Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thoughts on the flood (Sharon Astyk)

Sharon Astyk is a Jewish farmer in upstate New York, and a writer. She has some thoughts on Noah, in light of our own present situation, that I think are worth thinking about:

I don't know much about how to respond to these things, but one lesson is clear. The only way to save ourselves is not to go about to save ourselves, which always involves stepping on the faces of other people, but like Noah to be the sort of people that God will want to save, however foolish that may seem. In the practical details, I have a lot to learn about this, and so do you. As we see the wheels coming off in our world, we get reminded that we'd better sign up for class and attend.

I don't hold at all with those that figure that the end of the world is upon us, or that Jesus will return any moment. Those who think so generally claim to believe the Bible, but the Bible makes it clear that that won't be right away, just as Paul wrote in his own day in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2. However, short of the end of the world, the collapse of a civilization is a pretty stern test, as was the end of the western Roman Empire in the 5th century, and that's a problem that we do pretty clearly face today. It's a good time for anyone to seek God for a set of hearing ears, seeing eyes, and a hearing heart.

Whatever advantage we think we're getting in the world, whatever problems we thing we're solving, if we are not learning to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, we can expect it to peel off at the most inconvenient moment, and we'll wish we hadn't skipped this prep work.

The people in Noah's day that had no use for Noah and his ark were solving their problems and protecting themselves just fine - filling the earth with violence in the process - but their solutions didn't work out too well for them when the flood came. When Jesus told us that it would be like the days of Noah before his return, he was inviting us to lay these things to heart.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sacramento trip

Several parents from around San Diego invited me to join them in a trip to Sacramento to speak to the Advisory Commission on Special Education on the 22nd, set up in obedience to 20 USC Section 1412 to advise the governor, the legislature, and the state board of education on Special Education issues. We all had something to say, and I was surprised at how well received we were. It's only an advisory commission, but that is by no means worthless. People do listen.

My statement to the Advisory Commission, with a clause redacted for legal reasons:

I’m Peter Attwood, father of Stephen Attwood. Stephen has had no schooling at all since March 2007, pushing three years.

Stephen has Asperger’s Syndrome, like me. At the end of 2006 he was in desperate trouble in school, severely depressed and traumatized by his school experience.Chino Valley Unified School District and I both did much to make him that way. Come January, he refused to go to school at all and was put on Home & Hospital at the direction of his psychologist. That too quickly went bad. Like most parents I knew nothing about Special Education law. CVUSD took advantage of my ignorance and didn’t offer to assess him, even though it was obvious to all that he was emotionally disturbed and that that was keeping him from being able to handle school.

To avoid SE, CVUSD decided to have him drugged – putting him in a happy daze would make him want to do his school work. After they nagged about that for a month, they arranged an assessment by a school nurse in our apartment on false pretenses. They had him dragged away on a 5150 hold for three days. CVUSD’s paperwork shows that they knew he was not suicidal. They failed to get him on drugs, but they managed to make him unable ever to go to school.

CDE found that CVUSD had obeyed Child Find (S-0521-07/08), because they did offer to assess him over two months AFTER these events. And their offer to assess in June was in the same way prior notice for the assessment that took place two months before, in March (S-0663-07/08).

We recently settled our due process case, and I hoped that we would achieve a cold peace, if not friendship. CVUSD promptly retaliated against my long defense of my son by having their lawyer send me a letter accusing me of sexually harassing their employees at school board meetings. That’s their habit: they made a similar – and debunked - accusation against a Board member three years ago to get rid of him, and against two school principals before that whom they wanted to get rid of. Because of Stephen’s extreme fear of the District, especially in light of the implacable hostility he sees in their latest behavior, Stephen is unable to attend his current placement, . . ., so he can get no school at least until January.

These three years have taught us that the bottom line for the entire education establishment is that there must be impunity for educational professionals that abuse kids – as we saw last May in the House Education and Labor Committee hearing. They may be coaxed, admonished, or even subjected to empty threats, but on no account should bad behavior actually be punished. They have taught Stephen little else these three years, but they have made him know like his name that nobody in the education bureaucracy really cares. The foxes are watching the henhouse, and Stephen clearly sees the feathers sticking out of their mouths.

Now if I run a red light, even a right turn slow and go, that’s $500. But lawless conduct by an educational bureaucrat that trashes a kid’s life for years and maybe for keeps – who can imagine that abuser having to pay even a $500 ticket?

I’ve seen, in Beirut, how traffic is when violators face no consequences. That’s why it’s safer to drive in California than in Beirut, but not safer here to go to school.

American education, the most cost-ineffective in the world, looks like traffic in the streets of Beirut for the same reason – wrongdoers face no consequences. Since there is no money, it’s actually good news that money is really not our problem.

Here’s the problem. The whole industry, including its regulators, is devoted to mutual back-scratching and enabling incompetence. If someone’s no good, they give him a wonderful recommendation so he’ll be hired elsewhere, like pedophile priests hopping from parish to parish. Who does not know this?

CDE won’t investigate and enforce if it’s too embarrassing - in other words, if the abuse is too shocking. And when CDE whitewashes, there’s no appeal, so where’s the accountability? OAH is hopelessly biased against parents, and how many have the resources to fight a big DP anyway? The legislature passes some good law, but where are its teeth?

If this is what they do to my kid, with everyone’s approval, how many other kids are being ground up out there? And how many of those wind up being your guests in prison at $45K per year?

Some years ago, California changed the whole nation with the Lanterman Act. I can’t say I expect it or even hope for it, but what if California actually brought accountability to the education brass – to start handing out traffic tickets, at least, to the willful or reckless abusers of our kids and to those that cover up for them?

District retaliation, post-agreement

I supposed that CVUSD would want to stop the slap and tickle and settle into a cold peace, but they surprised me. They decided to accuse me of sexually harassing their employees at public school board meetings. The letter from their lawyer follows:

Re: Inappropriate Behavior

Dear Mr. Attwood:

You may recall that our firm is counsel for the Chino Valley Unified School District.

I wanted to bring to your attention observations by a number of staff who view your conduct toward female staff of the Chino Valley Unified School District as inappropriate. We are bringing this information to your attention in the hopes of making you aware of the behavior, with the anticipation that the behavior will stop.

Although I will not identify the staff who have observed your behavior and those who are separately the target of your behavior, but I would like to outline several instances of inappropriate conduct:

1. At a school board meeting, you attempted on multiple occasions to look down the blouse of the woman you were sitting next to.

2. At another school board meeting, you positioned yourself immediately next to a female staffer in her personal space. Security moved you away. Once security left the presence of the female staffer, you again returned and moved into that staff person's personal space.

3. At another school function, you were seated in the audience and cupped your hands like "binoculars" and stared at a female staff member for two hours.

4. At another school meeting, you proceeded to stare off and on during the meeting at a female staff member's chest. The female staff member reported feeling very uncomfortable during the meeting because of your conduct.

5. Multiple staff employees have observed you looking at a particular staff member in a sexually inappropriate way on multiple occasions.

These behaviors are being brought to your attention in the event that you were unaware of your conduct. Please be advised that this letter is only being directed to you. The District has an obligation to protect its employees from sexual harassment. The behavior cited above does constitute sexual harassment, since it is on going and pervasive. The goal of this letter is to bring this conduct to your attention in an effort to have it stopped.

We have not identified the female staff members or any witnesses to your behavior, because we do not want these individuals to be the subject of retaliation. As indicated, we would like this behavior to stop. Assuming the behavior stops, this issue will go no further.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Very truly yours,


Jeffery A. Morris

This is not the time and place to reply in detail, but if they knew more about certain things, such as my eyesight, they would have devised these lies somewhat differently. Certainly I have been aware of the danger of their pulling this particular stunt, since on several other occasions in past years they have rounded up a bunch of false witnesses to bring accusations of sexual harassment against people they want to get rid of, including a board member cleared in the subsequent district investigation. I certainly get the impression they don't want me to attend and speak at board meetings, and I'm clearly expected to remember that they might retaliate against me for advocating for my son in IEP meetings too.

It's certainly not easy to stop behavior that you're not doing in the first place, except by not showing up at all. If they assailed my son by falsely accusing him of being suicidal, it's no marvel that they should charge me falsely with sexual harassment when they have a record of doing so to others. Stephen laughed out loud when I read him this letter, but he took the point that they are as dangerous to him as ever.

As I said, I hoped that when we settled they would want to stop the slap and tickle and move on, but how wrong I was!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We have a deal with the school district

We settled before the hearing. We can't talk about it in detail, but Stephen gets what we asked in DP, although nothing else really. For us it is indeed a crappy deal, but I'm not complaining because we've lost nothing essential for ourselves, and it is clearly from God in order to teach me wisdom, which is beyond price even when I don't believe it. I think Stephen is reasonably safe now, and the district left a rather large hole in the agreement which we can exploit if they menace him further. It looks like we ought to be able to get a decent placement for him in December that will ultimately get him going, and if not, we're off to DP again.

He's doing a lot better in some ways, working out in the weight room and swimming, and therapy is really working. It's very important to him, which is most encouraging. I'm doing better too, getting to re-examine my life in the light of Scripture.

I've been very sick the last couple of days - nice little fever last night. Hard to tell what it is - no runny nose or cough, so it certainly isn't flu or anything like that, and no real belly rumpus, so it's not salmonella. Just fever and hurt all over. Such times have often been good for me. I woke up this morning realizing that I've been frustrated by lack of cleverness, when in fact God sets aside the cleverness of the clever, as I've experienced all my life. I've wanted cleverness instead of wisdom, and I haven't realized that so clearly before now. It is certainly true that wisdom is better than weapons of war, and that real victory is to believe God where we haven't before, but that is not obvious without revelation, and I'm seeing that you can't get hold of it until it doesn't matter whether others do.