Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dr. Oz - Full Episode - Keep Your Cellphone Out of Your Bra!

Here's the link to the full Dr. Oz episode about the possible link of Cell Phones to Breast Cancer!

Parents Want Wi-Fi Out of Schools

Here's a link to GTCO-ATL's previous article that includes a "non-consent form" for parents to turn in to their child's school. WI-FI NON CONSENT FORM.

For a copy of this form in PDF format, use this link:

From New Zealand:

A Kapiti Coast school is surveying parents about plans for classroom wi-fi after a young pupil died from brain cancer.
Can School Wi-Fi system cause deadly brain cancer?        
photo credit – from American Studies

The parents of Ethan Wyman, who died 11 months after being diagnosed with two brain tumors, want wi-fi removed from classrooms at Te Horo School.

The board of trustees has now sent out a survey to all parents, after the Wymans expressed fears that the radiation effect of wi-fi could be linked to cancer.

But the Ministry of Education, which has been at community meetings held by the school alongside the Ministry of Health, says research shows wi-fi is safe.

Damon Wyman, who still has two children at the school, says Ethan was diagnosed with the tumors three months after he was given a wi-fi-connected iPod.

His parents later discovered he had been falling asleep with it under his pillow. Even though it was on standby, it was still emitting bursts of radiation as it tried to connect to the router, Mr Wyman said.

Doctors who saw Ethan said the tumors appeared to be about four months old, Mr Wyman said. He died, aged 10, less than a year after diagnosis last August.

"We're not saying that caused it, but it seems like a bit of a coincidence. Most people would be very cautious about giving their 5-year-old a cellphone - well, this is 30 kids in a classroom [being exposed] to the same thing."

Research showed it was worth taking a precautionary approach to wi-fi. A group of parents had offered to fund cable internet as an alternative. "To me it's a no- brainer, but as we'd be the first school in New Zealand to remove wi-fi, it's a big deal for the board."

Board chairman Steve Joss said the school was taking concerns seriously. "The board hasn't made any decisions on what to do, we're just working through the process of getting information."

The survey was delivered yesterday, and a decision would be made on December 28.

Ministry deputy secretary for education Andrew Hampton said it was working with the school to give information about wi-fi.

The Ministry of Health recently restated its position that exposure to electromagnetic fields from wi- fi equipment in schools did not pose a health risk, he said.

"The health and safety of children in our schools is critical, and the ministry will continue to work with the Ministry of Health to monitor New Zealand standards, international standards and credible research on wi-fi and radio frequency electromagnetic fields."

Although the ministry offered schools a wireless network option, it was up to boards whether they took it up.
Electromagnetic fields consultant Martin Gledhill said exposures to radio frequency fields from wi- fi gear were low, at just a tiny fraction of the public exposure limit.

Posted December 27th, 2013 by Kevin Fobbs & filed under Conservative Lion's Den.

You may have just purchased a brand new laptop computer or even tablet for your child this Christmas and watched the excitement building up on his or her face.  Yet, according to the New Zealand parents whose son recently died, your child’s school may turn the new computer or tablet into an unknown death sentence, according to Opposing Views.

Ethan Wyman was a New Zealand whose parents claimed received brain cancer due to the school’s W-Fi system when he operated his “school-issued iPad.”  For most parents the idea that their child could be using a computer or tablet that could cause brain cancer when hooked into their school’s Wi-Fi system is the last likely concern on their mind.

But according to Ethan’s parents when they received the unfortunate news from the child’s doctors that their son had tumors in is brain they began to seriously wonder what the cause could be attributed to.  Since the doctors had informed the parents that the tumors were no more than three months old and Ethan had been bringing home his iPad exactly one month before the tumors, they deduced that the culprit for the tumors had to be the school’s Wi-Fi system, suggested Opposing Views.

Should you be worried that your child may become the inadvertent victim of possible cancer causing Wi-Fi electromagnetic fields?  Most authorities that have examined scientific research on possibility of cancer being the result of exposure to Wi-Fi appear to believe there is no causal connection to brain tumors.

