Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mea Culpa

"The Mann thing has had a clear affect on you.  That comment, in which you hinted about the identify of an anonymous commenter, is something a couple of years ago, you came on someone else about.  It was a wrong turn."

Those are the words Charlie wrote to me and he is right. 

The sadness and frustration I feel over the Mann situation should not have colored my judgment.  It's not an excuse but an explanation.

 I apologize for any discomfort I caused.  I regret my statement and it won't happen again.

(I will say that I did reach out to a number of groups that support closing the achievement gap for African-American students to ask about their support of the Mann group and did not ask just one group.)


Tasleem Qaasim said...

Melissa Westbrook,

My name is Tasleem Qaasim the Professor of Education that spoke at the last SPS board meeting on behalf the ACEI work with African American youth. I was awaken this morning, Dr. Andaiye Qaasim (my daughter) who works for LEV informed me that you contacted her employer yesterday in an attempt to defame her character with lies and innuendos. Although she did not ask me to contact you this morning, I'm glad I did because your apology is an obvious acknowledgement that you over stepped your role as a professional blogger. Ms. Westbrook, your actions demonstrate that you do not provide safe online community mileu for anyone here.
I can't speak for my daughter, a very hardworking community organizer that ACTUALLY makes a difference in communities. But from her parents WE DO NOT ACCEPT YOUR VAGUE APOLOGY regarding your attempt to hurt our daughter and you need to remove yourself off this blog!

Anonymous said...


Let me be the first to say thank you for apologizing, and thank Charlie for pointing you in that direction. Many frequent posters have written that they post only because they are safe behind the anonymity of this blog-to "out" someone without their permission could affect their job or more. I think it's important to have the same standard for everyone, no matter who they are and whether you agree with them.

As has been pointed out several times already, there is no one "voice" of the African American community, and this blog is not one of the typical sources of news for any of them. I am not surprised you did not get returned calls or emails. This is one topic that you're probably not going to get much traction there.

Regular Reader

Anonymous said...

I am very pleased to read your apology, Melissa. I am comforted that you have acknowledged this error and by your apology. I now feel better about my ability to post here safe from the exposure of my identity. I trust in your commitment to not let it happen again.

--- yesterday's disheartened

Anonymous said...

What happened to Anaiye Qaassim yesterday at LEV? Her mother's very plaintive posting is not invisible here, folks.

An apology, followed by something about African American groups and disproportionality (which was very confusing, especially in the context of an apology), and then this posting by an aggrieved parent raises more questions than answers.

What is going on here?

What happened to this woman's daughter?

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Did Melissa actually call LEV and raise questions about Dr.Andaiye Qaasim's character? Was Melissa confused that Dr. Andaiye Qaasim and Tasleem Qaasim are the same person? Either way, calling someone's job and casting aspersions is a terrible thing to do! I hope that is not what happened! That's much worse than decloaking an anonymous poster.

Melissa, can you answer Professor Tasleem's post?


Lynn said...

enough already,

I didn't read that as sad and mournful. It's all in the interpretation I guess.

Ms.Qaasim is employed as a community organizer. As education is her area of interest, it's not surprising that she has spoken at several board meetings in support of the More4Mann group and supports a boycott of Seattle Public Schools. I assume she believes her employer would support her in speaking out for her beliefs.

I do think that asking Chris Korsmo at LEV if she (and LEV as an organization) supports the occupation of the Mann building is a valid question. I want to know if this education lobbying organization supports (directly or indirectly) Wyking Garrett's plans for the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation. (There is no need to bring Ms. Qaasim into that discussion.)

mirmac1 said...

Melissa, apology accepted. Shucks we (read me) all make mistakes, say things I wish I could take back. You are still a star in my book. thx

Tasleem Qaasim said...

After a google blogger used this blog to gather information to go to my daughter's employer and give them misinformation and lies regarding her, those who think they are helping Ms. Westbrook, you're not.

And the lady name "lynn" is correct this is not remorse that is speaking, but the fortitude to have this defamation of character addressed.

Melissa, Westbrook, I am asking for the last time keep my daughter's name and her employer as it relates to her off this blog. I won't ask again.

Tasleem Qaasim

RosieReader said...

Prof. Qaasim, I don't think your daughter's name was actually on the blog until you used it here in this thread a couple of times, and you also clearly identified your daughter's employer.

I happen to agree with the underlying position you support, which is that folks shouldn't link quasi-anonymous commenters with their employment. But now having made it clear who your daughter is and who she works for, I think it will be pretty hard for you to unring this particular bell. And given your own actions, there is nothing to ask Melissa to unring, either.

erik tanen said...

Ms. Qaasim,
I am not condoning Melissa's action, but I was called out once by Melissa when I was a PtA president and decided to use my real name from that moment forward when I had an opinion.
I personally believe everyone should step out of the shadow and use their own names when articulating their truth. But I understand why some would not.
Your daughter maintains a very biased blog that supports the Africatown situation and at the same time works for a nonprofit that is on its face unbiased. Again Melissa was wrong and violated her own rules, but what is your daughter afaid of if she has the support of her employer. I contacted her boss when this started to ask if they were in support of her blog and were told that her blog was on her own time and did not represent the view of Lev. I think this is bigger than your daughter and begs a bigger question if Lev is truly unbiased in regards to the Africatown situation.

Anonymous said...

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"

From The Lord's Prayer (aka Our Father)

Ann D

plus more said...

Not so fast Rosieread...

Melissa wrote--

"Lynn, that is interesting as Ms. Qaasim has a Facebook page called Seattle Public School Boycott. Today they posted an "Emancipation Proclamation from Equal Opportunity in the City of Seattle" against the SPD and SPS. 

"That on the Nineth Day of November, 2013, the Black Community, protector of our children and youth within the City of Seattle, therefor, shall be in resistance against these inequities by the Seattle Public Schools, BLACK CHILDREN AND YOUTH shall be then, henceforth, and forever Free; and the African American Community in the City of Seattle, will collectively use any governmental entities, laws, facilities, equipment, books, and/or other resources necessary to educate and protect Black Children and Youth from the continued educational abuse of their dignity, identity, culture, and humanity in Seattle Public Schools."

What's baffling to me is if Africatown hates SPS so much, why not go charter? Seems to be what they want which is control over a building and over the curriculum/teaching. 

I do find it somewhat odd that someone that works for LEV seems to hate public education this much (as least in Seattle). LEV seems more like a solid-citizen group than a firebrand group but that's just my take."
11/9/13, 11:16 AM

erik tanen said...

Plius more,
Its been well known that Andaiye was a fervent supporter of Africatown and a LEV employee since the beginning of this issue. So what's your point?

Anonymous said...

Brava for the statement. If the Africatown folks wanted to create a commotion, and they clearly state that objective, they have succeeded. But getting people riled up is not the same as improving the lives of those you want to help. Omar Johnson's appearance took all credibility away from the groups, for me. Creating tension and making headlines with an occupation is a legitimate tactic, but inviting a person with the views that Mr. Johnson expresses in his public speaking engagements is antithetical to the school district's philosophy. African Americans want acceptance and LGBT and interracial couples and their children deserve the same and inviting a speaker such as Mr. Johnson whose very public railings against both groups are readily available on YouTube, is so offensive that it's hard to see how anybody who calls themselves a progressive or liberal or radical could allow themselves to stay with the group unless an apology was made and the people who extended the invitation were chastised and educated.
Granted, there is a profound ignorance of life in the "ghetto", as we used to call it, among the posters here and in the white population of Seattle in general. Racism and white privilege is abundant and unrecognized. Nevertheless, it is ignorance, not a willful hostility. That's the problem with Mr. Johnson's invitation, it was willful spreading of hate towards race-mixers and gays. Unacceptable.


ArchStanton said...

This might not be the best thread to drop this in, but since the other Mann threads are closed and this is the most recent:

Here's a podcast from two years ago featuring Wyking Garrett and Sakara Remmu (aka Sable Verity) discussing the 'occupation' of the Horace Mann building. Hard to believe the current situation is over two years in the making - seems like it was only yesterday NOVA was moved to Meany.

Make of it what you will, but it does provide some perspective...

Website w/ description:

Podcast itself:

Jet City mom said...

"Prof. Qaasim, I don't think your daughter's name was actually on the blog until you used it here in this thread a couple of times, and you also clearly identified your daughter's employer. "


mirmac1 said...

Can we quit talking about people in this context who have every (protected) right to Freedom of Speech!?! I don't care if you're a relative or critic. Just stop.

I know I criticized Alison Krupnick on another thread, but I don't demand she quit writing nor complain to her employer. Same with Lynne Varner.

I appreciate Melissa's apology and the other young lady's strong support for her beliefs. Give 'em hell!

Mary Griffin said...

I think most people would agree that usually what people do in their own time is their own business, and usually not the business of their employer, within some limits.

Having said that, and I'm not trying to be obtuse about that, I've seen Ms. Qaasim the younger testify at school board meetings about discipline issues and I assumed it was for her employer. I was getting emails from her and other folks at LEV asking me to testify. That's why I say that.

I've also seen Ms. Qaasim testify about issues that were not related to discipline. And I wasn't really sure if she was testifying on behalf of her employer or not.

How are we to tell what's what? On the other hand, why should we care. I guess the only reason I care is there is some natural tendency on my part to think that perhaps sometimes LEV is not as in control of its message as it might think it is. I'm not really sure.

I, myself, have very mixed feelings about LEV. On the one hand, they have done some great work around the issues of discipline disproportionality. Truth be told, I do not think that the legislation that passed this year regarding discipline issues could have passed without the organizational capabilities and finanancial resources. So genuine Kudos to them for that.

On the other hand, I have great misgivings about their agendas having to do with charter schools, teacher evaluations, etc. I have misgivings, that as civil rights attorney john powell recently said have to do with how the black community becomes engaged in education--through discipline issues--and the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps LEV is using the discipline issue to engage black parents around other issues. I'm just saying I'm wondering--not making an accusation here.

So even though I am happy to help with issues such as discipline, I disengage myself entirely from most other issues.

People who see me at LEV events around discipline may assume that I have onboard with their other agenda issues. That wouldn't be true.

An even more tangled case presents itself with the Horace Mann issue. But just like I would caution people not to presume anything about my political persuasions when it comes to LEV, I would caution people to not make assumptions about its employees or its control of employee activities when they are off the clock.

Melissa apologized for her jumping to conclusions. She says she won't do it again. As someone who also has been known to jump to conclusions, I believe her.

mirmac1 said...

I am an officer or active participant in school orgs. I also speak out as an individual on district-wide issues. If someone does not sign or otherwise identify her/his position before making a statement or taking a stand, then we (at least I) figure they are making this statement as an individual.

Anonymous said...


The question is this--and still hasn't been answered by Melissa--

Did Melissa use information that she surmised was from Andaiye Qassim from blog comments yesterday--and then contact an anonymous poster's presumed employer with the contents of the comments?

This is not a referendum on the merits of Africa town or one's opinion about LEV, but about whether Melissa took an anonymous person and publicly tried to out them (which she has already admitted doing) and then CONTACTED WHO SHE THOUGHT WAS THIS ANONYMOUS PERSON'S EMPLOYER AND TELLING THE EMPLOYER WHAT WAS WRITTEN ON THIS BLOG BY THE ASSUMED EMPLOYEE.

If Melissa did this, it is a huge ethical violation. Tasleem Qaasim said that Melissa did this. Melissa has been asked by several people whether or not she did do this.

Melissa, did you contact LEV with information from an anonymous poster and tell them you thought this was their employee's posting?
Yes or no?

--enough already

erik tanen said...

Enough already does have a point.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I have usually had "enough" of "enough already" but agreed, she has a point. I think Melissa should answer the question.

-Rare Commenter

Family said...

This blogger has no answer for contacting an employer with her 'so-called' made up truths which were all lies, attempted to negatively impact my love one's employement, someone who has never visited this blog, have never spoken to this blogger, don't even know this woman.

If this is what Seattle call its smart person will we call it stupid where I am from. And any one representing, supporting and encouraging this unethical act of behavior is even relevant, as if any of you accepting this woman's apology has any say in matter. When she contact your employer than accept her apology then in the meantime you are safe to just support the issues she supports. Family

Tasleem Qaasim said...

A Request:

to ALL family and friends please to not come back on this blogger's website; she is insignificant to my daughter's life before she violated Andaiye's privacy and now. Hopefully Ms. Westbrook understands that now!

This community forum is illegitimate, leave it to Ms. Westbrook's friends and her fans. Please contact me directly for any comments. As parents we are only monitoring this blog for any other slanderous comments, until we feel confident Ms. Westbrook has no other ill intentions for our daughter.

Take care

Charlie Mas said...

Let me try to bring some clarity. I may not succeed.

Andaiye Qaasim works as a community organizer for LEV and Our Schools Coalition, supported the Yes on 1240 campaign, writes the blog, renegadeempress, and she is a member of the Africatown Education & Curriculum Advisory Committee and a supporter of the Mann occupation.

None of this is a secret. It is all very public. The woman's position with LEV is in the public domain, as is her blog and her efforts on behalf of Africatown. That's all out in the open.

There is a Facebook page called Seattle Public School Boycott. The authorship of this Facebook page is anonymous. On her blog Andaiye Qaasim promoted the Seattle Public Schools Boycott Facebook page and the movement.

There was an anonymous post on this blog signed "empowered culture" that contained a lengthy chunk of prose that was identical - verbatim - to a post on the Facebook page. Melissa wrote a comment in which she hypothesized that the commenter and the author of the Facebook page were the same person, and that they were both Andaiye Qaasim. Melissa also wondered if LEV were aware of Andaiye Qaasim's support for the boycott movement.

That was wrong. We have a policy here at the Seattle Schools Community Forum that we don't investigate or question the source of anonymous comments. We used to have a problem with that. It wasn't good, so we set the policy, and now we don't have the problem very much anymore.

Melissa was wrong to make the guess on the blog. It was a violation of our policy. She has acknowledged her wrongdoing, deleted the comment, and assured us that she won't do it again. That's the end of it. It does not merit a lifetime ban from the blog.


Tasleem Qaasim wrote that Melissa "contacted her employer yesterday in an attempt to defame her character with lies and innuendos" Really? What lies? What innuendos? Can anyone name one?

I don't think any lies were told. The truth will do. If Melissa told LEV that one of their community organizers has written in support of a public school boycott and supports the occupation of a public school building, those are neither lies nor innuendos. Are they? Nor are they anything that Andaiye Qaasim has to be shy about or ashamed of. Nor are they any secrets. The support has been very public. It's a bit funny to suddenly whine about her employer discovering it.

Tasleem Qaasim doesn't accept Melissa's apology? Too bad. I don't think the apology was for her.

Tasleem Qaasim wants Melissa to remove herself from the blog? Again, too bad. Tasleem Qaasim doesn't make the rules for this blog.

Tasleem Qaasim wants Melissa to keep her daughter's name and her employer as it relates to her off this blog? Too bad. Tasleem Qaasim doesn't dictate the content of this blog. Her daughter is a public figure and these facts are in the public domain. They are not state secrets or confidential information. Besides, it's nothing to be ashamed of.

Tasleem Qaasim won't ask again? That's good. It won't be any more effective a second time.

yourefired said...

Charlie Mas

Painful when you realize your blog have no real power, uh? relax son. LOL!

Anonymous said...


The point here that you did not address is whether Melissa took the words of an anonymous blogger to LEV and claimed that they were the words of their employee.

Melissa (and anyone else) has every right to ask LEV what they think of the writings of their employee when an employee is writing under her own name.

That is not the issue here at all.
Here's the issue:

Did Melissa contact LEV with the postings of an anonymous blogger and and tell them that she thought they were the postings of one of their employees?

Anonymous postings mean that the author reasonably expects to: 1) remain anonymous and 2)not have their words taken to their employer for whatever reason by anyone, particularly the blog host.

This is not rocket science. Either Melissa did that or she didn't. It's a yes or no question.

If she did, she made a serious ethical violation.

Why isn't she answering this simple question herself?

--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I did not.

Ethical Blogs said...

Talking about Truth to Power,


Ethical Blogs said...


don't you even try to contact our place of employment, who do you think you are?!!!

Go back to PTA work!

Thanks Mother Qaasim for the heads up! Your daughter has a lot of class not to be outrage at such a violation of privacy!

Charlie Mas said...

Okay. So now we have Melissa telling us, in just so many words, that she did not suggest to LEV that Andaiye Qaasim was the author of the anonymous blog post.

We do not yet have any description of the "lies and innuendos" that Tasleem Qaasim claims Melissa told LEV. What were they?

I think that if you call someone a liar, then you owe it to them to name the lies. That hasn't happened.

Now we have a number of other people, such as the anonymous Ethical Blogs, with no real knowledge of the situation also claiming that Melissa told lies. Really? What lies?

cd parent said...

Thank you for your answer. The pro Africatown supporters will never be happy with any form of non support or critical objection. They feel as if their cause makes them above reproach and will never want to entertain the idea that they should be questioned.
The instructor from the community college outrage seems our of place, but as a parent I get it.
What is rhe problem with her employer knowing what she is doing if she is posting the same info on her own blog. Or maybe, they dId not know and have discovered that she goes against there non biased position and want her to stop.
Again, the Africatown supporters do not want to hear any form of dialogue against their beliefs and have said that they should not participate, then maybe they shouldn't and go back I to the shadows where it is safe. They just need to let the Mann /Meany renovation move foward so that all of the children in the central region can be served. They only hurt the kids that they w ant to help.

Anonymous said...

I thought erik tanen wrote that he was the one who contacted LEV and made the inquiry.

I contacted her boss when this started to ask if they were in support of her blog and were told that her blog was on her own time and did not represent the view of Lev.

11/13/13, 1:03 PM

Doesn't that answer the burning question?


Franklin pierce said...

Your fired,
Do you really think the this blog has no power, that's the joke. Africatown will be shown for what it is because of the power of real discourse, not the racists, homophobic rantings that are the basis of your leadership. If Umar Johnson is the type of leadership and hate filled teachings that Africatown is wanting to follow, then I'm not surprised that rhe district is going slow.
It was because of this blog that your group will not be able to push your hate on my kid's.

Franklin Pierce

yourefired said...


what you just wrote makes no sense. So, uh, what? Try to articulate it calmly so I understand your point. What about your kids? lol!

Franklin pierce said...

Can't help you any more than I just did son.

cd parent said...

It is a relief to know LEV understands that random people in the community are not suppose to contact their organization to create drama for their employees.

Good for LEV, I think I'm a fan!

yourefired said...


thanks, thought so.

Anonymous said...

Just curious: When did we stop conjugating verbs and finishing words? Did I miss the memo?

It sure makes for a painful read.


erik tanen said...

I contacted LEV about a month ago in regards to Andaiye. I did so by reading her own blog and not connecting any dots. If they have been contacted recently it was not me.
That said. I find it sad and not super constructive when we dwell on the parents or grownups and the pissing matches between them. The issues that should be discussed should be about how to constructively help our kids in their individual schools, or the district in general. The issue if Melissa did or did not say something should be over with her saying no. I may not agree with her or Charlie, but you cannot challenge their integrity and passion for kids in Seattle.

Good Day said...


One could tell when the battle was over and who won.

Well done. Madam 8:07 a.m.