TWO BILLS ADDRESS CRITICAL NEEDS TO HELP SCHOOLS REOPEN: One proposal calls for $480 million to school districts to hire more counselors, social workers and psychologists – where schools are already chronically understaffed -- to address trauma caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. The other would provide $102 million to make sure there is at least one nurse in each of the state’s public schools. There are great concerns, and rightly so, about the academic status of students. They’ve been away from the classroom since mid-March. While efforts to use broadband to bring the classroom to student homes have been laudable, too many students lack access. But the time away has surely taken an emotional and psychological toll on many students. There is the money. Legislators have boasted about their multi-billion-dollar rainy day fund. There are also federal funds that can be used. This is what North Carolina schools and children need now. No excuses.
YOUR WHITE EYES AREN'T MORE RATIONAL ABOUT GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH, JUST LESS IMPACTED: There are many pieces circulating right now begging white people to see black people as human. They have their place. I’ve written them. This isn’t one of them. Because unfortunately, despite the cruel realities of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Douglas Lewis, there inevitably will be that guy who we work with, go to school with, are social media connected with, or just happen to know who believes he has a more “rational” perception of reality. He’s off telling black and white people who acknowledge the pains of racism that “the odds” are low. He’s using the term “hysteria” and making analogies about “one bad apple” as if those not intervening and/or cosigning false reports and upholding policies that allow fired officers to police in other jurisdictions are not contaminated. He’s offering his best black on black stories about Chicago and ignoring most white murders are done by white people as well. He’s ultimately saying that talking about racism is divisive, instead of seeing that his denial and gaslighting are the true weapon of division. Despite his confidence, he’s not more rational or educated. He’s just less impacted. And if something touches him and he sees himself in the victim, all that stiff upper lip, I don’t feel, pseudo-intellectual posturing disappears faster than a Charlotte snow on Christmas.
NC NEEDS TO PASS THE "SECOND CHANCE ACT" NOW MORE THAN EVER: As the legislature returns to Raleigh to address COVID-19, they should consider the “Second Chance Act” as a worthy first step. Second chances for our most vulnerable neighbors matters now, more than ever. We are in an economic recession, with unemployment at unprecedented levels. Hardworking individuals are struggling to support themselves and their families, as many jobs simply cannot be done remotely. Those with criminal records – one in five North Carolinians – are some of the hardest hit, as employers are often unwilling to interview and hire those with even minor, decades-old records. On a very basic level, expungements can make it easier to get a professional license, admission to college, and employment, among other things. But more than that, expunging a person’s record is a recognition that no one is the worst thing they have ever done. They also restore dignity by providing a clean start for these individuals. The Second Chance Act, which already unanimously passed through the Senate, would provide much needed expansions to expungement eligibility, as well as automate the process for clearing charges that resulted in a dismissal or not guilty finding. As we try to recover from this pandemic, we don’t have a dollar to waste; all individuals who wish to work should be employed and contributing. Expanding expungement relief will help with that. In fact, a recent research study demonstrated that wages increase by 25 percent following expungement.
WHAT THE MINNEAPOLIS COP, AMY COOPER, AND PRESIDENT TRUMP HAVE IN COMMON: A white cop in Minneapolis, a white woman in Central Park, a president in the nation’s capital: joined together in their display of malice. Each case is different. But this week’s events, captured in video recordings and on a social media platform, have a similar, sickening reality. Likewise, the physical, social and political conflagrations they caused. On Monday in Minneapolis, a white police officer named Derek Chauvin was recorded kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed black man. In the video, taken by a nearby witness, 46-year-old George Floyd pleads for the cop to stop because he can’t breathe. Though several witnesses protest that the unarmed man sprawled on the ground is bleeding from the nose and is not resisting, Chauvin does not lift his knee. Other cops stand around. Also on Monday, in a semi-wild section of Manhattan’s Central Park called the Ramble, Christian Cooper, a black man and avid birdwatcher, saw an unleashed dog digging up shrubbery. He asked the dog’s white owner, Amy Cooper (no relation), if she would restrain her dog, as required by park rules there. She refused, saying, “He needs his exercise,” and she told Christian Cooper that she would be calling the police instead. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she said as she pulled out her cellphone and dialed 911. Tuesday, President Trump once again promoted the baseless claim that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, when he was a member of Congress, killed Lori Kaye Klausutis, a 28-year-old aide who died in 2001. It wasn’t the first time Trump has pushed the long-debunked murder charge, and he has revived the accusations several times just this month. But the brutal cop, devilish dog-walker and despicable president share one condition: They carried out brutish acts apparently unencumbered by the morals that restrain decent, civilized people.
HOW THE SUPREME COURT LETS COPS GET AWAY WITH MURDER: In 1967, the same year the police chief of Miami coined the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” to threaten civil rights demonstrators, the Supreme Court first articulated a notion of “qualified immunity.” In the case of police violence against a group of civil rights demonstrators in Mississippi, the court decided that police officers should not face legal liability for enforcing the law “in good faith and with probable cause.” That’s a high standard to meet. But what makes these cases nearly impossible for plaintiffs to win is the court’s requirement that any violation of rights be “clearly established” — that is, another court must have previously encountered a case with the same context and facts, and found there that the officer was not immune. This is a judge-made rule; the civil rights law itself says nothing about a “clearly established” requirement. Yet in practice it has meant that police officers prevail virtually every time, because it’s very hard to find cases that are the same in all respects. It also creates a Catch-22 for plaintiffs, who are required to hunt down precedents in courts that have stopped generating those precedents, because the plaintiffs always lose. As one conservative judge put it in a U.S. district court in Texas, “Heads defendants win, tails plaintiffs lose.” In the five decades since the doctrine’s invention, qualified immunity has expanded in practice to excuse all manner of police misconduct, from assault to homicide. As the legal bar for victims to challenge police misconduct has been raised higher and higher by the Supreme Court, the lower courts have followed. A major investigation by Reuters earlier this year found that “since 2005, the courts have shown an increasing tendency to grant immunity in excessive force cases — rulings that the district courts below them must follow. The trend has accelerated in recent years.” What was intended to prevent frivolous lawsuits against agents of the government, the investigation concluded, “has become a highly effective shield in thousands of lawsuits seeking to hold cops accountable when they are accused of using excessive force.”
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
HEALTH WORKERS DEFEND NC: WE URGE CAUTION ON REOPENING NC: We are nurses, doctors, and health workers caring for North Carolinians of all backgrounds, including over 23,000 who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. We’re deeply concerned about the Phase Two reopening. While the percentage of positive tests is fairly stable, both the absolute number of cases and hospitalizations over the last seven days continue to rise. These worrisome figures foreshadow impending burdens to hospital services, including ERs and ICUs, without even capturing the full impact of Phase One given the lag between viral transmission and symptom onset. Instead of prioritizing economics over public health, we urge Gov. Roy Cooper and the legislature to support N.C. residents in staying safely at home while ramping up contact tracing and testing. Concurrently, our leaders should expand Medicaid, support small businesses, and improve access to unemployment benefits. Our state should act in solidarity with its residents so that they can protect their lives as well as their livelihoods.
ADAMS WOFFORD: REOPENNC PROTESTERS ARE HYPOCRITES: It is difficult to take ReOpenNC seriously. Every week we are treated to protesters with snake flags and guns standing in the capital. They say they may shoot somebody to retain their “freedom.” Get a grip. They expect school kids to wear armored backpacks, pass through metal detectors, armed guards, and have mass-shooter drills at school as “the price of freedom,” yet having to wear a mask to run to the grocery store is called “tyranny?” A coronavirus is like a forest fire. A fire burns trees, brush, and all available tinder. The intensity is based on the availability of fuel. Human beings are the fuel of a virus. It does not respect your “rights” or sense of entitlement. It is not confined to any age or ethnic group. Over 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. It is a terrible disease that you must take with utmost seriousness. If you respect your family, your friends, and your community, you will wear masks and stay home.
ELLIE KINNAIRD: IT'S TIME TO BRING JUSTICE BACK TO THE COURTROOM: The excellent May 25 editorial on the reforms needed to cure the inefficiencies and injustices in our court system left out an important point: the fees charged defendants for the most part do not go to the courts, they go to the General Fund. The legislature has used court fees as a cash cow for years to pay for other parts of the government, while starving our courts of adequate funds to run the system, from clerks to indigent defenders to judges and bailiffs and every part of the system. Everyone involved in the courts knows about this problem and has known it for years, but they’ve never been able to influence the legislature. I thank Rep. Joe John, a former judge, whose experience provides a unique focus on the issue. I only hope he is able to convince his colleagues that it is past time to bring true justice to our court system with full funding and cutting the exorbitant fees that unfairly hurt our indigent population that makes up an overly large part of our courts.