Archives for category: Los Angeles

Sara Roos reviews the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars by Los Angeles School Superintendent Austin Beutner, who was given authority without accountability during the pandemic. She explains where the money went by referring to the school board’s documents.

She writes:

The Superintendent who now controls purse, policy and process, was appointed with a tenuous mandate, by a school board elected under an avalanche of ideological school-privatization money. That board unethically extending the tenure of its slim majority just long enough to appoint this Superintendent by failing to censure its swing board member charged with felonious campaign fraud. What priorities does the former investment banker Superintendent Austin Beutner’s emergency spending reveal?
Given this extraordinary freedom from accountability, what did Beutner do? SaraRoos explains.

She shows how Beutner has used the crisis to outsource crucial functions to private management. She even names the vendors who profited.

The protests against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis began peacefully in Los Angeles. As night arrived, however, the peaceful protestors were overwhelmed by large numbers of looters and vandals, who came to break store windows, write graffiti, smash stores, and steal whatever they could carry away. In the vivid account in the Los Angeles Times, those who wanted to make a statement about racism were heard trying to stop the looters but they were brushed aside. Shopkeepers saw their stores burned, their inventory stolen, and were stunned to be the victims of wanton violence.

Similar scenes of looting and violence occurred in many other cities. In Nashville, a 25-year-old white man was arrested for setting fire to the city’s historic Metro Courthouse. It will take time to determine how peaceful protests were hijacked by thieves, vandals, and perhaps by provocateurs and saboteurs.

At times like this, we are reminded that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was an unequivocal advocate of nonviolence, which he said demonstrates moral principle. He would have been appalled by the destruction that marred and diminished the purpose of the initial protest.

The following account of the looting and vandalism in Los Angeles was written by a team of reporters from the Los Angeles Times:


Los Angeles County was hit by another day of protests and looting as police in Santa Monica and Long Beach struggled to deal with crowds breaking into stores and officials imposed curfews they hope will help.

The most serious unrest was largely limited to Santa Monica, where looters spent hours in the city’s upscale business district stealing items and setting several fires, and Long Beach, where a mall and some downtown shops were hit. There, some protesters screamed at looters, begging them to stop. Caltrans closed the 10 Freeway west at Bundy Drive to prevent people from coming into Santa Monica,

Protests in downtown Los Angeles, Huntington Beach and elsewhere were largely peaceful.

The demonstration decrying the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, was initially peaceful. In Long Beach, hundreds of protesters, many chanting and holding signs reading “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter” walked from the city’s downtown area through Alamitos Beach, along Broadway, before circling back to downtown along Ocean Boulevard Sunday afternoon.

However, shortly after 5 p.m., hundreds of protesters began looting stores at the Pike Outlet. The crowd used hammers and threw trash cans lids to smash the windows of businesses. Some protesters yelled for them to leave the stores alone. Others yelled “let’s hit Nike” before running toward the popular athletic store.

Several minutes later a mob rushed back and stormed into Forever 21, slipping from clothes scattered on the floor. At By Guess a man used a hammer to smash the store door before a man intervened and asked him to stop. Suddenly those wanting to loot the store began punching the man. A woman yelled for them to stop.

Chandarley Lim, 28, stood in the middle of the street that runs through the outdoor outlet mall yelling “peaceful protest” as a reminder that the demonstration was not supposed to be about vandalism.

“This is sad man,” she said of the looting. “This is not a good look. Don’t let the bad examples ruin it for the rest of us.”

Shortly after 6 p.m., Long Beach police declared an unlawful assembly in the area meaning that arrests would soon follow.

A similar scene unfolded in Santa Monica Sunday afternoon.

Hundreds of people walked from the Santa Monica Pier north along Ocean Avenue, carrying signs and chanting. The city issued a 4 p.m. curfew and some protesters were in a tense standoff with police, who were firing less-than-lethal weapons after some demonstrators threw objects toward them.

Shortly before 2 p.m., however, dozens of looters stormed Santa Monica Place, smashing windows of Louis Vuitton and several other stores. They left before police arrived.

Looters also ransacked the Vans at 400 Broadway, stealing shoes and skateboards from the store and storage room.

People carried merchandise past the Promenade as police guarding 3rd Street watched them walk by. They ran to a nearby alley, found what looked to be the back entrance to a store and swarmed inside.

Amid sirens blaring and shouts of “police!” the group ran back out of the alley, carrying shoeboxes. Some of them were picked up by a waiting car. They rushed to stuff the merchandise inside while police on motorcycles approached.

A couple blocks away, at 7th Street and Broadway, people were seen breaking into a pharmacy, using a skateboard to shatter the window before climbing inside. Next door, people smashed the window of a jewelry store. Firefighters at a neighboring station urged residents to go inside.

