You got to feel sorry for poor City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. He’s become the living embodiment of the cliché about no good deed goes unpunished.
A year ago, Rocky announced with Councilwoman Janice Hahn and Mother of Watts founder “Sweet” Alice Harris at his side that he was going to make Markham Middle School in Watts the poster child for a new anti-gang school safety initiative
“Mend Markham” involved everything from school uniforms to teacher empowerment to mentoring and adult supervised after school play with nearly $1 million in public and private funds.
Overlooked was checking out the criminal backgrounds of the people in charge of the school, particularly Assistant Principal Steven Rooney
who was transferred from Fremont High to Markham last fall after beating a rap for allegedly having sex with an underage student who refused to testify in court about their two-year fling. The transfer was part of LAUSD’s notorious “dance of the lemons” policy to move its losers to one bad school after another, ensuring that the neediest students get the worst education.
Now Rooney is in jail accused of using force and molesting three teenage girls at Markham. So much for student safety. So much for protecting them from fear and violence.
But that didn’t stop Rocky from sending out a mass mailing on April 29 boasting that his “Blueprint for Safer Schools, based on our Markham Middle School Safety Initiative…should inspire a dialogue about how we can do things differently with an eye toward ending fear and violence in our schools.”
I guess it’s a measure of Rocky’s political desperation that he ignored — and I mean made no mention at all of the student safety breakdown at Markham — and went ahead with promoting his initiative. Things have gone badly for the City Attorney for a long while, everything from his wife’s driving problems to the way he runs his office.
Sadly, the Safer Schools plan seems on its face to be a good idea. Seven gangs operate on the turf around Markham, including Janice Hahn’s favorite Grape Street Crips. A lot of kids wind up in gangs because it isn’t safe to walk home from school without the protection of hoodlums, and once in a gang there’s a better than even chance they’ll never graduate and more than likely will end up in prison.
Under the circumstances, you can only wonder why Rocky chose this time to reach out for support for his Mend Markham program. And, more importantly, you have to wonder what role his staff played in advising the police in the course of their investigation of Rooney which started on New Year’s Day last year when he supposedly dropped off his 17-year-old girlfriend at her stepfather’s house and wielded a gun during a confrontation.
We know now that school officials failed to follow procedures in transferring Rooney and failed to communicate to the appropriate administrators that he was a man with a checkered past.
I’ve got to wonder if the City Attorney’s Office, the LAPD and even the District Attorney also fumbled this case, and thus allowed three young girls to be traumatized.
From every angle, we know the system of government we have in L.A. isn’t a system at all and the Markham Middle School tragedy only adds fuel to the flames of public discontent.
Here’s the text of Rocky’s letter. It was accompanied by a 21-page glossy-covered, four-color brochure, apparently paid for with public funds:
Public safety cannot be the sole concern of the criminal justice system. It is and should be the concern of our educational system. Our success as a society must be measured by how many students are safe and learning at school, and how many young people have hope for a better future.
When children are unable to focus on their education, when the biggest concern is not tomorrow’s history test but the ability to get to and from school safely, we have failed. As Los Angeles City Attorney, as a resident of this great state and as a father, I consider it my obligation to do everything in my power to make our schools and our neighborhoods safe.
Now some may say that schools and education are not the job of a prosecutor., but the success of failure of our children in this state defines leadership. A learning environment free of fear speaks of justice. And an educated child gives us hope.
We offer and answer: a Blueprint for Safer Schools, based on our Markham Middle School Safety Initiative. This Blueprint should inspire a dialogue about how we can do things differently with an eye toward ending fear and violence in our schools.