Friday, June 29, 2018

School District Pays $1.3 Million To Settle Landmark Special Ed Case

The Douglas County School District outside Denver has paid $1.32 million to settle a long-running special education case brought by a couple who sought reimbursement from the district for their son’s education at a private school for students with autism.
The payment, made to the law firm representing the couple in May, represents the last chapter in a landmark special education case known as Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The case lasted for seven years, leading to a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision that raised the standard schools must meet in educating students with disabilities.
“The settlement really just eliminates any uncertainty there may have been about the importance of the Endrew F. decision,” said Meghan Whittaker, policy and advocacy manager for the National Center for Learning Disabilities...

Thursday, June 28, 2018

FOX45 News: MCPS #2 in Bullying Reports in State

The school system with the most bullying reports is Baltimore County. Last year, the County tallied 901 reported incidents. Montgomery County, which has 45,000 more students, was second with 870.



http://foxbaltimore.com/news/project-baltimore/baltimore-county-schools-leads-state-in-bullying-reports

Essentially what the seemingly benign “if you like that, you’ll like this” mechanism is doing is training young children – practically from birth – to click on the first thing that comes along, regardless of the source.

In November of last year, I read an article in the New York Times about disturbing videos targeted at children that were being distributed via YouTube. Parents reported that their children were encountering knock-off editions of their favourite cartoon characters in situations of violence and death: Peppa Pig drinking bleach, or Mickey Mouse being run over by a car. A brief Google of some of the terms mentioned in the article brought up not only many more accounts of inappropriate content, in Facebook posts, newsgroup threads, and other newspapers, but also disturbing accounts of their effects. Previously happy and well-adjusted children became frightened of the dark, prone to fits of crying, or displayed violent behaviour and talked about self-harm – all classic symptoms of abuse. But despite these reports, YouTube and its parent company, Google, had done little to address them. Moreover, there seemed to be little understanding of where these videos were coming from, how they were produced – or even why they existed in the first place...

...Take YouTube’s recommendation system for starters, which doesn’t differentiate between Disney movies and a grainy animation cooked up by a bot farm in China. Essentially what the seemingly benign “if you like that, you’ll like this” mechanism is doing is training young children – practically from birth – to click on the first thing that comes along, regardless of the source. This is the same mechanism that sees Facebook slide fake political ads and conspiracy theories into the feeds of millions of disaffected voters, and the outcome – ever more extreme content and divided viewpoints – is much the same. Add the sheer impossibility of working out where these videos come from (most are anonymous accounts with thousands of barely differentiated uploads) and the viewer is adrift in a sea of existential uncertainty, which starts to feel worryingly familiar in a world where opaque and unaccountable systems increasingly control critical aspects of our everyday lives...

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jun/17/peppa-pig-youtube-weird-algorithms-automated-content?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Immigrant Children's Center Near You

Investigative reporters Decca Muldowney, Alex Mierjeski, Claire Perlman, Lilia Chang, Ken Schwencke, Adriana Gallardo, and Derek Kravitz at ProPublica.org have mapped the detention centers where children are being held. Full article here.

Under President Trump’s new “zero tolerance” immigration policy 2,047 children remain separated from their parents, as of June 26. They are now held in shelters and foster homes run by the federal government and an assortment of nonprofit groups. These shelters were already home to an additional 8,886 children who crossed the border unaccompanied by older relatives before the “zero tolerance” policy was announced. ProPublica is working with partners in the U.S. and in Latin America to fill in gaps in what we know about these facilities, and to tell the stories of the people affected by the zero tolerance policy. More about the map | Español

Blue dots are detention centers, including one in Baltimore run by the Board of Child Care of the United Methodist Church, and one in Crofton run by Bethany Christian Services, and one in Alexandria, run by General Dynamics.

.@MCPS Students receive diplomas behind bars



BOYDS, Md. - It is graduation season for high school students across the country, but Friday was especially unique for those in Montgomery County. 
The graduates received their high school diplomas while behind bars. The Montgomery County Correctional Facility partners with Montgomery College and Montgomery County Public Schools to give inmates the same education they would get if they were not incarcerated. Family and friends came to the ceremony Friday as the graduates beamed with pride. 
"It was really great. I never felt that before in my life. I'm just thankful to be here today," said graduate Keon Taylor.
The graduates received a scholarship of up to $1,500 to attend Montgomery College when they are released. 
https://www.localdvm.com/news/i-270/students-receive-diplomas-behind-bars/1213322576

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Board of Ed Sued Again on Procurement Issue: ABC7 - Judge reverses controversial decision on after-school care in Montgomery County #assault #sexabuse

POTOMAC, Md. (WJLA) — Farmland Child Development Center ran Potomac's Wayside Elementary after-school program in Montgomery County the past 27 years. But a new company bumped out the non-profit group when after-school care came up for bid this year: for-profit company Kids Adventures.
"I was shocked, honestly," said one father who requested anonymity with children still going to Wayside Elementary. “I couldn't believe that a provider that had a record like that was in business, let alone winning contracts.”

A Kids Adventure employee faces 50 years in prison, charged this April for allegedly assaulting and robbing a co-worker at a Takoma Park elementary school parking lot.

In a separate incident, an after-school care employee working with Kids Adventures pleaded guilty to sex crimes victimizing a 10 year old girl at another Potomac school.




Monday, June 25, 2018

Board of Ed. Used Money for NEW Artificial Turf Fields to Pay for RMHS REPLACEMENT Field

At this evening's Board of Education meeting MCPS Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman explained to the Board of Education that the money that was going to be spent for the replacement of the Richard Montgomery football field had already been approrpiated by the County Council. He said the money was coming from the Artificial Turf fund. 

Here is the Council's PDF form for the MCPS Artificial Turf Program (See page Circle 8)  The description of the fund is shown in the image below.  


The Artificial Turf Program was set up to fund the installation of NEW artificial turf at the 19 high schools that did not have artificial turf.

Richard Montgomery High School was the very first high school to have an artificial turf football field installed and is one of the six schools mentioned in the Description above.  

The Artificial Turf Program was not set up to fund the replacement of artificial turf fields.

If the Board of Education is using this fund to pay for the replacement of the RMHS field they are using funds that were appropriated for another purpose and they are taking away money meant to put in a new field at a high school that currently does not have an artificial turf football field.  

Pat O'Neill Expenses Charged to MCPS Operating Budget = $4,793.61

For FY 2017 and FY 2018 through March, Board of Education member Patricia O'Neill charged $4,793.61 in expenses to the MCPS Operating Budget.

The Parents' Coalition has obtained Board of Education expense account records for calendar year 2017 through March 15, 2018.

From the documents we obtained we believe the documents show that Ms. O'Neill traveled out of town on the following dates.

Conferences:

August 18 2017 - Possible Ocean City stay, but BOE members are not listed on the hotel bill

September 21, 2017 - Possible Ocean City stay, but BOE members are not listed on the hotel bill.

October 3-6, 2017 - Possible MABE Conference in Ocean City, MD


Below are the records that we obtained.  Please note that Board of Education members no longer possess personal credit cards.  That practice ended in 2014 when the Parents' Coalition exposed how Board of Education members and their staff were using their personal MCPS credit cards.

However, Board of Education staff still have a MCPS credit card for Board member purchases.

The first document below shows Pat O'Neill's requests for expenses/reimbursements and the second document shows the bills for Board members paid from the Board office credit card.  The one Board of Education office credit card is in the name of staff member Rebecca Gibson.

Pat O'Neill's mileage charges for balls, galas, retreats, lunches, breakfasts...



BOE Credit Card bills for the time period covered:

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Board of Ed. Needs Council Approval to Spend Nonlocal Funds Received. On Eve of Primary Election, BOE Poised to Spend $500K without Council Appropriation

(c)  Expenditure of nonlocal funds received after adoption of budget. --  Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, nonlocal funds received by a county board after the adoption of the annual budget by the county fiscal authority may be spent by the county board if the county fiscal authority is notified and approves of:
(1)  The source and amount of the funds; and

(2)  The manner of spending the funds.

******************

However, the Board of Education has been quietly holding back revenue received from cell tower leases, field trip fees among other unknown sources of revenue and is now going to use those funds to pay for a new artificial turf football field at Richard Montgomery High School without bringing those funds to the County Council for appropriation. 

**BOE Finds $562,721 for Plastic Grass at RM High School.** Not Money for Teachers, Classrooms, Lead Remediation, Mold Remediation, Repairs, Grass Seed... BOE Intentionally Let Warranty EXPIRE! Did Council Appropriate these Funds for this Purpose?: Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland

Friday, June 22, 2018

"One of the four top vote-getters could conceivably earn less than 10,000 votes."

Tuesday’s Election is the Best Opportunity for the UpCounty to Move Out of the Back Seat and into the Front Seat


**BOE Finds $562,721 for Plastic Grass at RM High School.** Not Money for Teachers, Classrooms, Lead Remediation, Mold Remediation, Repairs, Grass Seed... BOE Intentionally Let Warranty EXPIRE! Did Council Appropriate these Funds for this Purpose?

The Montgomery County Board of Education intentionally let the warranty on the defective Richard Montgomery High School artificial turf field expire and now they are going to use $562,721 of Operating Budget funds to replace this one plastic football field. 

The MCPS Real Estate department has been squirreling aways cash.  This money will be used to buy a new plastic field for Richard Montgomery High School.  Those funds are not listed in the MCPS Operating Budget documents in any discoverable location.  The image to the left shows the only mention of this fund in the FY19 MCPS Operating Budget.

Note that the Resolution (below) before the Board of Education on June 25, 2018, does not mention any approriation of these funds by the County Council.

The money in this "fund" has allegedly come in to MCPS through outside sources and is being immediately diverted to pay for plastic football fields without any discussion of the best use of these public school dollars. 

Probably the biggest source of cash for this fund is coming from Cell Tower revenue

That means that the high FARMS rate schools that have cell towers on their playgrounds and fields are paying for the plastic grass purchase at Richard Montgomery High School.  

In addition, MCPS has used Field Trip fees to fund Artificial Turf purchases

Remember that the actual Artificial Turf PLAN was that these fields would pay for themselves through field rental fees.  That has not happened. 

The Board of Education has not provided the public with an accounting for the funds being used to pay for the Richard Montgomery High School artificial turf field replacement nor are they bringing these outside funds before the County Council for appropriation. 

The failure to present a transparent budget Resolution to the public is on the Board of Education members four of whom are candidates in this year's elections. 

ABC News: Student with autism steals the show with inspiring graduation speech

Passing the Trash: Absence of State Laws Allows for Continued Sexual Abuse of K–12 Students by School Employees

“Passing the trash,” enabling teachers who sexually abuse students to pursue another job with no record of their sexual misconduct, is common practice for K–12 school district administrators who fear legal liability and tarnished reputations. The “Prohibition on Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse” provision in the United States Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 aims to eliminate passing the trash. This study explores states’ progress toward developing and implementing relevant law and policy to comply with the provision. Researchers collected data from representatives of state departments of education, asking whether representatives were aware of the provision and what progress their state had made toward complying with it. Overall, researchers found that just four states had fully complied; several others were in the process of creating relevant policy and legislation and a few began the process in response to researchers’ queries. However, the overwhelming majority of states—39—had no plans to create relevant legislation or policy, either because they were unaware of the provision or because they believed, erroneously, that existing laws fulfilled the ESSA mandate. Passing the trash is clearly an unacceptable practice, yet research suggests it still occurs, and state-level laws and policies to prevent it are slow to emerge. The lack of knowledge or awareness exhibited by many state representatives suggests a need to educate policymakers and education leaders about what aiding and abetting sexual offenders consists of, what consequences it can have for vulnerable students, and what provisions states can enact to prohibit it...

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rebecca Smondrowksi Expenses Charged to MCPS Operating Budget = $14,067 .@RebeccaOnBoard

For FY 2017 and FY 2018 through March, Board of Education member Rebecca Smondrowski charged $14,067 in expenses to the MCPS Operating Budget.

The Parents' Coalition has obtained Board of Education expense account records for calendar year 2017 through March 15, 2018.

From the documents we obtained we believe the documents show that Ms. Smondrowski traveled out of town on the following dates.

Conferences:
March 2017 - 5 Days in Denver Colorado  [Hyatt Hotel]

August 18 2017 - Possible Ocean City stay, but BOE members are not listed on the hotel bill

September 21, 2017 - Possible Ocean City stay, but BOE members are not listed on the hotel bill.

September 27-30, 2017 - Cube Conference in New Orleans, LA [Waldorf Roosevelt Hotel]

October 3-6, 2017 - 4 days at MABE Conference in Ocean City, MD


Below are the records that we obtained.  Please note that Board of Education members no longer possess personal credit cards.  That practice ended in 2014 when the Parents' Coalition exposed how Board of Education members and their staff were using their personal MCPS credit cards.

However, Board of Education staff still have a MCPS credit card for Board member purchases.

The first document below shows Rebecca Smondrowski's requests for expenses/reimbursements and the second document shows the bills for Board members paid from the Board office credit card.  The one Board of Education office credit card is in the name of staff member Rebecca Gibson.

Per Diem, Mileage:





Airline tickets, hotels, conference fees:

BOE Finds Money for Another Administrator to Facilitate high-level business Advisory group meetings and more #ApplyToday

Job Description 

Erin’s Law Meant to Protect Students from Sexual Abuse. What Happens When It’s Not Enforced?

FYI:  Erin's Law was also passed in Maryland and not implemented.  

...In the wake of a scathing Chicago Tribune report detailing how systemic failures within Chicago Public Schools allowed hundreds of students to be sexually abused over the past decade, parents and advocates have begun to question why Erin’s Law isn’t being discussed as part of a solution. Already, vague requirements and lax oversight from the state has led to some Chicago schools not following through with the law at all.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson released a four-page plan of action after the Tribune series was published last week detailing plans to strengthen internal policies and practices in an effort to prevent this sort of abuse from happening again. It made no mention of Erin’s Law.
“I was disappointed she didn’t reference this law in this action plan at all, since it is a state law,” said Char Rivette, executive director of the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center.
“Where are the preventive measures?” Chicago Teachers Union member Emily Penn asked in a statement this week. “CPS, for example, has made no mention of Erin’s Law, which mandates that schools teach body safety awareness and give children tools to report abuse in a safe way, as well as staff training to respond to concerns and report appropriately.”
search on the CPS website for documents containing “Erin’s Law” yields no results...


Court of Special Appeals: Child porn includes images sent by the child

A 16-year-old who texted a video of herself engaging in a consensual sexual act with an adult was “involved” in distributing child pornography and not protected by the constitutional right to free speech, Maryland’s second-highest court ruled this week.
In its reported, 3-0 decision, the Court of Special Appeals rejected arguments from the girl’s attorney that Maryland’s prohibition on child pornography does not apply when a child is both the willing subject and distributor of the material. The court also refuted claims the child has a First Amendment right to distribute photos of herself...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why did the Board of Education Spend $9,773 at the BWI Hilton in 1 Week Last Summer?

The Parents' Coalition has obtained Board of Education expense account records for calendar year 2017 through March 15, 2018.

Included in the documents we received are copies of the Board of Education's JP Morgan Chase credit card bills.

The July 31, 2017, Board of Education credit card bill shows three charges under the category of Travel activity from "Hilton Baltimore BWI" on three days in July with arrival dates of July 4, July 9 and July 11.   The total for these three transactions is $9,773.19.

What were these credit card transactions for? 






CNN Spotlights MCPS Personal Body Safety Lesson that Brought About Arrest of MCPS Teacher

Judge denies Salisbury’s motion to dismiss public information lawsuit

...Wicomico County Circuit Judge W. Newton Jackson III rejected the city’s argument that it never prepared or possessed documents about the settlement, sought by the ACLU of Maryland and the Real News Network, because the litigation was handled by Local Government Insurance Trust. LGIT is an agent of the city, Jackson ruled.
“Were this Court to accept Defendants’ argument, then any government entity could shield public records from the public’s sight by transacting through their insurer or attorney,” he wrote in a May 31 opinion...

Monday, June 18, 2018

BOE Candidates with a Focus on the Health and Safety of Public School Students in MCPS

At Large:  Stephen Sugg

District 3:  Laura Simon

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


There are only two Board of Education races on the Primary Ballot.


 The Washington Post profiles of Board of Education candidates. 

MYMCMEDIA Board of Education At Large

MYMCMEDIA Board of Education District 3

League of Women Voters' Guide
Primary Election Tuesday June 26, 2018
Polls Open 7 AM to 8 PM




Bethesda Beat Voters' Guide Board of Education At Large Race

Bethesda Beat Voters' Guide Board of Education Distrct 3


~Janis Sartucci

Listen to Children Who’ve Just Been Separated From Their Parents at the Border

From Ginger Thompson at ProPublica.  For the whole story go here.

The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream “Mami” and “Papá” over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.



Has your family been separated at the U.S.–Mexico border? Are you a worker at a detention center or do you aid families who have been affected? Tell ProPublica more at border@propublica.org or 347-244-2134.

MCPS Special Education Legal Fees Rocket Upwards...Again

Special education legal expenses in March 2018 totaled $59,838.

The year-to-date total
of $250,251 is $150,105 (149.9 percent) more than the same period in the previous year.


The Carney Kelehan bill for March 2018 totaled $32,811.
The Miles and Stockbridge bill for March 2018 totaled $16,774.
The PK Law bill for March 2018 totaled $10,253.

To see the Legal Fees Report submitted to the Board of Education, click HERE.

Do you think any of the current BOE members, particularly the ones who are running for higher office, will think to inquire about these exponentially increasing costs incurred fighting families seeking appropriate special education services for their children? Fat Chance.

Elite DC-area private schools drop Advanced Placement classes

WASHINGTON — Advanced Placement courses will soon be a thing of the past in eight D.C.-area independent high schools.

AP courses have long been considered the most rigorous a high school student could put on his or her schedule, but these schools say AP isn’t what it used to be.
Georgetown Day, Holton-Arms, Landon, Maret, National Cathedral, Potomac, St. Albans and Sidwell Friends announced a shared commitment to eliminate Advanced Placement courses from their curricula by 2022. Maret does not offer AP courses but supported the move.
“We have been assured by [college] admissions officers that this change will have no adverse impact on our students. The real question for colleges is not whether applicants have taken AP courses, but whether they have availed themselves of their high schools’ most demanding classes,” the heads of school said in a joint statement...

Several well-known private schools in the D.C. area are scrapping Advanced Placement classes

...Seven prominent private schools in the D.C. area plan to eliminate Advanced Placement classes over the next four years, asserting in an unusual joint statement Monday that the program has “diminished utility,” is not necessary for college-bound students and puts too much emphasis on speedy assimilation of course material and memorization.
With their move, the schools drew attention to a quiet pushback against AP in certain quarters of the education world even as the program has gained enormous influence in American high schools as a nationally recognized credential for motivated students and a stepping-stone to college. These critics decry what they perceive as the regimentation of the AP schedule and course content, with classes pointed toward high-stakes tests in May.
“Too much minutiae. Too much emphasis on test preparation,” said Patty Carver, a veteran teacher at Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md., one of the seven that is dropping AP. Carver said she is excited about retooling the AP Environmental Science course that she had taught for nine years. She will rename it Advanced Global Applications in Environmental Science.
The other schools dropping AP are Sidwell Friends, Georgetown Day, National Cathedral and St. Albans in the District of Columbia, as well as Landon in Bethesda and Potomac in McLean, Va. Maret School in the District, which has never offered AP classes, joined in the anti-AP statement. Students at the seven schools will still be able to take AP tests, but the schools are phasing out their affiliation with the brand...

Call to End Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Cases in Pennsylvania

At a Capitol rally, state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, invited victims, survivors and relatives of victims of child sex abuse to call on lawmakers and influential power brokers to get behind legislation on ending the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases. June 12, 2018...
...Teresa Lancaster speaks at the rally. Lancaster is one of the subjects of Netflix's "The Keepers." At a Capitol rally, state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, invited victims, survivors and relatives of victims of child sex abuse to call on lawmakers and influential power brokers to get behind legislation on ending the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases...

https://www.pennlive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/06/c872dd04fd3670/index.html 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Drinking water exceeds lead limits at 63 Montgomery Co. schools

From WTOP, reporter Megan Cloherty. Full story here.

WASHINGTON — Summer break is now in full swing for students in Montgomery County, but county drinking water testing reports show kids who attended more than 60 schools in the system could have been exposed to dangers levels of lead.

In updating the results of its ongoing Drinking Water Testing Program, Montgomery County schools say drinking outlets at 150 schools in its system have been tested for lead. Many have already been fixed.

While the county says on its website only 97 of the 9,748 outlets tested are accessible to students, a closer look at the individual school reports finds that a majority of the offending outlets are in elementary schools’ classrooms.

The Environmental Protection Agency sets a threshold of 20 parts per billion for the lead in drinking water before the fixture needs to be replaced. Nearby school systems like D.C. won’t let lead exceed 5 parts per billion.In Prince George’s County Schools, it’s 10 parts per billion, or ppb.

Of the 94 Montgomery County elementary schools tested, 46 have at least one drinking outlet that tested above the EPA threshold. Four others come within 1 part of the 20 ppb threshold. See the county’s testing reports by school here.

Some faucets and bubblers, or drinking fountains, tested at a few schools far exceeded 20 ppb, according to county data:
  • A classroom bubbler at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, tested 356ppb.
  • A faucet in an ESOL classroom in Farmland Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland, tested at 564 ppb.
  • A faucet in computer lab inside Fields Road Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, tested at 259 ppb.
  • A bubbler in Gaithersburg Elementary tested at 253 ppb.
  • A faucet tested at 310 ppb in a Maryvale Elementary School classroom in Rockville, Maryland.
  • A classroom faucet at South Lake Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, tested at 431 ppb.
  • At Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, Maryland, a classroom faucet tested 115 ppb.
  • In Kensington, Maryland, a kitchen faucet at Einstein High School tested at 700 ppb.
  • At Wooton High School in Rockville, Maryland, a faucet inside a computer lab room tested at 112 ppb.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Jill Ortman-Fouse Expenses Charged to MCPS Operating Budget = $10,895 .@Jill4allMoCo

For FY 2017 and FY 2018 through March, Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse charged $10,895.25 in expenses to the MCPS Operating Budget.

The Parents' Coalition has obtained Board of Education expense account records for calendar year 2017 through March 15, 2018.

From the documents we obtained we believe the documents show that Ms. Ortman-Fouse traveled out of town on the following dates.

Conferences:
March 2017 - 5 Days in Denver Colorado  [Hyatt Hotel]

August 18 2017 - Possible Ocean City stay, but BOE members are not listed on the hotel bill

September 21, 2017 - Possible Ocean City stay, but BOE members are not listed on the hotel bill.

September 27-30, 2017 - Cube Conference in New Orleans, LA [Waldorf Roosevelt Hotel]

October 3-6, 2017 - 4 days at MABE Conference in Ocean City, MD

April 5, 2018 - Airfare purchased for unknown trip

Below are the records that we obtained.  Please note that Board of Education members no longer possess personal credit cards.  That practice ended in 2014 when the Parents' Coalition exposed how Board of Education members and their staff were using their personal MCPS credit cards.

However, Board of Education staff still have a MCPS credit card for Board member purchases.

The first document below shows Jill Ortman-Fouse's requests for expenses/reimbursements and the second document shows the bills for Board members paid from the Board office credit card.  The one Board of Education office credit card is in the name of staff member Rebecca Gibson.

Per Diem, Airport Transportation:


Airline tickets, hotels, conference fees: