Archive for August, 2016

Noel Gallo Faces Viola Gonzales in Oakland District 5 Race

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

Noel Gallo and Viola Gonzales

 

By Tulio Ospina

In the City Council race for Oakland District 5, incumbent Noel Gallo is facing off against Viola Gonzales, who previously served on the Oakland Board of Education as an appointee of then-Mayor Jerry Brown.

Gallo, who has been on the council since 2012, is a lifelong resident of the Fruitvale District and previously served on the Oakland Board of Education for 20 years. He also sits on the Life Enrichment, Public Works and Public Safety city council committees.

Gonzales was, until June 30, the chief executive officer of AnewAmerica, a non-profit that helps immigrants and refugees start small and micro-businesses.

According to Gonzales, she has the backing of Mayor Libby Schaaf, former Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente and former Mayor Elihu Harris.

Councilmember Gallo has achieved broad popularity in the city for his strong role in supporting renter protection and a police commission—Measures JJ and LL respectively— which the City Council placed on the November ballot.

Gallo has also taken strong positions on recent city development decisions, arguing that Oakland’s city-owned land should not be sold to private developers and should, instead, be leased and remain public.

Referring to Oakland’s current housing crisis, Gallo told the Post, “Investors and developers are coming in from out of state and outside the country, and they’re here to make a dollar. They have no commitment to Oakland.”

“If there is to be development, it has to be considerate of the people who live here already. And we must keep public land for public good,” said Gallo.

In terms of the two landmark city measures that Gallo openly supported and is endorsing in November, he said, “The police commission is really important to deal with police discipline and Oakland needs a strong citizens’ body.”

“The housing situation is an emergency issue, too, because people are being displaced like crazy. Whole families are being displaced with children. We see grandmothers and children sleeping in their cars. Every democracy needs to take care of the people who live in it, and that’s what the renter protection measure does.”

According to Gallo, his number one platform priority is increasing public safety in his district.

For four years, he has organized and participated in weekly volunteer walks through the Fruitvale, picking up illegal dumping and cleaning neighborhoods.

An increase in public safety also means concentrating resources to meet the district’s infrastructure needs—building sidewalks, repaving streets and installing crosswalks.

Gallo is asking people to vote for the city infrastructure bond, which will be on the November ballot.

He also wants to increase police presence in his district to try to curb what he sees as an uptick in robberies and traffic violations.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is running against Gallo on a platform of bringing economic development and job creation to Fruitvale, based on her 15 years of experience as an executive of a non-profit.

“We need to create jobs in the community, and I think we can do more,” Gonzales said in an interview with the Post. “Oakland has the responsibility to create more jobs and help local businesses grow.”

Gonzales said she will not take a position on the renter protection and police commission measures, though she says she understands what is at stake and sees why the measures were put on the November ballot.

“I say let the voters decide. I feel like the obligation of the City Council is just to move quickly to do what the public asks and to stop dragging its feet, which is what it’s been doing,” she said.

“With the police commission, I think we’ve got to have accountability, but the commission itself isn’t enough to fix larger issues like racial profiling that permeate society. And with the renters’ issue, we have the Costa-Hawkins state law that limits what you can do.”

Gonzales said she has gained the public and financial support of Mayor Schaaf because she is able to make room for differences in opinion and bring public conversations into meetings. The mayor has contributed $700, the maximum allowed, to Gonzales’ campaign.

“She would not give endorsements unless she thought we could work together,” Gonzales said.

 

Faith Leaders Call on Legislators to Commit to Jobs, Justice and Human Rights

 

Speakers at a community coal meeting included (L to R): Pastor Ken Chambers of West Side Baptist Church, Margaret Gordon of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, and Will Scott, program director of California Faith Power & Light. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Pastor Ken Chambers

 

By Ken Epstein

Three Oakland pastors are taking the lead to bring together interfaith religious leaders to participate in coordinated faith community actions next month at statehouses across the country to revive the country’s moral commitment to jobs, justice, immigrant rights and an end to mass incarceration.

