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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO — A former staffer for ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has filed a lawsuit alleging that he subjected her to “severe and pervasive sexual harassment.”

Benelia Santos-Hunter, 50, who was an executive assistant to Filner, said the former mayor repeatedly asked her for kisses and attempted to grab her breasts and buttocks.

“Filner’s behavior was repugnant and revolting,” according to a lawsuit filed against Filner and the city in San Diego County Superior Court.

Filner resigned on Aug. 30, 2013, after numerous women accused him of sexual harassment. He later pleaded guilty to one count of felony false imprisonment and two counts of misdemeanor battery. Filner served three months of home confinement.

According to the lawsuit, Filner subjected Santos-Hunter to such comments as “Let’s spend a passionate time together,” “Let’s go in the back and make love right now,” and “Let’s have sex on the conference table.”

Santos-Hunter complained about Filner’s behavior to the assistant chief operating officer but was rebuffed, according to the lawsuit.

The city has rejected a claim by Santos-Hunter seeking $1.5 million in damages. The rejection was a prelude to the filing of the lawsuit.

Joshua Gruenberg, Santos-Hunter’s lawyer, said that while some of Filner’s actions toward his client are similar to those he made toward other women, there is a significant difference.

“Filner acted creepy toward a lot of women who came to him at City Hall for help but they could just walk away,” he said. “But Benelia felt trapped, she had to put up with Filner to keep her job.”

The city has already settled a lawsuit filed by another former Filner staff member. A damage suit filed by Filner’s former director of communications, Irene McCormack Jackson, was settled for $250,000 and an apology.

Filner, 71, was the city’s first Democratic mayor in two decades. He lives in a downtown high-rise and has declined all interview requests since his resignation.

He was deposed this week by an attorney for a city parks and recreation employee, Stacy McKenzie, who has also sued him for harassment.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.