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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Davis Police Compare Favorably in their Actions on Tuesday Compared with the Problems in Los Angeles

As I watched the protest on Tuesday as it moved from campus, through the middle of Russell Boulevard and eventually to the intersection of Russell and Anderson, I remarked to several people the professionalism by which the Davis Police Department handled the march. They not only blocked off the streets in advance of the march, but they allowed for the impromptu, never engaging or escalating even when things may have gone slightly off-track.

As the march ended up with several hundred protesters marching in the middle of one of the most heavily trafficked intersections in the city, the police seemingly effortlessly diverted traffic. I understand that this diversion inconvenienced travelers and students who were attempting to get to class, but in terms of their prime duty--safety and peace, the police did their job on that afternoon and they did it well.

For all the times that we have criticized the Davis Police Department on these pages, this was an incident in which they deserve praise and appreciation. As I made my way through the event, I spoke first to Lt. Dorothy Pearson and then to the new Chief himself, Landy Black. In both cases, they downplayed the significance of their actions. Telling me that this was their job. Chief Black spoke about the importance of the right to protest as being a centerpiece of a Democratic society and I could not agree more. However, as we have seen throughout history, the actions of the Davis Police Department on this day should not be dismissed as lightly as the leadership did.

The irony of these discussions is that they took place before we learned about what happened with similar protests in Los Angeles, that led to the Los Angeles Police Department under heavy scrutiny and criticism for firing non-lethal munitions into a crowd of protesters.

The protests during the Civil Rights movement turned people's viewpoints when images of police dogs attacking protesters along with firehoses were embedded into the consciousness of the nation. The nation who was somewhat indifferent to the plight gained sympathy for the protesters as they watched the heavy-handed tactics of the police. While brutal, these types of actions were exactly what the protesters wanted and needed in order to gain support for their cause.

What authorities soon would learn is that the better they handle protests, the more professionally, the less likely the protests are to get out of hand and have the impact that they had during the civil rights movement. And yet, as we have seen time and time again with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago 1968, Kent State, and more recently in Seattle with the WTO, is that events can quickly get out of hand and become much larger than life when police fail to follow simple rules.

The latest incident in Los Angeles illustrates this perfectly. At some point, the police decided that the best idea was to disperse a large crowd of people. This move itself is probably ill-advised.

Contrast that to what the Davis Police decided to do on Tuesday. When the large group gathered in the middle of the street chanting, beating their drums, and dancing, they allowed the group to stay there until they moved to the adjacent sidewalks on their own and a small group of protesters stayed behind, sat down in the street. This was the group of people who had intended to be arrested.

Had the Davis Police decided instead to go after the larger contingency, chaos would have quickly ensued. The police even with a number of UC Davis officers and traffic enforcement officers would have been heavily outnumbered by the protesters. Keeping things orderly and calm is a good approach.

The lesson here is patience is sometimes a good police tactic. Simply allow the crowd to disperse on its own. But the Los Angeles Police did not do that. Instead they quickly moved to escalate rather than de-escalate the situation. When you start firing rounds, even non-lethal rounds, and hitting protesters with batons, many of whom are trying to disperse, then you are causing the problem rather than solving the problem.

Often it is the small decision that proves pivotal in cases like these. I was not on the ground in Los Angeles and do not know whether the decision to disperse the crowd that had a legal permit to be there was warranted. Some have suggested that there were some troublemakers in the ground--there is no doubt that is the case. However, you do not always have to disperse the whole crowd to get troublemakers out. After all, there are troublemakers in concerts and Mardi Gras celebrations as well, as usually they can contain those people without dispersing the full crowd or using escalation techniques.

One of the things that attorney John Burris discusses in his book is that in police work, you want to use force only as a last resort and you want to takes steps to de-escalate any situation of tension. The Los Angeles Police Department clearly violated those tenants of law enforcement when they chose to escalate the situation there.

Everyone on the ground on Tuesday in Davis complimented the protesters as well as being well-organized and disciplined. And that is probably true. But we also need to compliment the Davis Police for doing an excellent job of keeping the peace here.

In the coming weeks and months, there will undoubtedly be criticism and scrutiny revisited on the police department. However, in this event, on this day, praise is indeed in order.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, May 04, 2007

Davis Joint Unified School District Begins to Tackle Diversity Issues

Last night at the school board meeting, there were two presentations, one made by Mel Lewis, the Climate Coordinator on the Climate Action Plan which we reported a bit on yesterday and will talk more about in the coming days. Then Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore presented a report on addressing the needs of a diverse community.

