theebrandenburgs blogspear

This page is designed to share information about our struggle to gain equity for our unique children and their learning styles in a public education system that is designed primarily to teach a single type of learner, and which is increasingly sidelined by fiscal and philosophical issues that challenge the core of its collective existence. We are especially interested in unique learners, and the talented people who teach them, their families, and our shared value as human beings. We seek the end of discrimination, the end of seclusion, separation, and isolation, as well as an end to chemical and physical restraints that are commonly used to assault our children and our unique interpretations of the world.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Presentation made to PUSD Board of Education, January 17,2012

On January 17, 2012, Tony and Mary Brandenburg, supported by our friends and family, approached the PUSD School Board to request an external investigation of the removal of their autistic child from his school in October, 2010. Armed with 28 documents, and the truth, we challenged the actions of the highest scoring (900 API) school in the district, and the hypocrisy of  those actions. 

The Brandenburg's presentation can be viewed at 4:43 until the meeting's closure.

module of meeting at 4:43 Brandenburgs presentation

go to video link on January 17, 2012 Board Meeting

art by Baxter

photos by Steve Martinez

What follows is the outline of the presentation.

. There existed an Uneven Balance of Power and Influence

A. The Balance of Power favors Parent Elite in numbers, socio-economic status, & visibility both on campus, and in the community

Parent Elite                                                              vs.            Brandenburgs

B. The Balance of Power favors the Parent Elite in terms of media, legal, political,  fiscal revenue, and potential for fund raising contributions.

   Threat of multi family class action lawsuit       vs.         One family seek due process
   Threat of major media coverage                       vs.         No threat of media coverage
   Provide 8 volunteers                                           vs.         Potential 1 volunteer
   Children have communication skills                 vs.         Child communication challenged
   5 Provide critical resources to site                     vs.         0 provide critical resource to site
   Belong to school network & are friends            vs.         Are not in network & not included
   10+ potential votes in elections                          vs.         2 potential votes in elections
   Unlimited potential capital for fundraising         vs.         Limited potential capital
   ADA 6 students + siblings in SME & SMU       vs.         ADA 1 student, siblings not at SM
   Students bring positive revenue                         vs.         Fiscal deficit
   Some listed as donors to PEN                            vs.         Not listed as donors to PEN
   Some listed as donors to SMS Annual Fund    vs.         Not listed as donors to SMS AF

 C. In The Balance of Power PUSD  a double standard existed which Valued the Parent Elite & Devalued the Brandenburgs.

   Valued and Respected                                    vs.         Tolerated
   Concerns were validated                                vs.          Concerns were ignored
   Met with principal         repeatedly                   vs.         Principal did not meet nor contact
   Kept informed and updated by staff                vs.         Staff avoided and ignored
   Requests were honored                                 vs.         Requests ignored or denied
   Given anonymity                                             vs.         Confidentiality breached
   Allowed networking of information                   vs.         Denied that network even existed
   Prepared, planned, and assisted group          vs.         Offered no support or assistance
   Validated rumors, gossip, & exaggeration      vs.        Guilty until proven innocent
   Allowed to know who Brandenburgs were      vs.        Not allowed identity of accusers
   Allowed to make accusations                          vs.        Not allowed to face accusers
   Corresponded and met with Honowitz             vs.      Ignored by Mr. Honowitz

2. The Parent Elite Criminalized the Behavior of an autistic child in order to remove him from SMES, and PUSD supported this with the objective of placing him into a Non Public School. By criminalizing his autism, these individuals could achieve their objective- the removal of this child from the classroom, and ultimately the school, with the end goal that he never return. This child was in school 27 days. Through a concerted and group effort, given the support of Mr. Honowitz and PUSD staff, they were able to accomplish this.

   Parents used specific language to take rumored incidents- anything from accidents, to affection, to self defense, to slapping - and exaggerated these under the umbrella term “assaults” to magnify and criminalize minor incidents
   Parents filed assault charges with the local police department in order to start a criminal file.
   When the concerted actions to start a file with the police department was completed, these parents were informed by PUSD staff that police spoke with the principal and that the child was removed based on their actions.
   The district Inclusion Specialist and classroom teachers added incidents to this list, including anything from screaming, to pencil breaking, to paper crumbling- and gave them the same weight as kicking or hitting in order to stack the numbers.
   Specific language which originated with the Parent Elite were used as citations in legal documents but which were NOT supported by PUSD behavioral incident evidence.
   This met the approval of the former principal, PUSD legal team, former Coordinator of Special ed, former Superintendent, and Board Member Honowitz.
   Because PUSD had no other alternative placement on SMES, and because the Brandenburgs insisted that he stay in his neighborhood school, and because PUSD failed to adhere to the 2009 Settlement agreement, and because the Brandenburgs had filed a complaint with the OCR, it became high priority to create as damaging of a picture as possible of this child. In the parent elite group, PUSD found willing co-conspirators.
   Elite parents were notified of his return (confidential information again sent only to PUSD staff was shared)- they mobilized for a closed session meeting with Honowitz.

3. We believe that employees PUSD knowingly altered records, created false documents, post-dated documents, and purposefully withheld evidence from our legal advisor, ourselves, and a government agency, and made false/misleading statements to the Office of Civil Rights in order to “win”- as far as we know, these actions constitute fraud.

   Two SMES teachers and the former principal of SMES Gayle Bluemel made statements to the OCR contradicting documents that we have recently obtained.
   Statements contradict evidence that Board Member Honowitz, former principal Gayle Bluemel, and Sharon Watt provided to OCR, but withheld from Brandenburgs.
   Child accused of incidents on days that attendance records show he was absent
   Behavioral incident reports were filled out but never signed by administrator
   Dates, and times are altered, multiple reports exist with conflicting data
   Behavior reports appeared from up to two years ago for events which we had never been notified of
   Behavioral reports and follow ups did not follow Hughes Bill protocol

4. We believe that Board Member Honowitz, Former Superintendent Edwin Diaz,  and PUSD counsel sheltered these documents in order to stop the Brandenburgs from making an appeal to OCR findings, and released the documents only after the statute of limitations for an appeal had passed

   Former superintendent Diaz did not respond to email requests and phone calls
    After stating he’d take care of it in June, Honowitz did not provide documents and did not respond again.
    We believe this is the purposeful manipulation of an outcome by with holding key evidence until it could be done without reprisal.
   We began our formal requests for cited documents on February 22 (Blanco) and February 23 (Diaz) and the response from Blanco was to deny our requests multiple times, and the response from Diaz was his resignation the next day.

5. We believe PUSD Legal counsel, Board Member Ed Honowitz, and Elizabeth Blanco withheld key documents from the Brandenburgs in order to limit the Brandenburg’s legal options prior to, during, and after mediation, and the subsequent Settlement Agreement of July, 2011.

·      Brandenburgs and their legal representative made numerous formal and informal requests for all documents,
·      Complete disclosure of all pertinent information has been denied to the Brandenburgs for three years
·      Complete disclosure is necessary for any mediation, and this was knowingly withheld by PUSD

6. We believe former Superintendent Edwin Diaz, and Elizabeth Blanco, entered a meeting with us which they stated was regarding our concerns of the hostile environment, but instead they had predetermined placement and outcome prior to the meeting, and that this was a direct out come of the January 2011 Parent Elite forum with Honowitz and Diaz just days earlier.

   Blanco, Diaz, and Honowitz withheld key documents/evidence prior to the IEP of November 19, 2010,
   Blanco, Diaz, and Honowitz withheld key documents/evidence prior to the Brandenburg meeting with former Superintendent Diaz in February 14, 2011
   At this meeting Blanco told us she had a letter for us that she had written; three days later the Letter of Prior Notice arrived changing placement.

7. Board member Honowitz and Gayle Bluemel gave The Parent Elite a forum and a voice which was denied to the Brandenburgs.

   Bluemel met with the elite group and developed an Action Plan for the Brandenburg’s child- which did not allow the Brandenburgs a voice in the educational process of their own son.
   Bluemel appointed a spokesperson to the group and guided this point person to Blanco, Diaz, and Honowitz.
   Honowitz reinforced the leadership and validity of this point person, and met with this group and Diaz.
   Attached documents and emails sent to Honowitz and Bluemel (which were hidden from the Brandenburgs) further criminalized the Brandenburg’s child.
   The Brandenburgs were denied a voice in this process by Mr. Honowitz.
   Honowitz, Diaz, Blanco, and Bluemel all denied the meeting had even taken place.
   Honowitz, Diaz, Blanco, and Bluemel all denied the existence of a parent petition.
   Honowitz, Bluemel, and Diaz have refused to provide the Brandenburgs any notes from this meeting.
   Honowitz has never agreed to meet with the Brandenburgs to offer them an equal voice.
   Honowitz, Bluemel, and Diaz were/are hiding documents directly related to this meeting, and in those notes, and sign-in sheets may lie the answer as to why the district chose to turn a seven year old child into a villain.

8. We believe the district made significant changes of placement under the guidance of Gayle Bluemel, Elizabeth Blanco, former Superintendent Diaz, Board Member Honowitz, and legal counsel for PUSD in order to diffuse a situation initialized by a parent elite group, and that these changes were hidden from the Brandenburgs and presented to OCR in a way that compromised the truth- which is that the program changes were decided for, and not with the Brandenburgs.

·      Elizabeth Blanco, Coordinator of Special Ed, and attorneys representing PUSD failed to disclose information that supports the Brandenburg’s claim that PUSD removed all services from the Brandenburg child in late December, 2010 through mid to late January, 2011,
·      Meeting notes from January, 2011 were with held and hidden by Mr. Honowitz, Mr. Diaz, and Ms. Bluemel
·      This includes time cards from the NPA, attendance records, chart notes- all of which demonstrated the removal of program services from December, 2010- through January, 2011,
·      Services were reinstated as signed by Gayle Bluemel- only after the OCR ruled the event didn’t take place as documented in the June, 2011 IEP.  (i.e. how could services be reinstated if they were never removed?)

9. PUSD provided evidence to OCR that was never provided to, nor discussed with the Brandenburgs, and this evidence was withheld by Elizabeth Blanco, the legal counsel for PUSD, Gayle Bluemel, and by Board Member Honowitz.

·      No explanation has been given to explain why these documents were, and continue to be withheld

10. We believe that our son’s dignity and our family’s reputations were “collateral damage” simply because the district did not have an appropriate program at Sierra Madre Elementary School to place him into.

·      Sierra Madre is an 800-900 API school. These numbers drive the competitive nature and educational desire of the community.
·      Elizabeth Blanco asked me in late 2010 if I was willing to sacrifice our child to these parents and suggested that if I was unhappy wit the school or the district that we could simply leave.
·      Elizabeth Blanco and Gayle Bluemel told us that there were no teachers who would teach our child.
·      Elizabeth Blanco and Gayle Bluemel told me that the empty classroom that sat on campus could not be used for a new Blended Inclusion class because there were no funds
·      As it became increasingly clear that there was an impasse in placement, the language of the district became increasingly hostile towards the Brandenburgs and their child.
·      With the parent elite pressure from one side, and the Brandenburg’s insistence on an inclusive setting on the other, the elite parents and their documentation began to fit comfortably within the district’s agenda of removal.
·      We believe that documentation of student behavior by the parent elite were initially requested by former principal Bluemel, and were later incorporated by Mr. Honowitz and Ms. Blanco.

11. This exercise cost PUSD tens of thousands of dollars at a time of fiscal uncertainty for an outcome that should have been resolved with open communication, transparency, and trust. Instead, PUSD and Sierra Madre School in particular, chose to place their test scores above adherence to the law.

This is not simply an issue of placement. This is an issue of discrimination. My child and my family were discriminated against.

This is an issue of bigotry, isolation, and segregation. Our child was denied access to an educational program because of his disability, based on the influence of an elite parent group who altered his program and services.

This is an issue of social inequity and educational inequality. We were not given an equal voice- not by the Board Member, not by the principal, not by the former Superintendent, not by the Director of Special Education, and not by the parent elite- all of who chose to share information between themselves instead of including us in an educational conversation about our child. They used this to force our child to be segregated. Separate is not equal.

This is an issue of guilty until proven innocent. A group of parents made accusations against a child, and PUSD- at best- presumed the child guilty without objectively recording the facts, objectively interpreting the information, and without objectively evaluating and assessing the situation- or PUSD at worst- were active participants in the maligning of a child and his parents in order to save money for a program they didn’t want to implement.

Finally, this is an issue of criminalization. A group of elite parents chose to interpret and enforce the law against a seven-year-old child. They chose to hold him criminally accountable for his disability, and PUSD staff were willing to oblige, thus giving a whole new meaning to the term Agency Assist.

No comments:

Post a Comment