Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seattle Schools and Garfield Field Trip Incident: PTSA meeting

I attended Garfield's PTSA meeting last night.  There were about 65 people in attendance.  It was a bit odd because they chose to have the lights down so as to put the agenda and supporting documents on a big overhead screen.  It was pretty dark and made the remarks even more gloomy.

I was fairly astonished and dismayed at what both Principal Howard and Director Blanford said on the subject of the Garfield field trip incident.  Some of it was contradictory and some was incoherent.  I think they made a confusing situation even more confusing. 

But, as Principal Howard told the crowd, he got himself a lawyer and got advice from that lawyer on what to do.

I can only say that loose lips sink ships and I was more than surprised at the comments from both men.

There were three handouts, two quite interesting.
  • Letter from Principal Ted Howard to Garfield parents
  • Letter from Garfield PTSA to Superintendent Nyland, Michael Tolley, Sarah Pritchett and Richard Staudt (cc'd to Ted Howard)   
Howard's letter (partial):

Our school has been in the media, as many of you know, and Garfield does not step back from scrutiny.  We have stepped into the spotlight and are currently taking a fair amount of criticism for taking the slow and deliberate approach, as we look at what we can do to learn from the past and better prepare for the future.  I want to be clear with you that I take nothing more seriously than the safety and security of the students and faculty here at Garfield.  As you may know, overnight field trips are currently on hold as we await guidance from the District.  I am encouraged by their progress and hope to soon have the items that are necessary to me to approve field trips in 2015.

Garfield "stepped into the spotlight" or was pushed; I guess it depends on how you see the situation.

He also put info on the Sexual Harassment Taskforce in his letter.

What is interesting is that the conciliatory tone in the letter was not the tone he took when he spoke.  He was less-than-positive about the district's work.

The GHS PTSA memo urges the district and the school to work together to "ensure proper policies are in place as soon as possible regarding field trips." (italics theirs)

"Because the latest version of the field trip policy is unclear and leaves principals, teachers and chaperones open to legal action, Principal Howard has made the decision to cancel all overnight field trips until further notice."

(During the Q&A on this issue, one parent said this was the first she had heard that the new district policies would leave staff unprotected.  I had heard this from someone but now this appears to be what is now out there.)

The memo continues:

We support this decision to get district policies in order for the safety of our students and staff.

Cancellation of field trips affects a large percentage of Garfield's nearly 2,000 students, who are involved in the following classes and school activities (then there was a lengthy list).

They also listed issues with the delay/lack of clarity like fundraising and trip planning.  They expressed the sincere desire to have the district/school be in compliance with laws and policies.

But, they also said:

Every day in the life of a high school student is precious and valuable; a missed opportunity for new learning, unique experiences and broadened horizons cannot be recaptured,  As adults, we think nothing of taking a few months or a year to work out an issue.  Keep kids in mind.  Please proceed with speed on this.  

They ask for a written response/plan by Thursday, October 9th.

Meeting

The PTSA co-presidents, Marie Doyle and Kirk Wohlers, welcomed parents. There was a brief treasurers' report.  Boy, do these parents work hard to support this school. They raise over $250K. They had a pie chart of all the items they support and it's direct support to students and classrooms.  They pay for a college counseling office, they pay for student planners and a volunteer coordinator (among many items).  They did make me smile because they said they wanted to pressure the district to pay for some of this and I can only say, "Good luck with that."

Director Blanford was introduced and said that this was the first time he had been to a Garfield PTA meeting since being elected last November.  He then went on to say there were seven Board members and that two got elected last November (but it was three) and that four will be elected in November 2015.  (Why he needed to say all this about elections, I don't know.)  He said that he knew the school was grappling with the issue of the field trip policy.

He also said he had two e-mail addresses he could be reached at:
stephan.blanford@seattleschools.org
stephan.blanford@gmail.com

(He also mentioned later on in the meeting that he often has coffee at the Starbucks on 23rd/Jackson so if you ever want to drop in there during the day, you might find him.)

Then Principal Howard took the mic in what was a rambling history of his family's personal association with Garfield which dates back to the 1930s.  He himself graduated in 1985 and, when he came into Garfield as principal 11 years ago, was the seventh principal in 10 years.  He is also a Garfield parent with a freshman and a senior.

He is quite proud of Garfield to the point where he said that Garfield has been the "focal point of the city for years" and "if it didn't happen at Garfield, it didn't happen."  He said it was a "stand your ground meeting place."

He said they are working on changing "the culture" at Garfield.  At first, I thought he was talking about the field trip incident but no, it was about the hazing incident.

He got applause when he said their goal this year is "100% graduation."  He said they had been working on it for three years and knew it was a big one.  He also said something telling (to me) about creating this plan and "we got just so far ahead at looking at data, we forgot to talk to students."  I think that is, indeed, one danger in taking in huge amounts of data and trying to massage/analyze it into something when, really, asking students might help.

Then he got started on the field trip.  He said he got asked a lot "Did you have to stop all the field trips?"

He said:
- faculty was refusing to take any students on trips
- that he had hired a lawyer to "protect staff."  He said staff is saying no to field trips.
- he signs off on field trips but doesn't go on them.
- the district admitted that "protocols" need updating
- he and his lawyer made "suggestions" to the district.  He said they need to make sure that staff isn't being questioned on following protocols.
- that today he would be talking to the district
- that they stopped the field trips because we got "too many changes from the district" and "that made me uncomfortable."  He also said that "I want to make sure they are safe and if I can't guarantee it, I won't have trips." 

He mentioned - twice - that there is a perception of Garfield being "two schools" and firmly said it is one Garfield.

He said that public education in Washington state had taken a major financial hit over the last five years and hasn't recovered.   He said we have laundry list of things to do but not enough resources/staff to get them all done.

He also noted that they have 1676 students when the PTSA's memo said there were nearly 1900 students.

He said parents need to pressure the Legislature to fully fund education.  He mentioned school partners like Seattle Central and Seattle University.

Questions

The first question came from the front. For some reason, they did not give the speaker the mic and you could only get bits of what the speaker was saying but I heard "field trip" and "hazing."  Turns out it was KC councilman Larry Gossett.  I was quite surprised that they called on him but maybe he's a parent, I don't know.

Then Howard launched into a lengthy explanation of what he did about the field trip incident.

He said that the FBI "investigated the incident the same day it was reported."  He said the teacher reported it to him that day and he called the district.  (He then said he didn't want to get into "competing information" but continued on.)  He said the student had a social worker and a teacher at the hospital.  He said the students came home early from the trip.

He said he "had a conversation" with someone who came forward with information (I'm thinking he means the student who observed/heard the incident in the cabin).  He said he told "our police" and the FBI came to Garfield and talked with "everyone on the trip," teachers and students.

He said "we were told to let the FBI do its job and stay out of the way."  This supports what district legal counsel told me which was that Mr. Howard was the one who reported that the FBI said the district should wait on its investigation.

I'm not sure that "staying out of the way" means "don't investigate."  And why would the district not call the FBI themselves?  As well, a reporter from KIRO contacted the FBI office on this statement.  What the FBI said was they could not comment on this particular case but that they would not have said told the district not to investigate.  

But again, the district should not have been investigating for a crime.  They should have had an investigation to see how a crime could have happened under their own procedures.

He continued saying "I don't investigate crimes" but if they have a fight at school, he would but "that's not a crime."  The last time I looked, assault is indeed a crime.

He said there was no arrest and no charges filed against anyone.  He said if there had been "we would have followed the process and the district would have looked at it."

He said this went two years back and it just came up this summer.

Another question was about the seemingly separate culture at Garfield.  Howard answered saying kids make their own choices who to hang out with and that the best thing about Garfield is that you can do what you want to do and take any class you want to take.

He then said the faculty was looking at restorative justice curriculum and that many people don't know that Garfield has more African-American students than Franklin, Cleveland and Rainier Beach.  He also said that was a choice students made.  I'm not sure if he is aware that no, most students don't have a choice of where they go to high school.  Strange.

One of the PTSA co-presidents, Krik Wohlers, said that LinkCo was important when the hazing incident occurred.  He said he had attended a Board meeting and that he saw that people want change around sexual harassment.

One parent said his daughter had gone on great trips and he was worried about the mixed messages students were getting.

Mr Howard then said that the "media likes sensationalism."  That's an interesting statement given how little local coverage this has received.

He said the school had received "mixed messages" from the district about support.

Then Director Blanford stepped in to speak.  He said he had a long conversation with Mr. Howard yesterday morning.  He said the incident happened and staff were concerned and parent groups had meetings. He said the district was updating policies to prevent "events like what happened two years ago from happening again."  He said there were risk management issues and lots of "different pieces."  He said if staff doesn't feel comfortable, they need training and policies to depend on.  He said, "We are not at that place yet" and we have to let principals make this choice.

"That tells the district that we have work to do to get training necessary so whoever is escorting your child, everything is in place if something happens and can prevent something bad from happening." 

( If I were a district lawyer, or even just a lawyer, I would have seriously considering asking/telling Director Blanford not to say anything else.)  But he seemed to sense this and said the district was "focusing on the future, not the past" and the reason is because the incident has "gone to litigation" and so there is little they can communicate.

He said until we have these "assurances" in place, "I think Principal Howard was right to do this."  He said my commitment is because when "I heard Howard put the kabosh on field trips" that he knew "we have work to do for the district."  He said his colleagues and the Superintendent are "trying to make that happen and we are not there right now."

A question was asked if there was widespread consensus to end the field trips for this year and wasn't there a different way to do things.  Howard said this was "one of the big things in the packet" and that there are certain pieces where you "use your professional development" and said that the teachers on the trip thought they had used their "professionalism and look what happened to me" and other teachers see that and wonder "what do I do?"

Howard said he asked his lawyer the same question and the lawyer said Garfield could create their own policies but then he found out thru "Legal" that staff wouldn't be covered.

He said there was general consensus among the "bulk" of teachers about ending field trips but some teachers said they would go on trips.

Another question was asked about an orchestra trip in March.  Howard said that he gave the date of January (in his original letter to parents) and he had several meetings on the issue since August.

He said "the way our district is changing policy and the training isn't till later."  He said he was told they needed a Title IX officer for the building and the "website has a litany of things to do" and "a 5-minute Powerpoint doesn't train me."

Blanford then said if he were a parent, he would wonder why this is taking so long.  He said if you were paying attention at School Board meetings (and he said "I have to be there and I don't encourage you to go" - kind of a weird thing to say given what he said next), that you would have heard this eloquent person saying the district should have a taskforce to look at "all of this."  He said it "took Board members awhile to buy in" but they did and the district is creating the taskforce now.

He went and said they need to figure out the policies and practices that "will be the best ones" and that it will take awhile and the challenge is how do we deal with the two things - getting kids ready for field trips and not having anything "like what happened two years ago."

Another question was over Howard saying that there was a distinction between a disciplinary action and a criminal investigation.  He said there was "potential overlap" but maybe not enough evidence to charge but you could discipline.

He said he couldn't answer the question as stated but that it gets handed to the district.  The person who asked the question said that "this can't be the first time something like this has happened."  Principal Howard said, "In 11 years, I have never been faced with this kind of situation."  Now whether he meant an assault or a problem on a field trip or what, he did not explain it.

Another parent pressed the discipline issue and Howard said, for example, they have a clear policy on drinking and a clear policy "across the board."  He said, "I don't do discipline" and that it was the VP's job and that he only sees students if they are expelled.

He said there are not clear guidelines on what to do if someone is not charged with a crime but has been accused of doing something that could bring charges.

He said the only two people who know what happened on that trip are the two students.  (We know that isn't really true as he himself said one student in the room that night gave him information.)

Blanford was asked, "Why do you support Howard's decision to cancel all field trips?  Are you telling other principals to do the same?"  

He said, "I'm not sure all principals feel the same way on policies."  He said they have the discretion to decide on types of field trips and what you are asking me "is there a different rule for School X or Y but we give discretion to principals to evaluate their particular situation but, in the future, we need a policy across all schools or space in-between that would allow one school to let one thing happen that another wouldn't."

