Friday, May 27, 2016

Can someone afford an apartment on minimum wage in Spokane or Coeur d’Alene?

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 2:34 PM

screen_shot_2016-05-27_at_2.10.42_pm.png

No one working full time on minimum wage in any state, city or county in the U.S. can afford a two-bedroom apartment, including in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition that found that Washington is the 10th most expensive state in the country for housing. Idaho ranked 44th.

The report calculated what someone would make working 40 hours a week and compared that to what someone would need to earn to afford an apartment without it costing more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities (a federal guideline often used to calculate reasonable housing costs).

In the Spokane metropolitan area, the report found, someone would need to make $15.17 or have an annual income of $31,560 to afford the fair market value (another federal guideline) of a $789-a-month two-bedroom apartment. Washington state already has one of the highest minimum wages in the country at $9.47 an hour. Thirty seven percent of Spokane area households are renters, and they earn an estimated hourly mean wage of $11.19, according to the report.

In the Coeur d’Alene area, the report found, someone would need to make $14.77 an hour (more than double the state’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage) to afford a $768-a-month two bedroom apartment. According to the report, 30 percent of the city’s residents are renters who make an estimated $10.22 hourly mean wage.

Unsurprisingly, the greatest disparity in Washington is in the Seattle area. Despite the city being on track to implement its $15-an-hour minimum wage, someone working minimum wage would need to make $29.29 an hour to afford a $1,523-a-month apartment.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , ,

Coal terminals, superbugs, Daiquiri Factory, Obama talks nukes in Japan

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 9:08 AM


ON INLANDER.COM


NEWS: 
Sheriff says deputies will renew rape investigation of former Bowdish Middle School teacher
InHealth: How are we going to get all that food to Mars, you guys?

art17865.jpg
OTHER NEWS

Hearing held on Longview coal terminal 

People drove to Spokane from Idaho and Montana to weigh in on a proposed coal terminal in Longview, Washington. If approved, 16 coal trains would pass through communities in Idaho, Montana and Washington daily as they make their way to the terminal.

Cellphones could be giving you cancer
A new study from the U.S. National Toxicology Program has found that male rats exposed to large doses of radiation from cellphones developed brain and heart tumors. 

Rise of superbugs?
American military researchers have found the first ever patient infected with a bacteria that's resistant to an antibiotic often used on germs that resist all other drugs. Although the patient has recovered, the incident raises concerns about "superbugs," bacteria that can't be treated with antibiotics. 

Daiquiri Factory reopening
Remember the Daiquiri Factory? Well Jamie Pendleton, an embattled local businessman, is planning o reopening the establishment this summer. However, Spokane police have objected, noting the high volume of calls for service to the business. 

Obama appears at atomic bomb memorial
Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, one of two Japanese cities bombed with atomic weapons during WWII. In his remarks, Obama stopped short of apologizing for the bombing but called on the world to "choose a future when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , ,

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sheriff says deputies will renew rape investigation of former Bowdish Middle School teacher

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 4:02 PM

news4-1-d3fc04962c64c409.jpg
Years after the case was declared inactive, Spokane County sheriff's deputies will make another push to investigate allegations that former Bowdish Middle School teacher Anthony Cucinotti raped a sixth-grade student, according to Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. 

Cucinotti was a part of our cover story last week that tackled how area school districts sometimes fail to protect kids from sexually abusive teachers. The Central Valley School District fielded complaints about Cucinotti's behavior, which included anger outbursts and allegations of inappropriate relationships with girls, for a period of over 16 years.

Cucinotti resigned in 2009 amid a district investigation after Emily Keenan, one of his sixth-grade students, told a school counselor that Cucinotti snapped her bra in class. He moved to California, where he remains today.

Three years later, when Keenan was 14, she also reported that Cucinotti had raped her multiple times over the course of the 2008-09 school year. She would later say that when he snapped her bra that day in class, he whispered "I'm gonna do it again," in her ear. 

