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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Commentary: Civility and All Yada-Yada-Yada

I have no idea how much the city of Davis spent on their Transactional Effectiveness Sessions particularly the facilitator. Whatever the cost, perhaps they could have instead spent the money padding the community chambers and purchasing foam batons and bats.

Nevertheless, the Council intends to implement a pilot program for several meetings and experiment with a different procedural format. Again, I have no particular problem changing the procedural format, but I also do not believe procedural format is the source of the problem. Therefore, they could have any format in the world and the next time there is a heated issue we will be hearing a cat fight from the nearest lavatory and someone will be taking pot shots on the government channel that no one apparently watches.

That said, I agree with those on the council who have complained that the structure of council meetings, as dictated by Councilmember Don Saylor, is entirely too rigid. The general rule, whether you are using Roberts Rules of Order or Rosenberg's Rules of Order, is that you use the formalized rules when you need to. However, you can also relax the rules when you do not need to. Most bodies, if you watch them, relax their rules except for those intense "to the death" battles that require the most stringent of rules to ensure fairness, and to prevent any bystanders from getting hit with collateral damage.

The council has stringently been operating under the rule that there needs to be a motion on the floor prior to any discussion. The problem, opponents argue, is that it limits debate, because the moment someone moves for an item they are locked into a position. What we then see are a series of motions and substitute motions and friendly amendments as the council tries to figure out where they really stand, which locks them in, but also bogs them down in procedures.

There was really only one person objecting to the changes in the procedure, and that was Councilmember Don Saylor. In the end, even he voted for it. But during the course of the discussion on Tuesday night, and further during the course of workshop, Mr. Saylor argued forcefully that it would lead to longer debates. I disagree. I think it has the possibility at least to lead to shorter debates, because when the motion is finally made, most people will know where they stand and there will be a good gauge as to who supports what.

Remember that because of the Brown act, only two people can partner up before the meeting on an issue, and the other members may have no idea the individual concerns of their colleagues. But putting issues up front, the motions can be tailored to those concerns and not require lengthy amounts of motions, counter-motions, and other procedural tricks. So the potential, is that this could save time. Rules rules have been put in place to prevent filibuster--which would not forestall the item--only make it so that the council has to work later into the night.

So, I am very much in agreement with the changes. Councilmember Saylor's attitude was that he did not care for debate, he simply wanted to make his vote and go home. That's not surprising, since a chief complaint from many has been that the council rarely listens to the public. Furthermore, they often have their statements written out, clearly showing the public that they came to the council meeting with minds made up instead of being willing to listen to the public.

At one meeting that was particularly contentious, a member of the audience yelled to Souza that he was reading his comments and therefore had not been listening to the public's concerns. He responded by saying that he had written them during the meeting. Quite simply there is no way that could have happened, because his comments were too lengthy and he would have spent a long period of time writing them out--again while he was supposed to be listening to the public. So really, either way, he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Frankly, it is the height of arrogance, in my opinion, for council to have pre-written statements to deliver. But then again, since no one watches the meetings, it probably does not matter.

As I suggested before, at the end of the day, I'm all for these changes, but the council format, is the not the chief problem facing the council, and therefore changing it, is not going to solve the communication problems between the members. At the end of the day, there is a lack of mutual respect between the members and it shows in their interactions. It is difficult to know the extent that the public is aware of this as the public does not watch the meetings and apparently doesn't read the Davis Enterprise either.

Overall I just wonder at the usefulness of such discourse. I guess we shall see in future weeks whether this model and this workshops had any impact on council relations or whether they will revert back to the "at-your-throat" discourse the moment the heat is turned up again.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, September 14, 2007

Announcement: Vanguard on KDVS at 8:30 This Morning

I will be on KDVS this morning from 8:30 to 9:30 to talk about the Vanguard and issues in the community. You can join us by dialing up 90.3 on the FM dial or logging onto

If you miss the show you can hear at:

Student Perspectives on the Truancy Issue

During the course of this discussion on the truancy sweep and the crackdown on provisional drivers with underage passengers, we have heard primarily from administrators, the school board, and the police. However, there is a key group that we have only heard bits and pieces from and that is the students who have had to be on the receiving end of these new policies. I sat down with five high school students earlier this week and I also followed up with a conversation with Amanda Lopez-Lara, the student representative on the school board.

What became clear throughout our conversation is that there is quite a bit of confusion as to what policies are being enacted by the police and why. The anti-truancy sweep and the crackdown on provisional drivers is a key confusion. But it's also important to understand how this confusion contributes to the fear and anxiety that is clearly facing these students. If the message that the police want to get across to the students is that they are serious about the issue of enforcing age requirements for passengers of provisional drivers, this message gets lost. In speaking with the students there was expressed concern of intimidation by the police of students, there was a sense that students did not know their rights and this put them in greater legal jeopardy, and finally almost everyone of these students including Amanda Lopez-Lara, have a story about being pulled over.

Because we are dealing with minors, I will only use their first names with the exception of Amanda, who is in a bit of a different position since she is the student representative on the school board. In addition, one of the parents asked that their daughter's name be withheld, and so I have complied with this request, she will be referred to as the female student.

Each of these students seemed to have a story about being pulled over on campus.

Amanda told me that she knew of a few students, including herself who have been followed by the police and pulled over by the police. In her situation, she was driving with a friend in the same car legally, however, she was followed by the police for a number of blocks before she finally pulled into the school parking lot.

The female student tells of being questioned by a police officer in the parking lot after she had parked on campus.
"I got out of my car and as I was walking to class there was a patrol officer and he stopped, he had been following me back from lunch and he asked me if I had my license for a year. And I said no, I have only had it for eight months and he gave me a citation and I asked him if he was profiling and he just pretty much laughed. I was still really pissed off because I honestly thought it was profiling, so I went to the office and there was a cop there that I talked and he told it wasn’t profiling because he hadn’t had me detained, so I could have actually legally said, no I don’t want to answer your questions."
Soren also had a story to tell.
"I was in a car that, I suppose this is a situation similar to [the female student’s], I was in a car that, well not pulled over, but pulled over to the side of the road because he saw two cops and he didn’t want to get pulled over. And the cop just pulled up right behind him.

Coming back to think of it, the cop didn’t have his lights on which means he didn’t pull us over, which means we didn’t have to, my friend didn’t have to answer his questions. Well he did, and he got a ticket for it and it’s even worse because he didn’t have his license on him and it wasn’t his car."
Drew and Mohamed were walking from their class to the library which is next door to the high school. They claim they had permission from their teacher to pick up a book.
"He put us in the back of the patrol car and drove us back to school. Once we did get to school, it wasn’t just that we were to go back to our classes, they took us into the office and they questioned us for about fifteen minutes, about drugs, just to see… They threatened to search us and they just were checking to see if we’d visibly react. The most interesting thing I think is how rudely we were being treated."
The students also each felt that either they or their peers did not know their rights. Amanda told me that she was trying to get the student government to look into Miranda Rights Training for the students.

When I spoke to Lt. Pytel later in the week, he was agreeable to having a seminar for the students similar to one that he ran for the public last spring, whereby he would talk to students about what their rights are, and what the police can and cannot do in a given situation. When the students can refuse to speak and when they cannot.

This is a serious concern that arose during my interview with the students who felt that they did not know their rights and therefore they ended up actually incriminating themselves with statements that they did not have to make.

The female student said that in her incident, it was not until she spoke with the officer in the office, that she realized that she had not been required to speak.
"I could have actually legally said, no I don’t want to answer your questions. My biggest thing is that those rights were not available to me. I didn’t know that. I’ve never been told, no one has come up to me, and said, you know your Miranda rights I feel like that should be a part of that, that should be something that they should tell me. I should have known that I could have said I don’t want to answer your questions because I wasn’t in violation of the traffic law. "
According to Soren,
"Well I think kids really need to know their fourth and fifth amendments. The fourth amendment says that cops can’t search your car without a warrant. And the fifth amendment gives you a right to not incriminate yourself."
While Soren has some understanding of his rights, he probably did not realize that it does not require a warrant to search a vehicle like it would an individual's home.

Nevertheless the clear lesson from the lack of knowledge of his rights was driven home during his experience.
"Coming back to think of it, the cop didn’t have his lights on which means he didn’t pull us over, which means we didn’t have to, my friend didn’t have to answer his questions. Well he did, and he got a ticket for it and it’s even worse because he didn’t have his license on him and it wasn’t his car."
Drew also was troubled by the lack of information that students have pertaining to their rights and the fact that it impacts the interactions with the police.
"When they go to you and they have two cop cars behind them and kids don’t know their rights, and they don’t want to call their parents of course, they don’t know what to say. When a cop comes in and starts asking you questions, you are just taught to respond to the questions, and be respectful and tell the cop the truth, but the thing is, that when your rights are being infringed there is no one there to tell you that you don’t have to say this."
He later followed up on his point during the closing remarks:
"I want to just point out that I think that it’s important that students know their rights and that people know their rights because your rights aren’t any good unless you’re using them."
Intimidation also appears to be a consistent theme through my discussions with the students. Part of this is the normal interaction with police authority figures. It is not necessarily that the police are going out of their way to intimidate, but that's certainly the perception by the students. I think this probably should underscore the pitfalls of having police get involved with such issues. Furthermore it also demonstrates how easily the message and point can quickly get lost.

According to Drew, he saw a clear intimidation factor.
"There is definitely an intimidation factor that is going on at the high school, people are being pulled over just because they’re age profiled all the time, the cops that come on campus are in full uniform, they sort of glare at students."
This intimidation and fear has according to Mohamed eroded the trust for not just the police but also the administration. They feel that they cannot trust some of the people in authority. Drew said that this actually did not begin this year but rather last year.
"It seems as though at some point about halfway through last year, the cops really got into showing force and numbers and trying to scare kids."
One of his complaints is that it is not just one patrol car pulling students over, but rather several.

According to the female student, they question the priorities of the police as well.
"I don’t want this to come off as a cop bashing session, because that’s not the point of this, the point of this is that like that these are valid opinions, none of this is coming from like teenage angst, or I just feel really unfair right now. No, it’s like actually like I feel that the police should have something better to do with their time."
Soren tells us:
"As far as the cops pulling over kids who probably haven’t had their license long enough, what they do is that they pull over the kids that look the most scared of them, the ones that look at the cop and then start driving really carefully, if you’re picking on the scared kids, isn’t that exactly what intimidation is."
The female student also suggests that the plan could work but they are not going about it in the right way.
"It’s all intimidation. This new plan that they have, it could work, it’s just that the way they’re going about it. Every single time a kid has a story, like the one that Drew and Mohamed just told, those stories go around and people get scared. When there’s a cop around any kid at the high school they feel scared that they’re checking, they think, oh what am I doing wrong. It shouldn’t be like that at all."
For the Drew the issue is not what the police are doing, but rather their demeaner as they are doing it.
"The only thing that I can say in terms of the cops and whether they are intimidating or to support, I think that better than any story that somebody can tell is really just look at their face, look at their expression, they are not smiling at you, they are frowning at you and glaring at you. And trying to scare you. I was walking through the high school just to get to a class, I was in school, on campus, walking from one classroom to another, and I see a police officer that just glared at me, that right there is all I need to see that they are not there to support. They don’t say hi, they don’t smile at you, they don’t say oh, how’s everything going, no they just glare at you and if you shake a little bit they assume you have something on you."
Mohamed had questions about the truancy sweep and the motivations behind it. As we've discussed previously this week, one of the factors in the rise of truancy was problems with the calling system in the attendance office that the students figured out before the parents.
"A lot of people are saying that the truancy numbers have like gone up, especially in the last year, but the reason for this is that at the beginning of last year for the first three months of the school year, any unexcused absences, there was no phone call home. And there was no way of informing your household that you had an unexcused absence so people would forget about it. When a lot of students found out about this, they took advantage of this. So in turn, they say the new truancy sweep is because of the increasing numbers of truancy, the fact that we lost almost three-quarters of a million dollars last year. But if you look at in fact, the reason that all of this happened is because of a mistake made by the front office or the attendance office or whatever is, and that began the increase in numbers. So a lot of these numbers are in fact, I would see them as like false, over-exaggerated or something."
He also wondered if money rather than education was not a heavily motivating factor behind the concern. The money issue also came up during the school board debates where the claim was made that the school district lost over $500,000 from truancy.
"The first thing I keep hearing when they talk about wanting to get the kids in the seat is the money that we keep losing. It seems it comes back to money rather than worried about us getting our education."
When I spoke with Lt. Pytel and others in the school district, he was surprised that the crackdown on driving caused so much confusion. He told me that they ran an announcement in the bulletin for three days prior to the effort and yet students largely seemed unaware and to ignore it.

However, Soren questions the effectiveness of such announcements. According to him, "no one actually reads the daily bulletin." If that is the case, then that is probably not the best means by which to communicate with the students.

The overriding beliefs I had as I listened to these students both during the interview and just now as I went through the recording of that interview is the amount of fear, anxiety, and confusion that has been brought about not necessarily by this policy and the crackdown, but rather by the failure to communicate what was going on adequately to the students, to the community, to their parents, and even to the school board.

The sense I get is that the school wants to send the message that they are going to take truancy seriously. The police wants to send the message that they are going to take the issue of provisional license requirements more seriously than they have in the past. But it is not clear to me that the message got through to the students. And if the message has not gotten through to the students, then perhaps this was not the best approach.

There is however an opportunity here for real communication and real learning. The students are now interested in the civics lesson of knowing their rights. That may be a good start. But frankly I think there are other lessons that we want to teach the students. I think we want to teach them the value of a good education and give them reasons to go to class and do well in school. I do not see that message getting through by these means.