Police shut down all off-ramps into Santa Monica from the 10 Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway and told people to avoid the downtown area.

In response to the unrest across the region, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced a countywide curfew beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday and ending at 6 a.m. Monday. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia also announced a curfew in Long Beach from 8 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday.

Paul Cain, who owns The Britannia Pub in Santa Monica, said he called police early in the afternoon to get a report about how safe it was outside. They told him the protesters were peaceful, marching down Ocean Avenue, and that he had nothing to worry about.

What seemed like moments later, he saw waves of crowds on the street. He ushered his customers sitting on the patio inside where they watched looters storm the area.

“The people were outside eating and drinking, and all of a sudden it arrived,” he said. “It happened in waves.”

More than four hours later, the looting throughout Santa Monica had not lost steam. Protesters crashed store windows with hammers and ran in, taking what they could before police arrived. Store alarms and police sirens sounded throughout the area. Bystanders and drivers all slowed to watch the destruction, many holding their phones out to document what was happening. It was a lawless scene, with few obeying approaching sirens or street lights.

Inside the Britannia Pub, every so often Cain would shout and point out the window toward people carrying arm loads of merchandise from the Gap and other stores.

“Take a picture of that,” he said. “He must be carrying his body weight in jeans.”

Protests were also underway Sunday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, where National Guard troops established a perimeter around City Hall, and in Huntington Beach.

In Huntington Beach, police declared a protest near the pier an unlawful assembly about 1 p.m., said Angela Bennett, public information officer for the Huntington Beach Police Department.

She estimated about 500 people were demonstrating and said there were no reports of violence or vandalism. Video footage showed police officers lining up to face the protesters near Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street. No arrests had been made, Bennett said.

At the Promenade in downtown Long Beach, business owners were rushing to board up restaurants, clothing stores and galleries. Police and demonstrators were in a standoff near The Pike Outlets. Patrol cars were hit with eggs and water bottles as people began rushing police officers. By 5 p.m. some had started looting shops at the outlet, carrying armfuls of clothing out of a Forever 21 clothing store.

There were more protests in downtown Los Angeles, including a march to Pershing Square. Video showed an incident in which a police vehicle hit a protester before speeding away as people threw objects at the car. The person hit did not appear to be seriously injured. National Guard troops joined LAPD officers stationed on the steps of City Hall.

Neissa Diabate, 27, stood nearby holding a sign that read “America would not exist without the black community”.

“It’s actually wild that we have to be out here in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. They were there for George Floyd because “enough is enough,” she added.

“America has taught us that peace does not get us far,” she said.

Meanwhile, on the south side of the Los Angeles Police Department’s headquarters a few hundred protesters shouted “hands up, don’t shoot” at a line of officers and guardsmen as a police helicopter orbited overhead. Cell phones rang out in the crowd with an alert about the countywide curfew.

“They changed the time. They changed the curfew…cowards,” a woman yelled using an expletive.

Earlier on Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had imposed an overnight curfew for a second night in the wake of the worst unrest in the city in decades, warning millions of residents and would-be protesters that they could be arrested if they ventured outside after 8 p.m. County officials later amended the order to get people inside by 6 p.m.

The curfew is necessary to maintain order after two straight nights of looting, arson and tense clashes between police and protesters in the street, Garcetti said.

“When times demand it,” the mayor said, “strong steps are required to bring peace back to our city.”

Saturday’s unrest eclipsed that of Friday in downtown Los Angeles. Violence extended into other parts of the city and left portions of the Grove mall in the Fairfax District ablaze. Police shot projectiles at protesters in multiple locations. Protesters threw rocks and other objects, as well as fireworks, at police.

Los Angeles police said 398 people were arrested Saturday on suspicion of crimes including burglary, looting, vandalism, failure to disperse, and firearms and curfew violations. Five LAPD officers were injured, with two of them hospitalized, officials said.

The most seriously injured officer was struck by a brick while in the Fairfax area, authorities said, The brick fractured his skull. Another officer suffered a broken arm, and another suffered a broken leg during the clashes with protesters.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore, appearing with Garcetti at a news conference at City Hall on Sunday, said the officer whose skull was fractured underwent surgery Saturday night. “I believe he will survive,” Moore said.

Garcetti said people who engaged in “destruction and looting” were only hurting others in the community.

“They have not just caused chaos and damage,” he said. “They are hijacking a moment and a movement.”

Saturday’s unrest — which undercut a weekend meant to be focused on the the reopening of restaurants, barbershops and hair salons shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak — spurred other cities to enact overnight curfews.

The cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Culver City and Torrance announced curfews for Sunday into Monday, as did the city of Santa Ana in Orange County.

