Last September, a Highway Patrol officer was shopping at a Sacramento Barnes & Noble when a thief broke into the trunk of his personal car, according to a state property report. The loot included a Highway Patrol-issued.40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol, three .40-caliber high-capacity magazines and the officer’s unencrypted laptop containing confidential information, according to the database.
The officer called the Sacramento Police Department to make a report; no arrest was made.
School ended for Michael Garcia with a routine transfer from juvenile hall to adult county jail. There was no fanfare, diploma or cap and gown. He hadn’t graduated or dropped out.
He’d simply turned 18.
For the next 19 months, he was in limbo, unable to receive the high school diploma that he’ll need for most jobs and to attend college. Despite being eligible for special education under state and federal laws – Garcia has a learning disability, an auditory processing disorder and a speech and language impairment – in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, he was a student that no one wanted to teach.
California and federal laws allow students with disabilities to receive special education until age 22. But the laws are vague enough that deciding who should provide that education is unclear.
The problem: In court documents, L.A. Unified said that because there’s no law specifically assigning school districts to provide special education to inmates, the state Department of Education is responsible. The state, on the other hand, said it provides special education services only if it finds local agencies are “unwilling or unable” to do so – a circumstance that it said was not the case for students in Los Angeles County jails.
Last year, California’s top Democrat managed to sidestep donation limits and got his fellow Democrats to donate $5.8 million to key races. In return, those who donated the most were rewarded with powerful leadership positions on “juice committees” that influence the state’s wealthiest interest groups.
But hey, that’s all legal. Our animated video explains.
Exploiting legal loopholes, Democrats in the California Assembly pumped $5.8 million into key campaigns designated by Speaker John A. Pérez last year, our new data analysis shows. Not only did the infusion of cash help the Democrats win a supermajority in the Capitol, the system also paid off for the speaker’s biggest fundraisers.
According to the data, Pérez gave lawmakers who raised the most money the best assignments in the new Legislature – posts on the speaker’s leadership team and seats on the powerful “juice committees. They control bills affecting the financial bottom line for the Capitol’s wealthiest interest groups: from banks, insurance companies and public utilities to casinos, racetracks and liquor distributors.”
An end to zero tolerance for willful defiance in L.A. schools?
California schools have long brought about swift punishments for instances of so-called willful defiance, which have disproportionally led to suspensions of many minority students not just in our home state, but nationwide.
Take the case of Damien Valentine, a Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore fighting against the practice, who says that several such punishments earlier in his school accomplished nothing but setting him back.
So just what is “willful defiance?”
That offense is now widely criticized as an arbitrary catchall for any behavior a teacher finds objectionable, such as repeatedly tapping feet on the floor, refusing to remove a hat or failing to wear the school uniform. It accounted for 48% of 710,000 suspensions issued in California in 2011-12, prompting both state and local efforts to restrict its use in disciplinary actions.
A resolution moving through Los Angeles County would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for the aforementioned offenses.
Said Tonna Onyendu of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit:
“This will be a transformational shift. Instead of punishing students, we’re going to engage them.”
Read more on the matter in
Christina House / For The Times
There is nothing to prevent sex offenders and others with criminal records from becoming alcohol and drug counselors in California, even though such roles give them direct contact with people, including teens, at their most vulnerable.
We’re posting some of our best investigative reporting from 2012 - in this story from August, we looked at Suburban Junkies in Southern California.
In Orange County, some young prescription drug addicts are turning to heroin for a cheaper high. This growing problem appears to hit hardest in affluent communities around the state.
Watch the video to learn more and see more of our best of 2012 reporting on our website: http://cironline.org/
In August 2006, caregivers at the Sonoma Developmental Center in California found dark blue bruises shaped like handprints covering the breasts of a patient named Jennifer. She accused a staff member of molestation, court records show. Jennifer’s injuries appeared to be evidence of sexual abuse, indicating that someone had violently grabbed her.
The Office of Protective Services opened an investigation. But detectives took no action because the case relied heavily on the word of a woman with severe intellectual disabilities. A few months later, court records show, officials at the center had indisputable evidence that a crime had occurred. She was pregnant.
Watch our graphic novel video about Jennifer (not her real name) - and read our entire new investigation about how police mishandled reported sex assaults of disabled.
With volatile weather, farms must adapt or wither
On the front lines of climate change, California’s agriculture industry faces a new landscape with less water, warmer winters, unexpected rain and rising salinity.
Our new “Heat and Harvest” series with KQED explores the challenges that farmers in the state are facing due to volatile weather conditions. Find out what’s at stake for this $30 billion-dollar industry — and your grocery bill.
Photo: Almond trees show signs of poisoning by exposure to salt. Rising salinity levels in irrigation water has farmers alarmed. Credit: Serene Fang/CIR