La Jolla High, La Costa Canyon High, San Dieguito Academy
La Jolla High, La Costa Canyon High, San Dieguito Academy are three local schools that have recently been in the spotlight for alleged cases of sexual harassment or misconduct. / Photos by Adriana Heldiz

When students complain about sexual harassment or misconduct by public school employees, they may feel like the system is stacked against them. In a lot of ways, it is.

From disbelief to poor record-keeping, to confidentiality agreements and payoffs, student complaints may never see the light of day. Even when they do, school employees found responsible for harassing students can still evade accountability and may even be passed from school to school. Letting problem educators move to new schools is a practice so pervasive it even has a name: passing the trash.

First, a quick rundown of what we’ve reported so far:

  • At La Jolla High, a physics teacher was investigated repeatedly for touching students inappropriately but was only removed from the classroom once before retiring.
  • A San Dieguito Academy teacher also attracted several touching complaints and is spending months on paid leave before his resignation takes effect June 30.
  • At La Costa Canyon High, an English teacher’s close relationships with female students and romantic relationships with recent graduates raised red flags for years. A 2010 school investigation into an ongoing relationship with a student went nowhere, and so did a later police investigation. The teacher was transferred to a middle school, where he worked several more years.
  • Kinsee Morlan recently looked at the case of a San Diego State professor who’s been on paid leave for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a student and other disturbing behavior.

Here’s VOSD’s Ashly McGlone: In a new story, I stepped back from looking at individual teachers and complaints to shed light on some of the systemic issues that allow problem educators to stay on the job.

Parents and schools often teach kids about “stranger danger” and urge them to “identify a teacher as safe person to tell, but they don’t identify teachers as a potential perpetrator,” said Terri Miller, president of the Nevada-based nonprofit SESAME, or Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation. “So, when a kid is violated by their teacher, they don’t know what to do with that. ‘What do I do? My safe person is harming me.’”

Worthwhile data: The state sent over numbers on the volume of discipline being handed out locally by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in educator misconduct cases. Hint: Far more educator misconduct cases get reported by schools than ever result in discipline.

John Cox Claims He Took Down Filner

All the major candidates for governor appeared at a debate hosted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and NBC Bay Area Tuesday. San Diego didn’t come up much, except after a question to the candidates about the #MeToo movement and sexual harassment.

John Cox, a Rancho Santa Fe businessman, made quite a claim.

“I don’t take a back seat to anyone on this. I led the recall of Bob Filner and got rid of him as the San Diego mayor,” he said.

This took a lot of us by surprise (City Councilman David Alvarez’s response is pretty funny). Liam Dillon was the first to fact check it.

A lot of people were responsible for the pressure that led to Filner resigning. First, the whistleblowers and women who came forward and kept the story alive. Second, the media, who told those stories, led by KPBS. Third, the politicians who called for him to step down and the legal pressure that they arranged to finally trap him into a situation with few options.

Attorney Cory Briggs and former City Councilwoman Donna Frye call on Mayor Bob Filner to resign at a press conference outside of Briggs Law Corporation. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Finally, there was the recall movement, which was an important pressure point. It had many volunteers. Cox donated $10,000 to it, and considers himself a partner in its leadership.

But he didn’t get rid of Filner.

A Democrat Against the Gas Tax Hike

Contributor Ruarri Serpa has been keeping a close eye on the under-the-radar 76th Assembly District race ahead of the June primary. He notes in this week’s North County Report that among the leading topics of discussion is the recent gas tax hike in the Legislature, which was intended to pay for roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Republicans have been rallying against the measure for a year. Yet one of the opponents of the measure in the 76th Assembly race included Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who complained the state was “nickel and diming” people into poverty, according to the Coast News.

Serpa also rounds up stories about interesting legal battles brewing in North County, including a lawsuit in Encinitas. A group of residents is trying to delay or stop changes along Highway 101 that would give more road space to bicyclists and convert intersections into rotaries. They argue, in part, that the city’s plan will make getting to the beach by car more difficult.

Tense ICE Arrest Caught on Tape

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers pried open the back door of a home, entering with guns and a riot shield to arrest a father Tuesday, the Union-Tribune reports. The arrest was caught on video by the man’s 11-year-old daughter and came after the officers cut electricity to the home.

