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Skit at LRP conference

Please excuse this off-topic post -- but it is so outrageous I just had to share it ...

Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing www.geocities.com/stophsa


Parents See No Humor In Skit on Special-Ed
Montgomery Official Performed at Conclave

By Linda Perlstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 31, 2004; Page B01

Zvi Greismann knocked 'em dead last year at a national conference on special education law.

In a satirical "newscast" at the conference's gala, Greismann, senior attorney for special education in the Montgomery County public schools, joked that Cuisinart has come up with the Due Processor, which "shreds, dices, cuts, blends, frappes and otherwise destroys" unwanted applications for due process hearings, where schooling disputes are resolved.

Showing a photo of elated children, he said, "In Boulder, Colorado, a group of students took to the streets in celebration of their due process victory, where the judges awarded them new sets of parents." With a John Madden display of arrows and circles, he gave a play-by-play of how a school system used its skill to deny a family the placement sought for a child.

The skit of inside jokes was greeted by abundant laughter at the National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Children With Disabilities, a conference in San Francisco attended mostly by lawyers who represent school systems. Now Greismann faces a chorus of boos from local parents who, having watched a tape of the performance, feel it mocked their families and their struggles.

"I was horrified," said Marcie Roth of Rockville. "It made me feel awful that a roomful of people were having a good laugh at something that my family and I have found so difficult."

Seeing a meeting for a student's individualized education plan (IEP) portrayed as a sports play-by-play riled Selene Robinson of Rockville. "It just confirmed my feeling of what we went through in Montgomery County," she said. "You always felt after an IEP meeting they must be laughing their tushes off."

Negotiating special services is sometimes an adversarial process between parents and school systems. Conference organizers defended Greismann's talk as a lighthearted diversion with no intent to insult. It was a small part of a large conference aimed at "how best to serve kids in special education," said Claude Werder, a vice president of LRP Publications, which presented the conference.

Most parents interviewed for this article said there is no place for public humor about special education, particularly not from someone who handles their children's cases, someone identified on the program as a Montgomery public schools attorney and, as the school system confirmed, attending the conference on a paid professional leave day.

Greismann said yesterday, "Because some people have filed formal complaints that might result in litigation, I don't believe it would be proper for me to comment right now." In a report that aired Monday on 630 WMAL, Greismann said, "There is a lighter side to anything. Anyone who attends any kind of professional conference, I believe there is probably humor in any arena."

Brian Bartels, the school system's director of special education, and system spokesman Brian Porter said they would not comment on Greismann's "activities outside the workday," as Porter put it. In a March 4 letter to the school board after parents began complaining, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast did not address last year's conference but said that at the coming one, Greismann "is presenting his own views, not those of Montgomery County Public Schools."

Parents had ordered a videotape of the event after seeing a repeat performance of Greismann's "irreverent anecdotes" advertised in a brochure for the May 2004 conference in Orlando. Some got teary over the jokes, including goals for special-ed students derived by the "National Association of Underachieving Smartypants Educators and Administrators," or NAUSEA: "You will complete the entire homework assignment without your parents' help" and "You will sit in your seat with your big fat mouth shut for at least five minutes without attacking anyone."

Conference organizers Werder and Melinda Baird, a Knoxville, Tenn., lawyer who represents school systems, said Greismann was mainly taking aim at bureaucracies. Baird said, "I don't think Zvi for one moment was trying to be insulting to parents or children with disabilities. . . . I'm sorry that anybody was offended."

Porter said that Greismann would have his Montgomery County identification removed from publicity materials for the event in May and that the talk would focus on the federal No Child Left Behind Act instead of special education. As of yesterday, that was not Werder's impression.

"As far as I'm concerned, it really hasn't changed. . . . The whole idea is another satirical look," Werder said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company