Kick The Can Or Protecting The Children?

556920_497264096977712_385366256_nTalk about kicking a hornets nest . . .

I write a couple of times about the School Board and next thing you know, some people start saddling up to me to convey, in hushed tones, their displeasure with the district.  Others come onto the blog sphere to attack my writing style or, perhaps, to insinuate that I am insensitive to the needs of our more fragile students.  My favorite response comes from a local gadfly who accuses me of being inflammatory for using the word “modest.”  Which is just choice.

OK, so there is a mix of opinions regarding everything “Simi Valley Unified School District.”  Perhaps that is a good thing.

You will see in today’s Simi Valley Acorn, page three (3), that my name is listed along with others in support of the group Citizens for Simi Valley Schools.

My feeling is always, if closer scrutiny helps bring transparency to the School Board, then anything the local citizens can do, up to and including a recall election, is a good thing.  Others can tout the whys and how to’s of the process.  I am more concerned with why the School Board gives the impression of “playing hide the facts” at every opportunity on even the most routine of issues.

Like hiding the fact that the Board was going to give its district counsel a 20% raise.  Or why the Board is proposing a $265,000 bathroom remodel without having plans or proposals in place, and yet one trustee even commented to the effect that she didn’t think that price was astronomical.  Or, more shockingly, why the Board President goes on at meetings about how great things are at the district, when the County is saying that the district is using borrowed money to make ends meet and that it is projecting losses in the next few years.  Just hunky dorky if you ask me . . .

One little issue that may or may not be coming from Board, and so far I can’t find any information about it, involves the matter of former SVUSD teacher Malia Brooks, she with the propensity for romantic excursions with at least one of her students, or as the Ventura County Star puts it, she who “replied “yes” to being guilty of three counts of lewd acts with a minor under 14 years old . . .”

It does seem that Ms. Brooks plead guilty to such nefarious deeds on or about June 12, 2013 in the Ventura County Superior Court, and it now looks like she will be receiving her sentencing on September 27, 2013 in Department 12 at 11:00 a.m.

What does not compute is that I do not see anywhere that a claim has been submitted against the district on behalf of the child.

The news release from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office dated June 14, 2013, Release No. 13-036, states that “(t)he charged incidents occurred between January 15, 2013 and February 16, 2013.”  Which means that even if the family relied on the legal fiction of the “continuing violation doctrine” as recognized in harassment litigation, wherein if the claim is submitted within time for the last act, all prior acts are included, then the time has come and gone for a claim to be filed.  Or has it?

Alternatively, the cause of action accrues against the district when the victim realizes that an injury had been committed.  A case on point would be K.J. v. Arcadia Unified School District (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 1229.

In K.J., the student had an affair with her teacher and later on decides to sue the school district for negligent supervision of the instructor.  The California Supreme Court held that the date of accrual of the cause of action against the school district was when K.J. realized, through therapy (and some time after the arrest of the perp, whom she believed she was in love with) that she had been taken advantage of, i.e., abused.

So, it would seem that if there was an injury to the child in the Malia Brooks case, a claim would be submitted to the district at least within 6 months of the date of the last “incident,” which per the District Attorney’s Office occurred on or about February 16, 2013 (flash forward 6 months, August 16, 2013) or alternatively, when the child (or child’s representatives) came to realize that he had been injured as a result of his contact with the teacher.

So why no news about a claim being filed against the district?  Was a claim filed or not (I’m betting at least one attorney has provided counsel to the family).  If a claim was filed, was it timely?  Was there request to file a late claim?  If so, what was the district’s response?

Going over old agendas for the district is of no help.  On the agenda for the September 10, 2013 meeting, there is an entry found under Section E, Consent Calendar, Item No. 5-8, entitled “Notice of Action on Application for Late Claim Relief,” with no further information.  Then again, there is also an entry for the August 6, 2013 agenda, found under Section E, Consent Calendar, Item No. 5-5, entitled “Reject Legal Claims.”  Other than that, I don’t see much.

I am concerned that at the time of her sentencing, comments attributed to Malia Brooks’ attorney, Ron Bamieh,  were “that school administrators knew Brooks was exhibiting “erratic behavior, but lacked the courage” to do something about it; that “Teachers and administrators knew,” Bamieh said.  “They might have been able to prevent this from happening if the administrators spoke up.  Which is what they are supposed to do – protect the children.”

Does anyone else see a potential “stuff” storm on the horizon?  As in, criminal defense attorney attributes client’s bad conduct as preventable if only the district did “what they are supposed to do – protect the children?”

And where is the district in all this?  What is the potential exposure to the taxpayers?  Did the administration keep quiet and try to sweep the events under the rug as they transpired?  Is this the result of a possible tradition of keeping things quiet, don’t rock the boat, everyone protect their paycheck?

Did the school administrators really know what was going on but lacked the courage to do something?

Or is protecting the status quo more important than protecting the children?

Have a great weekend Simi Valley.

[Disclosures: Ron Bamieh represents the Ventura County Star on 1st Amendment issues; And next week I’m moving to 2655 First Street, Ste 250, Simi Valley, the same building as Dan White, Kevin Underwood, Ted Mackel and a couple of hundred other fine people.  Make of it what you will!]

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