is a small child with down’s syndrome a criminal?

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I was told about this yesterday evening.  I don’t know this lady or her child but I don’t know where to go in my head with this, and all I keep coming back to is how wrong this is.

Yes, here is the letter: Maggie Statement 2020 0121. I found it here:

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If this is YOUR school district or if you have a special needs child here is the meeting information:

Tredyffrin/Easttown School District
TEAO – School Board Policy Committee Meeting
Feb. 4, 2020
Starts at 7:00 PM

Policy Committee Agenda
February 4, 2020 – 7:00 p.m.
Room 200, T/E Administration Offices
1. Approval of Minutes of the January 21, 2020 Policy Committee Meeting
2. Public Comment
3. Review of Policies for 2nd Reading
 Policy and Regulation 1120: Communications with the School Board
 Policy 4350: Health and Safety in the Workplace
 Policy 5223: Promotion
 Policy and Regulation 5405: Student Substance Abuse
 Policy and Regulation 8040: Emergency Preparedness
4. Information
 None
5. Follow Up from Previous Policy Committee Meeting
 Policy and Regulation 5401: Student Discipline
 Policy and Regulation 6151: Staffing the Educational Program (Class Size)
6. Policies and Regulations for Review and Discussion
 Regulation 3233: Federal Fiscal Compliance – Procurement
 Regulation 3323: Procurement
 Regulation 3380: Travel Reimbursement
 Policy and Regulation 5001: Enrollment and Registration Requirements and
Verification of Student Residency
7. Policy Committee Goals
8. Future Meetings
Policy meetings for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year will be on March 3, April 1,and May 5. Unless advertised otherwise, all meetings are held at the Tredyffrin/Easttown Administration Offices, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, in Room 200 at 7:00 p.m.

My friend and fellow bloggeress, Patty Benson has written about this today as well.

Community Matters: TE School District Policy 5401 “Student Discipline” Results in Police Record for Kindergartner With Down Syndrome — School Board, How is This Possible?
February 3, 2020

I learned of a troubling situation from the January 21 meeting of TESD Policy Committee. Although I was not in attendance at the meeting, I reviewed the video of the meeting and would encourage all reading this post to do likewise (click here for video).

According to Maggie and Mark Gaines, their 6-year-old kindergarten daughter (who has Down Syndrome) now has a record with the Tredyffrin Township Police Department.  

Oh yeah… the video

Start paying attention RIGHT at the beginning.  Mrs. Gaines comes on around 1 minute 32 seconds (or there abouts)

Here is a long excerpt from the statement I uploaded earlier in the post:

My name is Maggie Gaines. I’m here with my husband Mark and our six-year old daughter Margot. We live in Wayne. I am speaking tonight to make the School board aware of how its “threat assessment” policy is being implemented in the elementary schools of T/E to the detriment of students.

Our daughter Margot is a kindergartener at Valley Forge Elementary School. And she now has a record with the Tredyffrin police department, because the district alleged she had made a threat to her teacher.

On November 19, Margot, who has Down syndrome and often struggles transitioning between activities, was asked by her teacher to do something she did not want to do. At one point in her refusal she pointed her finger at her teacher and said, “I shoot you.”

I imagine the utterance was not unlike the instances when I’ve told her it’s time for bed and she says, “I hate bed. I hate mommy.” As most parents can attest, I have learned not to take offense. For I know that a short time later she is usually cuddled up to me, while we read bedtime stories and exchange kisses and cuddles before saying good-night.

At any rate, the teacher claimed this response was a “threat” and brought Margot to the principal, who talked to my daughter and quickly determined that she neither understood what she was saying nor meant any harm to her teacher or any of her classmates.

The principal then followed district policy and convened a “threat assessment” team.

The threat assessment team met and determined Margot had made a “transient” threat, which is simply an expression of anger or frustration with no intent to harm anyone. The threat assessment team recommended no disciplinary action. Also, there was no recommendation from the principal, Margot’s teachers nor any other members of Margot’s IEP team to address the “problem” behavior in her IEP since it appeared to be an “isolated” event.

I think most people would agree that this is where the issue should have ended. And yet it did not.

Hours after the threat assessment team met, the principal informed me by phone that the school was still required under the district’s policy to call the police regarding the incident.

I disagreed and argued it was absurd to involve the police for an episode involving a kindergartner who pointed her finger, not in malice, but in protest to a request to change classrooms. The principal agreed to discuss the issue further with me the next day.

After reviewing Policy 5401, my husband and I did not see anywhere in the text that required the school to call the police for a transient threat. That evening I sent an email recapping my concerns regarding the policy to Becky Wills, the principal, Ellen Turk, the district safety officer, Chris Groppe director of individualized student services, and Mark Cataldi, director of Assessment and Accountability.

More than 24-hours after the incident occurred, I received another phone call from Becky Wills and Ellen Turk, who told me they had conferred with the district’s administration and concluded the policy required them to “consult with law enforcement.”

Ellen Turk admitted during our discussion that the purpose of the so-called “consultation” with police was not applicable in Margot’s case. But she said that because this was the district’s policy, she had to follow it without exception for every student, in every situation. There was no room for anyone in the district to use common sense to interpret the policy any differently.

My husband, Mark, and I insisted on being on the phone when the call was made to the Tredyffrin Police Dept. The information that was relayed was the same as what would be given to law enforcement when filing a police report.

They recorded my daughter’s name, birthdate, and address. They asked for the names and birthdates of myself and my husband. And they took details of what had happened.

When I asked Officer Garns, who took the call, if he viewed this as a consultation. He answered “no.” He said he was merely recording what had happened.

I also asked how long the information would be held by the Tredyffrin police department. He said it was entered into the department’s database and would not be deleted or expunged after any reasonable time period. I asked who could access this information, and he said it was publicly available.

I am well aware that we live in a time when parents are concerned for their children’s safety in school. When I think of incidents at Parkland High School or Sandy Hook Elementary School, I too am haunted and disgusted.

But I also think our society and our schools across the country have overreacted with respect to perceived threats, resulting in even finger guns wielded by kindergartners being viewed as cause to alert authorities. 

I am chilled to the bone. One reason is I have heard other tales of misuse of this policy in this district.  I have heard of parents (don’t know any but have heard they exist) afraid to come forward because they fear being targeted and what exactly is this school district building here?

What would the ACLU or a savvy Americans With Disabilities Act lawyer say to this? This is a child. A small child in kindergarten with Down’s syndrome. Why are Becky Wills, Chris Groppe, Ellen Turk, and Mark Cataldi (whomever they all are ) are working for this district? To instill fear and loathing? I think they have achieved those objectives and should be on their way now, don’t you? Yes.. FIRE their asses.

And while I am loathe to criticize a local police department, don’t they have any leeway here? Why do they want parents and little special needs kids treated this way?  And if this school district cries wolf enough, would they even be able to recognize (God forbid) a REAL and credible threat and evaluate it? Where is the actual focus here? It’s too broad a brush of a policy isn’t it? (Read TESD Policy 5401 here)

Why does the Tredyffrin Easttown School District have so many messed up problems? Do they need a new Superintendent of Schools and a school board too? Remember this:

Philadelphia Inquirer: Anti-Semitic text messages and an alleged threat of school violence. Did a Chester County school district handle the situation correctly?
by Katie Park, Posted: June 15, 2018 – 3:40 PM

Nora Nissenbaum thought the boy in her sixth-grade class was cute, so they casually texted for about a month. But she didn’t like it when the boy insulted her friends at a school dance — and told him so.

The relationship soured. The boy sent anti-Semitic memes and text messages. A caption for one meme reads, “Orange Jews: 100% Concentrated,” under an orange-tinted photo of concentration camp prisoners standing behind barbed wire….All the while, parents say, school officials kept the trouble quiet and didn’t alert families in the district to a threat that many consider a public safety issue that should have been dealt with swiftly and transparently. And in the absence of a statement from the district, parents found out about what happened through the rumor mill.

So if this mom had not come forward would it be the good old rumor mill again? As I sit and continue to listen to this last meeting on You Tube, I am shocked, uncomfortable, outraged and fearful.  A whole lot of CYA going on with that school district and few answers.

There is a problem here and what is the solution??

One thing I would like to know is how many OTHER parents are out there dealing with this other than Maggie and Mark Gaines? Maybe Tredyffrin Easttown School District and the Tredyffrin Police Department should let the public know?

I know policies need to be in place as we live in a crazy world, but when the people who are supposed to be educating and protecting our kids and families seem to have lost touch with reality and file police reports on kindergartners with Down’s Syndrome, maybe there needs to be a closer look, policy adjustment, and an investigation into the people at this elementary school? I don’t get how the police department even went through with this report do you?

I mean do they seriously think parents will continue to volunteer at the school or have their kids involved in this school and others in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District? If I had a child in this district I would be pulling them out of this district.  When public school districts piss and moan as to why kids get pulled out of their school districts and put in private and other schools like charters, look no further than something like this.

People, this is OUTRAGEOUS.  Who is going to keep the kids safe from their own school district? Is Tredyffrin Easttown School District inspiring the future or fear?

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1 thought on “is a small child with down’s syndrome a criminal?

  1. OMG!!! What is wrong with people…especially educators? I feel sure that finger behavior could have been deescalated and not brought to even the principal’s office. This Needs to be handled in house and not made a public issue . Some people, even teachers, like to exacerbate situations because they are in a position of power. After being in special ed for many years, I found that a lot of issues can be handled better with honey than with vinegar. This world is NUTS!!!!!!!!!’!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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