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#YesALLDaughters! FBI, Title IX Officials Needed In Norman Rape, Bullying Investigations

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The Jezebel site on Friday published the disturbing and chilling rape allegations of three Norman High School students against a fellow student and how they were then subsequently bullied at school for reporting their assaults.

The post, without using the students’ real names, details how the girls “were hounded out of Norman High by merciless taunting from their classmates about the rapes, and, in one case, a physical assault.”

In response to the events, some Norman High School students plan a walkout at 9:20 a.m. this morning to protest the bullying. The public is encouraged to attend outside the school starting at 9 a.m. I hope the Norman community and the larger Oklahoma City area, in general, rallies around these students and others protesting against this type of bullying under the name #YesALLDaughters. Nearly 7,000 people follow the group on Facebook as I write this, and that number is sure to grow after today. This is a story with national implications and consequences.

The Jezebel post, written by Anna Merlan, is an extensive and remarkable piece of reporting, writing and documentation. It makes Norman school officials and law enforcement officials there seem callous and insensitive and obviously sexist. I would add, and this is my opinion, it shows how leaders in Norman, whether intentionally or not, are actually promoting a culture in that college city in which violence against girls and women is at least dismissed if not tacitly condoned. These are just the latest incidents outlined in Jezebel.

I urge you to read the Jezebel piece because any summary of it will just by definition leave out crucial and heartbreaking details. The simple overview is that two 16-year-old girls and a 14-year-old girl allege an 18-year-old male student raped them. The 18-year-old student has apparently been expelled or suspended from school, but so far hasn’t faced any legal charges. School authorities, in general, are reticent to talk about the case, according to the post, because of privacy rules under the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA.

Here’s one of the post’s key paragraphs:

A local feminist knitting circle in Norman has banded together to publicize what has happened to the girls. (They contacted Jezebel with their story and facilitated our contacting the girls and their families for interviews.) Together with the girls and their families, they accuse Norman High administrators of badly mishandling the aftermath of the rapes, allowing all three girls to be bullied mercilessly by their schoolmates until they saw no other choice but to leave. This is despite a detailed anti-bullying policy at Norman, one spelled out in the school's 2013-2014 handbook, which clearly bans both in-person and online bullying, which all the girls say they experienced in spades.

Besides bringing attention to the Jezebel piece and supporting the student walkout and #YesALLDaughters, I urge the following actions:

(1) Norman Schools Superintendent Joe Siano and Norman High School Principal Scott Beck should step aside from their jobs until a thorough, independent investigation of the alleged rapes and bullying is completed. I’m not arguing at this point they should be fired or suspended without pay, but it seems highly unlikely to me just on the common sense level that these two officials can set aside their own career aspirations or vested employment interests in this case. At this point, the actions of Siano and Beck in all these cases should be investigated. Siano and Beck shouldn’t actually be OPERATING an investigation. What needs to happen is justice, not a cover-up that protects school administrators at the expense of vulnerable children those administrators are duty-bound to protect.

(2) The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) should conduct the criminal investigation into the rape allegations. Authorities need to make sure there is no collusion or appearance of collusion between local criminal investigators and the Norman School District to arrive at a preconceived outcome in the cases. Meanwhile, other federal investigators should determine whether there has been a federal Title IX violation in this case. Under the Title IX law, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of gender, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Were these girls discriminated against because of their gender? Was there a double standard applied between the male student and the female students?

(3) Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Norman School District, the Norman Police Department and the Cleveland County District Attorney’s office should also be required to release to the alleged victims, the media and any concerned citizens all emails, documents and paperwork about the cases. The names of the minor children can be redacted from the documents. There needs to be full transparency in the cases so the community knows what’s going on. (To Superintendent Joe Siano: Consider this a formal federal Freedom of Information request to release copies of the documents I want to review to me by noon, Friday, November 28, 2014. I can be reached at kurt.hochenauer@gmail.com. As you know, I have sent you a personal email requesting the documents as well.)

I follow #YesALLDaughters on Facebook. On Sunday night they sent out a message that attached a list of demands of NHS Principal Beck and posted them on the organization’s page. I support every single one of these thorough and intelligent demands, but I still strongly believe Beck and Siano should recuse themselves from the ongoing investigations. Here’s what #YesALLDaughters wants from Norman High School:

  • School must fully accommodate the educational needs of the victims and take all necessary steps to ensure the victims feel welcome and safe at all times on school grounds.

  • School administration shall request a full investigation by law enforcement into the child pornography passed around school and into any teacher or administrator who failed to make mandatory reporting of child abuse as required by Oklahoma Statutes, Title 10, section 7103.

  • School shall create a new, full time position of Victims Advocate for students who report sexual assault, sexual harassment, or bullying who is responsible for overseeing all such reports and following up with the student, the student’s parents and law enforcement.

  • School shall create a notice of victims’ rights to be provided to any student who reports sexual assault, sexual harassment, physical assault, or bullying.

  • School shall prioritize the immediate implementation of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and bullying prevention education for students and faculty.

  • School shall promptly train all faculty on victim sensitivity and the appropriate response to reports of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and bullying.

  • School shall establish a committee comprised of 3 students, 3 parents, and 3 faculty to oversee the implementation of these demands and to review the programs and policies implemented every 90 days.

I suggested through a Facebook message that the group add this to its list of demands:

School administration shall issue public internal and external letters stating that it will not tolerate non-compliance by its faculty, staff and students of the federal Title IX law, which prohibits gender discrimination at schools receiving federal funding.

Unfortunately, the legendary good ol’ boy system in Oklahoma sometimes requires outside independent investigations that deal with facts without any regard to local politics and power structures. I believe this is one of those times. We can hope local authorities in Norman will embrace social justice and gender equality, but, as cynical as this might sound, I don’t believe it’s possible in this case at this point in our state’s history.

The alleged sexual assaults and the later bullying as outlined in the Jezebel piece are as shocking as it gets. Parents of Norman school students, no matter what their grade level, should follow this growing controversy very closely and demand justice. The alleged assailant and those students who participated in the alleged bullying need to face their possible consequences based on the truthful facts of the case as determined by independent, outside investigators. That’s the very least of what should be done here.

Okie Response To Immigration Plan: Expect Violence, Anarchy, Lawsuits and Stuff

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Oklahoma’s conservative politicians wasted no time in producing some of the nations's most outlandish and bizarre criticism of President Barack Obama’s sensible new plan to stop the deportation of some immigrants living here illegally.

Topping the list of this particular Okie spectacle is outgoing Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who unfortunately had this to say about the president’s decision:

"The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation. You're going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."

That sounds to me more like “a call’’ to violence than a warning about violence. Note the language “going to go nuts” and “anarchy” and “could see violence." Let me state the obvious: Coburn’s comments are incendiary and irresponsible. If there IS any violence, Coburn should be held directly responsible for it, along with the corporate media journalists who have tried through the years to depict the senator as some sort of reasoned political sage.

I think Oklahomans know Coburn a little bit better than those Beltway journalists trolling for a story that fits a preconceived phony narrative. Coburn is a radical and an extremist. His comments are actually designed to incite violence and anarchy, even though they are supposedly couched as a warning. His comments are no different than what you might hear on a Rush Limbaugh show. Yet Coburn still gets depicted as a serious statesman.

Here’s a point Coburn won’t acknowledge. Even if Obama did nothing about the issue, this country would still be flooded with people who live here without appropriate documentation. That’s going to continue. Why would Americans suddenly go nuts and start rampaging in the streets over one policy shift when the illegal immigrants are already here in the first place? Is it because Coburn WANTS people to go nuts and get violent?

Basically, the controversial point of Obama’s plan is that it protects up to five million illegal immigrants from deportations. It also refocuses our anti-illegal immigration efforts on monitoring and deporting criminals who come to the United States. Here’s a basic outline of the plan. Some experts estimate there are more than 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

Coburn’s siren call to violence—violence against immigrants, perhaps, or maybe even the president himself?—was just one outlandish comment by an Oklahoma politician. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a statement that he plans to “take action” against the president over his new directive. Of course, that means he’s threatening to sue, just as he has sued to end Obamacare so impoverished people can’t have access to medical care here in Oklahoma. Pruitt’s entire focus as the state’s attorney general has been to oppose Obama in any possible way he can. Here’s his statement on the Obama immigration plan:

It is anticipated tonight’s speech will again prove our President sees himself as above the law. Regardless of what the President thinks the law ought to be, our constitution dictates that Congress makes the law, it is the Presidents duty to faithfully execute those laws. If the President takes an executive action that violates his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the immigration laws passed by Congress, we will take action to hold him accountable.

Note the language “will AGAIN [emphasis mine] prove our President sees himself as us above the law” and “violate his constitutional duty.” It’s sheer nonsense. American presidents have taken executive action on immigration and other issues throughout the years. This is well documented and doesn’t even bear repeating. Obama is doing nothing out of the ordinary, except to maybe get something accomplished in the face of Republican recalcitrance.

Other negative comments from the prominent conservative politicians here in Oklahoma are so typical they should make us yawn. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole claims, “ . . . the president has chosen to pit lawmakers and the Americans they represent against each other.” What does that even mean? U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas asks, “ . . . where does this kind of stuff stop?” Stuff? Come on, let’s have a serious conversation about the immigration issue, not focus on arcane points about implementation and constitutional authority. It’s more than just “stuff.” U.S. Rep. James Lankford, who was just elected to fill Coburn’s Senate seat, claims Obama “does not want to do the hard work of negotiating an actual reform . . .” Let’s be clear: Obama has tried repeatedly to find compromise with stubborn Republicans on an array of issues in his presidential tenure.

The crux of the issue is that we have more than 11 million people living here illegally. Many of these people have menial jobs. They come here to escape poverty and have a better way of life. The vast majority of these people are law-abiding—I get it that they’re here “illegally” so don’t think you caught me in some paradox—and want education and safety for their children. It is logistically impossible to find and then round up all these people and send them back to their home countries.

Our country has needed to do something about this issue for years, but the GOP because of xenophobia and racism has refused to act in a sensible manner. No one, especially Obama, is arguing these people should get blanket amnesty and complete forgiveness. The point is that these people, many of them from Mexico, should be able to come out of the shadows and participate fully in our taxation and regulatory systems. It makes the most sense.

On one hand, there actually are Republicans who do want the cheap labor illegal immigrants provide; on the other hand, the racists and xenophobic people who make up a sizeable segment of the Republican base crave retaliation, maybe even some of that “violence” and “anarchy” Coburn seems to be promoting these days. These two factions will never find common ground, and they both hate Obama with an irrational intensity that can only be contributed to the fact he’s an African American. How is any type of compromise remotely possible given these obvious facts?

Obama’s plan is a sensible start to solving a crucial issue in our country. It’s also sure, on a political level, to show immigrants and other people, and especially those of Hispanic descent in this country, that the Democratic Party embraces diversity and tolerance.

The Oklahoman Obama Obsession

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In less than a week, the editorial board of the state’s largest newspaper has published three asinine commentaries criticizing President Barack Obama while offering not a shred of rebuttal or an extensive differing viewpoint.

The three editorials by The Oklahoman, simply signed with the innocuous byline “The Oklahoman Editorial Board,” show not only how the monopoly newspaper is one of the most biased corporate publications in the world but also how sophomoric, reductionist and anachronistic its editorial page remains in the twenty-first century.

The newspaper is legitimately and obviously obsessed with its hatred of the first African American president in American history. Why? He’s a lame-duck president with two years remaining in office. Republicans now have majorities in the House and Senate. Surely, the newspaper should begin its Hillary-hate at this point, right? What’s the point of rousing the low-information villagers who actually subscribe to this awful newspaper and believe in its one-sided hateful views against Obama right now? With its documented past of hate and bias against minorities under the late publisher Edward L. Gaylord, it’s not difficult to see it as the lingering vestiges of racism. What else could it be?

On Nov. 14, the newspaper published an editorial, “The president’s misplaced priorities, outdated solutions,” that argues the president support for “net neutrality,” which essentially would prevent large, corporate Internet providers from ripping off people by charging them more, perhaps even doubling or tripling prices, is somehow a non-issue and shouldn’t be Obama’s concern. As the headline argues, it’s “misplaced.” The editorial goes on to argue that people just don’t care about it. While it might be true that not many people are paying attention to the issue right now, as the editorial argues, they sure would care about it when their Internet bill went up in price in a major way. What makes this an especially dumb editorial is that the issue has the potential in the future of hurting NewsOK.com, the newspaper’s website, if Internet providers jacked up prices to view videos.

But, then, The Oklahoman has one business model: Use its monopoly to shut down competition and progressive political dissent until newspapers its size and caliber close down. Does anyone here really think its current owner, billionaire energy mogul Philip Anschutz, really cares about people here in Oklahoma or even if the newspaper even flourishes commercially? Isn’t this simply a hobby for the reclusive, right-wing member of the 1 percent.

On Nov. 17, the newspaper published an editorial, “Legacy-building phase underway for Obama presidency,” which produced this rhetorically bizarre gem:

Obama’s visit to China and the wearing of that weird Star Trek costume (or whatever it was) produced a pen-and-phone style agreement for the United States to cut carbon dioxide emissions. This is an exercise in legacy-building. Obama will spend much of his last two years in office beating the drum for global warming remediation.

Note the sarcasm over the Chinese-styled shirt that many leaders of the summit wore one time as a gesture of unity and graciousness for the host country. The newspaper’s criticism of this minor act is a blatant case of xenophobia and, yes, I will say it over and over, just downright racism. People do wear different styles of clothing in different parts of the world or have traditional clothing. How does one even begin to teach students about the world in this place when the state’s largest newspaper makes fun of the way people dress in other countries? Why doesn’t the newspaper just publish an editorial urging Oklahoma children to make fun of kids in other countries that don’t dress like them? It’s called ignorance and bullying.

The point of the editorial is that it's wrong for Obama to try to build the historical legacy of his presidency through making progress on global warming by reducing manmade carbon emissions. The Oklahoman editorial board is a longtime supporter of Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who calls global warming a hoax and a left-wing scientist conspiracy, so why not just leave it at that? We know The Oklahoman editorial board doesn’t privilege science. So what’s the point of the entire “legacy-building” thing and the xenophobia and racism unless that’s the real point? It’s all just about bashing Obama with racist undertones.

On Nov. 19, the newspaper published an editorial, “Opposition to Obamacare not likely to subside,” which argues, against growing evidence, that the Affordable Care Act is an “albatross for Democrats.” Note the newspaper’s use of the word “Obamacare,” which Republicans have made part of the American lexicon. Here’s the key paragraph for the point I’m making:

So long as Obama is president, Jacobs is correct to predict no fundamental Obamacare changes will become law. And GOP infighting could stymie even modest amendments. That won’t mean Obamacare is increasingly popular. The law has been an electoral albatross for Democrats since its passage. There’s little reason to think this dynamic will change any time soon.

Yes, folks, isn’t it terrible Obama won’t deny health care to the millions upon millions of people who now have insurance and regular medical care? The editorial is preposterous. Its only point is to denigrate the president in any way whatsoever without allowing an appropriate, sustained rebuttal. Obama, Obama, Obama. Bad, bad, bad. WE GET IT ALREADY.

Here’s how the newspaper describes its editorial board:

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord Everest, member at large; J.E. McReynolds, Opinion editor; Owen Canfield III. chief editorial writer; and Ray Carter, editorial writer.

Let’s be clear: The Oklahoman editorial page is shameful and craven. Its continued obsession with Obama is truly borderline psychotic and can obviously been seen as racist. Those who perpetuate it by creating or approving its nonsensical content do a grave disservice to the residents in this state and to the quality of life here. In addition, the newspaper’s decision to NOT allow consistent dissenting views to its one-sided arguments is a classic reason why we need better journalistic standards in this country.

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