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BROOKFIELD Mother faults school

July 14, 2018

BROOKFIELD — A Brookfield parent has sent a 17-page complaint to the boards of education and ethics, claiming the district is not providing her son adequate education since his expulsion this spring.

The student was expelled for nine months after being accused of posting a threatening message on social media in late March. Police charged the 16-year-old with first-degree threatening and increased their presence at the high school the following day.

The district has recommended the student, who will be a senior in the fall, attend a program through EdAdvance twice a week, but his mother, Yan Ting, said this is not enough.

“The administration insisted that it’s appropriate for my son, but I don’t see how putting a student in a room in front of a computer for 3.5 hours twice a week with no teaching is adequate for any student,” Ting said.

Ting said the program, called Access, is six hours a day, but her son would spend three-and-a-half hours learning on the computer.

The state requires schools to provide expelled students with a comparable education to the one they would receive in the classroom.

Ting has also sent the district an invoice for $4,950 for the days of school he missed because of his initial suspension and then expulsion, as well as a $15,900 invoice for the research and other work she has done to fight her son’s placement.

State guidelines

Ting said her son took honors and Advanced Placement classes and that his SAT scores are in the 96th percentile, and that the Access program will not challenge him.

Superintendent John Barile said he could not comment on the situation specifically, to protect the student’s privacy.

But he said that in general, the district follows state law and Brookfield Board of Education policy when finding an alternative program for an expelled student. This includes developing a plan to meet the student’s behavioral, academic and transition goals, Barile said.

“In instances where students are expelled, we follow the updated legislation on providing those students with a comprehensive individual plan,” he said.

The state Board of Education’s latest standards require districts to offer an “appropriate” alternative education program and create an individualized learning plan for the student.

Vincent Mustaro, who is in charge of policy for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said Brookfield’s plan would likely meet the requirements of the state law.

“In most cases, the state department basically believes enrolling in an alternative education program is usually the appropriate opportunity for an expelled student, but yet the guidelines recognize one size doesn’t fit all,” he said.

Leon Smith, an attorney with the Center for Children’s Advocacy who Ting reached out to, helped craft the state guidelines. Smith said there is a big difference between online learning and the education the student would be used to in traditional school.

“There are certain social aspects of ... the everyday school day that aren’t necessarily met when sitting in front of a computer, even if the actual work on the computer is comparable itself,” Smith said.

Access to help

Jeff Kitching, executive director of EdAdvance, said the alternative program includes math, English, science, social studies and special education teachers, in addition to the online program.

“Not only do they get the online program, but they have access, while they are there, to certified teachers in those content areas to help them with the work, to answer questions,” he said.

Students use the online software, Odysseyware, both at the facility and at home, Kitching said.

Ting said she later tried to set up four meetings with administration to discuss the placement, but officials declined.

“The reply from the district and superintendent was, ‘This is the only option. You take it or you leave it,’” she said.

She hopes Brookfield will send her son to another school district or find a different program for him. But Mustaro said sending the student to another district could be “challenging” in light of the accusations against him.

“Obviously, the district made the decision (that) where they placed this youngster is an appropriate setting,” Mustaro said.

The student was arrested after police said he posted a photo of an airsoft facsimile rifle on the app Snapchat. Ting said the photo was of her son’s BB gun and had the caption “No one go to school tomorrow,” but that her son did not write that caption and does not know who did.

Other students told administrators about the photo the next school day and police were called to the high school.

Although Ting acknowledged her son’s actions were “stupid” and immature, she said the district exaggerated the seriousness of his post during the expulsion process.

Regardless, she said, her son needs to be properly educated.

“Just because he did something stupid does not mean he doesn’t deserve the education he is entitled to,” Ting said.

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