Friday, August 3, 2012

Video: Just how safe are your children in school?

An eye opening look at California's ABC Unified School District officials in the wake of a brewing scandal involving a mass cover-up of teacher misconduct which includes lewd and lascivious behavior, indecent exposure, suicide and death threats, a pay off to leave quietly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

L.A. Times: Professor set fires at son's school and plotted murder, D.A. says

A UC Irvine professor is accused of setting a series of fires at and around his son's high school before outlining plans in emails to kill teachers and students, Orange County prosecutors said.

Rainer Reinscheid, a 48 ­year ­old an associate professor of pharmaceutical science, was arrested July 24 after Irvine police found him trying to start a fire using lighter fluid and newspaper in the Mason Park Preserve near University High School, the Orange County district attorney's office said.

Police had increased patrols in the University High School area after a series of small fires in and around the school started July 4, said Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen. The fires did not injure anyone or burn down any structures but left school property scorched, and police feared that another fire might ignite the preserve's dry brush and cause a major conflagration.

But when investigators looked at Reinscheid's cellphone, what they found, they said, was far more troubling.

In emails from April addressed to himself and his wife, Reinscheid allegedly planned to obtain firearms to murder students and administrators, commit sexual assault, burn down the school and then kill himself, said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.
"We did take these emails very seriously," Emami said.

The professor — who posted bail and was released after his intial arrest — was taken into custody again and is now being held without bail, which prosecutors requested in court Tuesday. He faces felony arson charges.

Reincheid's 14­year­old son, Claas Stubbe, attended University High School. The teenager committed suicide in March, days after he was disciplined by school administrators for what Irvine Unified School District spokesman Ian Hanigan described as a "fairly minor" matter involving a theft from a student store. He was given trash pickup duty as a punishment.

Acquaintances say Reinscheid had been furious at University High School for how it handled his son's death.

"He was angry and unsatisfied with the investigation into his son's death," said Bruce Blumberg, a professor in Reinscheid's department at UC Irvine. Blumberg described Claas Stubbe as "a sweet and sensitive boy."

There were rumors the boy had been bullied, though Hanigan maintained that no evidence was found to support the claim. Irvine police said they were unable to verify what drove him to suicide.

"There is just a tragic situation for [Reinscheid] and his family," Engen said, but added: "This is such an irrational response. … This is not a normal grieving."

Source: L.A. Times

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kent State University Campus Threat

A Kent State University student accused of posting a message on Twitter saying he would be "shooting up" the northeastern Ohio campus was instructed Monday to stay away from the school and its president.

William Koberna, a 19-year-old sophomore, was set to be released Monday after posting part of a $50,000 bond set at Portage County Municipal Court in Ravenna, about 20 miles east of Akron. He appeared via video from the Portage County Jail.

Conditions of his bond require Koberna to wear a GPS tracking device and to stay away from university President Lester Lefton and the school.

University officials say an employee was monitoring social media mentions of the school when a profanity laced tweet posted July 25 was discovered. The public tweet mentioned Kent State University, identified the university president by name and included a threat that he planned to be "shooting up" the school. The tweet ended with "ASAP." It is no longer available.

Koberna was arrested Sunday afternoon at his parents' home in the Cleveland suburb of Brunswick after university officials contacted police about the tweet. Officials say he was taken into custody without incident.

"Our primary concern is keeping the school safe," said university spokesman Eric Mansfield. "We took this tweet very, very seriously, which is why we contacted police so quickly."

Koberna has been charged with inducing panic, a felony, and aggravated menacing, a misdemeanor. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Friday at the Kent branch of Portage County Municipal Court. Court records do not list an attorney for the teen. Public records also do not list a phone number for him.
Mansfield said university officials are meeting Monday to discuss what disciplinary actions will be taken against Koberna. He could face possible suspension or expulsion.

"Any threat to our campus community is taken seriously and immediately investigated," said Lefton in a statement on the university's website posted to students and staff. "Our students, employees, and all those who come to campus should know that their safety is our top priority."

Mansfield said officials do not ignore any threat to the school, especially after a recent shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., left 12 dead and 58 injured during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.
"In light of what took place in Aurora, Colo., and with Columbine and Virginia Tech and even Chardon, we can't take any chances," he said.

Chardon is a city in northeast Ohio where three students were killed and three others were injured February. A teen has pleaded not guilty to charges in the shooting rampage at Chardon High School, east of Cleveland.

"We're not playing games," Mansfield said. "When someone posts something like this, we're going to respond immediately to make sure our campus is safe."

Koberna, a computer science major, is studying at the school's College of Arts and Sciences. He was living off campus and wasn't taking any summer classes.

