East Bay
East Bay
Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature

Jailed teacher defends her actions-Challenged Bullying and ended up In jail

by California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day
A teacher in the Richmond CA school district who tried to stop bullying of her students was
harassed and jailed by police.

Posted on Sat, Feb. 03, 2007

Jailed teacher defends her actions

By Bruce Gerstman

MARTINEZ - Jennie Mo, the teacher accused of illegally detaining 18 of her second-grade students at Sheldon Elementary School in Richmond, insisted Friday that she held none of them against their will.

She said she was protecting them from bullies.

"I believed my students were in imminent danger ... of being hit with stones, possibly of being knifed, possibly of being strangled by rope, of being bullied in the bathroom, of being exposed to somebody's sexual organs," Mo, 57, said before she was to be released from County Jail on Friday night. "And this is what I was trying to protect my students from."

Before Wednesday's incident, the West Contra Costa Unified School District had placed Mo on administrative leave because of erratic behavior, district spokesman Paul Ehara has said.

Mo arrived at school Wednesday to pick up her paycheck, she said. Her students had been moved to the library, and she headed there instead of her classroom, police say.

Police arrested her after she refused to leave school grounds.

The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office has declined to file charges unless prosecutors see more evidence that supports false imprisonment counts, deputy district attorney Nancy Georgiou said.

"I haven't ruled it out," Georgiou said Friday.

Mo said she did not know that prosecutors had not yet decided whether to charge her with a crime.

Mo said the standoff Wednesday came after she had been telling her superiors for about two weeks that other children at the school were intimidating her students. She said she had not witnessed the incidents of bullying that her students reported to her, but she took the allegations seriously enough to contact the principal and superintendent.

She said that within days of her reports, the school district placed her on administrative leave.

Ehara said Thursday that the district has a policy for handling disciplinary issues. He would not comment directly on whether Mo's allegations of bullying at Sheldon are being investigated.

"I don't want to be a martyr," Mo said. "I'm not trying to be a martyr."

She declined to discuss most of the details of her arrest, preferring to read from statements she wrote on scraps of paper. She said she is proud of her students and her value of standing up for what she believes in.

"I feel the spirit and encouragement of all those who have fought for justice," she said, mentioning Socrates, Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela. "I do know they have suffered much, much more than I did."

Parents at the school have expressed support for Mo.

"I'm very happy that she's being released; however, that happiness isn't going to preclude my unhappiness with the school," said Juanita Chavez-Gordon, the mother of one of the students who witnessed the arrest.

Chavez-Gordon said school officials ignored Mo's and others' complaints about bullies, and she is concerned that the district still is not addressing the issue. Several parents plan to submit complaints to the district, she said.

Mo said she appreciates the support she has received.

"I feel a great deal of gratitude in being able to teach these students," she said.

Was it worth being arrested and taken into custody in front of her students?

"I don't know," Mo said, shrugging her shoulders, raising the sides of her mouth in a grin.

Staff writer Kimberly Wetzel contributed to this report. Reach Bruce Gerstman at 925-952-2670 or bgerstman [at]

Jailed teacher to go free -- no charges filed
Police to continue looking into incident with second-graders
- Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:hlee [at]>
Saturday, February 3, 2007

Contra Costa County prosecutors declined to file charges Friday against a Richmond schoolteacher accused of using one of her second-graders as a shield and rallying her class against the principal after being placed on leave.

Jennie Mo, 57, of El Cerrito was expected to be released from custody late Friday following the decision to send the case back to Richmond police for further investigation, including interviews with many witnesses, said Deputy District Attorney Nancy Georgiou.

Mo had been jailed since Wednesday, when police said she refused to leave the library at Sheldon Elementary School, where staff had taken Mo's 18 students while she was supposed to be retrieving her belongings from her classroom.

In a jailhouse interview with The Chronicle on Thursday, Mo said she went to the library to say goodbye to her class, and she denied holding students against their will. She said it was school officials who locked the doors to the library. She said some of the children cried and clung to her after she told them she was ordered to leave the school.

Mo likened herself to Rosa Parks and said she told school officials, "I will not be silenced -- I'm not leaving," when asked to leave the library. She said she didn't remember using a child as a shield as an officer approached.

Police arrested her on 18 counts of felony false imprisonment, as well as battery and trespassing, both misdemeanors.

Mo, who was held in lieu of $900,000 bail at Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez, was allowed to be released because she wasn't charged with a crime within 48 hours of her arrest. She could still face charges at a later date, pending the results of the police investigation, Georgiou said.

"We take our job seriously and our responsibility seriously," the prosecutor said. "We don't rush to file any kind of complaint before we unearth the facts that we need to make an informed decision."

Mo told The Chronicle that her actions Wednesday helped draw attention to her complaints about recent incidents in which some of her students were bullied by other children at the school, punched, hit by rocks, choked with a rope, degraded with epithets and name-calling, and had their pants pulled down.

Mo said her goal was to protect her class from the bullies, and that her complaints to superiors, including Principal Cynthia Swainbank, went ignored. Swainbank has declined to comment.

School district officials have said they responded to her concerns and that her behavior Wednesday justified summoning police. They declined to say why she was placed on leave, but police said it was for "erratic behavior" in the past two weeks.

Juanita Chavez-Gordon, whose 8-year-old daughter is in Mo's class, said Friday that she was heartened that prosecutors didn't file charges, because she believes Mo did nothing wrong.

"But in no way is it going to deter my focus on getting the answers I need to ensure my daughter's security," said Chavez-Gordon, who along with other parents intends to write a letter of complaint saying the school ignored Mo's concerns and mistreated her.

In the jailhouse interview, Mo said, "I took a stand. They told me, 'You have to leave, Mrs. Mo.' I said, 'I'm not leaving.' I don't want to stand up when the administration tells me to stand up."

Mo began crying when told that many parents supported her. "That's why I'm a teacher," she said.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee [at]

Labor/Community Forum
Bullying In The Workplace and
The Role of The Unions In Fighting It
& Organizing To Advocacy

Friday 2/9/2007 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Free
Laney College G209 900 Fallon St./8th St. Oakland

The problem of bullying in the workplace is a dangerous and unhealthy for all. This forum will look at what workplace bullying is, the history of bullying in the workplace, the international movement to educate about it's dangers and the campaign to create state and national legislation that limits this workplace environmental condition. It will also look at what unions can do about this problem to create a bullying-free workplace.

Gary Namie -- co-director of the Workplace Bullying Institute and co-author of "The Bully at Work." An internationally recognized expert and educator for many unions including California State Postal Workers Union, Washington State Postal Workers Union, Washington State Association of Letter Carriers, Union Coalition, University of California, Davis campus and UCD Medical Center, UPTE, CUE, CNA, AFT, AFSCME ,
Bill Lepowsky -- an award-winning mathematics instructor at Laney College who fought back when targeted with false accusations and defamation b management, and whose initiative in advocating for change in the Peralta Community District led to the creation of a new Board Policy on Civility and Mutual Respect that is part of the District's New Manager's Orientation
Ruth Namie, -- A bullied target who has educated the public about these issues.
Carrie Clark -- a former teacher, physically disabled by a bully's psychological assaults, who wrote that she "refused to be silenced when a bullying school superintendent tried to misappropriate soft money funding intended for minority students." (invited)
Rhea Settles -- a public school educator, K-12 and college level, working to abolish the hate-ism (bullying, mobbing, rankism, etc.) culture innate in schools, school districts, and college campuses, while advocating for the preservation of human dignity and civil behavior at all levels and from all members of an education community. (invited)

Endorsed by Laney College Labor Studies, California Coalition For Workers Memorial Day CCWMD, Labor Video Project, Californians Injured at Work
For more information please call
510-464-3210 or (415)282-1908 or lvpsf [at]
SF Gate <> Return to regular view

Bullying bosses could be busted
Movement against worst workplace abusers gains momentum with proposed

- Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:csaid [at]>
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Click to View
to View

Americans love bully bosses, to judge by popular culture. Tyrants such
as Machiavellian Miranda in "The Devil Wears Prada," clueless Michael in
"The Office" and vicious Simon on "American Idol" elicit guffaws, gasps
of recognition and relief that they're picking on someone else.

But, in real life, people who've been bullied at their jobs say it is no
laughing matter. Continuing harassment in the pressure-cooker
environment of the workplace can have serious professional consequences
and cause a range of physical and psychological health problems for
victims, according to a range of studies.

Workplace bullying involves repeated verbal abuse, aggressive behavior,
sabotage, humiliation or intimidation. It's so commonplace that 1 in 6
Americans reports having been bullied at work, according to a study by
Michigan's Wayne State University. In some studies, almost half of
workers say they were bullied at one point in their career.

"It's a silent epidemic," said Gary Namie, a social psychologist and
founder of the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute in Bellingham, Wash.

Now a movement to curb workplace bullying is gathering steam, with
grassroots groups forming across the country and legislation introduced
in 11 states during the past four years, although no anti-bullying bills
have yet passed in any of them.

The proposed laws would not outlaw workplace bullying but would ask
employers to correct and prevent abuses, and give victims the right to
sue for limited damages. Currently, victims of bullying don't have legal
recourse, unless they can prove the abuse was related to a "protected
status," such as race or gender.

Anti-bullying advocates liken their crusade to those against schoolyard
bullying and domestic violence.

But employers oppose the legislation, calling it an invitation to
frivolous lawsuits. And some people point out that the line between
someone who is a legitimate victim of workplace bullying and a
disgruntled worker can be difficult to determine.

William Lepowski, a mathematics instructor at Laney College in Oakland,
experienced workplace bullying firsthand several years ago. A Laney
administrator accused Lepowski of improperly selling a statistics
textbook he had written to students and faculty.

After asking the administrator for clarification, he found himself
reported to human resources for not following proper procedures. Despite
an investigation that cleared him of wrongdoing, his professionalism was
questioned and he was threatened with termination. He was even accused
of harassing the administrator who had floated the initial allegation.

"Once people start slinging mud, mud tends to stick," he said. "It was a
hellish ordeal. I was living all of a sudden in an Alice-in-Wonderland
nonsense world where logic is ignored. There was no due process, no

With a 33-year tenure at the school and his reputation at stake, he
decided to fight back. He went public with the charges against him, even
though it was stressful to reveal such derogatory accusations. He
mustered support from colleagues in the math department, who passed a
resolution asking for an investigation of the charges against him.

It took almost a year but eventually Lepowski won full exoneration. He
never found out the motive of the administrator who had started the
campaign against him, but that person wrote a letter retracting all the

The Peralta Community College District, Laney's governing body,
apologized for the stress Lepowski had been subject to. The incident
helped prompt the district to adopt an anti-bullying policy in 2004,
making it the first public institution in California to do so. It has
also held anti-bullying workshops.

But Lepowski's vindication was unusual. More often than not, victims of
bullying pay with their jobs to make the practice stop.

A 2003 study by Namie's institute found that 37 percent of victims were
fired, 33 percent quit and 17 percent were transferred. The bullies were
punished in only 4 percent of the cases, while they were transferred in
9 percent.

"Organizations are loath to admit this is a problem," he said.

That's what the proposed laws want to address.

California was the first state to consider a "healthy workplace" bill,
in 2003, introduced by Assembly members Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood)
and Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino). The bill, which would have allowed
victims of bullying to sue for up to $25,000 and request that a bully be
reassigned, ended up dying in committee.

A grassroots Sacramento lobbying group called Healthy Workplace
Advocates hopes to get another version introduced, but may have to wait
until after Arnold Schwarzenegger is no longer governor, according to
Michelle Smith, co-founder of the group. The governor might be reluctant
to sign a bill imposing more mandates on businesses, she said.

The group is staffed by ardent volunteers, themselves the victims of
workplace bullying. It has spawned chapters in San Francisco and
Southern California.

Montana, New Jersey and Oklahoma all will consider anti-bullying
legislation this year, according to Namie, whose institute provides
support for groups pushing such laws. Other states, including New York,
Kansas, Missouri, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, have
introduced similar bills in the past two years, without passing them.

"Once legislation catches on in one state, it starts to snowball through
states until it hits the federal level," said Carrie Clark, another
co-founder of California's Healthy Workplace Advocates.

Any anti-bullying bill is likely to face strong opposition from employers.

"It looks like just another sue-your-boss bill, opening up a whole new
category for lawsuits that trial attorneys can plaintiff-shop for and
then bring suits against employers for damages," said Vincent Sollitto,
a spokesman for the California Chamber of Commerce, reacting to the 2003
California bill. "It clearly will be harmful to the employer community."

Anti-bullying advocates counter that similar laws exist in Australia,
England, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada's Quebec
province and have not caused a flood of lawsuits.

"The healthy workplace bill is not intended to rule out incivility or
rudeness or belching or glares. It's only to prohibit health-harming,
career-disruptive abusive treatment -- severe stuff, the worst of
bullying cases," Namie said.

Why don't companies crack down on bullying?

Many say they believe managers are simply taking "get-tough" attitudes
to whip slackers into shape. And they're conditioned to support managers
over rank-and-file workers.

Seventy percent of workplace bullying is done by bosses, Namie said. "If
you're going to be a petty tyrant, you've got to have title power."

Stronger curbs on bullying would benefit companies, as well as victims,
Namie said. That's because bullying hurts the bottom line through lost
productivity, low morale, departure of experienced workers, and higher
health care costs for stressed-out victims.

"In America, if you say it doesn't exist, you can keep your head in the
sand," he said. "We're in total denial while (bullying) is ripping
people's lives and health to shreds."

For more information

-- <> --
Workplace Bullying Institute run by Gary and Ruth Namie, has studies and

-- <> -- The Namies'
consulting firm for employers.

-- <> -- Coordinators of
state legislation to curb workplace bullying.

-- <> --
California Healthy Workplace Advocates, grassroots lobbying group
seeking to get legislation passed in California.

-- <> --
Resources and information. While the legal information is specific to
Great Britain, it also has a broad array of articles and data.

Source: Chronicle research

E-mail Carolyn Said at csaid [at]
<mailto:csaid [at]>.

We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!


$210.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.


Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network