Student J in the Smyrna School District was a victim of a bizarre scenario where he wound up expelled from the school district and arrested. Continue reading “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 1: The First Incident”
A group of parents demanded answers today from Red Clay Consolidated School District officials regarding the suspension of the basketball team from their last game and the playoffs. As I wrote yesterday, the team was suspended when they got off their bench at the end of a game after they were told not to. Allegations of racial slurs have been central to this matter but neither Red Clay or Delaware Military Academy have said anything in an official capacity that these epithets came out despite numerous witnesses coming forward on Facebook, comments on Delaware Online, and witnesses that have come forward to Red Clay officials. Now those parents are demanding the suspension decision be rescinded based on what they are perceiving to be a lack of due process based on policies within Red Clay. The following letter was sent to the district today. As well, Red Clay board member Adriana Bohm asked the district to rescind their decision.
**Updated, 4:25pm: According to The News Journal, the district may reconsider the team’s suspension for their remaining game and the playoffs. Still no response from Commandant Pullella at Delaware Military Academy.
At a recent basketball game between Delaware Military Academy and A.I. DuPont High School, a fight broke out when DMA or students in the stands allegedly used racial slurs including the “n” word. As a result, the A.I. team has been suspended the rest of the season while the DMA players seemingly have not been punished for instigating the incident. I do not condone using force to resolve issues. If there was fighting, then certainly the A.I. players should be punished. With that being said, the use of racist slurs should NOT go unpunished. Details are sparse on this incident and I did reach out to Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty and Delaware Military Academy Commandant Anthony Pullella to see if they can confirm what actions took place. As of this writing, I have yet to receive a response from either of them.
Apparently, this is not the only incident involving charter schools within Red Clay and Red Clay high schools. Several parents have suggested there was an incident between Charter School of Wilmington and Cab Calloway and the incident with DMA is not the first time racial slurs were said by DMA players.
Without “actual” documentation, much of this is hearsay. However, when enough parents start talking about something, expect a lot of noise. I don’t think this matter is going to quietly go away. For the current school year, DMA has a population of African-American students of 5.8% while A.I. DuPont has 36.1% according to the Delaware Dept. of Education website.
Updated, 10:42am: The News Journal covered the team’s suspension but not a single word was written about the alleged racial slurs.
Updated, 10:55am: The incident did not involve actual assault but players from A.I. rushing to the student seats at the DMA home game. Their coach had explicitly informed them to stay in their seats. Red Clay closed the investigation last week but it was reopened as of today. If anyone has firsthand knowledge of racial slurs being used at this game, please contact the Red Clay Consolidated District Office and Delaware Military Academy.
Updated, 11:00am: I have not received any response to my request for information from Daugherty or Pullella.
Updated, 12:34pm: Red Clay Board of Education member Adriana Bohm put the following message on Facebook:
In regards to the AI/DMA situation and based on information I received I requested the case be re-opened and it was reopened this morning. If folks heard the “N Word” and other racially derogatory language being used at the game please file an official complaint and write a letter to the Red Clay School Board. The email address is RCBOARDMEMBERS@redclay.k12.de.us. You may also message me so we can talk.
Updated, 1:27pm: I heard back from Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty. I will include my initial request as well as his response:
Several people have reached out to me this morning in regards to a fight at a DMA basketball game. What I’m hearing is the AI team has been suspended the rest of the season. I’ve also heard the catalyst for this fight was the use of racial slurs by DMA players that have gone unpunished. Can you confirm any of this? This is under the assumption you would not know or be able to control what kind of punishment would occur for DMA players.
Dr. Daugherty’s Response:
We have investigated this incident for several days. We have interviewed coaches, administrators, security personnel, and parents of players from both teams who were at the game. None of those persons interviewed reported hearing any racial slurs. The decision to forfeit the remainder of the season (one game) and the playoffs was made because of the players actions at the conclusion of the game. The account of the incident in today’s News Journal is accurate. And, you are correct in that Red Clay is not responsible for the discipline of DMA students.
I have yet to receive a response from Commandant Pullella at Delaware Military Academy. There appears to be some confusion on whether the alleged racial epithets were coming from DMA basketball players or students in the stands.
Updated, 2/23/17, 4:28pm: I have updated this article to reflect that the alleged racial slurs came from Delaware Military Academy students in the stands, not their basketball players. There have been several reports about a hostile attitude at the game towards the A.I. DuPont High School team.