Kent State was the scene of deadly gunfire in May 1970, when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire during an anti-war protest. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Los Cerritos News: Settlement Fails Between ABC and Former Stowers Principal

Case goes to Trial Court
Oct. 31st

Former Stowers Elementary School Principal Eileen Blagden and the ABC Unified School District failed to agree on a settlement over her demotion.
Judge Rex Heeseman, presiding over a Mandatory Settlement Conference on July 17, following a series of interviews with both parties in his chambers ruled a settlement could not be reached because both sides were to far apart. The case will go to trial on Oct. 31 of this year.
At the school board meeting scheduled that night, Lakewood resident Larry Andre accused the District of covering up the events leading to Mrs. Blagden’s demotion. He said he has looked at the depositions made by ABC officials and he is concerned by their answers to what he described as simple questions.
He accused them of dancing around them and that concerned him very greatly. “The fact that Mrs. Blagden was told to violate the law and not report the death threats made to two of her teachers concerns me greatly.”
He said not only was she demoted but also the teacher who made the death threats was given a sum of money to go away. He said it concerns him that the school board could be so complacent about this matter. He asked if Mrs. Blagden did the right thing in reporting the death threats?” Apparently the District felt the rights of the employee were more important than the lives of the two teachers.
Addressing Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu he said you were asked at the deposition if Mrs. Blagden did the right thing. You answered, “I don’t know.”
School Board President Olympia Chen pointed out the District currently employs Mrs. Blagden as a teacher. “And it is Board policy that we do not discuss personnel matters in open meetings.” She added, “Mrs. Blagden sued the District and we cannot talk about this case.”
Rich Blagden, husband of Eileen Blagden accused the District of knowing that the teacher, Kevin Kirby, was arrested for lewd conduct and indecent exposure while at Leal Elementary School  and yet transferred him to Stowers.  “The case went to trial and he wasn’t convicted on the charge,” Blagden said. Assistant Superintendent Carol Hansen stated Kirby was guilty but got off on a technicality.
In his deposition former Superintendent Dr.  Gary Smuts admitted he was aware Kirby had been accused of a crime described as lewd and lascivious conduct while he was at Leal and that he had one conviction and had been arrested three or four times. He also admitted  following the Stowers incident where there was a possible danger to the students and faculty on Jan 26-28 and on Feb 1 2010.
Blagden wanted to know why someone with Kirby’s known background was placed in a school where he had access to young children? He said no one from Dr. Smuts on down could give a straight answer.
He accused the Board of violating their own policy when his wife came to the school board seeking an audience with Dr. Smuts and was denied. In his deposition Dr. Smuts claimed he denied Blagden a meeting with her immediate supervisor pursuant to board policy because she had retained a lawyer even though the specific section says she has the right to be accompanied by a friends or advisor of the employees choice.
Dr. Smuts said in his opinion she was denied a meeting because the attorney had “done research” and had threatened litigation, therefore the policy did not apply.  He admitted this was just his opinion.
Mr. Blagden said his wife had been demoted because she had revealed the death threats to the sheriff. He said they deny this but there are 12 or 13 depositions that state otherwise.  “Last week Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell ruled the accusations against my wife were fabricated.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

If Fred Willard had been a teacher for the ABCUSD, he'd still have his job

Fred Willard, the 72-year-old star of “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind,” among countless other comic roles, was arrested Wednesday night at Hollywood's Tiki Theater when vice cops allegedly saw him with his genitals exposed and in his hand. 

The charges, lewd and lascivious behavior and indecent exposure. 

And even though no trial date has been set and Willard hasn't been convicted of anything, the arrest led to Willard being fired from his job as narrator of PBS's new show "Market Warriors." 

Interesting, because when then Leal Elementary school teacher Kevin Kirby was arrested for those exact same charges involving a similar situation and convicted on trespassing, the ABC Unified School District didn't fire him.  No, not even when he was barred from 100 yards of a public school, library, park, etc. in the City of Long Beach, they just moved him to Stowers Elementary School where he went on to make suicide and death threats towards two of his fellow teachers before being paid off to leave quietly into the night. 

Now we're not saying actor and comedian Fred Willard should have been fired from PBS but we are pointing out the similarities in his situation with those of a teacher responsible for children on a day to day basis. While Fred Willard was not in direct contact with kindergarten children as we know it, PBS still wasted no time in firing him.  

So why can't a school district take the same actions towards one of their teachers who actually is in contact with children everyday?

OpEd: ABCUSD reaches new low with denying media access to public meeting

ABC Unified School District’s free fall from its lofty perch continues unabated. On Tuesday night, district security went outside and denied the cameraman for KCBS2/KCAL9 television news station access to a public school board meeting being held inside a public building. This clearly violated the public’s right to attend public school board meetings. What is the ABCUSD school board hiding?

Furthermore, district security denied reentry to the building of a Cerritos-Artesia Patch reporter. In a brazen move, district security locked the front door, denying entry to all citizens. 

A concerned citizen witnessed this and even confronted district security about these violations. The security officer reported that his superior told him to do it.

Why? What brought us to this point where Superintendent Mary Sieu is above following the law? Isn’t respecting and obeying rules and laws one of most important tenets children are taught in school? Why not practice these tenets as adults, too?

The ABC Unified School District administrators believe they are accountable to NO ONE. This didn’t happen overnight and it will not be undone until the community rises up and demands change at the top.

Denying media access to a public school board meeting Tuesday night is the District’s feeble attempt to duck and cover. It is now too late to run and hide from the truth. 

