Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TE Policy Committee Update: Public Wants Answers from School Board About Police Record for 6-Year-Old & State Senator Andy Dinniman Weighs In

I attended the District’s Policy Meeting last night. For nearly two hours of public comment, it was remarkable as parent after parent spoke out – all on the topic of Policy 5401 student discipline and the need for clarification. Many of the comments and discussion centered on which student behavioral situations constitute a requirement to “consult” with  police. As an audience member, it appears to be much confusion as to how Policy 5401 was intended to work vs the reality of what actually happens. In addition, concern for the handling (or mishandling) of special needs children and their specific behavioral issues.

It was troubling to learn from parents that the District appears more focused on students who make threats (including the 6-year-old Down Syndrome kindergartner) versus the students involved in physical altercations. Threats appear to escalate quickly to the police level yet on the flip side parents told stories about children who have been physically bulled and even beaten (yes, that word was used) without any police notification. These stories were difficult to hear – with one coming from a 12-year-old from Chesterbrook.

One of most poignant stories came from Tredyffrin Township supervisor Sharon Humble who reported that just yesterday her middle school son was bullied and pushed at school causing his head to hit the concrete. And although Mrs. Humble reported that her son was at home with a concussion, the District did not contact the police. This is crazy – how is that a kindergartner with Down Syndrome now has a police report but there’s no investigation into a significant physical alteration. I simply do not understand.

Throughout the two hours, CBS channel 3 was taping the meeting as was a T/E parent. Once the video from the parent is available, I will post. During the time that I was at the meeting, the members of the school board had little to say. But there was one remarkable moment between the Policy Chair Kyle Boyer and a District parent.

A parent attempts to read a letter from PA State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) regarding Policy 5401 which was sent to TE Superintendent Gusick and the school board prior to the meeting. Boyer interrupts the parent, saying “we’re not allowing you to read the letter” and refuses to allow her to continue. The parent then responds “Why, because you’re running against him?”  At which point, there were audible gasps from the audience.

In the comments on the last post on Community Matters, I provided an image from the public Facebook page of Sen Dinniman. The Senator was informed of the handling of the kindergartner with Down Syndrome; and states he has contacted the District and will post the letter shortly.  The letter was subsequently released on his Facebook page and a copy is at the end of this post.

To clarify, according to the Chester County Democratic Committee website,  first term T/E school board director Kyle Boyer is opposing incumbent  Senator Andy Dinniman, (who has served in the state senate since 2006). The two democrats will face off for the Pennsylvania Senate, District 19 seat.

In closing, it is my understanding that a draft of changes to Policy 5401 was presented by the Policy Committee (after I left) although a copy was not part of the meeting agenda. No final decision and the matter will continue to be discussed at a future Policy Committee meeting. It was a uncomfortable and troubling meeting without a clear path forward.

Senator Dinniman delivers a powerful message to TE School District in his letter below — please read.

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  1. Did Mr. Boyer give a reason for terminating the comment from the parent who wanted to read Dinniman’s letter? From TESD Policy 1120:

    The presiding officer or solicitor may:
    1) interrupt or terminate a participant’s statement when the statement exceeds time limits established by the Board, or is:
    a. personally directed,
    b. abusive,
    c. obscene, or
    d. irrelevant,
    2) request any individual to leave the meeting when that person does not observe reasonable decorum,
    3) request the assistance of law enforcement officers to remove a disorderly person
    when his/her conduct interferes with the orderly progress of the meeting, or
    4) call a recess or adjourn to another time when the lack of public decorum interferes
    with the orderly conduct of the meeting.

    I didn’t attend the meeting nor have I seen the video, but it would be interesting to hear Mr. Boyer’s excuse for interrupting the parent’s comment. Possibly Mr. Boyer is unfamiliar with this policy.

    1. His excuse to the parent was that the school board had already received a copy of the letter. She argued that the audience had not seen the letter – but it didn’t matter, he shut her down. Which is why she responded with the remark about his running against Sen. Dinniman. I have received a copy of the video and will be putting it up shortly.

      1. Pattye and Keith,

        They (Solicitor Ken Roos) also shut down a disabilities expert from Lower Merion. I gather from their exchange that Ken is from L.M. too and recognized her name when she said it and would not allow her to speak. A BUILD official stood up and spoke in her defense but Board Member Michele Burger came to Kens rescue, backed him up and wouldn’t let the disabilities expert speak. She said that others had spoken that evening who didn’t live in the District either and Michele apologized to her about 3 times saying she wasn’t aware of anyone speaking who didn’t live in the District.

        I know from attending meetings over the years that teachers who don’t live in the District are allowed to speak at meetings. Heck, all the administrations responsible for our huge tax increases year after year DO NOT live in our District.

        Supt. Gusick
        Mark Cataldi
        Art Mc Donnell
        Andy Phillips
        Jamie Bankert
        I don’t think Pat Boyle lives in our District

        And the list goes on. These people have a huge impact on our children and our lives.

        Now, Sue Tiede? She lives in the District

        1. Only residents are permitted to speak at T/E School District meetings and that is policy. A teacher is permitted to speak at a District meeting but only if he/she is a Tredyffrin or Easttown resident – an exception to that policy would be the TEEA union president may speak regardless of residency. As a T/E taxpayer I have no problem with this policy. Some in the audience may not have liked it, but Mrs. Burger as Board President was following District policy not to permit the Lower Merion resident to speak. As Mrs. Burger stated, this individual was free to contact the school board directly via email, etc.

        2. I wanted to hear what she had to say. She was an expert on the topic we were discussing and could have added valuable insight.

          If Roos is going to be that nit picky about it, then the Policy should apply to all non residents who want to speak at meetings. The TEEA President can write the Board a letter just like all the other non residents who want to speak at meetings but can’t.

      2. My point is that the parent who wanted to read the Dinniman letter has a right to do so. Kyle or Roos cannot (should not) shut her down unless she violates policy. I see nowhere in the policy where it says information already provided to the board in written format cannot be repeated verbally at the meeting. And this makes sense. The board may have had the information, but the audience may have not had the information.

        1. Thank you Keith and I can only assume that the Policy Committee chair did not know this was the parent’s right. Roos, the District solicitor, did not weigh in either way. The current school board president Michelle Burger and the prior school board president Scott Dorsey also did not weigh in; my takeaway was that they supported the actions of the Policy chair.

        2. Keith,

          I understand your point.

          My point is that in TE, Policy applies to parents, students and taxpayers, not Board Members, not Administrators and not teachers.

          If Chair Kyle Boyer wasn’t aware of the Policy, then Roos should have corrected him and allowed the citizen to read Dinnamens letter.

          You can count on Roos to follow Policy when it benefits teachers, Administrators and Board Members. When it benefits citizens, he is silent.

          A lawyer in Kens firm helped a teacher write a complaint against a parent/Board Member in Radnor at tax payer expense. The parent/Board Member brought up the issue about Booster Club money, where it goes, who it benefits and how it is accounted for. The teacher who filed the complaint, I believe is the teacher who was the leader in the activity the parent/Board Member was asking about regarding booster club money.

          I would like to ask Mr. Roos, if I asked you to help me write a complaint about a teacher or Administrstor, would you do it? Would you help me do that and then bill the District?

        3. One more question for Solicitor Ken Roos regarding my post above.

          Who authorized your counterpart in your firm to help the teacher write the complaint against the Parent/Board Member?

          Was it former Assistant Supt. at UCFSD and current Radnor Supt. Ken Batchlor? Keith Knauss knows Ken Batchlor.

          Small world.

  2. When he first ran for the School Board, I spoke with Kyle Boyer as he campaigned through my neighborhood. He expressed ardent support for teachers, but was totally ignorant of the many other issues in the district such as tax increases, budgets, accounting issues, and an understanding that a large part of the districts success is because of a high population of well educated professional parents, not simply the teachers. He totally balked at that concept Ultimately, to me, his actions on the Board have reflected this basic ignorance. Even at that early introduction, he clearly thought a lot of himself, demonstrating to me to be ambitious and arrogant, not open to new ideas or concepts. He appears to have learned little about the citizen’s ultimate ownership of the schools for the benefit of educating the children. And by the way, in addition to running for the PA Senate,he is now teaching in the Norristown school district as per his LinkedIn page.

    1. Thank-you, Fully Disgusted,

      This situation, right here and now is exactly why teachers and Administrators should not be serving on the School Board. It’s barely a month into their new term and we have a former TE teacher who 100% supports and represents teachers as a School Board Director, serving as the Policy Chairperson. How can we possibly expect that Kyle will act in a way that is fair and right to students, parents and taxpayers? Sue Tiede is a former Administrator now serving on the Board. Her inherent bias and alliigance to the Administration is even more glaring. Do you think Sue and Kyle will hold any teacher/Administrator accountable?

      1. I fully agree with you. I worked at VFE ten years ago and Sue Tiede moved me to another school when I spoke out on behalf of a child with special needs who was clearly being mistreated and a student teacher who I witnessed being sexually harassed during her time. It seems nothing has changed. Same people in charge, now on the board and the same folks in power.

    2. TESD seems to operate under invisible sets of rules to achieve the best outcome/protection for themselves rather than students.

      Can’t wait to eventually move out of the District and no longer see my taxes support this group of self-serving bullying thugs. There is a good reason that many of us responding on here feel we cannot use our names.

    1. Without clarification, it appears that Policy 5401 includes police involvement for a Down Syndrome kindergartner is perceived to make a threat yet no police intervention for a child who has a concussion at the hands of a classmate. As several parents mentioned at the meeting, where is common sense?

  3. Pattye, I am wondering as to what policies our T/E police have when they’re called for a “situation” at a school. I hope they have some discretion to address the situation by calming ruffled feathers and advising school leadership. Would coming to just calm things down automatically require that a person be given a “police record”? Was there a spokesperson for the police department at this meeting?

    1. According to the chair of the Policy Committee, the police were asked to attend last night’s meeting and were unavailable. According to the District, once they contact the police, it requires them to make a police record. It did not appear that there was any leeway. Many in the audience believe that there should be different guidelines used for special needs children — I just can’t get over the fact that the police were called for a kindergartner with Down Syndrome!

  4. I was left wondering if this an bizarre lone incident or a routine occurrence?

    How many students from our Elementary, Middle and High Schools end up in this police database after a consult?

    Do we have access to statistics?

    What are our numbers compared to surrounding districts?

    1. Thanks Christine for this comment. I also wondered about how other school districts handled student behavior issues — would other district have contacted the police for a kindergartner with Down Syndrome?

    2. I am also curious about that comment on whether or not the Township has the authority to expunge the children’s records from the Twp database (rather than having to go through the Chester County Courts)?

      1. Yes, I wondered about that too. That question came from Sharon Humble (Tredyffrin Twp supervisor and attorney) and it would be interesting to know the answer.

  5. This story just gets more ridiculous. It’s crazy that the school district policy requires the police to be called over a six year old. Where is the common sense judgement of the people running the school? Thank you Pattye for your work on behalf of all of us!

  6. The PSEA (Pennsylvania State Education Association) has over 180,000 members that they represent.

    Here is a novel idea – since a teacher in a given district is prevented from serving on the school board in that district (where they teach and live), let’s have them leave the district and get a job in a neighboring district so they can serve on the board in the district they live in!

    Wouldn’t you think with the high stakes involved the PSEA, there may be a behind the scenes effort to stack school boards throughout the state with teachers?

    Perhaps there is ‘wink and nod’ when it comes to a teacher wanting to leave employment in one district to work in another.

    The PSEA knows how important school board elections are to the livelihood of the members ––events/Publications/voice—may2019/school-board-elections/

    It’s the smart move on their part but taxpayers lose.

  7. “In the first place, God made idiots; that was for practice. Then he made school boards.” – Mark Twain

    1. Keith,

      I understand that you know nothing about writing teacher complaints with District Solicitors. I was making the point that as a School Board Director at UCFSD, you knew and worked closely with Assistant Supt. Batchlor And Supt. Sanville.

      I respect your opinion and am grateful for your help and work in keeping tax payers informed. What do you think about Kens counterpart in his law firm helping a teacher write a complaint on a Parent/Taxpayer/Board Member using tax payer funds after she asked about Booster Club fees for the group the teacher leads at RHS?

  8. Pattye,
    After some research I have concluded the TE policy which includes a police consult is necessary to avoid all risk of the District missing pertinent information only police have access to. The police may have information the school could not know from their own data base.
    So, it may seem harsh to consult with police but it is actually a smart move to prevent any violence and to help the person being assessed.
    The police consult does not create an arrest record. It does not involve criminal charges.
    The sole purpose for the consult is to check if the threatening person may have any other alerts associated with them.
    If the Sandy Hook parents and school district knew about the killer and his history many lives could have been saved.
    Please readers Google Dr. Cornell and threat assessment and youth violence project.
    Google Sandy Hook Promise.
    This is a tough issue.
    I would side on the side of caution.

    1. For those who attended the Policy Committee meeting, we heard all about Dr. Cornell and the threat assessment tree. As many in the audience commented, there appears to be an unevenness as to when the police are called. For me personally, the question remains as to why a kindergartner with Down Syndrome is a threat that requires police involvement (and yes, an internal police record is created) yet a number of parents talked about situations of serious physical altercations (including the son of township supervisor Sharon Humble) where the police are not involved. I am all about fairness — make the policy fair for all students. If the District is going to have a student behavior policy that wants to err on the cautious side which engages the police, make it balanced and fair for all students/families not selective.

    2. Liz,

      There is already discretion for all of this in the memo of understanding. The memo of understanding was created by the Police Chief and the Supt. Of Schools

      It states:

      The school may consider the following factors in the discussion on whether to involve law enforcement::

      The seriousness of the situation.
      The schools ability to diffuse or resolve the situation.
      The child’s intent.
      The child’s age.
      Whether the student has a disability.
      Type of disability.
      Impact of disability on students behavior.
      And other relevant factors.

      If the Policy already in place were followed, this would have never happened.

      So the discussion should be about the Administration and the real reason they chose to call the Police on a 6 year old kindergartner with Down Syndrome.

      There should have been NO consult with the Police. Flexibility is already written in the Policy and in the memo of understanding created by the Supt. Of Schools and the Police Chief.

      1. Thank you for that Information. Awesome!

        I agree that minors under 14 should be the exception to police involvement. The only reason schools work with police is for information that the school does not have access to in their records. The only information police might have, that the school does not, is whether a student or household may have registered guns, any other persons in the household that may have criminal records or applications for guns or bullets. Some of their information can save lives.
        So depending on the level and seriousness of the threat there should be prudent judgment before involving police.
        This case of course was one of the exceptions.
        And the policy can reflect exceptions.

        I don’t take this lightly and feel the child was not a threat. I agree the police involvement was wrong.
        So what do we do to move forward?
        I say let’s do it calmly together with cool heads.

        I am very familiar with crime and the law.
        I worked for many years at Norristown State Hospital, Lankenau and Belmont.
        I have worked in maximum security with the criminally insane, children who have murdered, rapists, sexual predators, and violent felons. As such, I have experience with guards, swat team and other emergency first responders. I have represented persons for personal use of illegal drugs. I support moms of children who overdose.
        I am always concerned for those who can not represent themselves.
        I have children who are protected under the American Disabilities Act. My daughter is a special education teacher, my youngest is a psychiatric resident, my son worked in Montgomery County Criminal Court with Judge Haazz, my mother was the assistant Superintendent if Norristown State Hospital. I do pro bono legal work in the area of restraining orders. I am happy to try to work to keep kids safe.

        Let’s give each other a big hug!
        Role model and figure it out together!!
        Call your legislators to give guidance.
        Let’s not blame let’s get in the game and make it better.
        Please check Sandy Hook Promise on lone!
        Thank you!!

        1. Liz,

          You say:

          “””””Let’s not blame let’s get in the game and make it better.”””””

          I’m not sure what you mean by “let’s not blame.”

          How about we hold accountable those in high level Administive positions who create and feed a culture that punishes parents, students and taxpayers for speaking out and protects and shields employees from their very bad decisions and behavior.

          Bad decisions and worse bad behavior are never punished, unless on the occasion public scrutiny demands a response and even then there is no consequence. This means there is no cost to incompetence and ineptitude. It is engrained in the culture. Why does the Board support and reward an Administration that treats taxpayers, parents and students this way?

  9. The unsettling story about the kindergartner has now gone internationally — published in the Daily Mail in the UK:

    “School calls cops on six-year-old girl with Down Syndrome”

    Perhaps with all the attention this issue is receiving, it would be appropriate for the District/School Board to make an official public statement and post on the website?

    1. This Administration has a penchant for making our School District national news. Now their actions have made our District international news.

      When is a (this) Board going to hold them accountable for their Bullying, intimidating, and cruel behavior?

    1. Not surprising. Ten years ago I stood up for a student teacher at this school who was sexually harassed and I was an aide to a very difficult student who was being mistreated. I did my best to call out a teacher and what happened? I was moved to another school to keep my mouth shut. Those were the words used by one of our now elected school board members. Ten years later, same names different story. Sometimes it may be ok to make some changes. The best part? Ten years later I am doing A. OK and am sorry it’s taken so long to speak up.

  10. I can assure you I was punished for speaking out. Despite being told it was for my own protection I got moved to a different location and shifted a long standings employee’s hours. I was ignored and hated. If I didn’t do anything wrong then why did the bad person and people handling get off so easy? Here we are ten years later. Same names, different child but strong story.

    1. K. Hudson,

      Thank-you SO much for your comments.

      I attended the Education Committee Meeting this evening. I confronted Board Member Sue Tiede. I described to her, the committee, and the community what you said above. I asked Sue if what you said was true. She said “I saw it” but she wouldn’t answer me.

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