Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fundamental Responsibilities of Parenting

I believe that one of the fundamental responsibilities of a parent is to teach their children that they have rights and how to utilize their rights to facilitate, first and foremost, change within themselves. I also believe in a second fundamental responsibility, the parent's right to preserve the child's rights in education.

These fundamental responsibilities of parenting began to come into play for me on 12 October 2005, a little over one year after my son's "coming out". Michael was barely 13 years of age when he realized he was "different". I now realize the courage it took for him to share his secret with me. At the same time however, I began to grieve the loss of the child I had known. Overnight, Michael went from academic to survival mode (a common response to the harassment, intimidation, and bullying of GLBTQ youth in education). With no appropriate support or proper control procedures in the school setting to prevent the harassment, intimidation, and bullying of Michael, the Michael I knew (thoughtful and happy, keyboard, saxophone and piano player, talented actor, member of school clubs, selected for All County Music Voice 2002, met his proficiency requirement for graduation in a second language (Spanish) in Grade 8, and tested at an IQ of 130 before Grade 8), disappeared into an angry child (which I would much later learn was due to anxiety and depression secondary to stress in school).

I removed Michael from North Tonawanda High School on 12 October 2005, after he discovered a written death threat in his NTHS day planner and after meeting with NTHS principal, James V. Fisher, regarding the death threat in Michael's planner. This was not the first time Michael was subject to violence. In fact, after repeated telephone conversations with various NTHS personnel, including Principal Fisher, the harassment, intimidation, and bullying against Michael was clearly escalating, not deescalating. Listening to Principal Fisher perceive my child as the "problem" and Michael's response of tears was more than I could tolerate. The fact that he was not going to file a report with the local police department as required by NYS Education Law and CNTSD Board of Education Policies and Procedures prompted within me the second fundamental responsibility I hold as parent to Michael, that I have the responsibility of preserving Michael's rights in education. I filed a complaint of aggravated harassment with the City of North Tonawanda Police Department after the close of school that day. The following day I notified NTHS Principal James V. Fisher (copying (retired) Superintendent CNTSD Dr. John George, and CNTPD Juvenile Division) that Michael would not be returned to school until an investigation was completed to my satisfaction by both NTHS Administration and the City of North Tonawanda Police Department. I also requested that he should direct Michael's teachers to prepare coursework for him on a daily basis and that I, or a designee, would pick up Michael's coursework.

The decision to remove Michael from school and the aforementioned requests of Administration and the City of North Tonawanda Police Department forced me into an arena that harbors an insidious side. As we discuss Equality, the Standards and the Truths as it relates to our GLBTQ youth in public education in New York State, I will continue to share my struggle to preserve Michael's rights in education and the consequences to Michael for having the courage to live authentically as a Gay male youth. Michael's story is a telling example of total and criminal disregard for, and the undermining of, the Constitution of the State of New York, the Laws of New York, School District Policies and Regulations, and the rights of the parent and the child in education by numerous state agencies and individuals including, but not limited to: New York State Department of Education, Commissioner of New York State Education Richard P. Mills and NYSED Office of Legal Counsel, City of North Tonawanda School District "school officials" (including former Superintendent John H. George, NTHS Principal James V. Fisher, NTHS Assistant Principal Lisa L. Colburn (aka Home Tutoring Program Supervisor, Director of Guidance Services, and formerly "Principal" of Meadow Elementary School), former "interim" Assistant Principal Victoria Pohlman, Dana Hoffman (Assistant Principal, NTHS), alleged former "School Guidance Counselor" Colleen M. Fisher, School Social Worker Dennis Weiss, Rosemary Fox (Support Services/as of 2006) and former foreign language teacher Dr. Jason Goulah), Board of Education of the City of North Tonawanda School District (Scott A. Schultz, former Board President and Andrew J. Freedman, Esq. CNTSD School Board Attorney/Norton, Radin, Hoover & Freedman), an alleged "FERPA" hearing officer (Colleen A. Sloan, Esq. ERIE 1 BOCES, Labor Relations Manager/New York State Association of School Attorneys 2007 Board of Directors Second Vice President), David A. Hoover, Esq. ERIE 1 BOCES, Director, Labor Relations Services & (upon information and belief ) affiliated with the firm: Norton, Radin, Hoover & Freedman, and has served as an "Impartial Hearing Officer" for the City of North Tonawanda School District, United States Department of Education (Office of Innovation and Improvement (FERPA)), City of North Tonawanda Police Department (Chief of Police Randy Szukala, Detective Karen Smith, Lt. Krantz), State Division of Human Rights, State of New York: Executive Department Commissioner Kumiki Gibson (as of March 2008 dismissed by Governor Paterson without explanation/resigned), Tasha Moore (Regional Director, Buffalo Division) and New York State Division of Human Rights Legal Bureau, Journalist Paul Westmoore, Niagara County District Attorney's Office (Matthew J. Murphy, III, Niagara County District Attorney/as of 2008 Niagara County Judge), Niagara County Department of Social Services Child Protective Services Caseworker Supervisor Mary Lou Woods, and Caseworker Robin Stroud, New York State Office of Children & Family Services, Gladys Carrion, Esq., Commissioner, Richard E. Davidson (Bureau of Special Hearings-NYS OCFS), Jean Greinert (Administrative Law Judge-NYS OCFS), New York State Supreme Court, New York State Court of Appeals, who each individually and collectively would become active participants in denying Michael his Equal Right to Education and his Equal Right to Protection of the Laws, and denying my rights to the care, education, and upbringing of Michael.

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