Nation roundup for November 18


Teacher killings bring risks to light

Associated Press

When a 16-year-old student slammed a metal trash can onto Philip Raimondo’s head, it did more than break open the history teacher’s scalp, knock him out and send him bleeding to the floor.

“It changed my whole world,” Raimondo said about the attack in the school where he taught for 22 years.

Experts say the phenomenon of student-on-teacher violence is too often ignored.

“There’s some reluctance to think that the teaching profession can be unsafe,” said Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Illinois.

The educational psychology professor recently headed a national task force on classroom violence directed at teachers. The group found that little has been done to try to understand or prevent such incidents despite the potential implications on teacher retention and student performance, among other things.

But the October deaths, one day apart, of Nevada middle school math teacher Michael Landsberry, who was shot on a basketball court by a suicidal 12-year-old, and Massachusetts high school math teacher Colleen Ritzer, who authorities said was attacked by a 14-year-old student inside a school bathroom, have brought the issue to the forefront.

About 4 percent of public school teachers reported they had been attacked physically during the 2007-08 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education, citing a 2012 school safety report. Seven percent were threatened with injury by a student.

A 2011 survey found that 80 percent of teachers reported being intimidated, harassed, assaulted or otherwise victimized at least once during the previous year.

Of the 3,000 teachers surveyed, 44 percent reported physical offenses including thrown objects, student attacks and weapons shown, according to the American Psychological Association Task Force on Violence Directed Against Teachers, which conducted the national web-based survey.

The task force recommended creating a national registry to track the nature and frequency of incidents, saying this would help develop plans for prevention and intervention. It also suggested that all educators be required to master classroom management before they are licensed to teach.

2 killed, 20 hurt in mining accident

OURAY, Colo. (AP) — Two workers were killed and 20 others were injured Sunday in a mining accident near the southwestern Colorado town of Ouray.

The Ouray County sheriff’s office was called to the Revenue-Virginius mine at about 7:20 a.m., county spokeswoman Marti Whitmore said. The miners were underground and were confirmed dead Sunday afternoon.

“Anything that has been reported is speculative,” Whitmore said. “We don’t know what the cause is.”

Star Mine Operations, LLC, the owner of the mine, couldn’t immediately be reached by the Associated Press for comment, but Whitmore said the company has accounted for all of the workers at the site.

She said 20 people were taken to area hospitals, and all but two have been treated and released. The conditions of those two hospitalized workers haven’t been released.

Rory Williams, project manager for Star Mine Operations, told the Ouray Watch newspaper (http://bit.ly/1ajQLAs ) the accident was not related to a cave-in or mine collapse but was apparently a “powder-smoke incident,” and that the release of chemicals in the smoke injured the miners.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration is at the accident site, which is about 270 miles southwest of Denver.

The last major mining disaster in Colorado occurred on April 15, 1981, when an explosion killed 15 people at the Mid-Continent Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine near Redstone.

In 2000, a 37-year-old man was killed after being struck by a high-pressure hose that snapped off a piece of equipment in the Sanborn Creek Mine.

And in 2011, a New Mexico contract worker died after being hurt at the West Elk Coal Mine in Somerset, in western Colorado. The U.S. Mine and Safety Administration found the 53-year-old slipped and fell from a beam at a tower construction site.

Geithner to join private equity firm

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who played a central role in the government’s response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009, is joining private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC.

The firm announced Saturday that Geithner will serve as its president and managing director starting March 1.

Geithner led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for more than five years before becoming Treasury secretary in 2009, when the economy had sunk into a deep recession.

Few Treasury secretaries received as much scrutiny. Supporters credited Geithner with helping prevent the recession from spiraling into a second Great Depression by stabilizing the banking system and restoring investor confidence. Critics said he was too cozy with Wall Street.

Warburg Pincus said that Geithner would advise the firm on strategy, investing, investor relations and other topics. The New York-based firm has been involved in buyouts of such well-known companies as luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus and contact lens maker Bausch + Lomb.

The firm declined to comment on Geithner’s compensation. Through an aide, Geithner declined an interview request.

Geithner, 52, stepped down from Treasury in late January, days after President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term. He was the last of Obama’s original economic advisers to leave the administration, and was succeeded as Treasury secretary by Jack Lew.

In an interview with The Associated Press on his last day in office, Geithner said that the economy was “stronger than people appreciate” and predicted a pickup in growth.

He defended his role in bailouts for large banks — steps designed to stabilize the financial system — but acknowledged that he would never win over his critics because it was hard to convince people about the dangers posed by the financial crisis.

S.F. transit labor talks may restart

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco transit officials are calling for a return to the bargaining table, saying an expensive provision was “erroneously” included in a labor contract that settled a union dispute that had caused two recent strikes.

Late Friday, the contract with San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit’s two largest unions appeared to be facing uncertainty as the agency said that it was seeking the renewed talks.

After a closed-door meeting during the afternoon to discuss the issue and review its likely costs, BART officials said a family medical leave provision giving its 2,300 union workers up to six weeks of paid time off each year would be too expensive.

On Thursday, BART officials announced that the provision had been “inadvertently” included in the agreement, which was signed off by transit and union negotiators in October. The board, which is set to vote on the contract Nov. 21, has now ordered the agency’s general manager to restart talks with representatives from the unions — Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 1021. A new chief negotiator is expected to be announced.

“We are not comfortable with the potential liability that could result from the adoption of this contract provision,” the board said in a statement issued Friday night.

It was “never the District’s intention to include the disputed Family Medical Leave Act proposal in the contract,” it added, indicating the medical leave provision was “erroneously” included in the contract language by an unnamed temporary employee in July.

By BART’s accounting, 7.4% of its ATU and SEIU workers have taken leaves for family care, at an average of 4.3 weeks and costing about $1.4 million a year. But in its statement Friday, the agency suggested it is worried up to 33% of the union employees might take six weeks of paid leave under the new provision, costing the agency $10.5 million.

“The Board is disappointed that this error occurred and was not caught earlier,” it said.

SEIU Local 1021 Executive Director Peter Castelli said by telephone Friday that it would likely be a few days before his union made a decision on how to respond.

“We’re not ruling anything out, but we’re not inclined to go back to the bargaining table,” Castelli said.

Later, in a statement Friday night, he added: “Make no mistake, there was no confusion or glitch in the agreement. BART’s high-priced chief negotiator Thomas Hock, Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier, and Labor Relations Manager Rudy Medina, signed an agreement that would allow BART workers time off to care for their family members with a serious illness.”

BART management and its two largest unions agreed to a tentative deal on Oct. 21 after six months of agonizing negotiations and two strikes that caused headaches for hundreds of thousands of commuters.

The disputed proposal would require the agency to provide workers additional paid leave for six of the 12 weeks allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act. Prior contract language required workers to use sick leave and vacation time first.

A BART attorney notified the unions in an email on Nov. 7 that a provision on medical leave was signed by the agency in “error.”

“I had assumed that you would recognize this for the error that it clearly is,” BART counsel Vicki Nuetzel wrote. “As I have stated, given the Union’s positions, (Management) cannot ratify the contract.

“It is most unfortunate that the efforts made by all parties to reach what we believed to be a fair resolution will be wasted, but there is no choice.”

Board Director James Fang called the error unfortunate.

“We’re going to discuss the options and one of them is to not to approve the contract,” Fang said Thursday. Fang said BART management had known about the issue since last week after conducting a final review of the deal, but that board members didn’t find out until Tuesday.

ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant criticized the BART decision and said the agency was inflating the potential cost of the new provision. She said in a statement issued Saturday that the provision, which would provide paid leave if an employee is needed to care for a seriously ill immediate family member, would cost about $1.4 million a year.

“Union members voted on the agreement as a whole — not piece by piece. BART needs to do the same,” she said.

If the board votes down the contract on Nov. 21, the unions may consider going on strike for the third time in three months.

SEIU’s Castelli questioned BART officials’ competence and good faith.

“It’s a further demonstration a combination of incompetence and no real desire to get an agreement,” he said. “I’ve been bargaining union contracts for over 25 years, and I have never seen anything like this happen, ever.

 

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