School district: exchange of letters
Dear Mr. Atwood:
This firm is representing the Chino Valley Unified School District. The District was disturbed to learn that you have accused the District and the staff of Don Lugo High School of filing a false report concerning your son. Your accusation was addressed in a flyer to "Parents of CVUSD students." I understand that you see the situation as unwarranted on the part of the District officials to contact authorities. However, the truth of the matter is that your son was on the rooftop of your home posing a threat to injure himself. District employees are duty bound to refer such situations to the proper authorities for your son's own protection.
You have created a pubic issue involving your son's situation. Although that is your choice, the District will not be engaging in a public debate over the propriety of the District's actions involving your son.
The District remains committed to providing your son with a free and appropriate public education. Further, your son has a mandatory attendance requirement for attending school. If your son does not attend school or you do not make arrangements to have him home schooled, the District will have no choice but to make a referral to the Student Attendance Review Board (SARB).
If you have any questions regarding this situation, please direct all communications to this office. I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
STUTZ ARTIANO SHINOFF & HOLTZ
A Professional Corporation
Jeffery A. Morris
11 September 2007
Dear Mr. Morris,
It was good to get your letter, because it improves the chances of a conversation leading to a good resolution.
Your admission that the District certified the 5150 on the basis of my son being on the rooftop and threatening to injure himself is especially interesting, since it corroborates our position that the certification was fraudulent, not based on the situation current when it was certified.
As you are doubtless aware, the certification was done by Linda Casas on 27 March 2007 at my apartment. But my son was on the rooftop as you state in December – not at my place but his mother’s – over three months before. The District’s home-school teacher, Ms. Dykstra, and Stephen’s mother Yaca were both present, and the time and place are accordingly beyond dispute. It was at that time that Stephen began treatment with Dr. Curtis Rouanzoin, who will also have the incident written up in his records. The District carefully avoided contacting Rouanzoin at any time over this time interval, although I suggested it several times.
Another incident in February, again at his mother’s place, involved Stephen’s threatening to injure himself, and this is the incident that Linda Casas kept referring to in her interview with Stephen on 27 March. This incident, too, occurred over a month before her interview with him.
Reviewing the 5150 statute, you will find that it applies to “imminent” threats to injure self or others. Incidents a month or three months prior certainly do not justify a 5150 certification, and these were the incidents that Casas kept referring to – precisely because there was no current situation to justify this certification. In alluding to this old history to justify the 5150 certification, you confirm that these were what the District relied on for the 5150, there having been no imminent threat on that day as the statute requires. Thus you document that the 5150 certification was indeed false
The District was fully aware from December to March that Stephen had been on the rooftop at his mother’s place, and they were also aware of the February incident from the time it happened. The District showed no interest in these until they decided that getting Stephen drugged would cause him to do his schoolwork, as Casas asserted in her talk with Stephen. After several weeks of pressure failed to cause us to agree to the drug regimen the District wanted, they used my request for a psychological evaluation for educational services to arrange for the 5150 interview in which Casas told Stephen, “The drugs will help you.”
The District’s sudden interest in his school attendance is following the same pattern. The District was home-schooling him because they knew that he was in no state to attend Townsend JHS. They unilaterally decided to stop doing so because he wasn’t doing his schoolwork and they didn’t know how to solve that problem. The District put him in the situation of non-attendance by stopping the home-schooling and then traumatized him with the 5150. They reasonably should have known that this would ensure that going to school would be out of the question thereafter, being for him a place of terror, and indeed they made no effort to do anything for him the rest of the year. Moreover they dithered and stalled throughout the summer as we tried to resolve this. Now, all of a sudden, just as it was with the two suicidal incidents, the District is only now showing an interest in his attendance, knowing that they have made it impossible for him to go, and refusing to work with us to arrange for special services or the IEP which I’ve asked for since February.
The reasonable inference from this record is that the District is not interested in giving him a free and appropriate education, but is interested in retaliating against us for crossing their will – first by our refusal to have him drugged according to their wishes, and now for having brought this matter to the attention of the public. Your threat to refer him to SARB is indeed the District’s response to our bringing this matter to the public’s attention. If I had not done so, your letter and this threat would not have been issued.
I have been loath to hire a lawyer, because lawyers need to get paid, and once we go there, conflict is much harder to avoid. The District’s ongoing refusal to work out a deal we can all live with does require me to do something, and so I’ve brought it to the attention of the public in a way that they don’t like, but which tends less than legal action to slam the door on an amicable settlement. But the 6-month deadline for legal action is approaching.
You can certainly refer us to SARB, but it will be clear that the District has acted to make attendance impossible after creating the situation in March and having been completely indifferent to his non-attendance for months. It will clearly be retaliation for bringing the matter to the public, just as the false 5150 was retaliation for refusing to let my son be drugged. This will surely be awkward for us, but it may not work out so conveniently for the District either.
I suggest, as I have for months, that instead we pursue a peaceful resolution, whose general parameters are quite clear. The District must give us a guarantee that Stephen – whom they have severely traumatized – need not fear that happening again.
1) District personnel must not be involved with him, since from the Superintendent on down they have demonstrably shown a cynical disregard for his welfare, a ruthless willingness to harm him and me to suit their bureaucratic imperatives. Let’s not argue about that; let’s just agree that from his vantage point and mine no other conclusion is reasonable, and that having failed to protect him in March through excessive trust in the District, I simply cannot fail him again in that way.
2) The District must fulfill its obligation to provide a free and appropriate education by providing us financial support for a home-schooling program that will work for him, keeping in mind that the school experience has proven so traumatic for him that an IEP must be devised to take account of that, or some equivalent plan that gets him what he needs in security. We’re not asking District personnel to do anything for us, so this shouldn’t be hard for the District. Let them pay for what we need from others and otherwise stay away from us, and we from them. Is it really that hard to work something out like that which also meets whatever needs the District has in this matter?
I don’t know why the District is so unwilling to accommodate us in these essentials, but they are essential to us. In like circumstances, you would undoubtedly find them essential for your kid. I am attaching Stephen’s sworn statement for your review. I hope to hear from you soon. I’ll hold off on anything else until next week in the hope that we can work this out pleasantly for all.
Very truly yours,