Thursday, November 29, 2018

Local Organizations Receive State Grants To Improve Child Abuse Investigations

The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention on Monday awarded more than $250,000 in grants to 21 organizations across the state, including two in Montgomery County.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Montgomery County received $10,000, and the Tree House Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County Maryland Inc. received $3,088 in funding intended to improve the investigation, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases, particularly child sexual abuse and exploitation cases, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention...

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Thirteen-year-old activist with autism wants to close seclusion rooms at schools

POWHATAN, Virginia — Alex Campbell was just 7 years old when, he says, his principal dragged him down the hall to the school's "crisis room."
Administrators reserved the room, a converted storage closet, for children who acted out. He still remembers the black-painted walls. The small window he was too short to reach. The sound of a desk scraping across the floor, as it was pushed in front of the door to make sure he couldn't get out.
Alex, who has autism spectrum disorder, says he was taken there more than a half-dozen times in first grade, for behavior such as ripping up paper or refusing to follow instructions in class. The room was supposed to calm him down. Instead, it terrified him.
"When I asked for help or asked if anyone was still there, nobody would answer," Alex said. "I felt alone. I felt scared."
According to the latest data collected by the U.S. Department of Education, public school districts reported restraining or secluding over 120,000 students during the 2015-2016 school year, most of them children with disabilities. Families and advocates have documented cases of students being pinned down, strapped to their wheelchairs, handcuffed or restrained in other ways. Both practices, experts say, can traumatize children, and may lead to severe injuries, even death...

Environmental Impacts of Artificial Turf

FIFA, the international football association, were under pressure from their members and the wider public to disclose the environmental impacts of artificial turf pitches. FIFA asked us as an independent technical specialist to carry out a life cycle assessment of different types of artificial turf, and to investigate recycling options.

Our team:
  • Carried out ground-breaking research to identify the factors that influence the environmental impact of artificial football turf;
  • Carried out research into current recycling options for artificial turf;
  • Identified the different recycling technologies available in different parts of the world;
  • Compared the environmental impact of different materials, including modelling the impact of a shock pad, and the outcomes of different recycling processes;
  • Listed the companies recycling artificial turf on a global basis; and
  • Provided specific advice on the best options in a variety of locations across the globe.
Federico Addiechi, Head of Sustainability at FIFA, said:
“FIFA believes we all have a responsibility to protect, cherish and limit our impact on the environment. We take this responsibility seriously and have been engaging with experts to find sensible ways of addressing environmental issues linked to our activities, including climate change and waste accumulation. With the environmental impact study in hand we have a better understanding of the impacts of artificial turf, which will help us, our key stakeholders and hopefully the industry to develop more effective mitigation measures for both end-of-life solutions and future pre-emptive design.”
Eunomia Consultant and Project Manager, Simon Hann said:
“It is fantastic to see FIFA taking the lead on this important issue. With the popularity of artificial turf continuing to grow due to the associated health and social benefits of all year round pitch use it is an important time to highlight key choices that can be made to improve their environmental impact. We have highlighted the increasing concern that there are very few credible recycling routes and as, annually, over 2 million tonnes of artificial turf are predicted to need disposal worldwide by 2020, recyclers, manufacturers and pitch owners must work together to make sure their disposal is not an environmental disaster.”
We apply our life cycle assessment skills to all industries, as well as analysing materials and carrying out modelling across a variety of countries at different stages of economic development.

The report is available to download here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

U.S. Education Department investigates Laramie Co. schools

CHEYENNE — Laramie County's largest school district is still being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education a little less than two years after a student filed a complaint accusing the district of discrimination against African-American and disabled students.
In a letter addressed to former LCSD1 Superintendent John Lyttle and dated Dec. 7, 2017, department officials wrote the parties had reached a settlement and would close investigations into whether the district discriminated against the student for his disability and on the basis of sex and race.
But the department is still exploring whether the district "systemically" discriminates against African-American and disabled students, according to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights' website...

Monday, November 26, 2018

Damascus Students Charged in Rape Case Released on $20K Bond

The four Damascus High School (DHS) students charged as adultsfor allegedly raping fellow football players inside a school locker room were each released on a $20,000 bond Monday.
Jean Abedi, Kristian Lee, Will Smith and Caleb Thorpe, all 15 years old, face first-degree rape charges stemming from an Oct. 31 incident in which the teens allegedly sexually assaulted four junior varsity football teammates as part of a hazing ritual at Damascus High School. A fifth person faces charges related to the incident, but is being charged as a juvenile so his identity has not been released by police.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Maryland state law mandates individuals older than 14 be charged as adults when charged with first-degree rape. However, Abedi, Lee, Smith and Thorpe can each petition to have their cases returned to juvenile court.
McCarthy said the prosecution will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to oppose the petitions, if filed.
The four boys being tried as adults are charged with one count of first-degree rape, three counts of attempted first-degree rape and one count of conspiracy to commit rape.

Each was ordered Monday to have no contact with each other or the alleged victims, and to stay away from the high school as conditions of their bond release. Mental health evaluations were also ordered Monday...

Jury Verdicts and Settlements in School District Bullying Cases

As part of Public Justice’s Anti-Bullying Campaign, we are tracking jury verdicts and settlements in bullying and harassment cases filed against school districts in federal and state courts throughout the country. Each case, organized by state, lists the relief achieved—both monetary and non-monetary—as well as the nature of the harassment, the number of plaintiffs, the basic facts, the causes of action, and the plaintiffs’ attorneys. We hope this resource will be helpful to attorneys representing bullied students. If you are working on, or know of, a bullying or harassment case that has resulted in a judgment or settlement, please let us know so that we can include the case on this list. Please send your information to Adele Kimmel, Senior Attorney, at In addition, if you are interested in obtaining co-counsel or other legal assistance from Public Justice on a bullying or harassment case, please contact us. School districts and officials need to comply with the law and respond appropriately to bullying. We want to make sure that they do. For more information, please read our primer, Litigating Bullying Cases: Holding School Districts and Officials Accountable.


Lawsuit against Baltimore City Public Schools (Cir. Ct. Baltimore City 2013) • Settlement: $45,000. • Harassment/Injuries: Physical assault. • Single Plaintiff. • Basic Facts: Female high school student was beaten up so severely that she required three surgeries. Attacker had a history of bullying the girl, which was well known by the school. Victim alleged that the school provided insufficient supervision to protect her when the fight broke out. • Cause of Action: Unknown. • Plaintiff’s Attorney: Unknown. • More Information:

Lawsuit against Prince George’s County Public Schools (Cir. Ct. Prince George’s Cnty. 2017) • Jury Verdict: $100,000. • Harassment/Injuries: Physical assault. • Single Plaintiff. • Basic Facts: The plaintiff, a female elementary school student, was attacked by another female student on a school bus as other kids recorded and encouraged the beating. Although the bus driver stopped the bus to address the attacker on two occasions, the beating still occurred afterwards, and the bus driver did nothing as the attack took place. The bus driver also did not report the incident to the school or police. The plaintiff’s mother had previously reported to 21 school administrators that the attacker was physically bullying the plaintiff, but the school took no action prior to or after the beating. • Cause of Action: Unknown. • Plaintiff’s Attorney: Unknown. • More Information: highlig

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

A wonderful Thanksgiving to one and all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Four Juvenile Males Previously Charged in Damascus High School Assaults Now Charged as Adults

The Montgomery County Police Department- Special Victims Investigations Division (SVID), at the direction of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, have charged four of the defendants previously charged as juveniles in the October 31, 2018, Damascus High School sexual assaults as adults.  The fifth juvenile remains charged as a juvenile.

The four juveniles were arrested this morning on the strength of Montgomery County criminal warrants and transported to the Central Processing Unit.

The juveniles being charged as adults and the offenses they are being charged with are as follows:

Jean Claude Abedi, age 15, of Clarksburg, Maryland – charged with two counts of First-Degree Rape, two counts of Attempted First-Degree Rape, and two counts of Conspiracy to Commit First-Degree Rape.

Kristian Jamal Lee, age 15, of Germantown, Maryland – charged with two counts of First-Degree Rape, two counts of Attempted First-Degree Rape, and two counts of Conspiracy to Commit First-Degree Rape.

Will Daniel Smith, age 15, of Clarksburg, Maryland – charged with two counts of First-Degree Rape, two counts of Attempted First-Degree Rape, and two counts of Conspiracy to Commit First-Degree Rape.

Caleb Thorpe, age 15, of Gaithersburg, Maryland – charged with four counts of First-Degree Rape and four counts of Conspiracy to Commit First-Degree Rape.

Any inquiries regarding the prosecution of these individuals should be directed to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office at 240-777-7300.

Note: Photographs of the defendants will not be released because they are juveniles.


