Rethinking Carney

I’ve been pretty hard on Delaware Governors in the past four plus years.  But sometimes they do things that make me think about things they do that are not directly related to bad education policy.  Things that will make Delaware a better place in the long run.  Two weeks ago, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #24 which makes Delaware a trauma-informed state.  This is something we need in Delaware.  Delaware is not the best state for mental health services.  Families are crying out for help.  Sometimes they get it but a lack of training or proper services can turn that help into an issue. Continue reading

Proposed Legislation Would Give Delaware Secretary Of Education Authority To Suspend Teacher Licenses In Certain Felony Situations

A piece of Delaware legislation that is out for consideration would seek to have the Delaware Secretary of Education obtain the authority to suspend a teacher’s license under certain felony crimes or a clear and immediate danger to students prior to certain actions taken by a school district or charter school.  Similar to a bill Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf put out a couple of years ago, this one defines the types of felonies that could warrant the Secretary exercising this type of authority.  The bill is sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Representatives Earl Jaques and Pete Schwartzkopf.

The synopsis of the bill is as follows: Continue reading

Project Veritas Hits Ohio Teacher Unions, More Cover-Ups Of Student Abuse By Teachers

First it was New Jersey, then Michigan. Now Ohio is the latest state to show situations where teacher union officials and Presidents would cover up teacher abuses and not report it. But so many have been telling me the guy in NJ was a solo act. Uh-huh..

As I projected when I started writing about these videos last Friday, I would lose friends. Folks would be mad at me. If someone wants to blow a friendship over this they were never a friend to begin with. Folks seem perfectly okay with trying to downplay this because it is Project Veritas. Sorry, if there is blood in the water does it really matter how someone found it?

When a union President explains that he has protected teachers in a physical abuse against students 80 times in his career, over an eight-year time span, that is very alarming. But let’s continue to blame Project Veritas for getting this news out.

To date, neither the Delaware State Education Association or the National Education Association has issued press releases disavowing this type of activity of union activity around the country.  NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia seems to think students should feel safe in school in regards to school shootings but she is silent on the issue of these videos.  A bit of a pickle you are in right about now Lily.  This is starting to remind me of the Catholic priests scandal.  How widespread are these issues?  How many more videos have to come out before the NEA says something?

“Every child has the right to feel safe and be safe at school, and every parent has the right to know their neighborhood schools are safe places to send their children.” -Lily Eskelsen Garcia

So I will challenge the Delaware State Education Association and their local affiliates to answer this question: Have you ever protected a teacher in a physical or sexual abuse situation and not reported it to the proper authorities or the school?  Have you ever turned a situation where a student was made out to be an aggressor when you knew it was the teacher?

East Side Charter Teacher Fired Over Allegations Of Physical Abuse Against A 10 Year Old Student

According to Fox29 Philly, a teacher at East Side Charter School in Wilmington was fired on Tuesday after alleged physical abuse against a 10 year old female student.

Without a note, she says her teacher refused to let her in class.  When she tried to walk through the classroom door a few minutes later, she said the 27-year-old male teacher picked her up and slammed her against a bulletin board.

The girl told her mother when she got home, according to the article.  She was taken to A.I. DuPont Hospital and was diagnosed with a bruised elbow.  Her arm is in a sling according to the picture in the article.  Charges are expected against the unnamed teacher today.  He began his tenure at Eastside this January.

Teachers hate reading this kind of stuff.  They know people will start saying this happens all the time and teachers get scrutinized over it.  To be clear, this does not happen all the time.  When it does happen though, I feel it is worth writing about.  When I see 27-year-old teacher who just started in January, I have to wonder where the teacher came from.  I know Eastside utilizes Teach for America and Relay Graduate School, which I find to be ineffective fast-prep teacher programs.

I do want to salute Eastside for taking quick and decisive action with this case.  It looks like there was surveillance video which is now in the hands of the Wilmington Police.

Delaware has over 13,000 teachers.  A few bad apples should not upset the whole cart.  I just hope the student in this case is okay and is able to return to an education setting without fear of punishment after getting to school a few minutes late.

