Update: If you want to read much, much more about Pinnacle and Planking as a form of restraint (many states have outlawed its use), go read the Merts Center Monitor’s “The Pinnacle Schools: What Are We Waiting For?” Redeye has also written about the use of this school on several occasions.
When a school system closes public schools and replaces them by funding private organizations like The Pinnacle Schools, the people, the community, and especially the students, lose. The district, the people, lose their ability to oversee and question even extreme examples of child abuse as seen in these pictures.
Last night, WAFF reported that a 13 year old student at The Pinnacle Schools has been abused by security personnel of the “school.”
On January 19th, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent, the Huntsville Board of Education voted to approve a $1,596,000, 19 month contract with The Pinnacle Schools to replace the much maligned Seldon Center to provide alternative school services to students who commit an expulsion worthy offense in Huntsville City Schools.
This contract has an auto-renewal clause that will kick into effect unless the superintendent provides The Pinnacle Schools written notification at least 60 days prior to the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. They accept students from Huntsville City as young as 12 years old.
On Wednesday, October 10, 2012, while attending The Pinnacle Schools, a 13-year-old boy was ordered by a security officer at the school to leave class for talking. This child was then taken into a separate room and ordered to lie down on the floor, face down in a “planking” position.
Take a moment right now, and go lie face down on the floor with your nose pressed into the floor. I suspect that you will find that position is a difficult one to maintain for an extended period. If for no other reason, breathing becomes difficult without turning your head.
Now, imagine that every time you do turn your head, an adult security guard strikes you on your sides with enough force to cause the marks, broken skin and bruising that you see evidenced in the photographs seen above.
All this for talking in class.
Now, instead of imagining this is being done to you, imagine instead that it is happening to your 13 year old grandson. This is the hell that Harold Wesley has been living through for the past week as he attempts to get answers from The Pinnacle Schools and the district about this incident.
This is child abuse. Thankfully, the Huntsville Police Department is investigating this as such.
HCS: No Corporal Punishment
One of the first things that Dr. Wardynski did upon arriving, well, after hiring his friends Frank Spinelli, Aaron King, and several other aides for himself, was to eliminate the use of corporal punishment in Huntsville City Schools. This was one of the few things that Dr. Wardynski has done since arriving at Huntsville City Schools that I completely support.
Teachers and administrators should not be placed in a position of meting out physical punishment to students. There are too many risks involved for both the student and the teacher. It’s not effective and the risks are not worth the potential benefits.
But when a district gives over control of its schools and student population to a private company, the rules that are established for public schools may or may not apply for the private organization.
The contract alone determines what policies that the private contractor will follow.
Pinnacle Schools Makes No Promise Concerning Corporal Punishment
In this instance, the Pinnacle Schools contract is far less than clear. At no point does the contract ensure that The Pinnacle Schools will follow Huntsville City School policies such as the elimination of corporal punishment.
It does say, under a section entitled, “Staff and Security”:
TPS RAISE Program will provide security personnel who are trained in SAMA (Satori Alternatives to Manage Aggression) techniques which include the assisting process for de-escalating possible aggression. Additional security measures which include a closed circuit video monitoring system and identification system for student and visitor check ins and outs.
I find it difficult to believe that anyone would consider the above abuse a de-escalation from the simple mistake of talking in class.
Huntsville City Schools Promotes The Pinnacle Schools’ Child Abuse Therapy Programs
On May 17th, Mr. Aaron King offered a report concerning the number and amount of private contractors the district has hired. In this report he claimed that The Pinnacle Schools will provide a “70% Return on Investment in FY 2013.” I’d imagine with the legal issues that TPS is causing the district that Mr. King would need to reduce that estimate downwards these days.
But most interesting, Mr. King claimed that TPS offered both drug and “abused child therapy programs.”
Like much of the rest of that report that night (which substantially underestimated the number of contractors and their costs), this “benefit” has simply not panned out.
But here’s the two-fold problem: since closing the Seldon Center, the district no longer has an alternative, and this contract has a one-sided breach of contract clause that allows them to defer any resolution for nearly an indefinite period.
The clause reads:
In the event of a serious breach of an obligation or covenant under this Agreement, the non-breaching party may give the breaching party written notice of the specifics of the breach, and the breaching party shall have 60 days in which to cure the breach. Only if the breach is not cured within such period shall the non-breaching party be entitled to pursue any remedies it may have by reason of the breach, including termination of this Agreement. In the event any provision contained in this Agreement shall be breached by either party and thereafter waived by either party, such waiver shall be limited to the particular breach so waived and shall not be deemed to waive any other breach.
This allows TPS to delay the cancellation of the contract, for all practical purposes, until the end of the contract on July 31, 2013.
In other words, our children are going to likely be at risk for an additional nine months.
This is a travesty. Perhaps our newest, but as yet unseated, board member Mr. Culbreath would like to take this issue on next now that’s he has finished dealing with the Spinelli contract. Our children can’t wait until next year.
Tomorrow night will be yet another board meeting. They will be discussing several programs on bullying that they have “borrowed” from my good friend Mr. James Robinson of the GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services. I suspect that there will be a significant number of parents and other concerned citizens present to make their concerns known to the board.
If you care about making sure that things like this abuse of a child are brought to an end, please come out to the board meeting at the Merts Center, 200 White Street, N. at 5:30pm tonight.
If you can’t make the meeting, at least log onto Facebook and “like” S.O.S – SupportOurStudents. All the latest news and information on safety issues in our schools can be found there.
Finally, if you can’t make it, please follow me on twitter @russwinn or on the GeekPalaver Facebook Page. You can also watch the meeting live on channels 17 (Comcast) or 99 (Knology) beginning at 5:30pm. The district also streams the meeting on the web on the district web site.
Our students need your help and protection. It’s time to stop the violence and end the silence.