All Voices Matter — Proposed Changes to T/E School District Policy 1131 Seek to Silence Parent Organizations

Like many school districts in America, the T/E School District started the 2020-21 school year virtually.  No one thinks virtual classrooms are as good as the real thing, but they were a necessity to fight the pandemic.  In the stressful era of Covid-19, the re-imagining of education is no easy task for students, parents or teachers.

Going forward, the phased process to reopen the District schools is set to begin on October 12, with a fully hybrid model by the week of October 19. In regards to the reopening schedule for the schools, the District is following the metrics provided by the Chester County Health Department.

Regarding sports in the District – the community has learned that T/E will join the Central League in allowing its students to compete. However, the intention is to limit the competition to only schools that are part of the Central League.  In addition, outside athletic competitions will limit attendees to 250 people, which include players, staff and spectators. 

The District has a virtual Policy Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7 PM. Near the end of the 100 page agenda, on page 74 under Policies and Regulations for Review and Discussion is Policy/Regulation 1131: Parent Organizations. Inexplicably, the District is proposing a complete overhaul of parent organizations, including the ability for representatives to speak at school board meetings. (Click here for Policy Committee agenda).

I have often posted on the importance of our collective voices. Not everyone will have the same opinion, but if one’s opinion is silenced, it is much harder to respect and understand the other side. Should the school board move forward on the changes proposed to Policy 1131, certain groups will have their voices silenced.  

Why are these proposed changes to Policy 1131 important? Parent organizations in the District, such as BUILD T/E, FLITE and T&E Cares are significant contributors to T/E families and the community.  These nonprofit parent organizations work with (and get results for) students and their families in the District.  For some of these groups, the proposed changes to Policy 1131 would seek to stifle and silence. All voices matter, so why is the District seeking to change policy now, especially in the midst of a pandemic!

Using the parent run, all-volunteer organization BUILD has an example; the proposed Policy 1131 changes will greatly reduce its ability to support District parents and students with disabilities and learning differences as they have done for twenty years. BUILD currently supports 3,000 of the District’s students (of a total enrollment of 7,182 students). The pandemic has only increased the need for support from BUILD.

Feeling targeted by the District’s proposed Policy 1131 changes; BUILD posted on its website, in part the following:

… The proposed policy and regulation changes will severely limit BUILD’s ability to support our families. Here are just a few examples of what this change will mean for our organization. If this policy passes, BUILD will no longer be able to:

  • Speak publicly to the School Board as an organization on critical policy, education or financial matters: (Some areas have been assessments, student discipline, literacy, outsourcing of aides, etc).

  • Attend Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan meetings alongside parents who are seeking support to understand the complex IEP process, so they will more fully understand options to support their child.

  • Share information and resources directly with teachers and staff without first getting approvals from admin. Many T/E professionals have attended our events and given positive praise for teacher resources …

Our mental well-being has been devastated by the pandemic’s social and economic consequences. There is a mountain of troubling data about rising mental health problems and the need for additional support for struggling students and their parents. During these chaotic, turbulent times, our T/E families need more support not less.

The proposed changes to Policy 1131 will only seek to control and marginalize the abilities of organizations like BUILD to help District families.  Our school district relies on the support of parents and the community – the silencing of voices is wrong.  School board, please do not waste time and resources trying to silence the voices of parent organizations. 

If you are a parent of one of the 3,000 students that BUILD has helped, your voice matters – use it!  I urge you to email the School Board before 6 PM on Tuesday, October 6. Send your email to schoolboard@tesd.net and burger4sb@gmail.com .  Use “Policy/Regulation 1131: Parent Organizations” in the email subject line.  You must include your name and township of residence (Tredyffrin or Easttown) in the email.

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29 Comments

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  1. We need a bipartisan board. No board should limit the ability to advocate/speak for kids with disabilities in the district.

    1. In my opinion, it’s all about control. From page 82 of the agenda, the proposed change to Policy 1131 states, “Individual members or officers of a partner organization that wish to provide public comment at or for a Board or Committee meeting of the Board of School Directors must do so individually, and not on behalf of or in the name of the partner organization.” This change seeks to diminish and marginalize the parent organization. Parent organizations such as BUILD, FLITE, T&E Care, etc. are vital and representatives should be permitted to speak.

      In addition, many parents in the community depend on BUILD representatives to help them with District issues. Yet, another proposed change to Policy 1131 states, “Members or officers of a partner organization are not permitted to attend meetings on behalf of children not their own in their capacity as a member or representative of the partner organization. This includes meetings such as parent/teacher conferences, IEP/Section 504 meetings, student attendance improvement conferences, special education due process hearings or related proceedings, student discipline conferences or hearings, mediation sessions, hearings before the Board of School Directors or their designee(s), etc.”

      Many parents depend on these parent organizations for help — yet the District seeks to remove the ability of certain organizations to help. Power to control. Sad.

  2. What has happened to our school board under this leadership? Picking on moms who help families in TE with special needs children? Are you kidding me?!!! What’s next?

  3. The Administrations dismantling of accountability began long ago, but since last falls election with the addition of school district employees to the School Board, the war on checks on their power has become a defining characteristic of this administration. Make no mistake: their actions are part of a pattern. They have always been hostile towards oversight and accountability, but the only lesson the Administration seems to learn from their bad actions and bad behavior Is that they can get away with escalating their assaults on efforts to hold them to account.
    They continue to take decisive steps to eliminate any accountability or transparency for their administration, strengthening their own power over serving parents and students in the District.

  4. Thanks for sharing this information with the community. I am one of the parent volunteers for BUILD. It is concerning to me that these proposed changes are happening now, while we are all in the middle of a pandemic. Major news outlets from the New York Times to the Washington Post have reported how school closures have had devastating effects on students with disabilities. We see it among our BUILD families. Many students with disabilities and other learning challenges have really struggled during virtual schooling. Most if not all have gone months without the special education supports and services they need to access their educations and which are outlined in their Individual Education Plans. Parents are scared as they see their children regress, and they’re worried about their future. Advocating for your child, who requires special education services, under normal circumstances is stressful, but in the age of COVID it is an entirely new level. This is a time when parents really need our support. So it is tremendously disappointing to me that our school board would consider a policy that limits the support BUILD volunteers and fellow parents can offer one another.

  5. Thanks Patty!
    Your article is very informative & an “eye opener” for sure!
    Very disheartening action proposed by the school board.
    The township supervisors should step up & over ride this
    Policy 1131 melarky

  6. Do you think that this was a Board driven policy change? Or did our administration drive the change?

    The BUILD volunteers have helped 100s of parents through the difficult and very complicated IEP/504 process. If this policy is passed as is, that will no longer be an option if BUILD wants to keep their partner status.

    The Policy Committee Chair tweeted late last night, “If you’re pushing, someone will be pulling for you to fail. Simply put, make your push stronger than their pull.”

    It is not about you, Mr. Chair. It is about the kids. And their parents. And OUR schools.

  7. “If you’re pushing, someone will be pulling for you to fail. Simply put, make your push stronger than their pull.” quote from the Policy Committee chair.

    Mr. Boyer, you really don’t get it, do you? It’s about doing what’s right for the parents and kids in this District. You of all people, should understand and you call yourself an educator.

  8. I am grateful to Kyle Boyer for showing us over and over who he is, who he supports and what he thinks is important. Kyle supports teachers….and only teachers. He tells us that with his words and he shows us that with his actions. It’s up to us, the voters, the citizens and the tax payers in this District to let Kyle know his words, actions and behavior do not reflect the values and high standards WE expect from OUR representatives.

    Kyle Boyer is not going to change. WE need change and we’ll get it by voting him out.

    1. It is completely unclear. The parent organizations which would be impacted by the proposed Policy 1131 changes were not given a heads-up/courtesy notification — the boards of those organizations learned of the proposed changes from reading the agenda when it was posted. Aside from the proposed changes for parent organizations, I’d like to understand what (whom) is driving it? Why NOW in the middle of the pandemic? Shouldn’t the focus be on the re-opening of the schools that sets to start next week?

  9. It’s important for journalists who cover school boards – or student advocates who may find themselves speaking before school boards – to appreciate the strong First Amendment protection for citizen speech to government officials addressing matters of public concern. (Indeed, the First Amendment not only protects the freedom of speech, but also the freedom to petition government officials for the redress of grievances, and a restraint on speech to school boards jeopardizes both of these rights.)

  10. Pattye, I submitted a public comment in tonight’s policy committee meeting and listened as it unfolded. To my ear, there was a lot of engagement with the revision language by board members. One observation I’ll share is that although sometimes there are passionate disagreements between the board and members of the public, there is also an opportunity for the public to make real contributions with suggestions and questions that the board can actually use to improve what the administration is doing. It requires the public’s input to be timely and constructive, and it requires the board to objectively evaluate and use that input. I think maybe that happened tonight, and hopefully that’ll be apparent in the revisions-to-the-revisions.

    1. Thank you John. I agree — I too watched the Policy Committee meeting and my takeaway was similar to yours. It appeared that several of the school board understood the collective concerns of many of us regarding the proposed Policy 1131 policy changes. They repeatedly spoke of the importance of the partner organizations and the need to provide clarification in the language. I appreciated their willingness to hear us and adjust the language accordingly. And kudos and appreciation to you for your public comment — it went a long ways in setting the tone of what was to come! Thank you!

  11. Pattye and John Murphy,

    Thank-you. Which school board directors understood the concerns of citizens/parents/taxpayers. Which school board directors did not seem to understand OUR concerns? Thank-you.

    1. All of the board members had something to say about the proposed policy changes and that further work was needed. But I was particularly encouraged by the words of Roberta, Scott and Todd. I feel confident that the next policy update on 1131 will be far more representative of the community.

      1. Pattye,

        Thank-you. How do policy changes/initiatives get tabled. How do they get on the agenda for discussion. Does the Administration create them and add them to the agenda? Or does the Administration discuss it with Board Directors first and get permission to add it to the agenda for discussion? Does anyone know how it works?

        1. I honestly have no idea. It would appear that the proposed changes originated from the administration rather than the school board but I cannot be entirely certain. Especially given the pandemic and the reopening of schools next week, it would seem there would be other “more pressing” issues. That said, perhaps at the next Policy Committee meeting the process could be explained for the benefit of the public.

  12. Reading about the “declaration” to silence many in the community made me smile, but not because I found it satisfying. It is so very predictable about the T/E leadership’s total lack of concern or interest in the feedback from parents and the community. This is not new, and has been going on for at least 20 years since having experience as a parent in the district. And then came Kyle, who stood at my doorstep when first running for the Board, telling me about his degrees and all he was going do for teachers, teachers, and teachers. When I asked about his stand on taxes, feedback from parents, evaluation of teachers by students / parents, how to handle poor instructors, etc…Lance was a deer in headlights…blank, said nothing, had no comment. Teachers, Teachers TEACHERS.
    When is his term over? PLEASE!

    1. Boyer’s term is up in 2021, as are the terms of Mary Garrett Iten, Tina Whitlow and Scott Dorsey. Although not publicly announced, I know of two residents who have told me that they will be running for school board in 2021.

      1. If these two brave residents contemplating a Board run to challenge the status quo still have kids in the District, I seriously wish them well as they could wind up as the targets of recrimination. The Administration is all about CONTROL: over parents, teachers, and students. They hide behind the periodic press propaganda about how well the District ranks in the State—yet, their arrogance refuses acknowledge that it is mainly us caring and attentive parents and some dedicated teachers that have worked to help our kids succeed…not some overpaid administrative chair-jockey. The proposed change to Policy 1131 is about control. Limiting options for parental support for parent/teacher conferences, IEP/Section 504 meetings, special education due process hearings, student discipline conferences or hearings, mediation sessions, hearings before the Board of School Directors or their designee(s), etc. is about control. Maybe these two Board candidates need to start by digging into what the District pays out every year in legal fees for claims related to 504s, IEPs, due process hearings, etc. Limiting 1131 is nothing more than a way to railroad parents.
        Seems all this need for control is perhaps just away of burying their ineptness and insulating themselves?

  13. The same board members and parents who rely on these organizations, voted for and campaigned for the Chair of the Policy Committee. He’s a nice guy who speaks well, why not vote for him?
    Just read his tweets and you will find the real person. He vilified parents of the Coventry Students—go back and read his tweets and you will see the real person.

    Unfortunately, nice suburbanite pto moms did not do their research. The Blue wave landed in TE.
    Now, look at the most recent policies just passed. This board thinks the residents of TE are from Alabama…we need to be taught a lesson. .
    Just look at the lawn signs in. Our community…”.We Support TE Teachers”…the same signs used when the TE teachers were negotiating their contract. These are the people who the Administration Hand Picked for the Covid Committee…they represent the Administration and teachers….Not the hard working mom’s & dad’s..trying to get their kids back in their classrooms.

    It’s all there to see, if you take the time, connect the dots and realize who is representing the people who’s kids attend the schools, take the tests, and made it a great district. Hopeful that it can maintain the quality, but unfortunately, doubtful with the current board decisions.

  14. “Now U Get it?” is right. The people complaining about the Board/Administration are the same people who voted them in. Before, during and after the Administration gave themselves raises in June, I received many e-mails and texts from outraged citizens urging citizens speak and write against it. I knew by that time, it was too late. All decisions are made at election time. Understand who Board Members are and you understand how the next 4 years are going to go. We are seeing what happens when teachers and Administrators are elected to a school Board. The police are called on 5 year old Kindergarten children with Downs Syndrome of BUILD parents. There was literally a WORLDWIDE outcry about this, with the front page headline of the Phil. Inquirer reading THIIS IS INSANE! Now, a few months later, BUILD parents (and freedom of speech) are being targeted again.

    It is clear, this Board and Administration will not stop. Vote them out!

  15. I think that many people (myself included) do not get enough information about the local candidates running for office, and therefore are unable to make educated decisions. I vote in all elections and find if very difficult to find unbiased information on the local candidates. I will fully admit that I made the wrong decision to support Kyle Boyer, based solely on the fact that he and I are former educators. Most public school teachers across the nation are under appreciated. I am glad to see that TESD does pay their teachers well, but I also see many areas that administration needs to push teachers in order to foster more innovation. At the time when I voted, I had no idea that Kyle was going to end up the way he is. While I agree with some of “Not Shocked” and “NowU Get It?”s comments, please do not accuse that “nice suburbanite pto moms did not do their research.” I tried to do research, and found little unbiased information about these candidates!

    Is there a way that we can get MORE information out to the general public prior to elections?

    **Side note: does anyone else think it’s ridiculous that School Board candidates have to list which party they’re registered with? How can we change that?

    1. Totally echo your comments. I think for next local election, whoever will run as candidate, should create simple flyers to highlight the key issues took place in TE and state clearly on his/her ground for those issues. That will earn honest support from parents. However, that only will happen if we still trust our election system not being rigged. Otherwise, any election will be just a show.

  16. TEMS Parent,

    Thank-you for your comment. To answer your question about how to get info on school board candidates:

    If the SB candidate is an incumbent, go to committee meetings and observe them. You’ll quickly find out who they serve. Administrators and teachers? Or students, parents and tax payers. If you can’t go to committee meetings, view school board meetings on video and observe who and what the Directors vote for. Some talk before they vote. Listen carefully. And listen to citizen comments to understand how often what the Administration wants is in line with what parents, citizens and tax payers want.

    If the School Board Candidate is not an incumbent, go to committee meetings. These candidates generally go to these meetings and you can talk to them there to get an idea about who they are. Some of them will fool you though, like retired teacher Stacey Stone. She gave the impression she would support parents if elected. She can’t cast her vote fast enough for everything the Administration proposes while she goos all over them, telling them what a great job they do.

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