102 petitions

Update posted 11 hours ago

Petition to Chief Fenn, President of the United States, Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, Gavin Newsom, Donald J. Trump, Nancy Pelosi, California State Senate, Lena A. Gonzalez, Dianne Feinstein, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Margaret Wood Hassan, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Amy Klobuchar

Stop discrimination at Orange County Fire Authority, reinstate Fire Pilot Desiree Horton

It’s 2022!  Why are the Chiefs and Human Resources in these fire departments continuing to allow a culture that is not inclusive?   When a woman or minority goes to the overhead or HR with a complaint about bullying they are told not to complain.  This “suck it up” culture is encouraged and accepted in the fire service.  The board of directors continues to turn a blind eye looking out for their own interests and political status.  The good old boys club culture needs to stop now! You can help.  Share this petition and reach out to your friends and your community and help us fight this cause.  The future of women who want to pursue these predominantly male dominated jobs will never change if the community doesn’t step in.   We are counting on your help.    Desiree Horton was the first full-time female helicopter pilot in the history of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), an agency with only around 2% women firefighters. She was hired in 2019, and fired in 2020. In June of 2021, she filed a lawsuit against OCFA seeking her job back, and stating that her termination was sex discrimination. The lawsuit is ongoing. Horton has over 32 years of experience as a pilot, having worked as an aerial reporter for various Southern California news stations, and for over 17 years as an aerial firefighter. In 2019, she joined the OCFA, working out of Station 41 at the Fullerton Airport. She thought it would be her dream job. According to the lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court, during Horton’s time at the OCFA, she was held to unfair and higher standards than her male counterparts, deprived of training opportunities offered to the male fire pilots, unfairly evaluated without proper training and often with little or no advance notice, lied to about the conditions of her passing probation, and forced to work in a hostile environment in which she was ignored, undermined, disrespected, disparaged, and made to feel as though she was incompetent. The lawsuit states, “the OCFA failed Ms. Horton after her one-year probationary period and without the required one-year evaluation flight, wrongfully claiming her performance was ‘sub standard’ and that she was essentially untrainable.” The Observer reached out to OCFA for their side of the story, but a spokesperson said they were unable to comment on ongoing litigation. Horton, her lawyers, and other advocates held a virtual press conference back in June, in which they explained the case. “It was such an honor and a privilege to serve Orange County as a first responder, but OCFA didn’t see it that way,” Horton said. “I was set up to fail and I was never given the opportunity to succeed. It was clear to me that women weren’t wanted at OCFA.” Lauren Andrade, a fire captain at OCFA, supports Horton in her fight to get her job back and to challenge the culture of the organization. “I wish I could sit here today and say this is the first I’d heard of a probationary employee being discriminated against for their sex or race, but unfortunately that’s far from the truth,” Andrade said at the press conference. “OCFA has a pattern of discrimination against underrepresented groups. Either they’re weeded out in the hiring process, or they’re fired during their probationary year.” “17 of our 77 fire stations currently don’t have women’s restrooms or shower facilities to accommodate a dual gender workforce,” Andrade said. “We have no women chief officers, and up until Desiree we had no women assigned full time to our Air Operations division.” Jenna Rangel, an attorney representing Horton, said that although Horton had more experience than her male colleagues, “because there was no objective metrics that could be applied equally to all fire pilots, the OCFA was able to hold Desiree to higher standards than the men, and to terminate