My Anti-Ed Reform in Louisiana, part 2 of???

But before I get into some of the nitty-gritty details of where I am today as a small part of a grassroots rebellion, it’s important to note that none of this happened in a vacuum. I suppose I was a little like every little state worker bee for the first few years. I believed I was a simple civil servant, but that was ok. I had a job to do, just like everyone else, and we all wanted to work toward a common goal, and help our fellow citizens and our state. At the Louisiana Department of Education I enjoyed my job, and I despite some political jockeying in the upper echelons of management and the occasional slacker (every agency has one or two, but that’s not something confined to the public sector), I believed most people were bound by the same general common goal: To serve our state, to help our school districts, and to improve the lot of children in whatever role we served.

At first I didn’t really pay attention the difference between classified and unclassified personnel. To me, unclassified personnel were simply folks that had specialized skills, temps with specific projects, or agency heads that needed to be reportable directly to our elected officials so they couldn’t hide behind the Civil Service rules that theoretically protected classified folks. I was a classified worker. This mean I had to meet and document my qualifications for a given job level (or grade) that my salary and promotional opportunities would largely be handled by a strict schedule, but I wouldn’t be subject whimsical or politically driven termination. I wouldn’t get rich, there would be no bonuses or raises in good times, but I would be able to support a family, plan for a stable retirement, buy a house and invest in the community, and serve my stat and the people of my state, my friends, neighbors, teachers and their children. That seemed like a pretty good deal to me and I was content.

My primary role was collecting data used for funding school districts and reporting and evaluating school districts. As I stayed on I realized I was learning some pretty specialized and skills and developing a lot of institutional knowledge that allowed me to streamline processes in the department. I discovered that due to a process misunderstanding, school districts were missing out on as much as 20 million dollars in state and federal funds, annually – which I was able to correct because of my knowledge of all the relevant parties and their roles. Part of my job was data auditor, so I became pretty adept at reading and recognizing education data, and realizing the significance of small changes and trends which allowed me recognize when one of school districts was probably having a system issue before they did. I rewrote a 34 page dropout calculation down to about 3 pages, which in addition to saving loads of processing time actually fixed a problem that was accidentally marking additional students as dropouts. I successfully championed allowing students that have completed 12th grade, but failed to graduate due to lack of credits or passing the GEE, to remain in school to work on these requirements until meeting the necessary requirements. Not bad for just a little data collector and data reporting guy – I thought. After Katrina and Rita hit I built some extraction and importer tools to automate the process of retrieving school records from multiple databases that could be shared with the 48 other states our children ended up enrolling in. This enabled them to quickly restart the education part of their lives that was so significantly disrupted by mother nature by allowing other school districts to place our children in appropriate educational settings . (Most of the states we worked with were impressed with our organizational and response abilities in the face of a once in a century catastrophe but I could not have done it without a great team of dedicated civil servants and friends to back me up.) I also created terms that were used to describe students the very transient and migratory nature of our multiply displaced students (some students were evacuated as many as 4 or more times due to Katrina, Rita, and overcrowding) – nomadic. I first had to lobby for this internally once I learned all the expenses districts were incurring even for temporarily enrolling students before they were often mysteriously whisked away in the night. I also helped to successfully lobby the federal government to fund these types of students and their situations and developed a system to keep track of these students without requiring any coding changes for our vendors, state systems or school districts.

I thought I’d done good. But then Paul Pastorek, RSD and death by a 1000 charters came to town.

Early on I was a bit overwhelmed by my job and the situation, and probably like a lot of New Orleanians, grateful for anyone offering to help rebuild the city and not put off by the enormous task. I don’t think enough of us questioned the motivations of people coming in. Since Katrina I’ve been through and observed several other local disasters like Gustav, BP, and the earthquake in Haiti. Now I see that for all the good folks, there are at least as many bad apples, spoiling to get a crack at any recovery dollars and to take advantage of the unwary, the infirm, and the desperate. This is something I’ve learned that education “reformers” are very good at – taking advantage of the poor and downtrodden. As US secretary of Education Arne Duncan confirmed on a visit to New Orleans, Katrina was a godsend, to them.

Noel Hammatt has produced a very terrific article on poverty in Louisiana and the perfect correlation between poverty and SPS (School Performance Scores) produced by the Louisiana department of education to rank our public schools. I strongly encourage anyone who thinks our school and student performance is based on anything other than poverty to read his analysis. Be aware, there will always be anomalies, we all know someone from a wealthy family that was dumb as rocks, or the poor kid from the tragic background that made good, but those stories are overwhelmingly outweighed by the preponderance of evidence we have, evidence that reformers use every trick in the book to disguise, deny, hide, falsify or even destroy as has been the case in of LDOE under John White reformer rule and to a lesser extent his predecessor Paul Pastorek. These are some of the actions that convinced me that not only do reformers not believe their own platitude strewn “Louisiana Believes” garbage; they consciously and methodically seek to mislead the public with both forethought and malice.

For years data rolled in from RSD (The state run Recovery School District) that was absurdly incomplete. Paul Vallas was brought to RSD town in New Orleans after ruining the education system in my hometown of Philadelphia with his charter school obsessed budget busting and bankrupting shenanigans.

