Smells like teen scandal
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t buy just anything on eBay.
When copies of a video featuring local high school cheerleaders were put up for sale online, the Oxnard Union High School District made a formal complaint to the popular Web site. The auction had closed, but in keeping with eBay’s internal complaints procedure whereby consumers may object to the sale or display of offensive content, an advertisement for the video was removed.
“We appealed to eBay to remove it for two reasons: One, it was extremely offensive, especially to the parents of the girls … and two, it was offensive to us because of our responsibility to protect the safety and security of girls under our responsibility,” says attorney Jack Parham, representing both Oxnard and Carpinteria school districts. Students from both districts were featured in the video, which is a collection of clips taken from two sporting events. The videos reportedly use clips only from the outdoor football games and bear the mark of heavy editing: Close-up camera shots and still frames focus on specific parts of the cheerleaders’ bodies.
The video — entitled “Hot Cheerleaders” — was brought to the attention of the NBC 4 news channel by a private consumer. As the story was investigated and students at Oxnard High School were questioned, the school became privy to the video and alerted the district.
According to online transcripts, NBC successfully tracked down the video distributor by ordering a copy of the tape from eBay and tracing the return address to Eric Arrenado of Goleta. Arrenado subsequently refused to give an interview.
Although NBC streams clips of the video on their Web site, obtaining a copy of the controversial footage from the news station has proven difficult for both the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and the Oxnard Union High School District. Sgt. Erik Raney recalls a drawn out negotiation between the sheriff’s office and NBC management simply to view the video in order to judge whether a crime had been committed.
The Oxnard School District was not so successful. “Channel 4,” Roger Rice, assistant superintendent of the Oxnard Union High School District, claims, “is refusing to release the tape on journalistic first amendment rights grounds.”
Meanwhile, many parents and administrators are outraged, and children’s rights advocates worry that such videos might encourage sexual predators. But is the selling of video footage taken at a public event illegal?
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department — which has jurisdiction over the area where the video footage was taken — says no. Explains Raney, “[The video] wasn\’t marketed as being strictly pornographic, so none of those laws that cover child pornography or the marketing of child pornography played a role here.”
The lawsuit filed in the Santa Barbara Superior Court will argue that it is the district’s prerogative to protect its students both on-campus and off, at community outreach events. In addition, Parham notes the potential of trademark infringement: The cheerleaders were wearing school logos in a video from which a third party is profiting.
Rice, referring to the product as “videotaping minors for profit,” adds, “They\’re marketed as tapes the same way you would market Girls Gone Wild on spring break. They\’re for salacious purposes, trying to pander to that kind of audience. It\’s abusive to the girls.”
— Saundra Sorenson
Mud-slinging their way to the capitol
When 30 Anacapa Middle School students began repairing a wall at the Olivas Adobe two months ago, little did they suspect that their hard work might land them on a nonstop flight to Washington, D.C. But the History Channel — whose Save our History initiative funded the repairs — showed renewed interest in Project Adobe Mud-Slingers on May 25, when it named the Ventura-based venture one of 10 finalists for three grand prizes of $10,000 each.
Four students were offered an all-expense paid trip that begins early next Sunday morning. Phillip Long, Gabrielle Montanez, Braulio Terrazas and Katelynn Vargas were singled out as being at the top of the adobe class in terms of grade point average, and will be accompanied by teacher Jerry Mittelholtz and Cultural Programs Supervisor Georgeanne Lees of the City of Ventura’s Cultural Affairs Division. The group can look forward to two days in the nation’s capitol, including a moonlit tour of the monuments and a peek into the White House, capped off by lunch with journalist Cokie Roberts and the other nine finalist groups.
The final awards will be presented by First Lady Laura Bush, and are to be given in three categories: the Time Warner Cable Preservation Award, the Classroom Award and Lowe’s Community Award. According to Lees, any prize money will be put back into Olivas Adobe restoration.
— Saundra Sorenson
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … bird
“Well, they’ve had their herring now,” said Peter Sharpe, field biologist for the Institute for Wildlife Studies, after placing and feeding three bald eaglets inside a hacktower overlooking the southern portion of Santa Cruz Island.
Six new arrivals from the San Francisco Zoo were situated in their enclosures one week ago, where they’ll live until they’re ready to fly in one month. With 12 more eaglets due to arrive this summer, the total number of eagles released is 58 since 2002. Funding has come from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, a multi-agency effort to restore natural resources devastated by DDTs and PCBs near the Palos Verdes Peninsula, off Los Angeles, in the mid 1900s.
The reintroduction study aims to determine whether eagles released on the national park can establish a self-sustaining population. If the two chicks born in mid-April and early May on the largest of the Channel Islands are early indicators, then the prospects are positive that this next wave of bald eagles can reestablish their historic haunts.
“We’re monitoring them every couple days,” said Dave Rempel, field biologist for the IWS. “They’re acting like normal chicks. They’re growing fast, and it seems their plumages are changing by the day.”
When the eaglets are eight weeks old, biologists will fit the mottled chicks with United States Fish & Wildlife Service bands on their talons and place numbers on their wings, as well as a Global Positioning System and VHF radios on their backs to track their comings and goings.
“They’ll circle the nests and they’ll be upset,” continued Rempel, referring to the concerned parents of the eaglets, “but they won’t get aggressive with us, and they’ll go back to their nests.”
Currently, 25 bald eagles remain on the northern Channel Islands. Compared to the restoration program on Santa Catalina Island, the eagles on the northern chain are way ahead of their southern counterparts. The program on Catalina began in 1980. Since then, biologists have released 100 eagles, but only 20 inhabit the islet.
However, DDT seems to be more prevalent there and biologists are reluctant to allow those eagles to attempt hatching their chicks on their own. The chemicals cause bald eagles to lay thin-shelled eggs, but initial studies show less of an impact around the northern archipelago.
“It’s much more successful on these islands,” said Sharpe of the northern Channel Islands. “This is a better location for eagles. The islands here have eagles flying over from the mainland.”
Sharpe should know. He’s worked on the Catalina project since 1986. Funding for Catalina was suspended and is now receiving funds from outside sources. The northern Channel Islands program has solid financial backing. The Montrose Chemical Corporation, responsible for dumping the chemicals in the ocean, was ordered to pay $140 million, of which $38 million went toward restoring natural resources like the bald eagle.
Even though the releases have nearly finished, the program will continue until at least 2008. “A lot depends on their breeding and how often,” said Milena Viljoen, outreach coordinator for the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program. “Monitoring will probably continue through 2010. Part of this study is to see how bald eagles do on their own.”
The Santa Cruz Island bald eagle Webcam can be viewed via the Ventura County Office Education Web site.
— Chuck Graham
More health care for kids
One way to celebrate a job well done is to do more of the same — and that’s precisely the idea behind the launch of a second application assistance office for Health Care for Kids, a program that offers low and no-cost healthcare to kids and teens in Ventura County.
The overarching mission of Health Care for Kids is to increase enrollment in existing state insurance programs, such as no-cost Medi-Cal and low-cost Healthy Families, and to enroll kids who don’t qualify for public programs in low-cost private insurance programs, such as the plan offered by Kaiser Permanente, according to information released by the Ventura County Public Health Department.
“This is a ‘single point of entry’ model for enrolling children in either Medi-Cal, Healthy Families or other health care programs so that all Ventura County children under the age of 19 have access to comprehensive medical, dental and vision services,” Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett said of the program. Recent estimates reveal that 27,000 of 32,000 uninsured kids in Ventura County qualify for either Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, according to the public health department.
The new Ventura Health Care for Kids Office opened this week at the Ventura County Public Health Department office, 3147 Loma Vista Road, Ventura. Ted Myers, director of the Ventura County Human Services
For more information, call 1-866-481-7674, or the 211 county help line. Applications for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families can be downloaded at www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov.
— Stacey Wiebe