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.

A tragic story you never heard of – made even more tragic by a hate group named the Louisiana Family Forum

A tragic story you never heard of – made even more tragic by a hate group named the Louisiana Family Forum

Last year, three Louisiana students were bullied until they took their own lives in three separate parts of the state.  Out of this tragedy an even more tragic Tesa Middlebrook Anti-Bullying Act was born.

Tesa Middlebrook was a talented artist, who had just received a full scholarship to Arizona State University. An active participant with the Arts Center in New Roads, Tesa had told directors there she was being harassed by other students because she wouldn’t “talk ghetto”. The Pointe Coupee Central High senior had lost her mother to cancer earlier in the school year, and while her grandmother had complained to the school about the alleged bullying, none of the school officials noticed that Tesa was not in classes that fateful Friday afternoon. She had hanged herself from the football bleachers during lunchtime. Her body was discovered after school was dismissed for the day.

Before Tesa, there was Hannah Pauley of Lake Charles. Her father, Len, says the night of October 25, 2011, will haunt him forever.

“I went out to eat with a friend of mine, and I got home about 9:30 to 9:45 that evening,” Pauley says. “I had gone into my room, and I noticed my drawer—where I kept my pistol—was open. And I walked upstairs. She was in her room, laying on the floor, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Pauley says his 16-year-old daughter had been raped by her stepbrother, and was being taunted—in person and on Facebook—about the assault. He says boys and girls were daily accusing her of having invited the attack.

Hannah Pauley shot herself after being taunted

Danielle Cox of Bossier City ended her life May 20, 2011. The 15-year-old student at Parkway High School was diabetic, and being regularly ridiculed about her weight. She reached out to one friend, who posted a message asking Danielle’s other friends to text her messages of encouragement. One boy sent her over 150 messages —encouraging her to kill herself. He is awaiting trial for alleged cyber-bullying and assisting with Danielle’s suicide.

Danielle Cox committed suicide after being bullied

What these three children have in common is that the Louisiana Family Forum capitalized on their deaths to rewrite the states anti-bullying laws.  Some well-meaning legislators proposed some legislation to improve the outreach for children experiencing bullying in schools.  A Tesa Middlebrook Anti-Bullying Act was introduced and a number of child welfare groups backed the measure as originally written.  However one group proved more influential that the rest.  The Louisiana Family Forum  led by the Reverend Gene Mills.   Gene has made it his personal mission to persecute gay children.  Year after year  after year  after year he has worked to whittle away at protections for the LBGT community.  Even as I type this, their front page proudly displays a crusade to persecute any who even discuss this segment of our society in an academic setting.

State Senator Rick Ward, (D-Port Allen), is the author of the “Tesa Middlebrook Anti-Bullying Act. He says it was named for his former constituent because her story disturbed him greatly.

“I thought something needed to be done to address the problem, and make sure there was a process in place if somebody was facing bullying issues,” he says

Th original bill that was offered by Rep. Smith and Sen. Dorsey-Colomb (originally filed as HB 407 and SB 619), the bill that included the enumerated list of personal characteristics that are often the motivating factors for bullying, was never named after Tesa Middlebrook.

So what happened with this latest Gene Mills intervention?  Gene saw these deaths as an opportunity to rewrite the anti-bullying statutes.  He and his “legal shill Michelle Ghetti” provided some new legislation for Senator Ward to submit as Act 861 which included Tesa’s name (without consulting her family.) and removed protections for the LBGT community as well as students enrolled in charter schools.  Rather than spend resources on trying to reach children in desperate need of help and intervention, Mills took this tragedy as a sign from “his god” that the time to strike back against gay children – was now.

I don’t know if Ward intended to sully Tesa’s memory by introducing a bill that permits bullying gay children to death, and all children in charter schools like the one Tesa was enrolled in, but he should have done more research.  He should have talked to her family and asked them about their wishes.  As a legislator, he should have done more than rubberstamp a twisted person’s evil agenda.

The Louisiana Department of Education was collecting reason codes for students being bullied.  One of the those reason codes was for sexual orientation.  Other reasons were as follows:

ELEMENT NAME: Hate/Bias-Related Motivation Code


FORMAT: Alphanumeric

BATCH RECORD LAYOUT(S) and POSITION(S): Student Perpetrator and Instance, 74; Non-Student Perpetrator and Instance, 74

Last Revised: 10/01/2011

Implementation Date: 08/01/2011

DEFINITION: This is the code indicating what group was begin targeted if Event was motivated by hate or prejudice against a specific group of individuals.

Code Values:

01 – Appearance (Hippies, Goths, Skaters, Punks, Cheerleaders, Athletes, etc.)

02 – Gender

03 – Religion

04 – Disability

05 – Race or Ethnicity

06 – Sexual Orientation

07 – Home Circumstances

08 – Medical Condition

09 – Poverty

99 – Other

Thanks to good ‘Ole Gene the Louisiana Department of Education will be removing all these reason codes.  Believe it or not, many children are bullied for sexual orientation reasons that are not actually gay.  The new language of the law permits bullies to claim “freedom of speech” as a valid defense of their bullying.  If a bully makes this claim, the law is essentially eviscerated.  It does not outline  under what circumstance a student can make this claim or what types of harassment are allowable.  Since the law states it is not the will of the legislature to “infringe on the right of any school employee or student to exercise their right of free speech,” it would appear any student could simply make a free speech assertion and the school  would be barred from disciplining a student for any harassing behavior.  All this law will do is force traditional public schools to undergo all sorts of training and paperwork that will be useless in the face of a freedom of speech assertion.

From Act 861

2) Nothing in this Section is intended to infringe upon the right of a school employee or student to exercise their right of free speech.

It’s difficult to see how a judge, hearing an appeal of any anti-bullying action, couldn’t interpret this to mean that if a student decides to shout anti-gay hate speech at a student in the hallway, and carrying signs stating they were going to burn in hell for all eternity, that this wouldn’t be considered “free speech.” We allow anti-gay activists to shout hate speech outside military funerals in the name of free speech.

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But the real icing on the cake is the last little change Mills had put in to the bill.  The  Tesa Middlebrook Anti-Bullying Act specifically excludes charter schools.  Charter schools do not have to follow any part of this new law, wheras they did before, but LDOE just didn’t enforce their participation.  Tesa Middlebrook committed suicide on the campus of her newly opened charter school in Pointe Coupee parish  – a school that was opened up over many strenuous objections of most of the members in that community.

I hear Tesa’s parents are suing the charter and the state.  If I was them, I would sue too, but I would add the Louisiana Family Forum and Gene Mills to the suit.

While it’s never ok to bully students because they are gay, it’s not just gay students that get bullied for that reason. I was a victim of bullying for much of my elementary and middle school years  as well as when I initially went to college to live in the dorms. Like Tesa, I was a transplant from another state, so I was bullied for talking funny, being quiet, trying hard in school, and because I was shy around girls – I was bullied for being “gay” as well. But mostly, I was bullied because I was an easy target and there was no one around who could help me. There were many days when I thought seriously about killing myself, or killing my tormenters, which made me feel sick and evil and want to die for feeling that way.  I even tried taking my life a few times.  Looking back from the perspective of a few decades separation, from perspective of adulthood, those feelings seem almost silly now, but it was all very serious and very hopeless seeming at the time.  Unfortunately these children will never have the privledge  I have, of retrospection.

Bullies never grow out of bullying on their own, they simply grow up – into creatures like Gene Mills and Mitt Romney that make it a life mission to mischaracterize their bullying ways as helpful to society. Even in death, they these children can’t escape abuse of their names and stories for political gain.

To despicable people like this I have nothing to say.

To Danielle, Tesa and Hannah I say this.

I will fight for you.