Guest Writer Series, Judy Neufeld-Fernandez, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten
Christine Pinkham, with the help of their regular home health nurse, wheeled Nathaniel onto the special needs bus trusting fully that he would be in good care on his way to Mission Bay High School. Nathaniel, a happy-natured child with severe Cerebral Palsy is unable to walk, talk or eat. He is considered 100% disabled. He is dependent on others for every need; including tube feeding and diapering. He represents the most vulnerable of children within SDUSD in that he cannot tell his parents if he has been abused. The morning of September 24, 2013 according to the established routine, the nurse had checked the calibration of Nathaniel’s feeding machine and logged the data in his professional records.
Christine and the nurse left Nathaniel in the care of the SDUSD employees on the bus that morning. There were two able bodied adult workers, a bus driver and the aide, in addition to several disabled students. During the bus ride Nathaniel’s feeding machine was tampered with and set to a dangerous rate. The only people physically capable of altering the machine were the two employees.
Also On the Bus Was a Surveillance Camera Taping the Whole Time
About one hour forty-five minutes later, Christine received an unnerving phone call from the school alerting her that her son’s feeding machine had to be turned off as it was discovered to be pumping at 4 times the acceptable rate. This was cause for alarm. Immediately Christine went in person to the school and requested an investigation into this potentially life threatening act against her son.
What Ensued Was Anything But a Child Abuse Investigation
Every step of the way SDUSD broke laws, made false accusations against Christine, and failed to provide Nathaniel with FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). See this news coverage of Nathaniel and Christine’s struggle:
Channel 10 News: Parents: Teachers, Employees Not Reporting Cases of Abuse Inside San Diego Unified School District
As Christine interacted with the Vice Principal, she promised to “investigate”. This is against penal code 11165. As a Vice Principal she is NOT an official child abuse investigator; she is a mandated reporter of suspected abuse.
When Christine raised concerns to Carmina Duran at SDUSD’s newly created QA department, the very next day CPS showed up at Christine’s home investigating her as a suspect for the on bus abuse/tampering of the feeding machine. Two more CPS interviews ensued. One was an at school interview of her daughter with very leading questions implying that Christine had a drug/alcohol problem to her child. One CPS worker, after seeing Christine’s home set up for Nathaniel and seeing the nursing logs/records of Nathaniel’s home care, expressed that the abuser could not have been Christine, implying that had been the premise for the CPS home visit. The third CPS investigative home visit was antagonistic with the worker stating he didn’t care what had happened to Nathaniel at school or on the bus.
It is Christine’s belief that there is a direct connection with her raising safety concerns and SDUSD employee malfeasance and in CPS subsequent scrutiny. Ironically, CPS does NOT investigate at school abuse so someone reported Christine for suspected at home abuse. Since the abuse happened on a school bus
CPS’ established policy would be to defer such an investigation to local law enforcement: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=11165.9.&lawCode=PEN
Here are the Child Abuse Penal Codes
Parent Was Falsely Reported to CPS and Investigated by CPS INSTEAD of the Alleged Abuser
The first law broken would be penal code 273a child abuse and neglect law; tampering with Nathaniel’s feeding machine. The second law REPEATEDLY broken by multiple district employees is the Mandated Reporter law. The VP, the secretary informing the parent of the incident, the classroom teacher and QA, later upon learning of incident, all failed to report suspected abuse to San Diego City Police, the ONLY agency authorized to investigate at school abuse. The third legal failure is the provision of a Free and Appropriate Education. The fourth law broken is failure to supervise; train and evaluate district employees. The fifth law breached is knowingly making a false allegation of abuse to CPS.
Christine attended the Superintendent’s Focus Group on Child Abuse in an attempt to get action in the matter of abuse at the Mission Bay High School Medically Sensitive Class. Superintendent Marten did nothing to assist in Nathaniel’s abuse case and the suspected abuser remains employed working with high needs kids. Furthermore, Christine learned of two employees at Mission Bay High School who were highly concerned about the behavior of the alleged abuser.
LETTER TO SUPERINTENDENT CINDY MARTEN
Christine and I met with the Area Superintendent. When asked if the bus had video surveillance the Area Superintendent wouldn’t answer. Christine called the SDUSD Transportation Department herself to verify that indeed there was a surveillance camera on Nathaniel’s bus.
SDUSD Has Not and Will Not Produce the Bus Surveillance Video
Christine went to San Diego City Police. She requested a true child abuse investigation. It took many months and a protest at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office to get a Forensic Pathologist Interview at Chadwick for nonverbal victims.
During the interview, SD Police Officer was present as well as Christine and the specially trained interviewer. The interviewer concluded that Nathaniel displayed signs of trauma stemming from what had happened on the bus. A position not supported by SD Police without explanation.
The Investigation Ended
To Christine’s knowledge no witnesses were interviewed, no coworkers or class parents were interviewed, nor was the surveillance tape procured/reviewed. (Christine attempted to get the surveillance tape from SDUSD to no avail.)
Christine withdrew her son from Mission Bay High School due to ongoing safety concerns and district apathy. Thus resulting in the district going after Nathaniel and Christine for truancy!
Nathaniel is home schooled now and getting his smile back!
The questions remain:
- What about the other children in the care of the suspected abusive aide?
- What type of danger is the district knowingly exposing our most vulnerable students to?
The district will not be forthcoming with surveillance video.
Lastly, we must ask:
Why are SDUSD employees, who are entrusted with our kids, failing to notify proper agencies when abusive behaviors are observed among their colleagues?
Please COMMENT below with your answers!
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