Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Problems in STS foreign student exchange program

 Danielle Grijalva continues to advocate for young people suffering in unhealthy or dangerous homes who get no help from the agencies who who took their money. Here's her latest story:

 16-year old Salla Rautiola from Finland

 16-year old Salla Rautiola after exposure to allergens

Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CFES)
Dec. 28, 2015

16-year old Salla Rautiola signed a contract in January 2011 with STS Kielimatkat for an exchange student year in the French-speaking part of Canada.

STS promises a carefully screened host-family, school placement and local representative and support persons in the exchange-country. They also promise to take into account the health information given in the application form when choosing the host family. Salla had reported that she is allergic to dogs, cats and pollen.

STS provided the host family information in July 2011, one month before the departure date, but withheld the information they had received the day before from STS CANADA that STS could not fulfill the French-speaking program. Instead, Salla would have to be placed with an English-speaking family.
As a host family, STS had chosen a 62-year old single Jamaican immigrant who for the most part socialized with her own relatives and culture and who spoke only Jamaican creole. The Canadian life-style or traditions were not present in any way in her filthy and moldy house. In the Helsinki District Court, as STS witness, a former male exchange student, who had lived in the same house a couple of years earlier, told the court that the host mother never cleaned. He witnessed that it was his and another exchange student’s responsibility to clean the house. At that time there was still a vacuum cleaner in the house. During Sallas stay there was no vacuum cleaner in a house with wall-to-wall carpet. This witness also told the court how the basement was used as a living room where they watched TV and used the computer.

STS Finland country manager, Mira Silvonen, continued insisting that the condition of the home was suitable for an allergic person and gave up to seven different explanations (move, cellar, store etc.) for the pictures Salla had taken of the house.

The shocked child protection officials in Finland stated that they would not even temporarily place a minor in conditions like that. Responsible for this host family’s approval as a host family for an allergic minor for ten months was area representative Sandra Hanniman/STS Foundation Canada.

Within two months, Salla started to get allergic reactions from all the dust and mold (picture). She could not go to school, but the host mother did not let the school know about Salla’s absence as required, something STS later blamed Salla for and issued her a warning about. Because of her strong allergic symptoms, Salla asked both the host mother and the area representative, Sandra Hanniman, to take her to see a doctor, but the host mother stated that: «The doctors don’t know anything» and the area representative said: «Let’s see».

 As parents we had to get the medicine here in Finland and mail them as express to Canada.

Instead of helping Salla get to the doctor, STS Canada area director Kim Berry decided to issue a warning to Salla regarding her host mother not informing Salla’s school about her absence. Salla was invited to STS Canada office 14. Nov. 2011. Salla had written a four page complaint about all the problems and failures on STS’ part so far:
  • There was no school placement arranged by STS when Salla arrived. Salla was turned away from Gisele la Londe-school, because they had no knowledge of the exchange student. It took almost a week to arrange a school placement.
  • The host mother left for five days leaving Salla alone with the allergic symptoms. The host mother did not leave any contact information to Salla and strongly forbad Salla to inform STS about her absence.
  • The host mother did not check her mailbox despite Sallas request. Salla had no key to the mail box. The expensive medication we had sent from Finland lay in the mail box nine days before Salla finally got them.
  • The host mothers fierce mood swings raised questions. She could be laughing and dancing by herself, but in an instant lose her temper and throw dishes to the floor. Once Salla saw a ziplock-bag on the kitchen table and the host mother told her not to touch it and that it was marijuana. As parents we became worried about that and asked STS to investigate. Despite the pictures taken of the supposed marijuana bag, STS only threatened to issue another warning to Salla for spreading unfounded rumours. The local representative, also the host mothers best friend, stated that she did not believe it was marijuana. That was all STS did. Case closed.
The Canadian area director, Kim Berry, did not even bother to view the complaint Salla had left in the STS office 14. Nov. 2011. Nor did STS Finland manager, Mira Silvonen, reply in any way. Whereas STS Canada country manager, Yannick Becu, sent his greetings to me: Strict demand to not interfere in matters.

Aware of Sallas cat and dog allergy, the area representative Sandra Hanniman tried to temporarily house her in her own home where there were several cats and dogs. Salla started getting an allergic reaction during the first evening and had to organize a place for herself with her friends for almost for a week because STS was not capable of doing so.

After having moved to the second host family, we found out that the host mother was a chain smoker with two dogs. The host mother also told how the area representative had convinced her to take an exchange student just for a while to » try it on».  She had agreed to keep the exchange student at most for two months, i.e. to the end of January 2012. At Sandra’s request, this was kept secret from Salla and us.

STS asserts that the host families live up to certain standards, that they are carefully screened and backgrounds checked, homes are inspected and photographed etc. With both of Sallas host families, these promises turned out to be just lies. When showing the pictures taken from Sallas first host family to STS Finland manager Mira Silvonen, she disputed the pictures were not from the host family’s house. STS did not have pictures from the house at all, neither did they show any interest in inspecting the conditions even though STS Canada has an office in Ottawa. When Salla moved in with the second family, STS’ office had no information about the family. We had to ask for address and other information several times. More specific information, for example the age or profession of the host mother, was never given to us.

In the second host family, the host mother’s nephew was a frequent visitor. This army man harassed Salla and without Salla knowing it, loaded porn on her computer. Salla experienced the situation extremely awkward, but was too scared to inform STS about it, because she had already learned that there would not be any kind of support from STS. She also knew that STS could use that porn on her computer as an excuse to dismiss her. A third party got involved and the army man confessed.
STS was aware of the latter host family only hosting temporarily to the end of January 2012. Without even trying to find a new host family for the rest of Sallas exchange time, Mira Silvonen deliberately began fabricating grounds for dismissal demanding supplementary reports about Salla’s health. Mira Silvonen did not think that Salla could have been taken to a health inspection in Canada. Instead she invited us as Salla’s parents to STS office in Helsinki to «discuss Salla’s allergies». On Friday 20. jan. at four pm Mira Silvonen, arrogantly announced that she had dismissed Salla from the program and that Salla would leave on Sunday.

