Monthly Archives: May 2015

Parents of Md. girl beaten on bus plan to sue school district



The parents of a Prince George’s County elementary student who was beaten up on a school bus now say they plan to sue the school system.

The video of 9-year-old Saraia insisting that she did not want to fight has gone viral.

Despite at least a dozen verbal attempts to avoid a fight, another student hit Saraia repeatedly as the bus kept rolling along. The beating lasted several minutes.

Saraia’s parents had a meeting with an administrator at their daughter’s school, but they are frustrated because they want a bigger picture solution to the problem of violence on school buses.

They’ve reached out to the school superintendent and even the governor.

A spokeswoman for Prince George’s County Schools told news reporters this type of behavior is not tolerated. One student has been suspended for the fight.


Information for those contemplating a lawsuit

Schools of all kinds — public and private, from kindergarten through grad school and beyond, as well as specialized schools — are often the target of lawsuits. If you feel you have been wronged or injured by a school, you too may wish to file suit against a school or school district.

There are many reasons for suing a school. Among these are:

Improper Discharge. If you work for a school as a teacher or in another capacity and have been unfairly fired, you may have a case against the school. Usually, all administrative remedies must be exhausted before a lawsuit can commence.

Improper Expulsion. If you are a student at a school and have been expelled in an unlawful manner or for unlawful reasons, you may be able to sue for the damages caused by the expulsion. Here too, the administrative process should be followed first before filing suit.

Sexual Misconduct. If a teacher or other school employee engages in sexual misconduct with a student, both the person involved and the school can be sued. Schools can also be held liable for one student’s sexual misconduct with another. Also, as employers, schools can be sued by employees if they are subject to such behaviors as sexual harassment or assault.

Injury. If you, or your child, are injured on school grounds or within the context of school activities, you can sue for negligence.

Discrimination. Most schools are not allowed to discriminate against “protected groups” in their hiring or in their admissions policies. If you feel you have been discriminated against in an illegal manner, you can sue.

Educational Malpractice. While somewhat less common, lawsuits are sometimes filed against schools for failing to provide adequate education to students.

Excessive Punishment. If you or your child are subjected to unreasonable punishment, either corporal or emotional, you can sue. However, in order for the suit to succeed, the punishment must usually be extreme.

Failure to Provide Adequate Supervision. Parents are entitled to certain expectations of safety for their children attending school. If your child sustains an injury that could have been prevented by proper supervision, you may have a case against the school. Also, if an unsupervised student injures you, the school may be held partially liable if it has acted negligently.

If you want to sue a school, you’ll want to collect all appropriate evidence and then hire an attorney. Your attorney will not only advise you about the suit itself, but also about who should be named as defendant(s): the person involved in the act that caused the lawsuit (e.g. the teacher, custodian, etc.); their supervisor(s) such as the principal or superintendent; the school itself; the school district; the school board; or the organization that owns or operates the school.

As always, we recommend that you consult an attorney before proceeding.



Have you given money to these charities accused of fraud?


ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan and the Office of the Secretary of State, which approves the certification of Maryland’s 10,000 charities, May 19 announced that the state, represented by Attorney General Brian Frosh, will join the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other state law enforcement officials in a complaint charging multiple cancer charities with defrauding more than $187 million from donors.

The state’s announcement coincides with the FTC today announcing major action regarding the multi-state consumer fraud investigation into deceptive fundraising practices by four major charitable organizations and five individuals who are related to them. The FTC initiated the investigation in the summer of 2014.

The organizations being investigated are as follows:

  • Cancer Fund of America, Inc.
  • Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Inc.
  • The Breast Cancer Society, Inc.
  • Cancer Support Services

Between 2008 and 2012, the four charities raised $187 million nationwide. The organizations spent approximately 86 percent of contributions received on paying professional fundraisers and their own salaries, as well as lavish cars, trips, cruises, sporting events, and more. Less than 3 percent of the contributions received went to the intended charitable purpose.

The multi-state litigation seeks to dissolve these organizations and prevent the individuals who run them from forming similar fraudulent charities in the future. Currently, Maryland and the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the FTC are involved in this case—an unprecedented group effort by charity regulators.

“The state of Maryland is now party to national litigation against one of the most heinous charity scams in Maryland history,” said Governor Hogan. “These organizations misled donors, telling them their money would help cancer patients, but the overwhelming majority of donations benefitted only the fundraisers and their families and friends. I will not allow hardworking Marylanders to be scammed, and these organizations will be brought to justice.”

