The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 1: The First Incident

Student J in the Smyrna School District was a victim of a bizarre scenario where he wound up expelled from the school district and arrested. Continue reading “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 1: The First Incident”

Advertisements

Wahl v. Brandywine Case Settles! Justice For Joseph & An End To Zero Tolerance In Brandywine!

Over two years later, the Wahl family and Brandywine have settled on a matter involving zero tolerance and due process.  As reported by Amy Cherry with WDEL this morning, Patrick Wahl, father of Joseph Wahl, has reached an agreement with the Brandywine School District.  In January of 2015, Joseph Wahl was suspended for bringing “sharp objects” to school.  While not intentional, the discovery of the objects were ripe with controversy.  Patrick Wahl began a one-man crusade to change the district’s zero tolerance policy.

I’ve been following this story for years now and I am delighted Wahl and Brandywine were able to work this out.  This morning, Patrick Wahl released the following statement:

FINALLY! JUSTICE FOR JOSEPH — AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!

I’m very happy to report that the Brandywine School District and my family have settled our differences. I would like to thank the Brandywine School District for all of the work they’ve done to improve policies and to prevent the situation that occurred with my family from ever happening again. At their heart, these changes recognize that “exclusionary discipline” — out-of-school suspensions and expulsions which deny children their property right to a free education — must not be doled out cavalierly, and should be treated with all the seriousness and due process that denying this property right merits.

I said that Joseph’s suspension would not stand. It fell. I said that policies would be changed. They have been. And I said that Delaware’s “Zero Tolerance” laws which tie the hands of school administrators must go. They’re next.

As a result of Joseph’s case, the District has already created and implemented a new, mandatory training program for administrators regarding student rights, due process, what reasonable suspicion is and what it isn’t, how to conduct searches properly, and what the grievance processes are should a student or parent feel treated unfairly. They have fixed their Defiance Policy, clarifying that students can refuse certain requests without fear of punishment. Students will know why they are being searched and absent an immediate threat, students will be allowed to await their parent before any individualized search of their person or personal possessions.

Whenever a student is suspended from school, he or she will be given a form that is now truly informative, even including the contact information for any police officer who has been notified. No parent need lay awake ever again worrying that his child is under criminal investigation, and without any way to find out the status of that investigation. Steps to appeal the suspension are now spelled out on this very form, as is notification of any right to stay in school during an appeal process.

Even more importantly, the District will issue a position statement opposing “Zero Tolerance” laws and calling for our legislators to give our school administrators the ability to address disciplinary issues on a case by case basis. The District vows to lobby for this discretion. Schools breaking their silence on this issue is exactly what’s needed to get our legislators to reform bad law.

Remember when the Christina School District expelled the third-grader whose grandmother had sent a birthday cake and a knife with which to cut it to the school? The teacher used the knife, then reported the girl to the administration for having brought a dangerous weapon to the school. This mind-boggling case led to Delaware amending a law and giving school districts the ability to consider the circumstances when making expulsion decisions. That same law must now be amended once more, this time to include suspension decisions. It is a very simple change to make.

Out-of-school suspensions for first-time, unintentional offenses are especially harmful to the marginal, at-risk student. How many disciplinary issues would be better handled by an in-school suspension, where the offender can be assigned educational tasks like writing an essay about his behavior, performing some service around the school, and perhaps apologizing in front of an assembly? If there is no investigation as to who started a fight, are we punishing the victim and turning a blind eye to bullying?

Case by case does not mean weak! On the contrary, when a punishment does not fit the offense, students learn not about justice but about injustice. Students do not turn in found contraband, because they fear, correctly, that doing so will get them punished. They learn to subvert rules and policies and to have no respect for authority.

How long will Delaware schools be forced to treat plastic knives the same way they treat guns? How long are we going to keep pretending that the Advil a student inadvertently brings to school might as well have been cocaine? What happens when a student from a broken home, already feeling that school may not be the place for him, is told he is not welcome on school grounds or in school activities for a week? How does further alienating him from the school advance his education or that of others? It’s time we end the criminalization of childish mistakes. Zero tolerance policies, too, will fall.

Thank you very much to all of you for your support. Community involvement is essential if our schools are to thrive.

Oh, and one more thing.

I’m 51 years old and starting law school at Widener in the fall!

Hey, Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78 years old!

