Huntsville City Schools Bans Commenting By Military Families

This just in: At tonight’s Huntsville City Schools’ Board Meeting, the Board voted to limit comments during the Citizens’ Comments section at the end of its meeting to residents of the City of Huntsville.

Adjacent to the City of Huntsville is a huge military base, Redstone Arsenal.

Redstone kids go to Huntsville City Schools.

But Redstone families do not live in the City of Huntsville. Thus, now that “only Huntsville residents” can speak at BOE meetings, military families can no longer bring concerns about their children to the Supe Colonel Wardynski’s and BOE’s notice during the “Citizens’ Comments” at the system’s bimonthly meetings.

Let see W and the five fools squirm out of this one.

Rules are rules, you know.

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He Spies, etc. Pt. 5. Why is Deterrence Not an Option?

I wish that I had access to a sampling of HCS middle and senior high school students to ask two questions: What happens to students who are expelled? Does it matter how old they are?

For most of my life I have believed that being expelled was the same as dropping out, but with more drama. At least the outcome was the same: prospect of not getting a decent job unless the school-leaver got a GED. Family fireworks. Nothing worse, though.

I’m thinking now I was wrong. Consider this statement from the article alerting us to the HCS surveillance program, or whatever you want to call this latest outrage:

“The students were expelled and placed in alternative school and boot camp programs.”

If expelled means kicked out of school, how can a superintendent place an expelled student in an alternative school or boot camp?

What is the procedure? Pages A14 to A19 of the 2014-2015 HCS Student/Parent Handbook outline the procedure for expulsion, but there is no mention of alternative schools or boot camps. So how do students land in boot camps?

And more importantly, why are students not told that being expelled doesn’t mean they are through with school?

Why are they not told in graphic detail what they can expect their lives to be like if they land in Wardynski’s “boot camp” which I assume is the Pinnacle School’s Elk River Wilderness camp (the “teepees”) but can’t say for sure, since nowhere on the HCS website or in the handbook is there a single mention of an alternative school or boot camp.

This is what Wardynski said way back when he and the Board shut the Seldon Center and got in bed with Pinnacle:

“Those who do not comport themselves according to the regulations and rules of Pinnacle Schools will find themselves living in a teepee. And they won’t be coming back until they can behave. And if they can’t behave, they won’t be coming back to our schools.”

The contract included this:

“. . . HCS may refer students who are being removed from the program to Pinnacle School’s Elk River Treatment Program for intensive therapeutic treatment, upon such terms as may be agreed to by TPS and HCS and at the sole discretion of the Superintendent.” [emphasis added] — Pinnacle and Huntsville City Schools Contract

The prospect of being sent to the sticks far from friends and family with no phone, no internet, no privacy, and no freedom, for an indeterminate stretch could be a good deterrent to those contemplating an expulsion worthy offense. But not wanting to go through such a program would serve as a deterrent only if would-be offenders had a clue what awaited them on the other side of expulsion.

Why don’t they know? Why does the HCS keep this secret to surprise kids with after they have done wrong? 

I find it sinister and sociopathic to operate thusly.

Wardynski has his fantasies of calls from the NSA alerting him to Yemenis plotting to cut off teachers’ heads.

I’ll offer a fantasy of my own.

Imagine you have had enough of high school but you are only 15. You long for your 16th birthday when you will be able to drop out. You turn 16, go to get your license, and discover that the school leaving age has been bumped up to 17 (did you know this, Reader? Meanwhile, the UK has extended voting privileges to 16-year-olds). Despair follows. You cannot take another year of standardizing testing — why bother with all that when you could be preparing and taking the GED, a test that if you perform well will mean something to you, and not the suits? But you also have heard of truant officers and you don’t want to land at the juvenile detention center. So what are your options?

Maybe, you think, if you can’t leave voluntarily, you can get them to throw you out. So you devise a full-proof scheme. You buy a stiletto at the flea market, print out a picture of your principal, pin it to your wall by jabbing the stiletto through the eye, and take out your phone. You post it with the caption, after today I will never have to look Mr. Principal in the eye ever again, on your FB wall and a bunch of your friends’, toss the stiletto in the glove compartment, and off you go, happily thinking this is the last time you will be making this trip.

You are cheerful when confronted by all the assistant principals, etc. and show no remorse because all is going according to plan.

You are expelled the next day,

And then you are informed you will be spending as long as it takes to break you or until your 17th birthday in a teepee. Now it’s W who is flying high.

And there is nothing at all you can do.

No one ever told you that expelled doesn’t mean you are free of the school system’s authority. You didn’t factor in that if you aren’t 17 you have to be educated somewhere, and Mom and Dad don’t have the resources to send you to a private school, even if one would take you, and they have been threatened with arrest and jail if they don’t sign you over, and are too shocked to figure out a workable plan — if there is such a thing.

You would never have done the stupid little charade to get kicked out if you had known that kicked out really meant losing all your freedom.

Nobody is going to believe you that all you wanted was to be free and get on with your life.

You are screwed, in other words, facing weeks, months, years (do they have to release you at 17?) in a private prison with no legal representation, wondering why no one warned you.

Too bad.

 

 

He Spies With His Beady Black Eyes. Pt. 4. Whose Safety Matters Most I Think I Know

Wardynski’s own. After all, years before he dreamed up the stealth program SAFe he had metal detectors installed in Merts Center, his own headquarters.

If kids entering schools with guns and knives is truly a serious problem in the Huntsville City Schools, wouldn’t the most direct, quick, and obvious solution be to install metal detectors?

Instead, W amassed a “W”atchlist of 600 kids, 3% of the student body,without Board approval (or even knowledge?), without the knowledge of citizens paying for the list, and without soliciting bids for the stealth monitoring campaign.

After all, metal detectors have several advantages that would not have landed W in the soup.

1. Metal detectors detect metal. They do not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, economic class, ethnicity, or [presumed] religion. Unless W had simultaneously implemented VIP entrances into the schools, he would not have incurred the attention of the ACLU (for this, anyway). Metal detectors are equal opportunity instruments.

2. Metal detectors deal with what is before them in the here and now. They do not act based on unreliable tips, they do not judge what maybe might someday be the intentions of the persons before them.

3. Metal detectors are a one-time purchase. The HCS doesn’t have to keep dumping money in the account of a business the Board claims not to know was on its payroll.

4. Metal detectors would act as a deterrent — a kid would have to be pretty damn dumb to bring in a knife or gun through the detectors. How can a stealth program serve as a deterrent? It can’t.

5. Finally, if metal detectors are good enough for the top brass, shouldn’t the lowly foot soldiers, the teachers and school staff members and of course the children (think of the children!) deserve the same level of protection?

But let’s acknowledge the disadvantages.

1. Someone might get the idea that violence is a problem in the HCS. If it is, then why pretend it isn’t? And if it’s not, then why the stealth SAFe?

2. Metal detectors do not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, economic class, ethnicity, or [presumed] religion. Yeah, you did already see that as number 1 on my list of advantages. But what I consider an advantage may be disadvantageous to someone else — I mean, if the machine starts shrieking and it is one of “our kids” caught in front of everyone — well how awkward would that be?

3.  Metal detectors are a one-time purchase. This would not be good news for T&W Operations,  founded by two retired career military officers, who have been collecting the checks from HCS.

Every project its own Dick Cheney, I guess. Follow the money.

 

 

He Spies With His Beady Black Eyes. Pt. 3. Hunters Can’t Be Killers

Keep this in mind for a minute:

NEWTOWN, Conn.–Dr. H. Wayne Carver, the medical examiner investigating Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, said autopsies completed on 20 children and six adults on Saturday showed they were killed with multiple bullets fired by a rifle at close range.

Wardynski’s guest editorial for al.com (Tips are what help protect our students: guest opinion) is what I call a headbanger. Good thing I didn’t read it at a desk.

Let’s examine this remarkable statement:

“As recently as September 15th, this investment allowed us to intercept and place into police custody a student who came to school with a loaded gun, a knife, gang paraphernalia, and an expressed willingness to use his weapons in the event of an altercation with certain individuals. He was not outfitted to hunt ducks or deer and our security team suffered no confusion in drawing a distinction between the student as a sportsman and as a threat.”

