Thursday, February 26, 2009

Missing Person Report: Have You Seen William Van Croft?

Have you seen William Van Croft?

We just saw a news bulletin that 17 year old William Van Croft, who has Asperger's Syndrome disappeared on January 31, 2009 - the one year anniversary of his father's death.

Here's the police bulletin:

The Metropolitan Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in locating a missing person identified as 17-year-old William Vancroft. He was last seen at about 4:30 pm on Thursday, January 31, 2009 in the 1300 block of G Street, SE. (Washington D.C.)

William is described as a medium complexioned black male, 5’8” tall, weighing about 168 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and a burgundy sweater.

He is in need of medication and may appear to be disoriented.

Anyone who has information regarding William Vancroft’s whereabouts is asked to call police at (202) 727-9099.

And here's an update from his mother Jackie:

Posted by Jason Cherkis on Feb. 25, 2009, at 3:51 pm

This afternoon, I checked in with Jackie Van Croft. On January 31, her son William went missing. He’s still missing. William has Asperger’s Syndrome. He disappeared on the one-year anniversary of his father’s death.

“The police are working on all leads,” Van Croft says. “They have been getting tips, people have been calling in the tip line. They are responding to all leads. His case has not been forgotten. I know it seems like — I don’t know what other family members do, I’m trying to do what I can to protect my son.”

It’s hard to protect a missing son. “My son has been through a great deal and the family has been through a lot,” Van Croft says. “It’s really difficult to think about him being out there and not have the family to protect him. He had a mentor/therapist. He had lots of therapists. And of those people were there to help him grow. And help him to become a whole person, a wonderful person. Now, he’s out there.”

I ask Van Croft what a normal day is like now. “I just try to work,” she explains. “I still cook in a large quantity because I expect him to be coming in. I tend to pick up his favorite foods….Fridays are still devoted to wrestling. So are Mondays. Fridays are wrestling night and pizza.”

Today, Van Croft called her son’s school just to check in. “I try to give updates,” she says. “The kids are worried and they want their classmate back. I wanted to assure them that I feel he’s coming back.”

Van Croft drives by the places her son was last seen. She has two daughters. The youngest came home a few weeks ago with a tip. “A classmate thought he saw Billy on the bus,” Van Croft recalls, adding that her daughter had instructions on what to do with this tip: “Make sure you tell the police.”

“We’re keeping strong,” Van Croft says. “There have been some really good tips and we’re pushing forward. I will let you know when Billy comes home.”

NC: Teacher Charged With Attacking Colleague

NOTE: This is a story about teachers attacking each other in school. At least they went after each other instead of children??

Staff Writer
February 25, 2009,0,3633378.story

GREENSBORO N.C. - Police have charged a middle school teacher with slapping and threatening to kill another teacher.

Catherine Hazleton teaches sixth grade math and social studies at Mendenhall Middle School.

According to police, she got into an argument with a colleague Tuesday morning before classes started. Other employees reportedly had to separate the two.

Officers said the two were friends and the fight reportedly started over one of their family members.Hazleton is charged with simple assault and communicating threats.

OH: Teacher Accused Of Assaulting Student With Special Needs

By Denise Yost
Managing Editor,
Published: February 25, 2009

GROVE CITY, Ohio—A Central Ohio teacher is in hot water after police said she assaulted a child with special needs at school.

The alleged incident occurred on Feb. 2 at Grove City High School, where police allege 40-year-old teacher Robin Hartman assaulted one of her students, NBC 4‘s Tom Brockman reported.

Witness reports indicated the incident began when Hartman and a student who has Asperger’s Syndrome began exchanging words.

The report said that when the student refused to get up from his desk and go into the hall, the teacher allegedly lifted his chair and forced him to stand before pushing him into the hallway while yelling at him.

When the student allegedly made an obscene remark to the teacher, she allegedly responded by saying, ‘You don’t talk to me like that,‘ grabbed him by the back of his neck and led him to the kitchen area of the classroom.

Witnesses then reported hearing a “thug” noise and saw Hartman slam the door.

When NBC 4 went to her Worthington home for comment on the allegations, she refused comment and asked that we speak to her attorney.

School officials said Hartman has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation is conducted.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sample Letter re Bullying & Harrassment

From Our Children Left Behind:


To: (Principal and School)


To (Principal),

This letter is to immediately request that my son,_______, be afforded all the protections under state and federal law to protect him from physical harassment, discrimination, and verbal abuse. It is my understanding that he has a right to learn in a safe and harm-free educational environment.

I have read information at the following link and I understand what our rights are and what the school's duties are: . It is also my understanding that school personnel have a duty to facilitate his protection and fully investigate all allegations of discrimination he and others report. I am now requesting that you protect my child from the various forms of physical and verbal abuse he has suffered at your school.

I am requesting that this protection begin immediately. Please place a copy of this letter in my child's educational records. I will assume you are taking the appropriate action from this date forward. If I am incorrect, I request you immediately notify me at the following address:

Advocate/Parent name


city, state, zip

phone #

I trust my child's protection to you; please do not let me down.



Special Report: 1:1 Aides in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

This information comes directly from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools' website and appears to be their public declaration - supposedly supported by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction - to discourage the addition of 1:1 aides in the classroom for exceptional needs children. (Click on Additional Assistants link. This will open a PDF document.)


Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools does not provide individual assistants (typically referred to as 1:1 assistants). Rather each school (with at least 1 full time EC teacher) already has an additional assistant based on the number of students who have a separate level of service.

DPI has advised CMS to eliminate the practice of adding 1:1 assistants on an IEP. Instead, the following should be written on the DEC 5 when additional support is needed to meet the needs of a student: “CMS will provide adequate personnel to fulfill the goals and objectives on the IEP.”

Schools should consider the following in meeting the needs of students with disabilities:

Current school staff must be considered as a whole when meeting the needs of students. It may require reallocating staff to ensure that student needs are met.

Requests for additional assistants based on physical needs will be considered through the Related Services Specialist (Naia Ward 980-343-2731 or If appropriate, additional staff allotments will be provided up front based on the students’ physical needs. The goal is to utilize existing school staff in the most effective manner and to maximize each student’s access to the general education environment.

If a school based IEP team chooses to place a 1:1 assistant on a student’s IEP, the school will be responsible for either funding the position or re-allocating current staff.

Assistance in allocating staff and implementing creative scheduling is available through the EC Department. Principals can contact the grade level specialist for their school to request this assistance.

Elementary - Adrienne Dohn 980-343-2717

Middle - Stacie Levi 980-343-6164

High - Valerie Morgan 980-343-2679

If you have additional questions or need further assistance, please feel free to contact
Audrey Dillingham at 980-343-2686 or

FL: Sarasota County School Board sued over abuse case

By Tiffany Lankes
Published: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 1:45 a.m.

SARASOTA - A former Venice High School student is suing the School Board, saying administrators ignored reports that coach James LaMorte was sexually abusing his students, enabling him to continue preying on victims.

A lawsuit filed in Sarasota County last week alleges that former Venice Principal Dan Parrett did not properly investigate early concerns that came to his attention. Parrett is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Adam Brum, the Tampa attorney representing the victim, said he believes that higher-ranking administrators at the school district also knew about problems and ignored them.

"This was something that for whatever reason was ignored," Brum said. "There are too many victims. Someone in that school knew about it."

Brum's client, who is now 35, is the first to file a lawsuit against the School Board because of the LaMorte case. His name is being withheld by the Herald-Tribune because the newspaper does not typically identify the victims of sexual abuse.

The lawsuit does not specify how much money he is seeking in damages.

It comes nearly three years after LaMorte was convicted and sentenced to 21 years in prison for sexually abusing male students, including fondling them and forcing them to perform oral sex.

The allegations against LaMorte dated as far back as 1978, three years after he started working as a swim coach at Venice High. The criminal investigation started in 2005, when one of LaMorte's victims went to the police.

As they investigated, police learned that one of the victims -- other than the one who filed the civil lawsuit -- came forward in 1991 with abuse allegations, but school officials dismissed the concerns and allowed LaMorte to keep teaching.

A 2005 school district investigation following LaMorte's arrest found that Parrett acted appropriately and cleared him of wrongdoing. He is now the principal at Oak Park School, the district's center for disabled students.

The complaint filed in court last week alleges that LaMorte physically and sexually abused the plaintiff when he was a student at Venice from 1990 to 1994.

According to the complaint, the student also went to Parrett and tried to report the abuse, but the principal dismissed his concern after conducting an investigation.

Parrett could not be reached for comment.

School Board attorney Art Hardy pointed out that the lawsuit is based on things that happened more than a decade ago, and said he expects that to become an issue in whether the victim can sue the district.

Brum, the plaintiff's attorney, says there is a state law that extends the statute of limitations in civil suits if the victim has repressed the memory of abuse. He said his client began to remember the abuse only after reading stories in the newspaper several years ago.

LaMorte is currently imprisoned at Taylor Correctional Institution in Perry.

The suit in the LaMorte case comes as the school district faces threats of other lawsuits pertaining to how it handled complaints that a former Venice Elementary School special education teacher was abusing students.

In that case, police learned that more than a dozen school employees had witnessed or were told of concerns about the teacher, Diana O'Neill, including the principal and a district administrator. Principal Theresa Baus talked to O'Neill twice about being too rough with the students and told her to be careful, but allowed her to keep teaching.

A jury acquitted O'Neill of four child abuse charges Feb. 13, but Superintendent Lori White has called for her dismissal for being too physically rough with students and making disparaging comments to them.

All of the parents of students who were allegedly abused have retained attorneys and say they plan to sue the district.

IN: Cop Tasers autistic boy unconscious

Family sues police, school after 9-1-1 called during outburst

Posted: February 24, 2009
11:11 pm Eastern

© 2009 WorldNetDaily

The TASER X26, a top law enforcement model

The family of a 14-year-old autistic boy is suing police and his school after authorities Tasered him until he lost consciousness.

The student attended Creekside Middle School in Carmel, Ind., and remains unnamed in the complaint. He is described as having "affective disorder and has been diagnosed with autism, manic-depressive disorder and bipolar disorder."

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, the boy's mother, Dianne Bell, was late dropping him off for school and called to tell the administration. However, the student received detention and became "frustrated and began to act out."

"During this outburst he is saying outrageous things," Bells' attorney, Ronald Frazier, told the Indianapolis Star. He said the student said he would call his gang as retaliation against his teachers.

"They know there is no gang there," Frazier said. "They know he has no way of acting on what he is saying. They are taking these idle threats and calling police."

The family claims the school district did not abide by established procedures for dealing with the outbursts

"When a child like (the Bells' son) starts to have emotional problems, the (individual procedure) is supposed to be followed," Frazier told the Star. "It has specific steps that are to be taken in order to keep the child from melting totally down."

The administration dialed 9-1-1 instead

The family claims Carmel police officer Matthew Kinkade restrained the 5-foot, 90-pound boy and forced him onto a bench in the school lobby. When his outburst continued, the officer allegedly Tasered the boy two times – leaving him unconscious.

"Officer Kinkade used unreasonable and excessive force by failing to follow policies and procedures that were in place for dealing with autistic children," according to the complaint.

The Police Department claims the school never notified officers of the boy's condition, although school officials say they did.

"Autistic children have a great difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they don't understand social cues," Frazier told the Star. "(The Bell child) gets confronted with violence, with Tasers, and he is flipping out because of his sensory overload."

Noblesville Police Department Lt. Bruce Barnes trains officers in the use of Tasers.

"You can use the Taser anytime anybody is punching, kicking or threatening to punch or kick," Barnes said. "We can use it when we tell someone to do something, they refuse, lesser-force options are not available and they are a credible threat to you."

Barnes wouldn't speculate about whether the autistic boy actually posed a legitimate threat to police, according to the report.

Sheila Wolfe, director of the Indianapolis-based Autism Education and Training Center, told the Star school officials and police who responded to the outburst actually made it worse.

"You need to step away and leave them alone so that they can decompress," she said. "I have a hard time believing that a trained officer would Taser a child with a disability if they fully understood the situation they were walking into.

"I know from experience that the people in Carmel (Clay schools) know better. As a school system, they have the expertise and they have the people available that know better. I'm surprised."

The Bell family is now suing the Carmel Police Department, officer Matthew Kinkade and Carmel Clay Schools. They are seeking damages for medical expenses, pain, suffering and mental anguish.

MO:Mapaville parents to file complaint against school nurse

Lawsuit filed in federal court
By Chris CampbellTuesday, February 24, 2009 3:14 AM CST

A group of parents involved in a federal lawsuit alleging abuse of special needs students at Mapaville State School plan to file an additional complaint against a school nurse.

Craig Henning, an advocate for the disabled with the Crystal City-based Disability Resource Association (DRA), said multiple parents will file complaints with the Missouri State Nursing Board against Sally Forshee, a school nurse employed by the Mapaville State School.

The school has been at the center of controversy for almost one year, after secretly recorded audiotapes revealed what Henning and many parents believe is abuse and neglect.

Most of the children educated at the Mapaville State School are profoundly disabled, and many cannot communicate clearly.

Mapaville is one of more than 30 such schools across the state.

A lawsuit recently filed in federal court by Scott and the parents of eight other students is asking the court to fire implicated staffers, install classroom cameras and eventually dismantle the entire state school system.

After becoming concerned with the quality of care their children were receiving, several parents placed recording devices in their children's backpacks.

After listening to the tapes, some of the parents expressed shock over their content.

"I was in disbelief, just disbelief," said Sheila Scott, whose son, Chandler Scott, was featured prominently on the tape. "I couldn't believe these people who loved and cared for my son would treat him this way."

More than 40 hours of tape was eventually turned over the the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office for investigation.

While no criminal charges were issued, the tapes became evidence in a series of due process hearings for parents who filed abuse complaints against the district.

The incident that Scott found most troubling was the repeated ringing of a bell near her 12-year-old son's face by Forshee.

After saying "watch me send him into a seizure," Forshee rang the bell an estimated 30 times.

Scott said other school staffers present laughed.

When called to give evidence before a panel hearing, Forshee admitted she knew such behavior could trigger seizures.

Chandler Scott suffers from epilepsy.

Jill Randall, whose son Blake is a classmate of Chandler Scott, is outraged that district officials have not fired staff members facing abuse allegations.

"We are all making complaints," she said.

When reached by phone, Forshee declined to comment, referring questions to Charlie Taylor, superintendent of state schools.

When asked why Forshee remained employed, Taylor declined to answer, citing ongoing litigation and personnel issues.

Henning said he believes the reason for the state's unwillingness to act is obvious - liability.

"They don't want to admit wrongdoing," he said.

Scott, a former aide at Mapaville who said her suspicions were initially aroused when she picked up her son and found him covered in dried urine, said she is unwilling [to] return her child to school barring drastic changes.

"Our trust is shattered," she said.

MO: Lawmaker wants ban on seclusion rooms for children with disabilities

NOTE: Some good news out of MO today! Please join us in thanking Senator Scott Rupp for introducing this bill!

By Jessica Bock

School seclusion rooms for children with disabilities would be banned under a bill introduced Tuesday by state Sen. Scott Rupp.

He said he wanted to eliminate the rooms "until the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can prove they serve a worthwhile purpose."

"If they serve a purpose, then we need to have some type of rules governing their use," said Rupp, R-Wentzville.

The measure also calls on the state education department to regulate the use of restraint and timeouts for students receiving special education services.

The proposal comes after two St. Charles County families spoke out last week against the rooms. Missouri Protection and Advocacy Services, a federally funded law firm, is investigating the parents' allegations of abuse and neglect against the Francis Howell School District. The district says that parents knew about the use of the rooms and that nothing improper was done.

In the St. Louis area, the Special School District, which provides special education services to students with disabilities who live in St. Louis County, uses what they call "secure observation rooms" for a child's safety if allowed in a plan approved by parents.

Some other area districts use similar methods.

Rupp's bill defines seclusion as a behavior management technique in which a student is confined in a locked box, locked closet or locked room designed solely to seclude a person and containing less than 50 square feet of space.

Most of the rooms used in the Special School District are 6 feet by 6 feet, or 36 square feet. In the Francis Howell School District, the room at Hollenbeck Middle School at the center of one of the complaints is 9 feet 2 inches by 5 feet 7 inches, or a little more than 45 square feet.

Last week, Francis Howell Superintendent Renée Schuster showed the room at Hollenbeck to reporters. She said the timeout rooms were safe and were used only as a last resort as part of a student's individual education plan when behavior caused him or her to be a danger to themselves or others. She echoed that Tuesday in a written statement in response to the bill. "The district believes that it is important to keep all kids safe and will continue to do what is best for each individual child," she said. 636-255-7208

Monday, February 23, 2009

GA: School board announces penalties in paddling case

By Jeff Findley (Contact) The Post-Searchlight
Published Friday, February 20, 2009

Before a standing-room-only crowd and an hour-and-a-half-long closed session Thursday night, the Decatur County Board of Education announced disciplinary action against Jeanette Grimsley, assistant principal at Potter Street Elementary School.

