November 30, 2016 6:41 pm ET
Hearing impaired disabled family struggles for survival in yet another ADA situation
Photo Credit/Police Magazine
Back in October, I wrote an article about how Baltimore County fired a hearing-impaired teacher (para-educator) after 20 years of loyal service marked with good reviews and awards. During those 20 years of service, her highest salary was only $30,000, which she used to provide for her disabled husband and two children.
By the way that disabled husband was still working after suffering Diabetes Type I, a stroke and heart attack in a desperate attempt to keep the family afloat.
I will call this teacher “Mrs. Doe,” and her husband can be known as “John.”
There is a saying that goes, “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
Well, I can attest to the fact that, after 39 years of service with Baltimore County, I walked that proverbial mile. It was akin to the term “dead man walking,” which refers to prisoners on death row; the practical meaning of that reference is that such employees are “sentenced to death,” or—in the ADA world—that the end of their careers comes with no sound justification.
Just ask the Feds about that one. I wouldn’t ask Homan—if he followed his own playbook, he probably would have to fire himself.
But I digress on that, so let’s get back to the situation at hand.
The county tends to play the game of “out you go” often. I know because it went that way for me and others. It starts with a bad review that comes out of the blue; strange, especially if you have a long record of outstanding work.
Mrs. Doe’s world started to turn upside down when she had the audacity (writer’s note: that is sarcasm you detect) to think that any para-educator who works in the science department should receive special training due to the nature of the duties. You see, folks, in the world of science there are many dangerous chemicals which, by the way, thousands of Baltimore County students use.
So, after observing open bottle of dangerous acid and other such incidents, Mrs. Doe finally decided to speak up and ask for more education and training for para-educators to protect both themselves and the students. Up until that time, there was no formal training or specs for the job.
A side note: BCPS paid three times that much for a police bodyguard and driver for Dr. Dance to chauffeur him around in his POTUS (President) style SUV.
Another side note: the training request by Mrs. Doe might just, by all accounts, cost a lot less than the $300 million plus that the county will spend if it continues with that computers for all program. The kicker to the STAT Program is that BCPS did not use academic achievement as a standard by which to gauge the success or failure of STAT.
But enough about that … for now.
So, as Mrs. Doe tried in vain to protect the students by making some suggestions to BCPS, such as more education for her and other staffers, her job description was changed.
She was informed by Ms. Terri Cohee that her duties were changed to work directly with hearing students. Why would a BCPS supervisor make such a decision? (Note: Scroll down to read Mrs. Cohee’s response)
The simple answer from the research I’ve done, including my own experiences, is that the top brass want Mrs. Doe to disappear. To make that happen, the powers that be brought in what I call a “hatchet man/woman” who does the chopping until the “undesirable employee” is no longer employed.
With that said, Mrs. Doe made an ADA Accommodation request once Ms. Cohee changed the job description. However, BCPS would not fund that request, probably because that would buy less gas for Dr. Dance’s large, chauffeur-driven SUV.
(Incidentally, the SUV driver information was provided by sources inside the Baltimore County Police FOP. They explained that it involved some kind of threat against the superintendent.)
Back to Mrs. Doe, who received an email complaining about her so-called “work deficiencies.” I contacted some sources that stated that Mrs. Doe was the first para-educator to apply for the science lab position. The sources further stated that she performed her duties satisfactorily for the seven years she worked there.
During that time, she received an award because she raised $3,000 in donations for the school. Does that sound deficient to you?
If you want to understand just how non-transparent our local government is, Mrs. Doe told me that BCPS may have left out some written documentation after Ms. Cohee demanded all further communication be listed as confidential.
To that end, in the PIA response from BCPS, there was a period of two months, just prior to Mrs. Doe’s termination, where there was no documentation.
If that is true, folks, depending on the nature of the PIA filed by the Doe family and the BCPS response, under the law it is a crime to interfere with a PIA unless the BCPS can justify the lack of response.
The PIA provides for both civil and criminal penalties for violations of the Act. Given this potential liability and the salutary purposes of the PIA, care should be taken to make certain that an agency’s officials and employees comply with the Act.
It even gets better.
The EEOC, which is charged with investigating these types of matters, took three years to investigate Mrs. Doe’s complaint and never once spoke to her.
Imagine That??? (Reprise)
On top of that, we have the law firm that represented Mrs. Doe, which sent the EEOC Investigator, Brandon Sanders, 10 emails—here is the score card on that mess:
On 5/1/14 he acknowledged receipt of the rebuttal to BCPS position statement.
On 6/4/15 he informed me that there was a backlog, and older cases had priority over yours.
On 7/23/15 he acknowledged receipt of additional information we submitted on 7/23.
On 11/20/15, he emailed in response to a status report that there was no update.
On 2/11/16, I requested a status report. No response.
On 6/28/16 I requested a status report. No response.
On 7/19/16 I requested a status report. He responded there was no update.
On 7/19/16 I inquired about a status report re BCPS willingness to enter into settlement negotiations.
On 7/28/16 he responded that BCPS is not interested in settlement negotiations.
On 9/2/16 I requested a status update. He responds same day that review should be completed by October.
So, in three years, Brandon Sanders of our EEOC appears to have done little, if anything, to investigate this case. Yet, in fact, he claims to have found no wrongdoing on the part of BCPS, which may not been complete of Mrs. Doe’s records to support such accusations.
Now Imagine That??? (Reprise No. 2)
Does anyone have any idea what this does to a family of four, whose members who are all disabled in some way?
You see, Mrs. Doe’s two children have hearing disabilities, and her husband, now stricken with a heart attack, also suffers from diabetes on top of having a stroke.
With all of that said, I invite you to read for yourself some of the messages I received during my time talking to the family:
Subject: a list of documents
Date: 10/9/2016 9:01 AM To: “‘Buzz Beeler'”
“Hi Buzz, Last night, my husband was not in the right frame of mind and cannot remember what you requested. We had 2 letdowns this past week, he was not accepted for a job he interviewed and the EEOC dismissed my case, we are very upset and depressed. We are hurting financially and we are getting tired of eating cereal for dinner.
Can you provide a list of your request of information, I have 3 binders full of documents and emails from BCPS. I recently sent my lawyer an email requesting all the PIAs and FOI from EEOC.
Thank you for helping us.”
I then recently asked how things were going and this is what I received:
*BCPS health insurance helped paid for our hearing aids (myself and 2 boys), after I was terminated we have no coverage for hearing aids or for services.
*We have liquidated our savings, we have nothing for the future.
*This financial hardships has put a strain on our marriage
*Mr. Doe’s health is slowly deteriorating (he has been a diabetic for 60 years/ Type I) and yet he is still looking for a job with better health coverage.
*Due to our health issues, we are restricted to a certain diet and that is very challenging.
*We shop at Goodwill for certain clothes and outwear, as well as Craigslist for used items.
Mind you, all of this is going on while Dr. Dance will be going to a gala at the White House in January (probably chauffeured) to be honored for a STAT Program that hasn’t even been proven to work.
What galls me even more is that our “great leader,” Mr. Kamenetz, will stand in front of the news media and tell Baltimore County taxpayers that he will do more to protect illegals in our colleges than an American family who, out of whatever they have left, is probably paying to assist that endeavor.
Shame on all of them for treating dedicated staff members this way. May Santa put a big lump of coal in their stockings.