In fact the New Zealand Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education has moved to calm the heightened fears of parents who are aware of Ethan’s parent’s claims. According to their National Research Council, their statement advises the public that over a 20-year period  after reviewing more than 500 scientific studies, there was no, “conclusive and consistent evidence that electromagnetic fields harm humans.”

When doctors discovered tumors in Ethan’s brain, they told his parents the tumors were roughly three months old. Coincidentally, Ethan had been using an iPad at home and school for about four months. Though all scientific research shows no causal connection between electromagnetic fields (like Wi-Fi) and cancer, the Wyman family still believes the device played a role in his cancer development, according to Opposing Views.

The Wymans are not satisfied with the answers they have received and still would like the total removal of Wi-Fi devices from the school classrooms and all school buildings.  While the school board is not agreeing to those measures they are willing to survey the parents to find out where they stand on the issue of Wi-Fi devices in being in their child’s classrooms.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

MSN: Snowden Warns of Loss of Privacy in Holiday Message

In a two-minute video broadcast in Britain, Snowden spoke of concerns over surveillance in an age of huge technological advancement.

LONDON — Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed details of electronic surveillance by American and British spy services, warned of the dangers posed by a loss of privacy in a message broadcast to Britain on Christmas Day.

In a two-minute video recorded in Moscow, where Snowden has been granted temporary asylum, he spoke of concerns over surveillance and appeared to draw comparison with the dystopian tale "1984" which described a fictional state which operates widespread surveillance of its citizens.

"Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book - microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us are nothing compared to what we have available today."

"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person," he said.

"A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all," said Snowden. "They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that's a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

The "Alternative Christmas Message", broadcast annually on Britain's Channel 4 television since 1993, mimics the format of the yearly address to the nation by Queen.

Previous participants have included then President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2008 and popular cartoon characters Marge and Lisa Simpson in 2004.

On Tuesday, Snowden - who disclosed thousands of confidential documents - said in an interview published in the Washington Post that he had achieved what he set out to do.

"For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished," he said.

Snowden left his NSA post in Hawaii in May and went public with his first revelations from Hong Kong a few weeks later.

In June, he left for Russia and stayed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport for nearly six weeks until the Kremlin granted him temporary one-year asylum.

The United States has revoked his passport and demanded he be sent home to face charges for stealing secrets.

Earlier this month there were signs of thawing attitudes when Richard Ledgett - a top NSA official who leads a task force at the agency responding to the leaks - left open the option for Snowden to return to the United States in an amnesty.

"It's worth having a conversation about," he told CBS.

"I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured and my bar for those assurances would be very high," Ledgett said. Senior officials in the Obama administration remain opposed to such a move.

Last week a White House-appointed panel proposed curbs on some key NSA surveillance operations, recommending limits on a programme to collect records of billions of telephone calls, and new tests before Washington spies on foreign leaders.

"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it," Snowden said in the Christmas address.

"Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DeKalb Schools Go 100% Wireless

From a school system press release:


100,000 students have Internet access in 137 schools

DEKALB COUNTY, GA (Dec. 16, 2013) -- Superintendent Michael Thurmond announced today the achievement of a major milestone for the district and one of four major goals for the Dekalb County School district: the attainment of 100 percent wireless access for all of DeKalb County School District’s schools and classrooms. The installment of wireless technology began in early 2013 and was completed within budget for a total cost of $4.5 million.

“Achieving this major milestone brings us into the 21st century of technology and provides unprecedented access to information for our students,” said Mr. Thurmond. “No longer must students take turns in a computer lab or rely solely on hard-wired technology. With this achievement, technology-based learning becomes part of the everyday classroom experience, broadening communication and learning across classrooms and schools for all of our students, teachers and administrators.”

Wireless access will also enhance productivity among teachers and administrators, providing flexible access to grade books, student data, and digital content and learning management systems. Administrators will be able to use mobile devices to perform classroom observations, monitor student discipline and attendance and make opportunities for student assessment easier and more efficient.

This important milestone is paired with more technology in all of DeKalb’s schools, including 15,000 new desktop computers and more than 2,600 active boards.

