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Lawsuit claims teachers failed to report abuse as 23 kids violated – Sexually

sylvania-woods-front-ddi_resizedWASHINGTON — Teachers did not follow state requirements on reporting suspected child abuse, according to a lawsuit filed by families of victims of convicted sex child offender Deonte Carraway.

Carraway pleaded guilty to abusing at least 23 children at a Prince George’s County elementary school between November 2014 and February 2016.

 Ten teachers and faculty are identified as having raised concerns about teacher’s aide-turned-volunteer Carraway’s inappropriate and abusive behavior to Principal Michelle Williams or other school administrators, the lawsuit said. Williams and the county board of education are named as defendants in the suits.

The teachers did not uphold their legal obligation as mandatory reporters, the suit alleges. Despite telling the principal of Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary about instances of seeing Carraway alone in the bathroom with a student, pushing three students to the ground and being too familiar with the kids, among other allegations, other teachers dismissed or ignored student’s reports of abuse, the suit said.

‘I don’t believe you.’

Multiple teachers told students they didn’t believe their reports of abuse, including fourth-grade math teacher Gwyndolyn McNair, who is among those being sued in connection with the Carraway case.

The suit alleges a fourth-grade boy who was pulled out of class by Carraway returned to tell McNair that “Deonte wanted another student to ‘hump’ him’.” Carraway removed him from class to take the boy to the dressing room behind the stage, where he instructed him and another boy to perform a sex act while Carraway recorded it on his phone, the suit said.

McNair is quoted in the lawsuit as responding to the child, “I don’t believe you. Go sit down.”

In another instance, the suit said a first-grade boy told a school counselor that he was in the bathroom when Carraway came in with several other first-grade boys and ordered them to urinate on each other while he watched, the suit said. The counselor is quoted as responding to the student, “I’ll deal with it. Go back to class.”

‘Failure to practice effective policies’

Attorneys for the victims’ families argue that the school system policy that teachers followed, as described in the lawsuit, did not square with the state requirements.

“Employees of the Prince George’s County Public Schools follow a practice that violates the law because employees do not make reports unless and until they have personal knowledge of abuse and neglect,” the suit said.

A representative of the school system said student safety remains a top priority and that since Carroway’s arrest, it has taken steps to improve and strengthen procedures for protecting kids.

Educators in Maryland are required to immediately report suspected child abuse or neglect to the head of their agency, only as a first step, according to Family Law 5-704 (a) (2), cited on the Maryland Department of Human Resources website.

It goes on to say that notifying the principal “does not substitute for the staff member’s need to call the local department of social services and complete the (Child Protective Services) form 180 and notify the State’s Attorney’s office.”

Yet not one of the 10 teachers and staff took their concerns past the principal’s office, the suit claims, while Carraway’s sexual abuse of at least 23 children went on for more than a year.

Via  WTOP     Read more >>> Washington Post  Read  more >>>How corrupt politicians launder money 

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Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell speaks at a press conference about the Carraway child sex abuse allegations. PGCPS Management knew from the day they took over the county schools that sexual harassment was widespread in the county as reported in this blog. However, the Management did nothing to fix the issues except to cover up including interference with the local court system which is a continuing problem throughout Maryland… Anyone who speaks up against the ills within the county schools is immediately put on administrative leave without pay. They then invite the IRS maliciously to keep the employee who reports illegal activity busy with sideshows hoping something happens there. In the meantime, they pay off any lawyer who might representing the employee in an organized scheme in order to cover up further and delay proceedings. This happens as the PGCPS management promote their close friends and relatives in various roles as problems continue.  We must demand answers and proper changes on these issues. Parents needs to get involved throughout Maryland.   

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Former PGCPS high school athlete slain Monday night

Still1114_00001_1510698098281_4515765_ver1.0_640_360A former football player at a Prince George’s County high school was fatally shot Monday night in New Carrollton, the county police said.

They said Desmond Burns, 24, was found shot in the 5300 block of 85th Avenue. He lived on on 85th Avenue, the police said. police said. When police arrived at the scene, they found Burns on the sidewalk suffering from a gunshot wound to the body. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Police were sent about 7:45 p.m. Monday to 85th Avenue after a shooting was reported there. Burns was found outdooors, they said. He was taken to a hospital where he died a short time later, the county police said.

In a brief statement on Tuesday the county police have offered a $25,000 reward to help find his killer, Burns’ co-workers are trying to come together to raise money to help his family pay for funeral costs.

Burns worked for years as head chef and trainer at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Alexandria and he also previously worked at their Fairfax location. He had been an award-winning football player at DuVal High School in Lanham. DuVal High

Burns’ manager Travis Larkins said his staff is crushed after learning of Burns’ death.

“He smiled all the time, kept to himself, but he was a fun dude and loved his music, loved to hang out with the staff,” said Larkins. “He was just a great guy, and came to work with the right attitude and did a great job. I’m going to miss him.”

Many people who worked with Burns were too upset to come to work on Tuesday.

Buffalo Wild Wings is in the process of putting together a fundraiser for his family and collections will take place at all of their area restaurants this weekend. A GoFundMe page is also in the works.

Anyone with information is asked to call Prince George’s County Police’s Homicide Unit at 301-772-4925. Anonymous tips can be left with Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477), online at www.pgcrimesolvers.com, or on the “P3 Tips” mobile app.

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Desmond Burns, 24,worked for years as head chef and trainer at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Alexandria and he also previously worked at their Fairfax location. He had been an award-winning football player at DuVal High School in Lanham. 

Read more >>> Fox5DC, >>> NBC4 >>> Washington Post

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State officials want review of Baltimore County school leaders’ ties to tech firms

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to reporters in Annapolis on Thursday Nov. 9, 2017.  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday education officials need to consider Brochin’s call for increased oversight of the contracts and the paid consulting fees that interim superintendent Verletta White and former superintendent Dallas Dance received from a company that brokers private meetings between tech companies and school administrators. Hogan also called the results of an audit into Prince George’s County graduation rates “disturbing.”

A Maryland lawmaker has called for an investigation and audit of the Baltimore County school system’s purchasing of digital devices and software after reports that administrators were working as paid consultants for a company that represents education technology firms.

State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, has asked the Maryland Department of Education and state school board to investigate all contracts related to a technology initiative, launched four years ago, that is expected to cost the school district more than $200 million.

The Baltimore County school board is set to begin considering new contracts next month.

“It falls to the state to provide oversight as recent questionable decisions of the school system and the failures of the Baltimore County Board of Education have come to light,” Brochin wrote in a letter to state education officials. “To ensure that citizens of Baltimore County have continued confidence in our school system, we must provide a transparent and responsible state investigation and audit.”

The state school board responded in a statement saying it “is in the process of reviewing the information” and will make decisions about audits or other appropriate steps at its next meeting Dec. 5.

The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday that White failed to disclose the payments she has received since 2013 as a consultant for the Education Research & Development Institute. Dance also did not disclose any payments until after he announced his resignation in April.

“If these things are really happening, it’s outrageous and we need to get to the bottom of it,” said Hogan, who as governor appoints members of the county school board.

Another state lawmaker, Del. Patrick L. McDonough, a Baltimore County Republican, said he intends to file a complaint against White with the school system’s ethics panel. A similar complaint he filed in 2013 against Dance resulted in the panel reprimanding the former superintendent for failing to disclose consulting work for another company.

“I’m going to file another complaint. They need to be held accountable,” McDonough said. “The school board people have dismissed” White’s actions, he said.

McDonough and Brochin are running for county executive in next year’s election.

In his letter, Brochin said he is concerned about reports of “digital education companies having unrestricted access to key decision makers in Baltimore County Public Schools and in turn, the awarding of contracts to those companies.”