#BSDisGreatandGettingBetter

Wahl was not alone in issuing a statement.  The district released the following language concerning the issue:

The District appreciates Joseph Wahl raising awareness of potential imperfections in the Defiance, Search and Seizure, and Due Process provisions in our Student Code of Conduct. While we admit no liability, we have used Joseph’s situation as a learning opportunity and have made substantive changes to the District’s policies, procedures, and practices including changes to our Student Code of Conduct. We have also implemented safeguards to ensure teachers, administrators, and other school employees are properly trained regarding the students’ rights. These revised provisions are available on the District’s Facebook page, website and will be printed in the next printed version of the Student Code of Conduct. Faculty and staff will be receiving training on these revised procedures.”

It looks like Brandywine’s zero tolerance policy will become a thing of the past.  All Delaware school districts should get rid of these obscene policies.  Our General Assembly should do whatever it takes to make them extinct as well.  While no one wants a Columbine situation at our schools, there is such a thing as taking things too far.  Zero tolerance results in situations exactly like what Joseph Wahl went through.

Never underestimate the will and resolve of a parent when something doesn’t feel quite right.  Wahl fought the district, the Brandywine Board of Education, took it to the State Board of Education, had a FOIA complaint ruled in his son’s favor with the Delaware Department of Justice, and filed suit.  Some have said he didn’t have to do this, but look at the results.  He got the district to change a policy.  That is not an easy thing to do, especially when dealing with a discipline issue.  I salute Wahl for his perseverance.

If Wahl does become a lawyer, I can only imagine what opposing attorneys would go through in a courtroom if this case was any indication.

To follow the storyline of Wahl v. Brandywine, please go to the following links.  It looks like all of Wahl’s Youtube videos are no longer viewable.

brandywine-board-violated-foia-according-to-doj-legal-opinion-over-removal-of-student-discipline-record/

holodick-brandywine-name-in-lawsuit-as-father-seeks-justice-for-year-long-nightmare/

patrick-wahl-launches-youtube-video-called-why-im-suing-the-brandywine-school-district-its-not-for-my-kid-its-for-yours/

an-open-letter-to-brandywine-superintendent-dr-mark-holodick/

brandywine-threatens-8-million-in-cuts-if-referendum-doesnt-pass-40-teachers-at-risk-of-losing-jobs/

doc-holodick-gets-superintendent-of-the-year-patrick-wahl-gets-the-ed-parent-warrior-of-the-year-award/

 

Restraint & Seclusion Report For Delaware 15-16 Is Out… Numbers Rising…

The Delaware Department of Education released the Restraint & Seclusion report for the 2015-2016 school year.  The number of physical restraints this year were 2,695, up from 2,307 in 2014-2015.  That means there were 388 more physical restraints of students last year compared to the year before.  I have to ask why everything is increasing with discipline in our schools.  I can’t help but think that Common Core really isn’t working, especially for students with disabilities.  Like last year, most of these physical restraints are going to students with disabilities and over half of them were African-American students.  The highest age group was 9-11, and boys were more likely to be restrained than girls.  You can read the full report below.  I broke it down last year, but I really don’t have the stomach for that today.

32 Questions: Delaware Candidates For Governor On Education

I sent education surveys to all four of the candidates running for Delaware Governor.  Three responded.  I want to thank all the candidates for responding.  Many of the questions I asked deal with the issues I write about on this blog.  The survey was sent a few weeks ago, so recent events such as the district-charter funding issue and Blockchain aren’t in here.

These were tough questions in many areas and I challenged the candidates to do some research with some of them.  In some areas, all three were in agreement and in others not so much.  There were 32 questions overall, dealing with issues concerning teachers, special education, Common Core, Rodel, Markell, FOIA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and more. Continue reading “32 Questions: Delaware Candidates For Governor On Education”

Regulation 616 Rears Its Ugly Head Again And Gets Blasted By Delaware ACLU

The approach the Department is taking shortchanges our most vulnerable children and puts Delaware’s future at risk.

PrincipalsOffice

At the end of last year, the Delaware Department of Education proposed amendments to Regulation 616 concerning due process procedures for alternative placement meetings and expulsion hearings.  In a nutshell, this regulation would make it easier to strip away the rights of students and parents in regards to school discipline.  This prompted a wave of negative comments from many concerned organizations and citizens in Delaware.  It started with the Smyrna School District Assistant Superintendent and went from there.  The State Board of Education tabled the changes at their December, 2016 board meeting.  Now Reg. 616 is back.  It was published in the June Registrar of Regulations.

As I wrote last year when this god awful and horrible regulation was introduced, this bill appears to be tailor made for charter schools.  To kick out the unwanted.  Why does the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education even consider this kind of nonsense?  Especially since there were laws passed dealing with this exact sort of thing.  Furthermore, Senate Bill 239, if passed, would have been the opposite of this bill.  I’m hearing this bill will come back roaring in the 149th General Assembly.  It was a question of timing for why it didn’t pass this spring.

