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Classes Resume At Danvers High; Maryland Attorney General Under Fire; Campus Cracks Down On Costumes

Aired October 25, 2013 - 07:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much, John. This morning students return to class at Danvers High School, this as we get new information from witnesses, talking about what happened just moments before the Massachusetts math teacher Colleen Ritzer was killed, allegedly by one of her own students. CNN's Pamela Brown is there in Danvers this morning. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Kate. Classes resuming at 7:25 this morning. Students we've been speaking with this morning say they're coming back today with heavy hearts as this mystery surrounding the death of their teacher, Colleen Ritzer, has left them with many unanswered questions.

We spoke to one student who only sat two desks away from Philip Chism in Miss Ritzer's class and she says she is haunted by the fact that she was one of the last people to see the two together on Tuesday.


BROWN (voice-over): Cambria Cloutier says last period at Colleen Ritzer's math class Tuesday seemed normal. She didn't think anything of it when Ritzer asked 14-year-old Philip Chism to stay behind when the bell rang at 1:55 p.m.

CAMBRIA CLOUTIER, CHISM'S CLASSMATE IN RITZER'S MATH CLASS: He was a little bit more quiet than usual. Like he had his ear buds on. He wasn't drawing. He wasn't doing math. He wasn't paying attention. She said if he could stay after to do what he had missed that day.

BROWN: Nearly an hour and a half later, Cloutier vividly remembers seeing the two together into Ritzer's classroom.

CLOUTIER: I saw Miss Ritzer standing at her desk computer smiling at me and then I saw Philip slouching in his chair staring at me when I'd walk by.

BROWN: Fifteen minutes later, Chism allegedly followed Ritzer to a second floor girl's bathroom and launched a brutal assault, punching her and slashing her with a box cutter, according to a source close to the investigation.

CLOUTIER: If I had walked by there 15 minutes later, what could have happened? If I witnessed that, like what could I have done? BROWN: The source tells CNN Chism allegedly stuffed her body in a recycling bin, rolled it out of the school and dumped her body about 20 feet into the woods behind the athletic fields.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know why someone could do this to someone so nice.

BROWN: Afterwards Chism allegedly changed clothes, went to a local Wendy's and on to a Hollywood Hits movie theater according to a source. Those who knew Chism, a star junior varsity soccer player, say it doesn't add up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure any of his teammates would say the same thing that he was just the nicest kid on the team probably.

CAIO SILVA, CHISM'S FRIEND AND TEAMMATE: He didn't demonstrate any signs. You know what I mean? Any signs of aggression, any signs towards any teachers.

BROWN: Ritzer's best friend, Jen Berger says she never made any mention of feeling threatened at school.

(on camera): Did she ever talk about concern about one of her students or anything like that?


BROWN (voice-over): Gone but not forgotten. Ritzer's legacy as an enthusiastic math teacher lives on. One of her inspiring quotes posted on the school's welcome sign. Her loss deeply felt as her students head back to class without her.


BROWN: And the bathroom where Ritzer was allegedly killed will be closed for the foreseeable future, but we're told her classroom will be open today. There will be classes taught there today. This is still very much a grieving community looking for answers about why Philip Chism allegedly killed his teacher -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Pamela, thank you very much.

CUOMO: Questions that need answers. We need to understand what made this kid do this. See what it can figure out for how we keep schools safer going forward. We already know too much, this bright star, this young teacher there to help kids is gone. We'll keep following the story. Our hearts and prayers go out to this community and her family.

We're going to take a break right now. When we come back on NEW DAY, a university's dean sends out a message. Halloween can still be happy without being offensive. Her call for costumes that don't cross the line, did she cross the line? We'll go through it. You decide.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, Maryland's top law enforcement officer pops up at a wild teenage party. What was he doing there and what does this mean now for his run for governor?

CUOMO: Did he cross the line? Everybody's crossing the line.


BOLDUAN: Drum line going. Welcome back to NEW DAY. Let's get straight over to Indra Petersons for a check of your weekend weather.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it looks like we're talking about frost and freeze advisories spreading down into the southeast today. There's a huge chunk of the country being affected from the plains now all the way to the northeast and down now into the southeast. We're talking about temperatures below freezing this morning for many of you.

As you're waking up and going out the door into the northeast, this is what it feels like at 8:00 in the morning. It will feel like 38 degrees in New York, Philly, down about 36, Boston this morning feeling like 35 degrees so definitely a chill in the morning hours by the afternoon. It will feel more like the upper 40s although temperatures will be into the 50s.

We are going to talk about a system making its way through, still continuing to see lake effect showers but also maybe a tiny bit of rain spreading to the northeast on Saturday. We'll look for that. Not expecting much, the biggest thing here is going to be reinforcing more cold air through the weekend, tail wind around Texas, an inch or so of rain for them during the next few days. Why is it so cold?

You can see it, making its way down from Canada. That jet stream is dipping farther down to the south. There are the temperatures, Atlanta this morning, 39 degrees. Nashville we low freezing at 30 even the Carolinas, 41 degrees. That's the big story. Another system wakes its way through Wyoming, Montana, models all over the place, not sure where it's going.

BOLDUAN: You know what this is weather for? This is hunting weather.

PETERSONS: Hunting weather. Look at you guys, dangerous.

BOLDUAN: There's stuff to be excited about.

BERMAN: I think sleeping weather by the fire.

PETERSONS: I'm with you.

BOLDUAN: Just talking to my dad.

PETERSONS: Kate's going out.

BOLDUAN: That's right. Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: All right, take a sip of your coffee, time to get our thinking hats on. This is a provocative situation we're about to tell you about. The attorney general of the State of Maryland is apologizing this morning after getting caught at a wild beach week party. Critics have two questions for Douglas Gansler, why was he there and why did he do nothing to stop the underage drinking? This wasn't an adult party. To set the stage of what we're talking about, here's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A wild beach week party in Bethany Beach, Delaware with teenagers dancing on tables. But look at the man near the center in the white shirt. That's Maryland's Attorney General, Douglas Gansler, who's running for governor. Take a look at these just released photos posted by the "Baltimore Sun" of Gansler at the headline making bash.

ERIN COX, REPORTER, "BALTIMORE SUN": This appears to show that he has stopped to watch the young girl bent over and another boy dancing behind her. Whether he glanced over and that happened to be the instant the photo was taken, we can't know.

TODD: He says he was at the party in June just to talk to his son, but underage teenagers reportedly admitted they were drinking alcohol and now that the photos have surfaced, Gansler is taking serious heat for not stopping it. Gansler says at the time he wasn't sure there was drinking going on.

DOUGLAS GANSLER, MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL: There could be Kool-Aid in the red cups but it's probably beer.

TODD: The "Baltimore Sun" which broke this story quotes Gansler as saying he doesn't have moral authority over other people's children. He defended himself at a news conference.

GANSLER: I wasn't the leader of the party, for example. I wasn't the chaperone. I didn't buy the beer or anything like that. I showed up, talked to my son and left.

TODD: He also says he didn't have legal authority to stop anything at the house since he's the attorney general of another state. But another embarrassment, Gansler's been in a PSA speaking against underage drinking.

GANSLER: Parents, you're the leading influence on your teen's decision not to drink.

TODD: I asked about accusations that he's hypocritical.

GANSLER: That would be strong. Again, should I have recognized -- should I have decided -- -- what I could have done was investigate whether there was drinking going on and then taken action on that.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Silver Spring, Maryland.


CUOMO: Now you know why I said it is so provocative, the picture alone. So we discuss, Sunny Hostin is here, John Avalon is here, we have the law, the politics and the problems. So I put it to the table. What's the initial take, Sunny?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALSYT: Well, the initial take is at least legally he would be responsible for the underage drinking. There are social laws all over the country. My understanding if it's true that he rented this house along with other children means that he's responsible for providing alcohol to underage kids and the law holds him responsible.

God forbid one of those kids got into a car and drove away and killed somebody. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine that? I think if you're the law enforcement officer of the state of Maryland, a Maryland that I actually am a member of the BAR, you have that responsibility. Not only legally I might add, I think you have it morally. You pull your kid out and tell other parents, these kids are drinking.

CUOMO: Why isn't it seen as a moral stand? They rent the house. I'll set the table. You say whatever you want. They put out the list of rules, don't do this, don't do that. They seem to be recognizing this is going to happen. These kids are not 11. They're late teens kids. They're going to a party, we'll do it in as safe a way as we can, we'll have chaperones.

HOSTIN: And beer and wine is fine but not hard alcohol. What? That's crazy.

CUOMO: Look, is this too much, John, weigh in here about the difference between public and private levels of scrutiny.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You put yourself in public light, you give away some of the license. Let's talk about the politics of this. Politics is perception as you well know. Here's the problem. You have a guy attorney general of the state, running for governor ending up in the middle of a party out of an '80s teen comedy. You have half naked teens greased up and twerking. That is not a place for him to be. Why was he there in the first place? Now he has to con front that. He was facing an uphill fight for governor anyway. This isn't going to help. Hypocrisy is the unforgivable in politics.

BOLDUAN: How he handled questions about it afterward, not only the photo. The cover-up is worse than the crime.

HOSTIN: I'm not responsible. I don't have responsibility.

BOLDUAN: From a political perspective, is the blow-back deserving.

AVLON: Awkward. It was an incredibly awkward press conference. He didn't have a good answer. He's trying to say, look, I was focusing on my kid. I didn't want to be the bad guy. It's another state anyway. That rings hollow when you've been putting your face on a PSA all self-righteous talking about teen drinking. That's why this sticks, that's why this will really, really matter.

BERMAN: It's the photo, the language. I don't have the moral authority to talk to someone else's kid there. You don't have the authority to go up to a kid and say, you really shouldn't be drinking here? It's not a legal issue. He's not the attorney general. He's a parent.

HOSTIN: But a parent -- I would go so far as to say --

CUOMO: If he's on the contract for the house, he does have some authority.

HOSTIN: Right. He has the legal responsibility to making sure he isn't providing alcohol to underage kids.

BOLDUAN: Could he face anything after the fact? Nothing happened. No one, as far as we know, no one got in trouble afterward.

HOSTIN: If I were the prosecutor in the state of Maryland or in Delaware, yes, I think absolutely. And had the police come up to the party while he was there, and found this out, he could have been charged right then and there.

BERMAN: Can I just say, no elected official in any state should have been within 100 miles of a party like that. I know you can't control it. The alarm bells should go off, you should run.

CUOMO: You're all right.

HOSTIN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: It bothers me a little bit, not because I love the idea of underage drinking. There is hypocrisy in the analysis because what do we have here? We have parents who think they're doing something responsible dealing with the reality that all parents of teens face. OK? So they think they're doing it the right way. If this were just another private citizen, you'd say, well, this is -- they're trying to do it the smart way, the kids are going to be kids. Because he's running for public office he's being held to a different standard because of his PSA? Is that fair, is that right?

HOSTIN: I don't think he's being held to a different standard. I've had cases where parents are held responsible for their kids' underage drinking when hosting a party.

CUOMO: You don't think the state knows about these houses?

HOSTIN: I'm not sure, but they should.

AVLON: The larger point here, isn't hypocrisy the analysis. Frankly, it's hypocrisy in our society. We institutionalize a bit of a wink and a nod when it comes to high school drinking.

HOSTIN: I don't.

AVLON: Whatever upstanding citizenry you hold --

HOSTIN: I'm not the cool parent.

AVLON: There's a little bit of this built in. If you run for higher office, attorney general of the state, voluntary position you aspire to, if you're running for governor, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. If you fail in this very, very public way, that's going to leave a mark, folks. I think you'll see that when the election comes around.

BOLDUAN: Good talk.

CUOMO: They're good points. They're good points. There's something that bothers me about how politicians are judged and not judged and they all seem to be falling more and more. You're right. There are things here that will be cause for concern. What do you think? The conversations about your thoughts, tweet them to us, use the #newday.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel granted a new trial. Has he been unfairly treated because of his famous family? We'll talk about that with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who will be joining us live.

CUOMO: Political correctness. We're talking about that there. How about Halloween costumes? We'll tell you about college campus crackdowns. They're putting out rules about what is appropriate for Halloween.

