Should Oakland teens have a curfew?

OPD thinks so. At 5:30 p.m. tonight, the City of Oakland’s Public Safety Committee hears a proposal to keep kids under 18 off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on school nights, and between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends.

Tribune file photo by Ray Chavez

You can read a detailed report in support of the “Youth Protection Curfew” here.

Some community organizations plan to protest the proposal, saying it “criminalizes youth, parents and businesses.” The following release is circulating from a group called Critical Resistance: Continue Reading


Vandals strike elementary school

UPDATE: OASES, an organization that works with Lincoln Elementary, is coordinating volunteer efforts. Those interested in lending a hand or donating replacement materials may contact Nhi Chau at nhi@oases.org, or at 510.891.9928 ext. 10. I’ve attached the school’s wish list here.

Imagine arriving at your classroom one morning and seeing this.

Two portable classrooms and the teacher’s lounge were badly vandalized over the weekend at Lincoln Elementary School, a California Distinguished School in Oakland’s Chinatown. Little was stolen aside from a TV set and some emergency food supplies, said Nhi Chau, a program coordinator with Oakland Asian Students Educational Services (OASES).

“They splattered paint all over the classrooms. Everything went upside down,” she said. Continue Reading


Claremont Middle School’s $8,000 locks

Last year, a group of Claremont Middle School’s super-parents raised money for a digital media lab so that kids could learn professional video editing and animation software. They lent a good amount of creativity and elbow grease to the project, devoting weekend days before the start of school.

photo courtesy of Mike Mages

Mike Mages, one of the dads who spearheaded the project, was there when the lab opened this fall. And last month, he came running to the scene after a major break-in. Mages said thieves ripped off four of the school’s 20 new iMacs, a projector and a 52-inch LCD display just before winter break.

The thing that really bothers Mages, though, is that the theft might have been prevented. He said school administrators had requested deadbolts months before the burglary, and that they never came — well, at least until after the damage had been done. Continue Reading


OUSD police chief leaves district

OUSD Police Chief Art Michel is leaving his post, and I think today Thursday is his last day. I wouldn’t have known about it, had it not been for the farewell salutes that went out over the police radio this afternoon. Michel (pronounced Mitchell), a retired OPD sergeant, has led the resurrected OUSD police force since January 2008.

I’m told the chief is leaving because of compensation issues — he came out of retirement to head the school police force and was likely receiving retirement benefits — and not necessarily because of a controversy last fall in which he detained Tribune photographer/videographer Jane Tyska during a student protest. (I called him this afternoon. Let’s just say he didn’t want to talk about his departure, or anything else.)

I understand. Despite his long career, Michel might be remembered for this:


Crisis averted, again

It’s a good thing that a case manager at Oakland Community Day School took seriously a 14-year-old student’s threats to her life and others yesterday. Shortly thereafter, police went to the student’s house and found seven loaded weapons in an unlocked cabinet near his bedroom. Seven! The boy was arrested.

Here’s a letter that Community Day School Principal Sam Pasarow sent to families, assuring them of the safety of their children and giving credit to staff for responding quickly (Like most of the alternative schools, Community Day does have an extensive search process, but still).

But that wasn’t the only weapons-related incident to shake Oakland schools yesterday. Another 14-year-old boy, who had been expelled from Madison Middle School, showed up to the campus and pointed a fake gun at two kids participating in an after-school program. The kids, of course, thought it was a real firearm. Continue Reading


Metal detectors, bag checks and school kids

This Associated Press photo, from 1998, shows a weapons check at a public elementary school in Indianapolis.

When Cole Middle School students return Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, they’ll no longer be able to breeze through the front door. The West Oakland school has decided to adopt baggage inspections and metal detection “wanding” on a trial basis in response to an incident last week in which a gun fired in a classroom, hitting a radiator.

Here is a letter that went out to Cole families about the new safety precautions.

Such security measures are rare in Oakland, with the exception of some of the district’s alternative schools — and, more recently, sporting events. But OUSD might eventually adopt those precautions at other schools as well, said district spokesman Troy Flint. Continue Reading


More on the custodians in custody

(New information has come to light! See the update below.)

Just last September, Sylvester Jack Lawson was one of 70-some Oakland school district employees who received an Expect Success award, honored for “for exemplifying the highest commitment to the success of our students and our district.”

Today, the 52-year-old Oakland High School custodian, who’s been a district employee for 15 years, stands accused of stealing district property, and even taking a kid’s lost wallet. He was formally charged today, and appears in court tomorrow.

Then there’s Kenneth Wayne Hill, 43, a janitor at Webster Academy in East Oakland. He had a 2005 felony conviction (smuggling Continue Reading


Busted: Three custodians with stolen property

Three janitors suspected of stealing computers and other electronic equipment from Oakland schools have been arrested on suspicion of possessing stolen property.

Police arrested the first employee Saturday, and the other two today, during an investigation of two burglaries that occurred last week – one Sept. 2 at the district’s human resources department, and the other Sept. 3 at Webster Academy in East Oakland, in which 22 brand new computers were swiped.

District spokesman Troy Flint said he could not release the names of the arrested employees because the district didn’t want to appear that they were holding the suspects up for public humiliation. While that rationale strikes me as odd — it is a matter of public record, after all — what can I do? It’s contract negotiation season. (Our police reporter is working on it…)

Flint said investigators found a large amount of stolen property – computers, VCRs, DVDs, among other electronics – in the suspects’ possession and believe that “it might be part of a larger pattern of theft.” Continue Reading