Home Brentwood Lack of BUSD Action is Cause for Concern

Lack of BUSD Action is Cause for Concern

by ECT


Since mid-January, Brentwood parents and others have been waiting for action by the Brentwood Union School District Board and to date, the public has been left with next to nothing except inaction.

Apparently, the School Board is still not ready to act on a case that is pretty much case closed as Superintendent Merrill Grant, Principal Lauri James, and teacher Dina Holder should be relieved of their duties.

Quite frankly, the lack of urgency to move forward is astonishing while embarrassing for Brentwood.

I believe the Board knows what it should do, what it needs to do, but still won’t make the rather easy call. It would be prudent to make a decision to create some sort of closure for many folks watching this instead of continue with the unneeded drama. It’s time to forward and this  inaction going on prevents that from starting.

This actually reminds me of a line from Jim Carey’s Ace Ventura Pet Detective where he says “if I am not back in five-minutes, just wait longer” and that is exactly what the BUSD is doing—except it’s been over a month of waiting for changes to occur.

Speaking of changes, the Contra Costa Times reports the following:

Brentwood Community Advisory Committee and district leaders are working collaboratively to improve the district’s approach to mandated reporting of abuse incidents, effective documentation of employee concerns and complaint procedures. Brentwood Community Advisory Committee co-chairwoman Marie Fajardo said that the special education advisory committee is a connection between the board and families with special-needs students.

Look, I can appreciate due diligence and looking to improve things, but  incident occurred in 2010. This should have been done already and reported back to the public of the changes.   The changes made since the January story came out should have been reported back to the public.  Full transparency should have been given from the start.

The reality is the public has a short attention span and is very forgiving.  Had the Superintend explained his actions with honesty and integrity, he may have been given a pass. Instead, he spoke through a lawyer and was vague which is not okay. That is when this spun out of control because he didn’t appear to be trustworthy and completely honest of the situation.

Investigations are nice, but this can be done rather quickly by simply place the depositions in front of the Board and they could come up with their own conclusion–heck, might as well hold a public conversation with Dina Holder, Lauri James and Merrill Grant at a meeting and allow them to explain themselves. At least the public would have heard it from their mouths, not from the newspapers.

What it appears to me is the Board is waiting the public out in order to allow emotions to die down hoping  public opinion will wane.  Sorry to disappoint, that is not going to happen!  This is why letters, requests for information and letters to the editors need to continue.

Most importantly, the public should continue to send questions and seek answers while not tolerating short or incomplete answers–by the way, be polite when you ask questions! Explain your point of view and solution you would like to see occur.

As for School board President Carlos Sanabria, he says that the board intends to carefully study an independent review of the incident that occurred in Dina Holder’s classroom. Excuse me, but read the depositions. Look at the $1 million your District has to fork up! Carefully studying an independent review will not change facts, its a delay tactic he is using.

He is quoted in the Times as stating the following:

“We understand that we got here through our own actions and inactions,” Sanabria said. “We want our district to be known for excellence in special education and for open, clear communication with parents of special education students.”

What he wants to be known for and what has occurred with the District is two separate things. There have been multiple cases with the special education program including a small settlement last September by the District not understanding protocols or having proper teachers with the students–the District was forced to pay back nearly $2,500 in reimbursement for pre-school care.

Again, instead of independent review, read the depositions. They are pretty clear on what occurred on many levels which is simply incompetence. Using common sense, the minute someone witnesses or reports a child gets kicked by an adult, a majority of people would  report it instead of waiting.

Here is a portion of the 20,000+ word Deposition from Dina Holder followed by Lauri James.

Q.   What happened next?
A.   He was on the ground with his back facing me and I said, “Come on, James, let’s get up,” and he didn’t.
Q.   And again, you used that tone of voice?
A.   Yes.
Q.   And what happened next?
A.   I stood behind him and I was about a foot away and with the inside of my foot I nudged his back, lower back.
Q.   Now, did you nudge or did you kick him?
I would say that I — I wouldn’t say that it was — it was lightly kicked.
Q.   So you lightly kicked him?
A.   (Nods head.)
Q.   Is that correct?
A.   Correct.
Q.   Okay.  And what happened next?
A.   He didn’t react or move.  I mean he still continued to cry and yell “no.”
Q.   What did you do?
A.   I said, “Come on, James, let’s get up.  Let’s go to circle.”
Q.   And what happened next?
A.   I lightly kicked him again.
Q.   And when you lightly kicked him the second time, did you kick him lighter or harder or the same as the first time you lightly kicked him?
A.   Probably the same.
Q.   What was going through your mind when you were kicking him?
A.   It was just more like, come on, get up.
Q.   Were you angry?
A.   No.
Q.   Were you upset about him not following your instructions?
A.   I wasn’t upset.  Probably frustrated.
Q.   What happened after you kicked him the second time?
A.   I stopped and realized that wasn’t a good choice.
Q.   Why did you feel that?
A.   Because obviously I didn’t have intent to hurt him, but it wasn’t doing anything so —
Q.   Did J.P. react to the second kick?
A.   No.
Q.   In any way?
A.   No.  He had continued to cry and yell out “no.”

After reading just this portion, one can ask why an investigator is even needed. You have her admitting twice that she kicked/nudged a kid. Case closed and you have a district which settled for $1-million.

