Friday, October 31, 2008

D.C.: Teacher Identified in Beauvoir Child Porn Case

updated 5:15 p.m. ET, Wed., Oct. 15, 2008

WASHINGTON - D.C. police identified an elementary school teacher suspected of possession of inappropriate photos of young boys.

Police are searching for former Beauvoir Elementary School teacher Eric Toth, 26, Detective Sgt. Morani Hines said. Toth is wanted for possession of child pornography.

In early June, Toth, who taught third-graders at Beauvoir Elementary School, was kicked off the campus at the National Cathedral in northwest Washington.

On June 12, the school notified parents in a letter that a teacher was found in possession of a school-owned camera with inappropriate pictures of a boy. Sources told that pictures of at least three other boys being touched in inappropriate ways were on a thumb drive.

It was common for Toth to tutor and baby-sit Beauvoir students, sources said. At least one of the boys photographed is believed to be a Beauvoir student, sources said.

In August, Toth's car was found in a parking garage at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A note in the car indicated that Toth was contemplating suicide and that his body would be found in a nearby lake, sources said. Investigators believe that may be a ruse, police said.

"No body has been found, and it's reasonable to believe he's still alive," Hines said.

Toth had worked at Beauvoir for three years. Before the end of the 2007-08 school year, he resigned and told school officials he wouldn't be returning this year.

Federal authorities and police in Fairfax County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md., also are involved in the investigation, sources said. Incidents related to the case may have taken place inside homes in those counties.

Anyone with information about the case should call police at 202-727-9099.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TN: Schools, girl's attorney clash over offender's presence at Halls

By J.J. Stambaugh (Contact)
Originally published 06:39 p.m., October 28, 2008
Updated 07:25 p.m., October 28, 2008

See Related Story: School Hit with 3 Million Lawsuit

A Knox County Schools official today denied that a sexual offender’s program operates at Halls High School or any other school, contradicting one allegation included in a $3 million lawsuit filed in connection with the alleged rape a 14-year-old girl on a school bus.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit — Gregory P. Isaacs — said in response that he had never claimed the school system operated such a program but it was unclear precisely what kind of educational or rehabilitation services the alleged perpetrator was receiving at Halls.

School system spokesman Russ Oaks said in an e-mail today that the lawsuit — which was filed in federal court last week — contains “inaccurate irresponsible assertions.”

“For example: The suit alleges that the Knox County Schools System is operating a ‘program at Halls High School designed for students with sexually deviant behavioral issues,’” Oaks said. “This is not true. There is no such program at Halls High School or any other school in the Knox County School System.

“This case was referred to the appropriate law enforcement agencies by the Knox County Schools, and it would not be appropriate for us to discuss it further at this time.”

Oaks declined to answer any further questions about the case, citing confidentiality laws. He also declined to discuss special education programming in general terms without reference to the incident described in the lawsuit.

Isaacs said today that his lawsuit never claimed that a program for students with sexual behavioral problems is operating at Halls. The exact wording of the complaint was that the male student was in a program “specifically designed for students with sexually deviant behavioral issues and/or other severe emotional disturbance and or delinquent behavioral issues and was supposed to be ‘under constant and direct supervision.’”

“Without commenting on the pending litigation, it appears that the Knox County Schools spokesperson relied on media reports as opposed to the language contained in Jane Doe’s complaint in issuing a public statement,” Isaacs said.

“The use of the term ‘irresponsible’ is sadly ironic in this situation, based upon the allegations involving Jane Doe who was the victim of a sexual battery assault in an unsupervised school bus while in the care and custody of the Knox County school system.”

More details as they develop online and in Wednesday’s News Sentinel.

FL: CALL FOR ACTION: Parents accuse district of forcing students out

By Melissa Yeager, WINK News (See WINK News video)
Oct 27, 2008 at 6:56 PM EDT

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Parents make accusations of a carefully orchestrated strategy to keep special needs students out of the district. Now a report just released from a federal agency says Collier Schools should change the way they handle complaints from parents of students with disabilities.

All special needs students receive what's called an Individual Education Plan or IEP. It's a contract between the student and the district outlining exactly what extra help the child needs to succeed in school. Some parents claim those contracts are deliberately being broken.

While swimming in the pool, Derek Hughes looks like every other happy teenager. Until you notice, his service dog waiting poolside.

Diagnosed with autism, Derek started having seizures while he was a student at Pine Ridge Middle School.

"His seizure activity resulted in an ER visit because no one in school was trained properly to deal with a seizure," his dad, Bill Hughes, told CALL FOR ACTION.

After the seizure, his parents took him to a neurologist at the Dan Marino Center in Miami.

Derek's neurologist recommended the district change Derek's IEP to include requiring a full-time trained nurse stationed at the school (the school only had a part-time nurse). It also recommended allowing Derek to bring his service dog to school.

Despite letter... after letter... after letter from the Derek's family attorney to the district - nothing changed.

Bill Hughes told CALL FOR ACTION, "The district refused to change Derek's IEP. They refused to acknowledge the epilepsy diagnosis. The district even refused to recognize on Derek's IEP he had a seizure even at school.

In January 2006, Derek's dad requested an independent hearing under the American's with Disabilities Act. Federal law requires the district schedule the hearing within 45 days of the request.

"We sit here two and a half years later and not one single element of our sons' case has ever been evaluated and ruled on," said Hughes.

Hughes also complained to the Federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

WINK News asked the district about the Office of Civil Rights' investigation.

"Investigation has different meanings for different people," said Larry Ruble from the Collier County School District.

The District wouldn't comment specifically about Derek's cases because the Hughes have also filed a federal lawsuit against the district.

WINK News asked why the Hughes and other families had filed complaints against the district.

"It concerns me greatly the negative impression that is given about the district in the media by a few parents complaining but I know the district has worked diligently to try to satisfy the complaints of those parents," said Ruble.

Ruble told CALL FOR ACTION many of the complaints were addressed through hearings under a separate federal law, and thus there was no need for the hearings under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Derek's dad says his complaint was never satisfied.

Hughes said, "We were faced at that very point that we would have to defy our neurologists orders for the child and what was required for the child on a 24/7 basis or we had to send him back into that unsafe environment."

In September 2006, the Hughes moved Derek to Pennsylvania. The school there allows him to have his service dog and a sign language interpreter.

As soon as the Hughes enrolled Derek in Pennsylvania the Collier District filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Hughes said, "They manipulated and abused the federal regulatory requirements to keep from being held accountable for failing to meet those needs."

Two years later, Derek's dad hasn't quit his fight. He commutes on the weekends to Pennsylvania from their home and business in Collier, hoping his family might one day reunite in Florida.

"Certainly most families would forfeit the fight at this point and I think the strategy of the district was that we do just that so they weren't held accountable for our son," Hughes told CALL FOR ACTION.

Another family has also filed a separate lawsuits against the district in federal court for the same issue.

The Office of Civil Rights recently finished its investigation and sent a letter to the Collier District recommending changes to how the district informs parents of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To read the entire letter CLICK HERE.

TN: School board hit with $3M suit

Lawyer says autistic teen raped on bus by alleged sexual offender
By Jamie Satterfield (Contact)Tuesday, October 28, 2008

See Related Story: School, Girl's Attorney Clash Over Offenders Presence at Halls

An 18-year-old accused "predator" pressed his pretend earpiece and threatened the naive autistic girl with an attack from occupants of the car trailing the Knox County school bus - ferrying special education students unsupervised - unless she complied with his sexual demands, a lawsuit alleges.

The Knox County Board of Education has been slapped with a $3 million civil-rights lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, in connection with the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism marked by severe social dysfunction, by an alleged sex offender whose court-appointed guardian had deemed him too dangerous to go unsupervised.

Yet, the pair wound up on the same bus in August with no adult supervision save the bus driver, and the girl was the lone female on the bus full of "rowdy" special education students, the lawsuit alleged.

Attorney Gregory P. Isaacs, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 14-year-old girl, said the boy has been labeled in court records as a sexual predator and was being transported to a sex offender treatment program at Halls High School when the alleged rape occurred.

"It is unconscionable that as a condition of her education, this disabled 14-year-old was forced to ride in a Knox County school bus with an 18-year-old known sexual predator who was unsupervised," Isaacs said. "The consequences were unfortunately very foreseeable. Our investigation has determined that after this unfortunate incident, this (male teenager) is now being transported alone."

Schools spokesman Russ Oaks declined comment, citing the pending legal battle.

According to the lawsuit, bus owner Stanley Rudder had warned Knox County school officials the girl, identified only as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, "would not make it two days" on a special education bus crammed with "rowdy" troubled boys.

His prediction proved correct, with the girl immediately being subjected to sexual harassment on the bus, the lawsuit alleged. Her mother complained to school officials to no avail, Isaacs wrote.

Meanwhile, Knox County Juvenile Court officials were worried about the supervision of an 18-year-old boy who was being transported on the bus to attend sex offender treatment classes at Halls High School, and his guardian warned against leaving the teenager alone with other students, according to the lawsuit.

"The 18-year-old male student was in therapy for a sex crime related matter and has been characterized as a sexual predator," Isaacs wrote.

The teenager is identified only as John Doe. Police records indicate the teenager's alleged sexual assault of the autistic girl is under criminal probe, but a spokesman for the Knox County District Attorney's Office was not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.

According to the lawsuit, the alleged sexual predator plotted an attack on the girl, taking advantage of her autism and inability to recognize deception.

"In a calculated manner, the male student pretended to have an earpiece that enabled him to communicate with the persons in the other vehicle in order to deceive and frighten the autistic (girl)," the lawsuit stated. "The 18-year-old male student terrified (the girl) into believing that she would be harmed by the persons in the other vehicle if she did not let the male student fondle her and sexually assault and batter her person."

The lawsuit alleges the teenage boy admitted raping the girl and was unrepentant about the attack.

Jamie Satterfield may be reached at 865-342-6308.

Does My Child Need a Behavioral Intervention Plan?

By Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy and Affairs
The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Updated October 28, 2008

In determining whether or not a child’s behavior warrants an intervention plan, consideration should be given to the following factors:

1. Is the behavior interfering with the child’s or other children’s ability to learn?

If the behavior is interfering with the child's or other children's ability to learn then a behavioral intervention plan should be developed to replace/modify the inappropriate behavior. If the behavior is merely annoying, but not disruptive, then the problem is not the child's - but those bothered by the behavior - and should not be replaced/modified.

2. Is the behavior dangerous to the child or to others?

Any time a behavior is dangerous to the child or to others, the behavior needs to be addressed, no matter how frequently or infrequently the child engages in such behavior. Since all behavior serves a function, it is crucial to identify what function (or purpose) such a behavior serves so that replacement/modification strategies can be put into place to protect the child and others.

3. Can the behavior be modified by applying consequences?

If the child is not motivated to change their behavior when consequences are enforced, then a behavior plan based solely on consequences will not be effective.

4. Can the child engage in a desired behavior consistently?

If the child is unable to consistently engage in a desired behavior, observations should be conducted and information should be gathered to determine why the behavior is inconsistent. A plan should then be put into place to help positively reinforce desired behaviors. If a plan is already in place, but the behaviors are still inconsistent, the following questions should be answered: Is the behavior plan being applied consistently; do expectations need to be scaled back to reinforce the desired behavior; and, since new habits are typically formed in approximately twenty-one days, does the child simply need more time to learn or adjust to the replacement/modified behavior?

5. Can the behavior plan or interventions be implemented consistently?

Children with disabilities often have a variety of needs that can only be met through therapies, trainings, or other interventions. Since "behaviors" can occur virtually anywhere at any time, it is imperative that ALL STAFF involved in your child's education be able and willing to consistently apply your child's intervention plan. If for some reason an intervention that is practical and works in one setting, but is not practical to use in another, alternate interventions - that are used consistently - should be developed. Otherwise, your child's progress - and improvement - could be derailed.

6. Has the child been thoroughly assessed for other disabilities?

What some educators see as willful non-compliance could simply be a misunderstanding. By this I mean that some children may have an undiagnosed language/processing disorder that is preventing them from complying with or behaving in a certain way. They simply may not understand what is being asked of them or may need more time to process the information they are receiving. A neuropsychological evaluation and language-based evaluation should be conducted to rule out any previously undiagnosed disabilities that could be contributing to undesired behaviors before any plan is put into place.

7. Is there a skill deficit or sensory intolerance/dysfunction that could be contributing to behaviors?

As was mentioned above, a skill deficit or sensory intolerence/dysfunction could be contributing to a child's behaviors. Evaluations and assessments should be conducted to rule out any previously undiagnosed deficits and/or sensory intolerences/dysfunctions.

8. Are accommodations, therapies, or other interventions already in place?

If accommodations, therapies, or other interventions are not already in place, and the behaviors are not dangerous to the child or others, the IEP team should determine whether putting accomodations, therapies, in place would help reduce/eliminate undesirable behaviors.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

IL: Ex-Unit 5 teacher Jon White denies allegations in federal lawsuit

By Edith Brady-Lunny
Friday, October 24, 2008 3:54 PM CDT

URBANA -- Former Colene Hoose Elementary School teacher Jon White has denied most of the allegations contained in a federal lawsuit filed against him and officials of the Unit 5 and Urbana school districts.

In a response filed Thursday by his attorneys, White admitted that he played a game with students that involved placing an object in their mouths for his sexual gratification or arousal.

The former teacher is serving 60 years for sexually abusing eight students at Urbana’s Thomas Paine Elementary School and two Hoose students. He taught at Hoose in Normal from 2002 to 2005 before accepting an assignment in Urbana, where he taught until his arrest in January 2007.

White, 28, admits in court documents that he watched pornography on his classroom computer at Hoose in 2004 and showed photographs of actress Mena Suvari to a female fifth-grader. He said John Pye, Unit 5 assistant superintendent of operations and human resources, and current Hoose Principal Ed Heinemann were aware of both activities.

White was given a letter of recommendation as part of a separation agreement with Unit 5.

Pye, Heinemann, former Hoose Assistant Principal Dale Heidbreder, former Hoose Principal Jim Braksick, and former Unit 5 Superintendent Alan Chapman also are named in the federal lawsuit filed by Champaign attorney Ellyn Bullock on behalf of an Urbana student identified as Jane Doe-2 and her mother, Julie Doe-2.

The former teacher acknowledges that he was asked by Urbana school officials in November 2006 about what has been described in court records as “the taste test game” after a student told her mother about the activity.

White told school officials that Jane Doe-2, a second-grader, and other students “played a taste test game in his classroom involving different flavors being placed on a banana and explained it was part of a unit on senses that included Helen Keller,” said White’s response filed by attorney Brett Olmstead.

Also part of the lawsuit are claims that White committed battery or a hate crime related to the abuse. He denied it and demanded a jury trial.

Unit 5 filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the claims of Jane Doe-2 involve the Urbana district and White’s misconduct outside Normal.

In her reply to Unit 5, Bullock repeated the claim that local school officials were aware of White’s inappropriate behavior before he went to work in Champaign County. She called the Unit 5 position “perplexing and disingenuous.”

The federal lawsuit seeks $1 million from each of the school districts.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

You've GOT to be kidding me!


Now that that little disclaimer is out of the way....

I got an email from the Massachusettes Disability Law Center (DLC) yesterday (10/24/08) and just got around to reading it. Since you've already been warned, I'm not going to insult your intelligence, but let's just say, I am NOT a happy camper right now.

No, more than that, I'm seeing red. I'm I can barely see straight. And here's why.

On October 18, 2008, I sent an email to the DLC after reading an article about 6 kids who were "allegedly" repeatedly abused by their teacher. For example, she punched one child in the back of the head and then threatened to do it again, telling them, "I'm bigger. I'm badder, and I'm stronger than you." These 6 kids all are on the autism spectrum and are all NON-VERBAL - which, as research supports, make them the perfect targets of abuse, because the kids in question LITERALLY CANNOT TELL ANYONE WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM.

I forwarded the article onto the Massachusettes Disability Law Center, because that's the link the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) listed as their contact for such issues in Massachusettes, as the NDRN (aka Protection and Advocacy (P&A)) has the legal authority to investigate allegations of abuse against people with disabilities, whereas this organization can't.

I'll be honest here, in my dealings with P&A's/DLC's, I've found them to be pretty worthless as far as actually directly helping people who need it. Advoocacy on a larger scale, yeah, they do ok, and when they actually publish their investigations, it's powerful reading and powerful motivation that THINGS NEED TO CHANGE. But those publications are few and far between.

Naively, optimistically, I'd hoped things would be different since so many children were involved and because the witness accounts seemed credible.

But...seemingly, such was not the case.

Here's an excerpt from the response:

"While there seems to be credible evidence of repeated abuse by the teacher, DSS did not substantiate the complaints of abuse and refused to re-consider their decision, despite the advocacy by the attorney representing the families. However, the District Attorney is apparently still considering filing criminal charges.

Because the police did a very thorough investigation, it does not make sense for DLC to initiate a P&A investigation on the same matter. In addition, it appears that these specific students are no longer at risk as Ms. Gibbons is no longer their teacher.

At this time, I don't see a role for DLC, especially in light of our limited resources. However, if we receive any reports that Ms. Gibbons has abused or neglected children during this school year, we would almost certainly want to initiate an investigation."

So, let me get this straight here. There is credible evidence of abuse, but you won't do an independent investigation because Children and Families "found no evidence" and "refused to change their findings." And the police are investigating, so it would be a duplication of efforts. BUT...if this goes to trial, you can bet that the reports "finding no evidence of abuse" are going to be front and center of the defense. And the parents - and their abused children - have nothing to counteract that other than witness accounts, which may have been discredited. YET, you're telling me that THERE IS CREDIBLE EVIDENCE OF ABUSE, yet YOU won't have the P&A investigate because ANOTHER AGENCY - found no evidence of abuse. A P&A report refuting that other report (if findings warrant) would at least give the parents and kids something to fight back with.

And another thing...while in a way, I can understand the reasonings for not doing an investigation - limited resources/duplication of efforts - but to just take the attitude that "so what if the teacher hurt those kids, it doesn't matter because she's not able to hurt them now," but IF she's still teaching and IF further allegations emerge, THEN "we'd ALMOST CERTAINLY" get involved just SICKENS me.

Now, I know all about limited resources because I personally run this blog and provide services at no cost taking no salary. (We're all volunteer here, baby! ) I also know all about how federal monies are funneled into P&A's/DLC's so that they can INVESTIGATE and LITIGATE allegations of abuse. So why aren't they doing what they're legally obligated to do, what they receive GRANT MONEY to do. (Grant money is given with stipulations about how it can and cannot be spent. Yes, there is a limited amount, but does that give them the right to refuse to investigate, if that's what the law established that organization to do?) I'm so sick of seeing this "excuse" (not enough money) for not doing something to protect the most vulnerable of children from abuse. Connect with universities and offer work study or unpaid internship opportunities. Get more volunteers to help man the phones/help process applications. Train volunteers to go into schools to help investigate allegations. There are alternatives that require little to no monetary compensation. USE THEM.

I'll also put up this disclaimer and say that I'm looking at this right now through an emotional perspective, not a rational one, so maybe, just maybe, there's merit to not duplicating investigations.

However, as a researcher, I know that duplication is power in an of itself because if something can be duplicated, it's validity (and therefore truthfulness) increases. And if they investigate and find facts to support these kids were abused...makes the other reports less credible, less believable.

Children with disabilities are NOT disposable and should not be treated like garbage by those who are paid by federal, state, and local - public - monies to care, nurture, and EDUCATE all kids. These kids most likely were abused (I'm convinced they were, but my convictions don't mean anything in the eyes of the law), yet because the abuse is not happening NOW, it's being treated as if it NEVER happened. And the teacher was transferred to other students and got to keep (and may even still be, since the district won't say) teaching.

No, I take that back, it's being treated as if is ALMOST never happened, since the DA's office MIGHT press charges. But then again, maybe the DA won't. And if the DA won't then this teacher will still have access to kids and COULD do this again!

So, there's my rant of the day. THIS is the realities many parents of kids who were abused in public school face. We're pretty sure our kids were abused, we may even have people (staff, family members, other parents, etc) who witnessed abuse come forward, and yet...the very agencies that are supposed to help families with these types of crises turn a blind eye (Yeah, I'm looking at you, too, Dept of Ed and Office for Civil Rights). "Sorry, we can't help you."

Yeah, well maybe they can't (or rather won't), but at least I'll try. So for anyone who has been/is going through something like this, PLEASE EMAIL ME, and I'll do what I can, even if it's only to fruitlessly send emails asking for help on your behalf and publicly blasting them when they won't. But know this, you're not alone.

Take care,

Jennifer Searcy

Note about the author:

Jennifer Searcy is the mother of four daughters, ages seven through 13. Her nine year old daughter was diagnosed with epilespy at 15 months and PDDNOS by age 2 1/2. This daughter was illegally and inappropriately restrained in a public school on October 17, 2006 at age 7. Because of the abuses she suffered in a public school, this daughter was removed from public school and is being homeschooled/cyberschooled.

She is also a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, holding a bachelor of science degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in psychology, and was a co-founder of Families Against Restraint and Seclusion and Pennsylvania Families Against Restraint and Seclusion. She is currently the Founder and Director of Public Policy and Affairs for The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

MA: Teacher of autistic children in Randolph under fire

Special Note: This is another article about allegations leveled against Ann Gibbons, whom witnesses say abused 6 different children with autism who are non-verbal at Lyons Elementary School. To date, no charges have been filed and no evidence of abuse has been found, namely because the children CANNOT SPEAK OUT TO CONFIRM OR DENY WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM. The teacher is rumored to still be teaching at the school, however the school will neither confirm nor deny her status as such information is "confidential." This teacher also was not licensed to teach special education, but may have a waiver.

By Nancy Reardon
The Patriot Ledger
Posted Oct 25, 2008 @ 04:00 AM

RANDOLPH — Parents of six autistic children are pushing for criminal charges against a teacher who they say abused students in her classroom.

The parents and three teacher aides say the instructor, Ann Gibbons of Middleboro, allegedly engaged in finger-bending and forceful pushing and shoving that caused bruises, cuts, a bleeding lip and limping.

Both the state Department of Children and Families and the Hingham-based South Shore Educational Collaborative, which provides alternative programs for special education students, conducted investigations and found no evidence to support the allegations against Gibbons.

But the parents – who learned of the alleged abuse from three whistle-blower teacher aides assigned to Gibbons’ classroom at Lyons Elementary School in Randolph – say they’re absolutely convinced the allegations are true and believe Gibbons should face assault charges.

The six children in her classroom are all nonverbal.

A hearing was held Monday in Quincy District Court before Assistant Clerk Robert Bloom to determine if Gibbons will face criminal charges. To date, no charges have been filed.

Gibbons’ attorney, Todd Bennett, declined to comment except to say, “Ann maintains her absolute innocence relative to these allegations, and she has confidence in the judicial process.”

Michael Savage, executive director of the South Shore Educational Collaborative, referred calls to the school’s attorney, Regina Williams Tate, who declined to comment on the allegations or the school’s response to those allegations, which six parents interviewed described as “unprofessional” and “disappointing.”

Tate would not say whether Gibbons is still teaching for the collaborative or is on paid administrative leave, saying “personnel matters are strictly confidential.”

Two of the aides who say they witnessed the alleged abuse – AnneMarie Grant and Erin Royer – are no longer with South Shore Collaborative. The third, Mary Ericson, who has worked there for almost 21 years, said she is pursuing a relation claim against the school. She has been transferred to an adult program.

The aides informed school officials and parents of alleged abuse in February to March of this year, including:

Gibbons allegedly using “finger bending” on several students, a move the aides said is very painful but leaves no marks.

Gibbons allegedly pushing one student, Ethan Goloskie, against a bookcase and holding her forearm against his neck.

Gibbons allegedly trying to “bait” Ethan by purposely telling him “quiet,” a word known to evoke tantrums. When he responded, Gibbons allegedly put her hand to his throat. His mother, Nancy Wallace of Hull, said he came home one day with marks on his collarbone and a 3-inch facial scratch.

One student was allegedly on a time-out chair for 20 minutes, and Ericson said Gibbons forcefully pushed him down when he tried to get up.

Another student was allegedly lifted off the floor by his head by Gibbons. The student, Carmen Maggiore, came home with unexplained bruises and marks around that time, said his parents, Linda Auger of Braintree and Tony Maggiore of Hingham.

After an incident when a student bit Gibbons, she allegedly pushed him, causing him to fall on the floor. The student, Sean Quill, was sent home that day because his lip would not stop bleeding. His parents, John and Julie Quill of Norwell, say their son was limping that night. They were told he was injured while kicking his chair.

The South Shore Collaborative operates through 10 local school districts and offers alternative programs for special education students that their hometown schools do not provide. It is based in Hingham, but operates in classrooms in public schools from Randolph to Marshfield.

Gibbons is licensed to teach in grades 1-6 and is not licensed to teach in special education classrooms, said Jonathan Considine, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. A teacher in a special education class is required to be certified, unless he or she has a waiver, Considine said. The Patriot Ledger was unable to confirm whether Gibbons has a waiver.

Gibbons taught in a classroom at Lyons Elementary School in Randolph.

The Department of Children and Families, formerly called the Department of Social Services, investigated the allegations against Gibbons and said in April that there was no basis for action against her. Since then, parents said they have been combing over all documents related to the allegations and working with police in Randolph, where Gibbons taught in a classroom at Lyons.

Randolph Police Chief Paul Porter did not return calls for comment.

Parents said they notified police of behavior logs they obtained from the school. It took weeks for the school to respond to their requests, they said. The logs record any time a student is restrained during a tantrum.

Auger, the Braintree mother whose son, Carmen, came home with unexplained bruises, said the logs were a “red flag” for her because they said Carmen was restrained on the same days that his daily teacher-parent communication book said he had a good day at school.

Either the logs or the teacher was lying, Auger said.

Parents said they are still furious that the school did not immediately report the allegations, and that Gibbons may teach special needs students again.

“We feel the need to protect other autistic children, and the only way to have her not teach again is to bring these charges,” Wallace said.

John and Julie Quill said by pursuing assault charges, they are giving the children, all of whom are nonverbal, a voice.

“It’s not easy to work with our kids,” John Quill said. “But I’d have more respect for someone who walked away instead of taking their frustrations out on these kids. They didn’t choose autism.”


How the allegations came to light

February – March 2008: Alleged abuse by teacher Ann Gibbons is witnessed by three classroom aides
March 18: Classroom aide AnnMarie Grant reports alleged abuse to program director Mary Scott at South Shore Educational Collaborative
March 24: Gibbons placed on paid leave; does not return for rest of school year
Executive Director Michael Savage meets with every staff member who worked in Gibbons’ classroom
State Department of Children and Families notified of allegations
March 24-27: Aides disclose allegations to parents
March 26: Department of Children and Families screens out investigation to the school
March 28: School officials meet with parents for first time. Parents request further investigation from Department of Children and Families
April 10: State concludes there is not sufficient evidence to support the allegations
April: Parents of all six students pull them out of Gibbons’ classroom; two aides resign in protest and third is transferred
Oct. 20: Clerk magistrate hearing held at Quincy District Court with Assistant Clerk Robert Bloom. No charges against Gibbons have been filed.

FL: Kingswood Teacher Charged With Abusing Student

By JOSH POLTILOVE The Tampa Tribune
Published: October 24, 2008
Updated: 09:19 pm

Kingswood Elementary School teacher Robert Nicholson was arrested today, charged with child abuse in an incident involving a student in his music class, Hillsborough County School District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

A 10-year-old boy accused Nicholson of grabbing him from behind Wednesday, wrapping arms around the boy's upper torso, near the neck, lifting him and carrying him about six feet to where he wanted the boy to be, Cobbe said. The boy said it was difficult to breathe.

The boy didn't have visible injuries.

Treshena Dixon said she reported the situation after the school tried to minimize the situation involving her son, a fifth-grader.

Dixon wrote in an e-mail to The Tampa Tribune that the sheriff's office "seemed reluctant" to arrest the teacher, who "was stating how sorry he was about the situation."

Nicholson has been placed on paid administrative leave while the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office investigates.

The veteran teacher has been investigated by the district twice before and was not disciplined either time.

In 1997 at McLane Middle School, a student accused him of grabbing her by the arm.

In 2001 at McLane, he squirted a student with a water pistol, Cobbe said.

Nicholson, 52, of Riverview, was arrested at 11 a.m. today at 3102 S. Kings Ave.
His bail was set at $2,000. He has been released.

Reporter Josh Poltilove can be reached at or (813) 259-7691.

CT: Accounts of abuse inspire parents to form group

Accounts of abuse inspire parents to form group
By LISA BACKUS , Herald staff

NEW BRITAIN - Outraged parents of two autistic children allegedly abused by their special education teacher demanded changes to the school system Thursday just minutes after the teacher pleaded not guilty to criminal charges stemming from the incidents.

Michele Campbell, 36, of Plantsville, is facing seven felony counts for incidents involving three autistic boys ages 5 to 7 in her classroom at Chamberlain School, police said. A warrant for her arrest has been sealed by the court until today.

A spokeswoman for a newly formed advocacy group described allegations against Campbell that included locking an autistic 6-year-old boy in a dark closet, pouring water down a student's nose until the student choked and tying a child to a chair and screaming in his ear.

"The incidents were discovered in May and likely were happening all school year long, yet parents weren't notified until after the state Department of Children and Families did an investigation in July," said Lisa Nkonoki, of Ps & Qs - Parents and Quality, formed after the allegations surfaced.

"Since then not one parent has been called, and one of the parents still hasn't been told their child was abused because they have since moved out of the school system," she said.

The group is calling for better parental notification and more support for special education students. Nkonoki said the school system has yet to offer any help for the parents or children dealing with the aftermath of abuse.

Arelis Kinard, a parent of the one of the students involved, said her 7-year-old son is nonverbal but has been having behavioral problems that may be attributed to abuse. "I'm angry, I'm angry at the school, I'm angry at the system," she said during an often tearful press conference on the steps of New Britain Superior Court.

Parent Alberta Marin said her son now fears going to bed after being locked in a dark closet. "It's a struggle every day when you have a child with autism," Marin said. "Every day is different, and one morning he can wake up and be sensitive to something - even brushing his teeth can be a problem. He doesn't want to sleep alone anymore, he wants me to keep the TV on all night. I can tell there's something in his head that I can't find out."

School officials said Campbell was placed on administrative leave in May after the incidents were reported. There was a five-week DCF investigation, and she was assigned to a different school at the start of the school year.

"She was returned to a different school population with another teacher," Superintendent Doris Kurtz said. "She is not in the same isolated environment and has been put back on paid administrative leave since her arrest."

Kurtz said she was bound by confidentiality rules not to discuss the allegations but added that she would meet with the new parent group. "When the parents delineate their issues, I will be happy to meet with them," Kurtz said. "I will tell them what I can, but they will have to understand that I have to be very careful not to violate anyone's rights."

When Kinard learned about the allegations and that Campbell was still working in the system, she brought the incidents to the attention of police. Campbell was arrested by warrant Oct. 9 on charges of risk of injury and cruelty to persons. She pleaded not guilty Thursday during a brief court appearance. Campbell declined to comment as she left the courthouse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Central Florida Teacher Arrested On Charge Of Having Sex With Student

45-Year-Old Woman Resigns From School
POSTED: 1:11 pm EDT October 22, 2008
UPDATED: 4:25 pm EDT October 22, 2008

PORT ORANGE, Fla. -- A teacher who resigned from a Volusia County Christian school amid allegations that she had a sexual relationship with a student has been arrested.

Cynthia Horvath, 45, of South Daytona, was arrested Wednesday on charges of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors at the Wal-Mart on Beville Road in Daytona Beach around 12:20 p.m.

Horvath, who taught at Warner Christian Academy, was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail and was being held on a $10,000 bond.

The teacher was investigated by Port Orange and South Daytona police after she was confronted by a school administrator about having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old male, police said.

According to a preliminary investigation by South Daytona police, the teacher and the student met off-campus over a four-month period and had a sexual relationship.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

Previous Story: October 15, 2008: Teacher Resigns Amid Student Sex Claim

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

GA: Reaching an Autistic Teenager

SPECIAL NOTE: So often we bring to you stories of abusive practices used in schools and the children and families who must recover from them. Today we are incredibly pleased to bring to you a story of a school which, at least if this article can be believed, is doing things right! We hope you enjoy reading this article as much as we did...

October 19, 2008
Reaching an Autistic Teenager

On a typical Monday morning at an atypical high school, teenage boys yanked open the glass doors to the First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga. Half-awake, iPod wires curling from their ears, their backpacks unbuckled and their jeans baggy, the guys headed for the elevator. Arriving at Morning Meeting in the third-floor conference room, Stephen, his face hidden under long black bangs, dropped into a chair, sprawled across the table and went back to sleep. The Community School, or T.C.S., is a small private school for teenage boys with autism or related disorders. Sleep disturbances are common in this student body of 10, so a boy’s staggering need for sleep is respected. Nick Boswell, a tall fellow with thick sideburns, arrived and began his usual pacing along the windows that overlook the church parking lot and baseball diamond. Edwick, with spiky brown hair and a few black whiskers, tumbled backward with a splat into a beanbag chair on the floor.

“O.K., guys, let’s talk about your spring schedules,” said Dave Nelson, the 45-year-old founding director. He wore a green polo shirt, cargo shorts and sneakers and had a buzz haircut and an open, suntanned face. After his son Graham, 19, was given a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (A.S.D.) as a young child, Nelson left the business world and went into teaching and clinical and counseling work. On that Monday, he was instantly interrupted.

“I had a very bad night!” Edwick yelled from the floor. “Nightmares all night!”

“What was disturbing you, Edwick?” Nelson asked.

“What do you think?” Edwick cried in exasperation. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day!”

“What’s upsetting about that?” Nelson asked.

Edwick dropped his shoulders to relay how tiring it was to have to explain every little thing. “Leprechauns,” he yelled.

“Oh,” Nelson said. “I thought maybe it was the tornado that hit downtown on Friday night.”

“No, not the tornado!” Edwick yelled.

Nick stopped pacing to comment: “Edwick’s not scared of tornados; he’s scared of leprechauns.”

I burst out laughing and so did the faculty members, while Nelson seemed to relish the interruption rather than find it a hindrance to the morning routine. His hidden agenda was precisely to entertain outbursts like Edwick’s, while making room for a sardonic intelligence like Nick’s. No matter the stated purpose of Morning Meeting, the true purposes were always the same: conversation, debate, negotiation, compromise and the building of relationships. T.C.S.’s only serious admissions requirements are that a boy should have at least some functional language and that there’s a good chance he can become part of the “community” of the school name.

The group turned to registering for spring classes. In addition to biology, algebra 2/trigonometry, English literature and U.S. history, there were the electives: Dragon Lore, Comic Books, How to Shop for Bargains and the History of Snack Food. Past electives included All About Pirates, Spy Technology, Ping-Pong, Dog Obedience, Breaking World Records, Unusual Foods and Taking Things Apart. (“I just wish they’d come up with a second-quarter class, Putting the Things Back Together,” Nelson told me.)

“I knew it!” Edwick complained, mashing about on the beanbag chair. He was disappointed because no one picked the elective he’d proposed: the History of Meat.

What makes the Community School unusual is not its student body — plenty of schools around the country enroll teenagers with an autism spectrum disorder. But, like about only two dozen schools in the country, it employs a relatively new, creative and highly interactive teaching method known as D.I.R./Floortime, which is producing striking results among T.C.S.’s student body. (D.I.R. stands for developmental, individual differences, relationship-based approach.) The method is derived from the work of Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry, behavioral science and pediatrics at George Washington University, and his colleague Dr. Serena Wieder. D.I.R./Floortime can be effective with all kinds of children, whether they have developmental challenges or not. As applied by T.C.S., it is an approach that encourages students to develop their strengths and interests by working closely with one another and with their teachers. The goal for students is neurological progress through real-world engagement.

With the skyrocketing diagnoses of A.S.D.’s in recent years, parents and school systems are challenged as never before to find techniques to keep these teenagers engaged, productive and nondespairing. Boys with A.S.D. (they outnumber girls four to one) who were difficult to console, to teach, to restrain at age 4 or 8 can be nearly impossible for parents and teachers to manage and to steer at 14 and 18. While a 25-pound toddler’s tantrum is wearying, a 150-pound teenager’s tantrum is dangerous. Puberty and young adulthood take many of these young people unawares.

How best to serve this population remains a subject of debate, because autism is a “final common pathway” diagnosis, meaning children arrive here from different points of origin, are troubled by a wide variety of issues and respond to different strategies. “You meet one child with autism and, well, you’ve met one child with autism,” says Linda Brandenburg, the director of school autism services at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland. Given the wide range of expression in autism and related disorders, there is no one-size-fits-all intervention. “We now know that there are several different models that seem to work — some more behavioral, some more developmental, some more eclectic,” Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Yale Child Study Center, told me. “What we really need to be doing, what the law says, is design programs around the kids rather than force kids into a program.”