(In case you’re wondering, reformers have never been successful in any city they’ve invaded and sacked like barbaric education Visigoths and Vandals conquering Rome. They usually leave the cities and states they lead in much worse situations than they found them, in many cases with irreparable damage so they become cyclically victimized by successive waves of “reformers.” You can look at the who’s who of reform cities, like DC, Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, St Louis, Atlanta, and you will see story after story of cheating, scandal, outrage, school closings, mass educator firings, fiscal mismanagement and blatant disregard for civil rights of minorities and disabled children. What you won’t see is real improvement that stands up to any scrutiny, and this is after decades of “reform” in many cases. None of the children few of the original teachers and principals are left in these “reform” havens, so why we not amazed and blown away by all the progress of these unfettered policies? Let me reiterate this point, education reform is decades old, but constantly changing its stripes and flavors to evade responsibility and accountability. Reform is a used and infectious band aid passed from one city (or market as they see it) to another, ushered in by snake oil salesmen like Paul Vallas, John White, Michelle Rhee, Tony Bennet, and Joel Klein, who sell their tainted products with fancy labels and move on just before the locals drive them out with pitchforks or their frauds can be revealed and definitively tied to them.)

And Paul Vallas was brought to us by Paul Pastorek, a lawyer playing superintendent with a salary twice the southern average for such salaries in the second poorest state (Thanks Mississippi!) (Incidentally Paul Vallas is like like 6’5″ and Paul Pastorek is like five feet nothing, so you just know we had to call them Big P and little pp or Dr Evil and Mini p.)

Apparently legislators were swayed by Pastorek’s argument that he needed nearly half a million dollar annual salary (including both base salary and allowances) to support his family (which at last check did not exceed 100 members and probably none living at home. . .) Of course Paul Pastorek is an unclassified appointee who had the qualifications for state superintendent waived. This argument rarely is a consideration for rank and file employees who have been denied raises for as many as the past 5 years in some cases but 3 to 4 in most. Of course most state workers earn less than 30k per year, and many at earn less than the poverty level, in one of the poorest states, so they are already used to making do with less than their family can afford.

This salary fiasco was our first introduction, lawyer/lobbyist turned education reformer Paul Pastorek but a pretty good indication of where his priorities resided. Some of his first actions were to commence laying off employees left and right so he could afford reform fellow and TFA alums like Jacob Landry and Chris Meyer to direct our first runs at Race to the Top funds. Despite the fact Louisiana was considered early favorites for these hundreds of millions in potential funding, we lost out in every application process. We were told our initial application was flawed and was missing some components. However we chose to ignore these comments and submitted virtually the exact same proposal and lost out again. Despite these failures and lack of funding to support the radical changes outlined in Louisiana’s proposal, Paul Pastorek vowed to pursue the changes anyways, and proceeded to lay off more classified workers and replace them with more unclassified TFA fellows who roamed our halls playing games with balled up pieces of paper and looking for things to keep them busy (There was a corral of them right outside my office.) After Bobby Jindal was elected, he appointed Erin Bendilly to run a newly created department called Parental Options, a department tasked with expanding charter schools, virtual schools, and vouchers and suppressing all oversight and regulations of the same. Whenever the legislature passed a law or requested information about charters and their ilk, her job was to confound that request, scale back the response, muddy the narrative, and to interpret the law as not applicable to charters despite what our own lawyers said. Since many of our lawyers refused to agree with her interpretations they were encouraged to retire or were fired and replaced with more pliable ones. (After all, everyone knows lawyers’ jobs are to creatively interpret the law to suit your agenda, not uphold the law or interpret it as intended, right?) It was also widely known that Erin was to be the Governor’s ears and eyes at the department.

My only real direct interaction with Erin was over the Shadow School situation, (usually her messages and missives were delivered by word of mouth by traitorous sycophantic toadies – we assumed to avoid an e-mail trail.) Shadow Schools are a phenomenon born out of the need to evade accountability sanctions. These are high performing magnet schools/academies that either don’t get reported to the state or federal government, such as has happened in Iberville with the MSA East and West Academies, or schools that have every single student routed to another low performing school to raise that schools scores. When Erin first learned of this situation she seemed alarmed that parents were being misled by this policy, but a few well connected phone calls later she changed her tune and decided to cover for Edward Cancienne and his ploys. Until then I’d had hope that maybe some of the appointed folks that Jindal appointed (or his appointees) had a soul, but money, power and influence peddling had sadly corrupted them all, probably before the got to DOE. When the legislature passed laws that were designed to document and reveal the extent of bullying and corporal punishment prevalent in our public schools, Erin’s only concerns and communications revolved around making sure charters schools were held exempt from these laws. This was despite clear and unequivocal communications from our chief legal counsel, Joan Hunt, that charter schools were explicitly not exempt from following these laws, at least at first. You see, after a string of bullying related suicides a few years ago the legislature amended Louisiana’s laws on bullying. They named the revised law after Tesa Middlebrook, a teen who attended a High school assigned to the Recovery School District and handed over to a charter operator that Pointe Coupee lobbied fiercely to keep out, but to no avail.

