Parents of Md. girl beaten on bus plan to sue school district

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PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md –

The parents of a Prince George’s County elementary student who was beaten up on a school bus now say they plan to sue the school system.

The video of 9-year-old Saraia insisting that she did not want to fight has gone viral.

Despite at least a dozen verbal attempts to avoid a fight, another student hit Saraia repeatedly as the bus kept rolling along. The beating lasted several minutes.

Saraia’s parents had a meeting with an administrator at their daughter’s school, but they are frustrated because they want a bigger picture solution to the problem of violence on school buses.

They’ve reached out to the school superintendent and even the governor.

A spokeswoman for Prince George’s County Schools told news reporters this type of behavior is not tolerated. One student has been suspended for the fight.

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Information for those contemplating a lawsuit

Schools of all kinds — public and private, from kindergarten through grad school and beyond, as well as specialized schools — are often the target of lawsuits. If you feel you have been wronged or injured by a school, you too may wish to file suit against a school or school district.

There are many reasons for suing a school. Among these are:

Improper Discharge. If you work for a school as a teacher or in another capacity and have been unfairly fired, you may have a case against the school. Usually, all administrative remedies must be exhausted before a lawsuit can commence.

Improper Expulsion. If you are a student at a school and have been expelled in an unlawful manner or for unlawful reasons, you may be able to sue for the damages caused by the expulsion. Here too, the administrative process should be followed first before filing suit.

Sexual Misconduct. If a teacher or other school employee engages in sexual misconduct with a student, both the person involved and the school can be sued. Schools can also be held liable for one student’s sexual misconduct with another. Also, as employers, schools can be sued by employees if they are subject to such behaviors as sexual harassment or assault.

Injury. If you, or your child, are injured on school grounds or within the context of school activities, you can sue for negligence.

Discrimination. Most schools are not allowed to discriminate against “protected groups” in their hiring or in their admissions policies. If you feel you have been discriminated against in an illegal manner, you can sue.

Educational Malpractice. While somewhat less common, lawsuits are sometimes filed against schools for failing to provide adequate education to students.

Excessive Punishment. If you or your child are subjected to unreasonable punishment, either corporal or emotional, you can sue. However, in order for the suit to succeed, the punishment must usually be extreme.

Failure to Provide Adequate Supervision. Parents are entitled to certain expectations of safety for their children attending school. If your child sustains an injury that could have been prevented by proper supervision, you may have a case against the school. Also, if an unsupervised student injures you, the school may be held partially liable if it has acted negligently.

If you want to sue a school, you’ll want to collect all appropriate evidence and then hire an attorney. Your attorney will not only advise you about the suit itself, but also about who should be named as defendant(s): the person involved in the act that caused the lawsuit (e.g. the teacher, custodian, etc.); their supervisor(s) such as the principal or superintendent; the school itself; the school district; the school board; or the organization that owns or operates the school.

As always, we recommend that you consult an attorney before proceeding.

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Have you given money to these charities accused of fraud?

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ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan and the Office of the Secretary of State, which approves the certification of Maryland’s 10,000 charities, May 19 announced that the state, represented by Attorney General Brian Frosh, will join the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other state law enforcement officials in a complaint charging multiple cancer charities with defrauding more than $187 million from donors.

The state’s announcement coincides with the FTC today announcing major action regarding the multi-state consumer fraud investigation into deceptive fundraising practices by four major charitable organizations and five individuals who are related to them. The FTC initiated the investigation in the summer of 2014.

The organizations being investigated are as follows:

  • Cancer Fund of America, Inc.
  • Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Inc.
  • The Breast Cancer Society, Inc.
  • Cancer Support Services

Between 2008 and 2012, the four charities raised $187 million nationwide. The organizations spent approximately 86 percent of contributions received on paying professional fundraisers and their own salaries, as well as lavish cars, trips, cruises, sporting events, and more. Less than 3 percent of the contributions received went to the intended charitable purpose.

The multi-state litigation seeks to dissolve these organizations and prevent the individuals who run them from forming similar fraudulent charities in the future. Currently, Maryland and the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the FTC are involved in this case—an unprecedented group effort by charity regulators.

“The state of Maryland is now party to national litigation against one of the most heinous charity scams in Maryland history,” said Governor Hogan. “These organizations misled donors, telling them their money would help cancer patients, but the overwhelming majority of donations benefitted only the fundraisers and their families and friends. I will not allow hardworking Marylanders to be scammed, and these organizations will be brought to justice.”

“This is the worst kind of deception. It amounts to the preying on the good intentions of donors to a charity for personal gain,” said Attorney General Frosh. “We need to stop this kind of fraud and protect Marylanders who want to do the right thing, so they have confidence when they give. All 50 states have united to say ‘enough is enough.’”

