Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dyett Hunger Strike

#FightForDyett -- What Real Organizing Looks Like: South Side Chicago Parents Stage Hunger Strike at Dyett High School

by the Real News Network

Call Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's office at 312-744-3300. Tell him the whole world is watching, he can give the parents their high school back RIGHT NOW. Call Alderman Will Burns at 773-536-8103 with the same message."
JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
In education news from Chicago, a dozen parents and activists have entered the fifth day of a hunger strike to demand officials adopt a community-developed plan for the future of Dyett High School.
SPEAKER: We know this is political. We know this is about ignoring black parents, because that's what this is about. This is racist, and Stevie Wonder can see that.
NOOR: The city is currently considering several proposals, and has scheduled a public hearing for September. Chicago Public Schools says their process is community-driven, and will select the best educational option. Located in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Bronzeville on Chicago's South Side Dyett has long been a center of community struggle, especially since it was slated for closure in 2012.
Now joining us to discuss this are two guests. We're joined by Jitu Brown. He's a longtime Chicago education activist. He was with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. We're also joined by Pauline Lipman, professor of educational policy studies and the director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Thank you both for joining us.
JITU BROWN: Thank you.
NOOR: So Jitu, we know you're joining us from outdoors, which is unusual, but you're at the site where this is all happening. Tell us why parents have gone to the lengths of a hunger strike.
BROWN: Absolutely. Members--we formed a coalition called the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School. First I will say, I've been on the local school council at Dyett since 2003. And since 2009 we've been trying to engage Chicago public Schools on a vision for how to improve education, not only at Dyett, but sort of a K-12 system of education in our neighborhood. As parents, and this is not our job as parents. Some communities get that K-12 education just because they are who they are in the same city.
And since that time Chicago Public Schools has done nothing but sabotage the improvements at Dyett High School, like having the largest increase of students going to college in the entire city in 2008, and then for two straight years the largest decrease in arrests and suspensions, 2008-2009, with a nationally recognized restorative justice program. And then in 2011 winning the ESPN Rise Up award, beating out over 400 other schools around the country. As a small school that needed some support we won a $4 million renovation from ESPN to our athletic facilities, and then next year they phased the school out.
So the process has never been community-driven. We submitted a proposal to CPS for Dyett Global Leadership and [Green] Technology High School as the hub for what we call a sustainable community school village in April of this year.
NOOR: And Jitu, can you tell us how this plan contrasts with the other plans that CPS is considering?
BROWN: Absolutely. The plan for [inaud.] Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School envisions our children as community-centered scholars, looks at young people having a course of study that coincides with life and business in the 21st century. So we want our young people to understand, to study green technology, because they understand how to impact their world. Studying green technology young people will learn urban agriculture as they live in a food desert, which will allow them to be able to address real life issues that they encounter. And global leadership because we want our young people to see themselves as global citizens, not as minorities but as part of a global family, and have the capacity and the confidence to impact the world.
And we want it to be a district-run Chicago Public School institution, as opposed to the other two proposals, where they will be contract schools. Where they will be run by private companies. And it's insulting to our community that the only institutions you propose for black families are institutions connected to athletics or connected to entertainment. We want strong athletics. We want strong arts, music, in our schools. But we want them as part of a well-rounded academic institution, just like they had in [Lincoln Park].
