TUSD Special Needs Secrecy: Startling new information from former employee
Video by kgun9.comvideo
Pflum sent a complaint letter to TUSD Governing Board in 2009.
Pflum provided KGUN9 with video he took of a teacher swimming laps while her special needs students sat yards away.
Pflum shows KGUN9 a picture of how confidential student files were kept in a careless fashion.
Pflum said he received a mock letter of reprimand from a school administrator after he reported what he believed were civil rights violations.
Reporter: Valerie Cavazos
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- Startling new information from a former TUSD teaching assistant that sheds more light on the treatment of special needs students.
How far did administrators go to hide complaints of abuse and neglect? The district fired one whistleblower, school psychologist Rose Hamway, and now a former teaching assistant, Jared Pflum, speaks out about his attempts to report the neglect of special needs students.
After our initial report aired, Pflum contacted 9OYS to tell what he experienced at Rincon High School 3 years ago. Most of the major players have changed, but the situations he described give a clearer picture of the extent of TUSD's secrecy surrounding special needs students.
Pflum showed KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavazos the letter that he drafted and sent to the TUSD Governing board in 2009. In it, he expressed his concern about possible retaliation for disclosing civil rights violations. And he asked for protection under Arizona Whistleblower Laws.
Pflume listed detailed accounts of egregious neglect of special needs students. He provided a video of a special education teacher swimming laps, while her special needs student sat yards away. The student in the video is not shown in the KGUN9 report for privacy reasons. Pflume said, "Her student had gross motor impairments, was non verbal. He had a severe seizure disorder so he was someone who could not be left alone."
He also complained that the department chair kept records of special needs students in a careless fashion. "She left confidential documents from her students all over the classroom, not just in a drawer. They were out on the shelves, in crates. There were CPS reports," he explained.
And when he expressed his concerns to school administrators, they labeled him a tattletale. Then the assistant principal handed him a mock letter of reprimand. "It's not an official disciplinary action so that's how they get around actually disciplining people and there not being any record of intimidation."
Pflum also detailed his concerns that the department chair neglected to oversee his student's case -- required by federal law. He said, "She's udpating his IEP, which is a federal document. That requires data collection, observation. She updated it without even consulting the two staff that worked with him on a regular basis"
Cavazos asked, "So what was she basing that information on?"
"Exactly, and that's one of the concern I brought to the board because I felt they were falsifying IEPs," he said.
The board's response to all of his claims -- back in 2009? "I still have never heard from the district or from the board or anyone," he said.
Pflum believes the administrators lacked basic knowledge of special needs laws and district policies.
The former teaching assistant said that he has since jumped out of the education arena because of what he experienced at the high school.
KGUN 9 OYS has made repeated requests, by phone and by email, for comment and has yet to get a response from TUSD administration other than "TUSD in no way condones retaliatory behavior."
Full statement from TUSD:
TUSD in no way condones any retaliatory behavior. Discrimination based on disability, race, color, religion/religious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, age, or national origin, as well as retaliation for opposition to such discrimination, is prohibited by federal and state laws. TUSD Governing Board Policy AC prohibits discrimination and retaliation. All TUSD employees are required to comply with these legal requirements.