As grounds for dismissal, Silvonen submitted breach of contract. According to Silvonen, we had not given essential information about Salla’s health. We should have mentioned that tobacco smoke can cause symptoms to an allergic person. Silvonen as a layman, had also decided that Salla had asthma that we also had not informed STS of. Mira Silvonen later in Court described how she was shocked to hear that a person allergic to pollen could get a reaction from apples during pollen season. It was the same with an allergic person suddenly getting a reaction from combination of for example spices, perfumes etc. All this should have been mentioned in the application form according to Silvonen.

STS advertises, that they comply with the recommendations of the Finnish national board of education regarding international student exchange. According to these recommendations, as well as STS’s own special terms of conditions, the exchange student and her parents should be informed about dismissal as soon as possible. The organization is also responsible for giving appropriate help and support before dismissal.

Mira Silvonen acted totally against the agreement. She bought flight tickets one month earlier and kept the dismissal secret from Salla and us until two days before departure. Silvonen says that she takes responsibility for the dismissal. She has never communicated, explained or apologized to Salla. She e-mailed the flight tickets without a comment about her decision.

It was left to us parents to inform Salla about this totally unexpected dismissal. In Canada the regional director Kim Berry had told Salla that the reason for her dismissal was «not sufficient interest towards the school» and therefore Salla did not appreciate the opportunity to study abroad. Apparently, Kim Berry was not aware of the fact that Salla was quite successful and was going to be moved to higher class after Christmas.

The Helsinki District Court sentenced STS Kielimatkat to refund €6.505 (US$7105) to Finnish Salla Rautiola due to unfair dismissal and numerous other breaches of contract in their exchange student program.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

School district, Fragozo face off in court

On March 25, 2016 San Diego Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney dissolved the restraining order obtained by Escondido Union School District against its own board member Jose Fragozo.

From the Superior Court website:

03/25/2016Minutes finalized for Hearing on Restraining Order
heard 03/25/2016 01:30:00 PM.

03/25/2016Temporary Restraining Order dissolved.

03/25/2016Restraining order as requested denied without prejudice.

Original story:

It seems we have familiar shenanigans going on in San Diego school districts. Escondido Union School District is trying to silence a whistle-blower by destroying his political career.

Here's a pathetic accusation against Jose Fragozo, a board member in Escondido Union School District: "violating personal space."  How is this an offense that deserves a restraining order? 

Then we have "pointing a finger"! Seriously--pointing a finger. 

And my personal favorite, "demeaning staff."  Demeaning staff is normally considered de rigour behavior in school districts. 

Other school officials have committed actual crimes and yet managed to maintain the full support of their districts, and immunity from prosecution. 

I assume this entire case is based on political conflicts.

School district, Fragozo face off in court
by Steve Puterski
Coast News
December 23, 2015

VISTA — The battle between the Escondido Union School District and trustee Jose Fragozo went before a judge on Dec. 18 at the San Diego County Superior Court.

Fragozo is subject to a temporary restraining order filed by Superintendent Luis Rankins-Ibarra with supplementing statements from three other EUSD administrators on Dec. 2 after the four alleged threatening and harassing behavior from Fragozo. The district is attempting to make the order permanent.

During last week’s hearing, EUSD Board of Trustee Zesty Harper testified Fragozo’s behavior grew increasingly volatile over the last year.

The hearing lasted several hours and was continued until Dec. 23.

Trustee Zesty Harper testified as a witness for the district and Rankins-Ibarra saying Fragozo’s demeanor behind closed doors increasingly grew more aggressive, intimidating and threatening over the past year.

Harper, who was elected last year, said she saw several incidents of Fragozo violating others’ personal space, pointing a finger in faces and demeaning staff during meetings.

The district’s attorney, Daniel Shinoff, told the court his clients suffered through tirades and threats of physical violence from Fragozo. In addition, Shinoff said Deputy Superintendent Leila Sackfield felt, at one point, she had been falsely imprisoned, while Assisatant Superintendents Kelly Prins and Kevin Rubow were targets of bouts of yelling “as close as possible” with Fragozo pointing his finger in their faces.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Sackfield "felt" she was falsely imprisoned? Why didn't she call the police? Why didn't she file a criminal complaint? I suspect the accusation was dreamed up long after the event in question. Has anyone questioned Sackfield's propensity for paranoia?]

Shinoff also cited 158 school shootings since 2013 including three local shootings have given the four added reasons for concern, but Fragozo’s attorney, Laura Farris, blasted Shinoff for attempting to link her client and mass shootings.

During Farris’ opening statement, she said her client has not threatened any district official and his passion for the district stems from wanting the best for its students. She added Rankins-Ibarra is overly sensitive to others in disagreement with how to approach the district’s issues.

In addition, Farris claims the district has prevented Fragozo from performing his duties and “obliterated” his constitutional rights.

“He demanded accountability for test scores,” Farris said. “They are using the shootings to get Mr. Fragozo out of the picture.”

Update from Superior Court files:

Court request to continue the Hearing on Restraining Order and reissue the temporary orders was granted. The Hearing on Restraining Order was continued to 01/08/2016 at 09:00 AM in Department N-21.

For more on Escondido Union School District, see Coach Carter case.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

What can parents and teachers do to fix the serious problems noted in the article below? Easy. Talk to kids!
"Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs “failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.” Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion."

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

Today’s young children are working more, but they’re learning less.