NOOR: And Jitu, I wanted to ask you, what other options do parents and families and neighbors have? I know one protester told a local news agency now that Dyett has been phased out, the last class, it was just 13 students graduated in June. If Dyett isn't reopened, one protester told WGNTV her child would have to travel 16 miles to get to the nearest high school.
BROWN: Absolutely. That parent--I don't want to call her a protester. That mother is [Jeanette Raman]. And her child, they're looking at Lakeview, which is a high-quality neighborhood high school that's two blocks away from Rahm Emanuel's house. There's another parent named Anna Jones who had to send her child to [Little Village] High School, which ironically is the school where parents waged a 19-day hunger strike to win in 2001. It's a shame that parents have to starve themselves. These are mothers and fathers. We have to starve ourselves to have our voices heard while parents in other parts of the city of Chicago have to, parents in Lincoln Park and in Uptown and Rogers Park simply went to a meeting and said they didn't want a charter school. And the CPS pulled it off the table. Parents in Hyde Park went to pressure their local alderman, the same alderman that's attempting to block what we're trying to do, and said they wanted the overcrowding at Kenwood Academy to be relieved, and in three months they had the keys to the school. And now [cantor] is the seventh and eighth-grade academy to relieve the overcrowding at Kenwood.
We've been working on this for five years. So it is a clear referendum on structural and institutional racism in the United States when engaged and involved black parents who have developed a visionary proposal for public education in Bronzeville are ignored because of politics. So yes, we'll put our bodies on the line.
NOOR: And now I wanted to bring Pauline Lipman--Jitu, I wanted to bring Pauline Lipman into the conversation. So Pauline, we're talking about a very specific school in Chicago's South Side. Explain how this fits into the larger picture in Chicago and education policy school reform around the country.
PAULINE LIPMAN: Yeah. As Jitu said, this is an issue of, first of all of racial justice. CPS, Chicago Public Schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel beginning with Mayor Daley have consistently over the last 10, 12 years been disinvesting in schools in black and Latino communities, in neighborhood schools. They've been over-investing in privately run charter schools and selective enrollment schools in middle class, and gentrifying the areas of the city. So we had a whole history here, and a city-wide process of racial injustice. And we've really have a two-tiered education system, and Dyett is really an example, a prime example of that process.
And I also think that we need to think about that it's not actually, this is not just about education. It's part of a much bigger plan to remake this whole city into a gentrified city, a city for corporate headquarters, for financial institutions, for upper middle class people, and to push out working class African-American and Latino families. And the Dyett situation is a really prime example of that. Dyett is located in beautiful Washington Park, a park that may be the site of the new Obama library. This is prime real estate that the real estate developers have been trying to get their hands on. There was much talk about marketing the whole area as an arts district. One of the plans, the plan put forward by Little Black Pearl, that's an arts organization, they're not a school operator that runs a good school. They run a very poor, poor-performing charter school at the moment. Their plan is connected with [ring shore] Developers, which is a real estate developer that focuses on arts development in the area.
So this is part of a much bigger plan to push out working class African-Americans from the whole Bronzeville area, and to gentrify that area. And this is not only happening in Chicago. If we look around the country where schools have been closed in working class, low-income, African-American and Latino areas we see that very often these plans are tied to gentrification and pushing people out of the city.
NOOR: Pauline Lipman, Jitu Brown, thank you so much for joining us, and we'll certainly keep following this story.
BROWN: Thank you.
LIPMAN: Thank you.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ukraine War update

