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Employee sues LAUSD superintendent third time alleging sexual harassment

File photo: LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines faces a suit brought by a school district employee, who has sued him twice before.
David McNew/Getty Images

A Los Angeles Unified School District employee filed suit Wednesday accusing Superintendent Ramon Cortines of sexual harassment and retaliation, and alleging officials failed to intervene when told of the situation.

The lawsuit is the third one filed by Scot Graham, LAUSD's real estate director, who has made similar charges in previous complaints. The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist issued a statement Tuesday saying the courts have previously ruled on the case and the district is not aware of any new charges. "This is simply a frivolous refiling of the same allegations," he stated.

The latest suit alleges Cortines made sexual advances to Graham in 2000 soon after Cortines helped Graham get a job with the school district’s real estate leasing operations. Cortines left the school district that same year and Graham didn’t report what allegedly happened, according to the suit.


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LAUSD reopening libraries after recession closings

File photo: Lorne Street Elementary students had to grab books from a book bin after their library was closed during the recession.
Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

More than 200 Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school libraries have reopened in just two months, according to district officials.

Recession-era budget cuts had left many libraries without staffing. The cuts persisted even when the economy began to improve: a year ago half of the district's 650,000 students were still without a librarian or library aide.

Without library workers, state law prohibits students from browsing collections, pulling reference materials or checking out books. 

“We have been living without libraries and, no, we don’t want to because they are essential for academic achievement and learning for our students," said Mark Bobrosky, a librarian at Walter Reed Middle School.

School board member Monica Ratliff created a task force to recommend ways to expand libraries after KPCC reported that Lorne Street Elementary in Northridge had a library full of books collecting dust.


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New online training aims to ferret out child abuse cases in California schools

File: California school employees can now take their required training to spot child abuse and neglect by going online.

Public school employees can take their required annual training to spot child abuse or neglect online, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Monday.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our students,” Torlakson said in a written statement. “The new online training lessons will help school employees carry out their responsibilities to protect children and take action if they suspect abuse or neglect.”

A new California law requires school employees, including teachers, teacher aides, and substitute teachers, to show proof to their employers that they’ve taken the training.

“We were hearing anecdotally that there may have been suspicions of abuse and neglect that was not always reported and we wanted to do something about that issue,” said Stephanie Papas, a California Department of Education consultant.


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LAUSD teacher negotiations reached gridlock over budget

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines commented Thursday on teacher contract talks that have been ongoing since July.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

A budget deficit is preventing the Los Angeles Unified School District from offering teachers more than a 5 percent raise, Superintendent Ramon Cortines said Friday.

"I want some resolution," Cortines told reporters, but he said the district is now projecting a shortfall of $160 million heading into the next school year.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing 31,000 teachers, declared an impasse Thursday in the contract negotiations. The two sides have been bargaining since July.

The teachers haven't had a pay increase in eight years, and their salaries are below that of neighboring districts. 

"You are not going to recruit and retain the quality teachers you need," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told KPCC's AirTalk this week. The union is seeking an 8.5 percent raise as well as smaller class sizes, more counselors and nurses, and revised teacher evaluations.


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LAUSD decision ushers in new source of funding for arts education

File: Los Angeles Unified 6th-grader Jack Spiewak performs as Macbeth at Eagle Rock Elementary School. District schools can now use a major source of federal funds to incorporate the arts into academics.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles Unified School District officials have cleared the way for principals to tap into a major source of funding for arts programs targeting low-income students starting this fall.

Although state and federal officials previously said national Title I dollars, allocated to help disadvantaged students improve in academics, could be used for the arts instruction, some district officials had been reluctant to move ahead. The latest decision reverses the district's long-standing practice and opens the door for Title I-funded arts instruction that helps students improve their academic performance. 

"This has been a long time coming and this really is a day of rejoicing, quite frankly, in LAUSD," said Rory Pullens, the district's executive director of arts education. 

RELATED: For Pasadena school, arts plus math is really adding up


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