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About East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 3, 2018)
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Pendleton superintendent testifies in case against former district
By ZACH HALE
(Longview) Daily News
Pendleton School District Super-
intendent Chris Fritsch testified
in U.S. District Court in Tacoma,
Washington, Dec. 19 as part of a
civil suit against his former district
alleging improper use of an isola-
The (Longview) Daily News
reports the families of five former
Mint Valley Elementary School
students are suing the Longview
School District and Jerry Stein, a
former special education teacher
who ran the school’s program for
behaviorally challenged children
from 2005 to 2016.
Fritsch, who was the assistant
superintendent in Longview from
2011 until he took the Pendleton
job in May 2017, is not named in
The five students in the suit
have each made constitutional
claims against Stein, alleging that
he violated their right to freedom
from unreasonable seizure under
the Fourth Amendment by placing
them in a 4-by-4-foot isolation
booth between 2009 and 2012.
Plaintiffs have also made five
different negligence claims against
the district, which they argue should
be held liable for Stein’s alleged
The district has denied
all of the allegations.
Throughout the trial, the
defense team has argued
that staff used the booth
only once to control one
of the children for emer-
jury will resume deliber-
ations on the 12 claims Fritsch
suggested $17.6 million in damages
for the five families to cover the
value of lost wages, salaries, and
employment opportunities — plus
the value of medical care and
non-medical services in the future.
Parents are also seeking compen-
sation for the loss of love and
companionship in the parent-child
A forensic psychologist hired by
the plaintiffs has diagnosed all five
of the children with trauma-induced
stress disorders related to their
alleged experiences inside the
booth. But a psychologist hired by
the defense team says the plaintiffs’
expert failed to account
for other sources of stress
in the children’s lives.
Throughout the trial,
the defense team has
denied allegations that
the district engaged in a
cover-up because it feared
it was exposed to legal
liability. But plaintiffs
argued that the district
realized it could be legally
after images of the booth surfaced
online in 2012. Fritsch testified that
he contacted a legal firm less than
24 hours after the images went viral.
And a subsequent email from
Fritsch to former Superintendent
Suzanne Cusick dated Nov. 29,
2012 illustrated how quickly the
district decided to destroy the
“I am meeting with (a mainte-
nance employee) at 4:30 today at
Mint Valley to go over the demo-
lition project in the CLC room,”
Fritsch wrote, according to court
Ultimately the booth was
destroyed just five days after photos
“Calming booths were removed
from Mint Valley and Mount Solo
this morning without incident. They
are now part of the landfill,” Fritsch
emailed Cusick again on Dec. 2,
2012, according to court records.
Fritsch told defense attorney John
Safarli that a law firm hired by the
district had assured him the isola-
tion booth was operated correctly.
“I was led to believe that (the
booth) … met the legal require-
ments,” he said. “And the people
that were working that program
were following all the rules and
were keeping adequate records.”
But on Dec. 19, 2012 — the
same day the firm finished its report
— Fritsch also emailed a new list of
guidelines to the former principal
and former Special Education
Director Jill Diehl. One of the rules
specified that general education
students should not be sent to
Stein’s classroom for discipline
under any circumstance.
Another guideline stipulated that
any new isolation area “needs to
have a window in the door, similar
to the door in my office, with
adequate ventilation and lighting,”
according to court records.
Fritsch told the East Oregonian
on Tuesday that details of the 2012
incident were difficult to remember,
but he doesn’t believe any
employees acted inappropriately.
“The whole situation is unfortu-
nate,” he said. “My heart goes out to
the parents of special needs students
and to special needs teachers. Those
are tough jobs.”
In Pendleton, both Washington
and Sherwood elementary schools
were built with seclusion rooms
that Fritsch said were constructed
in accordance with Oregon Depart-
ment of Education rules. Fritsch
said those rules are more specific
than Washington’s, including a
minimum of 64 square feet and
seven feet between walls.
— East Oregonian editor Daniel
Wattenburger contributed to this
Chamber of Commerce opens new office Umatilla man arrested for
Working on updating
threatening family with ax
the chamber’s website
By JADE MCDOWELL
The new year comes with new
digs for the Greater Hermiston Area
Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber opened their new
offices in the Cornerstone Plaza,
1055 S. Highway 395, Suite 111,
on Tuesday. There were still
some moving boxes to be seen on
opening day, but executive director
Debbie Pedro said it wasn’t stop-
ping chamber staff from serving
“We’ve already had quite a few
people in this morning,” she said.
The chamber had to move out
of its offices at the Hermiston
Conference Center — now being
rebranded as the Hermiston
Community Center — by the end
of 2017, after the city of Hermiston
decided to take over management
of the center and move its parks
and recreation department into
the space. Pedro said the chamber
would love to purchase its own
building eventually, but for now
they are excited they found a space
visible to travelers on Highway 395.
Racks of information for visi-
tors, plus pamphlets and business
cards from chamber members, line
the walls of the reception area of
the new office, which used to be a
photography studio. There are also
individual offices for chamber staff
and an open space that will act as
a conference room. The chamber
is renting storage space elsewhere.
Phone numbers will remain the
same as before the move.
Pedro said the chamber will
continue to do everything it did
Staff photo by Jade McDowell
Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce executive
director Debbie Pedro shows off the reception area of the
chamber’s new offices.
“There are a lot of part-
nerships being formed,
and partnerships that
have been longstanding
that will continue.”
— Debbie Pedro, Greater
Hermiston Area Chamber of
Commerce executive director
before — including acting as
Hermiston’s visitor center and
providing services for members
such as educational classes —
besides running the conference
center. Giving up that duty will
free up the chamber to spend even
more time focusing on new ways
to serve chamber members and
the community, Pedro said, and
she was excited about some new
initiatives that will be announced in
the coming months.
The new address has also
provided an incentive to start
work on updating the chamber’s
website and other offerings, and to
find new locations outside of the
conference center to hold events
like the chamber’s Business to
Business luncheon, which is being
revamped in 2018 to a longer event
“There are a lot of partnerships
being formed, and partnerships that
have been longstanding that will
continue,” Pedro said.
Over at the community center,
the parks and recreation office was
still in the middle of unpacking on
Tuesday morning, but is expected
to transition staff over from city hall
on Wednesday. Phone numbers for
the parks and recreation department
will also remain the same despite
Contact Jade McDowell at
Submit information to: email@example.com or drop off to the attention of Tammy Malgesini
at 333 E. Main St., Hermiston or Renee Struthers at 211 S.E. Byers Ave., Pendleton. Call 541-564-4539
or 541-966-0818 with questions.
Deputy Nathan Rankin responded
and arrived just as Pankey was
A Umatilla man was arrested leaving the house in a white Subaru
Friday night in Hermiston for threat- with a female driver.
Pankey got out of the vehicle
ening to kill members of his family
and after briefly ignoring
with an ax during a family
Rankin’s orders, even-
tually complied and was
The Umatilla County
secured. Rankin spoke
Sheriff’s Office was
to witnesses and arrested
called to the disturbance
Pankey, lodging him at
on Baxter Road at 10:46
the Umatilla County Jail
p.m. after family reported
on six domestic violence
Kasey Shawn Pankey,
counts each of second-de-
26, had become upset
gree attempted assault,
and was making threats.
menacing, coercion and
There were 10 people in Pankey
One family member
fought to take the ax from Pankey. Undersheriff Jim Littlefield said
No one was injured, but the caller Pankey was likely set off when
was worried Pankey would get his “someone said something he
hands on other weapons or firearms. didn’t like.”
remembers loved ones
HERMISTON — The
public is invited to the annual
Candlelight Memorial Service,
which is sponsored by Vange John
The event, which is in its 22nd
year, provides a time to remember
loved ones and honor someone
special. In addition, it includes a
military ceremony in recognition
The free event is Tuesday, Jan.
9 from 6-9 p.m. at the Hermiston
Christian Center, 1825 W.
Highland Ave. A time of fellowship
will follow the service.
Names included in the
hospice’s annual “Light Up A
Life” celebration during the month
of December will be included as
a part of the service. People are
encouraged to come for a time of
reflection, inspiration, and healing.
Hospice staff and volunteers will
be on hand to greet people.
For more information, call
Free walking program
offers warm refuge
PENDLETON — With
temperatures dipping below
freezing, people might want to take
advantage of Pendleton Parks &
Recreation’s Walking for Wellness.
The public is invited to get out
of the elements and enjoy a warm
place to walk. The free program
is Monday through Fridays from
8-9:30 a.m. at the Pendleton
Recreation Center, 510 S.W. Dorion
Ave. People can visit with others
and listen to music while walking.
For more information, call
541-276-8100 or visit www.
Oregon Attorney General Settlement Notice
The Attorney General’s Settlement Could Benefit You!
Did You Buy a TV, Monitor, or Laptop Computer That Contained an
LCD Flat Panel Screen, During the Years 2002 to 2006?
Or Did You Buy a TV or Computer Monitor That Contained a Cathode
Ray Tube (“CRT”), During the Years 1995 through 2007?
You May be Entitled to Compensation.
Please read this notice carefully as your legal rights are affected whether you act or do not act.
PARA UNA NOTIFICACIÓN EN ESPAÑOL, LLAMAR O VISITAR NUESTRO WEBSITE.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has resolved two lawsuits she brought
on behalf of Oregon natural persons against certain manufacturers of liquid crystal
display (“LCD”) flat panels and cathode ray tubes (“CRTs”). The lawsuits allege the
manufacturers illegally agreed upon the pricing of LCD flat panels and CRTs.
Oregon has settled with all defendants for a total of $36,900,000 (“Settlement Fund”),
and you may be entitled to a portion of the Settlement Fund.
Who Is Included?
Natural persons who indirectly purchased at any time during the years 2002 to 2006,
for their own use and not for resale, LCD panels incorporated into flat panel TVs,
computer monitors or laptop computers; or who indirectly purchased at any time during
the years 1995 to 2007, for their own use and not for resale, CRTs incorporated into
TVs or computer monitors. A purchaser must have been an Oregon resident at the time
of the purchase. An indirect purchaser is someone that purchased products containing
LCD flat panels or CRTs from someone other than the company that manufactured
the LCD flat panel or CRT component, such as from an electronics retailer or a device
manufacturer other than one of the Defendants. “Natural persons” means a human, not
How Do I Get Settlement Funds?
File a claim: Consumers need to file a claim to obtain benefits in this settlement.
Claims can be completed online at www.OregonScreenSettlement.com or by mailing
the claim form, available for download, to the Settlement Administrator. The deadline
for filing claims is April 2, 2018.
How Do I Get More Information?
More information about the lawsuits, settlements, and the claims process can be
found at www.OregonScreenSettlement.com, by calling 1-877-940-7791, or writing to:
Oregon Screen Settlement, c/o GCG, P.O. Box 10240, Dublin, Ohio 43017-5740.
This Notice is an official legal notice of the Oregon Department of Justice