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) -  Amid persistently dark ominous rumours and anxiety about a new offensive set to be launched soon, fighting has rapidly escalated along almost all the front-lines leaving the Minsk 2 agreement in shreds. A recent report by the German secret sevices reveals that the losses of this protracted war have been grossly understated by both the United Nations and the Kiev Government. Losses are reported to be almost ten times the scale of official figures dispelling any myth that this is simply a small scale civil  conflict. Efforts are being made by European leaders and diplomats to put together a proposed Minsk 3 peace agreement!

            Pity poor forlorn and forgotten Ukraine! Few people envy her predicament. A destabilised and disrupted economy, a huge unemployment rate, bleak poverty, homelessness and a huge endless exodus of refugees and too many vulnerable villages and towns exposed to gunfire, looting and the pillage of soldiers from both sides. It is as if like in one Russian folk-tale, someone, somewhere unwittingly opened the gates of hell somewhere and hordes and legions of demons flew out bringing hatred, hunger ,death,destruction, bigotry, sectarianism and pogorms. People blame each other for being the ones who opened this Pandora's box. 

            Listening to the robotic cliched blame game has become wearisome to the point of futility.

            AN UNWANTED WAR

            However, according to the people Second City teachers has spoken to in Russian and beyond, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians don't want this war to continue. The contract soldiers who had fought in Ukraine stated most of the local people they encountered strongly yearned for peace and just wanted to return to a life of relative normality. In fact, in one interview with the Russian writer Edward Limonov, by the Russian paper Argument of the Week,' the writer admitted, 'By the way, half the population of Donbass has fled. Cowardice, this is also a modern phenomena ... Now the masses don't want to fight, and only a minority fight. In Western Ukraine the number of volunteers is also low'. Limonov was referring to the large number of young Russians who don't see any point in joining the ranks of the Separatists. (Number 10, 451, Argument of the Week, Sergie Ryazanov interview with Limonov).

           At present, scarcely a day goes by without one to five peaceful citizens dying and just over the past week as many as 17 people died and 45 were wounded. Even those reports may be a gross underestimate as many journalists are not even reporting from the front line. An American journalist who is currently reporting on the war in Ukraine informed us that hardly any journalist is operating in the war zone. 'It is just too dangerous', he claimed.


           A recent German Secret Service report estimates that the real human losses of the war in Ukraine are almost ten times the official figures claimed by the government in Kiev not to mention United Nation's report. The German report claims approximately 50,000 people have died. This is in wide contrast to a claim made a few days by Poroshenko ,who put the figure at around 5,638  since April 2014. Incidently, it may be no accident that the German intelligence source spoke to the Frankfurter Allegemeine Sonntagszeitam ,just after Poroshenko spoke in Munich. The German figure also surpasses the United Nation's figure which come to about 6500. Although the German report is far nearer the truth than the watered-down figures of official figures, it still represents a slight understatement. This is because both the Russian and Ukrainian officials have a vested interest in under reporting the scale of casualties. While neo-Nazis paramilitaries are secretly burying the victims of their actocities in hidden fields and forests to conceal their crimes, and the Ukrainian army are loathe to admit their staggering losses following a hapless offensive last summer where their army was brutally routed and pursued into a deadly minefield. The Russian government constantly denies the presence and hence casualty rate of their troops unofficially serving in Ukraine. The deaths of some Russian soldiers were explained away as 'accidents while training'. The huge losses of this war represents an indictment of the European Union who morally supported the demonstrators in Maiden. I would put the real casualty rate at between 70,000 to 100,000 losses!

           While ex-British prime-ministers such as Tony Blair are on record for condoning the killing of human citizens as 'Unavoidable casualties' and 'collateral damage' , the Germans apparently express stronger reservations and don't want to get involved in what is a pointless proxy war between Americans and Russians with poor Ukrainians caught up like pigs in the middle. This war reflects a debauched game of pig in the middle reminding you of a long unpublished story by the Brothers Grimm titled 'Children who decided to play butchers'.  In this story, a boy plays a butcher, another boy a pig and a girl a shopkeeper. The boy who plays the butcher really kills the boy who plays the pig so the mother of the dead boy runs out to kill the boy butcher.

           She then hangs herself while her husband dies of despair.

           In another variant of the story, the judges let off the boy-butcher by rewarding him with an apple. The boy butcher runs away laughing at the judge. The judge might as well be a naive representative of the European Union who doesn't wish to see too much blood and is too complacent.

           This is hardly the first time casualties of actrocities have been underestimated. When Second City Teachers spoke to one journalist who had fled from the burning Trade Union building in Odessa, he claimed that the morgue was filled with more than a hundred recovered bodies. The real figure of the Odessa massacre may well surpass 100 dead rather than the under-reported 48!

           The huge casualty list should represent an all alert signal to make serious efforts to put an end to this senseless proxy war where few people care about the plight of the poorest people. What is just a fascinating game for some , represents a traumatic nightmare for countless people who have lost loved ones. Let us hope that a new Minsk agreement will turn out to be third-time lucky. Let sober sense prevail!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Trib Katrina Editorial

In Chicago, wishing for a Hurricane Katrina
Chicago Tribune Editorial 

AUGUST 13, 2015, 3:22 PM Kristen McQueary CHICAGO TRIBUNE 

Envy isn't a rational response to the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 

But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops. 