(Pointe Coupee is one of our poorest parishes, so they kids fair poorly on our tests that are inherently biased against the poor. They do not measure progress, if you are a parent without the means to send your kids to private pre-k your kids will fall behind those that do. If you are a poor parish like Pointe Coupee or St Helena you have no rights in this state, you are merely your chattel, your children are property waiting to be sold to their new owners.  Look at this graphic below if you have any doubts about who is being targeted.  In Louisiana these numbers are even more stark.)

This revised Tesa Middlebrook anti-bullying act was championed by Gene Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum because it allowed teens to be bullied if they were gay, so long as the students doing the bullying claimed there were doing so for religious reasons, and it officially excluded charter schools, like the one Tesa Middlebrook attended, from having to report or address bullying incidents. Tesa Middlebrook’s family was not consulted about the naming of this legislation after her, and I can’t imagine they were as pleased with tragic irony at play here. This was a revision supported by Superintendent White. To date John White’s DOE has not released any numbers on bullying or corporal punishment. If he did, he might have to do something about it. What he has done is lay off most of the folks in charge of keeping track of discipline issues or who ran our positive behavior support system. Personally I don’t think our kids can only be reasoned with wooden boards, but John White knows otherwise. Our children are just things to him, so I suppose that attitude is at least internally consistent with his world view.

I once thought Paul Pastorek and Patrick Dobard (the current head of RSD) were misguided, but their hearts were in the right place when I learned about their interest in ramming through some collections on Corporal Punishment and Bullying. I met with Patrick several times, and he seemed pretty sincere about wanting to collect this information, and that Paul wanted to collect the corporal punishment data in particular to provide evidence about how widespread this practice was. They seemed to think we could turn on a “switch” and immediately collect all this data, like it existed in a magic data fairytale land. It took a few meetings before I understood just how they thought data collections worked and then a few more to explain we would have to define what we wanted LEAs to start collecting before they could send it to us to report on. I tried to encourage them to wait for the next school year, so their vendors could have a chance to prepare their systems for the new elements, and their school staff would have a chance to be trained on how to collect and report this data but I was overruled. I was a bit miffed by this and initially refused to have any part in the initial haphazard collection designed, but then a colleague named Kim Nesmith approached me and told me about “the pictures.” Dozens of pictures turned over to the legal department related to lawsuits. Pictures of tiny bruised, and bloodied butts and genitals of children who’d been hospitalized for state sanctioned abuse. I believed Kim, that she felt this was something important to address so I took over the compiling of the initial data which was way beyond her abilities despite what she promised to Dobard and Pastorek. What I saw in the data truly sickened me. I couldn’t believe the numbers I was getting and had to call some of the districts up to confirm them. There were four year olds and 18 year olds being paddled indiscriminately. Some kids were being beaten for uniform violations.

I was told this was something done for the children’s own good, since the alternative was suspension from school, and loss of valuable instructional time. I’m not sure why the children were being beaten and not the parents for having enough clean uniforms? Perhaps some people fell this is a reasonable response to poor families unable to afford enough uniforms or their own washer and dryer but to me this seemed like a gross civil rights abuse, heavy on the gross.

Some of the children were beaten several dozen times over the few months we collected data, sometimes several times the same day. I would like the people to consider the implications of doing that the next time they blithely quote Einstein as saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This is perhaps one of favorite catch phrases of reformers, but it never applies to taking over the schools of poor children and turning them into charters, or irrationally expanding substandard virtual schools such as is happening in Pennsylvania, despite all the evidence that indicates these schools are worse for almost all students, and sap valuable resources from more appropriate and productive education venues. It also never seems to apply to Corporal abuse.

However once John White came to town this initiative was squelched. I couldn’t quite understand why. John White claimed to care about our children, but this was just one of many examples that showed me just how wrong that claim was. After I left the agency I tried multiple times to get DOE to release this data to me. Eventually I even contacted Kim, who by this time had managed to bluff her way into a director position over data collections. When I asked this person, who had initially plead with me help her with this data collection she mocked me. “What are you going to do? Who are you going to tell, the media,” she laughed (I think it might have actually been an LOL) “Are you an activist now? Why do you care?”

I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been. Of course it always appeared she was just kissing up to whatever ass was nearby, but for some reason I thought maybe this time was different. Crocodiles have tears for a reason I suppose. . .

Since then I’ve asked for all manner of data and over a year later I am still waiting. At this point I’m relatively sure I will never get any of the data I’ve asked for, but I will explain what I’ve asked for and why so you will see what they are hiding. For instance, did you know that many of the charters in New Orleans claiming graduation rates of 80-90% are actually only graduating around 50% of the students who initially enroll? They are using flawed numbers, semantics and percentages without numerators or denominators to disguise what is really going on. . . When I show you their tricks, maybe you’ll understand why they disgust me, and why I claim they are using our children as mutton more than sheep for the sheering.

Link to part I:

A listing of some of LDOE’s dirty little secrets

A listing of some of LDOE’s dirty little secrets
Dirty Secrets or White Lies?