 

Silence Is Complicity: Human Sex Trafficking In Delaware and How I-95, Craigslist, Backpage & Kik Make It Thrive

Human Sex Trafficking.  It is real.  It is happening now.  And it is in Delaware.  It could be in your neighborhood.  It could be a student in a school.  In some circumstances, it could be your own child.

There are few things more gut-wrenching than a child being sold into slavery to perform sex acts.  Even more horrifying is that it is happening now, in real-time, in our state.  How does this happen?  It happens in various ways, but the truest injustice is how Delaware laws are not strong enough to prevent it.  The victims of these crimes, often American children, are treated like social pariahs.

IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE

But it does.  Every single day.  To date, since legislation specifically dealing with Human Trafficking passed in the Delaware General Assembly, there has been one prosecution in Delaware.  One.  In Maryland, there have been over 140 in the last year alone.  Does that mean it doesn’t happen here?  Far from it.  It means our law enforcement, attorneys, legislators, and state government do not have the knowledge and training to truly tackle the issue.  There are many reasons why they don’t, but the simple fact exists that there are human beings sold into sex slavery within our state right now.  It is our moral responsibility as a state to make sure this never happens again.

The top of Delaware is in the middle of what is known as the I-95 corridor.  Delaware is actually the perfect spot for pimps to take advantage of The First State with these crimes.  It is not a coincidence that Delaware has over 90 massage parlors that are suspected of human trafficking.

ZOE MINISTRIES

Yolanda Schlabach, from Greenwood, DE, has made it her mission to end human sex trafficking in Delaware.  She founded Zoe Ministries of Delaware, a non-profit whose number one priority is to bring awareness to the horrible crimes happening in our own state.  To date, she has met with over 8,500 Delawareans to bring attention to the issue.  Schlabach has traveled up and down the state, with no agenda but to help the victims and bring attention to an issue far too many of us don’t even know is happening.  She has met with resistance at all levels because it is a very uncomfortable topic and people don’t want to believe it could happen here.  If it is a documented fact that this is happening, in the 49 other states of this country, what makes Delaware think it is immune to these crimes?  If anything, we are more prone to it because of our lax laws in regards to Human Sex Trafficking.  In a News Journal article published March 24th, Schlabach said the following:

“If it is happening in all of our surrounding states, and it is happening in all 49 states, just because Delaware does not have statistics does not mean it isn’t happening,” Schlabach said. “It simply means we don’t have statistics because we don’t know how to identify it, how to prosecute it (and) we don’t know how to investigate it as a state.”

DEALING WITH THE DELAWARE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Schlabach approached the Markell administration about this issue and met with stiff resistance.  After years of advocating for these modern-day sex slaves, newly elected Governor John Carney proclaimed January, 2017 as Human Sex Trafficking Month in Delaware.  In response, House Concurrent Resolution #3, sponsored by State Rep. Paul Baumbach and State Senators Margaret Rose-Henry and Gerald Hocker, also recognized the Governor’s action.  But is that enough?  Not even close.

This is not the first legislation to address Human Sex Trafficking in Delaware.  In 2014, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 197.  Two-thirds of the Delaware Senate signed on as co-sponsors and almost 40% of the House.  This legislation, meant to strengthen Delaware state code and give stiffer penalties to those who traffic human beings whether in sex acts or forced labor, also gives the state to right to seize property owned by the sex trafficker who is found guilty of violating the law.  It also created a Human Traffic Coordinating Council.  The original intent and the implementation have been two very different things.  Today, not even three years later, the council is down to three members.  The state police are not one of those members.  This is who was supposed to be on it:

Obviously, we have a huge problem in Delaware.  The law also was meant to guarantee training for law enforcement, something which has not happened with fidelity.  Many blame this on funding, but if the state were to take advantage of property seizure, where the pimps can make up to a million a year from their victims, perhaps our current $385 million dollar budget deficit wouldn’t be as large as it is.

YOUNG LIVES, INSANE PROFIT

Last August, Schlabach was one of the guest speakers at TedX Wilmington where she gave a controversial speech called “Sex Trafficking In The U.S.: Young Lives, Insane Profit”.  As you watch the below video, note how certain pictures were NOT included in the final cut of the video.  The first picture in this article was shown in the presentation.  But it didn’t make the cut in the video.  Why?  Is it too horrible for people to see what is happening in their very own communities?

BACKPAGE, RUBMAPS, CRAIGSLIST & KIK

While Schlabach discussed how this happens in Delaware, I did some digging of my own based on her talk.  She mentioned a website called Backpage.com which solicits prostitution via massage parlors and hotel rooms.  She also talked about Rubmaps.com which is a review site which, according to her talk, clearly shows these are not health-based businesses.  But we can’t forget Craigslist and an app called Kik.  All of these help to perpetuate the disgusting and appalling continuation of child sex acts.  Many prostitute ads appear on Craigslist and Backpage and potential johns are asked to either reply to the ad, call a phone number, email them, or contact them via Kik.

Kik Messenger is predominantly a cell-phone app.  It is based out of Canada which makes it favorable to pimps because it is very difficult to get records, even with a subpoena, since they are not based out of the USA.  As well, many children and teenagers use Kik.  Pimps main goals with online websites and apps are not just to sell their victims to johns, but also to lure new victims into their web as well.  Vaulty, Snapchat, Burn Note, Line., Omegle, Tinder, Blendr., Yik Yak, and Ask.fm.  Parents of minors should be very aware of what apps are on their child’s cellphone and take appropriate action.

In a hand-out given to participants in one of Schlabach’s presentations, KiK messenger is specifically mentioned as having the following attributes:

Kids are using Reddit and other forums to place classified ads for sex by giving out their KiK usernames.  KiK does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, this making it easy for sexual predators to use the app to interact with minors.

Pimps love to recruit new victims.  Sex trafficked prostitutes are not always from other countries.  In fact, statistics show most are American and many are children under the age of 18.  Most are female, but males are also trafficked by pimps.  They are not always from broken homes either.  It could be any child who is susceptible to a situation where they are easily coerced.  Roughly 60% of these victims are in the foster care system.  Many are runaways.  They are the broken children of our society, those shunned by the adults who should care for them the most.

*The above pictures from Craigslist and Backpage were from TODAY, in the past half hour.  I edited out not-safe-for-work words and phone numbers provided in the ads.

WHY DON’T THESE VICTIMS RUN AWAY FROM THEIR PIMPS?

They are slaves, in every sense of the word.  Forced to perform sex acts to more than willing johns.  They have to meet quotas they must give to their pimps.  They are beaten if they disobey.  They are branded with tattoos so their pimps can find them.  According to Schlabach, other pimps will turn the victims back over to the original pimp if they see the victim has a particular brand on them.  To their pimps, they are property.  They threaten to harm or kill the victim’s families.  They blackmail them into prostitution by stating they will show videos of them having sex to their families.  In essence, they are broken down so horribly and violently, they are numb.  Many victims of sex trafficking are forced to take drugs like heroin.  They are shuffled around towns and cities and never stay in one place for too long.

The pimps aren’t the pimps you see in the movies and on tv.  The stereotype of the pimp is not the same as the reality.  Pimps can be anyone.  There are pimps who sell their own children into sex acts.  Fathers, mothers, grandparents.  It could be a co-worker, or a neighbor, or just a normal person you see walking down the street.  In Maryland, a charter school teacher was prosecuted for trafficking one of his students.  But there are three things they do: Coerce, control and force.

The victims of Human Sex Trafficking suffer from trauma most people cannot relate to.  They are physically, mentally, and sexually abused, for years on end.  As the first picture in this article shows, the average life expectancy is seven years for many of these victims.  These ARE the MOST vulnerable people in this country.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Anything.