The vast majority of programs for autistic youth in the U.S. use an approach called Applied Behavior Analysis, in which teachers and therapists use well-established techniques of reward and punishment to shape a student’s actions toward goals like toilet training, learning vocabulary or completing a puzzle. A typical A.B.A. lesson rewards memorized responses, specific behaviors and compliance to external directives — “Pick up the fork, Jared.” An instructor may move the child’s arm, hand and fingers to model the desired behavior. The child is then rewarded — with praise, with hugs, with a treat — when he performs the act correctly. As the first method to work with profoundly self-absorbed children and to demonstrate that progress could be made, A.B.A. — which came to national prominence in the late 1980s — has been a lifesaver for countless families. Critics worry that the method focuses on modifying the symptoms rather than addressing the underlying disabilities, and many say they fear that A.B.A.-trained children often do not “generalize,” that is, take a behavior learned in one setting and apply it in another. A child may learn to make eye contact in response to “How are you?” and to reply, “Fine, how are you?” But such rote memorization does not give the child the intuition to know when a stranger is to be greeted warmly and when to be avoided, and it does not enable him to meet his grandmother with greater warmth than the grocer.

“All teachers and therapists use elements of behaviorism,” Nelson told me. “As an intervention for autism, the A.B.A. movement was one of the first to suggest how intensive the intervention has to be — maybe 40 hours a week — to see results. This notion of intensity has been valuable to everyone that followed.”

The Community School — with a teaching staff of 12 and a $25,000 tuition — employs the intensity but not the methodology of A.B.A. Rather than spend time on a student’s mastery of a skill preselected for him by an adult, the idea is to harness a student’s energy and desire to learn. As a student interacts with peers and teachers, solves problems and expresses his ideas, his behavior should naturally begin to lose its rough edges. The essence of Floortime is that a person learns best when self-motivated, when an inner drive sparks the acquisition of skills and knowledge.

As with A.B.A., achieving D.I.R./Floortime’s far-reaching goals for students requires intense interaction — a wooing of a child from his or her remove — for as many hours of the day as parents and teachers can physically sustain. Dr. Greenspan would like to see an autistic child productively interacting with an adult for most of his waking time, seven days a week. Those drained parents who have the means hire therapists and trained baby sitters to help them approximate that schedule, during either home-schooling days or out-of-school hours.

Because the goal of D.I.R./Floortime is the kindling of a student’s curiosity, intelligence, playfulness and energy, the lessons can take on a spontaneous, electric quality. I have seen sessions with young children during which the child and his or her therapist or parent tumbled across the house, behind the sofa, into closets or onto the porch, picking up balls, puppets, costumes, books and snacks along the way. At T.C.S., classes can look like debates between equals; school days can include board games, sports, plays, science experiments, music, art, ropes courses or rafting trips in which all students and teachers playfully compete, contribute and perform. All the boys at the school probably have average or better intelligence. Onlookers might call a few “high functioning” (though that adjective has no clinical meaning), and T.C.S. is an accredited high school and middle school, offering college prep and high-school courses to students able to complete a conventionally rigorous course of study. (Other students pursue less-demanding tracks oriented toward getting a G.E.D., attaining job skills or developing independent-living skills.) So it’s not all fun and social time. But rote learning is never the goal; the goal is that the students should be able to think, to feel, to communicate and to learn. Most of the kids are making the first friends of their lives here.

T.C.S. does not promise miracles. It does not promise to be a perfect fit for every teenager with an A.S.D. Dave Nelson does not invest great faith in the possibility of leaving the autism spectrum behind, no matter how much parents (like himself) would love to believe it. The breakthroughs at T.C.S. are subtle rather than headline-grabbing, noticeable at first only to the adults closest to the kids and to the students themselves. But for these families, any forward motion can inspire a moment of real hope and happiness, and quite remarkable progress happens every day.

Stephen, 17, a solidly built boy with a sweet face under a heavy thatch of bangs, entered T.C.S. in 2005 prone to blowups of alarming power. His parents adore their son and have been whipped about like sailboats by his furies. His first year at school, during group construction of an outdoor marble-run, a boy fumbled and a marble dropped. “I am going to assassinate him,” Stephen exploded. “I. Will. Behead. Him.” Stephen’s academics are top-notch, but the stance of the Community School is not to ignore a student’s psychological deficits while skipping ahead to schoolwork or life skills. It doesn’t matter that Stephen is at home with algebraic theorems if he is going to react like a toddler when ambushed by a mad or sad feeling.

Ty Martin, 14, is a cute and curly-haired guy who lives in terror of loud or strange noises. The faux thunderstorm in the produce aisles at the grocery store makes it difficult to take him shopping. A classmate’s coughing or a siren in the distance distracts him from schoolwork. His mother often was obliged to retreat to a windowless basement room at home, hugging and soothing her son when the outside world — especially lawn crews next door with leaf-blowers — overwhelmed him. “He doesn’t like crows,” Judy Martin told me last spring. “If crows are at a park, he’ll go from happy to berserk in five seconds. If we go to a restaurant, we’re all on edge, praying the bartender doesn’t turn on the blender.”

Sam Gross visited San Francisco with his mother two years ago at age 15. During a tour of Alcatraz, the handsome olive-skinned boy climbed a nearby fence and prepared to dive. Had his mother not spotted him and screamed, Sam would have been injured or killed by falling onto the rocks. But he was not trying to kill himself. He planned, as he explained in his monotone voice, to turn into a merman and swim back to the mainland.

Then he began to deteriorate. For two years, he spent every day in a ball under his blankets, rising only to pound either side of his head with such ferocity that two bald spots bloomed under his fists, then dangerously swelled. He had to be sedated to stop the self-battery. By the time Sam reached the Community School, he was nearly incommunicative. Whenever he began using his head like a punching bag, the teachers asked him to stop, and he did, but otherwise showed no sign that he heard them.

Students arrive at T.C.S. trailing long histories of school failure and humiliation, suspension, expulsion, truncated transcripts, social isolation, victimization, self-loathing, suicidal ideation or years of home-schooling patched together by mothers forced to leave their jobs. “On our first visit with Dave Nelson, Ty started screaming: ‘I hate this place! I want to leave right now!’ ” Judy Martin says. “Most principals don’t want to work with a kid like that. But what I saw on Dave Nelson’s face was ‘I can work with a kid like this.’ ”

Many prospective parents begin to weep during their intake interviews with Nelson. For them and their children, this place represents something of a last chance.

While there is no direct relationship between Dr. Stanley Greenspan and the nation’s D.I.R./Floortime schools, other than one of mutual respect, the theoretical underpinning of these schools relies on his argument that human intelligence itself is constructed out of the warm back-and-forth signaling between child and parent, beginning at birth. Jean Piaget located a child’s investigation of causality in the material world, for example, with experiments like pulling a string attached to a bell, but Greenspan and his colleague Serena Wieder see these insights occurring in the emotional realm, when a baby learns that his or her smile brings the parent’s smile. Brain development is not a solo pursuit but a rich and complex flowering that occurs only in the hothouse of human relationships.

What does this have to do with autism? A child born at risk of an A.S.D. has cognitive and sensitivity issues that inhibit engagement. Pleasures enjoyed by a typical baby can upset him: a mother’s face seems too close, so the infant cranes away; the father’s tickles may produce fear reflexes rather than laughter. Meanwhile the sunlight is burning his eyes, the diaper scrapes his skin and the baby begins avoiding interaction with people at the cost of normal brain development.

I begin to picture the brain metaphorically as a tangled ball of Christmas lights. When you plug it in, there are strands that light up perfectly and there are dark zones where a single burned-out bulb has caused a line to go out. If the bulb for Exchanging-Smiles-With-Mother doesn’t light up, then Empathy won’t be kindled farther along the strand, or Playfulness, or Theory of Mind (the insight that other people have different thoughts from yours). The electrical current won’t reach the social-skill set, the communication skills, creativity, humor or abstract thinking.

According to the D.I.R. perspective, emotion is the power source that lights up the neural switchboard. D.I.R./Floortime’s goal is to connect autistic students with other people as a way of fueling their cognitive potential and giving them access to their own feelings, desires and insights. The latest findings in the field of neuroplasticity support D.I.R.’s faith in the capacity of the human brain to recoup and to compensate for injury and illness. “Early intervention is optimal,” Dr. Greenspan told me, “but it’s never too late. The areas of the brain that regulate emotions, that sequence ideas and actions and that influence abstract thinking keep growing into a person’s 50s and 60s.”

T.C.S. students are masters of withdrawal, and for the D.I.R. model to work, each student must be an active partner in his own education. But how do you ignite the enthusiasm of an autistic teenager who has long since walled himself off from the outside world; who uses little language or who screeches in random yelps or vulgarities; who flips out when pried away from his computer game; who speaks to you, if at all, in long monologues on arcane subjects with zero interest in your response? What do you use as a staging ground for a relationship with an increasingly furious and despairing adolescent?

The Floortime technique might be summed up as: “Follow the child’s lead and challenge the child.” It is most easily visible on the videotapes documenting Dr. Greenspan’s 25 years of clinical work with younger children. In each video, the gangly psychiatrist crouches on the floor of his comfortably shabby home office in Bethesda, calling instructions to parents about how to catch the attention of and interact with their remote-seeming children. “I treat everything the child does as having a reason — to feel calmer, for example, or to feel excited,” Dr. Greenspan told me. “Often the parents have notions of what the child should be doing, so they’re trying to control the child rather than build on the child’s natural interests.”

In my favorite video, a 30-something husband and wife flank their 4-year-old daughter; the husband, in round horn-rim glasses, sits forward on the sofa; his wife curls up on the floor nearby. Their daughter, with chopped-off blond hair and a doughy face, looks to me like Helen Keller, pre-Anne Sullivan. Seeming almost blind, deaf, mute and mentally retarded, she bounces from sofa to table to wall. She is without affect, her movements ungainly and her eyes unfocused. She makes slurping sounds, as if she has reached the bottom of a drink with a straw. “We’re going to try to get a continuous flow of back-and-forth going here,” Dr. Greenspan says.

The mother smiles sadly, knowingly. “That would be nice,” she says.

“We’re going to build on what she does,” the doctor says.

The girl is flapping a plastic toy in her hand. “Will she give it to Daddy?” Dr. Greenspan asks.

“Can I see that?” the father asks as the child roams the room. The child seems not to hear him. But then the girl, traveling by, indifferently drops the toy into his outstretched hand. Delighted, the father says: “There’s a star on it! And there’s a triangle!”

“Here you’re losing her, Daddy,” Dr. Greenspan says, and sure enough, the girl escapes and heads for a wall. “If you’re trying to educate her with complicated language that she’s not processing, then you’re going to lose her. You want to change your orientation from educating her to interacting with her.”

The child picks up a bright plastic flowered eyeglass case off a table and twiddles it. “See if she’ll give it to you,” the doctor prompts.

“Can you give it to Mommy?” the mother asks, and surprising everyone, the girl hands it over. “Thank you!” the mother says.

The mother hides the eyeglass case behind her on the floor. The girl treads in place for a moment, swinging her arms and slurping. She begins to laugh a strange, heaving laugh. “Huh-huh-huh!” The mother moves a little to show that she’s sitting on the eyeglass case, and the child dives for it.

“Good, good!” Dr. Greenspan cheers.

“Can I have it back?” the mother asks. The mother hides it inside her own sweater, half-exposed.

“Let her get it! Let her get it! Let her get it!” Dr. Greenspan says in excitement. It is of paramount importance to him that the child initiates her own ideas and motor plans. Every time her parents start to physically turn or steer her, he stops them, crying: “Let her do it! Let her do it!”

The mother next slips the eyeglass case into the bib of her daughter’s pink overalls, and the girl stops in her tracks. Dr. Greenspan is prepared to leap over furniture to block the parents from giving her a clue. Suddenly, slowly, the girl’s gaze drops. . . . She finds the eyeglass case! In her own pants! “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!” she says.

“Make it more complicated!” the psychiatrist pleads.

“Can we go give it to Daddy?” the mother asks.

The mother walks over to the father, who hides the eyeglass case in his shirt. The girl freezes in confusion. The psychiatrist loves a moment like this and tries to prolong it. He sees momentary frustration as a vitally creative occasion. He urges parents to be “playfully obstructive.” He’s not after results; he wants to see a child thinking. “She can do this,” he advises them.

The girl slowly looks down, plucking at her overalls. For a moment it seems they have lost her. But — no — she’s looking inside the bib, where she last found the eyeglass case. It’s not there. Again she freezes. She must be thinking, “Mommy went to Daddy. . . . ” Slowly she turns toward her father.

The expression on the father’s face, when his daughter plucks the eyeglass case from his shirt, is of heartbreaking gratitude. A moment later, he pitches the eyeglass case over her head to his wife. The girl turns and beholds her beaming mother holding the eyeglass case. “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!” she says. Mom pitches the case back to Dad, and when the child turns to run to her father, she skips in her delight, her face radiant, making a hoarse sound of laughter.

Children with autism — especially Asperger’s — are famous for all-consuming interests in Matchbox cars, bus maps, train schedules, oscillating fans, Civil War battles, baseball statistics, black holes, dinosaurs, chess or Star Wars. While most programs try to discourage these obsessions, D.I.R./Floortime argues that they can offer openings into relationships. Does this work? Parents of T.C.S. students say that it does. Most speak in glowing terms about the school’s lifesaving impact on their families. Outside experts are more cautious, reluctant to give any one approach a gold medal when there are so many variables, including the profiles of the students admitted to T.C.S. in the first place. “Stanley Greenspan is an engaged and enthusiastic clinician,” Dr. Volkmar says. “People are attracted to Floortime because it is respectful of the child and the child’s wishes. He wants to follow the child’s lead. I would imagine that more able children do produce leads that are worth following — I’ve seen kids with Asperger’s do well in Montessori programs too — but what if the child isn’t doing much that you’d want to follow? I wonder if following the lead of a child who’s doing nothing but body rocking results in a roomful of people all body rocking with him.”

Dave Nelson says: “T.C.S. is a school, so I’d argue that our success should be measured by how well we educate our students. The boys have far better attendance rates than at their previous schools. They have far better emotional regulation — many could not attend school before due to their outbursts; while here, emotional regulation is core curriculum. Many were depressed to the point of suicidal ideation at their previous schools; that’s not happening here. Some were victims of bullying, some were aggressors at their previous schools; not here. All our parents report that their children are functioning better, are happier and are better communicators, thinkers and learners.”

Judy Martin says: “My son Ty’s progress has been monumental. He doesn’t cry in dark basements anymore. He isn’t entirely focused on himself; he is learning real empathy. He never liked school, and now he loves it. Every day this past summer he asked me when he could be with Dave Nelson. This is a child who never cared about teachers or friends. Now he tells me he loves them. I chatted with Stephen the other day by the vending machine as his money got stuck. He was problem-solving rather than blowing up. We rode the elevator together, chatting about the problem, while he decided to go find a teacher to help him.”

One morning at school, the fire alarm went off. My first thought — like everyone’s — was, Oh, my God —Ty! We descended the stairs to the parking lot. Ty was within a circle of T.C.S. teachers. “It was Elana!” he yelled to everyone about one of the teachers, who had been trying to prepare a snack for her class. “Elana burnt the popcorn in the microwave!” Poor Elana Himmelfarb, covering her face, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, said again and again, “I am just so, so, so, so sorry, Ty.”

He was trying to forgive her, but he kept asking, “Elana, why did you make the fire alarm go off?” His face was red, his curls were plastered back with perspiration and he was rocking a bit, long after the alarm had been silenced. Back upstairs, when the smoke cleared, Ty huddled in a beanbag chair with Rebecca Richter, one of the teachers, beside him.

“I hate that noise,” Ty said. “That’s a bad noise. That has a witch’s voice.”

“You really didn’t like that noise,” she agreed.

“This can NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN,” he sobbed, demanding that Rebecca promise him. “This will never happen again, will it? This can never happen!

“I need you to call my mom,” he said, weeping. “I’m having a very bad day. Will you call my mom? I need her to come get me.” I imagine a region of Ty’s brain blinking hard, a fistful of tiny red lights setting one another off: Panic! Panic!

“If we can keep Ty engaged with us, it means that he is harnessing and organizing his energies in order to interact,” Nelson told me later. “By keeping him connected, we won’t let him be kidnapped by random fragmented thoughts. If you aren’t engaged with other people, then you are completely at the mercy of your own regulatory system. Think about a situation where you were overcome with distress and how being able to tell someone helped you avoid becoming uncontrollably distraught.”

Gently Richter moved Ty from unreality (“the witch’s voice”) onto solid ground (“I’m having a bad day”). Given the tools to hang on, Ty survived until the end of the school day. And the breakthroughs continued. “When Ty came home that day, we talked through the events, as the school has trained me to lovingly do,” Judy Martin told me recently, “and Ty said, ‘Mom, I feel bad for Elana, because she didn’t mean to do it.’

“ ‘Do you think she felt embarrassed?’ I asked him, and he said yes. This moment was huge: Ty has always struggled with seeing the viewpoint of others, and here he was able to take a moment that frightened him and look at it from Elana’s viewpoint. We go to restaurants all the time now, and Ty couldn’t care less about the blenders. Lawn crews arrive next door, and they don’t faze him.”

When Sam Gross, now 17, arrived at T.C.S., he tripped along down the hall on the balls of his feet, rolling his head, thrumming on his chest with his fingers, humming to himself, lost in other worlds. The only points of entry he offered were during serious flights of fancy. “What this school needs,” he murmured in his low, resonant voice one day to a teacher, Lucie Canfield, “is a magic cabinet.”

“What would it do, Sam?” Lucie asked, delighted.

After a long pause he said, “Turn Sam into Samantha.” Sam wanted to travel back in time, he explained, to when he was a little girl; then he changed his mind and wanted to use it for teleporting.

Sam’s parents and his psychiatrist were initially less than enthusiastic about the magic cabinet: “Let’s not get started with this stuff here,” they said. But Lucie had already asked Sam, “What would a magic cabinet look like?”

Sam had replied: “Cow-colored.”

Lucie pushed poster board and colored pencils at Sam and said, “Show me.”

Dave Nelson agreed. This was the clearest opening they’d had from Sam Gross. Everything Nelson knew about Floortime told him to follow the boy’s lead. “Let’s see where this goes,” he told Sam’s parents.

Sam finished several quite beautiful drawings of a tall, rectangular closet. It would have a blue curtain and a bell stand on top, with a chain he would pull when he was finished transforming or teleporting. Nelson brought in a refrigerator box, and Lucie and Sam painted it in a nice Holstein pattern of black on white. “We made a point of always saying to Sam not that we were building a magic cabinet, but that we would pretend with him,” Lucie tells me. “I explained that magicians used tricks to make people think they disappeared.” T.C.S. would facilitate this exploration, with Sam, of the frontier of fantasy, with the expectation that he would encounter some reality along the way.

The special day arrived, and Sam stepped into the cabinet and drew the curtain. Dave waved a magic wand and read words Sam had written: “Abracadabra-a-whirl. Let Sam turn into a girl.”

There was silence inside the box. Then Sam called, “Do it again!” Dave chanted the words again. Silence. Then: “Let Lucie do it!” The teacher took the wand and gave it a try.

Sam peeked out, still male. “This is not the right cabinet for turning into a girl,” he said in consternation. “This is the cabinet that turns you into Paul McCartney.” He exited. At home that night, Sam looked up magicians in the Yellow Pages and booked one to come to school the next day. Dave Nelson canceled. It was time for reality to intervene.

Back at school, Sam spent the week focusing on how to teleport out of the cabinet to surprise folks in the cafeteria on the ground floor. Then one day he made an unusual request of Lucie Canfield: he needed help cutting a back door in the box that would allow him to slip away like a stage magician. It was a striking and brave acknowledgment of the material world.

Sam never staged his trick, as it was real magic that excited him. And he muttered, over the next few weeks, seditious thoughts along the lines of, What kind of school is this that doesn’t provide a real magician? The Magic Cabinet still stands in the art room, bell-towered and cow-colored. Many of the students enjoy stepping behind the blue curtain now and then for a moment of quiet remove from the world or to prepare to burst back upon the room in an assumed role. “It’s expanded from a product of Sam’s fantastic imagination to something of real purpose,” Judy Martin told me. “Kids peek out their heads as characters from books they’ve been reading, changing their voices and facial expressions.” The Magic Cabinet has come to stand for what the Community School offers these students: the possibility of transformation.

Melissa Fay Greene is the author of “There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children.”

OH: Mom questions board about alleged physical abuse

Published: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 12:50 PM EDT

As the Pickerington Local School district investigates an act of physical abuse against a special needs student, the mother of that student questions why she was kept in the dark and why staff members are not properly trained.

Kristen Hamilton spoke before the board of education at its Oct. 13 meeting regarding the lack of information the district supplied her following abuse allegations against an educational assistant in her 9-year-old daughter's classroom.

Hamilton's daughter, who is hearing impaired, has a certain degree of mental retardation, behavioral problems and speech delay, attended Violet Elementary School two days per week, spending the remainder of the week at Forest Rose School, a Fairfield County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities school. The fourth-grader now attends Forest Rose exclusively.

The special education classroom Hamilton's daughter was stationed in at Violet contained two educational assistants, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist and a teacher.

Hamilton said Sept. 23 the physical therapist, Rae Ann Brown, observed one of the educational assistants have an altercation involving the educational assistant pushing the girl with her foot.

Hamilton said she understand the situation began with her daughter sitting on a desk and refusing to get off it when asked.

The girl then threw herself on the ground and the educational assistant took a rolling cart and threatened to hit her in the head with it, Hamilton said.

The educational assistant then put her foot on the girl's back and shoved her hard enough that it turned the 90-pound girl to her stomach, Hamilton said.

When the educational assistant tried to take the girl to the dean's office, she pulled her by the wrist before putting her into a straight jacket hold, Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she knows her daughter made it to the office, but does not know how long it took or where the girl was taken on the way.

Hamilton complained about not being told the allegations, names of those involved or the events of that day by the school district.

She was, however, informed by Child Protective Services, which is conducting an investigation.

"I feel that you as a school district have a responsibility to me her mother" to provide her the details immediately, rather than when the investigation is complete.

"I don't believe this is the first time this happened," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she learned the educational assistant in question had her Ohio Department of Education license expire six years ago, and a general lack of training among the staff resulted in a delay in reporting the abuse.

Hamilton said it took seven days for the two witnesses in the room to have a conversation with a supervisor about the incident, so the decision to report the abuse was based on feelings not regulations.

Pickerington's Director of Human Resources Larry Mullins said staff members were trained and licensed; however, the educational assistant in question had her license expire.

He said all staff members had a criminal record check and he has no knowlege of a history of abuse on the part of the educational assistant being investigated.

Hamilton said although the staff might be trained, she has spoken with teachers who said they would not know what to do upon witnessing such a situation.

Mullins agreed although teachers are trained, some admitted to not paying attention to that training.

"I will be going to every building and I will personally do an inservice (training program) on the law of reporting child abuse," Mullins said.

He skirted questions, however, if the special training was in response to this incident. "In other districts where I've worked, I've always done this anyway," he said.

Brown, however, denies ever receiving training. "In the 14 years that I've been here I've never received training on child abuse," she said.

Brown said she sent an e-mail to the special education supervisor Sept. 25, two days after the incident.

Brown did not hear back from her supervisor until Sept. 28 and met with her Sept. 30, she said. The educational assistant who is alleged to have assaulted the child did not return to work after Sept. 30, Brown said.

"In my mind, I'm the person that tried to help and was terminated," Brown said.

Superintendent Karen Mantia said none of the five staff members in the room during the alleged incident are in the classroom now.

The educational assistant accused of the assault resigned. The second educational assistant and the teacher are on paid leave pending the conclusion of the investigation, Mullins said.

Brown and the occupational therapist's contracts will soon be revoked for the manner in which the incident was reported, Mullins said.

"It hasn't been officially done, but that's the intent," he said.

"We've investigating the act itself, the incident itself concerning the educational assistant and the child and then, secondly, we've been investigating the reporting issue: why this wasn't reported immediately," Mullins said.

Hamilton said she did not expect other staff members to be fired.

"My feeling is that I expected the three people to get a reprimand; I have concerns about why it took so long for them to come forward," Hamilton said.

Mantia recommended Hamilton keep in contact with her and Mullins. She said once the district was notified of the incident, it acted swiftly.

"We take these issues very, very seriously," she said. "We do need to do a full investigation."

The board of education held a closed-doors meeting prior to the regular meeting concerning "the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of public employee, official or regulated individual and ... conferences with an attorney concerning disputes involving pending or imminent court action," according to the meeting agenda.

Although Board President Wes Monhollen said the activities and discussion from that meeting cannot be shared with the public, he did say, "There was some information shared with the board about an ongoing investigation," but he was not willing to disclose if the matter discussed was the alleged abuse incident.

A representative from Fairfield County Child Protective Services could not be reached for comment.

"We've investigating the act itself, the incident itself concerning the educational assistant and the child and then, secondly, we've been investigating the reporting issue: why this wasn't reported immediately."

--Larry Mullins

Monday, October 20, 2008

CA: Rialto parent worried, angered by assault on daughter

Wesley G. Hughes, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/19/2008 11:25:58 PM PDT

RIALTO - An outraged mother whose special-needs daughter was sexually molested by classmates at Carter High School in the Rialto Unified School District not only wants justice and fairness for her daughter, she wants it for the boys.
They need help too, she says.

One incident occurred Tuesday and a subsequent investigation revealed at least two others, and the boys confessed, said the mother.

She was critical of the district for not notifying the police of the incident. She said she had to report it, and is irate that the teacher and aides allowed it to happen by not providing adequate supervision.

Her daughter is quite upset, she said, and she is trying to console her.

The mother, whom The Sun is not naming so as not to identify her daughter, knows what she is talking about. As a caseworker for special-needs children from birth to 3 years old, she knows the rules.

"We take care of our kids," she said. She told school officials, "You guys have violated the Welfare and Institutions Code."

District spokeswoman Syeda Jafri said the district is investigating the incident and promised to cooperate with the police investigation.

She was careful not to place blame, but she said there is a possibility of discipline. Both staff and students are being investigated, she said.

"We have to re-evaluate procedures and see what more must be done" to protect the safety of the children, Jafri said. "We have 28,000 students in the district and for this to happen to one is one too many."

She added: "What's really sensitive about this, is these are special-needs children." She said the boys who did the groping have IQs of about 50. Normal is nearly double that.

The boys are no longer in the class and proper discipline has been used, Jafri said, but privacy rules prevent disclosure of the details.

Sgt. Richard Royce of the Rialto Police Department said Friday by e-mail, "This case is still under investigation and there is no further information available at this time."

The victim's mother, whose 17-year-old daughter is microcephalic, fears the boys were expelled and she worries they will be dumped into another system without treatment or warning. It could happen again to another child, she said.

"I doubt something like this is a first for these boys," the mother said, "something this egregious."

She also is bothered that the other parents of children in the class were not notified about the incidents. There were 10 boys and three girls in the class.

There were at least three incidents involving the girl and three boys, but only one came to light at first, the mother said. She said her daughter was groped on the breast and groin and kissed. She said her daughter sought help from another teacher, who came out of her classroom, but that teacher apparently didn't realize what was going on and merely told them to keep the noise down.

Dawn Meade, the district's director of special education, did not return calls seeking information about the program.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Open Letter to MA Disability Law Center regarding Alleged Abuse of 6 Non Verbal Children

Special Note: This email was sent to the MA Disability Law Center (and was CC'd to the National Disability Rights Network) in regards to the article published by regarding 6 nonverbal students with autism and other disabilities who witnesses claim were abused by a teacher at South Shore Collaborative School. Although the 6 students in question have been removed from this teacher's classroom, the teacher has been assigned to new students and IS STILL TEACHING!

Unfortunately, The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports has no legal authority to investigate allegations of abuse; we can only report about allegations. However, The Disability Rights Network, aka Protection and Advocacy DOES have the legal authority to investigate.

We'll let you know if they respond.

October 18, 2008

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Jennifer Searcy and I am the Founder and Director of Public Policy and Affairs for The Coalition of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. My organization promotes and advocates for the use of positive behavioral interventions in place of aversives such as restraints, seclusions, and other abusive practices in schools and other settings.

I recently came across an article that was published by about Ann Gibbons, a teacher who is still teaching at South Shore Collaborative School despite parent and co-worker allegations of abusing 6 different children with autism, cystic fibrosis, and other disabilities and who are also all non-verbal. All 6 of the children have since been removed by their parents from this educator's classroom, however, this educator has been reassigned and is still teaching.

Here is an excerpt from the article, which quotes one of the witnesses to alleged abuse:

"He started to go back into her stomach with his head, and she put her fist up, and when he came back again, she punched him -- the back of his head. Two days later he was doing the same behavior, and she said, 'Be careful, you might find a fist behind his head,'" Grant said.

Granted, if this child was a danger to himself and/or others, the teacher had the right to protect herself and the others in her care. HOWEVER, since when is punching a child in the head even remotely appropriate?

The article states that the Deptartment of Children's Services investigated but did not find any abuse - parents state that they believe this is namely because the children literally cannot speak for themselves to give personal accounts of what may or may not have occurred in that classroom.

Unfortunately, my organization does not have any legal authority to investigate such allegations of abuse - however, your organization does. I am asking you to please perform a formal investigation into this school and these allegations because, while the children in question are no longer under this educator's care, she IS still teaching and other children may be at risk.

I have copied and pasted the article below , along with the link to the story, for your reference.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Jennifer Searcy
Founder/Director of Public Policy and Affairs
The Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Aides Accuse Teacher Of Abusing Autistic Students
POSTED: 1:57 pm EDT October 17, 2008
UPDATED: 5:22 pm EDT October 17, 2008

Woman Still Teaching Children

BOSTON -- Parents and co-workers said that a teacher was abusing autistic children in her care.

NewsCenter 5's Bianca de la Garza reported exclusively that while no charges have been filed, they wonder why she's still in the classroom.

Classroom aides AnneMarie Grant and Mary Ericson recounted what they saw while working in teacher Ann Gibbons' Randolph classroom last winter.

"I couldn't sleep. I was sick," Grant said.

"I've witnessed it. I know she did these things to children," Ericson said.

The alleged victims are six non-verbal autistic students who attended the South Shore Collaborative School.

"If they were non-compliant, as she says, she would go and grab them. Put them into a restraint. 'I'm bigger. I'm badder, and I'm stronger than you.' Hello? You don't say that to a kid," Ericson said.

"He started to go back into her stomach with his head, and she put her fist up, and when he came back again, she punched him -- the back of his head. Two days later he was doing the same behavior, and she said, 'Be careful, you might find a fist behind his head,'" Grant said.

Besides autism, the students had other special needs, such as cystic fibrosis and obsessive compulsive disorder, which the aides said Gibbons preyed on.

Grant, Ericson and a third aide reported the incidents to the school. The State Department of Child Services and Randolph police began investigating.

"I was alarmed. I was frantic," parent Linda Auger said.

Looking back, parents who spoke with NewsCenter 5 said there were red flags they wish they had documented.

"He had some bruising on his arms," Auger said.

"When we brought him home he was limping on his leg. By the end of his day he couldn't put any weight on it," another parent said.

NewsCenter 5 wanted to ask Gibbons about the allegations, but she did not want to speak when approached at her Middleboro home.

Police have also not spoken about the allegations. Despite repeated phone calls to the detective handling the case and messages to the police chief, they made no comment to NewsCenter 5.

A Department of Children Services investigation did not find reasonable cause to support the abuse.

"We have a bunch of kids who are non verbal. I think if Sean could talk they'd have enough proof to go forward," another parent said

All six parents eventually pulled their children out of Gibbons' class.

Gibbons is still teaching, in a different class, with different children. There was no comment from school administrators, who referred NewsCenter 5 to their lawyers.

"I want her out of classroom. I think someone is going to get hurt," another parent said.

Aides Accuse Teacher Of Abusing Autistic Students

POSTED: 1:57 pm EDT October 17, 2008
UPDATED: 5:22 pm EDT October 17, 2008

SPECIAL NOTE: Three different aides reported witnessing this teacher abusing 6 non-verbal children with autism, cystic fibrosis, and other disabilities on numerous occasions, yet the Dept of Children's Services found no evidence of abuse, namely because these children literally couldn't speak for themselves to tell what happened to them. The parents of all 6 of these children have removed them from this classroom, but this teacher has been reassigned to new students and IS STILL TEACHING! How many more children must be injured by this "educator" before the administration finally says enough is enough already!


BOSTON -- Parents and co-workers said that a teacher was abusing autistic children in her care.

NewsCenter 5's Bianca de la Garza reported exclusively that while no charges have been filed, they wonder why she's still in the classroom.

Classroom aides AnneMarie Grant and Mary Ericson recounted what they saw while working in teacher Ann Gibbons' Randolph classroom last winter.

"I couldn't sleep. I was sick," Grant said.

"I've witnessed it. I know she did these things to children," Ericson said.

The alleged victims are six non-verbal autistic students who attended the South Shore Collaborative School.

"If they were non-compliant, as she says, she would go and grab them. Put them into a restraint. 'I'm bigger. I'm badder, and I'm stronger than you.' Hello? You don't say that to a kid," Ericson said.

"He started to go back into her stomach with his head, and she put her fist up, and when he came back again, she punched him -- the back of his head. Two days later he was doing the same behavior, and she said, 'Be careful, you might find a fist behind his head,'" Grant said.

Besides autism, the students had other special needs, such as cystic fibrosis and obsessive compulsive disorder, which the aides said Gibbons preyed on.

Grant, Ericson and a third aide reported the incidents to the school. The State Department of Child Services and Randolph police began investigating.

"I was alarmed. I was frantic," parent Linda Auger said.

Looking back, parents who spoke with NewsCenter 5 said there were red flags they wish they had documented.

"He had some bruising on his arms," Auger said.

"When we brought him home he was limping on his leg. By the end of his day he couldn't put any weight on it," another parent said.

NewsCenter 5 wanted to ask Gibbons about the allegations, but she did not want to speak when approached at her Middleboro home.

Police have also not spoken about the allegations. Despite repeated phone calls to the detective handling the case and messages to the police chief, they made no comment to NewsCenter 5.

A Department of Children Services investigation did not find reasonable cause to support the abuse.

"We have a bunch of kids who are non verbal. I think if Sean could talk they'd have enough proof to go forward," another parent said

All six parents eventually pulled their children out of Gibbons' class.

Gibbons is still teaching, in a different class, with different children. There was no comment from school administrators, who referred NewsCenter 5 to their lawyers.

"I want her out of classroom. I think someone is going to get hurt," another parent said.

Friday, October 17, 2008

TX: State ends discipline inquiry into actions of former Carroll principal, who could still face penalty

Posted on Fri, Oct. 17, 2008

SOUTHLAKE — State officials have ended a disciplinary inquiry into the actions of a former Carroll elementary school principal and found no violations.

But Andra Barton still could face sanctions against her educator’s certification.

The Texas Education Agency’s certification and standards division told Barton on Oct. 10 that it had closed its case stemming from an investigation of concerns over special-education law, student records management and testing procedures at Old Union Elementary School.

The state is still looking into whether Barton violated the state’s ethics code, TEA spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe said.

Barton, who was put on paid administrative leave in March, said Wednesday that she resigned in April under pressure from the Carroll administration. She has denied wrongdoing.

Barton, who worked for Carroll for 12 years, said she hopes to work as a principal again.

A mother of two, Barton said she has been volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County and is beginning an adult literacy class there this week. She is also volunteering with Make a Wish Foundation and helping teach graduate students at Texas Christian University.

"It has been a hard six months," said Barton, of Keller. "Hopefully I’ll be afforded the opportunity to be a principal again, and if so I would absolutely welcome that with open arms. And if not, how fortunate I am that I was able to do the job that I truly loved for half my career."


An investigation by the school district’s law firm found testing-procedure violations, misuse of restraining holds on children and a hostile work environment at Old Union Elementary School. The school district took its findings to the Texas Education Agency.

The school district has implemented a corrective-action plan to address the problems.


The Texas Education Agency and the Carroll school district referred allegations of records tampering to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office in May.

The district attorney’s office has closed its file on the case after being notified that the school district did not want to go forward, Joe Shannon, chief of the economic crimes unit, said this week.

Carroll school officials said Tuesday that the district never intended to pursue criminal charges. State officials told Carroll that they were obligated to notify law enforcement authorities if they believed that documents had been tampered with.


This week, Old Union Elementary did not meet adequate yearly progress standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott had notified school officials of the designation in July. He said the designation was due to the documented violations and to parallel its state designation of the "not rated: data integrity issues" rating under the Texas accountability system. Scott said the school would have otherwise earned an exemplary rating.

JESSAMY BROWN, 817-685-3876