**UPDATED**Smyrna School Board Gets Slammed By Delaware Superior Court Over Due Process Violations, Called “Arbitrary & Capricious”

so disproportionate to the offense in light of all circumstances as to be shocking to one’s sense of fairness

The King of zero tolerance school boards in Delaware lost a huge appeal with the Delaware Superior Court.  After expelling a student in 2017, the student appealed the decision and the State Board of Education ruled in the student’s favor.  Not one to take anything laying down, the Smyrna Board of Education filed an appeal against the State Board.  They lost and they lost big time!

**Updated**, 1/19/19, 8:05am: Please see below for new information about this article.

Continue reading

Guest Post: “Kathleen Davies Vindicated But Delawareans Still Lose”

Last week, the News Journal reported Kathleen Davies won her Merit Employee Review Board appeal hearing.  She will be reinstated at the Auditor of Accounts office after a two and a half-year ordeal.  She ran for State Auditor but lost to opponent Kathy McGuiness in the September 6th Primary.  McGuiness won the General Election so the two women will soon be working in the same building.

Eric Morrison wrote a guest piece on this saga and what it means for Delaware: Continue reading

Campus Community Loses Appeal In Federal Court Over Special Education Lawsuit

McAndrews Law Firm, a special education law firm with offices in Delaware, recently won a special education lawsuit that went all the way up to federal court.  I imagine the price tag, once calculated, will be very steep for Campus Community School, a charter school in Dover. Continue reading

State Board of Education Overturns Smyrna Expulsion

In another Smyrna School District expulsion case, not related to that of Student J, the Delaware State Board of Education overturned that decision.  The family filed an appeal earlier this Spring.  The Hearing Officer recommended the State Board overturn the decision.  They did so at their July 27th meeting last Thursday.

It is my most fervent hope that between this and Student J’s case, the district will take a very close look at their expulsion policies which are among the highest percentage in Delaware for school districts.  I am not against expulsion if the violation is egregious.  But any expulsion is a very serious thing and should not be taken lightly.

This issue is on my radar and it does not just apply to traditional school districts.  I find “counseling out”, where some charter schools have “talked” a parent out of keeping their child in their school to be just as unfair as an unnecessary expulsion.  I will be keeping a very close eye on these kind of situations in the upcoming school year.  If any parent feels an expulsion was unjust, I encourage them to contact me.  As J’s mother quickly became aware, I will quickly intervene and attempt to help.

To read the full story of Student J in Smyrna, click here.

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 6: The HUGE Conflict Of Interest & Things Escalate

J was officially expelled from the Smyrna School District on September 21st, 2016.  But his mother was not giving up without a fight.  She told the administration this very thing at the discipline hearing two weeks before this.  So it wasn’t a shock when his mother filed an appeal with the State Board of Education.  Something happened soon after that raised serious questions as to the true intent of J’s expulsion. Continue reading

Fraud & Cover-Up Evade Transparency Through Attorney General Matt Denn’s Office

defoiadeclaration

A pungent stench is coming from Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act.  When the Delaware Attorney General’s office gets the facts wrong on a response to a FOIA complaint, the only way for a Delaware citizen to correct those errors is to file with the Superior Court.  Which costs money and fills the state coffers.  Can someone please remind me why I pay taxes for a state where our Governor feels “sunshine is the best disinfectant“?

The response I received two days ago from Matt Denn’s office stems from my FOIA complaint and the Delaware Dept. of Justice’s response to that FOIA which came out on October 28th.  The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee did not publish their first meeting anywhere and I filed a complaint.  Considering the DOJ is still working on a FOIA complaint I submitted last March, it seems there was a rush to put the matter concerning Governor Markell’s Executive Ordered Delaware Pathways Steering Committee to bed.

When I emailed Denn’s office to reevaluate the FOIA response the same day, I didn’t hear back from anyone.  On Tuesday I sent an email to Matt Denn asking for any type of response to my October 28th request.  On Wednesday, I received the below email from Kim Siegel, Denn’s FOIA Coordinator.  I did edit out part of the email which covered a separate matter I am working on with Denn’s office.

From: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
To:
Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Wednesday, December 7, 2016 4:04 PM
Subject:
October 28, 2016 determination

Dear Mr. Ohlandt, 

Attorney General Denn has asked me to respond to the issues raised in your December 6, 2016 e-mail.  Your e-mail makes reference to an October 28, 2016 determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General in response to a FOIA petition regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee.  Under the Delaware Code, a petitioner who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a FOIA determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General may “appeal the matter on the record to Superior Court.”  Therefore, if you wish to appeal the determination, that is the mechanism under Delaware law by which to do so.  

Sincerely,

Kim Siegel, MPA
Legislative Affairs Manager

FOIA Coordinator
Delaware Department of Justice

So if I am understanding this correctly, when a citizen alleges a public body has violated FOIA, which is the law, the public body can skirt around the law and give false information.  But when the citizen calls them out on it, through a request for appeal, suddenly the DOJ decides the law is important.  The mechanism for appeal is not fair at all to a citizen looking for transparency.

What is the point of a Freedom of Information Act request if the agency looking at it refuses to look at all the facts from both sides?  This is typically how it is done- a party files a complaint with the facts as they know them, the DOJ sends the complaint to the party that had the FOIA complaint filed against them, the defending party sends a response, the DOJ sends the defendant agency’s response to the accuser, and then the DOJ rules on the complaint.  I have had FOIA complaints in the past that dragged out because the DOJ wanted more information.  Apparently, that was not the case with this complaint.  The DOJ Chief Deputy Attorney General came out with this FOIA response in record time without any chance of obtaining more information on the matter.

governorsunshine