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Gwinnett teachers charged with sex assaults passed background checks
Four teachers from Gwinnett County schools have two things in common: They all passed background checks to get their jobs, and they’re all charged with sexually assaulting students.

Allegations in police reports and warrants include molestation, groping, rape and a two-and-a-half year sexual relationship. The alleged abuse occurred over a period of more than two years, but all four arrests were made this month.


The teachers arrested this month are:

• Michael “Mikey” Henderson, a former math teacher and assistant football coach at Parkview High School. Henderson has been accused of a two-and-a-half year sexual relationship with a female student. The student is now 18 and was in Henderson’s class. A school clerk is also being investigated in connection with this case.

• Villie Jones, a former band director at South Gwinnett High School. Jones has been accused of raping a student multiple times and having sexual relationships with multiple other students.

• Ronnie Jackson, a former physical education teacher and track coach at Meadowcreek High School. Jackson is accused of groping and kissing a female student’s genitals.

• Derren Evans, a former assistant football coach and long-term substitute teacher at Providence Christian Academy. Evans is accused of groping and forcibly kissing a student on multiple occasions and asking her for nude photos on Snapchat.

Jackson is free on $22,200 bond. Evans, Jones and Henderson are being held without bond.

The four teachers, three of whom taught at Gwinnett County public schools, and one who taught at private Providence Christian Academy, are a small minority of the district’s and schools’ faculty. Gwinnett County Public Schools employs 12,000 teachers and Providence Christian Academy, a K-12 school in Lilburn, employs 79.

All four men went through extensive background checks to get their jobs. Nothing in any of those background checks arose suspicion or concern, Gwinnett County Public Schools and Providence Christian Academy said.

The teachers also underwent training that addressed inappropriate relationships between students and teachers, as well as sexual harassment, assault and abuse.
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Amanda Coyne May-25-2017 130 0
Four teachers from Gwinnett County schools have two things in common: They all passed background checks to get their jobs, and they’re all charged with sexually assaulting students.

Allegations in police reports and warrants include molestation, groping, rape and a two-and-a-half year sexual relationship. The alleged abuse occurred over a period of more than two years, but all four arrests were made this month.


The teachers arrested this month are:

• Michael “Mikey” Henderson, a former math teacher and assistant football coach at Parkview High School. Henderson has been accused of a two-and-a-half year sexual relationship with a female student. The student is now 18 and was in Henderson’s class. A school clerk is also being investigated in connection with this case.

• Villie Jones, a former band director at South Gwinnett High School. Jones has been accused of raping a student multiple times and having sexual relationships with multiple other students.

• Ronnie Jackson, a former physical education teacher and track coach at Meadowcreek High School. Jackson is accused of groping and kissing a female student’s genitals.

• Derren Evans, a former assistant football coach and long-term substitute teacher at Providence Christian Academy. Evans is accused of groping and forcibly kissing a student on multiple occasions and asking her for nude photos on Snapchat.

Jackson is free on $22,200 bond. Evans, Jones and Henderson are being held without bond.

The four teachers, three of whom taught at Gwinnett County public schools, and one who taught at private Providence Christian Academy, are a small minority of the district’s and schools’ faculty. Gwinnett County Public Schools employs 12,000 teachers and Providence Christian Academy, a K-12 school in Lilburn, employs 79.

All four men went through extensive background checks to get their jobs. Nothing in any of those background checks arose suspicion or concern, Gwinnett County Public Schools and Providence Christian Academy said.

The teachers also underwent training that addressed inappropriate relationships between students and teachers, as well as sexual harassment, assault and abuse.

CBS May-25-2017 86 0
A middle school is under fire for its reaction to a violent brawl between a teacher and a staff member inside a classroom that was caught on video by a student.

CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reports the fight broke out on May 19 at Stone Mountain Middle School, northeast of downtown Atlanta. WGCL obtained video of the dramatic incident, which shows two women punching each other and pulling each other's hair while students scream for them to stop.

WGCL reports one woman is a teacher and the other is a teaching assistant.

"From what I think I know the teachers were arguing about a teacher, a male teacher, and they started arguing and it went on for about three to five minutes," one student told WGCL.
Teachers fight in a classroom in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in a video captured by a student on May 19, 2017. CloseWGCL-TV
The fight was eventually broken up by another adult. Students told WGCL that officials came into the classroom after the incident and forced them to delete any evidence of the brawl on their cell phones.

"Nobody apologized. They just came in and were like, 'Who videotaped this?' and stuff like that," one student said. "I think they were trying to push it under the rug so nobody would know about it and the school's reputation wouldn't be messed up."

The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) told WGCL it was not aware of school officials examining students' phones. After WGCL sent the video to DCSD's communications director, the district issued a statement saying the staff members involved in the fight would be disciplined.

"Those staff members that participated in the conduct have been removed from the learning environment," the statement read. "Following our process, DCSD will act swiftly and decisively to hold those employees accountable for their actions."

"Safety and security procedures are in place to help maintain a safe campus," Hinton wrote. "Anyone who creates an unsafe learning environment for our students receive swift disciplinary actions."

