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Texas’ Sham-Firing of SPED Director Laurie Kash Over SPEDx: More Details.

March 19, 2018

On March 04, 2018, I wrote my first post related to the for-profit SPEDx, a company that purports to analyze special education data and issue reports on that data.

Among my concerns is the fact that SPEDx CEO Richard Nyankori lacks both credentials and experience analyzing special education data. Still, that did not stop both Texas and Louisiana from contracting with SPEDx for such analyses.

In my second post, dated March 10, 2018, I reported on SPEDx’s publicizing in Texas a supposedly “confidential” report on Louisiana’s special education data. The Louisiana report was then made available to Texas citizens via public records request.

One individual who voiced concern about SPEDx’s role in Texas is former Texas Education Agency (TEA) special education director, Laurie Kash. Kash, who was hired by TEA in August 2017, formally expressed concerns about TEA’s no-bid contract with SPEDx via a TEA internal complaint in October 2017.

laurie kash  Laurie Kash

Kash was abruptly fired– via email– on November 22, 2017, the day after she filed a Request for Investigation with the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General (OIG). (Read these details and more on the Texans for Special Education Reform, or TxSER, timeline.)

It just so happens that on November 14, 2018, Kash was named in an Oregon lawsuit alleging professional negligence on behalf of an Oregon student who indicated being the victim of sexual assault. The plaintiffs in the case allege that Kash actively resisted reporting the incident.

I have read the original lawsuit, as well as some of the first amended suit and corresponding response to amended suit.  I have heard that the suit has been further amended. However, the allegations in the suit are serious, and I spoke with Kash for clarification related to the suit and her subsequent firing.

According to the Associated Press as reported on November 23, 2018, in Oregon Live, TEA stated that it fired Kash because of the Oregon lawsuit:

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ director of special education was fired Wednesday, one day after she filed a federal complaint claiming the Texas Education Agency wrongly entered into a $4.4 million, no-bid contract with a Georgia company to analyze private records for children with disabilities.

Laurie Kash asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General on Tuesday to investigate the TEA’s contract with SPEDx, a company hired to find trends and patterns in student records. Kash’s lawyer says that’s why she was fired.

But TEA officials say “that is patently untrue.” They say they fired Kash after learning that she is being sued in Oregon for allegedly trying to cover up sexual abuse of a 6-year-old student. Kash was the director of special education at the Rainier School District at that time. The suit is filed by two former employees who say Kash and her husband, the district’s superintendent, did not believe the allegations and ordered them not to report the outcry.

“These allegations were not disclosed during the hiring process, and if these serious allegations had been disclosed, she would not have been hired,” the Texas Education Agency said in a statement.

What initially caught my attention was the TEA’s firing Kash over a suit that had yet to be decided in court and that was filed months after she had been hired by TEA. Thus, it was not as if Kash had been found guilty of the charges against her, and it was not as though Kash hid an already-filed suit from then-potential-employer TEA.

However, on December 12, 2018, My Statesman reported that TEA did know that Kash’s situation in Oregon because she disclosed such information, which had been an ongoing issue for Kash since 2015. In fact, as Kash’s TEA supervisor, Justin Porter, informed her via text of news of the Oregon lawsuit and what TEA would have to do about the issue, he registered no surprise:

image1 (5)

Kash indicates in this text that had informed Porter of the situation in the summer of 2017 (prior to her hire), and that she was “cleared of everything.”

I asked if she would provide documentation of her being cleared, and she did so, via email on March 12, 2018, with the following note:

October of 2015 is when we had the situation with the paraprofessional. She submitted a complaint in April of 2016. I was cleared in April of 2017. Here is the document to prove it. I will send more soon.

Here is the letter from the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) clearing Kash, reported below:

Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission
250 Division St. NE
Salem, OR 97301-1012

April 11, 2017

Laurie Renee Kash
XXXXX XXXXXX Dr.
Rainier, OR XXXXX

RE: DISMISSAL OF ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT

Dear Ms. Kash:

On May 2, 2016, TSCP received a complaint from a patron of the Rainier School District, alleging you had engaged in professional misconduct as an educator. By statute, TSCP is required to investigate all complaints, reports or information the agency receives alleging possible professional misconduct by any licensed educator.

On April 7, 2017, the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission reviewed a preliminary investigation report regarding the allegations and is dismissing the complaint filed against you based upon insufficient cause to charge you with misconduct.

Because the allegations were dismissed, pursuant to ORS 342.176, the documents and materials used in the investigation and the report of the Executive Director are confidential and are not subject to public inspection.

