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T Wins at His Impartial Hearing After the NYC Board of Education Denies Him a Free and Appropriate Public Education
By means of educational neglect, incompetence, bureaucratic and political influence, sheer stupidity and deliberate and malicious harm by school personnel and NYC BOE staff, “T” , a bright 8th grade boy with special-needs, has been left behind academically, socially, emotionally, and his success in the future has been severely compromised. After examination of the evidence presented, and after four hearing dates, I, the parent advocate state for the record that we – the parent, T and I – have proven the above neglect and incompetence., and that the suspension process for children such as T is broken. The zero tolerance for children with special needs, in conjunction with the theft of services and money from these children by NYC BOE personnel is a despicable crime. We post this article to change this illegal process of discrimination and abuse. by Betsy Combier
IN THE SUSPENSION PROCESS: There is something very wrong with the NYC policy of suspending kids. We have been representing children at suspension hearings throughout the New York City area for 3 years, and have never seen a white face in the waiting rooms of any hearing office.

The process starts when Principals target kids with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) in order to steal the money that the school gets for providing related services, assistive technology, paraprofessionals, and the like. They prefer kids with expensive add-ons, like tutoring or paraprofessionals, because when a child is suspended/expelled/removed the school can take the money owed this child without interference. Whenever possible, the IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) are hidden from teachers and school personnel, so that no one knows exactly what money is to be paid or to whom.

This sounds grim, we know. But we speak from experience. Principals who locate a child who can be victimized will attack by changing the grades, forcing failure, and going after any service provider with a vengence. If any person whistleblows what is going on, he or she is removed from telling anyone else. The circle of fear is wide and harsh. Whistleblower laws are written, but are not implemented, and are not worth the paper they are printed on. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a proponent of silence:

Bloomberg Criticizes Exposé By Former White House Aide
By BENJAMIN SARLIN, Special to the Sun, May 29, 2008

As the former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, promotes his tell-all book on the Bush administration, Mayor Bloomberg says that such exposes are nothing to be admired.

"I have always thought that when you work for somebody you have an obligation to not write a tell-all book afterwards," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters today. The owner of a multi-billion dollar corporation, Bloomberg LP, he added that his opinion held true "whether you're in an administration or whether you work for a private company."

Mr. Bloomberg said that memoirs should be distinguished from exposing wrongdoing due to their timing.

"If you think the organization you work for is breaking the law, there are whistleblower protections and you should avail yourself of the opportunity to set things right while you're there," he said.

Mr. Bloomberg said that he did not believe that Bloomberg LP required employees to sign waivers preventing the release of books like Mr. McClellan's.

"I don't believe we ask anything; I just hope we hire people who are a little more responsible," he said.

Under the Bloomberg administration, any employee must ignore wrong-doing, or this person will suffer the consequences. If you are a teacher, you will go to the Rubber Room; if you are a student, you are expelled or suspended; if you are a parent you are barred from participating at the school or your child is attacked in retaliation. Everyone is retaliated against quickly and maliciously.

We at have been successful at winning awards of private schools, tutoring and other services for the children whom we represent at Impartial Hearings, IEP Review meetings, Manifestation Determination Reviews, and suspension hearings, but it is always a battle.

Children have lost their due process rights. Documents such as these are worthless. Almost no information about subpoenas or representation are given parents, so that victory for the school is assured. Les Matuk, the Chair of the Superintendent Suspension process, refuses to list as a provider for parents who must go to a Superintendent Suspension Hearing. Shirley Rowe, the Director of the Manhattan suspension hearing office, tells me I must leave the building if she sees me talking to a parent other than the person for whom I am appearing. I try to tell all parents in the waiting room to NOT declare "no contest" (meaning your child is guilty) and to ask for the transcript of the hearing.

The transcript, even if the worst statements are erased/omitted, always is damaging to the NYC BOE because the statements made by the NYC BOE witnesses rarely are similar, and it is not difficult for a seasoned reporter to ask questions that lead to confusion of the witness. Although the child is always found to be guilty of the activity for which he/she was suspended, we have been successful in getting children returned to the school quickly by proving that the school's "witnesses" are not telling the truth or admit that they indeed did not consider the best interests of the child (See my closing arguments in the T case, below).