The action stems from a Feb. 6 case of excessive use of corporal punishment on a third-grade student at the school.

An investigation of the incident has been ongoing since the actions of Grimsley came to light on Feb. 9. Superintendent Ralph Jones, along with Dr. Linda Lumpkin, assistant superintendent for Human Resources, led the investigation. Interviews with witnesses to the three different instances that Grimsley paddled the student were conducted during the investigation. The incident was also reported to the Bainbridge Police Department and the Decatur County Sheriff's Department.

Although the penalties were announced by the board and considered final, Sheriff Wiley Griffin indicated that his department's investigation is ongoing.

“After considerable deliberation and a thorough investigation by our staff and Mr. Jones, we have concluded that the employee used poor judgment while administering corporal punishment to the student,” Dr. Sydney Cochran, chairman of the board, said before announcing the penalties in the form of a motion.

The disciplinary actions include a 10-day suspension without pay from Feb. 20 and concluding on March 6, a prohibition from using corporal punishment while an employee of the Decatur County Board of Education, a mandate to attend professional development on alternative disciplinary procedures, placement of official disciplinary documentation in the employee's personnel file, and a possible review of the employee's certification status.

The motion, seconded by Jacky Grubbs, passed on affirmative votes by Cochran, Grubbs, Bobby Barber and Randall Jones. Board members Winston Rollins and Clarissa Kendrick abstained from the vote. While Rollins declined comment on the reason for the abstention, Kendrick said “I would have liked to have heard first-hand from the witnesses in this case. The only thing we had to consider is what the Superintendent gave us second-hand.”

After the penalties were announced and approved, Cochran summarized the board's sentiment of the unfortunate incident.

“This has been a difficult situation. Mrs. Grimsley has had an immaculate record, and as far as I'm concerned, and I think I speak for this group, her record speaks for itself.” Cochran said.

“I think this an isolated case of poor judgment on her part, and I don't think anyone sitting in this room tonight can say that they haven't made a mistake in their lives. By the same token, we're here to safeguard our school children. We can't tolerate those kinds of mistakes,” Cochran continued.

A written release was provided by the Board that indicated that Grimsley's 13-year unblemished career with the county system and the feeling that no malice or intent to harm was involved was considered in determining the punishment. The release also indicated that Grimsley has apologized to all parties involved in the case.

The decision to suspend all use of corporal punishment, originally made by Jones immediately after the incident, has been continued until further notice. Additionally, a full review and amendment of the county's official corporal punishment policy is expected.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fewer care facilities use restraints for elderly residents

NOTE: If only lawmakers paid the same attention to the increasing use of restraints in schools...

By Julie Appleby and Jack Gillum, USA TODAY
February 16, 2009

Diann Snyder has a simple rule at the long-term care home where she's director of nursing: Restraints are not an option.

"If you restrain a resident, you actually see some desperation," Snyder says. "They experience some anguish. You kind of break their spirit. They give up. "

When she joined the staff of the Thornwald Home in Carlisle, Pa., 15 years ago, the facility sometimes used physical restraints on the elderly residents to keep them in their chairs or from wandering the halls. Staff and family members believed restraints made the residents safer.

Snyder knew that wasn't correct. "Statistics have shown there have actually been deaths from (the use of) restraints," she says. "That is definitely far worse than if they fall."

Now, none of Thornwald's 83 residents are in restraints, reflecting both Snyder's efforts and a nationwide push to reduce the practice. Nursing homes immobilize 5.5% of their residents with physical restraints on average, about a quarter as many as they did in 1991, a USA TODAY analysis of nursing homes' self-reported data to Medicare shows.

Physical restraints — once widely used in nursing homes to prevent falls — are any device that inhibits a residents' movement or access to their body, according to the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, a group that in part advocates reduced restraint use.

"In general, restraint use has gone down dramatically," says Mercedes Bern-Klug, an assistant professor in social work at the University of Iowa who studies nursing homes. "Now we need to be vigilant about the places where restraint use is much higher than average."

She says muscles atrophy, and residents become socially withdrawn if they are immobilized.

"It affects the ability to maintain relationships, which is at the core of what we are as humans," she says.

'The right to be free'

Bern-Klug and others credit the drop to a decades-long movement to "untie the elderly," which united patient advocates, nursing homes, government groups and private foundations.

U.S. law does not ban restraints, which can be used if there are documented medical reasons to do so. In 1987, Congress passed a law that granted nursing home residents "the right to be free" of restraints and barred their use for discipline or convenience.

Medicare says an average of 21.1% of residents were restrained daily in 1991. That dropped to 8.5% in 2003 and 5.5% in 2007, USA TODAY's analysis found. Among other findings from 2007, the most recent full-year set available:

• Physical restraints were used on 20% or more residents at 665 homes out of about 14,800 reviewed nationwide.

• Twenty-five states used restraints on 4% or fewer residents on average.

• State averages ranged from a low of 1.7% of nursing home residents in restraints in Alaska to a high of 11.8% in Louisiana. Restraint use also topped 10% in three other states: Arkansas, California and Oklahoma.

"We've made a major effort to reduce restraint use in the last couple of years," lowering it from about 20%, says Joe Donchess, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association. Homes in the state are working with a Medicare quality-improvement group.

The overall drop demonstrates "a commitment of all the people involved" — from state officials to advocates and home administrators, says Larry Minnix, president and CEO of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, a trade group that represents non-profit homes.

Yet some researchers question whether the statistics accurately reflect what is going on because nursing homes themselves report the data to Medicare.

"Restraint use has gone down, but the caveat is that these data aren't audited. So no one knows whether they are right," says Charlene Harrington, a nursing home researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

In addition, "very few facilities get cited" for overuse of restraints, says Patricia McGinnis of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, who adds regulators should be more vigilant.

Pennsylvania leads the way

Pennsylvania is among the states at the forefront of the no-restraint movement.

In 1996, Pennsylvania's nursing homes restrained nearly 29% of residents, says Susan Williamson, an assistant director in the state's health department.

State and U.S. officials, nursing home operators and patient advocates responded with an outreach effort that includes training programs at the nursing homes.

The voluntary program has reached 91% of the state's 723 nursing homes, and the restraint rate dropped to 2.8% in 2008, Williamson says.

Restraint use can go down if nursing homes prevent falls or lessen their severity with padded flooring and other methods. Better pain management can reduce agitation, another cause of restraint use, while efforts to boost companionship or provide activities can help residents with dementia, the national citizens coalition says.

At the Thornwald Home, staff members assess each resident and make needed changes, Snyder says. That can involve altering a medication that makes a resident dizzy or offering physical therapy to improve balance. Residents are given socks with non-skid soles. Chair seats have non-slip covers. Beds can be lowered and have special lips so residents won't slide off.

The key is "you have to educate, educate, educate," Snyder says. "Not only staff, but also residents, families and physicians."

MD: School Psychologist Charged With Sex Abuse

POSTED: 9:50 am EST February 17, 2009
UPDATED: 5:56 pm EST February 17, 2009

BALTIMORE -- Police in Baltimore City and Baltimore County are looking into a reported case of sex abuse involving a 13-year-old boy and a city school psychologist.

Robert James Stoever, 54, was arrested Sunday night after a Baltimore County police officer saw him and a teen in Stoever's parked car in a church parking lot on Edmondson Avenue.

Police said Stoever initially told them he was teaching the boy how to drive. But according to charging documents, he eventually admitted to having sexual relationship with the teen.

Stoever is currently charged with a second-degree sex offense and perverted practice. On Tuesday, a judge in Baltimore County increased his bail from $50,000 to $100,000.

Stoever works as a school psychologist at Booker T. Washington Middle School, where the 13-year-old is a student. Sources told 11 News the student had been sent to Stoever for counseling.

Stoever works for an outside company that is contracted by the city school system.

According to financial records, Stoever worked as a stockbroker in Georgia until 2007,when he started working at the city middle school.

School officials sent a letter home to parents Tuesday, informing them of the case and urging them to report any similar incidents.

MD: School Employee Charged With Sex Abuse

Reported by: Ryan Dooley
Last Update: 8:08 pm

Baltimore County Police have arrested and charged a contracted school psychologist with the sexual assault of student.