Julia Berry, whose daughter was in the classroom at the time of the fight, told WGCL she wants the teacher and the assistant fired.

Berry said failure to fire those responsible would send a message that "it's OK to fight if you can't deal with a problem. This is how you deal with it -- you punch the teacher in the face."

AP May-25-2017 102 0
The family of Alton Sterling is demanding the immediate firing of the two officers involved in the man's death.

In a letter Wednesday to Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr., attorneys contend the officers violated the police department's policy regarding de-escalation.

"It specifically cites information provided by the U.S. Department of Justice during a meeting in early May that Officer Blane Salamoni put his gun to Sterling's head and, using an expletive, threatened to shoot him.

"Not only is this a direct violation of BRPD's policy regarding de-escalation, but also a violation of multiple police procedures and policies recognized nationwide. More importantly, Officer Salamoni's actions directly escalated the entire interaction with Mr. Sterling, having placed in Mr. Sterling's mind that he was going to be killed no matter what he did, even if he complied," attorneys representing Sterling's children said.

Sterling, 37, struggled with the officers before Salamoni shot him six times outside a convenience store last July. He was selling homemade CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart when police were called to the store to investigate a report of a man with a gun.

The letter suggests that the department has known about Salamoni's alleged behavior since the night of the incident "and did not take any action to terminate his employment for putting a gun to Mr. Sterling's head, simply because his hands were not flat on the hood and he was asking why he was being confronted."

Broome, in a statement late Wednesday, said she has consistently sought "an expedited resolution to the investigation into Mr. Sterling's death" and called "for disciplinary actions against" the officers.

"I have advised (Dabadie) of my concerns regarding the employment status of these officers. I believe they should be removed from paid administrative leave and disciplined consistent with the severity of their actions. In Officer Salamoni's case, this warrants termination," the mayor said.

Dabadie did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Federal prosecutors declined to bring charges against the officers involved in the deadly encounter. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has begun his own investigation into the shooting.

Landry's investigation "is not related to whether or not Officer Salamoni keeps his job and is fit to be a member of the BRPD, that decision was made by Officer Salamoni himself when he put a loaded department firearm to Mr. Sterling's head without justification and with reckless disregard," the attorneys said.

Jose A. DelReal May-25-2017 74 0
n an interview released Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said that a "certain mindset" contributes to people living in poverty, pointing to habits and a "state of mind" that children take from their parents at a young age.

"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind. You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they'll be right back up there," he said during an interview on SiriusXM Radio with Armstrong Williams, a longtime friend.

"And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom," Carson said.

The retired neurosurgeon, who ran for president during the 2016 GOP primary, regularly speaks about his experience growing up in poverty and his road to the top of the medical field. Before entering the political fray, Carson was best known as a motivational speaker. His story was turned into a Lifetime movie and made him a role model for young people of color. But his conservative politics and denunciations of government assistance have eroded that image as he became a right-wing icon.

Carson said during the interview that "the wrong mindset" is the product of negative parenting habits and exposure.

"There's also a poverty of spirit. You develop a certain mindset," he said.

Carson made the comments during a town hall recorded Tuesday which will air in full on SiriusXM Wednesday night. Sirius released clips of the interview to news organizations to promote the show.

The secretary said that he believes that government can provide a "helping hand" to people looking to climb out of poverty. But he warned against programs that are "sustaining them in a position of poverty. That's not helpful."

"I think the majority of people don’t have that defeatist attitude, but they sometimes just don’t see the way, and that’s where government can come in and be very helpful," he said. "It can provide the ladder of opportunity, it can provide the mechanism that will demonstrate to them what can be done."

The Trump administration's 2018 budget blueprint, unveiled Tuesday, would cut more than $6 billion from HUD's budget. The cuts would end popular grants that facilitate first-time home ownership and revitalize economically distressed communities, including the Community Development Block Grant. The budget would also cut billions of dollars in funding for public housing support, gutting dollars used to fund big-ticket repairs at public housing developments around the country.

Carson has spoken at length in the past about personal responsibility and its intersection with poverty, bemoaning systemic dependence on public assistance.

On the campaign trail, Carson repeatedly pushed back against accusations that he wanted to end social safety net programs; he stressed, instead, that he believed government assistance was not always given to people who truly needed it.

"I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people," he said in the 2015 speech announcing his candidacy. "And we’re not doing people a favor when we pat them on the head and say, 'There, there, you poor little thing, we’re going to take care of all your needs. You don't have to worry about anything.' You know who else says stuff like that? Socialists."


FOX 4 May-24-2017 99 0
A jury couldn’t agree on a verdict in the trial of a Fort Worth police officer who shot a man who was holding a barbecue fork.

Jurors on Wednesday sent two notes to the judge saying they were deadlocked with five people reaching one verdict and seven reaching the other. They couldn’t come to a unanimous verdict and the judge was forced to declare a mistrial.

Officer Courtney Johnson was on trial for aggravated assault for shooting and wounding Craigory Adams in June of 2015. Dashcam video shows him responding to a call of a prowler with a knife. The knife turned out to be a barbecue fork.

May-22-2017 93 0
The Freddie Gray case lives on with the Baltimore Police Department’s decision to bring internal charges against five of the six officers involved in the case, with at least three of them also facing termination.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who was driving the police van in which Gray sustained fatal injuries, along with Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White, could all be fired as a result of the internal disciplinary action.

Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller, who made the initial arrest of Gray, face up to five days’ suspension without pay. Officer William Porter is currently not facing any disciplinary action in the case.

Investigators from the Montgomery and Howard County police departments finished reviewing the case earlier this month and handed in a report indicating the results of the investigation to city police May 12. However, as the Sun reports, that report has not been released.

The BPD asked the Montgomery and Howard departments to conduct the investigation to avoid any conflict of interest.

The five officers facing punishment were informed of the charges Friday, according to the Sun. Michael E. Davey, an attorney who deals with internal-affairs cases for the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, said that they are charged with “violations of policy and procedure.”

The officers can choose to accept the recommended punishment or contest the charges before an internal disciplinary panel or “trial board.” Those trial boards are open to the public under a new state law, the report notes.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis imposes the discipline and will ultimately have the final say, the Sun reports.

Gray was arrested April 12, 2015, and died a week after of a severe spinal injury that an autopsy ruled he sustained while riding in the back of a police van without being properly restrained with a seat belt.

Prosecutors charged the six officers in the case with charges varying from misconduct to manslaughter to second-degree murder, and all officers pleaded not guilty.

Porter went to trial in December 2015, but that trial ended in a hung jury, resulting in a mistrial. Nero, Rice and Goodson were all acquitted in bench trials last year. Prosecutors subsequently decided to drop the remaining criminal cases.

What the internal disciplinary action means, however, is that investigators concluded that officers did break department rules in the case.

carrie wells May-22-2017 191 0
Authorities are investigating whether the stabbing death of a black college student who was visiting the University of Maryland during graduation weekend was a hate crime.

The chief of the university police said Sunday the suspect, a white University of Maryland student, is a member of a racist Facebook group. An FBI official said the federal agency will assist with the investigation.

The victim, identified by police Sunday as Richard Collins III, was due to graduate from Bowie State University this week. The Calvert County man had completed ROTC in college and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army on Thursday, according to school officials and a family spokesman. He was 23.

Police have charged Sean Christoper Urbanski, 22, of Severna Park with first-degree murder in the attack. He was being held without bail. His family did not respond Sunday to a request for comment, and online court records did not list an attorney.

In this new digital age, it’s easy to assume change is limited to only technology, but it encompasses society and demographics as well—basically the very nature of work itself.

"We are looking forward to the quickest investigation as possible," he said. "Hate has no place in America. Hate has no place on a college campus where young minds are coming together to try to change the world."

The Rev. Darryl L. Godlock, serving as a spokesman for the Collins family, said the young man had obtained his airborne certification. Collins wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a military veteran, Godlock said.

"He wanted to make his parents proud of him so he went into the military to serve his country," Godlock said. "It was a great opportunity for him to advance forward and make the most out of his career."

Godlock said Collins was close to his family.

"This was not a thug," Godlock said. "This was a very caring individual. He was highly intelligent and he was at the peak of his career. He loved his family, he loved people that he came in contact with, and more importantly he loved his God."

Collins was a vibrant, funny and outgoing student whose ambition rubbed off on his friends, said Vidal Adams, a fellow Bowie State student and friend. Collins talked about wanting to travel the world and go skydiving and surfing, he said.

"He wanted to be a general of the United States Army, that was his ultimate goal," said Adams, a senior criminal justice major. "He was the definition of a leader. I can't really say the same about a lot of people."

Collins was waiting with two other students for an Uber ride outside the Montgomery Hall dormitory on Regents Drive near U.S. 1 at about 3 a.m. Saturday when he was attacked.

The stabbing was captured by a surveillance camera, police said. They called it unprovoked.

Witnesses said the suspect was intoxicated and incoherent at the time of the attack, police said. Police have said the victim and suspect did not know each other.

Officers called to the scene found Collins wounded on the sidewalk, police said. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Urbanski was arrested at the scene, police said. Officers recovered a folding knife, police said.

Collins' friends told police they heard the suspect scream as he approached them.

The suspect said "Step left, step left if you know what's best for you," police wrote in charging documents. Collins said "no," police wrote. The suspect continued to approach, and stabbed him once in the chest.

Police said initially there was no indication that race played a role. But University Police Chief David Mitchell said information about the Facebook group was brought to their attention on Sunday.


AP May-19-2017 193 0
A judge confirmed Prince's six siblings to be his rightful heirs in a ruling released Friday, bringing them a big step closer to collecting their shares of the music legend's multimillion-dollar estate.
Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide formally declared that Prince died without a will and that his heirs are his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings — Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John R. Nelson, Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson.

The siblings will still have to wait to inherit their shares of Prince's estate, which court filings suggest has an estimated value of about $200 million, though taxes are expected to consume about half of that.

More than 45 people came forward in the wake of Prince's death, claiming to be his wife, children, siblings or other relatives. Some, including a Colorado prison inmate who said he was Prince's son, were ruled out through DNA testing. Others, such as a woman and girl who claimed to be Prince's niece and grandniece, had their claims rejected as a matter of law.

Some of those people filed legal appeals, and Eide said that if appellate courts send any of the rejected claimants back to him, he will consider them. And until the appeals are resolved, Eide said the siblings won't be able to collect anything without his approval.

Eide previously signaled that the six siblings would likely be named Prince's heirs, but he also had said he wouldn't make the declaration until appeals had been decided. Lawyers for the siblings didn't want to wait, though, saying further delays would increase costs to the estate and impede its efficient administration. The siblings' attorneys didn't immediately reply to phone calls seeking comment Friday.

Attorneys for rejected claimants had urged Eide to wait for appeals to be resolved before naming the heirs. Andrew Stoltmann, a lawyer for the woman and girl who say they are Prince's niece and grand-niece, said Friday that he hadn't seen the new ruling but would examine it and determine whether to appeal it.

Prince died April 21, 2016, of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid drug 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Since his death, Prince's Paisley Park studio complex and home has been turned into a museum and concert venue. His estate has also struck deals to make his albums available by streaming, and next month plans to release a remastered "Purple Rain" album as well as two albums of unreleased music and two concert films. The values of those deals and revenue generated from Paisley Park tours have not been disclosed.

MEGAN CERULLO May-18-2017 173 0
A 6-year-old Mississippi boy was kidnapped and found shot to death in the back seat of a Toyota Camry Thursday, police said.

Kingston Frazier was sitting in the back of the car when it was stolen from a grocery store parking lot.

“We had everyone on the lookout for this particular vehicle. It was discovered abandoned on the side of the road in Madison County,” police said.

Kingston’s mother, Ebony Archie, left the car running with her son sleeping inside, while she went grocery shopping, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department said. Two men pulled up to Archie’s car, jumped inside, and sped away with her car and her son, local media outlets reported.

Suspects Dwan Wakefield and DeAllen Washington are in custody.

CHRISTINA CARREGA May-18-2017 224 0
A man who hired a hitman to murder his lover’s husband was jealous and wanted to replace him, according to an attorney.

“You saw a better life with Alishia, would you say that?” attorney Damien Brown asked Alishia Noel-Murray’s former lover, Dameon Lovell.

Brown represents alleged shooter Kirk Portious, 28, who is accused of getting paid $3,500 to kill Omar Murray, on Feb. 24, 2013. Lovell, 33, allegedly propositioned Portious to kill the man after another pal didn’t complete the job on Feb. 6, 2013.

Brown grilled Lovell as to why he did not shoot Omar Murray himself.

NYC woman’s boyfriend says he advised divorce over hit on spouse
“That’s not what I do,” said Lovell, who admitted he had other lovers while his wife was pregnant with his fourth child.

“Isn’t it true you wanted him to get beat up but couldn’t do it yourself because he’s bigger than you?” asked Brown.

“No,” said Lovell, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a sentence of 15 years to life.

“Isn’t it true you wanted to beat him up in his own house to have him suspect Alishia was cheating and then move out so you can move in?” asked Brown.

Brooklyn woman 'seemed calm' after hit man killed husband
“No,” said Lovell.

If convicted, Portious faces 25 years to life in prison.

Noel-Murray, 28, faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted for setting up the murder-for-hire plot.

RACHEL DESANTIS May-18-2017 209 0
A week after Steve Harvey issued a controversial note to his staff, his ex has issued her own sort of memo.

The TV star's second ex-wife, Mary Harvey, has sued the "Family Feud" host for $60 million, alleging that he damaged her "soul," TMZ reports.

Harvey's ex, whom he married in 1996 and divorced in 2005, is reportedly suing for child endangerment, torture, conspiracy against rights, kidnapping, murder, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

They share one son, Wynton, and Mary reportedly alleges in her lawsuit that the pain of losing him (Steve has custody) has robbed her of the joy of Mother's Day, and has left her suicidal and self-medicating to cope.

In the document, which was filed not by a lawyer but by a "civil rights activist," Mary writes, "All was loss Mary L. Harvey was dead," the gossip site reports.

Harvey's representatives declined comment.

Harvey, 60, and Mary endured a contentious breakup, and this is not the first time the two have had to settle drama in court.

Though their divorce was finalized in 2005 and Harvey has since remarried, drama erupted in 2011 when Mary posted a series of YouTube videos claiming Harvey had an affair during their marriage and left her with nothing when they divorced.

A judge later slammed her in a court declaration for potentially breaking a gag order and spreading false information, pointing out that she was given three homes in the property settlement and received $40,000 each month through March 2009, as well as an additional $1.5 million.

In the videos, Mary also accused Harvey of taking their son from her, but the 2011 court documents revealed that Mary knowingly sent their son to Harvey without Harvey's knowledge.

Just last week, Harvey faced backlash after a memo sent out to members of his staff revealed that the talk show host did not want his employees to approach him.

