Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NC: Teacher charged in incident with student

12/31/2008 08:10 AM
By: News 14 Carolina Web Staff

GUILFORD COUNTY -- A Guilford County teacher is facing charges for having a sexual relationship with a student.

Karl Wells, an assistant teacher and women’s basketball coach at Western Guilford High School, is charged with indecent liberties with a student for an incident that happened on October 30. Wells turned himself in to police and was released with a written promise to appear in court.

Detectives say the investigation is ongoing and ask anyone with any information to call the Greensboro Police Department at 336-272-2255.

Corporal Punishment in Florida - What Is Considered Excessive? Florida Law

Posted On: December 27, 2008 by David A. Wolf

Corporal punishment is still utilized in several Florida school districts and in Florida day care and child care settings. I personally and professionally do not believe in the use of corporal punishment. Whether there is a resulting injury or not, corporal punishment often times leads or causes emotional injury and unacceptable fear in children. Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 39.01, corporal punishment may be considered excessive if it leads to any of the following child injuries or harm:

Sprains, dislocations, or cartilage damage;

Bone or skull fractures;

Brain or spinal cord damage;

Intracranial hemorrhage or injury to other internal organs;

Asphyxiation, suffocation, or drowning;

Injury resulting from the use of a deadly weapon;

Burns or scalding injuries;

Cuts, lacerations, punctures, or bites related injuries;

Permanent or temporary disfigurement;

Permanent or temporary loss or impairment of a body part or function; or

Significant bruises or welts.

You can read this statute and related definitions at the Official Florida Statutes Web Site.

Needy Schools Turn to Parents For Funding

Note: Several districts listed in this article are alredy on our "list" as using seclusion rooms and/or restraints inappropriately....As budgets are cut, we can expect instances of abuse to get worse as there are fewer aides in the classroom and less money for needed trainings...

December 30, 2008

PTAs Are Helping to Cover Cost of Books, Other Supplies; Paying to Keep a Teacher Aide

Public schools across the country, hurt by state- and local-government cutbacks, are tapping an alternative source of cash: Mom and Dad.

Parent groups and local nonprofit organizations have long raised money for activities like class trips, school dances and after-school clubs. But many parents say they now are shelling out for core curricular items that were once publicly funded -- from classroom supplies to teachers' salaries.

This fall, a parent group in Columbia, S.C., bought 100 dictionaries for a middle-school teacher who had requested them. In Kentucky, the Middletown Elementary School parent-teacher association has been discussing helping to pay the salary of a teacher aide whose job might get cut. And in Sunrise, Fla., the Sawgrass Elementary School PTA is kicking in $3,000 for news magazines that the district used to buy for classroom use. The group also is considering eliminating funding for specialized after-school clubs to free up money for classroom study programs.

"There's no question that PTAs are having to reprioritize," says Michael Ryan, president of the Sawgrass Elementary PTA. "It couldn't come at a worse time for us in many respects since fund raising is so difficult because of the broad economic issues."

Sawgrass Elementary is part of the Broward County Public School District, the sixth-largest in the country, which is expecting a $100 million reduction in state funding for the 2009-2010 academic year, according to district superintendent James Notter. That amount would be twice the size of the budget cut of just two years ago, he says.

Many school districts are facing similar cuts as governments run up deficits. Some 41 states are projecting midyear budget shortfalls this fiscal year, compared with just seven states a year ago, according to a survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit research group. If current trends continue, combined state deficits for next fiscal year will be around $145 billion, compared with the $89 billion shortfall estimated for the current fiscal year, the center calculates.

The Iowa City Community School District, which serves 11,000 students, won't be receiving $783,000 from the state it had already budgeted for this school year, says superintendent Lane Plugge. School officials expect to tap reserves from local property-tax revenues to continue providing programs and services in coming months.

Also digging deeper is the Iowa City Community School District Foundation, a nonprofit that traditionally supports non-core student enrichment programs. Now, the group is seeing a big uptick in requests from teachers for books to supplement library collections and computer gear that the district typically used to fund, says Jacki Brennan, the foundation's executive director. Last year, the foundation was able to come through with half of the funds for $130,000 in requests from teachers for supplies and core programs. This year, "I anticipate lots more requests, way more than we can fund," Ms. Brennan says.