“District-wide wireless access allows us to maximize our investment in computers and smart boards,” said Dr. Melvin Johnson, chair of the Dekalb County Board of Education. “We will be a more efficient school system as a result of this achievement, and our students will have access to more information and even greater opportunities to learn.”

Quinn Hudson
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, GA 30083-1027
Phone: 678-676-1200
Communications: 678-676-2848
News Release
16 December 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

DeKalb's "Prudent Avoidance" Bill Gets New Life - in Annapolis, Maryland

Looks like Get the Cell Out - ATL followers have something to be proud of - our proposed legislation nicknamed "Prudent Avoidance" and authored by state Rep. Karla Drenner in 2012 made national headlines.  Although it was not allowed out of committee that year, a compromise was agreed upon that resulted in a DeKalb County Referendum that received astonishing results, even beating our own expectations.  More than 63% of DeKalb County residents who voted, said "NO" to the question about placing towers on school grounds.  And, now that concept is getting new life as a county council discusses a "virtaul ban" for Annapolis, Maryland.  The amendment sets new boundaries that would be a 'virtual ban'

By JAKE LINGER | Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 10:00 am

The County Council dropped a prohibition on free-standing cell towers at public and private schools
Monday night, but school officials said the alternative proposal that was adopted amounts to a virtual

Councilman Jamie Benoit introduced an amendment to Bill No. 78-13, changing the ban to a
prohibition on towers within 300 feet of school buildings and structures.

Benoit, D-Crownsville, submitted the bill last month to address community concerns about a
proposed 99-foot tower at Piney Orchard Elementary School in Odenton.

He said he acted to remove the prohibition based on questions about enforcement from the county
Office of Law. His amendment passed unanimously.

Current law require cellphone towers to be at least 200 feet from a school boundary.
Bob Mosier, a county schools spokesman, said the new measure creates a double setback requirement
that almost no school property can meet.

A tower under construction on Broadneck High School is 200 feet from the property line and more
than 300 feet from the main building, but right next to a scoreboard — a school structure.

“You can dress this bill up in whatever Halloween costume you want, but it remains, in essence, a ban
on cell towers on school property,” Mosier said in an email statement after the meeting.

The Board of Education signed a lease in 2011 with Milestone Communications. School officials
have said it could lead to construction of towers at 40 schools and generate $5 million. Individual
schools would not receive any direct financial benefit from the towers.

“To enrich a school at the expense of another school that may or may not have a similar opportunity is
somewhat problematic,” said Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for county schools.

Councilman Daryl Jones, D-Severn, asked Szachnowicz if county schools would decrease their annual
request for funding based on outside revenue.

Szachnowicz said the council indicated it will approve no more than the minimum amount of money to
keep existing school programs going in future budgets “as far as the eye can see.”

Sean Hughes, a zoning attorney who works with Milestone, said schools, parks, churches and swim
clubs are attractive sites for cell towers because of their open space.

Hughes cited the popularity of electronic tablets, which use bandwidth and contribute to the demand
for more coverage in areas such as Piney Orchard, which Milestone says has dead zones.

Piney Orchard resident Michelle Dean asked the council to keep towers at least 1,500 feet from
residences. She said children are more vulnerable to radio frequency radiation.

Hughes said no such dangers exist.

“The health issue is not an issue,” he said. “It’s not a real issue.”

Jeff Andrade, president of Piney Orchard Community Association, said great lengths were gone to in
order to ensure the safety of residents and elementary students at Piney Orchard, including burying
power lines.

Piney Orchard residents are not crazy, he said. They simply are protecting their rights as homeowners.
“Contrary to what some people may believe, folks in my community aren’t walking around in tin foil
hats afraid of radiation,” Andrade said.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Judge rejects former superintendent Crawford Lewis’ deal for no jail time

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The former chief operating officer for DeKalb County schools was sentenced to 15 years in prison and her former husband was sentenced to eight years in prison for manipulating construction contracts that paid the husband $1.4 million for work he should not have received.