But law enforcement officials never interviewed Cucinotti about the rape allegations. Sheriff's deputies reached out to the Huntington Beach Police Department in California for help contacting Cucinotti, but law enforcement failed to contact him. Knezovich says the officers in California "could never get him to come to the door." With no physical evidence and no witnesses, the case was declared inactive in 2013. 

A civil lawsuit was filed in 2013 against Central Valley School District, alleging that the district failed to protect Keenan by downplaying previous complaints about Cucinotti's misconduct. Cucinotti was found by attorneys and deposed in 2014 as part of that case. Earlier this year, Central Valley settled the case and awarded Keenan $2.5 million. The money came from the district's insurance.

Knezovich says he told his sexual assault unit Thursday to once again actively investigate the allegations against Cucinotti. He says "if we get further information, we will pursue this case."

When asked if there was anything more the sheriff's office could have done to find and interview the alleged rapist years ago, Knezovich says: "Answer that question for me, honestly. I'm not trying to be flippant ... what we have is an unsubstantiated report of a crime. We can't find any corroborating evidence. There's no probable cause."

He stresses that the sheriff's office takes rape allegations seriously, but sometimes deputies must rely on other agencies to help out. He added that the sexual assault unit has not increased its number of detectives in decades due to a lack of resources. He says there has been no attempt to rectify the problem that, as the population and the case loads for the sexual assault unit has increased, the number of detectives has not. He says the volume of these types of cases is "crushing."

"It comes to the point where sooner or later somebody has to do something to give us some resources so we can serve the public in a way we would like to," he says.

Sgt. Aaron Myhre, the head of the Spokane County Sheriff's Office sexual assault unit, says his unit has taken 40 child abuse or sex crimes reports just this week. 

"And that's just since Monday. Over the weekends we get a lot more. I've got four guys, and those aren't all getting assigned to them," Myhre says. "It's kind of just triaging them as they come in, deciding which need to be worked right away."

The statute of limitations runs until a victim's 30th birthday. Keenan is 19. Myhre says it is more difficult to investigate rape cases if a suspect crosses jurisdictions, and it's even harder if there's a delay in reporting. 

"And that's not the fault of anybody. Sometimes victims don't feel comfortable disclosing stuff with anybody and they keep it inside and hide it and when they do disclose it, sometimes it's several years later. Some are 10 years later," Myhre says. "That makes investigations much more difficult when collecting evidence than it does if it was something that happened last night or three days. Those are challenges, but sometimes challenges we can work through." 
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

InHealth: How are we going to get all that food to Mars, you guys?

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 9:57 AM

mars_23_aug_2003_hubble.jpg

This trip to Mars is making me hungry
NASA is confronting a rather significant but mundane problem as it plans for a trip to Mars: how to store food so that it lasts five years. Enter Washington State University researcher Shyam Sablani who is part of a team that received a $450,000 grant to create plastic packaging that better resists oxygen and water vapor. Glass and metal containers currently offer the best shelf life, but they don’t work with new microwave technology used to preserve food. The new plastic packaging could also be used by the military and for commercial purposes.

Animal Love
For the homeless, a pet offers companionship and security. But having a pet also means there’s another mouth to feed. For the last year, 7th grader Avery Plank has been offering free bags of pet food for pet-owners attending the Blessings Under the Bridge meal every Wednesday evening. Avery collects dog food from local donors, including Costco, URM, Country Store, North 40 and Natural Grocers. He repackages it into one gallon resealable bags of dog food and quart-size bags of cat food. Project Unconditional Love goes through as many as twelve, 40-gallon storage tubs of packaged food each week. Contribute pet food and other supplies at the donation barrel at the Country Store on Newport Highway or donate online.  

Lift a Pint for the Animal Kingdom
Spokane's Bellwether Brewing hosts a pint night today, May 26, from 3-9 pm, with $1 from every pint sold donated to the Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary. Higher Ground is an animal refuge in Green Bluff that offers a home to creatures large and small, ranging from horses and donkeys down to rabbits and birds. Their mission? To “rescue homeless animals or animals in need, offer a place of refuge to peacefully live out their lives, and share our work and their stories to create opportunities for Humane Education.” Cheers to that.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , ,

New charges for man who shot CdA pastor, revenge on Gawker and is Spokane really THAT dangerous?

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 9:39 AM


ON INLANDER.COM 

• These three bike cops know downtown better than anyone

• Hey guys, Volume is coming. Check out our Q&A with headliner Shabazz Palaces.

• An LA school district also settled a pricey lawsuit for sexual misconduct by a teacher. (Context: last week's cover story explores how local districts fail to protect students from predatory teachers. You should read it.) 

• Actually, Spokane might not be one of the most dangerous cities in the country (unless you're a bike). 

IN OTHER NEWS: 

• Kyle Odom, the former Marine who shot Coeur d'Alene Pastor Tim Remington in March will not face attempted murder charges. Prosecutors amended Odom's charges to aggravated battery, which carries the same maximum 15 year sentence in Idaho but has a lower standard of proof. (Spokesman-Review)

• A federal judge in Brooklyn understands how a felony conviction can cripple a person's status in society. Yesterday, Judge Frederic Block sentenced a woman to probation rather than jail time for a drug offense, basically saying the label "felon" is punishment enough. He pointed to the nearly 50,000 federal and state statutory penalties on felons outside of prison. 

• Trump is OFFICIALLY the GOP nominee; Inexplicably, Bernie and Trump will debate; Meanwhile Hillary's catching some flack from the State Department's inspector general for her use of a private email server

• U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced earlier this week that she will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the white man who walked into an African American church in South Carolina and killed nine people as they worshiped. Here's writer and author Ta-Nehisi Coates on why Roof shouldn't face capital punishment

• Remember when Hulk Hogan (aka Terry Bollea) won $140 million from the gossip website Gawker 'cause they published a sex video of him? Well this week we learned that tech billionaire, Peter Thiel, picked up Hogan's legal bills to the tune of about $10 million. Thiel is a cofounder of PayPal and one of the earliest investors in Facebook. Gawker outed him as being gay nearly a decade ago. 
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why this list of 30 most "dangerous" cities (Spokane is No. 22) is #problematic

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 2:57 PM

crowbar.prop.crime.jpg

Spokane is apparently the 22nd most dangerous city in the entire United States. At least, that's what the folks over at Safewise would have you believe. 

You remember Safewise (or maybe you don't). They're the home-security system advertiser/seller who has a monied interest in scaring you out of your hard-earned cash and into a fancy new alarm system. 

Earlier this month, the company released a list of the "30 Most Dangerous Cities in America — 2016." Using the most recent FBI crime data and population data, Safewise crunched the numbers for violent crimes per 1,000 people and property crimes per 1,000 people, and voila! You get the 30 most dangerous cities in the country.  

(They left out cities with less than 10,000 residents and those that didn't submit a complete crime report to the FBI.)  

Topping the list is little Tukwila, Washington, a suburb in King County with a population approaching 20,000 as of 2014. According to Safewise, Tukwila sees 8.18 violent crimes per 1,000 people and 165.75 property crimes per 1,000 people. 

Spokane, which has the lowest violent crime rate among the 30 cities listed, comes in at No. 22: 5.48 violent crimes per 1,000 and 85.59 property crimes per 1,000. 

But there are a few problems with Safewise's rankings. 

First, it appears that the number crunchers simply added the rate of violent crimes and the rate of property crimes, which means murder and rape are weighted the same as stealing a TV from Wal-Mart. 

Second, big cities such as Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis, which frequently top "most violent cities" lists, are missing from this report. One explanation could be that beleaguered places like Chicago are less likely to bother police with something like a burglary, when they have drive-by shootings to deal with.

