So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

LAUSD teacher charged with sexually molesting former student, evading police


An LAUSD teacher suspected committing lewd acts on children took police on a chase ending with a crash into a tree on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

An L.A. Unified physical education teacher who careened off the freeway following a police chase was charged today with evading police and multiple felony counts of sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl.

Kip Richard Arnold, 51, remains in stable condition at the hospital, but was charged with three felony counts of lewd acts on a child who was 14, two counts of oral copulation of a person under 16, one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object; plus one count of evading an officer, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Diana Martinez.

Since Arnold remains hospitalized he will not be arraigned until he is cleared by doctors and released, said Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Jane Robison.

"The minute he's released [from the hospital] they'll arrest him and he'll be in court," Robison said.


Under protest, LAUSD meets judge's deadline on offering classrooms to charters


An empty classroom.

L.A. Unified met its Wednesday deadline to comply with a judge's order requiring the district to revise its offers of classrooms to charter schools despite concurrently filing court papers challenging the order, which it argues will unfairly favor charter students and "dislocate tens of thousands of [district] students from their neighborhood schools."

Under a state law approved by voters in 2000, Proposition 39 requires districts to share space equally among public school students, including those in charters. Last month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green sided with the California Charter Schools Association and found that L.A. Unified was not complying with the law.

But in a court filing this week, the district asked Green to reconsider his order, which it said would force students to "spend more time on buses, cross gang lines and attend schools that will need to reconstitute disruptive multi-track school calendars." L.A. Unified attorneys plan to file numerous briefs appealing the order, which they called unlawful, this week, said David Huff, an attorney for the district. 

"The district cannot simply allow this order to stand as precedent," Huff said. "First and foremost it’s unconstitutional. It results in creating a two-tiered public school system on a single public school site where students attending charter schools will have far greater access to public school facilities than in-district students, and such a result does not meet the equal protection clause or the fundamental right to a public education under the California Constitution."

When allocating space to charter schools, the law requires the district to look at all space at a school site, look at the total number of students served at that site, and make an equitable offer to charter schools based on the same allocation, said Ricardo Soto, the general counsel for the Charter Schools Association.

But part of the debate centers on what defines a classroom. Do specially-designated rooms such as those for special needs students or preschoolers count? What about parent centers, computer labs, or classrooms still on the drawing board? The association argues in its briefs that all of those constitute classrooms no matter whether or how they are used.

The district uses a standard number depending on grade level to assign the number of students to a classroom. Soto said this is illegal because the law requires the district to look at the schools that students would have attended had they remained in the district and allocate with that in mind.

"What the district is trying to do to cause this outrage concerning this ruling is to confuse all the issues," Soto said.

"They're lumping in parent centers, with science labs, with the classrooms that district students are using for the purposes of trying to confuse the issue. When all we're saying in our motion is that based on our review of the data they had provided to charter schools, they were using a district-wide standard to determine what to offer at a specific school site to a charter school, which the law prohibits." 

But Huff said the standard ratio is applied at all schools and therefore ensures students at charters enjoy the same students-per-classroom ratio that their district peers experience. Following the judge's order would result in allocating classrooms with class sizes as low as eight students on the charter school side compared to 24 students on the district side of the campus, Huff said.

The district's court filing included such new data from an "administrative analysis" of what it would look like to apply the court's order to the school district next year, Huff said. He said the effect would be "staggering."

"It results in dislocating literally tens of thousands of students from their neighborhood schools in order to make way for this over-allocation of space to charter schools," Huff said.

Of the 36 charter schools the district said are affected by the judge's order, 31 agreed to "alternative agreements" with the district that did not require a revised offer of classroom space for this upcoming school year, Huff said. Five charter schools, including CLAS Affirmation, Los Angeles International Charter High School, Today’s Fresh Start, Valor Academy and WISH, requested revised offers, Huff said.

Huff said the five revised offers, if accepted and implemented in the next school year, would have an "immediate impact on district programs."

"The district has been forced to take 27 set-aside classrooms that were being used for music programs, college-ready courses, special-needs programs, student testing, child psychologists, small learning communities, Beyond the Bell, and student intervention [and] eliminate that space and provide it now exclusively to the five charter schools in what the district contends is an over-allocation," Huff said. 

Because of budget cuts to the court system, the challenge of the judge's order will not be heard until September, well after the school year starts early in mid-August. Huff said the appeal paperwork the district plans to file this week results in an automatic stay, or hold, on the judge's order, but that could be challenged in turn by the charter schools association.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).


LAUSD coach accused of sex with former student still in hospital after chase


An LAUSD teacher suspected committing lewd acts on children took police on a chase ending with a crash into a tree on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

An L.A. Unified physical education teacher accused of sexual relations with a former Nimitz Middle School student beginning in 2005 remained in the hospital today in stable condition after he led police on a multi-freeway chase that ended with his pickup truck striking a tree, police said.

Kip Arnold, 51, of Lakewood will be taken into custody and arrested on suspicion of unlawful acts with a minor once he is released from the hospital, said Bell Police Lt. Ty Henshaw, a department spokesman.

Arnold was placed under surveillance by Bell Police Department last week after a former Nimitz Middle School student who is now an adult told detectives she and Arnold became sexually involved in 2005, Henshaw said. The relationship "may have spanned several years," Henshaw said.

Bell Police Department is handling the case because "some incidents occurred in our city," Henshaw said. He declined to provide more details because of the ongoing investigation.


Moms of alleged Miramonte Elementary victims say they're traumatized, file suit

Miramonte Elementary School

Grant Slater/KPCC

Parents of students at Miramonte Elementary School escort children out of school on Feb. 6, 2012.

The mothers of young girls who say they are victims of a teacher’s lewd and lascivious acts at Miramonte Elementary School are suing the LA Unified School District.  Their attorney is Luis Carrillo, who’s also representing 22 former students at the school in a separate legal action.

At his South Pasadena office, Carrillo sat flanked by a pair of his clients – two emotional women speaking in Spanish about their daughters’ connection to Mark Berndt. He’s the LA Unified School District teacher accused of feeding some of his students cookies laced with his own body fluids - and then taking pictures of it. 

Elvia Campos is one of Carillo’s clients. She said her daughter often went to Berndt’s classroom after school to help clean up. The teacher would lavish her daughter with compliments, telling her she was a good girl, an intelligent girl, said Campos smearing her thick black eyeliner as she wiped tears from her eyes.
Campos and 13 other women are suing LA Unified and two of Miramonte’s former principals. They say they want the school district to pay for therapy for their children, but they did not say what other damages they might ask for.
John Henrichs works with Carrillo, representing the mothers.
At a press conference he said: “The moms have been traumatized and normally under the law a parent of a victim is not entitled to any type of recovery. However, if there’s a special relationship, which we’re alleging in this case there is because the school district has a special relationship to take care of the safety of the children, that that entitles the parents to come forward and seek justice for themselves here and get their own therapy.”
Carrillo says the children and their mothers have been in intensive therapy since the day after finding out about Berndt’s alleged crimes.
The 61-year-old Berndt taught at LA Unified’s Miramonte Elementary for more than 30 years. He was arrested in February after a yearlong investigation that was triggered when a photo lab worker told authorities about pictures Berndt brought in for processing: photos of kids with cockroaches on their faces, eating cookies topped with a white substance, sometimes bound and blindfolded. Berndt is charged with 23 counts of lewd acts against children.
In a separate case, another Miramonte was arrested and charged with two counts of lewd acts. Martin Bernard Springer is under house arrest with an ankle bracelet, while Berndt remains in jail.

LA County Sheriff’s Sergeant Dan Scott says the Berndt investigation has been wide-ranging. Scott said detectives in the Special Victims Unit have “identified and interviewed approximately 285 children. And they have all been interviewed and statements documented and that information has been turned over to the district attorney.”
Investigators have also concluded interviews in the Springer case.


LAUSD teacher accused of lewd behavior in custody after car chase


An LAUSD teacher suspected committing lewd acts on children took police on a chase ending with a crash into a tree on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

A physical education teacher accused of lewd behavior with a former student is in custody today after leading police on a car chase through the South Bay, careening off the road and crashing into a tree.

The man was identified as Kip Arnold, an L.A Unified teacher at Southeast Middle School, said Gayle Pollard-Terry, a district spokeswoman. He has been a teacher with LAUSD for eight years and previously worked at Nimitz Middle School, Gage Middle School and Orchard Academies 2B.

A female former student walked into the Bell Police Department on July 5 alleging that she and Arnold were sexually involved while she was a student at Nimitz Middle School years ago, said Lt. Ty Henshaw, a spokesman for the Bell Police Department. The student is now an adult, he said.

The department notified the Los Angeles School Police Department and L.A. Unified and assigned detectives to watch Arnold, Henshaw said.