Loxie Gant is one of at least four women who have said physics teacher Martin Teachworth harassed them when they were students at La Jolla High School. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to create independent oversight of sexual harassment and misconduct complaints against public school employees is on pause. Gonzalez’s office said this week it’s extending the bill to the fall to allow time for further discussions with stakeholders after disagreements about the measure surfaced.

AB 989 aimed to create an ombudsman position at each county office of education and school district to ensure such complaints are handled appropriately and seen through to a resolution.

It was inspired by Voice of San Diego reporting in which several women said their complaints to school officials about a La Jolla High School teacher who groped and harassed them went nowhere.

One of those women, Loxie Gant, worked with Gonzalez’s office to help draft the bill.

Before Gonzalez’s decision to hold the bill, the measure was drastically reworked: Instead of creating a new position in each district, it would have instead created a telephone hotline to which students could direct complaints.

Gant said she didn’t support those changes.

Gant told Voice of San Diego she wants to see a bill that gives an outside entity – not individual schools – oversight on sexual harassment complaints because of her own experiences reporting assault. Gonzalez’s office told Gant this week that it heard her concerns and agreed that the bill no longer had teeth in its new form.

A spokesperson from Gonzalez’s office told Voice of San Diego in an email that after receiving feedback from Gant and the Assembly’s education committee, Gonzalez recognized that reforming the process for how schools respond to these serious issues will require extra discussion.

“Rather than take amendments that would gut some of our bill, we are extending it into a two-year bill to gather stakeholders and see if we can create language that satisfies the committee and our need for an independent advocate to gather student complaints,” Gonzalez wrote in an email.

Kayla Jimenez

Bill Would Limit DMV Database Access by Immigration Officials

Meanwhile, Gonzalez has proposed another bill prompted by VOSD reporting.

In February, VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan reported that several undocumented immigrants had been arrested by ICE following interactions with the DMV, and that ICE agents appeared to have used information they’d provided to the DMV to help track them down.

Gonzalez at the time sent an inquiry to the DMV about the interactions and said she’d also discussed the issue with the governor and attorney general.

Now, she’s also seeking a legislative fix.

AB 1747 would limit California law enforcement agencies’ ability to share information from state databases with immigration enforcement officials. Though ICE does not have direct access to California’s DMV database, it does have indirect access through the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which interfaces with the DMV system. The bill would require that any existing agreements that facilitate such sharing would be terminated on Jan. 1, 2020.

The Rise of Atkins’ Wife Coincides With Her Own

As Sen. Toni Atkins has ascended through the California Legislature, her wife Jennifer LeSar has likewise seen her affordable housing companies grow as well.

In 2010, when Atkins was elected to the state Assembly, LeSar had eight total clients; by 2014, when Atkins was named Assembly speaker, LeSar had started a second company and had grown to a combined 41 affordable housing and economic development clients. Last year, when Atkins became Senate president pro tem, LeSar’s companies had a combined 86 clients.

The L.A. Times’ Liam Dillon investigated the two’s coinciding meteoric rises in the Legislature and affordable housing industry, respectively.

Among LeSar’s clients is a lucrative, no-bid contract one of her firms received from a Bay Area planning agency. LeSar’s firms have received $1.3 million in contracts from state agencies alone over the last three years.

This isn’t the first time there’s been a conflict of interest examination between Atkins – who is especially involved in housing discussions within the Legislature – and LeSar’s influence in the affordable housing industry.

“These questions have been asked and answered before by the press and have largely been accepted as a nonissue,” LeSar told the Times in a written statement.

Among those instances was a 2015 flare-up when Atkins pushed for an increase in statewide affordable housing spending and sought a legal opinion from the state’s Office of Legislative Counsel. That office determined there was no conflict because the legislation did not award money to any specific project or company. When Atkins re-introduced a version of the bill in 2017, when it passed, the Union-Tribune again scrutinized the relationship.

Andrew Keatts

A San Diego Police Shooting Hangs in the Background of AB 392 Debate

One police shooting tends to come up in every discussion of AB 392, San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s attempt to change the rules guiding police use of deadly force: the shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police. Clark was unarmed and standing in his family member’s backyard.

But the Los Angeles Times this week examines the role of another shooting in the debate – one that took place in San Diego.

San Diego police shot and killed Shane Hayes in 2006. Hayes was suicidal, and his girlfriend had tried to tell police about his mental health history before they entered his apartment, saw him holding a knife, and killed him.

A ruling by the state Supreme Court on Hayes’ case “allowed civil negligence claims against law enforcement to include more than the moments just before the use of lethal force, stretching to cover officers’ tactics and decisions in the lead-up to the fatal encounter,” the Times reports.

AB 392 seeks to add that rule to criminal procedure by allowing circumstances other than those immediately preceding a police shooting to factor into whether an officer acted reasonably.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post boils the debate over AB 392 down to its essence: “In question is the shift of a single word.”

Golden State News

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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