That's what it took to hit the reset button in New Orleans. Chaos. Tragedy. Heartbreak. Residents overthrew a corrupt government. A new mayor slashed the city budget, forced unpaid furloughs, cut positions, detonated labor contracts. New Orleans' City Hall got leaner and more efficient. Dilapidated buildings were torn down. Public housing got rebuilt. Governments were consolidated. An underperforming public school system saw a complete makeover. A new schools chief, Paul Vallas, designed a school system with the flexibility of an entrepreneur. No restrictive mandates from the city or the state. No demands from teacher unions to abide. Instead, he created the nation's first free-market education system. 

Hurricane Katrina gave a great American city a rebirth. And after careful study of the levees, it turns out the devastation was not born of natural disaster. It was manmade. The same could be said of Chicago. This weekend is the Chicago Air & Water Show. Thousands of people will stream to Chicago's lakefront to marvel at the city and its offerings. All five senses, satiated. Visitors will clamp their palms on their ears to tame the vibration. They will gasp at the stunning skyline. They will taste the sand-swept breeze. They will feel the sun's touch. They will smell the engine fuel. They will delight. Chicago is so good at hiding its rot.  

Beneath the pretty surface, Chicago faces financial challenges that threaten its future. Decades of overspending and borrowing — practices that continue even as the city and its school system face consistent downgrades in the bond market — tear at its very stability. It is the gravest issue. More than crime. More than education. More than poverty. You'd never know it by the casual approach of government, both at City Hall and Chicago Public Schools, toward spiraling debt, and our elected officials' continued practice of the risks that got us here. 

Forrest Claypool just took over CPS. You can hardly blame him for the ruinous, junk-bond status of the district's finances. Yet he defends the latest CPS budget, which relies on borrowing against borrowing and a bailout from dead-broke Springfield, to appear balanced on paper. He admits it's a budget to buy time. As if we have it. Lately, every time public officials talk about their budget solutions, it feels like a scene from "Glengarry Glen Ross." Desperate, sweaty and deceitful. 

At City Hall, nothing much has changed under four years of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The candidate in 2011 who promised to make tough decisions on city finances has followed many of the risky practices of his predecessor. The city continues to pass budgets that are unbalanced and rely on borrowing, temporary revenue sources, gimmicky fee hikes and tax increment finance sweeps. The city borrowed $900 million last year. Another $1.1 billion in June. Emanuel is planning on borrowing yet another $500 million currently. All of the borrowing kicks the can down the road, costs taxpayers hundreds of millions more in interest payments and jeopardizes other worthy programs, under the guise of what? Protecting middle-class taxpayers from a big hit? 

No, they're lining us up for a firing squad. In June, just a month after new City Council members took their seats, only one freshman voted against the borrowing. One. Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th, said he could not in good conscience vote for more borrowing when the city has no long-term plan to correct its financial spiral. Every other candidate who campaigned on not being a rubber stamp to Emanuel, on taking a hard look at the city's books, on refusing to vote on something shoved under their noses at the last minute — they went right along with the mayor's borrowing plan. 

There was not even debate on the council floor. Only two incumbents voted against the June borrowing: Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, and Ald. John Arena, 45th. So if you think somehow new leadership is going to right the ship, you might want to get your head checked. There is no sense of urgency about the city's or the schools' perpetual abyss. Not under Emanuel. Not with a new City Council. Not with a new board at CPS. 

That's why I find myself praying for a real storm. It's why I can relate, metaphorically, to the residents of New Orleans climbing onto their rooftops and begging for help and waving their arms and lurching toward rescue helicopters. Except here, no one responds to the SOS messages painted boldly in the sky. Instead, they double down on their own man-made disaster. 

Kristen McQueary is a member of the Tribune Ed

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wishing Chicago Katrina

Freedom Rider: Katrina in the White Imagination

Submitted by Margaret Kimberley on Tue, 08/18/2015 - 15:41

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could not contain his gratitude to Hurricane Katrina, which killed or permanently displaced much of New Orleans’ Black residents. Other whites “wondered why they could not have been fortunate enough to have a black population swept out of town in a matter of days.” Katrina was welcomed by millions of whites as an opportunity for economic and ethnic “renewal” – a rationale that would justify genocide.