AP May-18-2017 234 0
A jury on Wednesday acquitted a white Oklahoma police officer who says she fired out of fear last year when she killed an unarmed black man with his hands held above his head.

The family of Terence Crutcher burst into tears and expressed outrage after jurors found Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby not guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the Sept. 16 shooting. About 100 demonstrators later gathered outside the courthouse and some briefly blocked a main street.

"Let it be known that I believe in my heart that Betty Shelby got away with murder," Crutcher's father, Rev. Joey Crutcher, said after the verdict was announced.

A lawyer for Shelby said the officer was "elated" that the jury found her not guilty.

"She's ready to get back to her life," Defense Attorney Shannon McMurray said.

Shelby looked stone-faced when the verdict was read, but Crutcher's family was quickly ushered out of the courtroom sobbing and wailing.

At least four of the 12 jurors were crying as they left the courtroom and they did not look at either the family of Crutcher or Shelby. The jury comprised eight women and four men and included three African-Americans.

Shelby testified that she fired her weapon out of fear because she said Crutcher didn't obey her commands to lie on the ground and appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun. Crutcher was unarmed.

Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted. They noted Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn't combative — part of which was confirmed by police video taken from a dashboard camera and helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby, hands held above his head.

Shelby's attorneys argued that in the two minutes before cameras began recording the encounter, Shelby repeatedly ordered Crutcher to stop walking away from her and get on the ground.

Shelby also said she feared Crutcher was under the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic known as Angel Dust that makes users erratic, unpredictable and combative.

An autopsy showed PCP was in Crutcher's system, and police said they found a vial of it in his SUV.

Crutcher's family said police attempted to "demonize" Crutcher over the drug possession to deflect attention from the fact officers didn't find a gun inside his SUV.

The killing of 40-year-old Crutcher was among a spate of officer-involved shootings in recent years that helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement and prompted calls for more police accountability.

About 100 demonstrators gathered in a plaza outside the courthouse Wednesday evening to protest the verdict. They chanted: "No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police." A smaller group later briefly blocked a major downtown road but dispersed peacefully. Police kept a relatively low profile, standing about a block away.

Marq Lewis, organizer of the local civil rights group We The People Oklahoma said the verdict was a blow to Tulsa's black community.

"When is it going to stop — just officer-related shootings? When will the police change policy?" he asked.

Tulsa has a long history of troubled race relations dating back to a 1921 race riot that left about 300 black residents dead. In 2015, a poorly-trained white voluntary deputy, Robert Bates, shot and killed a black man after Bates said he mistakenly reached for his gun rather than a taser. The shooting led to the departure of the sheriff.

Six days after the Crutcher shooting, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Shelby. An affidavit accused her of "becoming emotionally involved to the point that she overreacted."

Defense attorney McMurray argued that prosecutors rushed to charge Shelby for political reasons, fearing civil unrest like the angry street protests that erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina, after the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott four days after Crutcher was killed. But the reaction in Tulsa was more muted, with protests but no violence.


COLLIN BINKLEY May-17-2017 236 0
Black students at Harvard University are organizing a graduation ceremony of their own this year to recognize the achievements of black students and faculty members some say have been overlooked.

More than 700 students and guests are registered to attend Harvard's first Black Commencement, which will take place two days before the school's traditional graduation events. It isn't meant to replace the existing ceremony, student organizers say, but rather to add something that was missing.

"We really wanted an opportunity to give voice to the voiceless at Harvard," said Michael Huggins, president of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance, a campus group that is planning the ceremony. "So many students identify with the African diaspora but don't necessarily feel welcome as part of the larger community, and they don't feel like their stories are being shared."

Harvard joins a growing number of universities that have added graduation events for students of different ethnicities. Some have offered black commencement ceremonies for years, including Stanford University, Marshall University and the University of Washington. Some have added them more recently, and are also adding events for a variety of cultural groups.

The May 23 event at Harvard will feature four student speakers discussing the hurdles they faced on the way to graduation. Every student will receive a stole made of traditional African kente cloth, meant to symbolize their shared heritage and to be worn with their cap and gown at the university's graduation.

Students have raised $35,000 for the event, mostly from schools within the university. Organizers say some university deans and professors have agreed to attend. A Harvard spokesman declined to comment.

"This event is truly open for everyone," said Huggins, who is graduating with a master's in public policy this month. "We really want this to be an open affair where people can learn about some experiences that often go unnoticed."

Students at Harvard began an annual Latino graduation ceremony in 2015, and black undergraduates have held similar events. Students say the new event is the first that's open to black students across the university.

The University of Delaware held its first ceremony for LGBT students this year, joining dozens of other colleges that have added such "lavender graduation" events in recent years.

Along with its traditional commencement, Virginia Commonwealth University last year added new ceremonies for black students, Latinos and military veterans.

"They're small affairs, but they're meaningful," said Michael Porter, a spokesman for the university. "It's really a social event, and one more time to get together as you wind down the college career."

Cultural graduation events are typically started by students, experts say, and often by those who feel marginalized on their campuses. They can be particularly important for black students, many of whom are the first in their families to graduate from college, said M. Evelyn Fields, president of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education.

"When you're a little speck of pepper in a sea of salt, you can get lost," said Fields, who is also a professor of early childhood education at South Carolina State University. "They don't want to just be lost in the sea. They want the recognition that they believe they deserve, for the work that they've done."

Black students at Harvard represent 5 percent of the overall student body, compared with whites, who make up 43 percent, according to federal education data. Campus tensions at the Ivy League school have been heightened over the past two years after a series of racially charged episodes.

Harvard police called it a hate crime when framed portraits of several black law professors were defaced in 2015. No suspect was found. Months later, the law school agreed to abandon its official coat of arms after student activists protested the symbol's ties to an 18th-centry slave owner.

Organizers of the Black Commencement say it's partly meant to highlight racial disparities on campus. But ultimately it's a celebration of achievement, said Jillian Simons, a law student and president-elect of the Harvard Black Graduate Student Alliance.

"We want to acknowledge how far we've come," Simons said. "We want to say that there is a time to be jubilant and to acknowledge something that is positive instead of something that is causing heartache."

>>--More Black Legal News

Daryl K. Washington Jan-15-2017 1352 0
In such a very short time, many are clearing their memories of how Donald Trump mocked a handicap individual, disrespected candidates, women, the media and anyone else who does not agree with him. Donald Trump has insulted women, called them by names other than their own, has disrespected President Obama and most recently insulted Civil Rights Icon, John Lewis. Despite his despicable behavior, many are of the mindset that we must meet with Donald Trump or risk being left out. Until Donald Trump proves this country wrong, I stand with the Honorable John Lewis.

Has Trump announced that he is cutting back major programs President Obama put in place specifically for black people? Some people are behaving as if Trump is now our savior and if we do not bow down to him he will not help us. If the problems in our communities were so bad and needed so much attention, why weren't people lined up the last 8 years to discuss these problems with President Obama?

Trump has succeeded in making people afraid and now some are living in fear. Trump said in his campaign speech that nothing had been done for the black communities in the last 8 years so what do we have to lose. Trump said he would change things and now people are saying we need to meet with Mr.Trump so that he can keep his promise. That alone really makes it appear as if President Obama did nothing for the black communities and Trump was right. Listen, we have to stop depending on the Government and do for ourselves. When you depend on a large machine like the Government it controls you. When something controls you it can destroy you.

Many of the colleges in Louisiana and throughout the U.S. are now dealing with financial issues because of the budget cuts. Most of the colleges are dependent on the Government to survive because of the little support from the communities and believe me that is a recipe for disaster. Have you ever wondered why Asians and other races are not lined up to meet with Trump? It's because they support their own businesses and circulate the dollars within their own communities so they are not as dependent on the Government. We don't need Trump. We need each other. You guys running behind Trump will make him look like the savior he say he is and as a result he will most certainly be in office for the next 8 years. This country is in the best shape it's ever been in for a very long time and will only get better because of the things President Obama put into place. The thing is, Donald Trump will get credit for it all. We will survive, especially if we begin to support each other.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Civil Rights Law, Sports and Entertainment, Litigation (Personal Injury and Commercial) and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl by email at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Sep-20-2016 690 0
One must applaud the efforts and courage of Colin Kaepernick despite all of the negative criticism he’s received from the media, from fans, from athletes, current and former, and from certain owners of professional teams. Some have questioned his sincerity and others have questioned his methods but what many have failed to do is take notice of his message. Kaepernick has voiced on a number of occasions the reason for his peaceful protest yet many have failed to comprehend it.

What Kaepernick has done for the Movement is sparked conversation but many do not want to listen. He used his platform to bring attention to the injustices that are occurring on a daily basis yet an unarmed black man was shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma while he held both hands in the air for the world to see.

One has to wonder if this would have occurred if there was more unity on the issues that Kaepernick brought to the forefront. One has to wonder if this would have happened if every professional athlete would have stood in solidarity. One has to wonder if this would have happened if Jerry Jones allowed his athletes to exercise their Constitutional rights. One has to wonder if this would have happened if all of the National Organizations would have issued press releases making their support of Kaepernick known to all. One has to wonder if this would have happened if the media was not so fast to label all police officers as heroes. One has to wonder if this would have happened if the officers who murdered Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile were in jail today.

Colin Kaepernick, did what many have accused athletes of not doing; he took a stance. He pledged One Million dollars to the cause but how many more came in support of his efforts? I would like to believe if more people would have come out in support of Colin Kaepernick, Mr. Crutcher would still be alive today. Colin Kaepernick took a knee and challenged everyone else to do so but instead of focusing on the message, people focused on the National Anthem. When the message is ignored the problems will persist. There is a National Stage. The time is now to bring a plan forward. Stop questioning his method and give him the support he needs. Two weeks ago, two young ladies were wrongfully arrested while eating at a Whataburger in San Antonio, Texas. A few days later, a 13 year old boy was shot multiple times by a police officer. On last week, the officer who killed Eric Garner received a bonus to bring his pay to $120,000. Now, we witnessed the shooting of an unarmed black man but there are those who still don’t get the message. Why? Colin Kaepernick has not received the full support he needs.

Colin Kaepernick took a knee but many have not been there to lift him up. This is not Colin’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem. If you can demand that people stand in solidarity during the playing of the National Anthem, you most certainly should demand that everyone stand in solidarity when there are injustices. Don’t leave it up to one person to do it all alone. We must up take a knee and move forward with a plan.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Civil Rights Law, Sports and Entertainment, Litigation (Personal Injury and Commercial) and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl by email at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.


Daryl K. Washington Jul-14-2016 1011 0
I had the pleasure to witness four NBA superstars issuing a “Call to Action” to the thousands of athletes who were in attendance at the ESPY Awards. It was the moment I waited on for so long because I personally know the influence professional athletes have on society. They have the platform and the power to demand change. We saw the immediate change that occurred when athletes at Grambling State University, Missouri and the Los Angeles Clippers, to name a few, decided to take a stance. Athletes have the power, the platform and the support to make a difference but should they have to do it alone?

As a civil rights attorney I’ve had the opportunity to attend a number of protests throughout the U.S. I’ve attended rallies and marches where some of my closest friends lived but as I thought about it, I generally did not get to see any of them until after the events were over. I recently received confirmation that there is a perception that the only individuals out marching are the victims’ families, individuals from the communities we moved away from or individuals who are wrongfully labeled as troublemakers. What really confirmed it for me was when it was stated that “men should get off the protest lines and instead fill out job applications.” I know that comment can be taken many ways but the way I took it was that men who are out protesting do not have jobs. The sad reality of it all is the reason statements like that can be made is because many who have been blessed to obtain multiple degrees, fortunate to be employed by major organizations, live in the nice neighborhoods, drive the fancy cars, have the IRA’s and are living what is considered the American Dream will not get involved with the movement out of the fear of losing it all yet those same people have the audacity to call out athletes.

Here is the bottom line. This movement cannot be placed on the backs of a few. Until organizations see their star players out in the communities voicing their concerns, they will think the injustices are acceptable. I know it shocked the conscious of America to see Trauma surgeon Brian Williams publicly share his fear of police officers. There were many who probably thought “how dare a doctor make such comments” and I’m sure Dr. Williams understood that there was some risks involved in making his comments but I'm sure he realized that many would listen if he spoke. His comments needed to be made because America now sees that this problem does not only exist in what many call the hood. Many now understand that for black and brown people the hood is America and we are not safe anywhere.

Just recently I was traveling to conduct depositions. I guess because I had on a suit and was sitting in First Class (I had an upgrade because of mileage) the white gentleman sitting next to me perhaps was of the opinion that I was not concerned about what was going on in the black communities. Little did he know why I was traveling and what I fight for on a daily basis. He had the audacity to say he could not understand why people were so upset about the incident in Baton Rouge given the background of Alvin Sterling. My response to him was when an officer decides to use excessive force against a black or brown person, in most cases they do not know the name of the person or whether they have a criminal background. Only one thing is seen; the color of the person’s skin. They know in most cases that the law and media have been on their side so there is no fear of killing because there will be plenty of support for them. By the time our flight landed he admitted that his own personal biases had not allowed him to look beyond a certain point but because we discussed it, he now had a clearer picture.

I say all of the above to emphasize that athletes are not the only individuals with the power and platform to demand change. There are Black Presidents, CEO’s, Coaches, CPA's, CFO’s, Managers, Politicians, Directors and future stars of large corporations who also have the platforms. There are Black doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, pilots, flight attendants, scientists, engineers, sales professionals, educators, business owners, entertainers, etc. who also have the platforms and power to make a change. It’s time that we gave our brothers and sisters, who are out fighting for justice on a daily basis, the help and support they truly need. I can assure you that should you become the victim of police brutality in your nice neighborhoods or fired from you nice jobs, you will then understand the value of being a part of groups that fight for change. We all need to be out protesting so that the victims’ families can properly grieve. We are in this current state of chaos because so many believe it’s not their problem. Just remember, we are in our positions because someone fought for us.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Civil Rights Law, Sports and Entertainment, Litigation (Personal Injury and Commercial) and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl by email at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Jun-24-2016 1036 0
On yesterday the officer responsible for the incident in McKinney, Texas was not indicted for the assault on the young teenager that was seen all over the U.S. Also, on yesterday one of the officers in the Freddie Gray case was acquitted. As expected, my timeline on Facebook was flooded with posts from individuals talking about the injustices that take place throughout the U.S. One of my good friends, who is like a brother to me, even blamed attorneys for the injustices throughout the U.S. Generally, I do not comment on these type of issues but because it's Friday I would like to give everyone who this may apply to something to think about.

When is the last time you attended a judicial debate or even contacted an attorney to inquire about a judicial candidate or a DA to see if they had the proper temperament to serve? When is the last time you attended a rally or demanded that a DA present all of the evidence to the grand jury? When is the last time you took a day off from work to support the families who sons or daughters were wrongfully gunned down by a police officer? When is the last time you packed a courthouse to support a family you did not know? When is the last time you sent a letter to the family of a deceased offering your support, financially or emotionally? When is the last time you contacted your local city council member and asked them what they are doing to address the issue of police brutality and police misconduct?

I could go on and on with this but just know, the system will continue as is unless we become proactive and stop being so reactive. This system knows that people will get excited about an incident but once the media is gone, so is the support. As a Civil Rights attorney, I know who is putting it all on the line to bring about change. I know the people who are talking to the DA's, to the Chiefs of Police of various cities, to the city attorneys and others trying to save lives and/or bring about change. I know my friends who attend meetings when I'm in their cities trying to bring about change. It seems like an easy and at times, prestigious job but to be honest, it can be a lonely job. Many nights when most people are sleeping, I find myself in deep thoughts wondering if I could get the thousands of people I know to stand behind us in this fight, a major difference could be made.

Creating the wonderful posts on Facebook help bring attention to issues of injustice but we have to be consistent with our support. One million people strong can take a day off from work with very short notice to attend the CAVS victory parade but let a demonstration for the wrongful death of an unarmed black man or woman be planned and the hardest thing to do is get people to agree on a date or better yet, take off a day to show their support. I know many may not understand how deep this problem truly is but until you step out in the heat and show your support, you may want to stop some of the blaming. Just remember, there will not be change until we all change. Real support is needed to stop the injustices that are occurring throughout the U.S. Let's all come together to bring about a change in this country.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Civil Rights Law, Sports and Entertainment, Litigation (Personal Injury and Commercial) and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl by email at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
Daryl K. Washington Nov-11-2015 13973 0
For years the question whether college athletes should be paid has been debated over and over only to be kicked down by legal rulings. The NCAA, the television networks, the media and large colleges have all profited off of the backs of primarily Black athletes, while the only colleges that would accept them are being forced to shut down because of a lack of resources. College coaches are earning millions of dollars per season, have large endorsement deals and live in upscale neighborhoods while college athletes, many who come from low income families, are penalize for accepting a meal from a booster, can’t afford to take a date out to dinner or a movie and can only wish that their families could afford to sit in the stands occupied by many who will not speak to them or support them after their college careers are over.

I’ve said on numerous occasions that in order for there to be a change within the system, the ones with the power would have to do something drastic. Two years ago the Grambling State University football team decided to stage a protest because of the lack of equipment and the conditions of Grambling’s facilities. Although I hated to see it come down to that, I understood their frustrations and realized that we were witnessing the beginning of a new movement. The day had come for college athletes to realize that they have as much power as professional athletes, to demand change.

Two years later, the football players at the University of Missouri made a bold statement that will have an everlasting impact on college sports. They walked away from a game they love to support their fellow students. They have now shown athletes at other schools the power they have when they join together in solidarity. As a result, the NCAA’s biggest fear just came to reality. There was not going to be any change or progress at the University of Missouri until the individuals responsible for generating a large share of the revenue said “Enough is Enough.” Within a few days of their walk-out, President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, the top administrator of the Columbia campus, announced their resignation. That's power.

The NCAA has long made the issues with college athletes, a legal one. The NCAA created rules that prevent athletes from earning a living until after they’ve made everyone else rich. College athletes are required to sign over all of their rights in exchange for a scholarship and cannot earn one single dime to support a parent who is sometimes forced to work two jobs and in some cases still don't have the resources to attend a game. LSU’s superstar Leonard Fournette is being questioned about a business venture his family started before his college career really took off. Now that he’s signed away his rights, it’s being frowned upon by the individuals who were earn millions off of him. In other words, we the NCAA and LSU own his rights. The system is old, is broken and it’s unfair. Schools like LSU and Alabama earn over $70 million per year off of football but the players receive $0. The coaches earn over $3 million per season but the players earn $0.

I'm predicting that we are a season or two away from college athletes staging one of the largest boycotts in college sports because they have come to realize that the power is in their hands. The Missouri football players did not have to miss one single game to get what they demanded but the fight is far from over. Today, the students in Missouri are being faced with the harsh reality of the racist society we still live in. They should be preparing for exams but instead they are fearing for their lives. One hundred thousand fans will cheer on black athletes on Saturdays but many will criticize their efforts and make fun of them on Monday morning. I applaud the efforts of our college athletes. It makes me feel good to see that Our future generation will not stop fighting the fight that many started years ago. We can only pray that one day we will be able to take off the gloves. Until that time, the fight must go on so that the future generation can experience what Dr. King died for many years ago; True equality for everyone.

Daryl K. Washington is an attorney located in Dallas, Texas. His practice includes Civil Rights Law, Sports and Entertainment, Litigation (Personal Injury and Commercial) and Business Transactions. You can reach Daryl by email at dwashington@dwashlawfirm.com or you can visit his website at www.dwashlawfirm.com. To receive updates, go to the Black Legal Issues page on Facebook and check the like button.
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