Edmon de Haro

...The academic takeover of American early learning can be understood as a shift from what I would call an “ideas-based curriculum” to a “naming-and-labeling-based curriculum.” 

Not coincidentally, the latter can be delivered without substantially improving our teaching force.

[Maura Larkins comment: It seems clear that most people have given up hope of improving the quality of our teachers. But it could easily be done--without firing any teachers. All you need to do is evaluate teachers effectively, and then assign each teacher to an appropriate job. The best teachers should be used in a completely different manner than they are today--rotating for short periods of time each day among several classrooms.]

Inexperienced or poorly supported teachers are directed to rely heavily on scripted lesson plans for a reason: We can point to a defined objective, and tell ourselves that at least kids are getting something this way...

...New research sounds a particularly disquieting note. A major evaluation of Tennessee’s publicly funded preschool system, published in September, found that although children who had attended preschool initially exhibited more “school readiness” skills when they entered kindergarten than did their non-preschool-attending peers, by the time they were in first grade their attitudes toward school were deteriorating. And by second grade they performed worse on tests measuring literacy, language, and math skills. 

The researchers told New York magazine that overreliance on direct instruction and repetitive, poorly structured pedagogy were likely culprits; children who’d been subjected to the same insipid tasks year after year after year were understandably losing their enthusiasm for learning.
That’s right. The same educational policies that are pushing academic goals down to ever earlier levels seem to be contributing to—while at the same time obscuring—the fact that young children are gaining fewer skills, not more.

Because so few adults can remember the pertinent details of their own preschool or kindergarten years, it can be hard to appreciate just how much the early-education landscape has been transformed over the past two decades. The changes are not restricted to the confusing pastiche on classroom walls. Pedagogy and curricula have changed too, most recently in response to the Common Core State Standards Initiative’s kindergarten guidelines. Much greater portions of the day are now spent on what’s called “seat work” (a term that probably doesn’t need any exposition) and a form of tightly scripted teaching known as direct instruction, formerly used mainly in the older grades, in which a teacher carefully controls the content and pacing of what a child is supposed to learn.

One study, titled “Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?,” compared kindergarten teachers’ attitudes nationwide in 1998 and 2010 and found that the percentage of teachers expecting children to know how to read by the end of the year had risen from 30 to 80 percent. The researchers also reported more time spent with workbooks and worksheets, and less time devoted to music and art. Kindergarten is indeed the new first grade, the authors concluded glumly...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cuomo throws in the towel on teacher quality

I am hard pressed to decide who is  more opposed to effective teacher evaluations: the teachers union or administrators. We don't need test scores to evaluate teachers. Unfortunately, most administrators are not good evaluators. In many, if not most, cases administrators were not gifted teachers themselves.  (That's  often exactly why they became administrators.)

We should evaluate teachers, but we shouldn't fire ineffective teachers. We should just give teachers jobs commensurate with their abilities. Plenty of classroom activities can be done by less-than-brilliant teachers and we can use the best teachers to train the less gifted teachers. Heaven  knows administrators aren't good at training teachers. Here is my plan to share responsibility for student learning between a regular teacher and a part-time master teacher.

Would a guarantee to not fire ineffective teachers get the teachers union on board? I think it might. The main goal of the teachers union seems to be to protect the teachers who have political connections. Sadly, these union leaders and their cronies are not generally the most effective teachers. Why don't we protect their jobs, and protect the kids at the same time?
--Maura Larkins

 Cuomo throws in the towel on teacher quality
December 19, 2015
Gov. Cuomo once called himself the “students’ lobbyist.” Now he’s got a new message: Sorry, kids — maybe someday.

On Tuesday, the Board of Regents officially said amen to that. In a near-unanimous vote, the board took the recommendations of a Cuomo panel and banned any serious consequences for rotten teachers — no matter how embarrassing their students’ scores on state tests.

Teachers who can’t teach, in other words, will get to keep standing in front of whiteboards, confidant that no one will ever lay a glove on them. And too bad on the kids.

True, the new no-consequences rule is supposed to last “only” four years. “At least” is a lot more like it...
Rewind to 2010: State lawmakers, drooling over hundreds of millions in bribe money from Washington, required schools to use test scores in deciding a teacher’s future employment.

But the lawmakers’ plan, as Cuomo would later say, was “unworkable by design.”...

Just last week, the state reported its latest teacher-rating stats: Nine out of 10 teachers scored as “effective” or better — even though two out of three kids continue to flunk the tests...

In Cuomo’s case, because the teachers unions (with help from the likes of West­chester County Exec Rob Astorino) have managed to panic massive numbers of parents into “opting out” of having their kids take the tests. Those parents are voters...

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew boasted of his “gum up the works” battle to prevent evaluations in the city...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

UCSD fails to comply with research reporting law 98% of the time

Law ignored, patients at risk
Stanford University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and other prestigious medical research institutions have flagrantly violated a federal law requiring public reporting of study results, depriving patients and doctors of complete data to gauge the safety and benefits of treatments, a STAT investigation has found.

The violations have left gaping holes in a federal database used by millions of patients, their relatives, and medical professionals, often to compare the effectiveness and side effects of treatments for deadly diseases such as advanced breast cancer.

The worst offenders included four of the top 10 recipients of federal medical research funding from the National Institutes of Health: Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of California, San Diego. All disclosed research results late or not at all at least 95 percent of the time since reporting became mandatory in 2008.

Drug companies have long been castigated by lawmakers and advocacy groups for a lack of openness on research, and the investigation shows just how far individual firms have gone to skirt the disclosure law. But while the industry generally performed poorly, major medical schools, teaching hospitals, and nonprofit groups did worse overall — many of them far worse.

The federal government has the power to impose fines on institutions that fail to disclose trial results, or suspend their research funding. It could have collected a whopping $25 billion from drug companies alone in the past seven years. But it has not levied a single fine.

