Friday, February 28, 2014

Sen. Brian Frosh turns OFF audio so public cannot hear discussion of Raskin bill

Right now, the Maryland Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee is meeting.  Up until a few minutes ago the Committee hearing was being live streamed over the Internet.

The audio feed was turned off when the meeting moved on to the voting session portion of the Agenda.  We have been told that on the Agenda for discussion and a vote is Senator Jamie Raskin's bill regarding teacher/coach sexual contact with teens.

Members of the Parents' Coalition have called the Senate's Judicial Proceedings committee to request that the live feed be turned on for today's voting session.  We have been told that the decision to live stream voting sessions is made by the Chair of the committee.  For this committee, Senator Brian Frosh is the chair.  When asked why the audio was being turned off one of our callers was told "that's the way it's done."

If you would like to call and request that the audio for this Senate voting session be turned ON, call 410-841-3623 or send a Tweet to the Chair of this committee . 

Exclusive: House Committee votes 21 to 0 to DELETE provision that would have allowed young teacher/coach to have sexual contact with teens

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee met in the evening on February 27th and held a voting session that included House Bill 781, this is the companion bill to Senator Jamie Raskin's Senate Bill 460.

House Bill 781 was approved 21 to 0 with amendments.

The amendments included deletion of the proposal to permit young teachers/coaches (aged 21-24) to have sexual contact with teens (aged 16-17).

The bill now moves to the full House.  Meanwhile, Senator Jamie Raskin's bill is still in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Here is the list of House Delegates who voted to delete the young teacher/coach and teen sexual contact proposal.

Delegates Vallario, Dumais, Lee, Kelly, Waldstreicher, Clippinger, Carter, Swain, Valentino-Smith, McComas, Parrott, Glass, Smigiel, Hough, Cluster, Rosenberg, Valderrama, Arora, Conaway, Anderson, and Simmons.

Please note the Maryland General Assembly's website has not been updated to reflect yesterday's voting session or these amendments.  The Parents' Coalition is making the voting record and the amended bill public today so that Maryland voters have timely information on this important bill. 

Superintendent Joshua Starr on Social Media at AASA's National Conferenc...

Teacher with restrictions, left in classroom, school system doesn't call police, does own investigation...sound familiar?

2 INVESTIGATES: Brothers talks about alleged abuse by teacher

MCPS PR office apologizes to parents of 7-year-old boy dropped - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Superintendent Joshua Starr is still silent on this incident and would not appear on camera. 

School officials apologize to parents of 7-year-old boy dropped - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

More State Funds for Private School in closed MCPS high school building

MCPS needs school construction money, right?  

Here's a MCPS closed school that was constructed with State funds that was turned over to a private school for pennies.  Now, the private school wants more funding from taxpayers and our Montgomery County Delegates are pushing a bill to do just that.  

Public school students?  This property belonged to you, but our County Executive, County Council, State Delegates and the Governor worked very hard to turn this entire high school building and property over to a private interest. Public school students can stay in trailers as far as they are concerned. 

By: Delegates Bonnie Cullison, Sam Arora, and Ben Kramer 
Introduced and read first time: February 24, 2014 

2014 Regular Session

Creation of a State Debt - Montgomery County - Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy
Sponsored by:
Delegate Cullison
In the House - Hearing 3/10 at 10:30 a.m.

Synopsis: Authorizing the creation of a State Debt in the amount of $65,000, the proceeds to be used as a grant to the Board of Directors of the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy for specified development or improvement purposes related to the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, located in Montgomery County; providing for disbursement of the loan proceeds, subject to a requirement that the grantee provide and expend a matching fund; prohibiting the use of the loan proceeds or matching fund for sectarian religious purposes; etc.
Analysis: Not available at this time
All Sponsors: Delegates Cullison, Arora, and Kramer
Additional Facts: Cross-filed with: SB0917
Bill File Type: Regular
Effective Date(s): June 1, 2014
Broad Subject(s): State Debt (Bond Bills)
Narrow Subject(s): Montgomery County
Private Schools
Religion -see also- Churches
State Bonds

Prince George's financial management audit

The Washington Post:  A state audit of the Prince George’s County school system found that weak financial controls and insufficient oversight have resulted in $1 million in overpayments to employees and have left the district’s computer network vulnerable to attack. Maryland audit of Prince George’s school system identifies weak financial controls


The last audit of Montgomery County Public Schools:

Montgomery County Law Regarding Passing Stopped School Buses

What misuse of funds means in other professions

Balt. Co. attorney disbarred for misusing escrow funds

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Breaking News: Charges Added in Lawrence Joynes sexual abuse of MCPS students Case

