The Christina Board of Education voted last week to accept the settlement concerning the lawsuit filed by 15 charters against them and the Delaware DOE. Next week, an action item submitted by a board member could cause a tsunami of controversy. As well, there is another action item that will certainly cause another ordeal just by being there.
Controversial House Bill 250 Released From House Education CommitteeBullying, House Bill 250
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams introduced House Bill 250 on January 20th. Today it appeared before the House Education Committee and it was released based on its merits. The bill would make it so parents can’t choice their child out of a school for good cause unless a bullying incident is considered to be substantiated. Normally I agree with 99% of the legislation Rep. Williams sponsors but this one I cannot give my full support to without major changes. From the synopsis of HB250:
In 2014, the Legislature passed a bill adding instances of “reported and recorded” bullying to the list of reasons why a child could be withdrawn from a choice or charter school before the expiration of the statutory minimum enrollment period or why an application for admission or withdrawal could be accepted outside of the statutory timeframe for submission. This bill seeks to clarify and strengthen that law by adding a requirement that the instance of bullying must also be substantiated. This will ensure the integrity of the law by limiting its exploitation by persons who wish to change schools for unrelated reasons, but preserving the exception for children truly in need of special consideration due to school bullying.
My fear with HB250 is the schools and districts themselves. I have heard many times from parents that they submitted a bullying report that was not substantiated by the school even though it was clearly a bullying incident. While Rep. Williams states parents used the “good cause” related to bullying as an excuse to choice their child to another school, the flip side of this legislation is far more dangerous. What happens if a student is bullied and the school never substantiates that bullying? Even when it clearly is bullying? Isn’t that putting a student at serious risk of harm or injury by not allowing the parent to choice their child out of that school?
I’m not saying every school or district does this. But some facts can’t be ignored. If a school has too many bullying and violent incidents, they can be labeled as an “unsafe school”. Schools don’t want this which is why we don’t always see more substantiated bullying incidents. Christina School District had the Office of Civil Rights come down on them because they had too many suspensions for minority students. I’ve heard from many teachers in Christina that they have to be very careful with suspensions because of that. As a result, things that are indeed bullying could be looked the other way due to the OCR ruling. Many Delaware schools and districts took careful note of that.
I think with a bill like this there should be a clause that all bullying incidents be reviewed by a neutral third-party if a parent disagrees with the unsubstantiated ruling from a school administrator. I don’t agree parents should use “good cause” as an excuse to choice their child out if no bullying is happening. But at the same time, keeping any student at a school where there is a chance they could be bullied more is not safe to do.
State Rep. Kim Williams Looking To Change “Good Cause” School Choice Options For School BullyingBullying, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, Good Cause, House Bill 250
Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams introduced a bill yesterday concerning school bullying and when a student can transfer to a different school when “good cause” has been established with school bullying. The current law does not specify what category of bullying can trigger such a transfer. Rep. Williams legislation would create a new law requiring the bullying to be a substantiated incident. This would mean an official bullying complaint would need to be filed by the parent or guardian at the school, who would in turn have to rule bullying did occur. All Delaware schools are required to report this information to the Delaware Department of Education.
This bill would prevent parents from just switching out students without a valid good cause, which unfortunately happens at times in Delaware. The current law does not protect the schools and the loss of funds when these events occur. While some parents may take issue with this due to schools not ruling a bullying incident as substantiated (which is a whole other issue which I would like to see improved), there are other options for parents to take should a school not agree with the complaint. All Delaware schools are required to have the website and contact information for the Delaware Ombudsman for Bullying Prevention through the Department of Justice.
In 2014, then Lieutenant Governor Matt Denned issued a statement regarding the responsibilities of schools reporting bullying incidents:
“It is encouraging to see the progress our schools have made in keeping parents informed about bullying, because that was one of the primary goals of the 2012 legislation,” said Attorney General Denn who co-authored the 2012 legislation as Lieutenant Governor. “But our schools clearly have more work to do in letting parents know what recourse they have when bullying does occur, and the state needs to do a better job accurately tracking bullying incidents so we can accurately monitor our overall progress.”
All bullying complaints, whether substantiated or not, are required to be reported to the Dept. of Education and it is the school’s responsibility to enter the information on a system called E-School. I have always encouraged parents to request a copy of their child’s E-School report. This can be done at a school or district level in most situations. To read the legislation, please see below:
Delaware Met, The Commitment To Stay One Year, & Good Cause To Pull Your Child OutDelaware Department of Justice, Delaware MET
As parents have been trying to pull their children out of Delaware Met, some are being told they cannot because they signed an agreement to stay with the school for one year. What they may not be telling the parents are certain circumstances that override this part of the charter school law.
From Title 14 of the Delaware Code, paragraph 402:
(2) ”Good cause” shall mean a change in a child’s residence due to a change in family residence, a change in the state in which the family residence is located, a change in a child’s parent’s marital status, a change caused by a guardianship proceeding, placement of a child in foster care, adoption, participation by a child in a foreign exchange program, a reported and recorded instance of “bullying” against their child as defined in § 4112D of this title, or participation by a child in a substance abuse or mental health treatment program, or a set of circumstances consistent with this definition of “good cause.”
I would definitely say with what I am hearing about this school, there would be multiple circumstances that would allow a parent to utilize the “good cause” part of this law. If any parent feels the school is violating the civil rights of their child, whether it is through discipline or special education treatment, please contact Allison Reardon at the Delaware Department of Justice. She is in the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust. Her phone number is 302-577-5400. The Attorney General’s office can not do anything if information is conveyed to them from a 3rd party. They need to hear directly from parents or guardians, or even students. If the school is pressuring parents to keep their children there, they may not be within the legal bounds to do so.
In the meantime, I want to thank the Delaware DOE and the Delaware DOJ for taking these concerns seriously. Nothing is more paramount than the safety of our children.
Delaware Met Under Consideration For Formal Review At State Board Of Education Meeting This WeekDelaware MET
The Delaware Met certainly got the Delaware Department of Education’s notice, and not in a good way. This was just updated on the agenda for the State Board of Education meeting this Thursday. Now how this works, this is just a recommendation. It is presented to the State Board. The Acting Secretary of Education (Dr. Steven Godowsky) and the State Board have to give assent. I have a strong feeling this will happen. Here we go again…
|The DOE Charter School Office is seeking to submit the charter of The Delaware Met to formal review to determine whether the school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures under the Delaware Code.
The issues for formal review include, but are not limited to, concerns about the school’s compliance with its charter, financial viability, policies regarding student conduct and discipline, and appropriate strategies to accommodate the needs of at-risk students and those needing special education services.
In accordance with the requirements of 14 Del. C. . § 511(c), the Department is seeking the assent of the Acting Secretary and the State Board of Education to the formal review of The Delaware Met.
I’m hearing two founding members of The Delaware Met’s Board of Directors resigned from the board last night. As well, Innovative Schools is telling the board everything is going great, but the reality on the ground is vastly different. Parents want out, but they are being told the students can’t leave because it is after the September 30th date when schools in Delaware get their funding.
To anyone wishing to leave Delaware Met: You have something called “Good Cause”. If the school isn’t living up to their obligations in providing even a basic education and can’t get the school climate under control, you can present a case to the DOE. Call the Charter School Office tomorrow at phone number 302-735-4020. Let them know what is going on there and why you want to transfer your child out. This is a very unique situation with this school, and I can’t recall this happening before.
Delaware DOE: I’m not sure it is safe to keep this school open all year long. You may want to take a drastic step here for the benefit of all the students…