LA Unified joins forces to stop commercial child sex crimes


Monica Garcia reacts to the gruesome report.

As the FBI agent played a video of a 16-year-old caught in a sex ring in Los Angeles, the audience of the Successful School Climate: Progressive Discipline and Safety Committee yesterday remained hushed. Some wiped tears from their eyes.

LAUSD Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King reviewed the list of local schools where such crimes occurred and she she was shocked to spot an elementary school among them.

For the past year, LA Unified administrators have joined the fight to stop child sex trafficking with a group of 60 Los Angeles agencies called the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Task Force.

“This is a very difficult topic, it makes us uncomfortable, afraid, repulsed, it’s not something we connect to our students,” said committee chair Mónica García. “I’m proud that LAUSD said ‘yes’ again to getting involved in the program.” Garcia said early next year she will ask the school board to support an update to the district’s child abuse policy to include focusing on commercial sexual exploitation of children.

“I want to be that village for our young people and educate ourselves and empower ourselves to be another level of lifeline,” she said. “The community helps ourselves by knowing more and getting the facts and it’s not going away just because you don’t know.”

LAUSD intervention coordinator Holly Priebe-Diaz said district officials will soon be adding information to their annual spring child abuse training for principals. She said she will ask the principals then to share the information with teachers.

“I thought I heard everything,” Priebe-Diaz said, until she attended conferences and training about how prevalent the problem was in the United States, and especially Los Angeles.

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Families, attorneys protest to seek end of LAUSD abuse cases

DSCN4829Attorneys representing families of students who said they have been abused by teachers and principals at LAUSD protested outside the school headquarters Tuesday morning, carrying signs that read, “LAUSD Bullies Children to Drop Lawsuits,” “Don’t be Silenced” and “Stop LAUSD Abuse.”

“The abuse in the school system continues, and the district should do something about it,” said parent Maria Hernandez, one of the 50 or so protestors. She said she was part of the class action suit associated with the Miramonte School sex scandal. Her case was settled, but she said she is still waiting for the elected board members to respond to continuing allegations of abuse. “They have promised that there would be something more done to protect our children,” she said.

Steven A. Figueroa, a legal consultant from Riverside, said he has helped many parents work their way through the court system and find attorneys. “I hear about teachers not knowing what to do, or principals slapping kids,” he said. “LAUSD is the worst school district in the country. There is no accountability in administration.”

He offered no proof or evidence of his assertions.

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LA Unified wants ‘gag order’ for Miramonte sex abuse trial

Judge Rolf Treu affirm vergara decision

Attorneys for LA Unified asked the judge in the civil trial against the district involving the sex abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School for a gag order, which would prevent anyone involved with the case from talking publicly about it, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Jury selection in the case is expected to begin later this month. The case stems from the child abuse scandal involving former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt, who pleaded no contest last year to 23 counts of lewd conduct on a child between 2005 and 2010. The judge is expected to rule on the motion on Nov. 14.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued against the gag order in court while Sean Rossall, who is a public relations specialist hired by the law firms representing LA Unified, said in a statement the request for a gag order is to “ensure that the case is argued in court, instead of through outside press conferences,” NBC reported.

So far, the district has settled 65 claims for about $30 million over the alleged abuse. About 70 others are still waiting to go to trial. The case starting this month has three plaintiffs who are former Miramonte students.


Brown Urged to Veto Weakened Teacher Dismissal Bill*

Mark Berndt, teacher accused of abusing children

Mark Berndt, teacher accused of abusing children

Opposition to a teacher dismissal bill that was weakened through compromises in the California legislature is gathering steam as it awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Today Gloria Romero, former state senator and head of California Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), is urging Brown to veto the bill. In an article published in the Orange County Register she argues that the bill, AB 375, “makes it harder for districts to protect children.” (read article here).

Last week, The California School Board Association issued an ‘action alert’ urging members to write Brown to veto the bill, saying it’s a “good bill for bad teachers”.

Meanwhile on the grassroots side, a parent activist in San Diego posted a petition asking Brown to “protect schoolchildren from predators,” joining grassroots group Edvoice which last week called the bill  “unsafe for children.”

Larry Sand, president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network, cites even more opposition to the bill in a commentary here.

*Adds reference to Larry Sand commentary.



Previous Posts: Teacher Dismissal Bill: No Added Concern for Predators, LA Unified Blames ‘Cumbersome’ Law for Dismissal Delay

Morning Read: LAUSD to Pay Millions Over Abuse Lawsuits

LAUSD to Pay Nearly $30M to Settle Miramonte Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Los Angeles Unified will pay nearly $30 million to settle claims by 58 children who say they were victims of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, the veteran educator charged with committing bizarre acts of sex abuse against students, attorneys said Tuesday. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times, KPCC, AP, LA Times Now Live

LAUSD Charters Would Lose Funding Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s Budget
Wilbur Elementary got $230,000 in state grants when it converted to a charter last fall. Now, administrators at Wilbur and other affiliated charters, nearly all of them in the San Fernando Valley, are struggling with the news that they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants if lawmakers approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s new formula for funding public education. LA Daily News

L.A. Charter School Aims to Toss Out Students With Fake Addresses
Officials at Carpenter Community Charter, a top-notch elementary, think 120 children are enrolled fraudulently. They want to make room for students who live in the neighborhood. LA Times

Try a Different tack: Hold Teachers Responsible for Education Quality
The logic of the reformers seems to be that teachers unions are so wrongheaded, and the citizenry sufficiently tired of fights about seniority and teacher evaluation, that putting forward a slate of school board candidates is the way to change the balance of power in the school district and mute the pesky union.  But the strategy hasn’t worked. EdSource Opinion

Over-Praising Preschool
Obama wants the government to fund a free year of pre-kindergarten, but studies don’t back up his claims of long-term benefits. LA Times Opinion

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Morning Read: Parent Trigger Lessons for LAUSD

L.A. Parent Group Applies Lessons From Compton, Adelanto Efforts to Take Over School 
The 24th Street Elementary School Parent Union has received eight letters of interest from groups wanting a chance to reform the school. Six are from established charter schools, one is from a retired 24th Street teacher and one is from L.A. Unified itself. San Bernadino Sun

L.A.’s First Hebrew-Language Charter School Raises Questions
Lashon Academy is to teach modern Hebrew, have no religious component and aim for a diverse student body. But some worry that dual-language charters blur the line between public and private schools. LA Times

Teachers Union Is Backing Garcetti With Words, but No Money
The union that represents Los Angeles Unified School District teachers has weighed in on the city’s March 5 municipal election and backed Eric Garcetti for mayor. KPCC

School Turnarounds Prompt Community Backlash
The federal government’s push for drastic reforms at chronically low achieving schools has led to takeovers by charter operators, overhauls of staff and curriculum, and even school shutdowns across the country. AP

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Morning Read: Meet the East Valley Candidates

Meet the Candidates: LAUSD School Board District 6, East Valley
The next person to represent District 6, which includes schools in areas such as San Fernando, Pacoima, Panorama City and Sun Valley, will hold the position during a critical period. I Am San Fernando Blog
See also: LA School Report

New System Allows More Students to Get College Cal Grants
For some high school seniors, applying to college is stressful enough. An added layer of having to search for their grade point average and Social Security number was enough for thousands not to bother seeking financial aid.  Now, Los Angeles Unified School District students can breathe a little easier. LA Times

L.A. Unified Students Face Off in Healthful Cooking Contest
Teams from six high schools whip up balanced meals following rules on calories, fat, sodium and simplicity. The winners advance to the national level, and their creations will join the district menu. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News

L.A. School District Sued Over Sexual Abuse of Students
The Los Angeles Unified School District was sued for failing to prevent the alleged sexual abuse of students by an elementary school teacher who was arrested last year. Bloomberg
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Morning Read: CA Charter Law Ranked 7th

Report Ranks California’s Charter School Laws 7th Strongest in Nation
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked California 7th for its charter school laws among the 42 states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws allowing charter schools. EdSource

L.A. Schools Supt. Deasy, 4 Predecessors Named in Miramonte Lawsuit
The lawsuit alleges that the superintendents created an environment in which administrators were advised to dismiss complaints of misconduct, shielded teachers from scrutiny and kept allegations from being reported to state authorities and law enforcement. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, AP, ABC LA

Applying for Kindergarten: What to Do If Your Child Is Too Young
It’s that time of the year when parents of four and five year old’s are busy with school tours and applications to secure a kindergarten spot. KPCC

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Morning Read: Who Will Follow Mayor’s Ed. Lead?

Antonio Villaraigosa Led The Way on Education Reform, but His Potential Successors Are Reluctant to Pick up the Torch
For the last eight years, education reformers have had a staunch ally in the L.A. mayor’s office. But in a few months, Villaraigosa will be gone. LA Weekly
See also:  USC Annenberg, LA School Report

LAUSD to Compete With Charters to Run ‘Parent Trigger’ School
The parents at 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified will have plenty of choices for an operator to take over their school under the “parent trigger” process they initiated this month. One of the contenders will be the district itself. EdSource
See also: LA Weekly, KPCC

Former State Senator Martha Escutia Calls for LAUSD Probe
In the wake of yet another sex abuse arrest in the Los Angeles Unified School District, former state Sen. Martha Escutia came to a Wilmington elementary school Monday to call for an LAUSD investigation into what she believes is a pattern of such abuse against Latino youth by teachers in low-income areas. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times

Second Parent Says Principal Ignored Concerns About Accused Teacher
Maria Zacapa, whose child is now in the eighth grade, said her son told her four years ago that Robert Pimental had touched a girl in his fourth-grade class in a way that made Zacapa’s son feel uncomfortable. LA Times

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Morning Read: Incumbents Lead on Direct Contributions

LA Election Fundraising Tops $18M
In races for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, incumbents easily outpace challengers. LA Daily News

L.A. Unified’s College-Prep Push Is Based on False Data
San Jose’s school district, which requires all students to pass the classes necessary to apply to California universities, initially reported strong results. But its success was overstated. Those results should raise warning flags for other school systems, including Los Angeles Unified, that based key policy decisions on San Jose’s misreported data. LA Times

LAUSD Plans to Add 1,000 New Campus Aides for Security at Elementary Schools
The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to make more than 1,000 new hires to bolster security at hundreds of campuses in a move some critics have called “security on the cheap.” LA Daily News
See also: KPCC, LA Times

State Legislators Seek Crackdown on Expensive Form of School Finance
Two state lawmakers moved on Friday to crack down on a costly method of finance that hundreds of school districts have been relying on to pay for new construction. LA Times

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Morning Read: Reform vs. Union in Board Race

It’s Reform vs. the Union in LAUSD Race
The future of Los Angeles’ public-education reform is at stake on March 5. That’s not hyperbole; that’s the truth about what could happen next election day. LA Daily News Editorial
See also: LA School Report

LAUSD Principal Failed to Report Alleged Molestation by Teacher
A now-retired principal twice failed to report accusations of sexual misconduct by a teacher who this week was charged with molesting 12 students at a Wilmington elementary school, officials said. LA Times
See also: Daily Beast, CS Monitor, LA Daily News, KPCC

Teachers Union Joins Suit Against Release of Ratings
The teachers union for the L.A. Unified School District was granted court permission Thursday to join a Los Angeles Times lawsuit seeking access to teacher ratings so it can argue they are based on an unreliable mathematical formula and should not be disclosed to the public. LA Times

Gov. Brown Uses State of the State Speech to Push Education Reforms
As if speaking from a pulpit, Brown warned of fire and brimstone if bureaucracy and inequity isn’t wiped clean from the state education system. KPCC

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Morning Read: Former Teacher Accused of Molestation

Ex-LAUSD Teacher Accused of Abusing 20 Children
A former Los Angeles Unified School District teacher was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of committing lewd acts and sexually abusing 20 children and an adult, law enforcement authorities said. LA Times
See also: ABC LA

Plan to Supply LAUSD Students With Tablet Computers Wins Key Vote
Los Angeles Unified students may be closer to stepping into classrooms of the future where much of the world’s knowledge is right at their fingertips. LA Daily News

Listen: Is the ‘Parent Trigger’ Finally Being Given a Chance?
For the first time since the era of school reform began, the Los Angeles Unified School District has accepted a petition from angry parents demanding “immediate and significant” change in a public school. KCRW

LAUSD Board Candidate Iris Zuniga Drops out of Race for Nury Martinez Seat
Iris Zuniga, one of five candidates to succeed LAUSD board member Nury Martinez in the East San Fernando Valley, announced Wednesday she has dropped out of the Distrct 6 race. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times, LA School Report

ACLU: State, School Districts Failing English Learners
More than 20,000 students whose first language isn’t English are not getting proper instruction according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which threatened California education officials with a lawsuit Wednesday. KPCC

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Morning Read: Looming Vote On Teacher Evaluations

Teacher Vote on Whether to Use Student Test Scores in Performance Evaluations
Teachers in Los Angeles Unified will vote Jan. 14-18 on a tentative agreement that would allow the use of student test data in performance evaluations. LA Daily News

Calif. Teachers Fund Reviewing Firearm Holdings
The nation’s largest teachers’ pension fund announced Tuesday that it was reviewing its firearms holdings after determining that its investment in a gun maker was linked to one of the weapons used in last week’s Connecticut school massacre. AP

Jury awards $6.9 million to boy molested by L.A. Unified teacher
Now 14, the boy was a fifth-grader at Queen Anne Place Elementary School when then-teacher Forrest Stobbe molested him for several months. LA Times
See also: KPCC

11,200 Child-Care Slots in Los Angeles County Lost During Recession
Los Angeles County lost thousands of licensed child-care spaces during three recession-battered years, jeopardizing the ability of low-income parents to work and give their children an academic head start through early education services, data released Wednesday showed. LA Times

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Morning Read: Miramonte Lawsuits Proceed

Miramonte Lewd Conduct Lawsuits Can Proceed
An L.A. County Superior Court judge on Thursday lifted a stay on lawsuits arising from alleged lewd conduct at Miramonte Elementary School. LA Times

