theebrandenburgs blogspere

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.
Showing posts with label Judge Rotenberg Center. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judge Rotenberg Center. Show all posts

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Connect The Dots- Judge Rotenberg Center and Tobinworld

This is a slightly revised blog on the JRC that we ran in 2012. We are reacquainting y'all with it because we will be discussing them in the very near future.

Anyone who knows us is no stranger to the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) and their questionable practices. We haven't made it any secret how opposed we are to the use of aversives to control behavior,  and our opposition to the enslavement of our people through the use of any restraints, be they chemical, physical, or mechanical.

We have discussed the Judge Rotenberg Center and its methods in at least two blogs here at, and these blogs had run in the Sierra Madre Patch- Institutionalization and Segregation: We Must Not Forget the Past  and Spare the Rod..........Spoil the Child? as well as in a slightly different form at Thinking Person's Guide to Autism as Restraint and Seclusion: In Your Child's School and Nationally

We are sorry to say, it's time to start calling some people out, helping you to continue to connect the dots, and yes, it is time to raise hell. 

Once again, the Judge Rotenberg Center is back in the news, this time for an outrageous assault on a human being that is currently making its way around on the internet, and which they tried to suppress. This assault took place against Andre McCollins, and had been sealed at the request of the JRC for eight years- until April 10, 2010. The video shows 18 year old McCollins being tortured for the apparently serious infraction of refusing to remove his jacket, and punishable with his being shocked 31 times.

The JRC is located in Canton, Massachusetts, in the Boston area. From its outreach website it seems like a pleasant enough place. Nice couches, computers, and bright, cheerful paintings and murals. The Center's information cites data from late 2004, stating that of the 228 people served,  75% were school age, that 50% have behavior or psychiatric disorders, with 50%  developmentally disabled and/or autistic-like. Dig a little deeper into the website, however, and the tone becomes somewhat more questionable and ominous, especially in light of the video:
Provided the parent/guardian grants JRC permissions for needed treatment procedures, JRC has a policy of neither rejecting nor expelling a student solely because of the behavioral difficulties the student presents....... Once a student is enrolled at JRC, and provided that parents make available the permissions JRC needs in order to carry out effective treatment, parents do not have to worry about receiving a call asking them to remove their child because he/she is too difficult to handle.
The saddest thing about those permissions granted is that parents put their trust into these professionals, and trusted that the professionals, in turn, were following a code of ethics that includes a certain level of humanity, and of the empathy that some in the neurotypical centric world mistakenly assume thatpeople on the spectrum are somehow lacking. 

Last year the JRC founder Dr. Matthew Israel, who founded the JRC in 1971, informed the JRC Board of Directors that he was retiring on June 1, 2011, and was going to move to California where he would join his wife Judy. What the JRC website doesn't tell you is that Matthew Israel stepped down in order to avoid prison time for two charges- misleading a grand jury, and accessory after the fact of a crime. The destruction of video evidence was the center of the case. According to Charles Dumas, his son was woken and given 77 skin shocks were applied as a response to a phone call which were placed as a prank. Seven employees were fired prior than the bigger fish being caught, and then released. These don't look like little buzzers, either. Watch this newscasters reaction to one of the shocks that she received. Two years ago these transgressions were formally addressed in the report Torture, Not Treatment. Torture. Think about it. Tortured for being wired differently. Tortured for not taking off one's jacket. Tortured....... in response to a prank phone call.

So, the furthest west in the continental USA that you can go from the Boston area would about Los Angeles, California? Well, we happen to live in California..... and ..... surprise! Guess who is in California? Doesn't take much to connect the dots. Matthew L. Israel. Wife: Judy Weber. Judy Weber is the executive director of Tobinworld in Glendale, California, which is approximately ten miles from where we live. According to their website,
Tobinworld is a non-profit school for children and young adults with behavior problems. Typically students have been classified as severely emotionally disabled, autistic or developmentally disabled. Often their problems are so severe that it has been difficult or impossible for them to be accepted by, or successfully educated in, regular public school programs. 
Tobinworld jumped out at us because this was one of the names that was thrown at us by our local school district's former director as a possible placement for someone near and dear to us.  Tobinworld serves students from Los Angeles Unified School District and Pasadena Unified school District. They proudly proclaim that Tobinworld is certified by the California Department of Education and operates from two locations. The second location is in Antioch, California, in the SF Bay area. 