He sensed that people could not follow him and tried again.  "We count on the discretion of prinicpals to know their school and situation and that was done in this case."  He said that Principal Howard was not comfortable with the new policies and that "district staff need to make him comfortable."

It was at this point - mercifully - that this discussion ended and they moved on.

What I got from this is as follows:

- what a huge mess
- but  look, if you read the district's report, there is time after time that district policies were not followed.  Adminstrators signed off on the trip without necessary signatures and information.  Chaperones were not properly vetted.  Chaperones, in violation of district policy, did not inform the VP that they were bringing their own children.  And on and on.

When will anyone take responsibility or be held responsible for not following the procedures in place?  It cannot be a case of "move on, nothing to see here." 

-Blanford seemingly says there should be an across-the-board policy but then, in the same breath, says principals should have discretion.  Is that some principals (high school) or all principals? How much discretion?

- as well, are other high school principals shutting down field trips?  Why is it then, that Principal Howard is the only principal who is so uneasy?  

The PTSA is right - these are not insurmountable problems.

High schools plan and take field trips every single year.  So unless you are trying to cover yourself from litigation and protect your job, it would seem this district could get its act together for this school to continue on with the greatness that Mr. Howard feels so deeply.

Why is this so difficult if the district staff and the school staff are all professionals? 

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
Thank you for stating the District's rhetoric. There many Distortions in their statements. In addition to merely following the chaperone policies to protect students, the District had a responsibility under Title IX to extend rights to our daughter regardless of any criminal investigation under way. As you rightly noted, KIRO news exposed the District's lie about the FBI telling them not to investigate. Unfortunately we don't have time to detail all the errors in the District's statements as we are dealing another round of Ferpa violations which the District pretends it didn't make. They were discovered by a member of the public who kindly spent her weekend identifying them all.

mom

Anonymous said...

I was also at the PTSA meeting last night.

This "rush" to amend policy is ridiculous, as we all know that if there was a great concern about the field trip policy following the NatureBridge incident, then the policy would have been revised two years ago.

The district is "acting" now as a direct result of the daylighting that happened this summer. They did a great job of sweeping it under the rug for as long as they could, as our kids attend Garfield now (and one attended Garfield at the time of the incident) but we just learned about it from the recent coverage.

I wish I could believe that Ted Howard's main goal is the safety of our kids; however, based on his lack of concern for the past two years, I find his explanation now to be less than plausible.

There have been tons of Garfield field trips that have happened in the past two years that have followed policy with no issues.

The problem is enforcing policy - not changing policy to CYA the district and administration.

Now Garfield is the only school in the district to cancel all field trips - because as Ted said - if it doesn't happen at Garfield, it doesn't happen..;)

Super frustrating that we have to wait months for another district Task Force to convene and lawyer-up before GHS kids can go on field trips again.

Idiocy.

-GHS Parent

passthebuck said...

I'll reiterate what I said on another thread: it is not within the charter of the task force on sexual harassment to evaluate field trip policy.

See the task force charter here:
http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=317089&

The District needs to deal with this issue - and soon.

Melissa Westbrook said...

GHS parent, I really think that GHS parents have now listened to Mr. Howard's somewhat convoluted thinking (honestly, I could not follow his entire train of thought) and maybe should move up the food chain.

I am checking other high schools about what they are doing. So far out of 10 other high schools, 5 say they are planning and going forward with field trips.

A couple of high schools think the paperwork is worse than before but one high school said it seems much clearer and easier to file.

Bottom line is that, so far, no other high school is following Garfield's lead. That might make you think it's not the policy but some other change/protection that Mr. Howard seeks for himself and his staff.

Anonymous said...

Howard's rhetorical device of "look how loyal I am, I care," using his family's history with the district for a prop, goes a long way toward understanding why he is still the principal at Garfield--Ted Howard, Jr. is politically connected to a lot of people in the district and city.

His former teflon record, including avoiding consequences for his special treatment of athletes, helped inflate his sense of invincibility. Hell, he even has the nerve to blame the district, his employer, in order to deflect blame from himself.


This field trip shutdown was actually a very clever move by a person backed against the wall. When he lifts the "ban" that he's blaming others for making him have to impose, he will be able to exercise power and control. "I no longer have to protect my staff from the policy gaps in the district."

What a pitiful excuse for leadership.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

The whole 'tightened field trip regulations' are a farce. Field trips are happening all over SPS in September and guaranteed they are being chaperoned by people who have not filled out the paperwork. The only reason this isn't exposed is because no media source is doing the legwork. Elementary, Middle, High School. Pick a place and SPS field trip paperwork won't be in compliance. I watched two happen in the last week.

That's just one problem.

The second problem is that the video SPS is making everyone watch is sort of OK for explaining sexual predator behavior but has nothing to do with the peer-to-peer sexual harassment/assault that occurred at Garfield. NOTHING in the new paperwork addresses the very incident that has raised the alarm. Typical SPS.

The third problem, as Charlie and Melissa keep pointing out, is that SPS still seems to feel that coming up with the correct paperwork criteria will cover its butt in the legal department, but there seems zero understanding that this is not a paperwork issue. It is a training and compliance issue. Chaperones need a lot less training than do school administrators and district personnel who are supposed to be sure field trips have proper staffing and procedure training.

Nothing Howard or Blanford blathered about, nor that the district is setting up, is giving me assurance that the exact same incident won't happen again. CYA does not equal student safety procedures. Not at all.

DistrictWatcher

Charlie Mas said...

Nothing that Mr. Howard said or did makes any sense at all. None of it.

Nothing that Director Blanford said makes any sense at all and he has done a number of things that step over the line for Board Director conduct.

The rest of the District staff are simply absent.

Anonymous said...

Teflon Ted lying again. The rape on the GTA trip to Ghana happened in 2007.

-SWWS

Anonymous said...

There are many things in motion right now. People are reacting separately and coming from different places. It's a predictable outcome for cases like this involving big institution. Institution is going to protect itself first, then possibly the employees. I see this in big healthcare and university system. I've had colleagues named in lawsuits because they had a brief, one time interaction with the patient at some point during a hospital stay and nothing to do with the cataclysmic event. But once the legal net is thrown, people are named. Many healthcare professionals carry their own liability insurance because often time they are ultimately on their own.

What result is CYA mode. It's unfortunate because what you often end up seeing once the event follows through its legal conclusion is protocol/policies changes and task force galore, but the actual changes which affect human behavior so that untoward events are less likely to occur again don't happen. (I say less likely vs. never happening because human errors and nature cannot take the absolutes out.) You are going to get predators, criminals, and accidental errors.

But there are ways to change this culture. It requires trust. Commercial pilots have a way to bring issues and errors to the Feds confidentially. Some more enlightened hospitals and companies have ways for people to acknowledge errors and problems without penalty. Obviously this doesn't include breaking laws. The point is to ID flaws and weak point within the system and change it. People (including our students) will make mistake. Sometimes with great tragedy as in the case of a very experienced, well respected RN @ Children's who made a med error resulting in the death of a child. The RN killed herself during the investigation. 2 deaths. I don't know if Children's has learned from this, but I like to think so.

For SPS, trust is the issue. Parents and students are parts of SPS and its culture as are the employees. In fact, the way I see it, parents and students are 2/3 of that whole. No individual school is immune to what happened at Garfield. I don't have complete information about what is going on now. I'm not sure many of us do. I sense there are many motives at play adding to the complexity and murkiness. People want justice, want punishment, firings, vindication. That's understandable. What happened was horrific. I suspect there will be eventual personnel fallout and payout, but I don't know if this case will change SPS and its culture much.

reader

Anonymous said...

Last night, Director Blanford encouraged folks to apply for the Title IX Task Force. Are applications still being accepted?

--deadline curious

Anonymous said...

Amen, reader.

In a very strange way, the myopic focus that's developing on "institutional accountability" reminds me of Justice Holmes comments about Corporations: "They have no body to imprison, and no soul to damn. Therefore, they do as they please."

Call me crazy, but I have a strong feeling that even the Task Force's recommendations will boil down to 80% CYA and 20% action. It's such a pervasive thing in our culture to have people "sign off" on paperwork, regardless of whether they read, understand, or digest it at all. Anyone who's closed a loan knows what I'm talking about.

Aside from all else, I did like TH's comment that a "5 minute PowerPoint doesn't train me." Repeat a thousand times. He hit that nail right on the head.

WSDWG

Melissa Westbrook said...

Deadline, nope the deadline for the Taskforce was Sept. 26th. I truly don't mean to harp on Director Blanford but he is truly one of the most unprepared directors that I have ever seen elected.

WSDWG, I agree about that PP remark. If may appeal to staff that the "retraining" is not anything valuable and just a "look what we did."

I wonder, though, if Garfield's lack of oversight leading to all this retraining bothers other school leaders who wonder why they all have to get retrained.

passthebuck said...

@MW:

I think the PPT training was in reference to Title IX compliance (not field trips) in which case this is not RE-training. It's just training. I doubt any school leadership has had any prior Title IX training, and Howard is right that a 5 minute PPT won't cut it. The District has really done school leaders a disservice by not providing them with adequate Title IX training but then expecting them to know how to comply.

Anonymous said...

On a related matter:

Today Parents of the GHS 2012 assault victim wrote the District's general counsel, Ron English, an email signed The Parents regarding numerous Ferpa violations that the public noted in the District's work products. English's response to numerous recipients revealed our identity along with the original letter that we signed as "The Parents."

The irony is that the District had just tried to talk its way out of FERPA violations when it then released our names in the letter. So we'll send 20 some pages of privacy violations off to the US Government, many discovered by the public.

Please write a letter to Dr. Nyland and the School Board asking him to request an independent investigation by the Office of Professional Practices concerning the parents' misconduct complaint of Sept 2014 that cite the WACs that District staff violated
The parents

Anonymous said...

District Watcher: It will happen again until there are consequences. Yet the District won't hold the responsible parties accountable. Hence the need to request the independent investigation through Nyland. Letters would eliminate the need to call another demonstration.
parent

Chris S. said...

Thanks Melissa. Now I have a pretty good idea all the things TH doesn't do, including articulating a coherent thought. I'm wondering what he DOES do. The principal doesn't do discipline? WTF???

Chris S. said...

Yeah, reading my own comment: that explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

About FERPA :

Here is what SPS sent out -

We have made some policy changes in the Public Records Office over the last few weeks, and these changes may impact your future requests. Under the Public Records Act, records released from this office should be releasable to anyone (as in, I should be able to publish them on the front page of the Seattle Times without anyone’s privacy being violated). As such, we will no longer release unredacted records protected by FERPA—even to parents. Parents who wish to obtain student or educational records will need to make a student records request (I know you’re familiar with that process as well!). Otherwise, they will receive records redacted of all student educational or identifying information.

CYA fullforce

Melissa Westbrook said...

CYA, where did you find this?

mirmac1 said...

CYA fullforce, another instance where SPS Legal just makes it up as they go along. PRA and FERPA are two separate laws and Legal should read them.

mosfet said...

Melissa, thank you for posting about it.

Also, you wrote, "Mr Howard then said that the "media likes sensationalism." That's an interesting statement given how little local coverage this has received." What sort of coverage would you have expected?

Seems like Ted Howard is pointing fingers at the district (for not making field trip guidelines clear, which wasn't actually the problem with NatureBridge) in an effort to get people off his back.

He does make a fair point about time being more precious to teenagers than to their parents.

GHS PTSA raises > $250K? That's impressive.

Kind of funny that Howard brought up the fact that he was the 7th principal in 10 years. Sort of a "I may not care about student safety or federal laws, but at least I didn't quit halfway through my first year." Sir, if we're impressed just by the fact that you stayed more than a few years, then we're setting the bar incredibly low for high school principals. Students deserve much better than that.

IIRC, Larry Gossett has been a graduation speaker for GHS at least a few times.

Regard Howard having a conversation with "someone who came forward with information," I believe he means the assailant. The student who observed the assault told a parent, who told a teacher, who told Howard.

'He said there was no arrest and no charges filed against anyone. He said if there had been "we would have followed the process and the district would have looked at it." ' Title IX requires you to follow the process and investigate even if no one's ever arrested.

" He said he couldn't answer the question as stated but that it gets handed to the district. The person who asked the question said that "this can't be the first time something like this has happened." Principal Howard said, "In 11 years, I have never been faced with this kind of situation." Now whether he meant an assault or a problem on a field trip or what, he did not explain it. "

If he's talking about sexual assault, no, it's not. There's a Change.org petition regarding Garfield, and someone posted on it that a friend had been raped at a school dance at Garfield a few years ago and mentioned that Howard had done nothing. There was also the rape/attempted rape of a student on the Ghana field trip in 2008.

mirmac1 said...

mosfet, I believe you're correct. TH obfuscates that he just heard it on the grapevine. He went out to eat with the boy and his mom, and asked him what happened. If that's "not interfering" than we're all screwed.

As for Blanford's hamhandedness: I thought it amusing that he's handing out his personal email address for SPS matters under litigation. My, isn't that a no-no and grounds for dismissal, at least recusal? I guess for some but not others.

mosfet said...

@Mirmac1

You made an excellent point about Blanford giving out his personal email address, particularly at a meeting where they're discussing litigation with the district. That is quite inappropriate.

Emails with his SPS address would be public records. I don't know if emails to his personal address would be considered public records.

Jet City mom said...

SWWS-
GTA went to Ghana in 2008 not 2007.

Anonymous said...

Was the Ghana case between two students on the trip?
GHSmom

Can'tBlameThem said...

Both Howard and the teachers are afraid.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I think a rape on a school trip and evidence that district policies over chaperoning were not followed might be of interest to people.

Howard did not make the point about time being more important to teens than parents - that was a sentence from the PTA letter.

Can't Blame, I can't blame them for their fear but they took on the responsibility and need to consider the outcomes from their actions.

Anonymous said...

FERPA watchers: you gotta find this ridiculous. The District sends us ferpa compliant documents with blacked out areas. After reporting violations they write: "Please note that the version of the report you attached is only partially redacted (although the file name would suggest it is fully redacted). This unredacted version of the report has not been released to any requestor pursuant to a public records request. You were the only recipient of this version, which highlighted the new redactions made to the document." Now look at the claims they make about their own documents that are redacted. We, among others, believe these ongoing violations are retaliatory and discriminatory. Especially when the valued athlete's team is redacted but the female's elite musical ensemble is not. Good luck with your documents, and complain to FERPA regulators as we have.
the parents

Anonymous said...

So, no one has addressed this part of the notes from TH in the comments so far...

He indicates that many staff are afraid of legal ramifications towards them if *something* happens on a field trip and they are the chaperones. He indicated that district legal will not back up the staff.

Is he really saying - If all the procedures are followed, paperwork filled out, and everyone actually does their job, and *something* still happens, the district will not support the teachers?

It's one thing if the process is botched and procedures aren't followed, leading to a bad outcome, but if everything is done to the letter and their is a bad outcome, the district is just going to hang their staff out to dry?

northwesterner

Anonymous said...

Ghana rape. If anyone wants the records we have them "ferpa complaint" from the District. They have the female victim's interview with her initials throughout. A Garfield alum told us that only 20 people went on the trip so it would be easy to guess her identity.

stopsexualassaultinhighschool on FB and we'll share.

Parents

Charlie Mas said...

If I were a teacher my concern would not be that District wouldn't back me up if I followed the procedure, but that the District would throw me under the bus after finding some why to determine that I had failed to follow the procedures. The more complex the procedures, the easier it would be for someone to innocently violate them and the easier it would be for the District to use that violation to back away from providing a defense.

Anonymous said...

It's not in the district's interest to throw any employee under the bus until after the lawsuit(s) have been settled.

My concern (as a teacher) is working for an unethical and dysfunctional employer on a daily basis.

That, of course, is why I left SPS.

--enough already

Wow said...


Did SPS school board member- Stephan Banford- really give his personal e-mail address to parents?

Melissa Westbrook said...

He did. I was surprised as well but apparently he didn't really get that director training very well.

He is an exceeding slow study.

mirmac1 said...

mosfet

Docs not exempted under the PRA must be disclosed, even if on private computers or phones. Of course the individual is expected collect and release them. Good luck with that.