EDITORIAL: Fresno Unified's bullying of families must stop

February 4, 2014 

Fresno Unified School District superintendent Michael Hanson

CRAIG KOHLRUSS — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

If Fresno Unified's trustees aren't alarmed by an administrative law judge's rulings in a long-running case pitting the district against a special needs student, then the seven people elected to oversee the district are sleeping on the job.

Administrative Law Judge Margaret Broussard, in a strongly worded opinion, dismissed Fresno Unified's logic and criticized its actions involving Krista Uribe, now 22. The judge also ruled that the district violated federal laws.

For years, the district was obsessed with the fact that Uribe — intellectually impaired after suffering seizures as a toddler — was attending Duncan Polytechnical High, a magnet school that focuses on agriculture, business, health, industrial technology and public service.

According to her family, Uribe was happy and learning there. Duncan's teachers described her as mild-mannered and courteous. Still, the district twice removed her from Duncan. Both times a state administrative judge ruled she should return.

You would think that Superintendent Michael Hanson and the trustees would have moved on. Instead, the district continued to fight her family — this time over which psychologist to use in putting together a plan for Uribe's transition into the next stage of her life.

The district's insistence that Uribe be evaluated by its hand-picked psychologist instead of one selected by Uribe's mother from a list of district-approved psychologists "flies in the face of logic and is not reasonable," Broussard wrote.

Most troubling is that the district, with its deep pockets and teams of lawyers, attempted to batter Alice de Alba-Uribe and her daughter into submission. There is a word for this: bullying. Fresno Unified must stop engaging in this reprehensible behavior immediately.

The district also needs to be more transparent. At nearly every board meeting, district leaders brag about their solid financial footing and accounting wizardry.

Yet, when asked, district officials couldn't tell Bee reporter Hannah Furfaro how much it had spent in legal fees on the Uribe case.

Jim Bowling, executive director of the regional board for the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, told Furfaro he fears that the Uribe ruling won't change how "Fresno Unified does business."

We hope Bowling is wrong.

The district's bullying of our most vulnerable students and their families needs to stop.

 

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