Freedom Rider: Katrina in the White Imagination

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

New Orleans became the face of disaster capitalism and ethnic cleansing.”
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Louisiana, and the entire Gulf coast. More than 1,800 people died and thousands more were permanently displaced. In the years since, that city regained only two-thirds of its pre-hurricane population. But this tragedy for multitudes was a gift to powerful people who wanted to turn New Orleans into Exhibit A for neo-liberalism.
Chicago Tribune op-ed column originally titled, “In Chicago, wishing for a hurricane Katrina” began with these words. “Envy isn’t a rational response to the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.” The author then proceeded to demonstrate that she did in fact fantasize about a Katrina like catastrophe for her city.
In 2005 the ruling elites were over overjoyed because nature gave them the chance to do what they could not get away with easily. Overnight, New Orleans lost a huge portion of its poor, black population. The state legislature used the crisis to arbitrarily declare public schools as “failing” and converted them into charters. They fired 7,500 public school employees who won decisions in lower courts but were undone when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case. In short, New Orleans became the face of disaster capitalism and ethnic cleansing.
While millions of people watched in horror as the levees broke and homes were flooded, some watched with glee and, as Kristen McQueary of the Tribune editorial board admits, with envy too. They wondered why they could not have been fortunate enough to have a black population swept out of town in a matter of days.
People who couldn’t evacuate were blamed for their fate.”
McQueary veils her racism by expressing concern about deficit spending and pension costs. But she also gives herself away with these age old code words. She says nothing about sweetheart deals that stole public money, the tax cuts or other corporate welfare scams. It must be pointed out that the black misleaders aid and abet the crimes committed against that city’s population. When Walmart wanted a toe hold in a large northern city, black aldermen and women on the city council provided the votes. When Rahm Emanuel faced a serious challenge from Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the misleaders threw in their lot with “mayor one percent.”
But these are the facts and they have little to do with McQueary’s sick vision for the future. After much criticism she reposted the column with a new title, “Chicago, New Orleans and rebirth” and omitted that she was “praying for a real storm.” If she were really honest she would have written, “We need a hurricane to wash the black people away” or words to that effect.
She is not alone in longing for post-apocalyptic disaster capital triumphs. In 2010 her fellow Chicagoan Arne Duncan said that the hurricane was “the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans.” As education secretary his goal has been to undo public education as we know it and expand the control of charter schools throughout the country. Parents have no rights in the charter school system but that is why they are desirable to people like Duncan and McQueary. There is no public input, no permanent employment. This dystopian hell is perfect in their eyes.
Post-Katrina New Orleans has provided no ‘rebirth’ for black people.”
The racism directed at black New Orleans was present from the moment the storm came ashore. People who couldn’t evacuate were blamed for their fate. They were falsely accused of raping children in the Superdome shelter, and shooting at helicopters. The press called hungry black people looters while white people were given the benefit of the doubt and were said to have “found” food.
The theme hasn’t changed any in ten years. Black people are still seen as undeserving of anything other than being voiceless cogs in the system’s wheels. Post-Katrina New Orleans has provided no “rebirth” for black people and McQueary knows it. Not only did people lose their homes, but they were forced out of town and given no right to return. If they were employed and made it back to New Orleans their jobs may have been destroyed by the rising water too. Of course these are not calamities in McQueary’s twisted world view. She would love to see their fate replicated in Chicago.
In a strange way, we should be grateful when people like McQueary lose their filters and speak their minds. She is not alone in wanting to see big cities cleansed of their black populations and leaving those who remain without citizenship rights. It is an ugly dream but it is shared by millions of people.
The Chicago Tribune isn’t alone among major newspapers in extolling the virtues of post-Katrina life. The New York Timesraved about that city’s food scene in a post on twitter. “Decade after Katrina, New Orleans is a better place to eat than it was before the storm.” Perhaps they should have said, “Everything tastes better when black people are gone.”
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Harsh Sex Sentence

By Stephen Wilson

            But I had to go to the trial to see how the lawyers and other court functionaries committed legal murder. The image of Cathies's naked body floated before me, like Macbeth's dagger.

