NEW YORK TIMES RELEASES “EDITOR’S NOTE” ON “A TERRIFYING WAY TO DICIPLINE CHILDREN” INVESTIGATION OF ISOLATION ROOMS AND RESTRAINTS IN SCHOOL
“Editor’s Note” adds more facts and transparency to the editing process of the story
Boston: September 16, 2012: Following challenges by Lexington Public Schools to the September 9, 2012 Sunday New York Times Opinion piece “A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children,” by father and journalist Bill Lichtenstein, the New York Times has published an “Editor’s Note,” by Sewell Chan, an Opinions section deputy editor who has handled the story. Chan’s “Editor’s Note” will appear today in the newspaper’s Sunday, September 16, 2012 edition.
The “Editor’s Note” adds available information about the story and the editing process, but it is different than a “Correction” or “Clarification,” which the New York Times uses to set the record straight, when needed, in stories it has published.
The four points in Chan’s “Editor’s Note”:
1) The girl wet herself while being confined in a closet for misbehaving. But school officials, and a 2008 deposition by the girl’s mother, state that she was then cleaned up and dressed while her parents were notified — and that it was not the case that the parents found her standing alone, unclothed, in her urine.
Sewell Chan confirmed with June Peoples, Rose’s mother, that Rose was found in the school isolation room in precisely the condition as described in Bill Lichtenstein’s Sunday New York Times article, which is consistent with the other facts in the matter. The school continues to claim both that 1) it called Rose’s parents to come get her, and 2) that a nanny picked Rose up on the date in question, something refuted by both of Rose’s parents. The 2008 deposition, supplied by Bill Lichtenstein to the New York Times and other news outlets, and mentioned in Chan's “Editor’s Note,” includes the following reference from Ms. Peoples: “At that point, they had gotten Rose dressed and I took her home.” Nowhere does the 2008 deposition state, as reported in Chan's "Editor's Note" that Ms. Peoples stated or indicated "it was not the case that the parents found her standing alone, unclothed, in her urine."
2) The article incorrectly described the closet where the girl was confined. It was on a mezzanine between two classroom levels, not in the basement.
The “Editor’s Note” describes the isolation room as being in a mezzanine rather than in the basement. It is in fact in a basement stairwell (see photos at www.terrifyingdiscipline.com)
3) While the girl’s parents sued the Lexington school district in 2007, and obtained a settlement in 2008, the writer did not notify two Massachusetts state agencies — the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Mental Health — “at the time” of the episode, according to state records.
The issue here, to which Lexington has objected, is the use of the phrase "at the time" by Lichtenstein and The Times, with regard to when Lichtenstein filed the child abuse reports with state agencies.
The 51A child abuse reports filed by Bill Lichtenstein, of the incident in 2006, were made with the Mass. Department of Children and Families, the state agency responsible for investigating the abuse of children, in late- March/early-April 2007, once the pattern of abuse became known. Sewell Chan confirmed with DCF that Mr. Lichtenstein had reported the Lexington isolation room to DCF in those 2007 reports. However, Chan's "Editor's Note" leaves the impression that no reports were made at all, which is inaccurate.
4) The girl’s parents divorced in 2007. If The Times had known before the article was published that the writer’s ex-wife was now the girl’s custodial parent, it would have contacted her.
In the “Editor’s Note,” Sewell Chan confirms that Rose’s mother, June Peoples, was not contacted by The Times either during the fact-checking process or prior to publication, although aware from Bill Lichtenstein that the couple was divorced. The issue of custody was not raised by Mr. Chan or the newspaper with Bill Lichtenstein during the editing or fact checking.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Bill Lichtenstein’s response to the “Editor’s Note”: Editor’s notes are a window onto the editorial process and add additional information and transparency to the story and the process of its editing, which is good. this editor's note does not, however, change any of the facts nor the point of the story. Click here to read Bill Lichtenstein's "Serious Child Abuse, Petty Concerns."
The Sunday New York Times article “A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children” has sparked a national debate about the practice of restraints and seclusion in schools.
Restraint and seclusion in schools press coverage and resources are available at www.TerrifyingDiscipline.com LCMedia, One Broadway, 14th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02142 617-682-3700 Fax: 617-682-3710 Email: LCM@LCMedia.com