One-time COO Pat Reid and architect Tony Pope both were sentenced as first offenders, meaning their convictions will be erased if they successfully complete their prison sentences, pay restitution and then complete their probation — 10 years for Reid and 12 years for Pope.
At the same time, the sentencing of former DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis was not completed. Judge Cynthia Becker rejected prosecutors’ recommendation that he be sentenced to 12 months on probation for misdemeanor obstruction, saying he deserved to be jailed.
She told Lewis he could reconsider his plea in light of her decision to reject the punishment prosecutors recommended.
Becker allowed Lewis to discuss his situation with his attorney before she imposed the final sentence.
Reid and Pope were convicted almost 3 1/2 weeks ago. The jury found Reid guilty of racketeering and theft for manipulating school construction contracts and Pope was convicted of racketeering.
Lewis had initially been charged with racketeering and theft as well but he pleaded guilty on Oct. 16, little more than a week before the trial began, to misdemeanor obstruction for interfering with the District Attorney’s Office investigation of him and Reid, an investigation that began eight years ago. One of the terms of Lewis’ plea deal was that he testify for the prosecution, which he did.
When Reid was hired as the districts chief operating officer, one of the conditions was that her then husband, Pope, could complete the contract he already had for renovations at Columbia High School but he could get not more system work as long as his wife was in charge of school construction. The jury agreed with prosecutors that Pope, and his firm A. Vincent Pope & Associates collected $1.4 million in fees for work he should not have been awarded.
(read more by clicking link for full story)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dr. Oz Warns: Keep Your Cellphone Out of Your Bra!

Dr. Oz warns about the link between cell phone radiation and cancer.
Dr. Oz has been keeping up with the latest medical news regarding cell phones and the possible link to cancer.  On his most recent episode, which aired yesterday, Dec. 6, he revealed evidence that there
are breast cancer cases that were most likely caused by women carrying their cell phone in their bra when a purse was not convenient.  Here's a link to the promotional video.  The full episode will be available on the website on Monday or Tuesday next week.

This is not the first time that the talk show medical expert and ratings phenom has taken on this controversial topic.  Watch this episode where he speaks to CNN's medical expert Dr. Sanjay Jupta about the subject.

Friday, December 6, 2013

DeKalb School Stabbing Stemmed From Fight Over a Cell Phone

Need More Reasons to Keep Students From Bringing Cell Phones to School?  Here's one ...

By Rodney Thrash
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

One day after an 18-year-old Clarkston High freshman was stabbed during an on-campus altercation, the DeKalb County School District released a redacted incident report with new details about the fight.
Just as class was about to be dismissed at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, a dispute between two unidentified students over a cell phone became violent.

According to the incident report released Thursday, the 14-year-old suspect allegedly charged his classmate and stabbed the right side of his face with a pair of scissors.

“The victim received help from staff members as the suspect ran and attempted board a bus set for departure,” according to the report. “The suspect was detained in the bus lane area by officers on the scene.”

He was arrested on an aggravated assault charge and taken to the DeKalb County Juvenile Detention Center. The injured student was taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston with a non-life threatening wound.

A search for the scissors used in the assault was unsuccessful.
The DeKalb School Police Department is investigating the incident.

Retaliation is Alive and Well in DeKalb County's School System

Written by Valerie J. Morgan
From On Common Ground News:

Restore DeKalb is calling for an outside law enforcement agency to investigate the sexual harassment/retaliation complaint of a DeKalb County School bus driver.
The organization says neither the new Governor-appointed School Board nor the interim Superintendent Michael Thurmond have provided follow-up to its request for an investigation.
Viola Davis, who heads Restore DeKalb, said she has been tracking complaints of school bus drivers since April after learning that whistle blowers were being unfairly punished for speaking out about their work environment. Davis said one bus driver's schedule was changed several times, making it difficult for the driver to learn new routes and children who were supposed to be picked up.
"It's ridiculous what they're going through. I had one grandmother break down crying," Davis said. "We were surprised to find that our documents were not read after two weeks and no one acknowledged they received the documents during this time," said Davis. "We were instructed by Superintendent Michael Thurmond to send documentation directly to him if we know of anyone experiencing retaliation. We sent the documentation to the Superintendent and copied the entire Board of Education. There is no excuse for our documents to go for two weeks without any reply."
On Common Ground News is awaiting a response from the School District.
Davis said Restore DeKalb is now seeking an investigation by an outside impartial third party law enforcement agency. She wants the third party to investigate the School District's Office of Internal Affairs in its handling of the case. Davis outlined several problems with the way the Office of Internal Affairs handled the complaint, including whether the person assigned to investigate actually had the authority to do so. Davis cited the following in a news release issued today:
·                The employees gave their statements about sexual harassment to Christopher Davis with the Office of Internal Affairs.  Mr. Davis stated that his job title is investigator and he has years of experience.  However, the state website lists Davis as a substitute teacher.  When I asked Mr. Davis if he occupied a supervisory position, he said, “no.”
·                One employee has filed an EEOC complaint concerning the sexual harassment above.  We have served as a third party witness to document the systematic methods of retaliation under the whistleblower policy.  We were forced to get involved due to the number of complaints received about the Office of Internal Affairs acts of retaliation.
·                The employees gave very intimate and graphic details about the work environment within the transportation department.  For the school system to place that information in the hands of a person that does not occupy a supervisory position is inexcusable.
· The employee in question has been reassigned over three times without written documentation and/or explanation for the reassignment.  The employee had changes to the work assigned with less than 24 hours’ notice.  To place any employee under such working conditions, especially one that drives a bus load of children, is hostile and despicable.   

· The employee was given several verbal directives that changed his work environment to include time schedule, work conditions, policies and procedures, etc. that single him out individually.  When this practice was challenged, a written document was submitted to the entire fleet of workers under the transportation department 2-3 days later.

·  The systematic retaliation that has occurred was documented and monitored since the initial intake of the written documents concerning the sexual harassment.  

· Once the employee filed a federal complaint, we educated the employee on acts of retaliation to watch out for within a government system such as change in time schedule, verbal commands without written documentation which can be denied later, directives that will make a person look incompetent, etc.
Restore DeKalb is seeking several actions: 

· Full investigation of the Office of Internal Affairs.

· Retrieval of the emails of prior Superintendents, Atkinson and Lewis, to assess if the acts of sexual harassment went to the top of the chain of command.

· Re-train upper management on sexual harassment and acts of retaliation.

· Update policies and procedures to make sure changes in work conditions and time schedules are given with written notices under the name of the supervisor issuing the change.

· Legal matters, such as EEOC complaints and sexual harassment complaints, are handled by people with fiduciary responsibilities.

Monday, December 2, 2013

DeKalb School Board Meeting Tonight - Technology Off the Agenda?

Here's the lineup for tonight's meeting of the DeKalb County School Board.  It appears that discussion about the "21st Century Learning" has been delayed (possibly until the 22nd Century by the time they get around to actually implementing any of it?).  We will let you know if anything arises that may be related to our concerns about cell phone towers, cities and corruption.  But, in case you care to follow along, here is what is up, according to today's post from the DeKalb School Watch Blog:

Board meeting: Monday, December 2, 2013

The DeKalb Board of Education will hold the following meetings on Monday, December 2, 2013:
2:00pm Work Session and Executive Session for a legal matter Cabinet Room
Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, GA 30083
5:45pm Community Input Session
J. David Williamson Board Room
Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard
Stone Mountain, GA 30083
7:00pm Business Meeting
J. David Williamson Board Room
The meeting agenda is below. Meeting information can be accessed online by going, click on Leadership, go to eBoard Home Page and click on the date for the meeting agenda\information.

a. AdvancED Status Report
Presented by: Ms. Ramona H. Tyson, Chief of Staff, Office of the Superintendent
b. District-wide Wireless Access Update
Presented by: Mr. Gary L. Brantley, Chief Information Officer, Division of Information Technology

