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Reaction to Autism Action: The “Unofficial Letter of Reprimand”

Rockwell_speechBy Kent Heckenlively, Esq.

On January 29, 2013 I appeared before the San Ramon Valley School Board as part of a delegation of teachers expressing our concern over what we considered to be practices which did not properly value teachers.  Specifically, we were concerned that even anonymous complaints against teachers were given far greater consideration than the perfectly reasonable explanations provided by teachers.

One of the teachers who felt unfairly singled out by a group of parents was a civics teacher and noted that the bedrock of our justice system is the right to confront one’s accusers, an option which he was not provided.

I provided an example which I felt clearly demonstrated the absurdity of the district’s concern in that a complaint was made against me by somebody I did not even know, whose children had never been in my class, and yet my administrator felt it was necessary to take action.

From the minutes of the January 29, 2013 San Ramon Valley School Board meeting:

“Kent Heckenlively, Gale Ranch Middle School teacher, shared that he has a vaccine-injured child.  Approximately three years ago, he wrote an article about vaccines injuring students.  Someone from outside of the district complained and his administrator said in order to protect him, she was going to put an unofficial letter of reprimand into his personnel file because of this article.  Mr. Heckenlively found this action unjust.  He is telling his story to show support for his fellow teachers.”

In the years since that incident I have been busy.  I became a representative from my school to our union, was appointed head of the Health and Safety Committee, and serve on the Executive Board of the union.  It’s been a good place to get myself known and continue my advocacy for the health of our children.

Last year the President of our School Board wrote a public letter of support after viewing “The Greater Good”, a documentary about the danger of vaccine side-effects.  Since that time other members of our union and the school board have also viewed it and provided me with their supportive comments.  There will be more showings of the film in the district.



Several curious things happened to the President of the School Board after he wrote the letter of support for “The Greater Good.”  He told me he got the ugliest hate letters he'd ever received in more than ten years of public service and his e-mail account was hacked.  He still won re-election.  (Note to the opposition – That kind of activity doesn’t win allies to your side.  In fact, it sort of makes people more willing to listen to my concerns.  And I should inform you I am now the union liaison to that school board member.)

But my appearance on January 29, 2013 wasn’t the first time I’d appeared before the board.  I spoke in front of them on November 13, 2012.

Here are my remarks:

“I come before you as the father of a vaccine-injured child, a science teacher, and as chairman of the Health and Safety Committee for the San Ramon Valley Education Association.

I come before you to ask for your engagement on the issue of how vaccines are damaging the health of our children.

Last December, shortly after I became Chairman of the Health and Safety Committee I began to raise these issues with the executive board of our teacher’s union.  I provided them with peer-reviewed science articles, and statements from top medical officials, including Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health, to the effect that proper vaccine safety studies had not been done and that officials had told her that such studies would not be done for fear of what they might find.

Our children deserve better.  The executive council of our local union voted without a single dissenting vote to support my motion to have the California Teachers’ Association consider the issues I had raised.

You might ask how this chain of events came to pass.  I’ll tell you.  In 1986 the pharmaceutical companies which made childhood vaccines needed a bail-out.  They needed a bail-out because under the schedule in which approximately ten doses of vaccines were given before the age of five, many children were suffering neurological injuries, including seizures and deaths.  The lawsuits the pharmaceutical companies were losing threatened to put them out of business.

The bail-out the pharmaceutical companies received was the creation of a special vaccine court, funded by the pharmaceutical companies, and with their own rules of evidence.  These are rules which would shock the conscience of any traditional civil courtroom.

It’s interesting to actually read the language of the 1986 law establishing the court.  It refers to vaccines as products which are “unavoidably unsafe”.  I doubt that’s language your child’s pediatrician used in your appointments.  I know that my pediatrician did not.

Well, after both republicans and democrats signed off on the bill pharmaceutical companies had a shield behind which they could introduce more vaccines, and avoid questions about the startling rise in chronic childhood diseases, such as ADD, allergies, asthma, and autism.  Children today get more than forty vaccine doses before the age of five, with many of them coming in the first year of life, before the immune system is fully developed.

I need somebody to explain to me how when ten shots requires the removal of an entire class of products from the traditional civil court system that forty doses of the same type of product raise no reasonable concerns, and those who would raise such concerns must be excluded from polite society.

You might be interested to know that even with all of these legal hurdles, our federal government has awarded damages for vaccine injury in 83 cases in which autism was one of the injuries suffered.

The schools have a unique role to play in this debate as you are both an accomplice, given the recommendation you make to parents that they should follow the CDC’s immunization schedule, and you are a victim, because you are left with these broken children to care for and educate as best you can.

I know I have friends among you.  I know some of you have stories similar to mine of vaccine injury from your family or friends.  You are scared to speak publicly for fear of ridicule.  Let’s remove the fear and shame which surrounds the issue of vaccine injury and speak honestly.  Let’s end the silence.

Let’s help our children.”

I’ll confess that my knees were knocking a little bit, and my voice may have trembled as I spoke those words, but there’s a funny thing about courage.  It’s not a dwindling resource.  In fact, using a little courage actually gives you more.  And people respond to courage.  They want to be around it.  They recognize it.

And as much as my child’s disease has separated me from many of my friends and family, it has drawn others closer, including members of the school board, and my fellow teachers.  I may still be something of a strange creature to them, but they are starting to understand my concerns.  The bridges I am building with people are stronger than the ones which previously existed.

A good example is the principal of my school, the very one who took the complaint, called me into her office, and under whose authority the assistant principal told me he was going to write an “unofficial letter of reprimand” and put it in my personnel file.

It was the end of the day and students were in my room putting the finishing touches on their science fair projects and the principal walked into my room.  I can probably count on the fingers of a single hand the times she’s done that in the past four years.  She had something of a sheepish look on her face, said she’d read my comments to the school board about my “unofficial letter of reprimand”, and asked if the principal I was talking about was her.

I told her it was.  The revelation troubled her.  She vaguely recalled the incident, but said that if something had been put in my personnel file I should have been given a copy.  I shrugged and told her that’s what the assistant principal had told me, shortly after the three of us had talked.
She left my room, but the next morning as I was doing crossing guard duty she told me she’d looked through my file and there was no letter of reprimand.  The next thing she’d done was go to the computer used by the former assistant principal and found the letter he had composed, but never put in my file. 

She then destroyed it.

I’m not certain, but I think if another complaint comes in from somebody who has never met me, and who does not have kids at my school, she will respond much differently.

It made me feel so good I sent a letter to each member of the school board, several of whom I now consider friends.  Here’s the text of that letter:

“Dear (Board Member):

I don’t know if you saw this recent research funded by Autism Speaks regarding the current rate of 1 in 50 children with autism in the United States.

As the head of the Health and Safety Committee for SRVEA I request time before the board to present data regarding the possible reasons for this increase and how the district may take action to combat this unprecedented epidemic.

To better understand the issues I will be discussing I am enclosing a copy of the book, “Vaccine Epidemic” by Mary Holland and Louise Habakus.  You will note from the book cover that it was strongly endorsed by Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health.

All the best,
Kent Heckenlively

When I was young I remember reading Anne Frank’s quote that, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”  I thought she was a fool.  She thought people were good.  The Nazis killed her.

And yet I find as I get older I have a greater understanding of her wisdom.  We are engaged in a great conflict for the health of future generations.  Many will not understand.  A few will be hostile.  And yet the great majority of people are really good at heart.  They can be made to understand what is at stake in this fight.

Let me tell you this about the teachers and administrators of the San Ramon Valley.  They are people of the highest quality.  They work hard at their jobs.  They care about children.  I have no doubt that if somebody came onto a campus intending to do harm, every single one of them would risk their lives to protect their students. 

It’s just the way they are made.

The struggle I am asking them to undertake requires a different type of courage, but I know they are up to the challenge.  They stand for children, and if they come to understand what this fight is about, they will be warriors that no army can defeat.

Kent Heckenlively is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.

Comments

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One time I had occasion to enquire into a matter at an institution (a policy and procedure- type question). I was clearly told by the administrator of this institution that I needed to provide a real name- (not something like 'lilady') for them to do ANY further investigation. I cannot believe something like a letter of reprimand could be based on a cowardly, anonymous letter- it is possible that she did in the real letter. I don't know that I would characterize her letter as hateful but it certainly has a malicious intent to silence you. And from her previous history, it may be that she encouraged others to send in letters. Someone who copies/pastes full comments as often as she does and keeps such close track of what others are doing (I have seen her bait Dr. Jay about his employees and their activities and question Jake's dating habits and course work) certainly shows an obsessive quality. Even another poster at RI has censured her for this. I guess I would ask her to really look at what she is doing and see that she uses a nym because she is terrified of someone treating her as she treats others- almost to the verge of cyber- stalking. "Do unto others" may be the best advice for anyone.

Yes, lilady (under the brave pseudonym lilady) just revealed that she was the one to send the letter. Per the article I quoted about venting online, I think she should take note of the ill-health effects.

Brilliant indeed! Thank you so much for building bridges.

Beautiful Poem "Onward"
I like fierce spirit part.

And Kent it has been so long since we heard you. I have thought of you and your daughter often and hoped all was going okay for you ..

I don't know if some one who is not a teacher - understands what it means to a teacher to be told something is going into their file/record -- teachers as a whole are --- well we hate it! I don't know why -- I guess we think someone is looking in our files all the time and tsk, tsking, or
we might have to go out and find a new job and everybody will see our file and think the worse of us.

It is not often in our life time that we do get justice-- and if anyone needs a break it is a parent of a kid that has been damaged by modern medicine.

I am so pleased that some one did not put it in, and I am so glad that they decided to take it out. Yet, it still stings that some one would put in something that we know we are so right about.

Kent -
Brilliant! I see the rampant vaccine damage every day in the pre-schoolers I work with, and it makes me so sad and angry. I have long felt that if the educators were actually educated on this topic, there would finally be some pushback. Because as you say, THEY are the ones that have to try and educate all these damaged children.

One very important thing for readers to know as they pass this on, though. You noted that the "...federal government has awarded damages for vaccine injury in 83 cases in which autism was one of the injuries suffered."

But those 83 cases were discovered among a very small sample of compensated cases (171) that were identified. There are over 1400 cases of vaccine-induced brain damage that have been compensated through the NVICP, and based on this peer-reviewed paper, HALF of them likely have autism.

The 83 Canaries are only the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks, Kent.

Reading your post this morning helped me find the courage, and make the decision, to speak the truth on a day when I had to make a choice to either speak my truth, or close a door. I chose to speak the truth and let the acorns fall where they might. I was surprised to be greeted not with condemnation or disbelief, but instead with understanding and some shared perceptions/experiences re: vaccines.

That, and your post, give me hope that the tide may indeed be turning toward the truth, or at least the seeking of truth.

Somehow this all reminded me of a poem by P. B. Shelley:

"Make me thy lyre, ev'n as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,
Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Kent thanks for giving us an up date on how things are going.

I have always thought that the key to the entrance of all things is education.

Once education on the most basic level comes around then so all the rest.

Beautifully put, Kent.

LOVE THIS, KENT! I intend to forward it to my email list. So well-stated and inspiring! You have a gift for getting our message across to others w/o alienating them. Thank you for using this gift...one of many, I'm sure!

My favorite part is this:

"I need somebody to explain to me how when ten shots requires the removal of an entire class of products from the traditional civil court system that forty doses of the same type of product raise no reasonable concerns, and those who would raise such concerns must be excluded from polite society."

You're awesome! Keep up the great work :)


If EVERY school district had a Kent--a Kent who speaks up! things will start to turn around quickly! Everyone who can, sign up to be the Kent in your district. Speak out at the next board meeting. And all of us, start speaking out to our children's teachers. Special ed, all teachers, the school nurse, the principal. God knows we see these people enough!

Start telling your story of vaccine injury. Even in the IEP. The first person who tells this story will get the rolled eyes and the shrugs and the sighs. The 3rd person will get a look of shock as they start to wonder why the story is so similar. The 10th person will get a look of terror as they get it, and they finally realize its' true. The 11th person will get compassion. And then the tide will begin to turn.

Not only that--- many teachers are told they must get vaccinations and I wonder if it affects their health as a group? It seems to me teachers have a higher rate of auto-immune issues. They might really pay attention to this.

As Kent pointed out--the teachers see the trends. They have had no idea why. It has harmed their life and hurt all of the children as resources get shifted as they must to cope with this. They have seen this happen--they must wonder why. But like the frog in the hot water, it has been so gradual . . . So this is the obvious reason why and it adds up. It is about to become one of those moments where a 'great truth' is suddenly self-evident. And Kent, you started a huge ripple! (google RFK and ripple). Expect a panicked response. Because the nutcase "vaccines don't cause harm" bloggers know they cannot fight this many witnesses. They know the gig is up.

You have to engage the nursery school directors too. Most of the damage is done by the time kids get to kindergarten.

Kent,

Thank you for sharing this, as others have said, it was so well written. My niece was injured and two of my children have autoimmune issues.

Your courage gives me hope and inspires me to continue to speak out. You are managing to educate and inform those around you which is making a difference be very sure of that.

Kent, Whatever happened to free speech? I can't believe some anonymous persons complaint resulted in a disciplinary action toward you. scary. glad you were able to turn it around. We need allies outside of our community.

Taximom, you're so right. I always say I wish that the docs/peds etc. would get out to the schools and see what's happening!

Glad you're back and I'm glad you have support! Hmmn, someone complained who was from "outside"the school district. Sounds like one of those pesky "science"blogs people. I think you're right- all their poll crashing (once, believe it or not, I even saw a guy there try and desperately enlist his fellow bloggers to crash a poll he designed and put out because things weren't turning out the way he wanted- of course he sheeplishly protested that he knew polls weren't very scientific, anyways!), hate calls and letter campaigns (#ditchjenny) don't make them look very good. I believe SFU thought the deluge of activity to make them deny renting a room for a group where a vaccine discussion would take place was odd.
The other day at RI an adult with autism called someone a f*cking @sshole and a fellow blogger implored others to not discuss other people's looks since it was "besides the point" for a 'science' blog. When you look at the current research on venting and how it actually doesn't make one feel better you have to wonder about these people who use screen names and basically engage in the worst kind of cyber-bullying (a certain nastylady mentioned she has high blood pressure etc. and I can't imagine this kind of obsessive activity is helpful)
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_135194.html

Thank you. This was the best piece of writing I have read in some long while and perfectly timed after a very trying day. I hope with all my heart that you are right and more people who perhaps right now feel they have lost nothing will find the courage to step up and do what is right. We all have to build bridges to help make that happen.

Kent,

I was SO enthused to see your article this morning! I think I've shared with you on the phone over two years ago re: the troubles my family has had with this school district regarding our son's special education issues. To put it rather bluntly, we went through hell and back with what they did to our son during those horrific years. So I am greatly encouraged to see that the tide is turning and that just perhaps, eyes, ears and HEARTS are opening and LISTENING to the words that you've so eloquently spoken before our school board.

I know what our school board President went through simply because he dared to say that he felt that people should watch The Greater Good movie. He was absolutely appalled with the vitriolic attacks on his character, all because he simply encouraged folks to view the film! In fact, he spoke with one particular pediatrician who chastised him for his remarks about the film, only to find out that this pediatrician hadn't taken the time to view the film!


..."The schools have a unique role to play in this debate as you are both an accomplice, given the recommendation you make to parents that they should follow the CDC’s immunization schedule, and you are a victim, because you are left with these broken children to care for and educate as best you can..."


Indeed. When I was the State Director for the NVIC, I strongly felt that all schools in this state needed to be aware of the code which afforded all Californians the legal option within which to use their exemption(s) to vaccination, yet very few of our schools were providing parents with correct information about this statute. I proceeded to write a standardized letter to each and every school and school district about this issue. I was very encouraged with some of the feedback that I received during that process. In fact, several nurses contacted me personally and proclaimed astonishment that ANYONE was contacting our schools and asking them to confront this vaccine issue head on (including the legal rights of parents to the use of our exemptions).

I have always wholeheartedly felt that our school district personnel need to become educated and aware about this issue. Fear is often the common denominator as to why so many of these folks (and others) won't speak out about this issue; fear of ridicule, fear of going against the mainstream, etc.

We all enjoy our comfort zones. We don't like being forced out of that comfortable box and discover that just perhaps the Truth isn't what it seems or what has been taught to us.

So Kent - I'm glad things worked out for you re: your "reprimand," and am REALLY happy to see that the vaccine issue in our school district is being taken seriously.

I will note that in all the districts that I wrote to regarding our state's new Tdap mandate, OUR DISTRICT wins rave reviews from moi here as to how they handled the new mandate. They were wonderful.

If the 4 to 1 boy/girl Autism rates comes from the same thing as the 4 to 1 ADD / ADHD rates... then we have a problem of about TEN MILLION CHILDREN.

The school systems probably have much better Autism data than the Center for Disease Corruption anyways.

If 1 in 50 doesn't send out the loudest warning possibe, then there is no hope. The producers and parties which have vested interests in them are not stopped, they would gladly poison the world for money. The irony is that we, through our ignorant, unbelieving, uninformed representatives who are equally to blame, join in that blame for not YELLING loud enough.

"The schools have a unique role to play in this debate as you are both an accomplice, given the recommendation you make to parents that they should follow the CDC’s immunization schedule, and you are a victim, because you are left with these broken children to care for and educate as best you can."

This is the issue that has been especially infuriating to me all these years. Thank you for capturing it so eloquently. Brilliant piece, Kent. So great to see you back here again!

Brilliant article, Kent--and you raise a possibility that few of us have considered.

WE--THE PARENTS OF VACCINE-INJURED CHILDREN--NEED TO MEET WITH SCHOOL BOARDS AND TEACHERS.

The teachers only know that they are seeing higher and higher numbers of kids with autism, ADD, ADHD, and other learning disabilities, not to mention the fact that an enormous percentage of their classes need to go to the school nurse for their medications before lunch.

The school boards only know that their schools are slipping further and further behind in their performance on standardized tests. They don't know why; it certainly doesn't occur to them that kids with learning disabilities (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) are unable to perform well on these tests. As they keep cutting the amount of real help given to these students, the scores go lower and lower.

If the school boards start to "get it," they might--they just might--address the lies told by the media about kids needing to be fully vaccinated in order to attend school. They just might put some real info about exemptions on the school websites.

Want to bet that at least one member of every school board has an autistic niece, nephew, or grandchild?

This is an absolutely wonderful piece that has touched my heart. Kudos and thank you.

Wonderful article, Kent.

And I think that when people honestly look at the evidence piling up everywhere that an unsafe, unchecked vaccine schedule is harming our children, they'll demand we honestly address this nightmare. There are so many lies out there now... "vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives," "studies show no link," "better diagnosing," "vaccines are thoroughly tested," "we just used to called them mentally retarded," etc. etc.... we simply can't swallow much more in the face of the epidemic numbers of sick kids.

We have autistic kids in every school. Teachers, police, firefighters, and librarians are being trained to deal with individuals with autism----because they have to be. Autism is changing the demographics of our country. Go to any nursing home. Look for the residents with autism or who display the symptoms of autism. Why aren't there any?

Regardless of the cause---which is so often the topic---IT'S THE COST THAT WILL EXPOSE EVERY LIE. The cost of a generation of young adults who will overwhelm social services. We won't be asking for awareness and acceptance and lighting things up in blue. We'll be desperate to stop autism.

Anne Dachel, Media

Not to mention the courage it takes for teachers to work in one of the most dangerous environments today - the school campus.

"Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow."
--Alice Mackenzie Swaim

So, this is how it begins -- with education.
When the teachers begin to understand an social issue -- the rest of society will follow.

I have to admit though-- it seems to have taken a long time.

Glad to hear what has been going on Kent -- it seems that this might be a spark to actually light a flame -- on some already very hot kindling.

It is good to see an article from you again - I've wondered where you have been. I admire the alliances you are forming and the fact that you just keep moving forward, as does everyone here.

I do believe the tide is turning. In the past few months I've met too many Moms with kids on the spectrum but even more Moms whose kids are NT. The NT moms are stressed and mad. It is becoming apparent that those issues they were told not to worry about are serious problems - learning disabilities, constipation, behaviors, allergies. The ranks of people questioning pediatricians is growing daily

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