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Dobbins won’t face criminal charges

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 8/2/07 update: The Oakland police say they interviewed the people who made the allegations to the school district, and that Dobbins won’t face charges — for real, this time. The district is still conducting its own inquiry.

Last month, the authorities released the following statement, before they retracted it hours later:

On 23 Jul 07, the Special Victims Unit received a mandatory cross report from the Oakland Unified School District of possible sexual improprieties on the part of a School Board Director and a 17 year old female student. The student was contacted in person by investigators and made no disclosure of any crime; she denied the reported allegations. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has been consulted, and they are not pursuing criminal charges due to no evidence of corpus.

The question now is what the district will do, especially since some were calling for Dobbins’ resignation. I’ll be posting updates.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    So: he says, nothing happened. She says nothing happened. The police say nothing criminal happened. So what is the basis for the investigation?

  • Cesar

    I’ve know dobbins since i was 11, and hes not that type of person, if u ask all his students they will say the same thing

  • Michael Siegel

    This is essentially defamation, but will anyone be held accountable for the way the information came out? Only Dobbins and the student suffer. Is it right for news articles to surface these types of issues without substantiation? And, though I have respect for some of the work of Noel Gallo, how can he make up for his demands for Dobbins’ resignation, made without evidence or perspective?

  • Katy Murphy

    First, let me say that I would much rather be writing about any number of other school-related issues and stories other than this. Because he is a public official involved in a district and a police investigation — and because he was under pressure to resign — that is news.

    It’s my responsibility to follow through with the rest of the facts, as they come in, but you’re right: Dobbins and the student (whom I spoke to last night) are suffering because of the investigation itself, as well as its publicity.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Once this investigation is closed, let’s see if the News Media clears his name with the same amount of fanfare. If the cops got an call that any other 35 yr. old person was having a consensual relationship with a 17 yr. old, they would not lift a finger to investigate it; and the Oakland Tribune would not have wasted an iota of ink covering the story. In a city with a sky-high murder-rate and that is infested with Drugs-dealers and underage prostitutes, I’m surprised the severley under-manned Oakland Police Department has the time for this kind of unsubstantiated garbage.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    I just think the newspapers should take the time to develop stories that are fair and responsible instead of just printing blurbs about what happened. It’s almost like the rush to be the first trumps all else.

  • Katy Murphy

    James: You’re right that this wouldn’t be news if it weren’t a public official involved. But, obviously, it is. If and when he is officially cleared, my editors plan to give that story the same play as the initial one (which, I would argue, was fair and mostly from Dobbins’ point of view).

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Well, that’s good to hear. I’ll be looking for that.

  • Tanesha

    This is not about a consenual personal relationshipt between a 35 yr old man and a 17 yr old girl. It is about the moral values of a person entrusted to do the right thing for students. You do not have that type of relationship with a inor. A Teacher, Lawyer, please, why did not he tell someon that this was happening? It is imoral conduct at the very least.

  • David Kahn

    I appreciate any responsible journalistic attention to the Oakland schools. However, in this case there appears to be a rush to print salacious allegations — and you’ll have to admit the TRIB articles and especially their placement and headlines (for which I know the reporter is not responsible) are highly suggestive of wrong doing. The problem comes with the attention given to the “report from the Oakland Unified School District of possible sexual improprieties” rather than the facts stemming from the investigation which seem, not surprisingly, entirely favorable to Dobbins. The real question for me lies in the source of the story. Was this “floated” out of the District office? By whom? Why run a story with such thin evidence so prominently? I don’t blame the reporter for doing her job, although I too wish you were “writing about other school related issues” like the reasons for the flight of successful teachers and veteran principals from OUSD, the suspicious connections between corporate interests and District resources, the ongoing problems related to the State takeover, or even some of the many success stories happening in every school. I’m unhappy with what seems to be the paper’s slant and with the public officials who responded prematurely and provided newsworthy negative quotes without waiting for more factual information.

  • http://Yahoo Caryl Scott

    I agree with James Jones. Before you take a step to permanently ruin a man’s career
    and reputation for the sake of getting a byline on the front page, a responsible writer
    (and editor) would make sure something wrong happened first. especially if its a public
    official.

  • Katy Murphy

    Caryl: I appreciate your point of view, but I have to take issue with your assertion that I’m just out to self-promote.

