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.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Repost from Pasadena Star News, Mercury News: Pasadena Unified schools denies request to investigate autistic education in Sierra Madre
Pasadena Unified schools denies request to investigate autistic education in Sierra Madre
By James Figueroa, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/02/2012 11:41:59 PM PST
PASADENA - A couple's request to launch an independent investigation into Pasadena Unified School District's treatment of the couple's autistic child has been denied by the board of education.
However, the board directed Superintendent Jon Gundry to continue working with Tony and Mary Brandenburg about their concerns of a hostile environment at Sierra Madre Elementary School.
"Their already has been an independent investigation of the situation," said board member Ed Honowitz, who was named in the Brandenburgs' complaint and recused himself from closed session meetings on their request. "As a result the board did not choose to commission an additional independent investigation to cover the same issues."
Honowitz has maintained that he didn't do anything inappropriate, but can't discuss specifics about the case because of student confidentiality requirements.
The Brandenburgs were appreciative of Gundry's assistance but uncertain what to do now.
"The message the Board of Ed is sending to PUSD, and to the public, is that politics are more important than children," Mary Brandenburg said in a statement. "It's not that hard to figure out which Board members voted for transparency and accountability, and who voted to keep a lid on things."
The Brandenburgs alleged Honowitz, former administrators and others arranged meetings about their child without their knowledge, in an effort to move the 8-year-old from his inclusion program at Sierra Madre to a placement at Five Acres, which offers education programs for autistic children.
The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights investigated the situation based on a complaint by the Brandenburgs. The Brandenburgs sought the school board's approval for a separate investigation because they hoped to win acknowledgment that Sierra Madre Elementary School doesn't offer an accepting environment for anyone that doesn't fit its system.
"You're not going to go to this 900-API school with your noisy, bratty little kid and your punk rock background and your bad attitude," Tony Brandenburg, who is still part of punk band The Adolescents, said of the environment. "That's really what it boiled down to."
The problems started during the previous school year in 2010, when district officials allegedly failed to notify the Brandenburgs about incidents involving their son.
Instead, other parents met, circulated a petition and began documenting incidents in an effort to force the Brandenburgs' son out of Sierra Madre, according to the Brandenburgs.
"The climate at Sierra Madre was ripe for something like this," Mary Brandenburg said. "The people at this school believe it's their private kind of school."
They pulled their son out and home-schooled him for a time, but he returned last fall and is now placed in a special-education class with older students.
The Brandenburgs, who are both teachers, would prefer to keep their son in an inclusion program among general education students.
However, inclusion programs at PUSD vary from school to school, and a district task force is looking into their operation, said Leonard McLaren, the interim special-education director for PUSD.
"The programs generally have been successful, it depends on the culture of the different school," McLaren said.
Sierra Madre has a more mainstream program that works on the "least restrictive environment" principle to provide the greatest possible education opportunities for disabled students, McLaren said. It also has a special inclusion program at the K-1 level.
However, the Brandenburgs say their son isn't getting the least restrictive environment because he isn't in a general education class.
"It's more expensive to fully include with the right support," Mary Brandenburg said.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
by Tony Brandenburg
The last few days have been busier than usual, and the bleak hue of bitterness set upon the house when we were told of the PUSD school board's decision to deny our request for an external investigation into the civil rights violations against our youngest child by a number of high ranking school officials and a board member. That isn't to say that our home is full of dark, creeping malfunction- just that there has been a general angst that began with an injustice that was denied, and one that continues to exist.
This morning the Pasadena Star News ran an article on the denial by the board, which we paste in and will run tomorrow from here. It started the day in the same way that most days have been around here- with the reminder that we are intertwined in a battle for social justice, and it hasn't, and won't, go away. Unlike the adversaries we have pitched battle against, this does not come from a place of theory, but from a place of personal experience and dedication. We will not back down, and we will not leave this alone.
Having said all of that, we still have an obligation to our family to try to replicate a place of normalcy and to try to teach our children a sense of awe and wonder, and to assist them in their continued exploration of the world. All three of our children are very creative beings, but like all of us, they sometimes miss the smallest things in life because we are looking at the biggest problem.
On our way to take our allergy shots, my 13 year old son and I have to cross a large parking lot. In the lot is a nicely manicured garden with a few annuals plunked in to make the cement and asphalt aesthetically pleasing. Something in it caught my eye, a movement I recognized from my own childhood, but have rarely had the opportunity to share with my son. A bee was pollinating a flower. It has been more than three years since I have seen a bee. I walked over, and took out my phone.
"What are you doing, da?"
"Lookit. A bee pollinating. Cool, huh?
"Careful. You are allergic to them and I don't have an epi-pen."
I ran a few possible scenarios through my head. At worst, I could scoop him up and run over to the emergency room across the street as long as no one on their way to the Santa Anita Race Track ran us over. Oh yeah, I can just run him up the stairs and the doctor can give him a shot. Yeah. That's right, allergies doctor's have that gear, duh. At best, the bee will just let us dig the routine and not even notice our presence with hs billion eyes focusing on flower spit.
Then I realized, for the first time today, of three times today alone, that my anxiety is a life long intrinsic, biological trait, and I am doing OK with keeping it in check, and hiding its outward manifestations. How do I express this to my children to help them cope with it? Will it matter? Will it help, or will it complicate things even more? Am I doing this right? Why can't I see the world like others do, even sometimes, so I can stop pretending and stop playing the chameleon game?
We watched it for a while. Silently.
"Come on. Let's go get our shot and grab grandpa a burrito."