would be wonderful priests. Also, many of the people who would be wonderful priests are female.

I was talking to a female Episcopal priest in San Diego, and she told me how she had felt unworthy to be a priest.

I said, "But then you read about all the priests who abuse children, and you quit feeling unworthy, right?

She smiled and nodded her head.

Scandals and Intrigue Heat Up at Vatican Ahead of Papal Conclave

New York Times
February 23, 2013

VATICAN CITY — As cardinals from around the world begin arriving in Rome for a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, new shadows have fallen over the delicate transition, which the Vatican fears might influence the vote and with it the direction of the Roman Catholic Church.
v In recent days, often speculative reports in the Italian news media — some even alleging gay sex scandals in the Vatican, others focusing on particular cardinals stung by the child sex abuse crisis — have dominated headlines, suggesting fierce internal struggles as prelates scramble to consolidate power and attack enemies in the dying days of a troubled papacy.

...The volley of news reports since appeared to underscore the backbiting in the Vatican that Benedict was unable to control, and provided a hint of why he might have decided that someone younger and stronger should lead the church...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just as I suspected: Emma Leheny is back as CTA chief counsel!


CTA head counsel Emma Leheny

The California Teachers Association's website has (once again) been changed to say, "The Legal Services Division is directed by Chief Counsel Emma Leheny."

Emma Leheny recently stepped away from the helm of CTA's Legal Services, apparently during some kind of a power play by Priscilla Winslow (perhaps with the assistance of former head counsel Beverly Tucker and her supporter, executive director Carolyn Doggett?)

It looks like Governor Jerry Brown stepped in to help. He appointed Priscilla Winslow to PERB, the Public Employee Relations Board. Now that Winslow has gone to PERB, Emma Leheny has resumed her position.

Why do I think Executive Director Carolyn Doggett may have supported Priscilla Winslow?

First, the two have worked together as Executive Director and Associate Director of CTA for the past couple of years.

Second, Doggett has a very long history of supporting her cronies, such as former chief counsel Beverly Tucker, even when they were engaged in illegal actions. Doggett, Tucker and Winslow are the power trio of the old guard. I'm sure Beverly Tucker's political connections are still strong. Emma Leheny obviously had trouble with the old guard, even though she has worked with them on several cases over the years, before coming to work for CTA. (I don't consider people like Dean Vogel, the president, to have much power at all, so I don't blame Vogel for the tumult. Besides, he's a nice guy.)

Third, Carolyn Doggett is finally going to release her grip on the Executive Director position at CTA. She's retiring in June 2013. I suspect she wanted to leave her cronies in charge.

Fourth, Emma Leheny and the old guard were bound to come into conflict simply because Emma has spent her entire legal career in the real world, not in the cocoon of CTA, where all the favored cronies are protected from consequences of wrongdoing by the enormous power of CTA. In fact, at CTA ethics is defined as not blowing the whistle, no matter what happens. More than one official has told me it would be unethical to report wrongdoing, including crimes. Emma is more aware of the threats presented by the real world to lazy, overconfident union lawyers. Carolyn Doggett

Carolyn Doggett announces retirement
California Educator
Volume 17 Issue 4
December 2012

CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett announced she will retire in June 2013, closing a 45-year career in public education...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Attorney Priscilla Winslow of CTA appointed to California PERB board

Update Feb. 19, 2013:Emma Leheny is back as head counsel at CTA!

In a surprising twist, it seems that soon after replacing Emma Leheny as the top person in the legal division of CTA (California Teachers Association), Priscilla Winslow is herself leaving CTA to become a member of the Public Employee Relations Board. Unless, that is, PERB is going to give up all pretense of being independent of CTA, and is planning to have a CTA lawyer actually make decisions for PERB.

There is actually no evidence that Emma Leheny left CTA, only that she left the position of head counsel.

Eric Banks has also been appointed to the PERB board.


SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the following appointments.

...Priscilla Winslow, 60, of Berkeley, has been appointed to the California Public Employment Relations Board, where she has served as legal advisor since 2012.

She was assistant chief counsel at the California Teachers Association from 1996 to 2012. Winslow was managing partner at the Law Offices of Winslow and Fassler from 1988 to 1996 and was solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Priscilla Winslow from 1986 to 1988. She was an adjunct professor at New College of California from 1984 to 1993 and was associate attorney at Boltuch and Siegel from 1984 to 1986.

Winslow served as a temporary staff attorney at the California Teachers Association from 1983 to 1984 and was legal advisor to the chair of the California Public Employment Relations Board from 1979 to 1983. She was staff counsel for the National Treasury Employees Union from 1978 to 1979 and chief counsel for the Clerical and Allied Services Employees Union from 1977 to 1978. Winslow is a member of the American Constitution Society and the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar.

She earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California, Davis School of Law. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $128,109. Winslow is a Democrat.

...Eric Banks, 41, of San Diego, has been appointed to the California Public Employment Relations Board. Banks has been partner at TenPageMemo LLC since 2013. He served in multiple positions at the Service Employees International Union, Local 221 from 2001 to 2013, including advisor, president and director of government and community relations. Banks was policy associate for state government affairs at the New York AIDS Coalition from 2000 to 2001. He worked in multiple positions at the Southern Tier AIDS Program from 1993 to 2000, including director of client services, assistant director of client services and case manager. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $128,109. Banks is a Democrat...

Ten Page Memo, LLC

Eric Banks is strategic advisor to the president of the Service Employees International Union, Local 221, representing public employees in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Before being elected as president Eric served as the Local 221's director of government and community relations. Born into a family of trade unionists, he has a deep passion for the rights of working men and women.

Eric moved to San Diego in 2001 from Albany, NY, where he worked as the policy associate for the New York AIDS Coalition (NYAC). Based in the State Capitol of New York, he was responsible for representing more than 250 AIDS organizations across the State. Eric spent over a decade working at the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP), directing case management, treatment education and housing services for people living with HIV/AIDS across eight counties in Upstate New York.

In the Internet era, even a 64-year-old retired math teacher can become a threat to a large company

James Hookway/The Wall Street Journal Tan Bun Teet, center, at the Palace of Justice in December

Mining Firm, Ex-Teacher Battle Over Rare Earths
Wall Street Journal
February 18, 2013

In the Internet era, even a 64-year-old retired math teacher can become a threat to a large company.

That, at least, is the experience of Lynas Corp. LYC.AU +0.82% For over a year, the Australian rare-earths mining company has come under fire from Tan Bun Teet and his band of tech-savvy campaigners on Malaysia's South China Sea coast.

The group, called Save Malaysia Stop Lynas, has disrupted Lynas's plans to open a refinery with a nimble, Internet-based campaign, drawing nationwide support through regularly updated blogs, Twitter feeds and a Facebook page. In a recent interview, Chief Executive Officer Nick Curtis said Lynas underestimated the extent to which the protesters had enlisted the organizing power of the Web, forcing the company to delay the opening of the plant until this past November, a full year behind schedule, and to raise money it didn't initially plan for.

Sydney-based Lynas, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange with a market value of 1.2 billion Australian dollars ($1.24 billion) appeared to be onto a winner when it broke ground for a new plant in Kuantan nearly five years ago. Global demand for materials such as lanthanum and neodymium was surging as the world's appetite for hybrid cars, wind turbines and ever-faster phones with better screens increased.

The prospect of weakening China's chokehold on 95% of the world trade in these critical elements helped convince Malaysia's government that the project would be a success. It offered the firm a 12-year tax holiday to set up shop in Pahang, the home state of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Instead, construction of the $800 million Lynas refinery kicked off a debate with local residents about how to handle the low-grade radioactive waste that comes from processing rare-earth elements. The company and the Malaysian government say the plant is safe.

The clash is also now spilling over into national politics, as opposition firebrand Anwar Ibrahim incorporates the cause in his bid to topple the coalition that has governed this predominantly Muslim nation since independence from Britain in 1957. Elections are expected to be called this spring.

"If we can't challenge the government in the courts, then perhaps the election will change the game," says Mr. Tan, a wiry, methodical 64-year-old.

Rare earths are a group of 17 elements valued for their magnetic and conductive properties. While harmless by themselves, they are frequently found mixed with potentially dangerous radioactive ores such as thorium. Separating and refining them can be complex and messy.

That has raised alarm among Malaysians who fear the government hasn't done enough to ensure the safety of the Lynas plant. "We can't trust them to do what's right," said Yu Siew Hong, a young mother who lives near the new facility...

Mr. Tan, who serves as Save Malaysia Stop Lynas's spokesman, isn't your common variety of eco-warrior...

Their emergence is part of a trend of smaller and smaller groups targeting corporations and markets, rather than governments, to achieve their goals, sometimes with spectacular effects...

"Refining rare earths is a dirty business and we want people to know what it involves...

Lynas says it intends to process the radioactive waste into other materials, such as road surfacing, diluting it. The company plans to export the material to comply with Malaysia's requirements...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Can teachers take a lesson from this traffic cop?

Click title to see Video about Los Angeles Sheriff's deputy Elton Simmons.
On the Road: Cop with record number of complaints
September 21, 2012
As part of our continuing series "On the Road," Steve Hartman ran into a cop who holds the record for civilian complaints...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Murder plot allegation against fifth-graders stuns Washington town

I am nonplussed, just like prosecutor Timothy Rasmussen and, I'm sure, the parents of the two boys in the story below. (I just looked up the meaning of the word "nonplussed", which I never quite managed to figure out. It turns out that the word has a standard meaning synonymous with "perplexed" and "confused"--that's the meaning I intend here. It comes from the French "no more", used when a person runs out of arguments and gives up. But the word is frequently misused to mean "unfazed", hence my confusion.)

A teacher with a gun would have been no help at all in this case. And as my prior post shows, some teachers have very bad judgment, and can not be trusted with guns.

It seems to me we need better mental health care for everybody in school: students, parents and staff members.

Murder plot allegation against fifth-graders stuns Washington town
Two fifth-graders in Colville, Wash., may be charged with conspiracy to commit murder after a knife and gun are found in a backpack at school.
By Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times
February 14, 2013

SEATTLE — In what has become a chillingly familiar event across the country, school authorities in eastern Washington recently discovered a gun and a knife in the backpack of a student. But what stunned the small town of Colville was whom the backpack belonged to: a 10-year-old student at Fort Colville Elementary School.

School authorities said two fifth-grade boys planned to use the weapons to lure another student outside the school and kill her "because she was really annoying."

The boys last week confessed to plans to harm an additional six students at the school.

"This was a plan. And it was a plan to kill," Stevens County prosecuting attorney Timothy Rasmussen said Thursday.

Rasmussen said he would argue that the 10-year-old and his 11-year-old codefendant be held criminally responsible on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and witness tampering — a charge filed after authorities said the boys promised to pay $80 to a student if he agreed not to tell anyone about the plot.

According to a court affidavit made public this week, the incident came to light shortly before 8 a.m. on Feb. 7, when a fourth-grader told a teacher he had seen an 11-year-old boy with a knife.

The teacher searched that boy's backpack and that of his 10-year-old friend and found the weapons in the friend's backpack. They included a knife with a 3¼-inch blade, a .45-caliber Remington 1911 semiautomatic handgun and an ammunition clip.

"My background is a high school counselor and psychologist, and quite frankly, in 30-plus years, I never heard of anything like this at this age level," said Colville School Supt. Mike Cashion.

Rasmussen was also nonplussed.

"To me, 10- and 11-year-olds do bad things," he said. "They throw rocks through windows. They shoot BB guns at people's cars. They hit people with sticks, they set a cat on fire. Those are things that children do. But this was a plot to kill."

When questioned separately shortly after the weapons were discovered, the boys admitted their plot, authorities said. "I was going to kill her with the knife and [the other boy] was supposed to use the gun to keep anyone from trying to stop me or mess up our plan," the older boy told detectives.

When shown a class list, the boy identified six other classmates who were targeted.

The older boy said he had been friends with the girl for several months "but that he hated her now." He said the girl "had recently become rude and would pick on him."

"The plan was nipped in the bud by other students who saw something and said something," Cashion said, adding that the school had been promoting a program that encourages students to report suspicious things.

Rasmussen said students younger than 8 were considered incapable of committing criminal acts in Washington state. For children between the ages of 8 and 12, the law presumes they are similarly incapable but calls for the court to hold a hearing to determine whether they had the capacity to commit a crime. That hearing is set for Feb. 20.

At a community meeting Wednesday night, Cashion said one parent expressed gratitude that because of the alertness of school staff, the gathering was a forum and not a funeral.

Another asked whether authorities would entertain the possibility of providing teachers with guns in the classroom. Cashion said he responded that the option was under consideration by the Legislature, but that most teachers weren't trained to use guns.

"I told them I can't imagine a teacher taking a gun out, leveling it at a fifth-grader and killing them," he said. "It's the antithesis of what we are."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Local teacher arrested for allegedly having gun on campus

UPDATE: Teacher who brought loaded gun to school pleads not guilty.

Not guilty plea from middle school teacher charged with bringing loaded gun, knife, on campus
Feb 19, 2013

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Farb Middle School teacher accused of bringing a loaded gun and knife to work, possibly as a means of defending himself in the event of a shooting or other violence at the Tierrasanta campus, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony weapons charges.

Seventh- and eighth-grade English instructor Ned Carter Walker, 41, faces up to five years and eight months in prison if convicted of possessing a firearm on school grounds and possessing a knife or stabbing instrument on school grounds.

Walker -- who is free on $50,000 bail -- will be back in court April 2 for a readiness conference and April 23 for a preliminary hearing.

Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh ordered the defendant to stay away from the school while the case is pending.

Walker remains on administrative leave from his job, said his attorney, Gerissa Santos.

"He's obviously devastated, he loves his job, and he loves teaching," Santos said outside court. "He has a background with teaching ... his wife's a teacher. He has kids. He is devastated about all this. He misses his job, he misses his students.

"It's a devastating situation," the attorney said. "Unfortunately it's what we're faced with. And as much as we'd like to have him back on campus, have him back teaching -- some of his students want him back as well -- it's just not possible at this time given the disposition of the case."

Walker was taken into custody Feb. 11 in a parking lot at the school.

San Diego Unified School District police Chief Rueben Littlejohn told reporters that Walker's alleged decision to carry a loaded .380-caliber pistol and a knife with a 2 1/2-inch blade onto the school grounds may have been well-intentioned, but was nonetheless illegal and contrary to district regulations.

"We speculate that, based on reports from staff members, this employee had somewhat of an infatuation with guns and brought the weapon(s) to the school to protect himself in the event of a violent intruder," Littlejohn said during a news briefing last week.

A conviction on either or both of the felony charges -- one per weapon -- would be grounds for dismissal, school district spokesman Jack Brandais said.

ORIGINAL POST Some teachers lack good judgment.

Local teacher arrested for allegedly having gun on campus
Feb 12, 2013

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Farb Middle School teacher was on compulsory leave Tuesday and facing a possible felony charge for allegedly bringing a gun and a knife to work, possibly as a means of defending himself in the event of a shooting or other violence at the campus, authorities reported.

Seventh- and eighth-grade English instructor Ned Carter Walker was taken into custody in a parking lot at the Tierrasanta school Monday morning and booked into county jail, according to San Diego Unified School District officials. He later posted bail and was released on his own recognizance.

SDUSD police Chief Rueben Littlejohn told reporters Walker's alleged decision to carry a loaded .380-caliber pistol and a knife with a 2 1/2-inch blade onto the school grounds may have been well-intentioned, but was nonetheless illegal and contrary to district regulations.

"We speculate that, based on reports from staff members, this employee had somewhat of an infatuation with guns and brought the weapon to the school to protect himself in the event of a violent intruder," Littlejohn said during a briefing late Tuesday morning.

Courtney Rizzo, interim principal at the La Cuenta Drive school, told parents in a letter that administrators were limited in the amount of information they could release on the allegations against Walker.

"Our focus is to continue to ensure that our students are safe, the learning process goes on as usual and we work with the proper authorities," Rizzo wrote.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Michael Roddy refuses to acknowledge false document prepared by clerk at San Diego Superior Court that caused appeal to be defaulted

This post has been moved to HERE.

“Don’t Say Gay” bill could require schools to out their students

"An unsafe home or school environment is the most common reason for leaving home given by homeless LGBT youth, who comprise 40% of all homeless young people in the United States."

The new bill also requires schools to out kids to their parents--"as soon as practicable" after conversion therapy has begun.

Tennessee “Don’t Say Gay” bill could require schools to out their students
Language in the bill also appears to endorse counseling for students who are "at risk" of being LGBT
JAN 30, 2013

If you thought that you’d heard the last of Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill after state lawmakers abandoned the legislation last year, think again.

It’s back. And it’s awful.

The measure still prohibits elementary and middle school teachers from discussing sexual activity that is not related to “natural human reproduction” or even acknowledging that homosexuality exists, but new language in the bill would require school officials to tell parents when students are — or might be — gay:

The general assembly recognizes that certain subjects are particularly sensitive and are, therefore, best explained and discussed within the home. Because of its complex societal, scientific, psychological, and historical implications, human sexuality is one such subject. Human sexuality is best understood by children with sufficient maturity to grasp its complexity and implications…

A school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal from counseling a student who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person; provided, that wherever possible such counseling shall be done in consultation with the student’s parents or legal guardians. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.

In addition to requiring school officials to out students to their parents, the legislation also appears to endorse so-called conversion therapy (“counseling” in the bill’s nomenclature), in which psychologists and psychiatrists (not to mention would-be Republican presidential nominees) try to change the recipients sexual orientation.

An unsafe home or school environment is the most common reason for leaving home given by homeless LGBT youth, who comprise 40% of all homeless young people in the United States.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Emma Leheny leaves her job as head counsel at CTA; Priscilla Winslow steps in again as temp chief counsel

UPDATE FEB. 19, 2013: Emma Leheny is back as CTA chief counsel!

UPDATE FEB. 18, 2013: Priscilla Winslow appointed to PERB board.


Former (and future?) CTA head counsel Emma Leheny

There's been an upheaval in the legal department at California Teachers Association. Chief Counsel Emma Leheny has stepped aside from her position at the top of the CTA hierarchy. It appears that attorney Priscilla Winslow has challenged Leheny's power. Winslow is acting chief counsel.

CTA did not explain these goings on. It posted only the following on its website:

"The Legal Services Division is directed by Associate Executive Director and Acting Chief Counsel Priscilla Winslow."

This isn't Priscilla Winslow's first time as acting chief counsel. She also took over the CTA legal department temporarily when previous head counsel Beverly Tucker retired in 2008. Then Winslow went back to being Assistant Chief Counsel before becoming Assistant Executive Director.

It seems that Priscilla might be somewhat hard to get along with. Emma Leheny's predecessor, Ann O'Brien, served for a very short time.

On behalf of CTA, Winslow represented child molester Charles Bateman, helping him keep his credential for six years. CTA spent far more on Bateman than it was obliged by its member contract to spend.

Apparently, PERB was impressed with Winslow's practice of law. It's 2012 annual report states that on July 23, 2012, Priscilla Winslow was appointed Legal Advisor to Mr. Hugeunin. At the same time, she was Associate Executive Director of CTA as well as Assistant Chief Counsel of CTA.

Why did Emma Leheny leave her position so soon, after less than three years? Is she really gone, or did she just step aside from her leadership role, while remaining at CTA? Why isn't anyone saying anything about why Leheny left?

In fact, Leheny is still listed by the State Bar Association as working for CTA:

Emma Leheny - #196167
The following information is from the official records of The State Bar of California.
California Teachers Association
1705 Murchison DrBurlingame, CA 94010
Phone Number: (650) 552-5413
Fax Number: (650) 552-5019
e-mail: eleheny@cta.org
County: San Mateo
Undergraduate School:Brown Univ; Providence RI
Sections: Labor; Employment
Law School: Northeastern Univ SOL; Boston MA
6/29/1998 Admitted to The State Bar of California

Perhaps the Bar Association is right, and Leheny is still at CTA, just not in the chief counsel position.

Teachers union sabotages teacher evaluations in every county in Maryland

Maryland rejects Montgomery’s teacher evaluation plan and 8 others
By Lynh Bui
Washington Post
February 1, 2012

The Maryland State Department of Education has rejected new teacher-evaluation proposals from nine of the state’s 24 county school systems, saying that the proposals do not align with state law, federal education reforms or, in some cases, either.

Among school systems that failed to meet the state’s criteria were Montgomery and Frederick, two of the top performing districts in Maryland and the only two counties in the state to reject Race to the Top funds. The school systems had hoped that rejecting those funds would grant them more autonomy in crafting their evaluation proposals.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said the state did not immediately provide a reason for rejecting the system’s proposal. He said a more detailed assessment will come next week.

Maryland education officials met with county superintendents Friday to discuss the assessments. The meeting came a day after the U.S. Department of Education released a report criticizing how Maryland has fallen behind in implementing key elements of Race to the Top, the Obama administration’s signature education reform initiative.

Much of the tension over redesigning teacher-evaluation programs in Maryland reflects the ongoing national debate over how to best tie student learning, student improvement and standardized tests to the evaluation of teacher performance.

While counties that took Race to the Top money were required to make student achievement 50 percent of the measure of teacher performance, Montgomery and Frederick only had to comply with a new state law that made it a “significant” factor in a teacher’s rating.

Starr said he worries that the state and counties have different interpretations of what “significant” should be. In its proposal, Montgomery didn’t require the use of the state’s standardized test, the Maryland School Assessment, as part of its teacher evaluation proposal but allowed it to be one of many data options principals could use.

“I’m disappointed that the strengths of the Montgomery County Public Schools system are being compromised as a result of this decision,” Starr said. “We have clearly shown over the years that a collaborative approach to teacher evaluations and support that also uses student achievement data sets the stage for improvement of student achievement.”

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery said in a statement that officials were “working very hard to develop fair and meaningful evaluation programs, putting student work at the very heart of how they review educators.” She added that “while there are elements of the evaluations to resolve in some instances, in some of our school systems, we continue to work with system leadership.”

A. Duane Arbogast, the acting deputy superintendent for academics in Prince George’s County, said that school system worked with its teachers’ union to find a formula that both “felt comfortable with” to submit to the state.

Under its proposal, which was also rejected by the state, teacher evaluations would have consisted of student surveys, student learning objectives and state assessments. Arbogast said the state wanted the county to use the Maryland School Assessment as 20 percent of the rating measuring student growth — not the 15 percent that Prince George’s proposed...

Dennis Laurion answers questions after his recent win in Minnesota Supreme Court against Dr. McKee's lawsuit about online comments

Dennis Laurion

Below are questions asked of Dennis Laurion by interviewers during the lawsuit McKee vs Laurion. Sued for his comments in online rating sites and letters to medical groups, Laurion deferred answering those questions in the past but has now offered his answers in this venue.

1) First and foremost, how’s your dad doing? We’d love to learn a little
more about his service to the country, as well.

ANSWER: My father had his stroke at age 84. He is now 88. He has difficulty with gait and balance. His speech and mental resources remain well. My father enlisted in the Navy at age 17 during World War II. By age 19, he was a Navy combat medic in the Solomon Islands, a Second Class Petty Officer, the equivalent of an Army or Marine Corps Staff Sergeant. My father worked two jobs and supported a family while obtaining a Ph.B. and an M.S. in Geriatric Counseling. He was a Boy Scout leader, an Elder in his church, a high school teacher, and a systems analyst at the advent of the computer age.

2) Undoubtedly, this defamation case has caused some stress for your
family. Would you like to talk a little about that?

ANSWER: This entire experience has been distressing to my family. We were initially shocked and blindsided by “jocular” comments made so soon after my father’s stroke by somebody who didn’t know us. We were overwhelmed by my being sued after posting a consumer opinion, and we were shocked by the rapidity with which it happened. It has been the 800 pound gorilla in the room. My parents would be 88-year-old witnesses. My mother and wife prefer no discussion, because they don’t want to think about it. Conversation with my father only reminds him of his anger over this situation. My siblings and children don’t often bring it up, because they don’t know how to say anything helpful. I have been demoralized by three years of being called “Defendant Laurion” in public documents. While being sued for defamation, I have been called a passive aggressive, an oddball, a liar, a coward, a bully, a malicious person, and a zealot family member. I’ve been said to have run a cottage industry vendetta, writing 19 letters, and posting 108 adverse Internet postings in person or through proxies. That’s not correct. In reality, I posted ratings at three consumer rating sites, deleted them, and never rewrote them again.

3) You know what they say about talking politics and money in mixed
company, but would you care to talk about the financial situation this
lawsuit has put you in?

ANSWER: The plaintiff’s first contact with me was a letter that said in part that he had the means and motivation to pursue me. The financial impact of being sued three years to date has been burdensome, a game of financial attrition that I haven’t wanted to play. The suit cost me the equivalent of two year's net income - the same as 48 of my car payments plus 48 of my house payments. My family members had to dip into retirement funds to help me.

I wish I could sleep, but then my short attention span kicks in: "St. Luke's Hospital, defamation, lawsuit, Minnesota Supreme Court, one sheep, two sheep, three sheep, cow, horse, chicken, duck, duck, goose, old McDonald had a farm; heeeeeeeyy, Macarena!"

What it’s like for a patient or family member to be caught up in a case like this was already described by the plaintiff's lawyer in a Star Tribune newspaper article, “Company sues over info put on Yahoo message board,” August 27, 2001, and repeated in http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2001/08/27/bus_321610.shtml .

It said in part:

“Message-board participants have the right under the First Amendment to voice their opinions. That freedom is troublesome for companies and their legal and public-relations staffs, which wince about the complaints and scramble to correct inaccurate information that could be posted by consumers, investors, employees or competitors. If a company sues, alleging simple business disparagement or perhaps defamation, its goal isn’t necessarily to win,” said Marshall Tanick, a First Amendment expert at Mansfield & Tanick in Minneapolis. “The strategy is to force the other person to incur huge legal expenses that will deter them and others from making such statements,” he said.

“Companies typically shy from suing customers because it creates bad publicity. Thus, much of the legal activity involves employees or former workers. I’m seeing it happen with increasing frequency…yet very few (cases) go all the way to trial and verdict,” Tanick said.

“A company’s strategy typically includes filing in a state that might be inconvenient and costly for defendants. Lawyers will seek ways to avoid First Amendment issues because they are difficult to win. One option is to allege breach of contract or violation of trade secrets rather than defamation,” he said.

4) You’ve probably learned lots about defamation law since this began,
have you spoken with anyone else who is going through the same thing?
Have they given you any invaluable insight? Support?

ANSWER: After receipt of a threat letter, I deleted my rate-your-doctor site postings and sent confirmation emails to opposing counsel. Since May of 2010, postings on the Internet by others include newspaper accounts of the lawsuit; readers’ remarks about the newspaper accounts; and blog opinion pieces written by doctors, lawyers, public relations professionals, patient advocates, and information technology experts. Dozens of websites by doctors, lawyers, patient advocates, medical students, law schools, consumer advocates, and free speech monitors posted opinions that a doctor or plumber shouldn’t sue the family of a customer for a bad rating. These authors never said they saw my deleted ratings – only the news coverage. Newspaper stories have caused people to call or write me to relate their own medical experiences. I’ve referred them to my lawyers. I've also received encouragement from other persons who have been sued over accusations of libel or slander.

5) Due to the publicity your case has received, has it affected
your dealings with other medical professionals?

ANSWER: My wife, my mother, my father, and I each have a different doctor. Each of us continues to see his or her attending physician, as before. They're all aware of this suit, but none has commented on it.

6) Do you feel like McKee’s status as a doctor has given him an unfair advantage in how the media is covering this lawsuit?

ANSWER: Medical peer newsletters or magazines that interviewed the plaintiff did not approach me. Websites maintained by doctors for doctors or lawyers for lawyers often caused an inference that I was a zealot family member or somebody who had asked about my dad's chances and then shot the messenger. Generally, however, those websites echoed other websites in advising public relations responses other than a lawsuit - for fear of creating the "Streisand Effect." As a retired layman, I brought far less resources to the battle of financial attrition.

7) Do you have a favorite founding father?

ANSWER: Thomas Paine.

[Maura Larkins comment: Good choice!]

8) Your father selflessly served this country, and now the laws of the
land are causing you and your family discord. Has this experience
ignited a justice reform fire – with regards to defamation law -- in
your gut?

ANSWER: I've learned that laws about slander and libel do not conform to one's expectations. I've read that an online complaints are safe "if you stick to the facts." That's exactly the wrong advice. I did not want to merely post my conclusions. I wanted to stick to my recollection of what I'd heard. I don't like to read generalities like he's arrogant, rudest waiter I ever met, worst plumber ever, etc. However, such generalities are excused as opinion, hyperbole, or angry utterances. If one purports to say what happened, factual recitations can be litigated. The plaintiff must prove the facts are willfully misstated, but the defendant can go broke while waiting through the effort.

I feel that defamation lawsuits are much too easy for wealthy plaintiffs. If I were to attempt suing a doctor for malpractice, my case would not proceed until I'd obtained an affidavit from another doctor, declaring that the defendant's actions did not conform to established procedures. In a defamation suit, there's generally no exit short of a judge's dismissal order - which can be appealed by the plaintiff. Being called "defendant" is terribly personal, but the civil suit path is totally impersonal. During the three years that I went through depositions, interrogatories, a dismissal hearing, an appellate hearing, and a state Supreme Court hearing; I never once spoke to a judge. At depositions, the plaintiff and I sat opposite each other, while I answered his lawyer's questions, and he answered my lawyer's questions. We were not to speak to each other.

Minnesota and two other states allow "hip pocket" lawsuits. The plaintiff can start a suit by sending the summons and complaint to the defendant without filing the documents in court. The plaintiff enjoys complete anonymity from public awareness. The defendant has 20 days to respond, but the court is unaware that the suit exists. The plaintiff can conduct interrogatories and depositions while the court is unaware that the suit exists. The plaintiff can send settlement demands to the defendant's insurance company while the court is unaware that the suit exists. Until the suit is actually filed, the plaintiff's lawyer orchestrates everything as the officer of the court. If the defendant files his answer, in order to publicly get onto the docket and under the supervision of a judge, the defendant pays the filing fee. In Minnesota, if the plaintiff loses his effort at rule by law, the rule of law generally allows the defendant no remuneration. The plaintiff can lose the suit while winning the battle of financial attrition.

9) Tell us about yourself.

ANSWER: I'm a retired Chief Petty Officer, Social Insurance Specialist, and Medical Records Analyst, having worked for the Coast Guard, the Social Security Administration, and St Mary's Medical Center. I majored in Industrial Supervision at the Purdue University Calumet School of Engineering, Manufacturing, and Technology. My wife and I have 6 children and 9 grandchildren.

Between high school and the Coast Guard, I worked in a steel mill. I spent part of those two years as a blacksmith helper. I helped make pry bars, jackhammer chisel points, air hose couplings, rods, and hooks. I once set the back of my shirt on fire without knowing it, because I was wearing a sweatshirt and flame retardant long underwear.

I've never been afraid of heights, bodies of water, or love - just falling, drowning, and rejection.

I wish I could sleep, but then my short attention span kicks in: "St. Luke's Hospital, defamation, lawsuit, Minnesota Supreme Court, one sheep, two sheep, three sheep, cow, horse, chicken, duck, duck, goose, old McDonald had a farm; heeeeeeeyy, Macarena!"



Dennis K. Laurion
Chief Yeoman, U. S. Coast Guard (Retired)
Social Insurance Specialist (Disability Post-Entitlement), Social Security Administration (Retired)
Outpatient Medical Records Analyst, St. Mary 's Medical Center (Retired)