LOCAL Education

Welcome to Essential Education, our daily look at education in California and beyond. Here's the latest:

  • USC's president said the school "could have done better" handling reports of a former medical school dean's drug use and announced a new committee to look at strengthening procedures for dealing with employees' behavior out of work.
  • A new law places limits on who can interview alleged child sex abuse victims, and for how long.
Higher Education

USC president admits university 'could have done better' in handling reports of medical school dean's drug use

 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

USC President C.L. Max Nikias acknowledged Wednesday that the university “could have done better” in its handling of a former medical school dean who a Times investigation found took drugs and associated with criminals and drug abusers.

Nikias didn’t detail how the university could have done more but said USC has “only loosely defined procedures and guidelines for dealing with employee behavior outside the workplace.” He announced a new committee that would look at strengthening those procedures.

Betsy DeVosCharter SchoolsHigher EducationK-12LAUSD

New audio about the USC med school dean, a law to protect child abuse victims: What's new in education today

Jerry Brown (Associated Press)
Jerry Brown (Associated Press)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • Newly released audio shows that the Pasadena police officer who questioned a former USC medical school dean's account about a young woman's overdose was skeptical about what the dean told him.
  • A former Los Angeles Unified School District engineer alleges that he was fired because he was open about being Muslim and reported on safety concerns he had about district buildings.

In California:

  • Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that places limits on interviewing child abuse victims in civil litigation.
  • Inside the debate over how to increase financial transparency and reduce fraud in charter schools.

Nationwide:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is complicating things for Democrats who support school choice.
  • New York state might soon allow charter schools to certify their own teachers.
For Parents

Education law places limits on interviewing alleged child sex abuse victims

Sen. Jim Beall (Associated Press)
Sen. Jim Beall (Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law a measure placing limits on how alleged child sexual assault victims may be interviewed during civil legal proceedings.

State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) said he authored the bill after meeting with parents who decided not to file suit because they were afraid defense lawyers would traumatize their children. He also met with parents who felt defense attorneys’ experts had manipulated their children.

Higher Education

Pasadena officer who investigated overdose was skeptical of USC med school dean's story, recording shows

 (Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)
(Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)

The police officer who last year questioned the then-dean of USC’s medical school about his role in the drug overdose of a young woman expressed skepticism at Dr. Carmen Puliafito’s account, according to an audio recording that was made by the officer and released Tuesday.

Puliafito told the officer he was at the Pasadena hotel room where the overdose occurred as a family friend to help the woman, who was later rushed to Huntington Memorial Hospital.

K-12

San Diego teacher detained after refusing to answer Border Patrol questions at checkpoint

San Diego County middle school teacher Shane Parmely was detained for more than an hour by Border Patrol agents at a checkpoint in New Mexico because she refused to say whether she was a U.S. citizen.

Parmely’s family helped her film the incident, which she posted Friday evening on her Facebook account in several segments that were widely shared. Parmely told Border Patrol agents that she believed she did not have to answer their questions. One agent showed her a card listing immigration law and a Supreme Court case decision that give Border Patrol agents authority to operate checkpoints within 100 miles of the border and to ask questions about citizenship without warrants.

Higher EducationK-12LAUSD

A teacher's defamation lawsuit, what USC knew, Texas' bathroom bill fight: What's new in education

Rafe Esquith None
Rafe Esquith

In and around Los Angeles:

  • USC officials faced more than a year of questioning from the L.A. Times reporters about its former medical school dean before a scandal broke.
  • A senior L.A. Unified official will run the troubled Inglewood Unified schools.
  • Fired L.A. Unified teacher Rafe Esquith can sue the district for defamation, a court ruled.

In California:

  • Thanks to a new class, more girls and minorities are taking AP computer science tests.
  • The state's teacher pension system beat its earnings target for the last fiscal year.

Nationwide:

  • A Texas Senate committee approved a bill that would restrict access to bathrooms, showers and changing facilities in government buildings and public schools based on the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.
  • How one school that serves students with disabilities could be affected by changes to healthcare policy.
K-12

USC received questions for more than a year about former medical school dean's conduct before scandal broke

 (Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)
(Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)

Four days after The Times published a story about drug use by the then-dean of USC’s medical school, the university announced it was moving to fire Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito and said it was “outraged and disgusted” by his conduct.

It remains unclear when top USC officials first learned about the allegations involving Puliafito. But The Times made repeated inquiries over the last 15 months about Puliafito, in some cases describing information reporters had gathered about the dean.

K-12

Bathroom bills in Texas show city-state divide

 (Ashley Landis / TNS)
(Ashley Landis / TNS)

After dividing North Carolina, the battle over regulating transgender bathroom access has become one of the most bitter and contentious political issues in Texas in recent history, exposing a widening fault line between liberal cities and the conservative state, as well as social conservatives and more centrist, business-friendly Republican legislators.

Following more than 10 hours of testimony — mostly from those opposed to a bathroom bill — the Senate State Affairs Committee approved a bill Friday that would restrict access to bathrooms, showers and changing facilities in government buildings and public schools based on the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.

K-12

Senior L.A. Unified official tapped to lead Inglewood schools

 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The state has picked a senior Los Angeles schools administrator, Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, to lead the troubled Inglewood Unified School District.

The Inglewood school system, which is just east of Los Angeles International Airport, has long struggled with low academic achievement and declining enrollment, including the last five years under state control.

Higher Education

Claremont college suspends students for demonstration against pro-police speaker

Heather Mac Donald speaks in April through live-stream video at Claremont McKenna College as protesters outside block access to the auditorium. (Claremont McKenna College)
Heather Mac Donald speaks in April through live-stream video at Claremont McKenna College as protesters outside block access to the auditorium. (Claremont McKenna College)

Claremont McKenna College has suspended three students for a year and two others for a semester for blocking access to a campus event to protest a speaker known for defending police against Black Lives Matter activists.

The action, announced last week, arises out of an April 6 demonstration during which students and others ignored temporary barriers and blocked entrances to the Athenaeum and Kravis Center, where author and commentator Heather Mac Donald was scheduled to speak.

Former L.A. Unified teacher can proceed with defamation lawsuit, appellate court says

Former Hobart Boulevard Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith, who was fired after allegations that he made inappropriate comments in front of students, will be allowed to proceed with his defamation lawsuit against L.A. Unified, a state appellate court ruled Thursday.

The court upheld a lower court ruling from last year, which denied a district motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Esquith ran a theater nonprofit for his students, many of whom were low income, and was nationally recognized for his teaching methods.

Esquith was removed from his classroom in April 2015 after another employee complained about a joke he made to students.

He sued the district in state court soon after, demanding that L.A. Unified retract allegations of sexual misconduct and pay him damages.  

L.A. Unified spokeswoman Shannon Haber declined to comment on the appellate court ruling.

“We agreed with the ruling in the trial court and we agree with the opinion of the court of appeal," said Zack Muljat, one of Esquith's attorneys. "We look forward to the opportunity to forge ahead and bring justice to Mr. Esquith.”

K-12

Lawsuit says North Carolina 'bathroom bill' effects still felt

Joaquin Carcaño is among the plaintiffs in a suit challenging a law passed to replace North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill. (Gerry Broome / Associated Press)
Joaquin Carcaño is among the plaintiffs in a suit challenging a law passed to replace North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill. (Gerry Broome / Associated Press)

Transgender people in North Carolina are still effectively prevented from using restrooms matching their gender identity under a law that replaced the state's notorious "bathroom bill" earlier this year, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.

The replacement law continues the harms of its predecessor by leaving restroom policies in the hands of state lawmakers and preventing local governments or school systems from setting rules or offering guidance, the complaint states.

Betsy DeVosHigher EducationK-12LAUSD

Inglewood Unified's new leader, DeVos' Twitter fight, Delaine Eastin's run: What's new in education

Delaine Eastin (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Delaine Eastin (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana is leaving as the L.A. Unified School District's head of educational services to become the state administrator of the Inglewood Unified School District.
  • USC's current medical school dean criticized his predecessor's alleged behavior.

In California:

  • Former state schools chief Delaine Eastin faces long odds in her run for governor.
  • The state wants to use light-handed rebukes — including, in some cases, just adding an icon on a report card — to ding schools whose students don't all participate in standardized tests.
  • A guide to charter schools in California.

Nationwide:

Higher Education

After officer is disciplined, police union examines incident at Pasadena hotel involving controversial former USC dean

 (Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)
(Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)

The union that represents the Pasadena police officer who was disciplined for not filing a prompt report on a drug overdose witnessed by the then-dean of USC’s medical school is conducting a legal review of the incident, the labor organization said Thursday.

A tip about the March 2016 overdose of a young woman at the Hotel Constance in Pasadena led to a Times investigation that found that Dr. Carmen Puliafito associated with criminals and drug abusers who said they used methamphetamine and other drugs with him while he headed the Keck School of Medicine.

Betsy DeVosK-12

Betsy DeVos versus the American Federation of Teachers, a Twitter battle

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos often faces intense criticism, in person and online. But she rarely responds to pointed tweets.

Thursday, though, was different. After the American Federation of Teachers union critiqued something DeVos had said, a point she reiterated that day in remarks at the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Denver, she fired back.

K-12

Two missing Boyle Heights teens found safe

 (Los Angeles Police Department)
(Los Angeles Police Department)

Two Boyle Heights teenagers who were reported missing Wednesday were found safe early Thursday, police said.

Authorities had been searching for Jaylin Mazariegos, 15, and Adrian Gonzalez, 14, since 3 p.m. They were found about 12:45 a.m. near the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, Hollenbeck Division police said.

Sgt. John Porras said police were able to determine their cellphone location.

Higher Education

Alleged conduct by former USC dean 'horrible and despicable,' med school head tells angry students

Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito stepped down as USC medical school dean in 2016. (Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)
Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito stepped down as USC medical school dean in 2016. (Alex J. Berliner / Associated Press)

Addressing scores of bewildered and at times angry students, the dean of USC’s medical school said Wednesday that the university had launched multiple internal investigations into the conduct of his predecessor after The Times reported that he associated with criminals and drug abusers who told of using methamphetamine and other drugs with him.

“These allegations, if they are true, they are horrible and despicable,” Dr. Rohit Varma told the gathering of scores of medical scholars and graduate students at the Keck School of Medicine in Boyle Heights, who were summoned to a town-hall-type meeting to discuss The Times’ article about Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito. The newspaper obtained a recording of the meeting.

“He’s a man who had a brilliant career, all gone down the drain,” Varma said. “I’m standing in this place where my predecessor now has this taint. ... It is sad.”

K-12

What's Delaine Eastin thinking? The long-shot candidate for governor explains

 (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Accusing Sacramento’s political power barons of neglecting California schoolchildren, former state schools chief Delaine Eastin jumped into the 2018 governor’s race in the fall vowing to shove the issue of education to the forefront of the campaign.

Eastin’s done her part, at least, calling for increased funding for schools and lower, in some cases free, college tuition as she travels the state.

She’s also been quick to stoke California’s fiery left, calling for President Trump’s impeachment and the establishment of a state-run single-payer healthcare system.

But Eastin faces long odds.

Betsy DeVosCalifornia State UniversityCharter SchoolsHigher EducationK-12LAUSD

A civic group is advising L.A. Unified, Cal State's capacity issues, a record-setting donation: What's new in education

Austin Beutner began quietly putting together the advisory task force, with the superintendent's endorsement, in the latter part of 2016. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Austin Beutner began quietly putting together the advisory task force, with the superintendent's endorsement, in the latter part of 2016. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

In and around Los Angeles:

  • A group of business, philanthropic and community leaders want to advise L.A. Unified Supt. Michelle King on fixing the district.
  • USC's president sent a letter to the campus community saying he would "examine and address" a Times report about the former medical school dean's drug use and criminal ties.

In California:

  • Cal State's trustees are trying to assemble a budget that helps the system accommodate more fully qualified students, thousands of whom were turned away from their desired campuses.
  • Meet the Nazarians, an Iranian couple that donated $17 million to CSUN's Valley Performing Arts Center in the system's largest ever arts-related donation. 

Nationwide:

  • House Republicans are rejecting Trump's proposed cuts to higher education.
  • Betsy DeVos started a speech focused on special education by talking about school choice.
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