“This is the worst kind of deception. It amounts to the preying on the good intentions of donors to a charity for personal gain,” said Attorney General Frosh. “We need to stop this kind of fraud and protect Marylanders who want to do the right thing, so they have confidence when they give. All 50 states have united to say ‘enough is enough.’”

“Marylanders are among the most generous in their giving, and we have the right to expect that our hard-earned dollars are used for their intended purpose,” added Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that our citizens are confident that charities that solicit funds in Maryland adhere to the highest ethical and moral standards. We also urge citizens to research organizations that are asking for contributions.”


Pgcps – This is not ok.

Some Pgcps students speak truth to power concerning the state of schools in Prince George’s county. Deplorable conditions are unacceptable when senior staff at Sasscer administrative building make millions in salaries as students suffer. Where is justice?


Daughter: Md. substitute teacher was trying to stop fight, didn’t hit students with belt


It’s the viral video you saw first on FOX 5. A Prince George’s County substitute teacher using a belt to break up a fight in his classroom. For the first time, we are getting an account of what happened from the substitute teacher in the incident at Gwynn Park Middle School.

The teacher’s daughter, Annette, told FOX 5 that her father, Sgt. Albert W. Cooks, was trying to break up a fight — a bad one — and the kids were not listening when he was yelling for them to stop.

That is when he took off his belt and hit a desk and the floor to get them to stop. He never hit a student, according to his daughter.

The video of the incident was shot by a student last Friday inside a sixth grade classroom.

Prince George’s County Public Schools have banned Cooks from the classroom and he is being investigated by authorities.

Cooks’ daughter told us her father is a Vietnam veteran. He released a statement to FOX 5 through his daughter saying:

“God is on my side. Pray for me and our kids that they improve in their thirst for education. We have a major problem in our society with kids coming to school for anything but to get an education, which will enhance their future. Talk is cheap, and the parents of today need to instill some old fashion values that our kids can take with them into their future and become contributing citizens.”

Cooks is getting a lot of support on social media and even from parents.

“My children said that [the teacher] was very personable,” said Cherrail Curry. “He was Vietnam veteran. He got drafted, so he evidently talked to them and shared with them [his experience]. He was, as one of my sons put it, a very gentle giant.”

“I didn’t see it as he was trying to hurt kids,” said Anthony Pelt. “Maybe just fed up a little bit and his way of trying to say you guys need some discipline. I didn’t see him as trying to abuse the kids or hurt the kids.”

In another statement, Sgt. Cooks responded to the praise saying, “I am nobody’s hero. I just want to make sure all students, especially black students, go as far as they can in school so that they can get scholarships and grants in college because they are available but only for the few who have the grades and are qualified.”

Cooks’ daughter lives in North Carolina. She said her father often used his belt to discipline her when she was a kid. He didn’t hit her with it, but a snap of the belt was all it took.

She said her father wasn’t actually hitting the children in classroom, but it was just his way of getting their attention and stop a fight.

His daughter also told us Cooks was a vice principal for more than 20 years at nearly a half dozen schools, including Gwynn Park Middle School.

According to Maryland law, corporal punishment is illegal, but a teacher can take reasonable action, including a degree of force to stop a fight.

via FOX5



What Happens In Vegas…


Las vegas at night

UPPER MARLBORO – With budget decisions looming for the Prince George’s County Council, some citizens are weary of officials’ decisions to travel to Las Vegas for a convention this week instead of continuing to work on the budget.

The council did not hold a weekly meeting on Tuesday with three of its members attending the International Council of Shopping Centers event in Las Vegas in order to sell the county to business owners and increase the commercial tax base.

“We’re going out there to meet with potential retailers to try to get them to come to Prince George’s County,” Council Chairman Mel Franklin said. “That’s really what this conference is about. It is about business and government and other leaders getting together to market their jurisdictions and for retailers to market their businesses to these jurisdictions.”

Franklin, along with Council Vice Chairman Derrick Leon Davis, Councilmember Karen Toles and County Executive Rushern Baker III traveled along with other county staff to “sell the county,” Franklin said. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan also attended the event, according to his public schedule and an attendee list for the event.

The county must make a decision on Baker’s proposed budget by May 28, which includes multiple tax hikes and a $133 million county contribution to the Prince George’s County Public Schools system. Baker has proposed raising the real property tax rate by 15 percent—above the charter limit. He also proposed raising the county’s personal property tax rate from $2.40 to $2.78 per $100 of assessed value. Telecommunication taxes will be raised from 8 percent to 12 percent on top of those increases.

But the goal for this three-day conference is to sell Prince George’s County to the business owners in attendance. A total of 23 members are attending from Prince George’s County.