St James Science and Math Academy is part of both Lutcher and St James High Schools

St James Science and Match Academy is a shadow school split between two other high schools.  This post includes Maps, addresses, info from website and the summary of why LDOE is probably letting some schools get away with this while preventing the larger “markets” such as Jefferson, EBR and Caddo from doing this. Orleans would have been treated likewise if it hadn’t already been wiped out.  Orleans served as the gateway from Hades, letting all the charter school demons and devils into the state in the first place.

Iberville: MSA West + White Castle = White Castle

MSA West and White Castle are the same school according to the admin folks at Iberville.   Their website had them operating as an independent site since 2008. White Castle would have already been taken over if not for this charade, so to that extent they were successful.

Iberville: MSA Eest + East Iberville = East Iberville

MSA East is the exact same school housed entirely within East Iberville (like a program in Ruston) according to Iberville. However I have the pictures of the school grounds and directions to and from the two separate campuses. (Google maps has the addresses a little messed up, but I found the correct schools by scanning the area.)  This school has also been operating since 2008 according to their own website. East Iberville would also have been taken over by now if left on its own.

I think it’s worth noting that parents of students as East Iberville and White Castle seem confused as to why the test scores are going up, but the schools seem to be terrible.  One parent reported that a teacher told her son he didn’t need to study because he was smart and could get by.  I trolled a few opinion sites related to White Castle and East Iberville so it was interesting reading.  None of the parents posting on the school review sites seemed aware that these magnets were being merged with the schools their kids were attending.

Some of my original expose’ work on MSA East and West.

This post includes charts from LDOE, excerpts from Iberville’s website, as well as some background on what happened at LDOE when i first discovered these schools and how the issue was swept under the rug (again.)  Apparently this is a recurring issue.

Excerpted definition of a shadow school (haven’t finished my log of issues to address yet)

I started a log of various education issues that need a champion in our state.  I haven’t had a chance to document them all, but everyone has to start somewhere.  I have sketched out the topics and started an entry for the shadow school situation.

Shadows schools is a term I invented so don’t go looking for in anywhere else. I discovered “shadow schools” while working at the Louisiana Department of Education but I have reason to believe what i discovered is just the tip of a very large and growing iceberg. A shadow school is a schools which operates from the shadows, off the official books reported to the state, federal government and judicial agencies. That’s not to say the school districts don’t know what’s going on at these shadow schools. Like the Mafia, they have two sets of books (or possibly more.) This allows the school district to manage personnel and students at a building level, but report those same students and teachers from other schools that are defined. Some people have been confused as to why someone would want to do this. Is this really a big deal, if the student and teachers all get reported? Louisiana’s former superintendent of Accountability actual made this argument in a meeting I was in, in front of a political appointee that appeared to want to sweep this situation under the rug. He knew full well what this meant/means but he also knew if he made a big deal about it he would be gone. He’s still gone (that was going to happen anyways) but by ignoring issues like this he was able to avoid making waves and stayed a bit longer than most.

Answer to – why create shadow schools?

Why indeed?  Once word of how this works gets out all our school districts will realize they only need to have one school, and all the current sites can be closed and relisted as programs underneath the single district “school.”  That will prevent the state from taking them over and giving them to charter operators that don’t take care of the properties or the students in their care.

Shadow Schools introduced – excuses DOE would make on their behalf

I bet they might even make an argument that what Iberville is doing doesn’t hurt anyone so why not let them do it?  Please ask them how much crack they have been smoking if they make that argument.


John White is afraid to release this data because then he would be forced to deal with it. He’s hiding this to protect allies in the northern part of the state. Just ask him for it. I’ve prepared a file to do the asking. I think everyone should send it.  Corporal punishment Data Request Spreadsheet all ready to go!

John White wants schools to beat children, especially the disabled ones.  He wouldn’t have to do it if those deaf kids would just listen the first time.

Virtual Schools Truancy Fiasco

Some interesting decisions from everyone’s favorite LDOE group, Parental Options.  This describes how LDOE knows kids are not logging in and producing any work but won’t let the virtual charters drop them.  Take our money please!  Kids can get a free computer and internet connection to surf the internet and never go to school again.  Well, it’s not exactly free.  It will cost taxpayers about 10-15 k  year to pay 90+% of MFP amount, plus the costs of educating or incarcerating these uneducated kids once LDOE finally allows them to drop out and they have no employment options.

Accountability; and the Lack thereof due to political meddling

Loaded with great ideas like using a Special Education test to test “voucher” students to show how well they do and labeling failed/taken over schools as “T” (rather than a nifty letter grade) and perpetually assigning them to new charter operators until one of them succeeds – without ever revealing how poorly they are doing.  This post also describes lying about school sizes so evade reporting responsibilities, manipulating data and terms to circumvent the ESEA/NCLB waiver.

It’s not how well you do, but who you know that leads to real school improvement, at least as far as SPS scores and letter grades are concerned.  Why else do you think they hide the formula that calculates these scores and all the special “adjustments” they make behind the scenes.  If you are a favored LEA, meaning you kiss John White’s. . . well lets just say you can get a “special adjustment” if you know how and who to ask.