Next Transition Team meeting: Nov 29

The  next County Executive Transition Team meeting will be on Nov 29th, with the likely intent of ranking the education strategy recommendations. We hear the focus will be on strategies that are low to no additional cost and that are 'innovative.' We'll see.  The discussion will be finalized by County Executive-Elect Elrich's team after that. The second meeting was held and that discussion included the topics of lowering the achievement gap and increasing pre-K participation.

The transition team discussed a new strategy for pre-K, to supplement MCPS efforts, including grants to non-profits, religious organizations like churches, and even for-profit providers, to meet the needs of at-risk families closer to where they live.

One achievement gap strategy that was discussed would require MCPS to submit a strategy-based outcome budget, with cost and outcomes for individual literacy and math strategies delineated.

The meeting will likely be held at the East County Regional Center, but we're not sure of that, or when the meeting will be held. If anyone has additional information please post here!

Baltimore County school board will seek clarification on superintendent hiring authority

In a request that could have far-reaching consequences in how local superintendents are chosen, the Baltimore County school board is asking the state to clarify whether the state school superintendent has the legal authority to intervene in a local board’s selection.
The request comes after Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon blocked the appointment of Verletta White, the county board’s pick to get the superintendent’s job as of July 1, 2018. White was named interim superintendent instead, for the second year in a row...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

7 On Your Side: Students wounded by school's new artificial turf fields

OP ED: The Power of the Apple Ballot in Montgomery County Politics

Author: Jeanne Taylor, Treasurer, Friends of Julie Reiley 

While I was volunteering at a polling place during the general election early voting, an individual who was handing out the Apple ballot scoffed at my assertion that Board of Education candidates who are endorsed by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) have a distinct - and in my opinion unfair - advantage over their opponents. I put forth the following reasons: Candidates receive free advertising because the Apple ballot is widely disseminated across the county; Apple ballots may be “mistakenly” placed in all school mailboxes, even in the mailboxes of non-MCEA members; politicians are often reluctant to endorse their preferred non-Apple ballot candidates for fear that their own endorsement will be in jeopardy, and some may even endorse Apple ballot candidates because of political pressure. 

Perhaps the greatest advantage can be seen at the polls. Because MCEA has more than 14,000 members, it is able to staff polling places to hand out literature in far greater numbers than candidates who need to recruit volunteers. At the polling place where I worked, at times there were as many as five people handing out Apple ballots. This included MCEA members and poll workers who were handing out Apple ballots for their candidates. In summary, the teacher's union endorsement equals an enormous "in kind" contribution of free publicity and volunteer hours. As of October 21, 2018, the union reported spending more than $1,000,000 on production and distribution costs. 

Unfortunately, the endorsement advantage doesn’t stop there. At various polling places, Democratic precinct chairs were seen handing out Apple Ballots, while standing at Democratic tables. This activity improperly indicated a Democratic Party endorsement of the candidates on the Apple ballot which include nonpartisan Board of Education members. Lastly, an overwhelming number of voters grab the Apple ballot on their way in to vote, thinking that the “Teacher’s Recommended” list is all they need to know about how qualified a candidate is for the job. This imbalance of power held by a special interest group undermines a fair election and it does not always result in placing the best and the brightest in a position to oversee the Montgomery County public school system.

Two Men Found Guilty of Killing Northwest Students

After a month-long trial, it took a Montgomery County jury a relatively short time to return a guilty verdict on Monday and convict two men on all counts in connection with the murder of two Northwest High School students.
    The jury found both Edgar Garcia-Gaona and Rony Alexander Galacia guilty on all counts of the indictment, including two counts of first-degree murder, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder of Shadi Najjar and Artem Ziberov as they sat in Najjar’s blue Honda Civic on Monday, June 5, 2017, on Gallery Court in Montgomery Village...

trove of documents that were made available to WAMU on Friday offers a few other tidbits about what Montgomery County was dangling in front of Amazon in hopes of landing HQ2...

Here’s Some Of What Montgomery County Was Offering Amazon For HQ2

  • The county was ready to declare HQ2 a “County Strategic Economic Development Project,” which would fast-track all development reviews, permits and approvals. It was also ready to waive all local area transportation reviews and traffic studies, “which streamlines development approval and saves costs.” On top of all that, the county was ready to give Amazon a “dedicated team from the County’s Department of Permitting Services to hold regular design consultations and progress meetings at no extra charge.”
  • In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in Oct. 2017, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett wrote: “Your millennial-rich workforce will enjoy our 27 farmers markets, 93,000 acres of agricultural land and vibrant restaurant scene, while families will appreciate our nationally-recognized public schools and safe and beautiful neighborhoods. Cultural enthusiasts will relish AFI Silver… and value one of the best acoustically engineered music venues in the nation, the Music Center at Strathmore.”