I also think that the confusion between the truancy issue and the provisional license issue has probably harmed both efforts.

Finally and I cannot stress this enough, this demonstrates the need to have a policy that comes from the school board to the community and then to the administration and not probably the other way around.

I will also say since someone will mention it, obviously this is but one or six of many perspectives from the high school. This reflects the feelings of these students, but many other high school students probably have very different responses. Nevertheless, I do not think that fact invalidates some of the concerns raised here.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Truancy Issue: Getting Some Answers

As we continue with our look into the Davis Joint Unified School District and other jurisdiction's truancy efforts, we are finally getting a little bit of clarity as to what the policy entails and what it does not entail.

At one point during the school board meeting last Thursday, Davis Joint Unified School District Director of Student Services, Pam Mari made a somewhat awkward statement:

"And interestingly enough, there could have been an incident that happened today that had nothing to do with anything about this topic, but the last perception is crucial."

This statement turned out to be true to some extent. The police action on the high school campus did indeed have nothing to do with the truancy "sweeps." The action was actually related to a separate police led crackdown upon violations of the provisional license portion of the vehicle code section 12814.6 subdivision (B) which specifies:
"during the first 12 months after issuance of a provisional license the licensee may not do any of the following unless accompanied and supervised by a licensed driver who is the licensee’s parent or guardian, a licensed driver who is 25 years of age or older, or a licensed or certified driving instructor:

(B) Transport passengers who are under 20 years of age."
It is the view of the police that most minors do not believe that this section of the vehicle code is enforced and therefore they determined that they would crack down on this behavior by the students. In a future installment, we will hear from some of the students at the high school about their perceptions about what happened and is happening on the campus. But a number of public officials have expressed privately some concerns about this crackdown by police.

There is a specific provision in this law that students cannot merely be pulled over for suspicion of violating this law. They can only be pulled over if there is probable cause of some other violation.

Hence subdivision (c) reads:
(c) A law enforcement officer may not stop a vehicle for the sole purpose of determining whether the driver is in violation of the restrictions imposed under subdivision (b).
In other words, we have cleared up some of the confusion as to what occurred on campus on Thursday of last week, where there was mass confusion and a number of complaints about the police presence, activities and presence on campus. That said the very idea of a crackdown and enforcement of this law appears to go against the spirit of the law that the legislature passed which specifically sought to avoid the type of profiling and stops that appear to have occurred on the campus. The actions performed by officers may well have fallen within the letter of the law in terms of using secondary violations as a means by which to pull over the students, but the intention of the law and the spirit of this law have clearly been pushed to the brink at the very least.

Moving on to the truancy policy itself, there still appears to be two major problems with the handling of the policy by the school district administration.

One is largely a communication problem, where the policy was never communicated from the administrative level in the school district to the policy level (i.e. the school board) and probably not adequately communicated to parents or the community. As a result of that, large portions of this policy are now on hold. This was to be an interjurisdictional policy with coordination between the District Attorney's Office, Police Department and School District. However, somehow and for some reasons none of the policymaking bodies--city council, school board, or board of supervisors--were informed of this coordinated activity.

The second problem developed from the use of the word "sweep." As Lt. Darren Pytel of the Davis Police Department explained to me, the police's use of the word "sweep" is a much broader term than what non-law enforcement think of the meaning of the word "sweep."

At one point during the meeting, Pam Mari recognized the word "sweep" was part of the angst that had been created with the board about this policy.
"Perhaps we are really hurting on this word sweep... And if the word sweep were eliminated and it was home visit, I wonder if we would be as hurting. I apologize if that word is what is causing the trouble, that’s a word that the police department uses to mean on a given day we are going to use a lot of our energy and do this.”
It is interesting because according to Lt. Darren Pytel, the department is now also using the term "home visit" rather than "sweep" to describe the operation.

While the use of word "sweep" may have been unfortunate. It was probably not the chief cause for concern among the school board members. It is also unfortunate the way the meeting itself was conducted. First, the board was provided with exactly one paragraph of written documentation for a fairly complex policy that required a good deal of coordination and explanation.

Second, if all of these agencies (police, school district, district attorney) were involved, then why not have representatives from all of these agencies present at the school board meeting. At the very least, if Lt. Darren Pytel and Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven were present at this meeting, they could have responded to some of the concerns. Instead, we are having to ask questions of them outside of the public setting. Normally an interjurisdictional presentation would have each of the participants as part of a broader presentation. None of this happened. Instead there was a paragraph delivered to the school board.

It is only now that there is any kind of clarity about this policy and that in itself remains a source of discomfort not only for community members, but public officials whose duty it is to run various bodies.

There are actually two parts of this operation according to Davis Police Lt. Darren Pytel. The first part is that when the district recognized they had a truancy problem (Lt. Pytel said that the truancy problem began before the computer glitch and extended past it) and the police quickly discovered that a large portion of the students who were skipping class had actually gone to the park right next door to the school, and so with minimal effort of increasing patrols by the police, they could transport those students back to class. Therefore, this was a relatively simple and straightforward way to get a good percentage of students back to class.

The second part of the effort, which was what they were calling the "sweep," actually were these home visits, where the worst of the truancy offenders would receive home visits by the police and a school administrator. They would make contact with the parents and hopefully get the students back in class. According to Lt. Pytel, this was very successful last year.

Their goal for this year was the top 20 offenders at the high school, the five worst offenders at the Junior High, and all of the elementary school students who were truant.

That brings us to the next question: why do the police have to do this rather than merely the administration? There is a concern that some of the truants are not merely students who are not wanting to go to school but some may also be involved in criminal activity. Therefore a home visit by an administrator alone may introduce an element of danger and risk that they should not have to undertake. That is the job of the police. (The real question that we will discuss a bit later is whether we are to the point where the police need to become involved).

Therefore, again according to what the police are saying, there is no general sweep in this plan. A general sweep would be a broader crackdown within the community whereby the police would look for minors who were supposed to be in school and bring them back to school. Again, the claim by Lt. Pytel is that this was not in the offering.

That said, there is a degree of skepticism by some officials about this claim. Some of whom believe that it is possible that the original plan did call for a more general crackdown on truancy which did involve the police going into the larger community and attempt to find students who were not in class and bring them back to class. And that this represents a bit of backtracking on the part of the police after getting some negative feedback from the community. (I am not really in the position to judge this now, all I can tell is you is what I have been told.)

Lt. Pytel also claimed to not have knowledge about the proposed use of PDAs to identify the students who were supposed to be in class and those who were not suppose to be in class. This was mentioned by Pam Mari but it was not clear who would be the jurisdiction that used the PDAs and how they would be used.

Lt. Pytel did say that in general it was fairly easy to determine which kids were out legitimately and which were not. That most of the students were actually very honest when they were caught. A few of the students did however lie about their identity, but that was quickly discovered as well with a radio to Marc Hicks, the School Resource Officer.

