Passed by the Florida Legislature, the Jeffery Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act required all Florida school districts to create and adopt very specific policies and procedures for reporting, investigating and responding to acts of bullying and harassment by any student or employee against any student of a particular school district.
In a public meeting in November of 2008 the PCSB adopted such a policy. As outlined by the Florida Legislature the policy very specifically defines bullying and harassment. In particular the Act includes the use of any electronic or computer equipment under the control of the district from being used to embarrass of tease any student.
While I applaud the intent of the law, I do think it is poorly written. When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. In my opinion the law is overly broad and will probably not be very effective. The Legislature, however, should be commended for their concern about this important issue.
In an earlier post you may have seem a video of my little friend Kevin Kayden (AKA sub3marathonman). In that video Kevin is addressing the PCSB, in the very meeting where only minutes before they adopted their policy on bullying and harassment. In Kevin’s diatribe he mentions the name of a minor child that is registered with the PCSB. That rant was broadcast on television using the computer and electronic equipment of the PCSB. The rant was obviously intended to embarrass and tease and eleven year old girl. An eleven year old girl that is under the authority of the PCSB.
What was the response of the chairman of the PCSB to this disturbing rant that broadcast that little girl’s name, address and other personal information? “Have a nice Thanksgiving.”
As the father of that little girl I decided to file a formal complaint using the policies adopted by the PCSB in that meeting. In my complaint I accused the members of the PCSB, the Superintendent (Gail McKinzie) and the wife of Kevin Kayden (she’s a PCSB employee) of violating the Act and asked that a formal investigation be started. Such an investigation is not optional but is required by the Act.
To be clear, I was accusing the School Board members and the superintendent of violating the Act. They were the accused.
The legislation prohibits a subordinate from investigating a superior. It also prohibits the accused from investigating themselves. Since there is no superior to the Board Members and the Superintendent it would stand to reason that an objective third party would be asked to investigate.
The PCSB’s solution: they hired the same law firm that represented them in my law suit and the criminal prosecution of the PCSB’s General Counsel. A law firm being paid by the PCSB and working at the direction of the board; a firm that is ethically bound to act on their behalf was retained to investigate the same people writing the check.
As you might imagine, the conclusion of the PCSB’s outside counsel was that my daughter and I had “no standing” to bring the complaint in the first place.
When I spoke with the PCSB’s outside counsel (a person that I like and respect) I questioned the objectivity of the arrangement. Hiring his law firm would be like me demanding that my attorney conduct the investigation. I told him that I would be agreeable to a firm outside of Polk County that had no interest in any of the previous litigation doing the investigation. The PCSB writes the checks so they get to pick the law firm that will investigate them. That’s justice Polk County style.