1. Approval of Minutes

Presented by: Mr. Michael L. Thurmond, Superintendent

2. Approval of Monthly Financial Report

Presented by: Dr. Michael J. Bell, Chief Financial Officer, Division of Finance

3. District Wide Beverage Services Contract Extension (RFP 09-20)

Presented by: Dr. Michael J. Bell, Chief Financial Officer, Division of Finance
(Glad to see beverage services are at the top of the list tonight.  Guess we'll take anything over construction projects, but when do they discuss education?)
4. Approval of the Human Resources Monthly Report
Presented by: Dr. Tekshia Ward-Smith, Chief Human Resources Officer, Division of Human Resources  
(Always a  good spin going on with this one.)
5. Permission to seek a State Grant to support the Establishment of a DeKalb County School District College and Career Academy
Presented by: Dr. Kathleen S. Howe, Deputy Superintendent, Division of Curriculum & Instruction
6. Approval of the District’s Strategic Improvement Plan to include the Vision, Mission, Motto, Beliefs, Strategic Goal Areas, Performance Objectives, and Strategy Map 
Presented by: Dr. Angela D. Pringle, Region II Superintendent

7. DeKalb County School District Records Retention Schedule

Presented by: Mr. Gary L. Brantley, Chief Information Officer, Division of Information Technology

8. 21st Century Classroom Technology

Presented by: Mr. Gary L. Brantley, Chief Information Officer, Division of Information Technology (Deleted in revised agenda)
8. Microsoft EES 
Presented by: Mr. Gary L. Brantley, Chief Information Officer, Division of Information Technology
9. Approval of the Sale of Hooper Alexander Property (3414 Memorial Drive, Decatur, GA 30032)
Presented by: Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations  
(Who is it being sold to and for what purpose?)
10. System-wide Natural Gas Services Contract Extension Approval
Presented by: Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
11. System-wide Moving Services Contract Extension (RFP 752-13001)
Presented by: Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
12. SPLOST III Projects
Presented by: Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
a. SPLOST III Project: ADA Improvements at Ashford Park ES, Evansdale ES and Sagamore Hills ES (Group D_ Contract Award)
b. SPLOST III Project: Hambrick ES HVAC Upgrades and Renovations Contract Award
c. SPLOST III Project: Stone Mill ES HVAC Upgrades and Renovations Contract Award
d. SPLOST III Project: Stone Mountain ES HVAC Upgrades and Renovations Contract Award

13. SPLOST IV Projects

Presented by: Mr. Stephen M. Wilkins, Chief Operations Officer, Division of Operations
a. SPLOST IV Project: Dunwoody High School Door and Hardware Replacement Contract Award
1. Personnel Recommendation
Presented by: Mr. Michael L. Thurmond, Superintendent
*  Are they actually planning to adjourn and then return for "public comments" when there will not be any "public" remaining?  That's odd.
E. OTHER\BOARD COMMENTS (2 minutes each)
1. District-wide Administrator Academy, 8:30am, Tuesday, December 3, 2013, Auditorium, Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex,
1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain
2. South DeKalb Parent Council Event, 10:30am, Saturday, December 14, 2013, Clark Atlanta University, 223 James P. Brawley Drive, Atlanta
3. Tucker Parent Council Meeting, 7:00pm, Monday, December 16, 2013, Tucker Middle School, 2160 Idlewood Road, Tucker
4. Schools Closed ~ Winter Holiday Break, Monday, December 23, 2013 – Friday, January 3, 2014
Administrative Offices Closed ~ Work Reduction Day for 12 Month Employees ~
Monday, December 23 – Tuesday, December 24, 2013 and
Monday, December 30 – Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Administrative Offices Closed ~ Winter Holiday Break, Wednesday, December 25 – Friday, December 26, 2013 and Wednesday, January 1 – Friday, January 3, 2014
Schools Closed & Teacher Planning Day, Monday, January 6, 2014
5. DeKalb Board of Education Work Session (2pm; Cabinet Room), Community Input Session (5:45pm) & Business Meeting (7pm), Monday, January 6, 2014, J. David Williamson Board Room, 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard, Stone Mountain
Posted in Board of Education MeetingsUncategorized | Tagged  | 12 Comments

WHO Radiation Specialist to Inspect Cell Towers in India

MUMBAI:  Radiation specialist Michael Repacholi will take stock of a few cell tower sites in the city on Monday and interact with medical experts on their effect on health.