The little 504 secret LDOE doesn’t want to address

Namely, that we have lots of data on 504 kids.  From that data we know that a number of districts shirk their responsibilities under section 504 of the American’s with Disabilities Act.  That law’s only been around since 1973 so I’m sure they will get around to enforcing or addressing the inequities sooner or later.  Since we still don’t see any reports on this data I’d wager it will be much, much later.

Our Persistently Dangerous School definition is a joke

 As part of the NCLB act states were supposed to develop a definition of a “persistently dangerous school.”  Students enrolled in such schools are eligible to transferred out upon request.  Many of our alternative schools are very very dangerous by most accounts and statistics.  This definition was crafted so no schools can every meet the definition.  There is no profit to be made in identifying dangerous schools, and there are additional regulatory responsibilities for LDOE to take on in regards to monitoring these schools – so me made sure there will never be any such schools defined.  We almost had a few one year, so the definition was changed retroactively.  I wonder if John White would consider this an adult issue or a children’s issue?

Dropout Number Farce

Louisiana has been reporting a decrease in dropouts year over year, but only because they have decreased their auditing to stop districts from exiting students to undocumented non-dropout reasons like transfers to non-publics or out-of-state.  Our population has been increasing and very little increase in grads, while half as many dropouts year over year is not possible.  LDOE knows this, but doesn’t want to spoil a good thing.  Additionally LDOE adopted a loophole in the dropout definition, over my protestations, to allow student attending adult education centers to be excluded from dropout calculations while they are attending.  LDOE does not verify this is occurring, leaving this up the school districts to report.  Districts are supposed to report when these kids stop attending adult education centers, but they don’t.  I estimated this would lead to about 5000 unreported/accounted for dropouts every year.  Based on the stats I’ve, I may have underestimated that total by quite a bit.

SSN’s cannot be required.  If everyone stops providing them this could cause the Value Added system to collapse

This is something local superintendents and parents can do to fight back.  Value Added is a steaming pile of statistical junk.  It can reveal trends and tendencies when looking at large sample sizes and quantities of data.   Whomever came up with the idea of using VAM to evaluate teachers should have been strangled or at least had their statistical credentials revoked.  Corporations are pushing for this so they can take over school systems and Republicans are pushing this so they can destroy teachers unions.  Value Added does not help children, and actually hurts them by removing and demoralizing really good teachers.

Value Added (what they are using to evaluate teachers) is massively flawed

Value Added is junk math and was only barely suitable for generalizing teaching programs on average, not individual teachers.  It leaves out many variables and mostly punishes good and great teachers along with some bad ones.  It is erratic and unreliable.  It is designed to decimate public schools, so charters can come in and fill the void and so states can ignore the single greatest indicator of student performance – poverty.  This will also lead to a drastic teacher shortage and force school districts to increase class sizes to make use of the available teachers, or to resort to virtual schools which have virtually no limit on class sizes, or profits for their owners.

Anti-Bullying Failures

John White embraced the agenda of Gene Mills to exclude bullying reason codes.  Act 861 removes any obligation for charter schools to report or address bullying.  Even before this legislation passed Erin Bendilly, head of Parental Options and support staff and an early Jindal appointee, repeatedly told the charter schools they did not have to report or comply with the law – over the advice of our chief legal counsel.  I guess she gets her wish, and meanwhile children die at charter schools from bullying and John White makes more false claims about how he cares about children.

What LDOE knows of the charter practices for excluding less desirable students from charter schools

You’d think LDOE would try to address some of these things, but by ignoring them they make it easier to make a case that public schools are failing and charter schools are succeeding – even if the data actually hasn’t backed that assertion up to date.  Instead much of the research they had me do confirmed these accusations and suspicions, but was kept hushed up and confidential while they worked to settle the lawsuits.  Why taxpayers should have to foot that bill rather than the charters who are discriminating against students with disabilities is a good question.  Ask Jindal in a few years when he returns to our state for a hurricane or when Bayou Corne finally blows up.  Once they get a public school entirely composed of disabled and 504 students they may finally have the proof they need that public schools do worse than charter schools.

I have more, but this seems like a good start for anyone interested in how messed up public education is with John White at the helm of LDOE and Jindal in charge of BESE.

Education Related Projects – Status Report and Log

Current Education Related Projects – Intro

I just realized I’ve been working on a number of different projects to expose education abuses and to improve education for the children in my state with a passion I usually reserve for online gaming and good food and drink.  Admittedly I was motivated by spite as well as a sense of duty and justice.  I’ve found the spiteful aspect to be less sustainable since my “voluntary” separation from my DOE.  What has replaced it is a sense of hope as I’ve talked to numerous groups and organizations on children’s issues and education data and how my knowledge of Louisiana’s data might be leveraged for positive outcomes for the children in my state – my own children included.  As I get documents published or outcomes achieved I will update my readers here.  Whenever possible, I am taking a low profile and using third parties to request data and pursue shared goals.  I plan to use this page to update my goals and record some statistics on my progress.

