Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are Your Text Messages Private? This is the question the US Supreme Court will address in a case involving an Ontario, CA police officer and his boss' attempt to read text messages he sent from a pager given to him by the police force. In City of Ontario v. Quon, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Mr. Quon's messages were private and protected by his 4th Amendment rights to privacy. The City of Onatario disagrees. It argued in its papers to the US Supreme Court that it should be allowed to regulate its workplace including reading the private messages of its employees.

I say enough already. Without doubt employers should have the regulate what happens in the workplace, but this doesn't mean that everything that is said or done in the work place becomes a matter of public record. Imagine your wife or husband visiting you at the office and during that visit you have a very private discussion about your finances, sex life, etc. Now clearly your employer would not be privy to this discussion even though you may have had it on company property. So why should those same private thoughts and personal words become subject to public attribution simply because they are transmitted via a pager or cell phone. The advent of the electronic age does not vitiate our constitutional rights to privacy. For goodness sake let officer Quon send his private messages. If you want to admonish him for have private calls or in this case texts while on company time, do so, but to read each and every private message goes to far.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Many are confused about the recent news reports that Tiger Wood's wife is considering negotiating a contract by which she would receive almost 100 million dollars for staying with Tiger for at least six years. Before you judge his wife too harshly, you should know that many couples have both pre and post nuptial agreements. Essentially these are legally binding contracts that couples enter into before or during a marriage which determines a variety of things including the distribution of assets assuming death, divorce, separation and yes, even infidelity. Most states acknowledge the validity of such agreements and when entered into properly they can be used to alter community property laws and other statutes which govern the distribution of assets in divorce proceedings. Many people believe that such agreements are some how inconsistent with traditional notions of marriage and the vow--for richer or poorer. But to the contrary, pre and post nuptial agreements can actually be just what the doctor ordered and may work to help keep some couples together. As of this writing, it looks like Tiger Wood's wife will have to decide if even a very generous post nuptial is enough to keep her in a marriage were this is admitted infidelity. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Tuesday, the LAUSD School B0ard will vote on how to drastically reduce its upcoming budget including laying off teachers and administrators. The proposed layoffs will result in class sizes for elementary school students increasing from 24 to 29. The superintendent of schools says these cuts are necessary in order to avoid a complete disastrous situation. The alternative to layoffs is for school staff to agree to a 12 percent pay cut. The teachers' union says given that they haven't had a raised in three years, a pay cut would essentially make teachers homeless!

Like the new movie starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin, "It's Complicated." Clearly, there are no easy solutions to the budget deficit and crisis that has plagued LAUSD and other urban school districts for decades. In California, this situation was made worse by the recent state budget cuts to public education. Asking teachers to take a 12 percent pay cut seems like a formula for failure. Although I doubt that the majority will become homeless, we should expect
performance rates to plummet. To the contrary, lay offs will mean that already crowded classrooms will become warehouses instead of instructional sites.

There must be a better solution, one that truly makes the needs of students the primary consideration. For some reason, public education keeps falling to the bottom of the priority list for local and national elected officials. As important as new roads are to any infrastructure, imagine what could be if some of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on "shovel ready" projects as a part of the stimulus package would have been spent on training young teachers, equipping classrooms with the latest in technology, building new facilities and overall committing to ending the educational gap that continues to widen in this country.

LAUSD teachers plan to march in front of the Superintendent's office to protest the proposed cuts and to ask for additional funding from California legislators and the federal government. I hope their pleas don't fall on deaf ears as the education of this nation's next generation is "complicated," but not intractable.