A recent due process hearing in Delaware, filed by the parents of a child with a mood disorder, gave an example of the first thing parents should not do with special education. The due process hearing was against the Cape Henlopen School District. The parents claimed the district did not fulfill their obligation under IDEA with manifestation determination. The case also showed a glaring flaw with special education law in the Delaware code, one I hope a legislator picks up on in the 149th General Assembly beginning in January. Or if a very brave soul with a great deal of tenacity picks up the baton and literally runs for their life during the last two days of the 148th General Assembly and miraculously gets a law like this passed in the next two days, that would be a true miracle. What did the parents do that ultimately caused a dismissal of the case? Continue reading “Delaware Special Education Due Process Hearing Showcases What Rights A Parent Should NEVER Give Up”
The most interesting part about House Bill 350 isn’t the bill itself, but who the Delaware House of Representatives main sponsor is: Pete Schwartzkopf. I usually don’t see his name as a main sponsor on education bills which leads me to believe this bill is coming from Governor Markell himself. I could be wrong on that, but it is a hunch. In any event, there is very interesting changes to the language in the Delaware state code for this pending legislation. I have a feeling the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) will not like the change from “shall” to “may” for reinstatement of a teacher’s license if a teacher is found not guilty of an offense that would cause their license to be suspended. Some of the changes are common sense changes, but others are a bit unpredictable.
The one area teachers may have an issue with is the publication of the license suspension. What if the charges are dropped or a no guilty verdict happens. With the name published already, that could certainly cause an issue when they go to look for another position in their own district or another district. Just having a name on that list could severely damage a teacher’s reputation, especially in a state as small as Delaware. The bill also seems to give the Secretary of Education more authority and decreases the role of the local school district in making decisions.
The next stop is the House Education Committee. I would love to hear what teachers think of the changes in House Bill 350.
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…
On September 25th, I wrote the first Delaware Met article concerning the problems at the school. Many doubted the veracity of the article at first. I thought now would be a good time to give it the “separate fact from fiction” test.
Today, I got an email from someone about The Delaware Met closing next week.
The school did not close the last week of September, but their board considered it at their 9/28 board meeting. The board voted to keep trying.
I’m hearing about multiple incidents of violence at the school…
This is definitely true. The Wilmington police were called to the school numerous times.
…a student brought a gun to the school on the very first day…
We learned at their formal review meeting yesterday a student brought a “weapon” to the school. It was not named as a gun, but it was not named as anything more than a “weapon”.
…students leaving the school in mass quantities…
Their opening enrollment on August 24th was 260, and by September 30th they were down to 215, and more have left.
I’m hearing their relationship with Innovative Schools has soured to the point of breaking…
This has not happened, although many are questioning their role in all of this. Their board president talked yesterday about the great partnership Delaware Met has with Innovative Schools but not all board members are on the same page…
I’m hearing many of the students were at-risk students who were facing issues at other schools including potential expulsion and suspension issues.
This is definitely the case. Many of the students came from Moyer. As indicated by Innovative Schools CSO Teresa Gerchman yesterday, many of the students are “comfortable” with the chaotic environment at the school.
I have no idea how many students at this school are students with disabilities.
We know there are 62 “official” counts of IEPs for students with disabilities at the school.
…how prepared was the school to handle these issues? If the allegations are true, not prepared at all.
This school did not prepare for this at all. According to their board president Nash Childs, they were more concerned about the facility and their enrollment and they did not dig in to the school curriculum and the school climate. Innovative Schools missed the boat on fulfilling the promises made in their application and didn’t do anything about potential issues with culture and discipline.
The Delaware Met’s code of conduct is very confusing. While it states they are using restorative justice, I am not hearing about it actually being used. Restorative justice is defined as examining the harm done to an individual or a group and using that in lieu of punishment. This sounds good in theory, but certain actions will still warrant suspension or other disciplinary measures.
Where it gets very tricky is if the student may not agree to the harm done to others. If a student believes someone else started something, and they reacted (even if the reaction was stronger than the previous action), they may not see it as completely being their fault. Where Delaware Met is most likely having issues (if they are even following this philosophy) would be what happens after the student disagrees with the restorative justice discussion. The student may be suspended for additional days. Where this becomes a bigger mess is if the student has an IEP. Federal IDEA law states that if a student is suspended for ten days (whether from one punishment or cumulative punishments), a manifestation determination hearing must occur. The purpose of this is to determine whether the behavior or actions are a manifestation of the student’s disability.
A parent commented on an article from yesterday about her daughter being out of school for a month. The shenanigans stemming from this are not surprising given everything I have heard about this school. Even the Delaware DOE is not seeing restorative justice happening at Delaware Met. Even more concerning are allegations of “confinement”. Whether that is an in-school suspension or some other type of disciplinary measure is yet to be determined, but those in authority in the state are looking into this.
To read Delaware Met’s code of conduct, please read the below document:
I received an anonymous message this morning concerning Delaware Met. We may be entering a new level of abuse inflicted by this school on their students. As if everything already happening isn’t bad enough, I am now hearing about issues concerning the school hiring prison guards to “control kids”, multiple suspensions, and issues with confinement. While these allegations have not been vetted, it follows the alarming trends with this school. To that effect, I emailed the DOE, Governor Markell, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, and some legislators in regards to this. I also called the Delaware DOE about this and left a message. I did receive a return call just minutes ago from them and I advised the Charter School Office of the information conveyed to me. Someone needs to do the right thing and get in there and shut this place down. There are many students with disabilities in this school and not following, implementing, or creating an IEP for them is a recipe for disaster. Below is the email I sent out not long ago:
From: Kevin Ohlandt <email@example.com>
To: Nagourney Jennifer <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Blowman David (K12) <email@example.com>; Godowsky Steven <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Markell Jack <email@example.com>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Denn Matthew (DOJ) <email@example.com>
Cc: Williams Kimberly (LegHall) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <email@example.com>; Baumbach Paul (LegHall) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Sean Matthews <email@example.com>; Gray Teri (K12) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:54 AM
Subject: Delaware Met
When people think of the Charter School of Wilmington, they think about one of the highest-rated high schools in the state. But beneath the shiny veneer, there is a very dark undertone that is pervasive throughout the school. This became clear to a student who I will call Bill (to protect his identity), and his mother, Michelle (also protecting her identity). Bill’s story is the part about Charter School of Wilmington nobody from the school will admit or own up to: a culture of superiority and class, with very few minorities other than Asians. The very few minorities that are present at the school are few and far between compared to most Delaware schools. For Bill, what happened to him could easily be seen as racial or even class profiling, or both.
Charter School of Wilmington has the following profiles for race: 63.7% White, 26.4% Asian, 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic/Latino, .4% American Indian and .3% Hawaiian. For special education they have .2% of their students with an IEP, and no Early Language Learners in attendance. In 2013-2014, no student was held back. For those reading this, if you are not familiar with Wilmington, Delaware, it is a city with racial demographics as follows: 58% African-American, 32% White, 12% Hispanic/Latino, Below 1% for Asian, and Below 1% for Hawaiian. So how does a charter school in Wilmington have such a vast difference in student populations compared to the population of the largest city in Delaware?
While some may call it cherry-picking, others call it enrollment preference, and with CSW, they add the extra layer of “specific interest” for their rigorous academic curriculum. The school was named in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the local school district, Red Clay Consolidated School District, along with the Delaware Department of Education.
Bill belongs to one of the above minorities at CSW. But you wouldn’t know it to look at him. According to his mother Michelle, Bill looks as white as most of the students at the school. What sets him apart is the fact that “he doesn’t fit the mold of the typical CSW student.” He does not come from an affluent family, he lives downstate, he doesn’t comb his hair to the side, he drives a pick-up truck, and he doesn’t dress like his peers. Michelle describes Bill as a young man who is very mechanical and always ready to fix something. Bill is, however, a brilliant young man with a 3.2 grade point average, and he was already accepted to one of the state universities with a scholarship. Bill’s mother also gave permission for me to tell Bill’s story.
On March 26th, 2015, everything changed for Bill. What happened after to Bill was a denial of procedural due process and discrimination. Bill’s mother received a call from the school that afternoon at 2:28 pm to pick up Bill. This is Michelle’s accounting of what happened: Continue reading “Charter School of Wilmington & Discrimination: Student Denied Due Process and Subject To Potential Profiling By Head Of School”
A couple months ago I was finishing up “A Father’s Cry For His Son” on Kilroy’s Delaware. I had many potential ideas for legislation that I introduced in the epilogue. I still agree with many of those ideas. Since then, a lot has happened in the special education arena. The Feds said Delaware needs intervention, the ICT group has come into focus thanks to Elizabeth Scheinberg, another charter school is up for potential closure, and the Common Core battle is getting bigger and uglier by the day.
These were the ideas I introduced in the epilogue:
1) All IEP and 504 meetings must be digitally recorded. Of course, FERPA will protect the rights of these students, but they could be very useful if something goes wrong.
I still think this is a good idea. Not so parents can sue the pants off of any school when something goes wrong, but in case there is a disagreement or something that needs clarification, the team can go back to figure out what was said.
2) All school board meetings, for any school that receives public funding, charter, public, vocational and alternative alike, must digitally record their board meetings and have them available to the public within 7 business days. (This is already House Bill #23)
This needs to happen, and here’s why. The situation with Moyer, and what happened at Pencader. These may not have happened if there was more transparency with their boards. I went down to Legislative Hall, as promised, to drum up more support for HB23. It was a Lone Ranger mission, and nothing happened with the bill, but it did put me in a position to meet different legislators. I think the IEP Task Force should make sure this bill is reintroduced in the new legislative session next January so the public is more aware. As evidenced in the notes and the audio session of the June Delaware DOE Board meeting, what is put in writing is much less than the wealth of information that can be found on an audio recording. Charters need to stop isolating themselves and think they aren’t accountable to the public. Because they are.
3) All school districts, charter, public, vocational and alternative alike, must have psychiatric or neurological consultation available for any suspected neurologically-based condition within twenty days of a parent’s request for an IEP.
This is a must. Nothing against school psychologists, but they are not experts at neurological conditions. Most of them haven’t even been through clinical training. And yet, IEP teams continue to believe the school psychologist’s word is the gospel truth. Say it ain’t so! Psychiatrists and neurologists know much more about the vast majority of the disabilities and disorders that warrants most IEPs. They could do the IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation) at the forefront to get to the heart of a child’s problems or difficulties.
4) All school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, shall put on their own website, the number of IEPs, 504s, IEP denials, and 504 denials they have had in the past month, to be updated monthly. For public schools, this must be put on the district website, as well as the website for each individual school in the district. They shall also share annual numbers as well, for each school year AND on a 12 month rolling basis. If a student changes from a 504 to an IEP, or if a decline becomes either an IEP or a 504, the school must make a note of that with the monthly numbers.
I brought this one up to members of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, and it was quickly shot down. An excuse was given that they have a hard enough time with the schools reporting what they already do. I found this to be an example of what is so wrong with the system already. If you hold the schools to a low standard, this is what you will get. If you push them to be more accountable, and explain why, you will find they should be more willing to comply. I’ve also heard this could put any child at a labeling risk because people could figure out who the child is. This is far-fetched. If you only have one child with an IEP at any given school, sure, this could happen. But these are all excuses. This will prevent fraud and abuse, plain and simple.
5) All school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, shall be completely transparent on their website. All staff must be listed. All board minutes must be listed. All attachments must be listed with the exception of something that can only be handled in an executive session. All monthly financial information shall be listed. With that monthly financial information, you must break down the sub-groups of funding you are receiving.
I’ve read many school board minutes, and the one consistent thing I see over and over is these words “See attached”. And about 99% of the time, there is nothing to be seen. Parents want to see attached! If your staff changes, update your website. It isn’t hard. I’ve seen schools that haven’t updated their staff listing in over a year. A good number of the teachers aren’t even there anymore. I know the Charter School Office at the state DOE already requires some of these, but there is nothing to hold the schools accountable if they fail. With financial information, break down the sub-groups. Show what areas of federal funding are being dispersed to (i.e. IDEA-B, Title I, etc.). Show specific areas for teacher salaries (i.e. special education, tenured teachers, new teachers, etc.).
6) All schools must report to the DOE, on a monthly basis, how many current IEPs and 504 plans they have, as well as any IEP or 504 denials.
I’ve found out the schools are required to report to the DOE on how many current IEPs and 504 plans they have. But the denials, this needs to happen. The DOE doesn’t seem to think a denial is that important. But most of the special education lawsuits stem from denials for IEPs. If the state is okay with millions of dollars going out in private lawsuits, then sure, don’t look at the denials. But take a position of caring rather than a position of blind arrogance.
7) The DOE shall do a yearly audit of all school districts, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, not only for already established IEPs and 504 plans, but also denied IEPs and 504 plans. The individuals doing these audits must be highly qualified special education professionals who understand IEPs and 504 plans, as well as all of the disabilities and disorders that these plans accommodate children for. If the DOE determines an IEP or 504 plan was denied for the wrong reasons, the school district must contact the parent(s) within 5 business days and explain to the parent(s) of their procedural rights as well as mail a letter to the parent(s) with the reason for the change as well as a copy of their procedural rights. The Department of Education shall publish the results of these audits within 30 calendar days of their completion.
This is the big one. I know it would be impossible to do audits of every single IEP or 504 plan. But the DOE needs to do more than what they currently do. There is a middle ground somewhere. The DOE loves to make reports, so I am sure an annual report can be generated with a lot of this audit information without compromising the identity of any particular student. If the DOE holds the threat of interference over schools, the individual schools will be more likely to get an IEP or 504 plan right the first time. I’m quite sure no school would want parents getting a call from the state DOE about something they did wrong.
8) All Delaware parents, custodians, guardians, et al, shall receive, along with their child’s teacher and supply list, prior to the start of the next school year, a pamphlet indicating what Child Find is, a full disclosure that any evaluations a parent requests must be done at public expense, what IDEA is, how it works, a listing of every disability covered by IDEA, even those covered in other-health impaired, an IEP timeline, a sample copy of an IEP, what a 504 plan is and how it differentiates from an IEP, a sample copy of a 504 plan, and parents procedural rights, whether a child has a disability or not.
I talked to Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director for the Exceptional Children Group, about this idea back in early July. She didn’t commit to anything either way. But I think it’s important for parents to be given more proactive information before they are put in a position where they have to spend countless hours trying to figure out what to do. It also shows a willingness on the schools part to have a better relationship with parents, as opposed to an adversarial one.
9) Any school district found in violation of three or more individual special education audit failures, shall be put on the newly created Special Education review, which shall have the same weight as any other criteria that would cause a school to go under formal review.
This is the one that would have to radically change. For a school that has two hundred IEPs, this could conceivably happen. But if a school has ten, that’s more of a big deal. How about we limit this one to charter schools since they have more issues with special education than public schools.
10) All school boards, public, charter, vocational and alternative alike, must have a parent of a special needs child as a member of their school board.
This one is simple and easy. Most school boards tend to have 6-10 members on their board, and if 13% of kids in Delaware have special education, it’s a no-brainer. Someone needs to represent these children on each school board. A lot of them already have a parent in this category, but with this legislation it would be required. This parent would also look at special education practices in each charter school or school district.
11) No charter school may ask on an application if a child has an IEP, has special needs or any questions relating to a disability. If a child is selected to attend a charter school through a lottery or the school accepts an application prior to that, then the charter school can ask that question after a student has been accepted.
This is the core of the special education issues with charter schools in Delaware. With the exception of Positive Outcomes and Gateway, which specifically cater to these types of children, most of the other charter schools practice this type of behavior. It is discrimination, pure and simple, and it needs to be abolished.
12) All charter school lotteries must be a public event, published on the school web site 30 days in advance, with two members of the local school district board members in attendance, and all names from applications must be shown to them before they are placed in a closed area prior to the picking of names.
This goes along with #11 to prevent enrollment preference. These “lotteries” are anything but. They are never a public event, and this allows cherry-picking to the highest degree. Enough is enough.
13) All public, charter, vocational, and alternative schools shall change the number of suspensions that warrants a manifestation determination from 10 to 3. As well, if a child is removed from a classroom setting 5 times for a period of more than 30 minutes, a manifestation determination must kick in as well. For any child with an IEP or a 504 plan, a Functional Behavioral Analysis must be completed as well as a Behavior Intervention Plan or modification of an already existing Behavior Intervention Plan. Ten suspensions is too much missed instructional time and doesn’t benefit anyone.
This is another big one. If a child is suspended that much, there is obviously an issue. Schools and the DOE need to be more proactive at recognizing when something is obviously going wrong. By the time a student has been suspended ten times, most school officials and teachers probably see him or her as more of a problem child than a student that needs extra attention and support. Labeling has already happened, and I would be willing to bet administration has already written this student off. For a special needs student, this could easily lead to an ICT (Interagency Collaborative Team) placement that can be detrimental to a student and the family involved. As well, if a student is spending a good deal of time in the office, that is not helping the student or the school. It’s just ignoring what is right before them. I know many schools do this already, but disciplinary action should use positive behavior supports rather than negative. This has been proven time and time again, and many great teachers use this technique. I firmly believe all teachers should to help eliminate punitive action that is neither helpful or successful.
I do recognize I would be foolish to think these will all happen. But it would be a good idea for these to at least be looked at as part of the IEP task force. We are still waiting for a first meeting date and an announcement of who the members will be. If they are planning to have an August meeting, this needs to be announced very soon!