Saturday, December 29, 2007

Here we go again, Christoids!

Only one Republican presidential candidate seems to make any sense, really - Ron Paul - and only two Democrats - Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. But Mike Huckabee has struck me as at least lacking the mean streak and bloodlust of the others, both Republicans and Democrats.

Well, I have bad news from his home state about our Southern Baptist preacher.

But this is not a political rant. The Bible, in its dreary tale of Herods, Pilates, and such like, does not offer much hope in worldly rulers. No political system that selects for the shallow, manipulative, deceitful, and obsessively ambitious - weeding out all others - is apt to give better results than random chance. It is the true proverb: the scum rises to the top. I don't doubt that a random number generator in your PC would pick a better President by grabbing any Social Security number. The great advantage of hereditary dynasties is that you might get lucky by chance, instead of selecting only from those that are best at climbing the ladder over the faces of their fellows.

But what I want to know from my fellow Christians is, why does the scum rise to the top among us like this, but what's far more important, why do we love to have it so? Why does the basic qualification for high position in the Christian world seem to be utter hypocrisy and totally unprincipled ruthlessness, covered by a smarmy sanctimonious exterior. Don't tell me it's a few bad apples, because it isn't. It's routine, and when it's this systemic, it's not the fault of any of these bad apples. It happens like this because we like these psychopaths, and we hate those that walk in the truth and in the unhypocritical love of Jesus. We get the rulers we demand, and since God is not like that, small wonder that for all our clamor about Jesus being Lord we do not experience God as one of those rulers.

Perhaps before we pray, "Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done," even one more time, we should work out with God how how we don't want his name hallowed - since our own names will not seem so special that way - how we don't want his kingdom - since we won't get to be boss that way - and how we don't want his will - since we might not always get our own way. If we do that, we will find that 1 John 1:9 still works as advertised today.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tim Bennett Christmas thoughts

It's not suitably Christoid, but the following by Tim Bennett contains a few very Christian thoughts. Anyway, this is the best word on Christmas I expect to see anywhere this year:

Old Marley was as dead as a door nail… This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I did something the other day that I haven’t done for a long time. Something I used to do often. Something unexpected: I went to a mall. It was a small mall. An old mall. A sad little mall that has not kept up with the times. But it was a mall nonetheless. And I went into it. I was not shopping for Christmas presents. (Being neither Christian nor Consumerist, nor, for that matter, Humanist, I don’t really do Christmas.) Nor was I sneaking a Cinnabon (TM). (This mall doesn’t have a single purveyor of Extreme Carbohydrates…)

What I was doing was looking for a bathroom.

You may, at this point, be expecting some sort of a rant. Based solely on a statistical analysis of my past behavior, that expectation would be reasonable. I have, in deed and in fact, done my share of ranting. So for me to start raving at this point about consumerism, or the holidays, or the global industrial death-machine responsible for everything I saw around me, for me to start fuming about how the destruction of the life of this planet was reflected in every sparkling ornament on the twenty foot Xmas tree at the mall’s center, would be the most normal and natural thing for me to do. I have now become, after all, a very minor public figure on the eco-ranting scene. It’s my job, right? It’s what I do.

But as I walked around the mall, I noticed a most curious thing: I did not feel angry. I was not filled with righteous indignation and steely resolve. I felt neither assaulted nor insulted. My inner conversation was not laced with snide comments and scathing judgments. My blood was not boiling. I was neither irate, mad, annoyed, cross, vexed, irritated, indignant, irked, furious, enraged, infuriated, in a temper, incensed, raging, fuming, seething, beside oneself, choleric, outraged, livid, apoplectic, hot under the collar, up in arms, in high dudgeon, foaming at the mouth, doing a slow burn, steamed up, in a lather, fit to be tied, seeing red, sore, bent out of shape, ticked off, teed off, nor PO’d. I was, in fact, feeling pretty much the last thing one would expect of me in this situation: I was feeling both humbled and… drum roll please… a bit of hope.
Go figure. That’s what happens when I really gotta pee. I go a bit crazy.

Humbled? Whatever for? Aren’t these the people, and the beliefs and behaviors, and the corporations, which are happily engaged in consuming the planet? Well… yeah. But as I looked around at those desperate shops, their tinsel-splattered storefronts smiling maniacally with invitation, as I watched my fellow mallers bumping around in search of, as I listened to the holiday music struggling frantically to convince me - on a day in mid-December that topped out at 78 degrees Frighteninglyhigh, in a drought-stricken corner of the world so dry now that FEMA is starting to erect mobile home cities for the fish, at a time when it looks like the only gift we’re going to get from our Uncle Sam in Bali is a train load of coal in our stockings – as I listened still to that holiday music trying frantically to convince me that it IS beginning to look a lot like Christmas, goddamnit, what became crystal clear was that, not that many years ago, I was one of those people, shopping those shops and singing those songs. Not that many years ago, I, me, Tim Bennett, was just the sort of person I might now harshly judge as clueless or befuddled, or even willfully ignorant. Not that many years ago I was cruising the malls, buying gifts for my kids, living the American Dream, a Chick-Fil-A (TM) in one hand and an Orange Julius (TM) in the other, shopping til dropping before donning my nightcap and settling my brain for a long winter’s denial.

I’m cringing. Can you feel me cringing?

Not at who I was. Not at who those mallers still are. I’m cringing at the realization of how easy it has been and still is for me to judge people for being where I was not that long ago. When it comes to myself, I’ve got lots of compassion. I was born into an insane culture. I was shaped and pressured and forced and guided and wounded and altered and thwarted and numbed and hoodwinked and lied to and ripped off. When it comes to everybody else… well, it’s guilty until proven innocent, with me as both judge and jury. With the legendary intensity of a reformed smoker, I’ve stomped through the world, handing out condemnations and sentences like so many business cards: Tim Bennett… Reformed Civilized Person… Call me for all your Anger and Judgment needs! I mean… it’s the end of the world as we know it, people! Wake the fuck up!

“Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, ‘My dear Scrooge how are you? When will you come to see me?’ No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blindmen’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!’”

“But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call ‘nuts’ to Scrooge.”

I remember, back in college, saying to my now-ex as we sat in the student lounge, “On the whole, I don’t much like human beings.” Those words have stuck with me since. Not just a sentence, but also a sentence, with little chance of parole. While now and again I might find an individual who passes muster, the “bewildered herd” I met along “the crowded paths of life” was a disappointing and disgusting lot, and I saw little to do but keep my distance. Call me a walk-in, a changeling, or just an arrogant asshole, I was not one of them. I was not from around here. “‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer.’”

And there I stood in the mall… and I saw… I saw!… I was one of them, and always had been. Forty nine years previous, on a drunk or a dare, I’d tripped and fallen - or jumped - into the gravity well called Earth and was now stumbling about, stunned and disoriented, a spark of life and energy encased in a bipedal meat-bag, surrounded by hundreds- thousands- millions- billions of fellow sparks-in-meat-bags, all wondering what the hell is going on and who’s in charge and hey has anybody seen the instruction manual?

I’m from around here after all.

Bah! Humbled!

Which brings me to hope.

People who know me well know that I have a bit of a speech impediment: whenever I try to say the word “hope” it comes out sounding slightly off, like a Brit doing an American accent, but not doing it very well. It’s not that I have anything against hope, at least as a noun. I’m as much a fan of possibility as the next guy, and my sense of the universe is that there is always possibility, even in the darkest days. But I’m highly attuned to the dangers and downsides of hope, and so often defend against hope when I see it being abused or misused, and avoid the word when I can, attempting to steer clear of that misuse.

Yes, there is always possibility. But there are also laws of physics and chemistry and biology, and there are limits to science of technology. And there is also cultural inertia and psychosocial wounding. And there are also huge forces at work in the world, with plans and intentions of their own. And so we must balance possibility with inevitability, vision with current reality, and surrender to the unknown, and come to see that many of our hopes are false, and that some of those possibilities we - our sparks, not our meat-bags - do not even want.

And as for hoping as a verb…. well, let’s just say that I am learning to keep my own power for myself, and that that feels really, really good. Read Derrick Jensen’s essay Beyond Hope and you’ll understand what I mean. The language of hoping can rob us of our power.

In the mall, what I saw was a possibility. Think of it. Not that many years ago I was a maller and now I’m working full-time for the planet and jonesing for “the end of Empire” and the collapse of the system that is killing everything. And I’m not alone. My friend Carla has leapt from the decks of the Titanic and into that same Ark of Fools in about the same time frame. I have other friends who’ve made similar leaps. And on our screening tours, we met folks who, by their own report, made the journey from confusion and bewilderment to clarity, acceptance, and action in a couple of years! Old Marley howled and clanked, their clocks struck midnight, and the spirits did it all in one night! Think of it.

Think of it.

How many such folk walk amongst us unseen? How many are primed and ready, just waiting for Marley’s Ghost to rattle their chains and set them on a quick path from cluelessness to awareness? And what becomes possible, if more of these Scrooge’s get whacked upside the head with reality? I said a while back that there is great power in not knowing. If I’m going to say such things out loud, then I’m going to have to take them seriously myself, and do such work as is necessary to allow me to hold “not knowing” in my being. And so the answer to these questions is simple: I do not know. Read Peter Russell’s wonderful pieced called A Singularity in Time. We do not know.

Nothing takes the judgment out of me quite so quickly as a good dose of humility.

I have been angry. I have been judgmental and cruel and dismissive. And that has not always served me. While anger can work to focus my energy on that which is outside of me, on that which needs to be faced and confronted and contained or stopped, it’s a tool so easily misused, and so sharp-edged and fierce, that I do well to leave it in the toolbox until I’m sure I can use it without hurting someone. Or myself.

There are situations, manipulations, rationalizations, obfuscations and corporations that may all deserve and require that form of focused energy, so it would serve the Earth, for me to master my anger. But it does little good if I spend my anger on those who do not deserve it. At some point I have to learn to make the necessary distinctions between the many degrees of perpetration and victimization. I have to train my eye to see the fine gradations of willfulness, the many grays of blame and complicity that lie on the continuum between the blinding white fire of evil and the cool and soothing black of innocence.

As I do this it becomes very clear: this is delicate work. In the face of such distinctions, where the gradations are so fine, and the shades so subtle, the only way to mastery is to step into bold humility and decisive unknowing. There is simply too much that my meat-bag will never get to know. That’s how it works here at the bottom of the gravity well.

Given that, I may do well most days to hold my judgments and anger with compassionate firmness until clarity comes, if it ever does. While there may be obvious evils that both deserve and need my anger, while there are, in fact, people who need to be stopped and world leaders who need to be run out on a rail and corporations which need to be contained and deconstructed, while there is, as far as I can see, an entire planet-spanning culture that needs to be dismantled and recycled into something life-affirming and sane, most of the other meat-bags around me are just as confused and disoriented as I am. My anger toward them has been the easy way out, little more than “horizontal hostility” toward my fellow stumblers, because it’s so damned scary to contemplate expressing my anger directly to those who may actually deserve it, those with the power to express right back at me.

Are there those who deserve my judgment and anger? Is the CEO of a destructive corporation a bad guy, or just another confused meat-bag trapped in the same culture that trapped me? Or both? Or neither? Do I love the sinner and hate the sin? I don’t know. I’ve been trying to feel my way through that for some time and have yet to find an answer that fully suits me. And I can’t quite decide whether it matters or not. On the one hand, my animal body is clear: whether they are evil or confused, I get, to the best of my abilities, to protect my self and my loved ones from the forces of destruction that threaten us all. The mother bear protects her cubs. That speaks to me with an eloquence and simplicity that feels grounded in the deep rightness of the living world. But then I stop and remember: I’m trying to move beyond the paradigm of domination and control. It may matter, how I regard those forces, even while protecting myself from them. It may matter. I don’t know. For now, I will trust my body. And the mother bear. Protection is not domination and control. My body knows that. My head is too easy to fool.

What’s clear right now is that my anger, at the level of my real life, has served more to stand in my way than to help, and that mastery in the realm of anger is one of my growing edges. My fellow sparks-in-meat-bags need simply for me to hear them and understand them and treat them with compassion as they knock their heads up against the walls of the gravity well, as they meet their own Marleys and are forced to confront the delusions and consequences of their own lives, as they stand on those titanic decks and contemplate the jump before them. As a friend of his emailed Daniel Pinchbeck, which he reports in his wonderful book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl:

“’I greatly admire your willingness to bear witness to your experiences and beliefs in such a radical and generous way. I will also say that I think the role of truth-bearer requires the purest of intentions. ‘Do it with love,’ is good advice.’”

Do it with love. Love as a verb, as Juan Santos says. Love as an action in the real world. I can do that. And so I will tell you the hope I saw in that mall. The possibility.

It’s possible for a human being to make huge shifts in his or her worldview in a short amount of time. It’s possible that there are more people on the verge of making such shifts than we can now see or imagine. It’s possible that enough human beings will awaken to the world situation, and to their true nature, that they will be able to bring consciousness and intention to the work of this time, to that process which is already underway, which is to bring an end to a culture, a worldview, a paradigm, now expressing itself as the global industrial machine, which has never been and can never be sustainable on this planet, to bring an end to this culture, to dismantle it and contain it and hold it gently while it breathes its last. It’s possible that this can be done before the mass extinction we are living in plays out to its bitter end. It’s possible that some of us will be able to survive through this process, and thrive our way into a new life on a very different, but still living, planet. It’s possible that we will learn what we have long needed to learn, those of us raised in captivity in this system of disconnection and domination. It’s possible that we will find healing. It’s possible that we will remember ourselves. And it’s possible that we will once again take our places as worthy members of the community of life, and that we will find new ways of being that, echoing Juan Santos, align with our original instructions from the Creator.

The curtains may not be completely torn down, rings and all. Life may prevail. It’s possible. And so I will hold it as such. A possibility. A hope. Held not despite my fellow human beings, but BECAUSE I AM ONE.

Our chances feel slim to none, but it remains possible nonetheless. As Joanna Macy imagines our descendents saying, looking back on this time, “Our ancestors back then, bless them, they had no way of knowing if the Great Turning could succeed. No way of telling if a life-sustaining culture could emerge from the death throes of the industrial growth society. It probably looked hopeless at times. Their efforts must have often seemed isolated, paltry, and darkened by confusion. Yet they went ahead, they kept on doing what they could–and, because they persisted, the Great Turning happened.”

I’ve lived my whole life feeling like I’m not from here. Perhaps you have as well. And there may be some truth to that, at some level of reality. But I find that it just doesn’t matter any more. Whether I’m from here or not, I’m here now. Here is where my work is to be done: here in the gravity well we call Earth, with these other poor, crazy souls stumbling about around me. I have lost too much time to my judgments, trying vainly to protect myself, “warning all human sympathy to keep its distance,” even reveling in that. Perhaps it’s time to give that up?

“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.”

And so, says a not-so-tiny Tim, to my fellow bipedal-meat-bags, to our brothers in four legs and six legs and more, to our sisters in wing and fin and leaf and mycelium, to our compatriots in stone and wind and water and fire, to our allies and teachers, our ancestors and descendants, our guides and our shadows, our drop-ins our changelings and our arrogant assholes, to all of you I say this, as poor and crippled as I am:

“God bless us, every one.”

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,


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.


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.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pomona cops - Christmas trick or treat

I saw a cute little Christmas story a couple of days ago about the Pomona cops. They dressed up one officer as a beardless Santa Claus and another as an elf, and these two played ped, crossing whenever the walk signal said so.

Drivers who dissed Santa and the elf got a ticket from a mortorcyle cop. Nice drivers who took care to give Santa and his little buddy space on the crosswalk got a $10 gas card - which is about as nice as you can expect from a traffic stop!

I was thinking why this is so effective. It's humorous, and it's unusual. As P. T. Barnum once said, to be noticed you have to wiggle your ears, and the Pomona cops wiggled their ears on this one for sure. Being nice, giving people a little treat, is unexpected in traffic enforcement, way more agreeable than people expect in business contacts with traffic cops.

The theological lesson here seems to be that authority is most powerful and authoritative when it's human. God gave all authority in heaven and earth to the Son of Man.

What makes this hard to understand is that our political culture confuses being human with being arbitrary. We often hear of the contrast between a government of laws and a government of men, the problem with that formulation being, however, that laws don't enforce themselves.

To be arbitrary comes from our rebellion, not at all from our humanity as such, and so the cure for arbitrary power is not to become mechanical and legalistic instead of being human. The cure for it is to become submissive to the truth in every interaction, and that always means doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. That doesn't mean never being tough on people, but it does mean never being tough on them if you don't have to be, and indeed finding every possible way to find them a way to avoid needless pain. That's what God does to us, and who could even survive otherwise?

Now all that needs wisdom, and often enough way more than I have. When I get serious about doing justice and loving mercy, it doesn't take too long to find out that I'd better humble myself in order to find my way there, and more than being humble, I have to be in God's company to find the way.

The Pomona cops found a way to do their job in their capacity as humans, and lots of people got a memorable and often completely painless lesson in driving safety. The word of truth is not so far from any of us. If we find it, or rather, if it finds us, we have no cause to be proud of ourselves.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More school news

Fedex left an overnight letter this morning addressed to me and Superintent Edmond T. Heatley notifying him and CVUSD of the compliance investigation, Case # S-0487-07/08, concerning CVUSD's refusal to turn over student records within 5 days. It's been a while since April 1, when I first asked for the 5150 notes finally produced 15 days ago, and we're still waiting for the stuff I specifically demanded on the 7th, as well as much else that my lawyer has been demanding throughout November.

Since these records will reveal the full nature of the plan directed by the Superintendent on the legal advice of David Serrano, the CVUSD Director of Risk Management at the time, to traumatize Stephen with a 5150 hold instead of offering him an assessment for educational disabilities, it's easy to see why they are most reluctant to obey the law and hand them over. But they will have to hand them over. I know even less about criminal law than civil law, but who knows whether the DA might not rake up criminal charges from this evidence related to endangering the welfare of a child and such like?

Maybe this is why David Serrano was the Director of Risk Management, but left us about a week ago.

I don't know whether he jumped or was pushed, but if he jumped, did he leave to take advantage of my promise to him in April that if any of the perpetrators leaves CVUSD's employment before I sue them, I will pursue no charges against them? Little did I know at the time that I was offering him personally a get-out-of-legal-liability card.

I wonder if he let his fellow conspirators know, including the Superintendent, before he left. Anyway, CVUSD still has the email, which as I said creates a promissory estoppel preventing me from suing any rat that jumps ship before the suit is filed. I wonder if any others will take up the offer, which I'm renewing here more publicly. It would make it a lot easier for us and CVUSD to conduct the IEP meeting and develop an Individual Educational Program if they weren't around.

When the Superintendent can be shown in the IEP meeting to have intentionally traumatized a kid, it's hard to develop an IEP in which the district can participate without involving personnel that are a danger to the kid!

"Who stand by night in the house of the Lord" (Psalm 134)

A Song of Ascents

Behold, bless the Lord, all servants of the Lord,
Who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth.

- Psalm 134

If we actually stand by night, instead of succumbing to the darkness, we have every reason to bless the Lord. We sure didn't do that of our own glorious power! Apart from the power of the God of truth, "Because lawlessness is increased, the hearts of many will grow cold" - and are we better than they?

It is indeed in the house of the Lord, that is, where God dwells, that this happens - just as Jesus said, "Where two or three are assembled in my name, there I am in their midst." We don't do that alone. So many witnesses, Viktor Frankl and Alexander Solzhenitsyn among them, testify that solitary individuals always crumbled in camp, while those rooted in a people might survive. It matters that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that came before us, and that we remember that Jesus died on the cross - and was raised. It matters that we are not wholly alone, even when it seems so, as Elijah learned at Sinai.

It may seem futile to stand by night, because in times of darkness only the sons of darkness - those that love lying - have lots of others to support and praise them. But these are those that God blesses from the eternal Zion, the place where he lives. And where is that? Psalm 51 says that God desires truth in the inward parts. We'll have God in our lives, blessing us, supporting us, and saving us from debilitating loneliness, when he gets what he wants in us - truth in the inward parts.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

School daze

All right, a little news on our adventure.

Jeff Morris, CVUSD's lawyer, insists on doing the IEP first, and then doing mediation afterwards. The IEP meeting is required by law to consider all social and emotional factors bearing on Stephen's case, so CVUSD finally coughed up the 5150 assessment and Linda Casas's memo to her boss.

It shows first that the Superintendent was approving and directing this action at the outset, and the memo asserts that the CCRT worker agreed with Casas's decision, which I have confirmed with the CCRT worker was completely false. It wasn't very smart to falsely assert that a County agency was in agreement with them, since the County can hardly be expected to be happy about Casas in this way accusing them of being liable. It's easy to see why CVUSD didn't want us to see this documentation.

Much else is of course needed to perform the IEP right according to the law. CVUSD is still stonewalling on much other needed documentation, although I am legally entitled to it and so is the IEP team. It hasn't been a problem yet, because we're still awaiting some essential docs ourselves. We need our evaluator's report, which is very well-researched and reliable, and which should be ready no later than the 17th. We are also awaiting a couple of essential reports from Stephen's visit to Alabama last June.

Because the SELPA IEP coordinator tried to railroad us into a meeting on the 20th without the needed docs and with a mandate arbitrarily, and illegally, redefined by her to protect the interests of CVUSD at Stephen's expense, I will also need a little more time to study the "Handbook of Special Education Rights and Responsibilities" published by CASE, whose new edition will not be ready until the 15th.

I filed a compliance complaint yesterday with the California Department of Education about the stonewalliong and the attempt to convene the IEP without the needed people and documentation. They called me this afternoon saying they have accepted the stonewalling count, and the investigator is supposed to call me by next week. Kimberley Baker, an attorney at Protection and Advocacy, thinks it's a good complaint.

The only reasonable motive for Morris to insist on the IEP first, while stonewalling and having SELPA pressure us into holding a meeting without even our evaluator, is to trick us into settling for a bad IEP as though it doesn't mean anything. Having tricked us into bobbling away crucial things, he can stonewall in mediation and force us to sue having made terrible concessions - in exchange for what? So I have to go to the wall on the IEP meeting. I have to use Federal law to make them disgorge all the docs I'm entitled to so we can nail down a good IEP, well-documented against the little tricks they can be expected to try in future, as they've been doing up to the present moment.

Anyway, the California Department of Education is now involved, and 20 USC Section 1415 is very clear. I'm entitled to "all records relating to a child with a disability," and I know I can't let that go.