But it gets better, here is a portion from Lauri James Deposition highlighting how she didn’t really know the reporting requirements.

Q.  Now, let’s go back to what the mandatory child abuse reporting requirements are.
A.  Okay.
Q.  Within what time frame is a mandatory reporting to report an incident of child abuse?
MS. LEED:  Objection; calls for a legal conclusion.
THE WITNESS:  I have — I do not know the legal time frame.
Q.  Are you testifying that you are unaware that there is a required time frame within which to make an oral report concerning an incident of child abuse?
MS. LEED:  Objection; it’s argumentative, calls  for a legal conclusion, and it’s been asked and answered.
THE WITNESS:  I don’t know the exact amount of 24   hours.  I don’t know that, I can’t give you that.
Q.  Okay.  Do you know whether there is a time frame within which one must make a written report concerning child abuse?
MS. LEED:  Same objection; calls for a legal conclusion.
THE WITNESS:  What I do is I call CPS, I ask for their advice.  If they tell me they don’t have enough to go on, I do not follow with a written CPS report.  That is not — their advice to me.
Q.  Have there been occasions in the past where you have not made a written report other than in the J.P. incident?
A.  A written report, yes
Q.  How many?
A.  I don’t know.
Q.  Give me an approximation, please.
A.  How many times I’ve called CPS and they’ve asked, they’ve told me that there is no need for a written report, or that it didn’t warrant them coming out and doing anything about it, I would say probably three or four times in my career.
Q.  And it’s your testimony that there have been occasions when CPS told you you don’t need to make a written report; is that correct?
MS. LEED:  Objection; it’s argumentative in the phrase “And it’s your testimony.”
THE WITNESS:  There have been times that they told me that, yeah.
Q.  Okay.  Now, they didn’t tell you that in connection with J.P.; is that correct?
A.  They told me that it was an internal issue, internal investigation issue, that they would not come out.  They would not investigate.  It had nothing to do with them.
Q.  That’s correct, and they told you that they only investigate matters between parents and child or custodians and children, correct?
A.  I believe so.
Q.  Okay.  Well, this incident didn’t involve an incident between a parent and a child, correct?
A.  This incident did not, correct.
Q.  It involved an incident of abuse between a teacher and a child, correct?
A.  Yes.
Q.  And did you make an oral report to the police within 24 hours of that incident?
A.  No, I did not
Q.  Did you make an oral report to CPS within 24 hours of that incident?
A.  Of the incident?
Q.  Yes.
A.  No, I did not.
Q.  Did you make an oral report to the police within 24 hours of learning about the incident?
A.  No, I did not.
Q.  Did you make a written report to CPS within 36 hours of learning of the incident?
A.  Okay.  You just changed your questioning.  You said of learning of the incident instead of when the incident actually occurred, because I learned about the incident a couple days later.  So if you’re — that’s why I asked to clarify.  You said when the incident actually occurred, which was on a Tuesday, and I didn’t hear about it until Wednesday late afternoon.  So I called the CPS on Friday, and they told me it was none of their concern.
Q.  Did you think it was anybody’s concern?
A.  I called my superior —
Q.  Who was —
A.  — right away.
Q.  Who was that?
A.  Margaret Kruse.

An independent review is nice to have, but the Depositions is all they need along with some common sense to act.The public for the most part won’t accept anything less than three pink slips being issued and have been pretty polite in waiting.

Patience doesn’t last forever, I would encourage a decision come sooner rather than later. The Board knows what it must do, now is the time to act on it.


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BrentwooMomofThree Feb 15, 2013 - 9:07 am

I wouldn’t have picked up the pitch fork if the three had presented themselves and spoke to us directly. The lawyer “presentation” was a disaster and really what set me off!

This will not go away, they’re waiting us out. I think they underestimate the strength of parents who see children being abused.

I also think these 5 have forgotten we live in one of only 19 states that allows recall elections. They’re not representing us!

Barbara DuMont Feb 15, 2013 - 9:07 am

Look no way to spin it. The school district and school employees failed in their job. Lets remember that there is a prinicpal from the south bay area that is in JAIL right now for not reporting abuse as required by law. Why hasn’t the police dept or DA followed up? its pretty clear from the depositions that the school district went into CYA instead of protecting their special needs children.

BrentwooMomofThree Feb 15, 2013 - 10:26 am

I have been calling the CoCo DA for over a month, I encouraged our State Senator to call and look into it. Brentwood PD told me I have no standing. You should call and see if you get further than I did, worth a shot!

rita rebello Feb 15, 2013 - 9:11 am

Delay tactics, that is the BUSD specialty!! that is exactly what they are doing!!! We need to organize a peaceful rally/walk to show them the parents are not going to let this go quietly! Keep the public eye and pressure on the district.

Rob Saw Feb 15, 2013 - 9:51 am

I agree with Burk and others, the Board is waiting this out under the ploy of additional investigations. What a shame, just say what you mean and do as you say. People didn’t do their job at that has consequences, its life! Barbara is right, others in similar situations are actually in jail! It probably takes one letter to the DA to look into this further.

Julio-Antioch Feb 15, 2013 - 4:11 pm

Transparency? More like operating in the dark of the night. Go parents, keep the heat on!!!

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