f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 27, 2006

school (board) bullies — jamestown, ny

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 3:03 pm

It’s a psychological cliche that bullies are really insecure, immature

cowards. The students of Jamestown, NY, are getting a good lesson

in the pathology of bullying from their very own Board of Education. The

courageous “victim” has just returned to finish her assignment, but the

bullies on the Board have more mischief in store for her.(scroll to the end

of this news story from the Jamestown Post-Journal, April 27, 2006)




As we reported in our post on Feb. 1, 2006, the object of the school

board’s bullying for the past few years has been their fellow Board

Member Deann Nelson, Ed.D (who was represented by Your Editor’s

brother, Arthur J. Giacalone, in the federal first amendment suit,

Nelson vs Board of Education, WDNY, Jan. 27, 2006). What set off

Board President Joseph Pawelski and his posse (Members Timothy

Thomas,Joseph DiMaio, Laurel Lucas, Thomas Pope, and Christine

Schnars) was the insistence by Dr. Nelson that the Board do more than

merely rubber-stamp special education placements.

tiny check The proper placement of students has been a primary focus

of Dr. Nelson her entire time on the Board (see, e.g., Buffalo

News,New Board Member Puts Focus on Special-Ed Students,”

July 24, 2003.)

Deann Nelson had the temerity to claim the right to actually read each

Individualized Education Plan [IEP] before voting to approve or reject it.

The custom of the Jamestown Board, however, is to take action on each

IEP based solely on a one-page summary — called a “board action sheet”

— prepared and forwarded to the Board by the Committee that prepared the



safeschools/bullying  …..   

tiny check The response of the Board bullies? They insisted that IEPs

could only be read by Board Members at the School Board

Offices, during normal working hours, with no copies being


Dr. Nelson complied with these restrictions and read hundreds of IEPs.

However, she also started to object to individual Plans and voice concern

over various systemic problems and irregularities in the evaluation process.

tiny check The response of the Board of bullies? As described in detail

here, they passed a resolution on September 14, 2004, prohibiting

any board member from reading the Individualized Education Program

(IEP) of a district student, in the process of deciding whether to approve

or disapprove the IEP. The Board Member must rely solely on the brief

summary written by the Committee that prepared the IEP.


Dr. Nelson also asked to see Board records on amounts spent on outside

attorney fees. Denied that request, she filed Freedom of Information requests,

which were repeatedly refused over many months. The State Secretary of State

finally intervened on Deann’s behalf, telling the Board it had the legal duty to dis-

close that information. The Board again stalled and stalled. Finally, they called

Dr. Nelson and made an appointment for her to come to their offices, where she

would only be allowed to read the materials. Dr. Nelson, a diminuitive grand-

mother, arrived for the meeting, bringing a bagged lunch and expecting a long

day of reading.

tiny check The response of then Board Secretary Karen Peterson?

She kept Dr. Nelson waiting for hours and then told her the

papers would not be ready that day. When Nelson asked what

was going on, Peterson started screaming that she was being

“intimidated.” Dr. Nelson then followed Peterson into her office,

attempting to calm Peterson down and get an explanation.

Peterson continued yelling and other personnel called the police,

who came and arrested Dr. Nelson, charging her first with harass-

ment and then with felony unlawful imprisonment of Peterson

in her office (because she had closed the office door when enter-

ing the room).

The Board immediately held a press conference, charging Dr. Nelson with

causing a fight that required her arrest. As a result, Jamestown and Buffalo

media gave one-sided coverage blaming Dr. Nelson for the incident. See, e.g.,

wgrz.com, “Jamestown School Board Member Arrested, Nov. 4, 2005; and

WKBWNews7, “Member of Jamestown of School Board charged faces charges,”

Nov. 7, 2005, which began: “Police say a member of the Jamestown School

Board, needs to learn a hard lesson, in the law.”)


The Board Bullies managed to soil Dr. Nelson’s reputation, without ever letting

her see the materials mandated to be disclosed under the State’s Freedom of Infor-

mation laws.

tiny check The further response of the School Board? They scheduled

a disciplinary hearing charging Dr. Nelson with official misconduct.

Among the enumerated charges, in addition to the arrest, was

the claim that Dr. Nelson takes too many notes at Board meetings,

thus intimidating other Board members [there’s that “i-word” again;

somebody must have had it on a spelling test last semester].

Originally scheduled for December, the hearing was postponed

to await action on the criminal charges.

On March 23, 2006, the county grand jury refused to indict Dr. Nelson on the

charges of false imprisonment, and the charges were dropped. (Jamestown Post

Journal, “Nelson Not Indicted on Criminal Charges,” March 24, 2006). Yesterday,

April 23, 2006, Dr. Nelson attended her first Board meeting since December, having

recused herself from Board activities until the criminal charges were resolved. (See

Jamestown Post-Journal, “JPS Names New Bush Principal,” April 27, 2006)

tiny check The response of the School Board? Per the Post-Journal: bully

“Joseph Pawelski, Jamestown board president, said Wednesday

the public [official misconduct] hearing will now be rescheduled,

but no date has been set.”

But, of course she’s misbehaving: Deann Nelson is still asking questions, taking

notes, reading relevant documents (when allowed to see them), and generally

making her fellow School Board members feel insecure and inadequate, and —

yes — intimidated, by doing the job she was elected to do. We would understand if

Deann decided to resign from this intolerable situation. But, we hope she’ll stand

up to the bullies.


afterthought (April 29, 2006): Is this just another example of the local/schmocal

phenomenon we discussed in January 2005 — with local government bodies being

populated by far too many fools and knaves? If you’ve got stories, feel free to share

them with us.

tiny check  Meanwhile, here are some resources that the Board might consider

reading and taking to heart:


– “Bullying Recognition & Response for School Employeesfrom Safe-



Bullying in Schools: Adult action can improve school safety;” and

When our own children are bullying, what can we do?“, from the extensive

online Library of KidPower.org. The reply to the question, “What if my

child is the bully?,” begins:

“Children who bully in this way need safer tools for getting what they

want, better skills for handling the disappointment of NOT always

getting what they want, clear boundaries about what the rules are for

behavior, and consistently enforced consequences for breaking those




stepping on

sidewalk ants the boy

everyone bullies

in the howling wind

under the full moon

the snowman, headless

on the bus

the teenager pulls out a mirror

and adjusts her pout

George Swede

from Almost Unseen (Brooks Books, 2000)

Stifling heat

a palm frond suggests

there is a breeze

George Swede – The Heron’s Nest (Dec. 2005)

bully2 bully2

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