Strapped Parents

As schools lean more on parent groups, those groups, too, are affected by leaner times. In Oregon, the nonprofit Lake Oswego School District Foundation is lowering its fund-raising goal this year to $1.5 million from $2.2 million last year as local residents seek to save more and spend less. Middletown Elementary's PTA in Kentucky says donations are about one-third lower than at this time last year, even after an extra fund-raiser. And in Colorado, the Poudre School District Foundation says it is hearing from donors that they'll likely be giving less this year.

A survey by California PTA, a statewide group, of about 500 PTA presidents in the state showed that nearly two-thirds of the groups have been asked by schools this year to pitch in more money for basic supplies and programs, from pencils and books to arts programs.

"One of the things we've always said to our members is, 'Your purpose is not to be a cash cow'" to cover regular school expenses, says Jan Harp Domene, president of the National Parent Teacher Association, an umbrella organization. "But we know they are playing a critical part in making sure children still have services that were once part of the budget, from music programs to adequate custodial supplies. These are not frills."

As local PTAs play a bigger role in funding school activities, the National PTA is reminding members in organization publications to adhere to fund-raising guidelines that aim to avert potential conflicts of interest and liabilities. Among the guidelines: PTAs should obtain a broad consensus in deciding what activities to sponsor. Local groups also should keep projects at arm's length -- providing schools with earmarked donations, for instance, rather than dealing directly with contractors.

Some groups are concerned that increased reliance on parents for funding can create inequities "because not all parent and community groups can pitch in to backfill services in the same way," says Pam Brady, president of California PTA.

To minimize this, National PTA encourages local groups to avoid making donations to programs such as science clubs or band boosters that wouldn't be shared by everyone at the school. "Donations should provide for all children," Ms. Domene says. Still, she says, some inequity is inevitable since parent participation in low-income communities is generally lower than in wealthier ones.

Other parents worry that increased PTA funding of core school items will in the long run encourage further cuts by school boards "if we're here making up the difference," says Mr. Ryan of the Sawgrass PTA. "Pragmatically, though, none of us are willing to take a stand and say 'We won't provide it this year.'"

Onus on School Boards

But other PTA's are doing just that. The Eldorado Community School PTA in Santa Fe, N.M., this year has put the brakes on funding teacher salaries after it raised $61,000 last year to save a physical-education instructor's job. "After that we decided we're not going to pay district responsibilities like salaries" because of concern that it was setting a precedent that could not be maintained, says PTA president Kathy Ritschel. To the district, "we said, 'You guys figure it out.'"

Write to Anne Marie Chaker at

NV: Matthew T. Cox, ex-Hopkins Public Schools teacher, found murdered in Nevada

by Dave Person | Kalamazoo Gazette
Tuesday December 30, 2008, 11:00 AM

HOPKINS -- The funeral for a former Hopkins Public Schools choir director who police say was killed in his Nevada home will be held Saturday in Michigan.

Matthew T. Cox, 32, of Henderson, Nev., was found dead in his home Dec. 22, authorities said. Two brothers, ages 17 and 18, one of whom reportedly was a student of Cox's, were arrested on charges of murder, burglary and robbery, the Las Vegas Sun newspaper reported.

Cox, a Western Michigan University graduate, was choir director for about five years in Hopkins Public Schools before leaving in 2006 to teach in Nevada.

"He was a very good teacher," Hopkins Assistant Superintendent Robert Hennip said. "He made kids toe the line. He expected a lot from them and they responded very well to that."

Hennip described Cox, who initiated specialized choirs and musical productions in Hopkins, as "a friendly guy who wanted to see people excel."

"He worked very hard; he wanted to be successful, he wanted the kids to be successful and his program the same way," the assistant superintendent said.

Cox had last been seen the night of Dec. 21, when he had dinner with a friend, the Sun reported. His body was discovered the following afternoon by another friend who went to his house to take care of his pets and later told police that Cox was supposed to be in Michigan for Christmas, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

One of the two brothers charged in connection with Cox's death was a choir student at Basic High School, where Cox taught, according to the Sun.

Cox was born Dec. 30, 1975, in Toledo, Ohio, and was a 1994 graduate of Bedford High School in Temperance. He was active in choir, plays and musicals in high school and won the Michigan Solo Performer award two years in a row. He then came to Kalamazoo, where he received his bachelor's degree from WMU.

Surviving are his parents, Debra and Timothy Armstrong, and sister, Kristin Cox, all of Lambertville; and grandparents, Robert and Margaret Graham and Alice and Walter Armstrong, all of Toledo. 

Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday and funeral services at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Michael W. Pawlak Funeral Home, 1640 Smith Rd., Temperance, in Monroe County in the southeastern corner of Michigan.

The Las Vegas Sun contributed to this report.

Contact Dave Person at or 388-8555.

MA: Chung Yee School cleared of abuse claims; set to re-open

Note: I'm wondering if the "cultural barrier" or differences didn't come into play here. 12 different instances of abuse were investigated, yet not one "victim" came forward. Because no one came forward the allegations couldn't be substantiated. Police admitted language was a "barrier" yet also stated that the children/families may have "misinterpreted what constitutes abuse" when it was initially reported. I don't know that I quite believe that...

By Jennifer Mann

Tue Dec 30, 2008, 09:59 PM EST


“No parent has come forward with any confirmed cases of abuse,” Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan said on Tuesday. “We’ll be wrapping (our investigation) up tomorrow, and there won’t be any criminal charges.”

The state Department of Children and Families has also closed its case against the school, and the district attorney’s office does not plan to pursue charges, Keenan said.

Chinese-American parents, in large part, stood behind the school when reports of potential abuse surfaced earlier this month. If anything, parents seemed more upset by the school’s sudden closure after more than 12 years in operation. More than 100 Chinese-American children and teenagers attend the $100-a-month program after their regular school day, learning Chinese language and culture.

Headmaster Harry Kwan, a Hong Kong native with more than 50 years of education experience, has from the beginning vehemently denied the charges. He deferred to his attorney, Douglas Jensen on Tuesday.

“I am very happy the school and Harry have been exonerated and cleared of these charges,” Jensen said. “It was very difficult, and very difficult for parents – a state of depression. They’ve been calling my office nonstop daily saying what can they do to reopen.”

Nearly 20 percent of Quincy’s population is Asian, and there is not another school like Kwan’s in the region.

Quincy police abruptly closed the school Nov. 28 because it did not have all of the necessary local and state permits. It operates out of the Knights of Columbus Hall in North Quincy.

When the school’s closing raised questions, police confirmed that an abuse investigation was also underway.

A student at Quincy’s Montclair Elementary School, who spent afternoons at the Chung Yee School, had reported an assault to a teacher, police said.

The school system, after investigating, filed reports of 12 alleged cases of abuse with the state Department of Children and Families.

Keenan said cultural differences may have played into the initial report in that “maybe there was a misinterpretation of what is abuse and what is not abuse.”

“Once the allegation is brought forward to us we’re obligated to come in and investigate it fully,” he said. “We try to do the best we can to protect the rights of both the alleged victim and the alleged suspect. So we try to get to the bottom of it.”

He said language barriers slowed the investigation somewhat and police had to consider cultural differences as they interviewed families and children. Not all of the city’s first generation immigrants speak fluent English.

The school now has the OK to reopen because it has filed the appropriate paperwork with the state and city, according to everyone involved. Jensen said the problem was the school hadn’t renewed its various licenses and exemptions when it moved from a prior location on Hunt Street in 2006.

The Chung Yee School does not need to be licensed as a child care program through the state Department of Early Education and Care, but it is required to register with the department to get an exemption. The school also had not renewed its business license with the city.

The school is aiming to reopen next week, Jensen said.

Jennifer Mann may be reached at

MD: Order Says Abuse By Pastor Confirmed

The order that runs St. Leo's Catholic Church in Baltimore's Little Italy neighborhood has informed parishioners that an investigation has concluded former pastor Michael Salerno molested a boy in the 1970s while at a church in New York.

Known to many as "Father Mike," Salerno was a brother at All Saints Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., when the alleged abuse occurred.

The head of the Pallottine Fathers, the Rev. Peter Sticco, wrote in a letter Sunday that a final report by the Diocese of Brooklyn confirmed the abuse of the 13-year-old boy.

It is not clear if Salerno will be criminally charged. He was removed as pastor at St. Leo's when the allegations surfaced more than a year ago.

He had been there more than 10 years.

"This is something that happened 40 years ago," one man told 11 News reporter John Sherman. "And I'm sure that this man has spent a great deal of prayer and remorse about what had happened before he was even ordained as a priest."

The church's congregation grew from about 100 to about 800 since Salerno's 1997 arrival.

The Vatican will decide if he will be defrocked.

Use the video link above to watch John Sherman's report. Stay with and WBAL-TV 11 News for updates.

