Good morning Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Good morning Arkansas



It's good to be home, even jet-lagged after almost a 50-hour "day" of being in motion from the port of Chennai, India home. Maybe this weekend I'll review India. In the meanwhile, let's get back to more parochial concerns:

* DUSTIN MCDANIEL SALTS THE POLITICAL FIELD: Attorney General Dustiin McDaniel, running for governor in 2014, promoted his candidacy with one of those always-to-be-taken-with salt bits of internal polling that showed him the runaway favorite among potential Democratic contenders and trailing, by a statistically insignificant amount, Republican Asa Hutchinson. Republicans think Democrats were oversampled to help McDaniel on his Democratic flank. But these are the same Republicans who took generic polling as holy writ this year and as a result dramatically overestimated Republican legislative gains. But I'm also dismissive of McDaniel's spin that Asa's small lead (44-41) can be explained by his greater name recognition. How could that be, given the constant headline-grabbing McDaniel has done while Asa has mostly toiled in anonymity since his last electoral loss six years ago. Still, there's not much doubt the state begins any election cycle nearly evenly divided on general party leanings. Issues ultimately decide the elections. A ton will be spent on this one before it's done. I wouldn't take a 52-14 lead by McDaniel over Bill Halter in the Democratic primary to the bank just yet, for example. Republicans making mischief could help Halter in 2014 as much as they hurt him in 2010 in his race against Blanche Lincoln. But bloom is a bit off the lottery Halter created.

* THE RISING COST OF NEWSPAPERS: Got my annual bill today for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It will cost $273 for home delivery in 2013, up from $180 in 2012. That's a whopping increase of more than 51 percent. About what your pay went up this year, right?

* SPEAKING OF THE DOG: A point of personal, wholly self-interested privilege follows. While reading the newspaper from afar, I noticed an extensive story last week about an appeal of the results of a trial of a claim arising from botched brain surgery at Arkansas Children's Hospital. The case was tried in the court of my wiife, Circuit Judge Ellen B. Brantley. The DOG account of oral arguments on appeal in the Dec. 7 paper said an insurance company, seeking to invalidate an $11 million award (reduced by the judge from the jury's $20 million), argued "that Judge Ellen Brantley and the jurors bungled the case — badly enough that it deprived the insurance company of a fair trial." The Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday disagreed unanimously. It upheld every aspect of the lower court proceeding. I bring this up only because of my head-scratching over the newspaper's identification of the bungling judge in the third paragraph of the story about the insurance company's appeal argument. Fair enough. But ... there was no mention of her name at all in the lengthy story upholding her ruling in every respect on both appeal and cross-appeal. She's referred to only as an anonymous "trial judge." Weird, Political Editor Lockwood.

* BULLYING IN THE LR SCHOOL DISTRICT: Channel 4 was on hand last night for continued Little Rock School District discussion of bullying in schools, a conversation engendered by a report on complaints from the Latino community that have been discussed in the Times. Wendell Griffen, a pastor and judge who's led some community discussions on the topic, has already weighed in. What follows is a copy of a note he sent to Pam Smith, the district's communications officer.

I clearly heard the emphasis last night and read it in your reply that what the Administration is presenting is a "framework." However, the "framework" appears anemic in the following respects.

1.At no point during last night's presentation was the school board told what research, if any, supports the "framework." If I missed that disclosure, please correct me. If I didn't, what research supports the "framework"?

2.If no research supports the framework, what reason should the school board, let alone the wider public to which the school board is accountable, believe the "framework" is likely to be more effective than anything else, not to mention more effective than a "framework" backed by solid research? In other words, why should the public believe the "framework" presented by the administration to the school board for eventual adoption is likely to be any more effective than a placebo? Respectfully, a "framework" that produces a placebo effect falls far short of what our community needs and deserves, however well-intentioned and substantial may be the effort to produce it.

3.Given the much publicized issues surrounding bullying/sexual harassment of Latina students by black students, and particularly by black male students, it would seem that the "framework" would include this dimension at the outset rather than later.

4.Our community group discussions have repeated what has Dr. Richard and other researchers will confirm. Cultural differences affect the extent that bullying/sexual harassment incidents are reported by victims and parents. How does the "framework" take those cultural differences into account? Does the "framework" assume that outreach to Latino families will be added later? If so, when? By what means? What efforts have proven effective? If the LRSD doesn't know that already, what supports the conclusion that any outreach efforts developed now or later will be based on anything more than assumptions and hypothesis? And if the assumptions have been made absent proof that such outreach efforts have been effective elsewhere and without including meaningful involvement from Latino community leaders, how will the outreach efforts be anything but trial and error exercises (again, placebo). In other words, the "framework" introduced last night appears to lack the requisite cultural competence and inclusion needed for attaining trust and active participation from Latino families, students, and other stakeholders.

5.And in view of the documented research on Latino/black student bullying interactions (such as that has been presented by Dr. Manuel Pastor of USC among others), the LRSD would be better served by incorporating lessons derived from that body of research into its "framework." The presentation by Dr. Mitchell and others last night didn't indicate what, if anything, about the "framework" has taken that body of research into account.

6.Bullying/sexual harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity has also been researched. Yet the "framework" introduced last night made only passing reference to sexual orientation and gender identity. What persons from the GLBTQ community and their allies have been involved in developing the "framework?" Respectfully, that was also a glaring omission that seems odd given the amount of serious research that has been done on bullying/sexual harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I've copied Randi Romo of the Center for Artistic Revolution on this message so she can contribute to the conversation and help expand thinking about curriculum development, reporting/notification concerns, intervention strategies, and other matters.

7.I also heard no timetable during last night's presentation. Did I miss something aside from the reference to a January 2013 introduction? When will the curriculum development review be concluded? What scheduling and performance metrics are contemplated for periodic review/evaluation of the bullying/sexual harassment protocol? What methodology has been selected for that review/evaluation?

As I mentioned in the October 18 letter written on behalf of New Millennium Church, adopting policies to comply with Act 681 of 2003 concerning prevention of "student harassment and bullying" is not enough. Again, "we encourage the District to identify successful anti-bullying programs in other comparable school districts throughout the country. The District should aggressively take and publicize the necessary actions to incorporate effective measures that will result in real and lasting behavioral and institutional improvements rather than window dressing."

Be assured that people throughout our community are eager to cooperate with the School Board and Administration to address this moral and ethical imperative. The points mentioned in this message are based on that motivation. I recognize that LRSD administrators have devoted and are devoting considerable time and efforts on this subject. Please accept these comments as part of our continued input as indications of our desire for those efforts to result in "real and lasting behavioral and institutional improvements."

This is Advent season in my religious tradition (Christian), a time for hopeful watching and waiting for a promised Deliverer of Peace, Love, and Justice. In the spirit of Advent, know that New Millennium and other concerned persons throughout the community are hopefully watching, waiting, and eager to work with the District to eliminate the injustice of bullying and sexual harassment in our schools.

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