Friday, May 10, 2013

MoCo Attorney Attempts to Justify Seclusion of Students as "Policy"

From the Washington Post, Friday, May 10. 2013
By Donna St George




The idea of taking an out-of-control child into a closet-like space drew a series of questions at a pre-trial hearing May 3 in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Judge Ronald B. Rubin said he did not know whether the allegations were true, but if so, he asked: “Really?”

He inquired: How old was the child? How big was the room? At one point, he referred to the room as a “box.”

Associate County Attorney Heather A. Mulloy, who represented the school system and Starnes in the case, protested. No child was ever placed in a box, she said.

“A small, confined space, with the door closed, in the dark?” Rubin asked. “What’s the difference?”

Mulloy sought to explain the principal’s perspective.

“There was a child out of control,” she said. “This happens in schools sometimes. . . . The policy says that if there is a kid out of control, you have to — for their own safety and the safety of others — take them away from that area. . . . [Starnes] was trying to have an area where he could have the child have his tantrum and then calm him down.”

To read the whole article in the Washington Post, CLICK HERE.

42 comments:

  1. The Parents Coalition has done NOTHING to help rid the Kemp Mill community of Principal Floyd Starnes. If this school were in Potomac, Bethesda or Chevy Chase, the criminal actions of an administrator would not have tolerated for an hour. The poor minority families have no political clout or money to get change. Who will protect our young boys from the closet version of Jerry Sandusky?

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    1. The BOE protects principals NO MATTER where they are in the county.

      Jerry Weast lived in North Potomac and look how long he was in MCPS.

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    2. Um, and just one other note. Teachers pay dues to their UNION. Where exactly was the MCEA UNION on this? Did MCEA defend these teachers? You will update us on the role MCEA played in supporting their members, right?

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    3. And there we have the problem. MCEA appears so weak that it is unable to protect its members against such repercussions? MCPS teachers and certain staff feel totally vulnerable and are intimidated against honestly presenting their positions, especially in cases of special education disputes The mindset of the present culture must be changed. There is a crack in the wall and monies that should go to educate students instead goes to reimbursing those who have been wronged. It is incredible that MCPS has not gotten this urgent message!

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    4. Weak? When has that word ever been used to describe MCEA? They sit at the secret budget table. They cut budget deals behind their own members backs. They are the Apple Ballot and they elected BOE members and state officials. What part of their reign is "weak"?

      MCEA does what it wants. If it wants to support a member it does. However, we hear from lots of MCEA members that have not been supported by MCEA.

      These teachers apparently did not make the MCEA cut and were tossed under the bus.

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    5. I do believe many members say that they feel unsupported by MCEA. However, there is more power in numbers versus the individual standing up to the System. What do you mean by the MCEA cut? Is this actually a policy? If so, a correction is needed.

      We do agree that these teachers were indeed tossed under the bus. But, the teachers must use these situations to regain the control rather than act like victims. As you can see, generally, I am a union fan. It is up to the members to become active and refocus the position of the union leaders. I am not a member of MCEA.

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    6. It means that when MCEA wants to cut a deal with MCPS they will throw their members under the bus. Trades are made. We saw this with Media Specialists. MCEA agreed to a cut in their numbers BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, but didn't tell the Media Specialists. Oops. So when the positions were cut MCEA didn't advocate for the positions. The Media Specialists were left on their own. Too bad, so sad.

      Power in numbers? Not in Montgomery County. You must be confusing this county with some place in a democracy.

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  2. Why don't Kemp Mill teachers post what the MCEA response has been to this situation?

    You have the floor...

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    1. TheGhostOfVeraFieldsMay 11, 2013 at 8:38 AM

      http://www.savekmes.org/realtruth.shtml#thequestion

      Read the April 16th entry. It is a June 2010 letter from MSTA attorney Gupta to Ann Kamenstein, the compliance coordinator in MCPS. It details the concerns that Kemp Mill ES teachers had regarding Principal Starnes. It reads like a laundry list of criminal offenses. All verified this week in Judge Rubin's Rockville courtroom. Rubber stamped by this settlement agreement.

      I only hope the true victims: the young boys molested in the closet by Starnes on the weekend and during the school day, the male teachers like Lou Scarci in this case who suffered unspeakable sexual abuse, the teachers who were fired because of falsified evidence by this madman, etc. have their day in court too.

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    2. So MCEA did nothing. They said that they would file on behalf of the teachers, but in the end they did not. The teachers had to go out and get their own attorney and file their own lawsuit.

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    3. Perhaps MCEA choose not to pursue a lawsuit because it appeared to be an uphill battle.

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    4. And, they would have been wrong since the teachers just won a settlement. So MCEA doesn't support their members even when their members have a strong case?

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    5. We know nothing about the discussions that led to the settlement; perhaps it's a "win" perhaps it's a "something is better than nothing." We'll never know.

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    6. Actually we know a lot. We know that the matter was going forward to a trial. That means that the BOE had LOST their attempts to have the case thrown out. That's already in the public record. We know the Plaintiffs had a claim that was ready to go to trial. That was bad for the BOE.

      From the public record: ORDER OF COURT (RUBIN, J.) THAT THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS DENIED [Defendants' are BOE and Floyd Starnes]

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    7. If "savekmes" were all about the truth why didn't they post the finding of the ALJ about Daniel Picca as did Parents Coalition? The Knight in Shining Armor who turned out to be a knave?

      If the Picca Posse really believed they were protecting students they wouldn't have taken the settlement.

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    8. Not really relevant now that there is sworn testimony from the principal as to his actions.

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  3. No Janis!! NOT TRUE. MCEA did worse than nothing. The MCEA uniserv, representing the teachers, contacted the principal and informed him of what the teachers were up to. MCEA, in Joan Kaltrieder's case informed Floyd starnes that Joan was sending a letter to his superiors. She then told Floyd that she would try to persuade Joan not to do it. When Joan informed the uniserv that she would not back down and had already sent the letter to his superiors(regarding his illegal conduct, the MCEA uniserv then emailed Floyd starnes and informed him that Joan would not back down. The uniserv, in email, then offered to contact Bronda Mills on his behalf and she did. This information is in Floyd's depositon. You should read it and I hope you make it public. In short, I highly recommend that you never call the union if you need help. THey are corrupt..........like MCPS. I have to chuckle when prouty signs his emails to us......."in solidarity, doug prouty" Yes, in solidarity with MCPS and their corrupt behavior.

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    1. Doug Prouty is at the secret budget table, and proud of it. His recent public comment to the BOE on the FY 2014 Operating Budget once again pointed out that he is part of the secret budget meetings.

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    2. Where is the deposition? Is it online already?

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  4. Paula BienenfeldMay 12, 2013 at 5:01 AM

    @Anonymous, what is a uniserv? Could you please explain the MCEA setup for the readers of this blog. For us it is shrouded in secrecy. We often hear from teachers who act like they are 'victims' of MCEA yet won't apparently get involved in the 'union.'. Why won't teachers take responsibility for their leadership?

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  5. A uniserv is a person from MCEA assigned to specific schools in the county, and their job is to represent teachers when there is an issue within that school. The MCEA setup? Well, you said it, "setup" When we contact the union, our union comes to our school and works with the principal and gives our names to the principal. Then, before you know it, you're stuck at school until 8:00pm trying to fulfill the principals new special evaluation plan that he/she devised just for you-the one who contacted the union. That's just one example of how it goes when you are a teacher and you challenge a principal or the union in MCPS/MCEA.
    Doug Prouty is a tool and a self-serving human being, just as Jerry Weast was. Prouty collaborates with MCPS and he has given away our due process rights. He surrounds himself with "yes" people as he learned well from his buddy Jerry Weast. Do teachers take responsibility for their leadership? Many do, but when you argue with the union, they throw you under the bus. In past meetings, during disagreements we have been told by MCEA, "we are armed for bear" and "when you cross this threshold, you can leave your rights at the door." How many times have you fought MCPS? Have you or anyone on this coalition been able to change their mindset or the way in which they conduct business? I see the BOE still in tact and I see Larry Bowers running the county. Should the teachers blame ALL the parents for not doing enough? Many of us have had MANY conversations with the union and we have done our best to challenge them. It's time for teachers and the parents coalition to work together. Wouldn't you like to know from teachers what's going on in MCPS schools. Teachers don't have anyone to report to. When they report to the union, they are set up as a target for the principal.

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    1. As I read the corrupt cooperation described above between MCPS and the Union, I am astounded. I actually find myself believing the situation, although I try not to fall into conspiracy plots. However, seeing how MCPS treated my family at a due process hearing for a special education child and how some of the teachers reluctantly "towed the line" even after telling us they would not "get dirty," I truly believe there is "dirt," no make that "mud" in the MCPS house. Shame on MCPS!! The system claims it cares, but it is creating undo harm to vulnerable children and compromising the integrity of it's employees. The integrity/credibility of the total system should be a top priority on Dr. Starr's agenda. That is why he is payed the big bucks!!! Also, I believe that the Parents Coalition blog site could be a vehicle for teachers to write in their experience without feeling they would be targeted. If not this blog site, then perhaps another avenue can be established.

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  6. I was astounded, too. Now, I am just angry. I worked in a building where the AP in the building was assigned duty at the top of the stairs during dismissal time. The reason she was assigned there was due to the fact that students would make a mad rush to get out of the building and push each other down the stairs. One day, she did not show up for her duty, again, and the students began yelling and pushing each other down the stairs. When my colleague realized the AP was not at her position and students were pushing each other down the stairs (fifth graders pushing 2nd graders down two flights of stairs!!!), yelling and screaming,etc,she said to another teacher (in front of me), "I'm going to the office right now and report this" and another teacher said, "No, don't say a word because you'll be put on the principal's hit list." THe teacher who was going to report the behavior of the AP, who repeatedly failed to show up to her duty, in the end, did not report the dangersous situation at the top of the stairs. Students' well being took a back seat to the threat of losing favor with the principal who adored the AP in our building. Most of the senior teachers left that school and now the principal has exactly what he wanted, a bunch of 22 year old darlings, hand picked by himself, who are likely to never question one thing that he or his incompetent AP does in the building, whether it hurts students or not. The makeup of the building is a tell tale sign as to how the principal works. If your school building has a majority makeup of 22 year olds, fresh out of college, it is likely that something is wrong in the building. Remember, these college grads are non tenured and must keep their mouths shut if they wish to remain in the county and gain tenure.

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  7. Paula BienenfeldMay 13, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    @Anonymous, I am from a family of union members. Many of them fought and got the s$% kicked out of them by goons and scabs for standing up for the union. Many of them went on strike. They stood in picket lines. These include family members who were public school teachers. So forgive me if I continue to be perplexed at the timidity and inability and unwillingness of the teachers discussed in these comments who are unwilling to stand up and be counted. Let's say, hypothetically, that the Parents' Coalition set a meeting for teachers, hypothetically, and held it at a hypothetical public location. Would teachers attend? Would they be willing to stand up and be counted to start a new union that wasn't run by the usual members, and that really represented the teachers and their concerns? What do people think?

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    1. I think that the teacher's union needs to focus on serving its members instead of acting as a shill for the Democrat Party.

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    2. That's an interesting comment. Are you a member of the teachers' union?

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    3. Does anyone know what percentage of teachers belong to the union? My understanding is that they are allowed to not join the union but are still required to pay union fees regardless. I think the administrative/supervisory staff members are allowed to not join their union *and* avoid paying any fees.

      Separate from being willing to stand up and fight, how about just being willing to say no I won't join the union and their actions don't represent me. Is this a viable option for teachers? Would principles select teachers for their school knowing they chose to not be union members?

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    4. No, but my spouse is. The MCEA spends a lot of time money on issues that do NOT directly affect education, but ARE on the agenda of the Democrat party, such as marriage equality. If one is not a liberal Democrat, a portion of one's dues (or "representation fee") is going to causes/candidates one does not support. Even though the vast majority (if not nearly all) of MCEA members ARE liberal Democrats, the union should stick to education issues. Members have plenty of other opportunities to advocate for particular causes or candidates.

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  8. Paula BienenfeldMay 13, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    Also, teachers, please check your rights at the NLRB at nlrb.gov.

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    1. And become well-versed in the provisions of your CBA.

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  9. My understanding is that the current MCEA-MCPS bargaining agreement requires union membership as a condition of employment. (If I am wrong, please correct me). Those who have moral objections to joining a union (there are certain religious groups that do), may then pay a "representation fee."

    If there were enough teachers who were dissatisfied with MCEA, they could attempt to hold a decertification election, I suppose.

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    1. Lyda: your understanding is correct; Maryland is NOT a "Right to Work" state. I do not believe one has to specify a specific reason for opting out of the union v. just paying the representation fee.

      The representation fee still is pretty hefty, I believe 80% or more of the union dues. Something like $600/year.

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  10. Another option would be to recruit a competing union to run against MCEA. Then, the teachers would have an alternative choice at the next election period.

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  11. But would the teachers have a choice if their employment contract with MCPS specifies that they belong to MCEA? I thought the election period is only to "select" officers - not to choose what union represents them. As I understand it, the union basically has a monopoly and as long as they don't blatantly break the law it is almost impossible for those workers to organize under a different union.
    I see that we as voters don't (can't?) do an effective job at board of ed elections, I think it would be a much greater task for rank and file teachers to influence the entrenched union powers that be.
    Perhaps Parent's Coalition can help teachers anonymously speak to their issues with MCEA which might help voters see problems with following apple ballot instructions.

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    1. There is no monopoly other than no other union has chosen to put their names in for the election. I am quite sure the employees can elect whichever union they want to represent them. The employees pay the dues and they are the consumers.

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    2. It is possible to de-certify a union as a bargaining unit's representative in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. The union doesn't necessarily have to do something illegal or to fail to provide expected services. There are procedures to be followed, just as there are when there is a campaign to bring a union into a workplace.

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  12. Teachers don't have a choice unless they are willing to pay double dues. AFT is the other available union. MCPS teachers are bound by contract to have MCEA represent them. AFT knows about all of the existing problems with MCEA and they have been helpful in advising teachers who belong to NEA. There would have to be an organized effort to have NEA voted out as the Montgomery County teachers union. If you want to have a firm understanding of alternatives to MCEA it would be good to talk with AFT reps. Their Maryland office is in Baltimore and I will give you the contact.
    As far as representation for teachers from the existing union (MCEA), it just does not exist. Our union represents our principals and MCPS when a dispute arises and not the teacher.

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  13. I am the 5:26 poster - I googled around some and 8:29 is correct that a union can be de-certified. It seems to be a really difficult process - certainly way more difficult than voters getting an effective board of education.

    In addition to needing 30% of members to agree to petition for de-certification election it seems there is a very narrow window (30 days) for when this can happen during the first 3 years of a collective bargaining agreement. My impression is that our teachers then only have a 30 day window in each three year period where they could attempt union decertification.

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    1. I suspect any attempt to de-certify would be really really ugly and really really expensive. And it surely would not just be a local issue but receive national attention.

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    2. It should be a next step to explore. Good for national attention as we have a national problem!

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    3. The cost involves campaigning by MCEA and the competing union. Many years ago, MCGEO solidified its position. A rival union was unsuccessful with getting the vote. But, employees got a chance to compare what each was offering.

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  14. We definitely need to look into this in a serious manner. Enough is enough!

    ReplyDelete

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