The NAACP communicates with powerful people

It’s Time to Lift Ev’ry Voice

October 21, 2020

In the most recent issue of District Deeds the issue of standards-based grading was brought forth. The  issues brought forth included limiting what is actually taught in the classroom, data mining on our  students, the overwhelming task that teachers will now have to face, limiting students’ desires to achieve and removing societal knowledge. While all of these issues can and most likely will occur, the NAACP believes far more devastating issues need to be addressed. 

Teachers currently have, for the most part, used data to support a student’s grade. By using the SBG form, teachers will now use their judgement along with student work to decide which students exceed,  meet, approach, or do not meet standards. There are teachers, who for whatever reason, DO NOT LIKE SOME STUDENTS! These teachers will be a detriment to the students they do not like! It’s human nature.  It happens. The students in struggling schools will be hurt worse by this because their parents do not  have the time to come to school and fight for their student. Teachers are not as intimidated by these  parents as they are of the parents who threaten to sue if things do not go their way.  

In an article discussing SBG, author Lee Ann Jung brings forth 10 things to consider before going to this model. The one that rang the loudest was this one: “Schools who’ve successfully implemented a  standards-based grading initiative start with getting everyone, parents, and teachers, on board with the  purpose of assessment. Think of this as your Northstar for the initiative.” Has any of this been vetted  through our parents, community or even the teachers’ union? This initiative is just another way for this district to use their “smoke and mirrors” marketing ploys to tell parents how much they care for all students. This is NOT going to help any of our students to do better in school. By switching gears in the  middle of the year pertaining to grades, they have just added another level of dysfunction to an already  challenging school year. We need positive leadership from the top if our students are going to perform  better in school. This includes having an actual plan that is not just educational jargon but substantiated by facts and proven ways to help students.  

Our district gladly accepted the extra FUNDING from Governor Newsome. But where is the plan for how they are using it? Why aren’t departments allowed to spend ANY money at this time unless Cindy Marten approves it? Where is the accountability for where and how the money is going? Is the district using COVID funding to clear the deficit they built up?  

Trustee Barrera will lead you to believe that he is all about helping minority students. The majority of the  students in the SDUSD are Hispanic. Interestingly, there was NO mention of Hispanic Heritage Month on either the district website or any flag flying in front of the Education Center. He also claims that there are some schools that will be allowed to return to all-day in Phase I of the COVID Plan. However, in the SDEA reopening plan, there is NO mention of this happening in Phase I. As a matter of fact, the unions states; “as we move forward to whatever the next phases of reopening may look like, it will be  more important than ever that we maintain our unity and be guided by science.” And they should be guided by science and not the rhetoric from our school board making false promises to parents and  teachers about how and what they plan on doing to reopen our schools. 

Having said all of this, it is critical for us to “Lift Ev’ry Voice” in San Diego to have the current leadership STOP making false promises to our students. Speak the truth once and for all. 

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

PTA Survey: SD Unified & Online Learning

The San Diego Unified Council of PTAs is conducting a survey on how things are going in San Diego Unified this school year. The information gathered will be shared with parents, the school district and help shape the conversation at an upcoming webinar.  The webinar will be happening in November and open to all. 

This survey is meant for all who are actively involved in assisting with online learning, even if the student does not reside in your home or if you are not the parent/guardian.

The survey is live now and will close on October 30th.  It should take less than 5 minutes and your responses are completely anonymous.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SDUPTA2020Survey

El Consejo Unificado de Padres y Maestros de San Diego estan llevando a cabo una encuesta sobre cómo van las cosas en el Distrito Unificado de San Diego este año escolar. La información recopilada se compartirá con los padres, el distrito escolar y ayudará a dar forma a una conversación en un próximo seminario web.  El seminario web se realizará en noviembre y estará abierto a todos. 

Esta encuesta está dirigida a todos los que participan activamente en la asistencia del aprendizaje en línea, incluso si el estudiante no reside en su casa o si no es el padre o tutor.

