Tag Archives: Washington State

Washington State teacher ‘abandoned’ students on field trip, keeps his job

The union backed the teacher, of course.

Teacher Noam Gungle

Teacher Noam Gundle

From MyNorthwest.com (by Jason Rantz): A Ballard High School teacher remains on the job, even after an investigation found he “abandoned” high school students on an overnight field trip with no one but one of the student’s 19-year-old boyfriend.

Why did he leave them? So he could attend a Seattle teacher’s union protest.

Seattle School Superintendent Larry Nyland

Seattle Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland

Even though the Seattle Public School District recommended Noam Gundle (who has a rating of just 2.16 out of 5 on ratemyteachers.com) be fired for conduct that put these students “at great risk…,” Seattle Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland imposed just a 10-day unpaid suspension and he won’t explain why. Meanwhile, Gundle still has his job.

Gundle took students on a two-night trip to Deception Pass for his Oceanography class on May 17, 2015. Gundle explained to his students prior to the field trip that it would be cut from two nights to one night so he could attend the SEA (Seattle Education Association) Walk Out union protest.

Seattle teachers doing their yearly strike...

Seattle teachers doing their yearly strike…

While the majority of his students left with him and other chaperones after the one night, Gundle allowed five students to remain at the campsite without approved adult supervision, nor permission from all the student’s parents. In fact, the only adult around was one student’s 19-year-old boyfriend. This raised serious safety and judgment concerns according to the investigative documents.

Gundle, who is active in supporting union causes, justified his decision by telling the school:

Just as I am not responsible for students and their behavior when the [sic] leave school, I am not responsible for their actions after they leave my care. It was clear that when left, they were no longer in my care. Their parents were aware, they gave permission and the field trip was over.

Actually, it wasn’t clear. The investigation reveals Gundle did not commit to the legwork necessary to allow for this kind of unchaperoned overnight trip. The exhaustive investigation found that he “made no official announcement before he departed [the field trip] and never indicated that the field trip was officially over.”

Further, in his written statement to the school, he claimed he “received permission from each student’s parent for the student to spend the extra night.” This was absolutely not true, according to the investigation, and even if it were, he did not have the schools’ permission to leave the students to spend an extra night without a chaperone. Further, the district found he didn’t even know how the students who spent the extra night would get home from the field trip.

Gundle admitted he doesn’t remember speaking with one of the parents, but said he “…remembered that [the student] told him that her mother said it was okay.” The investigation found he did not have parental permission for this student.

In fact, the night before the scheduled field trip, the investigation found one mother emailed Gundle to explain it would be inappropriate for him to cut short a class activity so he might attend a union protest.

Gundle admits he didn’t read the email until four days later. He did, however, reply telling her that the students weren’t missing that much with his decision to cut the field trip short.

This is not where Gundle’s rule violations ended. The investigation found:

  1. Gundle did not properly list all the trip’s chaperones with the school;
  2. He allowed student drivers to transport classmates to Deception Pass without permission from the school nor the parents;
  3. He allowed two students to drive on their own to Deception Pass, without school permission nor parental consent (one student did not have access to a seatbelt in the car);
  4. He did not obtain permission from the school to leave the students behind.

Days after the field trip, on May 22, Gundle was placed on paid administrative leave as the district investigated.

On June 18, 2015, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Dr. Brent C. Jones wrote to Gundle to explain that the recommendation from the district that “there is probable cause to terminate your employment as a teacher for abandoning students during a District sponsored overnight field trip.”

Gundle fought the recommendation with the help of his union representative, arguing the termination was too harsh. After meeting with Superintendent Nyland, Gundle successfully lobbied to avoid termination, instead earning just a 10-day suspension without pay. He was also told he couldn’t host overnight field trips for two years, nor day field trips for one year.

This light punishment raises significant questions. If Nyland believes Gundle’s actions put the students’ safety at great risk, and the district’s HR department recommended termination, how did the punishment get reduced so dramatically? Nyland isn’t answering any questions.

After a protracted back-and-forth, Seattle Public Schools’ only comment is: “Seattle Public Schools cannot comment on personnel issues.” When asked how often recommendations are overturned by Nyland, the district refused to answer, instead referring to their previous statement. Gundle, similarly, did not respond for comment after multiple attempts to reach him.

But we know this: according to the district’s own investigation, Gundle put students’ safety at great risk, but he’s still teaching and will soon be able to take students on field trips once again.


New gun restriction could be headed for Washington State ballot

I-1491 campaign manager Stephanie Ervin (r). Photo from her LinkedIn bio.

I-1491 campaign manager Stephanie Ervin (r). Photo from her LinkedIn bio.

Via Seattle Times: Supporters of a proposed ballot measure in Washington state that would create protection orders to take guns from people deemed a serious threat to themselves or others turned in more than 330,000 signatures to the secretary of state Thursday.

