Tuesday, September 25, 2007

School district, latest

The lawyer told me I need to talk to Joann Reilly of West End SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) before anything else. She called me back yesterday afternoon, and I sent her documentation with the following note:

In December 2006, my son Stephen Attwood, then attending Townsend JHS, could no longer endure school and refused to go. CVUSD set him up with homeschooling by CVUSD's Home and Hospital group while he was still living at his mother's place.

Late that month, Stephen went up to her rooftop and threatened to do harm rather than do schoolwork, so his mother and the home-school teacher agreed that it was a bad day to try schoolwork. Stephen began treatment with psychologist Curtis Rouanzoin.

He then moved to my place in February and had another episode where he inflicted a couple of small cuts on his arm - no scar remains. Indeed I did not realize at the time that he had actually cut himself.

He still wasn't doing his homework, and the teacher, Luis Garcia, began talking about how Stephen needed to be put on drugs so he would feel better and do his schoolwork. We rejected this demand, and CVUSD called DCS. The DCS CSW, Holly Ninneman, came to the house and I had her interview Stephen while I was out of the room getting her the contact information for Rouanzoin. She closed the case, advising us that we had no legal obligation to have Stephen drugged as CVUSD was demanding.

Luis Garcia in our next meeting appeared dismayed at the news that DCS had not supported CVUSD and said that the previous teacher had made the report. He asked if I would like a psychological evaluation from the District. I said that would be fine, because Stephen probably needed an IEP.

Eventually, on 27 March CVUSD sent the school nurse from Don Lugo HS, Linda Casas, accompanied by school psychologist Modell MacEntire, to evaluate him. MacEntire sat at my table and drank my coffee while Casas interviewed Stephen. It turned out not to be an educational evaluation but a 5150 evaluation.

Stephen was not suicidal at the time, and CVUSD's lawyer has affirmed that this certification was based on the December incident, over three months before. Thus it was plainly unjustified according to the statute, which refers to "imminent" threats to injure self or others, intended to punish us and force Stephen onto the drug regimen CVUSD demanded.

My problem is this:

CVUSD sent the paperwork for me to sign asking for an evaluation for special services, but in our meeting with Superintendent Edmond Heatley, he flatly refused to give us the assurance that they would not again do something like this to Stephen if it seems good to them. Stephen has been severely traumatized by this abuse, and cannot consider being evaluated by people who claim the discretion to hurt him again in exactly the same way. CVUSD is effectively denying us services by setting an impossible condition for asking for them, much as a job offer on the condition that the boss can have sex with you if he likes is not a real job offer.

Moreover, CVUSD's outside lawyer has instructed me that all communications with them be directed to his firm, so it is no longer even possible to talk directly with CVUSD about any of these things.

We do have to move rather quickly on this one way or another. The deadline for my suing CVUSD for damages is 1 December, and as things stand I must do so, since in refusing to answer me they are evidently trying to run out the clock - at which point they may well attempt to injure my son further, as indeed their lawyer threatened.

Appended is their lawyer's letter and my response of the 11th; I can fax you the original. It is now the 24th, and CVUSD has not responded. I have also attached Stephen's sworn statement about the incident, from which you may well understand how CVUSD's action has traumatized him, and why he shows clear signs of PTSD. For instance, while at breakfast with friends at Bravo Burgers in Chino Hills three days ago, he became physically sick when he saw a couple of CVUSD security guys and their car, even though they paid him no attention.

We need to get Stephen evaluated in such fashion that CVUSD has no power to do Stephen further harm, and in a way that he has that assurance. Indeed, how can any valid evaluation be done without accounting for that? Could any valid findings on your academic or emotional condition be obtained for you if the evaluation were done by someone that had raped you, and on the condition that he might do so again if he thinks it best?

She promised to talk promptly with CVUSD and get back to me. She is supposed to call me back tomorrow.

"How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord . . ." (Psalm 128)

A Song of Ascents

How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.
When you shall eat the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house,
Your children like olive plants around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion,
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
Indeed, may you see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel!

- Psalm 128

What happens if you fear the Lord but your wife divorces you and marries her psychologist? Is the psalmist mistaken, or have I really not feared the Lord after all?

This too is a song of ascents, and as always the road of ascent is to humble myself. Like others, I might imagine that I fear the Lord - every way of a man is right in his own eyes. But to fear the Lord is to "walk in his ways." I certainly haven't always done that, so I haven't always feared the Lord, however I may feel or think.

She had us meet with our two older sons to discuss throwing them out of her place. That was no problem for the one, who is 20 years old and now has a job, and who can get his own place. But she wants to throw out the other one, too, for "trying to sabotage" her relationship with her new husband.

She didn't want to talk about the past, but as we pointed out, the past gives meaning to the present and enters into what we do about it. This psychologist spent ten years working to destroy our marriage and wreck the family of these boys, seduced her, and even got paid for doing it. Why exactly are they supposed to accommodate his relationship with their mother at their own expense? Shouldn't he compensate them for having robbed them in so many ways?

All that is true, and the boys made it clear that they're ready to hire a lawyer to make that happen if he and their mother want to play it that way.

But more can be said. It might well be that if I had feared the Lord more and therefore walked more in his ways this all might have been averted. It's a snare to think that the iniquities and follies of others prove that I'm right. I did need to rebuke the lunacy that the boys have the duty to absorb punishment so as to shield the psychologist who seduced their mother from every consequence of his behavior. But I'm not thereby proven right myself. I too contributed to this mess. If I had feared the Lord and walked in his ways more all those years, would it have happened?

Who can tell? The prophets feared God and walked in his ways. Did they see the prosperity of Jerusalem all their days? Jesus feared the Lord and walked in his ways, and having prayed for Jerusalem had to say, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those that are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."

If we fear the Lord we will eventually see these blessings. But if the prophets did not always see them in their day, can I count on doing so? In every circumstance, it's best to fear and to consider my ways. And if it's my job to rebuke folly, it's not because I'm so free of it myself. At the Lord's right hand are pleasures for evermore, but feeling superior to others is not one of them. That pleasure comes from elsewhere, and it leads back there.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

School district: exchange of letters

From Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, CVUSD's outside law firm - typos in original. Dated 17 August but received Saturday 8 September and probably sent the day before:

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,

A Professional Corporation

Jeffery A. Morris

My reply:

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,

Peter Attwood

"Unless the Lord buils the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127)

A Song of Ascents, of Solomon

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.
Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to delay sitting, to eat the bread of toils.
Foe He gives to His beloved sleep

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

- Psalm 127

Psalm 127 leads us to ascend by humbling ourselves in our work and families, where through conceit we are so often humiliated.

Our work is the taproot of our pride. Pride is a drug, by which we banish our feelings of self-contempt and inadequacy in just the same way that some do with chemicals like cocaine or meth. A most efficient way to purchase pride is to accomplish something we can boast of. Junkies and crackheads gladly "rise early, delay sitting, and eat the bread of toils" to get their next fix - and so do pride addicts.

Here we read that all this work is vain - useless. The reason for that is not that building, watching, and other labor are in themselves useless. As Paul wrote elsewhere, if anyone is unwilling to work, neither let him eat. But we need, like Jesus, to work where we see our Father working, which is faith, rather than working because we think God won't, which is unbelief - and it's rebellion too, since if God doesn't want to do it, what are we in there for? That kind of labor is indeed useless. It all winds up in the fire, having done nothing for us except to feed our pride, which when the high is over leaves us only the opposition of heaven - and that gets old.

If our building succeeds because God is building, and our watching works because God is watching, we have nothing to brag about. But we have a real answer to our self-contempt: God himself is honoring us with the privilege of working with him on the job. We have satisfaction in our work, but it's clean. We're not vaunting ourselves against God or other people, but sharing in the life of God the Worker who has made us workers in his image and likeness.

In conclusion, children are a gift of the Lord, not monuments to our great skill and diligence as parents. The children of one's youth are the children we get when we don't have sense enough to come in out of the rain. I think that if our kids were the end product of a long life, like a business or one of the other works we do, our conceit would be completely without limit.

As I've begun reflecting on these things, I've seen that kids are not simply a burden and a lot of trouble. They just look that way when we want to make them the means to show the world how marvelous we are, what great families we have, so that seeing our family portraits on our campaign literature they will vote for us. Children are not given to us to build monuments to our glory before men; being "the gift of the Lord," they are not designed by God to be consumed on our pride.

The gift of the Lord is to lead us to humble ourselves so that God can lift us up. Some of my kids look to be in better shape than others. But all in different ways have given me nothing to brag about. That's not something wrong with them. In this they are working as designed, being the gift of the Lord to me. They're breaking my addiction to the pride which goes before stumbling, the haughty spirit that goes before a fall, by doing well often in spite of me. Last week Jacob spurned my advice when buying a car, and his choice was right.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

More school district news

Since some of you are asking, here we are.

I did redeem my promise to the Superintendent to make the matter public with flyers at Don Lugo HS on opening day if they continued to avoid working something out for our son. In reponse, I got a letter from their outside law firm Saturday, which I only got out of the mailbox today. It contained several significant points.

He stated that the district was "disturbed" that I had accused them of falsely certifying the 5150 against Stephen and made it public, although that is my "choice." He said the district will not engage in a public debate about the propriety of its actions, so I guesss he's telling me that I'll be debating an empty chair, which is of course their choice. He stated that the district was justified in its action because Stephen was on the rooftop of my home "posing a threat to injure himself."

Now that's a notable admission, because that incident happened in December at his mother's place, over a 3 months before they came to evaluate him on March 27th. So their lawyer has admitted that the 5150 was certified on the basis of what Stephen had done over 3 months before, which they had known about that whole time and which never bothered them until March 27th. This is far from the statutory requirement of "imminent" risk to himself or others for a 5150 certification. In effect, CVUSD's lawyer has admitted that the 5150 was indeed falsely certified.

Now it's time to consult with various counsellors to see where to go with this before getting back to their lawyer.

The lawyer did, of course, threaten me with the School Attendance Review Board if Stephen does not begin attending school and if I don't arrange for him to be home-schooled. I am arranging that, and he has in fact already gotten some instruction, and profitably, although more details need to be worked out. Anticipating this move on the part of these completely cynical people - who have certainly not cared about his school attendance up to now, refusing to do anything to make it possible - we're taking other steps to protect ourselves there. Just as they got interested in his suicidal episode a month later when they wanted to punish us and dope him up, they've suddenly gotten interested in his school attendance now that they want to retaliate against me for making their conduct public. They are completely consistent in their cynicism, and we saw it coming a long way off.

The one surprise was that their lawyer actually conceded the heart of their case by admitting the 5150 was certified on the basis of a month-old incident which they had known of all along and didn't care about until they decided they wanted to practice medicine to get Stephen to do his schoolwork - exactly as Stephen testified about the meeting in his deposition.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Proverbs 24

Sitting among the chaos of our new place, in which we didn't even have water, Gayle and I made time to read Proverbs 24 and talk about it. 24:6 speaks of waging war for yourself, or your own war, depending on translation. She pointed out that if it's not your own war, but doing a favor to somebody else, you can pretty well count on it turning out badly. We fight for others because we are looking for a pretext to fight, and to distract ourselves from our own real business. Her thought is confirmed elsewhere in Proverbs, where we read that one who infuriates himself with strife not belonging to him is grabbing a passing dog by the ears.

A little further on, though, in verses 11-12, we read that we are to fight for those being taken away to death, because if we hide our eyes from the trouble of the helpless, God will hide from us when we are helpless - as Jesus said, the measure you measure will be measured to you again. So we see here that we are to deliver the helpless, but because it is indeed our fight - we are helpless ourselves. So we can't do this in the consciousness of our power, but only when we are frail like them. It's not charity but solidarity. If we don't know we're helpless, we're useless.