La encuesta está en vivo ahora y se cerrará el 30 de octubre.  Tomará menos de 5 minutos y sus respuestas son completamente anónimas.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2020SDUCPTAFamiliaEncuesta

Congratulations to La Mesa on Community Police Oversight Board

October 15, 2020

The NAACP San Diego Branch would like to extend its sincerest congratulations and thanks to the citizens of La Mesa on the approval of the new Community Police Oversight Board!  It was united citizen action that got the board approved; this is what true civic engagement looks like.  You have made your city a safer place for all by your action.

Now that you’ve taken such a great first step, rise up and press on!  Be the voice for your neighbors, and demand a transparent, nationwide search for your next Police Chief.  Demand that your elected officials involve you in every step they take.  Demand that you be a full partner in reimagining your police force, and reshaping it into a model for what police forces in our area need to become.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Ugly Educational Politics in Sweetwater UHSD

October 12, 2020

RISE UP

So here we go again — the politics of education are rearing their ugly heads — this time in the Sweetwater School District. The district is proposing naming a new superintendent without any input from the community whose children are attending the schools. This scenario is only too familiar, as San Diego Unified School district played the same game with the current Superintendent, Cindy Marten. The story they fabricated on how she was appointed was nothing short of a blatant lie to the public. Her credentials, work ethic and knowledge of running an entire school district has been a sham from day one.

Sweetwater, RISE UP! Do not let your students, community and teachers be led by Mr. Moises Aguirre, who does not even possess a teaching or administrative credential! Mr. Aguirre was run out of San Diego Unified for corruption and deceit. He lied on behalf of the San Diego Unified School Board Member, Richard Barrera, in a case involving inappropriate teacher/student relationships. 

Now the Sweetwater school board wants to appoint him as the new Interim Superintendent without any regard to other qualified candidates who hold the proper credentials. There are currently no policies or procedures in place for the length of time someone can be “acting” superintendent. Therefore, Mr. Aguirre could be “Interim Superintendent” for a very long time. (It should also be noted that one of the Sweetwater board members is the Godfather of one of Mr. Aguirre’s children. Nepotism at its finest!)

The financial status of the Sweetwater district is still not solvent. Appointing a person strongly suspected of outright lies to protect board members as leader for this district is a crime. Does the Board of Education in Sweetwater want an unqualified Superintendent, like Cindy Marten, to be the face of the district while they run the district into the ground?

Sweetwater, RISE UP! Stop this outright corruption before it begins. Contact the San Diego County Office of Education Superintendent, Dr Paul Gothold ([email protected]) immediately and demand that a fair and just process occur to appoint the next superintendent. It is your right to have a leader who not only worked in education, but understands what students need to attain greatness. The students, community and teachers deserve only the best, and Mr. Aguirre is far, far from that.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

White Judges Put White Men in Control of City of San Diego’s Redistricting Process

October 6, 2020

At the end of last month, three white judges (Jan Goldsmith, Louisa Porter and Margaret Johnson) appointed five white men (Valentine Hoy, Frederick Kosmo, William MacPhail, Alan Nevin, and Thomas Hebrank) to the City’s Redistricting Panel.  The remaining four seats were given to people of color and women.

In a country where systemic racism has lately been so thoroughly exposed, where there are multiple men on the highest court of the land who were confirmed despite credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault, perhaps the NAACP San Diego Branch is truly alone in finding this situation deplorable.  As a black woman myself, I’m disappointed that so many qualified black women applicants were overlooked in order to pack this panel with white men.

Redistricting is a crucial process; it can be used to give underrepresented communities a voice, or it can be use to dilute their power and maintain the injustices of the status quo.

Perhaps, if this year’s census is allowed to finish and actually count just how diverse our City has become, when Council districts are drawn in 2030, women and people of color will finally get proportional representation.  Who knows, maybe in ten years’ time there will be enough women of color on the that panel to actually have a voice that must be listened to.

For 2020, though, the white men rule, as they have since our country was founded.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

We are Extremely Disappointed in Gov. Newsom’s Ethnic Studies Veto

October 5, 2020

The NAACP San Diego Branch is extremely disappointed that Gov. Newsom vetoed AB 331 (Medina), which would have required school districts to require a semester of ethnic studies as a graduation requirement beginning in the 2029-30 school year, and delete the current requirement as required schools to offer an elective course on ethnic studies as a social science or English elective.