            But during the trial neither the victim nor the murderers would dream of taking their clothes off. Too bad. The thought was more than amusing. The judge would be an old man. He would lose all dignity if he were forced to perform without his majestic trappings. His skinniness, his obesity perhaps, would give lie to the odour of righteousness. The crowd would laugh at his pomposity and shout down the brutality of his sentence. All judges, it occurred to me, all lawyers and lawyers ' clerks ought to be forced to try their case in the nude. The naked truth. In this context it would be more than a metaphor. It was doubtful if they would be able to convict anyone. Their voices, reflecting the all-too-human
evidence of the naked postures, would lack conviction'.

            From the novel, Young Adam, by Alexander Trocchi, 2003.

            A retired Judge , Ernest Jones Jr, claims to have found 'inconsistencies ' in two recent well known legal rulings
by the Circuit judge Glenn Shelby. The judge strongly
criticised and challenged the huge discrepancy between
a drunken driver who received a 12 year sentence for
accidently killing a pregnant girl , and a 22 year sentence
handed out to the teacher Jennifer Fichter , who had
faced 37 sex charges for having illicit sex with 3 17-year-old students. The 'reasoning' used by the judge in such a case raises many questions about the very philosophy and logic exercised in such rulings.

            It indicates the American legal system lacks a clear,
coherent and consistent way of judging the accused.

            There is no consensus as to what  constitutes a rational way of reaching a verdict in legal cases.The case begs the question, 'Whose justice, whose rationality ?' Or rather in the Jennifer Fichter case ' Whose morals, Whose religion?'

           Ernest Jones claims he would have handled the Fichter case in an entirely different way. For a start , he considers the jail sentence too long. He would have sentenced Fichter to little prison time and " probably alot of probation".  Jones also pointed out his sentencing in such a case would be influenced by the number of teenagers Fichter had encountered.

           Jones finds that the degree of punishment handed out by Shelby in two cases varies inconsistently. Why is it that
Thomas Dick , a 40 year old man obtained 12 years in
prison for crashing into a van and killing a teenager and
her unborn child while he was drunk , while Jennifer Fichter
who killed nobody, received a draconian sentence of 22 years?

           Jones appears to hold strong reservations as to whether this punishment  serves any useful purpose. He states, 'We have too many people in prison who don't need to be there. There are other ways to send a message to the public and 'punish' an offender who doesn't pose a serious threat to the public short of incarceration'.  However , it is worth noting that it is not just the heavy sentence which raised eye-brows but the very rulings of the judge .


           The recorded speech of those court cases suggest the sentencing was influenced by the religion of both the judge and accused and not any sense of real fair play. A person's religion should have no bearing on any serious court ruling. For instance, in one case, Shelby told Fichter ' I trust your faith is real....You 'll have a long time to vet your faith in your life and so when you come out you 're a different person.' References to the accused person's faith or religion came up again and again in not only the Fichter's case but in the drunken driver case.

           Shelby spoke about faith again before dozens of members of the Bartow Assembly of God church just as he was sentencing Dick. The members of this church testified that Dick was remorseful about his crime as 'He is a good Christian who is more concerned about others than himself ', stated a pastor from the church of Frostproof. Shelby was so so moved by the church's support he even wept, confessing that the testimony was 'very moving. I know I've never had a case where as many people express remorse, I believe you are very remorseful'.

           Shelby was then sentenced to 12 years, which was 8 years less than the 20 years proposed by the State Attorney's office. Unfortunately Fichter was not a member of this church or considered a remorseful Christian but a 'serial
predator who went on and on'. In fact , Fichter's sentence
has been considered a 'light sentence'. This begs the
question as to what 'a heavy sentence is'? Not content
with sentencing the poor teacher to 22 years in prison, she
still faces further charges from another school and another
hearing. Fichter faces three related charges of having illicit sex at a school in which she previously taught in Hillsborough county.

           However, Fichter and other accused teachers have galvanised and gathered a rising wave of support throughout America and Russia. Petitions and the latest publically expressed reservations by a former retired judge ought to help her case if not in the short term , then eventually. So there is still light at the end of the tunnel!


           The rulings in those cases makes you wonder whether judges are obliged to follow any guidelines or laid out criteria. Many people want to evaluate the practise of teachers but when it comes to questioning the training, performance and activities of judges it is a different matter. In fact, one wonders whether those judges are accountable to anyone. The latest rulings could be challenged on two grounds . Firstly, the American Bill of Rights declares all American citizens have the right to a fair trial by jury and protection against ' cruel and unusual punishment'. Jennifer Fichter got no protection from cruel and unusual punishment.'

           The second point is that according to the American constitution religion and the state must be strictly separate. This rule is especially relevant in legal cases. This rule has been grossly violated in two of Shelby's cases. A perceived person's moral or religious beliefs should have no bearing on sentencing.

           So the Jennifer Fichter sentence represents a serious, not minor, miscarriage of justice. It would therefore be in the
interests of the American public to not only drop further charges against the accused, but to released the accused on probation.

           Incidently, passing such a legal measure is possible under Scottish Law  in order to protect the integrity of the legal system as well as to better serve the public interest.

           It is evident to anyone with the least practical common sense that Fichter and many other imprisoned teachers such as Brainne, don't represent a dangerous threat to the public.

           The cases should be reviewed and a lot of radical rethinking done about sentencing.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Teacher sex insanity

By Stephen Wilson

Teacher sentenced to 22 years for screwing 17 yr old students.

(Moscow, Russia) --  In very recent years a growing number of American school teachers have been suspended, dismissed and in more extreme cases, received draconian prison sentences for alleged illicit sexual relations with their students. In particular, the 22 year sentence of Jenifer Fichter, 30 year sentence of Brainne Altice, stunned and alarmed Russians who have witnessed alot of injustice throughtout their history. Second City Teachers interviewed some Russian teachers about this and wondered whether we are witnessing an unprecedented witchhunt aimed at intimidating and inspiring fear amongst teachers. Does this mark a new stage in 'teacher-bashing?'

           'I'm human and I messed up during a very vulnerable point in my life. During the time I was going through feelings of rejection, no sense of belonging, fear and was bound by emotional chains that just kept getting thicker and tighter. I descended on a very slippery slope and hit rock bottom.

           'I ask you to practice mercy and compassion toward me today.

           'Please give me a chance to continue building my life with my loved ones', declared Brainne Altice, a teacher charged with having sex with three of her pupils aged between 16 and 17. The Judge in court did not listen. Instead she retorted, 'You knew what you were doing. You were the
adult, you were the teacher, you were the one that could
have stopped the thing from happening'. She then received
an incredibly severe sentence of thirty years leaving one to
have serious doubts about this judge's sanity. For the judge
looked as 'dead' as the accused appeared abundantly alive
and humane. In most usual cases of this kind the teacher is
dismissed from his or her post and deprived of their licence
to teach. Instead of being imprisoned they are forced to
perform some kind of community work. This itself represents
a severe penalty. For the accused teacher's work record is
tarnished with such a stain she might never beable to work
again. One would have thought that being put of a blacklist
is punishment enough.

SCT editro Jim Vail stated, 'The teachers have a very good legal case for taking the judge to court for needlessly cruel sentencing'.

           A teacher of Spanish who had a relationship with one of her 18 year old students (the age of consent) just missed receiving a prison sentence though she will never beable to teach again.

           This is a case where the student in the state is not a minor.

           Those severe punishments as well as scores of other cases in recent years has led many teachers to speculate whether teachers are being singled out by a witchhunt  against them.

           For instance, two Southern Californian teachers, Melody Lippert, 38, and Michelle Ghirelli 30, have been accused of partying and illicit sex on the beach with students from West Covina High School. Lippert herself was charged
with suspicion of conspiracy and contributing to the deliquency of a minor. A local sheriff stated, 'Regardless of someone's age or not, this is very serious, we take thses allegations seriously when you are talking about a student -teacher relationship'.

           He sounds like a Bible-belt preacher than a sober policeman.

           Those legal cases we have mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg. Second City Teachers has come across many cases where the evidence against teachers in similar cases was often dubious and highly questionable. Many of the accusations against teachers were made by some students with a petty grudge or gripe. The accusations against the teachers was not based on solid concrete evidence but often rumours, hearsay and an accusation made in a posted letter.

           What is the Russian reaction to this? As one might expect, the reactions vary. When I asked older Russians between 60-75 what they thought, some were shocked and one housemaid told me, 'We never behaved like those teachers at  that age. We would never act like this.' When I asked young Russians they would mainly answer, ' What is the big fuss? All they did was have sex with some of their grown up pupils. The Americans can become so hysterical. A few Russians even condoned and commended the action of the American teachers saying, 'If they need a job teaching in Russia they are more than welcome. We can find them plenty of students!'

           Well those Russian students might have to wait a long time.

           However, most Russians unanimously thought that imprisoning the American teachers was cruel and that they should be dismissed from their posts. This is the usual legal procedure in Russia. Some Russians have been galvanised into more than expressing sympathy or condemning the American legal system.

           As a past article in Second City Teacher mentioned, supporters such as Denis Shiryaev managed to amass a petition of 41,000 signatures calling for the American Supreme court to review two cases. The petition declares -

          'Here is a request to review the case against two school teachers in the U.S.A, Jennifer Fichter and Brianne Alice who were sentenced for a period of 30 years in prison for having sex with three of her students of 16 and 17(Brainne Altice) and 22 years in prison for having sex with students between the ages of 16 and 17, (Jennifer Fichter). A lot of students around the world are supporting them. They think that in this situation there is no justice by the U.S. court. We want to review this case against these ladies. We all that the guys are not so little and they are old enough to butcher, Florida is one of the 12 states in the United States where the age of consent is 18 years (in the remaining 38 states the age of consent is 17 or 16 years.)

          That is why the United States court can review the case.

          Maybe these ladies made the mistakes of having sex with those guys but we all make mistakes. Our request is dedicated to switch on the light of justice and to modify the sentences.

          These ladies find favor in the eyes of millions of people. All of them ask the United States Court to give a smaller prison sentence for Jennifer and Brainne. These sentences are too high and in general in this situation you can give them community service as a punishment. I hope that this petition will have success.

          Amongst the comparisons with Anders Breisik, it is despicable and gutless to compare the weaker sex(women) who did not do anything like this low person. Thank you for your support.

          Justice will have success.'

          It is clear that the judgements in those legal cases has further tarnished the reputation of the United States of America. Now millions of people all over the world no longer cherish illusions that, 'America is the Land of the Free' where 'There is justice for all'! In fact, a deeper examination of what goes on in American courts would shock the Russians even more. The prisons are full of innocent people who were forced to plea guilty simply because they lacked the resources to employ a lawyer. They call those guilty pleas 'bargain pleaing.'

          A Russian English teacher Okasana Chebotareva told me, 'Such prison sentencing is going to create a horrible atmosphere for teachers to work in. Teachers and students will no longer trust each other and you will be working in a tense amosphere of fear. I would hate to work in a school with this atmosphere'.

         Another teacher, Olga, told me, 'That is just over the top. Those teachers should just be fired and not imprisoned. Stephen, you better watch out that you yourself don't get into trouble'. I told Olga I did not work in American schools or hop into bed with my students.

         Lenoid Perlov, a representative of the Union, 'Teacher' stated, 'If I was in charge of those cases I would just dismiss the teachers from their jobs and ban them from working in this particular part of America. I would not put them in prison. But teachers have to understand that they must maintain a distance from their pupils.'

         For much of the mass media those cases simply represent lurid, sensational and  tantalising entertainment. It is a way of selling more newspapers or increasing the ratings of televsion programs.

         For the accused teachers this is not entertainment but their lives which are on the line. One accused teacher, Michelle Preston, a geography teacher, even attempted to commit suicide!

         Compassion and care have to be part of any legal system of justice. You have to examine each case on its particular merits rather than by precedent. A rational judge would ask the questions, such as, 'What really happened in this case and why? and 'How can I best assist the accused teachers ? rather than 'Tut Tut Tut ... Throw away the keys approach.

         The American teachers unions should take up those cases and fight for a review of those cases. We should build up upon the generous and gallant support of symapthetic Russians. Unless American teachers take bolder steps to defend their rights they will become no better than slaves.