Thursday • July 23, 2020
HCPSS Redistricting Special Needs Exemption Appeal Trial – PART 4 – Closing Remarks, “Abuse of Discretionary Powers”
By Steven Keller
Included below is Part 4 in a series of audio clips from one of the 2019 HCPSS school redistricting appeal trials held last week on July 15, 2020. This trial involves three appellants challenging the 2019 HCPSS school redistricting based on how IEP & 504 exemptions were handled for students after the redistricting vote was finalized.
These audio clips contain highlights from the closing statement of the appellant’s attorney, Lorraine Whittaker, who summarizes the concerning breaches of policy & privacy that were unveiled in the testimony given by HCPSS central office staff members.
In the first audio clip, Ms. Whittaker recaps how HCPSS central office staff & supervisors invaded the privacy of students by investigating confidential details of the special needs plans as they considered whether or not to permit or deny special needs redistricting exemption requests:
In the next clip, Ms. Whittaker recounts how HCPSS central office staff, with approval from supervisors, took it as their job to determine the motivations of the parents for a child seeking a special needs exemption, specifically by investigating their social media activity:
A standout quote from the above clip is “We do not project the sins or perceived sins of the parent onto the child”
In the next clip, Ms. Whittaker recalls how HCPSS central office staff & supervisors took it upon themselves to determine whether the confidential specific details of a student’s IEP/504 plan were worthy of granting the student a redistricting exemption, despite those staff members having no formal education in the development, understanding & evaluation of special needs programs, and that these staff members were granted access to this confidential information even though the information was irrelevant to the decision according to Policy 9000:
In the final powerful clip, Ms. Whittaker blasts HCPSS central office staff & supervisors for their abuse of discretionary powers , rebukes the sharing of this confidential information with the BOE’s legal counsel and laments the fact that these privacy breaches into special needs students & their families were committed by HCPSS for no reason other than to attempt to win a court case that would uphold the redistricting plan & defend their decisions at all costs:
How high up in HCPSS leadership was the permission (overt or tacit) given to conduct these acts?
Was Superintendent Martirano aware of these maneuvers?
Even if Superintendent Martirano wasn’t explicitly aware of or involved in these actions, it is clear that was there a culture of tacit approval of these maneuvers pervasive throughout sections of HCPSS Central Office, which led supervisors to either explicitly encourage or turn a blind eye to these apparent policy transgressions & privacy breaches.
Audio clips 1 & 2 can be found in Part 1 of this series.
In Part 1, it was revealed that social media activity by parents is considered “fair game” for HCPSS central office staff when evaluating whether or not to grant a redistricting exemption to a student with an IEP or 504 plan.
Audio clips 3 & 4 can be found in Part 2 of this series.
In Part 2, it was revealed that HCPSS central office staff consulted the confidential information of a student’s 504 or IEP plan as they made determinations for redistricting exemptions solely because their supervisors allowed them to and assisted them in doing so, despite the fact that no legal authority existed for this invasive maneuver in HCPSS Policy 9000.
Audio clip 5-7 can be found in Part 3 of this series.
In Part 3, the defense reveals that it had been granted access to the details of the appellant’s son’s 504 plan by proceeding to read these details in open court and reveals that it had been privy to confidential information that the family had requested an IEP meeting for their daughter.