OUTRAGEOUS N.J. BULLYING CASE, WITH MULTIMILLION OUT-OF-COURT SETTLEMENT, RAISES COsTLY QUESTION FOR PITTSFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT; PSD OWES TAXPAYERS THE ANSWERS
Bt DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2012) — How much does your school district keep you, the taxpayer, informed? Do they share all that they need to share for you, We The People, to run your own government?
True, the question smacks of idealism, since we know in the United States, in Massachusetts, in Berkshire County, and in Pittsfield, republican democracy is dead. We say this because of the paltry turnouts in elections, routinely under 50 percent and in some cases such as prelims and primaries, in the single digits.
THE PLANET has long advocated for the cancellation of any election that does not have 50% + 1 of the electorate show up at the polls. This will create a host of other problems, of course, but all of them solvable and preferable to the current electoral process, where incumbents have a vested interest in discouraging new blood from running for office suppressing turnout. We ask this question given the cloudy state of affairs in the $89 million school department in Pittsfield.
How Much Money as School Department Spent on Hidden, Out-of-Court Settlements? Who in the Schools wants to Step Forward and Answer?
The $89 million PSD — having been hijacked by politics, banal administrators, and the big shots that run the local teachers’ union — has a well-earned reputation for hiding its skeletons and keeping the dirty linen deeply buried in the basement. This action is not exclusive to Pittsfield, of course, as seen by a case you may have missed.
In Ramsey, N.J., the school district there has agreed to pay $4.2 million to settle a lawsuit out of court. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the district, settling on a bullying suit, reached agreement with the family in the case two months ago. For those two months, it hid the settlement from taxpayers. How many times has this been done in Pittsfield? At least in the Ramsey case, the info came to light. How many cases has PSD settled out of court and hid, and how many millions of dollars has this cost Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski?
In Ramsey, the suit involved the school district and the family of Sawyer Rosenstein. AP reports: “The family’s lawsuit alleged school officials knew or should have known the boy’s attacker had violent tendencies and failed to comply with a state anti-bullying law, said the Rosensteins’ attorney, Jeffrey Youngman. The boy had punched another student in the face on a school bus a year earlier, but the school kept no record of it or other attacks and the attacker was not subjected to escalating discipline, the suit said.”
A few weeks ago, we shared the case of a bullied Taconic High School student who pleas via himself and his family were all but ignored by the school and the district. That student is finishing out his high school career off campus by taking classes at BCC. The case reveals the hypocritical nature of the PSD anti-bullying efforts: Window dressing, hot air, and little else.
As in the Pittsfield case, the Ramsey school district ignored the Rosensteins. In fact, three months before the boy was punched, he sent an e-mail to school officials asking for help. He was 12 at the time (2006).
His Pleas for Help Were Ignored
Sawyer Rosenstein wrote this to his guidance counselor:
“I would like to let you know that the bullying has increased. I would like to figure out some coping mechanisms to deal with these situations, and I would just like to put this on file so if something happens again, we can show that there was past bullying situations.”
Sawyer was punched in the abdomen at school on May 16, 2006, dropping him to his knees. When he came home that day he complained of pain in his back but otherwise felt fine, his father, Joel Rosenstein, told The Record of Woodland Park.
Two days later, the seventh-grader let out a scream in his bedroom.
“We picked him up and called an ambulance,” the father told the newspaper. “He hasn’t walked since.”
The blow had caused a clot in a major artery that supplies blood to his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down from what his attorney described as an “incredibly rare” injury.
School District Does the Backstroke in an ‘Farina Statement’
By settling out of court, the Ramsey school district keeps hidden the record. The public won’t get to see their actions and inactions in the multimillion dollar case. Official Pittsfield, given its love of secrecy and keeping citizens in the dark, must find this tactic mighty appealing. This, in turn, leads to many crack lawsuits — deadbeats looking to get rich on the taxpayers dollar and the schools all too quick to settle to avoid the discovery process.
The Ramsey Board of Education released a CYA statement that “did not include any admission of liability or fault on the part of the district,” according to AP. They ain’t saying, in other words. Read for yourself the board’s bland words, as tasty as a bowl of cold farina:
“The district’s character education and harassment/intimidation/bullying initiatives and reporting practices are leading edge,” the statement said.” All programs in this area far exceed all of the criteria established by the state of New Jersey.”
Right: “Leading edge.” It’s anti-bullying programs “far exceed” state regulations. That’s why it agree to pay $2.5 million to the Rosensteins and hide that from taxpayers for two months.
We add a small footnote of particular interest to THE PLANET: Sawyer Rosenstein is now 18. He’s a freshman at Syracuse University, majoring in communication at the country’s leading journalism school, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at SU (where THE PLANET got our master’s degree).
Our challenge to the Pittsfield School Department and the city school board: Tell us (a) how much money has been paid out to settle lawsuits of out court within the past 20 years and (b) how many cases against the Pittsfield schools are pending in the courts. We’re hearing all kinds of numbers, especially on (a). On behalf of the Kapanskis, we petition the PSD to come clean.
Taxpayers have a right to know.
Folks, if they ignore this request, you can take it as bad news — a likely fortune having been blown on scenario (a) due to a combination of school negligence and too easily settling nuisance suits out of court to keep the records hidden.
ON AND ON AND ON WE GO, INTO AND OUT OF THE EAST, OVER THE MOUNTAINS, OVER THE WAVES, UNDER THE FOUNTAINS, UNDER THE GRAVES. All IS HEAVEN OR HEAVEN SENT.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.