Ex-Miramonte Teacher Mark Berndt Hires Defense Attorney
Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte Elementary School teacher accused of lewd conduct against his students, has hired as his defense attorney a former federal prosecutor who is also an ex-television news reporter. NBC LA

Tablets or Teachers? L.A. Tech Initiative Sparks Heated Board Debate
Last month, when a panel overseeing bond spending for Los Angeles schools narrowly rejected initial steps to provide all 650,000 students with tablet computers, the biggest concern for the program was whether bond funding could pay for technology. EdWeek

My View: I Would Trade Tenure for Better Teaching
Teacher Aadina Balti has tenure, but says it’s no reason for her, or any other teacher, to stop innovating. CNN Opinion

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One Thing: LAUSD’s Crowded “Rubber Rooms”

From LA School Report contributor Hillel Aron, writing for the LA Weekly:

Source: LA Weekly

“On the outskirts of LAUSD’s sprawling, mazelike Educational Service Center in Reseda sit seven long, shabby, peach-colored bungalows with barred windows and rotting wood, which all but scream Southern California public education.

“In one of them is a roughly 35-square-foot room where 25 or so teachers (and a couple of teacher’s assistants) sit at cubicles.

“One sits with his feet up and his head tilted back toward the pockmarked ceiling, fast asleep, snoring loudly through a gaping mouth… Another works on her dissertation for a doctorate in education.

“They are teachers in teacher jail, known more popularly as rubber rooms, and the aim is to keep them out of classrooms while allegations against them are investigated.

Read the rest of the story at LA Weekly.

Morning Read: Day of Atonement

Time to Get Schooled: My Conversation With LAUSD’S John Deasy
LA Magazine editor Mary Melton sat down with Superintendent Deasy. LA Mag 

Triumph Charter High Must Recruit Students to Sun Valley Campus, or Close
Triumph Charter High may be forced to close because of low enrollment after relocating this year from Sylmar to Sun Valley, campus officials said Tuesday. Daily News

LA Students Off for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement
All traditional calendar L.A. Unified schools will close for the holiday that ends at sundown Wednesday. KPCC

Alleged Sex Abuse May Be Part of Years-Long Soccer Hazing Pattern
So far, four teenage boys have been arrested on suspicion of assault for their alleged roles in the hazing. LA Times

Josephine Jimenez Dies at 100
Josephine Jimenez, a Los Angeles educator who broke through a glass ceiling to run a high school and become a leader and supervisor of principals, has died at 100. LA Times

Morning Read: Prop. 38 Debate Heats Up

Leg Analyst: Prop. 38 Won’t Stop $6 Billion in Trigger Cuts to Schools CTA Blog: During a September 24 hearing, a member of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office’s team told members of the Assembly Budget Committee that Proposition 38 would not prevent $6 billion in automatic or trigger cuts to public education in 2011-2012.

TV ads for Prop. 38 start airing SF Chronicle: The 30-second spot hits on the themes that proponents have pushed so far and includes a barely subtle jab at Brown’s measure.

Seeking Allies, Teachers’ Unions Court G.O.P., Too NYT: While donations to Democrats still far outweigh contributions to Republicans, the proportion of union money going to Republican candidates this year, just over 8 percent, has doubled since the last election cycle, according to the National Institute on Money In State Politics.

Finding Classroom Success In Bilingual Mix Of Spanish, English Hechinger Report: In 2011, while 56 percent of elementary-age students in California were proficient or above on state tests for English language arts, two thirds of Ernest R. Geddes Elementary School in Baldwin Park, Calif students were [proficient].

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Morning Read: Zimmer Revising

LAUSD board member Zimmer to revise charter schools proposal after protests Daily Breeze:  Los Angeles Unified board member Steve Zimmer vowed Tuesday to revise his controversial charter schools resolution after nearly a dozen speakers and an overflow crowd voiced strident opposition to his plan to study tougher oversight.

Defiance: the all-purpose word that drives kids out of school Witness LA: Initial data from an ongoing UCLA study seems to suggest that suspending problem students does little to promote a healthier educational environment in schools. By engaging troublemakers instead of ostracizing them, the performance of the entire school receives a boost.

Parking problems a hazard at new Porter Ranch Community School Daily News: The new $56 million Porter Ranch Community School is winning raves for its innovative curriculum and architecture, but it’s also raising safety concerns because of a parking crunch that’s emerged since the K-8 school opened a month ago.

Substitute Teacher from Cerritos Found Not Guilty in Student Molestation Case Patch: A 29-year-old substitute teacher from Cerritos charged earlier this year with one misdemeanor count of child molestation involving a Los Coyotes Middle School student was found not guilty by a 12-person jury last month.

Middle Schooler Booted from Class for Wearing Brown Leggings, Posing As Pantsless LAist: An 11-year-old honors student at Mount Gleason Middle School in Sunland was allegedly kicked out of class Friday for wearing brown leggings that too closely resembled her skin tone.

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