The county school board, he said, “failed to adequately scrutinize the relationships between the vendor-driven organizations and BCPS administrators,”

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, also questioned the county board’s oversight.

“Disclosure is the fundamental element for our ethics laws at every level of government,” Marks said. “Many of us were hoping that these controversies had ended with the appointment of the interim superintendent. There are many good things occurring in our school system, but right now, it is imperative for the Board of Education to restore trust and accountability.”

But county Councilman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, said he continues to “respect” and support White because the consulting job was not with a company that held a school contract and she can fix the mistake by amending her disclosure forms.

“I have a lot of confidence in her,” Jones said. “This doesn’t change my opinion of her at all.”

And Tom DeHart, executive director of the union representing county school administrators, said he still has “complete confidence” in White.

White may have made a mistake in filling out financial disclosure forms, DeHart said, but if she corrects them, “I feel that it does not overly concern me.”

The Sun reported Wednesday that White worked as a paid consultant for a company that promotes education technology firms without disclosing the payments to the school system or the public. She repeatedly filed disclosure forms stating she earned no outside income while working as the school system’s chief academic officer, the position she held from 2013 until she was named interim superintendent this year.

White estimated in an interview that she made about $3,000 a year as a consultant for Education Research & Development Institute, or ERDI. The Chicago-based firm provides all-expense-paid trips twice a year to conferences at which superintendents serve on three-hour private panels with education technology companies to review their products.

White acknowledged she made a “mistake” by not disclosing the payments. School officials are required to file forms annually reporting if they earned any income beyond their official jobs.

In an email she sent Thursday to school system employees, she promised to amend her disclosure forms to include the consulting job.

But she said getting paid by ERDI was not a conflict of interest because the company, though it represents technology firms, does not itself hold any district contracts.

“I will not allow an honest oversight to be misconstrued as something untoward or unethical,” she wrote.

She said Dance, as her supervisor, knew of the position and had encouraged her to participate in ERDI sessions to provide education technology companies feedback.

Dance “recommended and approved my participation in these opportunities,” she wrote in the email. “Sales are not involved in this process. This process is purely for feedback.”

McDonough filed an ethics complaint against Dance in December 2013. He raised questions about a different consulting job that required the superintendent to travel to Chicago to train principals. In response, the school ethics panel ruled that Dance violated the ethics code by taking the job with a company that does business with the school system.

Dance’s connection to the now-defunct SUPES Academy is being investigated by the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office, several sources have told The Sun.

McDonough said the school ethics panel should be able to conduct its own reviews.

“It should be mandatory that anytime something like this happens there must be an ethics review,” he said. “It can’t be left up to the board.”

William Groth, a county resident who last year filed a successful ethics complaint against Dance for holding a university teaching job he did not disclose, said Thursday the school system “is facing a crisis of ethics.”

Groth, a former school system administrator, said the school board has failed to hold Dance and White accountable for their actions.

“There is a big chunk of that board that doesn’t understand its purpose,” Groth said.

Via Baltimore Sun

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Hogan ‘outraged’ over results, response to Pr. George’s Co. graduation audit

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks to reporters in Annapolis on Thursday Nov. 9, 2017. Hogan called the results of an audit into Prince George’s County graduation rates “disturbing.”

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called it “very disturbing” that one in four Prince George’s County students may not have met graduation requirements.

“I was frankly not only outraged at the report findings, but I was somewhat outraged that the response again by Prince George’s County, who still doesn’t seem to want to take it seriously,” Hogan told reporters.

Hogan addressed the results of an independent audit that found that 25 percent of graduating seniors in the county may have had a grade changed, or may not have met certain other state requirements but graduated anyway.

The State Board of Education sought out an independent auditor to investigate claims from 20 high schools of interference in student transcripts, in some cases after the students had graduated.

“Their response was, ‘Well maybe 5,500 people may have had errors with their grades, but we think it’s just clerical errors and crossing t’s and dotting i’s.’ I think it’s much more serious and they better take it more seriously,” Hogan said.

Hogan is running for re-election against Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

Via WTOP

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PGCPS board chair seeks whistleblower info from board members in grade-fixing audit

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Board Chairman Segun Eubanks PHD is a brother in law to County Executive Baker III

– Prince George’s County Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell dodged questions from FOX 5 at an event.

The audit found that students are graduating without meeting state requirements — some who had more than 50 unexcused absences. The audit also found that in the last two years, grade changes from failing to passing are common, even after deadlines. The report found no evidence of system-wide intimidation or fraud.

“I said at the very beginning of this investigation, if there was a sign that there was direction from Dr. Maxwell’s office or his key staffers to have these grades changed or have anything like that, not only would Dr. Maxwell go, but his key staffers would go,” Baker said. “The report did not find that.”

It was several Prince George’s County school board members who asked the state for the audit, saying they had evidence of systemic fraud to boost the graduation rate. Board member Edward Burroughs said Monday he still stands by the claims.

“To believe that this could be taking place at so many schools and no one knew anything about it is laughable,” Burroughs said. “It’s actually disrespectful to the teachers and guidance counselors that have had to endure this nightmare.”

A letter to board members who asked for audit
Burroughs and board member David Murray say they continue to get information from whistleblowers within the school system, and told reporters Friday they had new details to bring to light.

Soon after, both received a letter from the board chair and vice chair stating that per board policy, they must turn over whistleblower information pertinent to the audit.

“The Board is committed to providing the full extent of protection to each whistleblower as provided for under state and local laws and will fully investigate any and all complaints,” the letter reads. “If you fail to disclose any of this information by noon on Monday, November 6, 2017, we will refer a recommendation for action to the full board.”

Burroughs and Murray turned over no information Monday.

“Under no circumstance, no matter what, will we betray our whistleblowers,” Burroughs said.

Both Burroughs and Murray reiterated their intention to protect the whistleblowers’ trust in an appearance on FOX 5 News Morning on Tuesday.

“There’s a reason they didn’t feel confident and comfortable with coming forward internally. They feared retaliation, and I think the board chair is essentially trying to shoot the messengers, and he’s trying to retaliate against us for exposing their wrongdoings,” Burroughs said.

Murray said their focus is on getting the best education for the county’s students.

“If we don’t speak out about it, no one else is going to, so it’s about our students at the end of the day,” Murray said.

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Board members David Murray (right) and Edward Burroughs III (left)

“I honestly believe that Dr. Maxwell knows the truth,” Burroughs said. “He’s just repeating a talking point at this point. He keeps calling it poor recordkeeping. Graduating students that don’t meet the requirement for graduation isn’t poor record keeping. Allowing students to graduate when they’ve missed over 50 of days of school is not poor recordkeeping. Forcing teachers to change grades is not poor recordkeeping. Tampering with documents days before the investigators came to the school is not poor recordkeeping. And so Dr. Maxwell knows what the truth is. We all do. I just think that he’s trying to hold on.”

Board chair: Letter was not in retaliation
Board chair Segun Eubanks said he was not seeking retaliation in writing the letter.

“When you are a member of this board, there are certain obligations you have, by policy and law, and we just want him to fulfill those obligations,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks said there was no action planned against Burroughs and Murray.

The back and forth is nothing new. Eubanks and the majority of the board were initially against the audit Burroughs and Murray requested, and stated they were confident nothing would be found. Eubanks continues to say that the investigation should have been handled internally, not by the state.

“I know you’ve been critical of the process and critical of the board members, but they prompted all of this to be exposed. Isn’t that moving in the right direction?” FOX 5 asked Eubanks.

“So yes,” he replied. “You can prompt things and see results that matter by doing it divisively or you can prompt things and move things in the right direction by doing it collaboratively and doing it the right way. And I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive.”

He went on to say, “Now we know, and we are sobered by the results and we are going to take them very seriously.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued this statement on Eubanks letter to Burroughs and Murray:

“The obvious implications to this letter are very concerning and the administration will continue to call for these whistleblowers to receive the full protection they deserve under the law.”

Gov. Hogan told FOX 5 on Saturday that he was outraged by the audit’s findings.

Via Fox 5 DCStill1106_00017_1510029122247_4478994_ver1.0_640_360

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Probe finds late grade changes for 5,500 Students in Prince George’s

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Kevin Maxwell, chief executive of Prince George’s County Public Schools, and Board Chairman Dr. Eubanks who is brother in law to  Rushern L. Baker III, county executive, speak about allegations of fraud in graduation rates. 

Grades for nearly 5,500 students in a Maryland school system were changed days before graduation during the past two years, according to results from an investigation sparked by concerns that educators were fraudulently boosting graduation rates.

Findings from the review of Prince George’s County public schools, which were released Friday, also found rampant lapses in documentation and nearly 60 instances of students being ineligible to graduate.

The 211-page report pointed to problems in grading and student absenteeism, but did not find that tampering was ordered by the district’s leadership, which includes chief executive Kevin Maxwell. Nor was there evidence of systemwide intimidation, according to the independent investigators, who were hired after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered a review.

The report said 107 people filed complaints during a seven-week investigation — which ended Tuesday — and that nearly half of those related to improper grade changes and ineligible graduates.

As investigators visited the 28 high schools in the Prince George’s school system, they conducted an examination of randomly selected records for 1,212 students with late grade changes.

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Prince George’s County Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell reacts to the audit, with School Board members behind him. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

The results were troubling: The investigators found about 30 percent of the students whose records were reviewed either lacked documentation that justified graduation or were clearly ineligible.

The report’s authors said the percentage could not be assumed to hold true for the larger population of 15,215 graduates in 2016 and 2017 because the records were selected from the nearly 5,500 students with late grade changes.

State officials said Friday they are “deeply concerned” by the report’s findings and have asked the school system for a plan to improve its processes and governance within two months. The plan is to be reviewed in January by the state board of education, which could take action.

“Based on an initial review of the investigative report, Governor Hogan is extremely troubled by its findings,” said Shareese Churchill, spokeswoman for Hogan. “It clearly indicates that the Prince George’s County school system is failing to properly educate far too many students, and is actively betraying the community’s trust — willfully compromising students’ opportunity for future success.”

Four-year graduation rates in Prince George’s have risen in recent years, jumping from 74.1 percent in 2013 to 81.4 percent in 2016 — lower than the state average of 87.6 percent but the largest gain for that period of any school system in Maryland.

Prince George’s officials responded to the report Friday by underscoring that the findings do not support allegations of a “systemic direction” to change grades, as was alleged.

Maxwell and Segun Eubanks, the school board’s chairman, appeared on the defensive as they met with reporters, saying the impetus behind the audit was political and that the problems would have come to light had the school system been allowed to conduct its own review internally.

 “It becomes political when it goes to the governor of the state of Maryland” and not through “normal processes,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell vowed the school system would take “appropriate disciplinary action” as needed and problems would be “corrected with a sense of urgency.”

Still, he said, “because a grade was changed, it doesn’t mean it was wrong or illegal. There’s a lot of reasons why that may happen.”

He and Eubanks said the district would work to improve teacher training, increase communication with teachers and implement technology to automatically calculate grades.

The report suggested a wide failure of accountability, citing irregularities in grade changes and tracking the community service hours required for graduation.

Nearly 38 percent of graduates had more than 10 days of unlawful absences in 2015-16 — a number that grew to 44 percent in 2016-17, according to the report.

In 2017, 159 students graduated despite more than 50 days of unexcused absences.