Finally, according to Spokane Police Officer Teresa Fuller, crime reporting systems across the country can vary. Although Safewise is using data from the FBI, how that data is collected at the state level is not necessarily consistent.

"There's a bunch of other towns from different states on that list, and I don't know what reporting system they use," Fuller says. "It could be like comparing apples to oranges to bananas.

"You really do have to question the methodology and the reason behind them publishing this study. It's hard to say if their ranking has any validity at all." 

Fuller adds that other factors contribute to how safe or dangerous a city might be, such as number of officers per population and area and prevalence of gang violence.

An international news outlet based in New York, The Epoch Times, did some digging into the top five cities on the list. Four are relatively small cities near larger, crime-ridden cities. 

No. 1 Tukwila, for example, the south Seattle suburb, saw one murder in 2014 and zero in 2013.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , ,

A month before Chief Straub was ousted, he fought against mayor's proposal to move police leaders to city hall

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 2:12 PM

In 2013, Straub had big plans to reshape the Spokane Police Department. By the end of 2015, before his ouster, he was clashing with city administration about the direction of the department
  • In 2013, Straub had big plans to reshape the Spokane Police Department. By the end of 2015, before his ouster, he was clashing with city administration about the direction of the department

On August 18, 2015, a month before Police Chief Frank Straub would be forced to resign, the chief laid out a vision for the future of Spokane Police Department facilities in a memo to the mayor and city administrator.

It was one, however, that diverged significantly from the direction desired from City Hall.

For example, Straub wanted to make one thing very clear: The idea of moving the headquarters for police and fire department to City Hall was a bad one. 

Police headquarters will remain in the Public Safety Building.

... 

We do not believe City Hall provides a viable location for several reasons:

- The presence of the police department increases the threat level to City Hall, which is already a target

- Moving police and/or police-fire administration into City Hall would require significant target hardening and capital investment. 

— As we learned from Mayor Maddox, government resources should be spread out to ensure continuity of government in a crisis. Simply put, if all our resources, including police and fire are in City Hall, and we lose city hall because of a Natural Disaster or Manmade Attack, we are done.

— If we move police administration into City Hall, we would have to move associated units and investigations as well. This would require two floors in City Hall. We say because the chief and his/her immediate staff cannot be removed from police operations. To put it in context, it would be untenable for the mayor and city administrator to be in one building, and the rest of city government to be dispersed throughout the city. 
But in a brief email sent the next day, City Administrator Theresa Sanders made it absolutely clear. Mayor David Condon planned to move the fire and police department to City Hall.

"On the HQ topic — Mayor has been clear that Fire and PD leadership will be at City Hall," Sanders wrote. "Many details need to be worked out [on] that topic." 

The strange thing here is that Sanders had moved former police spokeswoman Monique Cotton to her Parks department position in City Hall precisely to get out of Straub's orbit. (Cotton had informally accused Straub of sexual harassment.)

Texts between Cotton and Straub's assistant, Angie Napolitano, show Cotton was worried about running into Straub as she gathered up her things to move to a new office. 

If Straub had been moved to City Hall without relocating the Parks department, it could have made things more difficult for Cotton. 

In the months since Straub was forced to resign, however, the push to relocate police and fire leadership appears to have been abandoned — or at least set aside amid the current search for a new chief. 

"I was not part of any of those discussions [in August,]  but my sense is that move has been tabled," Assistant Police Chief Craig Miedl wrote in an email. "I have not heard of any impending move." 

Coddington says the issue had not been brought up with the current interim head of the Police Department, Jim McDevitt. Pressed on whether Mayor Condon was still pushing to relocate the fire department and the police department to City Hall, Coddington would only speak in generalities. 

"I don't know if there's any ongoing conversation for asset management as it relates to police and fire," Coddington says. “There’s a lot of discussions all the time about the best use of real-estate and asset management. Anything that would happen in city hall would have a domino effect in other departments.” 