Disproportionality is a big word these days and it needs to be.  We are seeing the results of what can happen when the pendulum swings too far in one direction.  The Delaware DOE and the State Board are taking a huge step backwards in a time when they should be getting out of this mindset.  If our charter schools want to completely change the direction of Delaware schools while everyone else is saying no, perhaps the time has come for them to change.  This isn’t Little House on the Prairie anymore.  They need to stop relying on funding from the state and the citizens who actually produce the funding for them to run as quasi-corporations and become what they should have been in the first place: private schools charging tuition.  Let’s see how successful they are then when they aren’t using their “autonomy” when it suits them best and then ditching that concept when things aren’t equal.

REGULATION 616

ACLU COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

ATTORNEY GENERAL’S COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

DSCYF COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

GACEC COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

SCPD COMMENTS ON REGULATION 616

Statewide Code Of Conduct For Delaware? Journey Back 24 Years Ago To The Report On It

School climate is becoming an issue again.  We have a couple bills pending in the Delaware General Assembly.  We had a brutal murder at one of our high schools two and a half weeks ago.  What if we all got together and really took a look at all of this?  We did that 24 years ago in Delaware.  There are some interesting suggestions in here.  If you are confused about the Department of Public Instruction, don’t worry.  This is the former Delaware Department of Education.

UPDATED WITH VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION!!! Parents Concerned About Murder At Howard High School Should Go To District Board Meeting Monday Night

Updated, 8:32am: I have just heard from a few sources that the district has changed their meeting to their district office at 4pm.  And the meeting will be held in a conference room that holds a maximum of 15 people.  Apparently there is a Town Hall at Stubbs Elementary School tomorrow night which is being led by Wilmington Councilman Darius Brown, which precipitated the time change for the board meeting.  The district did reach out to advise me this is the reason for the board meeting change.  Several folks were upset about this, and I did suggest to the district they might want to change the board meeting to another night when parents and members of the community are more easily able to attend.  There is another Town Hall this week for parents to talk about the situation.  I will update that information when I know when and where.  One thing I would remind everyone to do is think of Amy and her family and friends.  And please continue praying for all of them.

Howard High School of Technology belongs to the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District.  The district has a board meeting Monday night, 4/25, at St. George’s Technical High School in their Media Center at 7pm.  Howard was the high school where Amy died last Thursday.  I believe the district has a lot to answer for.  While I don’t believe the district is directly responsible for what happened to Amy, there were circumstances that allowed the situation to happen in the first place.

NCCVTAgenda42516

Why are students allowed to enter the school at 7:15am in the morning to gather and do what they please.  I’m hearing hall monitors are sparse, when they do come, and when they arrive on time.  I’ve heard many who want to blame the teachers for what happened.  Nope.  They are in district mandated professional development during some of these mornings.  To accommodate this, the district changed the start time for the first classes a couple days a week.  Let’s make one thing clear right off the get-go: teachers hate professional development.  I don’t care how many surveys the Delaware Dept. of Education dredges out.  The abuse of Delaware teachers doesn’t begin and end with their evaluations.

Our school districts have become so enamored with the Delaware Way, that horrible situation where all tables must come to the table and compromise while the more powerful of the parties ends up getting their way (in most cases the state DOE/Rodel Foundation for education).

Could Amy’s death have been prevented?  I would like to think it could have.  One thing is crystal clear.  The discipline and fighting figures we see are not honest.  There may be a few out there, but I think a lot is going unreported.  There are things our schools are trying to hide which is making problems worse, not better.  In many of our schools, students hit teachers all the time.  They curse and roam the halls in some schools.  Some students are expelled or sent to alternative schools in the hopes they will become better students.  But the class sizes in these schools now make it impossible for a teacher there to get anything done.  There is also this absurd culture where students have no authoritative role models anymore.  Some of them don’t get it at home or school.  A school should not be the Band-Aid to cure what ails so many of our students.  But this seems to be what our state and the corporate education reform companies want.

Don’t get me wrong: students should not encourage fighting, nor should they build a blockade so teachers or other adults can’t stop what is going on.  The students involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  In my opinion, those who stood and watched while filming the tragedy should be held accountable as well.  They are just as guilty.  But the schools, districts and administrators who stand back and let these things happen time and time again need to realize how serious these things can get.  A student died in one of our schools in Delaware.  She was murdered.  We can’t forget that and it would dishonor Amy’s life to think otherwise.

The parents of students at Howard High School of Technology have every right to voice their concerns.  I strongly encourage all of them to attend the board meeting Monday night in Middletown.  If they are unable to get there, other parents should offer a ride or perhaps the district should arrange busing for them so they can make their voices heard.  This meeting could get very real and the district may be forced to hear things they would rather not hear.  But I’m sure Amy’s parents heard something they never wanted to hear the day she died.

Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

Delaware Met & Their Code Of Conduct: Circle Time Won’t Solve Some Of The Issues

The Delaware Met’s code of conduct is very confusing.  While it states they are using restorative justice, I am not hearing about it actually being used.  Restorative justice is defined as examining the harm done to an individual or a group and using that in lieu of punishment.  This sounds good in theory, but certain actions will still warrant suspension or other disciplinary measures.

Where it gets very tricky is if the student may not agree to the harm done to others.  If a student believes someone else started something, and they reacted (even if the reaction was stronger than the previous action), they may not see it as completely being their fault.  Where Delaware Met is most likely having issues (if they are even following this philosophy) would be what happens after the student disagrees with the restorative justice discussion.  The student may be suspended for additional days.  Where this becomes a bigger mess is if the student has an IEP.  Federal IDEA law states that if a student is suspended for ten days (whether from one punishment or cumulative punishments), a manifestation determination hearing must occur.  The purpose of this is to determine whether the behavior or actions are a manifestation of the student’s disability.

A parent commented on an article from yesterday about her daughter being out of school for a month.  The shenanigans stemming from this are not surprising given everything I have heard about this school.  Even the Delaware DOE is not seeing restorative justice happening at Delaware Met.  Even more concerning are allegations of “confinement”.  Whether that is an in-school suspension or some other type of disciplinary measure is yet to be determined, but those in authority in the state are looking into this.

To read Delaware Met’s code of conduct, please read the below document:

Legislation & True Education Reform That NEEDS To Happen For Schools, the State Board and the DOE In Delaware

I’ve talked about legislation that did pass, and bills that are still pending.  The following are bills that should happen given the current state of education in Delaware.  I strongly encourage our legislators to read this and start thinking about these ideas if you haven’t already.  If we really want meaningful change for students in Delaware, we need to start thinking outside of the very small box we have placed ourselves in with curriculum, assessments, transparency, accountability, discipline and special needs.  These are by no means my only ideas, but ones I feel could best benefit everyone involved in education in a meaningful way.  I welcome comment on these ideas and actual ways to move forward on these if consensus is reached on them.

1) A bill to mandate the Delaware Department of Education places any contract with any outside vendor, regardless of active or non-active status, on their website.  This shall include the original request for proposal, any bidders and their proposed bids within 10 business days after the selection of the contracted vendor, any addendums to the contract, change orders, or extensions, a clear and concise timeline for the contract, and any violations of the contract unless involved in current legal action.  As well, all funds released to such vendor must be fully transparent for each vendor along with the dates of such payment and the services rendered for those funds.  If any contract is in conjunction with another state Department, the Department of Education shall also release the same contract and financial information regardless of the reporting Department for the vendor.

2) A bill to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment as the state assessment for Delaware.  Any further state assessments developed in the state for the purposes of assessing Delaware students shall not be used for teacher evaluations and shall have no impact on a school’s accountability ratings, annual yearly progress, or the ability for a student’s retention or summer school options.  Any state assessment shall be used for informational purposes only to guide teachers and educators in best practices for instruction of students and further advancement of researched and normed best educational practices.  Any future state assessment must have a 3/4 majority vote in both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate in the event that item #10 on this list does not occur.  Any testing vendor or contract associated with a state assessment must clearly indicate on their request for proposal any method of data collection and disbursement, internet safety protocols, conflicts of interest, scoring system with open and transparent rules and regulations surrounding such system, and ability to collect, collate and disseminate the scores based on the educational material to the State Board of Education and all school districts, charter schools and vocational school districts in a manner which will give reliable, timely (within one month), and purposeful educational direction designed for the ability to help students progress to the next level and to identify key barriers on an individual and local level for any student achievement.  Any accommodation approved by an IEP or 504 team for the purposes of students with disabilities shall be honored as long as it does not prevent the student from actively taking part in such assessment.  Any student who appears to be having undue stress or anxiety while taking such assessment shall immediately be given the ability to stop the assessment and take it at a future time.  No assessment shall be more than three hours long and shall take up more than three school days.  Any section of any such assessment shall be given no longer than one hour increments for each. No elected Governor of Delaware shall issue an Executive Order for any such state assessment, curriculum associated with the state assessment, or state standards for any such assessment.  No local school district, charter, or vocational school district shall provide more than two assessments a school year, longer than two hours, as approved by the State Board of Education and the local school board of education based on the above and below criteria within this act.  This does not include final exams, mid-terms end of unit assessments, teacher created assessments, the SAT, ACT, or classroom quizzes.  None of these assessments shall create situations where a student is exposed to deductive reasoning or opinion based on any religious, racial, civil rights, violent, or current controversial issues that could create any type of belief system or cultural group to be affected, compromised, or in any way cause civil unrest or situations pitting students, parents or educators against each other.

3) The Delaware Department of Education and the State Auditor of Accounts will create a Comptroller General to oversee the financial flow of education funds coming in and out of all Delaware school districts, charter schools and vocational.  This comptroller shall report on a monthly basis to the State Board of Education on the financial viability of all the above as well as any red flags that come up during their constant review and monitoring of all state, local, and federal funds.  Any funds received by charter schools in the form of grants or donations, whether individual, group or foundation, shall be shown on the Comptroller General website as well as each charter school’s website.  The charter school website must show where the funds are allocated, the purpose, and the progress of those funds being spent.

4) An act to remove the provision regarding the State Board of Education.  Previously, the Governor appointed members to the State Board of Education.  All seven members of the State Board of Education shall be elected by the general populace during the general election occurring each Election Day in the state.  No member shall serve longer than a 3 year term, and term limits are set at two terms.  No member who previously sat on the Governor-appointed State Board of Education shall be able to announce candidacy for the State Board of Education.  The Executive Director of the State Board of Education shall be appointed by the General Assembly with a 3/4 majority vote in both the House and the Senate.  The make-up of the State Board of Education shall consist of the following: Three members from Newcastle County, two members from Kent County, and two members from Sussex County.  Three members shall be parents not affiliated with any state organization, department, group, commission or task force.  No legislators shall be a member.  Two members must be educators or former educators.  One member must be an administrator or former administrator.  One member must be either a special education educator or have sufficient special education background to represent the population of students with disabilities.  No member shall be on the board of any current school district, charter, or vocational technical district.  No member shall be employed or sit on the board of any past or present Department of Education contracted vendor.  This act removes the Cabinet position of Secretary of Education and any reports created through this duly-elected State Board of Education must be sent to the Governor within 3 business days.

5) All school districts, charter schools, and vocational districts must have on their website the following: the number of Individualized Education Programs (IEP) the school currently administers, to be updated by the 5th day of each calendar month; the number of applied for IEPs and the number of accepted IEPs, the number of administrative complaints filed with the Department of Education against the school in terms of special education, the number of mediations through the Department of Education, the number of Due Process Hearings and their decisions with redacted identifiable student information, the number of special education lawsuits the school has or had, and the financial awards, including any applicable attorney fees or other amounts of each resolution if applicable; no hearing officer of any Due Process Hearing or Administrative complaint shall serve on any other state Department, group, commission, council, or division.  The newly selected Due Process Hearing Council shall consist of five members, to be appointed by the duly-elected State Board of Education, and shall have the following qualifications: two parents of a child with a current IEP or last had an IEP within the past five years, one special education teacher currently employed by the State of Delaware, one member with a license to practice psychology, and one member with a license to practice psychiatry.

6) This act is to clarify that all schools must report any incidents of bullying, offensive touching, or fighting through the E-School or any such future designated system within two calendar days.  All perpetrator and victim reports must be filled out.  Any incident with a perpetrator or victim on this system shall be communicated with the parent or legal guardian of the student within 3 business days and signed by the parent or legal guardian.  All such reports shall be given to the parent or legal guardian of a student along with their marking period or trimester report cards.  Any proven failure to follow this act more than 3 times over any rolling three month period shall results in a filing by the State Board of Education to the Delaware Attorney General’s office to conduct an immediate investigation of the school or district, which shall have public notice of such filing both on the school or district website along with the most circulated newspaper in each county, to determine if the school is considered a persistently dangerous school and if determined, the school shall notify all parents of this designation within 5 business days of this decision.

7) This act is to clarify the process of “manifestation determination” as dictated by Delaware state code and Federal law.  Any student on an IEP or Section 504 plan has clear and concise rights in regards to discipline.  In the event of multiple suspensions, currently 10, but with this act changed to 5, the IEP or 504 team must convene within five business days to determine if the actions associated with the suspension or expulsion were a manifestation of the student’s disabilities.  If it is determined by the team to be such, the school psychologist must do a functional behavioral analysis of the student within ten business days, report the findings to the team, and a behavioral intervention plan must be developed to assist the student with coping mechanisms, best proven practices associated with that particular disability to prevent such behaviors, and appropriate steps to educate students and all school staff in regards to the student’s disability as approved by the parent or legal guardian.  This act shall also apply if a student spends more than 30 hours out of the instructional classroom due to any discipline incident.  In the event the parent or legal guardian cannot be notified within 15 business days for any part of this process, one member of the duly-elected State Board of Education or the Due Process Hearing Council shall be appointed to represent the parent or legal guardian after all efforts to contact the parent have been exhausted within a 10 day period of time.

8) Any incident of an educator, school staff member, contracted vendor, or adult on school property or school function, seen by witnesses, whether student or adult, or viewed on school surveillance equipment, or reported by a parent after the fact in both writing and verbally, physically assaulting a student in retaliation or with malicious intent, including the following: punching, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, spitting on, biting, head butting, twisting any part of the student’s body with intent to cause discomfort, pushing to the extent the student falls down or falls into a surface to cause any type of mark on the student’s body, struck with a foreign object, or seen to actively notice and not react in  a timely manner while other students engage in such activity against a student, shall result in the school administrator, or designated appointee, district superintendent, or designated appointee determining of the local law enforcement shall be contacted and an emergency convening of the local board of education within three business days with a quorum present to determine the nature of the incident and if any result of the action was through legal seclusion and restraint mechanisms as allowed by state law, and what the next appropriate steps shall be.  This information must be reported to the State Board of Education and the Attorney General’s office within 24 hours.  If either body determines the local board did not act in the student’s best interest, such adult will be terminated without pay or pension if employed by the state, or banned from the school property or any school function if not.  Collective bargaining rights, if applicable, shall be suspended during this investigation.  The local educators association, if applicable, must be notified of any such investigation within 24 hours and both the agency and the educator must be notified of the exact details of the allegation.  In the event of any such action where the school is legally bound to contact law enforcement under state code and regulation, any decision determined by the state court system shall supersede any decision by the local board or state board of education.

9) This act shall remove Title 14, paragraph 508, section 347 of state code, the provision that charter schools shall keep any excess transportation funds over the contracted bid with any school bus company.  In the event a charter school or school district owns the school buses, they must report on a monthly basis on their website, to the State Board of Education, and the Comptroller General all receipts for fuel, tolls, bus driver wages, repairs, estimates for repairs, and any maintenance receipts or costs for such buses.

10) Any Federal mandated curriculum, assessment, waiver, or regulation designed to give any type of educational direction to any school, student, or educator must be approved with a 3/4 vote by the following coalition of representatives: The State Board of Education, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association and each local president of the local educators associations based on a majority vote by each member of such local organization, three members of each school district board of education, one member from each charter school board of education, one member of each vocational school district, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators based on a majority vote by that body, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Organization based on a majority vote of that membership, and five Delaware State Representatives, three of which must be on the House Education Committee, three Delaware State Senators, two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee, and a State Board of Education appointed “50 Parent Council” consisting of the following: 22 parents from Newcastle County, 15 parents from Kent County, and 13 parents from Sussex County, all of which must have children currently enrolled in Delaware public schools with at least four years left in school, and not a member of any of the other organizations listed on this act.  This body must then approve any such Federal education designation with a 3/4 majority vote.  Any Federal funding linked to such curriculum, assessment, direction or regulation, shall be a means to give punitive action to any school, student or educator, nor shall a rule, threat or veiled threat of the removal or reduction of any mandated Federal funding give rise to intimidate, bully or coerce any type of public school establishment or state governing body into accepting these actions on a Federal level.

11) All state employees associated with any type of disbursement of educational funds, or employed to receive any such funds, with approval by the Comptroller General and the local board of education shall, in the event of the issuance of a state purchase card, list on the school or district website any and all receipts for such purchases, the reason for the purchase, and the exact description of the purchase designed for and approved under norms and regulations as determined by the Comptroller General and the State Board of Education to best serve the education of students in Delaware.

12) All school district and charter school board meetings must be digitally recorded and live-streamed from their websites.  Minutes from non-executive sessions of board meetings must be posted on the school website within two business days if any action items were voted on or discussed to give parents and citizens the ability to view these items.  All recordings must be placed on the school website within three business days of such board meeting.  All boards must have a clear and concise agenda listed one week prior to any board meeting along with a description of any action items.  All school board meetings must take place at either the district office or a school within the district.  No board meeting shall take place at any location outside of these two designated areas, including any retreats which shall also be open to the public with the above rules and regulations.  This will also include the State Board of Education.