ABCUSD demoted Principal Blagden over two years ago, because Blagden reported suicide/death threats to the sheriff, after she was directed to do nothing, tell no one, especially the victims.  Blagden refused to follow this clearly illegal directive, as she took proper action to protect students and staff.  These facts are no longer being repressed by fear, intimidation, and retaliation orchestrated by district officials against school employees, as this lawsuit, is now public record. 

An Outraged Parent

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cerritos-Artesia Patch: Richard Blagden Speaks Out at School Board Meeting On Wife's Demotion as Stowers Elementary Principal

July 19, 2012

On July 17 attendees sat in silence as Richard Blagden exhausted his 3-minute limit during the ABC School Board meeting, speaking on behalf of his wife, former Stowers Elementary School principal, Eileen Blagden.

In 2010, Blagden filed a police report that kindergarten teacher Kevin Michael Kirby, who had recently been reassigned to Stowers Elementary, had made suicide and death threats. Kirby had been recently been accused of lewd and lascivious behavior and indecent exposure and convicted of trespassing in the city of Long Beach.

Former Teacher Allegedly Made Suicide and Death Threats

According to Blagden, Kirby said he wanted to kill two teachers at the school and end his own life. When she reported this to a district representative, Blagden said she was told not to say anything.

"She said to me, 'if you report this, you'll be sorry'," Blagden told CBS2 in a sit-down interview. "She made it very clear it was a directive to say nothing."

But after learning the teacher also had a criminal history, she became worried about the safety of the other teachers and her students, prompting her to tell the two teachers
whom he allegedly threatened they didn't have to come to work. Blagden then filed a police report.

After reporting the threats, Blagden was put on a three-month administrative leave, but was demoted back to teacher status. With the help of attorney Ron Wilson, she filed a lawsuit against the ABC Unified School District alleging retaliation for whistle-blowing.

During a taped deposition, recently retired district Superintendent Gary Smuts said Blagden was demoted because she refused to follow a district directive to allow the district representive to verify the information Blagden had given her with regards to the threat.

Settlement Talks Fizzle, Case Set for Trial on Oct. 31

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell denied the school district's motion for a summary judgment. The parties were also unable to come to a settlement agreement on July 17 and a jury trial has been set for Oct. 31.

Mr. Blagden: "You're dragging ABC, getting negative publicity."

With just three months left before going to trial, the ABC School District is faced with backlash by Richard Blagden, the husband of former Stower's Elementary principal, Eileen Blagden, regarding her demotion in the district.

Dragging a cart filled with binders containing what Blagden's husband claimed as evidence received by the court, he mentioned incidents of flip-flopping and document fabrication regarding the parties involved in his wife's case. To add, Mr. Blagden cited specific ABC employees as problems to the district.

“You're dragging ABC, getting negative publicity,” he said at the school board meeting earlier this week.

“The problem is at the top. It's Mary Sieu, the superintendent, it's Carol Hansen, the assistant superintendent/human resources, it's Cheryl Bodger, who is the director of schools, and lucky for Gary Smuts he retired.”

The School District's Response

Sieu, when ask for comments regarding Mr. Blagden's comments, could only offer what was written in the district's official statement:

We cannot comment on the reasons why Mrs. Blagden was reassigned, as this matter is still in litigation and she has not authorized us to discuss this matter in public. It is not our practice to litigate matters in the press. However, the decision had absolutely nothing to do with her reporting any threatening behavior to the authorities, as this District takes the safety of its students and employees very seriously. It is unfortunate that Mrs. Blagden has decided to take this matter to the public with her perception of the facts and not allow theDistrict to present its side of the story but since this a personnel matter, absent a release from her, the District is not allowed to discuss the details in public until the trial, which we feel is the proper forum to discuss this matter in public. We look forward to the trial of this matter when the real facts come out about the reasons the District took the actions it did against Mrs. Blagden and we are confident that a jury will find that all of her claims lack merit and that the public will agree that the actions taken against her were more than justified.

Local Television Media Denied Access to School Board Meeting

Following Mr. Blagden's comments, members of KCAL 9/CBS 2 were denied entrance to the school board meeting. Outside the district building, meeting attendee and candidate for 29th Congressional District, Larry Andre, offered comments regarding press being restricted from the meeting.

“This ought not to be a police state, but these individuals in this school district are so interested in protecting their butts,” Andre said. “They don't care about the students. They don't care about the teachers. They don't care about anybody but themselves.”

During the meeting, board president Olympia Chen reminded the audience that issues regarding district personnel should not be discussed during an open meeting.

“Since it's in litigation, we are not to talk about this case,” Chen said.

In a statement issued by a representative for the former Stowers Elementary principal, Blagden said that all she wants is for the truth to come out.

“This is about protecting our children and the staff on the campuses of our schools,” she said. “I did the right thing in reporting the threats to the police. The children come first—not the union, and not the school district’s reputation.”

"It has been the worst nightmare," Blagden told CBS2. "They knew it was wrong, and they covered it up."