Arlington, VA Petition: Low-Screen Instruction Option for Elementary & Middle School Students

Dear APS Superintendent & School Board Members
Ensure the Basics for our Youngest Learners
As a family with APS students ages 5-14, or parent/s whose child/ren have been impacted by the 1:1 program, we ask that APS offer parents a choice to place their children on a 'Low-Screen Instructional Track' for all core subjects. This Low Screen Track can be implemented come January of 2019...a good resolution for the new year!  
Our children's education has been shortchanged. It is ironic that APS advocates what it calls “personalized learning,” with iPads as a primary tool to deliver this so-called “vision,” which is anything but "personal" and in reality is not teaching kids basic communication skills or providing holistic measures of success. APS must instead deliver a new focus on handwriting (cursive), language arts, meaningful testing (not the majority being multiple choice) and the promise of developmentally appropriate digital learning (keyboarding with actual keyboards).
An example of where this type of learning tool has fallen short: APS delivered iPads four years ago with no keyboards, and no accompanying typing or digital learning curriculum. 5th graders are expected to type essays on iPads leaving children and teachers frustrated. APS and elementary school enrichment programs are SELLING typing classes on Saturdays through the Career Center and after school programs. Teachers are asking parents to provide keyboards, or PTA's buy them. This all adds up to a program that launched without a true plan of implementation, or a vision to compensate for basic skills that may have been lost with the transition, not to mention the added expense, time and resources that are required to support this high tech environment.
Where has all the writing gone?
APS promises mastery of cursive handwriting in third grade in the Program of Studies and has not delivered consistently, leaving many children all the way through high school not able to write or even read cursive. Cursive or printing has been shown to help students retain information (note taking), improve reading fluency and improve fine motor skills. Parents need to ensure our kids have the needed skills to live in a non-multiple choice world.
How much have we lost as we try to leap ahead?
What skills are lost by replacing authentic experiences with screens? Most kids are coming into APS with substantial "screen" experience and need not be taught how to use them. Teachers are seeing the lack of "soft skills" required to be successful including: resolving peer conflicts, attending to a non-multimedia lesson, sustaining tasks and good motor skills. PT professionals report floppy muscle tone, weak core strength, lack of wrist strength needed to write, underdeveloped sensory integration and vision issues. 

Research and legislation are addressing devices being correlated with serious health problems and developmental and cognitive delays. Myopia, sleeplessness, anxiety, internet addiction, and attention issues are a few of the associated risks that we need to be concerned about.

As a parent of a student age(s) 5-14 or parent of an upcoming APS student, we want Low-Screen Instruction for our elementary and middle school learners while encouraging a love of learning and curiosity. This track would include less multiple choice testing, daily reinforcement of handwriting and writing throughout their subjects, and meaningful developmentally appropriate digital learning. 

In the name of "personalized learning" we ask you let parents choose the communication and test taking path our Elementary and Middle School students will take. APS has experimented long enough on the youngest learners the past few years chasing a vision of "personalized learning" through an increased reliance on technological solutions - transparency and accountability must be provided to the community as we have been asking ( for years with little/no response  - help us ensure a solid foundation of the basics for our youngest learners.
 Thank you

Monday, November 19, 2018

Father of Damascus High JV Football Player Says MCPS Not Transparent Enough as Investigation into Alleged Hazing Incident Continues

...However, a parent of a JV football player who attended the Monday meeting told the press afterward he believes MCPS administration, specifically Principal Casey Crouse, has contributed to the distress Smith described.
The parent, who declined to provide his name for fear of retaliation against his son, said Crouse gathered the JV football players following the arrests and told them, “It’s all your fault.”
Crouse could not immediately be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
“It was hard because when you’re coming home, hearing from your kid that the principal told them they’re all guilty, we’re trying to figure out, ‘Well, are you?’ ” the parent said. “So we try to figure out where they were and … then we get a subpoena a couple days later. You’re worried for the whole JV team.”..