13) The convening of a task force to determine how the Department of Education in Delaware effectively guides and determines best education policies for students in Delaware. No member of this task force shall be any past or present employee of the Department, or any contracted vendor employee currently or in the past receiving any funds from the Department.  This task force must consist of the Governor, three members of the duly-elected State Board of Education, the Comptroller General, the President of the Delaware State Educators Association, the President of the Delaware Parent Teacher Association, the President of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, three board members from each traditional school district, one member from each charter school and vocational district, 5 parents from Newcastle county, 3 parents from Kent County and 3 parents from Sussex County, two special needs advocates, two parents of special needs students, two members from any minority-based Civil Rights group, and nine State Representatives (three of which must be on the House Education Committee) and five State Senators (two of which must be on the Senate Education Committee).  This task force shall look at all best practices, rules, regulations, salaries, reporting structure, and communications within the Department and vote with 3/4 majority on proposed legislation to be reported to the Governor, publicly shown, and brought before the General Assembly within 30 days of the report or the first day of the assemblage of that body if after 30 days.

Charter School of Wilmington Story Still Has Many Questions About Due Process And Discrimination Left Unanswered

CSWStudent just wrote a comment on the CSW story that really showed me a different picture of the school:

Some important things that this article ignores.

Firstly, the description of the distribution of ethnicity at Charter vs. the demographic of Wilmington, DE. The Charter School of Wilmington conducts its admittance based on an entrance exam. This exam is open to everyone, including the entire eight grade population of Wilmington. As a current student at CSW, it is to the best of my knowledge that there is a very slim number of the city of Wilmington residents that even apply to the school. This could likely be because students in the city may not feel like they have received an education that adequately prepares them for the rigor of CSW, which presents a new problem entirely. The education of Wilmington during the middle school years needs to be boosted and improved to a level where the students from that demographic can excel in the environment that CSW supports.

CSW is not a school for everyone. What makes it so special to me is the drive and motivation that every student there possesses. I am one of four kids from my middle school that was accepted at CSW. We applied, were accepted, and excel because we take the extra step, we attend seminars, we do extracurriculars. It has nothing to do with discrimination. If you meet the standards of the school, you have as good a chance as ANYONE else to get in.

Similar to the student in this article, I am not the general mold that you describe. I live out of the Red Clay School District, I don’t “comb my hair to the side”, and I take the bus every day as a senior (I would love a pick-up truck). I know the student who this article is mentioning, and I disagree in describing him as a minority who doesn’t fit in. I personally like him, and he has always been a popular, well known member of the community.

I love the Charter School of Wilmington. It has presented me with varying challenges that push my boundaries, and I have used the opportunities presented to me to push myself and learn all that I can. Articles like this slander the name and reputation of a school that provides an incredible environment for exceptional and unique students. I have never once seen any form of discrimination, and personally am upset by these accusations.

To which I responded:

Thank you for your comments CSW student. I think your comments do more to prove my point about selective student enrollment than anything I could have ever written. I never said the student didn’t fit in. CSW should be a school for everyone. I attended an Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting discussing the very idea of placement tests as a method of enrollment. It was overwhelmingly agreed by all but 2-3 people on this task force of about 20 members, that any placement test should be given AFTER a student was accepted. You wrote “this article slanders a school that provides an incredible environment for exceptional and unique students”. Would you like to know who else has exceptional and unique students? The rest of Delaware. In fact, the term “exceptional” in Delaware typically means students with disabilities, of which CSW has .2% of their students on an IEP. The discrimination happens before a student ever gets through the door there. By picking these “exceptional and unique students” the discrimination has already been committed.

Furthermore, your comments show exactly why CSW has the “reputation” it does as an outstanding school. Which is causing me to rethink some things. This article proves CSW may keep certain people out of the school but they can’t keep everyday problems out of the school. But they sure can do their best to cover it up to make everything look pretty on the outside. You have inspired me for my next article. Thank you.