Under district procedures, high school students are supposed to get Es in full-year courses for which they have 10 days or more of unlawful absence, the report said.

Claims of improper conduct in Prince George’s schools were first made by a four-member minority bloc of the county school board in a May letter to Hogan.

The four said whistleblowers had come forward with evidence that grades were changed and that students were credited for courses they had not taken, as part of “widespread systemic corruption” in the 132,000-student district. They alleged that hundreds of students had graduated without meeting state requirements.

Maxwell denounced the allegations at the time, calling them baseless, politically motivated and an effort to undermine recent gains. But state lawmakers in Prince George’s urged an in-depth audit, and Hogan asked the Maryland State Board of Education for a “complete, thorough and exhaustive” investigation.

By the time the state board voted to bring in an outside investigator in June, Maxwell and other officials supported the idea, saying it would bring closure.

The state in late August hired a D.C. firm — Alvarez & Marsal Public Sector Services — to conduct the investigation, and on Sept. 18 announced a hotline number and email address for reporting potential tampering or misconduct. The report was due Tuesday.

Throughout the scandal, Maxwell has reiterated that there were no orders from the top to do anything improper, but he has shifted his message about potential problems.

On Friday, he voiced concern about “the serious errors found at many high schools.”

School board members Edward Burroughs III and David Murray, part of the minority bloc that asked the state to investigate, said they went outside the system because they didn’t feel confident the board would take action.

“The report found exactly what we said in our letter–that hundreds of students are graduating that do not meet the requirements,” Murray said. “We said it was happening across the system and the report found that to be absolutely true. It was even more than we imagined.”

The allegations have increased political tensions in Prince George’s, where County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) selected Maxwell as schools chief and stood by him. In recent months, Baker has announced his candidacy for his party’s nomination to run against Hogan in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Maxwell has pointed to the progress in graduation rates as a signature accomplishment.

Earlier this year, he and other top administrators did a bus tour of the eight county high schools with a graduation rate of 90 percent or better. Students and staff cheered their success, with banners celebrating them as part of the “90 Percent Club.”

via Washington Post  >>>Read More Fox 5 DC, >>> Read more WTOP

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Whistleblower Alleges PGCPS Changed Student Records After Grade-Tampering Investigation Began

Prince+Georges+County+Public+Schools+Sasscer+Administration+Building.jpgA whistleblower who works for a Prince George’s County, Maryland, high school told state investigators student records were changed after a grade-tampering investigation began.

The Maryland State Board of Education has independent auditors looking into allegations of grade tampering in order to boost the Prince George’s County school system’s graduation rates.

According to the whistleblower’s allegations, after auditors visited their first high school, word spread and the following high schools fixed records.

In an email obtained by News4, the whistleblower wrote to state investigators, saying, “Several of the high school’s graduates did not meet core requirements, so once the high school heard what investigators were looking for, an assistant principal, registrar, guidance chair and 3 guidance counselors changed student records.”

The whistleblower wrote that another high school “called over to our school and told us that you were looking for the last two years’ worth of tallies for the seniors.”

“Most schools had not done them, so schools were calling around to other schools to get them done before you all came.”

Tallies are records kept of classes students have taken to ensure they qualified for graduation. The whistleblower also wrote, “There were numerous tallies that were not completed and are still not completed. Some of the tallies that we worked on were properly dated and some were not dated at all.”

“The entire guidance office was shut down the entire day because we needed to get our files in order before you came to the school.”

Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesperson John White said the system has not been made aware of any of those allegations.

“When allegations are made through the media or other means without providing information to the system, we can’t correct it,” he said.

White would have liked for the whistleblower to have reported the allegations to the school system’s anonymous hotline.

“The more voices we have, the more certain it is that it will be an honest and transparent process,” he said.

The independent auditors’ findings are expected to be turned over Tuesday.

Read more >>> NBC 4 and fox 5 DC

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