The STAT investigation is the first detailed review of how well individual research institutions have complied with the law.

Read more: Popular heart surgery carried hidden danger

The legislation was intended to ensure that findings from human testing of drugs and medical devices were quickly made public through the NIH website Its passage was driven by concerns that the pharma industry was hiding negative results to make treatments look better — claims that had been dramatically raised in a major lawsuit alleging that the manufacturer of the antidepressant Paxil concealed data that the drug caused suicidal thoughts among teens.
“GlaxoSmithKline was misstating the downside risks. We then asked the question, how can they get away with this?” Eliot Spitzer, who filed the 2004 suit when he was New York attorney general, said in an interview.

The STAT analysis shows that “someone at NIH is not picking up the phone to enforce the obligation to report,” Spitzer said. “Where NIH has the leverage through its funding to require disclosure, it’s a pretty easy pressure point.”...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Los Angeles ACLU and Public Council force an end to fake classes for poor Oakland kids

My respect for the ACLU of Southern California (the Los Angeles branch) is reaffirmed. But once again I am disappointed in the San Diego ACLU.  Who is calling the shots in the San Diego ACLU regarding school issues? Certainly not people who are interested in equal education or civil rights for ordinary students and employees. 

A lawsuit was brought against the state of California by the Public Council and the ACLU of Southern California regarding fake classes for poor kids.

  “Settlement in suit over Oakland schools’ ‘sham’ classes
Jill Tucker
November 5, 2015

Students in Oakland and two other California school districts will no longer have to languish in bogus courses or miss weeks of class because of scheduling fiascoes, under a settlement reached in a lawsuit targeting the loss of learning time in some of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

The class-action lawsuit said that students at Castlemont and Fremont high schools in Oakland, along with four schools in Los Angeles and Compton (Los Angeles County), received much less learning time than other, more affluent children across the state. Civil rights attorneys filed the case against the state Department of Education and Board of Education, saying the state and not individual school districts are responsible for ensuring all students have the opportunity to get an education.

Other court cases have challenged unequal access to quality teachers or classroom materials, but this was the first case in the country to address the time students spend learning, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.

The suit cited cases in which youths had been assigned to “sham” courses that had them perform tasks in the school office or pick up trash.

Schools cited in the lawsuit had students retake courses they had already passed or sent them home early because there was no room in classes, attorneys said. Some schools employed rotating substitute teachers rather than fill full-time vacancies, the suit said.

The state Board of Education voted to approve the settlement Thursday. The agreement requires state education officials to track students assigned to classes without educational content and provide assistance in class scheduling if necessary. The settlement also requires the state to pay $400,000 in attorneys’ fees.

“No child’s time in school is disposable,” said Kathryn Eidmann, staff attorney with Public Counsel, a public interest law firm that filed the suit with the American Civil Liberties Union in Alameda County Superior Court. “Many students in California’s most disadvantaged schools were put in fake classes, made to run errands, sit in the back of classrooms or go home early.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How come the principal of Spring Valley High School isn't in trouble for calling officer to drag girl out of classroom?

Update 5:33 PM Oct. 28, 2015  

Finally someone agrees with me!  See last story below. 

If the Spring Valley High School teacher and assistant principal had had more training, wisdom, finesse and good will, they wouldn't have created an out-of-control confrontation with a girl who quietly glanced at her cellphone and apologized for it. 

When I was a student teacher I was told, "Never start a confrontation you can't win. It undermines your authority."

The teacher and  assistant principal overreacted to the girl's refusal to turn over her phone. It could have been dealt with after class when it wouldn't have completely disrupted the class.

But the teacher and administrator under-reacted to the brutality by the officer toward a child in their care.  Were they so angry at the girl that they wanted her to be physically assaulted? Did they want "Officer Slam" to slam the girl? Do they not recognize a crime when it's being committed before their eyes against a child they are being paid to protect?

Here's an interview with Niya Kenny, a fellow student who was arrested with the girl slammed by the officer.

...Not many news agencies have reported, or even wondered why she was asked to leave in the first place.  As it turns out she had momentarily looked at her phone during class, and apologized for it at the time.
...[Niya] Kenny: Yes, sir he's known as Officer Slam around our school.  I've heard, in the past, he's slammed pregnant women, teenage girls, he's known for Slamming.
Hayes: Um.. one of the things that's so striking in this video is the other students in the room seem so quiet and scared and contained.  No one seems to be intervening.  Why do you think that was?
Kenny: They were scared, I was scared myself.  I felt the two grown men in the class were also scared themselves because who's seen anything like that? That's not normal for anyone to be handled like that, let alone a 16-year-old girl by a 300 lbs man.
Hayes: You at one point did get up to say, what were you saying, what happened?
Kenny: I was screaming, crying, like "Are you guys seriously letting this happen? This is not right, you guys know this isn't right. You guys are really letting this happen right now?" I guess they were in shock but still I felt like somebody in the class should have helped her.
Hayes: Did the teacher or the administrator say anything to the officer like "hey, this is excessive" or try to intercede in any way?
Kenny: Not at all, they were both quiet just like the kids.
Hayes: So everyone is sitting there in stunned silence, you start saying something, what happens next?
Kenny: And then the administrator, Coran Webb who was also in the class, starts telling me "Sit down Niya, be quiet Niya, put your phone away Niya."  And I'm like "No, no, this is not right. I can't believe ya'll are doing this to her."
Hayes: And then you then, are eventually arrested?
Kenny: Yes, sir.

Original post:

Why isn't anyone questioning the actions of the teacher and assistant principal at Spring Valley High School?
by Maura Larkins

It seems that the South Carolina SRO (school resource officer) did pretty much what the teacher and assistant principal expected him to do when he dragged a girl out of her high school classroom.

The assistant principal made the decision to call the officer into the classroom. It appears that he wanted the officer to use force. Or perhaps he just thought the officer would be able to intimidate the girl and she would get up and leave voluntarily. He clearly did not tell the officer NOT to use force.  I can certainly understand if the officer believed that he was expected to use force.

The LA Times notes, "[Sheriff] Lott, who rushed home from an out-of-town conference when the news broke, said that a teacher and vice principal in the classroom at the time felt the officer acted appropriately."

What was the girl's offense? Texting in class.

Compare this case to a situation in Sacramento that did indeed require the school to use force: a principal was body-slammed! 

Also, compare to the dancing cop in Washington D.C. confronting a teenager with a cell phone.

Race and Discipline in Spotlight After South Carolina Officer Drags Student

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Videos of a white sheriff’s deputy throwing a black high school girl to the floor of a classroom thrust this community into an unsettling national discussion Tuesday about whether black students are disproportionately punished.

The incident, which the Justice Department said Tuesday that it would investigate, follows national studies showing that black students were far more likely than whites to be disciplined in public schools, even for comparable offenses.

That issue was receiving intense scrutiny here long before the videos of Monday’s incident were released, prompting the district to form a task force last year to examine its practices.
Last year, the racial divide in the Richland School District Two, encompassing parts of this city and its suburbs, led to the formation of the Black Parents Association, and contributed to a bitter campaign for control of the district’s board.

Yet this community fits no neat stereotype of racial tension. It has at times been seen as a model of amicable integration, where students of divergent backgrounds socialize together. And while some students have called the deputy overly rough or racist, others, of all races, defend his record in the school — if not his behavior on the videos.

The videos showed a sheriff’s deputy assigned to Spring Valley High School struggling with a 16-year-old girl who had refused to stand and leave her math class, after the teacher reportedly caught her using her phone. The deputy, Ben Fields, tipped the girl’s chair and desk backward, lifting her out of her seat and slamming her to the floor, and then dragged her to the front of the classroom, where he cuffed her hands behind her back.

Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County said at a news conference Tuesday that in one video, when the deputy grabbed the girl, she could be seen punching him, but he said his focus was on whether the deputy followed departmental rules. “That’s what the internal affairs investigation is doing, and the results of that will determine his further employment here,” he said.

“Even though she was wrong for disturbing the class, even though she refused to abide by the directions of the teacher, the school administrator and also the verbal commands of our deputy, I’m looking at what our deputy did,” Sheriff Lott said.

He deflected a question about the role of race, saying Deputy Fields has a black girlfriend.
[Maura Larkins' note: I wonder if the black girlfriend also gets dragged around.]
On Monday, the sheriff placed Deputy Fields on unpaid leave, and asked for a federal investigation. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with the F.B.I. and the United States attorney for South Carolina, said Tuesday that it would look into the incident.

James Manning, the chairman of the district’s board, said the use of force “appears to me to be excessive and unnecessary.”

Deputy Fields has been the subject of two federal lawsuits about his conduct in the past. A jury found in his favor in one, and the other is pending...

Dancing cop vs. abusive cop: One defused a defiant teen. The other got fired.

Washington Post
Twice this week, the nation was moved by the way a white cop confronted a black teenaged girl and her mobile phone. For very different reasons.
In South Carolina, the teen was texting in math class and wouldn’t put her phone away. Teens and their phones, right?

But the campus officer who came to the class responded in the worst possible way, yanking, slamming and dragging the girl across the classroom. It was a violent 11 seconds of video that made millions of people gasp and, thankfully, got the cop fired.
Sadly, in this time of a national awakening to stunning incidents of Bad Cop brutality — from ruthless arrests caught on camera to fatal shootings — this has become what we expect to see.
But many of this country’s 780,000 sworn police officers know how to do their jobs the right way.

In Washington, police showed up in a neighborhood near the Nationals baseball stadium to break up a fight between two groups of teens. After it was over, 17-year-old Aaliyah Taylor, a senior at Ballou High School, walked up to the officer and started playing “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” on her phone. Instead of clearing out, as the police officer had demanded that she and the rest of the crowd do, she started dancing the Nae Nae. You could totally see a teen doing this, right?

That officer had a choice. Yell at the teen for being defiant and disrespectful? Go rogue and slam the teen to the ground, South Carolina-style?
Nope. Instead, the officer began dancing, too, matching Aaliyah move for move. It was a hilarious, uplifting and refreshing 56 seconds of video that immediately went viral.

It shouldn’t be news that a police officer used her humanity to defuse a tense situation instead of escalating it, that a white cop didn’t use force against a black teen. But for many people in Aaliyah’s community, it was.
All seven of her siblings have been cuffed or arrested by police for nonviolent crimes, like breaking curfew, she told The Washington Post’s Perry Stein. And her brother and six sisters all told her that the police were rough on them. We saw that video in South Carolina. We know it happens.
Aaliyah lives in a rapidly changing city that is becoming less and less welcoming to people who look like her.
Her neighborhood near Ballou High School in Southeast Washington is a world of jump-outs and street corner pat-downs. Dozens of students at her school have been killed in the past decade. You’re wearing a hoodie? Dark pants? You’re going to get stopped. Kids in her neighborhood run when they see police.

Surveys and studies — Gallup, Pew, USA Today — show that nationwide, African Americans aren’t confident in the way police interact with their communities.

“I thought all cops were cruel because that’s how I saw them,” Aaliyah explained later.

The police officer, rather than taking her down like a drug kingpin caught in a sting, laughed at Aaliyah’s challenge to her authority, warned her that she had better moves and started dancing, clunky cop shoes, turtle-shell body armor and all.