Repacholi, who headed the radiation task force at the World Health Organisation (WHO), is visiting the city at a time when activists have been alleging health hazards from mobile towers. While activists like Prakash Munshi say that the presence of cell towers pose health risks to the citizens, Cellular Operators Association of India refutes this claim.

COAI director-general Rajan S Mathews claimed that despite cellular operators following all the norms laid down by WHO and the government of India, certain "misconceptions" were being propagated about cellphones and mobile towers.

On Monday, Repacholi will release a book on mobile phones and radiation. Repacholi was a founding member and chaired the International Non-Ionizing Radiation Committee. He was also coordinator of the radiation and environmental health unit of the WHO and headed the International Advisory Committee of the EMF (electro-magnetic field) project of the WHO till 2006.

State Supreme Court Upholds Decision to Remove DeKalb School Board Members

By Maureen Downey
From the AJC Get Schooled blog

The state Supreme Court this morning upheld the law that enabled the governor to oust six members of the DeKalb County school board and appoint replacements. That means the appointed board meets legal muster and stays in place.

Here is a link to the 47-page opinion.

I think this is a key passage in the ruling:

“When the conduct of a board threatens the school system with an imminent loss of its accreditation, it matters not to the public or the children of the school system whether it is the fault of a single board member, the fault of every board member, or the fault of no one in particular, just an unfortunate result of well-meaning individuals who cannot or do not work well together. The imminent loss of accreditation is a failure of the board as a whole all the same.”

Here is a summary of the decision from the state Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously upheld as constitutional the 2010 statute that authorized Gov. Nathan Deal to suspend Dr. Eugene Walker and five others from the DeKalb County school board.
In this high-profile case, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia asked the Georgia Supreme Court to answer two questions before he issues a decision in the federal lawsuit filed by Walker and the school district:

• Does Georgia’s School Board Suspension Statute (Official Code of Georgia § 20-2-73) violate the Georgia Constitution’s doctrine that each school system shall be under the control of a local board of education whose members are elected?

• Does the potential removal of school board members under § 20-2-73 unconstitutionally exceed the General Assembly’s authority to enact general laws regarding local boards of education?

In today’s 47-page opinion, written by the Court as a whole, “we conclude that [Official Code of Georgia] § 20-2-73 does not violate the Georgia Constitution. Accordingly, we answer the questions of the District Court in the negative.”

In December 2012, the Southeastern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed the DeKalb County School District on “accredited probation,” which is the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation. The school system had selected SACS from a number of organizations when it sought accreditation. Accreditation is viewed as a bellwether of a school system’s performance and can affect a student’s competitive advantage when applying to college or for scholarships. Under Georgia’s School Board Suspension Statute (§ 20-2-73), which the state legislature passed in 2010, when an accredited school system “is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons,” the State Board of Education must consider whether to recommend to the governor that he suspend members of the local board of education. Following several hearings on the matter, the state board recommended that the governor suspend six of the DeKalb board’s nine members. (Three members of the local board were not included for consideration because they were elected after SACS put the district on probation.)

Walker, who was the board chairman at the time, and the school district then filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that § 20-2-73 violated both the U.S. and Georgia constitutions. In an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, they sought to stop the governor from suspending the board members and appointing replacements. The federal court subsequently ruled that while the governor could suspend the members, they would remain in office but not be permitted to take any official actions until the district court could conduct a hearing. Similarly, if the governor appointed new members, they would not be able to take office prior to the hearing.

On Feb. 25, 2013, Gov. Deal issued an executive order suspending the six members as recommended by the state school board. On March 1, 2013, the federal court held a hearing to consider Walker’s and the school district’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The federal court denied their motion and vacated the earlier temporary restraining order, finding that Walker had failed to show it was likely he would prevail on his claim that the statute violated the U.S. Constitution. Soon after, Gov. Deal appointed six new members to the DeKalb board and they subsequently took office. Walker remained suspended but still held office, with pay. The other suspended members did not join the lawsuit, and the school district voluntarily dismissed itself from the federal suit.

