In Seclusion Room Saga, LPS and Lichtenstein Read and React
The call and response renewed this weekend when the New York Times attached an editor’s note to the former Lexington resident’s op-ed alleging the mistreatment of his daughter by the Lexington Public Schools.
For the past week or better, the Lexington Public Schools-Bill Lichtenstein seclusion room saga has been ongoing game of read and react.
It started on Saturday, Sept. 8, with the publication by The New York Times of an op-ed Lichtenstein wrote, which painted a scary picture of the treatment of his daughter when she was a kindergartner in the Lexington Public Schools.
The district’s administration and officials read, and reacted.
In a prepared statement and then again speaking publicly at a School Committee meeting last Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash said his review of the case did not match up with Lichtenstein’s claims.
Lichtenstein responded to that response, as did many Lexington residents.
Though the superintendent has not backed off of his stance, the district has asked the state Department of Children and Families to investigate Lichtenstein’s and other claims about the improper use of isolation rooms within the schools following calls for an independent investigation from the public and School Committee.
And the cycle came full circle this past Saturday, when the New York Times added an editor’s note to Lichtenstein’s op-ed, acknowledging some of the details of his account have been disputed, including the location of the “seclusion room” in question and how the girl was found.
Predictably, that begot another round of read and react.
In response to the Times note and a subsequent piece by the Boston Globe, Lichtenstein has posted a response on his “Terrifying Discipline” Weebly page, which takes its name from the headline of his op-ed and has been used to aggregate press coverage over the past week.
Lichtenstein’s initial piece told the story of his daughter, then a kindergartener enrolled at Fiske School, being kept in a “seclusion room” for hours at a time during the 2005-2006 school year, in which Fiske was temporarily using the old Harrington School during construction. In a particularly unsettling anecdote, Lichtenstein recalls the day he and the girl’s mother found their daughter “standing alone on the cement floor of a basement mop closet, illuminated by a single light bulb.” Their daughter was naked and standing in her own urine, according to Lichtenstein’s account.
Those details have been disputed by the Lexington Public Schools, and the Times editor’s note reflects the district’s challenging of Lichtenstein’s version of the events on the issue of how and where the girl was found, as well as whether Lichtenstein notified state agencies “at the time” of the episode or not.
In a Sept. 16 response to the Times editor’s note and a subsequent Globe story, Lichtenstein calls the woman hired to handle LPS’s public relations “a real genius,” questions her professional competence, rebuts challenges to his account and says he will not be bullied.
“Today, Lexington’s Ms. Schwartzman put her foot in it by calling me a liar in the pages of the Boston Globe,” Lichtenstein wrote. “One would hope that at least some of this attention in the town would focus on the safety and welfare of kids.”
In addition to framing debate about the location of the room in question – was it in the basement or a “mezzanine?” – and the definition of “at the time,” Lichtenstein writes that the editor’s note “references perhaps the most serious issue in front of him and the fact checker at the New York Times right now: the failure to have spoken with [the girl’s] mother, Ms. Peoples, before publication.”
Last week, Lichtenstein told Patch that he himself did not speak with his ex-wife June Peoples—their daughter’s custodial parent—prior to shopping around and publishing his piece about their daughter’s experiences at the Lexington Public Schools.
In explaining that decision Lichtenstein--who has released documents surrounding their case against the district, which was settled three years ago--has maintained that in his view, all of the information should be public when the safety and welfare of children are involved.
Read More on This Issue
- LPS Officials Will Respond to NY Times OpEd Alleging 'Terrifying' Treatment of Special Needs Student
- LPS Superintendent Statement Challenges NYT OpEd Alleging Mistreatment of Special Needs Student
- Lichtenstein Explains 'Seclusion Room' OpEd, Allegations Against LPS
- Lichtenstein Responds to Ash's Statements
- LPS Officials to Further Address 'Seclusion Room' Allegations Tonight
- Residents, School Committee Members Call for Independent Review of Isolation Room Complaints
- VIDEO: LPS Superintendent Was 'Disturbed' By Seclusion Room Allegations
- Ash Asks State to Investigate Seclusion Room Allegations at LPS
- Recapping the LPS "Seclusion Room" Controversy Thus Far
- New Developments in LPS Seclusion Room Saga