DE Atty. General Matt Denn Files Brief For Special Education Supreme Court Case… What About My Kid Matt?

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, along with the AGs from Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed an amicus brief for the upcoming special education case which will be heard by the United States Supreme Court.  The Endrew F. v Douglas County School District is a case which can change the face of special education.  But what about my kid right here in Delaware Matt Denn?  The one who was kicked out of a special education program at a Delaware private school last Friday with no due process, no advance notification to the parents about the true purpose of the meeting, and no chance for my son’s voice to be heard?

For the most part, I like Matt Denn.  I think he can be an excellent advocate for students with disabilities.  But sadly, what he wants and what we have in Delaware are two very different things.  I wish Denn could help my own son the way he is helping this child in Colorado.  I understand the implications of this case and what it can do for special education if they rule in favor of the student.  That would be a very good thing.  But there are far too many students here in Delaware that are now suffering with special education.  My own son Jacob included.  If Delaware’s special education is supposed to be so great, why isn’t it Matt?  We both know the answer to that.  But why should my kid have to go through all venues of education in this state and still not have schools understand his needs?  Charter, district, private school, private school homeschool-coop program.  None have worked Matt.  None.  They may be great at other things, but they have all failed my son.  As one father to another father, I’m asking you to do something here, in Delaware.  In your state.  Not later, not down the road, but now.  I don’t know if I can get my son back on track.  There has been so much damage done to him.  By adults who think power is more important than what is right.  Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to watch your own child’s spirit break time and time again.  I truly hope you don’t.  But I’m just one of many parents who has to pick up the pieces of a child’s shattered life again and again while the system fails him time and time again.  It doesn’t matter what kind of school it is.  I don’t care about all this fancy legal stuff.  I just want consistency and best practices with my son, with all the special needs kids in this state.  We are destroying lives here Matt.  What are you going to do about that?

Talk is on thing but actions speak louder than words.  How many more Jacobs do we have to have in this state Matt?  How many more tears have to be shed before something is done?  How many families have to deal with turmoil you can’t even begin to imagine Matt?  How many more children have to be psychologically beaten down before you do something?

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Delaware Files Amicus Brief Supporting a Colorado Student’s Claim on Behalf of Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, joined by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed a formal brief Monday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the appeal of a Colorado public school student with disabilities who claims that his school district has not complied with federal law in meeting his educational needs. The brief filed by Delaware urges the United States Supreme Court to adopt a higher national standard for the services that U.S. schools must provide, and articulates that the standard reflected in Delaware state law, rather than the lower standard used in Colorado and many other states, is the proper standard to measure the provision of such services.

The brief was written by Delaware State Solicitor Aaron Goldstein and Deputy Attorneys General Patricia Davis and Laura Makransky. The brief states that the three Attorneys General “implore this Court to find that the highest level of educational benefit for children with disabilities currently recognized by federal courts of appeal is the correct level for all of the nation’s children with disabilities in order to ensure that the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act]’s ideals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency are fulfilled.”

Although Attorney General Denn has joined other briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court since taking office in January of 2015, this is the first United States Supreme Court brief that his office has authored since he took office. “We chose this issue to seek to be heard with the United States Supreme Court,” Denn said, “because it is fundamentally important to the future of every child with a disability in our nation’s public schools. We also sought to be heard because how the Supreme Court phrases its opinion could also have a direct impact on students with disabilities in Delaware public schools.”

 

 

 

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Delaware AG Matt Denn Supports Parents In Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Special Education Case

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As the Chairman of the IEP Task Force in Delaware back in 2014, Delaware Attorney General (then Lieutenant Governor) Matt Denn stated in the first meeting that Delaware students with disabilities deserved more than what federal law under IDEA stated.  He announced yesterday he will advocate for special needs children getting a top-notch education.  Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme court decided to hear a special education case regarding what a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) really is.  The is significant due to the fact that special education changed a lot when IDEA was reauthorized in 2004.  This will be the first time the highest court in the land has tackled FAPE in a very long time.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear a case from the state of Colorado involving the level of educational services that must be provided to public school students with disabilities. The case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, is significant because it will be the first time in decades that the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed this issue, and different federal courts around the country have come to different conclusions on the question.