The story raises many questions about ICE’s arrest procedures, including how they use warrants and firearms. ICE also told the U-T’s Kate Morrissey that the man had illegally re-entered the country 16 times. The agency’s own request for an arrest warrant, however, only cited two removals.

The fact-checking website Snopes asked to see a copy of the warrant and why officers hadn’t presented the warrant at the door.

What Environmentalism Means in California

State leaders in one swoop significantly altered California’s homebuilding landscape in hopes of lowering the state’s carbon footprint.

They did not pass SB 827, the bill to let developers build far more homes near transit. That was killed in its first committee hearing after receiving national attention.

No, on Wednesday the California Energy Commission passed the first rule of its kind in the country, requiring that new homes in the state come with solar panels.

The failed state bill and new state rule don’t really have anything to do with each other, but they do demonstrate what types of environmental action California is willing to take.

Strictest fuel efficiency standards in the country? Bring it on. Cut development regulations so people don’t need to drive so much? No thank you.

California has in recent years reduced carbon emissions even as its economy grew, and is now on track to reach 1990 emissions levels by 2020, as required by state law.

But after that the state needs to cut emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – and 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. It’s pretty hard to envision a way the state could reach those lofty goals without transforming the way people get around. Last year, Vox wrote a comprehensive explainer on why that’s so essential.

In short, it’s because transportation emissions are increasing – despite increased fuel efficiency – while the state needs to accelerate the rate of emissions reductions if it plans to hit the targets beyond 2020. Transportation is the state’s largest source of carbon emissions.

Elsewhere in California, several major transportation agencies have policies encouraging joint developments adjacent to transit stops, and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System could consider the same. In a new op-ed, a public official and a developer spotlight parking lots around transit stations that they argue should be converted into housing to help the region meet its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Also in our commentary section, attorney Matt Strabone argues that nearly 150,000 homeowners are paying too much in property taxes. He’s running for county assessor-recorder-clerk, a seat that will be decided in June.

San Diego Unified to Delete Emails After a Year

San Diego County’s largest public school system has revived plans to delete all emails older than one year and will pull the trigger June 1, reports NBC San Diego.

San Diego Unified School District initially planned to make the purge last July without seeking board approval or public input, and originally planned to limit email retention to just six months. That plan drew criticism from open government and media groups, including VOSD, as well as employee unions, which expressed concern about the rush without training employees how to retain older emails they might need to keep.

District officials said last year old emails need to go for cost reasons and to alleviate the burden posed by public records requests. Officials have not clearly explained the costs at stake and confirmed the district is already using free cloud-based email systems. Claims last year the district spends millions to store emails on servers ended up including other non-email costs.

VOSD has used district emails to shed light on the influence wielded by then-trustee Marne Foster, and emails helped us sort fact from fiction when reporting on the district’s artificial turf field problems. We are still waiting for 2016 budget-related emails requested more than a year ago – when the district faced a $124 million budget crisis – and recently had to fight to prevent the district from closing the request. It’s unclear whether those records will be preserved in the upcoming purge, or if the lengthy lag time that’s become routine for the district will prevent emails from ever seeing the light of day. By the time a request is fulfilled more than a year later, the emails sought may be gone.

Cindy Marten
San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The district’s one-year retention policy is shorter than a lot of other government agencies, some of which keep emails for two years or more. But it’s longer than some cities that keep emails a mere 30 to 180 days.

In Other News

  • Rep. Duncan Hunter’s political career is in jeopardy, so his father is maneuvering behind the scenes to preserve the family’s dynasty, according to Politico. El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, a Republican challenging Hunter for the 50th Congressional District seat, told Politico that raising money is impossible because “people are afraid of retribution.”
  • San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten wants to consider the financial impact of approving charters schools when considering applications, something she can’t do now, according to KPBS. Marten’s plea comes after a report pegged the annual state funding lost by the district to charters at $65.9 million.
  • President Donald Trump says construction of the San Diego section of the border wall will begin at San Diego County’s request. The statement is a bit puzzling because while the county is supporting the administration’s challenge to California’s so-called “sanctuary” policies, the supervisors told NBC 7 that they haven’t taken a stance on the wall. The San Diego City Council passed a resolution in September opposing the wall’s construction.
  • By no longer responding to low-priority 911 calls, Chula Vista firefighters believe they can respond to high-priority calls faster. (Union-Tribune)
  • After President Donald Trump was elected, San Diego County voter registration surged, the Union-Tribune reports.

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Ashly McGlone and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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