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LA teachers strike is over but issues remain

More counselors needed for LGBT issues

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Striking teachers (Photo by Sim Leng)

The Los Angeles Unified School District and the teachers union (UTLA) reached an agreement Tuesday, Jan. 22, to end the six-day long strike that affected almost 500,000 students in LA County. The agreement will reduce class sizes gradually over several years, provide more support staff, a full-time nurse in every school and give teachers a 6% pay increase.

The agreement was the result of an all-night bargaining session between the school district and union, which represents over 30,000 teachers in the district.

Today is a day full of good news,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti during a news conference announcing the deal, which was approved by a super-majority of the union.  The agreement saw both teachers and students returning to the classroom, bringing to an end the first teachers’ strike in LA in 30 years.

“Public education is now the topic in every household in our community,” said Supt. Austin Beutner at the news conference. “Let’s capitalize on that. Let’s fix it.”

“You just taught the best lesson of your lives!” proclaimed a jubilant Alex Caputo-Pearl, head of the UTLA, at a victory rally.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also welcomed the deal.  “I am glad that LAUSD and UTLA have come to an agreement, and I want to thank the thousands of dedicated teachers, parents and students who were powerfully demonstrating their passion for our public schools over the last 9 days,” he said in a statement.

The strike and the agreement focused attention on the slew of issues facing public education, including the fiscal liabilities of unsustainable pensions and privately-operated charter schools impact public education. The agreement calls on the Board of Education to vote on a resolution calling for a cap on charter schools. 

For Leng, one problem left unaddressed by the deal is the lack of social workers and psychologists available to students, particularly those dealing with LGBT issues. Reactions to the deal were positive from local teachers, although some had hoped for more.  “A lot of teachers including myself didn’t feel like it went far enough,” said openly gay Sim Leng, a social studies teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School in South LA.  “But we also understand there are budgetary constraints.”

“We have a lot of students with mental health issues, with depression and anxiety, including LGBT students,” he told the Los Angeles Blade.  At his own school, Leng said a psychologist is only available part-time to students. “It’s not uncommon for a psychologist to be at a different school every day.”

The California LGBT community has long cared about its relationship with public schools.  In 1978, the LGBT community mobilized to defeat Proposition 6, a ballot measure that would have mandated the firing of any gay or lesbian teacher in California public schools—or any teacher or school official who supported gay rights.  Proposition 6, known as the Briggs Initiative, was defeated by more than one million votes—helped by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan’s opposition— marking the first time in state history California voters had rejected an anti-gay measure.

Project 10, a dropout prevention program, was founded in 1984 by out Dr. Virginia Uribe in her Science classroom at Fairfax High School. “Every young person has a right to a sense of self-respect and dignity,” Uribe told the LA Times. “We’re supposed to be teaching them to live in an increasingly diverse society. This shouldn’t be a place where prejudice is fostered. It’s where discrimination should be fought.”

The program became a model for schools and teachers nationwide to staunch anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and abuse, often viewed as an acceptable “rite of passage” to adulthood. Project 10 also drew the ire of anti-LGBT Religious Right activists such as Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition in Anaheim, who declared that gays were trying to “recruit” children.

Some of those attitudes remain. Leng is hopeful the agreement will form the basis for further positive changes for students in the district.  “We need to have an environment where our kids’ needs are being met academically and emotionally.”

But the strike also fostered a spirit of helpfulness. At West Hollywood Elementary School, parent Carly Walker was the first to mobilize support for the striking teachers, creating a Facebook page for parents and enlisting local businesses in West Hollywood such as Bristol Farms and Veggie Grill to provide meals for the strikers.

“It was incredibly powerful for the teachers to see how the parents stood behind them,” she said.  When her children asked her why the teachers were striking, Walker was direct.  “I told them they are striking for you.”

WeHo Elementary parent Annabeth Gish and her sons—one a graduate of the school and one a current student—also joined teachers on the strike to show support. “It was a necessary example of how civic action can actually affect change,” Gish said.  “I’m very proud both sides moved.”

