Vista High School / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

How much does the public get to know about the people educating their children?

In November, we asked all 43 public school districts in the county to turn over documents about substantiated instances of sexual misbehavior by school employees.

Some complied, one refused, some are still compiling records and some districts would like to comply but have been blocked by teachers who’ve gone to court to keep records about their conduct hidden. Ashly McGlone explains the legal battle that’s playing out in the courts as we work to shed light on what happens in classrooms and how school and district policies can allow predators stay in the classroom for years.

Take a male math teacher at Vista High School who traded sexually suggestive texts with students.

The teacher – who was ultimately suspended for five days without pay and transferred to Vista Magnet Middle School in 2016, where he continues to teach – is still fighting to keep his identity secret.

Who is helping these teachers in court?

San Diego attorney Jon Vanderpool often represents local teacher unions, and is representing several educators fighting to keep their records secret. Vanderpool and a representative for the California Teachers Association wouldn’t say directly whether teachers unions are helping fund teachers’ legal efforts to keep records from being released.

What’s next: Superior Court Judge Ronald Frazier decided May 15 that teacher names on misconduct records at Vista and San Marcos public schools should be released, and gave them 10 days to do so. It is not yet clear whether the decision will be appealed.

Schools Find Lead in Filtered Water

San Diego Unified found lead in water where it definitely should not be: coming from faucets with water filters on them.

Last year, San Diego Unified found 38 schools with elevated levels of lead in their water. The district began replacing plumbing and fixtures and, in some cases, installing new water filters designed to remove lead.

Lead is unsafe at any level and is especially damaging to children’s brains. Recently, though, the district has gotten results that show lead in newly filtered water.

Samer Naji, a spokesman for the school district, said the results are a “head-scratcher.”

Tests from filtered fountains at Encanto Elementary and Birney Elementary in University Heights both show elevated lead levels.

On Tuesday, Birney Principal Amanda Hammond-Williams emailed parents to tell them that lead was found in water coming from four fountains. The district has sealed off those taps at Birney so that students and teachers can’t drink from them. It is providing bottled water.

The amount of lead was below the level that federal regulators consider dangerous for drinking water (15 parts of lead per billion parts water), but elevated enough to still be considered alarming (above five parts per billion).

Parents at Encanto had yet to be notified of lead problems as of Tuesday afternoon because San Diego Unified was still working to translate the notice into a few languages.

The district is trying to figure out what is going on with the filters.

Last year, San Diego Unified tested all of its schools for leaded water after elevated levels of lead were found at the shared campus of Emerson-Bandini Elementary School and the San Diego Cooperative Charter School 2 in Mountain View.

By fall, San Diego Unified rolled out what is perhaps the country’s most ambitious plans to protect children from leaded water. It hopes to have no water with lead readings of above one part lead per billion parts water within the next several years.

In a September letter from San Diego Unified’s safety manager to Birney’s principal, the district said there were some buildings and portable classrooms where replacing piping and fixtures would be “overly intrusive and impact teaching & learning,” so filters were being installed instead.

Biz Leaders to Political Leaders: Build More Housing

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and dozens of others, including the chancellor of UC San Diego, the head of the Tourism Authority and heads of local businesses like SeaWorld, Ace Parking, Cravory Cookies and more urge mayors of each San Diego County city to prioritize home-building in a new letter.

Though the letter doesn’t single out specific policies or priorities, the business leaders write that local leaders should: “urgently and proactively prioritize home-building in your community to ensure that local businesses can retain their valued employees, and so we may continue to invest in the workforce pipelines of the future.”

  • In an op-ed, Matt Valenti, who’s running for City Council District 6, writes that city leaders’ failure to address short-term vacation rentals is worsening the housing crisis: “Anyone who claims to be a proponent of building more housing to help solve the housing crisis should also be an opponent of short-term rentals.”
  • The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to spend $2.5 million to continue funding the large tents erected last year to provide temporary shelter for homeless San Diegans. The money would have otherwise gone toward permanent housing solutions. (KPBS)

In Other News

  • State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is accusing Cox Communications of dumping hazardous waste and compromising customer privacy by incorrectly disposing of old office equipment from offices around San Diego. Personal information can be found on old electronic devices, if they are not properly wiped of data before being thrown away. (NBC San Diego)
  • Former Padres coach Dave Garcia has died at age 97. (Union-Tribune)
  • The San Diego County Grand Jury released a new report Tuesday finding the city of San Diego missed easy opportunities to bring in more revenue from the San Diego County Credit Union Stadium. Keeping the stadium open already costs the city millions each year. (City News Service)
  • Despite being under federal investigation for campaign spending, Rep. Duncan Hunter has a commanding lead in his re-election bid, according to a new poll by the Union-Tribune. Hunter is supported by 43 percent of the electorate; Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is the closest challenger with just 10 percent support. (Union-Tribune)

Meet Your Governor Candidates: This Puppeteer Has Produce in Hand

Gubernatorial candidate Chris Carlson and Cabbage / Photo by Orie Alpern

A 29-year-old puppeteer is running for the highest office in California, accompanied by a furry handheld companion, a “very green monster” named Cabbage who likes to talk to  candidates on video.

Freelancer Randy Dotinga reached out to Green Party candidate Chris Carlson to get the low-down on his high aspirations. And yes, this interview is real.

RD: Why should a puppeteer be the next governor?

CC: I’ve never thought of it that far through. I figured if I told a mental health professional that I intended to win or place they might double down on my prescription.

Good point. But what do you stand for?

I want to represent the Green Party and contribute some environmental voices like Rachel Carson and John Muir.

You refer to yourself as “Güber the Candidate.” What’s that about?

It’s the title of a musical and the name of the candidate’s alter ego character.

When you click on it, your campaign website blares out the words “You’re the problem.” That doesn’t seem very voter-friendly, does it?

No. It’s left over from an earlier piece of the website where I talk about the different addictions that people are my age are developing and the need for us to take agency and personal accountability before asking some Wizard of Oz to address that for us.

I see. Is Cabbage the puppet concerned that you’ll lose the election?

There’s a future for Cabbage.

Like in a fish taco?

Cabbage should be so lucky.

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