First State Military Academy ROTC Instructor With No DEEDS Credentials Arrested For Unlawful Sexual Contact

Last week, according to Delaware State News and the Smyrna-Clayton Sun-Times, First State Military Academy military instructor Troy McQueen was arrested and charged with three counts of second degree unlawful sexual contact with a student under the age of 18.  The charter school dismissed the employee the same day they found out about the incidents.  However, what I found next was very disturbing as a parent. Continue reading

Caesar Rodney District Staff & Admins Watched Disabled Child Get Beat Up And Did Nothing

I’ve heard from several sources that the fight in the cafeteria where a disabled student was pummeled could have been prevented had district staff or administration intervened.  These same sources revealed that district staff come over to the high school to eat in the very nice cafeteria.  On Tuesday, district staff were present during the fight, including Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.  The reason no one tries to break up a fight?  Because they are not allowed to if they have not received restraint training.

It would be one thing if this were indeed a “rare” situation, as described by Fitzgerald in his announcement about the fight today.  But I’m hearing there have been several fights.  Another recent one had the same scenario- a girl gets beaten up, no one breaks it up, and the school calls the parent to tell them to pick their child up and she may need medical attention.  I’m sorry, but if the school or district refuses to get the training needed to properly break up a fight, then they should incur the medical expenses for a student when they fail to prevent it or act once it starts.

In terms of the beating the disabled child took, some have gone online suggesting the disabled child used the “n” word against the other student.  But Diane Eastburn, the child’s advocate, said there were allegations tossed around but the school found through their investigations those allegations were false.  Those comments appeared on the WDEL article that broke this story.  Many have asked why the student who beat the child wasn’t expelled.  Any school expulsion has to go through a school board.  A school may suspend a student until the school board convenes to vote on that action item, but the school cannot expel a student.  The student was arrested as per Fitzgerald’s statement today.

I have serious concerns with Fitzgerald putting in words that “The District will continue to work hard to insure the safety of our students.”  How is it working hard if staff and administration don’t have the means to break up a fight?  That cafeteria was filled with adults according to several sources.  But in the video not one of them came over to the scene in the 30 seconds the fight took place.  The high school does have a School Resource Officer, but the school cannot and should not rely on one person to break up a fight.  It is a logistical nightmare.  What comfort does this give to the parents of the beaten child?  If I were them, I would see that as a slap in the face.  Because their child needed medical attention while the adults watched.

This district has been in the spotlight this week, and not in a good way.  I’ve written about Caesar Rodney School District more this week than I have my entire time blogging.  And I’ve done this for well over three years now.  One source, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said “This isn’t anything new.  It is just boiling to the surface now.”  Once you let the genie out of the bottle…

Delaware’s legislators have to find a way to make discipline issues more uniform throughout the state.  They have to make sure there are proper methods for interventions before events like this erupt all over the news.  It was a year and a half ago that Amy Joyner Francis was brutally murdered in a high school bathroom.  We don’t need a repeat of that again.  Fights will happen but I can’t help but think this district and our state could be doing a hell of a lot more to prevent them or act when they do.

In a week where Caesar Rodney has been inundated with bad news, from the custodian at Charlton sending explicit texts to a minor, to the Rider Mascot racial slur, and this fight, it is clear this district needs to think very carefully about what kind of message they are sending to parents.  Their Board of Education needs to take a very clear look at these situations and not just brush them off.  They need to come up with strategies and policies to tackle this in the best interests of students.

Many parents are wondering what is happening to students.  Fights are getting more vicious.  Racial tensions are building up in our state.  But we have far too many adults in charge who seem oblivious to the realities on the ground.  People are very sensitive today and our schools and leaders have to recognize this.  They must come up with better ways to help students deal with our world.  We can no longer let local control dictate what happens with school climate.  We must have uniform policies, training, and resources in every single public school in this state.  Parents or guardians must also help their children understand and cope with these issues as well.  For those who say “it was like this when I was a kid”, maybe it was, but we have more resources and knowledge on how to deal with these situations now.  We can’t live in bubbles.  If we want to live in this world, we have to share it.  And that means accepting others differences and helping others.  The hate has to stop before it becomes an uncontrollable beast.

Guest Post: Jennifer Cinelli-Miller On School Resource Officer Training

Yesterday, Delaware’s House Bill #142 was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  This bill deals with training for school resource officers in relation to students with disabilities.  This is a great bill!  It passed the House and is now on the Senate Ready List for a full Senate vote.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams worked extensively with Milford parent Jennifer Cinelli-Miller to get this bill going.  With Jennifer’s permission, I present her public comment to the Senate Education Committee:

Good afternoon Gentlemen,

Thank you for allowing me to be here today to speak on behalf of this piece of legislation. My concern with officers being placed in our schools began in 2013, when the Milford School District, in response to the horrific events at Sandy Hook, hired School Resource Officers (SROs) for our elementary schools, including Morris Early Childhood Center. When I began my research, many issues surrounding the use of uniformed, armed officers at the elementary level became apparent.  Most of these issues concerned students with special needs.

The research also showed that SROs were not being provided with appropriate training in regards to behaviors, exhibited by children with special needs which are a manifestation of their disability. These behaviors can be viewed, by the untrained eye, as behaviors that reach a level that requires law enforcement intervention.  My biggest fear was that my daughter, whose Autism causes her to have very serious meltdowns, would be mistaken as a public safety risk and arrested, placed in handcuffs or worse could end up dead.

I took my research to then Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and R.L. Hughes – who was at Homeland Security at the time and was working with the school districts to identify improvements to security measures in their buildings. None of the recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security included adding officers. 

The very first year with SROs in the schools in Milford brought about an incident which was by all accounts the “Perfect Storm” and ended with a child being committed to Rockford Center; strictly because he has Autism. There is nothing in this situation that the officers did that was inappropriate. There was a major breakdown in communication on the school’s part which led the SROs to be called for assistance instead of educators.

I had the honor of meeting with Rep. Williams after this incident and we set out to try to ensure that, at least in Delaware, SROs would be trained with a basic knowledge and understanding of children with disabilities. The family impacted by this incident wanted to ensure that it would never happen to another child.

This legislation will provide SROs with training and a basic knowledge of how the behaviors they may see in the schools are a manifestation of children’s disabilities and should be addressed by the educators in the schools.

I want to thank the many of those statewide that have assisted with this process. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet and work with so many of our wonderful officers from the Delaware State Police (DSP) and it was a relief to hear that they had just as much concern about SROs being utilized in situations that were meant for educators. I would also like to thank Brian Moore from Red Clay’s Public Safety Department, the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), specifically the Exceptional Children Resources group. Wendy Strauss and Sybil White from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens as well as Dafne Carnright from Autism Delaware and Bill Doolittle, a parent advocate who has been an instrumental part every step of the way.

So, after all of our hard work, I am here today to ask for your vote on this bill which has the support of DSP, the DOE and so many parents of children with disabilities.

Thank you,

Jennifer Cinelli-Miller, Parent Advocate

Milford, DE

**UPDATED** Looking To Become A Board Certified Special Education Advocate? Here’s Your Chance!

I can no longer endorse this program at all since Fox29 in Philadelphia showed a video of their investigation into this company. Do not, I repeat, do not take this course. The owner has fake doctorate credentials. For more information, see my reaction to the Fox29 story.

Mark Murphy’s Authority, Charter Schools, Immunizations, and Suicide Prevention Legislation Introduced in Delaware House of Representatives

When the Delaware 148th General Assembly returns from recess on April 21st, five new education legislation submissions will be on their plate.  These bills cover the authority of the Delaware Secretary of Education (currently Mark Murphy) and Labor Relations, the charter school enrollment radius, charter school applications being approved by the local school board before the Delaware State Board of Education, suicide prevention training for Delaware teachers, and immunization requirements in the event of an epidemic and how this would impact students who do not get immunized based on religious beliefs.  All the legislation introduced can be seen below.  The Mark Murphy Authority bill is sponsored by State Rep. Sean Lynn, the charter bills by State Rep. John Kowalko, the Suicide Prevention bill by State Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore, and the immunizations bill by State Rep. Sean Matthews and Senator Bethany Hall-Long.

Smarter Balanced Assessment System Is Having Many Issues, A Good Sign!!!!