One of the big issues that has come up time and time again with respect to diversity is the lack of African American and other minority teachers in the school district as a whole. There have been many complaints that there are zero African American teachers at the high school.

Interim Superintendent Richard Whitmore addressed this issue last night.
“First, with respect to hiring… we do understand the desire of the community to have teachers that reflect the diversity of the community, so we’ve really tried to ramp up our efforts on the recruiting front.”
Along those lines, the human resources directors have attended recruiting fairs across California—especially in diverse communities such as Sacramento, Carson, and Fresno. However, as Mr. Whitmore suggested,
“I think it would be fair to say that those recruiting fairs did not turn up a lot, it turns out that when you are competing against LA Unified, and LA Unified will offer you a job without a credential, if you have a BA degree, and their starting salary, and their starting salary is actually fairly attractive it’s really hard for us to compete and hard to draw people in to kind of a smaller community that isn’t as well known outside the immediate area.”
Other approaches have been to retain a search firm with a data base of thousands of candidates and a higher proportion of “teachers of color.” They are looking to fill 3 to 5 openings now at the high school and a smaller number in elementary and junior high school. They are also looking at expediting their hiring process by issue a letter of intent in front of good candidates to move up the process. They have often found themselves behind the curve, rather than ahead of the curve in this process.

Board Member Tim Taylor made an essential point.
“One of the problems that I’m absolutely convinced that this district has is that the inability to attract certain candidates is because they feel that they will be in an isolated environment when they get here. And we present that isolated environment to them, unintentionally, but when we go out to these recruiting fairs. And so we need to figure out a way that we can have some kind of a linkage or at least a connection that they can feel before they make the jump to here, because otherwise they won’t make the jump and that’s proven out from time and time and time again, whether we are going to North Carolina, whether we are going to Los Angeles, whether we are going to the Philippines. It’s not rocket science to figure it out and maybe we need to change our approach when we are going out to meet with folks, and make sure that there is a feeling of comfort which sometimes comes with when you see people like yourself. And Davis already has an aura about it that is somewhat concerning to people on the outside.”
Taylor in my view, nailed it on this statement. Davis does not have a good reputation to people of color who both live in this community and those who have heard about the community. It is unfortunately not a place where a lot of minorities have a desire to win, due in part to its reputation. Due also to some of the things that Nikki Smith said last week at the Human Relations Commission about being an exemplar and a role model and having a tremendous amount of pressure as one of a few minority and African American teachers in the district. I think as Mr. Taylor very aptly suggests is something that is going to take a lot of work to repair. And frankly from my experience in this community, a lot of people do not want to hear that and it was nice that Mr. Taylor was the one to say it last night.

Some of the other things they are looking at are the Unconscious Bias project—looking at what types of unconscious bias might exist and instruments to measure what kinds of unconscious bias you might bring to the classroom. This is a pilot project that has been in the works here in Davis for some time. (Click here for more information).

There are a couple of key theoretical and practical assumptions that underlie this program. First that all of us have basic “cognitive biases that influence how we perceive and make decisions about other people and that we are often guided by racial and other stereotypes of which we are completely unaware.” However, most Americans believes that racism and discrimination are things of the past and that makes it difficult to talk about racism and discrimination. Finally, we need to be able to confront these unconscious racial biases in order to eliminate some of the discriminatory practices—especially those that are unintended.

Another program coming to the high school is a class taught by Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia on “Race Relations and Social Justice in U.S. History” that has been approved for next year. The superintendent reported that the Black Student Union is back on campus and will be choosing new officers in the next few weeks and will be planning for its future. The suspension of the BSU had been a tremendous focal point in recent months, so its reformation is a positive step forward that will hopefully help to deal with some of the concerns that have been expressed in recent weeks.

At the next school board meeting they will be looking at the findings of the Achievement Gap Task Force. One of the things that Mr. Whitmore spoke about last night was student preparedness for post-secondary education. He looked at A-G completion and found that at the district level, the 2004-05 (most recent years available) that DJUSD Latinos/ Hispanics had a 32.8% completion rate which compares of course and as expected favorably with the county which had a 19.1% rate and the state which had a 24% completion rate. Likewise African Americans had a 41.7% completion rate compared with 28.9 percent at the county and 25.2 percent in the state. However as Mr. Whitmore suggested, while the statistics compare well to the county and state, for all students in this district, the completion rate is 67.8%, and so Hispanics and African Americans are dramatically lower than the district average (which itself is also well-above the state average).

There are several things that he is planning to examine in the future. First, they will look at the use of data to ensure equal access to the core curriculum and a successful base of academic skills for every student. Second, they will create professional programs for all staff on disaggregating data.

Third, they will review suspension and expulsion policies. There is a widespread belief among the students, as four years of survey data at the high school attest, that suggest a discrepancy in the punishment for African American and Hispanic students versus those for white and Asian students. So the Superintendent is going to begin to analyze their policies and hopefully this data to enable them to see if this is indeed the case (the data relate to perceptions of policy rather than practices). They also want to look at other ways to punish students other than simply suspension. For example, in the case of the DHS Malcolm X incident, it seems to me, that if this was indeed a punishable offense (which is questionable in itself), that there should have been other remedies aside from a three day suspension available to the administrators at Davis High School.

Finally on a related point, also relating to current issues they are going to review the grading policies that conflate behavior and academic performance. Here the problem is that students who are suspended not only get punished for their behavior but also academically. Many of the students who get punished for behavioral problems already have academic problems and so if they have to take zeroes on their coursework that they miss, they are simply falling further behind their contemporaries. That institutes a duel punishment and one that is not conducive to the overall goal of helping students academically who have behavioral problems. While this was not the case with the student involved in the DHS Malcolm X incident, the student nevertheless suffered greatly academically by missing several key exams. While there is of course a need to punish behavior, it does not make much sense to also punish the students academically.

While many of these changes sound good, the problem has never been coming up with good ideas, it has been following through on them. We shall talk about this again with regards to the climate programs that Mel Lewis talked about. But, Tansey Thomas, a long time community activist pointed out a 1990 report on Intergroup Group Study and a 1992 Task Force as a result of a report from the Department of Education. This report made a number of great recommendations, but it was never implemented. The only thing that has changed since the report—the finding and recommendations are all there and just needs to be updated to include Prop. 209 (end of Affirmative Action).
As Ms. Thomas said, “I don’t know why we want to start over again, everything that was a problem then, is a problem now. It’s like we’ve gone nowhere… That we form another study group, start another cycle, and it goes nowhere.”
This illustrates that while these presentations and reports sound good, if they are not implemented, nothing comes of them obviously.

Clearly the school district needs to follow through on much of these programs, but what was presented last night was tremendous in at least beginning to address many of the longstanding complaints—and these are complaints that were made over 20 years ago and probably long for that. Now the district needs to as they say—make these institutional and ongoing, so that this does not come up every so often in response to crises in the district.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thursday Briefs: A look at the 5th Senate District Race and More

A look at the 5th Senate District Race

From yesterday’s column, Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning appears to be calling the race for current Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

Writes Dunning:
“SACRIFICIAL LAMB … wow, was that a scary headline or what? … you know, the front-page, above-the-fold, double-bold beauty that said "Republican gears up for Senate run," and featured mug shots of the Republican, Greg Aghazarian, and a Democrat by the name of Lois Wolk … is this guy off his rocker or did he lose a bet and this is the way he has to pay it off? … if Lois wants this job, she's a lock …”
Perhaps the “Wary One” has simply confused this with the 8th Assembly District that Assemblywoman Wolk currently holds which is indeed a safe Democratic seat. The 5th Senate District, if one might recall, is anything but a safe seat for Democrats.

In 2004, incumbent Senator Mike Machado had to stave off a furious challenge from Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto to eke out a narrow 52.2 to 47.8 win. A race that for most of the election was a complete toss-up and Machado was widely viewed as endangered. He managed to stave off the challenge by making the case that Podesto was too conservative for the district.

While it is true that the district has around a 12 percent registration advantage for Democrats, many of those are more conservative valley Democrats rather than the more liberal Democrats of Yolo County and particularly Davis. Though Wolk is not a typical Davis liberal, it might be easy to paint her as one to voters in the southern part of the district.

Greg Aghazarian is a sitting Assemblyman who will have the full backing from the State Republican Party because this is one of the few seats that are in play—especially with no incumbent in the race and possibly two legislators squaring off. This will be a hard fought battle for the Democrats to hold this seat.

However, before we get to November 2008, we might want to look at June of 2008. Because there is a formidable opponent awaiting Wolk for the Democratic Nomination. That is current UC Merced Vice-Chancellor John Garamendi, Jr. His father is currently the Lt. Governor of the State of California. Garamendi, Jr. has strong ties to Davis and Yolo County as well. His father represented the area when he was State Senator. And Garamendi, Jr. has resided in Davis himself.

Garamendi has let it be known that he will be a candidate and he will announce sometime early this summer. In the meantime, it appears that unions and other interests are quietly lining up behind him. Wolk has been scrambling for the last four months for endorsements.

This will be one of the toughest primary challenges we will see in the state and with a 25,000 vote registration advantage in the part of the district which Wolk does not represent, it is not clear that this is hers to win. She is certainly far from a lock. Stay tuned…

Update on the DHS Situation

In a letter dated May 1, 2007, Davis Senior High School Principal Michael Cawley informed parents that the teacher involved in the Malcolm X Poster incident has now taken a leave of absence. The teacher had previously with the backing of the DHS contingent of the DTA requested that the student be moved to another class. The district has apparently denied that request and now the teacher has refused to teach.

With the AP Calculus Exam pending, the school is making several tutoring sessions available to students during lunch and after school in an “effort to ensure students receive extra time and support necessary to be successful on their upcoming AP exams…”

This situation has still not been put to rest and I must now question the leadership of the Principal and Vice Principal who have apparently failed to bring the situation to a more amicable conclusion. It is my opinion that a good Principal could have stepped in long ago to allow both the teacher and student to return to class. At this point, we also have to question the judgment and maturity of the teacher. It was clear from the beginning that the situation was poorly handled by the teacher and administration; however, to allow this to continue is irresponsible. The school board and superintendent need to begin to quietly ask the tough questions as to why this has continued for as long as it has.

Good Quotes in Response to “Illegal Immigration Capture the Flag” Game

Davis Enterprise Reporter Claire St. John has written an excellent piece covering the ill-fated and ill-advised “Illegal Immigration Capture the Flag” Game by the Davis College Republicans on the UC Davis Campus.

There were two outstanding quotes, one by Babajide Olupona, a UC Davis student who went to Davis High School and served as youth commissioner to the HRC:
"The thing about it is, as a student out here, the idea of having this (game) on this particular day and during La Raza Cultural Days shows how narrow-minded these people are," said fourth-year sociology and African American studies student Babajide Olupona. "I really thought this was a joke. I can't believe this."
And UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, himself a target for some of the May Day protests in Davis:
"I was very disappointed that a small group of our students yesterday attempted to play an 'Illegal Immigrant Capture the Flag' game," Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said in a statement e-mailed this morning. "In my view, it was clearly disrespectful and violated our Principles of Community.
You can read these Principles of Community here.

One that stands out in violation:
“We affirm the right of freedom of expression within our community and affirm our commitment to the highest standards of civility and decency towards all.”
Chancellor Vanderhoef is exactly right, the counter-protest did not adhere to those standards of civility and decency. This was clearly a case where a group of people were treated without dignity and civility and the Davis College Republicans not only deserve criticism, but as many pointed out, probably hurt their own cause by performing a game that would have been more likely to alienate and anger, than build bridges of understanding. Whose mind would they have changed by playing this game?

I believe deeply in the right to free speech and I wish they would have been allowed to play their game. But I also believe in the right to criticize and ridicule people’s choices for modes of expression. This one was not a good one and it deserved to be criticized. I hope that the organizers can learn from this experience, but from the quotes, it seems all they can see is that their rights to expression were violated rather than what they perhaps could have done differently next time to be a more effective voice for their own cause.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

"School Climate Survey" Missing Key Issues

In response to the Harper Junior High School incident last fall where a student was repeatedly harassed based on his fathers same-sex relationship, the district developed a number of programs including the school climate action plan as a means to assess the school climate and begin to attempt to teach students about diversity. One of the items on tonight's agenda will look at the steps needed to be taken to address the needs of a diverse community. This includes such important issues as hiring teachers and other staff who reflect our student demographics. This seems to be a strong and positive step that address some of the key concerns that have been presented here in recent weeks.

However, just before that item, another item appears on the agenda tonight at the Davis Joint Unified School Board meeting which will inform the school board on the climate action plan which includes the "school climate survey" which contains 41 questions and was supposedly mailed out to all of the parents in the school district.

According to the agenda:
"This Action Plan has been developed and reviewed by principals, the District School Climate Council, and site staffs. The Yale Survey has been delivered to each site, Holmes Junior High has obtained a grant and has held Safe School Ambassador training, assemblies on school climate are being presented, and many more complementary activities are happening to implement the actions in this plan. This is continuous work that will be focused in the future on the new comprehensive survey results.

The Yale Survey will be administered during the first 2 weeks in May, and the results returned prior to the end of the school year. The results will be shared with the district and at the sites through staff meetings, within classrooms, Site Councils, PTA, and School Climate Committees. Further actions will be developed from these results."
While I increasingly believe that a lot of the problems stem from the lack of responsiveness and poor handling from school administrators, I think that a good school climate survey could be a very informative means for the school district to assess the problems that exist in the schools.

The operational word here being "good" and the operational phrase being "climate survey."

An enraged parent delivered a copy of the survey for me. Perhaps the district has a different sense of what "school climate" means than the rest of us because not one question relates to the issues of harassment, discrimination, race relations, bullying, diversity of faculty, or any of the major issues that we have been dealing with this school year.

I even checked to make sure that this survey was intended to test the kind of "climate" issues that the climate coordinator was hired to handle. From the agenda item and the response I got, I believe the answer is affirmative.

What is on the survey? Well there are five questions about the appearance and/ or condition of the school buildings. I do not recall the condition of our schools to be a huge issue.

There are questions about participation by parents, standard of work, the way the principal treats the students, whether the students at the school enjoy reading, whether the school has a high standard of work, etc.

It is not that some if not many of these questions are not important. It is that there are clearly questions that are left out and those are questions which deal with the key issues that have been addressed this year and those are the key issues that the school district specifically created the climate coordinator position to address. To not have any of those kinds of questions on the survey, calls into question the entire survey and the entire program.

There is simply a lot of information that the school district needs to deal with issues such as race relations, bullying, discrimination, harassment, and the like, that they will not get from this survey.

I would like to know who was involved in the selection of this survey. The agenda item mentions principals, climate council, and site staffs. It leaves me to wonder if the school board looked at this survey before it was approved and sent to all the parents in the district. From the responses I have gotten, I would suspect not. And I would like to know what oversight is available for such matters because those who I talked to were unaware of the survey's existence even, much less its content.

It is my hope that the community and the board get some key answers to this tonight at the school board meeting. I would encourage any parents involved in these issues to come to the board meeting and ask questions.

To read the full survey with all 41 questions for yourself, please click here.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Campus Republicans Host an Insultingly Mocking Game as a Counter-Protest

If you did not know that they were there in advance, you would have missed them. I had more people send me the counter-announcement on this than on any other item. In retrospect, the concern about it was important but the main event far over-shadowed this one.

On the lawn of the Memorial Union yesterday, the College Republicans were hosting their own counter-protest. About thirty students signed up. When I saw them there were as many as ten, and less than twenty students playing a game of "Capture the Illegal Immigrant."

The event was organized by Ryan Clumpner, a UC Davis student who grew up in Davis. When I knew him he was not only my neighbor but also a student of mine in a couple of Davis Political Science Classes. He has been one of the leaders of the UC Davis College Republicans and worked in the 2004 Gary Podesto campaign against Mike Machado.

Among the other participants is Briana Bilbray, daughter of Southern California Congressman Brian Bilbray. Bilbray recently won election again in Duke Cunningham's seat and illegal immigration is the centerpiece of his campaign planks.

Reasonable people can disagree on immigration policy--this blog post is not about honest disagreements on public policy. It is about insensitive, insulting, mocking, and unacceptable behavior by educated or should-be educated college students who decided that their best form of expression was a mocking game of capture the flag.
Illegal Immigrant Capture the Flag
Si Se Peude!!

The Rules:

1. Team Illegal Immigrants must outnumber Team INS
2. Team INS must play with their hands tied behind their backs
3. Team INS plays defense the whole game
4. "Amnesty" will be granted to all tagged members of Team Illegal Immigrants every 10 minutes
5. All other rules apply only to Team INS
"We choose to express our opinions regarding illegal immigration in friendly, collegiate manner. On our lunch break, over 20 members of the Davis College Republicans will participate in a game of Capture the Flag. We believe this is an appropriate allegory that effectively demonstrates how our government currently refuses to enforce its own laws regarding immigration, at the expense of the public good," said Ryan Clumpner, Chairman of the California College Republicans and a student at UC Davis.

"We believe that the leftists choice to walk out of classes in order to make a political statement supporting illegal immigration is an appalling act of disrespect toward the hardworking California taxpayers who make our affordable education possible. Those same taxpayers also bear the burden of paying nearly $10 billion in costs to the state of California annually incurred by illegal immigration."
In any case, it seems that the protest while it garnered some media coverage, largely fell on deaf ears, vastly dwarfed by the hundreds of students who marched in support of health care, workers' rights, reform to immigration policy, and against the war. Nevertheless, it is important to draw people attention to this event and show it for the childish and juvenile mockery that it was.

I had long since left the scene as the main march was the story of the day. According to reports in the California Aggie, the game never got underway.
According to bystander Kyle Flick, a junior political science major at UC Davis, the capture-the-flag game never played out.

"People from the rally came over with concerns with the DCR activity," Flick said. "After the main group of the rally walked straight through DCR, a smaller group stayed behind and surrounded DCR. The smaller group kept growing, though."

Flick went on to say that DCR members were outnumbered more than 2 to 1.

"They must have felt intimidated," Flick said.
---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mass Protests and Arrests in Davis Over Food Workers Contract

A rally held at the Memorial Union on the UC Davis campus in support of allowing the UCD Food Service Workers (AFSCME) to unionize merged with some other groups opposed to the Iraq War and U.S. Immigration Policy. The bulk of the rally was held to support workers rights to unionize and get affordable health insurance. UC Davis, is according to organizers, the only UC campus which contracts out the food service workers to a private multinational corporation, with high health insurance premiums.

The crowd was initially estimated by the UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza at 150, but even she admitted that was a very low number. I would guess upwards of 400 based on my count.

They held a rally at the MU for about half an hour. Then marched around the quad, down to Freeborn and held a brief rally there before heading down Howard to Russell and then down Russell to the corner of Russell and Anderson.

At that point, they marched into the intersection and chanted, beat their drums, and marched in circles for a good period of time.

The event was well organized. The police did a good job of blocking traffic, diverting it away from the protest and also did not engage with the protesters.

It was only when the larger group left the street to stand on the sidewalks, then a group of perhaps 24 to 30 people sat down in the middle of the intersection.

At this point, Lt. Dorothy Pearson gave the order to disperse. When they did not disperse, officers read the protesters their rights and arrested them, one-by-one leading them into a bus.

When this was done, the protesters peacefully dispersed and there appeared to be no incidents. It was well handled by both the police and the organizers to make a point. Although you can see from one of the photos above, the police were ready with riot gear (or two of them were) if the crowd got out of hand.

New Davis Police Chief Landy Black lauded the protest, said that is what this country is about, and said that those who were diverted and delayed in their vehicles were given some time to consider which side they were on.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

DHS Suspension: Why isn't this issue resolved?

A few weeks ago, we reported that the high school under pressure from the school board and upper administration, had rescinded the suspension of a Davis High School student that stemmed from the student's Human Relations Week speech on an incident where the student's Malcolm X poster was removed from the classroom by a teacher who stated it was promoting terrorism. At that point we had reported that because of the fast action by the school board and others, that the school district had likely avoided legal action. However, since then the situation has begun to deteriorate.

The first problem was that the teacher refused to return to her class with the student in attendance. This produced a huge problem for the school and the students because the AP Calculus Test was approaching and they had no substitute teachers with enough knowledge of calculus to take over the class. This was temporarily resolved by having the other calculus teacher take over the class. However, the school now appears to want the student to move to the other class, which is at a different time and would severely disrupt the rest of his schedule for the last five or six weeks of school. This for a suspension that has now been rescinded.

To make matters worse, an article appeared on Friday in the HUB, the student newspaper that quoted from a memo from the DHS site representatives for the Davis Teachers' Association. We have obtained a copy of this memo, which is a public record.

The memo dated April 23, 2007 makes three key points.

"The staff of Davis Senior High school would like to voice its concern over the possibility of the rescission of a suspension for a DSHS student. "
"The DSHS staff is concerned about the precedent that would be set if this suspension is rescinded."
"For these reasons, the staff is also concerned that the student has not been transferred from the classroom of a staff member whose reputation was attacked by said student during his speech."
They then conclude:
"The DSHS staff through its Site Liaison requests that the suspension not be rescinded and that the student be transferred to another classroom in order to promote a safe environment for all at DSHS."
This memo has apparently caused a number of problems as it appears that the administration at the school still has not put this situation to rest. Moreover, the DTA at the high school has caused tension by speaking on behalf of all teachers when it is not clear that all teachers are in support of their insertion into this situation.

Don Winters, a popular teacher and past president of the DTA as well as a known activist in the city of Davis disagreed with the memo and expressed concern that they had made the decision to publish it without full discussion from the membership at the high school. Moreover, he did not think the memo was appropriate or agree with their conclusions. The HUB then quotes him as saying, "I've already expressed my displeasure."

However, the HUB itself caused some controversy, when it prominently attributed the quote, "I'm not calling her a biggot or a racist, but your actions reflect who you are." In fact, another student was the one who used that line and somehow it got attributed to Mr. Winters in the paper. That caused more problems and eventually led to a retraction in Monday's HUB.

At this point, the insertion of the DTA into this process has caused additional problems and headaches to a situation that should have been resolved a few weeks ago when the district rescinded the suspension. At this point, a lawsuit is almost inevitable. There has been serious disruption to this student's academic year and to the other student's academic year and climate.

The HUB reports that as a result of this incident, the student body and administration have changed their policies on speeches.
"For assemblies in the future, there will be a much more strict policy on speeches, [on] who will be able to speak and the approval process to ensure that speeches that have been approved are the ones given." [Quote attributed in the HUB to Associated Student Body President Joe Glass].
Of course, after reading the speeches, the problem did not appear to be in the fact that the student changed the speech, but rather in the approval process itself that allowed the original speech to go forward.

I remain concerned about the well-being of the teacher as well, who has apparently not handled this situation very well first by choosing to confront the student in public, next by overreacting to the speech, then by refusing to return to class, and now apparently by leaving school once again when this article came out in the paper. There have been a number of other problems that have surfaced about this teacher that give one serious pause as to her fitness to teach high school at this point in her career. This is unfortunate, because these do not seem to be malicious mistakes, but rather a series of blunders without proper support from his site administration.

In the end, I think everyone involved is hurt by this incident and a teaching moment is devolving into a legal fight that no one will win in the end.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Briefs

"Big Box Swindle" Author to Appear in Davis

Davis Independent Merchants Alliance presents:

Author Stacy Mitchell
with a fact-filled
discussion about
where your shopping dollars go!

o Where? 3rd & B
(Teen Center--downstairs)
o When? Tuesday, May 8
o 7 p.m. (informal reception 6:30)
o Who? everyone! You are invited!

No RSVP needed. Bring a friend! There will be time for questions and discussion after Stacy's presentation.

o How to strengthen local economies
o The role of locally owned businesses
o Building strong communities
o Bucking the big box trend
o Planning and growth: providing retail diversity

* Author: Big Box Swindle

Chair, American Independent Business Alliance
Senior Researcher, the New Rules Project (

Please forward this message to anyone you think might be interested in issues of growth, planning, business, Davis retail, and/or shopping!

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For more information about Davis Independent Merchants Alliance, visit our web site at, or contact Don Shor at

Should Yolo County have a Curfew for Minors?

The County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will have a seconding reading on a county ordinance that would set a curfew on Yolo County Juveniles. This after the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission heard the ordinance after the first reading and approved it--recommending that the curfew be set at 11:00 PM.

At first glance it sounds intuitive that you would not want juveniles hanging out after 11:00 PM. After all what kid should be out that late. However that intuitiveness begins to breakdown quickly. While an 11 pm curfew might make some sense on a school night, on the weekends that seems rather early for some older teens. Moreover, the question is who should determine the exact time that an older teen needs to be home and what is the goal of the ordinance. If the answer to last question is that it is a tool to reduce crime, we must ask where there is a sufficient drop in juvenile crime to warrant the intrusion of government into the private lives of parents and juveniles to such an extent that the government determines when a minor should be home rather than the parent.

There is some confusion as to whether this would apply to the entire county or if it would also apply to the cities. The City of Davis for instance does not have a curfew, although at one point the city looked into a curfew and decided that it would be problematic.

The problem of course with a curfew is that it would not merely affect minors. It would give law enforcement more tools to harass college aged students first by questioning whether they were a minor, if when they are doing nothing wrong. They could also potentially arrest people until they could prove that they were of age.

Others have expressed concerns that curfews would not prevent trouble but it would merely displace the trouble. Kids would simply move from areas of high visibility to law enforcement--where law enforcement would keep a watchful eye on them--to private residences where parents are not home and other places where law enforcement cannot keep a watchful eye on them.

So do curfews work? That is the key question here, for as I discovered with the issue of gang injunction, a lot of people will support policies that deprive people, even innocent people of their rights, if they believe it makes them safer.

It is interesting to note that the National League of Cities in 2006 took a survey of more than 200 cities with curfews and officials in 96 percent of those cities consider them either very or somewhat effective.

And yet actual statistical analysis paints a very different picture. Daniel Macallair from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice did a study on the impact of Juvenile Curfew Laws in California.