The Hearing officer is paid by the NYC BOE and must obey the mandate, which is to ignore any IEP (saying such things as "the IEP is not relevant to this hearing"). He or she reads the suspension folder supplied by the school - which is not seen by the parent - before the hearing begins, so that the end result ("decision") complies with the pre-determined goal of the school. The goal is always removal to an alternative site, and the determination left "open" (or hidden from the parent) in terms of the number of days/weeks/months. In fact, a secret report "SOHO" is provided the school representative at the Hearing, and in this report you can read all the false allegations against your child, and the growing harshness of the resulting punishment for the alleged crimes. But you, the parent (and, any advocate or lawyer you have represent your child) will never see this.

Stacy Reeves, the Chair of the Impartial Hearing Office, is under the supervision of NYC BOE Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm. Therefore, Joel Klein's education-political-complex ( as in "military-industrial-complex") can be compared with - and has - to a racketeering ring. Not one member of NYC Council has come through with any strategy for making changes to the throwing away of black and minority children from their schools in a suspension process that is blatantly unfair and discriminatory. See ("Criminalizing the Classroom")

Everyone knows that children who are not white and who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to support his/her special needs is headed for the school-to-prison pipeline, alarmingly quickly. But not before the IEP can be officially registered at the school. Yes, we said the "IEP", not the "student".

Principals of the New York City public school system want the federal money that has been allocated to kids with special needs, and want to make sure that the child doesn't get it. Parents are widely misinformed about the IEP process, and often are not even given a copy of the IEP once it is written, so that the school can claim the child is getting all services without being held accountable for not providing the services or providers at all. The No Child Left Behind legislation mandates that all children with special needs have a certified teacher in the classroom. This is ignored.

What happens is, each IEP is packed with services, assistive technology, related services, etc., and then the school throws the student out, but keeps the IEP and the student on the roster, marking him/her absent. How does the school get rid of a student? Some of what we have seen are:

1. Creating false records of absences, latenesses, misconduct ("anecdotals") and writing up events that never happened, or occurance reports that have been altered to make an innocent child guilty.

2. Telling a parent that the services listed on the IEP are not available at the school. "Sorry" (Ed: we added this, as Principals dont usually apologize for breaking the law).

The children are falsely accused by anyone and summarily given random sentences that fill up the “rubber rooms” for children: the ‘Twilight Centers” or ‘Second Opportunity Schools’ that are anything but. Kids of all ages and abilities are jammed together into one room, where a person – seldom a teacher – wanders in and out – in, when a visitor or new child shows up with his/her parent; out the rest of the time. No homework or testing is allowed or brought to the newest garbage, the child who is sent to these forgotten locations.

“Proving” wrong-doing is as simple as making a telephone call from the Principal to the EIC, or filling out an Online Occurance Report (OORS) after which a suspension packet is generated and sent to the child’s home. The child is guilty, immediately.

We worked with "KM", and her son "T" after he was suspended and sent to a small, windowless room in Queens where he spends his day (8:20AM - 1:30PM) playing UNO with the 13 other boys. In June 2007 Hearing Officer Judith Kramer conducted an Impartial Hearing for T without anyone present but a NYC BOE Attorney. I had resolved the issues a few days before, and had told Ms. Kramer, but she went forward anyway. T was subsequently moved to three other locations. His IEP was kept in a locked drawer, supposedly, at his original school, and he was forgotten, at least that is what the NYC BOE hoped for.

With the permission of the parent we are posting my and the BOE's closing arguments to the 4 days that were spent at 131 Livingston Street in Brooklyn, to show how badly T was treated by BOE personnel who are not only incompetent but have no knowledge of Special Education and IDEA 2004:

Combier summation
Closing arguments of NYC BOE rep Ms. Janet Shepherd
Kramer decision

A special education teacher at a suspension site (she does not want to reveal her name, however we know who she is and have verified her information) writes this:


I have been a teacher at the Second Opportunity School (SOS) for the past two and a half years. SOS educates students who have been given one-year superintendent’s suspensions for allegedly violating the New York City School’s discipline code. There are four sites located across the city. The DOOR (located in Manhattan), WILDCAT(located in the Bronx), and Sankofa Academy. My current site location is Queens Outreach located on Myrtle Ave in Richmond Hill,Queens. Queens Outreach is a Community Based Organization (CBO) that services substance abuse clients. This CBO by no means is qualified to service the SUSPENSION student's of the Second Opportunity School. The director, Mr. Patterson, was the only CBO staff member associated with SOS that has a graduate degree in a service provision area (MSW), yet he provides no direct service to the students. The CBO has recently hired a PART-TIME (MSW) to attempt to silence the cry for a QUAILFIED counselor. The assistant director has some sort of criminal justice undergraduate degree, but he also has a role that provides no direct student services. The person that has the title of “Clinical Supervisor” has a high school diploma and is about to complete an associates degree in liberal arts. This individual runs some "COUNSELING" groups, but provides limited individual counseling services to students. The CBO had four direct service counselors WITHOUT degrees in any area what so ever. These individuals try their best to service the SOS students, but lack of appropriate training and time renders them ineffective to say the least. These four individuals work a schedule of 19 hours a week, that's less than 4 hours a day. The SOS school day has 7 hours. The CBO refuses to pay benefits so instead of hiring one or two qualified counselors they choose to hire several under qualified people, which leads to their excessively high turn over rate. Currently, the CBO is down to three counselors with two of the current counselors planning for a vigourous exit.
This is a rip off; Queens Outreach is robbing the Department of Education blind! This CBO has a contract which pays them $400,000 dollars and they provide minimal to no services. They do not support student centered trips, yet they wrote a grant and was given 20,000 dollars from the Derek Jeter foundation just for that purpose! (This was reported in the Ridgewood Times newspaper) These people are crooks. I personally planned and chaperone four different college tours ((2) Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University) and I had to beg and pled to get the first charter bus to Harvard. Queens Outreach flat out REFUSED to finance any of the others College Tours due to the fact that the Executive Financial Director (Tony Croce) has the attitude that “none of these kids can make it to THOSE schools”. This is insanity! These people are poverty pimps benefiting off of the backs of students who have made poor choices in their short school lives. They are making a profit from drug testing students and placing them in weak treatment programs in order to charge their parent’s insurance company’s for services that are menial to say the least!
Since there are no real checks and balances, the administration of Queens Outreach is getting away with this robbery. There has yet to be a documented record of what grants the agency is applying for in the name of the SOS students or how much money has been received for grants that have been accepted. If The Department of Education insists on utilizing the services of CBO’s there has a clear statement of what services they offer our children as well as appropriate checks and balances on what financial benefits are being acquired in the name of the student’s being serviced.
The qualifications of the CBO staff who service our students should be just as comprehensive as the qualification for Department of Education staff (we MUST have degree’s!). There should be an audit and investigation on the financial practices and student service delivery plan of the Queens Outreach Organization.
In addition to the aforementioned, Queens Outreach, in a moment of what had to be nothing but stupidity, decided to replace old dirty carpet on Friday January 19th during a regular school day. The dust from the carpet and fumes from the glue made several individual, including myself sick. This further demonstrates the insensitive and immoral actions taken by this CBO toward the students and staff of the Second Opportunity School. This incident is just one of many on going inappropriate daily occurrences at the Queens Outreach SOS site.
Student’s are in constant contact with individuals who should not be in the building during the school day. Queens Outreach has been paid for the basement of their building, yet they still have DRUG COUNSELORS AND THEIR CLIENTS in constant contact with the students of SOS in the rented basement area. These clients in no way should be in contact with the MIDDLE SCHOOL POPULATION of SOS. Some have been recently released from prison some have other VERY SERIOUS issues that our students have no business being exposed too! In addition to general inappropriate high risk exposure, students, staff and all others that enter the basement share one male bathroom and one female bathroom. There have been instances were drug test were being given to CBO clients while SOS student are in class. Many of these clients are remanded to the program by the court system as a condition of there parole or probation. This is totally inappropriate and violates Chancellor’s Regulation A-412 that guarantees student’s safety while in school. This site is a disaster waiting to happen and I hope that something is done about this before it gets to the point of a legal litigation by a well informed parent.
I would like to see a task force created to monitor the Community Based Organizations and the contracts they negotiate with the Department of Education as well as their daily building activities. As it stands now, the Department Of Education paying almost a half a million dollars to an organization that does not take the safety and wellness of our students seriously. So before this so called "Reorganization" takes place and schools begin to outsource services they should take into consideration that not all Community Based Organizations (For Profits and/or Non-for-profits) are not built to take care of our kids even though they may be quick to take their money!

Frustrated Special Education Teacher"

Below are two of the 90 cases we have worked on:

Suspension Case #1

Two African-American 14-year-old girls were standing outside of the program office at Sheepshead Bay HS in Brooklyn, talking, when suddenly a hulking white man by the name of Kenneth Jacobs came flying out of the office, grabbed one girl, T, by the neck, ripped open her blouse, beat her chest and neck, and tried to push her into the stairwell, out of the eye of the video on the hallway where they were standing. T's friend, A, tried to stop him, and he grabbed the backpack of T and ran into the office, to get out of the eye of the video.

The girls ran after him, and he continued to beat up T, in front of the office workers. A again tried to stop him (even though she is 1/20th his size), and he picked her up and threw her against a desk, hurting her hip (she is a dancer). She saw a small pink plastic ruler on the desk (she was now on the floor) and saw Jacobs coming towards her, so she threw the ruler at him. It grazed his forehead, enraging him, and he was about to beat her when the security guards stopped him. An ambulance was called, and both girls were taken to the hospital. The mothers were called. T's mother took pictures of her daughter's bruises and her torn shirt, for the suspension hearing (both girls were suspended for beating up Mr. Jacobs, according to the Principal).

A was arrested and taken from the hospital to the precinct for arraignment and booking. Her charge: assault and battery of Mr. Jacobs. The mother took the hospital records home, and I was asked to do the suspension hearing. The Brooklyn suspension office did not want to go forward with the hearing once I presented the video, so the person in charge of the office started screaming at me that I had to get out or she would have me arrested for speaking with parents. We called her later that afternoon, and asked for her by name, "Ms. Rampersand", and she told the person calling (not me, but someone that works with parentadvocates) that there was no one there by that name. Her name was...Miss...Smith.

Legal Aid did the suspension hearing, and during the hearing the video was shown. The Hearing Officer said that she did not see anything such as Mr. Jacobs hitting anyone, and everyone that saw that was mistaken. Both girls were suspended for a year. I went to Brooklyn Supreme Court and was able to see Jacob's file, 2 inches thick, with assault and battery as well as aggravated harassment charges. The police refused to take a complaint from either parent about Jacobs, saying they were just making it up in retaliation for his complaint against the two girls, which was that they beat him up (no proof whatsoever, no hospital visit). The question of how the two girls got so injured was never answered, except that Jacobs had to defend himself against them. We played the video at the suspension hearing and it was decided by the Hearing Officer that Jacobs was not doing anything harmful to the girls. I appealed to the Chancellor, he denied the appeal.

The DA's office went after A all the way to the Court, where the prosecutor demanded A's mom make a deal for A to spend 3 weeks at a rehabilitation center in Westchester, or else risk prison. She called me and was hysterical (I was at another hearing) and asked me what she should do. I told her to be strong and say "no deal", and that Jacobs would not appear and would not press charges. At the very last minute, A's mom took a deep breath, and did what I suggested, that they go to trial, and the DA walked up to the judge and told her, "Your honor, we are dropping the charges, Mr. Jacobs will not appear."

Last I heard Mr. Jacobs was still working at Sheepshead Bay. I helped A get into a private school, while T's mom went along with the year suspension, afraid of the BOE if she didn't comply.

The trouble with this is proving what happened. Hearsay becomes the prevailing evidence, and the Suspension Office suspends the child that they are told to suspend, by the BOE, and not the child (or adult) that necessarily did the crime.

Suspension Case #2

A girl at a District 4 school came to the school on Tuesday January 17, 2006, with her mother, who accused 7th grade student JT of cutting her daughter's coat on friday, January 13, after school, off school property. On the 17th, there was an ELA exam from 9-11AM. JT, a good kid, was taking his ELA exam at the time, so when the exam was over at 11AM he was called to the Principal's office, where he was questioned by the police. He knew nothing about the coat, never had been in trouble, never had possession of a box cutter (the school scans every day) and denied ever doing anything to this girl. He was arrested anyway. On the way to the police station he was met by his mom, a very involved woman who got him into the school with his IEP (he is in special ed) and was an advocate for ACS.The mother of the girl accusing JT said that she would not press charges if JT's mom paid for her coat, $150.00. JT's mom agreed, just to stop the arrest process. As JT was suspended, and his mom just wanted him back in school, she agreed to declare no contest, but changed her mind because JT was innocent and the girl just wanted to be paid for the coat, with only a rip in the sleeve. We were called by JT's mom to do the suspension hearing.

It was clear at the hearing that the Hearing Officer was intent on substantiating the suspension of JT. I asked the girl about the cutting incident and the Hearing Officer stopped me, saying that the questions were not relevant, when the girl got to version 5. I thought JT had an easy "not guilty" and said so in my closing argument.

The Hearing Officer found him guilty of cutting the coat on January 17, at 10AM, in the school, while he was sitting in his classroom taking his ELA exam. The charge is 100% false, but the BOE does not like anyone proving them wrong. The boy, JT, was suspended for a year, despite his innocence. We scheduled immediately a Manifestation Determination Review, and at this meeting it was decided that his actions had nothing to do with his disability because HE DIDN'T COMMIT THE CRIME". BOE Rose DePinto and Les Matuk never answered my appeal, and sent JT to the Door, a place that admitted having no services for him. He stopped going to school, and last I heard, his mother didn't know where he was, and the Door never promoted him or tried to give him his services.

I scheduled an Impartial Hearing and the Hearing Officer would not allow any information of the incident or the suspension, and told JT's mother not to sit near him (she is African American and he is white). He would not allow any evidence to be presented or any testimony that proved JT's innocence, and was openly hostile to both JT and his mom. We complained to Denise Washington, who told us to go to her boss, Kathleen Grimm. We did, in writing. Grimm never responded, and never takes calls. The charge that JT cut a coat off school grounds while at the same time sitting in his ELA test in the classroom, remained.

Both the Suspension office and the Impartial Hearing Office refused to give the mom any subpoenas to bring in the AP who spoke with JT and said that he was innocent, and this was outrageous. Both said that his testimony was "irrelevant" to the proceeding.

That's why this policy of accusing kids of incidents off school property cannot continue - it furthers the prejudice that already exists in the hearings against minority/special education children.


June 21, 2006 -- A new report released yesterday ranked New York City's on-time public high school graduation rate 48th out of the country's 50 largest school districts, placing the Big Apple ahead of only Baltimore and Detroit.
The ranking in the magazine Education Week, based on data from the 2002-03 school year, offered a much gloomier picture of the city's graduation rate than the Bloomberg administration has painted.
The magazine put the citywide rate at 38.9 percent - nearly five points lower than the 43.5 percent listed by the state this year and far below the 53.2 percent advertised by the city.
For the 2002-03 school year, the city pegged its graduation rate at 53.4 percent.
City officials suggested the report was misleading because the formula used by researchers relied on a far greater amount of student stability than is the case in the city school system.
"Large numbers of kids here have complex and discontinuous grade histories, with breaks in education and jumps forward or backward in grade chronology," said David Cantor, press secretary to Chancellor Joel Klein.
But researchers said there was no evidence that student mobility tainted their findings.

New York State Office of the Inspector General

© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation