The Hotel California of Public Education

Dr. Gary Thompson penned this article regarding the lawsuit just filed for the family whose child has been psychologically damaged as a result of Common Core and bad district policy. Ed Flint is the attorney representing Dr. and Mrs. T.  Dr. Thompson published this post publicly on Facebook. Ed Flint replied to it and I have included his comment below as well so that everyone can understand the gravity of this situation.

Common Core Is The “Hotel California” For “Quirky” Kids:

                              “You Can Check In Anytime You LikeBut You Can Never Leave.”

  Why Paternalist Attitudes Towards Parents Are Destroying Our Children In Public Schools


Don Henley’s and Glenn Frey’s eerie musical salutation to the over indulgences associated with the California lifestyle of the 1980’s,  sheds some light on two defective foundational issues associated with trendy educational reforms such as Common Core: 1).  A sense of omnipotence, 2). A lack of humility.

Yesterday, Attorney Edward D. Flint and I were asked, by Rod Arquette on his radio show, to discuss the recent “lawsuit” filed against Alpine School District for and behalf of our clients Dr. & Mrs. “T” and their son “T.T.”  Attorney Flint brilliantly outlined the legal issues associated with the suit, the blatant and serious violations of both civil and disability laws, and the level of arrogance associated with the District when they were made aware of their errors.  He also discussed the dangerous effects of applying a “one size fits all” decision matrix to children who do not fit into the neat categories designed by politicians, and special interest “suits”, who have never stepped foot into either a classroom, or an education psychology clinic.

Near the end of the show, the host asked me how the current “lawsuit” was related to “Common Core”, and seconds before I launched into my well prepared sound bite, my phone died.  This was no conspiracy; it was just pure idiocy on my part.  Cellphones do not operate well without sufficient power.   Barring a lightening strike that fries my computer hard drive, I will now answer Rod’s question.

Alpine District vs. Dr. & Mrs. T clearly and definitively exemplifies everything wrong with several philosophical and operational aspects that under pin the Common Core, none of which have anything to do with the curriculum or standards of the Core.

Over the past year, I have had the wonderful opportunity to listen to, and rub elbows with, some of the sharpest minds in the world in the areas of Mathematics, English and Social Studies curriculum development and implementation.   As a parent and a voter, I have developed my own lay, non-expert, opinions regarding these issues.  Lay opinions, however, are like elbows… everybody has one.  I will not discuss issues related to curriculum as they pertain to Common Core, and the issue is not a cause of action in the Alpine v. T case.

The causes of action in this Due Process Petition, set to be heard in an Administrative Law Hearing, should be of great concern to every parent, taxpayer, local & state school board member, elected members of the Utah Legislature,and local public school administers and Superintendents.   In layman’s terms, Dr. & Mrs. T, via their counsel, asserts the following:

1.  Their parental concerns regarding their son’s educational placement were ignored and/or dismissed.

2.  Their parental concerns regarding their son’s mental health were ignored.

3.  Their concerns were met with extreme and cruel passive aggressive actions.

4.  Alpine District retaliated against them for “daring” to bring in outside “experts” to assist them.

5.  Despite well documented concerns regarding the validity and ethics of the school’s IEP evaluation, the District IEP Team continued to utilize invalid, or unethical,testing protocols as part of their determination to deny special education considerations.

6.  Despite multiple pleas from parents and licensed clinical child therapists, the school continued to utilize punitive measures on a gifted 11 year old. This resulted in the demise of a child’s mental health, until his therapist suggested they remove the child from the school.

In the past, when I have written, lectured or testified to the “harm” that Common Core can, and has, caused a multitude of children.  The “one size fits all” and “top down (“we know better than you”) mentality that permeates in the halls of state capitals and education leadership epitomizes the foundational attitudes inherent in “Common Core”.  The resultant harm spelled out below does not mention or refer to politics or religion in any fashion, yet the propaganda emanating from State Education leaders always seems to steer back to the tried and true comments of “they are misled”, or they are“extremists”.

The basis of this lawsuit is neither extreme nor misled.

It is based on sound legal and science based foundations.   Lawmakers and leaders can continue their delusional, “all is well in Zion” propaganda as such applies in context to their response to critics.  However, such empty words do not stand up well under the light and scrutiny of the law, as well as the general public.  Until leaders are willing to address the issues discussed below, children will continue to be harmed in our education system, and Mr. Flint will continue to file a plethora of lawsuits against Utah public school districts statewide.

Psychological Testing & Data Gathering:

Whether “pro” or “con”, most people reading this can agree that psychological testing is happening in the school systems, and that data gathering and storage is occurring at unprecedented levels at both the national, and local (Utah) levels.  In the private sector, our child psychologists make a living with the gathering and interpretation of data from multiple sources.  The assumption is that the more data there is to analyze and interpret, the more informed the decision will be when it comes to choosing what practices should be implemented into public school systems, or as part of a clinical treatment plan or education evaluation.

From the distant perches of Utah’s Capitol Hill (e.g., “the forest”) in the Education Committee chambers, this theory makes perfect and logical sense.  However, the direct causal effects this practice has on the ground level (e.g., “the trees”) is anything but pretty.   The reason why Alpine District may sustain some serious financial and/or public relations losses can be directly attributed to polices developed in the “forest” (e.g., politicians) that have disastrous effects on a significant amount of “trees” (e.g., children) in our public school systems.  The public school machine, now being heavily influenced by dollars from the Federal Government,  literally have lost sight of the diverse “trees” from the distant views of the “forest”.

Public school systems are indeed in a rush to gather and interpret data via psychological  “checklists”, Sage/Common Core achievement tests, registration materials, and (in the case of Alpine v Dr. T) multiple psychological instruments.   Data, in and of itself, is neither “evil” nor“good”.  Who should see and have access to this data is a topic/debate for another time, and certainly not a legal issue brought up in this particular Petition.

It is the inaccurate, and unethical interpretations of this data that is fueling the chaos, damage and despair at the ground levels of public schools in the nation, and in Alpine District.  This current federal administration’s almost “orgy like thirst” for the gathering of data (fueled by millions of dollars invested by private corporations) has resulted in little to no focus on how this data is being utilized on the ground level.  “Ground level” meaning your kids. 

So while the “Left” and the “Right” argue about who should see data, where such data should be stored, and what types of data should be gathered in public school settings, local clinical community scientists in our clinic have been focusing entirely on HOW this data has been used and interpreted on individual cases (e.g, “the trees”).

The “Alpine Case” is the perfect example of a worst-case scenario associated with the misuse and misinterpretation of a boat-load of data.   If data is ethically and responsibly utilized by public school systems, children’s lives (as well as their educational placements) can be altered or adjusted in a positive manner.  If data is not used ethically or responsibly by public school systems, children’s lives can and will be affected negatively, and often dangerously, as the Alpine case details.  If decision makers have invalid interpretation results, children will be subjected to inappropriate programs and placements for potentially the remainder of the K-12 experience.  Public school systems are simply ill equipped and poorly educated on how to find, test, and teach African American, Latino, Autistic, Gifted, Depressed, Anxious and Learning Disabled children, thus condemning the vast majority of them to academic experiences laced with anxiety, frustration, extreme dropout rates, drug addiction, and in some cases, suicide.

“You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” indeed.

Alpine School District went to great lengths to keep young Mr. T from checking out of his current educational placement, which resulted in great harm to this child and his family.  This is factually detailed in the “Petition”, and not really a matter of reasonable argument.   This is not politics.  This is not “Red” v. “Blue”.  This is a young child who got hurt.  As Attorney Flint stated on the radio program, “I am simply not going to allow this to happen anymore under my watch.” Mr. Flint’s motivation is neither fame nor money.   Indeed, his own child, with diagnosed Asperger’s disorder, checked into the “Hotel California” of the Utah education system in the Canyon’s School District, and recently dropped out of school in utter and complete frustration.  I was his child’s education advocate.  It simply was too late to repair the emotional and psychological damage caused to this young man.

How To Keep Children From Checking Into The “Hotel California” of Education:

Our case against Alpine School District is based on sound science, ethics in psychometric measurement, and the law as outlined by the2004 IDEA.   Over the past two years, our clinic’s doctors, lawyers, and advocates have developed several principles of practice based on science and law that guide our decision making process when evaluating potential cases to bring to litigation.

(Given the extreme political, gender, socio-economic, racial, and religious difference that exist in our clinic, a failure to unite via science would result in us being as effective as the U.S.Congress) 

Not only are these practical guides, but it occurred to me prior to our appearance on Rod’s radio program, that these all can be applied towards practices and values currently in place and encouraged in the  Common Core era that have caused harm in my community.  We name the values/practices below:

1.    Ethical Data Gathering & Interpretation (EDGI) is Both a Science and an Art.

As a child, I would often ask my father, when he walked into the door after a long day, how his “work” went.   As a practicing medical doctor, he feigned indignation by replying, “I don’t work boy, I practice.”  I learned from my father that the practice of medicine is messy, and that a one size fits all approach to such results in carnage.  The practice of medicine comes from the ethical use of the proper diagnostic tools, years of supervised and licensed experience, common sense, and most of all, humility.   The human body, mind and spirit, is immensely complex in scope and nature.  Via action and example, my father taught me that the first and most important component to great clinical care is not being delusional with the thought that we have all the answers when it comes to working with complex humans.

When using data to make informed decisions in education or psychology, it is imperative to “paint” the most possible detailed and accurate picture of a child using as much (relevant) information, skill and expertise that a professional can summon.

What we saw in the Alpine case was a District team that painted a picture of an immensely complex child that came out looking like a connect-the-dot water color painting.   

Data gathering, in and of itself, does not insure a comprehensive, accurate or relevant “paintings” of a child.  Our education evaluations, from start to finish, involve upwards of 40 hours of time, and a addition 20 hours of analysis by several employees, by the time we get in front of an IEP team to offer our interpretation of  the child.  We offered Alpine a “Picasso” of young Mr. T.. They decided they were not interested in painting a “Picasso”, but were just fine with the “water color” thank you.

This can cause great harm to a family.

Principle One:  Paint the Picasso.


2. EDGI (Ethical Data Gathering & Interpretation) Is Not an Absolute Or Perfect Endeavor

When I was learning the art form of gathering and interpreting psychological, emotional, cognitive and achievement data for the purposes of writing an educational evaluation, my clinical instructor, Dr. Ann Marie Martinez, went through and corrected my “completed” report with a red pen like a woman obsessed.   One of the hardest things I had to adjust to as a budding Doctor in training was qualifying my results.  Nothing was ever 100%.  Placing in qualifiers such as “indicate”,“may be”, or “strongly suggest” was Dr. Martinez’s way of teaching me that despite how smart we may think we are, we will never be able to use numbers and data to definitively explain the hearts, cognitions and potentials of human children.

Dr. Martinez spent an entire year trying to humble me.

I was already very skilled at administering psychological/academic tests, and showed signs of promise with the ability to integrate a plethora of data in forming clinical and/or education theories.  Yet I continued to come across in my writings and evaluations like I had the child “all figured out”.  That was until she called me into her office and suspended me from my training for two weeks.

I got humbled real fast.

Principle Two:  You will never know the depths of a child’s heart, might, mind and strength.  There is something bigger than you in this vast universe…and that something is the child sitting in front of you.  “The essence of a child can never be fully measured by a mere mortal.”


3. EDGI (Ethical Data Gathering & Interpretation) Must Deeply Involve The Resident Experts Of The Subject Matter Involved.

Humans have yet to devise a test or assessment that does anything other than measure, with a certain degree of statistical certainty, anything more than the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a child’s cognitive, achievement and emotional capacities.   Failing to tap into the treasure trove of information from available parents, caretakers and guardians of a child is one of the biggest, and most serious mistakes a budding doctor in clinical psychology can ever make.   The movement towards greater emphasis on teacher judgment and data, in lieu of tapping into and respecting a parent’s viewpoint on a child, is not only unethical practice, it is a dangerous and highly arrogant one.  The amount of emphasis that politicians and educators in administration positions place on high stakes achievement testing, when it comes to decision making in the areas of child placement, “grading” Utah schools and teacher evaluations, are simply not supported by science and common sense at this time.  In all serious, Utah school teachers, are you going to place any percentage of your job performance on the line based upon the results of an experimental test that has never been validated, peer reviewed, or utilized on K-12 children?

Principle Three: Parentsare, and must always be, the resident experts of their children.


4. EDGI (Ethical Data Gathering & Interpretation) Must Occur Under A Strict Set of Ethical Guidelines & Procedures

If one was tasked with putting together a nuclear bomb, one must assume that there is a pretty strict and exacting procedural book to follow.   I’m supposing (hoping) that such guidelines are strictly followed.  Similarly, an airline pilot must go through exacting pre-flight and landing checklist procedures prior to takeoff and landing a commercial jet.   There are no variations from these procedures. No matter how many years of experience a pilot has, he performs the exact same checklist over and over.

A functioning child is (should be) worth more to use than a nuclear bomb or a747 Jumbo Jet, yet we have found that those entrusted to evaluate our kids in public schools often do not use “checklists”.  Cognitive, achievement and emotional testing instruments come with a “manual” that must be followed exactly in order to ensure ethical and valid testing results.   In the current Alpine case, the lack of adherence to proper procedures was appalling at best, which resulted in a “connect the dot, water color portrait” of a very complex, gifted child.

Principle Four: Do it right, or don’t do at all.   “One-Size-Fits-All” only applies when it comes to following ethical administration procedures for accurate, valid, norm-referenced, peer reviewed, openly pilot tested assessments. The upcoming Common Core/SAGE Test does not meet any of these criterions.


Summary Conclusions:

Our Ed/Psych/Law clinic operates under 10 guiding principles of practice.  I shared for of them with you, and they are as follows:

1.    “Paint the Picasso”. (Comprehensive & Inclusive Evaluations)

2.    “Parents are, and must always be, the resident experts of their children.”

3.    “The essence of a child can never be fully measured by a mere mortal.” (Humility)

4.    “Do it right, or don’t do it at all.”

Since the implementation of Common Core into our Utah school system, it is has been my observation and practice that schools are under tremendous financial, political and administrative pressure to implement practices that skirt ethical guidelines associated with the administration and interpretation of assessment/testing results.  Whether this is happening via the usage of  psychological “checklists” by school counselors, cognitive and achievement testing performed by school psychologists, or in the near future, placing the academic outcomes of our children on the new, experimental Common Core/Sage Tests, it has become clear that children are being harmed on the ground levels in public school settings.

No amount of propaganda can wipe away the tears of a mother whose child has been victimized by this. 

No amount of speeches from lawmakers or school board members can correct the wrongs associated with an education system that is based on the values of “them” as experts, as opposed the parents of children. 

No amount of money given to the public school system by lawmakers or private billionaires can bring back the self esteem lost by children and teens who have been relegated to models of learning and testing that simply do not correspond to their unique and diverse cognitive, achievement and emotional make up.

Whether you or Alpine District agree or disagree with the above, it simply does not matter.  In our clinic, only two opinions are relevant:

Science and the law.

It’s pretty simple. If a District insists on not comporting to both, we will zealously advocate for justice for our young clients.  Robin Hood took from the rich and gave to the poor. The form of “socialism” that Attorney Ed Flint will use will be to take from the District’s, and give back to the parents hope and autonomy…as well as alot of your tax dollars.

Dr. Gary Thompson


Edward Flint: Here’s my little input: Records show that Utah was dead last (with the exception of American Samoa) in bringing complaints and due process actions against schools and districts for violations of the law. In the past 10 years, only two cases went to a hearing, neither were represented by counsel, both lost. The handful of other cases were all “resolved” without a hearing, including two cases that I worked on in the past year.

This case is different. I doubt that Alpine District will want to settle, because we are not conceding on any issues, and it will cost them a lot of money. They would rather take their chances at a hearing, which they will lose big time, and then pay me an additional $30,000 in legal fees when I win the hearing. They may be bold enough to appeal, thereby finally establishing how out of line with the law their actions are, and pay me another $30,000 in attorney fees for the appeal, AND establish a precedent that I will apply to every school district in Utah.

Sadly, the prevailing attitude in Utah is “go along, get along, obey your leaders, never question authority, don’t rock the boat.” This case will change all of that. I am on fire. They will pay. You will pay, because your tax dollars are going to pay for me, for the therapy, for the outside tutoring, and it’s going to cost the taxpayers quadruple on this one case, because the school districts think they can continue to get away with it. Not on my watch.

So if it ticks you off that your tax dollars have to pay my legal bills and this child’s outside therapy and tutoring, blame the system, not the messenger. If you don’t want me to get rich off of your tax dollars, then complain to the school boards, your legislators and start fighting back against the system. Make them do what they are supposed to do, and obey the law.

3 thoughts on “The Hotel California of Public Education”

    1. Forgot to mention – our 2012 DP Hearing was against Canyons District. The transcript of the hearing confirms that the Judge mentioned concern with things that had happened – this despite ruling against us in the end. Also the judge encouraged settlement 4+ times with us within several hours of us resting our case after 3 1/2 days of testimony. The District finally agreed to settle paying all expenses we were asking for etc provided that we sign away our rights to ever sue them again – not just on these issues but any future. They said this would be a gesture of good will/trying to move forward. We are not that stupid and declined.

      1. From what I recall from the transcripts and some conversations with you, your legal “counsel” abandoned you..literally…during the most important part of a Due Process Proceeding: The final closing brief. Hearing officers often use counsel’s brief as a key piece to their decision. Your counsel, for whatever reason, abandoned not only you and your child, but the very ethics of her profession. As far as I’m concerned, that abuse of ethics matched, if not exceed, the abuses you had to endure via Canyon’s District.

        As such, Mr. Flint’s comment stands: No attorney in the history of Utah has ever represented a parent in a Due Process Hearing.

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