As I said, the questions and concerns now raised by the school board have put this on hold for now. We need to have future discussions in the school district and community at large about the problem of truancy. It may be a serious problem. But the way that this policy came together is also equally concerning. The lack of communication to the policy makers is a serious problem that needs further inquiry. The school board should never have been put in the position that they were on Thursday.

Originally the police were going to conduct their truancy sweep, I mean home visits, on September 19, 2007. As we discussed previously with our look at the education code, legally, the code provides that certain steps be taken before such actions could occur. So there would not be sufficient time to send out the right number of letters or follow the steps laid out. That would mean, that legally the police could not enforce the truancy laws, all they could do would be to go to the home of the students and attempt to get them back into school that way.

I think this is an important that bears consideration. The justification for this was that by the time they could get the letters out, the students would be hopelessly behind in their studies. Therefore, if they could get to the students in September who were already having serious problems with truancy, they could get back into school and be able to catch up.

In theory that sounds good, in practice, there are two important considerations. First, that the law is very specific about the protocol that needs to be followed, in such a way that law enforcement involvement necessarily comes at the last possible step. And second, there is a reason why many of these students are missing class. So even if you get them back into class early on, you still have to deal with those contributing problems. In other words, merely getting them back into class is not a solution but rather a step in the process. There is an advantage to getting to them sooner, but not at the expense of process.

During the course of the meeting on Thursday, Pam Mari was dismissive of the creation of a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) as a means deal with this issue. However, Lt. Pytel offered it as perhaps the ultimate direction that they want to go. The concern though was that it would take time to set it up and it is by its nature a bureaucracy that relies heavily on the coordination between a large number of jurisdictions.

Here is a good definition of SARB:
"In 1974, the Legislature enacted a statute to enhance the enforcement of compulsory education laws and to divert students with school attendance or behavior problems from the juvenile justice system until all available resources have been exhausted. This statute created School Attendance Review Board (SARBs), composed of representatives from various youth-serving agencies, to help truant or recalcitrant students and their parents or guardians solve school attendance and behavior problems through the use of available school and community resources. Although the goal of SARB is to keep students in school and provide them with a meaningful educational experience, SARB does have the power, when necessary, to refer students and their parents or guardians to court."
It seems that the reason that they did not attempt to create a SARB was that it would take a good amount of time, large amounts of efforts and cooperation to create. But this would be a body that would have the authority to do what was needed to get kids back into school but it would not begin at the law enforcement level.

And this remains my concern with this process. I believe that the goal of getting students who are not attending school into class is a very admirable one. But I do not like the way this was approached. Without board direction, an administrator with the school district reached out to law enforcement bodies for help. Law enforcement has a very specific role to play in our society and that is to enforce the laws and punish people who break those laws and who represent a danger to society.

However to put it simply, they are a blunt object. Their presence is marked by fear, intimidation, and authority. In some cases, that presence can be helpful in being the two-by-four that wakes up parents and students and gets their attention. But as Lt. Pytel acknowledged, kids are not a one-size-fits-all subgroup. Rather different kids will respond to different stimuli. For some kids, this type of action may help them. For other, it may push them into other directions.

I think the statement made by School Board member Tim Taylor remains crucial for those of us who are still concerned about this policy.
"One of the things we are struggling with is that regardless of whether the law allows certain things to be done, if they haven’t been done, we have two choices, we can hit the ground at 100 miles per hour or we can have a discussion with ourselves and the community and the public and discuss what are we going to do and I think what you’re hearing and certainly what I’m feeling certainly is that the 100 mile an hour approach while perhaps legal may not be the best fit. Because people are gong to feel like they are getting run over. That will cause community pullback… instead of buy-in, which I think we need, that will have the opposite effect."
The goals involved in this program are as I said, admirable. But really the middle people should not be the ones creating the policies or at least new procedures by which to deal with existing policies--depending on what terminology you want to use here. What I would like to see now is a prolonged discussion in the community, where you have parents, community members, students, the police, the district attorney, the traffic commissioner, the juvenile justice community, the city council, and the school board all sit down communicate about the issue of truancy.

First I would like talk about what the problems are. I still do not feel I have a good appreciation for what the problems are, how extensive they are, and what other problems exist.

Second, I would like a full detailing of present efforts to curtail truancy. What has been tried. What has worked. What has not worked.

Third, determine a course of action. It is my opinion, that law enforcement should be the absolute last resort for dealing with this problem. And quite frankly, law enforcement in this case was not the last resort. Pam Mari argued strongly during the meeting that she exhausted everything and therefore was forced to bring in law enforcement, but that is not true in the least. The next step should have been to take it to the school board. Another step would have been to take it to the public in terms of community forums. Another step would have been to create a task force. Another step would have been to create a SARB. All of these are things that were not done prior to an effort to outreach law enforcement.

It may be that at the end of the day, we do need to be law enforcement. But at the point when we will have done that, we will have engaged the community on this issue and will have brought them along in the process toward that conclusion. As it stands now there is confusion, there is anger, there is fear, and there is trepidation. That does not lead to community buy in, it leads to community pull back.

And let me be very clear, my complaint here is not with law enforcement. It may not even be with this policy. It is with the process by which this policy was created. There are key lessons to be learned here, and the biggest one is that the best of efforts and intentions can be undone by failure to communicate and failure to follow proper process.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Commentary: Leadership for Cabaldon Lacking on Gang Injunction

It has been a long and circuitous process since early in the year when the gang injunction in West Sacramento was first thrown out. At first, it appeared that Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig was simply going to dump the entire mess on West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, by allowing Mr. Cabaldon to have the decision as to whether the DA should attempt to refile for a gang injunction.

This seemed patently unfair as it appeared that the DA had actually been the culpable party in all of this, making the error of noticing exactly one alleged gang member, an individual who didn't even live in West Sacramento.

The gang injunction has long been a polarizing policy. Many people who have been victimized by the criminal Broderick Boys street gang have insisted that the policy has worked. Statistically speaking crime is down, but it remains difficult to tie crime statistics directly to policies.

However, the Latino community has long claimed that the police have used the injunction as a means to harass and racially profile their community. Many served with the lifetime injunction--who have no legal means or standing by which to challenge the civil penalty--have claimed that they are not and never have been gang members. Perhaps these are untrue statements, but do they not deserve the opportunity to challenge this in court and shouldn't the DA and not the citizens, have the burden of proof?

Complaints are even more widespread than even this. As the Sacramento Bee reported on Tuesday:
"One by one, 20 residents of West Sacramento shared stories about what they described as hostile encounters with police since an anti-gang injunction was put in place to make the city's northeast section safer.

They told a town hall meeting Monday night that the injunction -- touted as a crackdown on the criminal Broderick Boys street gang -- has instead led to harassment and racial profiling of a mostly Latino community.

They talked about children as young as 10 being stopped on the street, sometimes just for wearing the gang's color of red. Residents also complained of being pulled over for no reason."
100 people gathered for meeting, this included the Depty Police Chief Henry Serrano, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, and representatives from Senator Mike Machado and Assemblymember Lois Wolk's offices.

However, there was one key person missing and that was Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. I did not believe it was right for Mr. Reisig to dump this mess on Mayor Cabaldon and the city of West Sacramento earlier this year. But now, it is clear that the Mayor is failing to take a leadership position on one of the most crucial and high profile issues facing his city. He has citizens complaining that this policy is being used to harass them. Maybe they are wrong, maybe this policy is a great tool, but the Mayor needs to step up and take the lead on this.

This man wants to be in the Assembly? Then he needs to show leadership on hot-button issues. If not, then maybe he is not the person to represent the 8th Assembly District. It is that important. Supervisor Mariko Yamada was there. He needed to be and he let a portion of his community down by failing to hear their grievances--whether he agrees with them or not.

When you run for higher office, these sorts of events are test cases for the constituents who do not know them. When the going gets tough, what do the candidates who are seeking higher office do. We have already expressed concern for Supervisor Yamada's leadership on the County General Plan and her failure to listen to the concerns of her constituents. Now we see that Mayor Cabaldon is AWOL as his community or a portion thereof needs him the most to lead them through these tough times. This is very disappointing and perhaps reflective of his overall lack of ability to lead the 8th Assembly District through key crises.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Commentary and Analysis: Looking Closer at the Truancy Issue

This is part of a continuing examination of the Davis Joint Unified School District truancy issue. On Monday, we reviewed Thursday school board meeting. Today, we will examine the claims made by the Director of Student Services Pam Mari regarding the need for changes in truancy prevention as well education code. As we assess some of those claims it brings up additional questions.

Pam Mari in her presentation to the board of education, made the argument that the reason that the police got involved in this process is that the district had made a number of attempts to rectify the problem of truancy and those efforts failed. Numbers were cited with regard to lost revenue by the school district in the form of ADA (Average Daily Attendance). One number that floated around was $500,000 was lost at the high school in ADA dollars due to truancy.

However, information that was present in April 11, 2007's Davis Community Advisory Board (CAB) through the police department, raises serious questions about these claims.

According to the minutes from that meeting, Lt. Darren Pytel, one of the innovators of this program, said:
"At the beginning of the school year Davis High was having problems with their telephone computer. Parents were not notified about attendance issues and the students figured it out. Around November, December the district informed parents of the problem and let when know what outstanding absences were not dealt with."
As the result of this computer glitch, up to 200 kids had missed five or more full school days.

My reading of this situation is that a one-time computer problem made it difficult for parents to be notified about attendance problems. The students figured out there was a problem with the computer (the administration did not) and that they would not be caught and therefore took full advantage.

If that is what happened, there was a known cause from a known problem. That would differ from an ongoing problem of truancy. If this interpretation is correct, do we really need to change the way that we are enforcing truancies? Do we really need a radical approach? Shouldn't this issue have been assessed by the policy making policy (i.e. the school board) prior to changes in procedure?

The basic question here is was this a one-time problem as the result of the computer glitch--which was not mentioned at the school board meeting--or is this an ongoing problem? And why did the administration not cite statistics for the board to put numbers on this?

What happened next was largely a result of the truancies caused by this computer glitch. The claim in the school board meeting on Thursday was that the truancy sweep would only involve getting the 15-20 worst offenders into school.

This is not what happened last spring.
"When officers saw school aged kids, they were to ask, “Where are you supposed to be right now?” Then they would verify with School Officer Mark Hicks, who has a police radio and can tell from the school computer if the student should be in school. If so, the officer would give them a ride back to the school" (CAB Meeting minutes April 11, 2007).
This does not sound like an action limited to a few students who are the worst offenders, it sounds like a blanket sweep of the community.

The other problem at this point is that the police have really conflated the issue of truancy with the issue of students driving accompanied by friends in the vehicle--which they are not supposed to do if they have had their license for less than a year. Previously, police did not stop students solely for the purpose of checking whether their friends should be in the car.

That policy has now changed and the police are cracking down on this. They are specifically pulling over cars with young drivers and looking to see if their should be able to drive with friends. That has been a focused effort on the part of the police. That of course leads me to the question and I understand the law, but is there a compelling reason that the police need to expend a large amount of manpower to enforce this law, other than it is the law?

Reading the notes from the CAB meeting which occurred back in April and was actually referenced in March, leads people to a further question--why is it that the school board was not made aware of the changes in policy? This meeting by the way, was one of the first attended by new police chief Landy Black.

However, these discussion appear now to go back six months. How is it that all of these changes in procedure could occur without school board input?

Of all of my concerns about this policy, that is the biggest. The school board is elected to represent the interests of the public on the school board. They are accountable to the public. If they fail to do their job, they can be voted out of office by the public or even recalled under extreme circumstances of dereliction of duty. Administrators are not accountable to the public directly however. They do not have to face the voters. The administration works for the Superintendent and the Superintendent is hired by the school board.

The argument made by Pam Mari is that this is authorized by the California Education Code and therefore they did not need board consent to change their procedure for dealing with truancy.

School Board Member Tim Taylor nailed it on the response:
"One of the things we are struggling with is that regardless of whether the law allows certain things to be done, if they haven’t been done, we have two choices, we can hit the ground at 100 miles per hour or we can have a discussion with ourselves and the community and the public and discuss what are we going to do and I think what you’re hearing and certainly what I’m feeling certainly is that the 100 mile an hour approach while perhaps legal may not be the best fit. Because people are gong to feel like they are getting run over. That will cause community pullback… instead of buy-in, which I think we need, that will have the opposite effect."
However, the other question is whether or not this is even allowed by the law and authorized through ed code.

My reading of the education code does not suggest that it "authorizes" this kind of approach. It does not appear to prohibit this kind of approach necessarily. But it does not automatically authorize it.

What it does specify are definitions for truancy and recourse that the district can take for habitual truants. According to the education code, no pupil can be classified as habitually truant without an effort to have a conference with the parent.
"Any pupil is deemed an habitual truant who has been reported as a truant three or more times per school year, provided that no pupil shall be deemed an habitual truant unless an appropriate district officer or employee has made a conscientious effort to hold at least one conference with a parent or guardian of the pupil and the pupil himself" (EC Section 48262).
The prescribed penalty for habitual truancy:
"(c) The third time a truancy report is required within the same school year, the pupil shall be classified a habitual truant, as defined in Section 48262, and may be referred to and required to attend, an attendance review board or a truancy mediation program pursuant to Section 48263 or pursuant to Section 601.3 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. If the district does not have a truancy mediation program, the pupil may be required to attend a comparable program deemed acceptable by the school district's attendance supervisor. If the pupil does not successfully complete the truancy mediation program or other similar program, the pupil shall be subject to subdivision (d)." (EC Section 48264.5 Subdivision C).
The penalty phase according to the education code appears after the fourth truancy. Penalties at that point include community service, fine of no more than $100, attendance in a court-approved truancy prevention program, and only then suspension or revocation of driving privileges.

So to repeat, after reading through education code, one could probably argue that school policy is not prohibited by the code unless they are attempted to revoke driving privileges earlier than allowed. However, it is not clear that ed code authorizes this approach or that this approach could be undertaken without board approval. I am not familiar enough with the law here to be able to assess what control a school board has in implementing education code policies.

Regardless, it would have been helpful for the administrator in presenting this program to have a written citation of the relevant sections of education code for the school board to see in advance and help them in understanding the new policy and how it fits in with the requirements from the state.

Many questions still need to be answered. Some of these questions include what is actually going on, what this policy will actually do. Other questions include who knew what and when and why was neither the board of education nor the city council aware of these activities by the school district and law enforcement. Answers to those will hopefully occur at the next City-School District two-by-two meeting and a subsequent school board meeting.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, September 10, 2007

Guest Commentary: Sierra Pacific is Clear Cutting in the Sierras

by Elise Nabors

The Sierra Nevada is such a crucial part of life here in California. It is one of California’s most breathtaking landscapes and one of the world’s most precious resources. Millions of people visit the Sierra every year to camp, fish, hike or just take in the beautiful views. Being one of the most carbon intense places in the world, its forests are a critical line of defense against global warming. With 60% of our drinking water coming from there and 1/2 our plants and animals living there, it is clear to see that this 400 mile long mountain chain is incredibly important to us.

But, the Sierra’s forests are being clearcut at an alarming rate. Within this century, over one million acres will be clearcut, an area bigger than Yosemite National Park. The biggest logging company in California is Sierra Pacific Industries, or SPI, and it just so happens that they are the second largest private landowners in the country…they own one percent of California. They are clear cutting huge tracts of Sierra forests at a time, often destroying wild forests and replacing them with lifeless tree plantations.

Clear cutting is an outdated practice that results in loss of plant and animal species, silt and herbicides in our rivers and streams, and often increases the intensity of forest fires. This is not necessary! We can still leave beautiful forests for future generations and log in a sustainable way.

The main reason SPI is able to get away with this is because so many people don’t know what they are doing and the companies that buy from them haven’t demanded anything different. But we can change that.

We have to tell people about what SPI is planning to do, and get involved in the campaign to stop them!

ForestEthics, an environmental group that works to protect endangered forests around the world, is holding a kick-off meeting in Sacramento on Wednesday, September 12 at 6:30 and everyone should come! It will discuss what SPI is doing, and what we can do to change their practices so we have a Sierra Nevada in the future.

The meeting will be at the Sierra 2 Center (Room 12), 2791 24th Street in Sacramento. Everyone should come, bring your friends, and take part in the movement to protect what we love so much.

For more information, contact Elise at (916) 446-8062x111 or

School Board Not Informed About Changes in Truancy Policy

Apparently in May of last year, the Davis Joint Unified School District in actions to a large degree unbeknownst to the Davis School Board began a multiagency approach to crack down on truancy.

On Thursday of last week, the school board received a one paragraph report from Pam Mari who was Principal at DaVinci High School and now is District Director of Student Services. In her presentation, Ms. Mari laid out what the policy consisted of and in some detail what was going on.

What we have learned stunned many of the elected officials on the Davis School Board. This will be the first in a several part series looking into the actions of the school district and the policy that has led to police presence on the Davis High School campus and truancy sweeps in the Davis community. This first installment focuses heavily upon the school board meeting itself.

According to Pam Mari, there is "grave concern" in the school district about habitual truancy. The district has struggled with a number of students that they simply could not get back into school. These new policies came about through a multiagency approach that to find ways to get students back into school.

Ms. Mari claimed to have derived this policy from Section 6.4 of the California Education Code:
"The measures that I am suggesting are not of my invention, they are explicitly stated in ed code."
This policy is simply an extension of what is already laid out in the education code, according to Pam Mari. The district did not have a lot of success in creating a multiagency approach; that changed last May when the Davis Police Department led by Sgt. John Wilson and Lt. Darren Pytel and district personnel decided to take a step together.

The policy involves a complex web of steps beginning with a letter that the family receives after the three full days of unexcused absences. Then the family will receive a second letter after another three unexcused absences. Along with the letters, each day, there are phone calls to the parents including now on their cell phones where the kids cannot intercept the phone calls. Further steps include a report of the numbers of absences on the students progress and grade reports. If these problems continue there will be more severe punishments culminating in-home visits by police and district personnel and also these truancy sweeps whereby the police go around and “if they saw a child out of school, they approached that child and escorted that child to the school, taking custody of that child.”

According to Pam Mari:
“It’s not the severity but the surety of the consequence that has an effect, so if we can specify the punishment, the warning has no effect.”
The bottom line in her presentation was that they were following the letter of ed code.
“Bottom line is we are doing what we need to do.”
Once Pam Mari finished her presentation, she responded to questions from the members of the school board, it is here that we start to get a fuller picture of the policy and where we might start getting concerned.

First of all, it becomes clear almost from the start that the school board has very little written information about the policy.

At the beginning of her presentation, Pam Mari says:
"As you look through your packet..."
And Board President Jim Provenza responds:
"I don’t think we have a packet, I have a paragraph."
Ms. Mari says just the summary, that's it. But is it?

Responding to questions about detention, Mari has this response:
“Detention I think frankly went the way of ‘all teachers must be married’ and ‘we will all wear boots to school’ it frankly is not a believed you can punish anyone into learning or wanting to be in school. So those have not proven to be effective.”
She may indeed be correct with regards to detention. But is not the policy she is advocating seems to be directed toward forcing and punishing people into learning and being in school. How else could this policy be interpreted other than to punish students and force them to go to school?

It was when the student representative on the board spoke, Amanda López-Lara, that it became more clear that what was being described by Pam Mari looked very different from the student perspective.
"Today was probably the first day most students were actually told these rules. We had never heard of them before, we were not aware of them. I agree it is very good to kid the kids into class again, because I do know there’s a problem at the high school especially with a lot of kids just skipping class and going to parks. But one concern I do have is that a lot of people appreciate Mark Hicks, and I know a lot of kids who are at-risk students who really respect him, but one concern that I had is that I know today during lunch, the whole high school was scared. We were scared because we went to lunch, we weren’t necessarily scared but we were made nervous, because we went out and I don’t think I’ve see that many cop cars at the high school. I saw one across the street, and two and each entrance, and then once I went down the street I’ve had my license for a year, so I wasn’t nervous, but what did make me nervous is that there were cop cars going up or down and I know that there were some students pulled over. I know one student who actually had his license for year and there was a misunderstanding between himself and the police officer. But I do know that a lot of students afterwards were feeling very nervous and had a lot of apprehension towards the police officers."
Furthermore she stated:
"I’m an A student, I have no truancy problems, and I know that made me nervous."
Pam Mari responds that "it is a paradigm shift" and it’s going to take some doing at first. She believes if we can get the kids to come in and then they can work with somebody on a personal level, we just need to get them there. “And then the other half of that story, for kids who are apprehensive because they’ve been misbehaving, that would be a logical consequence.”

Amanda López-Lara however responds,
“Relations I feel as a student, are already prestrained between students and police officers. Good students and bad students... The relations to be completely honest as a student with you, they’re not that great... I know there are some high school students who once they feel apprehensive, they don’t want to listen, they just want to act out.”
At this point, Ginni Davis, who is the Associate Superintendent interjects with a lecture:
"Part of our job Amada, if I could just say that quickly, is that we are teaching people how to be citizens in our society. And when people are out of high school and become adults, they have to get along with police, and the police work for the public to make our environment safe for everybody. So the sooner that people are to understand that police are there to enforce laws that we make in this country, and work with policemen, the more people can be good citizens, and that’s part of the education that we’re responsible for."
School Board Member Keltie Jones also defended the policy:
“[The] missing piece here is to facilitate some positive interactions as well to develop the types of relationships where people won’t necessarily feel apprehensive, they’ll feel like it’s somebody that they know and they’re connected to.”
Keltie Jones advocates facilitating ways to get police officers in with the student leadership groups. But, what Jones appears to be missing is that students are not going to have positive interactions with uniformed police officers who are making a show of force.

School Board Member Tim Taylor however, does not miss this point.
“All I want to say is that we all need to listen very closely to what Amanda is saying because she’s right, there is a very fine line insuring compliance and intimidation. And no matter how well intended they are, police officers can be intimidating. In fact, that’s part of what they are there for, it can be a good thing but it can also be a bad thing. The student perspective… on this is a very important one and how that presence is felt by the student collective is something that we should be very cognizant of.”
School Board President Jim Provenza advocated the need to be able to differentiate between those with legitimate reasons to not be in the high schools and those who are truant.
“We don’t want the fact that you are of high school age [to lead to] everyday being stopped by the police. That would be the exact opposite of what I would want.”
Pam Mari dismissed that concern:
“It would be hard to believe that there is even enough resources to do that.”
However, she then went onto address ways by which students who had legitimate reasons for being off campus could get that straightened out. First, school personnel would be able to receive calls if someone claimed that either they did not go to that school or they had a free period. She also discussed a "Lifetouch" system whereby images are stored into a “hand-held device that would load all of the students schedules so that right on the spot that could be determined and keep any kind of misunderstanding and I want everyone to be respectful of each other.”

Tim Taylor however interjected:
"Pam with all due respect that is interesting, but Jim’s point is that a student with all the reason in the world to be going to the bank, shouldn’t be stopped… It doesn’t matter that once their stopped and police run a check on them that fifteen minutes later they are let out of police control, the problem is the being stopped in the first place. I have a huge concern about it… [He stated he is supportive of the mission to reduce truancy] but there are limits, and I think the limits that Jim is identifying in his question are the ones that I am concerned about.”
This part of the discussion seems to suggest a fairly wide net employed by the police. My concern here is that the moment a student is stopped by the police and checked, that will be a very serious event in their day. They may get angry, humiliated, or afraid. There is a strong likelihood that they will think about this event all day long instead of focusing on school. And so the policy meant to get kids into the classroom to learn may end up in fact disrupting learning.

Once confronted on this point by Tim Taylor however Pam Mari become a bit standoffish while at the same time appears to back off her previous statement.
"Let’s not dance around it, what you’re saying is when does stopping for a very good reason become harassing, and the police don’t want to get there, they don’t have enough humans to get there I don’t think."
And yet as we will see in the future installments of this series, this may be exactly what is going on.

Pam Mari then directs the next comment to the student representative:
"The reason that you haven’t heard about any of these things until today is this discussion right here, so you’re really hearing it first and there’s a lot of just simply communication that needs to follow this. And secondly, I absolutely here you about what you’re saying, so you do have that. And interestingly enough, there could have been an incident that happened today that had nothing to do with anything about this topic, but the last perception is crucial."
Board Member Gina Daleiden then talks about the confusion involving the open campus policy and whether students and parents even know what the policy is--this apparently came up at a PTA meeting.

Pam Mari responded:
“I can’t imagine how they don’t know, but let us assume all things being equal… It is a closed campus with an open lunch… It says so in the guide. If you do not have a class period… then there are two options, one is to have a study hall and the other is to petition for an actual free period where you don’t have school obligations.”
Those require the student meet a grade threshold and unit threshold. But the bottom line is yes, there are students who have a free period and are free to leave campus and could go to the grocery store or the bank.

Jim Provenza then expressed his concerns about the policy and the lack of board notification. He stated that he wants district counsel to take a look.
“This is the first time this has come to board and we saw nothing in writing, just the one paragraph. I’m not comfortable at this point."
Ginni Davis interrupts:
"Jim, this is not an action item, it’s for information and we’re happy to back to you and give you in writing what we’re going to do, but we do need to enforce ed code.”
Provenza more forcefully responds this is "something that needs to come back to us."
“This has never come before the board and I wouldn’t assume that you have board authority…”
Keltie Jones once again strongly defends the policy.
"I have to say that I think this is a very detailed well-thought out administrative approach to this. This is something they’ve been looking at and studying for a long time. They’ve got public agencies that are well-informed about codes and what the requirements are in following the codes… As Pam said, this is not about students who are going to the bank at lunch time, this is about students who are not showing up for school on a consistent regular basis, this about students were are losing. If there’s any way that we can make the connection to get to them and talk to them and find out what their needs are and find out how we can meet there needs, then I think this is something that is worth doing and I think it is within the realm of the administration to do it."
Mr. Provenza responds:
"I don’t disagree with anything that you said except the last statement. This is something that I think is a policy item that should be approve by the board. We should have some sort of memorandum of understanding in force with the police department. We should know exactly how it’s going to be implemented and we should have procedures to guard against unintended consequences… As a board member, I will bring this back to the board… At the very least, we have to something in writing, guidelines, something that all parents and students can understand."
Now Pam Mari responds:
"Jonathan Raven, traffic office commission, the entire Davis police department, this is black and white."
While she stated this Ms. Mari holds up a stack of papers that are paper clipped together and one has to wonder if this is information that was not provided to the board. It sure seemed like she had something there that they did not.