The implications I draw:

1. If the student had come to school dressed for duck hunting, whatever tip the school had received would have been disregarded.

2. If people hunt, they are not of any interest, regardless of how many guns they have and use.

How very preposterous.

Now before we go any further, I don’t have a problem with people who hunt for food (millionaires who hop over to Africa to collect a lion’s head for one of their living rooms are another story — I’m cheering for the lion). As a meat eater, how can I? I recognize that hunting is part of American culture; the movie Winter’s Bone has a powerful scene in which the character played by Jennifer Lawrence has to teach her little brother how to kill and skin squirrels so the family will have meat to eat while she is away. I will go as far as to say those who universally condemn meat-eaters as murderers don’t realize that if they had their way, Inuit and /Eskimos would face genocide. That said, I favor strong gun control laws. Very strong.

But back to Wardynski’s drawing a line between good guns/good people/hunters and all others. I’m not saying that students who post pictures of themselves smiling over a dead deer should be added to the “W”atchlist.

But I am saying that it is in-credible to say that these kids necessarily pose no threat to anyone. If the criteria for being a person of interest in W’s world is possession of a firearm, then there should be equal opportunity for all who pose with firearms to be answerable to the Colonel. All or none. None makes best sense to me.

So why does W harbor this notion that hunters can’t be killers?

1. Could be because he doesn’t want to offend his NRA buddies by coming out against guns altogether.

2. Or it could be because, according to a study done in 2008 for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 

The large majority of hunters (86%) identify themselves as white/Caucasian (Phase III—RM 2007a).

 

Bingo.

I can’t imagine the workings of W’s mind. 

I’ll just leave you with two thoughts for the day:

. . . studies reveal that most school shooters are White males, with 97 percent being male and 79 percent White. Over the last three decades, 90 percent of high school or elementary school shootings were the result of White, often-upper middle class, perpetrators.

And

With an average of 300 shootings every day, it should be no surprise that a few of them occur in or near schools. According to FBI crime statistics, most homicides, including most multi-victim homicides, occur in homes, not schools. There are more mass shootings in restaurants than in schools, but no one has called for waitpersons to carry guns. Children are almost 100 times more likely to be murdered outside of school than at school, which makes massive expenditures for school building security seem like a misallocation of tax dollars.

 

He Spies With His Beady Black Eyes: The Times They Are a-Changin’. Part 2.

I have a problem with logical impossibilities and internal inconsistencies, and they just keep piling up in Wardynski’s scramble to maintain deniability and explain his social media voyeurism.

What we know: we are in September 2014. Eighteen months ago we were in April or  March 2013, depending on if you are counting from month to month or calendar pages (explained a few paragraphs down).

What we have been told, as reported by Challen Stephens:

“Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski says the system began monitoring social media sites 18 months ago, after the National Security Agency tipped the school district to a student making violent threats on Facebook.”

What we have been told by Auseel Yousefi, as reported by Challen Stephens:

“It was his last day of junior year at Lee High School. Yousefi said he woke up early and decided: ‘How funny would it be if I tweeted last day of school jokes?'”

Yousefi is now a college freshman. The 2013 calendar for the HCS shows May 23, 2013, as the last day of school.

Let’s look at the calendar:May 2013 to June 2013; Je to July; July to Aug; Aug to Sept; Sept to Oct; Oct to Nov; Nov to Dec; Dec to January 2014; Jan to Feb; Feb to Mar; Mar to April; April to May; May to Je; Je to July; July to Aug; Aug to Sept.

I count 16 elements in that series. Even if I were just counting calendar pages, I can only get up to 17.

16 is not 18. 17 is not 18. 

Can we agree that for A to cause B, A has to come before B?

Now, if A = “the National Security Agency tipp[ing] the school district to a student making violent threats on Facebook” and B = “the system began monitoring social media sites” then A would have to precede B temporally, right?

So let’s put a date to these events. We know that A had to have occurred no earlier than May 23, 2013. B could (depending on how you count 18 months back) be either March 2013 or April 2013.

