Cheryl Mix Case
Cheryl Mix is a former special education teacher (12 years experience) in East Maine District #63 in Desplaines Illinois. After giving testimony (02/23/2002) at a gubernatorial forum hosted by Parents' Alliance for Compliance in Special Education, she was harassed by school principal Karen Beck, falsely accused of child abuse, and dismissed from her teaching position.
The following exerpts detail her case.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-02/05/02
East Maine Dist. 63 Parent and Teacher Stand Together for Disabled Students.
Saturday, February 23, 2002, Parent-2-Parent for Special Students, P2PSS, was represented at a gubernatorial forum on special education. The forum was hosted by Parents' Alliance for Compliance in special Education, P.A.C.E. P.A.C.E. is a statewide coalition of parent groups whose focus is students with disabilities.
Eva Marie Roberts, P2PSS's founder, gave testimony on her experiences with the special education system and introduced Cheryl Mix a special education teacher from East Maine School District 63. Ms. Roberts stated:
I stand before you tonight as a former student with special needs, as a parent of a child with disabilities and also as a person who has formed a support/advocacy group for parents of students with disabilities............Illinois school districts' non compliance of disability laws has altered my life as a child and now as a parent........I've spent 4 years looking for a teacher that would stand up and tell the truth. Someone who could reassure me that "No, I am not going crazy. Yes, it's the system that is insane." Well a couple of months ago I met that teacher. I attended an IEP for a now friend and was totally stunned to hear a teacher tell the truth. What kind of world do we live in that I would react that way to honesty from school personnel???......my jaw hit the floor.
That teacher is here today and is taking a bold step of tell the world the truth. I remain stunned. Cheryl thank you for coming to this forum and letting all the parents present here today know that there is hope. I have nothing but pure respect and admiration for you.
Cheryl Mix gave testimony on her experiences and struggles as a special education teacher. Ms. Mix stated:
"I am Cheryl Mix, a special education teacher. I have had the honor of teaching children with disabilities for the past 12 years. I also had the good fortune 4 years ago of obtaining a teaching position in the district I grew up and where I currently reside, East Maine School District 63......
I expect administrative support and to work as a team with the parents....I was no longer encouraged to work along side of parents as an equal partner. I was discouraged to communicate with parents outside of the daily notes that were sent home telling the parents about their child's day. I was given many strong suggestions not to discuss information with the parents or to say anything more then current progress of goals during IEP meetings. I was now being told to go against best teaching practices and my personal teaching philosophy, values,morals, and ethics......
I was very up front with the special education administrator that I was not happy with these suggestions and the children's education would suffer as a result of this. My honesty was ignored.
I was being told in indirect ways, if I wanted to keep my job I would not inform parents of their rights and I would keep my mouth shut. In order to make sure I did not get support from other teachers or principals in the district, I was moved to a different school for the current school year. I was allowed to teach preschoolers with special needs but in a building that did not contain non disabled preschoolers.....
This current school year I have had many times where the administration has shown their displeasure with my views and teaching practices through subtle harassment. Unfortunately this harassment has effected my students greatly and in many negative ways......I was feeling helpless and that I was having a negative impact on my students due to lack of adequate space, materials and equipment as a result child's life hell, segregation and inequality. I know I could never allow myself to let this happen and I hope you will not allow this to continue."
June 20, 2002, Niles Herald-Spectator
Special education teacher, accused of child abuse, leaves Dist. 63
BY CHRIS LAFORTUNE, STAFF WRITER
As a show of support for their teacher - who has been accused of physically abusing two students - a group of Elementary School District 63 parents stood outside Washington School in Glenview Friday, waiting for her to gather her belongings.Special education teacher Cheryl Mix, whom the district has already decided not to rehire next school year, has been accused - by one of her own teaching assistants - of physically abusing two of her students, according to Michelle Kane, a parent of one of the students in question. Kane said she does not believe the charges.
"Neither one of these children can speak for themselves," Kane said."They're the only two out of the class that are speech delayed. They cannot tell us exactly what happened." Speech delayed students are unable to properly put sentences together, Kane said. They understand questions, and they can provide only a few words in answer.
In the case of her son, Kane said Mix has been accused of poking him in the head on the playground after he accidentally knocked down another student about a month ago. Kane said she has spoken with her son, and he does not remember the incident as having happened. "I'm a room mother, and I've spent a ton of time with the kids in class, on field trips and time in the classroom," Kane said. "I've never witnessed her doing anything physically with the children, ever."
Mix was escorted from school grounds on June 5, Kane said, following the allegation. Mix said one of her teacher assistants has said three incidents of physical abuse have occurred, twice on the playground and once in the classroom. In the remaining two incidents, Mix is accused of pushing a child in the head and hitting a child in the head after the child had hit her.
"I reprimanded him for hitting a teacher, but I didn't touch him," Mix said. Mix said her other teacher's assistant has said the incidents never happened. Karen Beck, princpal at Washington School, where Mix taught, would not comment on the allegations or on who would teach the class for the remainder of the year. District 63 Superintendent Kathleen Williams also said she could not comment on whether the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has been contacted, whether parents in the classroom have been notified, what happened or when it happened since the situation involves a matter of personnel.
"I can tell you that, anytime there are abuse allegations against a child, we would definitely pursue the appropriate channels," Williams said. As of Thursday, DCFS was not investigating Mix, said Elizabeth Calhoun, a spokeswoman for the department. "That doesn't mean no one called," Calhoun said. "The hotline representatives, they decide whether or not something is going to be investigated or not." If there is not enough evidence that something occurred, Calhoun said, then hotline representatives do not pass the report on. School districts, if they are aware of abuse, are required to report it, Calhoun said. "They are mandated reporters," Calhoun said. "Any facility that works with children, they're a mandated reporter, for all the staff."
Among those in support of Mix last week was Karen Horowitz, president of the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse, based in Wilmette. Horowitz had her own difficulties when she was a teacher with her former school district, Elementary School District 37 in Wilmette. Following those problems, she made teacher advocacy her work. Horowitz said she found out about Mix's case from a teacher with her group, and she decided to support Mix however she could. "I would advocate for any teacher that's being abused," Horowitz said. "I know it's going on all over the country." Also in attendance was Eva Roberts, president of Parent-2-Parent, an advocacy group for parents with special education children. Roberts arranged for parents to come out to see Mix off Friday. Roberts said she does not believe the charges against Mix, either. "When you have both parents of the children that are supposed to have been abused insisting they weren't, it's an injustice," Roberts said. "It's teacher abuse."
The district decided not to rehire Mix at its April School Board meeting. At the time, Mix said she believed the decision was over a personality conflict with Beck and for her having spoken out at an individual education program meeting for a student. Evaluations done by Beck just before the firing made mention of an incident concerning one of Mix's students. Beck reportedly observed Mix holding the child by the back of the neck. When Mix released the child, Beck reported seeing a mark for several minutes. The mother of the child involved has said she found no marks on her son. Mix said she will not look for another job in education, but is considering a job in advocacy instead. She also intends to continue pursuing litigation against District 63, as she said she would shortly after its decision not to rehire her. "I taught for 12 years, and because one woman did not like me, she destroyed my career," Mix said. District 63 covers parts of Niles, Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Morton Grove, Glenview and unincorporated Maine Township.
District 63 covers parts of Niles, Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Morton Grove, Glenview and unincorporated Maine Township.
IN THE NEWS: Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Teacher Exits Amid Accusations
By TRACY YOSHIDA from The Journal
Rain was pouring down. She was inside of a hot dog stand on Golf. Rd. across from Washington School in Glenview, packing bags of goodies for the children she said good-bye to on Friday, June 14. Cheryl Mix, a special education teacher at East Maine School Dist. 63 who was accused of physically abusing two children, packed up her belongings and said good-bye to parents, children and other supporters. About 20 people were gathered under an awning at Washington School. Mix's eyes were filled with tears as she said farewell and hugged and kissed the children. Parents held up signs that stated that they support Mix and a child was holding a "Super Teacher" balloon. Michelle Kane and her son were there to support Mix and her son was one of the children Mix was accused of abusing. "It was extremely emotional," said Eva Roberts, president of Parent-2-Parent for Special Students. "It's disheartening."
"I believe Cheryl," said Roberts. "I believe she's innocent." "It was a good turnout for the weather," added Roberts, who believes more parents would have come if it wasn't raining. Several other parents and advocates shared their support of Mix at the gathering. "The person who told the principal she abused kids was lying," said Ariye Ginzburg, secretary of Parent-2-Parent for Special Students.
"She's innocent," said parent, Frank Perdomo. "She's helped my child a lot."
"I'm supporting Cheryl," said parent, Elizabeth Halemba, who has been in due process with the district. "Misjustice was done."
"I can't believe it," said parent, Elena Huculak. She said that this situation reminds her of how people were treated in Russia in the past, without justice. "She's really a good teacher," said Huculak. She added that her son is doing well in school now and she believes it is because of Mix's positive influence on her son. Her son was originally at Melzer School and she said he was not doing well at that school.
After Mix packed up her car with her belongings, she had a moment to share her thoughts and feelings. "They didn't tell any of the parents I'd never see their children again," said Mix. "They acted as if by removing me, no one would notice." When asked if she'd continue teaching, Mix said no. "After this, I'll probably go into advocacy,' said Mix. "Because one woman didn't like me, she destroyed my career."
Mix said that she did not physically abuse the children. Mix claims she has been harassed and retaliated against as a direct result for advocating on behalf of her students and presenting testimony at a gubernatorial forum on special education this February. She feels she's being harassed for "telling the truth" that pointed to the district's non-compliance of certain special education requirements, such as not following the Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) of special needs students. According to Mix, the district said that they would file with the Department of Children and Family Services. On Monday, June 17, DCFS told the Journal that they are not investigating Mix.
At a board of education meeting in April the board voted in favor of the "nonremployment" of Mix despite the pleas of more than 40 supporters of Mix. Roberts said that at that meeting a claim was made that Mix grabbed or pulled students. If they felt Mix was a danger to children, Roberts wonders why they kept her at the school until June. If she is innocent, which Roberts believes is the case, then Mix is being harassed.
"No matter which way you look at it, it's bad decision making by the district," said Roberts. "Cheryl's story has been consistent, 63's hasn't." Roberts said that Dist. 63 has received results from an internal special education audit and the auditor found the district's program to be "lacking, non-existent and/or ineffective in all areas of the program." Roberts also added "In months prior to this incident the Illinois State Board of Education has cited Dist. 63 with many citations of non-compliance of special education laws."
Dist. 63 Director of Personnel Michael Johann told the Journal that the special education audit was not yet available. The district has been contacted, but has not made any comments on claims against Mix. Mix told parents to call her anytime they wished. After the good-bye outside of Washington school, they went out for ice cream together. Roberts said Mix will be volunteering her services at a disability camp this summer.