Provenza firmly and forcefully responds:
"We have one paragraph in front of us, I’m sorry that’s not enough for me. If you feel that you have the authority to go ahead with it, you can do that, but it won’t be with my blessing, I’m going to place it on the agenda and ask our attorney to review it, there’s too many lawsuits against the school district we want to make sure we do it right and maybe we are doing it right, but I don’t have enough information before me now, not after the discussion."
Keltie Jones again defends the policy:
"We’ve been talking about the sweeps, and [I] want to clarify that’s it is not just about tagging somebody who looks like they’re a particular age, my understanding… is that the sweeps are for specific students that the district has identified as… here’s the fifteen students, here’s the twenty students who have missed x number of days so far, here are the students we want you to see, here are the homes, see if you can bring them in. So it’s not just random let’s pull out anybody who looks like they may be of high school age."
However, Tim Taylor responds:
“I don’t know what the sweeps are. Based on the paragraph the sweeps are of 15 or 20 students. But based on Amanda’s comments perhaps other things are going on that are beyond the 15 students. I don’t know what is and I’m not trying to find out tonight.”
He further states:
"I have a problem with the school district supporting some kind of action that I don’t really understand or know who it’s about or where it’s going to be or who gets caught in the net until we have a discussion with the city."
The story at this point shifts from sweeps to 15 to 20 students who are the worst offenders being targeted.

Pam Mari at this point feels the need to back of her more hard-line stance from earlier as it becomes clear that the board with the exception of Keltie Jones is very uncomfortable with all of this:
"Perhaps we are really hurting on this word sweep... And if the word sweep were eliminated and it was home visit, I wonder if we would be as hurting. I apologize if that word is what is causing the trouble, that’s a word that the police department uses to mean on a given day we are going to use a lot of our energy and do this.”
Tim Taylor however clarifies why he is uncomfortable and it does not have to do with the word, "sweep."
"One of the things we are struggling with is that regardless of whether the law allows certain things to be done, if they haven’t been done, we have two choices, we can hit the ground at 100 miles per hour or we can have a discussion with ourselves and the community and the public and discuss what are we going to do and I think what you’re hearing and certainly what I’m feeling certainly is that the 100 mile an hour approach while perhaps legal may not be the best fit. Because people are gong to feel like they are getting run over. That will cause community pullback… instead of buy-in, which I think we need, that will have the opposite effect."
The board is determined to have discussions with both the city and to have an action-item placed on a future agenda to discuss this. From my perspective, there are problems with this policy.

First, it was put into place without the elective body of this community even having knowledge of what was going on.

Second, when the board expressed concerns about this both administrators insisted that they had the authority to do this administratively and the perception I go from this meeting, their attitude was that they could legally do this and they frankly did not care what the board said.

Third, and this will be examined much more closely, I really do not believe we know what is actually going on, at the school level with regards to this policy. Pam Mari backed way off the claim this was some kind of general sweep to suggest this was a 15-20 student operation. But what I hear from the students and others on the campus, that is not necessarily accurate.

Furthermore, it is not clear this is in fact directed by ed code. It is clear that the police and the DA's office were in on the planning of that, but that is not the full extent of juvenile services in this community, and it is not clear that they were involved in planning this and in fact, just the opposite, there are indications that they were not.

Finally, I am simply uncomfortable with this policy. Pam Mari claims that everything was done to exhaust the alternatives, but then she and Ginni Davis made the call as to what to do, rather than have community discussion on the issue or bring the board in. So we have a choice--we can take them at their word or we can ask questions. Mari claims this is non-punitive, but the students do not believe that is the case. This looks to me to be sheer intimidation.

As Tim Taylor suggested, that is not going to lead to buy-in and cooperation from the community, it is going to lead to pull-back. He made, I believe the most pertinent point, even if they have the legal authority to do this, the very fact that this is a change of direction--we have not done this before--should necessitate a discussion as to the right approach. That did not happen here.

Now we will need to learn what this policy entails and what impacts it is having.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Big Announcement: Vanguard Announces Hiring of First Beat Writer

The Vanguard is very pleased to announce that it has hired its first beat writer, Simon Efrein. As we have mentioned previously, there are going to be a number of major changes that we announce this month. Here is one of the biggest. Mr. Efrein has written a short introduction about himself. Please welcome him to the Vanguard Community.

Hello there. My name is Simon Efrein, and I will be your first beat reporter for the Davis Vanguard. This is as new an experience for me as it will be for you, this being my first time penning articles for a blog. I figure the best way to get myself acquainted with the Vanguard is to first get you, our reader, acquainted with me.

My pedigree is somewhat out the ordinary, so I’ll try to work chronologically. I spent my years growing up on Kauai, the least industrious yet most beautiful island in the Hawaiian chain. The population of the island just happened to be around the same as Davis’s, hence the appeal of this little utopia in Northern California.

I came to UC Davis four years ago as an intrepid young mechanical engineer. Little did I know that very quickly I would decide that engineering was not for me. The classes are insanely hard, to the point where often most of a class will fail, but the curve will allow most students to pass. This didn’t appeal to any sense of intellectualism or learning for me.

Two quarters and two political science classes later, I knew my calling. Throw in a minor in economics for good measure and we have the degree that I walked away with. I have found politics to be infinitely fascinating in its nuances and significance, and yet it remains so misunderstood. To this day I am amazed at how few people grasp how their lives are impacted by those who make the law, and therefore of the importance of journalism in keeping lawmakers honest.

Speaking of journalism, my experience starts in my third year at Davis when I began writing for The California Aggie, UC Davis’s training ground for reporters of the future. It was there that I wrote for four quarters before disagreement between myself and a notorious editor from the Aggie (whom this publication has reported on) resulted in my parting ways with that newspaper.

It is here that readers of the Vanguard might become wary, but I assure you that some opportunities are too intriguing to pass up. I began an internship in the War Room for none other than the Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a student of politics who is also interested in elections and voting behavior, the chance to work for one of the biggest names in politics, possibly one day in history, was too appealing to ignore. I wanted to expose myself to the inner workings of that operation, to see a powerful electoral machine at work. I would definitely classify my experience working there as invaluable.

My final quarter at UC Davis was spent in Washington DC, where I interned also at the governor’s office there. My responsibilities consisted mainly of attending congressional hearings and taking notes. I watched John Kerry debating health care, Barbara Boxer stand up for the environment, Chevy Chase testify on child obesity, and sat near Buzz Aldrin in a NASA hearing.

I also found that politics at the national level are totally absurd. For every two hours of hearing time, there was about fifteen minutes of information that anyone cared about. Tightly scripted, heavy on rhetoric, every statement was a power play either on an issue or for popularity as a maverick. This isn’t to say that there weren’t congressman fighting for good issues, but that the insane behemoth that Washington actually is made me realize how much I’d rather just come back to Davis and write for a blog or something.

As to my personal issues, I believe very strongly in our responsibility to keep a clean environment. I feel strongly about the rights of the individual. I would like to see Davis not become so overdeveloped as to be a commercial mockery of a quaint college town. When you look at all the areas surrounding Davis, Davis is the place to be, but only because it retains its integrity as a community. Davis is growing, and we have to be ever-vigilant so that it does not lose itself in the burgeoning environment.

Someone said to me “all politics are local” a little while back, and at first I didn’t understand what he meant. He was trying to tell me that the place things actually get done, where people get the chance to genuinely make changes for the better, are where they live and in their communities. I would like to do that for Davis, and I hope you enjoy my future stories.

---Simon Efrein