Morning Report: Sweetwater to Pay $2M to Former Student Abused by ROTC Instructor - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: Sweetwater to Pay $2M to Former Student Abused by ROTC Instructor

Mar Vista High School / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Sweetwater Union High School District will pay a former Mar Vista High School student $2.2 million to settle claims that officials negligently hired and retained a Navy Junior ROTC substitute teacher who pleaded guilty to statutory rape.

The lawsuit alleged that Sweetwater Union should have known about ongoing sexual harassment and sexual abuse by the teacher, Martin Gallegos. While at Coronado Unified, Gallegos was accused of sexual misconduct by another former Junior ROTC student and abruptly left his position.

The lawsuit originally named Coronado Unified but that school district was eventually dropped. Sweetwater settled with the student, identified only as Jane Roe, in 2018. VOSD’s Kayla Jimenez is the first to report on the settlement.

Though only Sweetwater will pay the settlement, the suit makes clear more than one party failed Roe. Coronado never reported Gallegos to the state agency that handles teacher credentials, and Mar Vista High never contacted Sweetwater to discuss his employment there, nor did it contact Gallegos’ other previous employers. Schools aren’t required to make such inquiries, though lawmakers have tried and failed to change that.

The settlement not only illuminates the ways in which problem educators can move from school district to school district, but the extremely high cost – morally and financially – such moves can bring districts that decline to thoroughly examine the backgrounds of the educators they hire.

Councilman Calls Out Threat from Former Somebody

From Scott Lewis: Today, the Airport Authority is scheduled to vote on a resolution “requiring contractors to enter into Project Labor Agreements for Airport Development Plan projects.” These deals, known as PLAs, mean unions guarantee not to strike and, in exchange, the airport will route all labor through the unions often paying for benefits and other fees. They have been controversial — city voters approved an initiative prohibiting City Hall from passing requirements like this.

Wednesday a group that has long advocated against these deals tried to raise fury about today’s vote and labor moves to get it approved. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez took to Twitter to say that while she supported the resolution, she had no details about what was happening at the Airport Authority and she wasn’t trying to twist arms. “The right-wingers saying that I bullied people into it are absolute idiots & proven liars,” she wrote.

Then San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey took to Twitter to highlight a different threat. He displayed a message he’d received from talk-show host Carl DeMaio. “Mark – if you vote for a PLA, I’ll bash you ever day I can on the radio. And we’ll do social media and ads and emails into D5. You won’t get a moment’s rest.”

Kersey obviously seemed scared out of his mind.

Councilman Mark Kersey / Photo by Adriana heldiz

County Files Suit Against Trump Admin Over Asylum-Seekers

The county has filed suit against the federal government for killing a policy under which officials provided assistance to asylum-seeking families who were entering the United States. Now that the policy has been killed, local government agencies and nonprofits have scrambled to shelter and provide medical care for those families, who are often dropped onto San Diego streets with few resources.

“The federal government’s negligent approach to those seeking asylum is taking a huge toll on San Diego County taxpayers. The county has already spent over $1.3 million to address health and safety issues at the asylum shelter,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob wrote in a statement. “That figure is ballooning by the day. We are asking the court to require the feds to reinstate the Safe Release program and not leave local governments, nonprofits and taxpayers holding the bag.”

The county’s suit asks the courts to force the government to reinstate its safe release policy.

How Local Leaders Are Responding to Escondido Mosque Fire

In response to an alleged arson at an Escondido mosque, both secular and religious leaders have rallied behind San Diego County’s Islamic community, offering financial and other forms of support.

A recent vigil got plenty of media attention, but this isn’t the region’s first brush with hate.

In the North County Report, Jesse Marx cites FBI statistics showing that Vista, Carlsbad and Oceanside were home in 2017 to disproportionately high numbers of reported crimes based on race, religion and sexual orientation.

San Diego’s top prosecutor of hate crimes said different parts of the county experience spikes in reported hate crimes at different times and it’s not clear why. But he put part of the blame on social media, which helps connect people with similarly biased beliefs.

An Islamic Society of Escondido board member said he did not think it’s a coincidence that a mosque within California’s 50th Congressional District is now the site of an arson and hate crime investigation. A spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter disagreed with the suggestion that last year’s campaign rhetoric — about a Muslim infiltration of Congress — might have influenced the attack.

More Census Funding on the Way

The Times of San Diego reports that SANDAG received a $1.5 million grant in preparation for the 2020 Census. That’s in addition to the $1.66 million contract awarded recently to a local coalition of organizers and officials.

Their task over the next year and a half will be to ensure every community is included in the next big survey. About a third of all Census tracts in San Diego and Imperial counties are considered “hard to count,” meaning the households there experience poverty or language barriers or lack internet access, among other things.

As Marx explained last month, the count is important because it determines the distribution of federal resources and shapes politics from Congress on down.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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