“Instead of us fighting, she tried to turn it around and make it something fun,” Aaliyah said. “I never expected cops to be that cool. There are some good cops.”...



Victim of SC school assault “had it coming”

By Brandi Collins
ColorofChange. org
Oct. 28 2015

By now you’ve probably heard about the horrifying and brutal attack of a peaceful Black female high school student by school Police Officer Ben Fields - an officer with a history of racial profiling.1 Just hours after the incident, some media had already begun its routine character assassination of the Black student and its blind hero worshiping of the officer. The most vile of this coverage came from CNN’s Harry Houck.
Just like when he was covering the murder of Sandra Bland, Harry Houck thinks this young Black girl “had it coming.”2 That if she only respected the officer she would not have been viciously attacked.
As an ex-NYPD detective with a national platform, Harry Houck continues to pedal racist narratives that put Black lives at risk by suggesting that officers have the right to use abusive force on Black women who don’t respect them. It's an embarrassment for the network and it should embarrass corporate sponsors that their money is reinforcing for millions of viewers the both conscious and unconscious belief that Black is wrong, the police are always right, and any lack of respect for an officer by a woman of color justifies a beating or worse..

South Carolina student who was assaulted by deputy Ben Fields is living in foster care, says her lawyer

Updated: Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The South Carolina high school student flipped and thrown across a classroom by the disgraced sheriff's deputy who lost his job Wednesday is living in foster care, her lawyer told the Daily News.

The 16-year-old is now under the protection of a foster mom who said she's suffering in the aftermath of the shocking caught-on-video assault, lawyer Todd Rutherford said Wednesday.

News of the unidentified teen's status surfaced as Richland County Sheriff's Deputy Ben Fields was stripped of his badge for his violent reaction to her allegedly unruly behavior.

The Monday incident inside an algebra class at Spring Valley High School was captured in disturbing cellphone footage that quickly went viral and raised renewed concerns about racist policing and excessive force. Fields is white, and the student is black.

"Deputy Ben Fields did wrong this past Monday, so we're taking responsibility for that," Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County said at a news conference in Columbia announcing the dismissal.

"The maneuver that he used was not based on the training or acceptable," Lott said, adding that the termination "wasn't a hard decision."

Lott praised the classmates who filmed the officer's overreaction and even encouraged citizens to keep filming cops to help "police the police."

The Justice Department also is investigating the case, and Fields may face criminal charges from that probe.

Fields earned nationwide scorn for the video showing him slamming the girl to the ground while she was still caught in her desk, and then dragging her across the classroom floor after she allegedly refused to stop using her cellphone.

Fields' lawyer issued a defiant statement late Wednesday, thanking people for their "heartfelt support."

"We believe that Mr. Fields' actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident," lawyer Scott Hayes said.

"To that extent, we believe that Mr. Fields' actions were carried out professionally and that he was performing his job duties within the legal threshold," he said.

Hayes said his client "welcomes the opportunity to address the particulars at the appropriate time."
While confirming Fields' dismissal, Sheriff Lott criticized the teen for allegedly starting the confrontation and said that she still could face prosecution.

Ben Fields has a history of alleged misconduct and is being sued by an expelled Spring Valley student for racial bias. Richland County Sheriff's Department--Ben Fields has a history of alleged misconduct and is being sued by an expelled Spring Valley student for racial bias.
The girl and a fellow female student who objected to Fields' actions were charged with disturbing the school. Both were released to their guardians.
"She was not allowing the teacher to teach, she was not allowing the students to learn," he said. "She was very disruptive, very disrespectful."
Her teacher tried to discipline her and called a school administrator for help before bringing in Fields, he said.
Fields was allowed to put his hands on the girl and tell her she was under arrest, Lott said, but he went too far.
"I can tell you what he should not have done: He should not have thrown that student," Lott said.
Rutherford said the girl suffered injuries to her arm, neck and face.
Lott claimed the girl suffered only "rug burn."...

Black girls are suspended at six times the rate of white girls

Maura Larkins' comment: I estimate that thousands of white girls send texts during high school math classes everyday, but we would be truly shocked if one of them were dragged out of class by a police officer and arrested.

 Press release by Color of Change Oct. 28, 2015:

...While Fields' firing was absolutely necessary, he [should not be] alone in shouldering the blame for this incident.
From start to finish, there was a total breakdown in common sense and compassion for the student who he brutalized. Even Sheriff Lott has questioned whether the officer should have ever been called into the classroom.2                                                
The educators who involved a police officer in this minor disciplinary issue and the policy makers who have failed to limit the role of police in schools must also be held accountable.
Join us in urging Richland School District 2 authorities to investigate the school officials who called Officer Fields and to strictly limit the role of police in their schools.
During today's press conference, it was revealed that school officials issued statements in support of Officer Fields after videos of his violent attack went viral.3 It's shameful. Any school official who found Officer Fields' behavior acceptable shouldn't be educating our children. This type of discriminatory police violence has no place in Richland County schools and local leadership must do everything in their power to stop it. As long as policies allow educators to bring in police for any minor school issue we can expect to see more and more tragic cases like this one. Richland School District 2 Superintendent Debbie Ham has said she will work to strengthen police "training efforts in the school," but we need more than that.4
ColorOfChange members know all too well that the police violence caught on camera at Spring Valley High is part of a much larger crisis of criminalization targeting Black students. In the past few years, the number of police in schools has skyrocketed and the result has been devastating. Known as the "school to prison pipeline," kids are now much more likely to be suspended, expelled and arrested for the type of issues that years ago would have landed a student in the principal's office.5 Black girls — who face dehumanizing racial and gender stereotypes — are 6 times more likely than white girls to be suspended, most commonly for subjective issues such as "having a bad attitude."6 Police should play no role in the everyday education and disciplining of students.

— Arisha, Rashad, Scott, Lyla and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.

1. "South Carolina Officer Fired for Throwing High School Student, Sheriff Says," Slate 10-28-2015
2. "S.C. sheriff fires officer who threw student across a classroom," Washington Post 10-28-2015
3. See reference 2.
4. "South Carolina Deputy Ben Fields Fired After Desk-Flipping Incident: Sheriff," NBC 10-28-2015
5. "Spring Valley Officer Assault Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg," ThinkProgress 10-27-2015
6. "Study: Black girls are suspended 6 times more often than white girls,'" USA Today 02-11-2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

School Board Set to Honor and Investigate Foster on the Same Night

School Board Set to Honor and Investigate Foster on the Same Night

On the same night members of the San Diego Unified school board will discuss an independent investigation into possible wrongdoing by board president Marne Foster, board members will double down on their support for Foster by honoring her with a proclamation...

...Despite the shady shenanigans at SCPA, has Marne Foster been a good board member for her area? If so, maybe she deserves a slight break here?

Maura Larkins' comment to Dennis--and to Richard Barrera, who "will ask the board to consider which issues are truly relevant to the school district":
 School officials who get rid of good employees for political reasons are seriously undermining the welfare of students. Schools need officials who keep their personal agendas out of their decision-making process.
In my opinion, SDUSD is no worse than other school districts. 

I'm asking myself why is it that "shady shenanigans" seem to be rarely investigated when the perpetrators are white. 

Officials have been allowed to resign suddenly in other county school districts with no reasonable explanation being given, yet officials of color seem to get investigated. My theory is that the discrepancy is NOT CAUSED BY RACISM, but rather by the fact that people of color don't have the political clout that allows them to accomplish their goals behind closed doors.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Internal investigator at San Diego Unified fired for refusing to cleanse a report about sexual assaults in boys bathroom

I have long argued that there is too much secrecy in schools. A new lawsuit (see NBC 7 article below) makes the same case.

The Michael Gurrieri lawsuit (see NBC 7 article below) against Cindy Marten, the superintendent of San Diego Unified School District, claims that Marten knew and approved of the firing of Gurrieri, an internal investigator who looked into a serious sexual molestation problem at an elementary school. The district wanted Gurrieri's report to be cleansed to cover-up the fact that the principal failed to act to protect children. Gurrieri refused to censor his report as the district demanded, and he was fired.

Marten has filed a Motion to Dismiss herself as a defendant in the case, claiming that Gurrieri has no proof that Marten was involved. I think Marten is a pretty good superintendent; it is the system itself that is bad. In my experience, almost all school districts simply do whatever they want to do, and then have their lawyers protect officials from responsibility. The question of Marten's involvement in personnel actions has been raised regarding the removal of another principal. Many believe that a principal was removed from her school in retaliation for failing to make sure that board member Marne Foster's son got a good college recommendation.

The District Deeds blog and Voice of San Diego have written about recently discovered emails showing that Marten was informed of Marne Foster's wishes.

The following is from the District Deeds blog:

"Regardless of the reason why she removed Lizarraga, the latest emails show that Marten was aware of Foster’s overreach at the school.”
-- Reporter Mario Koran – Voice of San Diego 

Koran has proven, through multiple emails and communication between Trustee Marne Foster and former Chief Student Services Officer Joe Fulcher that copied Supt. Cindy Marten, that BOTH FOSTER AND MARTEN VIOLATED SDUSD Board of Education Policy which states:

"The board will not give direction to any employee other than the superintendent and any other employee who may report directly to the board.”


Here is a story about the Gurrieri case:

San Diego Unified Lawsuit Moves Forward
Rory Devine and R. Stickney
Aug. 13, 2015

See federal complaint here.

After the San Diego Unified School District paid $105,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual assault in a boy's bathroom, a new suit has been filed relating to the case.

A former employee who alleged a "cover up" of student-on-student sexual misconduct at SD Unified will soon be heading to settlement talks with the district.

A September 24 date has been set for settlement negotiations in the suit brought by former school district investigator Michael Gurrieri. He was hired by SDUSD in March 2014 as a probationary internal investigator.

Gurrieri claims he uncovered a problem of student-on-student sexual assaults within the district as he was looking into an allegation at Green Elementary School in San Carlos.

In May 2013, parents of a kindergartener said their son was sexually assaulted by another kindergarten student in the boy's bathroom at Green Elementary. The parents were awarded $105,000 to settle a lawsuit in the case, and the district did not admit guilt.

When Gurrieri filed his report, he claims he was told to remove allegations of incidents of abuse in the school that the principal was aware of and didn't do anything about, according to his attorney.

Gurrieri was terminated from his job because he objected to the district's “cover- up,” his attorney claims.

The lawsuit originally named Superintendent Cindy Marten, Executive Director of the Quality Assurance Office Carmina Duran and the district's General Counsel Andra Donovan as defendants because the district cannot be sued in federal court under the claims of First Amendment violations.

A judge is considering a motion to remove Marten and Donovan that claims Gurrieri failed to prove he had a conversation with either Marten or Donovan regarding his report.

However, Gurrieri's attorneys say the judge has yet to make a final decision on whether Marten and Donovan will be defendants.

Duran did instruct Gurrieri to focus his report on one student's allegations, court documents show.

The district ended Gurrieri's employment in October 2014, court documents show. The district has said it will not comment on pending litigation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

No lateral moves allowed between health systems: an illegal conspiracy in North Carolina--or the future of medicine that UCSD is aggressively seeking in California?