“This case may not have significant implications for Delaware public schoolchildren with disabilities,” Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said. “Delaware state law was changed in 2010, in a bill I worked on as Lieutenant Governor with Representative Quinn Johnson and Senator David Sokola, to require that Delaware public schools provide services to Delaware students with disabilities that matches the highest level of services required by federal courts interpreting this issue. However, sometimes the language that the U.S. Supreme Court uses in issuing its decisions can be as important as the decisions themselves. For that reason, the Delaware Department of Justice will be seeking to advocate – potentially with other state Attorneys General — for the U.S. Supreme Court to find that the highest level of services for children with disabilities currently recognized by federal courts is the correct level for all of the nation’s children, and for the Supreme Court to provide specific guidance to the states as to how to implement its decision in order to ensure that children with disabilities have an opportunity to fulfill their potential.”

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In regards to that bill from 2010, Denn said the following about the bill when it was introduced:

“It is completely unacceptable for us to tell the parents of most children that we want their kids to have the best public school education in America, while telling the parents of students with disabilities that their kids will receive the educational equivalent of a serviceable Chevrolet,” Lieutenant Governor Denn said. “We have a legal and a moral obligation to these children to provide them with a meaningful education, and this bill is a first step to making sure that happens.”

Denn has always been one of the strongest advocates in Delaware for students with disabilities.  I am glad he is putting his support behind the parents in this potentially landmark Supreme Court case.  With that being said, the very definition of special education will be redefined yet again if education reformers get their way with their dreams of “IEPs for ALL”.  I pray, if that time does come, that Matt Denn will be at the front of the pack for students with disabilities, their parents, and disability advocates to make sure special needs students don’t get lost in the shuffle.

In the meantime, the Delaware Dept. of Education, under the direction of Governor Markell in epilogue language in the FY2015 budget, is still working on a Special Education Strategic Plan for the state, more than two years since it was created.

As Matt Denn Goes On An Arrest & Indictment Spree In Other State Agencies, Charter Leaders Still Aren’t Facing The Music

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn announced seven arrests and indictments stemming from misuse of funds at the Department of Health and Social Services.  Meanwhile, several charter leaders and employees still haven’t been arrested for crimes involving school funds.  This has gone on way too long!  I’m not buying any more excuses on this.  We’ve all seen the audits.  We’ve seen the articles.  Why aren’t these charter leaders being charged for their crimes Matt Denn?  Who is protecting them?

In the article covering the arrests, Denn is quoted as saying:

This case is part of an intensified focus our office is trying to bring to fraud being committed against the state’s public benefit programs.

So public benefits demands an accounting, but school funds are okay?  In the case of Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover, which was the first of the charter audits coming out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office last year, nothing has happened.  Where is his arrest?  And Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy?  And the lady from Providence Creek?  And what about Sally Maldonado and the maintenance guy at Kuumba Academy?  And the board president at Delaware College Prep?  And what about what will come out from any future audits coming from the Auditor of Accounts?  I like Matt Denn, but it is beginning to look like a bit of a cover-up in terms of not charging these school “leaders”.  In terms of Maldonado, why is she allowed to serve on state committees and task forces concerning crucial education decisions but she gets no accountability for what amounts to a raise she gave herself with no board approval?

One of the individuals charged with this theft of funds from DHSS was Kamilah Laws, who was also a contractor with the Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  She was contracted with the DOE during the formal review process for the Delaware Met, which was ordered to shut down in mid-January of this year. Isn’t that interesting?  (this corrects an error I previously made in stating that Ms. Laws was on the board at Delaware Met.  She was not)

Theft is theft Matt Denn.  So I am openly and publicly challenging you to answer these questions: when will the charter leaders and employees who stole money from kids (cause that’s what it comes down to) be held accountable?  Will they?  Is there any reason why they wouldn’t?  Is Delaware law upheld only with certain state agencies?

A Message From Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn About IEPs And DOE Surveys

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn wants all parents of students with disabilities with an IEP to read this message!  As part of the IEP Task Force recommendations back in 2014 which became part of Senate Bill 33 last year, the Delaware DOE is required to send surveys out to a representative number of families where a child has an IEP.  The goal of the survey is to see how our schools are doing with the IEP process and implementation.  I strongly urge all parents in Delaware who  have a child with an IEP to take this survey.  Thank you.

“Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask for your assistance in ensuring that our schools are complying with their legal responsibilities to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities. One of the recommendations of the IEP Improvement Task Force that I chaired was to survey families specifically about their experience with the IEP process, so the state could determine if particular schools or districts were failing to comply with their legal responsibilities to children with disabilities. The General Assembly enacted legislation last year requiring the Department of Education to conduct this survey. The Department of Education, through the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware, is mailing such a survey out to the homes of a randomized group of approximately 5,000 students with IEPs. In addition to these mailed surveys, we have also created an online version which will allow families who do not receive the mailed survey to share their experience. While we request permission to contact the responding families if there are concerns about their responses, they may choose to participate anonymously.

I ask you to share the web address for this online survey with the families of children you serve and encourage their participation, so we can try to ensure that all children with disabilities in our state receive the support to which they are entitled.”

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2T789KW

Sincerely,

Matt Denn

Letter To Attorney General Matt Denn About Referendums In Delaware

I was asked to share the following letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn about referendums in Delaware.  There are many districts gearing up for their own referendums: Brandywine, Christina, Appoquinimink and I’m sure there are others.  What do you think?  Should referendums stop being a social gathering?

Letter to Attorney General Matt Denn

After making inquiries to the Board of Elections I was advised to
contact your office for further help.

The recent decision by Chancery Court to proceed with the Lawsuit
against the Red Clay school district exposes the unethical and
blatantly dishonest tactics used by School Boards in their desperate
attempts to win referendums. It is essential you investigate these
abuses so that voting Citizens are not subjected to this constant
badgering which has eroded public confidence in the voting process.
Another case in point is the Milford School board, which held its 3rd
referendum in just 18 months. While permitted, this relentless use of
referendum to raise taxes that had failed twice before has resulted in
voter fatigue and charges of Voter fraud.

School Boards have a saying “just try again”. Milford has said “we
did” and when that didn’t work they cheated, bullied and lied.
Delaware Law guarantees all elections shall have Free and Equal access
however the Superintendent and Milford School Board have colluded to
deny those in opposition from this fundamental right.

Cheated; they checked the Board of Elections and saw that there were
250 more No votes at LuLu Ross Elementary in the May 2015 referendum.
So they eliminated LuLu Ross as a polling location thwarting the
people in that community their right to vote. They replaced it with
the High School where Senior students were enticed to cut class to
vote yes. In the previous referendum the Seniors were transported by
bus to Banneker Elementary to vote. The bus was supposedly paid for by
a quasi- official lobbying group which was initially headquartered at
the Superintendent’s office. Students were essentially pressured to
vote yes because of the constant threats that all sports and numerous
personnel would be eliminated.

Bullied; they scheduled a non-essential family night at Banneker which
was another polling site the very same night the polls were open to
voters. This activity could have been rescheduled but instead the
parking lot was full of cars and the hallways were full of young
students. This was a deliberate attempt by the Board to fill the
parking lot with families and vehicles to discourage the Handicapped
and Elderly who traditionally vote no from exercising their legal
right to “Free and Equal Access”.

Lied to; the School Board, along with the Superintendent and CFO told
the public they had slashed the budget, fired personnel and eliminated
many programs. Only problem with this was the truth; the actual 2015
budget was $51,006.000 whereas the 2016 projected budget was
$49,961,000.  A reduction of only $45,000.  Are these the deceptive
tactics and legacy the Superintendent and Board want to set as
acceptable behavior to our students and citizens?

Questions that need to be answered in by your office;

Did anyone within the Milford School system or its lobby organization
known as Buccaneer Tomorrow use any means of communication, written or
verbal to “encourage H.S. students to vote?  Did this constitute a
violation of Delaware law governing electioneering within the
designated voting area?

Did anyone within the school system contact parents of students asking
them to vote for the referendum using school resources and was this a
violation of Delaware law?

Why were voting booths eliminated at LuLu Ross?

Why was the non-essential family math night at Banneker not
rescheduled so as to not interfere with the People’s right to Vote?

Was there a Quid Pro Quo made with the Teachers Union regarding Raises?

Spyro Stamat
10284 Webb Farm Rd
Lincoln, De 19960

Attorney General Matt Denn, We Need You To Do More About Bullying & Abuse In Our Schools

Skyline Middle School.  Anne Gullo.  The Appoquinimink Bus Driver.  Delaware Met.  This is just in the last month.  As these incidents of bullying and abuse become more public, I haven’t seen any official statement from those in power in Delaware on these systemic issues going on.  This is the bottom line: students don’t feel safe.  While the DOE wants to bury students in their latest programs with the University of Delaware about social skills and positive behavior supports, which are also costing the state millions of dollars, the districts or charters don’t implement those things and it is a colossal waste.  They talk the talk and walk the walk, but who are we kidding?  Why are we seeing adults take out their frustrations on kids?

NBC Philadelphia covered the Appoquinimink bus driver.  The district said she wouldn’t be driving their kids anymore.  That’s great.  But more needs to be done.  This kid was being bullied, and he needed help.  Instead of the bus driver, or substitute bus driver (immaterial to me, still an adult in charge of kids) even noticing there was already a situation going on where a kid was getting hurt, she did nothing.  She finally acted, and in a highly inappropriate way, when she was forced to do something as this kid yelled at her for help.  What she did is disgusting and morally reprehensible.

It doesn’t matter if its one person or hundreds.  No kid deserves this.  From other kids or adults.  When I was a kid, we didn’t call it bullying.  We usually called it getting the crap kicked out of you.  There are always going to be reasons for it.  Somebody doesn’t like something the other kid said.  They are jealous over a girl.  A kid is black.  A kid is white.  A kid is gay.  A girl is mean.  A kid has disabilities.  A kid doesn’t believe the same thing another kid does.  Maybe if kids actually enjoyed learning, and were not tied to curriculums tied to standards tied to standardized tests tied to teacher evaluations tied to school report cards, we could put an end to this.  We have more resources than ever before to tackle these issues, but our failure of a Governor ignores these issues.  He assigns people to “serve at the pleasure of the Governor”.  We need to elect leaders and Secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the people!

This is where you come in Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  You do not serve at the pleasure of Jack Markell.  You are a publicly elected official.  Prior to your becoming Attorney General, you were the Lieutenant Governor and I watched you chair a very decent IEP Task Force.  I was drawn to you because you spoke succinctly when needed and firm when it was desperately needed.  When you first became Attorney General nine months ago, I saw very positive moves on your part.  The first of which was an Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which I have referred many parents to.  I have yet to see any action coming out of this office Matt.  We don’t see any official reports or press releases coming out of there at all.  Has it really come down to Delaware needing a Department of Bullying and Physical Abuse Against Children?

I truly think it is a good thing that parents can take personal action on individual cases in Delaware.  But they are forced to shut up about it in most situations.  That isn’t justice.  It is covering it up.  It is making the bad stuff (for the guilty party) just go away.  Talk to most parents who go through that process, and they would much rather have worked it out with the school earlier.  If there is not a systemic change, nothing will change.  We will see more Skylines, and Appo bus drivers, and Anne Gullos, and Delaware Mets.  We need YOU Matt Denn to become the Attorney General we elected and become a bully against bullying.  We need YOU to take quick action.  We all know schools are underreporting.  We know stuff gets covered up.  We need you to take action when schools don’t.  Since we are becoming a data mad country anyways, why not give parents access to their child’s e-school report.  It’s a digital world now.  When bullying happens, an email goes to parents and they see it.  And I think your office should have access as well.  We need more heroes and less victims Matt.  Kids need YOU to be that hero.  It has to be YOU.

For the citizens of Delaware, we need you to stop with the high-fiving of how great your kid’s school is in certain areas.  We all know what schools are “the best” and we all know why.  Education shouldn’t be a competition, but our Governor has created this environment.  Race To The Top may be over, but don’t think our schools aren’t competing against each other every single day.  It is all about the stupid test scores for them.  You will be seeing them really concentrating on attendance as well because that is going to be another accountability measure for them.  They always seem to do what the DOE wants them to do, but that does not always translate into doing what is best for the students.  As many Delaware parents already know, they will cover their own ass first.  If they are tackling bullying and “social skills” and “positive behavior supports” for the purpose of driving up test scores, they are completely missing the boat.

Parents are going to start organizing as more and more issues become public and transparent.  It is happening already.  And we don’t like a lot of what we are seeing in our schools, the DOE and Governor Markell.  The drums of war are already starting to beat.  We will only be shushed so many times before we start to get really loud.  We will not be disrespected and we will certainly not let our children be disrespected.  We will not be lied to, and we will not be told one thing only to have it change after administrators get together and have a meeting about it.  We are the parents of the students who you want to take meaningless and useless tests.  We are the parents of students with disabilities.  We are the parents of low-income and poverty students.  We are the parents of the bullied and the abused.  We are the parents of those who are punished without due process.  We are the parents of students whose schools think they know about our children than we do.  We are the parents of students who are also taught by parents.  We are the parents of homeschooled kids.  We are the parents who talk to legislators more and more every day.  We are the parents of students who choice out of school districts.  We are the parents of students who were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Governor Markell severely disrespected.  We are the parents of youth who are already in prison.  We are the parents of the students who are physically restrained.  We are the parents who raise our children by the standards we believe in not what the state wants us to.  We are the parents who vote.  We are the parents who talk about all of this stuff on social media every single day but give a smile and a nod when you see us and you are none the wiser.  We are the parents of Delaware.