“Marylanders are among the most generous in their giving, and we have the right to expect that our hard-earned dollars are used for their intended purpose,” added Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith. “We will do everything in our power to make sure that our citizens are confident that charities that solicit funds in Maryland adhere to the highest ethical and moral standards. We also urge citizens to research organizations that are asking for contributions.”

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Pgcps – This is not ok.

Some Pgcps students speak truth to power concerning the state of schools in Prince George’s county. Deplorable conditions are unacceptable when senior staff at Sasscer administrative building make millions in salaries as students suffer. Where is justice?

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Daughter: Md. substitute teacher was trying to stop fight, didn’t hit students with belt

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It’s the viral video you saw first on FOX 5. A Prince George’s County substitute teacher using a belt to break up a fight in his classroom. For the first time, we are getting an account of what happened from the substitute teacher in the incident at Gwynn Park Middle School.

The teacher’s daughter, Annette, told FOX 5 that her father, Sgt. Albert W. Cooks, was trying to break up a fight — a bad one — and the kids were not listening when he was yelling for them to stop.

That is when he took off his belt and hit a desk and the floor to get them to stop. He never hit a student, according to his daughter.

The video of the incident was shot by a student last Friday inside a sixth grade classroom.

Prince George’s County Public Schools have banned Cooks from the classroom and he is being investigated by authorities.

Cooks’ daughter told us her father is a Vietnam veteran. He released a statement to FOX 5 through his daughter saying:

“God is on my side. Pray for me and our kids that they improve in their thirst for education. We have a major problem in our society with kids coming to school for anything but to get an education, which will enhance their future. Talk is cheap, and the parents of today need to instill some old fashion values that our kids can take with them into their future and become contributing citizens.”

Cooks is getting a lot of support on social media and even from parents.

“My children said that [the teacher] was very personable,” said Cherrail Curry. “He was Vietnam veteran. He got drafted, so he evidently talked to them and shared with them [his experience]. He was, as one of my sons put it, a very gentle giant.”

“I didn’t see it as he was trying to hurt kids,” said Anthony Pelt. “Maybe just fed up a little bit and his way of trying to say you guys need some discipline. I didn’t see him as trying to abuse the kids or hurt the kids.”

In another statement, Sgt. Cooks responded to the praise saying, “I am nobody’s hero. I just want to make sure all students, especially black students, go as far as they can in school so that they can get scholarships and grants in college because they are available but only for the few who have the grades and are qualified.”

Cooks’ daughter lives in North Carolina. She said her father often used his belt to discipline her when she was a kid. He didn’t hit her with it, but a snap of the belt was all it took.

She said her father wasn’t actually hitting the children in classroom, but it was just his way of getting their attention and stop a fight.

His daughter also told us Cooks was a vice principal for more than 20 years at nearly a half dozen schools, including Gwynn Park Middle School.

According to Maryland law, corporal punishment is illegal, but a teacher can take reasonable action, including a degree of force to stop a fight.

via FOX5

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What Happens In Vegas…

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UPPER MARLBORO – With budget decisions looming for the Prince George’s County Council, some citizens are weary of officials’ decisions to travel to Las Vegas for a convention this week instead of continuing to work on the budget.

The council did not hold a weekly meeting on Tuesday with three of its members attending the International Council of Shopping Centers event in Las Vegas in order to sell the county to business owners and increase the commercial tax base.

“We’re going out there to meet with potential retailers to try to get them to come to Prince George’s County,” Council Chairman Mel Franklin said. “That’s really what this conference is about. It is about business and government and other leaders getting together to market their jurisdictions and for retailers to market their businesses to these jurisdictions.”

Franklin, along with Council Vice Chairman Derrick Leon Davis, Councilmember Karen Toles and County Executive Rushern Baker III traveled along with other county staff to “sell the county,” Franklin said. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan also attended the event, according to his public schedule and an attendee list for the event.

The county must make a decision on Baker’s proposed budget by May 28, which includes multiple tax hikes and a $133 million county contribution to the Prince George’s County Public Schools system. Baker has proposed raising the real property tax rate by 15 percent—above the charter limit. He also proposed raising the county’s personal property tax rate from $2.40 to $2.78 per $100 of assessed value. Telecommunication taxes will be raised from 8 percent to 12 percent on top of those increases.

But the goal for this three-day conference is to sell Prince George’s County to the business owners in attendance. A total of 23 members are attending from Prince George’s County.

“We’re here to make an effort to prove the point that Prince George’s County being a bedroom community is over,” Franklin said. “The time of us being an economic definition is at hand.”

Bruce Branch, a community activist and a representative of the Prince George’s County and Business Contractor association, said the means to increase the commercial tax base exist at home in Prince George’s County, but officials have to be willing to work within the community.

“I think we have some problems at home that need immediate attention,” Branch said. “We do need commercial development, but I’m always a proponent of developing homegrown businesses. There are many opportunities to do that in this county.”