According to charging documents, police discovered 54-year-old Robert James Stoever with a 13-year-old boy in a car located at the Christian Temple in Catonsville on Sunday. Police say that an officer approached the vehicle and discovered both Stoever and the young boy in the front seat of the vehicle.

Police say that when questioned, Stoever admitted performing oral sex on the boy and told the officer that this was not the first time it has occurred.

Stoever had been working at the Booker T. Washington Middle School #130 in Baltimore City, where the boy is a student. In a letter sent home to parents, city school officals say Stoever was not employed by them, rather he had been contracted by the school system through an outside vendor since September 2007.

Stoever has been charged with second degree sex offenses and perverted practice.

School officials say Stoever is no longer working with Baltimore City Schools.

PA: Chapter 14 Changes to Evaluation Timelines, Behavior Plans and FBAs

By David T. Painter

Special education services and programs in public schools are regulated and implemented under
the authority of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). IDEA was
reauthorized effective July 1, 2005. The revised federal regulations of the reauthorized IDEA
were promulgated on August 14, 2006. Sometime thereafter, a committee of the State Board of
Education (“Board”) in Pennsylvania revised Chapter 14 to align it with the reauthorized IDEA.
Pennsylvania’s revisions to Chapter 14 took effect July 1, 2008.

Revised Chapter 14 added a new requirement that multidisciplinary evaluations and
reevaluations be completed within sixty calendar days from the date the parents provide written consent for the evaluation. Previously, Pennsylvania was aligned with a minority of states that had allowed sixty school days for the completion of multidisciplinary evaluations and
reevaluations. Also, summer breaks were not included in the calculation of days for completion
of the evaluation, and, under revised Chapter 14, they still do not count. However, for purposes
of calculating the evaluation timeline, revised Chapter 14 will count lengthy holiday breaks, days
lost to parent-teacher conferences, inclement weather and in-service days, even though children
are generally not in school on those days.

In revising the portion of Chapter 14 having to do with behavior support, the Board added
provisions that go well beyond what is required by the IDEA. For example, the IDEA requires
that the “specially designed instruction” component of a student’s IEP (which arguably could
include behavior interventions and techniques), be based on “peer-reviewed research to the
extent practicable.” In Pennsylvania, however, the Board now requires that behavior support
programs include “research based practices and techniques” to “enhance…opportunity for
learning and self-fulfillment.” It may be splitting hairs to attempt to distinguish the meaning of
“peer-reviewed research” from “research based practices and techniques,” but, more importantly, the Board’s revisions to Chapter 14 do not permit a school district to fall below the “researchbased” standard because a particular practice or technique may not be practicable under the circumstances.

The Board went even further in ratcheting up the Chapter 14 behavior support requirements in
Pennsylvania to require a functional behavior assessment (“FBA”) prior to developing a behavior plan. In public schools, a FBA usually consists of a team-based assessment and inquiry process through which the team defines target behaviors and determines the antecedent conditions and consequences in order to arrive at the hypothesized function(s) of the behavior. Then, the team would use this information to design an individualized behavior support plan for the child.

Under the IDEA, a FBA is required when the behaviors in question result in disciplinary
exclusion from school and are determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability. Under
revised Chapter 14, however, a FBA is also required as a prerequisite to all individualized
behavior support plans. Further, a positive behavior support plan must be developed by the IEP
team for eligible children “who require specific intervention to address behavior that interferes
with learning.” The annotated IEP forms promulgated by PaTTAN reinforce the point that a
FBA and a positive behavior support plan are required whenever the IEP team determines that
the “special consideration” of behavior impeding learning of self, or others, applies to the child
in question.

Clients who have questions regarding issues discussed in this article, or any education law
matter, should feel free to call us at 215-345-9111.

MS: Teacher arrested on abuse charges

Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009

GULFPORT — North Gulfport 7th and 8th Grade teacher and basketball coach Catryna L. Martin has been arrested on charges accusing her of sex crimes against a former female student, Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford said.

The 28-year-old science teacher was arrested Friday and charged with one count each of molestation and sexual battery of a 14-year-old girl while in a position of trust or authority.

Martin, the police chief said, is accused of committing the crimes at her home during the first week of February while she was supposed to be tutoring the girl.

The girl’s parents reported the alleged abuse to police, and Weatherford said the investigation that followed resulted in Martin’s arrest in the 12400 block of U.S. 49 on Friday.

Harrison County Justice Court Judge Gene Dedeaux set Martin’s total bond at $1 million.

Harrison County School Superintendent Henry Arledge said Saturday that Martin would not be able to return to school to teach classes or to coach basketball because he was suspending her employment, effective immediately. He said Martin would have the right to request a hearing before the Harrison County School Board to appeal the decision. Otherwise, he said the ruling stands, and she faces termination. If she’s convicted of the charges, Arledge said her license to teach in Mississippi would be revoked.

“I’m shocked,” Arledge said. “The public expects more of public employees than that. That kind of activity cannot and will not be tolerated in the school system, We just have to go forward at this point.”

Arledge said Martin had been teaching at the school for about three years and there had been no previous complaints lodged against her. The student in this case, he said, no longer attended Martin’s classes because she had advanced to another grade.

So far, Weatherford said, there are no other allegations against the teacher, though their investigation was continuing.

Martin is the second South Mississippi teacher, and second youth coach, to face felony charges for alleged sex crimes against minors in the last 13 months.

Rebecca Dawn Bogard, 28, was a science teacher at the Center for New Opportunities — the Biloxi School District’s alternative school — when she was arrested Jan. 18, 2008, and charged with one count each of exploitation of a child, touching of a child for lustful purposes and statutory rape. A Harrison County grand jury later indicted her on the charges.

She was suspended with pay and later resigned. She remains free today on $50,000 bond pending trial.

In an unrelated case involving minors, Edward Scott Yancey, 37, and former volunteer coach with the Long Beach Recreation League, is accused, among other things, of molesting two 10-year-old boys he had coached in the summer of 2008. Authorities seized eight computers and 300 discs from Yancey’s home that contained sexually explicit pictures of children.

OR: High school coach arrested on sex charges

February 16, 2009

By The Associated Press

COQUILLE, Ore. — Police in Coquille have arrested the Coquille High School track coach on charges of sexually abusing at least one of her athletes.

Police Chief Mark Dannels said police acting on a citizen tip arrested 36-year-old Wendi Boutiette Saturday on charges of second-degree sexual abuse, contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor and sexual misconduct.

She was released from jail Sunday.

The charges involve a teenage boy who was on the track team. Boutiette, who is married with two children, has been the head track coach at the high school for one year.

MO: House To Take Up Spanking Bill

From KY3 Political Notebook:

Protecting teachers who use spanking to discipline their students is a major provision in the first education bill the House will take up Tuesday.
Rep. Maynard Wallace is the sponsor of HB 96.

It passed out of committee 13-0.
Supporters say that these measures will make it possible for school employees to focus on teaching without worrying about litigation. But Rep. Sara Lampe said there may be a move to add an amendment to not allow spanking or any type of corporal punishment.

That could spark a battle over "local control."

The bill "expands the reporting of acts of violence to all teachers."

And Also: "expands employee imunity from correctly following discipline policies, to following all policies."

In October 2007, the Texas County prosecutor said he could not charge a teacher for bruising an 11-year-old because current state law says spanking is not abuse.

Fiji: Corporal punishment is banned, Bole reminds teachers

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Update: 12:12PM THE Ministry of Education has reiterated its zero tolerance policy on corporal punishment in schools.

Interim Education Minister Filipe Bole said corporal punishment was banned in all Fiji schools by a High Court ruling in March 2002.

He made the comment in reaction to the recent cases of teachers accused of meting out corporal punishment to students.

The ministry wishes to remind all teachers and educators in schools that the use of corporal punishment, for whatever reason, would directly contravene this court ruling and could lead to teachers facing legal challenges, Mr Bole said in a statement issued today.

He said the ministry had guidelines in place to assist schools and teachers deal with disciplinary cases.

These guidelines form the ministrys Behaviour Management Plan for schools and include parental involvement, student counselling, rehabilitation at home, disciplinary committees and even suspension, he said.

ND: Uniform school corporal punishment policy required

NOTE: How's this for backwards thinking? A school district actually had a "corporal punishment" policy that did NOT include "willful infliction of physical pain on a student" and now the STATE SENATE is telling them they CANNOT HAVE A POLICY THAT'S MORE STRICT THAN THE STATE's.

While we understand that legally a school district's policies shouldn't be more restrictive than those of the state, we're talking about willfully inflicting PAIN on a child, and a school district who got in trouble with the State Senate for taking action against a teacher who admitted she deliberately hit a child on the head to get his attention. (If only all districts took this kind of zero tolerance policy against violence from teachers...)

Let me get this straight, if someone deliberately hit you on the head, and it hurt, wouldn't that be willful infliction of pain? But that "willful infliction of pain" clause is missing from district policy so the district is in trouble for disciplining a teacher who whacked a kid in the head?

Is the North Dakota Senate sanctioning Child Abuse in Schools? Curious...

February 16, 2009
Associated Press
Bismarck, N.D. (AP) A West Fargo school teacher's firing has prompted the North Dakota Senate to support changing state law on corporal punishment.

Senators on Monday voted 47-0 to approve a bill that says local schools cannot adopt policies against corporal punishment that are stricter than the state's. The bill now moves to the state House.

The legislation was introduced in response to the November 2006 firing of West Fargo school music teacher Mavis Tjon. She said she was dismissed for tapping a third grader on the head to get his attention.

State law says corporal punishment is the "willful infliction of physical pain on a student." West Fargo school policy does not require any pain to be willfully inflicted.

The Senate bill also says school districts must have the same corporal punishment policies for their elementary, middle and high schools.

The bill is SB2289.

NJ: Police shoots a 15 year old mentally disabled kid

February 17, 2009

A 15-year-old student at Garfield Park, a private school for children with emotional or behavioral disorders, was shot twice after he threatened the police with a pair of scissors. The incident happened in front of the school.

The boy was first threatening some school employees and also some students, before he ran out on the parking lot where he pointed two scissors at a police officer.

He was asked to put his weapon down, and a witness said that she heard how they yelled "put it down, put it down!" before the sound of two gunshots being fired. She said she went out to see what was going on and there she saw the victim lying on his side clutching his stomach.

The officer that shot the boy, William Smith, was not injured.

The shooting will be investigated according to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office.

The boy was reported in critical but stable condition at Cooper University Hospital, Camden.

Carol Dunn had a similar incident with the police in New Jersey, where her son was shot by an officer outside a church because he refused to let go of the knife he was holding.

"I think police should take every necessary step to save lives. This should be included in their training," she said. "Are they interested in taking lives or is the state of New Jersey interested in saving lives?"

Monday, February 16, 2009

MI: Staff didn't file abuse allegations

Sunday, February 15, 2009
The Ann Arbor News

No member of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District's staff reported allegations of child abuse by a teacher's aide to either the local police or the state's Department of Human Services, a district internal investigation found.

"Under the Child Protection Act school personnel have a duty to report all instances of suspected child abuse,'' the report said. "No report was filed by any of the staff who witnessed the conduct referenced in the police investigation.''

A spokeswoman with the Department of Human Services declined to comment on whether her department had any contact from the WISD about the allegations. She also would not comment on whether the WISD broke the law.

Any investigation into that question would come from the county's prosecutor's office, Zoe Lyons, the manager of the state's Child Protective Services program, said in a telephone interview.

WISD Superintendent Bill Miller said no one is investigating the district for any possible violations of the state law.

The law is clear about who has to report suspicions of child abuse and what they have to do, Lyons said.

The law requires all school personnel to report child abuse. People in certain other professions, including health-care workers, are also considered "mandatory reporters'' under the law.

Mandatory reporters have to immediately contact the state when they suspect child abuse. If the allegations concern school personnel, those allegations are turned over to the local police for investigation, Lyons said.

"A lot of times, people report things to both the state and the police,'' Lyons said.

Failing to report child abuse is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 93 days and a fine of $500.

Miller would not directly answer questions about whether WISD employees violated the act.

"District policies about reporting were not followed,'' he said.

NY: NYPD okays Velcro handcuffs for use on unruly children

BY Alison Gendar
Saturday, February 14th 2009, 11:02 AM

Nothing says tough love like Velcro handcuffs.

Cops trying to restrain children will have a softer alternative than metal handcuffs under a new program the NYPD is testing in nearly two dozen schools.

Starting next month, officers will use Velcro handcuffs instead of the tougher steel model to subdue disturbed or unruly children in 22 schools in northern Queens, according to a draft NYPD operations order obtained by the Daily News.

"We would prefer never to use restraints of any kind, but in those rare instances where it may become necessary, we want a softer alternative to conventional handcuffs," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.

Cops are expected to use the cuffs no more than once or twice a year, Browne said, and only when a kid is at risk of hurting himself or others.One of the targeted schools is Public School 81 in Ridgewood, where a school safety agent handcuffed 5-year-old Dennis Rivera and brought him to a psych ward after what school sources called a violent tantrum in January 2008.

That child's father, Dennis Sr., said Friday police policy on cuffs was wrong. "They could be made of teddy bear material," he said, "but they still would be handcuffs. It is still police tactics on children who have committed no crime." In a separate instance, the family of a 10-year-old girl filed a federal lawsuit against the city last August, claiming police handcuffed her on a school bus because she wouldn't sit still.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly asked the department to look at alternatives to metal handcuffs, but Browne would not say what case triggered the review.

NYPD school safety officers in the schools are expected to receive the alternative handcuffs at the end of next week, and then get two weeks of training - not only on how to use the new cuffs, but when.

The new handcuffs would be used on youngsters under age 16. The restraints are 22-inch-long strips of cloth with Velcro fasteners that can be adjusted to fit a child's wrist.

"Handcuffing by any other name is still handcuffing, " said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

FL: Ex-Venice Teacher Acquitted Of Abuse Charges

NOTE: Despite the fact that she admitted "that she sarcastically called the students names, including calling one child named Olivia "Oblivia," and another child "tons of fun" and that she also said that she sometimes "bopped" them on the head with water bottles, boards and objects to get their attention, despite the fact that all of these children are severely disabled and literally cannot speak..SHE WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF CHILD ABUSE.

One juror reportedly said, "Maybe that is what you need to do to teach those kids." Since when is "bopping a kid" on the head with BOARDS educational!?

Would they say the same things if it were a PARENT before them?

We hope the parents pursue civil charges...and that their attorneys find some additional "expert witnesses" who are not just classroom aides, but doctors and/or a certified school psychologists who can testify that hitting a disabled child in the head with a board is NOT a positive behavioral intervention and that NO RESEARCH exists to support it's "therapeutic" or "educational" value.

By Tiffany Lankes -- Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Tampa Bay Online
updated 7:16 p.m. ET, Sat., Feb. 14, 2009

SARASOTA - A well-spoken and assertive Diana O'Neill spent nearly four hours arguing her innocence Friday before a jury found her not guilty of four child abuse charges.

The six-person jury deliberated for about three hours before rendering its verdict.

The former Venice Elementary School special education teacher sat with her hands folded as the clerk read off each of the counts and the jury's not-guilty decision. After jurors left the room, O'Neill cried and hugged her husband.

"I'm glad that justice was served and the jury was able to see the truth," O'Neill, 46, said through tears as she left the courtroom.

The parents of the students she was accused of abusing sat on the other side of the courtroom Friday holding hands and hugging each other before the jury announced its verdict.

Some of them sobbed after the jury left the courtroom. One grandmother asked whether the verdict meant O'Neill could keep teaching. They all declined to comment.

O'Neill was accused of hitting, kicking and otherwise abusing four severely developmentally disabled students between October 2007 and January 2008. She had been a special education teacher at the school for 18 years before her arrest in February 2008.

Friday's verdict closes the criminal case against O'Neill, but not everything has been resolved.

The school district must decide whether to give O'Neill her old job back and the state could still revoke her teaching license.

Additionally, the parents of the children O'Neill was accused of abusing have hired attorneys and said they intend to sue the school district.

Four of those parents testified against O'Neill and sat through the trial, including when O'Neill took the stand Friday to defend herself.

O'Neill, the last witness to testify, described herself as a dedicated teacher who drinks six cups of coffee every morning and gets excited at even the most minor accomplishments of her students.

"I get all excited all over again," she said. "It's a new trick for my bag."

O'Neill maintained a calm and commanding demeanor as she explained the educational benefits of the techniques she was using with the children.

She raised her voice to add affirmation to certain responses, including when her attorney asked if she was getting burned out.

"Absolutely not," O'Neill said forcefully.

O'Neill did acknowledge that she sarcastically called the students names, including calling one child named Olivia "Oblivia," and another child "tons of fun." O'Neill also said that she sometimes "bopped" them on the head with water bottles, boards and objects to get their attention.

Both the prosecution and the defense called as witnesses educators from Venice Elementary School, who were split over whether the actions O'Neill was accused of taking were appropriate teaching methods.

The verdict followed a weeklong trial during which prosecutors attempted to prove that O'Neill's actions could have caused physical injury or mental harm to her students.

That standard was made more difficult to prove than in some other cases because all of the students involved are so severely disabled that they cannot speak.

They also have so many physical problems that there is no way to know whether she would have seriously injured them when aides say they saw her hit them on the head with objects, kick and push them.

Although prosecutors argued some of the children received bumps on the head, bruises and scratches in O'Neill's classroom, the defense said that those do not qualify as injuries.

The prosecution did not try to prove mental harm upon the children. Their mental capacity is unclear, and the prosecution would have had to prove that O'Neill's actions prevented them from acting in a "normal" manner.

"The standard itself is really hard," said prosecutor Dawn Buff after the verdict. "And this case was difficult."

The prosecution's case relied heavily on the testimony of classroom aides Tammy Cooke and Cindi Anderson, who spent three months keeping a detailed log of times they say O'Neill abused her students. There were also other school employees who say they saw O'Neill get too rough with her students over the years.

But defense attorneys argued that the aides mistook appropriate techniques for working with students with disabilities for abuse. They also repeatedly pointed out that no one came forward sooner to report that O'Neill was abusing her students.

An alternate juror who sat through the trial but did not participate in the decision said he was torn by the educators' testimony. Gerald Paquette said he could see how O'Neill's actions could be appropriate in a special education classroom, where students need a lot of physical interaction.

"Maybe that is what you need to do to teach those kids," Paquette said after the verdict.

The case drew the attention of child advocates, parents and court watchers, with the trial audience increasing every day.

On Friday the courtroom was filled nearly to capacity, including many people who said they were parents or former teachers.

Sarasota school union leaders sat in the courtroom behind O'Neill nearly every day. The union has supported O'Neill since she was arrested a year ago, including paying her attorneys fees early on. Union officials have declined to say whether they are still paying them, or how much the union has spent on O'Neill's defense.

School Board attorney Keith DuBose also watched the trial to gather information for the school district, which will now have to decide O'Neill's employment status.

While criminal courts must prove beyond a reasonable doubt a defendant's guilt, the standard is much lower for school districts or the state to revoke a teacher's license.

DuBose said he was also gathering information for possible civil lawsuits by the parents against the school district.

GA: Boy bruised from paddling

By Taylor Seay (Contact) The Post-Searchlight
Published Friday, February 13, 2009

The Decatur County School Board is investigating the use of corporal punishment (paddling) on a child attending Potter Street Elementary School that occurred on Feb. 6.

The 9-year-old student was paddled three times in one day by school administrator Janette Grimsley, according to the incident report filed by the child’s mother, Christina White. She told police she became aware of the bruising when her child got home from school and complained of having pain from being paddling.

Superintendent Ralph Jones said the Board of Education is investigating the matter, specifically the legality and policy matters surround the specific incident and the use of corporal punishment.

The parent did give consent for the child to be paddled, and bruising was apparent from the punishment, according to Jones.

The superintendent expressed the need for professional judgment when corporal punishment is used.

“The main issue is not the paddling, but the number of times the student was paddled. We have great concerns and will be addressing it as a school board,” said Jones. The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled Thursday, Feb. 19.

He elaborated saying the currently school board policy pertaining to paddling does not define the number of times a child can be paddled, although there is an underlying point when it is evident that the punishment is no longer beneficial.

“We do not condone paddling excessively,” Jones said. “Like any other policy, it must be used in good judgment.”

The superintendent said the student had prior disciplinary problems and other individual behavioral plan strategies were used prior to the paddling. He also noted that although the BOE does not condone excessive paddling, the possibility of bruising is always apparent when corporal punishment is used.

Jones said upon completion of the investigation, the case will be reviewed in executive session at the Board of Education’s Feb. 19 meeting. He expects a lengthy discussion on corporal punishment and a review of the current policy to see if there is a need for change.

At the request of the child’s mother, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office is also conducting an investigation into the event. Investigator Brian Donalson has conducted interviews with the child, mother and has scheduled interviews with school officials, said Sheriff Griffin.

Griffin said the investigation is specifically to find out if there was intent to do harm to the child.

Pictures of the bruising that occurred from the paddling were provided to Sheriff’s investigators by the White.

Special Report: Disability Rights Network of North Carolina Refuses to Investigate Restraint and Abuse Allegations

UPDATE: NDRN claims they do not have authority to investigate complaints against state DRN's - that they are *only* a "voluntary membership organization."


Special Report: Disability Rights Network of North Carolina Refuses to Investigate Restraint and Abuse Allegations

February 12, 2009

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

A client of ours has notified us that the North Carolina’s Disability Rights Network, the Protection & Advocacy of North Carolina – an agency that is mandated to investigate and receives grant funding to investigate abuse allegations in a variety of settings, including public schools - has twice refused her pleas to investigate documented physical restraints and allegations of abuse by a special education teacher in a public elementary school against an 8 year old boy.

At our client’s request, we are keeping her name, her son’s name, the names of the individuals involved, and the district involved confidential as the district has already twice threatened to retaliate against her.

Our client contacted the DRN last October to advise them her son, a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and two specific learning disabilities, had been documented to have been physically restrained by a special education teacher at his Elementary School. Documentation from the teacher in her own handwriting also indicated that at times this teacher may have abused our client’s son. Some of the documented instances of alleged abuse are as follows:

 Physically pulled the child away from a wall when he wouldn’t stop trailing his hand along it
 Physically threw the child onto a rug and dragged him and the rug into the middle of the room
 Took the child into the boy’s bathroom, stood immediately outside the stall the child had gone into, notified him that she was timing him, repeatedly kept yelling at him that he was taking too long, and, upon the child’s return to the classroom, the child yelled at his regular education teacher that “she wouldn’t let [him] go.” He then got in trouble and was disciplined for yelling at his teacher. As an additional note: The child has suspected body regulation issues thought to be due to known sensory issues and he needs to take frequent restroom breaks as he has difficulty assessing his “need to go.” His behavior plan also indicated that if he returns to the classroom after leaving to use the restroom within 2 minutes, he’d receive tickets as a reward, and oftentimes this would be used against him in the form of taking earned tickets away from him for “not following bathroom rules.”
 The child was also documented to have been found two days’ prior to this incident in the boy’s bathroom by either a female teacher or aide (not sure of her position in the school) curled up on the floor of the bathroom minus his shoes, socks, underwear and pants, and to have urinated on himself.

This information was shared with the N.C. DRN.

N.C. DRN advocate Diana Burch spoke to our client and offered to attend the next IEP meeting with her since things had become tenuous with the district. Ms. Burch attended an IEP meeting with our client on November 3, 2008. Afterward, Ms. Burch consulted with N.C. DRN’s attorneys and contacted our client to advise her that the attorney’s had deemed her son’s case as “unwinnable,” and that she should sign and agree to everything the district recommended in her son’s IEP, even though the mom disagreed with the appropriateness of the IEP, because, as Ms. Burch told her, “It could be worse.”

Things did progressively get worse with the district. Since then, he’s been transferred into a BED program at another elementary school within the district - a placement which our client and the district both disputes; the district had refused transportation, and, after a battle over this issue, is now transporting him along with all the other disabled children in the elementary & middle schools on a dedicated bus that stops at multiple schools, with children on the bus as long as close to two hours one way; the district offered and my client agreed to a crisis intervention plan during mediation to stop the physical restraints after the district refused to honor her “No Restraint Letter,” but the crisis plan has been implemented for non-emergencies and has resulted in multiple altercations with School Resource Officers and suspensions.

Our client’s son has also been suffering from nightmares, upset stomach, nosebleeds, and anxiety, and has relayed he feels like a “bad kid” who is stupid. After a day at school, he once came home and asked his mother why he is “so misguided.” This child is only 8 years old.

We advised our client to again contact the N.C. DRN and specifically ask for an investigation into allegations of abuse, including physical restraints, since we and our client were concerned that possibly the N.C. DRN didn’t realize the extent of allegations weighed against the district. She contacted them again by email, forwarding a timeline documenting the alleged abuse, and was advised via email that they would re-open her case.

She recently received word that the N.C. DRN would not be assisting her as she cannot verify if her son has been suspended for 10 or more days. He has received in-school suspensions, has been suspended multiple times for single days and multiple days, and has been sent home early for “behavioral reasons,” like yelling at a teacher or another student, but it is unclear whether the “10 days” requirement N.C. DRN inexplicably set forth has been met as we have not received written incident reports to indicate whether these “early releases” were considered suspensions, though we have asked for via FERPA request, and been denied access to these records. A formal FERPA complaint has been filed.

Our client was also physically assaulted by a secretary who kept pulling the sign in book away from our client when she attempted to sign in as a visitor and yelling at our client she “couldn’t sign there” when our client made a surprise visit to the school this past Monday, FERPA letters previously sent to the district and legal requirements of FERPA in hand.

We are disappointed and dismayed that the DRN of North Carolina is refusing to help this child, especially in light of the recently released NDRN report documenting similar cases of abuse.

We have filed a formal complaint with the National Disability Rights Network on our client’s behalf and will keep you informed if and when the NDRN responds.

VIDEO: Restraint and Seclusion Behind Closed Doors

This is a fantastic, highly emotional, video my former partner, Phyllis from Families Against Restraint and Seclusion, created to help spread the word that these types of abusive practices must stop!

Please take a few moments to watch this YouTube Video...

VIDEO: Restraint and Seclusion: Who Will Stand up for Our Children

Here is another heartbreaking video of restraint and seclusion and the devastating effects this can have on our children. Created by Anna Moore...

Seven Basic Supports for the Asperger Student

This document by Annette Wilkes, a parent of a child diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, is a must read for every parent of a child diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome!

Her 7 Basic Supports include:

1. A carefully thought out and implemented IEP
2. Help in developing social skills
3. Protection from bullying and teasing
4. Trained teachers and paraprofessionals
5. Positive Behavior Interventions (always a favorite around here :) )
6. Respect for his coping limitations and a "safe place"
7. A modified curriculum (including homework modifications)

"Conducting a Meaningful Functional Behavioral Assessment"

Rebekah Heinrichs, MSN, Ms Ed
Asperger Information

"Conducting a Meaningful Functional Behavioral Assessment"

Many times students with Asperger Syndrome and related disorders
exhibit behaviors in the school environment that challenge teachers
and limit learning. Since behavior does not occur in a vacuum, it is
important to conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) before
developing an individualized Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP). The
FBA will help identify factors in the environment that contribute to
the behaviors in question. The primary focus during this process
should be assessment of the reason or "function" of the behaviors
Regrettably, the process of conducting an appropriate FBA and then
developing an individualized BIP are concepts that are often
misunderstood and mismanaged in educational practice.

Many times when behavior becomes an issue, an incomplete assessment is
performed that merely documents behaviors without taking into
consideration why the behaviors are occurring and what environmental
factors are present before, during, and after the behaviors occur.
Also, the assessment may not meet standards of objectivity, which is
absolutely critical to the successful creation of a meaningful FBA.
Further complicating matters, interventions are often fashioned with
an intense focus on extinguishing unwanted behaviors. When this is the
case, the BIP typically will not contain appropriate positive
behavioral supports due to a subsequent lack of understanding of the
real function or reason for the observed behaviors. As a result, the
BIP will most likely fail to contribute much in the way of positive

By definition, a true FBA requires an evaluation of what antecedents
are present in the environment before the behavior occurs and the
consequences of the behavior. In other words, it is important to
consider what happens before, during and after these behaviors occur.
This assessment must be objective and use a variety of different
methods or tools of assessment. Information can and should be obtained
by a review of all pertinent records, interviews, and of course
observations across a variety of different environments and time frames.

There are many resources and tested tools that can help provide
information. People who are familiar with the student in a variety of
different capacities can potentially contribute pertinent insights and
details. These contributions must never be disregarded or ignored
based on preconceived beliefs and prejudices. Information gathered
from the completed assessment will then be used to establish credible
hypotheses related to the possible function of identified behaviors.
Only then, can the process of developing the positive BIP begin in

Before designing a BIP, it is wise to keep in mind a few common
pitfalls associated with behaviorism. Paula Kluth (2004), an
educational consultant and expert in autism spectrum disorders,
recommends the following cautions when designing behavior plans. She
advises that educators "recognize the limits of behaviorism, avoid
removing students from the classroom and not make compliance the
goal." These recommendations take into consideration that the use of
reinforcements and rewards as well as punishments has the potential to
be used in ways that "harm, hurt, or humiliate learners." When an
appropriate FBA is completed and the information is then applied to
the development of an individualized BIP, the results are often
dramatic and positive.

FL: Help teachers, help students

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Saturday, February 14, 2009

At this point, everybody agrees that Alex Barton never should have been voted out of his kindergarten class at Morningside Elementary in Port St. Lucie. Even Wendy Portillo, the teacher who imposed that bizarre punishment, agrees that she was out of line: "If I could take that morning back, I would."

Ms. Portillo herself is out of the classroom now. She has appealed the yearlong suspension imposed by the St. Lucie County School Board on the recommendation of Superintendent Michael Lannon. Though the suspension is appropriate, students such as Alex pose problems for teachers, and districts don't always provide the level of training and support teachers need.

The Palm Beach County School District also has been confronting its shortcomings - though not strictly voluntarily. The school board last week settled a lawsuit that will change how the district teaches and disciplines special education students. Ms. Portillo's mishandling of Alex Barton, and the resulting controversy, can help the public to better understand what teachers face.

When he came to the class, Alex had not been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. That process stretched out over months. The teacher's options for dealing with constant disruption were limited. She could take away tokens, or she could send him out of the room.

Tellingly, on the day Ms. Portillo made her cruel mistake, the volunteer and alternate teacher who often looked after Alex when he was sent out of the classroom were not available. The principal's office, to which Alex was sent, returned him to the classroom after a short time. More effective support might have saved Ms. Portillo from her mistake.

To help teachers, a spokesperson for the St. Lucie School District said, "We have offered an array of training over the years and continue to make that training available." The district is dealing with "exponential growth in children identified with the autism spectrum. Based on the sensitivity associated with this issue this school year, we have offered (training) for all teachers on Autism Spectrum Disorder." She said that the district also is working closely with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at FAU.

Palm Beach County has not had an episode that caused public outrage on the scale of the Portillo/Barton case. But parents and groups that advocate for special-education students sued the district for using harmful discipline techniques that unnecessarily took students out of regular classes and programs.

The settlement requires the district to spend up to $100,000 for a consultant to develop a better system. The scope is striking. The settlement says that training "shall include all principals, assistant principals, teachers (general and special education), student support services staff, paraprofessionals, disciplinarians, other school administrators, and other educational service providers working at all schools in the district and shall also include school resource officers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers."

Schools are struggling to keep special education students in regular classrooms - which should be the goal - without disrupting the education of other students. Without proper training, the result can be kindergartners being shunned by classmates. New and continuing training for staff will make life better for everyone in the classroom.

PA: 2 Pa. judges sued in $2.6M kickback scheme

Updated 02/14/2009 12:46:17 AM EST

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Two lawsuits have been filed against two Pennsylvania judges accused of taking more than $2 million in kickbacks to send youth offenders to privately run detention centers.

The suits name Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan as well as the individuals who allegedly paid the kickbacks and other defendants. They were filed in federal court late Thursday and Friday on behalf of hundreds of children and their families who were alleged victims of the corruption.

"At the hands of two grossly corrupt judges and several conspirators, hundreds of Pennsylvania children, their families and loved ones, were victimized and their civil rights violated," plaintiffs' attorney Michael Cefalo said in a statement Friday.

Prosecutors allege Ciavarella and Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, possibly tainting the convictions of thousands of juvenile offenders.

The judges pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court in Scranton on Thursday. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years in prison.

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, was overly harsh and trampled on kids' constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of one in 10.

"Ciavarella, in the most cynical fashion, assured that there would be ample juveniles adjudicated delinquent and placed in PA Child Care," one of the suits said. "As juvenile judge, he ignored law, ignored the constitution, and ignored basic human decency. He provided quick 'justice,' adjudicated children delinquent and ripped them from their parents in record time and in astonishing numbers."

The suits ask for monetary damages.

An attorney for Conahan declined to comment. Ciavarella's lawyer didn't immediately return a phone message.

The lead plaintiff in one lawsuit is Florence Wallace, whose 14-year-old daughter Bernadine was charged with terroristic threats after getting into an argument on MySpace. The lawsuit said the teenager was not advised of her right to an attorney and was pressured to plead guilty. She was taken from Ciavarella's courtroom in shackles and spent time in PA Child Care and at a youth wilderness camp.

As a result of the judges' corruption, parents were forced to pay for the "wrongful incarceration" of their children, the suit said. Some parents had their wages garnished, public assistance benefits taken and social security benefits seized.

In addition to the judges, plaintiffs in both suits are suing two individuals who allegedly paid the kickbacks: attorney Robert Powell, who co-owned PA Child Care LLC and Western PA Child Care LLC until last June; and Robert Mericle, who owns one of the largest commercial construction firms in northeastern Pennsylvania and built the detention centers.

Through an attorney, Powell has said he was the victim of extortion. A spokesman for Mericle has denied making payments "to influence a decision to secure a contract to build any PA Child Care facility."

Mericle's company was also named as a defendant.

Through a spokesman, PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care, which are also named as defendants, declined to comment. The detention centers' current owner, Gregory Zappala - another defendant - has said through an attorney that he had no knowledge of the payoffs.

U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson has notified lawyers for PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care that the facilities are not being targeted in the ongoing corruption probe and do not face indictment.

Both lawsuits seek class-action status in the case.

Both judges have been removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On Friday, the high court, which had suspended Ciavarella with pay, terminated his pay and benefits. He had been making about $157,000 a year.

Conahan, who was semi-retired but still heard cases as a senior judge, has been stripped of his certification and may no longer receive per-diem pay.

FL: Largo police hospitalize 7-year-old under Baker Act

NOTE: "Pinellas schools' police report they have been involved in 83 Baker Acts from the beginning of the school year to the start of this week," and admitted to several other "Baker Acts that day," yet they play it off as no big deal because there are over 105,000 kids in the entire district.

How many of those children who were Baker Acted receive special education versus those that didn't? And of those that weren't officially eligible for special education yet, obviously if the district has to resort to Baker Acting a child, there's a good indication of an emotional problem that should have been picked up a whole lot sooner and could have qualified the child for special education services. If that's the case, then why weren't those children identified under Child Find?

In this case, a 7 yr old disabled boy was put into a psychiatrict hospital and kept overnight for observation....because he stepped on his teacher's foot and "tore up a classroom." Since when is stepping on someone's foot or throwing things around a room an act of "serious bodily injury?"

Nope, they're not Baker Acting kids unnecessarily...

Jonathan Abel St. Petersburg Times
Originally published 09:20 a.m., February 14, 2009
Updated 09:20 a.m., February 14, 2009

LARGO, Fla. — Police this week removed an unruly 7-year-old from his classroom and forced him to be hospitalized under the state's Baker Act — against the wishes of his outraged parents.

The boy spent the night alone at Morton Plant Hospital before he was seen by a child psychologist the next day and discharged.

"This is a total abuse of police power," said the boy's father, Richard Smith, 41. "My son has no mental health problems. He's never hurt himself. He's never hurt anyone else."

Smith and his wife, Barbara, said they want to consult a lawyer.

But Largo deputy police Chief John Carroll said his officers did the right thing.

By all accounts, the second-grader threw a tantrum at Mildred Helms Elementary on Wednesday. Carroll said the boy tore up the room during his fit. In the process, he stepped on a teacher's foot and "battered" a school administrator.

Carroll said the tantrum was so bad that school officials had to evacuate students from the classroom.

School officials called the parents and police. When officers arrived, they decided the boy needed a mental health examination.

This was not the first time the boy had acted up, Carroll said, and the lead officer, Michael Kirkpatrick, decided the boy couldn't just go home again with his mother.

"He just felt that this young man needed some mental health service he wasn't getting," Carroll explained. "The Baker Act is a kind of a Band-Aid that allows us to have somebody introduced to the service providers that can actually do something for him."

Barbara Smith said she could have defused the situation had officers let her see her son. Instead, they kept her from him as they conducted their investigation, she said.

When police decided to take him to a hospital, she agreed to ride with the boy in a police car to comfort him.

The incident was terrifying for the boy, whose name is not being used by the St. Petersburg Times. Barbara Smith is keeping the boy and his 9-year-old sister out of school because they are "scared to death" to go back, she said.

The Baker Act allows people to be taken for mental health examination against their will. But it requires a person show a substantial likelihood of causing serious injury to himself or others.

Absent that, police cannot use the Baker Act to take someone into custody against their will, even if they think the person needs help, said Raine Johns, who handles Baker Act cases for the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office.

"That's not the purpose of the Baker Act at all," said Johns, who is not involved in the case. "Stepping on somebody's foot doesn't rise to the level of substantial bodily harm."

Martha Lenderman, a Pinellas-based Baker Act expert, said a child can be taken against parents' wishes, but only if he meets all the criteria.

Johns said she has seen children as young as 7 taken into custody under the Baker Act before, but usually it's voluntary.

Pinellas schools police report they have been involved in 83 Baker Acts from the beginning of the school year to the start of this week. That does not include any handled by other police agencies.

School Board member Peggy O'Shea said she didn't think that sounded like a large number given the 105,000 students in Pinellas schools.

School board member Janet Clark noted there were several other Baker Acts in Pinellas schools that day. She plans to raise the issue with the superintendent.

School officials said a region superintendent has agreed to meet with the Smiths and the principal.

Carroll said the it's not as if police officers enjoy taking kids into custody.

"We look like the big tough cops with the tiny kid," he said.

But in the case of this boy, it was justified.

"The child got interviewed by mental health professionals," he said. "He didn't get arrested. There's no criminal charges against him."

Richard Smith and his wife are not sure of their next step.

"We can't just sweep this under the carpet," she said. "We do want to talk to a lawyer. … Our main goal is to make sure this does not happen to another family."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at or (727) 445-4157.

Friday, February 13, 2009

TX: SFA Closes Down Controversial Punishment Area On Campus

What Brown saw was a storage space in the school workshop that is used for a timeout location for students. The elevated area is more than 10 feet off the shop's concrete floor and is only accessible by ladders. Chairs are available for students to sit in, but the space also contains material used by shop students.

Posted: 11:06 PM Feb 3, 2009 Last Updated: 9:44 AM
Feb 4, 2009
Reporter: Joe Brown & KBTX Staff
Email Address:

Bryan Independent School District Superintendent, Mike Cargill is putting a stop to SFA Middle School students being sent to "The Attic" as a form of punishment. The decision comes the day after a report ran on News 3.

On Wednesday Cargill said, " the loft storage area in the SFA industrial technology shop will no longer be used as a time-out area."

News 3 first learned about "The Attic" after Bryan resident Tammy Brown became upset when her son Clay told her he had been disciplined in his SFA Middle School shop class by being sent to the "Attic." When she checked out the place herself, she was horrified.

"I actually went up on top of the platform and it was pretty dangerous to get up there," she said. "At the top of one set of ladders that I went up on, it looked like it had been cut with a cutting torch. It was ragged."

What Brown saw was a storage space in the school workshop that is used for a timeout location for students. The elevated area is more than 10 feet off the shop's concrete floor and is only accessible by ladders. Chairs are available for students to sit in, but the space also contains material used by shop students.

When Brown saw where her 13-year old son had been placed, she objected. "I told the principal and shop teacher that absolutely no way should a child be put up in that attic or into that crawl space because it's way too dangerous not to mention the filth and the clutter that was up there."

The school listened to Brown's argument, but didn't agree with her point. "In this case, this is an Industrial Arts shop and so the logical area is, what's called, just a storage area," said Bryan ISD Communications Director Sandy Farris. "It's an area where the teacher can keep an eye on the student and have some visibility that way."

District officials say school policy allows for parents to choose a different location for their child's timeout. "If the parent objects to this particular timeout area, they are certainly welcomed to use the office as an alternative location," Farris said.

But Brown said the offer made to her was accompanied by a not-so-veiled threat. "She said, 'You do realize that will mean that your son will get a permanent mark on his permanent disciplinary mark on his school record which will affect him for college.' And I feel that is truly unfair."

Bryan ISD officials said they've never had any past complaints about the crawl space. They say even the Bryan Fire Marshal's Office gave its approval.

But that does little to aleve Brown's outrage. "I'm surprised they put a kid in a crawl space," Brown said. "I mean that's something you might expect in a juvenile facility at the turn of the century, not in a school today."

As for Clay, although he's endured some teasing from friends, he's confident he's doing the right thing. "Ever since I knew what could happen, I've felt very good about taking a stand on this because I don't want anyone to get hurt because I will feel bad for it for the rest of my life."