Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pointing The Finger

Maria Geryk, ARPS School Superintendent makes a point at  the tumultuous 6/24 Regional School Comm Meeting

What if Amherst Pelham Regional School officials had reported to outside authorities the initial racial incident targeting teacher of color Carolyn Gardner back in October rather than deep-sixing it?

Carolyn Gardner, repeatedly targeted by racial notes and graffiti

What if School officials had reported to outside authorities the bullying and assault on Dylan Akalis by three black students the last week of January, rather than sweeping it under the rug? 

Perhaps if School officials had reported to outside authorities (and the general public who pays everybody's salary) the most recent assault on a white student by three minority students, Mr. Shabazz would not have felt compelled to mention what little he knew of the incident at the 6/18 Equity Task Force meeting.

Regardless of whether Mr. Shabazz "inappropriately" suggested the white youth was beaten because he was a "racist", the undeniable fact remains that a young student (who Shabazz did not identify) was assaulted by three other students, yet because of the collective color of their skin, the incident was purposely hushed up.

Even though it qualifies as a "hate crime," and should have been reported to the District Attorney.

According to the ARHS student code of conduct the protocol for dealing with a Physical Attack 1st offense is a "10 day external suspension, possible long-term suspension or expulsion, and referral to the Amherst Police Department."


But we know in the Dylan Akalis assault (witnessed by a teacher) the schools did not report it to Amherst police; and the main attacker, son of a white-collar school employee, did not receive a "10 day external suspension."

 Paula and Dylan Akalis

Since school authorities can't even follow their own internal regulations, no BIG surprise they can't follow state law either.

But of all sudden, in their haste to neutralize the only black member of the Amherst School Committee, they trot out FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) as a convenient excuse.  Clearly that federal law has exemptions which would apply in this case; and even more clearly, plenty could have been stated publicly short of divulging names.

Interesting that the School Committee was quick to issue a written apology to the parent of the white student because of the alleged remarks by Dr. Shabazz, but no Amherst Regional School official has apologized to Dylan Akalis or his parents over the past five months except for Amilcar Shabazz.


The Associated Press just picked up this recent assault story and did not even mention the purported disclosure by Mr. Shabazz, only that three minority students beat up a white kid simply because he was white.

School officials used "privacy" as an excuse not to release separation agreements with 13 former school employees totaling over $350,000 in public tax money.   Agreements the Public Records Division clearly told them to release.  A decision concept recently backed by a Superior Court Judge.

Unless you are building a Doomsday Device, protecting legitimate national interests, or invoking privacy over medical issues no good seems to come from Nixonian stonewalling combined with a CIA-like devotion to secrecy.

The Amherst Regional PUBLIC Schools are in the top 17% state wide for most expensive to operate with a per student cost 25% over state average.

Therefor all taxpayers in the region have a "paramount and prevailing right to know" -- especially parents with children in the system.

59 comments:

Michael H said...

Thanks Larry Kelley and Amilcar Shabazz for, individually, letting in some healing light, having the courage of your convictions and justly advocating for the safety and well-being of each and every one of our schoolchildren, regardless of his/her learning style, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or the color of his/her skin...I have a dream!

Steve Akalis said...

Hi Larry,
I wouldn't mind talking to Ms. Gardner or the parents of the other bullied white student. If they ever read this you know how to contact me. Wouldn't it be nice to see the 3 of us cleaning up that mess that has been swept under the rug for so long.

Larry Kelley said...

Indeed. That would be nice.

Walter Graff said...

Maria Geryk is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Strikingly relevant to discussion about ARPS's race issues is a Huuffington Post essay on the topic of "Creative License With DuBois and Garvey" that was written as part of last year's controversy about one of the characters based on historical figures in HBO's Boardwalk Empire: Dr. Valentin Narcisse, a learned man from Trinidad who is patterned after black philosopher/activist/scholar W.E.B. DuBois.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nsenga-burton/boardwalk-empires-negro-problem_b_4284048.html

Anyone who missed seeing it last year will be able to catch the fourth season in coming months, on television or On Demand, as part of HBO's sunup to the fifth and final season of Boardwalk Empire.