School district digs deeper into Arthur Academy

Private investigator is hired to probe charter school’s operation amid internal turmoil

For the first time, Portland Public Schools has hired an outside investigator to look into the financial and operational issues at one of its charter schools.

The investigator was hired Dec. 9, the same day the Portland Tribune published a story on its Web site about allegations of financial and operational mismanagement at the Portland Arthur Academy, one of the district’s seven charter schools.

The story reported that the school’s founder, Charles Arthur, was stepping down amidst the turmoil, although Arthur withdrew his resignation days later.

Kristen Miles, the district’s charter school manager, said hiring an outside investigator is a unique situation in the district’s nine-year history with charter schools.

“We’ve never had a situation that has required this before – drawn enough serious attention that the the district has needed to” investigate, she said. “It’s important to make sure everything’s on the up-and-up.”

Miles said the investigator works for the Oregon City private investigation firm Alexander Christian Ltd. and was referred by the district’s Risk Management office. The investigator is being paid $75 an hour. The contract runs through the end of the school year, Miles said.

On Dec. 19, the Tribune reported that teachers and staff at the Arthur Academy were upset that their Public Employees Retirement System accounts haven’t been paid into since May.

The story detailed the administrative struggles between Arthur and another school leader, John Liljegren, who disagreed about how fast the school should expand.

The Arthur Academy is the state’s largest charter school network, with six locations including those in Portland (7507 S.E. Yamhill St.), David Douglas and Reynolds school districts.

The Portland Arthur Academy’s charter runs through summer 2011, after the school board in February extended it for another three years.

Portland Schools Investigating Arthur Academy

Portland Public Schools is taking the unusual step of hiring an outside private investigator to look into student health and safety at one of its charter schools.

District communications director, Rob Cowie, says administrators learned of concerns about the Arthur Academy through a reporter at the Portland Tribune.

He says at least one parent alleged that there wasn’t a principal on site throughout the school day, and that in at least one instance, an ill child wasn’t tended to quickly.

Cowie says the district wants the private investigator to see if the complaints have any merit.

Rob Cowie: “Because any question that arises around student safety or welfare is something we take very seriously, we felt like we needed to respond, and bring someone on board who could go to the school and gather facts and information, that we could use to evaluate the basis of those complaints and allegations.”

Cowie says it’s too early to say what the district might do if the investigator turns up problems at the Arthur Academy in Portland.

The charter school non-profit operates in six school districts in Oregon.

HI: State agrees to end 'therapeutic lockdowns' at OCCC

Note: Prisons are even moving away from "therapeutic seclusions" yet young children are being placed in "seclusion rooms" and "time out" in public schools...

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Updated at 3:16 p.m., Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mentally ill prisoners at Oahu Community Correctional Center will no longer be put in "therapeutic lockdowns," and treatment plans will be created for them that "adequately address serious mental health needs."

Those changes are part of a long list of improvements in the treatment of mentally ill inmates at OCCC included in a 29-page agreement filed in court this week by state and federal authorities.

The agreement is intended to settle a lawsuit filed at the same time by the U.S. Justice Department that alleges the state failed "to provide constitutionally adequate mental health care" to OCCC inmates.

Federal investigators in 2007 alleged widespread deficiencies in mental care policies and practices at the facility and since then the state "has made progress in remedying several of the alleged constitutional violations," the agreement said.

The federal investigation began in 2005 and the Department of Justice "received complete cooperation and access to OCCC and documents from the state of Hawai'i," the agreement said.

The agreement was signed by Gov. Linda Lingle, Attorney General Mark Bennett and state Public Safety Department director Clayton Frank as well as attorneys with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Both sides agreed to use an outside monitor, University of Utah professor Russell Van Vleet, to oversee the state's compliance with the agreement.

Van Vleet has monitored state improvements at the Hawai'i Youth Correctional Facility that were implemented under a similar agreement between federal authorities and the state.

The state will pay Van Vleet's salary and expenses.

Among the "substantive remedial measures" at OCCC:

• End "therapeutic lockdowns," which federal investigators said in 2005 involved the long-term isolation of mentally ill inmates in cells with no contact with staff or mental health experts. DOJ experts said the practice amounted to unconstitutional punishment and "often exacerbates the effects of detainees' illnesses."

• Involve qualified mental health experts in all cases where inmates are placed in "individualized seclusion," including a "face to face assessment" within four hours of such seclusion and periodic assessments thereafter.

