Op-Ed: School System Continues 40-Year Cycle of Neglect
Posted by Rick Ostopowicz on 15th February 2017
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New logo, new slogan, but same old attitudes?

 

The following essay is an op-ed piece submitted in confidence to The Post.

The piece is being published as submitted. The Post will not identify the author.

 

BCPS: 40 YEARS UNCHANGED

It was difficult to choose a title for my essay but its even more difficult to describe the mental anguish, fear and frustrations I experienced with Baltimore County Public School over the span of 40 years in a 1,000 word essay.  For starters, its mind boggling that for years educators have preached about the negative consequences of bullying and discriminatory actions, but its permitted when they inflict this on their own employees.  What I have observed is that BCPS educators and administrators have placed themselves above the law; therefore, they feel that they will receive no repercussions for their actions. By the way, there is a new law forming on bullying issues in the workplace. (HEALTHY WORKPLACE BILL)

Over the years, I have  watched BCPS co-workers being fired and thought this would never occur to me, after all everyone at my school campus was aware of my circumstances; my husband being terminally ill, my 2 sons have disabilities as well as I. Also, I had 19 years of positive employee reviews.  Well, it did happen to me, I was wrongfully terminated by BCPS in October 2013.  I should have seen this coming after the mistreatment received in BCPS as a student.

So, where should I go with this, 40 years of mistreatment and neglect from Baltimore County Public Schools, do I start with the past or the present.

Let’s go to the present, after serving BCPS for 20 years, I was wrongfully terminated from BCPS. Under the new administration, George Roberts, Principal, Kathleen Watkins, Assistant Principal and Science Chair, Terri Cohee at Perry Hall High School, I was bullied by them for three years and discriminated due to my disability. They have given me tasks that would cause me to fail, manipulated my past records, wrote a “plan” which never existed, fabricated the truth and lied to BCPS and DLLR attorneys so they could terminate me.   Oh, by the way, science teachers filed a grievance report against Ms. Cohee but Mr. Roberts ignored the complaints. After all bullies do not lose.

The bullies, Mr. Roberts, Ms. Watkins and Ms. Cohee were angered when I requested a representative to attend  all of their “important” meetings.  During the meetings, they were angrier when I did not cave in to their intimidations.  Since I have been bullied all my life due to my disability, I knew how to handle them…do not speak.

Doing good for the school body and the community made no impressions;  I improved the Perry Hall High School courtyard, built an indoor greenhouse for Advanced Biology class, wrote a proposal to repair the science department’s greenhouse and was awarded $3,000 to add beautification to the school’s front campus. This was never reported.   Now the next issue is a major concern and BCPS is keeping it under the table due to budget constraints. In 2010, I made an effort to reclassify my position since my job requires handling volatile acids. To this date, a high school diploma is only required for the Science Para educator position, which means science background is not required to dilute and handle acids.  Lab accidents are never reported in fear of lawsuits. I was terminated from my position and yet I managed the largest science department in Baltimore County and there were NO lab accidents in the ten years that I was employed at the high school.

For the past three years,   I am unable to find employment and provide health coverage for my family.  It’s difficult to fathom, as a resident of Perry Hall, Perry Hall High alumnus and 10 years of service with PHHS, I was thrown out on the street.

Now let’s focus on the past, this will explain BCPS:  40 years unchanged.  I was disappointed when I brought both of my sons into this world, not because they are boys or they have disabilities, it was the fear of their future education.  Flashbacks of my past education and employment with BCPS brought uncertainty.  Tears were shed because I did not want my sons to experience what I had gone through.

As a student, I was placed in the lower standard class due to my disability. Back in the 70’s mainstreaming was new and many teachers were unhappy when I was enrolled in their classes. Their disappointment was evident. Boredom made me dislike school. Little did they know, I was gifted and managed to obtain a Masters in School Psychology.

Has it changed ….no, behind my back a BCPS specialist told a special education teacher that my oldest son will soon be enrolled in a special education class.  I corrected him and informed him that he will go to a private school, he laughed.  During high school, my son has taken many AP courses that he skipped a year of college and maintained a 4.0 grade point average.

My youngest son has a disability and he too was placed in the lower standard class. Concerns were shared with his teacher and I asked them how many children like my son at age five can carry a conversation concerning history with WWII veterans. It did not matter, so out of my pocket I had to pay a private school psychologist to convince the teachers that my son was extremely gifted.

The reason my boys advanced far above their normal peers, I left the work force and read hundreds of books to them so they would not experience what I  did.  But BCPS did it anyway, regardless of their capabilities; their disability meant to be placed in lower standard class or special education classes.

When I was an Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at BCPS, I was appalled at how deaf and hard of hearing children were educated….so backward.

While I was employed at BCPS, many conversations in the teacher’s lounge were heard over time and they had no tolerance for students with learning disabilities.

A colleague with ADHD was bullied by his co-workers and he decided to leave the profession.

By the way, I did file with the EEOC, after 4 years they dismissed my charge because they did not have time to read nor investigate my case due to their many cases…… maybe too many cases of bullying in the work force.

40 YEARS UNCHANGED

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