The agreement “is a good platform that will continue to affect change” Gish said, adding that her family’s participation in the strike was a “good way to get our children involved early.”

“Garcetti deserves credit for stepping forward to mediate the settlement, thereby avoiding a longer strike,” reads an LA Times editorial.  “L.A.’s public schools are responsible for educating nearly 500,000 children, many of them low-income or non-English speakers or students of color. The success of the city in the years ahead relies upon the existence of safe, adequately funded, high-quality public schools capable of educating a new generation of Angelenos. The strike may be over, but the real work lies ahead.”

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Los Angeles County

Critics attack LA DA over complicated case involving Trans woman

The crime would sit unsolved until 2019 when her DNA was entered into a database after she was arrested in Idaho on suspicion of battery

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Screenshot: Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón being interviewed by KABC7 LA in April of 2021

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is facing sharp criticism over his policy to never prosecute children as adults after a 26-year-old Trans woman pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl when she was 17. But, according to Gascón, the nature of the case is complicated.

Hannah Tubbs was weeks shy of her 18th birthday when she walked into a Denny’s bathroom in Palmdale, grabbed a 10-year-old girl by the throat and sexually assaulted her, according to prosecutors. 

The crime would sit unsolved until 2019 when her DNA was entered into a database after she was arrested in Idaho on suspicion of battery, reported the Los Angeles Times. Prosecutors filed charges in 2020, shortly after Gascón took office. 

According to the paper, Tubbs, who pleaded guilty, might be sentenced to a short stay in juvenile hall or probation later this month. 

“I would ask the public to reach out to Mr. Gascon and express their concerns and their outrage on a matter such as this involving a sexual predator.”

Lt. Richard Ruiz of the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau

Critics of Gascón are expressing their frustration with the district attorney, saying Tubbs’ case highlights the problems with a blanket ban on not trying juveniles as adults. 

“It’s useless to catch criminals like [Tubbs] if we don’t follow through and seek justice for victims such as the 10-year-old girl [she] sexually assaulted. She bears the burden of a lifetime of trauma,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes Palmdale, told the Times. “[She] will be offered therapeutic interventions under the auspices of ‘restorative justice’… and possibly granted only probation or parole. Where is the justice for [her] young victim and her family?”

Some critics are using the case as ammunition to fuel another recall effort of Gascón. The earlier attempt to recall the district attorney didn’t make it to a vote as proponents couldn’t collect enough signatures. 

However, Gascón has said that the case is complicated due to the years between the crime and Tubbs’ capture, as well as her criminal record and the impact on the victim. 

Tubbs has also been arrested for battery, drug possession and probation violations in Idaho and Washington, according to the paper. 

The victim, who did not want to testify on trial, has since moved from California and is still in therapy, said an impact statement read in court last month.

Gascón has also raised concerns about Tubbs’ becoming a victim herself if she was held in an adult facility because of her trans identity. A probation report recommended she be sentenced to home confinement, according to Gascón.

An email reviewed by the Times said Tubbs is diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and might also qualify as “developmentally disabled.” These factors lead to legal questions about whether she can even be found responsible for the crime. 

In addition, at 26, Tubbs is too old to be legally held in a county juvenile detention facility, leading to more questions over Tubbs’ sentencing.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood will engage community in MLK Jr. Day of Service

Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, January 17, 2022, is the 27th anniversary of the Day of Service that celebrates his life & legacy

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

WEST HOLLYWOOD – In January 2022, the City of West Hollywood will continue its tradition of joining hundreds of communities across the country in a National Day of Service to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday by providing an opportunity for community members to make an impact locally with a donation drive for people who are experiencing homelessness.

The City of West Hollywood, in partnership with West Hollywood Elementary and Friends of West Hollywood Elementary (FOWHE), will be collecting monetary and gift card donations to support new socks, blankets, and sleeping bags for the City’s Homeless Initiative, which partners closely with nonprofit service providers, the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, and Los Angeles County agencies to provide a wide variety of services aimed at reducing homelessness and supporting community members who are experiencing homelessness.