Here's his abstract:
In recent years cities and localities across the country have expanded the use of youth curfews to address growing public concern about juvenile crime and violence. By reducing the number of youths on the street during certain hours, curfews are assumed to lesson the number of circumstances in which youth crime can occur. It is also assumed that curfews reduce youth crime by deterring youths from being on the streets at certain hours out of fear of being arrested. Curfews have been widely-cited by policy makers as an effective tool for reducing youth crime. However, despite these assertions, virtually no comprehensive analysis of the effects of these laws has been completed. This study analyzes arrest data from jurisdictions throughout California. It is hypothesized that jurisdictions with strict curfew enforcement will experience lower overall, and serious crime arrests, than jurisdictions with less strict curfew enforcement. Also, because of their emphasis on youth curfew enforcement, jurisdictions with strict youth curfews will have accelerated rates of youth crime reduction in relation to adult crime trends.
His findings however suggest on the contrary:
"Statistical analysis provides no support for the proposition that stricter curfew enforcement reduces youth crime either absolutely or relative to adults, by location, by city, or by type of crime. Curfew enforcement generally had no discernible effect on youth crime. In those few instances in which a significant effect was found, it was more likely to be positive (that is, greater curfew enforcement was associated with higher rates of juvenile crime) than negative."
He concludes:
"The current available data provides no basis to the belief that curfew laws are an effective way for communities to prevent youth crime and keep young people safe. On virtually every measure, no discernible effect on juvenile crime was observed. In fact, in many jurisdictions serious juvenile crime increased at the very time officials were toting the crime reduction effects of strict curfew enforcement."
Officials are often supportive of curfews because they are apparently simple solutions that provide no additional financial resources to impose. They give law enforcement a simple tool that they believe can help them fight crime, simply get the troublemakers out of places where they can cause the trouble. But as we suggested above, juveniles are a bit more innovative than adults give them credit for being. So if they are not hanging out at the local hangouts, they'll find another place to hang out where they will be a lot less visible to law enforcement but perhaps just as troublesome.

Yolo County would be better off if law enforcement would spend their time and energy doing things to reduce crime rather than applying cosmetic bandages that according to most statistical research do not work.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Doolittle in Deep Trouble

A new flurry of charges and investigations into those with ties to Abramoff have come forward in recent weeks, spawned it seems by a federal effort to get Abramoff himself to talk. Prosecutors last month in Miami, Florida said that they were prepared to reduce Abramoff's fraud sentence in exchange for him giving them the goods on a number of lawmakers who he had dealings with.

Roseville's John Doolittle had his home in Virginia raided by the FBI a few weeks ago. They were looking for papers from Doolittle's wife's home consulting business that received payments from Abramoff.

Doolittle's wife also drew tremendous scrutiny in the election last year when it came to light that Doolittle had hired her to be his fundraiser. The problem here is that she then took a normal fundraiser's fee, meaning that Doolittle and his wife pocketed a portion of the money from fundraising, raising a number of unseemly specters that led him in January to promise to cease the practice.

All of this leads to our conundrum. Last fall, Charlie Brown a retired Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, took on Doolittle in a spirited and vicious campaign riding against public dissatisfaction with the war and the specter of corruption that Doolittle so aptly embodied. In the end, Brown fell just short losing by a mere 7,000 votes and holding the incumbent under 50% with a 49-46 loss.

Charlie Brown has already announced he will seek election again. However, California's Fourth Congressional District is the most heavily Republican in the state. Had Doolittle resided in any other district in the state, he probably would have lost given his problems. A three point loss was an impressive showing.

However, last week, Doolittle announced he would temporarily step down from the power Appropriations committee in the House. This suggests that Doolittle is indeed in deep trouble. But it also leaves us with a tough conundrum.

In order for Charlie Brown to win, he almost certainly has to face Doolittle himself--a now wounded and likely ineffective representative. If Doolittle is forced to resign, a number of prominent and strong Republicans have already signaled they would move into the district and run. This is a district with a near 20 point Republican advantage in registration at 48-30. That would make for a near impossible race against someone not tarnished with the scandals of Doolittle. It does not seem likely that the war in Iraq would be enough even with the strong name recognition of Brown, to catapult him into office absent Doolittle's presence as the Republican nominee.

Republicans are already lining up for the prospect of taking that seat. The Flash Report nine days ago came out with a list. One hot and heavy rumor is that Conservative and anti-tax mogul Tom McClintock would move up to the district and run. McClintock is currently a state Senator in the conservative parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. McClintock recently ran for the Lt. Governor against John Garamendi and surprisingly narrowly lost by a 49-45 margin to the veteran and respected lawmaker.

McClintock would be vulnerable on the carpet bagging charge, he would also be vulnerable to the general dissatisfaction of the Iraq war. The question would then be whether a Republican would have to take on the negative coattails of the Doolittle scandal. As we saw in a number of close races in the fall, it's not clear that they would.

Thus it would appear that Charlie Brown's best opportunity to win the congressional seat would be the face the wounded John Doolittle and likely short of an indictment against Doolittle himself, that may be the most likely scenario anyway.

For more information on Charlie Brown's campaign, click here.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting