The “Wahl” Bill Dealing With Zero Tolerance Policies On Weapons Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

There was so much activity going on Sunday night/Monday morning with bills passing left and right, I didn’t realize a very important one passed the Senate.  House Bill 176 passed the General Assembly and is waiting to be signed by Delaware Governor John Carney.  Anyone who has been following this bill and the backstory behind it knows this started with one father’s fight against the Brandywine School District.

Pat Wahl’s son was alleged to have brought a weapon into school and was suspended.  His father fought the charge but the Brandywine Board of Education voted on it and agreed to the administrator’s recommendation.  Wahl appealed the decision with the State Board of Education and won.  After a legal situation with the district, Wahl and Brandywine settled.  The result of the settlement was Brandywine would change their zero tolerance policies.  Wahl took it another step and spoke with State Rep. Deb Hudson.  As a result, House Bill #176 was born.  Congrats to Wahl, Brandywine, and State Rep. Hudson for taking what could have been a matter of sour grapes and actually creating something lasting for all Delaware Schools.

While HB #176 deals primarily with weapons, this could be the start of a whole new way of looking at school discipline.  As I’ve been writing the series about what happened to J in Smyrna School District, I have heard from several parents about similar kinds of situations.  It has become very transparent to me that the next leg of the Delaware 149th General Assembly needs some companion legislation to House Bill #176.  Pat Wahl had the time and the means to take things as far as he did, but not all parents are so fortunate.  Not to disparage Wahl in any way, but for every one of them, there are probably 25 parents who wouldn’t have the money, resources, or even knowledge to be able to fight these issues.  Which is exactly why I am tackling them: to spread that knowledge and shine a light on what many are seeing as a very heavy hand on the part of some school districts when it comes to discipline.

In the meantime, I will take this victory and raise a glass in honor of Wahl.  I look forward to Carney signing this and making this the law of the land in Delaware.

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I’m Calling This One The “Patrick Wahl” Legislation!

Parent power is very real in Delaware!  Look no further than House Bill 176, introduced today by State Rep. Deb Hudson!  This bill would give school boards and administrators more discretion for what is considered a “deadly weapon” other than a gun.  It even says in the synopsis of the bill .”this bill is a result of a recent case in the Brandywine School District.”  You don’t have to be a genius to figure this one out folks.  Wahl was down at Legislative Hall a couple of weeks ago for the PTA Day.

For some reason the PDF won’t download on Scribd so I will update it when it becomes available, but this would be the change to Delaware state code if the bill passes:

(6)  In the event that an elementary or secondary school student possesses a deadly weapon other than a firearm in a Safe School and Recreation Zone in addition to any other penalties contained in this section, the student shall be suspended for a period of not less than 30 days unless otherwise provided for in federal or state law.  The local school board or charter school board of directors may, on a case by case basis, modify the terms of the suspension.

Like I said, never underestimate parent power.  Wahl fought for over two years to get his son’s discipline removed from his record.  But he went a step further and as a result of a settlement with the district, a new policy was created in Brandywine.  Now it looks like Wahl is taking it to the next level so this policy goes statewide!  Congrats and thank you for your advocacy Pat Wahl!

 

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/

 

Doc Holodick Gets Superintendent Of The Year, Patrick Wahl Gets The ED Parent Warrior Of The Year Award!

Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, received the Superintendent of the year designation by his peers in the Delaware Chief School Officers Association.  I would like to put forth my award, that of the Exceptional Delaware Parent Warrior of the Year.  This award, nominated by a panel of one, goes to Patrick Wahl.  Wahl filed a lawsuit against the district over a discipline incident with his son last winter.  While Wahl opposed the Brandywine referendum, it ultimately passed.  Wahl has appeared on the Rick Jensen show several times and was interviewed by many of the major media outlets in the northern part of Delaware.  Many have chastised Wahl due to his perceived wealth, but the reality is that he is fighting the good fight for all students in the state.  Wahl did start a very serious discussion about discipline in our schools and showed us all it isn’t just an issue with minority or high-need students.

PatrickWahl

Congrats to Holodick and Wahl.  I hope you work everything out in the lawsuit and find a way to mend fences and maybe go out for a beer sometime.  In the meantime, here is what showed up on the Delaware DOE’s Facebook page with the same picture they put up with anything mentioning Holodick.  Time to get a new picture DOE!

