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Rooney fallout

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 5/21/2008, 5 p.m.

A coalition of African American and Latino parents from schools throughout the region gathered at the Los Angeles Unified School District Seven office on Western Avenue and 106th Street Friday morning, to protest removal of Carol Truscott and Scott Braxton. The parents claim the two are being used as scapegoats in the matter of how Steven Rooney, a former Markham administrator, was returned to a school site, after allegations of improper conduct with a student surfaced.
Truscott, the District Seven superintendent at the time, and Braxton, who was her director of high school services, along with former administrator Alan Hubbard are apparently the only three district employees who have been removed from their positions in the wake of the revelations about the student-teacher affair.
According to Cpt. Fabian Lizarraga, commanding officer of the Juvenile Division, the LAPD is investigating Hubbard, who allegedly had a scrapbook of Rooney's that showed evidence of his relationship with the Foshay student, to determine whether any criminal acts such as obstruction of justice might have occurred.
Two days before the parents staged their demonstration, Councilmembers Janice Hahn and Bernard Parks jointly introduced a motion requesting that members of the LAUSD school board and the appropriate staff come before the city council to provide details in the Rooney case.
Rooney, a former assistant principal at the South Los Angeles middle school, is currently in jail awaiting trial on charges that he had sexual relations with a Markham student. He is also facing charges in a case involving the former Foshay Learning Center pupil as well.
In early 2007, Rooney was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department for allegedly brandishing a gun at the stepfather of the Foshay student with whom he was purportedly involved in an affair. The girl, who was not 18 at the time, refused to cooperate and while they did file charges with the District Attorney's office, Lizarraga said the D.A. decided not to prosecute on the sexual allegations because the student refused to cooperate.
Police did verbally inform the LAUSD's Chief Operations Officer, Dan Isaacs, and the District's police chief, Lawrence E. Manion, about both the gun arrest and the sexual contact allegations. Lizarraga said the LAPD informed the LAUSD Employee Relations Department only about the gun charges, because that was the crime he was actually charged with. The sexual allegations were still under investigation at the time.
According to a memo by newly installed senior deputy superintendent Ramon Cortines, Isaacs did not fully disclose the details of the Rooney case, when he passed the information on, and a decision was made to allow Rooney to return to a school site. He went to Fremont, and then on to Markham.
"I want the district to come forth and tell the truth and stop bobbing and weaving behind what the truth is, and accept the responsibilities for their negligence and allowing someone back into our schools that is harming our minor children," said Kelly Bedford, a District Seven parent who was among those on hand for the noisy protest. The parents began at the district office, and then caravanned down to the LAUSD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
Charlotte Henderson, who is a Title I advisory board member and represents Lanterman Special Education Center, said that Truscott was only following orders, and would not have acted without direction from her superiors.
Bradford said she has contacted the offices of school board members Marguerite LaMotte, Richard Vladovic, and Monica Garcia, but no one had responded by the time the protest was held Friday.
"We need Mrs. Truscott," said Carla Vega, chair of the English Learners Partner Advisory Council for Fremont High School. "We don't need a new superintendent where we have to start all over again," added Vega, who said Truscott has worked diligently with parents in the district to improve schools.
After Rooney's arrest in March, LAUSD has been under pressure to take action as parents have diligently written letters and demanded the district's accountability values to be upheld.
"Mrs. Truscott has been nothing but supportive of the parents here for the last couple of years she has been here. She has been a light when we truly needed it and we want our superintendent Carol Truscott back now," demanded Monique Jacobs, another parent at the protest. "Neither Mrs. Truscott nor Mr. Braxton had anything to do with the placement of this man in several of our schools, but they (LAUSD) are using them as scapegoats and examples because someone's head has to roll. But it should not be theirs. They are trying to use our two key administrators as scapegoats, and we will not allow it."