Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

#?@$ Chi Minh

Screenshot_2016-04-24_at_10.12.49_AM.pngAs a child the first thing I did when presented with a new dictionary was check for the swear words. I already knew what they meant, but their presence validated the authenticity of the reference; if I could be trusted to know that these words existed, then surely the rest of the contents were worth exploring. Unfortunately, my daughter accidentally found this weekend that her school does not have that same trust in her.

While answering questions for her history assignment my daughter found that her text book did not provide her with the information that she needed for Ho Chi Minh and turned to the web for additional assistance. Using her school issued Chromebook she typed in the name of the former President of North Vietnam into Google. Unfortunately, instead of relevant information she was informed that the search results had been blocked.

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Low Expectations and the Oversight of Charter Schools

“With respect to the reimbursement of any cap and gown fees charged previously, it is the expectation of the CSD that GHCHS will provide notice to all affected parents of students in the 2014-2015 graduating class regarding options for reimbursement or other remedy.”

- LAUSD Charter Schools Division

Month after month, the LAUSD School Board hears from a seemingly endless parade of charter organizations seeking authorization or re-authorization from the District. Even though each one of these approvals will drain students from the public schools run by the Board and reduce funding for the District’s students, most are placed on the consent calendar and voted on without discussion. With very few exceptions, they simply rubber stamp the recommendation of the Charter Schools Division (CSD). Unfortunately, my personal experience with the bureaucrats at the CSD has shown that they have little interest in making sure that charters are conforming to the California Education Code.

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Do Not Try to Placate Us with Words, We Need Action

 

On April 12, 2016, the LAUSD School Board considered a motion to recognize Autism Awareness Month. I used the opportunity for public comment to outline the ways that they can move beyond words to actually improve the educational opportunities for those with autism and other special education needs. The following is a transcript of my remarks:

 

Hi, my name is Carl Petersen and I’m here to speak on behalf of my two daughters who are on the autism spectrum and can’t speak for themselves. At last month’s meeting Ms. Garcia said:

When we say $1.4 billion for special ed and we only have $700 million from the federal government and the other $700 million are coming from every child in this district, I’m not about defunding special ed. I just know that we have a serious issue to how can we serve our own kids?

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Send Your Child to a Charter, Sign Away Your Parental Rights?

Our School “is permitted to meet with your child without your knowledge of prior consent.”

-James W. Salin, GHCHS Governing Board Chair

Like a page out of 1984, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) includes stock language in responses to complaints asserting that “GHCHS values your input”, while the actual response shows the direct opposite. In the latest example they ignored my wife’s formal complaint about how our parental rights were violated when the school’s nursing staff tried to return my daughter to physical education earlier than the doctor had instructed and contrary to what she had specified in a note written to the school, with a response that provided a dissertation on the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and how the school complies with these regulations. A follow-up request for the school to investigate the actual terms of the complaint and correct errors within their findings of fact was met with a response that “my April 4, 2016, response addresses your complaints, so no amended response is being issued.”

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Trading Student Safety for Independence?

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At the Los Angeles Unified School District, our goals are...School safety

-LAUSD

As a father of two daughters who require special education services, I know from personal experience that the LAUSD has a less than stellar track record of working with parents to meet the needs of our students. A parent should not have to hire a lawyer to make sure that the District follows the recommendations of its own evaluation, but this is exactly what our family had to do. In order to settle this complaint, we also had to sign a confidentiality agreement so that we could not tell other parents about the services that we had been offered. I can empathize with anyone who is critical of the District’s lack of local control and their efforts to thwart accountability.

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Monica Garcia's Attack on Special Education

 

When we say $1.4 billion for special ed and we only have $700 million from the federal government and the other $700 million are coming from every child in this district, I’m not about defunding special ed. I just know that we have a serious issue to how can we serve our own kids?

-Mónica García


Originally, this blog was supposed to be about the LAUSD’s misunderstanding of the diverse needs of students who require special education. I had watched a presentation on the Local Control Action Plan (LCAP) that was given during the February School Board meeting and learned that the District is measuring its success by counting the number of students that they can integrate into a mainstream environment. This type of goal ignores the needs of our most vulnerable students who are put at risk by being placed in these inclusive environments and has resulted in the threat of closure for the District’s Special Education Centers. After all, the law does not simply state that students must be placed in the “least restrictive environment”, it conditions this requirement on doing so to the “maximum extent that is appropriate.”

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Judge, Jury, Executioner: The Charter School Version of Accountability

“No further action is being taken at this time.”

-Brian Bauer, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS)

It is the expectation of the CSD that GHCHS will provide notice to all affected parents of students in the 2014-2015 graduating class regarding options for reimbursement or other remedy.

-LAUSD Charter School Division

Reasonable efforts to fully reimburse all pupils, parents and guardians who paid a pupil fee include but are not limited to crediting the pupil's school financial account and sending reimbursement by first class mail to the pupil's last known primary address as contained in school or local educational agency records.”

-California Education Code

This is a battle that did not need to be fought. While Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) claims that its “policy is to comply with applicable federal and state laws and regulations”, the fees it charged for last year’s graduation ceremony violated the portion of the education code that states that “a pupil fee cannot be charged” for this ceremony because it is “an integral part of the educational process.” When confronted with their mistake, the school offered me a refund for some of these fees but refused to take corrective action on a school-wide basis. I elevated the complaint to “Executive Director”, Brian Bauer, who denied a violation had occurred but refused to answer any specific questions about his decision. Left with no other options, I filed a Uniform Complaint Procedure form with the school which should have initiated a formal, independent investigation. Instead, Bauer handled the investigation himself and found that there was no wrongdoing.

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Planting a Flag in LAUSD's District 2

To the Parents of District 2:

When was the last time you felt that you had a voice in how the LAUSD is run? None of the seven Board members currently has a student enrolled in the District and cannot empathize with parents fighting to get the best education possible for their children. Those of us with children who require special education services fare even worse as the LAUSD has struggled for twenty years to prove that it no longer needs court oversight to ensure that it provides these students the support that they need. Meanwhile, warnings of an impending bankruptcy have increased as the charter industry, represented by Monica Garcia, diverts education funds from public schools to those that have no public accountability and promote the segregation of the most severe special education students and English language learners.

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Redacted

“Following up to our email exchange of last week, attached for your reference is a redacted UCP complaint. As you can see, most of the information has been redacted due to confidentiality issues.”

-LAUSD, Office of the General Counsel

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After declaring that they had “no further documents to provide”, the LAUSD finally emailed one of the three Uniform Complaint Process (UCP) forms that were filed against Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) during the period of January 1, 2014, through November 2, 2015. Unfortunately, any hope that this represented a decision by the District to be more transparent was quickly dashed when the document was opened. Apparently, they hired an ex-CIA operative to handle the censoring of the document since almost the complete document was marked “redacted.”

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A Parasite In Search of a Host

The ASNC Board moves to send a letter to the LAUSD in opposition to current plan for a Celerity Charter School to move into the Bushnell School.

-Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council


The charter industry likes to argue that they are providing choices for parents. Unfortunately, this choice is sometimes made at the barrel of a gun as a well-functioning public school can find itself under invasion by a charter that seeks to set up shop, uninvited, on its campus. The LAUSD tells parents that these co-location arrangements are required by Proposition 39. As is often the case with the District’s relationship with charter schools, this explanation does not tell the whole story.

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