Not the welcome she expected

Lindsey Smallwood (courtesy photo)

On Saturday, special education teacher Lindsey Smallwood headed to her new West Oakland school, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, to take pictures of her classroom. The trip didn’t turn out at all like she planned.

The following passage is taken from her blog, Smallwood at Large.

Dispatch: 911 – What’s your emergency?

Me: We were just robbed at gun point. We – my husband and I.

Dispatch: Are you hurt, do I need to send an ambulance?

Me: No, we’re not hurt. They took our money, took Chris’s money.

Dispatch: Where are you now?

Me: We’re at the liquor store across the street.

The liquor store across the street from the school. The new school. Where I just took the new job. The place where I am going to go every work day for at least the next year. That school. That’s where it happened.

Teachers: Do you feel safe on your way to and from school? What precautions do you take? Has anything like this happened to you?


Cyberbullies, beware

Bullying is grounds for suspension or expulsion in California, whether it’s done face to face or through electronic media. And if there was any doubt that Facebook and other social networks came under the state’s definition of electronic media, there isn’t anymore.

Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose) introduced the Cyber Bully Prevention bill, AB 746, this year. Not surprisingly, it won bipartisan support and faced little opposition before Gov. Jerry Brown signed it on Friday, according to a news release from Campos’s office. (I wouldn’t imagine many politicians would vote against an anti-bullying bill, even if they didn’t like it, though some did.)

The new rule takes effect in January. Here it is:  Cyber bully prevention law

Does anyone at your school or your child’s school monitor social networks? Have students been disciplined after allegations of cyberbullying? Do you think this will make a difference in how kids interact with each other online?


School’s out: A series about the summer


As an education writer, I like the summer — and not because I get to file all my stories poolside (though that’s not a bad idea…). I like it because it sometimes gives me a break from breaking news, which means I get to work on projects.

I have a few up my sleeve, and I’m especially excited about one of them: a print and multimedia series about the summer, itself.

You can find the first story (print only) here.


Cutting school, with dire consequences

Condolences outside Oak Knoll Market

I’m supposed to be an education reporter, not a crime reporter, but lately there hasn’t been much of a distinction.

Today I reported on a tragedy that unfolded at a market near Youth Empowerment School in the East Oakland hills — which, according to the school principal, is about to close (not merge into the Castlemont campus, as originally planned).

On Tuesday morning, a 14-year-old YES freshman cut school and, police said, got into a violent struggle with the 57-year-old owner of Oak Knoll Market over bottles of vodka he was trying to steal. When the boy fled, the owner followed in his car; he hadn’t driven a block before he fell unconscious and died, possibly of a heart attack.

Continue Reading


A life cut short, a graduation celebration canceled

DITIYAN FRANKLINDitiyan Franklin would have graduated from Castlemont’s Leadership Preparatory High School next month. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Oakland teenager was shot and killed a couple of blocks from his house, near Arroyo Viejo park in East Oakland. Police said Thursday they had not determined a motive or identified a suspect.

Franklin is the second Castlemont senior in recent months to lose his life. His father said Chris Jones, a student at East Oakland School of the Arts who was fatally shot outside of his house Dec. 31, was a neighbor.

Yesterday, we talked to grieving family members and classmates about Franklin. You can find the story here.

MODERATOR’S NOTE: Please keep your comments respectful of those who knew and loved Ditiyan Franklin.


Oakland summer guide, and a free summer camp

Oakland Schools Police summer campIf you haven’t made plans for the summer yet, here is a brochure the Oakland school district has put together of its offerings, plus camps and courses run by the city or local organizations.

Teachers: I’ve been hearing about the academic `summer slide’ for years. Do you notice it more in students that didn’t do much learning over the summer than those who do? Does your school help find them good programs that they can afford?

What kinds of summer programs does Oakland — or the East Bay — need more of?

A free summer camp: The Oakland Schools Police department is doing its summer program again this year, at no charge to participants. Continue Reading


A celebration of peace and harmony in Oakland

Parents at Manzanita Community School and Manzanita SEED organized an event today to celebrate their community, call for peace and welcome the area’s community police officers. Here are some clips of the neighborhood walk, which began on East 27th Street and 26th Avenue in East Oakland. (Note: In the confusion of the moment, I neglected to get the name of the teacher and guitar player who provides the soundtrack! Anyone?)


A disturbing report at an elementary school

Oakland school district officials are investigating a report that two second-graders engaged in oral sex in their classroom while the teacher was present. They’re also looking into a complaint that, in the same classroom and in front of the teacher, some students were taking off their clothes and clowning around.

The teacher, who has been placed on administrative leave, apparently told school officials he was unaware of either incident — both of which reportedly happened last week. The principal got the report on Wednesday, immediately after a child told a staff member about it, said OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

After conducting multiple interviews, Flint said, “We believe the substance of the story is true.”

Here is a copy of the letter that went home to Markham families today.

Ug. Any Markham parents or teachers out there?