This year’s City of West Hollywood Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service activity reflects the desires of students from West Hollywood Elementary to help those most in-need in the community.

Due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, this year’s City of West Hollywood Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service will take place as a two-week virtual donation drive instead of an in-person Day of Service event.

It will run from Saturday, January 15, 2022 to Monday, January 31, 2022. Donations can be made online at https://secure.qgiv.com/for/homeless or donations of physical gift cards or of personal checks made out to ‘City of West Hollywood’ may be mailed to:

West Hollywood Homeless Initiative/MLK Day of Service

West Hollywood City Hall

8300 Santa Monica Boulevard

West Hollywood, CA 90069

The City is, additionally, encouraging donations to the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center, which has posted a “CARE 4 Youth Essentials” wish list on Amazon at lalgbtcenter.org/care4youth.

The City of West Hollywood would have hosted its tenth-annual clothing drive for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center on Highland in January 2022, but due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, this year the City is instead encouraging virtual donations of needed supplies that will be distributed to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who are experiencing homelessness.

For more information about the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center, please visit www.lalgbtcenter.org/social-service-and-housing/youth.

The City of West Hollywood encourages community members who seek to make a difference to volunteer in response to the urgent call and unprecedented need for volunteers during these uncertain times.

To find out more about local volunteer opportunities with the City of West Hollywood’s community partners, please visit www.weho.org/volunteer.

For addition information about virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities to address critical needs, please visit California Volunteers at www.californiavolunteers.ca.gov/get-involved/covid-19 or call (888) 567-SERV; visit Volunteer Match at www.volunteermatch.org; or visit LA Works at www.laworks.com or call (323) 224-6510.

The City’s West Hollywood Homeless Initiative seeks to address homelessness with a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, collaborative response. For more information about the West Hollywood Homeless Initiative, including ways to help and resources for those in need, please visit www.weho.org/homeless or call (323) 848-6590.

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, January 17, 2022, is the 27th anniversary of the Day of Service that celebrates the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday was designated as a National Day of Service by Congress in 1994. Each year, the City of West Hollywood participates in this call to action.

For more information about MLK Day of Service activities and recognitions across the nation, please visit www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service

For more information about the City of West Hollywood’s 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service please contact Larissa Fooks, the City of West Hollywood’s Community Events Coordinator, at (323) 848-6413 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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West Hollywood

British tourists robbed at gunpoint in WeHo area caught on video

“I’ve never even seen a gun before, let alone have one at my head,” he added. “I honestly thought I was going to lose my life at one point”

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Screenshot via KTLA

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Two young British men who had been visiting a nightclub in the area of 961 N. La Cienega Blvd. were accosted by robbers as they left the club to catch an Uber.

Cellphone video by a witness caught the robbers struggling with one of the victims KTLA reported.

William Saunders, who identified himself as one of the victims in the robbery, said that he and his friend had just left a nightclub and were hailing an Uber ride when they were approached by the robbers.

“Guys with their hoods pulled tight, could hardly see their faces, jumped out at us, grabbed us,” Saunders said. “One of them had a small handgun on him, pointed it to my head, told me to give him my watch, my bag and my phone.”

Saunders said he threw his watch to the floor, pushed the robber and ran into a restaurant, where he learned that there was video of the assailants wrestling with his friend, ripping his bag off him and taking his watch.

Deputies from the West Hollywood substation patrolling the area responded immediately. In a statement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that the victims were accosted by two suspects wearing hoodies and that a firearm was displayed. The suspects were able to get away with what one of the victims described as a bag that contained expensive watches, their passports and an unknown amount of cash, the Sheriff’s Department confirmed.

“We’re visiting from England,” Saunders told KTLA. “Only one night in L.A. and it has ended like this.”

“I’ve never even seen a gun before, let alone have one at my head,” he added. “I honestly thought I was going to lose my life at one point.”

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