What we’re reading: LAUSD staff on strike, sheriff’s deputies indicted in Virginia


Damian Dovarganes

Los Angeles Unified School District teachers and Service Employees International Union 99 (SEIU) members strike outside the LAUSD headquarters in Los Angeles, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Tens of thousands of workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District walked off the job Tuesday over stalled contract talks, and they were joined by teachers in a three-day strike that shut down the nation’s second-largest school system. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

By Ella M. Mercer, Staff Writer

Sheriff’s deputies and hospital staff indicted by Virginia grand jury

Caroline Ouko, mother of Irvo Otieno, holds a portrait of her son with attorney Ben Crump, left, and her older son, Leon Ochieng at the Dinwiddie Courthouse in Dinwiddie, Va., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. She said Otieno, who died in a state mental hospital March 6, was “brilliant and creative and bright.” (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Ten people face second-degree murder charges in the death of a 28-year-old Black man at a psychiatric hospital in Virginia on March 6, according to the Washington Post.

Surveillance footage shows deputies and hospital staff restraining Irvo N. Otieno, 28, on the ground for 11 minutes. Central State Hospital staff eventually administered CPR, used a defibrillator and performed an injection, but a prosecutor said Otiento died of asphyxia. The video was released to the public after the Washington Post obtained the footage by clicking on links from a public filing of the case.

Seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and three hospital staff members have been charged. Virginia prosecutor Ann Cabell Baskervill says she expects more arrests and charges to come after the release of the footage.

Otiento’s family was allowed to see the footage before it was released, according to the Post. Mark Krudys, the family’s civil rights attorney, said Otiento’s mother wants the public to see the video.

“He was treated inhumanely, and it was traumatic, and it was systemic,” said Caroline Ouko, Otiento’s mother, at a news conference.

LA county teachers on strike

A three-day strike is leaving hundreds of thousands of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) with no classes, according to NPR.

The Service Employees International Union Local 99 is demanding a 30% raise in base salary for custodians, bus drivers, special education assistants and other service staff.

The school board made a last-minute offer to give employees a 23% raise, but the union did not respond. 

“If LAUSD truly values and is serious about reaching an agreement, they must show workers the respect they deserve,” said Max Arias, the SEIU’s executive director.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that in order to meet the union’s demands, LAUSD would have to go bankrupt, according to CNNWhile many of those on strike are in the SEIU, members of United Teachers Los Angeles joined the protests in solidarity. The teachers union is also negotiating with LAUSD for higher wages.

Home sales increased 14.5% last month

Sales of existing homes increased 14.5% and median prices of existing home sales dropped for the first time in over a decade, according to the National Association of RealtorsWhile February’s sales ended a year-long streak of declining sales rates, last month’s sales fell 22.6% from February 2022, according to NAR.

The sales reflect home purchase decisions from December 2022 and January 2023 due to the timeline of home closures.

The Federal Reserve’s responses to nationwide inflation decreased shoppers’ abilities to purchase homes last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this year, mortgage rates slightly declined, creating some momentum in the housing market. 

“Conscious of changing mortgage rates, home buyers are taking advantage of any rate declines,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR.

Mortgage rates rose in February and early March, but fell last week to 6.6% after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. The Federal Reserve will decide to increase or maintain interest rates Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The mortgage percentage has lowered our original range that we were looking in. Originally it was like $440,000. Now we’re looking more at like the $300,000 range,” said Katie Berardi, a home-shopper in Cleveland, Ohio in an interview with NBC News.

“I found the slowdown in the market to be good because at least we had time to make a decision,” said Bill Schumann, a Los Angeles home buyer, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Biden awards arts and humanities medals to Bruce Springsteen, Gladys Knight and others

President Joe Biden presents the 2021 National Medal of the Arts to Bruce Springsteen at White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Biden awarded 23 recipients with National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals on Tuesday. The honorees included pop star Bruce Springsteen, musician Gladys Knight, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the first Black female president of Spelman College, Johnnetta Betsch Cole.

While honoring author Colson Whitehead, the first person to win back-to-back Pulitzer prizes, Biden hinted at a re-election bid, saying “I’m kind of looking for back-to-back myself.”

The medals are the highest honor an artist can receive from the White House, according to The HillThe group was the first to be awarded these medals since the pandemic delayed the ceremony, according to the Washington Post.