“We’re here to make an effort to prove the point that Prince George’s County being a bedroom community is over,” Franklin said. “The time of us being an economic definition is at hand.”

Bruce Branch, a community activist and a representative of the Prince George’s County and Business Contractor association, said the means to increase the commercial tax base exist at home in Prince George’s County, but officials have to be willing to work within the community.

“I think we have some problems at home that need immediate attention,” Branch said. “We do need commercial development, but I’m always a proponent of developing homegrown businesses. There are many opportunities to do that in this county.”

For some reason, Branch said, homegrown businesses are being shut out and neglected by county officials. Instead of traveling to Las Vegas, he said the county government should hold a similar conference of its own in Prince George’s County..

“It would be a great thing to hold a summit like that here,” Branch said. “We have a lot of talented contractors here. But we always hear the same old song that they lack capacity.”

The ICSC meeting is essential to county business, Davis said, who serves as a Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation board member. The conference, he said, presents the county with the potential of increasing the amount of commercial real estate development.

The county has had success in the past, Davis said, in bringing commercial development into Prince George’s County because of conferences like the ICSC conference.

“We have experienced great success with bringing important new retail prospects home to Prince George’s County – Whole Foods, Rose’s Discount Stores, Dave and Busters, to name a few of the businesses that have chosen Prince George’s as a result,” Davis said. “Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with our regional partners on an approach to economic development that fits the needs of Prince George’s County.”

The county council has a tough job to do with the budget according to Judy Robinson, a community activist and a former secretary for the county’s planning department. She understands that they may need a bit of time to “decompress” and get away from the budget, but she would prefer if they were at home in the county.

“I don’t normally feel sorry for politicians, but I have even felt sorry for the county council. And that’s saying quite a lot. They are being raked over the coals with this budget,” Robinson said. “My message would be to stay here. I’m sure there are other meetings you can go to. There are other businesses you can contact.”

Robinson said she has concerns with the tax rates proposed in the budget, because it could hurt local and prospective businesses. Employers are not going to want to move their employees into a place where they are going to have to pay more taxes, Robinson said, and will have a difficult time convincing employees to work in the county.

“If it takes the county executive and county council to sell Prince George’s County then you already know we’re in trouble,” Robinson said. “Are they going to sell our new business tax or our new property tax?”

via Prince George’s county sentinel

imagePrince George’s County Councilrushern-baker-head-111010wCounty Executive Rushern Baker III is in Las Vegas.



Domestic Violence Shelter Investigated for Alleged Misuse of Funds –


Prince George’s County’s domestic violence shelter is under investigation after allegations of misuse of funds. County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports.

See the video here




Md. dollars for schools or pensions?


AS A MATTER of policy, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was absolutely right when he said that lawmakers in Annapolis are trying to “rob the pension fund” on which tens of thousands of current and retired state employees depend or will depend for their income and health coverage. His ability to stop them from doing so may be limited, but that’s not stopping him from trying.

On Thursday, Mr. Hogan, a Republican, announced that he intends to shift tens of millions of dollars to shore up the anemic pension fund, including money that lawmakers had earmarked for public schools.

The governor’s move may trigger resistance from the Democratic-dominated state legislature, which raided catch-up payments to the pension fund starting last year and doubled down this year. In addition to funding schools, the Democrats insisted that a disputed pool of about $200 million be used to give state employees a 2 percent raise and for several health programs to benefit pregnant women and the poor.

Mr. Hogan, elected last fall, has been true to his pledge to govern from the middle. Sensibly, he conceded on the state employee salaries and on the health programs, thereby demonstrating that he is no doctrinaire conservative.

The governor drew the line at $68 million in supplemental education funding, which is intended to help school systems pay their bills in high-cost areas of the state, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City. The schools could use that money, but the amounts involved — about 1 percent of the schools budget in Montgomery and Prince George’s, which the governor would withhold for one year only — are not enormous.

By contrast, the lawmakers’ flip-flop on pension funding is likely to damage Maryland’s budgetary and fiscal condition for many years to come. In the words of the legislature’s own chief budget analyst, slashing the state’s annual contributions to its already-underweight pension fund would impose an “eye-popping” burden on taxpayers — which he estimated at $2.5 billion — in coming decades. When the bill comes due, most current lawmakers will have retired.
In 2011, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), alarmed that the pension fund’s liabilities exceeded its assets by billions of dollars, persuaded the legislature to devote $300 million annually in supplemental appropriations to the pension fund. The relatively modest goal was to lift it to 80 percent of full funding by 2023.

That pledge of budgetary good behavior proved too difficult for lawmakers. Last year, they broke the reform plan’s promise by slashing the catch-up contributions in half to $150 million.

This year they did it again, leaving the payments at just $75 million — and saddling future taxpayers with a huge bill.

Mr. Hogan correctly labeled the raid as irresponsible. He intends to divert funds from several sources, including the schools money he is refusing to spend, to restore that $75 million.

The legislature may push back, but it will be on shaky policy grounds if it does. Just four years ago it agreed that the pension fund was a priority. Now, with a Republican governor, it has churlishly changed its mind, despitewarnings from bond-rating firms in New York that the fund remains a weak point in state finances.

In picking a fight, the legislature would jeopardize the state’s long-term budgetary health.

Via Washington Post 


County officials upset with Hogan.


UPPER MARLBORO – Despite a call for full funding at the behest of the Prince George’s County Council,  County Executive Rushern Baker III and Prince George’s County Public Schools, Governor Larry Hogan has decided to withhold the remaining 50 percent of the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) funding the county has sought.

PGCPS released a statement calling Hogan’s actions “disastrous” and saying the governor has a “disdain” for public schools.

“We are disappointed and mystified by Governor Hogan’s decision to reduce funding by half for GCEI, especially after the General Assembly worked so hard to restore this funding,” the statement said. “Whether this decision is due to a desire to play politics, misplaced priorities, or poor advice, what the Governor should know is that the children and families of PGCPS will be the ones punished by this very unfortunate action.”

PGCPS would have received $40 million from the state had the governor chosen to fully grant GCEI funding statewide. Instead, according to the statement, they will only receive $20 million, which is the equivalent of removing 240 teachers from classrooms throughout the county.

The Maryland General Assembly passed Senate bill 183 requiring Hogan to fully grant GCEI funding to the state, but the appropriation of the full funding is not mandated until FY 2017 while the budget just approved by the general assembly is for FY 2016.

With Hogan refusing to fully grant the rest of the GCEI funding to the county, PGCPS must now make decisions on whether they must cut costs from anywhere in their budget according to Sherrie Johnson, spokeswoman for PGCPS.

“We are still determining these things,” Johnson said. “No decisions for any cuts have been made as of yet.”

This is a move to ensure that pensions for Maryland state employees and teachers are not put at risk for reduction, according to Hogan.

“I was elected to deliver fiscal responsibility to Annapolis, which means putting an end to the damaging, budgetary gimmicks that put the state’s long term financial stability at risk,” Hogan said.

The Sentinel previously reported Hogan’s decision to slash GCEI funding by 50 percent, saving the state $143 million. Prince George’s County loses $20 million in GCEI funding as a result of the 50 percent cut from the state.

Baker questioned the commitment to the state’s education system from Hogan. This is doing a disservice to the children across the county and the state, Baker said.

“I believe it is a disservice to the people of Prince George’s County and a significant disinvestment in the children and future of this county and our state,” Baker said.

The county’s proposed budget that would help make PGCPS a top 10 school system by the year 2020, according to Baker, is seeking to make an additional investment in the school system that the state will not make.

“I proposed this investment based on data that consistently evidenced a deterioration of our school system over the past two decades in a number of areas, including teacher salaries and inequities in the types and level of resources offered to our children,” Baker said.

That is not a popular decision among county residents, Baker said, but the county must take a stand and “put politics aside” in order to make “fact-based” decisions and support the education system.

“It is disheartening that the Governor is not showing the same level of dedication to Prince George’s County children, who should also be highly valued children of the State of Maryland,” Baker said.

Despite Baker’s questions about his commitment to education in Maryland, Hogan said he is still committed to funding the education system and has increased education funding by $109 million from last year’s budgeted amount.

Overall, Hogan has committed $6.1 billion overall to K-12 education in the state including a $318 million investment in school construction.

“I also want to set the record straight on the investments my administration has made in K-12 education, including a $109 million increase in funding over last year,” Hogan said. “We have taken steps to grow education funding, but the state still faces $18.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, following $625 million in cuts to pension contributions in the last few years. To address this situation, I’ve decided not to follow the General Assembly’s recommendation to raid the pension fund.”

Removing money from pension funds would be “shortsighted and irresponsible,” Hogan said, and constituents elected him to “end this very type of reckless budgeting and governing.”

Pensions for employees are important, said County Council Chairman Mel Franklin, but the state legislature is finding ways to balance those issues along with education funding. This is a long-term issue, Franklin said, that will take more than cuts to solve.

“We’re going to have to address this on the state and local levels. We all are going to have to address this,” Franklin said. “My understanding is that the legislature found ways to fund these things and also provide equity and opportunity for education.”

Franklin said he is disappointed the governor is withholding the rest of the GCEI funding for the state. The reason for this funding, Franklin said, is to deliver an equitable and adequate education to children across the state.

“That’s why we have the funding distribution the way we have it in the state. It is to create equality and opportunity for all students. So when that funding is held hostage by the governor, it undermines equality and opportunity throughout the state,” Franklin said.

This is not about a dollar figure, Franklin said, but it is about the equal opportunity the dollar figure affords children in Maryland.

Hogan will not sign SB 183, he said, but the legislation passed favorably in the House (88-51) and Senate (32-15), collectively adding up to three more votes than needed to pass the bill.

via Prince George’s County Sentinel


Prince George’s County Council


County Executive Rushern Baker III



U.S. Supreme Court denies teachers’ Katrina layoffs suit

supreme court

It’s the end of the road for the thousands of New Orleans public school employees who said they were wronged when they lost their jobs after Hurricane Katrina. They lost in Louisiana in October, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied their appeal Monday (May 18), according to court documents.

The Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision against the plaintiffs was doubly negative — most of the court’s justices threw the case out, and said they would have ruled against the plaintiffs anyway — and doubly surprising, because the teachers had won at trial in theappeals court. The trial judge awarded damages that could have totaled $1.5 billion.

About 7,500 teachers and staff were part of the suit. It charged that the Orleans Parish School Board did not follow proper procedures when it laid off almost its entire workforce after the 2005 storm. Moreover, plaintiffs said, the state Recovery School District, which took over most of the schools, should have given them priority in hiring.

Despite Monday’s ruling, the plaintiffs aren’t giving up. Willie Zanders, their attorney, said he will turn to the executive branch and Congress to investigate the possible misuse of $500 million in post-Katrina grants to the schools. At the time, Louisiana Education Superintendent Cecil Picard based his request on the need to pay school staff, Zanders said. But trial Judge Ethel Simms Julien of Orleans Parish Civil District Court said in her decision that the state “diverted these funds to the RSD.”

In the best-case scenario, Zanders said, Congress would require Louisiana to repay the money to the federal government then pass legislation directing the money to the laid-off school employees.

“You don’t quit after 10 years. If you believe in something, you fight. Justice has no time deadline — or we’d still be in slavery,” Zanders said.

Justice has no time deadline — or we’d still be in slavery.” – Plaintffs’ attorney Willie Zanders.

Representatives of the Orleans Parish School Board and Louisiana Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears cases when they concern the federal Constitution. The plaintiffs argued that their due process rights had been violated under the 14th Amendment. They also said the case brought up “the unsettled important question of state-mandated priority consideration for employment” discussed in two 1972 decisions, according to their reply brief to the high court.



Asian Americans file complaint alleging discrimination in Harvard admissions


More than 60 Asian American organizations filed a complaint (see below) with the federal government on Friday alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans in the admissions process and calling for an investigation.

The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper on campus, wrote in this storythat 64 groups filed the complaint with the U.S. Education and Justice departments, arguing that the university makes an “unlawful use of race” in its decisions that hurts Asian Americans.

More than 21 percent of the admitted students for the current school year were Asian American, according to Harvard data. Asian Americans comprised the largest minority group accepted, the data shows. In the Class of 2017, admitted four years earlier, Asian Americans comprised 19.9 percent.

The complaint, in part, says:

Over the last two decades, Asian-American applicants to Harvard University and other Ivy League colleges have increasingly experienced discrimination in the admissions process. Many Asian-American students who have almost perfect SAT scores, top 1% GPAs, plus significant awards or leadership positions in various extracurricular activities have been rejected by Harvard University and other Ivy League Colleges while similarly situated applicants of other races have been admitted. Because of this discrimination, it has become especially difficult for high-performing male Asian-American students to gain admission to Harvard University and other Ivy League colleges. In recently years these trends have become more and more severe. They are widely reported by various Asian-American web bloggers and other media.

The Crimson story said that Robert W. Iuliano, the university’s general counsel, issued a statement in response to Friday’s complaint denying that Harvard admissions uses unlawful methods of selecting students:

“[W]ithin its holistic admissions process, and as part of its effort to build a diverse class, Harvard College has demonstrated a strong record of recruiting and admitting Asian American students,” Iuliano wrote, citing recent increases in the percentage of admitted Asian American students at Harvard College.

>>> Read more Washington Post 

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