Read more »

Office of Civil Rights Says School District Discriminated Against Autistic Student- nine-year-old was held face down and kept in seclusion

By Ken Epstein

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has found that the Oakland Unified School District discriminated against a nine-year-old student with autism, placing him at a private special education school where he was repeatedly held face down and kept in seclusion.

In the 11 months that Stuart Candell attended Anova Center for Education in Concord, he was restrained 92 times, held face down for up to an hour and a half at a time.

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Stuart Candell

OCR’s investigation found that OUSD knew about but did little to address the excessive use of prone restraint.

Under a resolution agreement with OCR, Oakland Unified agreed to no longer send students to private special education schools that use prone restraints on district students and to hire an expert to teach staff positive behavior intervention and train staff on the harmful effects of restraint and seclusion.

“I am thrilled with OCR’s decision,” said Bonnie Candell, mother of Stuart, who is now 12 years old.

“I saw how being restrained negatively affected my son, caused him to cry and have suicidal thoughts,” she said. “I am happy that other Oakland kids will not have to go through what my son did. “

According to the school district’s statement on the settlement. “After collaborating directly with (OCR), OUSD is actively complying with the terms of the resolution, which OUSD and OCR believe will positively impact OUSD’s students with special needs who are placed in non-public schools.”

OUSD has also agreed to hire an outside trauma expert to provide Stuart with mental health treatment to deal with the consequences of his mistreatment, as well as compensatory services and tutoring.

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Bonnie and Stuart Candell

Anova operates three campuses in the Bay Area. There are no OUSD students currently at the Concord campus, but there are a few district students at a different Anova campus.

In a statement on Aug. 4, Anova said the OCR investigation report was not a public document and that the school had not received a copy. “Once available, we will carefully consider the findings of the report,” the statement said.

When OUSD placed Stuart at Anova Center in 2013, with the consent of his parents, he was described as an intellectually gifted student with autism, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Anova specializes in managing the behavior of high functioning children with autism.

According to the OCR complaint letter, dated June 24, federal investigators found that the school did follow the student’s Individualized Education Program (IED) but “utilized Anova´s own methods of behavior modification, which Anova used on all of its students.”

Over the child’s 11 months at the school, staff held him face down 92 times for a total of 2,200 minutes. The longest time he was held down 93 minutes, and the average duration was 29 minutes.

He was held in a resource room that had no furniture, only a mat. “There were no windows that let in natural light and only one small window in the door to the room,” the letter said.

The reasons the student was restrained included “not following directions,”“pushing desks” ripping up assignments,” “too much silly” and “non-compliance,” the letter said.

Once in the resource room, a child would be held down until he demonstrated “ a calm body and quiet voice.”

Staff held the student face down and pressed his arms and legs down into a mat on the floor, the letter said. Usually two alternating staff members would cup their hands over the long bones of the student, “pressing their fingertips into the mat to maintain the hold.”

Until the student became sufficiently calm, he would not be allowed to use the restroom or have a break for food in water.

“Anova staff acknowledged that the student would spend most of the school day in the resource room, and the student was out of the classroom more often than in the classroom,” according to the OCR letter.

Suge Lee, Attorney for Disability Rights California, the agency that filed the OCR complaint on behalf of the family, said that when she talked to Stuart, he remembers “how horrible (the experience) was” at the school.

He is pleased, however, “that he has made some difference” for other children, she said.

When Bonnie Candell approached the legal agency seeking help, said Lee, “It was clear that something and inappropriate and unacceptable was happening.. We represented the family to get a placement where Stuart wasn’t going to be subjected to this treatment. “

According to Lee, “Stuart would come home saying they were holding him down, that his arm hurt and his chest hurt. When the mom talked to the school and the district, she was reassured that this program was going to work, but it was going to get worse before it got to better.”

Lee explained why Stuart’s mom was reluctant to complain at first. “When you have a kid whose has a serious behavior (issues), and has been removed form several schools, you feel your choices are limited and you want to put your faith in someone.” Lee said.

According to Lee, prone physical restraint of students is legal in California and other some other students and Disability Rights California is working to change the law.