But first, we want you to tune in Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific for Anthony Bourdain "PARTS UNKNOWN." On November 3rd, Tony is going to visit Japan. Take a look.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, CNN'S "PARTS UNKNOWN": Maybe the most important thing you need to know about Tokyo. My point of view is every chef I know, every high-end chef, Spain, France, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, basically every chef I've ever met, if you ask them, if you had to spend the rest of your life in one country, eating one country's food for the rest of your life, where would that be?

They're all going to say the same thing, Japan, Tokyo, period. For me that's an argument end. It is a humbling experience. You come here and you see how much precision, how much perfection is possible with so few components and you come away from that changed and a little frightened.



BERMAN: Nischelle Turner must be here if we're playing twisted sister.

BOLDUAN: I regret that remark. You should embrace it. So Halloween is just around the corner less than a week away. One university dean is taking steps to make sure costumes on her campus are politically correct. Would you believe no cowboys, no Indians and even a lot of no of a lot of other stuff. Nischelle, what are the details?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's a lot of no's here. We are talking the dean at the University of Colorado Boulder. She wrote a letter to students. Her name is Christina Gonzalez and what she did was she condemned a bunch of costumes for Halloween that she considers offensive, overly sexual. Let me give you some of the ideas of what she considers on her no list.

She says blackface costumes of course, sombrero, over sexualized costumes like geisha, stereotypical costumes like cowboys and Indians. She also condemned having theme parties like hillbilly or ghetto parties because she wants the students to think about the impact that this can have on the community.

Now there are two schools of thoughts here, I mean, is she just being preemptive or is this the PC police going completely crazy. And I'm not really sure where I fall because I understand what she's saying and I get some of the things that she doesn't like, but maybe it is going a bit too far.

BOLDUAN: I like to know what she thinks is an acceptable costume. There seems to be more no's on the list that be approved. They're not technically banned.

TURNER: Right.

BOLDUAN: Students aren't going to face any kind of penalty if they're found wearing said costume.

TURNER: No, they're not banned. They're not going to get in trouble if they want to wear these costumes, but they are frowned upon and this isn't the only university doing this. This also happened at the University of Minnesota.

CUOMO: Why are you doing it then if there's no teeth? Why say it?

BERMAN: There was a time in college you would go to these Halloween parties and every woman was a French maid or sexy cat. I didn't even know cats were sexy. It's worth thinking about there. When you bring up something like cow cowboys, it's a little bit too far.

BOLDUAN: I come from redneck country, we embrace redneck and hillbilly.

TURNER: She's saying if it offense anyone then don't do it. There's a back story. Back in 2011 the faculty at the University of Colorado introduced this resolution where they said they wanted to put restrictions on students painting their faces and bodies black at sporting events because the colors are black and yellow and they thought that could be offensive and said a faculty member went out on Halloween 2011 and saw four kids dressed in black face for a costume.

CUOMO: That's different. I think all of these political correctness stories come down to one basic idea for me. It is good for people to say the right thing. The emphasis should not be on saying the right thing instead of doing the right thing. As long as what you're passing on to the kids and all of us in general in culture, do the right thing with diversity when people and correctness are involved.

Some of the rules when it has no teeth and just a suggestion, either make the right point, treat each other with respect or just be quiet because this has no teeth anyway and you're putting cowboys on the list, loses its lustre.

TURNER: I think the cowboy thing goes way too far.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Nischelle.

TURNER: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: We'll check back in with you. We're beefing, Berman.

BERMAN: Game three, Saturday night.

BOLDUAN: Red Sox cards, stay here. Who knew we'd be the reasonable folks on the table.

CUOMO: This is very awkward. Please, quick, get us to break.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a judge says Michael Skakel deserves a new trial in a notorious murder case. But was he targeted because of his relatives? He's a cousin of the Kennedys. We'll talk to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. live coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The answer is no, that we are not monitoring his communications.


CUOMO: Called out, France and Germany threatening repercussions this morning amid reports their leaders' phones were tapped by the U.S. This as the White House overnight calls for a review of those surveillance programs.

BOLDUAN: Held hostage, two Americans kidnapped by pirates aboard a ship off the coast of Africa. New details this morning about how they were captured, all too similar to what happened to Captain Phillips.

CUOMO: A daughter's anguish, testifying against her own father, the dramatic moments inside the Utah courtroom as she accused her daughter father of killing her mother. Your NEW DAY continues right now.