  • Call Zoe Ministries and ask how you can help.
  • Attend the quarterly meetings of the Human Traffic Coordinating Council.
  • If you see something suspicious, contact the State Police, Local Police (if applicable), and the federal Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888.  I would call all three, as Schlabach suggests.
  • Spread the word.
  • Share this article with as many people as you can.
  • Share the TedX talk.
  • Contact your legislators and demand they act.  There are five different drafts of legislation dealing with Human Sex Trafficking waiting for sponsors in Legislative Hall.
  • If you are an educator, talk to your administrator about having Yolanda Schlabach come into your school to talk about this issue.  Red Clay, in conjunction with the Beau Biden Foundation and the News Journal, had a whole conference on child abuse today at Cab Calloway and Schlabach gave a two hour presentation on it so it can be done.
  • You can even flag ads on Craigslist if you feel there are minors in those ads.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Anyone reading this blog over the past three years knows this is predominantly an education blog.  But it is called Exceptional Delaware.  I believe ALL the children of Delaware are exceptional, whether they are in school or not.  I have always fought for the most vulnerable of children in our schools.  This issue is just one more on my list of things I want to see eradicated from Delaware.  I have no doubt there are kids in our schools who are sexually and physically abused daily.  I also believe there could be victims of sex trafficking in our classrooms.  This is a damn serious issue that needs to be put into the spotlight immediately, more than ever before.  It isn’t enough that our legislators and 8,500 Delawareans know about it.  We should ALL know about it.  This is OUR state.  These are OUR children.  I will be writing much more about Human Sex Trafficking.  I feel it is my moral obligation to do so.  I am just sorry I wasn’t so aware of it until recently.  This is our mission as human beings: when we see a wrong we should do everything in our power to not only address it, but attempt to get rid of it.  Only through speaking out can we bring awareness.  I haven’t even fully dove into this subject and I have no doubt I will quickly find out much more about this topic which I will share with all of you.  It is ugly, but it is real.

Attorney General Matt Denn, We Need You To Do More About Bullying & Abuse In Our Schools

Skyline Middle School.  Anne Gullo.  The Appoquinimink Bus Driver.  Delaware Met.  This is just in the last month.  As these incidents of bullying and abuse become more public, I haven’t seen any official statement from those in power in Delaware on these systemic issues going on.  This is the bottom line: students don’t feel safe.  While the DOE wants to bury students in their latest programs with the University of Delaware about social skills and positive behavior supports, which are also costing the state millions of dollars, the districts or charters don’t implement those things and it is a colossal waste.  They talk the talk and walk the walk, but who are we kidding?  Why are we seeing adults take out their frustrations on kids?

NBC Philadelphia covered the Appoquinimink bus driver.  The district said she wouldn’t be driving their kids anymore.  That’s great.  But more needs to be done.  This kid was being bullied, and he needed help.  Instead of the bus driver, or substitute bus driver (immaterial to me, still an adult in charge of kids) even noticing there was already a situation going on where a kid was getting hurt, she did nothing.  She finally acted, and in a highly inappropriate way, when she was forced to do something as this kid yelled at her for help.  What she did is disgusting and morally reprehensible.

It doesn’t matter if its one person or hundreds.  No kid deserves this.  From other kids or adults.  When I was a kid, we didn’t call it bullying.  We usually called it getting the crap kicked out of you.  There are always going to be reasons for it.  Somebody doesn’t like something the other kid said.  They are jealous over a girl.  A kid is black.  A kid is white.  A kid is gay.  A girl is mean.  A kid has disabilities.  A kid doesn’t believe the same thing another kid does.  Maybe if kids actually enjoyed learning, and were not tied to curriculums tied to standards tied to standardized tests tied to teacher evaluations tied to school report cards, we could put an end to this.  We have more resources than ever before to tackle these issues, but our failure of a Governor ignores these issues.  He assigns people to “serve at the pleasure of the Governor”.  We need to elect leaders and Secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the people!

This is where you come in Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  You do not serve at the pleasure of Jack Markell.  You are a publicly elected official.  Prior to your becoming Attorney General, you were the Lieutenant Governor and I watched you chair a very decent IEP Task Force.  I was drawn to you because you spoke succinctly when needed and firm when it was desperately needed.  When you first became Attorney General nine months ago, I saw very positive moves on your part.  The first of which was an Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which I have referred many parents to.  I have yet to see any action coming out of this office Matt.  We don’t see any official reports or press releases coming out of there at all.  Has it really come down to Delaware needing a Department of Bullying and Physical Abuse Against Children?

I truly think it is a good thing that parents can take personal action on individual cases in Delaware.  But they are forced to shut up about it in most situations.  That isn’t justice.  It is covering it up.  It is making the bad stuff (for the guilty party) just go away.  Talk to most parents who go through that process, and they would much rather have worked it out with the school earlier.  If there is not a systemic change, nothing will change.  We will see more Skylines, and Appo bus drivers, and Anne Gullos, and Delaware Mets.  We need YOU Matt Denn to become the Attorney General we elected and become a bully against bullying.  We need YOU to take quick action.  We all know schools are underreporting.  We know stuff gets covered up.  We need you to take action when schools don’t.  Since we are becoming a data mad country anyways, why not give parents access to their child’s e-school report.  It’s a digital world now.  When bullying happens, an email goes to parents and they see it.  And I think your office should have access as well.  We need more heroes and less victims Matt.  Kids need YOU to be that hero.  It has to be YOU.

For the citizens of Delaware, we need you to stop with the high-fiving of how great your kid’s school is in certain areas.  We all know what schools are “the best” and we all know why.  Education shouldn’t be a competition, but our Governor has created this environment.  Race To The Top may be over, but don’t think our schools aren’t competing against each other every single day.  It is all about the stupid test scores for them.  You will be seeing them really concentrating on attendance as well because that is going to be another accountability measure for them.  They always seem to do what the DOE wants them to do, but that does not always translate into doing what is best for the students.  As many Delaware parents already know, they will cover their own ass first.  If they are tackling bullying and “social skills” and “positive behavior supports” for the purpose of driving up test scores, they are completely missing the boat.

Parents are going to start organizing as more and more issues become public and transparent.  It is happening already.  And we don’t like a lot of what we are seeing in our schools, the DOE and Governor Markell.  The drums of war are already starting to beat.  We will only be shushed so many times before we start to get really loud.  We will not be disrespected and we will certainly not let our children be disrespected.  We will not be lied to, and we will not be told one thing only to have it change after administrators get together and have a meeting about it.  We are the parents of the students who you want to take meaningless and useless tests.  We are the parents of students with disabilities.  We are the parents of low-income and poverty students.  We are the parents of the bullied and the abused.  We are the parents of those who are punished without due process.  We are the parents of students whose schools think they know about our children than we do.  We are the parents of students who are also taught by parents.  We are the parents of homeschooled kids.  We are the parents who talk to legislators more and more every day.  We are the parents of students who choice out of school districts.  We are the parents of students who were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Governor Markell severely disrespected.  We are the parents of youth who are already in prison.  We are the parents of the students who are physically restrained.  We are the parents who raise our children by the standards we believe in not what the state wants us to.  We are the parents who vote.  We are the parents who talk about all of this stuff on social media every single day but give a smile and a nod when you see us and you are none the wiser.  We are the parents of Delaware.

Delaware Teacher Abused 6-Year-Old Child With Autism At School

It appears that if you physically abuse a student with Autism, you can get out with a $500 unsecured bail.  The News Journal just reported this.  Anne Gullo, a teacher at Etta J. Wilson Elementary School in Newark, turned herself in.  On October 16th, Gullo pushed the student and he fell into a bookcase and had a “minor injury” to his back.  The school called the police on October 19th, and Gullo turned herself in yesterday after an arrest warrant was issued.  Why did it take a week for her to turn herself in?  And why are some Delaware teachers thinking it is okay to physically abuse children with disabilities?  Finally, why was the bail set at $500?  That seems very low to abuse of a student.  Is she still employed at this school?

This needs to stop.  This is the second time this year I have heard about this, but I never heard about an arrest warrant for the teacher that kicked a young boy with Autism at the Academy of Dover.  What is the difference here?  These students need compassion and understanding, not the anger boiling over from adults who should know better.