Baraboo Board Member Stirs Controversy

Board member stirs controversy
Baraboo News Republic
Thursday May 25, 2006
By Christina Beam
BARABOO – New Baraboo School Board member Kevin Bartol
( stirred up some controversy at his second meeting Monday night when he suggested district policy be amended so that only teachable students be enrolled in Baraboo’s public schools.
“There are some people in this country that cannot be educated,” Bartol said to the board. “They may have their eyes open, but there’s no one awake upstairs.”
His comments Monday came as part of the board’s review of district
policies, including one for “Programs for Students with Disabilities.” The first sentence of that policy reads that the board “shall provide a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities who reside within the district.”
Bartol proposed the board add a modifier before the word student, such as “educable,” so that if a child who “can’t be taught” wants to enter or stay in a Baraboo public school the district is not required to serve him or her.
“Every child can be taught,” said Director of Special Ed Gwynne Peterson said, who added the district is under federal obligation -as well as moral and ethical – to teach every student.
“I don’t think that’s true,” Bartol said. “What if you teach them for two or three years and they haven’t learned anything?”
High School Principal Machell Schwarz responded, “Then we work with them and try everything we possibly can.” Bartol requested the board look into the legalities of modifying the disability policy.
By Tuesday word of the exchange had spread around the district, District Administrator Lance Alwin said, and he had received feedback from community members troubled by Bartol’s comments.
“Any family that has a child with special needs would be very disconcerted to know we were thinking about defining the type of child we intend to work with,” Alwin said. “All children shall be served. Until I’m told differently, I have no intention of beginning to socially exclude any child that shows up at our doorstep.”
In an interview Wednesday Bartol did not back down from his statements but said he was misunderstood by administrators and other board members who took offense to his comments.
“To my knowledge, all the students that are attending the Baraboo School District fall into the category of being able to be educated,” he said. “But it is feasible and it has occurred in other school districts where students that because of some type of brain damage were not be able to be educated and yet they were allowed to go to school.”
In a statement from Wisconsin Association of School Boards Wednesday,
attorney Nancy Dorman advised the district state and federal laws entitle all children to an education, and the district’s obligation to provide it cannot be waived through local policy.
It’s possible those state and federal laws implied that “students” were children capable of being educated, Bartol said. He said ideally the district would have a team of experts determine if children with severe cognitive disabilities were making progress in the public school setting. If after a year or two they hadn’t improved, he said, they could go elsewhere.
“Public school systems are not a baby-sitting service or a nurse care
service for children such as those,” he said. “They’re a place to educate students.”
Peterson, who also investigates discrimination and harassment complaints in the district, said she was outraged by Bartol’s “discriminatory and prejudicial” remarks.
“It’s frightening to me that someone in a position making decisions on the education of the students in our community believes these kinds of things,” she said.
Education for severely cognitively disabled students is adapted and
individualized to the children’s needs, Peterson said, but it still
qualifies as education. Special ed teachers may work with a student to
learn to hold his head up, she said, freeing the student to be more
independent and spend his energies learning new tasks and concepts.
“We have had very young students with developmental disabilities who you might look at and just by appearance decide this student can’t learn,” she said. “I’ve seen those kids, and I’ve seen how far they do come.”
The district’s policy for students with disabilities borrows heavily from state and federal legislation, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which defines disabilities and schools’ obligations to serve students.
Bartol said the whole issue is probably moot if the board is unable to make any policy changes. “I’m not going to be upset about it one way or another,” he said, “and hopefully no one else gets upset about it one way or another.”
Bartol was elected to the board after a recount of the April 4 election had him winning by a three-vote margin over write-in candidate Doug Mering. Bartol, who was on the same ticket as a five-year, $7.5-million referendum, ran on an anti-referendum platform.

6 thoughts on “Baraboo Board Member Stirs Controversy”

  1. Mr. Bartol makes the comment that he hopes no one else gets upset about his remarks. My hope is that all of us are already upset about his comments and view his stated opinion as a reminder to share our support for a top notch education for all. I also share my gratitude for knowledgeable, volunteer school board members everywhere who devote endless hours to support this mission.

  2. The more of Mr. Bartol’s comments I read, the more disgusted I become. It is beyond me how someone so ignorant could be elected to the board of education. I doubt the good citizens of Baraboo school district knew the man they were voting in was so ignorant. Children with disabilities have rights, too, regardless of the nature/severity of their disabilties.
    In 1973, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Code became law. This law stated that it is illegal to deny participation in activities, benefits or programs, or to in any way discriminate against a person with a disability solely because of the disability. Individuals with disabilities must have equal access to programs and services.
    In 1975 PL 94-142 was signed into law by President Gerald Ford. Public Law 94-142 is also known as EHA (The Education of Handicapped Children Act). It states that special needs children have the right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. It was a movement toward civil rights for children with special needs.
    In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. The ADA, also known as PL 101-336, is a law that mandates that no person of any age shall be discriminated against in the areas of transportation, public access, local government or telecommunications. Because of this law, we now have wheelchair accessible restrooms and access ramps as well as TDD phone systems and closed captioning for the hearing impaired as some examples.
    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was signed into law in 1990. IDEA, also known as PL 101-476, was meant as another addition to PL 94-142. It changed the acceptable term for people with special needs to disabled instead of handicapped. It mandated that Transition Plans be implemented for children 16 years and older who receive special education services. It also added Traumatic Brain Injury and Autism to the list of disabilities PL 94-142 protects under law.
    Mr. Bartol, these laws do not state that only children who can recite their ABC’s or write their name are entitled to an education. These laws state that ALL children are entitled to an education.
    And, Mr. Bartol, ALL children can and do learn. Even the most severely disabled child can learn.

  3. Kevin Bartol is a festering blemish on the Baraboo School Board and a blemish on the school district and community at large. He is selfish and insensitive to others and is generally ignorant of the law, misinformed as to what public school is and what it’s objectives are; he requires remedial education and an IEP to create strategies where he can attain AYP Adequate Yearly Progress, until further notice.

  4. I attended the Baraboo School Board meeting last night and spoke at it. I also heard that we cannot recall this blockhead until he has served for one year. Is this true? He refuses to step down. He was pretty smug during the meeting and when he did speak, it was obvious he was trying to “spin” away from the real subject of the meeting. One of the Sp.Ed. teachers suggested that Mr. Bartol be disciplined just as a high school student recently was for teasing and tormenting a special needs student about their disability. I agree. I also took back my suggestion (which was published in our newspaper in Baraboo) that he come and spend a week with my aunt, for whom I am now guardian, who is disabled and was denied an adequate education, being born in 1947 before such was established by law. I told him that I would rather she didn’t learn about people like himself and their prejudices. What can we do to get him off the board? The entire board is rendered immobile by his presence. The taxpayers are now paying for the district’s attorney to sit in at meetings. It’s disgusting.

  5. I was just googling Mr. Bartol’s name to see if anything new has poppeed up. I was pretty well irate when I saw the first article.\
    I do want to say, in defense of the disrtict as a whole, that their special education has improved dramatically since Lance Alwin became super.
    A few years ago, before Lance came on, I was involved with the case where an aide was accused of molesting a student. The school, under the former super’s direction, brought in their attorney to begin discrediting the student, immediately, because she was a SpEd student being served under the EBD category.
    In the end, many more students came forward and the man was charged.
    I don’t get many calls from parents in Baraboo, anymore, but when I do find that the cases are much easier to resolve and the staff is fantastic.
    I was sure sorry to have to miss that board meeting. I wanted to give him my best SpEd 101.

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