‘Education’ articles

The Unhappiness of CCSD Teachers

Nevada public schools’ highest-in-the-nation teacher absenteeism
receives national attention, year after year

'Catch Me If You Can,' Part 8

The engine behind the darkness

Behind Nevada’s special-ed difficulties, as well as those of every state in the union, is a real, broader problem. 

It’s a difficulty, unfortunately, with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act itself.

At root, IDEA was an attempt to circumvent the dark side of human nature — the springs behind humanity’s long history of exclusion and prejudice that victimizes children with disabilities.

But the attempt was made without actually understanding the engine behind that darkness.

When the IDEA legislation was first structured in the mid-1970s and even later, when revised, it preceded many of the most illuminating findings of recent neuroscientific research.

Even as late as 1987, for example, child psychiatry had not yet embraced the neurosciences.

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'Catch Me If You Can,' Part 7

Cameras in enclosed classrooms could provide
legal evidence for parents, law enforcement

Over a decade ago, attorneys representing the small boy abused in the Preschooler II case suggested to the Clark County School District a way it could prevent similar problems in the future.

If cameras were installed in the classrooms where nonverbal autistic kids were being taught, they said, physical assaults on them by district employees would be much less likely to occur.

Also, when misconduct was alleged, administrators could get to the truth of the matter much more quickly.

Cameras would not only protect the youngsters, went the argument, they would also protect district employees from unfounded accusations.

The proposal had been made as one of the equitable remedies that attorneys for four-year-old Bobby had suggested during settlement talks. Although afflicted with Tuberous Sclerosis, the four-year-old preschooler had been physically assaulted, by first an aide, and then multiple times by the teacher.

But CCSD, for some reason, was extremely hostile to the idea.

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'Catch Me if You Can,' Part 6

'Is CCSD deliberately indifferent?" the court asks: 'People are doing
this left and right and you're not doing anything about it.'

In 2003, when the precedent-setting Preschooler II lawsuit was first filed against the Clark County School District, a striking section of the complaint asserted that CCSD had, in defiance of state law, covertly “implemented and administered a custom of practice and usage” that effectively permitted the abuse of special-needs children.

Now, 15 years later, another special-education lawsuit against the district makes similar allegations, and again the parents’ lawyers have made discovery requests that CCSD has been fighting tooth and nail.

The allegation 15 years ago

Back in 2003, the complaint alleged the district had “abdicated” several specific statutory duties:

  • To train and monitor school staff regarding physical restraints and aversive interventions,
  • To ensure that violations are reported,
  • To establish corrective plans,
  • To submit those corrective plans to the state, and
  • To implement the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act “free of oppression, physical and emotional abuse.”


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'Catch Me if You Can,' Part 5

The principal — and the practices — CCSD is defending

Two days after special-ed aide Carolina Gallardo reported James Doran’s physical manhandling of autistic children in his Forbuss Elementary classroom to Principal Shawn Paquette, Doran — unfazed — was still at it.

On May 1, 2015, in front of visiting literacy coach Ana Sumison — who would make an immediate report to Paquette — Doran grabbed “a seated student with one hand by the back of the head [and] neck and with the other hand … squeezed the cheeks of the student, forcing his head to look up toward the ceiling. When Doran released the student, the student put his head down and cried,” says Sumison in a sworn deposition.

She also gave Paquette a written statement and told him the police needed to be called. When they came, Gallardo was also told to give police a written statement. She reported that Doran had done the exact same thing to the same student the very day before. 

Paquette, with many higher-ups’ eyes upon him following his relaying of Gallardo’s report two days earlier,  now also hastened to inform CCSD’s Employee-Management Relations division (“EMR”) of the latest report.




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‘Catch Me If You Can,’ Part 4

Have an autistic child? Be cautious of CCSD

The latest big lawsuit against Southern Nevada’s public-school system over its treatment of nonverbal autistic students appears to be coming to a head.

Hurd et al v. Clark County School District et al was filed in August 2016, almost exactly one year after the underlying story hit the news, in 2015.

“A special education teacher with the Clark County School District,” reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “faces abuse charges after colleagues reported that he hit and threw an autistic student who is unable to speak.

“It happened over the course of several months, according to a school police investigation,” continued the RJ report.

Now, more than three years after the initial Forbuss Elementary School incidents, multiple depositions have been filed in the lawsuit against CCSD, Forbuss Principal Shawn Paquette and first-year autism teacher James Doran.

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'Catch me if you can,' Part 3

New parents should not be naïve about CCSD special-ed

Nevada Journal recently spoke with the mother of the boy who had been called “Preschooler” in the highly revealing 2004-2008 lawsuit. In the following report, we’ll call him Bobby — not his actual name.

Directly asked how her son is doing today, she was silent before answering.

“Not very well,” she finally said.

The boy had never been the same, she explained, after those early experiences of adult aggression in the Betsy Rhodes KIDS program.

“In my opinion, it has devastated his life,” she said.

“He didn’t have any of that aggression before that happened. He was barely four years old when all that started. And then — for the first time ever — we saw him hitting himself.”

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‘Catch Me If You Can,’ Part 2

CCSD regularly ignores the recommendations
of internationally recognized experts on autism

Is deliberate indifference to the physical abuse of its autistic students part of Clark County School District’s business plan?

An entirely outrageous allegation, you may well think.

Surely, no organization charged with educating Nevada children would allow mistreatment of a significant number of its children — right?

However, court records — specifically, federal complaints filed and adjudicated against the district over the last two decades — present a darker picture.

News stories based on those lawsuits suggest that, in too many instances, CCSD teachers and aides — either inadequately trained or vetted or both — simply lose it. Or actually turn out to have serious psychological issues themselves.

For example:

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'Catch Me If You Can,' Part 1

Hurd v. Clark County School District lawsuit
reprises decades of special-ed problems

If you’ve ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can, you’ll remember the title character, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Frank Abagnale was a bright, charming but conscienceless teen who’d discovered he had a talent for scamming people.

Eventually, with the help of his wife and a good FBI friend — plus multiple stints in prison — Abagnale abandoned the marauding life.

Today he teaches businesses how to protect themselves from people like his younger self.

As Americans regularly learn, however, significant national institutions nowadays think likethe young Abagnale.

Their M.O., also, when it comes down to it, is: Catch Me If You Can!

Many Southern Nevada special-needs families — as evidenced by their lawsuits in federal court — see the Clark County School District is such an institution. CCSD, however, is not a special case. All across the country, more often than not, large public school districts follow the same method of operation.


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Fixing Special Ed, Part 7:
Autism, dyslexia, societal changes
reveal a broken special-ed system

Foot-dragging school districts face
future of increasingly costly settlements

Once upon a time — say, back in 1975 — the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was, at least on paper, the very model of customized, personalized education.

Not only did it promise individualized public education for millions of children who until then had been barred from public schools, but it also appeared to give parents an explicit, legal voice in that education.

Nevertheless, today more and more parents of special-needs children are turning away from their local school district’s implementation of IDEA as they seek better solutions to their children’s learning needs.

Why is that?

Generally, it’s because millions of parents by now have had their own personal experiences with this too-frequently dysfunctional system, or, more fortunately, had already learned of others’ experiences. And this knowledge, in turn, has fueled the broad rise of an active desire — indeed, a market demand — for something different and more effective.

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