her by wrongfully claiming her performance was sub-standard.” “People have asked me why I’m doing this. The answer is simple—I want my job back. Let me fly,” Horton said. “And I want the OCFA to be a changed department, one in which women and underrepresented groups are given the fair shake we deserve.” Fire pilots like Desiree are tasked with transporting firefighters to the front lines, aerial firefighting with precise water drops while hovering at low levels above the blaze, and engaging in search and rescue missions. Friends and supporters of Horton gathered outside the Orange County Fire Authority Station 41 at the Fullerton Airport on August 28, 2021 to protest her firing by OCFA.  Even more supporters showed up on September 23, 2021 OCFA Board of Trustees meeting at the Regional Fire Operations and Training Center Board Room 1 Fire Authority Road in Irvine and spoke publicly before the board of directors.  You can watch multiple videos from two board meetings where the public has expressed their concerns to OCFA.    Most recent board meeting with public speakers regarding OCFA and their treatment of women. Help reinstate veteran Fire Pilot Desiree Horton who was wrongfully terminated by Orange County Fire Authority.    Orange County Fire Authority continues to waste taxpayers millions in unnecessary litigation due to a toxic and discriminatory culture that continues to be tolerated by the department and it’s leaders. OCFA has a history of discrimination lawsuits.   FROM SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA- “Being hired into the OCFA Air Operations division was a dream come true for Ms. Horton. After applying and being denied the opportunity countless times, Ms. Horton finally got her chance when the OCFA’s new Fire Chief, Brian Fennessy, decided it was time for the OCFA to have its first female fire pilot. Others at OCFA, however, did not agree and made sure Ms. Horton’s opportunity was short-lived. During Ms. Horton’s time at the OCFA, she was unfairly and discriminatorily scrutinized by the male pilots, crew chiefs, and helicopter technicians, held to unfair and/or higher standards than her male counterparts, deprived of training opportunities offered to the male fire pilots, unfairly evaluated without proper training and often with little or no advance notice, lied to about the conditions of her passing probation, and forced to work in a hostile environment in which Ms. Horton was ignored, undermined, disrespected, disparaged, and made to feel as though she was incompetent, all because Ms. Horton was a woman in a place believed to be a man’s world. And despite her nearly 30 years as a helicopter pilot, over 9,000 hours of helicopter flight time, 16 years of aerial firefighting experience (more than any of her male colleagues at the OCFA), and glowing reviews from her former employers and firefighting colleagues, the OCFA failed Ms.Horton after her one-year probationary period and without the required one-year evaluation flight, wrongfully claiming her performance was “sub-standard” and that she was essentially untrainable. In doing so, the OCFA robbed Ms. Horton of her dream job, caused her to suffer a loss of professional reputation, and sent a message that women are not wanted at the OCFA and need not apply. But Ms. Horton is a trailblazer and, as she has done her entire career, is fighting back for the equal treatment she and other female pilots deserve.” Along with signing this petition if you would like to do more you are encouraged to write the board of directors at OCFA and tell them how you feel and ask them was anyone paying attention last year? The whole world watched as Americans gathered, protested, even burned cities to the ground in the name of systemic discrimination. Yet here we are a year later, and Orange County Fire Authority is spending an immense amount of taxpayer dollars to defend systemic discrimination in the workplace. Do the taxpayers know? Discrimination in the workplace, or anyplace for that matter, is not something that should be taken lightly. Every person in this country should be treated equally and have an equal shot at employment regardless of gender, race, or religion. Desiree Horton deserves to be reinstated at Orange County Fire Authority. Which side of the history books will you be on?  

Sondra Esqueda
2,390 supporters
Update posted 2 months ago

Petition to Meghan Raychaudhuri, Tiffany Smith

Save our French Quarter School - Homer Plessy / Former McDonogh 15

Recently it has become apparent Homer Plessy Community School may be relocated out of the French Quarter, leaving abandoned the former McDonogh 15 building that has taught students in the heart of the French Quarter for generations.  We oppose this move, and seek to keep the school in the French Quarter – for the benefit of the students, and the French Quarter as a whole. The removal of one of the most diverse schools in the city from the Quarter is a final step in the disneyification of the French Quarter. Instead, we hope to keep the Quarter a home to families and a second home to the children of the school who reside in other parts of New Orleans.   While the school and OPSB will certainly say this is in the best interest of the children, that the building is too expensive to renovate, so they must move – it surely won’t be too expensive for the condos or hotel to come. It’s just too expensive for our kids. Legitimate and good faith efforts of progress are done in the open. Stakeholders – parents, teachers, students, and community members should be consulted and heard. Decisions of this magnitude should not be flown under the radar or discussed in secret. We call on the School Board to abandon the bid to move Homer Plessy Community School out of the French Quarter, and instead begin an open discussion about alternative methods to fund any repairs or renovation needed. We call on Orleans Parish School Board to make these repairs a priority, instead of leveraging the underlying value of the French Quarter real estate it owns. While we as a community will now come together to voice our concern against this project, we will also come together to help build Plessy up and help its success into the future. - Parents, students, alumni & supporters of Homer Plessy Community School, and the former McDonogh 15 building       ----- Please see more info below: Homer Plessy Community School, home of the “Quarter Kids” will no longer be located in the French Quarter, if a proposal to relocate the school to the Bywater goes through. This move will pull the last remaining children out of the French Quarter, leaving a site that has held a schoolhouse since 1860. Located at 721 St. Phillip St, between Royal and Bourbon Streets, Homer Plessy Community School took over the former McDonogh 15 School Building in 2017. This historic building was initially built in 1932 on land bequeathed to the City of New Orleans in 1865. It had held a schoolhouse since at 1860. The Homer Plessy Community School, however, is now quietly discussing a move out of the French Quarter, to the Arise Academy campus at 3819 St Claude Ave in the Bywater. The nine lot building Plessy currently occupies between Royal and Bourbon Street could be one of the most valuable in the French Quarter to developers, and would likely suffer the same fate as the St. Louis Cathedral Academy, which closed in 2013 and has since become “The Academy” – luxury apartments available for $2450 - $3695 per month. A move by Plessy to the soon available Arise Academy location could allow for a sale of the property by the Orleans Parish School Board. This move to relocate the school has thus far been discussed in secret between members of the Plessy School Board. As of this writing, only some teachers have been notified, and parents of Plessy students have not been asked for opinion, comment, or even notified of the proposal. In a December Board meeting agenda, this proposal was cryptically referred to as “Building Opportunities”. In the February Plessy School Board meeting, this proposal was discussed, but was not included as an agenda item. The Board meeting minutes have not been published to the Plessy Website since October 2020. The next board meeting will come after the proposal for the building must be submitted, leaving no time for comment or discussion. While the Plessy school campus, owned by OPSB, is apparently in need of renovations, alternative plans for fund raising have not been considered by or offered to the parents, teachers and other stakeholders of the Homer Plessy Community School.   Plessy is now one of the most diverse schools in New Orleans, a goal specifically enacted by the founders of the school. After years of difficulty fully integrating the school while located in the 7th ward, Plessy was moved to the French Quarter with the goal of “spurring growth, and attracting a broader base of students”. Now the school is looking to move out of the Quarter, without addressing that the opposite effect may likely take hold. When Plessy was founded, Julie Hanks, Director of Development said “If you’re from Uptown or the 9th Ward, or Lakeview, or the East, everybody has a chance to come into the French Quarter and feel a part of the city as a whole. Which is also what we are hoping to reflect in our hallways: that all are welcome.” The arts-focused curriculum is especially integrated within the French Quarter. From the brass bands that greet kids at the beginning of each semester, to musical greats like Trombone Shorty and Big Freedia who have taught students and have led the annual Plessy second line, to the daily walks through the neighborhood to experience the art and culture that makes up the French Quarter - simply being located in the Quarter provides numerous benefits for student education. This benefit goes both ways - for the French Quarter, the diversity, youth, excitement and expansion of knowledge centered in the school helps the Quarter stay an interesting, vibrant and culturally relevant part of New Orleans. Moving this school, removing that diversity, and replacing it with additional condos or hotel rooms further solidifies the French Quarter as a place that isn’t for, and isn’t accessible to, most people who live in New Orleans. New Orleans complicated system of application to charter schools looks more similar to a medical school match than most state’s public school systems, and often forces parents to make decisions for their child’s next 9-13 years during the kindergarten application process. A lottery for the best rated schools happens each year. When parents pick a school, they may be picking a philosophy or group of teachers, but are most often picking a location – a building, a neighborhood, an environment in which they want their kids to be educated in. Many parents chose Plessy because of its location – sacrificing spots at better rated, more convenient, or private schools - to send their kids to be educated in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Homer Plessy has become an integral part of the French Quarter, as the school located at 721 St Phillip St has been since 1860. Likewise, the French Quarter has become an integral part of the education taught at Homer Plessy Community School. A move to a new building may solve short term problems and be profitable for the OPSB, but may ultimately lead to negative outcomes for both the students of Homer Plessy, and the French Quarter as a whole. The deadline for proposal for this move comes this March, with the next Plessy board meeting not occurring until April. Parents of Plessy students have not thus far been notified of or consulted for opinion on this proposal.

Chris Olsen
1,913 supporters