I exposed $100 million that could have saved lives at Stoneman. Now, I’m fighting for my education.
On April 10th, I released an investigative report detailing over $100 million in school safety funds that Broward Schools failed to spend prior to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas. It also outlined potentially dangerous discipline programs that may have allowed the shooter to slip through the cracks.. The report went national, and was featured on The Hill, The Daily Wire, The Weekly Standard, etc.
Now, the same school district is kicking me out of school.
On May 25th, I received a letter from the Broward School Board stating that I had been unenrolled from my home school program. The letter states I failed to respond to a notice that I was “out of compliance.” It states that I was sent a letter in March that I failed to respond to. The letter wasn’t certified, and I never received an email or phone call (both of which the district has the ability to do). I was on track to graduate one year late, after rebounding from a crippling case of Lyme Disease that set my life back more than two years. I missed nearly two years of school and then entered a home school program as the cognitive effects of the disease began to take affect on my school work. Just this March I was diagnosed with ADD that stems from the disease.
At first, I imagined that this should take no more than a quick phone call to set straight. Unfortunately, my efforts over the course of the last month to appeal the decision have been fruitless. I called, provided the documents they requested, and filed an appeal. It was denied, citing a lack of credits and a prior termination (due to paperwork) as a reason. This is after I made them aware that any lack of credits was due to my illness and the cognitive condition that followed. As for the prior termination, having been my first full year of home school, my parents and I were unaware of procedures and paperwork that were expected. In no way did they affect my academic performance or my eligibility for disability protections.
Today, I filed a civil rights complaint with the Department of Education for discrimination based on age, disability, and retaliation. While I do not believe the initial notice was retaliatory or discriminatory, I believe the refusal to grant my appeal is. These are the reasons I’ve outlined in my complaint to the Department of Education.
Disability: On two separate occasions, Broward Schools was made aware that any lack of credits was due to a debilitating case of Lyme Disease and cognitive condition (ADD) that followed it. I first mentioned it in my email. Then again when another school district reached out to them. When I was enrolled, I did not have disability protections as I wasn’t aware of my rights as a student until recently. Still, my medical history and diagnosis makes me eligible for such protections.
Under Florida law, students with disabilities are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Rule 6A-6.03028 guarantees students with disabilities an education from the ages of three to twenty one. Attention Deficit Disorder is listed as an eligible disability for these protections in Rule 6A-6.030152 under Florida’s administrative code.
Retaliation: In April, I published a report on over $100 million in school safety funds that the Broward School District failed to spend. The report received national attention. Since that time, Superintendent Robert Runcie has continually ridiculed my work as “uninformed” and “fake news” despite evidence to the contrary. Members of the School Board labeled my report “damaging” and “hurtful.” Michaelle Valburn-Pope was named in my report as having instructed law enforcement to under report crime. As the Executive Director of Student Support Initiatives, Mrs. Pope’s office oversees Broward Home Education, the office responsible for both removing me and denying my appeal.