Friday, June 9, 2017

Free at last

What I forwarded you has my permission to be forwarded, shouted, FB, whatever! Our life sentence with this school district has been pardoned!

Good Morning School Board Members,

"I'm worried, my daughter is in life skills and will soon be entering the High school."  "This is my biggest fear."  - This is a quote from a mom referring to my posting of a letter received by the Stang family July 1, 2010 from Brian McFeeley, at that time Principal of Mellon Middle School.

Please find attached, excerpted paragraphs from the July 1, 2010 letter written and signed by Brian McFeeley.  I've only included portions of the letter regarding the sexual assault incident of November 2009 because I want to make sure this garners your undivided attention on the issue at hand.  I have also attached the section including his signature, because I am hoping that you will be as shocked as I was 7 years ago to the fact that a "professional educator" would sign his name to what he had shamefully written.

If so important, you may ask why did I wait 7 years before bringing this forward?  Well, technically, I didn't.  Niko received from his family the resources to understand appropriate touching versus inappropriate touching.  The only reason I waited for was graduation, when we would be free from the school district and no longer need to work with MTLSD for Niko's education.

When this incident occurred, we did meet with the police.  Anyone that knows us, would know our compassion for any special needs individual.  We did not want to pursue charges against this child but was concerned for his own well being.  My first thought was "oh no, where did this little boy learn this behavior?"  After discussing my concern with the Mt Lebanon police detective, that the little boy who inappropriately touched Niko may be dealing with this as a "learned behavior" because someone was touching him, the kind officer suggested that would be something the school should look into.  He further suggested I ask them to bring in an expert that explains part of a Sex Education program to students in Life Skills/Autistic Support Classes.  Sounded so simple......  And so our rocky road began.....

While I will never get the answer I was looking for, my goal now is to make sure no other student, no other mother, needs to receive treatment for PTSD because of what MTLSD will put them through.

Bottom Line:

  1.  Are students in Life Skill/Autistic Support classes apparently still left unsupervised for ANY amount of time?
  2.  Brian stated in the 2010 letter that he was the Trained District Personnel designated to investigate any alleged cases of sexual harassment.  I would like to know the course used for this training so that I may go to our local State Representative to create "NIko's Law" so the training materials can be revised to reflect that how long a person touches you is relevant.  (Because Brian indicated since it was less then a minute, the point was moot.)
  3. Has the school district really been looking since November 12, 2009 for a specialist in Sex Education that would come into Life Skills/Autistic Support Classes to teach them what their typical peers learn in the district?  I believe by law they should be afforded that.  

Now that Mr. McFeeley is a Principal at the High School, I feel the mother whose quote is included above should be worried.  With the rise of autism, you will continue to need to support these individuals.  I would certainly hope that going forward not only do you have the correct staff in place, they are properly trained, and after training they undergo assessment tests to verify the training worked.

Perhaps the most concerning is that an assault under a minute does not count.  (I assured my now 28 year-old son, who is a teacher in another school district and who this could affect, in our house and by state law, this is not the case.)

To put it in perspective, we should ask ourselves these contextual questions to see the relevance:

Is it ok to drive intoxicated as long as it is less than a minute?
Is it ok to beat a child as long as it is less than a minute?
Would it be ok, if someone touched your child, your grandchild, your elderly parents as long as it was less than a minute?
Or in our case, WAS IT OK that is was less than a minute just because our son is autistic and McFeeley thought he wouldn't know any better?

I do have to say that on June 6, 2017, I got one thing I asked for from the school district, with no fight, no meeting, and no research on my end.  When the Superintendent showed up at Pathfinder, and actually had plans on handing Niko his diploma, I told him kindly, he was not needed .  He did not do anything when he was really needed, he was not entitled to bask in our glory, that was for Michael Houck, the one person we always felt had Niko's best interests and needs in mind.  Mike was the one who actually listened to us, took our Niko stories to heart, (and when he mentioned he saw the only flavor of Doritos that Niko could have, Old School Taco, on a store shelf because they have no red dye!) tears swelled up in my eyes.  Finally, they found someone who doesn't fluff off these special individuals who will never win a football game for the school district, who will never bring them notoriety as an alumni, but who just might bring a smile to anyone they meet.  Sadly, my husband DID notice that Tim Steinhauer didn't even know Mr. Houck's name.  He had to look at his name tag written on the floor under his designated seat at the commencement ceremony, my poor husband was surprised.  Now, that's funny!  Remember, the Special Education offices are not even in the District Building.....still not sure if they forgot they had that department or if they just want to hide it or make it go away.  

We commend Mike Houck on an outstanding job representing Niko. 

I leave you with this, I do pray and I pray a lot, my prayer is that you will never have to hear the words, "it was less than a minute" in the context we did.  My other prayer is anytime you hear the phrase, "less than a minute", you think of Niko.

Sadie A. Stang


Anonymous said...

Please tell me where he said, "Because it was less than a minute, it was not sexual assault." The situation is unfortunate and should never have happened, but that is a shameful twisting of words.

Keith Stang said...

No shameful twist of words...... I will guide you.

Go to 2nd paragraph, now proceed to the 10th line and start with the last word, "Based....."

Brian says , the criteria did not meet the definition for sexual harassment. Criteria being, "less then 1 minute?"

Also, once a touch is involved, it is not considered sexual harassment but sexual assault.
Believe me, I have done my homework on this one.

Am looking forward to your next reply, would love a chance to continue defending our autistic community.
Do have to wonder though, why you would wish to remain anonymous.
Sadie Stang

E. T. Gillen said...

Thank you, Sadie, for everything you do.