Autistic boy records teachers’ insults

Ten-year-old Akian Chafetz, who is autistic, was bullied at school — by his teacher and aide in a class for autistic children, charges a New Jersey father. Stuart Chaifetz sent his son to school with a recorder in his pocket.

A teacher or aide can be heard saying angrily, “Who are you talking to? Nobody. Knock it off.” Akian is also told several times to shut his mouth.

After being scolded several times, Akian begins to cry and the administrator said, “Go ahead and scream because guess what? You’re going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.”

At another point, the teacher or aide calls Akian a “bastard” when he will not stop crying.

Chaifetz posted the recording on a Facebook site, No More Teacher Bullies, and took it to the district office. The aide was fired, he says, but the teacher, who has tenure, was transferred to another school.

However, Cherry Hill Superintendent Maureen Reusche said in a statement that “the individuals who are heard on the recording raising their voices and inappropriately addressing children no longer work in the district and have not since shortly after we received the copy of the recording.”

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Chaifetz isn’t the first parent to send a disabled child to school with a recording device, notes ABC. “In March, two Alabama teachers were put on administrative leave after the mother of 10-year-old Jose Salinas, who has cerebral palsy, attached an audio recorder to the bottom of his wheelchair and caught them scolding him about drooling, among other things.”

I predict many more parents will try this if they think their child isn’t able to tell them what goes on at school.

Ed Week‘s Nirvi Shah cites other cases and also thinks we’ll see more covert recording.

Update: The Cherry Hill special education teacher says she was at a meeting when the aides yelled at Akian and heard no abuse of the boy. The father says he’s got several more hours of tape that implicates the teacher.

Judges redefine parenthood

California courts are redefining who counts as a parent, reports the Sacramento Bee. A woman who never adopted her ex-girlfriend’s children was declared a co-parent by a Sacramento appeals court because she “acted like one – providing for them financially, cleaning up after them when they got sick, and volunteering at their school.”

As a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, the woman couldn’t have adopted the children without risking expulsion from the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the court ruled.

In recent years, courts have assigned parental rights and responsibilities to adults who aren’t biological or adoptive parents, said McGeorge School of Law Professor Larry Levine.

“The state has a great interest in having those who want the benefits of parenthood to take on the responsibilities and obligations that go with parenthood,” he said. “That’s true for straight and gay couples.”

“Now the courts are starting to ask, ‘Who do these children think their parents are?'” said Deborah Wald, who handled S.Y.’s case at the appellate level. “Courts aren’t willing to take children away from people whom they rely upon.”

S.B.’s lawyer, Elizabeth Niemi warned single parents to “be careful about who you allow to have a relationship with your kids.”

Fake-address mom isn’t a felon any more

Lying to get children into a better school should be a misdemeanor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has decided, overruling the state parole board. Kelley Williams-Bolar, of Akron, served nine days in jail for falsely claiming her children lived at her father’s address in a neighboring school district. Her two felony convictions were reduced to misdemeanors by the governor.

Kasich is requiring Williams-Bolar to report for probation, serve 80 hours of community service, work full time, not take any drugs or drink alcohol and pay the cost of her prosecution.

Williams-Bolar’s older daughter now attends an Akron public high school. Her younger daughter uses a voucher to go to a private middle school. Williams-Bolar works as a teacher’s aide at Akron public schools and hopes to qualify as a teacher in the future.


Parent trigger: Empowerment or distraction?

California’s “parent trigger” law lets a majority of parents force changes at a chronically low-performing school,  including a new administration or conversion to a charter school.  Is the parent trigger a positive step or a distraction? Ben Boychuk, associate editor of City Journal, debates Julie Cavanagh, a special ed teacher in Brooklyn, on the Public Sector Inc. site. The discussion, which kicked off today, will go on for four days.

The education thief

A homeless woman has been arrested for first-degree larceny for “stealing” $15,686 for her son’s education, reports the Stamford Advocate. Tonya McDowell, 33, used the Norwalk, Connecticut address of her after-school babysitter to enroll her six-year-old son in a nearby school. McDowell alternates between a friend’s apartment in Bridgeport and a homeless shelter in Norwalk, she told police.

The Norwalk Housing Authority discovered the ruse in January, evicted the babysitter and turned McDowell into the school district, which is cracking down on out-of-district students. This is the first time Norwalk has charged a parent with a crime for using a false address.

While (Mayor Richard) Moccia said it was sad the case involves a woman who appears to be homeless, he pointed out that if she had been living at the Norwalk shelter and registered her child there she would not be facing charges now.

I realize that McDowell doesn’t pay Norwalk taxes, but she’s not paying Bridgeport taxes either.  (I assume she has a job, since she needs child care, so she may pay some state taxes.) One woman has been evicted, another could go to jail and all because a little boy went to school in a district where he sometimes lives.

Of course, this recalls the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio woman who spent several days in jail for using her father’s address to get her kids into a better and safer school.

Norwalk schools are better, notes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation, who has stats on “promoting power” for black students in the two districts. The Connecticut Parents Union is lobbying to let McDowell’s son finish out the school year and is raising money to pay the $15,686 in tuition for out-of-district students, Biddle writes. A pro-McDowell petition is here.

Can’t fail, won’t learn

Since the post on special-ed inclusion generated so much debate, here’s Mr. W on trying to teach Algebra B (the second semester of Algebra 1)  to a girl with poor math skills, a pushy parent and an IEP (Individual Education Plan).  He recommended she transfer to lower-level class after learning she’d failed Algebra A the year before, failed Algebra 1 in summer school and scored “far below basic” in general math on the state exam.  She’d earned a D on the first test and was getting 0’s on the daily work.

. . . the parent emailed the dean, counselor, special ed teacher, and principal and said my recommendation was an “easy-out remedy” for me instead of enforcing the IEP.

. . . So now it looks like the parent is going to modify the IEP and potentially make me change my grade scale for one student. At what point will parents realize that these kind of actions hurt the student more than help?

Earlier, Mr. W was forced to pass a student with a 34 percent average, “because the parent didn’t want the student to fail.”

He predicts this student’s IEP will be changed so she can’t fail — and won’t learn. Next year, the IEP will guarantee she “passes” geometry and so on until college. What then? “We are creating a generation of students who think they are ready for the real world and aren’t,” Mr. W writes.

What's up in Harlem

Hope or Hype In Harlem? in City Limits looks at the Harlem Children’s Zone.

The package includes interviews with zone founder Geoffrey Canada, who says the measure of success is college graduation, with an English teacher at the zone’s charter high school and with a parent. Her 15-year-old son left the charter school — too much “attitude” — and is sporadically attending a district-run special-ed school. Her second son is a top student who enjoys reading and shows talent in math.

Last year, the family enjoyed three days and nights in Disney World, thanks to Dijonne’s high marks. “For the kids who made the bull’s-eyes— all fours— they get to go to Disney World,” said Acosta. She says the sixth-graders went to Paris and the eighth-graders took a cruise to Ecuador, because “they’re studying the rainforest.”

The first-grade girl wants to earn top grades so they family can take another trip. “In the meantime, a play she wrote was produced in the HCZ after-school puppetry workshop.”

Illiterate in America

According to a federal literacy study,  one in seven U.S. adults can’t read well enough to understand a newspaper article, follow instructions for medications or decipher a utility bill, reports USA Today.

“They really cannot read … paragraphs (or) sentences that are connected,” says Sheida White, a researcher at the U.S. Education Department.

Slate offers suggestions for parents to help your child learn to read. None of it works for parents who can’t read well, but I suppose they’re not reading Slate.

Update: Teaching content is teaching reading, says Dan Willingham on a new video (with annoying background music). Comprehension requires background knowledge.

Pentagon plans virtual parents

When Sgt. Dad or Lt. Mom can’t call home via phone or the Internet, their children will be able to  communicate with a virtual parent — if a new Pentagon project works as planned.

It’s a bit Orwellian, notes  Medgadget. Just a tad.

From the DOD project overview:

We are looking for innovative applications that explore and harness the power of advanced interactive multimedia computer technologies to produce compelling interactive dialogue between a Service member and their families via a pc- or web-based application using video footage or high-resolution 3-D rendering. The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics. For instance, a child may get a response from saying “I love you”, or “I miss you”, or “Good night mommy/daddy.”

The proposal asks for “convincing voice-recognition, artificial intelligence, and the ability to easily and inexpensively develop a customized application tailored to a specific parent.”

If the father or mother dies, will Virtual Parent 2.0 be able to step in? This is just too spooky for me.

Wired has more.