DocHolodick

 

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Holodick, superintendent of the Brandywine School District, for being named the 2016-17 Delaware Superintendent of the Year by the Delaware Chief School Officers Association.

“We are extremely proud to have Dr. Holodick represent the Chief School Officers as our Superintendent of the Year,” said Dr. Victoria Gehrt, current President of the CSOA. “He is an outstanding leader who is very community based in his approach to addressing the needs of his school district. His knowledge of instructional best practices significantly impacts the success of the students who are served in the Brandywine School District.”

Dr. Holodick was appointed superintendent of the Brandywine School District in October 2009, after a long history with the district as a student, teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Prior to being named superintendent, he was principal at Concord High School and at a blended middle and high school in the Delmar School District. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at West Virginia Wesleyan University, his Master of Education at Wilmington University, and his Doctor of Education at the University of Delaware.

Since being appointed superintendent, Dr. Holodick has been committed to the foundation of the District: professionalism, customer service, equity, and meeting the needs of all students. He recognizes the importance of developing whole child through unique and diverse programming, after-school enrichment opportunities, athletics, arts, and of course a rigorous curriculum. Under his leadership, the district has invested resources to expand and increase access to programs such as AVID, Achievers Academy, International Baccalaureate, and most recently AP Capstone. Dr. Holodick was one of the four superintendents that helped spearhead the BRINC Consortium, an organization made up of school districts that focuses on personalized and blended learning, access to technology, and collaboration. BRINC has now grown to include seven districts across the state.

Both the Delaware Association of Educational Office Professionals and the Delaware Association of School Librarians have recognized Dr. Holodick as Administrator of the Year for 2016. He is a member of the statewide Vision 2025 implementation committee and the Claymont Lions Club and serves on the board of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, having previously served as both president and vice president. During the 2014-2015 school year, Dr. Holodick also served as the president of the Delaware CSOA.

“I am proud to represent not only the Brandywine School District, but also the thousands of educators across the state as the Superintendent of the Year,” said Dr. Holodick. “Like all of my colleagues in the 18 other districts in Delaware, I am committed to working together and sharing best practices to benefit all of the students entrusted to us. Indeed, it is an exciting time to be an educator!”

Doc Holodick, I have to ask… what does “Vision 2025” really do?  I thought it was “Student Success 2025” these days.  Or is it really “It Doesn’t Really Matter What We Call It, Our Goal Is To Take Over Education And We Get The Best Damn Eclairs At Our Annual Fiesta 2025”?

Did you vote in the Brandywine Referendum yet?

The Brandywine School District is having their second attempt at a referendum today.  To say both sides have come out swinging for the fences would be an understatement.  Politicians like Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper, and State Reps Bryon Short and Sean Matthews have all come out in support for the referendum.  Brandywine father Patrick Wahl appeared on the Rick Jensen show yesterday along with referendum leader James Hanby.  Wahl is claiming the district gave out absentee ballots to an assisted living home along with a host of other issues about the referendum.  The Delaware Dept. of Education came out with a letter yesterday indicating it erred with the number of administrators that show on the DOE website.  Teachers in and out of the district are urging citizens to get out and vote.  Brian Stephan wrote a post on Delaware Liberal yesterday addressing many of Wahl’s allegations.

GodowskyHolodick

We will know tonight if this attempt passed or failed.  It is getting very hard to keep track of what is truth and what is not, from both sides of the issue.  As of 12:55pm today, the New Castle County Dept. of Elections verified 2,085 people have voted already in 18 out of the 22 polling stations.  I’m not taking sides on this one folks.  There is too much mass confusion surrounding this one.  Most likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle in certain areas.  The important thing is to get out there and vote if you live in Brandywine.

Brandywine Responds To Referendum Allegations With “Accurate Facts And Information” Document

The Brandywine School District in Delaware will face their 2nd referendum attempt this year on May 17th.  Frequently in Delaware, referenda in Delaware has supporters and non-supporters.  I posted a video earlier today from Brandywine parent Pat Wahl.  The below document refers to a Brandywine employee who emailed the entire district last weekend with what the district claims is inaccurate information.  Brandywine responded to the email with a document defending some of the allegations.  While Mr. Wahl did make some similar claims in his video, what was addressed in this document was in direct response to the email sent from the district employee.  I have not seen the original email.  Nor have I seen an official response to Mr. Wahl’s video at this point.  I imagine it would be a long response since that video clocks in at over 23 minutes!

What Has Patrick Wahl Done Now?

Patrick Wahl has upped his video series from tackling the lawsuit he has against the Brandywine School District to attacking their referendum in his latest video.  Whether you agree with him or not, you can definitely say he has done his research!

You run for the local school board and you miss stuff like this!  Wow!

Amy, Skyline, Bomb Threats, Bus Issues, Fighting, Bullying, Inclusion, Zero Tolerance: How Do We Fix The Mess?

In the wake of what happened at Howard High School of Technology a week ago, many are questioning how to fix what is happening in our schools.  There are no easy answers.  I have not heard anyone defending the perpetrators of Amy’s murder.  But I have seen people describe students who exhibit behavior issues referred to as “animals” and “they should be sent to labor camps”.  While this is an extreme, I’ve heard these types of comments more than once, and I hear it more and more.  Once we go down that path we are essentially labeling these students as helpless and stating there is nothing we can do to help them.  And let’s face facts: when people say this there is a very racist undertone and they are referring to African-Americans.  I don’t agree with it on any level and every time I see it I want to ship the people who would say things like that out of our state.

Just this school year we have seen the following: a charter school that closed mid-year due to an uncontrollable environment, a change in feeder patterns resulting in many instances of bullying at a Red Clay middle school, a bizarre number of bomb threats resulting in many schools closing for the day, a child intimidated by a bus driver in Appoquinimink, a father suing Brandywine over what he alleges are due process violations and unsubstantiated searches, students sent to hospitals as a result of fighting that are never publicly acknowledged but whispered about on social media, inclusion practices that are not working, and a student who died from a brutal assault last week at Howard.

As our state grapples with these issues, we have not seen solutions put forth that look at the big picture.  Why are our students acting out?  Why are many of our schools attempting to hide many of these issues?  I have attended many State Board of Education meetings this year and I listen to their audio recordings.  We don’t hear them discussing these kinds of issues too much, if at all.  They seem to be more concerned with student outcomes based on standardized tests, Pathways programs, charter schools, accountability for schools, and celebrating the good things in our schools while giving short shrift to the issues that truly impact school climate.

It starts there.  To get to the heart of issues like this, you have to start at the top and have it trickle down to the Superintendents or Heads of School, to the building administrators, to the teachers, to the students and to the community.  If we have that massive disconnect at the top, the issues can never truly be addressed.  If our State Board and legislators can’t get these matters fixed, how can we expect our schools to do so?

To adequately blame one thing that started a lot of this, we can blame zero tolerance.  After the Columbine shootings in 1999, a massive wave of zero tolerance spread throughout America.  No school wanted to have a situation like that on their hands.  Students would be suspended for frivolous things.  It got to a point in Delaware where an African-American first grader was expelled in the Christina School District for having a cake knife.  As a result of that one bad judgment call, a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resulted in the district entering an agreement with the OCR.  Because the OCR ruled too many minority student suspensions were happening, the district had to be very careful about how they were meting punishment to students.  Other districts saw what happened to Christina and didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

As a result, there was no consistency throughout the state on best practices.  For all the accountability and “standardization” of students based on very flawed state assessments, there has never been any definitive set of standards for school discipline and school climate.  There is no consistency with how schools report instances of bullying, offensive touching, and fighting.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn pointed this out many times but there has been no direct accountability to schools over these issues.  Part of the problem with discipline issues is the unique nature of them.  Because of student privacy and FERPA regulations, many situations can’t be discussed publicly.  There is no accurate tracking method to make sure our schools are recording these instances on the state reporting system, E-school, as required by state law within a set time period.  The result is very bad data in the one area we actually need it the most.  Add in special education issues and behaviors exhibited by students with disabilities.  Is it a result of their disability or is it everyday behavior?  Sometimes we just don’t know.

Some schools are very faithful with recording issues, but far too many aren’t.  How do we know which schools need help with issues if they aren’t being 100% honest about what is going on in their halls?  What shape would that help even be?  If it is a punitive measure from the state, is that going to solve the problem or persuade schools to hide things better?  Non-profits and corporations are lining up to get into our schools to offer what amounts to for-profit assistance.  Under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a call for companies to come into our schools like never before to offer after-school programs and to turn our schools into all-day community centers.  As well, we are seeing some states allowing companies to essentially bet on student outcomes in return for financial profit through social impact bonds.  Many of these ideas are concerning to parents.  Should schools be a place where medical and therapeutic treatment for students occur?  For neglected and abused children, this could be a life-saving measure for those children.  But it also opens up more of our public education system to less control at the local level.  Many feel government should not even be allowed to write something like this into any law.  The Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was designed to make sure minority students were given equal footing in schools and were not disadvantaged.  Written in 1965, its goal was actually simple: equal rights for all.  Fifty years later, we are still tackling many of the original issues.  But now we want to turn our schools into more than what they should be.

As far as this insane filming of fights in our schools, it is a new environment with no oversight.  Students want to become social media famous because people come to their profile to look at it.  Something needs to happen immediately.  It is fostering an environment that is not healthy and desensitizes kids to violence.  Even community Facebook pages that have nothing but street fights on them exist unchecked and unmonitored.  In some of these videos, you actually see people telling others how to evade the police and they give warnings when the police are in the area.  For some reason, students are fascinated by this.  But the effect is chilling.  As well, the role of technology in our schools and homes is greater than ever.  But why are we allowing students to carry iPhones around school?  How much of the violence from gaming is warping young minds?  For that matter, what is all this screen time doing to all our brains?

If Amy’s tragic death has shown us anything it is that something is very broken.  We have to fix it, no matter what.  Amy’s situation is by far the worst thing that could happen to a student in school.  But many students bare physical and emotional scars from this broken system.  They are the survivors of fights and bullying that cause trauma to the soul, if not the physical.  On the flip side, we have students like Patrick Wahl’s son Joseph who many view as a victim of very bizarre due process circumstances for a district that still follows zero tolerance tendencies.  There are good things happening in our schools.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  We see students participating in charity events and giving back to their community on many levels.  But that can’t be all the public sees.  We have to look at the bad too.  We can’t put a blanket over the violence in our schools and pretend it isn’t there.  Amy’s death shattered that illusion in our state.

In the shadow of all this is the other illusion the state has cast on parents.  Many parents judge schools based on their performance without realizing the measurement of that performance is fundamentally flawed.  To get a basic breakdown of how this works, many years ago corporations decided they could make money off education.  They tailored reports to give the illusion that “the sky is falling” and all students were in danger of falling behind other countries.  Politicians jumped on the bandwagon through concerted lobbying efforts on the part of these companies, and soon enough new laws came down from a federal level based on student outcomes from standardized tests.  No Child Left Behind opened the door but Race To The Top opened the floodgates for this corporate invasion.  As schools were labeled and shamed under “school turnaround” laws, the US DOE started their ESEA flexibility waiver scheme.  They bribed schools with money to further these agendas.  Our schools and districts took the money with immense pressure from state governments during a recession.  A dramatic shift in school climate happened.  As more and more teachers took part in professional development to train them on the Common Core and other company initiatives, something happened to students.  They were not supervised the way they were prior to all of this and they found new ways to usurp authority, especially in schools with large populations of high-needs students.  Add in the situation with the OCR in Christina, and it was a recipe for disaster.  Diane Ravitch wrote today about the fifteen years of “fake” reform and how the impetus behind it all, NAEP scores, show students who are now seniors more behind than they were compared to their counterparts in 1992.  Common Core doesn’t work.

What if what we are seeing with student behavior and the reasons behind it are all wrong?  What if those who come from poverty, special needs, and low-income minority populations isn’t just misbehavior but something else altogether?  What if it is a direct result of a system designed for conformity?  The supposed goal of the Common Core was to make all students get the same set of standards across the country.  I hear many consistent things from parents in Delaware.  For smarter kids, Common Core isn’t so tough once they get it.  But for struggling students, basically the ones from sub-groups that perform poorly on state assessments, it is much more difficult.  Perhaps what we are seeing with this absolute disregard of authority in schools is a natural defense mechanism kicking in.  A fight or flight mechanism when their way of living, of being, is attacked.  The natural instinct for teenagers is to rebel.  Compound that with an entire education system designed to make students question authority less and use “critical thinking” based on standards that actually give children less choices, and something will give.  We are seeing this now.  And if we continue on the same track, it will get far worse.  If a “smart” student gets it faster, it would naturally put other students behind.  This is the impossible bar the Common Core puts on students.  For the intelligent who come from wealthier and more cohesive home environments, this isn’t a problem.  But for students with disabilities who cannot always control their actions and minority students who do not have the environmental stability their more advantaged peers have, it will take a great deal of effort to catch up with their peers.  Add in the stress and anxiety they have from their environment outside of school to the pressure to perform in school, and the pressure gage gets higher.  Then add the explosive need every teenager has, to belong and have friends, and the gage gets closer to the point of no return.  Throw in a fixation on violence mixed with wanting to be accepted and the Pompeii of public education is set.  Last week we saw the volcanic eruption of rage unchecked and bystanders filming it and doing nothing.

The biggest victims of the education reform movement are inner-city African-American students.  While civil rights groups demanded more equity for these students they fell into the trap the corporate education reformers methodically laid out for them with financial enticements.  The reformers echoed their complaints and pitted parents against teachers.  The reformers used standardized test scores to give a false impression of schools and invented a whole new language based on the word “gap”: the equity gap, the proficiency gap, the honesty gap, and on and on and on.  Add in school choice, a growing charter school movement, forced busing based on a horrible Neighborhood Schools Act in Delaware, and the rise of Jack Markell as Governor wrapped in a corporate bow and the perfect storm began in our schools.

To ignore the plight of African-Americans in Delaware would be a gross injustice.  It goes way beyond apologizing for slavery.  A friend of mine sent me an article about the 1968 Occupation of Wilmington.  The article written by Will Bunch with philly.com talked about the nine-month Occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  For the African-American community in Wilmington at the time, this was a grave injustice:

On the other hand, in a sign of some of the deep divide and mistrust in Delaware that lingers to this day, the white Democratic governor down in Dover decided to send in the National Guard – and then kept troops on the streets of Wilmington for nine long months, the longest military occupation of a U.S. city since the Civil War.

And this quote from former Wilmington Mayor James Baker:

But the memory still burns for those who lived through the occupation. “It sent a shock wave through the social-service agencies . . . and the city as a whole,” Baker recalled. “People said, ‘What are we doing?’ “

Many African-American communities in Wilmington are very distrustful of the government, and for very good reasons.  This belief gets handed down from generation to generation.  But when drugs enter a city like Wilmington, followed by violence and murders, that distrust can get out of control.  How do we tackle this?  How do we lift a whole city out of a problem of this magnitude?  When my friend sent me this article, it was a response to my question about why we don’t just send in tons of cops and clean it all up, all the drugs and gangs.  She informed me the last time this happened it didn’t work out too well.  It astonishes me that we are still dealing with issues of race in the 21st Century, but we are and we need to face it and deal with it, all of us.  But at the same time, we cannot ignore what individuals are doing in individual circumstances.

We need to be very careful on how we plan to deal with the situations in far too many of our schools.  Far too much is tied into the very bad education reforms that show, time and time again, how it just doesn’t work.  But our current system has been infiltrated with far too many people tied to these efforts.  I expected to see a late rush of legislation coming forth at Legislative Hall in the final days of June.  With very little community input and transparency, we need to watch our legislators like a hawk and make sure what they put forth is best for students and not the broken system some of them are trying desperately to make permanent.  The funding mechanisms for our schools are under the microscope, but if we squeeze the property assessment orange too fast, it could cause many to leave the state they moved to because of low taxes.  As well, we need to be mindful of laws Delaware could pass in anticipation of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The law is still being flushed out in a lot of areas and the DOE and Governor Markell WILL take full advantage of that to please the hedge funders and corporations.

If businesses want to come into our schools and turn them into community schools, they should pay rent to our schools.  If they want to turn education into a marketplace, like any other store they need to pay their rent.  Why are we giving them a free ride while they make millions and millions and our districts get less?  It makes no sense when you look at it like a business model.  But no, our state wants to give them tax discounts for doing business in our state.  We are giving them free reign to pump out the same products over and over again with no actual results.

While these aren’t the solutions we need to make our schools safer, it is a big start.  Our district administrators are far too distracted with all of the nonsense around Common Core, state assessments, personalized learning, and career pathways when they should be focused on the more important things.  The first steps to ending violence in our schools are actually quite simple.  A rebellion like none seen before in public education.  A collective and concerted effort to rid ourselves of the catalysts that are stroking the flames in our children’s lives.  End Common Core.  End state assessments.  End the testing accountability machine that destroys morale in students, teachers, and schools.  End the corporate interference in education that perpetuates the false ideals that if students have more “rigor” and “grit” they can become college and career ready.  We are indoctrinating children at a very young age to be something they are not meant to be.  The human mind won’t allow it.  Some will conform.  But for the growing poor and disabled in our country, they will not be what the reformers want them to be.  You can’t guide a four-year old towards a certain career path based on data and scores.  You can’t say they don’t qualify for special education if a disability has not manifested itself yet.  End the abhorrent amount of data collection on our students for “educational research”.

This is the start.  Let’s get back to more human education.  Why are we doing this to our future?  No child should be a victim of a padded resume or a fattened wallet.  The majority of teachers will tell you privately what we are doing is not working.  Administrators will as well if you catch them on a good day.  But they feel threatened that if they don’t comply their profession will disappear.  They will fight for certain things but when they need to openly rebel against the system, it doesn’t happen.  It is their self-defense mechanism.  The closest we have come to ending this era of education reform is opt out.  But even that is in danger of disappearing if the education tech invaders get their way and have the state assessment embedded in small chunks instead of a once a year test.  The personalized learning and competency-based education models are already calling for this.

When I hear people say “all you do is complain, what are your solutions?”, I cringe.  The problem is so epic in scope, so large in diameter, that it will take a great deal of effort by many well-meaning people to find all the answers.  And when I say well-meaning, I don’t mean the Rodel Foundation or the Governor.  I mean the people who are not affected by corporate greed and a lust for power.  I’m talking about the people who truly want to save our children.

Brandywine Threatens $8 Million In Cuts If Referendum Doesn’t Pass, 40 Teachers At Risk Of Losing Jobs

Yossi Goldstein with WDEL broke the news this morning concerning the Brandywine School District’s cuts they will have to make if their second referendum attempt this year does not pass on May 17th.  The district did not include the new turf costs in this referendum attempt.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Brandywine Superintendent, laid down the potential areas where costs would occur at their board meeting last night.  While the below doomsday scenario doesn’t give exact amounts for each area or how definitive the cuts would be, he did estimate 40 teacher positions would be cut resulting in larger classroom sizes.

Brandywine is part of the BRInC Consortium which is a collection of several Delaware school districts who share a blended learning program, combining digital learning and actual instruction.  The report did mention the district’s “Instructional Technology Plan initiative”.  There was no mention of pending legal costs for the lawsuit filed by Patrick Wahl against the district which has received a great deal of media attention the past couple months.

Last month, both the Christina and Cape Henlopen School Districts passed their referendums, but Brandywine did not.

An Open Letter To Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick

Yesterday, Saranac Spencer with the News Journal posted an article about the ongoing litigation against the Brandywine School District.  Patrick Wahl, the father of a son in the district, filed a lawsuit against the district earlier this year based on due process issues arising from a school suspension and what Wahl believes was a violation of due process rights regarding a search and seizure. This is the first time, to my knowledge, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly commented on the matter.  Today, Patrick Wahl issued a response to Holodick’s challenge to Wahl.

The News Journal reported this exchange at the end of their article:

So far, Wahl has spent nearly $50,000 on attorney fees, he said, and he is seeking to recover that money through the lawsuit. He is also seeking damages.

“The district questions Mr. Wahl’s motives as he continues to pursue this issue,” Holodick said in his statement. “He has stated in social media venues that he is concerned for the taxpayer as this lawsuit could result in the district spending money on attorneys, a possible settlement or damages.  If that is indeed the case, the district hopes that Mr. Wahl will sign a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Wahl responded that he is eager to talk to the district about what he is looking for – ultimately, he said, he wants to see changes in policy regarding reasonable searches of students.

“They could have ended this a year ago,” Wahl said. “They could end it today.”

Wahl’s rebuttal to Holodick’s challenge appeared on his Facebook account today.  I did ask Mr. Wahl if it was okay to publish this along with the personal information included.  He said it was all public.

AN OPEN LETTER TO BRANDYWINE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT DR. MARK HOLODICK

Please LIKE and SHARE so this message FINDS ITS WAY to Dr. Holodick!!!

Dear Dr. Holodick,

I read with interest your confusing comments to the News Journal, linked below.

You say, on the one hand, that you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

But on the other hand, you hope that I will sign “a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Which is it? You’re confident that my claims will be disproven? Or you fear I’ll be awarded monetary damages? Make up your mind.

This confidence that you have — it’s the same confidence you had before the State Board hearing, right?

Dr. Holodick, you lost at the State Board. Do you remember why?

The State Board decided against you because, despite their repeated requests, you produced NO RECORDS.

Now, you say you in fact have an “accurate record” that you’ve been saving, apparently, for the courts.

Your assertion begs the question:

IF YOU HAVE THESE RECORDS, WHY DID YOU NOT PRODUCE THEM FOR THE STATE BOARD?

Did you not have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayer to produce them then upon the repeated requests of the State Board? And if you did not have them then, why did you instead use district funds to pay district counsel to argue the case you knew you would lose? Why did you not simply expunge the record, which is all we were asking for at that time? Were you just trying to exhaust and bankrupt me, hoping I would go away? Did you think the State Board was in the tank for you? Why does a parent have to go to court to see these records?

Do you understand that when the State Board said that the Brandywine School Board violated the law, they mean that YOU violated the law, Dr. Holodick? Aren’t you the Brandywine School Board’s EXECUTIVE SECRETARY? What’s going on with your board, Dr. Holodick?

Taxpayers deserve your explanation TODAY. What kind of records have you suddenly come up with, and why did you withhold them from the State Board? Are you really going to make me produce witnesses who you already know will disprove your claims? As you wish.

You made me prove that you broke the law at the State Board hearing, forcing me to hire a lawyer to get the due process to which I was entitled. So I did. I was right. You violated the law. So now the question is, how do I get those attorney fees covered which I should never have had to pay in the first place? Dr. Holodick? Hello? Are you still there?

I am EAGER to meet with you, WITH OR WITHOUT OUR LAWYERS, to discuss this BINDING AGREEMENT you suggest. My email address is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I’m waiting to hear from you for this meeting that so far, you’ve refused me — in violation of your own Code of Conduct.

You circumvented the “Grievance Procedures When a Suspension Has Occurred” on page 65 when you sicced your lawyer on me instead. See that part where you were supposed to schedule a conference with me? You know, right before the “stay-put” provision stuff which allowed Joseph to stay in school, but which you also ignored? Oddly, hearing from district counsel Mr. McMackin as I did is never mentioned in these grievance procedures.

I am happy to discuss this binding agreement in which monetary awards will go to charity, but perhaps to the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit which provides legal services at no charge to students whose constitutional rights have been violated. I’m sure you understand that while I indeed have donated to the Brandywine Education Foundation in the past, I will never, ever do so again. I noticed that Mr. John Skrobot, President of the Brandywine School Board, is on the Board of Directors of the Brandywine Education Foundation. So you are asking that the money I’m awarded be donated to the very lawbreakers I’m suing. I’m going to pass.

But you know what else, Dr. Holodick? I’ve already thought about the taxpayer. That’s why I’m suing you personally, and not just in your official capacity. Did you notice that part of the complaint? I agree with you — damages should be paid by you, Mr. Rolph, and Mr. Simmons, and not by the taxpayer. After all, as Delaware’s #1 highest paid state employee, you take home a quarter million dollars a year. Will you sign a binding agreement that any damages I’m awarded will be paid by you personally and not by the taxpayer? Hey, no worries, right? After all, you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

Now, I do want to be accurate. Your actual pay is just under a quarter million a year — $246,071.52, to be exact. Mr. Rolph and Mr. Simmons make six figures as well, just like EVERY OTHER administrator in the entire Brandywine School District. I understand there are nearly 100 such six-figure administrators in the Brandywine School District.

Are you a good risk manager? Are you aware of the district’s exposure in this case? Was it a good use of taxpayer money when you fought all the way through the State Board? Did you receive competent counsel advising you simply to expunge the record instead as I had requested and as they eventually ordered anyway? Did you reject and overrule that counsel?

You’ve already wasted a great deal of taxpayer money fighting your losing case at the State Board, and you’re going to spend exponentially more taxpayer money fighting in court. That’s what’s costing the taxpayers, not the damages you’ll pay personally.

You also know this case has little or nothing to do with your zero tolerance policy for “knives of any sort,” and everything to do with the court’s zero tolerance policy, as each and every American should have, for violations of the Constitution and of due process.

You say you want to keep the school safe. The school was not made any safer when my son was banned from its premises for a full week. If you want to keep the school safe, as we all do, I have an idea. How about the administrators know the students? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he was looking for? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he found? Does that trouble you? What are you doing about it?

I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s both put our personal differences aside and do what’s best to fix what’s wrong in the school district and resolve this case. If you will treat me with respect rather than with the contempt you’ve shown me, I will reciprocate. Again, my email is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I will be letting everyone know whether your suggestion of a binding agreement between us was sincere or was merely empty posturing in which you “question the motives” of a parent of a student whose civil rights you violated, and whose right to due process you systematically suppressed.

All I can say is “Wow!”  I can’t wait to see Dr. Holodick’s response.  I would just like to extend an invitation that if Dr. Holodick wants to channel a response through this blog, I would be more than happy to give him the chance to air his side of the story.

Patrick Wahl Launches Youtube Video Called “Why I’m Suing The Brandywine School District: It’s Not For My Kid, It’s For Your’s”

Patrick Wahl, the father of Joseph Wahls, is not giving up.  He wants the world to know what happened to his son in the Brandywine School District.  You can read about it here.  If you want to really see Wahl open up, with a no holds barred video addressed to the world, this is a must-watch!  You really need to watch the whole thing to see the “inserts”.  Wahl clearly explains his perception of the events and why he is suing the district.  I can’t picture the leaders of Brandywine releasing a video with their side of things.  But it would be pretty cool to watch!

Yeah, that wasn’t the video he put up.  But I thought it was a fitting intro.  Can they work it out?

I don’t predict this story will end anytime soon…

Will Brandywine Get One Over On Arne Duncan?

This was a very busy week.  I didn’t write as much, but what I put up on March 1st sucked the oxygen out of everything else on this blog.  The Brandywine-Holodick-Wahl Saga is now my second most-read article on this blog.  It jumped over a controverial Teach For America story from last summer and the Charter School of Wilmington due process article and my son’s first day of Common Core division homework.  I knew the article would be big when I wrote it (actually, Pat Wahl did all of the hard work).  But it is still read thousands of times each day.  It has slowed down a bit since last Tuesday, but will it overtake Arne Duncan’s special education regulations from November 2014?  That one had many parents of students with disabilities ticked off during Thanksgiving week that year.  We shall see!  The Brandywine due process story has a ways to go to reach the #1 spot, but it could do it.  We shall see in the next week or next few weeks.

 

Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice For Year Long Nightmare

JosephWahl

Patrick Wahl is taking the Brandywine School District to court.  Last year, his son was suspended for a week.  What makes this case fascinating is the fact that his son was punished for what amounts, in my opinion, to a wrongful search.  Brandywine’s board made the situation even worse.  I can now say this case and that case are the same one.  This morning on Facebook, Joseph’s father announced the lawsuit.  He gave me permission to copy his post. I could write about what happened, but it means more coming from his father.  This is how I got my start in blogging, and I am more than happy to return the favor:

JUSTICE FOR JOSEPH: SUNLIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT Continue reading “Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice For Year Long Nightmare”