Teacher, Red Clay Educators Association President and ex-blogger Mike Matthews put a post up on Facebook after fighting with the Smarter Balanced Assessment “proctor” system throughout the day.  In response, many teachers complained about the issues as well today.

Apparently, you can only get to the training system through Firefox, something the Delaware Department of Education told Matthews today after emails and tweets to them.  But that didn’t stop the problems.

Teachers of Delaware: Do you have any horror stories to tell about your attempts to get certified to proctor the Smarter Balanced Assessment via the PDMS system? Please share your stories here or private message me.

And the teachers responded!

I tried to do it yesterday and couldn’t get it to open

I’ve tried multiple times and keep getting a message that says too many on the system – try again later…

doesn’t bode for when when thousands of kids are accessing the test simultaneously.

Tried at home. I could register but not complete the course. Will try tomorrow at school. (uhm, no you won’t.  You won’t have school tomorrow.  Calling it now, snowmageddon on the way!)

I just tried as well. This. Is. Not. Working. I’ve sent an email to the District test coordinator and I put Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) on blast on Twitter. LOL

Have to wait 24 hours before viewing. Pain in the butt to find the assessments (at top of pp headings) and the paperwork admin wants is on page 5 bottom PDF. Took me three hours!!!

 I am registered but was not able to access from home, though I have been able to access from home on PDMS for other courses.

I registered Friday. Tried today. No luck.

I wonder how this is going to work when everyone in the state is taking this! (that’s actually the part I can’t wait to hear about.  I’m so glad my son won’t be taking part in this horrorfest since I OPTED HIM OUT!!!!  DELAWARE PARENTS, DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD TAKE THIS TEST! If they can ever get it running!  This should be fun.  Not for the teachers, but for the kids!)

I took it on Friday- at first it said there were too many users, but then it let me in. After the first presentation, I thought I was done, but there were 2 more. Took me the whole afternoon session of PD. Luckily, I put it on the smart board and was able to work.

Too many sections, especially for coordinators; interims training not good for “regular” assessment so you have to take double the training; separate sections for ELL, disabilities, & general accommodations- why can’t this all be in a single training???

My fave part: We’re suddenly “experts” after sitting through this ONE TIME. *sigh*

I have been trying at home since Friday = nightmarish! Weird errors, NO presentation, NO pdfs, I can only print the final “scary” completion sheets. So many pop-ups! I definitely have latest Adobe. I am using Chrome. With distaste, I opened it in Explorer – and also became too frustrated. I call myself slightly computer savvy and came to the conclusion that the “course” is crazy. I was going to try after school one day this week. grrrrrr

I’ve had trouble with PDMS at home before (on my Mac)- always works better for me at school!

Wonder what they’d say if I taught my kids this way: “Here, read this PowerPoint. Instant mastery!”

 Registering wasn’t bad. Accessing the training was and still is a nightmare

This was the point where I chimed in!

Why are you all complaining about this? This is a good thing! Maybe the whole system will explode and all the SBA files will disappear. It’s a good omen I say!  I think I’m going to write an article about this!

Please do. Include this, Kevin: Why can’t DoE do appropriate UAT to ensure that their (expletive deleted) training programs work on something other than Firefox?! They are a mess.

I tried on Firefox and it did not work on that either

All teachers should boycott this certification. (and the test and Common Core)

I figured if I’m going to write about this I should know what UAT and PDMS stand for!

Can anyone tell me what UAT and PDMS stand for?

UAT means user acceptance testing. In other words, testing all their systems and programming (ie PDMS) to ensure it can be used by all browsers and all operating systems. Clearly, this training on PDMS (Professional Development Management System) did not go through any UAT.  PDMS is the system teachers use to receive certain professional development courses.

Can we also vent about the fact that the district provided zero training, as far as I know, for the student training link or administration of SB???

Oh, is that what the DOE gave all that money to Amplify for? (that was me, I’ll admit it!)

That’s right.  That’s our honorable DOE.  I hope all these teachers working on this today get a floater or two for working on a holiday!  If the Smarter Balanced system is causing THIS many problems and it hasn’t even started yet, I’m going to predict chaos and mayhem when this thing rolls out.  It’s a shame schools don’t have free wi-fi.  Parents could sit outside the school during the test and hog up all the bandwidth watching Netflix!