For some reason, Branch said, homegrown businesses are being shut out and neglected by county officials. Instead of traveling to Las Vegas, he said the county government should hold a similar conference of its own in Prince George’s County..

“It would be a great thing to hold a summit like that here,” Branch said. “We have a lot of talented contractors here. But we always hear the same old song that they lack capacity.”

The ICSC meeting is essential to county business, Davis said, who serves as a Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation board member. The conference, he said, presents the county with the potential of increasing the amount of commercial real estate development.

The county has had success in the past, Davis said, in bringing commercial development into Prince George’s County because of conferences like the ICSC conference.

“We have experienced great success with bringing important new retail prospects home to Prince George’s County – Whole Foods, Rose’s Discount Stores, Dave and Busters, to name a few of the businesses that have chosen Prince George’s as a result,” Davis said. “Additionally, it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with our regional partners on an approach to economic development that fits the needs of Prince George’s County.”

The county council has a tough job to do with the budget according to Judy Robinson, a community activist and a former secretary for the county’s planning department. She understands that they may need a bit of time to “decompress” and get away from the budget, but she would prefer if they were at home in the county.

“I don’t normally feel sorry for politicians, but I have even felt sorry for the county council. And that’s saying quite a lot. They are being raked over the coals with this budget,” Robinson said. “My message would be to stay here. I’m sure there are other meetings you can go to. There are other businesses you can contact.”

Robinson said she has concerns with the tax rates proposed in the budget, because it could hurt local and prospective businesses. Employers are not going to want to move their employees into a place where they are going to have to pay more taxes, Robinson said, and will have a difficult time convincing employees to work in the county.

“If it takes the county executive and county council to sell Prince George’s County then you already know we’re in trouble,” Robinson said. “Are they going to sell our new business tax or our new property tax?”

via Prince George’s county sentinel

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County Executive Rushern Baker III is currently in Las Vegas

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Domestic Violence Shelter Investigated for Alleged Misuse of Funds –

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Prince George’s County’s domestic violence shelter is under investigation after allegations of misuse of funds. County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports.

See the video here

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Md. dollars for schools or pensions?

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AS A MATTER of policy, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was absolutely right when he said that lawmakers in Annapolis are trying to “rob the pension fund” on which tens of thousands of current and retired state employees depend or will depend for their income and health coverage. His ability to stop them from doing so may be limited, but that’s not stopping him from trying.

On Thursday, Mr. Hogan, a Republican, announced that he intends to shift tens of millions of dollars to shore up the anemic pension fund, including money that lawmakers had earmarked for public schools.

The governor’s move may trigger resistance from the Democratic-dominated state legislature, which raided catch-up payments to the pension fund starting last year and doubled down this year. In addition to funding schools, the Democrats insisted that a disputed pool of about $200 million be used to give state employees a 2 percent raise and for several health programs to benefit pregnant women and the poor.

Mr. Hogan, elected last fall, has been true to his pledge to govern from the middle. Sensibly, he conceded on the state employee salaries and on the health programs, thereby demonstrating that he is no doctrinaire conservative.

The governor drew the line at $68 million in supplemental education funding, which is intended to help school systems pay their bills in high-cost areas of the state, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City. The schools could use that money, but the amounts involved — about 1 percent of the schools budget in Montgomery and Prince George’s, which the governor would withhold for one year only — are not enormous.

By contrast, the lawmakers’ flip-flop on pension funding is likely to damage Maryland’s budgetary and fiscal condition for many years to come. In the words of the legislature’s own chief budget analyst, slashing the state’s annual contributions to its already-underweight pension fund would impose an “eye-popping” burden on taxpayers — which he estimated at $2.5 billion — in coming decades. When the bill comes due, most current lawmakers will have retired.
In 2011, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), alarmed that the pension fund’s liabilities exceeded its assets by billions of dollars, persuaded the legislature to devote $300 million annually in supplemental appropriations to the pension fund. The relatively modest goal was to lift it to 80 percent of full funding by 2023.

That pledge of budgetary good behavior proved too difficult for lawmakers. Last year, they broke the reform plan’s promise by slashing the catch-up contributions in half to $150 million.

This year they did it again, leaving the payments at just $75 million — and saddling future taxpayers with a huge bill.

Mr. Hogan correctly labeled the raid as irresponsible. He intends to divert funds from several sources, including the schools money he is refusing to spend, to restore that $75 million.

The legislature may push back, but it will be on shaky policy grounds if it does. Just four years ago it agreed that the pension fund was a priority. Now, with a Republican governor, it has churlishly changed its mind, despitewarnings from bond-rating firms in New York that the fund remains a weak point in state finances.

In picking a fight, the legislature would jeopardize the state’s long-term budgetary health.

Via Washington Post 

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