Is this the future in California if UCSD wins its poaching lawsuit against Dr. Paul Aisen regarding Aisen's decision to transfer his Alzheimer's study to USC? Is it unlawful restraint of trade? Science magazine reports on what happens when health systems collude to stop their employees from moving to other institutions.
“[L]ateral moves of faculty between Duke and UNC are not permitted.”
–UNC's chief of cardiothoracic imaging

An academic 'poaching' lawsuit from a scientist who didn’t move
By Beryl Lieff Benderly
September 10, 2015

In August, we reported on the lawsuit brought by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), against the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, in an effort to stop USC’s alleged attempt to bring a multimillion-dollar Alzheimer’s disease research project along with its new recruit, neuroscientist Paul Aisen, from UCSD to USC. We noted that though some observers view universities’ efforts to bring major researchers to their campuses from elsewhere as effective recruiting, others see it as harmful poaching.

In North Carolina, meanwhile, another scientist’s effort to move from Duke University in Durham to the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, has also resulted in a lawsuit, but for an entirely different reason. Danielle Seaman, an assistant professor of radiology at Duke, claims that “an illegal conspiracy” among Duke, UNC, and the two universities’ health systems not to raid each other’s talent barred her from consideration for an advertised opening at UNC, according to the complaint filed with the court.

Allegedly, the institutions’ goal was to “suppress the compensation of their employees,” according to the complaint. “Without the knowledge or consent of their employees, [Duke’s] senior administrators and deans entered into express agreements [with UNC] to eliminate or reduce competition … for skilled medical labor” by not “hir[ing] or attempt[ing] to hire” from each other. This deal, the complaint argues, constitutes an unlawful restraint of trade.

When UNC advertised a position in cardiothoracic imaging, the complaint claims, Seaman wrote to the division chief to express interest in applying. As quoted in the complaint, he wrote back saying “I agree that you would be a great fit. … Unfortunately, I just received confirmation today from the Dean’s office that lateral moves of faculty between Duke and UNC are not permitted. There is reasoning for this ‘guideline’ which was agreed upon between the deans of UNC and Duke a few years back. I hope you understand.” (Emphasis is in the original.) Seaman did not understand, so she wrote back to ask about this “reasoning.” The guideline arose, the division chief allegedly replied, “in response to an attempted recruitment by Duke a couple of years ago of the entire UNC bone marrow transplant team; UNC had to generate a large retention package to keep the team intact.” (Emphasis is in the original.)

The universities have not commented on the case, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Still, The Chronicle quotes a former senior vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke as saying, “[i]n my time in the administration, there was a general practice that we did not recruit aggressively at the other institution, and vice versa. … It was based on thinking both institutions were better if each institution was strong.”

Seaman is represented by a North Carolina law firm and also by Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein (no relation to this reporter), the San Francisco-based legal powerhouse that won a $415 million settlement against tech giants Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe for colluding to keep wages down by not hiring each other’s workers. Seaman’s complaint requests a jury trial and approval of the case as a class action “on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals,” presumably the employees of Duke and UNC. Stay tuned for developments.
Beryl Lieff Benderly writes from Washington, D.C.

How did a bunch of complete idiots end up accidentally running a school?

Update Sept. 19, 2015:

"They didn't think he had a bomb."

Daily Kos
Sep 17, 2015

Great Post Sent to Me Today
I said: it's sad they thought that kid had a bomb.
She said: they didn't think he had a bomb.
I said: yes, they thought he made a bomb and even called the police.
She said: They just wanted to humiliate a little Muslim boy. They didn't think he had a bomb.
I said: Don't be a conspiracy theorist. They might be a little prejudiced, but I'm sure they thought he had a bomb.
She said: OK.
But they didn't evacuate the school, like you do when there's a bomb.
They didn't call a bomb squad - like you do when there's a bomb.
They didn't get as far away from him as possible, like you do when there's a bomb.
Then they put him and the clock in an office: not like you do when there's a bomb
Then they waited with him for the police to arrive, and then they put the clock in the same car as the police. 

Then they took pictures of it.
I said: Damn.....They never thought he had a bomb.

Boy arrested at school for building a digital lock
"How did a bunch of complete idiots end up accidentally running a school? Were you all yanked out of a zoo and given paychecks? Learning centers are for teaching...not for ruining innocent people's lives with your racism and pathetic stupidity!..."This kid is destined to be something great if the dimwits of Irving don't ruin him first."
--Kevin McKinney

Is there something wrong with teacher culture? 
by Maura Larkins

My explanation for the disgraceful incident in Irving, Texas where a boy was arrested for building a clock is that adults in schools so rarely engage in critical thinking. A teacher who engages in critical thinking will most likely be unpopular. There isn't a place for such teachers in the powerful cliques that run schools. I have long wondered why teachers are expected to teach critical thinking to kids when so many of them seem to be incapable of it.

Also, a culture of hostility and contempt toward students is cultivated by many teachers who are zealous in their efforts to catch students being bad--and then to run to the teachers lounge to denounce the children they are paid to nurture.

This culture creates a tendency toward paranoia among teachers and administrators.

Update Sep. 17, 2015:

...Ahmed spoke about his arrest today on ABC News' "Good Morning America," describing how his English teacher and police reacted to his clock, which is still in police custody.
"She saw a clock that, in her opinion, looked like a threat to her," Ahmed said of the unnamed teacher. "It felt really weird getting arrested because I never thought I'd ever get arrested.... 

Original story:

 Muslim teen creates clock, shows teachers, gets arrested

When Ahmed Mohamed went to his high school in Irving, Texas, Monday, he was so excited. A teenager with dreams of becoming an engineer, he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he'd made from a pencil case.

The 14-year-old's day ended not with praise, but punishment, after the school called police and he was arrested. A photo shows Ahmed, wearing a NASA t-shirt, looking confused and upset as he's being led out of school in handcuffs.

"They arrested me and they told me that I committed the crime of a hoax bomb, a fake bomb," the freshman later explained to WFAA after authorities released him..