The governor stated that he vetoed the bill because the model ethnic studies curricula has not yet been adopted by the State Board Of Education. NAACP San Diego branch believes there would be ample time to complete the adoption process between now and 2020 and the 2029-30 school year. The California Department of Education and the State Board of Education have accomplished considerable work already. An implementation date would have given increased motivation to complete the adoption of an ethnic studies curriculum.

The NAACP San Diego Branch, in addition to being extremely disappointed, is also perplexed because the governor signed AB 1460 this year. This bill by Assemblymember Weber requires all California State University campuses to offer ethnic studies and require completion of a three-unit course on ethnic studies as a graduation requirement.

The NAACP San Diego branch has responded to numerous incidents of racial discrimination and intimidation in area schools. A common threat in these incidents is a lack of knowledge and understanding about the experiences and cultures that make up the fabric of San Diego County communities. In addition, our branch seeks to increase student achievement of all students, especially black/African-American students.

Assemblymember Medina and the bill’s supporters presented significant, credible information that well-designed ethnic studies programs have produced “… Positive academic and social outcomes for students.” There was also a Stanford University study about ethnic studies in the San Francisco Unified School District that showed an association with an increase in student attendance and an increase in grade point average.

The NAACP San Diego Branch demands that the governor and the legislature do what is necessary to get a model ethnic studies curriculum adopted so that California students can benefit from the knowledge and experience this curriculum would provide. Get it done.

Brian A. Bonner, First Vice President
NAACP San Diego Branch

SDPD, CRB Greenlight Violent Arrests for “Walking a Dog While Black”

September 27, 2020

As President of the San Diego Branch of the NAACP, it is my responsibility to be on the lookout for and respond to racism, discrimination, and violations of human and civil rights.

That brought me to the case of a young woman walking her dog on a public beach.  I have written about this case before, back in May, when it occurred.  To recap:

An African-American woman was walking her unleashed dog on a section of the beach where unleashed dogs were permitted, but only at certain times of day.  We have no report that this particular unleashed dog had caused any harm at all.  When she refused to leash her dog, the lifeguards, rather than call animal control or simply let her go on her way, felt the need to call the police.

As for the officers of the San Diego Police Department, they also had choices available to them.  They could have called animal control.  They could have given the woman a citation and let her go.  They chose to cuff her instead.  When she tried to walk away, they apprehended her violently, slamming her to the ground three times, knees in her back, and kicking the poor dog that tried to come to her rescue.

The video may be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiZzTnXLWHU.

At the time, we filed a complaint with the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices, as residents are encouraged to do.  This week, we received a reply, both from the SDPD’s Internal Affairs unit and from the CRB.

Let’s take the SDPD’s response first.  They determined our complaints about unnecessary force, bad decisions and the bias that likely led to them were:

“Exonerated.”  “Exonerated.”  “Exonerated.”  “Unfounded.”  “Unfounded.”  “Unfounded.”  “Unfounded.”

In other words, body slamming and brutalizing this young woman and her dog was a perfectly appropriate response to her walking her dog without a leash at the wrong time of day.  Clearly, the treatment of black women does not matter to the SDPD.

What did the supposed voice of the people, the CRB, say in their report?  Did they bring sanity and accountability to the process?  Let’s see:

“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”

We will say that the CRB did find that the paperwork proper to the brutalization of a young woman for walking her dog without a leash at the wrong time was not correctly filed by one of the officers.

Law Enforcement in San Diego needs a sense of urgency.  There need to be intentional conversations taking place to stop these incidents from occurring, not just reflexive justifications and denials of the wrongs that continue to be done. Each of these incidents only increases the racial tensions in our City, the San Diego Police Department needs a cultural shift, and we need policies and procedures to accelerate that cultural shift.

All of this also underlines the absolute necessity for Measure B, which will bring some degree of independence to citizen oversight.  The current CRB, with no investigators, no subpoena power and no legal counsel (except the same ones who defend the police) can hardly be expected to be able to do more than rubber stamp the decisions of Internal Affairs.  We know there are people of good will on the CRB, but they are prevented from having a positive effect by a CRB that is deliberately hamstrung by the City, the City Attorney, and the Police Unions to which the City so meekly submits.