Corporal Punishment

Louisiana is one of the few states that still authorizes and vigorously employs the use of large wooden paddles to smack children who are deemed to be misbehaving.  There are no state guild lines on when it is appropriate to use corporal punishment.  While I was at the DOE I saw stats that showed more than half the children in a given district were disciplined this way in just last half of the year.  (We only collected data for the last semester which has never to my knowledge been published yet.  I was one of the few people who actually saw it since I was the one responsible for gathering and reporting it.) Some children were paddled more than 30 times over the course of just a few months.  Children as young 3 and 4 and as old as 17 were disciplined this way.  It appeared that boys and minorities were more often the recipients of corporal punishment but I was unable to determine (due to lack of time and quality of data) if the ethnic bias was more closely related to poverty.  Districts with some of the lowest education outcomes as measured by School Accountability Scores appeared to have the highest rates of corporal punishment (such as the parish that used CP on more than half of their students in half a school year.)  It would probably take a researcher some time to tease out that correlation though.  At least one parish allows any adult in a supervisory capacity the authority to discipline their students using a 18-24 inch wooden paddle without any training or oversight.  One of the most alarming findings was that many if not all school districts discipline their disabled (Special Education) students this way.  There is no review process in place to determine If the behavior deemed to warrant the use of physical force may be related to their unique exceptionality (such as a student with Tourette’s Syndrome spontaneously and uncontrollably cursing.)  There does not appear to be any consensus on what behavior warrants corporal punishment.  Some districts use it sparingly for more serious offenses, while a number of districts may employ it for the smallest transgression such as “Willful Disobedience” which is often a uniform violation such as an un-tucked shirt or inappropriate footwear.

As of 7/22/2012

Organizations or Prominent Citizens Contacted Contacts Made   Promising future coordination or currently coordinating Data Requests   filed/filled Reports and articles   produced/published Outcomes
17 5 2/0 0/1 task force list

Blog entries posted:

A Modest Corporal Punishment Proposal for Louisiana

Goal: To eliminate the use of Corporal Punishment in Louisiana.

(It’s already been outlawed for use on animals and inmates, but children have fewer rights here apparently)

Other references to my blog vis a vis corporal punishment:


I have acquired a task force list of prominent Louisiana citizens and organizations that participated in a task force with their preferences listed as for or against corporal punishment.  I am tracking down the “Fors” right now.

I have made a few requests to DOE to provide CP data either in summarized or raw form for me to compile.  I may need outside pressure to get them to release it.  I am looking for allies to help me get that ammo which i can use to interest more mainstream media organizations and legislators in my cause.


Section 504 Children (basically students with learning disabilities)

While I was at LDE I designed a system to capture the 504 status for students in Louisiana.  By now we have 2 or three years of data.  From my discussions with the state liaison and even people within and outside the department of education it is apparent that Non-public Schools, many charters and a number of school districts do everything they can to discourage students from claiming to have 504 disabilities.  This discouragement will take many forms but usually results in the students needing to be withdrawn and enrolled elsewhere, being underserved and discriminated against, or parents having to take on a greater financial burden to ensure their children receive supplementary services, tutors, etc.

Some of you may not really know what “504” means.  I didn’t before i started working on the project to collect data on this situation.  Before I started designing the system for collecting this data I did a little homework on what it is.   504 refers to a section of the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of children’s disabilities if the schools receive federal funding.  (Even though most non-pubic schools don’t receive traditional per-pupil funding, they may receive other types of federal funding for technology and nutrition programs for instance.)  With Louisiana’s new laws allowing any non-public school to receive local, state and federal funding – non-public schools must be held to the same standard as pubic schools in providing services for disabled students covered under 504 or IDEA (Special Education.) or be in violation of federal law.  Many of these schools probably don’t realize this yet, so this issue will need to be made more public and to prevent non-public schools from denying less desirable (more challenging) students from enrolling and remaining enrolled.

Additionally, based on the statistics I viewed, (and backed up by anecdotal accounts relayed to me) that a number of districts refuse to provide the same level of services that most of their peers provide.  When you have most districts identifying around 5%  of their students as having a 504 disability and several large districts reporting rates of less than a tenth of a percent in a like sized district. . . that would seem to warrant further investigation and possible sanctions and corrective actions.  Unfortunately the Louisiana Department of Education has been instructed by the past two Superintendents of Education that they are no longer going to be involved in overseeing compliance issues (even though the federal government provides funding for positions for that purpose that LDE fills).  Therefore outside groups will need to take an interest in this data and pushing for greater oversight and equality for disabled students.

If you are still bewildered by the difference between Special Education(IDEA) children and 504 disabled children this graphic and link may provide some insight.


  • To educate legislators and other stakeholders about 504 status.
  • To improve consistency in reporting and defining 504 status in LEAs.
  • To encourage Louisiana to include 504 status as a component of the teacher evaluation system (currently students may develop a 504 condition such as a learning disability or vision issue that can impact performance.  The Value Added model does not currently include 504 status as factor in a students sudden declination in test scores.)
  • To encourage legislators to include funding for LEAs to address 504 conditions just as they do for at-risk students, LEP students, and Special Education students.
  • To educate charter schools of their obligations under section 504 of the disability act in regards to addressing student needs.

Shadow Schools (Non-Reported Schools)

Shadows schools is a term I invented so don’t go looking for in anywhere else.  I discovered “shadow schools” while working at the Louisiana Department of Education but I have reason to believe what i discovered is just the tip of a very large and growing iceberg.  A shadow school is a schools which operates from the shadows, off the official books reported to the state, federal government and judicial agencies.  That’s not to say the school districts don’t know what’s going on at these shadow schools.  Like the Mafia, they have two sets of books (or possibly more.)   This allows the school district to manage personnel and students at a building level, but report those same students and teachers from other schools that are defined.  Some people have been confused as to why someone would want to do this.  Is this really a big deal, if the student and teachers all get reported?  Louisiana’s former superintendent of Accountability actual made this argument in a meeting I was in, in front of a political appointee that appeared to want to sweep this situation under the rug.  He knew full well what this meant/means but he also knew if he made a big deal about it he would  be gone.   He’s still gone (that was going to happen anyways) but by ignoring issues like this he was able to avoid making waves and stayed a bit longer than most.

Here is what most anyone who deals with data and accountability ought to have been able to explain off the top of his head.

(sorry i left it hanging here folks but i really need more hours in the day)  These will all be filled out eventually.

Homeless Students


Bullied Students


Violence Against Teachers (or anyone in Education setting)


Miscellaneous Special Education Issues


Slaying Value Added Model (and Replacing with a Collaborative System)


Charter School Oversight Issues (lack of)


Eliminating Creationism and ID from School Science Curriculum


A Modest Corporal Punishment Proposal for Louisiana

A Modest Corporal Punishment Proposal for Louisiana
Sometimes also referred to as the “Board of Education”

Even though our overly politically correct society has decided that beating animals with poles can be construed as unjust and abuse of the animals (and might get you thrown in jail or beaten by an angry mob yourself) and beating incarcerated adults is considered cruel and unusual punishment and forbade by our courts and Constitution. . . (apparently the 8th amendment even applies in Louisiana, folks.)

In Hudson v McMillian (1992) the Court considered whether the beating by prison guards of a handcuffed inmate at Louisiana’s Angola prison violated the inmate’s Eighth Amendment rights.  Voting 7 to 2, the Court found a violation of the cruel and unusual punishment clause even though the inmate suffered no permanent injuries or injuries that required hospitalization.  In so holding, the Court rejected the lower court’s argument that only beatings that caused “significant injuries” (read as injuries that were permanent or required hospitalization) rose to the level of Eighth Amendment violations.  In dissent, Justices Thomas and Scalia argued (controversially) that the Eighth Amendment was intended to reach beatings by guards at all–rather only judicially-imposed sentences.

I believe a sound case can be made that ample use of the rod will impress upon our youth a valuable lesson that will serve them well throughout the rest of their life in this great country of ours.

The “Lesson” you ask?

Namely that of what I like to call the Iron Fist Rule as more pragmatic, modern, alternative to the passe’ Golden Rule.  That force can, nay should, be met with unequal and overwhelming counter-force.

Take the recent example of Trayvon Martin.  Here was a youth who had the sheer audacity to wear a hooded sweatshirt in a neighborhood known for harboring an over zealous neighborhood watch captain.  No parent of a minority child in this country should, for one instant, think to allow their child to go outside looking like anything but an unassuming fellow like that Urkel from Family Matters.  In this tragedy, the parents are as much to blame as the child who wore the hooded sweatshirt.  Now some poor, frightened, gun-toting American is being harassed for doing what almost any one of us would have done in his case, chased down a suspicious character even after being told by the police to not chase him, (I mean, what black kid isn’t suspicious to Zimmerman?) and cornered him and his fiendishly purchased bag of skittles from the corner convenience store.  Trayvon could have just done what a gun brandishing Zimmerman wanted, whatever that was, but instead Trayvon made the wrong choice.  He chose to flee.  Obviously Zimmerman had no choice but to shoot to kill.

Now you may be asking yourself, how does this tie into Corporal Punishment and Louisiana exactly?

The answer is quite simple.  I believe we can prevent many of our own Trayvon Martin incidents by ensuring that Corporal Punishment is introduced into our public school system as early as possible.  I mean, can you imagine any child not benefiting from strangers beating them in pre-school when they act up?  What better way to convince little Timmy not to pinch or push another kid than 5 to 10 whacks with what I would like to refer to as the “Louisiana Board of Education” (funny huh?)  which, off the top of my head, might be a wooden paddle 24″ long by 5″ wide by 3/8″ thick. . . or so.  If we allowed our children to be beaten early and often for anything by just about anyone in authority they would soon learn that authority figures must be obeyed. . . or else.

I haven’t seen any credible studies done to prove what I’m about to say, but theoretically someone could create some statistics that would show that beating children on a regular basis improves test scores.  Current studies actually show the opposite, as well as a number of other unfavorable correlations, but I’m sure we could find a reputable paddle maker to fund a study that would prove my point, so I will continue to assert my previous point more emphatically, thus making it true.  Paddling will increase test scores! Paddling will lower the crime rates and murder rate, and also make us more competitive in the global marketplace!  I believe it is our duty to pass laws in Louisiana that will allow school districts to paddle their students to their hearts’ content.

I’ll also throw in this observation as an added bonus. Corporal Punishment on Special Education students is not regulated by the Federal government.  In fact, they may not even collect any data on this subject, which is an added, added bonus!  Student’s with learning disabilities,  or behavior problems such as being emotionally disturbed, would probably benefit from being “mainstreamed” with this discipline approach.  Lets face it folks, Special Education students are probably the hardest students for teachers to work with and reach.  Providing a 2 foot wooden paddle to teachers would greatly increase their reach. Additionally,  since we’re cutting back on teacher salaries and benefits, many of them might not be able to afford gym memberships or therapy sessions anymore.  Allowing teachers to administer a little corporal punishment on Special Educations students would probably help our teachers and principals in school districts that implement my policies build up some muscle tone and relieve some stress, sort of like using a punching bag in a gym does after a long day at work.  But they could do this while at work!  Many of the slower Special Education students might have trouble explaining or recanting the situation the provoked the corporal punishment response, which would make it almost impossible for anyone to sue a school district, principal, or teacher if they happen to go a little overboard with their exercise regime. . .

Ok, take a deep breath.

Hopefully this line of reasoning has you recoiling in horror and revulsion.  However you may not have grasped the most disturbing part about this piece.  This situation is already true in many parishes in the state.  Louisiana Revised Statute. 17:223  allows school districts to set their own corporal punishment policies.

And boy have they!

You can see a sampling of some of the variety here.

Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:223 – Discipline of pupils; suspension from school, corporal punishment

A. Every teacher is authorized to hold every pupil to a strict accountability for any disorderly conduct in school or on the playground of the school, or on any school bus going to or returning from school, or during intermission or recess. Each parish and city school board shall have discretion in the use of corporal punishment. In those cases in which a parish or city school board decides to use corporal punishment, each parish or city school board shall adopt such rules and regulations as it deems necessary to implement and control any form of corporal punishment in the schools in its district.

Estimates are close to 30 parishes have some form of Corporal Punishment policy.  State law does not give the state Department of Education any say over the matter whatsoever.  This means any school or school district in Louisiana can allow anyone on their staff to use any amount of corporal punishment for any offense as often as they like regardless of the age or health of the student.  Some parishes punish up to half of their entire student body, every year!  Some students get punished dozens of times a year!  There are no restrictions for using this punishment on disabled students, or infants, or the 18 and 19 year olds we are about to send out into the real world and hope they won’t take these lessons with them.

Fortunately more than half the state understands that this practice is barbaric, or they have at least recognized the potential liability they could incur should a student successfully sue and win on 8th Amendment grounds.  The messed up part here is that, while as a society we generally find animal abuse and abuse of prisoners abhorrent, when we rename the abuse “Corporal Punishment” and use it on our children, too many people find it tolerable or even something to be proud of.

I’m proud of Louisiana culture, Louisiana food, art, music, history, resilience, and perseverance in the face of many an overwhelmingly adverse situation.  However this state sanctioned child abuse , this is something of which I am very ashamed to be associated with.  My only hope is that one day enough of you will feel that way as well, and join my call to outlaw it.

Incidentally, and as I’ve discussed with others earlier, our appeals court has determined in Setliff vVs Rapides School Board that the legislature does not allow parents to opt out of corporal punishment for their children.  This case involves a kindergartener, certainly not well-behaved, but nevertheless one that was subjected to corporal punishment against his parents wishes.  According to the court, allowing parents the right to refuse to allow their children to be beaten with a wooden club that at times requires emergency room visits (also cited in the case notes) would lead to riots in the streets, mass hysteria and pandemonium, dogs and cats living together, basically life on this planet would end as we know it.

Neither the statutes nor the school board policies mandate that a spanking must be administered to a student. No school official is compelled to corporally punish a child. But by allowing corporal punishment, the legislature has recognized the need for such under certain circumstances. Significantly, in giving this discretion to our school systems, the legislature made no requirement that parents must first consent to such punishment. Nor has the legislature provided that parents be allowed to issue a carte blanche prohibition of a school’s exercising its rights under the statutes. To allow parents to unilaterally thwart the legally sanctioned decisions of school officials, could lead to troublesome, if not chaotic, results. There would be nothing to prevent ten, twenty or a hundred parents calling in to request that their child not be spanked. What if these same number of parents requested that no form of punishment whatsoever be administered to their children? The legislature, in its wisdom, chose not to leave the door open for such potentially dire consequences.

For updates on my Corporal Punishment progress and other education issues please go here.

I need people to start calling the Louisiana Department of Education and telling them to release the Corporal Punishment data to requesters and to publish the results.

Here is the link to LDOE’s Corporal Punishment information page.  Currently it contains no relevent collected data.

Some Data and reports hosted by LDOE

LDOE Contact Information

  • Public   Affairs                                                                                          225.342.3600
  • Kim Nesmith                      Data Quality Director                               225.342.1840
  • John White                         State Superintendent of Education
some of the info on corporal punishment that should be available in addition to demographics such as school, ethnicity, gender, age, etc.