Sunday, December 23, 2007

More school news

On the 13th, Jeff Morris of Stutz Artiano wrote to my lawyer, Don Eisner, as follows. Consider carefully how he asserts completely baseless authority for himself and CVUSD to redefine legal reality to suit himself - in the entire expectation that all who hear will be struck dumb and just nod their heads in a trance. The district's lawyer has pronounced - and who can contradict it?

Consider well, I say, because people have often deceived me in life by just such empty audacity -and you too, no doubt. It is exactly what Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:14-15. Paul wrote that not cleverness but only truth in love can enable us to escape such "trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." I sure want to learn more about that:

Re: Attwood v. Chino Valley Unified School District

Dear Mr. Eisner:

This will serve as follow-up to our conversation on December 11, 2007. At that time, we discussed the IEP currently set for December 20, 2007. As I indicated to you, Mr. Attwood appears to be confusing the issues between his demands for various documents concerning Steven Attwood's placement in a 72 hour hold and the IEP meeting.

The purpose of the IEP meeting is to have the appropriate professionals discuss the proper placement and creating an appropriate education plan so Stephen can have a free and appropriate public education. What will not be discussed nor decided at the IEP is the right or the wrong from the events up to and including the 72 hour hold. That is not the purpose of the IEP meeting.

We understand Mr. Attwood's passion concerning what happened with Stephen concerning the 72 hour hold. However, the district wishes to avoid having the IEP swing wildly out of control. At the time of our discussion, you were unsure whether Mr. Attwood was going to attend the IEP. Further, you were unsure whether Mr. Attwood was going to have you attend the IEP.

In order to be prepared for the IEP meeting, district staff will have to leave their classrooms and make arrangements for substitutes. Therefore, we would like to find out whether Mr. Attwood intends to go forward with the IEP meeting. If Mr. Attwood's intent is not have the IEP go forward, we would like to know that by Friday, December 14th, 2007, so we could avoid having staff waste their time in preparing to attend an IEP that will not occur.

Your assistance in providing this information will be greatly appreciated. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,

STUTZ ARTIANO SHINOFF & HOLZ

Jeffery A. Morris

I answered each of Mr. Morris's claims and questions in my letter to Don Eisner that evening as follows:

13 December 2007

Don Eisner
16133 Ventura Bl, #700
Encino, CA 91436

Dear Don,

Actually, Mr. Morris is confused about the issues here. Whatever passion I may feel is really not his problem, which happily relieves him and CVUSD personnel of having to understand it. What we need to talk about or not in the IEP meeting is governed by the law, nobody’s passion, and I’m sticking to that. Having neither the law nor the facts, Mr. Morris is just pounding the table.

I’m not proposing to talk in the IEP meeting about the judicial issues in whatever rights and wrongs took place. That’s for the court if we have to go there, not for the IEP meeting In the IEP meeting, we’re going to talk about what the law requires us to talk about, not as amended by the wishes of Mr. Morris and CVUSD. As State Superintendent Jack O’Connell put it in a similar matter, “Whatever the board’s objective or motivation in adopting its own policy pronouncement . . ., I want to make it perfectly clear that it is of no legal effect or authority. The board remains obligated to follow the law as declared by state statute and regulation.” How much more does this apply to Federal law, which trumps all state law and regulations where there is a conflict, except where such state law gives more rights to us! Let’s talk about the law.

20 USC Section 1414 requires that “the child is assessed in all areas of suspected disability.”

We not only suspect but will prove - from the evaluations and other evidence that Section 1414 gives us the right to submit - that the child was significantly disabled by the traumatic experience of 27-30 March and its aftermath, not only of being dragged away, but, crucially, for no good reason. It would be far more traumatic to get a ticket for running a red light which you know perfectly well you didn’t run just because the cop hates lawyers than for actually running the red light, so the circumstances of the 5150 are crucial in determining the nature and extent of Stephen’s disability arising from this event. Those circumstances must and shall be presented and discussed by the IEP Team as the law prescribes. Moreover, these circumstances, and the true reasons for CVUSD’s actions, are crucial in determining the fitness of CVUSD personnel to participate in Stephen’s education. The IEP Team must certainly consider these things in order to write the program correctly, so that it benefits Stephen instead of doing him further harm.

To that end, 20 USC Section 1414 further states: “As part of an initial evaluation (if appropriate) and as part of any reevaluation under this section, the IEP Team and other qualified professionals, as appropriate, shall review existing evaluation data on the child, including evaluation and information provided by the parents of the child.”

Note that the IEP Team by this statute includes, in addition to those provided by CVUSD, the following:

1) The parents, including the mother, whom CVUSD has not even kept informed, much less approached about scheduling;
2) Others whom the parents deem qualified to be part of the team, which CVUSD has attempted to exclude;
3) The child, as appropriate, and nothing could be more appropriate. The child will contribute whatever he deems necessary about the 5150 and everything related to it, along with any other information he thinks needs to be considered, and the statute does not permit Mr. Morris or anyone else to shut him up.

Nothing could be more appropriate to consider, among factors contributing to “the social and emotional status of the child,” than the circumstances of a severely traumatic event in the child’s life, especially when inflicted by those who might be given authority to implement the plan. Surely, when deciding whether a student should be driven somewhere, it would be appropriate to consider whether that driver had traumatized the child in the past, and how the child feels about it and why. Whether that driver’s action was appropriate or not, and in what way, is at the essence of that driver’s role in the Individual Educational Program (IEP). In this IEP, CVUSD is clearly the driver the nature of whose role the IEP Team is required to determine, and that cannot be done without determining the driver’s background and history of interaction with the child.

Indeed, the driver’s desperate struggle to avoid having his background considered would in itself be most relevant, since only those who have something to hide seek to do so.

CVUSD’s attempt to conceal the harm inflicted, in the manner of a bishop concealing the acts of a pedophile priest, in itself constitutes the infliction of further trauma on the child, and demonstrates CVUSD’s continuing intention to do Stephen harm in defense of its own interests. I’m unaware of anything in the law that requires us to accommodate CVUSD’s understandable passion to do that for its own protection, and, I’ll warrant, so are you and Mr. Morris.

Mr. Morris’s putative concern about the IEP being “wildly out of control” if we consider these matters as the law prescribes is a derisory excuse to keep flouting the law. Whatever passions there may be on any side, the IEP meeting will be perfectly in control, held in its appointed path by the high banks of the law, if we simply consider in it the material which the law requires the IEP Team to consider. It is only Mr. Morris and his client that are wildly out of control at this time, because only they are flouting the law by withholding information to which we are entitled under Federal law and attempting to redefine the mandate of the IEP meeting according to their own whim. That problem, happily, they have complete power to correct at any moment, by coming into compliance with the law.

I like the law. I might even want to get into it when I grow up. For now, regardless of anyone’s passions including my own, I look forward to attending the IEP meeting as soon as it can be conducted as the law prescribes.

In my email of 6 December, I already clearly stated that the 20th was not possible – and why – in response to Jean Martin, with a copy to Heather Williams, CVUSD Director of Special Education, from whom it surely reached Mr. Morris quickly. I told them in that memo on the 6th that it would be “a waste of postage” for them to send out the notice. As we all know, it was included also as an attachment to my compliance complaint to CDE, faxed to CVUSD Risk Management and acknowledged by them – and it cannot be that Mr. Morris did not receive it shortly thereafter. Now that they have wasted the postage, it is good to see that they have come to new wisdom and decided not to waste further time and money on an illegally convened meeting. CVUSD sends the notice to convene the meeting illegally to railroad Stephen into a bad IEP – after I’ve told them not to bother! – and then he asks me if I’ll be there? He’s just kidding!

In any case, Stephen’s mother can’t be there at that time, which CVUSD would have known if they had bothered to notify her.

Finally, we do need to set the earliest possible date for the meeting, so let’s consider again what we’re waiting for.

1) All documentation that I demanded on 7 December relating to Stephen’s traumatic experience – quite apart from fault. We’re not assessing tort liability, but we are assessing the effect on Stephen of the event and to what degree CVUSD personnel pose a danger to Stephen, which obviously has to go into how we write up the plan. It is not appropriate to accept CVUSD’s self-assessment that they can be trusted, no more than mine or Stephen’s that they can't be. That’s a question for the IEP Team to determine based on the evidence – and of course evidence withheld in violation of the law, that’s a kind of evidence too, isn’t it?
2) The assessment of Kyle Pontius, which we should have no later than Monday the 17th, and which I will immediately make available to everyone concerned, if it’s a PDF, and very quickly otherwise. The IEP Team will need a few days to consider it, no less than 5 business days, unless CVUSD and SELPA stipulate a shorter time acceptable to them, because that’s their rule as Jean Martin explained it to me, and I don’t want that rule sprung on us when we go in there. We ourselves will need 3 or 4 days, including the weekend, no more.
3) Important statements from a clinician and a professor who observed Stephen in Alabama, especially how he functioned in a graduate level class in psychology. These should be available early next week, and these too will immediately go to everyone.
4) We’re still awaiting the O/T assessment. It’s a relatively small deal, we think, and it’s good enough for us if we get it the day before, but there might be something there that we’re not expecting. We want it before the meeting.

As we’ve discussed, there’s no point, Don, in having you at the meeting. We may, however, have someone there from PAI if we can, depending on what Kimberley Baker thinks. CVUSD’s position that they can flout the law and expect us to accept it “just because” seems to me a larger issue that maybe needs a legislative remedy, because this no doubt gets done to parents and children routinely or they wouldn’t be so brazen. PAI may concur. If they want to sit in, they’re going to. I’ll let everyone know if we decide on that.


Yours,

Peter Attwood

Since then, Morris wrote on the 17th, "It appears that Mr. Attwood would like to have the IEP deal exclusively with the situation of the 72 hour hold," and then goes on to refuse to disgorge the rest of the records as required by law. My lawyer replied on the 18th that that is a "mischaracterization," but made no further effort to enlighten Morris, mindful no doubt of the wisdom of Upton Sinclair:

"It is exceedingly difficult to make a man understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

Stephen now looks forward to going to the IEP meeting, which we all hope to schedule for the 15th. More on that soon.

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