In an order issued March 15, 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Story wrote that the Georgia Supreme Court had not yet considered the issues raised by Walker regarding the constitutionality of the 2010 statute under the Georgia Constitution, and “[a] decision on these issues will have a significant impact on the public education system in Georgia.” He then sent the state Supreme Court the two certified questions to aid him in his decision.

In response, Walker’s attorneys filed briefs in this Court, arguing that § 20-2-73 violates the Georgia Constitution in a number of ways. First, they argued the legislature has no authority under the Constitution to provide by statute for the suspension and permanent removal of local school board members who are constitutional officers.

Second, they argued that the statute unconstitutionally delegates the power to suspend and remove the members to a private accrediting agency, SACS, which is not accountable to the voters. Third, the attorneys contend the statute unconstitutionally empowers the governor to remove school board members, which in turn gives him the power to manage and control local school systems in violation of the separation of powers.
Finally, they argue that the statute unconstitutionally denies due process to members of a local board of education.

“We are unpersuaded by these contentions,” says today’s opinion, which responds to each of Walker’s arguments, although most of the opinion is devoted to an analysis of Walker’s contention that the General Assembly lacks the authority to enact a statute allowing for the governor’s removal of local school board members.

“First, it is a fundamental principle of our constitutional tradition that no public officer – whether constitutional or only statutory – is above the law,” the opinion states. The law long has acknowledged that legislative power includes “the power to provide the means by which a public officer might be suspended or removed…from office for a failure to satisfy the qualifications of the office, for malfeasance in office, or for misfeasance in office.”

“Throughout our history, the General Assembly has understood its legislative power to include the power to provide by general law for the removal of local constitutional officers for cause, notwithstanding that the Constitution did not explicitly and specifically confer such a power, and in some cases, even with respect to officers for whom the Constitution made other provision for their removal.” Judicial precedents “point in the same direction,” the opinion says.

The 1983 Georgia Constitution specifically states that the General Assembly may set additional “qualifications” for local constitutional officers beyond those required by the Constitution. And as the state Supreme Court said in its 2012 decision in Roberts v. Deal, “the power to establish qualifications to hold office ‘presumably authorizes the General Assembly to establish a mechanism for the administrative removal of board members [for a failure to satisfy such qualifications].’”

Walker’s attorneys argue that under the state Constitution, the only way local school board members may be removed from office is through a recall election by the voters. A recall, however, is different from the removal allowed by § 20-2-73. “Recall is not a means for the removal at law of public officers, but instead is a means for the political removal of such officers,” the opinion says. “Given that every public officer must be amenable to the law, it would be odd to conclude that the Constitution renders certain public officers not amenable to removal at law by any means whatsoever.”

Walker’s attorneys also argue that the statute improperly permits the removal of a board member for the fault of the board as a whole rather than for individual wrongdoing. But the high court disagrees. As it points out, the General Assembly has determined that the one, “clearly essential” measure of the success of a board of education is “maintaining accreditation and the opportunities it allows the school system’s students.

"When the conduct of a board threatens the school system with an imminent loss of its accreditation, it matters not to the public or the children of the school system whether it is the fault of a single board member, the fault of every board member, or the fault of no one in particular, just an unfortunate result of well-meaning individuals who cannot or do not work well together,” today’s opinion says. “The imminent loss of accreditation is a failure of the board as a whole all the same.”

In conclusion, the opinion states that as “the people of Georgia seek to improve Georgia’s educational system, this Court must be mindful of the broad discretion granted by the Constitution to local school boards to manage and control local school systems. For all the reasons set forth herein, however, we conclude that [Official Code of Georgia] § 20-2-73 is not an unconstitutional infringement upon the governing authority of local school boards, nor is it a violation of any other constitutional provision or right, as asserted by Walker in this case, and we answer the questions of the District Court in the negative.”

Attorneys for Appellant (Walker): Thomas Cox, Marquetta Bryan, Michael Walker
Attorneys for Appellee (State Board): Samuel Olens, Attorney General, Dennis Dunn, Dep. A.G., Stefan Ritter, Sr. Asst. A.G.