The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 9: Criminal Contempt & Finale

We reach the end of our series.  A new player joins the wide cast of characters with a very important role.  And what is J’s final fate?

In the last chapter, J was getting pummeled by various state agencies: The Smyrna School District, The State Board of Education, The Delaware Department of Education, and The Delaware Department of Justice.  For allegedly calling a girl a terrorist ten months earlier.  He was up on truancy charges.  The Delaware DOE rescinded the home school certificate four days after they approved one for her.  Is this kid ever going to get a break? Continue reading “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 9: Criminal Contempt & Finale”

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So Glad I Caught Your Attention!

It looks like the Smyrna School District Board of Education has been reading my series on the story of J and their harsh zero tolerance discipline tactics.  It turns out they are having a “special” board meeting dedicated solely to student discipline issues.  This comes right on the heels of my series about J.  Hey, Patrik Williams, you should give Dr. Mark Holodick up in Brandywine a call about this kind of stuff.  He is VERY familiar with these kind of issues.  So much so his district is taking a very good look at their own zero tolerance policies.

I haven’t heard from Patrik Williams since he emailed me a couple of weeks ago and I responded to him.  I am still working on the series about J.  To be honest, I’m trying to get a transcription of the hearing with the State Board of Education.  Going back and forth with that office on that issue.  And with a holiday coming up…  But if I don’t get it, I will come out with the next part with what information I do have.

If I were a parent in the Smyrna School District who has dealt with what you feel may be harsh discipline tactics, I would definitely attend this meeting.  The meeting notice doesn’t specify if they will have public comment or not.  Who knows, maybe I will show up!

Not A Good Day For Christina

In the “October Surprise” for the 2017 Delaware School Board Election season, Atnre Alleyne of DelawareCAN dropped a huge bomb all over Christina Board candidate Jeff Day’s campaign with less than a week before the election.  When a former News Journal reporter jumped in on the controversy, it fanned the flames… Continue reading “Not A Good Day For Christina”

President Obama’s Office Releases Massive “Rethinking Discipline” Report For Schools

Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”.  The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America.  I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools.  I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.

The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors.  On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue.  As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.

It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.

For now, please read the below report.

Dramatic Rise in Expulsions, Weapons, Fighting, Pornography, and Drug Use At Delaware Schools

The Delaware Dept. of Education released figures on School Conduct for the 2015-2016 school year.  In nearly every category there was an increase over the 2014-2015 school year.  One notable exception is a decrease in bullying reporting.  I contribute that not to a real decrease in bullying but schools not reporting incidents as bullying.  That has been an ongoing trend in Delaware.  Offensive touching and fighting/disorderly conduct went up dramatically over the year before.  Pornography and Production more than doubled.  These are very disturbing trends.  What is going on in our schools and districts?  What is happening to students that these numbers keep going up and up?  It will be interesting to see these numbers in a year now that legislation passed where schools don’t have to call the police for many incidents such as fighting/disorderly conduct.

I will attempt to break this down by district and charter schools, and then each school.  That is a lot of hours to do, so please be patient.  None of these reports break down sub-groups or demographics in these offenses and incidents.  So we are unable to see the race or ethnic breakdowns for these or if the students were special education or English Language learners.  The first numbers are for the 2015-2016 year followed by numbers from the 2014-2015 year.

SCHOOL CRIMES

Violent Felonies: 137 (138)

Gun-Free School Offenses- Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, Starter Gun, Explosives/Incendiary Device: 16 (8)

Weapons Offense: Destructive Weapon, Dangerous Weapon, Dangerous Instrument, Pellet Gun, BB Gun, Knife, Razor Blade/Box Cutter, Brass Knuckles, Bat, Club, Martial Arts Throwing Star: 238 (196)

Drug Offenses: 582 (556)

Assault III: 373 (264)

Unlawful Sexual Contact: 56 (26)

Terroristic Threatening Employee Victim: 0 (0)

School Offenses: 0 (0)

 

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OFFENSES

Pornography- Possession and Production: 50 (22)

Criminal Mischief (Vandalism): 434 (316)

Alcohol, Possession and Use: 88 (80)

Drug Use/Influence: 320 (294)

Felony Theft ($1,500 or more): 2 (4)

Bullying: 1,260 (1,320)

Offensive Touching of a Student: 8,156 (6,134)

Terroristic Threatening of a Student: 752 (560)

Sexual Harassment: 272 (246)

Fighting/Disorderly Conduct: 10,450 (8,680)

Inhalants: 10 (2)

Drug Paraphernalia: 176 (148)

Tobacco Possession and/or use: 686 (782)

Medications- Inappropriate Possession and/or use: 58 (56)

Under 12- Assault III Student Victim: 66 (22)

Under 12- Assault III Employee Victim: 22 (22)

Under 12- Unlawful Sexual Contact III Student Victim: 18 (6)

Under 12- Unlawful Sexual Contact III Employee Victim: 2 (0)

Offensive Touching Employee Victim: 1,217 (808)

Terroristic Threatening Employee Victim: 324 (188)

Teen Dating Violence: 6 (8)

Tampering With Public Records: 0 (0)

 

SUSPENSIONS/EXPULSIONS:

Suspensions (Out of School and In School): 49,629 (47,473)

Expulsions: 123 (95)

Days Suspended/Expelled: 114,666 (98,020)

Unduplicated Students Suspended/Expelled: 17,258 (16,852)

Student Enrollment (9/30/15): 136,027 (134,932)

Percent of Students Suspended/Expelled (Out of School and In School): 13% (12%)

Suspensions (Out of School): 27,372 (25,151)

Days Out of School for Suspension and Expulsion (one day or more): 89,983 (72,848)

Unduplicated Students Suspended (one day or more) or Expelled: 12,063 (11,557)

Percent of Students Suspended (out of school) or Expelled: 9% (9%)

 

SUSPENSIONS/EXPULSIONS BY CATEGORY:

Department of Education Offenses: 10,359 (8,623)

School Violations: 38,651 (38,292)

School Crimes: 739 (653)

 

EXPULSIONS BY SERVICES PROVIDED:

Expulsion with CDAP placement: 54 (44)

Expulsion with services: 45 (31)

Expulsion without services: 24 (20)

 

Breaking News: Special Education Nuclear Blast Will Take Place In Delaware In The Next Month

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a hurricane in Delaware Special Education.  This year I predict a full-blown nuclear blast.  The Exceptional Children Resource’s Group at the Delaware Department of Education will release their FY2014 Special Education Compliance & Results report they must submit to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs in the next month.  The results are going to be catastrophic for Delaware.  We will be labeled as “needs intervention” once again.

This year’s results will be more controversial than any other year because out of the 43 “indicators” identified by the US DOE this year, 28 of them are based on the state assessment.  In Delaware, that would be the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  In other words, 65.11% of Delaware AND each local school district or charter school’s rating scale will be based on Smarter Balanced.  Participation rate will tie into this.  Delaware did not make the participation rate of 95% for students with disabilities in ANY grade.  So that is 32.65% of the rating.  The other 32.65% is based on proficiency goals for both ELA and Math.  What is odd though is the Math goals are based on the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced scores but the ELA goals are based on the 2013-2014 DCAS scores.  The other new indicators are results tied to early childhood learning to elementary learning in three different areas covering “growth” and “expectation” for a total of six categories.  These new weights total nearly 14% of the rating.  Other new “results” indicators are graduation rates and drop-out rates, which Delaware did not hit the goals for either one.

In terms of compliance, which used to account for 100% of the Annual State Improvement Plans from the US DOE, this year it only counts for less than 14% of the entire report.  Delaware came in at the halfway mark for this section.  Indicators in this section included disproportionality in all disabilities or specific disabilities (much more of one disability over another, like ADHD for example), a disproportionate amount of suspension rates for minority students who are also students with disabilities, initial evaluation timelines, pre-school transitions, and secondary transition (making sure students with disabilities who transition from middle school to high school are part of their IEP team).  Delaware did perfect in the disproportionality sections, but the other areas fell well below the goals.

The report on this hasn’t come out, but the Delaware DOE did send letters to each school district and charter school in the state.  Based on the numbers in each of these letters, I was able to determine Delaware will be labeled as “needs intervention” this year by the US DOE.

The following districts and charters were labeled as “needs intervention”: Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, Lake Forest, Red Clay, Woodbridge, Campus Community School, Delaware College Prep, EastSide, Prestige Academy, Thomas Edison and students handled through the Department of Students, Children, Youth and their Families.

The following districts and charters were labeled as “needs assistance”: Appoquinimink, Cape Henlopen, Capital, Delmar, Indian River, Laurel, Milford, Smyrna, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Kuumba Academy, Las Americas ASPIRAS, Positive Outcomes, and Providence Creek Academy.

What is interesting is the charters who have very few students with disabilities or very low populations of intensive or complex categories did extremely well this year.  Out of the 43 indicators, the Charter School of Wilmington only qualified for 1 which they passed.  Delaware Military Academy only had 6.  None of the charters and a few districts did not qualify for the pre-school indicators.  When I determined Delaware’s rating, I factored out any district or charter that was not applicable for any of the 43 indicators.

The participation rates were based on the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I find it hysterical that they are using Smarter Balanced for this report.  The goals for Smarter Balanced Math on this report was a proficiency rating of 15% for students with disabilities.  All grades with the exception of 11th grade passed that goal.  But the participation rates, compliance indicators, and early childhood learning all brought Delaware way down this year.  When the final numbers come out, I predict we will be at 37.21% for our overall percentage with US DOE.  For the ratings systems, 80% and above is “meets requirements”, 60% to 79% is “needs assistance”, and 59% and below is “needs intervention”.

To see how your district or charter school did, check out this page on the Delaware DOE website.  Letters were sent out to each Superintendent or Head of School (charters) on May 31st.

Let me be the first to say I think it is utterly preposterous they are using the Smarter Balanced scores and participation rates for this report.  It is ludicrous to think it accounts for nearly two-thirds of it.  For those who ever thought testing is good, not only are teachers evaluated based on the scores, but our schools are now going through double jeopardy based on the scores and participation rates, especially schools with high populations of low-income and minority students who ALSO have high populations of students with disabilities.  I don’t accept this report and see it as utter garbage.  While some of the compliance indicators, the graduation rates, and the drop-out rates are worthy measures, the rest of it is utter crap.  I’ve said this last year and the year before, but there are so many other worthwhile things they could be measuring with these annual reports.  Such as IEPs being implemented with fidelity, IEP denials, and parent feedback.  In fact, the only thing remotely surrounding parents in this is participation rates, and that is an extreme dig at parental choices that are not against the law.  Delaware and the US DOE will NEVER learn…

I hate to be the deliverer of bad news, but once I saw these letters and what they were measuring, I knew I would be spending the rest of my day figuring all this out.  The last time we got a “needs intervention” in Delaware, back in 2014, Governor Markell announced the creation of a Special Education Strategic Plan.  He set aside funds in the FY2015 budget for this.  Almost two years later and this Strategic Plan still hasn’t seen the light of day.  But a former Rodel employee with very little special education background is getting paid a very nice salary as part of the Secretary of Education’s office.  Matthew Korobkin is in charge of this “strategic plan”.  So far the only thing I’ve heard is how much the Autism community in Delaware was pissed off at him for essentially trying to copy their Autism Blueprint into his strategic plan.  Money well spent Jack!  An IEP Task Force, formed in the General Assembly in 2014, did create legislation that is just now going into effect, but the task force never reconvened even though this was a huge discussion point towards the end of the first round.

Is Regulation 616 A Gift For Delaware Charter Schools To Kick Out The Unwanted?

PrincipalsOffice

Tomorrow the Delaware State Board of Education will vote on Regulation 616.  This regulation concerning school suspensions, expulsions, and out of school placements (alternative schools) is very controversial.  I wrote in December about the Assistant Superintendent from Smyrna’s very funny letter about this regulation, but many more have come in and they are all very alarming.  The biggest of which is one from the American Civil Liberties Union, as seen below:

Continue reading “Is Regulation 616 A Gift For Delaware Charter Schools To Kick Out The Unwanted?”

Glitch In DOE Reporting Fails To Show School Offenses & Crimes Data For Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware College Prep, & Delaware Military Academy

How about those apples? I actually found a huge technicality in the DOE reporting system for bullying and the DOE fixed it in record time.  Contrary to popular belief, things at the Red Clay charter schools are NOT as rosy as the past couple years of bullying and discipline reports provided by the Delaware Department of Education would have you believe.  I was very puzzled when I saw, for two years in a row, none of these three charters had their individual reports come up on the DOE School profiles website.  I emailed John Sadowski, the Program Manager for Climate and Discipline at the DOE this morning and advised him of this.  As of 12 noon, the reports are now available.

I’m not sure what happened, and it didn’t change the Annual bullying report I posted this morning, but it does show some things parents would not have seen before this fix.  I would like to believe this happened because of the odd nature of Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware College Prep and Delaware Military Academy being the only charters in the state authorized by a school district.  In this case, the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Using Delaware College Prep as an example, this is the only information parents could see for them on the School Profiles page of the DOE website:

Number of Reported Offenses (2014-15)
School District State
School Crimes (Title 14, Delaware Code, §4112) 1 74 678
Department of Education (DOE) Offenses 23 1,239 10,432
All School Safety Policy in Place N/A
Suspensions and Expulsions
2014-15
Number of Suspensions 44
Number of Expulsions 0
Count of Students Suspended/Expelled 23
September 30 Enrollment 569
Percent of Students Suspended/Expelled 4%
District Percentage 11%
State Percentage 12%

When you hit the tab for details in both these sections you get to see a breakdown for this data as you can see in the below reports. But before 12 noon today, it didn’t come up for the three Red Clay charters while it did for every other public school in the state.  I put up both the reports for Red Clay, before and after so you can see the difference.

Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 6:59am, 10/7/15.
Red Clay Consolidated Combined Report 2014-2015, 12:25pm, 10/7/15
Charter School of Wilmington Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware College Prep Combined Report 2014-2015
Delaware Military Academy Combined Report 2014-2015

So what got me all interested in Red Clay charters and these reports?  It had a lot to do with this article.  I knew the student was suspended for many days over suspected drug activity. I wanted to be sure Charter School of Wilmington reported it right to the state since that was part of the issues at the time. I believe they did, because it shows 20 students were suspended from the school for a total of 118 days.

I don’t believe this was an intentional mistake on the DOE’s part, but oversight and making sure all the reports came up would have been prudent. I’m glad they fixed it though and parents can see what actually happens in terms of reportable offenses at these three schools.

With the current issues Delaware College Prep is going through, knowing they have had 18 fights and a violent felony might be something the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education may want to know about. Although I am curious what the two Delaware DOE offenses are for Delaware Military Academy with nothing checked off in the sections for that category.  Maybe they aren’t done fixing it…

The Delaware Met Down For The Count A Month Into The School Year

Today, I got an email from someone about The Delaware Met closing next week.  Usually, I want to get more information on something like this, so I reached out to the Delaware Department of Education and the leaders at the school.  Not one response.  I put out some more feelers, and it looks like this story has some weight to it.  I don’t have specifics, but I’m hearing about multiple incidents of violence at the school, a student brought a gun to the school on the very first day, and students leaving the school in mass quantities.  The school just opened a month ago.

This school is being touted as a “Big Picture Learning School”, whatever that means.  But it looks like families aren’t buying it.  Is this a sign of things to come for Delaware charters?  I’ve heard that many of the new charters are not prepared for their students this year, despite what the DOE is saying.  I’ve heard of multiple special education issues going on at many charters this fall.

Back to The Delaware Met, I’m hearing their relationship with Innovative Schools has soured to the point of breaking.  This is not a situation where the DOE will be closing the school, but The Delaware Met will be voluntarily closing down.  Has that ever happened before in Delaware?  This is a charter school that met their enrollment figures last Spring when many other charters were struggling.  So what happened?  I’m hearing many of the students were at-risk students who were facing issues at other schools including potential expulsion and suspension issues.  I have no idea how many students at this school are students with disabilities.  But how prepared was the school to handle these issues?  If the allegations are true, not prepared at all.  It’s one thing to apply to open a charter and get through the DOE.  It is quite another to actually implement all the talk and ideas once the school opens.

The other night at the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission committee meeting on Charter-District Collaboration, a Red Clay principal actually advised the committee he is getting a lot of students transferring back to traditional schools from charter schools.  The charter movement in Delaware may be hitting the brakes folks.  Is the party over?  Between financial concerns, funding issues, transportation problems (more last year), special education, and Smarter Balanced results showing the most at-risk students in charters are no different than traditional schools, I think it is past time the Delaware DOE ended their love affair with the charter movement.

If the school were to voluntarily close next week, it would make sense because the school would receive funding based on their September 30th count.  Better to do it now than to wait until after they get funding…

Updated, 5:44pm: This story is gaining traction by the minute.  Multiple sources are confirming, but no official word from DOE or the school.  The only question is exactly when and how many students are actually left at the school….

Updated, 5:47pm: Other sources are telling me this school received a significant student population from Moyer, which was shut down by the state a year ago and closed it’s doors for good on June 30th, 2015.

Email Penny Schwinn At The DOE To Oppose The Opt-Out Punishment In The School Report Card!!!!

It appears the Academic Framework Working Group will have a few more meetings heading into September.  They will be finalizing their decisions at their September 23rd meeting.  Today I had a very cordial email exchange with Penny Schwinn, the Chief Officer of Performance & Accountability at the Department of Education.  I found out the next three meetings will be on 9/2, 9/17 and 9/23 and I asked Penny Schwinn if they could be made public and for more stakeholders added to this group.

Schwinn indicated other than the non-negotiable items mandated by the US DOE, which have to be in there, the other items have not been finalized, including the participation rate penalty and the growth measures.  She said no weights for the school report card have been finalized at this point as well.  I did share with her that I felt far too much weight, as proposed based on their March meeting, is tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  In addition, I did advise her more of the school culture, such as suspension & expulsion rates and even bullying statistics should be added, as this is a frequent concern for parents in any school choice.

Schwinn also shared that all Delaware Superintendents will receive emails about the next few meetings and all have been invited to attend. She did not say anything about the Board members in each district, but I did request the Board Presidents be emailed as well since they have a large say in district matters as well. I also asked if the meetings could be recorded and released on the DOE website to show a level of transparency for the public.

This measure the AFWG wants to have with a participation rates for standardized testing being multiplied by the school’s academic performance is a punishment against schools. It is out of the school’s hands if a parent opts their child out.  It is 100% a parent’s right and their decision.  Penny Schwinn did indicate she is more than happy to receive public input on this matter and anything associated with the school report card and welcomes any input.  So please email Penny Schwinn and the accountability department at the Delaware DOE, DOEAccountability@doe.k12.de.us and include me in the cc: section with kevino3670@yahoo.com so I can get an accurate feel for the opposition to this punishing measure.

I suspect the State Board of Education will attempt to vote on this at their October meeting, without true stakeholder input.  This could be very damaging for our schools and teachers and students.  A poor grade for a school can cause a lot of public perception to sway parents towards one school or another.  This School Report Card is vastly weighted with the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which can not and should not be a determining factor for how good or bad a school might be.

As well, email your legislator, the Delaware PTA, the school board in your district, and anyone who you think might be able to oppose this.  If you have children in Delaware public schools, talk to other parents.  Let the principal know you oppose this.  MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!  Whether you support or oppose opt-out, this is not an accurate measurement of a school!

The Coalition For Fairness & Equity In Schools Needs YOUR Help!

A new group has formed in Delaware called The Coalition for Fairness & Equity In Our Schools.  This group is looking for one thing in our schools, as per their Facebook page:

Diverse group advocating for statewide changes to discipline practices to eliminate suspensions for low-level offenses and adopt a restorative approach.

This group was convened by the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware to help eliminate the “school to prison” pipeline coming out of many of our schools in Delaware, specifically the Wilmington schools.  You can read more about them here.

To this end, they have started a petition which can be found below, and I strongly encourage all to sign in support of this petition.  As a special needs father, I have seen first-hand what disproportionate discipline can create, and so much of what these children are exhibiting are manifestations of their disabilities.  This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, but it also doesn’t mean punish whenever you want, which leads to social stigma that is very damaging for so many students with disabilities.  I have always promoted a simple mantra: work with the disabilities, not against them.  When anyone tries to fight something that is natural, it becomes stressful for all involved.  This can make a minor situation become infinitely worse.  It isn’t just about social groups for students either.  The adults have a HUGE responsibility in this as well.

I have seen multiple videos from other countries where students disabilities are celebrated, not hidden.  The classes and staff are educated on them, and this creates a much more tolerable environment for all involved: the student with disabilities, their classmates, the teachers, the staff, the admins, and the entire school.  Aside from all this, there are very specific laws regarding disproportionate punishments and manifestation determination.  In Delaware, and also under IDEA and Section 504 law, if a student is suspended more than ten times during a school year, the IEP team or 504 team must convene to determine if a behavior was a result of the disability.  A parent can also request this if they believe this to be true in a discipline situation.

What should result from this is the stakeholders involved get together, talk about the issues and behaviors, and the school psychologist should do a functional behavioral analysis.  Based on the results of this, a behavior intervention plan should be established with all parties agreeing, not just the administrators of the school.  And I would caution parents to be very careful about the wording of these BIPs as they are called.  I highly recommend knowing your child’s disability to the best of your ability, and find out what is typical or atypical behaviors associated with the disability.

When all efforts have failed, and a parent feels their efforts for their child are not being met, that is the time to take further action.  There are numerous things you can do, but one I do NOT recommend is taking that action through the Delaware Department of Education.  Their best solution seems to be “mediate” which is good, but this can also stifle your rights for your child.  Sometimes, as many special needs parents can attest to, you have to fight for your child.  The DOE methods of resolution do not have the best odds of working to your child’s benefit.  I’m sure they would disagree with me, but the bare fact that there have been NO due process hearings in Delaware for two years and a smattering of administrative complaints over a ten year period is testament to this fact.  Their way just doesn’t work.

Furthermore, the number of special education lawsuits when parents reach their wits end (not to get rich quick, that is NOT what happens with these lawsuits) has skyrocketed in Delaware over the past few years.  This is a more proven resolution method for far more parents than the DOE has ever helped over  the past decade.  In fact, many of the curriculums and specific IEPs the DOE wants (which are not part of approved federal IDEA law as brought before the U.S. Congress but resolutions and regulations tacked on by the US DOE with no Congressional approval), will wind up being more harmful to many students in the coming years as they are forced to adapt to national standards that are controversial at best, culminating in standardized assessments that on the surface purport to close the achievement gaps, but will in actuality further widen them.  This will in turn bring in more “consultants” and “non-profit companies” who need to  help these “failing” students.  All the while, teachers who don’t have the proper resources and are dealing with very large classrooms will be evaluated based on these high-stakes assessments.  This is why I don’t trust the DOE, and why any special needs parent should be very wary of them.

But back to this coalition, I am in full support of this group, and this is very needed in our state.  I just wish I had known about it sooner!  I would strongly encourage this group to take a very strong look at various disabilities and the neurobiological events that take place when so many of these “behaviors” occur, as well as the exponential increase of them when unneeded stress is placed on these students from the adults in the school.