So long as the Mayor and City Council fail to show leadership to control the SDPD, so long as they continue to let the SDPD have its way with the residents of our City, stronger citizen oversight is an absolute MUST to protect life and dignity within the city limits.

On November 4th, vote for bolder leadership, and vote YES on Measure B, to establish a more independent Commission on Police Practices to replace the existing CRB.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Inappropriate Use of the Term “Lynching” Removed

September 23, 2020

A protester was arrested on August 20th by the San Diego Police Department.  They were arrested for trying to rescue a fellow protestor from police custody.  It is a misdemeanor (CA Penal Code sec. 148) to willfully “resist, delay or obstruct” a police officer in the course of their duties, and a misdemeanor (CA Penal Code sec. 241) “assault” on a police officer. Neither of those charges would have been unexpected.

It was the felony charge of lynching (CA Penal Code 405) that took us by surprise.

We all know what lynching is and who its victims are.  While the word “lynching” was removed from the code in 2015, that changes nothing about the intent or history of the law and the historical and current practice it is meant to prohibit.

Still, the San Diego Police Department booked this protestor under the anti-lynching statute.

The NAACP San Diego Branch contacted the neighborhood Community Prosecutor Liaison to see if the DA planned to charge the protestor as the SDPD recommended.  We received the following statement in reply:

For more than 80 years, California law defined “lynching” as the crime of taking someone from the lawful custody of a peace officer by means of a riot, according to California Penal Code 405a.  However, we know that lynching has a painful history for African Americans and is more commonly used to describe murder by mob. 

In 2015 Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that removed the word “lynching” from the text of the bill.  Our office has not issued a case with this charge since 2011. Of the two defendants charged in 2011, one case dismissed and the other was vacated.  Currently, Penal Code 405a provides that a person who participates in taking by means of a riot of another person from the lawful custody of a peace officer is guilty of a felony. It is no longer referred to as “lynching.” 

It recently came to [District Attorney Summer Stephan]’s attention that the sheriff had not changed its booking form and the word lynching was still being used on booking sheets.  Summer was offended and appalled to learn this word was still being used in the booking form and took the following actions.  

(1) We talked to the Sheriff, advised them that the word was removed from the statute in 2015, and they agreed to change the booking criteria to remove this language.

(2) Our District Attorney liaison will meet with SDPD, remind them that the law has changed to omit that language and  train them not to use that language in their internal and external communications

We appreciate District Attorney Stephen’s swift response to the concerns of her constituents as relayed by the NAACP San Diego Branch.

Our Citizen’s Justice Committee, chaired by Dr Robert Brown, also considered this issue.  A Sheriff’s Department employee who is a Branch member took our concerns back to the Sheriff’s Department, which independently undertook to remove the word “lynching” from its booking sheets.  We also appreciate this prompt action taken by the Sheriff’s Department.

Our next step will be to advocate that this law never be used again outside the context for which it was intended.  It is a cruel irony to see it used as a tool against people struggling, however inappropriately, for civil rights.  There are other statutes that could have been used; leave this one for when it is called for, in honor of the thousands of African-Americans who have suffered this horrible crime.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

What is Behind the Mask at Probation & the District Attorney’s Office?

September 23, 2020

Six months ago, a San Diego County Probation Officer’s misconduct went below the public radar. 

Officer Michael Stevenson was clandestinely charged by the County DA’s office for evidence tampering, lying on court reports, preparing false reports for fraudulent reasons, and several other counts. 

P.O. Michael Stevenson was entrusted to honor the oath by which he swore to uphold the United States & State of California Constitutions and the rights of its citizens. Instead of fulfilling his Peace Officer duties and sworn oath, he conducted affairs that violated public trust and compromised public safety (by providing unethical and unlawful privileges to probationers, including Shalana Pohlman and Kenneth Fishburn.)

Though formally charged by DA Stephan’s office earlier this year, it is difficult to find reassurance here due to the inner office letters sent to defense attorneys just last week. The letter depicts conflicting statements such as “it has come to the attention of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office that Mr. Stevenson may have additional exculpatory information in his personnel file. The term exculpatory leaves room for a great margin of error as it can be defined as evidence that could show the defendant is not guilty. 

The public should also be aware no specific information about the charges was included in this five-page letter from the DA to defense attorneys.

Similarly, more convolution occurs as Chief of Probation, Adolfo Gonzales attempts his own appeal on the serious matter. 

His letter includes:   

When this matter was first brought to my attention last year, we acted decisively by notifying the District Attorney’s Office so an independent investigation could take place. In my 42 year career as a law enforcement leader, I have never wavered in the expectation that my staff’s actions must always be ethical, transparent, and in the public’s interest. I ask that you give this criminal review time to be adjudicated in a court of law.  

I understand some of you or fellow community members may be discouraged by this news. I want to reassure you that it is because of existing processes like Internal Affairs and the District Attorney’s Office that we work to uphold the highest standards. Probation Officers are professionals who have been entrusted by the community to perform a difficult job. With that duty it is this Department’s obligation to hold ourselves and others accountable. The charges against this former officer are not reflective of the Probation Department’s staff or what we stand for. We protect public safety and work to increase levels of trust with the community.  As the Chief Probation Officer, it is my top priority to ensure staff are supported in providing the highest quality services to the clients we serve.

These letters do not provide us with a reasonable guarantee that any outcomes will occur to adequately address this issue. It is long overdue that we examine what this leadership and their departments stand for. We demand decisive, adequate actions and responses to address officer misconduct in an intolerable fashion.

For decades, the Department of Probation and the District Attorney’s Office have served San Diego County under the guise of equity, fairness, and justice. 

However, too often, an opposing identity lurks behind this mask.  

Such is evident in the Michael Stevenson matter; the latest in a generational series of law enforcement inadequacies. Inadequacies that overwhelmingly adversely affect people of color on probation with constant revocation and recidivism, while catering to Whites on probation with passes and privileges as incentives. Studies have unmasked that 1 in 55 adults in America are under probation and parole supervision, these individuals appear to fare better in this system. However, 1 in 23 black people are on probation and experiencing a harsher more punitive types of probation compared to Whites. 

This discriminating Judicial cycle and continued issues of misconduct are a violation of our Constitutional rights and a violation of public trust.

The communities of San Diego, California demand to know the following: 

  • Why is there still an influx and imbalance in the supervision, surveillance, suppression, control, revocations and arrests of people of color?
  • Why are white privileged probationers and a white privileged employees receiving charges that may not stick along with an apparent get out of jail free card? This pass allowed P.O. Stevenson to collect leave pay and then resign in exchange for blatant misconduct and lack of adherence to the law.
  • How will the D.A.’s office work with the Probation Dept to stream-line equity and integrity throughout the fabrics of each department?
  • Why is there still an incongruence in the statement to the public and the statements to employees?

Case in point:

The Probation Dept. leadership asks the public to believe their guiding principles (published as):

  • Public safety is our priority
  • Maintain fiscal stability
  • Promote a culture that values diversity, fairness & equity
  • Conduct business with transparency and accountability
  • Act with integrity
  • Continually challenge ourselves to enhance our knowledge and expertise

While, the labor union, San Diego County Probation Officers Association has an opposing mission on display which states: 

It shall be the mission of the San Diego County Probation Officers Association to create and maintain the resources for the protection, care, and relief of its members, as well as, promote and maintain a feeling of friendship and fraternity among its members, to promote the individual and collective welfare of the members, and to defend and preserve the rights of the members on all matters pertaining to their employment relationships with the County of San Diego and to advance their professional interests.

These two vastly different pursuits of the Probation Dept. and the labor union leave very little room for accountability and high standards in order to flourish.

Is the Probation Department and the District Attorney’s office bargaining our Constitutional rights away to the San Diego County Probation Officers Association? 

Today we demand full transparency, full accountability, and full initiative in all public safety related matters. We demand the practice of masking serious misconduct issues to cease and desist.

We demand equality and fairness for all probationers. 

We demand new leaders and supervisors to take on this task if for some reason this matter remains unsolved and unresolved.

The masquerade is OVER!  

We earnestly await your response.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Member of the NAACP San Diego Branch