Hey Project Veritas, This Is How Our Teacher Union Rolls In Delaware- They Get It Done! Publish That!

A month ago, I posted some articles about a far right-wing group called Project Veritas.  I didn’t know much about them but their videos intrigued me.  I gave the Delaware State Education Association a hard time and that may not have been very fair on my part.  Today, when I read an article by Cris Barrish with WHYY, DSEA President Mike Matthews impressed me a lot!  The article was about Senate Bill 234, which passed the Senate yesterday and will be heard in the House Education Committee in the next few weeks, if not sooner.

Mike Matthews, president of the Delaware State Education Association that represents teachers and other school employees, said crimes and violations like those cited in this article spurred his union’s lawyer to work with state education officials, attorneys and others to craft the legislation.

I remember talking to Mike about some of these horrific crimes that were making the media such as Karen Brooks in Smyrna.  He was as disgusted as I was.  A few years ago, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf came out with a similar bill but this one was much better.  I firmly believe DSEA’s role in the writing of Senate Bill #234 made it a much stronger bill.

Matthews said the DSEA “strongly supports” the bill because it could prevent the ability of child abusers to “bounce around’’ to different school districts with their teaching license intact while a serious allegation goes through a copious investigative process at the district level. The bill would also provide extensive due process to protect teachers who are unfairly accused by students, parents or other faculty, he said.

Amen Mike!  We don’t want ANY teacher or educator milking the system when they are abusing kids.  My take on teachers like this?  They shouldn’t be anywhere near children or teenagers.  But at the same time, we don’t want to necessarily punish the innocent.  Unfortunately, there have been situations where teachers have been victim to false claims.

“It clarifies the process that I think maybe has been muddied for some time,” Matthews said. “It kind of separates this idea that the employer, the district and board, has to take action before [the state can take action] to revoke or suspend an educator’s license when there are allegations of a serious crime.”

My take on this?  Most districts or charters don’t necessarily want the publicity when things go down.  If there is an arrest, they can’t help it.  What happens when an investigation is a stall tactic?  Forcing the state to take action tells the district or charter- “we know this is going on and we will take action when you won’t!”

“The bill takes necessary steps to remove those educators if there is clear fear of harm coming or having come to a child. I like to believe that like any other profession we are always going to have those who do not represent our profession well and need to be exited when it comes to these allegations and potential crimes.”

A fast exit!

What I didn’t foresee with this bill was how it could affect special education.  Barrish wrote about this aspect of the legislation when discussing the “letters of concern” portion of it.

The bill also has a provision that could apply when the state determines that no violation has occurred which warrants disciplinary action, but that “an act or omission” by the teacher is a “matter of concern.” Such a concern could be that the teacher creates inadequate Individualized Education Programs for students who are identified as in need of special education services.

I have very mixed thoughts on this.  A teacher could write a draft IEP before the IEP team convenes to discuss it.  Putting the onus on a teacher for what could be team decisions is very dangerous.  Yes, the teacher is the one that writes the draft, but the team decides what is final.  Any IEP team should include an administrator (usually the Principal or an Associate Principal), the school psychologist, the school special education coordinator (also called an Educational Diagnostician), the school nurse (unless the parent says it is okay for them not to attend), a special education teacher, and a primary teacher.  And of course the parent or parents.  When students reach 8th grade, they typically attend the IEP meetings as well.  Is one teacher out of a whole IEP team the only one that should get a “letter of concern” if the school winds up getting sued for not following an IEP?  Or writing a bad one?  This could open a huge can of worms.  I have always told parents, do not sign an IEP unless you are satisfied with it.  There is nothing preventing you from doing so.  And if you find the IEP isn’t working, you can always request another IEP meeting to revise it.