Push to renovate dilapidated schools in Montgomery County

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Timeline of Events Related to Theft Charges Filed Against Mont. Co. Dept. Economic Development County Employee

“Peter Bang was a career County employee. He began working for the County as a merit-protected employee on February 24, 1997 – more than 21 years ago. Beginning in July 2010 until April of 2016, Peter Bang used his position in the County Department of Economic Development, which was privatized in 2016, to divert more than $6.7 million in County monies to his private uses." 11/16/18 Press Release

The fraud was discovered after the Internal Revenue Service reviewed reports of suspicious activity made by several casinos. Bang, who had filed for bankruptcy in 2007, brought cashier’s checks to the gambling sites that ranged in size from $35,000 to $200,000, officials said, but declined to tell the casinos the source of the funds. Investigators obtained copies of the checks and traced the money to fraudulent bank accounts Bang had created, and then to Montgomery County.  Washington Post 11/16/18

During part of that time, the county government had issued procurement freezes to deal with budget shortfalls; Bang created fraudulent Procurement Freeze Exemption Requests that were submitted to the county’s Office of Management and Budget and ultimately approved. Once the money was in one of the four accounts created in the name of the Chungbuk Incubator Fund LLC, Bang used the money for his own benefit, according to the plea agreement.
 In addition to money taken directly from the county, Bang also fraudulently obtained county funds being held by the Maryland Economic Development Corporation and Scheer Partners, a private company that worked as a management agent for the county’s incubators. Between August 2010 and July 2014, MEDCO and Scheer issued nine checks to the incubator fund totaling $1,213,987.63.  In a scheme unrelated to the incubator fund, Bang also stole 21 rent payments from the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County, which shared office space with the Department of Economic Development and paid rent to Montgomery County. Between February 2011 and April 2013, Bang directed the bureau to make 21 rent checks payable to Chungbuk Incubator Fund LLC. The payments totaled $45,585.17.  Maryland Matters
November 2008 
July 2010
  • Beginning in July 2010 until April of 2016, Peter Bang used his position in the County Department of Economic divert more than $6.7 million in County monies to his private uses." 11/16/18 Press Release
March 2012

April 2012
  • Sally Sternbach became Deputy Director of DED and then Acting Director in 2015 when Steve Silverman left.
Montgomery County officials are investigating allegations by employees at the Department of Economic Development that acting director Sally Sternbach has fostered a hostile work environment marked by “persistent inappropriate and intimidating behavior.” Washington Post

December 2014
April 2017
  • IRS alerted the County that Mr. Bang may have embezzled County funds.  As a result, the County undertook its own investigation.  Once it became clear that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Bang had embezzled County funds, the matter was referred to the State’s Attorney. 

June 12, 2017
  • Peter Bang’s employment with the County was terminated

November 2017
  • The County retained an independent forensic auditing firm on November 28, 2017 to review the transactions engaged in by the former County Department of Economic Development going back 10 years. 

May 2018
  • Montgomery County, Maryland Office of the County Executive Office of Internal Audit

July 12, 2018
One report has been released since they were last before the Audit Committee in December 2017: Internal Control Review: Procure to Pay - Specific Functions (MCIA-18-1 ). 
Montgomery County Council Audit Committee is briefed on MCIA 18-1 audit done after embezzlement of DED funds was discovered. But note the word embezzlement is never used. Instead the discussion is about "specific targeted review" - "focused on some activities in the incubator program." At minute 1:13 of the video below watch as Councilmember Nancy Navarro asks vague questions about the incubator audit. Listen to the discussion.

August 29, 2018
  • State Tax Lien filed for $ 22,741.87

October 25, 2018
  • Stipulated Facts: United States vs. Byung Bang
Note the Stipulated Facts refers to another person involved in this investigation.  That person is referred to as Individual 1.  That person's identity is known.

November 6, 2018
  • Montgomery County General Election

November 16, 2018
  • Plea Agreement entered in U.S. District Court 
In separate federal and state court appearances Friday, Bang, 58, the former chief operating officer at the county’s now-defunct Department of Economic Development, pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and making false statements on a tax return, and to state charges of a theft scheme and misconduct in office Washington Post 

Bang pleaded guilty Friday afternoon in Montgomery County Circuit Court to one count of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement on a U.S. income tax return. His sentence hearing was tentatively set for March 7. Bethesda Beat

Saturday, November 17, 2018

[Bang] spent six years diverting economic development funds to a sham company, getting caught only after federal tax authorities began investigating the massive cashier’s checks he brought to casinos

Montgomery official pleads guilty to charges related to embezzlement from county

...“He was always impeccably dressed. And he spoke with great precision. He projected an image that was very careful and credible,” Leventhal said. “Oh my God, it’s a Hollywood movie — it’s incredible. It’s impossible to believe. We’re all reeling.”
Yet the county’s economic development system also had been without tight transparency and rules that allowed Bang, who lived in Germantown, freedom from scrutiny.

“There should have been clearly more oversight, a combination of it, that’s clear,” County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who took office in 2006, said Friday...