First Lawsuit Related to Common Core

This is, to my knowledge, the first lawsuit that involves Common Core as a participant. In this instance a child in Alpine School District who is very bright and academically advanced, was prevented from advancing to his appropriate skill level and has been psychologically damaged as a result of the public education system’s insistence on pounding square pegs into round holes to make all children common. Common Core hurts children both at the upper and lower end of the learning spectrum by forcing them to advance at the pace of the group. It is true conveyor belt education in the worst possible way. In speaking with Dr. Gary Thompson (this family’s psychologist) and Ed Flint (their attorney), about their 45-page petition filed with the court, Common Core’s top down, one-size-fits-all approach to education is a firm part of the educational system that prevents gifted and special needs children from getting the educational experience they need. This is precisely what has happened in this case. Although the petition never mentions “Common Core” by name, Dr. Thompson explained that it absolutely plays a part in how the system prevented this child from advancing to an appropriate skill level since he was far beyond the course work being presented to him.

To protect the family’s identity, they will go by Mr. and Mrs. T below, and their child, his teacher, and school are unnamed. Comments by me are in italics below. There is far too much to include in this post so I have included highlights from the petition, but cannot tell the whole story.

The petition contains:

  1. Allegations of sustained emotional abuse towards mother and 11-year old son.
  2. Allegations of retaliation for exercising parental right of participation in Public School
  3. Allegations of retaliation for utilizing professional help linked to “Anti-Common Core” advocacy.
  4. Allegations of unethical and invalid use of psychological testing to conform to predetermined outcome.
  5. Allegations of ignoring parent’s desperate pleas for assistance for son.
  6. Allegation of callous attitude towards parents as exhibited in 50 pages of “obtained” Alpine District inter-office/district emails.
  7. Forwarding files/petition and evidence to Utah Attorney General’s Office for investigation.
  8. Civil Suit for Tort damages pending.
  9. Obtained District Email Thread over past 8 months.
  10. Allegations that Alpine School District violated FERPA by losing this child’s entire cumulative file and failed to notify the parents.

The below items appear in the actual petition except where noted. The numbers below are reordered for this post.

1. “Child is the son of Petitioners Mr. & Mrs. T, currently residing at ______., ______, Utah, where child is an advanced gifted student at ______ school, assigned to the 7th Grade…..”

2. “Within 30-45 days of child’s new assignment to Mrs. _____’s classroom, the parents respectfully and professionally advised, in writing, child’s teachers and counselors of serious concerns with his behavior, attitude and apparent boredom with the schoolwork he was assigned. No attempts were made to determine whether child might have developed an emotional disability that might be affecting him, as required by Child Find.  20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(3)(A). (Exhibit P2, Emails from Mrs. T to teacher dated January 27, 2013 and teacher’s response dated 1/29/13)….”

3. “Problems and contention quickly arose with teacher.  Mrs. T and teacher kept in regular contact through email, and although teacher engaged in some unprofessional name calling (Referring to child as “The goof” (see Exhibit P3, Email dated March 22, 2013) and assumptions of laziness based on failure to turn in assignments, there was no attempt to seek testing or evaluation of child to determine if there was a learning disability or mental health issue that might be affecting him, as required by “Child Find………”

(Oak Note: Later in the petition I found the disturbing email the teacher actual wrote (in part) to Mrs. T referencing her child:  “The goof either did not do or can’t find the homework I gave him to do last night. Nothing. Aargh…Just letting your know.”)

4. The dialogue continues:  “January 29: Email to teacher.  My first concerns that child was not doing well in school.  In the email I am sending is my original email, her response, and my reply back.  February 4: Email & Subsequent meeting with teacherChild missed the deadline of a major project.  She starts saying things I feel were a personal attack against child, “He’ll learn, eventually, to look up at the board and understand that the things up there actually apply to him.”  In this email she states sometime soon she will give him phone numbers of classmates to ask questions. She has a rule in her classroom kids are not allowed to ask parents for help, only peers.

5. Petitioners sought out tutoring from the school to help child with Math as he was not turning in assignments and grades were slipping. The Tutor worked with child a few sessions but told Petitioners that child had no deficits. Teacher asked that child seek assistance from his classmates rather than a paid tutor.

6. A long string emails between the parents and the school highlight the extreme concern the parents had about their son’s growing and observable anxiety, sensory, and depressive symptoms, and the school’s increasing contempt with the parents for questioning their contentions that “nothing was wrong” with child.  Email communications between the administration, teachers and special education staff detail the shocking arrogance of a public school administration dead set on convincing the parents that “nothing was wrong” with their son.

7. As child’s symptoms and behaviors became more frequent and severe, Petitioner Mrs. T. attempted to solicit assistance from school Vice Principal, Mr.____, and recalls this interaction, “November 5- The night before child had his worst and longest meltdown.  He was kicking, screaming, and throwing things for 4 long, horrific hours.  He had a very hard time waking up the next day from pure exhaustion and I brought him to school late.  I walked into Mr. VP’s office and told him child was “in crisis”.  I used those words exactly I explained the situation.  I told him that child was diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder, that he was not challenged at school and that it was causing problems at home.  I told Mr. VP I needed to get an IEP or 504.  He told me child would not qualify for either one because he has good grades and is ahead of his grade, not behind.  He told me we were lucky that child was so smart, but he would check with the district and let me know what resources they have and he would get back with me that day.  He took down my number and never called.  From this meeting I had no idea of child’s rights to be considered for an IEP or 504.”

8. Mrs. T. persisted with an email on about November 6, 2013 where she checked back with Mr. VP. He responded and said he was waiting to talk with Mrs.____ the “Gifted & Talented” Coordinator, about our situation.  He said we could request a 504 (not an IEP because he wouldn’t qualify) but the chances were slim he would get one; despite being rebuffed, Mrs. T decided to be proactive and contact the G&T coordinator herself, anticipating that surely a gifted and talented specialist would understand her child.

9. Petitioner Mrs. T attempted to solicit any help or intervention on behalf of child by visiting with G&T coordinator of Alpine District on about November 18, 2014.  She describes that meeting, “November 18- My meeting with Mrs. G&T did not go well.  As soon as I walked into her office I could tell she had something to prove to me.  I told her my son had Asperger’s and was suffering from things such as being able to ask teachers for help.  She immediately stopped me and told me that was something he was just going to have to “work on”.  So I told her he was not challenged and was not learning anything.  She became defensive to that and pulled up his ALL testing scores on her computer.  She read his scores to me and told me clearly he was not the smartest kid in school.  I told her about his meltdowns at home.  She replied that she spoke with his teachers at school and he was the model student.  She looked at me and told me there was a disconnect between home and school, so the behavior could not be coming from school.  I became tearful and told her this meeting was a waste of time because I could tell she made up her mind before I walked in.  She was not willing to help me.  She told me she too has a smart son and karate helps him, so I could try karate with child.  I asked her for community resources for gifted and talented or Asperger’s and she said she didn’t know of any.  I cried on the way home- again a dead end while I watched my child suffer more and more each day.”

(Oak summary: At this point the parents seek professional help from Dr. Gary Thompson. The child’s personal file is found to be empty and missing years of history that might help piece together what’s happening with the child. Dr. Thompson travels to the child’s former school district seeking records which they had agreed to provide, but upon arrival (after flight) Alpine School District had contacted the school and somehow convinced the school district to rescind their prior approval. Various tests are now performed by the school on the child to make determinations about his psychological issue.)

10. “On ‘the record’ (the entire IEP Determination meeting was digitally recorded, in open view of all attendees, and after advance written notice of intent to so record), Dr. Thompson summarily informed the entire school team that in his experience of attending close to 500 IEP meetings, he has never seen the amount of unethical, illegal and harmful behavior by a group of public school educators in his entire career. ……“

11. “Taking into account the totality of the Petitioner’s experiences, written documentation via emails to the Petitioner’s spanning over a year, apparent violations of “Child Find’ obligations by the District, callous inter-office emails between the school staff and Alpine District Administrators, the inclusion of invalid “testing” materials into the decision making process despite multiple and specific formal objections by the Petitioner’s Advocate regarding multiple serious ethical errors and practices associated with testing, submission of emotional “testing” results from the school that indicated that child displayed absolutely “perfect” mental health,  the Petitioners and Advocate Dr. Gary Thompson believe that this “decision” was made prior to the meeting with Petitioners, and the decision was merely relayed to Petitioners at the meeting……”

12. “These actions resulted in multiple and repeated violations to the educational and civil rights of child, and ultimately has resulted in a denial of FAPE (“Free and Appropriate Public School Education). Petitioners will prove via documentation, expert testimony from a pediatric neuro-psychologist, peer reviewed research in child clinical psychology, email exchanges between the District and the Petitioners, copies of  email communications between school and Alpine District, and transcripts from the IEP meeting that Alpine District knowingly conspired to deprive child from obtaining special education services afforded under the 2004 IDEA, which resulted in a blatant and dangerous denial of FAPE…….”

13. “The school team forwarded what they purported to be, all assessment results to the child’s family on Friday, January 24, 2014.  A review of their assessment showed that absolutely no valid testing or inquiries into child confirmed anxiety and depressive issues were part of the assessment performed by the school Special Education Team.  This dangerous pattern of conforming evaluation protocols and results to preconceived, “one-size-fits-all” evaluation procedures not only resulted in a final evaluation that was invalid, unscientific and not comprehensive in nature, it was the final piece of conclusive evidence that joined a long line of factual events, evidence and behaviors which led the Petitioners and an experienced Education Advocate to conclude that Alpine District performed a fraudulent, unethical and ultimately dangerous evaluation of child…..”

14. The violations by school and Alpine District were neither minor, nor has child “reached the maximum of his education potential.”  The violations were blatant and egregious in nature, which resulted in significant emotional harm to both the mother and child in this action.

15. “Given the totality of the record, counsel for the Petitioners, licensed doctoral level clinicians and advocates for the Petitioners, and the Petitioners themselves are shocked at the level of apparent disconnect and callousness exhibited by Alpine School District towards child.  Petitioners allege that Alpine School District retaliated against the Petitioners for exercising their rights of parental choice and involvement in their child’s public education experience, and expressed contempt after the Petitioners retained the services of Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center to assist them with obtaining relief for their wonderfully complex, quirky and gifted child.”

19 thoughts on “First Lawsuit Related to Common Core”

  1. So sorry to hear this. I’ve been reading so much lately about the history of public schools and trying to figure out Common Core pros and cons, and Race to the Top, Longitudinal Data Systems, ahh! The public school system is based on Marxist ideal #10. It is socialism, and socialism eventually fails where ever it is tried. Despite ever increasing funding, it’s been falling apart for decades, just being held together by adhesive bandages of regulations and new and improved standards. It will implode because of the foundation it’s built on and the stresses from without.

    I wish the best for this family. Sounds like they’ve got a great lawyer.

  2. People, we have got to band together and rally against this. The future of our kids is at stake! We have such bright kids and involved parents in this district that we should be able to come up with a much better educational system that meets the individual needs of our children. We cannot let the district get away with this kind of behavior. They are NOT smarter than the parents!

  3. Well, I am against Common Core, but reading this complaint, it could have been my experience 10 years ago. I dont think there is anything new here. I was told by the curriculum director at my child’s school (when I requested extra math for him in first grade) ” Why do you want to turn your son into a calculator? They are cheap” and then he OFFERED ME $5 to go buy one. The principal closed the door and said “ALL parents in this district think their child is exceptional. What makes you think he’s so special? I dont even have to meet him, and I can tell you, he’d not that special.”

    1. Probably true Jennifer. There are always uncaring people around and it’s thankfully not the rule, but in this case Common Core is the standard and matching curriculum in use and what this boy is suffering under.

    2. How soon thereafter was that Principal terminated? It’s this very type of unprofessionalism that should automatically result in a trip to the nearest unemployment line, for the Principal or Superintendent foolish enough to conduct themselves this way.

  4. There are deeply ingrained defects in our public school system, and the giant bureaucracy that operates to keep itself running smoothly generally runs roughshod over the individual, because diversions and special considerations get in the way of completing their mission to graduate kids and provide a decent education to the middle two-thirds. It’s the children at the top intellectually and at the bottom, with mental and physical health issues and disadvantaged or at-risk kids, that are ground up into the sausage making machine. This particular child is at both ends of the “no service” scale, with an intellectual and achievement level off the charts, as well as professionally diagnosed and verified disability issues. Instead of stepping up and helping this child become the next Einstein, Alpine District chose to shove him, and his family, into the sausage grinder. And that’s a violation of the law.

  5. Question for the attorney, Ed Flint: I’m concerned that the CC developers (who have a giant liability waiver on the standards, BTW) are making their position legally bulletproof, but leaving elected school boards and school districts open for all the litigation that is sure to come. It looks to me like the elites have school boards in their sights and would be more than happy to see them go down in flames.

    (here’s a link to a YouTube educational roundatable at Stanford which gives away their animus about parent-elected boards:
    Watch minutes 16-19 at least. I believe somebody later actually talks about using charter schools– that can be run by “more efficient” non-profits or “for-profits”– as a means to eliminate the opposition to “progress” . (That would solve the mystery about why almost all State Applications for Federal funds have specified the expansion of charter schools, wouldn’t it? And we thought they were throwing a bone to us conservatives!)

    If this goal is true, are we falling into some kind of progressive trap by suing and litigating school boards to death over CC? I certainly hope not, but I’d like to hear an attorney’s point of view. Are you aware of the liability protection that CC claims? I haven’t actually read it but heard an attorney describe it on a Michigan subcommittee hearing (on YouTube). Feedback?

  6. Whether the developers, like AIR and the $39 Million Utah has already paid them, have any liability is not my issue, or concern. I am taking on Alpine District for clear violations of the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for failing to provide FAPE (a Free and Appropriate Public Education) to this child. The District, and therefore, the taxpayers, will pay for my attorney fees and tens of thousands of dollars in other costs for therapy, tutoring and probably, private schooling, because of their misbehavior and intentional refusal to follow existing law.

    One big concern is, and should be, how CC erodes the right to due process hearings for parents in the future.

  7. Joan Landes:

    This child, my former advocacy client from our clinic, as well as his mother, were emotionally abused by this school under the direction and leadership of this District leadership and School Board. When informed on multiple occasions from licensed mental health workers, long before this suit was filed, that their actions were literally harming this child, their response was to simply “up the ante” on this kid and her mother to “teach them a lesson” on conformity.

    I did my Residency training for psychology and school advocacy in the Oakland Unified School District..the only district I’ve been at that was shut down and taken over by the Feds because it was so bad.

    I saw a lot of stuff for two years, but nothing as callous and as heartbreaking as what I saw (and will testify to under oath) at this school.

    We don’t have the luxury to be thinking about politics in this case, which is good, because I simply want to be focused on stopping, and punishing, child and family abuse. Read the Petition.

    This is not a “Progressive Trap”. These are two fathers who answered a mother’s call to save her son’s life.

    They change their practices, or they go down. In a open hearing. In front of the parents in this community. With news cameras and press filling the Alpine Board Room. It’s pretty simple to us… well as this child and parents.

    If we did not have them nailed to the rights on EVERY “allegation” named on this petition, we would not have filed it for one, and secondly, given my “name recognition” in this state and many others, I would not have risked my career, reputation, and the clinic’s reputation on something frivolous or politically based.

    People can call this a “Common Core” suit, or anything they want…but what it is simply about is this:

    A young mother watching her sweet child deteriorate in front of her very eyes…..and a school told her to go away and shut the hell up.

    Not on my watch. Not on Ed’s either.

    1. Thanks so much, both Ed and Gary for the extra consideration of my strategic concerns. That family is fortunate to have you both as allies. I’m not a heavy hitter like you two, but if they need somebody to pinch hit in any way, let me know.

  8. More Joan:

    You have eloquently and passionately written about emotional abuses in public schools. You are one of my favorite experts on the subject.

    Now one of your dire warnings are sitting in front of Ed and I as mutual clients.

    Ed’s email is listed above. This family is “tapped”, but could certainly use another pro bono expert witness on their side. Our clinic has thus far donated over $40,000.00 of billable time in less than 80 days.

    After we save this family, then we can talk about better ways to address the carnage that quickly,and very quietly, consuming our public schools.

  9. I am a gifted education specialist and the principal of a public charter school specializing in the needs of gifted students, and I appreciate having this story documented because it highlights the severe need that we have, nationally, for quality training of teachers, counselors, administrators, etc. in best practices for gifted students.

    As I read this, I don’t read a “Common Core” situation. Any set of standards is any set of standards, and there will always be students who need differentiated material because their needs outlie other students’ needs. Unfortunately there have been parents of gifted children, and of twice-exceptional children (gifted +another exceptionality such as Aperger’s, AD/HD, dyslexia) that have struggled to advocate when the school setting is not yet recognizing the struggle that the student is encountering.

    Gifted education has been around for decades, but consistent training is NOT present in teacher training programs, so unfortunately teachers, and teachers who become administrators, counselors, specialists, special education teachers, do not receive quality background preparation for supporting these kids and their families. Because of this, they still hold the same preconceptions that the general population holds about very unusually advanced, asynchronous learners (see Columbus group, definition below) i.e. gifted students. The field has made great strides in many areas, but we HAVE to work on consistent training because we’re still facing some of the same issues that have been since the beginning.

    Columbus Group: “Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.”

  10. I think you are very brave for what you are doing. My son is suffering this year too, because this so called curriculum is too hard, and way too fast paced for him to learn anything. He has developed issues with self-esteem, because he thinks he is “stupid”. If your child is at either end of the spectrum, they are going to struggle in school. This “Cookie Cutter Curriculum” should be stopped as soon as possible, to prevent further damage to our children. I too, have had many arguments, (which were all losing battles), with my son’s teacher’s, the assistant principal, the principal, and even the superintendent in charge of the middle school’s. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. T., for being good parent’s, and for being the first one’s to fight back in order to protect our children from the gross injustices that they face, every day.

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