In West Hollywood and Torrance, the curfews will be in effect each night until they are lifted by city officials. In Beverly Hills, the curfew took effect at 1 p.m. for the business district, which includes Rodeo Drive, and will be in place at 4 p.m. for the rest of the city.

“Violence, looting, and vandalism will not be tolerated in our city,” Beverly Hills Mayor Lester Friedman said. “It’s unfortunate that the message of the peaceful protesters has been diminished by criminal behavior.”

At dawn Sunday, five National Guard military Humvees were parked at 3rd and Hill streets in downtown L.A. Guardsmen dressed in full combat gear stood outside shattered storefronts as the morning light revealed the damage from the days before: broken windows, trash-strewn streets and graffiti-tagged buildings.

By 7 a.m., scores of Guardsmen toting M-4 rifles marched on patrol along Broadway between 7th and 8th streets.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the city and county of Los Angeles shortly before midnight, which was when he activated the National Guard.

Los Angeles County officials also proclaimed a countywide state of emergency to deal with the unrest.

“This emergency comes as we are in the midst of battling another emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Sunday in a statement. “This taxes our resources, but not our resolve.”

The proclamation will help authorities coordinate an emergency response and mutual aid and speed up the procurement of supplies, officials said. It also provides for future state and federal reimbursement of costs the county incurs. The dramatic move came after a day of deteriorating conditions. Demonstrators burned Los Angeles Police Department cruisers and looted retail businesses including the Apple Store and Nordstrom at the Grove. Some protesters even made it to Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive, where they were met by a line of officers.

Since the protests started, Garcetti and other city leaders had encouraged peaceful expression and voiced support for the marches. But on Saturday, the mayor said the conditions on the streets were getting worse by the hour. First, he ordered a night curfew for downtown L.A. Then, about an hour later, he extended it to the entire city. Less than an hour after that, he requested the National Guard.

The decision to call in the National Guard was criticized by City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents a portion of South L.A.

“It’s clear that our fear is real that additional law enforcement will only further violence against people of color,” Harris-Dawson said in a statement. “Anarchists are taking advantage of our pain with looting and violence — this is not Black Lives Matter or members of our community who have suffered from systematic racism and oppression — these are domestic terrorists.”

The last time the National Guard patrolled the streets of L.A. was during the 1992 riots, which erupted after the police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King were found not guilty.

Compared with those riots, the events in Los Angeles on Saturday were significantly less widespread and dangerous. The protests and looting were limited Friday night and Saturday morning largely to downtown Los Angeles and on Saturday afternoon and evening to the Fairfax District.

Although officers were hurt when protesters threw objects at them, there have been no fatalities. The 1992 riots swept across large swaths of Southern California and left more than 60 people dead.

From Friday afternoon to early Saturday, police clashed with protesters across downtown, pushing them away from the 110 Freeway and getting into physical altercations.

Despite the curfew imposed by Garcetti that lasted until 5:30 a.m. Sunday, groups of people — mostly men — wandered the streets of downtown Los Angeles late Saturday night, smashing windows and spray-painting anti-police graffiti on plywood boards that business and property owners had hastily affixed to their buildings earlier in the day.

In Saturday’s violence near the Grove, police and protesters spent hours in a tense standoff, with officers shooting rubber bullets and striking demonstrators with batons while several police cars were set on fire and other vehicles were vandalized. Protesters also took over a Metro bus and climbed on its roof to take video of police.

Several hours later, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended bus and rail service with little warning. The agency apologized Sunday morning to passengers who were left stranded across L.A. County.

The unprecedented closure of the Metro system drew immediate criticism from advocates and elected officials who said essential workers were left stranded on sidewalks, at stations and in bus shelters in the hours after the 8 p.m. curfews imposed in Los Angeles and other cities.

Metro’s chief executive Phil Washington told KNX 1070 News Radio on Saturday night that the agency chose to shut down service because he had seen “a lot of damage,” and was concerned for the safety of Metro employees.

Washington said Metro supervisors were driving around the city on Saturday night to look for people at bus stops, then calling nearby bus yards and asking them to dispatch vehicles to pick them up.

On Sunday morning, a Metro spokesperson said the agency would reimburse trips taken in a taxi, Uber or Lyft after the system shut down. Anyone seeking a refund should call Metro customer service at (323) 466-3876.

The large crowd that moved through the Fairfax District first gathered at Pan Pacific Park off Beverly Boulevard at a rally organized by Black Lives Matter and social justice group BLD PWR, where they chanted, “Defund police” and “Prosecute killer cops.” The rally’s speakers called for less public money for police departments and for schools and prisons to be overhauled.

“We’re living in the middle of an uprising,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors told the group. “Let’s be clear: We are in an uprising for black life.”

The scene turned more violent as the day wore on.

About a dozen destroyed or defaced LAPD cruisers sat abandoned on 3rd Street, yards from where a loud crowd of protesters faced a row of police. The odor of charred rubber wafted through the area. The cruisers’ windows were smashed, mirrors ripped out and the vehicles’ bodies scrawled with anti-police slogans.

Protesters spray-painted “Cops and Klan go hand and hand” on the side of a Citibank on Fairfax Avenue. Across the street, “Eat the Rich” was scrawled on the Writers Guild of America building.

Around 6 p.m., police arrested about 20 people, who were then loaded onto a sheriff’s bus. Dozens of protesters — many dressed in black and wearing masks — posed for photographs, each with a fist in the air, while standing atop a burned and graffitied car by Edinburgh Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.

At The Grove nearby, looters broke into the Nordstrom department store and the Apple Store and ran off with merchandise. As looters approached two security guards outside the Nike store, the guards begged them not to enter.

“We’re one of you,” one guard said.

Eventually, some set a small police kiosk at the mall on fire.

The police chief was personally leading the operation in the Fairfax District and rushed to the Grove after the looting began. Moore said he was troubled by how things had gotten out of control. He said he understood people’s anger and frustration but that the city needed to pull together.

“This is not the solution,” he said, standing next to broken glass from the Nordstrom facade. “We haven’t given up on L.A., and L.A. shouldn’t give up on itself. We can pull around this. … Policing doesn’t fix these kinds of societal problems. I need all of L.A. to step up right now and be part of the solution.”

There appeared to be divisions among the protesters.

When one smashed the front window of a nearby Whole Foods on 3rd Street with a hammer, some screamed, “Don’t do that! Please!” while others cheered.

The protesters also began to clash among themselves. Some who urged peace created a barricade of shopping carts around the store’s entrance to protect it, but moments later, another group jumped the barrier and broke down the store’s door.

The Spokes ‘N Stuff bicycle shop closed Saturday at 6 p.m. The owner, Joey Harris, saw people breaking windows at Sorella’s next door when he left.

“And that’s a black-owned business,” he said. “It obviously wasn’t about protests.”

He’s had his store here for 20 years. The store stayed open during the COVID-19 pandemic because it’s considered an essential business.

“They not only took my bikes, they took customer’s bikes as well,” he said, estimating that the losses could total $100,000.

Travon Walton, a 25-year-old student from Long Beach, arrived in the Fairfax area in the afternoon to join the protests. He said he saw many non-black protesters inciting the police from up close and said he worried that the black community would receive the blame.

“All the white people are in the front,” he said. “We’re going to be the ones that get the backlash.”

As the night wore on, there were more reports of looting on Fairfax and Melrose avenues, where several stores were ransacked and a Starbucks coffee shop was set ablaze.

“It’s horrible — they need any excuse just to take something,” said Mel, a 39-year-old Compton resident who would provide only his first name as he watched from across the street. Mel said he came to the area to witness history.

“It’s going to be in the news,” he said. “It’s going to be like the Watts riots. I wasn’t really alive for it, but I was alive for this one. I’ll tell my kids and family members what happened.”

What Lindsay Pierce saw on her security cameras Saturday night made her ill.

The Melrose Avenue business owner was monitoring her shop, Wax, by way of security cameras as the protests moved through the Fairfax District. At about 11 p.m., she said, three young men darted inside her store after its windows were shattered. They immediately moved to the business’ internet router and disconnected it, cutting off Pierce’s connection.

“I started sweating, I got sick to my stomach, I was just thinking, ‘Please don’t light it on fire,’” Pierce said Sunday morning.

She said she got only about an hour of sleep before she was up at 6 a.m. and headed to the store to survey the damage. All the business’ electronics were stolen along with some small merchandise, she said.

Around midnight Saturday, for at least half an hour, a procession of cars, SUVs and pickups pulled up in front of the Melrose Mac store at 6614 Melrose Ave. and disgorged their drivers and passengers.

With no police in sight, they scrambled empty-handed into the store through shattered windows and emerged moments later with what appeared to be boxes of computers. The looting was broadcast live on L.A. news outlets.

“It was like a McDonald’s drive-through outside the Mac store, where cars were pulling up and others were throwing in looted goods and driving off,” Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz told KTLA News on Sunday morning.

“They were in a line, one by one,” he said. “It was something the likes of which I’ve never seen anywhere.”

By early Sunday, the chaos was replaced by an eerie quiet.

Around 1 a.m., a few stragglers remained in the Fairfax District, the center of the prior day’s protests and looting. Fire crews doused storefronts that had smoldered for hours.

Metro buses, flanked by police motorcycle escorts, carried detained people who had zip ties on their wrists. Broken glass glittered on the sidewalk and hung from window frames.

Koretz, who represents many of the areas that incurred damage, said business districts along Fairfax Avenue and Melrose Avenue had been “devastated” by looting, vandalism and graffiti.

“This was the weekend that the city had given permission for restaurants and retail to emerge from COVID,” he said. “And instead, businesses that were already hanging by a thread are now destroyed.”

By 8:30 a.m., a Los Angeles beautification team was out along Melrose Avenue, near La Brea, beginning the long task of covering up profanity and other tags left on buildings down the street.

Helicopters flew overhead as the crew worked. The crew of five had started at 7:30 that morning.

“We haven’t even moved one half block,” said crew supervisor Ernesto Fabian as he scrubbed graffiti off a window with steel wool.

In the window were paper signs that read, “Black owned.”

“They don’t respect that,” he said. “They just keep tagging.”

The crew was supposed to work its way down to La Cienega Boulevard.

“I don’t think we can make it today,” Fabian said. “It’s going to take a couple of days to clean everything.”

Rodney Beckwith, who goes by his artist name, Flewnt, is the manager of Resist 323 on Melrose, a store selling custom clothing and art that saw one of its windows smashed.

He spent the night inside the store, where a garage door security gate was pulled down in front to protect it.

Beckwith was inside Saturday night when he heard people trying to break in through the back door. He shoved a table saw against the security door.

Eli Ventov has had his store, Reloaded L.A., along Melrose for nearly 12 years. The store had just reopened Wednesday after being closed because of the pandemic.

On Saturday, as they saw the protests start to grow, workers rushed to Home Depot and got painters paper to cover the windows so no one would break in.

No one did break in that night. But in the same building, people broke into the Dr. Martens store. Around 7 p.m., someone threw a bottle with gasoline inside the store, Ventov said.

“It went from this store, to this store, to this store,” Ventov said of the resulting fire, gesturing to shoe store Tony-K and then to his store.

Ventov stood across the street and watched his clothing and jewelry store burn.

“You see all your life running across your face,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”

“I understand where they’re coming from, but did you really need to come that way?”

“He stayed the whole time. We saw him on the news across the street watching his building burn down,” said Ramon Pazos, who works at the store. “There’s nothing we could do but watch.”

On Sunday morning Ventov stood outside the blackened store, where the roof appeared on the verge of collapse and the sky was visible through patches. He grew teary-eyed as a friend embraced him and told him it would be OK.

Ricky Flores swept inside the clothing store Flashback, where a sign out front read “Now open! Please wear a mask for entry.”

He and his friend had opened the store four years ago, with help from investors whom they eventually bought out. A year ago, business was going so well they moved from a smaller space next door to a larger one.

The store had just reopened Friday after being closed since March. But they closed Saturday because of the protests. They watched on the news as buildings across the street burned.

When Flores arrived Sunday morning, around 7 a.m., people were still stealing items from the store, he said. The alarm was blaring and people had broken the security gate the night before.

“I thought this was going to be cool,” Flores said, shaking the broken gate. “… They got through it easily.”

People stole three televisions off the wall, shoes and clothes. They even stole the ice cube trays from the freezer.

“What kind of a sick person takes the ice cube trays out of the freezer?”

He estimated losses totaled $200,000.

“It’s going to be hard to open back up with all the inventory gone,” Flores said. “If they say it’s safe to open back up in two days, it’s like, what are we going to sell?”

In Santa Ana, where protesters and police clashed, the streets were quiet by 2:30 a.m.

At the intersection of McFadden Avenue and Bristol Street, where many of Saturday’s skirmishes took place, the scent of melted plastic lingered in the air. Broken glass was scattered across the intersection.

One man standing with friends outside a nearby house described the entire episode as “dumb.”

“Do you have to loot?” he said. “You’re just making the city look bad.”

The man, who declined to provide his name, said he watched police officers fire tear gas at demonstrators, who threw rocks and other items at officers.

Workers at a Smart and Final on Edinger Avenue were cleaning up broken glass. A small cardboard sign that lay close by read: “Make lynching a federal crime.”

Nearby, Julio De La Chica said he had watched demonstrators break windows at the Smart and Final and an O’Reilly Auto Store, whose walls were scrawled with anti-police graffiti.

“I was stunned,” he said. “I’ve never really seen anything like that before.”

Jose Rodriguez has sold fruit from a cart on Fourth Street in downtown Santa Ana since the early 1990s. He remembers that when the riots that happened in the wake of the Rodney King verdict nearly 30 years ago, “no one down here cared.”

But as he prepared some mango with chile before closing up early on Sunday, the Mexican immigrant looked upon a Fourth Street he had never seen: empty. Boarded up. And nervous of what was to come.

Small business owners frantically put up plywood on their storefronts in anticipation of two rallies nearby. The sound of buzzsaws cutting down planks and nail guns fastening wood to concrete peppered the humid air.

The night before, a rally In another part of Santa Ana led to looting and soul-searching in a city long maligned by the rest of Orange county as a dangerous place. Rodriguez saw footage of the aftermath and didn’t like it.“I understand why everyone so upset,” he said. “But breaking windows and harming your own community isn’t the way.”

He added a dash of lime to two mango containers.“Let’s see what happens in a bit,” Rodriguez said. “You can’t be open right now. Because what’s coming might hit everything hard.”

Times staff writers Hailey Branson-Potts, Kim Christensen, Dakota Smith, Laura J. Nelson, David Zahniser, Kevin Baxter, Matthew Ormseth, Leila Miller and Emily Baumgaertner contributed to this report.

Sara Roos was part of the protest against police brutality in Los Angeles. She joined the crowd that assembled to express their views on-violently. When she felt a change in mood or direction, she left. She took pictures along the way. She concluded that “Black Lives Matter. The Truth Matters.”

She wrote, as the protest began,

A veteran of a fair number of protests, this rally was not like any other. It felt intense, powered by focused anger, but not aggressive. I never once felt unsafe or as if the crowd were out of control. People were mad but not hostile. It sounds like a pedantic distinction but there you have it, there was no feeling of impending violence. None at all. Collective fury but not belligerent: coiled vigilance.

As she left, she wondered if the peaceful protest was hijacked by agents provocateurs.

Los Angeles is trying to figure out how to reopen its schools, safely but with no assurance about how they will pay for the changes.

Sixteen students to a class. One-way hallways. Students lunch at their desks. Children could get one ball to play with — alone. Masks are required. A staggered school day brings on new schedules to juggle.

These campus scenarios could play out based on new Los Angeles County school reopening guidelines released Wednesday. This planning document will affect 2 million students and their families as educators undertake a challenge forced on them by the coronavirus crisis: fundamentally redesigning the traditional school day.

The safe reopening of schools in California and throughout the nation compels the reimagining — or abandoning — of long-held traditions and goals of the American school day, where play time, socialization and hands-on support have long been essential to the learning equation in everything from science labs and team sports to recess and group work.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education guidelines offer an early top-to-bottom glimpse at the massive and costly changes that will be required to reboot campuses serving students from preschool through 12th grade, critical to reopening California. The 45-page framework was developed through the work of county staffers, outside advisors and representatives from 23 county school systems, each of which must develop its own reopening plan….

When campuses closed in mid-March, school systems scrambled to develop a new style of education on the fly — one that relied on “distance learning.” Administrators quickly handed out computers and internet hot spots. Teachers trained on Zoom and other online platforms. Parents oversaw learning at home, even as they faced economic hardship.

Despite these Herculean efforts, school leaders and teachers report uneven student engagement and impediments to learning at home, underscoring the importance of an academically robust return to campus — even as the governor’s proposed budget envisions a cut for schools of about 10%.

Yesterday, the United Teachers of Los Angeles scores a big victory, and so did the teachers in five charter schools, who won the right to unionize.

For Immediate Release

May 22, 2020

Media Contact:

Anna Bakalis, 213-305-9654

PERB rules in UTLA’s favor, the union will now represent all educators at five Alliance charter schools

After a two-year legal battle, on Thursday, May 21, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certified UTLA as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of educators at the five Alliance charter schools that filed for union recognition:

Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 5
Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School
Alliance Gertz-Ressler/Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex
Alliance Leichtman Levine Family Foundation Environmental Science High School
Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School…

“Now that PERB has made it clear that we filed appropriately at our schools, we’re ready to sit down at the bargaining table,” said Kemberlee Hooper, a Physical Education teacher at Gertz-Merkin. “ I’m excited that we’ll have an equal voice in decision making, and I look forward to bargaining over issues like professional developments and a fair and meaningful evaluation process.”

Alliance has been fighting PERB certification since educators at three schools filed for union recognition in May 2018, with two more filing in 2019. But now with this decision, Alliance educators have prevailed after a two-year legal delay intended by Alliance to deny educators their right to bargain and to organize with UTLA. Alliance educators are ready to move forward. They urge Alliance to start setting a better example for their students and the Alliance community by respecting PERB’s decision and its own educators.

Particularly in this unprecedented time, it’s more important than ever that educators have an equal voice in decisions impacting their students, their schools, and their profession. Alliance educators simply want to sit down with Alliance as real decision-making partners and together decide what will make their schools the best place to work and learn.

Alliance educators look forward to bargaining at five union schools and are committed to organizing at all Alliance schools.

This story was first reported in the Los Angeles Education Examiner by Sara Roos.

I mistakenly attributed the initial reporting to parent advocate Carl Petersen .

Roos reported that Superintendent Austin Beutner, a former investment banker, has brought management consultants Bain and Company to provide strategic guidance to the district.

With Governor Cuomo assigning the task of “reimagining” education in New York, and Austin Beutner calling on Bain and Company, it bears mentioning that none of these people are educators.

Los Angeles has an elected school board.

Why is the superintendent turning to a management consulting business with no experience in education to guide the district in these troubled times? Why isn’t the school board, which is Beutner’s employer, making the strategic decisions?

This is “disaster capitalism” (Naomi Klein’s apt term) at its worst. This is another instance of the Pandemic Shock Doctrine.

Beutner works for the board. They should stop him before he outsources the district management to unaccountable and unqualified “experts.”

Governor Gavin Newsom laid out his thoughts about a phased reopening of the state, including the possibility of opening schools as early as late a July or early August.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles responded with their thoughts.

The union said:

An early start to the school year in LA would have to be bargained between UTLA and the LA Unified School District, and there has been no discussion about doing so.

California has led the way on flattening the curve of this deadly pandemic by prioritizing people’s health and safety. As the fifth-largest economy in the world, our leaders understand that the economy should serve the people, and not the other way around. We urge our leaders to stay the course, and caution against prematurely lifting social distancing protections by opening schools in a way that would put students, teachers, and families at risk.

Governor Newsom outlined six very sensible metrics — such as the availability of therapeutics to deal with COVID-19 and drastically increased testing and contact tracing capacity — that would determine when it would be appropriate to lift the pandemic protections. We should meet those metrics before setting unrealistic timelines.

There is much that remains unknown about what will happen in the next few weeks or months. It’s wise to wait and see and make sure everyone is safe.

Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reports that no student will get an F grade during the coronavirus closure, and schools will remain closed this summer.

Blume writes:

No student will receive a failing grade on their spring report card and Los Angeles campuses will be closed not only for the remainder of the academic year, but throughout the summer as well, the district announced Monday.

The actions are the latest sweeping measures taken by the nation’s second-largest school system in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is still no clear picture in testing, treatments or vaccines and we will not reopen school facilities until state authorities tell us it is safe and appropriate to do so,” L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner said during a Monday video briefing. “The remainder of the school year … will be completed in the current, remote fashion and we will have a summer session in a similar manner.”

The no-fail policy was posted in a late morning bulletin and confirmed by Chief Academic Officer Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, who spoke of educators’ concerns about the family hardships that are likely to limit students’ ability to learn in the district, where 80% of them come from low-income families.

Beutner praised the work of all district staff, especially teachers, during his video briefing, but acknowledged that all students have not had the same access to academic work since campuses closed on March 16.

“Many of the examples we see of successful video learning have a significant selection bias,” Beutner said. “Affluent families with resources at home, schools with years of training and limitless budgets and students with demonstrated aptitude to learn independently. Public schools have in their DNA the commitment to serve all students, irrespective of circumstance, and it will not be so simple.”

The state did not issue a universal mandate on grading, but California Department of Education guidelines say that schools should “enable students to complete state graduation requirements with needed flexibilities” associated with online learning. In their briefings, state officials have stressed that local educators intend to be understanding of students’ situations.

The state guidelines say that schools “should weigh their policies with the lens of equity and with the primary goal of doing no harm to students.”

While enthusiasts for online learning predict a boom after the pandemic, as students and teachers get used to learning at home online, the reality is different on the ground. Stress, loneliness, and boredom are typical reactions.

A team of reporters in Los Angeles reports on student reactions to the loss of face-to-face instruction.

A senior at John C. Fremont High School in South L.A., Emilio Hernandez has a class load that is about as rigorous as it gets: AP calculus, physics, design, English, engineering and government. He loves talking to his peers in English class, who make all the readings thought-provoking. He often turns to his math teacher, who has a way of drawing the graphs and walking him through derivatives and complex formulas.

Now, with a borrowed laptop from school and family crowded in the living room, he’s struggling to make school feel like, well, school. He has trouble falling asleep and finds himself going to bed later and later — sometimes as late as 3 a.m.

“Assignments that would normally take me two hours or 30 minutes are now taking me days to complete. I just … can’t focus,” he said. “I don’t have anyone giving me direction. It’s just me reading and having to give myself the incentive to do the work.”

It’s been three weeks since school districts across the state have closed their campuses as the novel coronavirus continues to sweep its way across California — sending more than 6 million students home to navigate online, or distance, learning. What started as an emergency scramble to provide laptops and meals for a few weeks has dramatically shifted to a longer-haul transformation of public education.

“The kids are not going back to their classrooms” this academic year, said Gov. Gavin Newsom, who acknowledged the burden on households with the entire state under his stay-at-home order.

For those who look to school for learning and social structure, the new reality is sinking in: There will be no school as we know it after spring break. No prom. No year-end field trips. No projects to present inside a familiar classroom. Navigating the three months left in the school year, leaders said, calls for patience and dedication from educators, self-motivation from already stressed-out students and swift actions from school districts typically mired in bureaucratic obstacles.

“These aren’t normal circumstances. It’s the most uncharted territory that we’ve been in,” said State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “We’re stronger together and we can help all of our kids as we work together.”

Many are already rising to the challenge. Yet each step forward means moving past bureaucratic hurdles and cost constraints and taking on persistent problems of student poverty and stubborn achievement gaps…

Overwhelmed. Unmotivated. Stressed. Stressed. Stressed.

These were the words that popped up over and over again on social media and in conversations among students across Los Angeles during a recent virtual town hall with a Times reporter and Heart of Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization in MacArthur Park that provides free after-school programming for underserved youth. About two dozen students shared just how complicated distance learning can be.

Many said that their homes were crowded enough already, and that school and after-school programs were their sanctuaries — a place to escape. Others worried not only about their grades but about the well-being of their families. Some students have been using their own savings to get food for themselves and younger siblings to avoid stressing out family members.

The Los Angeles Times published a disturbing article about the problems and obstacles that students and teachers are encountering as online learning becomes the new normal. For many children, instruction is inaccessible.

The gaps between the haves and have-nots are glaring.

“ Misti Kemmer, a fourth-grade teacher at Russell Elementary School in South Los Angeles, is working hard to keep her students learning now that schools are closed. She shares detailed lesson plans on Google Drive, sends messages to families every day and delivers YouTube lectures from her home.

She’s trying to look at all this stuff on a tiny cellphone after dinner hours,” Kemmer said. “How much is a 9- year-old going to get done?”

“There’s this whole distance-learning thing, but how much learning is actually going on?” she added.

“But only three or four of her 28 students accessed their schoolwork last week, she said. Some don’t have computers and others are without internet access. One student can only open assignments on her father’s phone when he gets home from work.

“Almost all K-12 schools in California were shuttered last week. But from top state education leaders to district officials, including L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner, the message has been clear: Even though campuses are closed, learning will continue.

“While we are in very unique circumstances at this time, we are still providing education to our students,” state Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said earlier this week. “School is not out, but we are finding a different way to deliver it.”

“But the reality is complicated.

“As teachers scramble to adjust to an entirely new world of education, they are coming up against significant barriers.

“There is uneven access to technology, difficulties communicating with students and parents, and uncertainty about expectations at a time when many families are suffering.
And even for educators who have long used online learning tools and whose students have easy access to them, it is challenging to rely solely on technology.

“Many teachers are grappling with this while also adapting to the tough realities of working from home.

“At Marianna Avenue Elementary School in East Los Angeles, teachers and administrators scrambled after the closure was announced March 13 to make sure every student in first through sixth grades took home a Chromebook laptop, said Estela Campos, a coordinator at the school. The school is fortunate to have enough computers for nearly every student, she said.

“But teachers are struggling to get their students online — some children had never used the computers at home and many families don’t have internet access. In some cases, children in higher grades are now having to take care of their younger siblings while their parents work and are unable to dedicate time to their own schoolwork, she said….

“Erin Fitzgerald-Haddad, a seventh-grade math teacher at the San Fernando Institute of Applied Media, a Los Angeles Unified school, has the know-how and resources to make a transition to distance learning smoother.
Fitzgerald-Haddad said teachers and students at her school were regularly using digital platforms like Schoology, an LAUSD learning management system, or Google Suites long before the closures last week.

“The school was able to send all students home with an iPad or Chromebook, though some opted out, and the school put together a YouTube channel where teachers have been posting daily videos. Faculty are also checking in with students and monitoring their work online, she said.

“Even with their expertise to quickly mobilize resources, though, Fitzgerald-Haddad has noticed differences in how students are adapting to distance learning.

“Maybe it’s different at the high school level, but [for] eighth grade and younger, I do not believe it’s reasonable to expect students to be learning on their own,” she said.

“While some students are advanced and will be able to pick up the material on their own, the Schoology platform allows her to see that some aren’t keeping up.

“The ones that really need the support, they’re the ones I’m having to make phone calls to,” she said….”