I posted earlier today about a fact that was not given to me until after I posted my article on Sunday.  In examining this fact, it may not be the overall “smoking gun” it appears to be.  There are still several questions about due process on the school’s part that have not been answered to my satisfaction.  So I will challenge the Charter School of Wilmington to reach out to me to present those facts.  Because here’s the bottom line: no matter what evidence the school thinks they had, did they follow state code and law in determining guilt or innocence?  Was their coercion involved?  Why did they not notify the police right away?  Why did the police wait 23 days to make an arrest which just happened to be the student’s 18th birthday?  Where is the paperwork involved with this incident?  Can the school provide any of this paperwork?  Why did they wait so long to report it to the DOE when state law says they have to submit it within two business days?  Would they have reported it had the mother not already called the DOE and found out there was NO reporting of the incident?  Did the school make their “deal” of suspension with services and no walking at graduation or expulsion to all four of the students involved?  Can they legally make “deals” like that?  How many “deals” have they performed without public knowledge?  Are they aware this greatly affects public impressions of their school by skewing the data involved when parents seek out schools for their children?  Did they follow state law for search and seizure? Were they allowed to search through a student’s cell phone and open up apps?  Was there involvement by the Board of Directors during any of this process?

I’ve received many comments from folks who I believe to have strong ties with Charter School of Wilmington.  They are all anonymous.  They have asked me to prove one case of discrimination against the school.  Look at their demographics.  It may be legal in Delaware, but don’t think it doesn’t spit in the face of every single Title I, IDEA and civil rights law in the country.  This is a charter school pretending to be a private school, and Delaware has allowed this for seventeen years.  We can all sit here and pretend they are the best school in the state, but let’s not forget how they got there.

As for Bill and his mother, were mistakes made, yes.  I even made some mistakes with this story.  But when does one story become bigger than the individuals involved and the heart of it becomes a systemic issue within the school?  In my opinion, if the school is concealing information with regards to incidents happening there, then they are allowing these incidents to happen in the first place.  And then they want to complain when one mother wants to stand up and fight this system?  In my eyes, no matter what Bill did, concealing incidents at a school and giving students and parents a “Sophie’s Choice” with discipline is manipulative and deceitful.  Is it to protect the students or is it to cover their own ass?

**Updated**5/20/15, 10:13pm: I do not expect CSW to provide documentation to me concerning this incident.  What I do hope to see is this issue seeing the light of day in regards to due process, and as a result of that, this documentation would be seen by someone who would be able to render a legal decision on due process in this case.

Charter School of Wilmington & Discrimination: Student Denied Due Process and Subject To Potential Profiling By Head Of School

When people think of the Charter School of Wilmington, they think about one of the highest-rated high schools in the state.  But beneath the shiny veneer, there is a very dark undertone that is pervasive throughout the school.   This became clear to a student who I will call Bill (to protect his identity), and his mother, Michelle (also protecting her identity).  Bill’s story is the part about Charter School of Wilmington nobody from the school will admit or own up to: a culture of superiority and class, with very few minorities other than Asians.  The very few minorities that are present at the school are few and far between compared to most Delaware schools.  For Bill, what happened to him could easily be seen as racial or even class profiling, or both.

Charter School of Wilmington has the following profiles for race: 63.7% White, 26.4% Asian, 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic/Latino, .4% American Indian and .3% Hawaiian.  For special education they have .2% of their students with an IEP, and no Early Language Learners in attendance.  In 2013-2014, no student was held back.  For those reading this, if you are not familiar with Wilmington, Delaware, it is a city with racial demographics as follows: 58% African-American, 32% White, 12% Hispanic/Latino, Below 1% for Asian, and Below 1% for Hawaiian.  So how does a charter school in Wilmington have such a vast difference in student populations compared to the population of the largest city in Delaware?

While some may call it cherry-picking, others call it enrollment preference, and with CSW, they add the extra layer of “specific interest” for their rigorous academic curriculum.  The school was named in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the local school district, Red Clay Consolidated School District, along with the Delaware Department of Education.

Bill belongs to one of the above minorities at CSW.  But you wouldn’t know it to look at him.  According to his mother Michelle, Bill looks as white as most of the students at the school.  What sets him apart is the fact that “he doesn’t fit the mold of the typical CSW student.”  He does not come from an affluent family, he lives downstate, he doesn’t comb his hair to the side, he drives a pick-up truck, and he doesn’t dress like his peers.  Michelle describes Bill as a young man who is very mechanical and always ready to fix something.  Bill is, however, a brilliant young man with a 3.2 grade point average, and he was already accepted to one of the state universities with a scholarship.  Bill’s mother also gave permission for me to tell Bill’s story.

On March 26th, 2015, everything changed for Bill.  What happened after to Bill was a denial of procedural due process and discrimination.  Bill’s mother received a call from the school that afternoon at 2:28 pm  to pick up Bill.  This is Michelle’s accounting of what happened: Continue reading “Charter School of Wilmington & Discrimination: Student Denied Due Process and Subject To Potential Profiling By Head Of School”