By 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.
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,
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.