Initiative 1491, backed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, comes after legislative efforts to create “extreme risk” protection orders failed earlier this year. Stephanie Ervin, I-1491’s campaign manager, said that the initiative creates “an import tool for families and law enforcement to prevent crisis from turning into tragedy.”

Under the measure, concerned family or household members or police can petition the court by filing an affidavit stating specific concerns, such as mental illness or domestic violence, and the number and types of firearms owned. Following a court hearing, if the court finds evidence that a person poses a danger to themselves or others by having a firearm, they can have their guns taken away and be prevented from buying a firearm for up to one year.

Only three states — California, Indiana and Connecticut — have enacted similar laws. California passed its bill after the mass shooting in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Marilyn Balcerak, whose son fatally shot his stepsister and then himself in Auburn last year, said she knew her son was suicidal, but that she was powerless to prevent their deaths. “I did everything I could to keep him from getting a gun, and even went to the police, but was twice turned down,” she said. “If extreme-risk protection orders had been law just two years ago, those police officers I talked to would have been able to help me.”

Messages left with the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation were not immediately returned Thursday.

An initiative requires at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the Secretary of State’s Office suggests at least 325,000 in case of any duplicate or invalid signatures. The signature validation process is expected to take a few weeks.

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility was also behind a 2014 ballot measure, approved by voters that year, which requires background checks on all sales and transfers of guns, including private transactions and many loans and gifts. Maine and Nevada both have universal background check measures on the ballot this November.

John Feinblatt from Everytown for Gun Safety

John Feinblatt from Everytown for Gun Safety

“For too long, there has been a disconnect between what the American people demand on gun safety and how American politicians vote,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, wrote in an emailed statement. “In 2014, we took this issue to the people of Washington State for an up-or-down vote — and they spoke loud and clear to prevent gun violence by requiring background checks for all gun sales.

The initiative (which is 21 pages) has some text that is questionable, in my opinion. For example:

  • An action under this chapter must be filed in the county where the petitioner resides or the county where the respondent resides. This means that someone living on the west side of the state could be forced to defend themselves in a court on the east side of the state.
  • A petition must: a) Allege that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to self or others by having in his or her custody or control, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm, and be accompanied by an affidavit made under oath stating the specific statements, actions, or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by the respondent. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Isn’t there a higher burden of proof if you are going into a courtroom already “guilty” of an incident?
  • SERVICE BY PUBLICATION OR MAIL. (1) The court may order service by publication or service by mail under the circumstances permitted for such service in RCW 7.90.052, 7.90.053, 26.50.123, or 26.50.085. Service by mail or publishing in a newspaper may be enough. Therefore, the gun owner may have no idea that there is even a hearing before their rights are taken away.

There’s several other items in this initiative:

  • The court can consider threats, even if they don’t involve a firearm.
  • The court may consider use of controlled substances, whether or not it is related to any firearms. FYI: Marijuana is legal in Washington State.
  • The recent purchase of a firearm may be grounds for a protection order.
  • One of the factors for consideration by the Court is “The respondent’s ownership, access to, or intent to possess firearms.” So if you intended to own a firearm, the court can restrict that right?

There appears to be a lot of leniency in the Court’s hands here. Slippery slope.


Amazon, Microsoft, other titans team up for transgenders to use restrooms of their choice

Bullies trying to force their choices on the rest of society regardless of accepted standards of privacy. As if I needed another reason to despise Microsoft.

transgender bathroom

Via Seattle Times: A coalition of corporate heavyweights Friday evening planned to announce its opposition to the initiative campaign seeking to restrict access to bathrooms and locker rooms for transgender people.

The endorsement list for Washington Businesses Won’t Discriminate features a host of local, regional and national players, including Alaska Airlines, Amazon, Adobe, Airbnb, Microsoft, Vulcan and Google. A news release says the number of businesses tops 150.

The formal announcement will come Friday night at the Amazon Event Center, with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Vicci Martinez, a finalist in the TV show “The Voice,” leading the event. The coalition adds to a number of political and community members opposed to proposed Initiative 1515.

The I-1515 campaign, Just Want Privacy, will need to turn in about 246,000 valid signatures by July 8 to get the initiative on the ballot. Joseph Backholm, one of the campaign’s leaders, acknowledged Friday that his group may not get enough signatures.

I-1515 would amend state anti-discrimination law so access to “private facilities” could be limited to those who are “biologically” male or female regardless of their gender identity, according to a summary of the ballot measure.

It also calls for restricting state and local regulations regarding gender-identity discrimination and permitting lawsuits against schools that allow access to facilities based on gender identity.

The businesses gathering Friday “are really standing up against discrimination,” said Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for Washington Won’t Discriminate.

Businesses also oppose the initiative because, she said, “they are not able to compete unless they are able to attract the best employees, some of whom are transgender men and women,” Weiner said. (Oh please….at least be honest and just admit you are pushing a progressive policy. Out of 100 people, two might be transgender. And what are the odds that those two people are going to be the best employees that fit their needs in their specific field? Pretty slim, IMO.)

Laws similar to I-1515 in other states, such as North Carolina, have sparked economic boycotts by businesses and entertainers.

I-1515 comes after a state regulation by the Human Rights Commission took effect in December, guaranteeing access to locker rooms, restrooms and similar facilities according to an individual’s gender identity. It affects public and private buildings, including schools, restaurants, stores and most places of employment. The commission has said the rule just clarifies a 2006 state law.

But it ignited a backlash among some conservatives and others who said they worry such access could let sexual predators more easily enter private spaces and potentially harm women or children.

Just Want Privacy has gathered about 25,000 signatures, according to its website. The group hasn’t drawn the large contributions often necessary to organize a statewide ballot campaign. Public records show it has raised about $126,000, with $7,500 spent on paid signature gatherers.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Backholm, who is also executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington.  Backholm said he was unaware of the Friday event by Washington Businesses Won’t Discriminate.


Washington State rates going way up in 2017 for individual health-care plans

Shocker, not.


From the Seattle Times: Health insurers in Washington are requesting a sharp jump in rates for individual plans next year — up 13.5 percent, on average — and fewer options will be offered through the state-run insurance exchange, officials announced Monday.

Thirteen insurers have filed 154 individual health plans for 2017, including nine companies offering plans within the state exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, and four selling plans only outside of the exchange.

The firms have requested rate increases ranging from a 7.4 percent jump for Coordinated Care to a 20 percent hike for Premera Blue Cross, with an average increase of 13.5 percent based on enrollment, according to figures released by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The move comes amid predicted rises in rates nationwide as insurers say coverage required by the federal Affordable Care Act health-care law has proved to be a financial drain. In Virginia, for instance, which reports on rate requests early, hikes ranged from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent.

Premera lost about $117 million in 2015, the company said, largely because it received nearly $412 million in premiums in 2015 but paid out nearly $457 million in claims, plus about $72 million in administrative expenses, according to its filing.

As more consumers have gained confidence in the insurance exchange, use has gone up and rates have to be adjusted accordingly, said Melanie Coon, a spokeswoman for Premera. “We have two full years of data and that is really showing us what we need to do,” she said.

Rates for 2016 rose by about 4.2 percent, but Commissioner Mike Kreidler said the new jump was expected. “The requested rate changes are not a surprise, as we expected insurers to make adjustments based on their earlier predictions compared to who actually signed up and what services they used,” he said in a statement. “Clearly, some of the insurers guessed better than others.”

The increases affect individual plans, not the group health insurance plans many people receive through their employers.

All of the proposed rates, benefits and provider networks for 2017 are currently under review, Kreidler said. How much consumers pay depends on where they live, their ages, lifestyle factors such as smoking and which health plans they select. “We know that no one wants to see their rates go up,” Kreidler said. “We will review each plan carefully over the next several months to make sure that any rate changes are justified.”

United HealthCare of Washington announced earlier this year that it would leave Washington’s individual market in 2017, and Moda withdrew from the state in January. Two other statewide insurers, Premera and Lifewise, announced that they intend to stop marketing plans outside the exchange and will reduce the number of counties where they offer plans.

Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Washington’s uninsured rate has dropped to about 7.5 percent down from 14.5 percent in 2011 (I guess a penalty for not having coverage will do that). Nearly a million more residents have health insurance coverage now, Kreidler said. Nationwide, more than 12 million people have enrolled in the health-plan exchanges, which offer subsidized private insurance.



Washington Superintendent candidate says “the government is us” and is fine with taking 40 percent of your income

I’m so glad I moved out of that state.

Jones wants your vote and your money

Jones wants your vote and your money

Via MyNorthwest.com: The biggest problem facing Washington public schools is funding, and one superintendent candidate says it’s going to take billions to fix it.

Erin Jones told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross that it’s going to take about $10 BILLION to properly fund basic education and for the Legislature to make good on bills that have been passed but remain underfunded.

The way to do that is through a “more progressive tax system,” Jones explained. Right now, she says, the poorest people are paying the greatest percentage of taxes.

If that is starting to sound like she wants an income tax, you’re right. Jones, who was raised in the Netherlands, has seen firsthand where higher taxes can lead. Though 40 percent of her parent’s wages go to taxes, she says it’s obvious where that money is going. Education, for example, is paid for from kindergarten through college and covers a PHD.

It would take quite a bit of convincing for people in the United States to agree to such an aggressive tax system, however.  “I don’t think we’ll go there, but we need to be honest on who is paying taxes and making sure the wealthiest are contributing in a fair way,” she said.

Jones says that if Washington wants great schools and social services, residents need to be willing to pay for them. “There’s this expectation that the government will just do these things for us,” she said. “Really, the government is us.”


Candidate McDermott: Intent for “military assault weapons” is to murder

You can tell from this guy’s language that he has probably never fired an “assault weapon.”

Joe McDermott

Joe McDermott

Joe McDermott is a current King County Council member and has decided to run to replace Democratic Senator “Baghdad” Jim McDermott (no relation). He’s also taking on one of the proggies’ favorite topics: gun control.

He told MyNorthwest.com: “I have 15 years of experience, both serving a decade in the Washington state Legislature — the House and the Senate — and the last five years on the King County Council achieving progressive results,” McDermott said. “That’s what I will take with me to Congress.”

In an interview with KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show, McDermott maintains he’ll go after gun manufacturers. McDermott spit out the standard gun control narrative: “The 30,000 (gun) deaths a year in our country happen because of the proliferation of weapons, and the type of weapons and the market and sales,” he told Rantz. “I believe this nation needs laws that allow for gun manufacturers to be held criminally and financially liable for their weapons in our streets.”

Jason Rantz did challenge McDermott’s perception of guns, telling him that 2/3 of gun violence is suicides and in Washington that number is closer to 80 percent. Rantz questioned how gun manufacturers should be responsible.

McDermott told him, “Gun manufacturers aren’t liable for every death, but things like assault weapons and large magazines are truly designed just for the ability to kill and harm a large number of people in a short period of time,” he said.  He went on: “I don’t know what other intent there is to have military assault weapons that can fire off that many rounds continuously,” McDermott said.

democrats guide to guns

And McDermott spouted off more of the proggie narrative: The county council member clarified that he is not talking about hunting rifles and handguns, rather military-style assault weapons that can carry large amounts of ammunition and fire rapidly for long periods of time.

Here’s McDermott’s take on those “assault weapons”: “It’s those large capacities that I believe we need to regulate, control and ban in our country, and hold people accountable for. “(Manufacturers) are not being made responsible. I don’t know what else those weapons are intended for, and they are resulting in mass shootings that harm and kill significant numbers of people in a short period of time,” McDermott said.

He said that no one single legislative action will solve gun violence woes in the country, and pro-gun advocates will pick apart every little action. But the law has to start somewhere.

McDermott said he hasn’t had conversations with gun owners about why they purchase and own military-style weapons, or large capacity magazines. He said he hasn’t found anyone willing to engage in conversation with him about it. Jason Rantz wants to change that. He is asking any such gun owners to write into his show with their reasons for gun ownership, and any rationale for owning such military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Go here to leave a comment for McDermott or Rantz.


A prisoner accidentally released early from Washington State has been charged with murder

Shocker, not.

getting worse

On December 23, 2015 the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) announced they had accidentally released approximately 3,200 inmates early (over a 13-year period) from Washington’s prison system due to a “sentencing computation issue.”

A week later, it was announced that the software fix to correct the error that led to the early release of thousands of offenders was delayed 16 times over the past three years.

DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke

DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke

On December 28, it was announced that one of the prisoners released early, Robert Jackson, killed Lindsay Hill in a car accident. The DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke said he apologized to Hill’s family. “Nothing I can say will bring back Ms. Hill. I deeply regret that this happened,” Pacholke said in a written statement.

Governor Inslee had called the news “absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Inslee said in a written statement. “We must make sure nothing like this happens again.”

Well guess what? Too little, too late. It already happened again.

Inmate released early, Jeremiah Smith, killed a person while out of jail

Inmate released early, Jeremiah Smith, killed a person while out of jail

Jeremiah Smith, 26, was mistakenly released from a Washington state prison three months early. He has been charged with shooting and killing a teenager when he should have been locked up, officials said Thursday.

The Everett Herald reports that less than two weeks after his early release, he gunned down Ceasar Medina, 17, outside a tattoo parlor in Spokane.

Smith had previously been convicted of robbery, burglary and assault and shouldn’t have been released until Aug. 10. He is now in jail and charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the May 26 killing.

DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke is now in major PR spin control mode. “I’m very concerned about what we’ll uncover as we move forward,” Pacholke said in a conference call with reporters. (I’ll bet they are.)

The attorney general’s office advised the Department of Corrections in 2012 that it wasn’t necessary to manually recalculate prisoners’ sentences after the software error was brought to light, according to documents released by the department late Wednesday. (I love how they keep releasing details slowly. They should just rip the Band-Aid off quickly but have probably been advised by state attorneys to not do so.)

The assistant attorney general assigned to the agency wrote in December 2012 that from a “risk management perspective,” a recalculation, by hand, of hundreds of sentences was “not so urgent” because a software reprogramming fix eventually would take care of the issue, according to the emails released in response to a public records request by The Associated Press.