Dear Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen,
I am writing to you in response to a story I recently read regarding a principal in your district. I am sure that at this point you have read or heard about the Raw Story piece on Kimberly Taylor. I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special needs child, were horrified by the audio tape of Ms. Taylor embarrassing a child in front of the school and saying, “This is a retard.” I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special need child, were horrified by Ms. Taylor’s use of profane language, of the anger and hate in her voice, of her abusive and demeaning language. I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special needs child, were horrified to the point of knowing that Ms. Taylor does not belong in a classroom or Principal’s office.
Obviously something happened along the way though. I can only imagine the political tightrope you as administrators must walk. At some point, someone, a misguided friend of Ms. Taylor’s perhaps, brought enough political capital to a meeting with you and your boss and bought Ms. Taylor an insignificant one week suspension.
Here’s the thing though – a one week suspension, for what is clearly heard on those audio tapes, is not even a slap on the wrist. Her punishment was essentially a one week vacation – one that she obviously needed. Her punishment sends a clear message to the parents of Hilltop School – that you see their children as “retards” and “animals”; that you are okay with putting their children in the care of someone who has no qualms about using not only abusive language but abusive tactics; that it’s okay if their children have to go to school every day afraid.
That is horrifying.
But here is the even more horrifying thing you and your colleagues have done – you have sent a message, not just to the parents of Hilltop School, but to every parent of every Special Needs child everywhere. In this age of Social Media and the Internet, information travels at the speed of thought. You do not live in a bubble and the policies you set forth regarding your Special Needs population, as vile as they are, let other administrators and principals know that, at the very least, you can get away with this kind of behavior with nothing more than a one week suspension.
Is that how you want to be remembered? Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen believe that a child’s dignity, a child’s humanity, a child’s innocence is worth one week. We present the Albers/Larsen Policy.
Truth is, I don’t think the administrators in my district would tolerate this kind of behavior, but I know that I am lucky to live where I live. I hear constant horror stories from parents in other towns of administrators and principals who stonewall families; denying services for as long as they can. YOU, Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen, have given them new ammunition; at the very least you’ve given them permission to take their frustrations out on the very kids they are supposed to nurture.
There is but one way for you two make this right – you must fire Kimberly Taylor; completely – no alternate job with Haverstraw; you must cut ties with her and never, ever allow her into a classroom again under any circumstances. Additionally, you need to hold accountable the person or people who chose to give Ms. Taylor a measly one week suspension instead of firing her in the first place. If those people were you, then resign, but only after firing Ms. Taylor.
There is nothing wrong with a principal who uses a firm hand and tough love. Abusive behavior is neither of those.
Make this right.
Kimberly Taylor is the principal of Hilltop School and can be heard in an audio recording saying the following to students in her charge:
“It’s important you’re on your best behavior. If someone falls in dance, don’t laugh because I will rip your [expletive] out of there. It’s important not to embarrass yourself. Your family take pride in yourself. I will embarrass you, you all know me, if you don’t give a [expletive], neither do I.”
“‘Cause guess what; everyone knows this school is for kids that have behavior problems, so it will be a normal thing if we drag you down and pull you out.”
“This is a retard. How embarrassing, a disgusting embarrassment, get him the hell out of my sight.”
Amy Albers, Ed. D is the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services in West Nyack, New York.
Julie Larsen is the Assistant Director of Student Services in West Nyack, New York.