So what we are (were?) asked to believe by W is that in 2013, the month of May preceded the month of March (or April).

I had to add that parenthetical (were?) because on Wednesday Sept. 24, 2014, the SAFe was 18 months old, according to W, but on Sept. 28, 2014, he dropped in another date: W said:

“Since January 2014, tips and link analysis have cued our SAFe program to view social media postings by about three percent of our students.”

Well, January 2014 is subsequent to May 2013, so that tidies things up — oh no!!! It does not! How are we to reconcile        

“Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski says the system began monitoring social media sites 18 months ago, after the National Security Agency tipped the school district to a student making violent threats on Facebook.”

and 

Since January 2014, tips and link analysis have cued our SAFe program to view social media postings by about three percent of our students.”

For one thing, January 2014 was a mere 9 months ago (and 9 does not mean 18).

And for another, I thought the May 23, 2013 incident resulted from a tip.

Tail still firmly in the crack, W.

 

He Spies With His Beady Black Eyes: Wardynski Has His Tail in a Crack. Pt 1

And I am hoping it is so tightly wedged that he won’t slither out of this one.

If you are here, I expect you already know about the latest crock of lies, evasions, deceits, illegalities, and violations of civil rights on the part of Wardynski and his henchmen: the May 2012 NSA tip-off (which the NSA denies) about a so-called immediate threat of danger (aka juvenile last day of school humor) with a foreign connection: one of the 100s of people following then junior Auseel Yousefi’s Twitter feed was a Yemeni (and thus, it seems, presumed to be a Muslim Jihadist terrorist) and how this tip-off led to the never-spent-a-day-on-the-battlefield retired colonel forming a surveillance project that the Board of Education maybe did or maybe didn’t know about (damn! who was responsible for delivering the scripts last week?) two months before the Yemeni non-event occurred.

There! I packed a whole lot of it into one sentence. But I am sure there is much, much more to come.

First, praise for al.com’s Challen Stephens who is doing investigative journalism! I could dance with glee. Starting with the September 24, 2014 story, “Huntsville schools say call from NSA led to monitoring students online,” and following up with an interview with Auseel Yousefi, who outed himself in the comments responding to Stephens’ first article, the subject has grown and other reporters are on board.

There are tons of issues. There’s the matter of funding, well addressed by geekpalaver:
“Off The Books Spying Program $1 Million,” “All Kids Are Our Kids” and “Wardynski Violates Board Policy.”

Oh dear, post interrupted by consideration of the beady eyed one’s proclamation, Monitoring social media part of Huntsville schools’ responsibility to keep students safe: guest opinion.

My responses follow: So Colonel, now bullying is a problem? I remember a time when it wasn’t. In October 2012 you told WAAY 31’s Shea Allen: “Bullying has been going on for a long time. There was bullying when I was a kid. But I can tell you when we look at the statistics, while its [sic] about 80 percent of what you guys talk about its [sic] only about one percent of what we see.”

Remember way back then? Same season when one girl at Butler was beat up by three other girls in a bathroom and you referred to the event as”horseplay” and suggested the victim was at fault since she was “in a bathroom 20 minutes after class“ had begun and then gave her mother all kinds of hassle before granting the child a “temporary transfer”?

Funny what you can find on the internet.

and

Oh yes, then there’s the outsourcing of alternative schooling to Pinnacle Schools. It’s so outsourced that the only mention of it on the HCS website is one sentence about athletics (“A student [sic] that is attending the Seldon Center or Pinnacle is only eligible to represent the Seldon Center or Pinnacle. A student attending the Seldon Center or Pinnacle cannot participate at any other school.” [Students are people; “that” should be “who.”]) although millions of taxpayer dollars have been funneled to Pinnacle. 

Where was the concern for student safety when Julian Lorenzo Boykin, one of the guards at Pinnacle’s Huntsville campus, was charged with “torture and willful abuse of a child”?

Or when Karen Lee, owner of Pinnacle, hired her son Eric as a counselor (!) at the remote private prison (which these days you are calling a “boot camp”) AFTER young Eric was charged with felony drug trafficking AND firearms charges (confiscated weapons included “shotguns and rifles.”). Was it revealed that Eric was “outfitted to hunt ducks or deer” and so couldn’t possibly be a threat? I missed that update.

Your response: renew the contract!

If you don’t know what I am on about just hit the tag word Pinnacle.

And I’ll be back with much more.

Wardynski’s Other Digital Initiative

After living thirty years in Huntsville, I am fully aware that there are two things one must never do:

  • question the ethics of naming a city’s civic center for a Nazi, and
  • suggest that someone who chose a career in the military isn’t necessarily better, braver, and more worthy of respect than someone who didn’t.

But what the hell.

I am here to tell you that the good Colonel Wardynski’s military career included no combat service. His claim to fame is conceiving a free computer game, America’s Army for high school kids (and younger) to entice them into the Army, and that has meant in all too many cases sending them into brutal warfare — something about which Wardynski has no personal experience.

Have you ever wondered why suicide rates are skyrocketing among active troops and veterans? Why post-traumatic stress disorder is a huge problem in the same population?

I don’t know about your kids, but mine have seen exactly one dead body — the casketed, embalmed, made-up body of their 93-year-old grandfather, a veteran of WWII (Infantry, captured in N Africa and POW in Germany for years; later a Reservist). They’ve never seen anyone dying or being born or seriously injured.

But they have played their share of shoot ’em up video games.

I simply have a feeling that there isn’t much in common between the two, that is, being on the ground in battle and in your bedroom playing a game.

But what do I know? I’ve not been in combat. And neither has the Colonel.

The difference between the Colonel and me is that I have not enticed kids to go into deadly situations that I haven’t or wouldn’t go into myself.

So when Wardynski in his role as the mastermind of America’s Army proclaims, “We want kids to come into the Army and feel like they’ve already been there,” I want to know where is this there.

An air-conditioned, fully secure building on a military base?

In America’s Army

“soldiers are not massacred in bloody fire typical of most video games, or for that matter, real combat. When hit, bullet wounds resemble puffs of red smoke, and players can take up to four hits before being killed. To further protect youth, concerned parents can turn on optional controls that sanitize the violence even more – shots produce no blood whatsoever and dead soldiers just sit down. This presentation of war contrasts to the much more grisly reality unfolding every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And isn’t this of interest, considering how important it is to Wardynski for your child to be online using Pearson software? America’s Army

“records players’ data and statistics in a massive database called Andromeda, which records every move a player makes and links the information to their screen name. With this information tracking system, gameplay serves as a military aptitude tester, tracking overall kills, kills per hour, a player’s virtual career path, and other statistics. According to Colonel Wardynski, players who play for a long time and do extremely well may “just get an e-mail seeing if [they’d] like any additional information on the Army.”

While the Army initially worked on development of the game, first released in 2002, in 2005,

“the America’s Army developers partnered with the Software Engineering Directorate and the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research Development Engineering Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to manage the commercial game development process and use the America’s Army platform to create government training and simulations.”

Now its development has been outsourced to private corporations. Sound familiar?

Wardynski spent his military career sitting behind a desk figuring how cheaply kids could be persuaded to do what he never had to do himself (and interestingly, while his son has joined the military, he serves in the Coast Guard).

His job put him at less personal risk than that of anyone in a profession who potentially comes into daily contact with strangers’ bodily fluids, you know, like medical professionals obviously, but also police officers and fire fighters, — and teachers.

So the next time you think, oh, W is a colonel so he must be better, braver, more patriotic, more worthy, etc. than the rest of us average mortals, imagine what it must be like for 18-year-olds to go into Afghanistan thinking they know all about what it is like to be in a firefight because, after all, they’ve spent hundreds or thousands of hours playing the game that makes them “feel like they’ve already been there.”

At least in the old days when there were real human beings — recruiters — talking to kids, the kids had a chance to ask questions and the recruiter could make the reality of the commitment clearer to those kids he perceived as having a naive view of what to expect.

But, hey, using computer games is so much more cost effective than having real people involved in the process.

Come to think of it, the human recruiter and potential recruit relationship isn’t totally unlike that of a flesh-and-blood teacher and student, now is it?