On November 2, 2011 I get the following email from Daniel Leighton of Fox News Channel 11, “Give me call re story on lausd rubber rooms 3108773392 thanks.” Now since Mrs. Isenberg didn’t have any dummies for children, I wonder what Fox would want from me, since calling me a progressive would be a major understatement.
After several emails back and forth, Mr. Leighton says to me, “Listen, we are just a Fox affiliate, I determine what gets on the air.” What Mr. Leighton says he is interested in doing is uncovering the phenomenal waste incurred by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that locks hundreds of teachers in LAUSD Local District Offices, other sites, or in their homes for years on end, while it continues to pay them.
Mr. Leighton says, “I know some of the teachers in these rubber rooms belong there for extremely improper behavior, while there are other teachers who are there without any justifiable motive on the part of LAUSD. That’s not what interests me. Again he reiterates, “What interests me is the extreme waste of school funds when the District is cutting jobs and programs everywhere else.”
This is something I can agree with, so I question Danny on what he wants from me. He says that he already has a rubber room teacher to interview who is accused of molesting a student and he is interested in interviewing somebody like me who is presently on unpaid administrative leave from LAUSD based solely on trumped up charges made after I reported that my school was graduating and giving diplomas to students with low elementary school reading abilities and little knowledge of math, although they somehow were passed in all their classes.
I review with Leighton my own two-year nightmare with LAUSD where, after an exemplary career teaching with no negative acts against me, I am hit with four notices of unsatisfactory acts and four suspensions, leading to my ultimate arrest and handcuffing in front of my students on February 4, 2010.
When Leighton hears the charges against me which include:
- raising my voice to a student.
- being a racist
- trying to circulate a petition to have a UTLA meeting with administrators present, which is our right under the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement.
- calling the assistant principal a “pendejo” in a meeting where witnesses made statements that I said nothing.
- Raising my voice to the principal
His first response is, “None of these charges justify having you fired.” I couldn’t agree more, so I tell him that eight months after I am removed in handcuffs from my classroom on these charges, I am hit with another charge under California Education Code Section 44939 that accuses me of downloading pornography on a school computer, which LAUSD refuses to produce.
I explain to Danny that it is like being charged with a murder that doesn’t take place until eight months after you are charged with it. I also point out that by bringing the morals charge, which is the type of accusation that carries a stigma whether or not it’s true, this also deprives me of all collective bargaining rights with UTLA – how neat, when you want to get rid of somebody without due process of law or any objective process to determine culpability that respects a teacher’s civil rights before imposing the punishment of being deprived of your livelihood. Remember the McMartin Pre-School Teachers. Although they were guilty of nothing, just the charges destroyed their professional lives.
So, on November 3, 2011, I drive over to 1999 S. Bundy in Santa Monica to Fox News. As I park, I am very much aware of the surveillance and separate elevators for visitors and the inability to move anywhere in this building from room to room without a security card. I wonder why these folks are so afraid?
After a few minutes of watching the well-groomed staff passing through the lobby with a smile and a friendly greeting for me, I finally meet Daniel Leighton, who arrives in shorts with huge black army boots that he seems to be having some difficulty walking in.
We go to an office to talk before the video interview and immediately my antennae go up. Leighton is talking about the pornography charges that were brought after the fact as if they were responsible for my removal from LAUSD in handcuffs. Didn’t we already go through this? Leighton excuses himself to put some final touches on another Fox News piece and when he returns, I am writing a one paragraph statement that I would like him to sign stating that the pornography charges were brought after I was removed from teaching.
Leighton jumps up and says, “You have to leave.” I say fine. He tells me he cannot deal with anybody who doesn’t trust him. I ask him why in the hell would I trust him, especially given the fact that a colleague of mine gave him proof that LAUSD was fixing assessments eight months ago and he did nothing with it.
As Leighton walked me out of Fox News, he told me to never call him again. I reminded him that he had called me, which didn’t seem to get through. As I drove west of Olympic just in time for the daily bumper to bumper West Los Angeles traffic jam, I felt good in the knowledge that I had not become another victim of Fox.
That made it all the more strange when I returned home and found the following email from Danny Leighton:
“Even though chances of having
Any further contact appear
Almost non existent maybe
We should try again with the
Ground rules hammered out
Between myself and your attorney”
When I was sitting with Leighton, I mentioned to him that I had been a line producer in the motion picture industry on several feature films before becoming a teacher and I was very much aware how you can distort what is said on a video through editing.
I gave him the example of a news shot from the Middle East shown on American television that shows young Palestinians throwing stones, while the same story with the same footage on French news opens with Israeli bulldozers leveling Palestinian homes and tearing up Palestinian olive trees that are hundreds of years old. These stories with the same footage create feelings in the audience that are diametrically opposed.
One thing about the devil, he never stops trying.