Friday, March 28, 2008

Quiz: Is this quote referring to bullying teachers or bullying students?

“People would make fun of the way I walked, the way I would talk,” she said. “Every little move I made, I was critiqued.”

Answer: These same words have been spoken many times about bullying teachers, but in this case, young people were the culprits.

Here's the story:

With help from friend, woman overcomes bullying
By Mike Celizic
March. 21, 2008

Gabrielle Ford was 20 years old and hiding in her room, driven there by the abuse of vicious bullying she had suffered in school because of a degenerative neuromuscular disease. She asked her mother if she could have a dog, because she desperately needed a friend.

Ford not only got a faithful companion, she also got an entirely new and wonderful life.

Because of Izzy, the coonhound she got, Ford has become a highly sought-after speaker who travels the country in her wheelchair, talking to school assemblies and classes about ways to stop bullying.

Their story, as reported for TODAY on Friday by NBC’s Jenna Wolfe, is an extraordinary and heartwarming tale about shared love between human and canine. The bond the two share goes beyond the normal relationship of owner and pet.

When Izzy was just a year old, she was diagnosed with the canine equivalent of the Friedrich’s Ataxia that afflicts Ford.

“When she became sick, it was like she could, you know, relate with me,” Ford said. “I call Izzy my second life.”

In reality, it is more of a third life. The first chapter of Ford’s life was that of a normal girl growing up in Michigan who loved to dance. But as she hit her teens, she began having trouble with coordination, balance and speech. When she was 13, doctors diagnosed her with Friedrich’s Ataxia, a genetic, progressive condition that affects the central nervous system and erodes muscular control and speech.

Ford’s condition made her a target of bullies in school. “People would make fun of the way I walked, the way I would talk,” she said. “Every little move I made, I was critiqued.”

One boy took particular joy in picking on her. “He just tormented me every day,” she said. “He would just come by and punch me in the side.”

Her mother, Rhonda Hillman, suffered along with her daughter, watching the bright, outgoing girl she had known become withdrawn and depressed. When she graduated from high school, she retreated to her room, unwilling to come out and face a world that she felt had no use for her.

“I just didn't care anymore about anything,” Ford said. “I was really mean. I was angry to people. It was like I was wasting away.”

That’s when she decided she wanted a dog, and the droopy-faced, black-and-tan hound she named Izzy came into her life. Izzy provided immediate companionship and unconditional affection, but Ford’s life really began to change when the Animal Planet cable network picked up the story about the dog and the young woman who shared the same disease.

A teacher at a local school saw the piece, contacted Ford, who continues to live with her mother, and asked her if she would speak at a school assembly on bullying. Ford, who speaks from her wheelchair, was nervous about speaking in public, but agreed to do it.

She was so good, other schools started asking her to speak. Today, she does about one lecture a week, often bringing audiences to tears with her heartfelt testimony to the cruelty of bullying.

“I enjoy talking to the students at school,” she said. “And I like the feeling of being accepted.”

Ford, 28, can look forward to living many more years. But Izzy is defying the odds with every day of life. She’s still getting around at the age of 8, years after veterinarians said she should have been dead.

Ford is writing a book about her life. Entitled “Still Dancing,” it is scheduled for release next Christmas by the Christian publisher Zoe Life. A series of children’s books featuring Gabe and Izzy is also in the works.

“My life has gotten so much better,” because of Izzy, Ford said. “I've overcome my fears. I'm not embarrassed of what I look like anymore. And I deserve to live every day, just like everybody else.”

Monday, March 24, 2008

Diane Crosier is covering up bigtime

The easy part is over. Diane Crosier refuses to turn over any more public records. I'm going to have to go downtown and look at Leon Page's filing that forced her to turn over records.

Here's the message she emailed today:
"2. Invoices for the Stutz firm relative to work done for Chula Vista Elementary School District from January 1, 2005 through January 1, 2006 - we have no documents responsive to this request.

"3. Documents relative to work done by the Stutz firm for Chula Vista Elementary School District from October 4, 2001 through Feb. 28, 2002 - we have no documents responsive to this request."

I believe SDCOE does have the documents. The other possibility is that they've been "lost" or destroyed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Open Letter to Katharine Kornas of GreatSchools, Inc.

Dear Katherine:

Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and secrecy and dishonesty are a tool used by many (if not most) school districts to avoid fulfilling their duties to students.

I believe open and honest discussion is the best way to expose wrongdoing by school districts and protect the public.

My discussion of postings on your site led to the resolution of a problem. Why would you want to stop the discussion?

The parents who post on your site are trusting that no one on the site is aiming to harm them.

Why don't you add to your terms and conditions a requirement that school district attorneys and their surrogates reveal their conflicts of interest to the special education parents who might be going up against them in court?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Harvard Citizen Media Law Project re GreatSchools, Inc. threat

Click HERE for report on threat against my website by GreatSchools, Inc regarding my post about the strange similarities between education attorney Daniel Shinoff and the person who went by the name of "asearchers" on the Schwab Learning parent message board.

Central America was great

I just got home from Central America after two enjoyable weeks. Guatemala is as beautiful as ever, and I got to see Honduras for the first time. In between, I traveled the length of El Salvador, which surprised me with its beauty and the friendliness of the people. Salvadorans seem to be unanimous in their relief that the civil war is over, and grateful to have survived. My last day there I feasted on pacaya and izote; these are breaded-and-fried flowers. They're not fragile, thin-petaled flowers; they're big and hearty.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pat Judd retires; board had not decided whether to renew his contract

Superintendent Pat Judd of Mountain Empire School District announced his retirement less than four months before the board's decision about whether or not to rehire him would go into effect.

Since Judd, the defendant in an employee's lawsuit, recently fired his lawyer and hired a new one, and at about the same time suddenly decided to go on an unexplained leave, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the board wasn't too happy with him.

I'm guessing that the board might want to settle the lawsuit. I know for a fact that Patrick Judd believes in harrassing witnesses; Richard Werlin did it on his behalf in my case. Perhaps Judd was putting pressure on Mountain Empire employees regarding the Sherbondy case, which was ready to go to trial when Judd apparently demanded a new lawyer. Judd says that he isn't sick, so I'm wondering if he's been off work because of administrative leave.

Parents will demonstrate at the (belated) training session for OAH judges at USD

When: MONDAY, MARCH 10, 2008

At: 4:00 P.M.

Where: University of San Diego

We'll meet at the west entrance of USD, on West Marian Way in Linda Vista

Contact: Dayon Higgins

Telephone: 858-538-9743

The Office of Administrative Hearing Judges are scheduled to attend training courses at University of San Diego campus for the entire upcoming week of March 10th though March 14, 2008.

Parents of Children With Disabilities Will Be Demonstrating Against the California Department of Education Contract With The Office of Administrative Hearing Judges “OAH”.


Lack of oversight and fairness, decisions are biased and disproportionably skewed in favor of the school districts. School districts with their high paid attorneys win over 90% of the administrative hearing cases with the new OAH”s officers against parents with student with disabilities. With the former California Department of Education contract with the Special Education hearing officers “SEHO” at Mc George School of Law, parents won 50% percent of the time.

Lack of legislative oversight and transparency has been lacking with gaps in OAH’s reports regarding their activities.

Lacks of training as required by federal law, OAH judges do not have any formal training in special education law and handle mostly other unrelated cases.

OAH switched to a more expensive mediation system whereby mediators are regular or pro term judges. Under the new contract parents must be attorneys or hire attorneys. Previously, under SEHO administrators were trained professionals, in many cases educators who were committed to the special education mediation process.

Parents are requesting legislative intervention and an audit by The California State Senate. Without the Senate intervention thousand of special education students will be displaced and their parents will continue to incur astronomical costs with very little chance of success.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Untrained OAH hearing officers agree with school districts 90% of the time

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) disregards the law in case after case. 90% of special education cases are decided in favor of the district.

The public would save money, and justice would be far better served, if the officer simply flipped a coin.

School attorneys, like lawyer Daniel Shinoff of Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holz, make millions dragging out these cases, when the outcome is almost assured from the start.

This is lawsuit abuse by school districts and school attorneys. Who's responsible? The Joint Powers Authorities who have improper relationships with both the attorneys and insurance companies. Ironically, Leslie Devaney of Stutz Law firm is an ardent supporter of CALA, Californians Against Lawsuit Abuse. CALA never suggests giving less money to lawyers. Instead, it demands that less money be given to victims.

Lawyer Ellen Dowd has filed a class action suit regarding special education against the California Department of Education.

I have placed links to the complaint and the supporting exhibits on this page of my website.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Victoria Richart's unusual "claim"

Attorney Bob Ottilie knows very well how to file a tort claim.

The question at MiraCosta College seems to be: why was Victoria Richart's $1.6 million agreement with the college conducted as a friendly operation between Richart's lawyer Bob Ottilie and the school's lawyer?

It was clearly an inside job.

Even now that Richart has a new lawyer, it turns out that he is Randy Winet, who is just as much a part of the San Diego County Office of Education-Joint Powers Authority as Daniel Shinoff, the college's lawyer.

Here's what the San Diego Union Tribune says about Richart's characterization of the deal during her deposition by attorney Leon Page:

Ex-MiraCosta president puts blame on 3 trustees
By Lola Sherman

March 1, 2008
"...Richart never filed a formal action against the college. But in the deposition, she repeatedly cited an Aug. 15, 2007, letter to college trustees from her attorney, Robert Ottilie of San Diego, as constituting a claim..."