More Trouble for SDMC’s Superintendent Cynthia Saunders

On July 29, 2020, the Manatee County Concerned Citizens 4 Justice, birthed from the illegal takeover by the SDMC of Lincoln Memorial Academy, sent a complaint by certified mail to the Florida Department of Education. The complaint alleges that all 417 students sent to Horizons Academy, SDMC’s alternative school, were denied the federally protected and ensured due process. Certain steps must be completed prior to a student is moved to Horizon. This is not Mrs. Saunders’s first major issue relating to deliberate and intentional acts against Black and other students that deny them of their federally protected due process. Parents must be contacted, students and parents must be offered options and alternatives to placement at Horizons Academy and necessary signature(s) of parents/guardians must be signed but not in ManateeCounty. Upon initial examination, it appears all 417 students who were at Horizons Academy at the time did not receive their federal due process. • In 2014-2015 – Mrs. Saunders deliberately and intentionally ordered the changing of students to a home school code to fraudulently increase the SDMC graduation rates, in very close proximity to a tax referendum. She has been found guilty of fraud for personal gain by the FDOE violating two (2) Florida Statutes and 4 (four) rule violations. • 2018-2019 – Mrs. Saunders is currently under investigation by the United States Department of Education for allegations of a deliberate and intentional misappropriation of federal Title I funds used to illegally defund LMA The FDOE of Office of Inspector General has relayed that it appears this has been one of the issues over subsequent years with LMA not receiving its full allocation of funding.• 2019-2020 – Cynthia Saunders is named in a federal lawsuit for many issues including being a coconspirator in a conspiracy and fraud scandal involving Mayor Shirley Groover and the creation of a fraudulent document that was entered into a legal Division of Administrative hearings under the auspice of Judge Robert Cohen. Pastor David Mazon states, “It is time that communities of color to push back and to have a zero-tolerance for incompetence, deceit, and racism. We have had enough!” He goes on to say, “In the past, Black communities have complained but did not take steps to file complaints and to take such issues of failed due process, civil rights and constitutional violations to the courts. Our board allows Mrs. Saunders to violate the law with no accountability for maladaptive behaviors. It is a sad day when advocacy groups such as MCC4J and other activists have to do what our elected officials swore an oath of office to support the United States Constitution and ALL people, not some. MCC4J makes no balking claims, as they plan to organize a class-action lawsuit against the SDMC on behalf of the impacted students and families. Please read the attached complaint. The SDMC, as proven evidenced has a long history of targeted exploitive, retaliatory, and abusive history of behavior targeted toward Blacks and other populations of color.

School Board of Manatee County

Horizons Academy, 1910 27th St E, Bradenton, FL 34208, Tel: (941)714-7470

I am filing this complain to request that the State of Florida Department of Education investigate the School Board of Manatee County for denying disabled children their rights under IDEA 2004 and specifically singling out minorities.

I have a right as the pastor of Mt Olive Missionary Baptist Church, and President of the Manatee County Concerned Citizens for Justice to file this complaint and raise this concern to Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of Public Education. I have lived in Palmetto and been the head of my church for the last 20 years. I am a man who is involved in the community and I cannot continue to see the injustice that parents of students enrolled in Manatee schools bring to my attention. I file this complaint on behalf of all the children who are being transferred to alternative educational settings and are being denied their right to an appropriate education.

  1. I am concerned and believe children who are Prekindergarten to 12 graders are being sent to Horizons Academy, an alternative school, within the School Board of Manatee County. These children are being sent without being evaluated, identified, classified and provided due process because they are minorities with disabilities.

§300.646 Disproportionality. (a) General. Each State that receives assistance under Part B of the Act, and the Secretary of the Interior, must provide for the collection and examination of data to determine if significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring in the State and the LEAs of the State with respect to—(1) The identification of children as children with disabilities, including the identification of children as children with disabilities in accordance with a particular impairment described in section 602(3) of the Act;

  • According to data on the school report card updated in the Fall of 2019, 96% of those attending Horizons are Economically Disadvantaged. 33.4% of students are African American, 42% Hispanic, 3,8% Multiracial, and 20.5% are White. That means that 79.2% of the children attending Horizons Academy are minorities and all but 4% are in poverty.

English Language Learners account for 11.3% of the total population as of the Fall of 2019. Students with Disabilities make up 20.2%.

The Disproportionality noted in 300.646 is clearly defined by the data pulled

directly from the school report card provided by the FL Department of Education.

In addition, the report card claims that there are 371 students enrolled but the registrar did confirm via a phone call from a parent that there were 415 enrolled back in March of 2020. This is a steep increase from 283 in 2018­19, and 215 enrolled in 2017-18.

Here is the link to the report card

https://edudata.fldoe.org/ReportCards/Schools.htnnl?school=0731&district=41

§300.646 Disproportionality. (a) General. Each State that receives assistance under Part B of the Act, and the Secretary of the Interior, must provide for the collection and examination of data to determine if significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring in the State and the LEAs of the State with respect to (2) The placement in particular educational settings of these children;

  • I understand many of the children at Horizons Academy were suspended many times, some well over 10 days in a school year with no manifestation determination hearing.

§300.646 Disproportionality. (a) General. Each State that receives assistance under Part B of the Act, and the Secretary of the Interior, must provide for the collection and examination of data to determine if significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring in the State and the LEAs of the State with respect to (3) The incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions.

  • I have spoken with parents who have informed me their children did not receive as a response to their children’s behaviors: multi-tier system of supports (MTSS), response to intervention(RTI), referral to special education for evaluation, functional behavioral assessment(FBA), developing/implementing positive behavioral intervention plan(PBIP) and/or a copy of the procedural safeguards before their child was sent to Horizon Academy.

§300.646 Disproportionality. (b) Review and revision of policies, practices, and procedures. In the case of a determination of significant disproportionality with respect to the identification of children as children with disabilities, or the placement in particular educational settings of these children, in accordance with paragraph (a) of this section, the State or the Secretary of the Interior must—(1) Provide for the review and, if appropriate revision of the policies, procedures, and practices used in the identification or placement to ensure that the policies, procedures, and practices comply with the requirements of the Act.

  • There are preschoolers sent to Horizon Academy and there is no way any of these children ever received any early intervening services. The fact children are not being referred to special education for evaluation before being sent to Horizon Academy is proof those children never received any early intervening services.

§300.646 Disproportionality. (b) Review and revision of policies, practices, and procedures. In the case of a determination of significant disproportionality with respect to the identification of children as children with disabilities, or the placement in particular educational settings of these children, in accordance with paragraph (a) of this section, the State or the Secretary of the Interior must (2) Require any LEA identified under paragraph (a) of this section to reserve the maximum amount of funds under section 613(f) of the Act to provide comprehensive coordinated early intervening services to serve children in the LEA, particularly, but not exclusively, children in those groups that were significantly over identified under paragraph (a) of this section; and

  • Since the School Board of Manatee County has had this practice of sending minority children to Horizon Academy for years their reports to the state and federal must be false. I demand copies of the past 4 years be reviewed and investigated.

§300.646 Disproportionality. (b) Review and revision of policies, practices, and procedures. In the case of a determination of significant disproportionality with respect to the identification of children as children with disabilities, or the placement in particular educational settings of these children, in accordance with paragraph (a) of this section, the State or the Secretary of the Interior must (3) Require the LEA to publicly report on the revision of policies, practices, and procedures described under paragraph (b)(1) of this section.

  • I know for a fact the children in Manatee are receiving in and out of school suspension for more than 10 school days in the same school year for similar behaviors with no education interventions to address the behaviors.

§300.536 Change of placement because of disciplinary removals. (a) For purposes of removals of a child with a disability from the child’s current educational placement under §§300.530 through 300.535, a change of placement occurs if—(1) The removal is for more than 10 consecutive school days; (2) The child has been subjected to a series of removals that constitute a pattern—(i) Because the series of removals total more than 10 school days in a

school year; (ii) Because the child’s behavior is substantially similar to the child’s behavior in previous incidents that resulted in the series of removals; and (iii) Because of such additional factors as the length of each removal, the total amount of time the child has been removed, and the proximity of the removals to one another.

  • Nothing is reviewed and there are no manifestation determination and/or due process hearings and/or any judicial proceedings. The student is reassigned to Horizons Academy and parents are told that their children must “serve their time” before they can return to their neighborhood zoned school.

§300.536 Change of placement because of disciplinary removals. (b)(1) The public agency determines on a case-by-case basis whether a pattern of removals constitutes a change of placement. (b)(2) This determination is subject to review through due process and judicial proceedings.

  • Horizons Academy is a placement that provides limited special education services. Horizons Academy is ranked in the bottom 25% in the state of Florida and has a 27.1% graduation rate
  • Data on the internet states: Math Proficiency: <20% (Btm 50%). There is no scientifically based math approach being instructed at Horizon Academy to address the children’s math inadequacies.
  • Data on the internet states: Reading Proficiency: <10% (Btm 50%) There are no scientifically based reading approach being implemented at Horizons Academy to address the children’s reading inadequacies.
  • Prekindergarten to 9-year old students were not evaluated for developmental delays before being sent to Horizon Academy. Some children have never been evaluated for any classifications under IDEA 2004.
  • There are Prekindergarten to 9-year old students who were never provided (MTSS), and/or (RTI) before they were sent to Horizon Academy.
  • There are 9-year to 21-year-old students who were never provided (MTS S), and/or (RTI) before they were sent to Horizon Academy.
  • I believe no child had “professional educators” do the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule 2 (ADOS 2) to determine if any of the

Prekindergarten to 21-year old students have “educational” autism and qualify for classification under autism.

  1. I believe no child had manifestation determination hearings before they were sent to Horizon Academy.
  2. I believe no child was considered for least restricted environment by finding classes in the public schools before being sent to Horizon Academy.
  3. I believe most of the minority children are classified with Emotional Disturbance.
  4. I believe the children classified Emotional Disturbance have never had an evaluation for sensory issues even if they are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
  5. I believe none of the children were evaluated and considered for classification of any of the 13 classifications of IDEA 2004 other then Emotional Disturbance.

I am asking the Florida Department of Education to expedite this complaint and not delay it for 60 days or more because according to data confirmed by the registrar, there are 417 children at Horizon Academy.

President MCC4J

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