Hacienda La Puente School Board Erupts in Chinese Controversy

By Robin Kemker, Epoch Times
September 18, 2013 8:05 pm Last Updated: December 15, 2013 7:23 pm

LOS ANGELES—A controversy swirling up in the Hacienda La Puente School Board is centered around China, with school board member Dr. Joseph Chang being accused of inappropriate use of his position on the board.

A school board meeting last week featured a discussion of a 96-page report by a private investigator on whether Dr. Chang meddled in district processes and if he had an inappropriate relationship with the organization supplying Chinese students for the foreign student program in the district.

Chang has been accused of a conflict of interest, because of a relationship with the BELA Education Group, which arranges for Chinese students to study abroad. The group is said to be affiliated with Norman Hsu, a former board member, who also paid for Dr. Chang to take four trips to China, though the ones raising accusations say that BELA paid for the trips.

At issue are allegations that Dr. Chang took those trips to China, in which he visited BELA, as a board member, though Dr. Chang denies this. There is also a question of whether Dr. Chang interfered with the district’s process of selecting foreign students.

Private Investigator’s Report

The report, presented by Trevon Sims, a partner with the law firm of Lozano Smith, said of Dr. Chang’s four free trips to China: “the evidence supports there could be a reasonable perception by others of a conflict of interest on Dr. Chang’s part regardless of whether the BELA Education Group or [Mr.] Hsu paid for his travel expenses.”

Dr. Chang was also suspected of “placing undue influence and pressure on District staff members to approve applications of international students even though they did not meet the application requirements.”

Furthermore, “The District received information that the overall living conditions, including housing, food and supervision were lacking for some international students.”

The district’s representative for the foreign student program reported to the board that new inspection policies to ensure that students were properly cared for by the host families had been implemented and was functioning.

In 2011, a ballot effort was begun to recall Jay Chen, Norman Hsu, Joseph Chang, and Anita Perez from the school board after they attempted to introduce Chinese textbooks written by the Chinese Communist Party into the curriculum. The recall was later abandoned, and the textbooks were not introduced.

The Board adjourned at midnight for a private Board meeting after failure to gain consensus for action on the report.