We have informed the Rainier School District and the patron of this dismissal. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Respectfully,

Dr. Monica Beane, NBCT
Executive Director

I asked Kash for clarification on the issue at the center of the November 2017 lawsuit, the same issue of which she was cleared in the above letter dated April 11, 2017, and yet resulted in a lawsuit seven months later.

The bottom line: The student in question already had a file open regarding issues of abuse, with specific instructions associated with continued action. The individuals levying accusations against Kash were not privy to the specifics because of student privacy rights.

And TEA’s Justin Porter was fully apprised of the situation.

I asked Kash for a written response. Below is what she provided via email on March 16, 2018:

To protect the privacy and rights of the students and the students’ family, I have chosen not to make public statements regarding involvement in a lawsuit filed against Rainier School District naming me. I have always followed the law regarding child abuse reporting. In this particular case cited in the November 17, 2017 lawsuit, I did report child abuse allegations, as was requested of me, to the agent assigned to the case. The paraprofessional reported allegations to the hotline. In effect, child abuse was reported twice in this case. The paraprofessional was not silenced or disciplined for reporting.

All Oregon agencies that have reviewed accusations against me have found no impropriety in my actions, including Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (see documents), Oregon Department of Education (they do not issue written statements of innocence) and The Bureau of Labor and Industry.

In a telephone conversation on July 27, 2017, with then prospective employer Justin Porter of Texas Education Agency, I disclosed any previous allegations from the state of Oregon. I had been vindicated by the agencies in Oregon, and I had no suspicions about a pending lawsuit that would be filed on November 17, 2017.

He was supportive as indicated by follow-up texts saying that he would stand by me.

Kash has returned to Oregon. She has decided not to sue TEA for wrongful termination, as noted in her email response to me dated March 19, 2018:

I am not suing Texas. My attorney said there would be no point. The whistleblowing laws in Texas are the worst in the nation for the whistleblowers, and I was in the additional bind of reporting on federal expenditures while being a state employee.

I know why I was fired. I know it was unjust, and it was to silence others at TEA and keep them from coming forward.

My attorney said others called him after [my firing] but said they were scared of coming forward for fear of being treated like me.

On December 15, 2017, TEA canceled its controversial contract with SPEDx.

The OIG investigation initiated by Kash in November 2017 continues.

Louisiana still has a SPEDx contract. I have submitted a number of public records requests regarding communications related to Louisiana’s SPEDx contract.

More to come.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

10 Comments
  1. xaga1 permalink

    “My attorney said others called him after [my firing] but said they were scared of coming forward for fear of being treated like me.”

    Cowards!
    Ms. Kash has already done the hard part by being the first to come forward, and she has suffered the brunt of the consequences for doing so—as unjust as that may have been. However, if enough of you had the integrity to do the same, then there would come a point when there are too many to simply fire and sweep under the rug. Nothing will change if nothing is done. And those of you who have turned your eyes and said nothing when you know you should have said something will forever live in fear and self loathing. And if that isn’t the case, then you are the problem.
    Make all of the excuses you want. Ms. Kash may be out of a job, but she has at least retained her self respect. The former is certainly only temporary. The latter will last a lifetime.

  2. LeAnn Cole permalink

    I was just wondering why Laurie Cash’s letter of reprimand that she received Nov. 3, 2017 was never mentioned.

    • Laurie Kash mentioned it to me and described the reprimand situation in detail. The reprimand letter is also mentioned on the TxSER timeline, which is linked in this post. The official TEA word was that Kash’s firing hinged on the Oregon lawsuit, so that issue became my focus– I had to make editing decisions, and I chose to limit my writing so as to not burden readers with too many tangents.

  3. LeAnn Cole permalink

    Thank you for your reply. I do disagree. I believe the reprimand is and was an important part of her firing. Sincerely.

    • I read the reprimand. It is not enough in and of itself to justify firing Kash, not even to consider it an important part. It would take multiple reprimands of that caliber to result in a firing, unless some additional behavior was deemed severe enough for immediate firing. It seems Kash’s filing the OIG complaint was the catalyst to her firing and the Oregon lawsuit, the excuse.

  4. LeAnn Cole permalink

    Again I wholly disagree. A four page letter of reprimand isn’t something to brush aside. I believe inadequate job performance is a serious matter. And she failed two months before she was fired. So unprofessional of her to refer to the ladies filing the suit as “Crazy”. Maybe Kash is the crazy one. Again thank-you for your opinion and reading mine. Sincerely.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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