Next Court Date:
Court Scheduling Information
(Schedule is subject to change)
Event Date:03/07/2014 Event Time: 08:30 AM Judge: DEBELIUS, JOHN W III
Location:50 Maryland Avenue 3rd Floor Courtroom: 1
Description:4-215/SCHEDULING HEARING

Law would give autonomy back to local schools - Cecil Daily: Regional News

Law would give autonomy back to local schools - Cecil Daily: Regional News

Principal quits, teacher under fire for videotaping boy stuck in chair

Maxwell hires Shawn Joseph [former MCPS Director] as deputy school superintendent in Prince George’s County

“As you know, my family has not been able to relocate with me to the Seaford community, and I have resided in Seaford and Gaithersburg over the past two years,”

Guest Post: Raskin Proposal for Teacher/Coach - Student Sexual Contact Puts Vulnerable Students at Greater Risk

Response to Senate Bill 460 that would permit young teachers (aged 21-24) to have sexual contact with teens (students aged 16 and 17).

No! NO! NO! There is a student teacher relationship that should not be allowed to coexist with a personal sexual relationship. The teachers hold a position of power over students. Also, our vulnerable special ed students would be at greater risk.

Betty Bahadori

New: Maryland Center for School Safety

The Maryland Center for School Safety was established as an independent unit of State Government in July 2013 (Chapter 372, Acts of 2013).
To provide a coordinated and comprehensive policy for school safety in Maryland, the Center collaborates with local school systems, law enforcement agencies, State and local government, community organizations, parents, and other groups. With those partners, the Center disseminates information on best practices, programs, and resources; provides technical assistance and training; collects, analyzes, and integrates Statewide data; and promotes interagency efforts to ensure safe schools.
The Center's Executive Director is appointed by the Governing Board (Code Education Article, secs. 7-1501 through 7-1505).

Chair (chosen by Governor): Lillian M. Lowery, Ed.D., State Superintendent of Schools

Appointed by Governor: Valerie S. Carr; Lorig Charkoudian, Ph.D.; Theresa E. Detorie; Elizabeth Watson Ray.
Appointed by State Superintendent of Schools: Margaret Grady Kidder, Ph.D.
Appointed by Maryland Association of Boards of Education: Michael A. Durso
Appointed by Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland: Henry V. Wagner, Jr., Ed.D.
Ex officio: Kisha A. Brown, designee of Attorney General; Rachel G. Faulkner, designee of Secretary of Disabilities; Lt. Col. Woodrow W. Jones, designee of Secretary of State Police.
Edward A. Clarke, Executive Director (301) 370-3497
Staff: Robert A. Murphy.
c/o Division of Student, Family & School Support
State Dept. of Education
Nancy S. Grasmick State Education Building, 200 West Baltimore St., Baltimore, MD 21201 - 2595
(410) 767-0305

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

School Districts Blasted By Teachers, Students Over Snow Decision « CBS DC

School Districts Blasted By Teachers, Students Over Snow Decision « CBS DC

Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities: A National Snapshot | Barrier Free Living

Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities: A National Snapshot | Barrier Free Living

Gazette: Montgomery unlikely to get school construction funding request

A funny thing happened on the way to new school construction money for Montgomery County: reality.
Midway through Maryland’s 90-day legislative session, county lawmakers seem to hold little hope of their top legislative priority passing the General Assembly and establishing a steady, predictable stream of state money to leverage borrowing for school construction.
“We’re not necessarily expecting it to pass,” Del. Anne R. Kaiser said.
Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville, chairwoman of Montgomery’s delegation, proposed a bill to establish the Supplemental Public School Construction Matching Fund Program. Under the bill, counties with a triple-A bond rating and school systems with at least 100,000 students would be eligible for up to $20 million each year to fund a portion of school construction projects or project debt. Her House bill has 62 sponsors; a Senate version has 19...

.@BrianFrosh on Senate Bill 460 that would permit young teachers to have sexual contact with teens

Readers can read Senate Bill 460 for themselves. It has been re-posted below.

.@Senatornjk - Senator Nancy King says "read the bill"

Senator Nancy King is one of the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 460 that includes a provision that would permit young teachers (aged 21-24) to have sexual contact with teens (students aged 16-17).  We asked Senator King about this provision in SB 460 on Twitter.  Here is her response: 

Einstein HS Teacher to Enter into Plea Agreement on March 20th

Docket Date:01/23/2014 Docket Number: 24
Docket Description:PLEA AGREEMENT
Docket Type:Docket Filed By: Joint

Docket Date:01/23/2014 Docket Number: 25
Docket Type:Docket Filed By: Court

Previous posts on the arrest of Einstein High School teacher Richard Shemer at this link.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Update: Who has filed to run for open Board of Education seats

Board of Education At Large
Amatetti, Edward

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 02/19/14


Contact Information
12355 Quince Valley Dr
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Evans, Shebra

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 01/16/14


Contact Information
P.O. Box 502
Clarksburg, MD 20871
(301) 284-8976
Heidorn, Merry Eisner

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 02/20/14


Contact Information
10837 Deborah Dr
Potomac, MD 20854
(240) 401-7399
Ortman-Fouse, Jill

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 02/18/14

Twitter @jill4allkids

Contact Information
9419 Wire Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20901

Board of Education
Board of Education District 001
Docca, Judy

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 07/08/13


Contact Information
10303 Watkins Mill Drive
Montgomery Village, MD 20886
(301) 977-7591
Trible, Kristin C.

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 02/20/14

Twitter @kristintrible

Contact Information
9509 Primrose View Ct
Gaithersburg, MD 20882
(301) 414-2329

Board of Education District 003
Halverson, Laurie

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 02/12/14

Twitter @halversonlaurie
Other Linked in-Laurie Halverson

Contact Information
8812 Harness Trl
Potomac, MD 20854
(301) 983-6453
O'Neill, Patricia

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 11/25/13


Contact Information
6716 Landon Lane
Bethesda, MD 20817
(301) 320-2132

Board of Education District 005
Durso, Mike

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 08/14/13


Contact Information
802 Llewellyn Manor Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20905
(301) 924-1029
Edmonds, Larry E.

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 02/25/14

Other linked in-Larry Edmonds

Contact Information
2806 Strauss Ter
Silver Spring, MD 20904
(240) 381-3984

BOE Member Chris Barclay done with BOE, wants to be on County Council

Councilmanic District 005
Barclay, Christopher

Jurisdiction Montgomery
Status Active - 
Filed Regular - 02/24/14


Contact Information
PO BOX 11541
Takoma Park, MD 20913
(301) 202-4706

Montgomery school board ‘uncomfortable’ with Senator Jamie Raskin's sex-abuse bill

Gazette: Montgomery school board ‘uncomfortable’ with sex-abuse bill

Wants criminal penalties for adults regardless of age

The Montgomery County school board feels “uncomfortable” with part of a Senate bill to regulate which adults could be punished for sexual conduct with a student, the board president wrote in a letter.
In a Feb. 21 letter to state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin, board President Philip Kauffman said the board is concerned that the bill requires an adult to be at least seven years older than a student for sexual conduct between them to warrant criminal punishment for the adult.
Kauffman also sent a letter dated Feb. 21 to Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Dist. 26) of Baltimore — the House sponsor of the bill — expressing the same concern about the age gap.
The letters comes about 10 days after the school board voted Feb. 11 to support Raskin’s bill and a different bill in the House — sponsored by Dels. Luiz R.S. Simmons and Sam Arora — that addresses the same issue, but does not include an age gap.
Maryland law criminalizes sexual contact between certain people in a position of authority and a minor in their care.
The two groups of lawmakers behind the bills, however, say there is a huge loophole in the law regarding which adults can and should face criminal penalties for such conduct...

Press Release: Discrepancies Between Services Contracted for and Services Received by Consumers of Treatment Center

For More Information, Please Contact:
Lisa Lowe, Heroin Action Coalition of Montgomery County
240-370-1436 / LisaALowe AT


I am seeking resolution regarding the disparity between substance abuse treatment services outlined in the Montgomery County contract with Maryland Treatment Centers and the actual services which consumers are receiving.  I am writing to respectfully request the following:

Ø  An investigation into the disparity between the services contracted for, as outlined in the License Agreement Between Montgomery County, Maryland and Maryland Treatment Centers (Attachment #1: License) and the services that consumers actually receive at Avery Road Treatment Center (ARTC), as reported by family members and consumers of services; and

Ø An investigation into the legitimacy of the Montgomery County Local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council (LDAAC) to disallow discussion or investigation into the aforementioned disparities. 

I have outlined areas where there are disparities between the ARTC License Agreement and the experiences of consumers (Attachment #2: Discrepancies). Attempts to resolve this issue at a local level have not been successful. 

1)      I attempted to bring this issue to the policy table through the LDAAC at both the September and October meetings.  While members were willing to discuss the need for repairs to the building in great detail and subsequently propose that our County Executive request building funds from the state, they refused to discuss the services disparity, stating that to do so would be “insulting” to the Executive Director of the ARTC and other ARTC employees who are members of the LDAAC.  When I insisted that this issue warrants further examination, the Chair of the LDAAC implemented a new rule disallowing non-voting members from speaking until the final five minutes of the council, thereby silencing any further discussion regarding discrepancies in the License Agreement.  During the past four years that I have participated on the LDAAC, community members have always been able to speak freely during the entirety of the meeting. 

According to Debbie Green, Director of Treatment and Recovery Services at ADAA, one of the primary purposes of LDAACs are to include the input of “knowledgeable citizens” in the “identification and recommendations regarding system improvements”.  These recent LDAAC actions, which serve to protect the for-profit treatment provider from public scrutiny and accountability, seem to be contrary to the spirit in which the LDAACs were created.  It would seem that the LDAAC is willing to represent the interests of for-profit treatment providers at the expense of the community which it purportedly serves.

2)      On November 3rd, I wrote to the Montgomery County Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services (HHS), asking them to address treatment issues with ARTC.  I received a reply, suggesting that I continue raising the issue with County HHS officials, even though I am an unpaid volunteer and not a paid consultant or lobbyist. 

3)      On January 7th, three parents and an ARTC alumni, met with Uma Ahluwalia, Director, Montgomery County DHHS to report their experiences with ARTC.  They each provided anecdotal evidence to show that they did not receive the services which ARTC is contracted by the County to provide.  Ms. Ahluwalia sent me an email on January 10th, stating that she would postpone articulating “clearly outlined next steps” until an unspecified future time.  

4)      These same families scheduled a meeting with County Executive, Isiah Leggett for February 3rd.  However, we were informed shortly before the meeting that Executive Leggett did not have time to meet with us, and Mike Subin would be meeting in his place.  In reply to one young adult’s account of rampant illicit drug use inside the ARTC, Mr. Subin commented that all treatment facilities, like jails, are full of contraband.  In reality, Mr. Subin has no idea which facilities may have contraband and which do not, and he was obviously not willing to rely on information provided by individuals and families who have actually utilized many of the treatment facilities throughout the state.  Mr. Subin also stated that he would not be able to discuss this issue with Mr. Leggett until sometime in April, more than two months away, and we could expect a response from the County Executive “sometime in the next 4 ½ years”.  In light of Mr. Subin’s notoriety for “bullying” community advocates, as noted in several online articles, the members of our committee found it inappropriate for the County Executive to delegate Mr. Subin to meet with us in his absence. 

5)      Lastly, a colleague from another Montgomery County grassroots advocacy organization relayed that she had received phone calls from three county officials attempting to discredit our legitimate complaints involving county contracts.

Frankly, the lack of responsiveness of county officials in addressing the discrepancies between a written contract with a service provider and clear anecdotal evidence from consumers receiving those services has been disappointing at best.  We are beginning to wonder why our county officials and agency administrators are shielding a for-profit treatment provider from legitimate complaints by concerned citizens.  We are aware that there is a substantial block of funding flowing from the federal government, through the state, and into county programs, including the ARTC.  This is tax payer money and we have a right to ask how it is being spent.  Three programs owned by Maryland Treatment Centers show combined revenues of approximately 25 million dollars. 

We are calling for an unbiased and thorough investigation into whether:
·         ARTC is acting within the legitimate parameters of the County License Agreement; and
·         The LDAAC operated appropriately by refusing to discuss community concerns regarding obvious and glaring contract discrepancies. 

Apparently, Cecil County Councilwoman, Diana Broomell, has had similar complaints regarding her LDAAC’s failure to allow legitimate community concerns to reach the policy table.  It is my understanding that she has already sent you a letter outlining those problems.  Additionally, the grassroots organization Project Hope, in Frederick County, has had similar complaints regarding their County LDAAC. 

I await your timely reply regarding this grave matter.  Please make good on your promise to reduce overdose deaths in Maryland, by taking these allegations in the serious light with which they are intended.  Please feel free to contact me by phone at 240-370-1436 or by email at LisaALowe AT


Lisa Lowe
Heroin Action Coalition of Montgomery County

Maryland PTA Supports Sen. Raskin's Bill Permitting Young Teachers to Have Sexual Contact with Teens

PTA members, you are in support of Senator Jamie Raskin's Senate Bill #460 that will change Maryland law to permit young teachers (aged 21-24) to have sexual contact with teens (aged 16-17).

When did local PTAs vote on this position in order for Maryland PTA to represent this position in Annapolis?  Do MCPS parents that are members of their local PTA realize how they are being represented in Annapolis? By the way, MCPS parents represent about 1/4 of Maryland PTA membership.  So this letter is huge support from Montgomery County parents for this legislation as written. 

Here is the Maryland PTA position paper on SB 460. The letter was submitted in writing and Maryland PTA did not appear at the public hearing on February 12, 2014.
The letter makes no mention of Senator Jamie Raskin's 7 year gap provision in the bill.  That part of the bill is completely ignored by this letter of support.

MCPS 7-year-old missing for hours after being dropped off at - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Parent: 7-year-old missing for hours after being dropped off at - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Senator Frosh "forgot" to live stream Senate hearing

A voting session on the bill establishing liability in cases of death and injury related to dog bites (subscriber access) was not live-streamed over the internet despite a rule change that would have allowed online access.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee met Feb. 20, 2014 to vote on a bill sponsored by Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery and chairman of the committee...
Frosh, when asked about the lack of an live-stream of the debate (which creates an archived record the public can listen to on demand) he responded:
“I forgot,”
Frosh said, referring to turning on the microphones when the bill came up for debate...

Schools failing to protect students from sexual abuse by school personnel, federal report says

Schools failing to protect students from sexual abuse by school personnel, federal report says

Monday, February 24, 2014

Snow Days and Tech Toys


All the tech toys and teacher training we've seen over the past several years in Montgomery County Public Schools finally makes sense.

Our students and parents will no longer fear the snow.  Why?

Because we have technology and can teach via the internet.  

To read more about it, see this article:

Virtual schools are coming to an android near you.

Just tweet those lessons in.  Just be sure they pass the cybercivility test.

Students, say goodbye to snow days -- and say hello to school at home

(CNN) -- Earlier this month, Zak Terzini roused himself about five minutes before his English class began and didn't panic. Instead, the high school sophomore grabbed his iPod and checked on a class discussion of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" without even getting out of bed.
A snowstorm -- another one -- had canceled classes in the Pascack Valley Regional High School District in northern New Jersey, but educators and students wouldn't be taking a day off. Before the snow fell, even before the official school cancellation call, teachers were prepped, parents were warned and students had received enough assignments to fill a snow day.

"Equity Sticks" Called a Key Strategy in @MCPS Gap-Closing Efforts by @MCPSSUPER

OK, I admit it: I follow Joshua Starr on Twitter. His "handle" (for those of us from the CB Radio era) is @mcpssuper. Via Twitter, Joshua Starr announced that he would be shadowing an MCPS student at Kingview Middle School today, and would be "live tweeting" about his experiences.

Midway through the morning, Dr. Starr posted this tweet about a classroom practice:

I was interested to learn more about "equity sticks," after all, Dr. Starr described them as a "KEY EQUITY STRATEGY" for schools with lots of racial diversity. After all, Dr. Starr's mission is to close the achievement gap, and he says "equity sticks" are a key strategy in that regard. MCPS even has an "Equity Initiatives Unit" with 10 employees. Surely they must be involved in developing the "equity sticks" strategy and training teachers in its implementation. Why, even a sample evaluation form showing MCPS's vaunted Professional Growth System cites approvingly a teacher's use of "equity sticks."


Here's a photo of some "Equity Sticks." And here's the technical description of "Equity Sticks" and their use:
"How can we keep all students engaged? How can we assure that we are calling on each student in our classroom rather than the "selected few?" How can we make each child responsible for his own learning? One trick I have found is equity sticks.

Equity sticks can be Popsicle sticks, index cards, bookmarks, etc. On each stick, you write the name of a student in your class. When you ask a question, you simply choose a stick and that student will answer. After turn and talk, choose a stick and let that child answer. This way, you are assuring equity during discussions.

So, to summarize:

"Equity" seems to mean that MCPS wants to take away the judgment of the individual teacher about which student to call on in class. I can understand the utility of some random name drawing system in a classroom...but...c'mon! "EQUITY STICKS?"
THEY ARE POPSICLE STICKS! Our "close the gap" strategy, our "KEY" strategy, is POPSICLE STICKS?

Gimme a break. Or rather, gimme a Popsicle.

"Describing the 7-year age gap as "less than ideal" is a huge understatement."

Comment from Wendy Lane, MD on the WAMU story on Senator Jamie Raskin's proposal to permit young (21-24) year old teachers/coaches/school staff to have sexual relationships with 16 and 17 year old students.  Reprinted with permission of Dr. Lane.
"Describing the 7-year age gap as "less than ideal" is a huge understatement. While the addition of part time teachers and coaches in the definition of person of authority is important, it should not be done with a compromise that creates additional harm for kids. I hope that MD lawmakers are asking themselves how they would feel if they found out that their 16 year old daughter or son was having a sexual relationship with his/her 23 year old teacher. If SB460 passes, this would be legal."

$22 Million Dollar Monday at the Board of Education!!!

Do you love to spend? Do you love to spend millions? 
Do you love to spend without knowing how you are spending your money?  
Then a seat on the Montgomery County Board of Education is for you!  
It's not too late to sign up to run for one of the four open seats this year!

You too can sit at the Board of Education and spend $22,496,074 in one minute without any discussion or any clue as to what your buying!
That's what is going to happen this evening at the February 24, 2014, Board of Education meeting.

The Consent Agenda for this evening has 5 separate items that total $22,496,074 in spending without any explanation other than the name of the vendor and a brief sentence of the possible items purchased! No details!  Consent Agenda means no discussion!

Let's take a look at just one of those 5 items.  Agenda Item 5.5 is to spend $13,981,044 on a vendor named DISYS Solutions, Inc.

Superintendent Joshua Starr wrote a memo to tell the Board they are buying a bunch of computer stuff from DISYS Solutions, Inc. and that the contract is an "extension."

Extension means this contract was not put out for a competitive bid this year. Superintendent Starr just "extended" the contract into this year.  But, here's the fun part.  Last year (FY 2013) this vendor was only paid $8,036,421.  Superintendent Starr is "extending" the contract to pay this vendor $5,944,623 over what they were paid last year!  Wow! Party at DISYS Solutions, Inc!

7067.4 Computer Network Equipment, Software, and Service-Extension

DISYS Solutions, Inc. $13,981,044

Gazette Letter: Elementary school bell time proposal has no base in evidence

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr recently made recommendations to change the bell times for all public school students in the county. He bases these recommendations on a study that provides convincing evidence for changes to high school and middle school times, but lacks any evidence for changes in elementary times.
These days we expect accountability and evidence-based decision-making from our leaders. This omission comes as a disappointment...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Protect Your Kids' Privacy Online New ways to keep the Web's trackers, snoops and creeps away from your family

Update:  Reporter Julia Angwin will be on NPR's Fresh Air today to talk about how to erase your digital footprint. Listen in:

From Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin.  For the entire article go here.

If you search for my kids online, you'll find barely a trace of them. Not only do I not post any information or photos of them, I have also taught them to erase their own digital footprints.
My children, whom I will call Woody and Harriet, are 6 and 9. They use fake names online—always. They use software to block online tracking, and instead of Googling homework assignments, they use a search engine that doesn't store any data about their queries. They have stickers that cover their computer cameras. Harriet, my older child, uses an encryption program to scramble her calls and texts to my cellphone, using passwords that are 20 characters long. 
We began by using a password methodology known as Diceware, which produces passwords that are easy to remember but hard for hackers to crack. Diceware is deceptively simple: You roll a six-sided die five times and use the results to pick five random words from the Diceware word list, which contains 7,776 short English words. The resulting passwords look something like this: "alger klm curry blond puck.
Harriet also got interested in a program called Ghostery that I use to block online tracking. She particularly liked Ghostery's logo—a cute little blue ghost that sits at the top right corner of her Web browser. So I installed Ghostery on her own computer, an old netbook that we got free when setting up our high-speed Internet connection. She began to view Ghostery as a videogame, with the goal being to find websites with the most trackers. "Mommy, I found one with 41 trackers!" she crowed, running into my room toting her computer.
Harriet even started to like DuckDuckGo, a privacy-protecting search engine whose logo is a cheerful duck in a bow tie. I set it up as her default search engine, and she happily showed the duck off to her friends.
To keep outside snoops away from the family iPad, we found an app from Brian Kennish, a former Google engineer who quit to build privacy-protecting software. His powerful Disconnect Kids app captured all the traffic leaving our iPad and blocked any contact with a list of known mobile tracking companies.

Open Letter to Delegate Kathleen Dumais Re: SB 460/Sexual Abuse

Delegate Dumais: I was forwarded an email in which you made the following statement:

We have not been able to pass a bill because some of our colleagues in the General Assembly are concerned about criminalizing sexual conduct when a “person in authority” and a 16- or 17-year old are close in age.

Can you please list the names of the colleagues in the General Assembly who have this concern?

I realize you think that citizens may be confused about this proposal, but as a lawyer myself, I assure you that I am completely capable of understanding the complexities. And as the parent of a young adult with an intellectual/developmental disability, I suspect that many of your "colleagues" have not considered the scenario where a person of authority preys on a teenager with an intellectual or developmental disability. You may not realize yourself that up to 90% of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities will experience sexual abuse in their lifetime.

Here in Montgomery County, I am aware of at least two instances of sexual abuse of youth with ID/DD among my friends' children, which were not prosecuted because the perpetrators claimed the victim "consented." By including this additional loophole in the law, you are opening the floodgates to increased sexual abuse of youth with intellectual disability and/or developmental disability by teachers, coaches, and paraeducators who happen to be within the 7 year limit.

Again, please let me know the names of your colleagues in the General Assembly who are "concerned" about criminalizing sexual conduct when a "person in authority" and a 16-17 year old are close in age. Perhaps they, and you, need to be educated about the risk this language poses to youth with disabilities.

Lyda Astrove

Delegate Kathleen Dumais Responds to "imperfect" policy that would permit young teachers to have sexual contact with teens

Delegate Dumais sent the Parents' Coalition the following statement in response to the the blog posting of the February 21, 2014, letter from the Board of Education to Senator Jamie Raskin.
To Whom It May Concern:
The baseless, personal and unfair attacks on Senator Raskin, Senator King, Senator Forehand and others who for years have been the strongest champions of efforts to end sexual violence in the Maryland legislature really must stop.   It would be much more productive if someone is “uncomfortable” with certain language in a bill or has a question about why a bill is written a certain way, would simply pick up the phone and ask.  This area of the law is complicated and cannot be read in a vacuum.  If the “loophole” was easy to fix – it would have been done a long time ago.
Many of us have been working for over a decade with strong, dedicated advocates to close the loopholes in Maryland's law on sexual exploitation of teenagers.  We have not been able to pass a bill because some of our colleagues in the General Assembly are concerned about criminalizing sexual conduct when a “person in authority” and a 16- or 17-year old are close in age.
The legislation introduced this year responded to this legislative roadblock by including compromise language:  it will apply the prohibition only when there is a 7 year age gap when the sexual interaction occurs during “off-hours” (no age gap would be required when the teen is under the direct care or supervision of the adult).
This compromise brings us closer to passing a bill than we have been for many years.  Keep in mind that nothing in this bill that is designed to define the power of the relationship that a “person in authority” has over a minor precludes prosecution for sexual offenses such as statutory rape, sexual abuse of a minor, or any other sexual offense under other provisions of the criminal code. 
For what it’s worth, the House Judiciary Committee has been working on  HB781 (the cross-file of SB460), as well as another bill introduced on this issue.  I believe that my committee may pass HB781 without the age gap language but, with a more comprehensive list of individuals covered as “persons in authority.”   We are still reviewing the proposed amendments but, by putting the best of several bills together, I believe we have a strong bill that will close several loopholes and I urge your support of the amended HB781.
We always welcome constructive criticism and want to hear from the community about their concerns.  But, I have been very disturbed by the animosity couched in a personal manner at Senators Raskin, King, Forehand and others – particularly when it is clear that the complaints about the legislation are being leveled without the facts and without a complete understanding of the complexity of the law.   When it comes to legislation and politics, disagreement and different perspectives are expected and accepted.  Personal attacks are not and should not be.
The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), previously published the description of SB460/HB781 below, which does describe the loopholes we are trying to close and how, as introduced, these two bills would move the ball forward.  As noted above, amendments have been proposed to do better – but, I assure you, the amendments have nothing to do with the baseless, unfair, personal attacks.  Rather, the amendments were proposed and worked through by the exact same legislators dedicated to ending sexual violence that have been so unfairly excoriated in this blog and the media.
Here’s how MCASA described the bills as introduced:
“Maryland’s law fails to prohibit sexual conduct between teenagers and a wide range of people with authority over children.  Adults with authority over teenagers and other children should not use their position to sexually exploit the minors they work with.  The current law fails to protect teens by imposing complicated and nonsensical distinctions between educators and non-educators, full-time and part-time, permanent and provisional, under supervision and not.  Current law leaves out persons in authority who are volunteers and those who work outside of pre-school, elementary schools, and secondary schools. 
MCASA has worked for over a decade to pass comprehensive legislation to address the gaps in the law and prevent sexual exploitation of teens.  Year after year, we have seen legislation fail because of the debate between those who are concerned about criminalizing sexual relationships between people who are close in age, and those who are unyielding in their view that all adults who are sexually involved with the 16 or 17 year olds they have authority over are criminals.
This is an important debate and one that should continue.  However, MCASA also believes that we can and should pass legislation addressing areas of agreement and are grateful to the sponsors of SB460 and HB781 for proposing compromise legislation that will make huge strides towards closing the loopholes in our law.  SB460 and HB781 will:
  • retain the current 25 year penalty for all adults who sexually exploit teens during the time the teen is directly in their care and custody or supervision
  • increase potential penalties from a sentence of one year to five years for persons in authority who have sexual interactions with 16- and 17-year olds during “off-hours”
  • expand the prohibition on sexual relations between persons in authority and teens to include volunteers
  • expand the prohibition on sexual relations between persons in authority and teens to include sports and recreation programs
  • close current loopholes permitting part-time school teachers and coaches to have sexual relations with students during “off-hours”
Legislation is an incremental process.  SB460 and HB781 would make huge progress but are being threatened by those who want a perfect bill.  MCASA appreciates their concerns and agree that the 7 year age gap for “off-hours” is an imperfect policy.  But it is a real step forward and efforts to create a perfect bill have left teens without any protection for years and years.  It’s time to move ahead and enact legislation to increase protections for teens.”
Again, as noted above, I believe that the possibility of the House and the Senate passing a strong bill this year with the components identified by MCASA – and without the “age gap” is very high.  We will need and want your support of that effort.  Let’s start working together and stop destructive personal attacks.  

Kathleen M. Dumais
Delegate, District 15 – Montgomery County
Vice Chair, House Judiciary Committee
House Office Building
6 Bladen Street, Room 101
Annapolis, MD  21401


Friday, February 21, 2014

We didn't really mean . . .

. . . to support your new bill as written, Senator Raskin, says the Montgomery County Board of Education.

The Montgomery County Board of Education, in a letter written by Board President Phil Kauffman, states that while the BOE supports one goal of Senator Raskin's proposed legislation, SB 460, Criminal Law, Person in a Position of Authority, Sexual Offenses with a Minor, they didn't really read the bill before they voted their support.  Oops.  According to the letter:

the Board is uncomfortable with the condition of the bill that establishes an exception for staff that is up to seven years older than a student who is at least 16 years old.


Advice to the Board:  Read the bill before the vote.  This one isn't that long, and the problems aren't hidden in legislative gobbledygook.  Just because the drafter, Jamie Raskin, has impeccable credentials, doesn't mean that he can write a good piece of legislation.

More advice:  Get rid of the staff member who presented the legislation to you for approval, but didn't disclose the "puppy love" exception.

Thanks Phil, better late than never.

Senator Jamie Raskin is Confused by His Own Bill

Senator Jamie Raskin has proposed a bill in the Maryland Senate that will change Maryland law to permit young teachers and coaches, aged 21-24, to have sexual contact with teenage students.  The current Person in Position of Authority - Sexual Offenses with a Minor law defines a person of authority as someone who is "at least 21 years old."  

Yet, Senator Raskin keeps using the example of a 20 year old coach as a reason for the new, even larger, loophole that he wants inserted into Maryland law.

Senator Raskin, have your read your own bill? Have you read Maryland law?

From today's Gazette story on Senator Raskin's bill we once again see the Senator using an example that has nothing to do with current law or his bill. 

...However, some lawmakers think prosecuting a 20-year-old coach in a relationship with a 17-year-old student, for example, is too harsh, Raskin said.
“A 20-year-old assistant track coach in a relationship with a 17-year-old student could still be grounds for firing or making sure that person never works in a school again,” Raskin said. “The question is when we should send that person to jail.”
His bill would prohibit sexual contact between a person of authority and a minor who is at least seven years younger...

MD Chapter of Amer. Academy of Pediatrics: "We find it hard to believe that any legislator would find it acceptable or appropriate for a teacher to be having a sexual relationship with their own 16 or 17 year old child."

The following is an open letter to Maryland legislators:

The age of consent for sexual activity in Maryland is sixteen. This means that once a teenager turns sixteen, he or she is free to make his or her own choices about sexual partners without risk of repercussions for the partner. Those of us who are parents or caregivers of teenagers want our children to make good choices about sex, and don’t want them to be manipulated or coerced into having sex.
Several years ago, Maryland legislators realized that some restrictions on consent were needed to reduce the possibility of manipulation or coercion of young teenagers. Specifically, they recognized that because teachers and school staff were in a position of authority over students, such relationships were inherently coercive. The law passed to address this issue ended up being quite narrow; anyone employed full time at a school who is at least 21 years old is considered to be in a position of authority and cannot have sexual contact with a student.
We commend those legislators who recognize that it is not just full time school personnel who may be in a position of authority over teenagers, and should not be engaging in sexual relationships with them. Several bills that have been introduced this legislative session that propose to expand the definition of person of authority to include part-time teachers, coaches, and volunteers who supervise teenagers.
Unfortunately, the wording of one of those bills, HB781/SB460, is extremely problematic. While it does expand the list of people in positions of authority, it creates a huge loophole that puts our teenagers at risk. The current wording of the bill requires a 7 year age difference between adult and teenager for the law to apply. This means that it will no longer be a crime for a 21, 22, or 23 year old teacher to have sex with a 16 year old student, nor will it be a crime for a 21-24 year old teacher to have sex with a 17 year old student.
The bottom line is that it is not ok for teachers to have sexual relationships with their students, no matter what the age difference. As pediatricians and parents of teenagers, we know that students often look up to their teachers, and that some teachers may take advantage of this relationship. We find it hard to believe that any legislator would find it acceptable or appropriate for a teacher to be having a sexual relationship with their own 16 or 17 year old child.
We appreciate our legislators efforts to expand the definition of person of authority in order to protect teenagers. We urge them to do so without adding loopholes that will harm these teens.

Wendy G. Lane, MD, MPH, FAAP
Chair, Child Maltreatment and Foster Care Committee

Scott Krugman, MD, MS, FAAP

Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics