This is a note my husband Len sent out in December to the people on our IEP team – specifically regarding the behavior of Jeff Brown – the SPED rep for our section of the school district.
On Dec 7, 2014, at 1:15 PM, Len Rubin wrote:
In our most recent IEP meeting with you and Avi’s team you made a cavalier remark that was actually so offensive and so outrageous – and was such a blatant example of your ignorance about the scope of and long-established scientific knowledge regarding childhood lead exposure – that it essentially left us both speechless.
We wanted to address this publicly here with you and with the team, because this should NEVER happen again in this way – and frankly, we think you should be required to 1) take some sensitivity training around disability issues and specifically around the issue of childhood lead poisoning and 2) in good faith watch our film – as it is a crash course on the issue and would truly help you to understand the nature of the threat – and the common consequences of – low-level childhood exposure to lead.
We are e-mailing this to you as well as publicly posting this on Tamara’s blog because we feel it is so egregious in nature and we feel we have been “playing this game” nicely, trying to comply with all of your requirements – but instead we have been getting continued “lip-service”, disrespect and a lack of understanding and – from our initial inquiries into the legal side of things here – blatant disregard for the specifics of Avi’s case in light of the Americans with Disabilities Act. You have been continually dismissive and judgmental regarding the legitimacy of the threat to Avi’s lead-poisoned brain and body from completely avoidable additional exposure to high levels of extremely neurotoxic bioavailable lead in widespread active hazards from deferred maintenance – badly deteriorated (openly flaking, peeling, child-accessible) failed original lead paint on and in the schools you have steadfastly recommended since the start and your efforts to address this issue have been obviously only the minimum necessary – presumably so that if we sued the district, in your opinion you could be seen as “in compliance” with the IEP process.
In our IEP meeting we explained that this was also an ADA issue.
When addressing the absurdity of your initial and subsequent desire to “mainstream” Avi academically, I tried to explain to the group that – well, if you had a blind child, you would not expect him to read a regular text book (as an accommodation you would provide braille and/or audio sources to teach him); likewise, If you had a child that needed wheelchair access, you would put him in a school with a wheelchair ramp – you would not expect him to attend a school with no wheelchair access. [In the same respect if you have a lead-injured child that cannot risk any ongoing additional exposure to bio-available lead, you would do no less than send him to a lead-safe/ lead-free school.]
Without missing a beat, you – amazingly – quipped, “Well, no – it’s like we’re giving you a wheelchair ramp but you’re saying the ramp is not good enough for your child!”
Frankly – this perfectly illustrates – underscored – a disturbing cynicism we have observed from you regarding this issue; aside from the intrinsic lack of understanding/callousness that remark implies, it’s a red herring, and here’s why:
You have NOT offered us a lead-free (or reasonably lead-safe) school [to follow your “our wheelchair-ramp-is-not-good-enough-for-your-child” anaolgy, you point out some weathered, warped boards laid accross some old sawhorses with no handrails – and explain, “hey, we don’t have the funding to please everyone; we’re not going to offer you the ramp you’d probably like – all gold-plated and encrusted with freakin’ jewels, lady—this is what we are able to offer here, and we think we’re really making an effort to address your concerns so please be reasonable!”].
When we initially brought a handful of hazards at our neighborhood school (Llewellyn) to your attention, you agreed to have them tested and evaluated. As Tamara expected, the areas she pointed out as toxic (based on a quick walk-through) WERE in fact toxic – at levels that were very unsafe for children. You claimed you remediated some of those hazards. You (the school / school district/ facilities team) made NO EFFORT to do a full hazard assessment of the school, you only focused on the few areas discussed. Moreover you made NO EFFORT to remediate any of the exterior hazards (hazards that are demonstrably easily tracked in from outside – on shoes, hands and through air movement.) Your hazard assessor erroneously tried to use OSHA air standards as a measure of compliance – when OSHA air standards are the wrong reference standard and irrelevant, as they have NOTHING TO DO with toxicity levels when it comes to children. Your hazard assessor BLATANTLY STATED at a group meeting with several people present that he felt clearance testing throughout the school was “not necessary” and “would be too costly” (another red herring; in the world of hazard assessment, clearance testing is pretty universally regarded as affordable and remarkably cost-effective – but more importantly, clearance testing is the ONLY accepted method of determining if a space is safe for a lead-injured child! He repeatedly asserted that “if cleaning methods for the floor were ‘good enough’, then cleaning methods on the bookshelves, classroom items and other areas near the window sills (with trim that tested positive at 185,000 ppm lead using an XRF) would be ‘good enough’ too – without clearance testing – yet there were no assurances that this type of cleaning in those areas (near the windows) would:
a.) defnitiely be done
b.) any containment of these significant hazards (which are within reach of children both on the outside and inside of the school) would be immediately remediated
(only that they would be “added to a list for future remediation/ intervention”.)
You then proceed to recommend a series of COMPLETELY inappropriate schools for our child – schools with equal or greater lead hazards than Llewellyn(!) and then you asked us to sign and agree to your recommendations that he not be placed in a special school – but instead a B classroom – something we stated (and for the record we restate here) that we disagree with… but you clearly stated you would NEVER recommend that he go to a special school.
Instead the result being – not only do you recommend he go to an incredibly toxic school – but your special ed teacher there also violates the law and tells us we cannot observe in the classroom to help make this decision and then someone else on the team apparently may have violated another law by refusing us parental choice in the matter by presumptively, unilaterally enrolling Avi in Arleta without our consent or agreement [our first information regarding this being that on FRIDAY we had a visit from a school bus driver saying he would be picking up Avi on Monday and on SATURDAY we had a visit from a school bus driver that she was going to drop Avi off on Monday… she (Ellen) told us that she was given this order on WEDNESDAY when we did not even hear back from the school and team about our request to observe in the classroom to help us make this decision until after the visit from the driver later on Friday morning!
PLEASE – let’s take this to the next level so we do NOT have to hire a lawyer. At this point we are SICK over your closed-mindedness and behavior in this situation.
ALL WE ARE ASKING is that you find us a LEAD-SAFE and appropriate school (to the standards medically required for a child with a brian injury from lead exposure – not “MY” standards as you keep asserting – but stricter than “your” standards – which amount to only following federal standards for cleaning up hazards with renovation – since there ARE no federal standards for addressing existing hazards in a school.) OR ALTERNATELY, CLEAN UP THE HAZARDS AT OUR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL SO HE CAN ATTEND THERE – as we have requested.
Len & Tamara Rubin