• Strict limits on physical restraints, which cannot be used "as punishment for psychosis-related behavior."

• Improvements in "suicide watches" of mentally ill detainees.

• Strict control of psychotropic medications to ensure they are not used as punishment, as a "substitute for adequate staff" or in lieu of "less intrusive therapies."

• Improved mental health screening of detainees and development of "individualized treatment plans that adequately address each detainee's serious mental health needs."

• Employment of an adequate number of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers and counselors.

The settlement agreement, if approved by U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright, will be in effect for 42 months, with compliance reports submitted by the monitor in 15 and 30 months.

Failure to show "material progress toward substantial compliance" with the settlement agreement could lead to reinstatement of the lawsuit.

Reach Jim Dooley at

Monday, December 29, 2008

GA: Area schools retain policies for corporal punishment

Only Hall County still paddles, but with parents' permission

By Brandee A. Thomas
POSTED  Dec. 28, 2008 5 a.m.

If you think that the days of children being paddled at school disappeared with saddle shoes and poodle skirts, you may be surprised to learn that many areas school systems still have policies allowing corporal punishment, though most don't enforce the policy.

Several surrounding schools systems, including the Hall County and Jackson County systems, have policies that allow the use of corporal punishment as an acceptable form of punishment for students.

However, the form of corporal punishment that is used in at least one of those school systems doesn't fall under the traditional definition of physical punishment.

"We don't allow physical hitting of any kind in our schools, and that includes paddling," said Shannon Adams, the Jackson County School System superintendent.

Although the school system has a policy outlining the use of corporal punishment, it did not have any instances of the practice being used last school year. In July 2004, the Jackson County School System updated its policy on corporal punishment at the suggestion of its legal representation, Adams said.

"At the advice of our attorney, we left the policy in our manual and gave direction about how corporal punishment can be used," he said. "We don't allow hitting, but in our school system corporal punishment can be some type of physical punishment, like running laps around the football field."

At the end of each school year, every school system in Georgia is required to compile an annual disciplinary report and submit it to the state Department of Education. In the report, schools are required to document the number of times each type of punishment was used within the school system.

The various types of punishment include corporal punishment, in-school suspension, expulsion and assignment to an alternative school.

Of the four local systems that have policies allowing the use of corporal punishment -- Jackson County, Hall County, Dawson County and White County -- Hall County was the only system to have any reported uses of the practice.

According to the state's annual disciplinary report, there were seven uses of corporal punishment in the Hall County school system last school year.

While Jackson County uses alternate forms of corporal punishment, Hall County sticks to a more traditional approach.

"The only corporal punishment we use is paddling," said Gary Stewart, Hall County school system's executive director of administrative services. "It's not a policy, but it is our policy to call parents to get permission before a child is paddled."

Although corporal punishment is allowed in school systems, all local policies state that the practice is not to be used as the first line of punishment.

"We very rarely use corporal punishment, but sometimes parents have requested that we try that method first," Stewart said.

Even though corporal punishment was used seven times last year in Hall County, other forms of punishment were used much more often. For example, in-school suspension was used more than 6,000 times during the 2007-2008 school year.

In Jackson County, where corporal punishment was not used at all last year, there were nearly 2,000 instances when in-school suspension was used. In Dawson County, in-school suspension was used 200 times, while the practice was used 19 times in the White County School System.

Although parents have the right to object to their child being paddled, students can also refuse the punishment, Stewart says.

"If a student refuses, that ends it right there," he said.

Georgia laws outline when and how corporal punishment may be used in schools.

"The corporal punishment shall not be excessive or unduly severe," reads Georgia code 20-2-731.

"Corporal punishment must be administered in the presence of a principal or assistant principal or (their designee). Corporal punishment shall never be used as a first line of punishment for misbehavior unless the pupil was informed beforehand that specific misbehavior could occasion its use."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

MD: School band director accused in sex abuse case

School band director accused in sex abuse case,0,4825738.story

The longtime band director at a Howard County high school has been accused of sexually abusing a female student over the past two years, police said yesterday.

Robert Douglas Johnston, 61, who has taught at Mount Hebron High School for more than 30 years, was charged yesterday with sexual abuse of a minor, third- and fourth-degree sex offenses, and obscene telephone misuse, according to Howard County police. Johnston surrendered to police Monday night and was arrested; he was being held yesterday on a $350,000 bond, police said.

Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman, said a school official received copies of alleged e-mail exchanges between Johnston and the 17-year-old student and turned them over to investigators. The content of the e-mails was not sexual but suggested a close personal relationship, police said. An interview with the alleged victim led detectives to conclude that Johnston had been sexually abusing her at the school since she was 15, Llewellyn said.

Johnston was placed on administrative leave Dec. 8, said Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the school system. A substitute director led the band during two recent concerts, Caplan said yesterday.

Johnston has taught in the Howard schools since 1969, and started at Mount Hebron High in 1974, Caplan said.

The school's band has earned numerous awards during Johnston's tenure. In 1996, the band won superior ratings in each category of the All- American Music Festival in Orlando, Fla., winning first place in every event but one.

At the Fiesta-val competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 1997, the school won first place in its division for the parade category. In 1999, the band was the only high school group invited to perform as part ofAmerica's Millennium, a New Year'scelebration on CBS.

Johnston is the fourth Howard public school teacher in the past two years to be charged with inappropriate contact with students. The previous three were arrested in a two-month period during the 2006-2007 school year and charged on a variety of counts. All three were convicted.

News of the arrest rocked the community.

"He had such a great program going on, and I think all of us who were there all those years are all kind of heartbroken," said Betsy Bryant, anEllicott City resident whose daughter played in the band.

Cindy Ardinger, president of the school's PTSA, said: "I'm actually speechless. I can only hope that the matter will be addressed fully."

Baltimore Sun reporter Larry Carson contributed to this article.

NC: List of Disciplinary Actions to Date

Below is a link to the North Carolina State Board of Education's list of Disciplinary Actions to date, complete with full names, action (revokation, suspension, reinstatement), reason for the action, and date of action. This listing appears to have last been added to as of March 2009:

PA: 24 teachers disciplined by state

List includes 2 former teachers in Pittsburgh Public Schools
Friday, December 26, 2008

The state Department of Education has taken action against the teaching certificates of 24 educators.

The actions were announced this week but taken as far back as July.

The list includes two former teachers in Pittsburgh Public Schools, Joseph Abraham and Ryan Novak, both of whom taught at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School.

Mr. Abraham, who coordinated the robotics program, surrendered his vocational instructional certificate in lieu of discipline. He pleaded guilty to corruption of minors and indecent assault in a case involving inappropriately touching a 15-year-old student and offering to pay her for sex. He was sentenced to three years' probation.

Mr. Novak's certificate in technology education was revoked. An industrial arts teacher, he pleaded guilty to two counts of corruption of minors and was sentenced to two years' probation. The charges were related to an ongoing sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl he once coached in soccer at Pittsburgh Schenley.

Other actions against teachers serving area students, and their most recent district, were:

• Peter C. Schepis Jr., substitute teacher and middle school football coach, South Fayette, certificate surrendered in lieu of discipline because "educator sent inappropriate e-mails containing sexually explicit narratives and photographs taken on school property."

• Derek J. Russo, science teacher, Beaver Area School District, certificate in biology and general science surrendered in lieu of discipline because "educator provided alcohol to minors."

• Michelle Palmer, also known as Michelle Fayish, elementary special education teacher, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, public reprimand as a result of allegations involving inappropriate discipline of a special education student.

• Kim S. Crummie, Valley Middle School principal, New Kensington-Arnold School District, instructional and administrative certificates suspended beginning May 7, 2008, because of allegations that he solicited an undercover officer in a public restroom.

• Julie A. Miller, also known as Julie A. Dorwart, reading specialist, Agora Cyber Charter School, public reprimand for compromising the integrity of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test.

The full list is available on the Internet at, click "recent teacher certification actions."

VA: Mental patients isolated for years despite laws

The Associated Press 
Tuesday, December 23, 2008; 2:01 PM

STAUNTON, Va. -- Mental patients sprinkled throughout the nation's psychiatric hospitals are being locked up alone for years despite laws aimed at preventing the practice, because medical workers say they're too dangerous to handle any other way.

Health officials call them outliers _ rare, unpredictably violent people who don't respond to medication or other treatment. Advocates call them victims of a system that has lost patience and creativity in caring for those who are most difficult to treat.

Loopholes in federal and state laws and impotent oversight allow hospitals to lock some patients away for the safety of staff and other patients. Some cases involving seclusion and restraints have resulted in costly lawsuits, yet they are so rare that many advocates had no idea there were similar situations in other states until The Associated Press inquired about it.

No one tracks such cases. However, through interviews and records from advocacy groups and state and federal agencies, the AP found at least a dozen patients who were held in seclusion for months or years at a time.

"I think it's just a wink and a nod and some people are looking the other way," said Charlie McCarthy, an advocate with Disability Rights Montana, who nevertheless said he understands what drives hospitals to work around the law.

"Everybody's frustrated with what do you do with somebody like this? The patient has rights, but the other patients have rights to be safe and free from abuse."

In Virginia, one man was locked in a three-room suite for 15 years and another patient was held in a similar setup for five years. Connecticut and Florida have paid millions over allegations that they tethered patients to furniture for years.

Federal law requires that seclusion or restraints _ including drugs _ be used on patients covered by Medicare or Medicaid only in emergencies to protect other patients and staff. Such measures can be used for more than 24 hours only if a physician deems it necessary, and only if a doctor updates that assessment daily.

Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to restrain or isolate patients for extended periods.

The laws and court rulings don't cap the consecutive days a patient can be isolated or restrained, though, so hospitals can hold a patient indefinitely by simply signing off on it every 24 hours.

The Supreme Court also has ruled that hospitals must treat people who are involuntarily committed. So Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist who has studied the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners, and others question whether outliers are being held legally.

"Once a person is locked up, the state has to provide them with adequate and appropriate treatment, otherwise they lose any authority and any legitimacy to keeping the people locked up against their will," Grassian said.

Seclusion, he said, can intensify patients' paranoia, agitation and delusions.

Advocates insist that with proper training and sufficient staffing, hospitals can eliminate the need for seclusion and restraints in nearly all cases, not just outliers.

In 1997, Pennsylvania enacted stricter policies against those techniques, trained staff in crisis management and established minimum staffing levels for its psychiatric facilities. Today, the state does not seclude or restrain patients for extended periods and rarely uses either method at all, according to the state mental health agency.

Such efforts can be costly, but proponents cite them as proof that with the right support, any mentally ill person can improve enough to safely interact with others.

"People can make progress and they do get to a point where they can be reintegrated into the community," said Deborah Dorfman, deputy director of the Los Angeles-based Disability Rights Legal Center. "You just need the right treatment and the right expertise."

A spokesman for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which investigates complaints concerning institutionalized individuals, would not comment on the use of seclusion and restraint. According to its Web site, the division wrapped up two probes this year that found improper use of seclusion and restraint in Oregon and Georgia and recommended policy changes to the governors of those states.

At Oregon State Hospital, investigators found four patients who had lived in prolonged seclusion, some for at least a year. In a report, the Justice Department called the practice "unrefined and unlawful" and said it had never "encountered the use of continuous seclusion as a planned treatment strategy."

Since 2006, the Justice Department has entered into settlements with California, Vermont and the District of Columbia over violations that include improper seclusion and restraint at mental hospitals.

At Western State Hospital in Staunton, Va., the state stepped in after staff placed Cesar Chumil in a three-room "limited containment suite" in 1993, where he has remained since. Chumil averaged 300 assaults against staff and another 100 against patients over seven years before he was placed in the suite, according to records from a closed administrative hearing obtained by the AP.

Hospital officials claim the 58-year-old has more freedom than before, when records show he spent thousands of hours in a small seclusion cell or restrained to a bed or chair.

"It's a big step to put somebody in a room like this and say, 'You can't come out,' but we had so many people getting injured and so many staff were out of work," said Stephen Johnson, the psychologist on Chumil's ward. "It just got to the point where it was just untenable ... so we had this one solution."

Last summer, a state oversight committee determined that the hospital should move Chumil out of seclusion. The hospital moved all other patients off Chumil's ward this month and unlocked the door to his suite so he could go out into an activity room when he wanted. Hospital workers in padded gear and helmets must be present _ for everyone's safety, but also so that he is no longer alone and therefore no longer technically in seclusion.

In Connecticut, a 23-year-old man has lived in a two-room cell since 2001, said Nancy Alisberg, an attorney for the state's Office of Protection and Advocacy. When he behaves, staff take him on walks around the grounds and sometimes take him to church and other places, she said, declining to identify the man because of privacy laws.

Often, the rooms where patients are held for months or years at a time are more pleasant than traditional seclusion rooms _ usually tiny block rooms containing only a mattress. They have TVs and personal items. Chumil even has a phone.

"In a situation like that, the best you can do is to create a living environment that is as safe and contained as possible," said Kevin Huckshorn of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. "And while yes, you could call it seclusion, the only other options are going to be things like restraint, which is even more restrictive."

Patients have been removed from long-term seclusion in other states, including Massachusetts, Oregon and Maryland, after advocates stepped in, some threatening lawsuits. Other states have paid millions of dollars for breaking restraint and seclusion laws.

In Florida, the state lost a lawsuit in 1998 and was forced to pay $18 million for strapping a man to a bed or wheelchair for 2 1/2 years.

Connecticut has paid $600,000 a year since 2002 to house a former patient at a special facility in California as part of an out-of-court settlement. He had been tied to a bed in a small, concrete room at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown for more than a year, said Susan Aranoff, an attorney with the nonprofit Connecticut Legal Rights Project who fought for his transfer.

Wayne Dailey, senior policy adviser for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, denied holding any patient in restraints for such a long a time.

Federally mandated advocates in each state protect the mentally ill and disabled but don't have the manpower or money for constant monitoring, said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, which represents advocates.

Like other groups that look out for the mentally ill, Decker said he didn't know patients were being held in long-term seclusion but that it was something his organization will begin looking into.

"We put these people sort of out of sight and out of mind," Decker said, "and bad things can happen."

PA: Pittsburgh Care Home Workers Accused Of Elderly Assault

Police: 94-Year-Old Woman Hit At Allegheny County's Kane Center

POSTED: 12:00 pm EST December 24, 2008
UPDATED: 5:16 pm EST December 26, 2008

Five women were arrested and fired from an Allegheny County-run nursing home, accused of assaulting and verbally harassing a 94-year-old Alzheimer's patient.

"If they are found guilty, we don't want to see them working anywhere in this field," County Executive Dan Onorato said at a news conference Friday. "We want to send a clear message and an example with these five individuals that this type of activity won't be tolerated."

County police said the investigation began in November, based on reports from co-workers at Kane Glen Hazel on Rivermont Drive in Pittsburgh's Glen Hazel neighborhood. The facility is one of four Kane Regional Centers throughout the county.

Charges of aggravated assault and neglect of a care dependent person were filed Wednesday against Danielle Taylor, 46, of the North Side area, Shelly Keene, 35, of West Mifflin, and Karen Perry, 46, of Homestead.

"We received a report from another aide that the type of behavior that they witnessed was, I guess, could best be described as more of a taunting type of behavior," said Dennis Biondi, executive director of the Kane Regional Centers.

According to the police affidavit, one of the suspects allegedly struck the elderly resident, Thelma Bryant, in the head and hit her in the eye with a fist, cursed at her and threw an orange at her face.

Another suspect, Shalaya Hatten, 30, of Pittsburgh, was charged with simple assault and neglect of a care dependent person. According to a criminal complaint, Hatten was observed by a witness cursing at the victim and striking her with her elbow in the chest.

Three people said they witnessed Keene abusing the patient. One witness told police that Keene struck the victim in the forehead with her hand. Another witness reported seeing Keene stomp down hard on the victim's feet a number of times. A third person told police they heard the victim say to Keene, "Stop hitting me."

A fifth suspect, Mary Ann Bower, 57, of Munhall, was charged with summary harassment. The police criminal compliant was not immediately available in Bower's case.

Preliminary hearings for all of the suspects, except Bower, are scheduled for Jan. 5. A date for Bower's hearing has not been set.

Pennsylvania's departments of health and aging will conduct separate investigations to decide if the suspects' licenses will be revoked.

"Obviously, we want to make sure that these five individuals are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Onorato said, adding that their benefits should be forfeited if the women are found guilty.

NH: School district denies abuse lawsuit liability

December 28, 2008

CONCORD (AP) — The Winnisquam Regional School District is denying liability in a lawsuit filed by two women who say they were sexually abused years ago by the same New Hampshire teacher.

Lawyer John Teague said Friday that the district did nothing to make it negligent.

Two women are suing Winnisquam alleging they were repeatedly molested as students in the 1970s and 1980s by former biology teacher Walter Garland. They claim administrators did nothing to stop the abuse.

Garland, who denies the allegations, is now an assistant principal at Exeter High School.

Garland has been on paid leave since Nov. 3.

A third woman is suing the district alleging she was molested during the same period by a guidance counselor.