    Getting a byline on the front page is actually not that momentous of an occasion, especially as the paper gets smaller and smaller. I think the editors have realized how much readers care about educational issues, and I have found that almost anything that relates to the Oakland schools has a good chance of landing in a prominent spot.

    Ask yourself this question: OUSD puts out a statement about the investigation and sends it to several news outlets. How would my editors react if I sat on the information and they saw it on the news that night?

  • http://www.learningcomputers.info Joseph

    Hi Katy:

    Here is your next headline – “Investigation of the Oakland Board of Education is launched after attempts to defame it’s newest Board member come to light” – or at least it should be.

    Chris Dobbins is a youngster, being served his first dish of hard, cold, Oakland politics.

    Anyone who works with the board knows that Chris is new and has made it clear that he would like some changes made in the way board business is conducted. He has made himself accessible to the community, to teachers, to education advocates and to students, that is what educators do……or should be doing.

    It is a sad day when our public officials can not take steps to represent the people without being stepped on by a colleague.

    I think the whole board should be dissolved and replaced by active, interactive and accessible new members…..Like Chris Dobbins

  • http://Yahoo Caryl Scott

    While I hope that nothing inappropriate happened, for everyone concerned in this case, I know that anything is possible. But I still feel that some responsible reporting would
    be great. You have to do your job, but I hope that this story does not turn out to be a waste of a lot of peoples time and energy.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Katy, you do a really good job covering Oakland’s educational scene. I did notice the kid-gloves you’ve been using on this story; and the fact that you are taking the time to respond to us here in this forum says allot about you. BUT, but this story has NOTHING to do with Education.

    I think the real story here has to do with the possible political implications:

    1. Who benefits from Chris’s resignation?

    2. Why would the District distribute this to news outlets before concluding their internal investigation?

    3. Conduct does not have to be criminal to be deemed inappropriate. If they have proof that this happened, then why haven’t they taken action?

    4. Does the timing of these allegations have anything to do with the momentum of AB 45? Right before the Board is about to get some of it’s mojo back, we have a scandal? I don’t believe in coincidence.

  • Turner Dodge

    I thought you did a good job with this issue, Katy.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Why did the OUSD administration go to the press with the story there was an
    investigation? Who was responsible for making that decision? And, what was
    their thinking as to why it was necessary?

  • Katy Murphy

    I should clarify: OUSD released the statement a few hours after I called to confirm what I had heard about an investigation. To be fair, my editors would probably have run the story even without that statement since we received confirmation from other board members, including Dobbins. It just made it all the more necessary, from a news standpoint, to publish the story when we did.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Katy, you said:

    “Ask yourself this question: OUSD puts out a statement about the investigation and sends it to several news outlets. How would my editors react if I sat on the information and they saw it on the news that night?”

    So, the rush to be first did trump all else? And the District didn’t prematurely send statements out to all the news outlets? And the question you posed above? was that hypothetical?

  • Katy Murphy

    The question was not hypothetical. I began investigating the story before the OUSD statement went out, but the fact that it did go out made it imperative to publish the article as soon as possible. Of course, there is a rush to be first, especially when you have verified information. That’s how the news business works, and that is what my earlier question — which you just referenced — alluded to.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Katy, you said: If and when he is officially cleared, MY EDITORS plan to give that story the same play as the initial one..

    Same play huh? That tiny blurb of an article that started in the bottom left hand corner of today’s front page is what your editor’s consider the same play?
    Why not the Front page of the metro section? I guess “Floats For Foaming Fans” was to Fantastic an alliteration to pass up; and much sexier than the conclusion of this much publicized, career-threatening, potentially freedom-ending, criminal investigation. Well, if your Editors want to know why their audience is getting smaller and smaller, tell them they are losing us one unevenly covered story at a time.

    IF THE D.A. HAD FILED CHARGES, THIS STORY WOULD HAVE MADE HEADLINES.

  • Katy Murphy

    Dobbins has been cleared of criminal charges, but the district’s inquiry is still underway.

  • James Jones, Jr., Parent, etc.

    Yeah, I read that. I guess, in my mind, the criminal charges were the larger issue.

  • George

    What a bunch of garbage. Chris is about the nicest and most honest person on the face of the earth. I’m absolutely positive that anyone who knows Chris, knows these charges are absolutely bogus.