Teacher resigns over district’s alleged mistreatment of special education students

How do we make changes if no one is aware that changes need to be made? How is someone to be held accountable for poor decisions if no one knows about the poor decisions? Of course, some people may know about the decisions and don’t think they were bad decisions. In my opinion, those who knew about what happened to a group of students in Hollister schools and think there was no wrongdoing need to get out of public education.

These are a few of the issues that I have struggled with for over a year. I get no pleasure from writing this. I have lived in Hollister for over 35 years. I like the Hollister School District.  But the things going on in the special education department the last few years are shameful, and this issue I’m writing about was the final straw for me.

From the first day of school last year (2013-2014), I complained about a disgraceful act played out upon a class of our most profoundly disabled students and their families. This special class of all non-verbal, mostly autistic students had their class dissolved (the why of that is another story). Instead of coming back for their final year of middle school, to a class in which they had been very successful and with which all the parents were very happy, the class was dissolved and they were randomly placed in other classes. There was no seeking advice from IEP team members or other professionals as to what effect such a move might have on them.  The superintendent, all five school board trustees, the principal of the school involved, the county director of special education, the Hollister School District’s Director of Special Education, and others were all made aware of this injustice laid upon our most challenged students and their families.

The treatment of one student was so outrageous, the Disability Rights California organization got involved. This student was kept in seclusion for most of the day. The student had very little contact with peers. The student did not have snack, lunch, or P.E. with classmates. The student spent the day with three adults that were assigned to the student. The DRC, a federally-funded organization, served the district with a complaint letter, and gave the district 60 days to investigate and report back their findings. The district never responded to the DRC. How arrogant! This has resulted in another lawsuit against this district’s special education administration, and there have been many the last few years. Check out the district’s board agenda on May 27, 2014, item 12j, to see the lawsuit. 

The district claimed to have investigated and found no wrongdoing. How do you investigate without talking to the witnesses? Maybe that’s why their response to the lawsuit is filled with inaccurate information, basically a fabricated story. Many people heard and witnessed the same thing, and not one of us was questioned in their investigation. I don’t think the investigators did a very good job!

The parents of another student from that class tried several times to get the top administrator  to look into what had happened to this class and their child, and kept getting referred back to the person that created the problem. In one email from the parents, they expressed how his response to them was unacceptable and ask for the names of his superiors. This top administrator did call them after that email, but not to apologize for anything or assure them he would look into it personally, but rather to tell them he felt threatened by their email, and then referred them again to the person that created the problem.

 It was a very tough year for my aides, my students, and me. Because of our advocating for students my aides and I were not treated fairly or properly and it resulted in my cutting my career short. It’s very frustrating and disappointing that something like this can happen and people just look the other way while others lie and deny. My resignation letter says it best; “I refuse to work for such an incompetent special education administration and a district that tolerates and ignores such incompetence.”  I do hope to continue my advocacy for students with special needs and their families. I have started a website where I hope to provide information and a forum for people to discuss issues and share information. 

Roger Brown,

Resigned Special Education Teacher