Wednesday, September 1, 2004

WUSA9: No Joking Matter

It was supposed to be funny, but scores of parents of special education students are furious about the remarks of a school system lawyer.
The parents say the attorney was making fun of them and their children during an out of town convention.
It was a take off on "Saturday Night Live" at a special education lawyer's convention in San Francisco.
Parents, however, say the comments of Montgomery County Public Schools attorney Zvi Greisman about special ed students anything but funny.
"Sit on your seat for five minutes and keep your big mouth shut without attacking anyone," Griesman can be heard on a videotape of the skit.
"My 13 year old son's ability to sit in a seat and be quiet is measured in half minute increments. And to have somebody joke about somebody sitting in the seat and keeping their big mouth shut is beyond offensive," Lyda Astrove said of Greisman's comment.
Astrove is the mother of two special education students. She has had to fight the school system in an administrative court to get enough help for Scott, who is so autistic he can barely sit still.
She feels Griesman was mocking parents who go to court to help their children.
"In Boulder, Colorado, students took to the street in celebration of their due process victory when the judges ordered them new sets of parents," another comment made from Griesman's skit.
Greisman refuses to apologize. He declines to talk on camera now, but says it was all done in light hearted good spirits.
Ricki Sabia is also furious about the performance. She says the public is paying Greisman to help children like her son Stephen, who has Downs Syndrome. And she says instead he's making fun of them.
"I think there are some things that just don't have a lighter side. These are issues that parents cry themselves to sleep about at night. It's very sad and hard to lighten up when it's your child," Sabia said.
A school spokesman declines to comment on what the school attorney was doing on his own time.
"I know if there were kids in a schoolyard that were making jokes about a kid with disabilites, one would hope someone would put a stop to that, but it makes you wonder," Sabia said.
Far from apologizing, Greisman is slated to deliver another take on what he calls the lighter side of special ed law at the next convention.
Parents saying if he was making fun of a religious group or minorities, no one would put up with it.
They are demanding the school system apologize and disavow Greisman's comments.
To learn more on this story, click "Play Video." 
Written by Bruce Leshan

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

2004: Homeless Students Win Preliminary Injunction Against Montgomery County Public Schools

Homeless Kids Win Injunction Against Montgomery County School System

Click here for an article about this injunction in the Gazette News.
Public Justice Center Press Release
August 11, 2004
For Further Information Contact: Francine K. Hahn, Esq. Public Justice Center 410-625-9409, ext. 234
For Immediate Release: Homeless Students Win Preliminary Injunction Against Montgomery County Public Schools

A federal court yesterday granted the request of homeless children in Montgomery County, represented by the Public Justice Center, for a preliminary injunction to allow them to stay with their classmates as they matriculate from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school. Montgomery County Public School officials had said the students must transfer to different Montgomery County schools -- the ones closest to the family's temporary living quarters -- which would have disrupted the student's continuity of schools, friends, and community. Yesterday's ruling upheld the right of 44 homeless children in the County to school continuity under the federal McKinney-Vento Act.
Children who have homes move with their classmates, as a group, from an elementary school to a particular middle school, and then to a particular high school . This "feeder system" fosters continuity in education and the child's community. In ruling against MCPS, Judge Deborah K. Chasanow ordered that the four children named in the court papers must be allowed to remain in their school of origin feeder systems as they enter high school and middle school this coming school year and that MCPS must provide free transportation. Judge Chasanow also ordered MCPS to immediately notify the remaining 40 matriculating homeless students of their right to remain in their school of origin feeder systems. Any of these students who request it will be permitted to matriculate to the next level school with their class mates from last year, and will be provided free transportation from their temporary address.
"This is a huge victory for homeless students in Montgomery County which we hope will reverberate throughout the state and beyond," said Francine Hahn of the Public Justice Center, lawyer for the students. "The Court recognized that school continuity includes things such as academic consistency and maintaining friendships. Tearing homeless children away from their familiar school environments simply because they happen to remain homeless when moving up to middle or high school is contrary to federal law."
"I'm excited that Sierra will be able to continue with her peers and not be burdened by the additional transportation issues. I believe the outcome of our victory will be a great high school career for Sierra," said Melody Reynolds, one of the parents present at yesterday's court hearing.
The lawsuit was initially filed as an individual case in March 2002. In that case, the court ordered MCPS to allow four children in one family to return to their Montgomery County schools even though they were residing temporarily in the District of Columbia. One of those children, Brandon Haynes, had been kept out of school all year by MCPS officials who said the McKinney Act did not apply to him. Since that time Brandon has graduated from high school with his peers and is now attending college. The case was made a class action in November 2002.

Gazette article

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Potomac Almanac Letter: Is This Involvement?

Is This Involvement?
By Janis Sartucci, Cluster coordinator, Churchill Cluster PTA
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
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The following letter to The Board of Education and Superintendent Jerry Weast is shared with the Almanac

On Tuesday, July 6, 2004, I testified with regard to Agenda Item 4.2.8 that to date there has been no PTA or community input with regard to the Site Selection, Feasibility Study (including Educational Specifications) and Architect Selection with respect to the construction of an elementary school on the Kendale Elementary School site. I stand by that statement and would be willing to sign a sworn affidavit to those facts if you so desire.

It is disheartening that the statements of four PTA and community members were so easily dismissed during that meeting.

Later that same day Mr. [Joe] Lavorgna [director, MCPS Department of Planning and Capital programs] and Mr. [Dick] Hawes [director MCPS Department of Facilities Management] made the following statements:

1. I asked Mr. Lavorgna if a feasibility study would be produced for the Kendale site, similar to the one prepared for the Potomac Elementary School addition. His answer was no.

2. When told that no PTA members were contacted with regard to the selection of an architect for the Kendale Elementary School site, Mr. Hawes said that the PTA vote on that matter was of no consequence, as the PTA was just one vote on a committee of seven.

In [Superintendent Jerry] Weast's recommendation of Feb. 23, 2004, he requested a feasibility study for the Kendale Elementary School site. I am not aware of any other school construction project that has been done without a feasibility study and community and PTA input. I trust you will supply me with the names and locations of the county schools that have been constructed without feasibility studies and community and PTA input.

I renew the request made in my testimony on July 6, 2004. I would ask that the Board of Education remand this issue back to MCPS staff for the formation of a committee as described in Policy FAA to consider and present back to the Board of Education a report on site selection. If the site is approved, I would request that the process proceed according to Board of Education policy and procedures.