As we searched through the website for Tobinworld, we found no mention of Judith Weber's husband, Matthew Israel. They were married in 2006. We did find a nice fluff piece on the Tobinworld website, albeit one that is lacking in telling..... well, in telling the entire story. 
TOBINWORLD has been in existence in the Los Angeles Area since October, 1977. It was brought about by the concern of one mother, Judith Weber, to provide her severely autistic son with an appropriate education. As other parents learned of her efforts to educate her son, they asked if she could help their children, which she did. Soon the school district urged her to start a school and she named it TOBINWORLD, after her son, Tobin. In just eight years, her school grew from 12 students to over 275 with a student body from kindergarten to 12th grade. TOBINWORLD serves students ages 5 years through 22 years. As of this school year we have over 280 students who live in communities throughout the greater Los Angeles area, representing more than a dozen school districts. The school is located in Glendale in five beautiful brick buildings.
No mention is made of Ms. Weber-Israel's connection to the Judge Roteberg Center, though Tobinworld is referred to as a "sister school" to JRC in a very telling and thorough 2007 Mother Jones article. Israel opened the Behavior Research Institute in 1977 with Judy Weber in Northridge (see fluff quote above), and by 1982 Israel's BRI and their methods were being called into question- 64 pages worth- for its use of aversives and punishment.  Nor is any mention made of the death of 14 year old Danny Aswad- who died in 1981, and which resulted in Israel being forbidden to step foot on the Northridge BRIThat was easily solved, they just shut down BRI, morphed and renamed it Tobinword, and moved to Glendale. They kept the part of the history they wanted- that grandfathers them in and gives them legitimacy- but they left out the rest.  

If the heat gets too hot, we predict they'll move to another state. Changing the company name did wonders for Israel in the Golden State. Given the history of BRI and JRC, we have NO REASON to trust these people. NONE. Too many children were harmed by this guys pseudo Skinnerian psychobabble.

Do we believe in guilt by association? In this case? Absolutely. 

We ran into tons of dead links, tons of them. That is very telling. Tell you something else, a person who would destroy evidence would also have attorneys threaten to shut down links or hire a service to clean it up......  Sooner or later the truth will be known.  Leopards don't change their spots. If you are a parent of children in LAUSD or PUSD, ask your board members if they are familiar with Israel, and ask them if they think sending children to the Tobinworld offshoot is acceptable given the history of Israel and Weber, and their interest in JRC. When the courts can't smoke out the rats, sometimes it takes the court of opinion.

Friday, July 5, 2013

That Made Sense, Part 5

What Does it all Mean, and Why Does it Matter?
Last month a United Teachers of Pasadena bargaining representative, R** A***, made the following statement as a PUSD employee and Webster Elementary School Teacher:
Some of the kids that have been included into our classrooms are not placed properly. Not all children with special needs are fit to be included in a general education classroom.… is not a healthy learning environment for the special needs kids, for the general ed kids and it’s definitely not a healthy environment for the teacher.

See, that isn’t really about what is best for the kids, it is about what is best for the teachers.

In fact, the statement of Ms. A****, “Not all children with special needs are fit to be included in a general education classroom”  sounds to me just like the echo of eugenics, a popular Pasadena pastime that Pasadena Unified still choose to ignore (click here). I am curious if the Pasadena Museum of History have touched the subject.

In any event, to assume that the idea of being “fit” to participate in society is hardly a novel idea. It goes back at least one hundred years. In fact, back in those times the leadng scientists and philosphers went as far as to determine who was fit to reproduce. Back in 1921 by Margaret Sanger (click here) spoke of “fitness” as well:  
As an advocate of Birth Control, I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the "unfit" and the "fit", admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes.

Sandy Goodwick directed me to an interesting quote by G.H. Parker in a paper titled A Biological Forecast (click here) page 315 :
Not all children are fit for formal education. They have no business in either school or college, except in the former for the merest rudiments of learning.

Is it just me, or doesn’t part of eugenicist GH Parker’s 1913 quote sound uncannily similar to Webster teacher/UTP Bargaining Representative Rosette Aghoian’s 2013 quote? Is this what our local union representative intended? I want to assume it is not.

Let’s Give it Up for Standardization, redeux
People who frequent Rosemead Blvd. will be pleased to know that the former islands that sometimes served as passing lanes for emergency vehicles are now lined with palm trees. You can’t pick fruit from them when you illegally cross the street from the pack and stack apartment buildings to get to McDonald’s or Rose’s Donut Shop, but you will be happy to know that they might withstand the next big ass windstorm, and may even be sturdy enough to cause road damage in twenty years from their root system. I guess we can look forward to the next generation paying to tear the damn things back out and replacing them with asphalt passing lanes for the emergency vehicles to pass.

Victimless Slime?
Now, I am not going to go to much more into this because the naysayers and trolls get all tweaked when I mention anything that shows where their bigotry is rooted,  but I want to share a little bit from a top secret meeting that got spilled right into the ears of the “concerned” Sierra Madre parents. Back in 2009  I sat in an IEP at Sierra Madre Elementary School. The brilliant  PUSD psychologist Arthur Jackson told twelve PUSD employees, as well as Mary and I,  that it was our fault that our child was the way he is. He refused to call it autism. He said the behaviors our child exhibited were partly due to our parenting, partly due to our age as “older” permissive parents, and partly due to Mary’s age when she had him.

Community Advisory Committee...... is for Exactly which Community?
So. Now let’s talk about the Community Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC is an organization that is supposed to support families of children with disabilities. The CAC in Pasadena has not seen much of the Brandenburgs because we believe the group is polluted with PUSD staff, and that most of them are only there to keep parents in a subservient role.

And at a recent CAC meeting, one which I was absent at because I was out earning a living, ta member of the CSEA leadership of PUSD, Ms. XXXXX, decided to defend the free speech of Ms. Aghoian by comparing it to me. The biggest difference is, of course, that I am speaking as a parent, and not as a PUSD employee, nor as a UTP or CSEA representative. Huge difference. Apparently Mary Brandenburg, Mia Brandenburg, and Sandra Goodwick all felt compelled to speak on the topic and defend me. But PUSD can go ahead and continue to excuse the behavior of their staff and deny that the Brandenburg family are being harassed, targeted, bullied, and that Sierra Madre and Pasadena are not hostile environments.

So, I did what I do. I sent an email. I will have to follow it up with a formal complaint. I still haven’t received a ruling on the last one, but I reckon it will just say everything is fine and nobody did anything wrong. Well,  except for me. I shouldn’t bring these things up.

Dear Ms. Mxxxxx, Ms. Cxxxx, and Dr. Jxxxx,

This is Tony Brandenburg. I wish to file a formal complaint against XXXXXXX and any members of the CSEA and UTP  at the CAC meeting on June 17, 2013, who made comments and/or discussed my rights as a parent in front of my spouse and children.

The CAC is a parent/district interface that is designed to support students and their families:
The purpose of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education is to advocate for effective Special Education programs and services, and advise the Board of Education on priorities in the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA). The State Education Code mandates that each SELPA must have a CAC and that a majority of CAC members be parents.

I wish for Dr. Jason to explain to me how this discussion about me, a parent, has met this definition. I would also like to know why a community member, Sandy Goodwick, was singled out as to why she chose to attend.

I would like to know why the Brandenburg family continued to be harassed and targeted by staff, a practice that has been well documented for years.

I would like to know why the members of the two unions are allowed to intimidate and harass parents like myself, and what steps I can take to stop this practice.

Please provide the minutes from this meeting to me as well as the proper channels (that is plural) for which to file these complaints.

I will not be bullied by your unions, nor by your parent groups. I have asked that you put a stop to this practice, and the "We cannot control the actions of community members" excuse is not valid when the members of the community are representatives of the local unions and PUSD, and clearly attend the PARENT meetings in these capacities.

Please assist me in this action.

Tony Brandenburg

What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?
So. Why do Mary and I carry on about these kinds of things? Well, your public school district shells out millions of dollars to non-public agencies (NPAs). That is typical, of course, because there are plenty of parents who sue for those agencies. But then there are families, like mine, who are bullied into these placements. That we fought back is not typical of most families. Of course, we would love to see more parents take a position like we have. That’s why we are public about it. The PUSD Board of Education will be passing (have passed) the budget for NPAs for 2013/2014 (click here) and it’s no small bit of chump change that PUSD shells out to Tobinworld ($280,000) and Hillsides ($605, 000) and Five Acres ($750,000) every year. Oh and there are add ons later. Just like the construction guys do it.
But those bullies at Sierra Madre elementary were right. The Brandenburgs don’t belong in this town and this district pointing things like this out. It’s better to not rock the boat.
What is just as offensive, oh pardon me- let me sugar coat that for the crybabies- what is just as concerning- is that the local teacher unions spend their time and resources arguing that this is not their concern, not their job- and then spend that energy trying to avoid working with kids with behavioral, social, physical, and intellectual disabilities instead of putting that energy into best practice and professional development. 

Listen, UTP, this is your job. It is your job to teach these kids, all of them. If you keep pushing kids out of your classrooms and out of your schools, you will be without a job because there will be no one left to teach.
This should be a concern to the unions, and to the district because when it’s all tied together it smells really strange. It sure looks like institutional segregation and racism. It doesn’t matter if it is unintentional.
It is what it is.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

That Made Sense, Part 4

And now, let’s look even Closer at Tobinworld through the lens of its Clients
But you may get an even better idea from the messages on this board (click here). I’m not referring to the fluff piece video. That is schlock, and it is clearly a puff of smoke from down under. No.  I am talking about the people who have posted there. I have to warn you that some the language is harsh, and that there are a couple people on the board that have some serious issues not only with Tobinworld, but with the world in general. Whatever their experience at Tobinworld, many of their tribulations were not ironed out by the Tobinworld therapy.
Stanley 19802 appears to be the moderator and started the page. He has some very, um, unusual hobbies and issues that I won’t even try to explain, let alone discuss. Let’s just say that if if you need the blueprint for building your own adult-sized crib, Stanley is your guy. That doesn’t discount what he had to say about Tobinworld, but it needs to be disclosed.  
This video... doesn't show everything. It doesn't show the things that occur when the camera is turned off.......Students are in the site of staff at all times. You are not even allowed to get a drink from the water fountain or use the bathroom alone. If you use the bathroom, a staff member stands behind you while you pee. The students are on a point system.....All in all, the way the treat the students, I honestly felt like I was being treated like a toddler. M&M's put on my desk by staff every 15 or so minutes who then say "Nice job on working quietly". Did I mention this was a high school classroom? Last I checked I was 2 and didn't need a few M&M's as a reward for working quietly. I was even attacked by a staff member the first time I was there because he accused me of stealing his ink pen ..... The staff member, and another who heard the crash and came into the room assuming I was "going off" then held my arms, legs and body down. The original staff member …...took his elbow and began drilling it into my right shoulder blade till I was screaming out in pain. Then both staff members added more of their weight to my body which put pressure on my chest making it very difficult to breath. I began having trouble getting in a breath. When I tried to shift their weight to breath, they added more weight. I began to feel dizzy and light headed. I was suffocating..... On the way being escourted …. the staff member..... put his mouth by my ear and said "If you try ANYTHING, I will drop your ass. I don't care". He then pushed me …....All in all I hated it there. I ended up dropping out the day I turned 18 for my own safety.

When I was 12 year's old, I Didn't give a f*ck about school. I would ditch classes, smoke pot, get fat and lazy and a thief. This effected my learning in school. So my public school sent me to a non public school called Mid Valley. I went to Mid valley from 2009-2012. I was going to be sent to a public school but Mid valley closed. So 20 kids including myself was sent to tobinworld, TobinWorld is horrible...ITS DULL. anyways I had my IEP and they told me I had to wait a year.... currently I lost All my fat, quit smoking but my lungs are horrible ATM. I'm an A student. And I'm ready to get myself back to public. But they wont let me..Sum times I feel like commiting suicide (YES TOBINWORLD MAKES U FEEL LIKE THAT) but the one who keeps me going is my mom. She believes I can get back I'm public and go to college. She believes I made mistakes but nobody's perfect She believes everyone should get a second chance, and that's wat I'm doing...waiting for my second chance..
Stanley’s  experience at Tobinworld doesn’t seem to be isolated, and for whatever reason, no one seems to have tried to shut the comments down over the last couple of years. That is either because they can’t, or they are unaware. Either way, besides being an interesting read, it is also a source of discontent that tells a lot more than people may want to know.

Ricky Melendez
That school was so gay I went to the one in northern California

(note, this phrase should not be confused with a reference to one’s sexuality in the context it is used here. It is a term that is used to mean stupid, lame, or ridiculous.)

Jay Ramos  
i went to that school i was beat half to death By the Staff they talk a lot of sh*t because where i live they dont see me for who i am they see me where i live the is boyle height East LA

…...sorry you had such a horrible experience. personally i went there 1998 - 2005 and never been restrained or dropped or anything like that. i actually had fond memories during the years, that i cherish. but thats because of the people i met and the cool staff and all the fieldtrips and many more but thats it. as far as the "school" the place is shit and it doesnt teach you shit and ive seen many kids get retrained harshly to the point they cry, yell and scream...

Baby Leo Rodriguez  
My Apologies, I was mad because I spent years in a non public school that didn't help me reach my potential. But Tobin World helped me.I'm going to public school and ive only been there 6 months

There are a couple of things that jump out at me here. One is the helpless situation that some of these adults and children express. They are in the system and they can’t seem to get back to the place where they belong. That is in the general population at a public school with supports that actually help them. The other thing that jumps out at me is that many of the names of the people posting appear to be Latino.
So. I went back and took a look at the ethnic demographics of the school (click here). Tobinworld serves 288 students. 51% are “Hispanic”, 15% are white”, 25% are black,  3% are Asian, 3% multi-ethnic, 2% Pacific Islander, 1% Native American. That suggests, once again, that students of color are more likely to be institutionalized in a place like this, as well. Seems to be consistent with PUSD numbers. An unusually high number of African Americans considering the general population.
But none dare call it the continuation of eugenics any more than none would dare call it institutional racism. Those terms  don’t fit into the nicey-nice language of the politically progressive climate, does it?
Let’s Give it Up for Standardization, deux
Temple City has been working on Rosemead Blvd. for three months they say (click here) and like our own beloved stretch of Baldwin Avenue which technically belongs to Arcadia, it will be standardized with bike lanes. However as a frequent driver on Rosemead Blvd., I can tell you that it has gone on for well over a year already, and the $21 million project will be a headache well into 2014, if not later (click here).

They tore up Baldwin Avenue in Temple City, too. Gotta make way for the El Monte trains to get through. I guess I should thank the good people of Temple City and the Feds for making it nearly impossible for me to get to work, and for helping me find new junk food places to frequent. In fact, I have stopped using a number of places on Rosemead, including Del Taco, which was torn down, an optometrist, who moved up to Foothill Blvd., Roadhouse Coffee Stop, Clearman’s Boat, and a couple of pizza pads, noodle houses, and chicken joints. Be sure and thank your city, oh struggling businesses!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

That Made Sense, Part 3

A Closer look at Tobinworld, an NPS that takes PUSD Kids
So Tobinworld got its share of love on Yelp. Of course, it was only one fan. Chris L. of Canyon Country raved (click here) 5/5 stars
State review complete! Several commendations from the California Department of Education including: "The Best Special Education Program we have seen in California."  "The Autism Program is outstanding."  "The Vocational Opportunities are unique and really give students with special needs real life experience."  "It is obvious that your staff - teachers, administrators, classroom assistants, everyone really cares about the students. It's a family atmosphere." Now that is awesome!

Apparently you are only allowed to say good things about Tobinworld. And those good things have to be quality reviews that the general public see, but the negative are what we should be seeing. And apparently the reviewer is an expert in the needs of all programs. Sounds like a happy employee...... However, out of the four reviews, the other three were buried. That is because the other three were negatives that were filtered out (click here) and had to be dug up.
Patrick D. of Los Angeles 1/ 5 stars writes  
Tobinworld is the worse place to work.. It has a large turnover of employees leaving. They are underpaid for what they do. Judy Waber the owner  has made it clear there are no cost of living raises. More unpaid fuhrlos. No paid holidays. I would not recommend sending my son or daughter to that school.
Gaetano S. of Lexington, MA 1/ 5 stars wrote
Tobin world is linked to the judge rotenburg center in canton mass under Mathew isreal wife this school in canton mass is being investigated by the united nations and the us justice dept for inhumane and barbaric treatment / electric shocks to its students at the canton mass location i don't know alot about tobin world but i do know the name Tobin world was another name before it became Tobin world because of a death in 1984 at the CA location beware.
Alexandra D. of Daly City 2/ 5 stars wrote
I would rethink before enrolling your child into this school. They verbally and physically abuse the kids... I know working with autistic/special children can be demanding but the way the staff handles this is terrible! The administration is good - but the teachers and the teacher's aid  are the worst... they need to re-evaluate the people who work here.  One of the teacher's called one of the kids a "ni**er” and the the child ended up punching him in the face. These kids can't advocate for themselves - so if they're physically and verbally abused it's not like they can tell someone. The people who are supposed to teach them do that? That's just wrong.
These didn’t sound like especially glowing reviews, so I searched some more. I went to Great Schools, which is a user rating system of schools around the country (click here)  to get another point of view. I am a digger like that. Lo and behold, I found a couple more scowlers.
One parent wrote
My son has been attending Tobinworld since July 2003. I am very disappointed in the fact that he is in 9th grade and has hardly been taught any algebra. I am looking into having him mainstreamed next year, and will not have him graduate from a high school that does not even send textbooks home to do homework. His homework is all one page printouts from the computer.  

While another parent wrote
The academic curriculum at Tobinworld is very weak. Individual teachers who care do try hard to make due however, and were thankful for the first large shipment of new academic textbooks in approximately 6 years that arrived last year....... Parents are discouraged from visiting classrooms one minute and encouraged to visit in the next breath.

Well, there you go. They replace books every seven years because that is law. If a NPS failed to do that they would lose their accreditation, just like a public school would. What is more concerning is that the poster was concerned that parents aren’t allowed on campus to visit, which suggests that they may not have a solid policy on parent/school partnerships. The other concern was the children aren’t adequately prepared to return to public school. That is because these schools are designed to keep kids out of public school indefinitely. Let me ask you.
If your kid is placed nonpublic, how would you even know what curriculum they needed to learn to get back into public school? You wouldn’t know. That’s my point.