Teacher gets jail for abuse
Michael Scott Shaddix, 36, a popular teacher at Sunny Brae Middle School, was sentenced to six months in jail and six years probation Monday for felony child abuse.
He was originally charged with 13 counts of child molestation in a case that stemmed from incidents that happened between 1989 and 1991. His accusers were two former students, now 22 years old and identified in court records as Jane Does No. 1 and 2.
The trial ended in a hung jury in January and in May Shaddix pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse which Judge Dale Reinholtsen called, "criminal conduct resulting in mental suffering.
"Mr. Shaddix violated his position of trust" as a teacher, the judge said in his ruling.
Reinholtsen also criticized the school administration.
"It amazes me that the administrators of the school looked the other way and ignored telltale signs" following complaints about Shaddix.
According to the judge's order, Shaddix must participate in child abuse counseling and was ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution to the victims. Once he is out of jail, he cannot be with children unsupervised, except for his own, and he will never be able to teach again.
Grand Jury report out
From Humboldt County sheriff's staffing and vehicle use to Eureka City Council's property negotiations and the county's child welfare response time, the 1998-99 Grand Jury report covered an eclectic assortment of issues.
The citizen watchdog group that observes and reports on local government took aim at the county's Child Welfare Services and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors in respect to response time in child-abuse reports and in monitoring the department, respectively.
This year's Grand Jury investigated 18 referrals made by mandated reporters to the CWS emergency response unit and found "the response time was inadequate" on almost one-third of these occasions. Mandated reporters complained to grand jury members that communication between law enforcement and CWS "was poor," children were "returned to abusive situations," and rules of confidentiality have "become an obstacle in achieving the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children."
Changes have been made in the department to improve action taken in child welfare cases in the last year or so, said Deputy Social Services Director Winston Kavanaugh. (Kavanaugh temporarily took over for Director John Frank, who resigned last week amid controversy surrounding a drunken-driving accident.)
"We are working on a response," Kavanaugh said, which will be presented to the grand jury by the Aug. 4 deadline.
Because the public is generally unaware of the extent of child abuse in the county, the jury suggests "rules of confidentiality, methods and procedures be re-evaluated by the Department of Social Services."
Social workers must track up to 300 cases each month and operate under a code of ethics that requires confidentiality.
Child advocates charge that confidentiality often masks shortcomings in the county's child protective responsibilities.
Last year a $5 million civil suit was filed against CWS for its handling of Tony V., a local boy who was kept in an enclosure for four years by his biological parents until January 1996. The story was featured in the Feb. 4, 1998 edition of the North Coast Journal.
Revisiting a 15-year issue among previous grand juries, this year's panel also criticized the Board of Supervisors for taking 3-1/2 years to formally approve creating an oversight committee that reports to the supervisors, as recommended in 1995 by the Child Welfare League of America. The board, which Supervisor Bonnie Neely said followed a certain timeline, did so in December 1998.
With child abuse widespread in Humboldt County, "meaningful improvements" to the reporting process are required to ensure child protection, the jury concluded.
A child-advocacy organization's newly released national poll reveals that although there are more than 3 million reports of child abuse and neglect per year nationwide, only one in three people who witness the behavior does anything about it.
The June survey of more than 900 randomly selected adults commissioned by Los Angeles-based Children's Institute International also shows one quarter of Americans have witnessed what they believe to be child abuse.
"We must educate the public about how (it) can report and prevent child abuse. This is everyone's responsibility," said Mary Emmons, CII's chief executive officer.
Retired director unretires
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has appointed a new acting director for the county's Social Services Department who is quite familiar with the job.
Maurice McMorries, 64, served the department for 24 years as deputy director until he retired in 1997. He has agreed to come out of retirement while the county searches for a permanent director.
Butterfly headlines again
Tree-sitter Julia Butterfly Hill is back in the national spotlight.
An article in Rolling Stone's July 8 issue includes a near-surreal photograph of the young environmentalist high in the tree she calls Luna.
And the woman who has spent 19 months in a redwood tree near Stafford to protest old-growth logging has been selected as one of 20 of the most fascinating women in politics by George. From the magazine's New York headquarters last month, Managing Editor Sudie Redmond confirmed that the article is scheduled to run in the September issue.
George's editor, John F. Kennedy Jr., son of the 35th president of the United States, was presumably killed last week when the small plan he was piloting crashed at sea off Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Like many in the Kennedy clan, Hill has "thought about" going into politics, she said from her cellular phone Monday but only at the local level.
"To me, the world is full of possibilities," she said.
Big funds for cancer research
Almost 200 teams and a well-oiled organizing committee helped raise more than $400,000 to aid cancer research last weekend.
The Humboldt County chapter of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life at College of the Redwoods nearly doubled last year's $227,000 figure, making this region's relay the most successful in the state. It's also among the nation's top 10 out of 2,500 such events held across the country.
Rite Aid Corp. has notified its customers to look before they buy.
The company posted notices at store checkstands, including those in Humboldt County, telling customers to check expiration dates on merchandise they've bought from the store.
If a product is outdated, the retail store giant will replace or offer a full refund on the item as part of a three-week-old settlement made on a consumer protection lawsuit.
The nation's third-largest drugstore chain, which owns 4,000 stores in 30 states, was accused of selling merchandise with overdue expiration dates, the Associated Press reported. It also agreed to pay $1.1 million in fines.
Medic unit on the move
A new mobile medical unit for the underserved in the community is on its way to Humboldt County from a Riverside company and should arrive by October, the mobile operator's clinic administrator announced last week.
The Blue Lake-based Mobile Medical Office is replacing its 1993 model that's logged more than 66,000 miles with a roomier, RV-type mobile office that comes with style, electronic hookups and a wheelchair ramp. In order to get into the current model, some wheelchair patients were forced to crawl up into it, administrator Heather Bonser said.
In addition to two exam rooms, this new clinic-on-wheels places a patient in the driver's seat of good health. The mobile unit is set up to allow a patient to literally sit in the driver's seat to view on-screen educational videos on health issues, Bonser added. The long-range plan includes computer hookups.
The $124,000 mobile unit was bought from Universal Specialty Vehicles by the nonprofit organization with grant funds from St. Joseph Health System, Simpson Timber and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. An anonymous donor gave $40,000 through the Humboldt Area Foundation.
A nonprofit organization that was started by Dr. Wendy Ring to serve low-income, homeless and other people, the Mobile Medical Office goes to Rio Dell on Mondays, Blue Lake on Tuesdays, Klamath on the first Thursday of the month, Fortuna High School on the second Thursday of the month and Manila on the third Thursday of the month.
For Friday's clinic at St. Vincent de Paul in Eureka, the Mobile Medical Office is seeking another staff doctor. Four staffers work for the medical nonprofit already.
Homeless center 2001
Of the more than 1,400 Humboldt County residents estimated to be homeless last year, up to 100 may have a place to go by 2001.
Community Development Block Grant funds of $1 million were recently awarded to the city of Eureka for a proposed 24-hour-a-day Multiple Assistance Center. While $100,000 of the state funds have been allocated for center operations, the remainder of the state funds are earmarked for buying the center's site.
The city is considering the Humboldt Door and Windows site on Y Street, MAC volunteer and former coordinator Sandra Corcoran confirmed. She's also a member of the Coalition for Transitional Housing formed three years ago to handle such a task.
Negotiations between the city and the property owner require agreement on the selling price. Though he's requesting $1 million for the property and the appraisal amount falls somewhat short of the asking price, City Manager Harvey Rose thinks the two can meet on common ground.
As in the past, there are some objections to putting in a homeless shelter in that neighborhood, but these have been identified as those who would balk at a shelter anywhere, Corcoran said.
Two of the three structures on the lot need restoration. But once the construction job and moving-in project are complete, homeless advocates have grand-scale plans for those served by the center.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors has approved $600,000 over a three-year period for operation expenses, along with $275,000 in county staff time and program support.
Under the direction of two full-time staffers, the nonprofit center will house up to 25 families in motel-room-size quarters and up to 35 single men and women in separate dorms. It will also offer programs in parenting skills, job training, money management, chemical abuse support groups and remedial educational courses.
"Everybody has to go to work (to stay there). Everybody has to go to school," Corcoran said. The basic concept involves providing temporary shelter and skills to improve one's livelihood, she explained.
"The homeless are not falling-down drunk just waiting to get a quarter from you," Corcoran said, adding how vulnerable many people are if they undergo a financial crisis and have no wealthy family members to fall back on.
"So many people are just one paycheck away from being on the street," she said.
Last winter the county's emergency shelter program took in 858 people split between the Eureka Rescue Mission, which serves primarily single men, and single women and couples who were served at the Ranchotel on Broadway. More than 25 percent of the homeless were children.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Housing and Community Development recently awarded $22,684 to the Arcata House on Ninth Street for transitional housing services for the homeless.
Male potency benefits women
A state Senate bill requiring private health insurers to provide the same coverage for prescription birth control pills as they have for Viagara is headed to the state Assembly next month, an aide to author Sen. Jackie Speier said.
If it passes the Legislature, "It's about time," said Tina Shelton, executive director of Six Rivers Planned Parenthood.
"I hope the governor signs it. I've got my fingers crossed," she added.
Currently, many health benefit packages fail to cover birth control pills, unlike the newly released Viagara drug which prompted such market demand two years ago some urologists could barely keep up with requests for information on it.
Viagara's listed on plans from the same insurers that for years have argued covering birth control pills is cost-prohibitive, and this kind of double standard is unfair, Speier says. Plus, the drug used to combat impotency costs $10 a pill, in comparison to the $30 a month in costs for birth control pills.
This is a lot less expensive "compared to the cost of an unwanted child," Shelton said.
Critics have argued that Viagara corrects a physical ailment, while birth control is considered optional. To that, proponents have countered that the ability to have sex is also optional.