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Parents at Two Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Reported for Alleged Online Harassment of Disabled Students

 
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September 7, 2017 -- Parents at two elementary schools were determined by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) to be harassing disabled students during the 2016-2017 year, in one case creating an “inappropriate” website anonymously to harass one student, district records show.

The cases were discovered at Webster Elementary School in Malibu and Muir Elementary School in Santa Monica, according to a brief report on the School Board's July 19 agenda.

At Webster Elementary, the summation on the agenda said a “group of anonymous parents started an inappropriate website regarding a student with disabilities.”

“The site administrator as well as district administration held a meeting with the family and also a meeting with the Webster parents regarding the incident,” the report said.

“A plan is also in place to support the student and the family going forward."

At Muir Elementary, a “parent sent an email to all of the parents in the class regarding a special needs child with details of the child’s behavior/situation,” the agenda item said.

“This site administration, as well as the district administration, has intervened in stopping the harassment. They have also put a plan in place to support the student and the family going forward.”

Both cases were determined to be harassment, the report said.

Dates for the two cases were not specified. They were the only incidents reported from a summation covering July 1 of 2016 to June 30 of this year, although the final quarter did not include any incidents of alleged harassment of disabled students.

Gail Pinsker, the spokeswoman for the District, said the California Department of Education requires such incidents be reported.

The district can provide no further information due to the students privacy rights, she told The Lookout.

According to a June 1 article in the Malibu Times, the Webster Elementary case involved the May 10 creation of a website called “MakeWebsterSafeAgain,” by a group of anonymous kindergarten parents upset with the inclusion of a special-needs six-year-old in the class.

The website included a photograph of the child, threatened a lawsuit against the child’s parents and even asked for a temporary restraining order against the student, who also had a series of aides.

A subsequent informational meeting for parents attended by Superintendent Ben Drati turned ugly, apparently fed by a misleading press release, the Times reported.

After the meeting, Drati issued a statement saying the district believed the inflammatory release was a “bully tactic against an innocent child."

The fight clearly “demonstrated a lack of empathy, compassion and a violation of a student’s privacy rights," Drati wrote.

The summary included in the School Board's agenda is meant to comply with federal and other protections against harassment of students based on disabilities.

Disability harassment is intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability or regarded as having such an impairment that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student’s participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the District’s programs or activities,” according to the district’s website.

“Harassment of a student based on disability may decrease the student’s ability to benefit from his or her education and amount to a denial of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

"Failure to respond adequately to disability harassment constitutes discrimination, in violation of Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” the district's website states.


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