Now when it comes to teachers not following very specific parts of an IEP, such as not having the student do every other math problem as an example, that is a different matter.  If a teacher willfully doesn’t follow what is written in an IEP, I can’t defend that.  I may need to see more on this part.  The big question would be what happens if a parent sues a charter or district over special education matters.  Would those “letters of concern” become discoverable evidence?  Would the district or charter put themselves in a position of legal vulnerability?  Or would the special education law firm have to subpoena the Delaware DOE to get those letters?

I’m going to take this time and publicly apologize to Mike Matthews for my Project Veritas articles.  A DSEA email was provided to me the same day I saw Veritas’ videos.  I published it without reaching out to Mike for more information.  I regret that.  While the email didn’t condone the actions of the subject of a Veritas video it didn’t defend it either.  It was simply an internal email warning of potential Veritas spies hoping to entrap teacher union members.  I was harsh on DSEA and I acknowledge that.  Legislation doesn’t happen overnight and I will assume DSEA was working with the Delaware DOE on what became Senate Bill #234 long before the Veritas videos came out in May.  I had no idea Veritas was going to jump on my article and put Mike in the spotlight the way they did.  I remember seeing that video and gasping.  Yes, I published it, but the more I found out about Veritas the more something didn’t seem quite right.

I look forward to Senate Bill #234 becoming the law of the land in Delaware!  And I would hope James O’Keefe who seems to have made it a crusade to go after teacher unions can provide “fair and balanced” coverage to show the good things they are doing.  But knowing O’Keefe, he would probably take the credit for it himself.  That seems to be how he rolls!  He can say what he will about some rogue union leaders out there, but here in Delaware, our union looks out for students as well as teachers!

1 thought on “Hey Project Veritas, This Is How Our Teacher Union Rolls In Delaware- They Get It Done! Publish That!

  1. Kevin,
    I follow your blog as a long time SPED educator, advocate, & professor. I appreciate the work that you do to shine a spotlight on policies & political actors that effect SPED students & families. I just read your post on Project Veritas I thought I would update you on their funders & tactics. There is a good deal of evidence that puts into question the trustworthiness of this group, the deceptive tactics it uses & its dark money funders. Essentially, the organization is designed to deceive the public, not to reveal systemic wrongdoing or corruption. Its targets are typically public institutions, unions, voter registration groups, environmental organizations and any organization promoting civil rights & increased government regulations on corporate maleficence.

    The Center for Media and Democracy https://www.prwatch.org/ is an investigative watchdog group that has been following the work of Project Veritas for many years. Jane Mayer quoted the work of the Center for Media & Democracy in the New Yorker profile of Project Veritas & dark money: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/30/james-okeefe-accidentally-stings-himself
    “in recent years hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Project Veritas have come through a fund in Alexandria, Virginia, called Donors Trust, which specializes in hiding the money trails of conservative philanthropists. In its promotional materials, Donors Trust says that it will “keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues.” The records obtained by PRWatch.org also show that one donor, a conservative political activist in Wisconsin, contributed fifty thousand dollars just before Project Veritas undertook a sting of one of his political enemies—a state senator.”

    In a recent expose at CMD’s PR Watch, James O’Keefe was again exposed for his deceptive tactics.
    https://www.prwatch.org/news/2018/03/13329/donors-trust-right-wing-secret-money-machine-doled-out-667-million-2016
    “Donors Trust is also being used to fund controversial media attack dog James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas sting operation. Close to $1.7 million was donated to Project Veritas from individuals or groups who wanted to keep their identities secret.

    The group has garnered attention in recent years for multiple botched “sting operations.” In 2017, O’Keefe attempted a sting on the Washington Post after the paper’s meticulous reporting on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s sexual escapades with teenagers helped sink his campaign. A woman tied to O’Keefe claimed to have been impregnated by Moore in an attempt to entrap the Washington Post into reporting her story, but the paper turned the tables on her. The Center for Media and Democracy was the subject of another botched sting attempt by O’Keefe associates in 2014.”

    Needless to say, these extremist groups are not our friends. They do not promote equality, equity, or the rights of any child to a free appropriate public education. They do not want to pay for public education. They have networks of related think tanks, funded by the same dark donors, with the end goal of ending public education. One such think tank in the network is The Thomas B Fordham Foundation. They are promoting a rewrite of IDEA to “modernize” the funding mandates. TBF us funded by several of the same extremist groups taking aim at public education. This group has a good deal of influence over media and policy insiders. Under the radar, TBF is advocating for a rewrite of IDEA to restructure its funding. (See attachment).

    Ed-reformers want public education to be privatized and deregulated, effectively ending the goals of IDEA. And they’ll do and say anything to get what they want. In another such dark money networked group, Campbell Brown has been the face of education reformers who are promoting the image that public schools are rife with sexual predators.
    https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/01/campbell-browns-group-pursuing-lawsuit-against-teacher-tenure-in-new-york/
    https://dianeravitch.net/2017/12/30/carol-burris-sex-scandals-happen-in-all-kinds-of-schools/

    James O’Keefe & Project Veritas jumped into action to discredit teachers & their unions following the strikes across the red states. The Koch network in particular & the extremists pushing education privatization were unsettled about the widespread public sympathy for the teachers strikes across red states. Teachers were not only advocating for living wages but they were demanding more funding for their classrooms. In both AZ and WV teachers wanted to increase taxes on multi-billion-dollar oil, coal & gas companies pay for a sustainable revenue for public schools. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/apr/12/teacher-strikes-rightwing-secret-strategy-revealed
    https://www.politicususa.com/2018/04/13/och-and-devos-are-funding-group-discrediting-teacher-strikes.html

    I am proud to say that many of the most outspoken teachers in these strikes & in the unions are the SPED teachers. Teachers efforts to demand equity in funding for their students are being undermined by these dark smear merchants.

    Given Congress’ repeated failure to ever fund IDEA at the promised 40% teachers, parents, & students need solidarity more than ever. With DeVos in DoEd, the ongoing defunding, deregulation & segregating SPED children will continue unabated. I fear for any child with an IEP who attends an unaccountable charter chain, online scam-school & or voucher school. Exclusion means in time, SPED children will disappear. Segregation and exclusion is no concern to DeVos, as she & these extremists have no interest in spending any money for SPED.

    What we need are strong teachers unions & parent advocates (like you) to push back at the ground level & expose extremists like James O’Keefe as smear merchants. Transparency is not their purpose for existing. I am not condoning any poor behavior by this union rep or his insensitive comments. However, national teachers’ union money is no match for the billions being given to entities working to dismantle US public education. Promoting Project Veritas will only give more fuel to those who want to destroy FAPE.

    In closing, thank-you for what you do. I hope I could enlighten you a bit more on the bogus video stings of Project Veritas. Keep up the fight for our students.

    Thank-you,

    Joan Grim

    Joan C. Grim B.S., M.S.
    Senior Lecturer
    University of Tennessee
    Early Childhood Special Education
    Theory and Practice in Teacher Education
    Special Education Core Course Coordinator
    President TN Council for Exceptional Children
    413 Bailey Educational Complex (BEC)
    Knoxville, TN 37996
    jgrim2@utk.edu
    865-974-4155
    Katie Potter (admin. assist.) 865-974-3435

    “We make a living by what we get. But, we make lives by what we give.” Anonymous Educator

    From: Exceptional Delaware 2018
    Reply-To: Exceptional Delaware 2018
    Date: Friday, June 15, 2018 at 9:21 PM
    To: Joan Grim
    Subject: [New post] Hey Project Veritas, This Is How Our Teacher Union Rolls In Delaware- They Get It Done! Publish That!

    Kevin Ohlandt posted: “A month ago, I posted some articles about a far right-wing group called Project Veritas. I didn’t know much about them but their videos intrigued me. I gave the Delaware State Education Association a hard time and that may not have been very fair on my “

    Like

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