Anonymous said...

You have this story entirely wrong Larry. Big surprise.

Larry Kelley said...

Said the Cowardly Anon Nitwit, as reliable a source as you could ever imagine. Or not.

Anonymous said...

Well, i'm sure Kurt will be along shortly to set the record straight!

Anonymous said...

6:39, if Larry has it wrong, could you please fill us in on the right story? Seriously, I am interested.

Larry Kelley said...

Why am I reminded of that opening scene in Jaws 2 where the sheriff is staring out over the ocean with a foreboding look on his face.

Larry Kelley said...

(That comment was in response to the Anon who dared to invoke Kurt's name)

But yes by all means Anon 6:39, do tell.

kurt geryk said...

Should be more like cue the theme song from "Flipper".

Larry Kelley said...

"Lives in a world full of wonder ..."

Anonymous said...

People have been telling the story for 108 comments worth a few posts back.
I don't see the school covering anything up. They are under no obligation to issue press releases every time something happens in the school.
You say the d.a.was not contacted. Do you know that for a fact? Perhaps the d.a. was contacted but the victim did not want to cooperate. Or the da investigated and found no evidence of a hate crime. Without a willing victim often the da's hands ate tied. There is a lot we don't know and by right will never know. A few other questions occurred to me that perhaps Rich Morse can answer. Who has the responsibility to report to the police that 3 black kids beat up a white kid? The school? The parents of the white kid? I don't know the answer to that question and I'd love to know the answer.
Now on to Shabbaz. He called a kid a racist. He related the story of this white kid who was beat up by 3 black kids. In relating the story he called him a racist. Tho he did not name the kid by name enough people in the room knew the story and knew who he was calling a racist. This is against FERPA rules. He has subjected the district toa possible lawsuit. The only intention of the memo was to point all this out and warn people of the rules. whether you are white or black you have to follow the rules. And is Shabazz does not want to follow the rules he should resign.

Larry Kelley said...

Well if they did not contact the police they sure as hell did not contact the DA.

And I'm pretty sure they did not file a 51A.

The memo sent to Equity Task Force stated the victim and aggressors were "well known throughout the SCHOOL community," but NOT to the community at large.

I sure as hell was unaware of the entire incident. And only became aware of it via the 7/3 memo, which I published (first I might add).

Anonymous said...

Sy Becker needs to stick to movie reviews.

Tony said...

He kinds does since this is playing out like a summer blockbuster. I can't look away.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god I am so sick of hearing about the Carolyn Gardner thing. She was one of the meanest most disliked teachers in the school. Too bad idiots used a racial word to insult her because now it's all about THAT.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Shabazz has conveniently decided to apologize to Dylan now that he's under fire for his shameful actions on the School Committee task force. Maybe he does have the makings of a great politician. Let's call it "Operation Change the Subject!"

Larry Kelley said...

You mean like when the Schools released the information about Carolyn Gardner during Warrior Week many months after the first incident happened and just after the Dylan Akalis fiasco was getting media scrutiny?

Anonymous said...

Actually, from what Ive heard, School Committee member Shabazz did *NOT* call the child involved a racist. Instead, he reported a story he heard/knew about using the language allegedly spoken by the perpetrators. Giving a description of what happened is a lot different that making the accusation.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:11

Actually, Steve Akalis found out that there was no difference between using a word, and describing a situation in which the word was used. Mary Custard couldn't tell the difference.

So, in due time, he was fired.

Anonymous said...

Only in Amherst could things get so blown out of proportion. This is truly theater of the absurd. Too bad you folks don't have anything better to do. You all really need to get lives. As for me, I think it's time to move to Northampton. What is wrong with all you people?

Anonymous said...

Hey, is Shabazz apologizing for not doing anything to help Dylan as a school committee member or for not stopping his little minion Camila Carpio from posting the online petition demanding that Dylan not be able to participate in graduation? JW?

Anonymous said...

Actually, from what I've heard, School Committee member Shabazz did *NOT* call the child involved a racist. Instead, he reported a story he heard/knew about using the language allegedly spoken by the perpetrators

Nice try, but the three black perpetrators of the hate crime against the white youth did *NOT* ever say that the victim they hunted down was a "racist", and certainly never said "the greatest student racist they could find". That was Shabazz'z and Shabazz'z alone take on the event, the take he chose to unfurl unfurl at a public meeting, while acting in his capacity as a School Committee Member.

And that was far from the *ONLY* inappropriate and slanderous thing Shabazz said at the 6/28 Equity Task Force Meeting. Let's remember here, SIX MEMBERS of the Task Force who were in attendance felt compelled to report *SEVERAL* inappropriate statements to the 3 chairs of the regional school committee. We are currently discussing *ONE* of them.

Maybe one of the attendees of that meeting would care to share some of the other *LIES* Shabazz told at that meeting?

Anonymous said...

Anon: It's interesting that Shabazz has conveniently decided to apologize to Dylan now that he's under fire for his shameful actions on the School Committee task force.

Larry: You mean like when the Schools released the information about Carolyn Gardner during Warrior Week many months after the first incident happened and just after the Dylan Akalis fiasco was getting media scrutiny?


Yes, exactly like that. Shabazz apologized, five months after the Akalis fiasco, and on the day that his shameful statements at the ETF meeting were made public.

Anonymous said...

Another strikingly relevant Huffington Post article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/04/signs-of-narcissism_n_4696772.html

Sparky Speaks said...

If I'm not mistaking but it's the schools responsibility to report all major incidents to the police. We send our children to school to learn and be in a safe environment, right. Tell me what's so safe about a 3 on 1 fight. Now also why do we have school zones. At the Middle School I saw kids playing on the hill. You know the hill the Amherst kids slide down when we have snow. Well the VP came out and told those kids to leave because it was still school time and could come back at 4:30. What's the difference that's the same hill they play on at lunch.
Now in most cities the schools have liaison officers in them. Tell me why, and by the why the schools cameras at the doorways work fine. It's the people who are using them that need a class on codes of proper entry. Also why put cameras in the hallways, the schools don't hold anyone accountable for defacing, damaging or destroying school property anyways. I know that first hand and so don't many other maintenance and custodial staff

Anonymous said...

A story in today's Gazette gives some needed context to Dr. Shabazz's remarks on June 18th.

Anonymous said...

Anon July 7, 2014, 12:49 AM:
How do you know so much about the incident with the 3 students attacking another student?

Even some of the School Committee members knew nothing of the incident until they read it on this blog and in the newspaper. The Regional SC Chair O'Brien has said few of the details are still known to him including when this incident happened.

and were you actually at the June 18th Equity Task Force meeting or are you just sharing what you have heard. Some of the people who were there have a different point of view, as indicated in today's story in the Gazette.

Anonymous said...

good article in NYT about literacy. I believe the Amherst Elementary schools adopted the Lucy Calkins' model of instruction many years back. This model has clearly failed our students, most prominently our minorities. How long are we going to stick with it?

Anonymous said...

A story in today's Gazette gives some needed context to Dr. Shabazz's remarks on June 18th.

Talk about botched PR. Shabazz apparently had one of his stooges on the committee call the Gazette to defend him, and she drops this pearl, which only damns him still further:

"Shabazz cited the incident where two kids of color assaulted a white student as evidence of the urgent call we have to support students in our schools who are feeling frustrated"

Feeling frustrated? Aw, those poor kids of color. Okay, sure, so they beat up a white student. But they did it because they were feeling frustrated. They urgently need our support! (Don't worry about that white kid. He's not feeling anything except pain and fear. He'll get over it.)

Anonymous said...

“Let’s not let one unfortunate comment tarnish the reputation of a dedicated, courageous, and much-needed leader in our community,” Kelly Norris, one of 30 people named to the Equity Task Force, said in a letter to the Gazette.

Can you imagine the outcry and the rallies and the taking over of meetings that would have occurred courtesy of the "activists" in this town had, say, Lawrence O'Brien or Maria Geryk made "one unfortunate comment" while acting in their official capacities?

Shabazz is an older, well-experienced man. That he didn't know not to say what he did is very concerning.

Anonymous said...

...one of 30 people named to the Equity Task Force...

Does anyone know who named the the thirty people to the task force? Was it Shabazz?

Anonymous said...

re the interesting question of whether schools (not just here but everywhere) ought to report incidents of assault to the cops:

An "assault" occurs not only when bodily harm has been caused (ie punched, beat up, etc) but simply when a threat of bodily harm has occurred:

Assault:

At Common Law, an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm.



I guess the point being (maybe a lawyer can offer more insight) "assault" and "assault and battery" are two different things. So, even if the three boys never even touched Dylan, they committed an assault.

Anonymous said...

Exactly right. Assault is threat to do bodily harm. Battery is actually don't l doing it.

Anonymous said...

It appears that WWLP Springfield pulled the story they published online that you linked to.

Larry Kelley said...

Not surprised.

Anonymous said...

"Who has the responsibility to report to the police that 3 black kids beat up a white kid?"

On school property during a school day- The APD should be called in to check on the student and to write an unbiased incident report (because we know that the schools tend to rewrite situations to fit their slanted view)

Michael H said...

Response to Steve Akalis: I honor you, your wife and son for reaching out to Carolyn Gardner and for trying to do whatever you can, peacefully, legally and non-violently, to prevent further acts of school-sponsored intimidation against Amherst schoolchildren and parents: "Wouldn't it be nice to see the 3 of us cleaning up that mess that has been swept under the rug for so long." Yes, it would! Please let me know how I can best support you, your son and wife in this endeavor.

Steve Akalis said...

In response to Mike H
Are you the other boys parent whom was bullied. If so I would like to talk with you. Larry knows how to contact me if you so wish.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me like the "other boys parents whom were bullied" are not seeking to increase the limelight on themselves but rather are trying to put the past behind them.

Mr. Hootstein, could you please provide examples of "acts of school-sponsored intimidation against Amherst schoolchildren and parents"?

Are you talking about school committee member Amilcar Shabazz's labeling of the assault victim "the greatest student racist"?

Michael H said...

In response to Steve A,

No, I am not the parent of the bullied student. But my wife and I are blessed to be the custodial grandparents of our amazingly wonderful grandson (an ARMS student). I reached out to you because of the "restorative (reparative) justice" approach you are taking in trying to communicate with Ms. Gardner and the family of the other reportedly bullied and assaulted ARMS school student. In 1998, my wife was almost murdered because of the failures of a similarly (as compared to Amherst) dysfunctional secretive school system in Asheville, NC. Feeling blessed by the hand of God in my wife's survival, I am fiercly compelled to always seek out justice. Because I also believe your and your son's Constitutionally protected rights to be free from unlawful discrimination were violated by the Amherst Regional Schools, I am compelled by justice to support you and your family.

In response to Anon 4:37's questions, no I do not think Amilcar Shabazz's conduct was in any way improper, and I am very troubled by the school-sponsored intimidation of him and his constituents-of-color as I am by the school-sponsored intimidation of the Akalis family.

But, on a related more positive note, I want to thank Supt. Geryk, Dr. Brady, Principal Dinger, VP Malone and all my grandson's most excellent, kind, diligent and caring teachers (and staff) for providing high quality educational services for my grandson this year under difficult circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hootstein, are you at all troubled by various groups' attempts (OASIS, STAIRS, Amherst NAACP) to silence and intimidate school officials with chants of "white power!" and "white supremacists!" and "racists!", as well as intentional attempts to disrupt silence their speech with laughing and loud coughing and other childish antics, during official school board business meetings?

Anonymous said...

I also meant to ask you Mr. Hootstein, were you at the Equity Task Force meeting, or are you basing your opinion that his actions were not improper on hearsay?

Michael H said...

Yes, anon 9:51, I'm troubled by attempts to silence and intimidate school officials and parents alike.

Anonymous said...

Were you at the Equity Task Force meeting Michael? How can it be that you are certain that Shabazz's conduct "was not in any way improper", yet 5 members of the Task Force, who were appointed by Shabazz, felt that his conduct was improper enough to report and complain about it?

Are the five members part of the conspiracy to intimidate Shabazz?

Larry Kelley said...

The five members of the Equity Task Force were not appointed by Shabazz you nitwit, they were appointed by the Regional School Committee.

And from what I can put together from various sources there were a total of 15 (of 30) Task Force members present, so that means 10 of them took NO offense to WHATEVER remarks were made by Mr. Shabazz.

Anonymous said...

"there were a total of 15 (of 30) Task Force members present"

So...50% isn't a quorum. Why did they meet then?

And why did you have to get this from various sources? Why not just get this from the minutes, if it was an official meeting.

NITWIT
(New In Town, Was In Tampa)

Anonymous said...

...they were appointed by the Regional School Committee.

Thanks, I wish you reported that earlier or had simply answered that question when it was asked a couple of days ago, if you knew the answer to it.

If I owned a restaurant and 1/3 of my customers complained about quality of service, I'd be VERY concerned.

Anonymous said...

Just because ten people didn't formally complain doesn't mean they didn't take offense.

Larry Kelley said...

And it should also be noted that a local TV station news crew was at the meeting and did not report a damn thing about Mr. Shabazz's alleged comments.

Anonymous said...

In fact they reported nothing.

Anonymous said...

5 witnesses appointed by the school committee whose complaints corroborate each others, and you say "alleged" comments?

Even Vernon-Jones admits he made the statements that have been reported.

I guess you're one of the conspiracy theorists.

Anonymous said...

No one was officially appointed to the Equity Task Force by Dr. Shabazz, or the Regional School Committee. Dr. Shabazz is the ETF chair, and Kathleen Traphagen the co-chair, but the members of the ETF represent a group of people who expressed interest in participating or who were nominated to be part of the group. Some constituencies such as the Amherst Pelham Ed Foundation were reached out to & asked if they would like to have a representative participate. Up to 30 people have been attending the meetings, and at this time there is no formal smaller group of voting members.... not that there has been anything to vote on. The group is gathering and reviewing information at this point and working on developing recommendations around the working group areas.

Anonymous said...

A WGGB reporter & crew attended the June 18th Equity Task Force meeting and then the station ran this piece which included interviews with Dr. Shabazz & Mark Jackson done that day. http://www.wggb.com/2014/06/18/amherst-regional-high-unveils-plans-to-help-keep-racism-out-of-the-school/

Anonymous said...

And it should also be noted that a local TV station news crew was at the meeting and did not report a damn thing about Mr. Shabazz's alleged comments.

It should be noted that a majority of the reporters who have been attempting to tackle this story have their heads up their asses and are lousy writers to boot.

But I'm certain they'll have plenty to report very soon...

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more Anon 1211. No one seems to be able to get this story straight and the reporting has been awful. The Gazette has been especially egregious in fanning the flames. They should be ashamed of themselves. The absence of good writing and responsible journalism has been simply astonishing. The schools and SC are on the verge of figuratively blowing up and the Gazette has been a big part of the story. A newspaper should not be part of the story. They should report the story in an even handed manner and hopefully using good writing. I plan to cancel my subscription.

Anonymous said...

What? You don't want to hear from the three kids sitting on the curb smoking butts, and about how they think the "culture of secrecy" they have just been told about by a hack reporter is "really dangerous"?