Lt. Dave McCabe, president of the Lieutenants and Captains Association, says he had never heard of discussions to move police leadership to city hall. 

"I think it would be a ridiculous move," he says. "[SPD] needs to have their leadership in-house. They need to be seen. Being able to call somebody up on the phone is not the same as being able to sit down and talk in person."

Rethinking Precincting
But there appeared to be a deeper division between Straub and the city administration. In his August memo, Straub outlined his frustrations with the slow progress the department had in switching to a "precinct model," dispersing police stations throughout the community instead of having them focused in a central location.  

“The idea is to put the police right in the heart of the community,” Straub said in 2013, with the opening of the downtown police precinct in the Peyton building near the STA Plaza.

And Condon, back then, was optimistic. 

“We’ve been doing things the same way for a long time,” Condon said, “and we may need to switch that up.” 

But in the August memo, Straub's irritation with the pace of change shown through. 

"Although we have made significant progress and are achieving dramatic results, our operations have been hampered by — (a) the pace of precinct implementation, (b) the lack of a South precinct, (c) the fact that space issues in the Intermodal [Center] remain unresolved," Straub wrote. 

He wanted to more firmly establish a South precinct location, noting asset management had identified two buildings that would require minimal construction to work as South precinct buildings. If that didn't happen, he wrote, the city would have to shift from divided into three precincts, South, Central, and North, to be divided into only North and South.

"This change will have significant impact on our staffing, operations, and [computer-aided dispatch] configuration," Straub warned. "Additionally, the North-South model is inconsistent with key principals of community policing that call for 'embedded' police resources and neighborhood specific strategies. 

But in her response, Sanders poured cold water on his enthusiasm, suggesting that he hadn't shown the plan was logistically feasible. 

"You refer to slow implementation of precinct model yet I see we are not staffing the precincts (Hillyard and Downtown) we do have,"  Sanders wrote. "It surprises me we have another precinct coming on line (in fact, ready to go) that we aren't prepared to staff."

She told Straub to develop an affordable staffing model and facilities plan before any other precincts could be added. She messaged Scott Simmons, then director of the business and developer services, to tell him that any other progress on Straub's ideas should wait until a more detailed plan.

"Scott — move nothing else forward until we have a facilities plan in place," she wrote. (Again, a plan we can afford and one we can staff in the current budget.)

Less than a month after Straub was kicked out of his job, the city announced it was shifting to a new direction. The precinct model wasn't dismantled entirely, but the vision the former police chief laid out was abandoned. The police division didn't have the number of staff required, the new police leadership explained. 

“We don’t have the staffing levels, nor do we have the financial resources to decentralize,” then-interim Chief Rick Dobrow said in the Spokesman-Review in October. “We are so call-for-service driven that [precinct leaders] had bodies, but they didn’t really have the time to focus on neighborhood issues.”

The Plan For the Plaza
The memo also reveals that, in August, Straub had explicitly planned to shut down the SPD presence at the Peyton Building, across from the STA Plaza, after the lease expired in 2016. It was a major shift from his previous rhetoric, where he repeatedly expressed his desire to keep some police presence in the space.

Although we do not pay for the space or associated utility costs with the current Downtown location, we no longer receive $50,000.00 from [the Downtown Spokane Partnership] to offset the cost of bike patrols. In June 2016, when the lease expires, we should close that location. Once it is closed, we should re-establish our agreement with DSP to be reimbursed with for police services.
A few weeks later, however, then Asst. Chief Rick Dobrow wrote an email to leadership explaining that the downtown precinct was staying put, and the South precinct would move to the Intermodal center instead. 

After Straub was ousted, confusion reigned, DSP struggled in vain to figure out what the plan was for the Peyton building. Without much in the way of clear communication from the city, DSP canceled the lease early. 
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pig Out in the Park: You ready for more Sir Mix-A-Lot?

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 1:18 PM

He's back!
  • He's back!

Pig Out in the Park
recently announced its big headliner for the annual long Labor Day weekend event — the one and only Sir Mix-A-Lot, which is seemingly an unusual selection as it feels like the artist was just here. The Seattle rapper played a sold-out Sandpoint Halloween show two years ago and also September’s Perry Street Shakedown. The latter brought out hundreds of loud fans spilling into nearby roadways.

While Sir Mix-A-Lot is a perfect addition to the Pig Out lineup, hopefully people won’t soon tire of the MC’s talents. As Sir Mix told the Inlander in a 2014 interview: “Unlike a lot of rappers, I embrace capitalism, otherwise it's a life of struggling.”

And perhaps that’s a look into why the performer wants to come back to the area on an annual basis. We, so far, like coming to his shows, and he likes getting paid. In recent years the artist has seen a resurgence in popularity after Nicki Minaj's huge hit "Anaconda," heavily sampled his 1992 No. 1 track "Baby Got Back.”

Of course, Sir Mix isn’t alone. Plenty of artists like Hell’s Belles and Tech N9ne, come through on the regular to the delight of their fans. It shall be fascinating to see where Sir Mix-A-Lot performs next.

The rest of the Pig Out in the Park lineup includes: Mark Farner, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad, Cowboy Mouth, Heart By Heart, featuring original members of Heart, the U.S. Navy Band and also local favorites Peter Rivera & Celebrate and Too Slim & The Taildraggers. The free three-day food/music will bring in more than 90 bands to three stages for this year’s family-friendly festivities.

Also, with the construction on Riverfront Park, take a look at the new festival map below. 
37th_pig_out_event_layout.jpg

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , ,

Grown-up and live with your parents? You're not alone!

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 11:30 AM


st_2016.05.24_young-adults-living-01.png
Call it a sign of the times, call it "laziness," call it prudent financial sense, but the numbers don't lie.

The Pew Research Center just released a summary of its census data analysis on young American's living arrangements, which found that adults in the 18-34 age bracket living with their parents have now edged out rates of those living with a spouse or partner in their own household.

This trend is an indicator of another modern lifestyle movement — most young people are not settling down into traditional romantic partnerships or marriages before they turn 35.

The percentage difference between young adults who are living with a spouse or partner, as compared to living with their parents, is small, but it's the first time this trend has reversed in 130 years. At the time of the last census in 2014, 31.6 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds were living with a spouse or partner. Comparatively, the Pew study found that 32.1 percent of people in that age group were living with their parents, a .5 percentage difference. 

Less than half of those not living with their parents (14 percent) were heading their own household in which they lived alone, living as a single parent, or with one or more roommates. The rest, 22 percent, shared a home with another relative, non-relative or in group quarters (including college dorms). 

While this trend reflects recent demographic shifts in marriage, as well as finance and education, Pew points out that the rate of young people living at home is not at the highest it's ever been. That was in 1940, when about 35 percent of people in the 18- to 34-age group were living with their parents. Of course, in that era, it was commonplace for couples to not cohabitate until after marriage. 

The study also found several differences between genders when it came to living at home or not. More men live at home (35 percent) than with a spouse/partner (28 percent), while women are more likely to live with a partner (35 percent) than with their parents (29 percent).

While the Great Recession is considered to have contributed to more young people living with mom and/or dad, the study notes that this trend was rising before then, as 28 percent of 18- to 34-year olds lived at home in pre-recession year 2007.

So, fellow young adults, don't be ashamed to say you're living with mom or dad — you're clearly not alone. At age 28, I was one of you until very recently, and while it was an awkward thing to bring up amongst casual acquaintances (the need to justify it to others was always there), it was a financially smart choice I made, and which I don't regret.

Read the rest of the Pew analysis findings here.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , ,

A Los Angeles school district, like Central Valley, also settled an expensive lawsuit for teacher sexual misconduct

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 10:58 AM

Bowdish Middle School is where Anthony Cucinotti allegedly raped Emily Keenan. - MIKE SALSBURY
  • Mike Salsbury
  • Bowdish Middle School is where Anthony Cucinotti allegedly raped Emily Keenan.

Last week, our cover story explored how school districts sometimes fail to protect kids from sexually abusive teachers. We focused mainly on the story of Emily Keenan, who reported she was raped by her 6th grade teacher, Anthony Cucinotti, five separate times during the 2008-09 school year. (Read the story here, if you haven't yet.)

The alleged rapes occurred after principals or administrators in Central Valley School District heard complaints about Cucinotti's misconduct for a period of over 16 years. Keenan recently was awarded $2.5 million dollars in a settlement with Central Valley, though the district didn't admit any liability. (Cucinotti has not been arrested or charged with any crimes.)

But it's not just districts in our region that sometimes fail to protect students from sexual abuse. Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest school district, recently settled two lawsuits worth a total of $88 million with dozens of children and their families for cases involving sexual abuse at elementary schools. 

Both lawsuits — $58 million for students at one school and $30 million for students at the other — alleged that the school district failed to take complaints about the teachers' behavior seriously, an argument Keenan's lawyers also made in the lawsuit against Central Valley. 

Paul Chapel III, the teacher involved in one of the lawsuits, reportedly abused children over the course of a decade. Court documents, according to the Los Angeles Times, show that teachers had warned administrators that Chapel was placing children in his lap, attempting to take them on unauthorized field trips and closing his classroom door with students inside. Then, according to the Times, a parent complained to an administrator that Chapel would kiss boys and girls in class. Those allegations were confirmed by several students, but he remained in the classroom for six more weeks. 

Chapel is now serving a 25-year sentence after a no-contest plea. 

The other teacher was Robert Pimental. He would later plead no contest to sexually assaulting four girls before he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. But his case, too, involved a series of accusation that led to minimal action. From the Los Angeles Times story:

Former district Principal Irene Hinojosa fielded complaints about Pimentel's aggressive affection for children as early as 2002, when she documented a conference with Pimentel about touching and slapping young girls' buttocks and touching their calves. 

The teacher admitted the conduct, according to the document, with the excuse that he was on medication, which increased his sex hormones. Three years later, Hinojosa received a search warrant requesting "Mr. Pimentel's employment and personnel files" because of an investigation into Pimentel's alleged abuse of a minor who was related to him. 

And those settlements came less than two years after the LAUSD agreed to pay nearly $140 million to families of students sexually abused by Mark Berndt, an elementary school teacher who was accused of taking bondage-style photos of more than two dozen students and feeding them afterward with spoons that contained semen. He is now serving a 25-year sentence. 

The Los Angeles school district made policy changes in response to scrutiny. Most notably, now when police are investigating any allegation of sexual misconduct of a teacher, principals must send out a notification letter to parents within a 72-hour window. 

Marla Nunberg, Central Valley School District spokeswoman, says she's not aware of any similar policy change since Cucinotti resigned in 2009 or since the ensuing lawsuit. She says if a teacher is accused of abusing or harassing a student, then that student's parents will be notified that day. But she says communication with parents is handled on a case-by-case basis. 

Spokane Public Schools has a policy of notifying parents of a targeted student not only of allegations, but also of the right to file a criminal complaint and sexual harassment complaint. 

Cucinotti, unlike the teachers in Los Angeles mentioned above, is not in prison. He moved to California after resigning from his teaching position, and Spokane County deputies never interviewed him after Keenan reported the rapes a few years after she says they happened.

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , ,

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Woody Guthrie Day

Woody Guthrie Day @ Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center

Sat., May 28

All of today's events | Staff Picks

Recent Comments

Top Topics in Bloglander

News (175)


Music (37)


Arts & Culture (31)


For Fun! (21)


Food (18)


© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation