Posted in Education, In The News, Politics

Are You on the Bus of Integrity

Have you seen the big yellow bus of insinuation parked by Murphy’s on the bypass?  The intent, obviously, was to make people think Clark County Public Schools was endorsing Bill Taulbee for the school board seat district 1.  What Mr. Taulbee did not count on was the backlash of his outlandish act.  I spoke with Superintendent Paul Christy who strenuously denied the insinuation.  Mr. Christy stated the bus in question is not now nor has it ever been a part of the CCPS fleet.  In fact, he received multiple phone calls from angry citizens demanding to know why a school bus was used in this political stunt.  It certainly implied that the tax dollars you spend in our schools go to support Mr. Taulbee’s campaign, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. Taulbee’s choice of placing a sign on a bus not only nullifies any message he hoped to have but also toys with the boundaries of zone signage ordinances.  Section 11 of Winchester’s Zoning Ordinances deal with the specifications of signs.  Vehicle signs exempt from the ordinance are those painted or affixed to vehicles, contain only business/owner name, are on vehicles used in the business not just merely for displaying a sign, and are parked in an area appropriate for the business and in a manner that minimizes street visibility.  None of those apply to Mr. Taulbee’s bus stunt.

When Mr. Taulbee posted the picture of his infamous bus stunt to his campaign page he only incited more anger.  Again, using the tactic of insinuation, he implied employees of the school system aside from teachers were forgotten.  The facts are that other employees received raises alongside teachers.  It was just another smokescreen intended to conflict rather than clarify.  The campaign trail is where the candidate puts his best foot forward.  So what does that say when the candidate’s campaign tactics are deceit, misrepresentation, insinuation, and outright excuses to avoid constituents one one one?  Well, you don’t need a bus to tell you what that is a sign of!

Prior to this misstep, Mr. Taulbee was reported for exploiting his position as football booster president for political gain.  It has been said that Mr. Taulbee while presenting awards, working concessions and engaging in other booster activities he was simultaneously campaigning.  A bit frowned upon.  His own Facebook posts have alluded to such controversial campaign tactics.  Even as he used his booster position to benefit him politically, he also uses it as an excuse to shirk his duties.  His political mailer states, “I would personally would (sic) have liked to speak to every voter in the District. Unfortunately, due to working a full time (sic) job and performing my duties as the George Rogers Clark Football Booster President, I may not make it to your house before the election on November 6th.”  In my opinion, that is code for if you’re involved with football I’ve talked to you and if you’re not then why bother?

When I discussed these matters with Mr. Taulbee’s opponent, Patti Columbia, she understood the anger and frustration of her supporters but remained true to her eternal optimism and commitment.  She will continue to run a clean positive campaign centered on how she can serve the community.  That comes as no surprise to her supporters because it is classic Patti.

Patti Columbia didn’t just decide one day to run for school board.  For years, people have asked her to run.  Typical of her nature, she would only run if she believed she was the best person for the job.  She invested her time in educating herself about procedures and needs, attended countless board meetings, interacted with the community and a plethora of other things no prior board candidate has done before tossing her proverbial hat in the ring.

Patti Columbia doesn’t blur lines of integrity, she happily engages in the tiresome footwork of door to door campaigning and orchestrated her life to make the board seat a priority rather than something to try to make time for.  That is why the best choice for District 1 and all of Clark County is Patti Columbia.  Because integrity and insinuations really do tell the tale of the candidate.

Posted in Education, parenting, Parenting From The Headlines, Special Needs Kids, Special Needs Students

You Can’t Drag A Child To Progress

Click here to view column

Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Education, parenting, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids, Special Needs Students

After School Programs Fall Under 504

504 Plan VS. IEP (Individualized Education Plan) alphabet blocksI have seen a disturbing trend in public schools. Though I am at a loss to explain why some public schools are laboring under the misconception that their after-school programs are exempt from accommodation requirements for disabled students.  Administrators are informing parents that their student’s IEP doesn’t carry over to the after school program. That is somewhat true but highly debatable.

What is not debatable, however, is federal ADA law. Section 504 of that law applies specifically to the educational setting. It states that child care programs (including after-school programs in public schools) are prohibited from discriminating against a child with a disability by denying admission into the program or by denying requests for reasonable accommodations. Individual states have additional variances supporting this law but ADA is the federal guideline. It’s non-negotiable.

So, what should you do if your child is not receiving accommodations, has been refused entry into the program or been booted from it? First, send a letter to the principal, superintendent and school board members advising that you are invoking your child’s rights under section 504 of the American with Disabilities Act. Then clearly define what accommodations you are seeking for your child. Provide a date (I suggest a couple of weeks so they have the opportunity to get with their attorney) in which they must respond to your request. Also, make it clear that you will only accept their response in writing. If you are having to go this far to secure your child’s rights nothing they verbalize should be trusted and if you have to pursue it further proof in writing is worth its weight in gold.

If for some crazy reason they still do not relent, your next step should be a letter to the state board of education. Be certain to include a copy of the letter you sent to your local board of education. Since you can likely email them I would allow only a week for them to respond.

If all attempts have failed it’s time to call in the big guns, so-to-speak. ADA will fight for the rights of your child at zero cost to you. You will not have to hire an attorney to go to battle because the war is already won. It’s just the little generals on the ground who haven’t fully understood their role that cause the problem. You can file a discrimination complaint with ADA online. You will be required to jump through a lot of hoops, fill out mounds of paperwork and possibly pay to have papers notarized. But once that is done so are you. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy someone else caring enough to fight for your child.

Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Education, Just for fun, parenting, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids

Feel the Sensory in Halloween

Science has proven that a multi-sensory environment improves brain function, language, social interaction, coordination and much more. Just as you arrange your food intake for maximum nutritional benefits, the same should be done for your sensory diet. The majority of us can exist in a day and get enough input to all of our senses to keep us balanced without having to actively search for ways to increase one sense or the other.

Individuals with sensory processing disorders, are on the autism spectrum or have other special needs, lack sufficient sensory input. The lack of an incomplete sensory diet can wreak havoc throughout our physical, emotional and intellectual state. With millions of  nerve endings sending messages to the brain about even the smallest tactile (touch) sense it is extremely easy to have a few crossed wires. Most of us can sift through the multitude of tactile stimulation without giving it much thought. Those with processing difficulty cannot. They either perceive too much stimulation or not enough.

Regardless of whether it’s a child with an over or under sensitive tactile system all children can benefit from a little tactile processing practice.  Halloween is the perfect time introduce your child to a sensory bin. The bin can be filled with sand, rice, water, flour, shaving cream, and even jello. Just go with the substance that your child will tolerate delving their hands into.

To keep the project affordable I purchased my bin and the contents at my local Dollar Tree. You can use any size or shape container you prefer. Mine is rectangular with a lid so I can safely store it away for reuse later. I filled the bin with rice then buried some plastic treat bag items in it.

fullsizerender

 

fullsizerender-1

 

The goal is to have the child blindfolded, close their eyes or turn their head as they dig into the bin for the items you request. You want them to work on the sense of touch alone. Show your child an item then have them sift through the contents of the bin to find it.  I recommend having a couple of items that are easily identified. The ping pong eyeballs are easily recognized as are the tiny skull rings. Allowing the child to either start with one of the easy items or switch to them after missing an item or retrieving one that was particularly difficult gives them a much-needed confidence boost.

Only do as much as your child can tolerate. We want to push them a bit beyond their comfort zone but not to the point of a meltdown or where the activity isn’t enjoyable.  The more fun they have they less they care about the therapeutic aspect. As always, forget about the mess and enjoy the bonding time between you and your special one. Happy feel-o-ween everyone!

Posted in Education, Uncategorized

School – AGAIN??!!

How did this happen?  How did summer end and school begin without my permission?  Granted I have more freedom because I homeschool.  But because I homeschool I’m also more frantic!  I need a homeschool 911.  You know someone I could call to write my lesson plans and figure out the schedule.  I’m willing to teach the kid if someone else will do the prep work.

The problem is DJ is special needs.  His skills are obscenely scattered.  I’m poor.  I can’t afford to buy homeschool curriculum in three different grade levels.  That means I write lessons to fit his needs.  Do I have time to write his lessons?  NO!  I’m trying to write a book so that next year we actually can afford three different homeschool curriculums.

Since I’m a homeschool hoarder (there’s a reality program for you) I have tons of worksheets that combine to make – NOTHING!  Will social services come and get me if I just throw random stuff at him?  If they do come I wonder if I could talk them into helping me sort through the random mess?  After all, that would be why they were called.  They should at least do something while they are here.

The one good point about this year is I am far more organized.  My kid may not learn anything but hey, the organization will at least make it appear as though he is learning.  I need help people!!!

IMG_9581

IMG_9580

 

 

Posted in Education, My Life My Way, Special Needs Kids, The DJ Diariers, This N That

What Does Time Cost at Costco?

In a world that is daily increasing in the number of special needs children, it is exceptionally important what parents teach their typical children. Even toddlers have the ability to recognize that DJ is unlike them. Of all the responses we receive in public, we never had one like today.

Costco shoppers have always been the most tolerant. They smile and go out of their way to speak to DJ. Once in Walmart a woman actually said to me, “What’s wrong with it?” In reference to my child! DJ isn’t stupid. He picks up on unkindness. So, needless to say, Costco is DJ’s favorite store. Since the store is so big we push DJ in a wheelchair which really draws the eye of children.

Today two little boys were riding in a shopping cart and caught sight of DJ as we rounded a corner. The oldest looked to be maybe five and the younger about three. The younger questioned his older brother about why DJ was jabbering and flailing about. Their mother, unaware of what was taking place, pushed them away before I could hear the older one’s response. As we were leaving we ran into them again. The older one immediately began hollering at DJ and waving frantically at him. I mean this kid was serious about getting DJ’s attention. When he did, DJ gave him an enthusiastic wave back. The younger one immediately turned incredulous eyes upon his brother.

“He waved at you.”  The little one was so in awe you would have thought his favorite movie character had just come to life before his eyes.

“Wave at him. He might wave at you too,” was the older child’s advice.

DJ, now seeing he has the attention of two children, is jabbering in that dialect that only he understands. He was rocking the wheelchair trying to roll over to the two. His little arms were flailing about as he simply couldn’t contain the enthusiasm of having what he rarely has; the undivided attention of another child.

When the youngest one, with his big beautiful brown eyes round with wonder, gave DJ a wave and DJ jabbered and waved him the little boy just couldn’t believe it. These two little boys were amazed that DJ was “talking” to them. When their mother turned to see what all the excitement was about they both began pointing at DJ with enthusiastic gestures and simultaneously telling her how DJ was waving and “talking” to them. We had a good laugh about it while all three boys were going crazy over each other. Those little boys were amazed that DJ was interacting with them.  They treated DJ like a rock star.

Parents need to know the importance of encouraging their children to ask questions about DJ  and to interact with him. DJ LOVES to get the attention of kids. He tries his best to talk to them either jabbering or using his iPad. Unfortunately, it is a very rare occasion when the child will respond in a positive manner to him. Science has shown us that children learn physically and intellectually from other children. Therefore, no one wins when the opportunity to interact with a special needs child is lost.

Somehow that mother at Costco has successfully taught her two very young boys that they should be accepting and loving of all people. And in the process of doing so, her children made DJ, for a brief moment in time, just like every other little kid. That is a blessing that defies words and will have a positive impact on DJ for the rest of his life.

 

Posted in Education, Homeschool, The DJ Diariers, Valentine's Day

My Very Special Valentine

Despite homeschooling DJ we always have a Valentine’s Day party.  We’ve been talking about the party this year for a week.  Last night before he went to bed I told him all about the things we’d do today, much to his excitement.  We were going to go shopping, make cupcakes, crafts and just all around merriment.

Look at our cupcakes!  Aside from DJ being a little heavy handed with the sprinkles, they are perfect.  And our giant chocolate kisses turned out perfect, despite it being our first time attempt.

 

Anyone looking at these pictures would think we had a great time.  You know what?  They would be WRONG!  Somewhere between last night’s excitement and this morning’s reality DJ lost his “give a care” chip.  He was not only uninterested in any sort of Valentine’s Day activity but he made sure I suffered while making him do them.  Meanwhile, I’m living in some idiotic state thinking he’s going to warm up to the idea.  I was sure that at any given moment the merriment I had dreamt of would commence.  Wrong again!

Lost somewhere between the crazy notions of, “oh, he’ll come around” and “by george it’s a party and we’re going to have fun if it kills us both”, I came to my senses.  It’s not like guests were arriving at any moment.  The only guest was the dog and she can’t have chocolate or cupcakes.  There’s a reason he has special needs. Uh… because his needs are special (perhaps not as special as his mother’s though).  And it’s homeschool for crying out loud.  I’m not even competing with other mothers.  Apparently, I’m just crazy.

Alas, I gave up the party mentality and let the child go watch Big Hero 6.  And for that, I got the sweetest gift of all; a hug and big kiss from my very special Valentine.

IMG_7735

Posted in Education

Update on Campbell Bedbugs

bedbug signYesterday, Campbell Jr. High principal, Dustin Howard, made an intercom announcement that he was dispelling “rumors” about bedbugs and that there were none. It was extremely disappointing to say the least. It was a typical Elaine Farris move. She and David Bolen (GRC principal) did the exact same thing when the GRC mold issue was brought to light. It is exactly the type of behavior that this community has been adamant eradicating.

As far as I’m concerned, an announcement to “dispel rumors” is nothing more than an attempt to pacify the community, discredit me and demonstrate to staff that their opinions do not matter. My philosophy is that an active campaign to shut people up rather than actually address and consider their concerns, only accentuates that there is indeed a problem. Likely, more troublesome than we know.

Last night Paul Christy informed me of many things. Primarily, that I was wrong and posting “inaccurate statements on Facebook” and my blog. I’m not even going to address that ridiculous accusation because I feel my reputation speaks for itself. If it didn’t people would not go to significant lengths to contact me and plead for my intervention.

Regardless of the matter, Christy stated he contracted with Elite Pest Control who inspected 16 classrooms at Campbell. Of those 16 classrooms “the findings show no bedbugs, no shells, no bedbug skins and no bedbug feces”. He also assures me that once the written report is available to him he will make it available to the community. So, to those of you who submitted your concerns to me, were your classrooms inspected? Do you have documented proof of bedbugs?

Christy is firm in his belief that staff and/or students are blowing incidents out of proportion and that my blogging about the situation is “creating hysteria”.  I am of the opinion that if the board of education actually had a policy regarding bedbugs (like most counties) addressed the issue rather than search for the whistle-blowers there would be no “hysteria” to create.

Bottom line? A professional was hired to inspect the building, which was needed. School administrators are now responding to students, staff and parents voicing concern. Pictures of bite marks and the actual bedbugs go a long way. So, if you disagree with the clean bill of health of the school and the stance of Superintendent Christy that you are all over-reacting, then you need to snap a little picture of the critters as they crawl about thirsting for food.

Yet, as we all move forward from this event is it vitally important that we remember bedbugs is a COMMUNITY concern. Be vigilant. Be aggressive.  And above all be proactive and never afraid to take a stand.

Posted in Education

Bedbugs At Campbell JR High

bed-bugsRecently, I was notified that Campbell Jr. High was infested with bedbugs and the school district was doing nothing except attempting to cover it up. It took shockingly little, effort on my part to discover enough evidence to prove that there was no doubt a problem. The exact scope of the problem I am still sorting out.

Both Campbell Jr. High and Shearer Elementary have bedbugs. It is possible that George Rogers Clark High School has them as well. How many of the critters is yet to be determined. Clark County School Superintendent, Paul Christy, relayed to me his belief that perhaps people are calling something a bedbug that is not. He did agree that a single bug had been spotted and he had the room cleaned. Students and staff at the schools have different stories. They are complaining of bite marks, infestations, hitch-hiking bugs that have invaded their homes and money paid out of their personal pockets to combat a problem the school district refuses to address.

There are only 3 reasons why the district and staff and students could have such vastly different versions of events.
1. The principals at the schools are intentionally misleading the superintendent as to the severity of the problem.
2. The superintendent is trying to cover up the story and keep the public unaware so parents don’t keep students at home.
3. Staff and students are overreacting.
I’m inclined to mark off number three simply due to the number of people who have contacted me in various positions across the county.

It’s the responsibility of the principal to notify the superintendent of problems in the schools such as bedbugs. The superintendent then has a responsibility to let the public know by sending letters home to parents. That has not happened. Christy told me he wasn’t sending letters home warning parents about bedbugs because there had only been one bug. However, bite marks on multiple people, especially if those people are in separate areas of the school, would indicate the presence of more than a single bug.  bed bug hand

The district has a policy for head lice but not bedbugs, which is the crux of the problem. When there is no policy there is bound to be conflict. It is ridiculous that the district has not adopted any sort of policy pertaining to bedbugs considering how much they have been in the news. Multiple surrounding counties have the same policy for head lice, scabies and bedbugs.

Until the problem is aggressively confronted bedbugs will continue to be a problem. They are extremely difficult to get rid of once you have them and students can carry hitch-hiking bugs back and forth between school and home. To reduce the chances of the bugs infecting your home you can do the following things:

1. Use clear plastic bags inside your child’s backpack to encase personal belongings if possible.
2. Immediately, upon coming home don’t allow your child to touch any furniture or other items that will allow a bug to disembark. Place backpacks and clothing worn to school in a dryer on highest heat setting for at least 30 minutes.
3. If you pick your child up immediately place his/her backpack in a garbage bag and seal it until you arrive home. Consider plastic seat coverings in your vehicle to keep bugs from getting into the car.
4. Educate yourself and your child on the signs of bedbugs and inspect yourselves and your home on a regular basis.
4. If you see a single bug in your home assume there are more and treat your home immediately. Pesticides are the most effective way to kill them but it is expensive. Steam cleaning is a good alternative if proper procedures are followed.  bedbug sign

I want to make clear that bedbugs is a COMMUNITY problem. They can be anywhere and it is up to every citizen to be aware of the signs and actively combat them at the onset. Part of that combat should be communication. We cannot have our school officials operating as the bedbugs do, in secret. Making parents aware of the potential for bedbugs and allowing them the opportunity to protect their homes is beneficial to everyone and is the very first step in getting rid of them

In closing, I’d like to say that Dr. Kuduk allows time at board meetings for community members and staff to come before the board. If you are not getting satisfactory answers at the school level you should exercise that right. Board members serve the community. They will write policies if enough of the community voices respectful concern. Until that time, I have included links you may find helpful.

http://www.bedbugs.umn.edu/bed-bug-control-in-residences/using-steam-to-control-bed-bugs
www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-06/documents/15-green.pdf
http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publichealth/insects/bedbug.html
http://www.fcps.net/administration/departments/health-safety/health/staff
http://www.jefferson.k12.ky.us/departments/safetyenvirohouse/images/pdfs/JCPSSchoolBedbugGuide.pdf
http://www.jefferson.k12.ky.us/departments/safetyenvirohouse/images/pdfs/BedbugNotificationLetter.pdf
chfs.ky.gov/dph/info/phps/bed+bugs.htm
http://www.nkyhealth.org/Prevent-Bed-Bugs-at-Work.aspx

Posted in Bullying, Education, In The News, Parenting From The Headlines, Politics

I’m Not Anti-Semitic – I’m Anti-Stupid

My father-in-law gives me a ton of lectures about how impolite it is to call people stupid. As much as I respect my father-in-law, sometimes in situations when my mouth hangs agape in frustrated confusion, the word stupid is my weapon of choice. Such is the case regarding a Tennessee school district’s textbook controversy.

According to a Fox News report, Williamson County, outside of Nashville, selected “The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography” as a textbook for an advanced placement (AP) class. The book suggests students ponder the following question. “If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?”

I read the question twice but failed to find a problem with it. All I saw was an opportunity for students to debate an important issue with as much modern day relevance as historical. I’m a huge fan of debate. I believe we only grow and learn when we are able to listen and consider the views of another while defending our own. At this point in the article I’m thinking the parents just need to chill. Then the Director of Schools, Mike Looney spoke. “No one else has complained”. Not only is that one of my most despised statements but it is also a pretty stupid defense. Look around you. If no one ever dared to color outside the lines or raise questions where there had been none before, we would still be peddling around in Flintstone cars and marveling over the wonder of fire.

Some parents find the sentence is anti-Semitic but Looney maintains they are taking it out of context. Okay, lets see how that holds up.  The entire paragraph reads, “Distinguishing terrorism from other acts of political violence can be difficult. For example, if a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions? Competing arguments are made: Israel’s sympathizers denounce the act as a terrorist threat to the country’s existence, whereas advocates of the Palestinian cause argue that long-standing injustices and Israeli army attacks on ordinary Palestinian civilians provoked the act.” Now, let’s break it down.

Sentence one reads, “Distinguishing terrorism from other acts of political violence can be difficult.” Um….no not really. Political, medical, global whatever the venue, anytime violence is used to try to force someone to agree with you or at least make them afraid to disagree, is terrorism. I didn’t need an AP class to figure that out.

In a futile attempt at clarity the paragraph continues. “For example, if a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?” So, as long as it’s considered retaliation it’s acceptable? Well, that’s just what we need to teach in high school.   Lets go into the place were far too many use bulling as justification for mass murder and have them ponder the merits of murdering teenagers in retaliation. Yea, THAT’S a good idea.

The paragraph closes with, “Competing arguments are made: Israel’s sympathizers denounce the act as a terrorist threat to the country’s existence, whereas advocates of the Palestinian cause argue that long-standing injustices and Israeli army attacks on ordinary Palestinian civilians provoked the act.”  Sooooo, depending on your point of view terrorism is acceptable? Seriously? That’s what we want to put out there? Good Lord no wonder America is dangling at the bottom of the educational chain.

Ironically, the entire paragraph is a great deal more worrisome than the single sentence. Even more worrisome is the fact Looney didn’t get that. The last thing we should EVER be doing is teaching our kids to question the motives of terrorism. They need to be learning ways to cope with pressure and differing views while predicting and avoiding violent situations. The father who shoots the man who murdered his daughter is still a murderer, regardless of how “justified” it may seem.

I am dumbfounded that anyone would even remotely consider terrorism acceptable regardless of the reason. If we allow our students to even consider terrorism in any form, we are flinging the door wide open to violence and putting a bulls-eye on all of us. Because whether we acknowledge it or not, there are hundreds of thousands who consider themselves at war with America everyday.

http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/parents-call-textbook-anti-semitic.html