Thursday, March 16, 2006

Violation of My Civil Rights by Santa Monica College

Here's another email to Robert Sammis. At the bottom of the email is a list of all the relevant individuals and state and federal regulatory agencies that received a copy. Two Santa Monica College Board of Trustees also received a copy. To date, SMC has remained silent to the recent events as has Academy of Entertainment and Technology Professor Jim Keeshen.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

------------------------- MY EMAIL TO ROBERT SAMMIS-------------------




DATE: MARCH 16, 2005

Dear Mr. Sammis,

I have not heard back from you since your January 9, 2006 email to me. I additionally sent you a copy of the email I sent Professor Jim Keeshen on or about March 7, 2006 and I have not received a response. All my efforts to discover your whereabouts since your departure from your office over at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology have been unsuccessful. I am now emailing you again to formally resolve several issues that I feel demand your prompt attention. Furthermore, by copy of this email, I am exhausting any and all administrative remedies for the respective violation of my civil rights and student rights to free speech, free press, the redress of grievances, and for the obtainment of public records and the resulting harassment and retaliation and discrimination I have received for the very same exercise of those rights.


As you are well aware, I have been waiting patiently as far back as July 2005 for SMC's disclosure of public records belonging to the school district and in its possession, custody, and control. Despite the district's failure to file timely objections and its promises to produce copies and to allow inspection, I have not received the numerous public records that still should be disclosed. I have been more than generous in my extension of time. I incorporate all my previous and voluminous correspondence to you in this matter and make them a part herein as reference. Furthermore, I hold to my position regarding why each vital public record that has yet to be disclosed should be disclosed and ask specifically when I shall be allowed inspection of these files and copies.


As you are well aware, back in August 2005, I requested my student records orally from Kiersten Elliot who is in charge of Admissions at SMC. I further requested them both orally and in writing in August 2005 from Dean of Judicial Affairs Judith Penchansky. I again requested them on several occasions in the last two weeks from Marilyn Goodrich, the administrative assistant to Penchansky. Ms. Goodrich informed me that it is you who must be authorized to release them. By copy of this email, I now request that any and all student records, including any alleged disciplinary file with all records contained therein, be released to me promptly. Not only have SMC and Penchansky, respectively, failed to release these records to me, they have failed to release them to at least two other SMC students who have requested them in writing. By SMC's willful failure to disclose student records, including disciplinary records, the District is in violation of the provisions as set forth in FERPA and in its own Board Policies governing the disclosure of student records and a student's ability to correct inaccurate information. Please be aware that such a ongoing violation of the FERPA laws may be grounds for SMC to lose its federal funding. Please indicate where and when I can pick up these files from SMC. I should be able to receive them promptly, without excuse or delay, as I have waited since August 2005 to receive them.


As clearly outlined in my March 15, 2006 email to Professor Keeshen, a copy of which I recently sent to you, I have been the victim of retaliation, derogatory and defamatory written and oral statements, harassment, and discrimination. I ask that this type of behavior, now sanctioned by the school, cease and desist forthwith. Furthermore, as I stated in my email to Mr. Keeshen, if he is going to stand by his false and factually inaccurate March statements to Judith Penchansky, that these statements by placed on official school letterhead, addressed formally in his official capacity of a professor at SMC, be dated, and signed under penalty of perjury. If he is now so vindictive against me, and so willing to lie to accomplish his harassment and retaliation against me, let him do so under the penalty of perjury. If he is not so adamant, then he should have the opportunity to retract these written false statements. As these two written statements (received by Judith Penchansky on or about March 7, 2006) stand, they are nothing more than informal letters to her of a personal nature and are inappropriate to be sent as such. Let me know what will transpire in this matter.


I incorporate my previous paragraph to you as well as the two emails sent to Mr. Keeshen, dated March 3, 2006 and March 15, 2006, as reference and incorporate them both herein. As I have stated previously, you have received both emails as copies for your review.

As you are well aware, on or about February 27, 2006, Mr. Keeshen attempted under the color of official authority, to have SMC campus police falsely arrest me. This was done in retaliation and with malice and was an improper use of both his position as a District employee and the campus police force. On this same date, he incited fighting words against me in at least one other SMC student. He made false allegations against me to the police in an attempt to discredit my reputation and to cause me potential false arrest and unwanted detainment by the police. Please advise me what you intend to do in this matter. At this time, Mr. Keeshen further allegedly attempted to prevent at least one student from providing witness testimony to the police, shouting repeatedly for her to "stay out of this." At all relevant times, Mr. Keeshen did these acts to retaliate for our written request for equal access to disabled students into his ET 18 Storyboarding course and for my my written request to have infringing material removed from his ET 2 Storytelling eCompanion course module. Please advise what you intend to do about this.


I again incorporate my statements above and my two emails to Professor Keeshen as reference. On or about March 1, 2006, Mr. Keeshen, acting in his official capacity as a District employee, made a hate speech that was derogatory and threatening to his ET 18 Storyboarding students under the guise of an official announcement. At this time, he made this announcement to approximately 20 students who were present in his course. He stated that "autism" is a "mental disease" that makes a student "destructive" and a "problem."

At the time he made this announcement, he knew it was derogatory, false, in violation of student rights to confidentiality, and in violation of SMC's written policies and statements concerning equal educational access and inclusion to public education funded with state, district, and federal money. He knew, or should have known, that SMC has a written policy specifically prohibiting the disclosure of personal student information and the specific identification of a student's disability. At the time he made this statement, he knew, or should have known, that he was violating the provisions as set forth in FERPA and for which SMC is mandated to comply and admits such in writing.

At the time Mr. Keeshen made this announcement, at least one student in his course has high functioning autism and found this statement offensive. Furthermore, at the time Mr. Keeshen made this announcement, at least one student in his course who heard it is registered with the SMC Disability Services Office on campus and found this statement offensive. At the time he made this statement, at least one student identified this statement as pertaining to me and clearly identified it with me. At all relevant times, Mr. Keeshen knew in writing I had auditory processing problems and knew that I had never stated to him that I was had "autism." In fact, Mr. Keeshen was well aware that prior to coming to SMC, I was a therapist for autistic children and by virtue of his statement, he knew I found find it offensive against the disabled. Furthermore, Mr. Keeshen knew in writing, on or about December 6, 2005, that I wished no further harassment, false arrest, or retaliation, nor did I want malicious rumors spread about me. He also knew in writing that I never received any type of SSI benefits and that I wished not to be associated as someone with a "mental disorder." Mr. Keeshen further knew, or should have known, that I do not suffer from any mental illness whatsoever.

Furthermore, on March 1, 2006, at the time Mr. Keeshen made his formal "announcement" to his class, he accused his ET 18 and ET 2 students of being "spies." As such, he threatened them that if they were to quote anything he said, including his derogatory comments about me or the disabled, that he would come after them, have them kicked out of school, get them to the "letter of the law," and that they would suffer any and all other "consequences." At the time Mr. Keeshen made this threatening statement, he indicated to his students that this was "school policy." If this is in fact the District's policy against its student body and the disabled, which I highly doubt it is, then please provide me this policy in writing. I contend that this is not only against school policy, but violates the provisions of FERPA, and constitutes hate crimes and hate speech as set forth in both the California Penal Code and Senate Bills to protect the disabled and others from such abuse.

Furthermore, at the time Mr. Keeshen made his entire "announcement," he did not open it up to intellectual debate or questions, but responded "Got it?" At the time he made his announcement and threats, at least one student felt threatened and that his or her rights were violated. At the time Mr. Keeshen made his announcement, it allegedly sounded threatening, well rehearsed, and derogatory. I met with Judith Schwartz, the SMC Disability Coordinator, and Sandi Burnett, the ADA Compliance officer on or about March 8, 2006 and reported Professor Keeshen's hate speech to them. At the time, they indicated that Professor Keeshen has in fact violated school policy by his comments that "autism" is a "mental disease" and other statements pertaining to student confidentiality. Please advise me in writing what the District intends to do about this serious matter. Furthermore, by copy of this email, please advise me if the District intends to apologize in writing to its disabled students and what measures it will take to protect its students from further retaliation and discrimination by Professor Keeshen.

As indicated, on or about March 3, 2006, I emailed Mr. Keeshen about his hate speech. At this time, I requested a formal apology to his students and me. I also again requested in writing, that he remove my name from his ET 2 Storytelling eCollege eCompanion course module where he had placed it. I indicated that I was a stockholder of eCollege. I also requested that he cease and desist from his retaliation. Despite my written request at an informal resolution in this matter, Mr. Keeshen did not concede to my wishes, but further retaliated later that day by publishing the comment "You are an AH" where my name had been on eCompanion. AH is the universally accepted term for "asshole." At the time he published this comment, he did so with malice and to cause damage to my reputation. At the time he published this comment, at least one student read and understood it to refer to me. Furthermore, there were approximately 84 students enrolled in his ET 2 course that potentially read this defamatory statement.

On or about March 6, 2006, I reported Mr. Keeshen's hate speech and hate crime to SMC campus police officer Mark Kessler. On this same date, I also wrote about this on my SAVE SMC blog. In further retaliation, Mr. Keeshen caused a wrongful disciplinary hold to be placed on my school records by Judith Penchansky in her capacity as a District employee and to cause her to write a letter to me stating that the hold was placed due to Mr. Keeshen's actions. In further retaliation, Professor Keeshen went back into the ET 2 eCollege eCompanion course module and now published "Gotcha!" By virtue of this statement, he was misusing school property and eCollege property with malice for his own personal vendetta against me. To further retaliate, he caused to be issues two false statements against me to Judith Penchansky. By copy of this email, please advise me in writing what the District intends to do about this matter. Specifically, please further advise me what the District intends to do about Mr. Keeshen's misuse of the eCompanion course module. Based on Mr. Keeshen's recent ongoing retaliation, I wrote him an email on or about March 15, 2006, again asking that he cease and desist such wrongful behavior.


Furthermore, Mr. Keeshen has allegedly violated, on at least two occasions in his ET 2 Storytelling classroom (March 6, 2006 and March 13, 2006), the provisions as set forth in FERPA by allowing other students access to confidential student information. He has allowed students to view other students graded schoolwork and to look at other students personal and confidential information pertaining to a form that he insisted they fill out to obtain money for the school. Please advise me what the District intends to do in this matter.


As you stated to me in writing and orally, Mr. Keeshen failed to file the mandated sabbatical report for the sabbatical he undertook with Klasky-Csupo on or about Fall Semester 2003. By SMC's own written policies, he had 60 days to file this report upon his return to work. It is now two years later and no report has been filed. This sabbatical was allegedly supposed to adhere to the missions and goals of the school. Absent a mandated sabbatical report, Mr. Keeshen did not fulfill the District's requirements despite receiving District funds for this purpose. Additionally, this sabbatical was undertaken to provide job opportunities to the students, which it did not. By virtue of his failure to complete his sabbatical, any and all payment from the District to him should be repaid to the District, including any increase in salary as a result of the sabbatical. Please advise me in writing what the District intends to do on this matter.


Additionally, Mr. Keeshen allegedly obtained under false pretenses, federal grant money by and through the District under their false claims to the U.S. Department of Education pursuant to funds they received under a Title VI-A grant. SMC has failed to produce all the public records, including at least one consultant contract with Mr. Keeshen. Despite the fact that SMC made clear in writing that Mr. Keeshen's role in producing animated language modules was in his capacity as a district employee and professor, SMC allowed him to enter into several consultant contracts in which he signed that he was not an employee of the District. To make matters worse, he entered into these contracts under two assumed names, Animatics and Studio Animatics, knowing that these companies were not registered companies with the State of California or as a dba in Norwalk. Despite the fact that these fictitious companies were not legitimately registered, he used a California tax identification number that he allegedly associated with them for the purpose of obtained public funds.

Additionally, he may have violated District copyrights when he received and cashed payment for this project and placed his "Studio Animatics" copyrights on the project. On its face, the language module CD-ROM he produced in conjunction with the District and its third party consultant, Joan Abrahamson, does not have a single copyright notice pertaining to Santa Monica College or the District in general. Furthermore, on at least one consultant contract, Mr. Keeshen's signature is allegedly forged in violation of California Penal Code section 470. The District knew, by virtue of the well researched written information I provided to the public online and to SMC, of Professor Keeshen's involvement and questionable ethics pertaining to these Title VI-A grants.


I incorporate all my previous statements to you and make them a part herein. As a result of Mr. Keeshen's malice, harassment, retaliation, and factually inaccurate written statements, a wrongful disciplinary hold has been placed once again on my SMC records by Judith Penchansky. As you are fully aware, Ms. Penchansky is a defendant in our California Public Records Act lawsuit. Additionally, she has persistently violated my student rights and Constitutional rights and, as such, I wish to have no dealings with her whatsoever. In fact, it is well documented that she has blackmailed Mr. Keeshen in the past to write untrue statements against me in an attempt to wrongfully accuse me of crimes I did not commit and to justify her abuse of the disciplinary process. Ms. Penchansky allegedly has a history of this kind of abuse against disabled students at SMC. In fact, Ms. Penchansky has threatened students with police force and has failed to disclose their student records. As such, I again do not wish to either speak with her or communicate with her via writing. By copy of this email, I am formally requesting that the wrongful disciplinary hold be removed forthwith and that Ms. Penchansky further refrain from her harassment of me.

I find it disturbing that SMC uses the fame that Dustin Hoffman has obtained, in part, from the Academy Award for best actor in "Rain Man" for his portrayal as someone with autism and that Ms. Penchansky, as his cousin, would condone such blatant and derogatory comments by a faculty member such as Professor Jim Keeshen against those with autism. As you are well aware, Ms. Penchansky was a former "Stewart Street" administrator at the time that Dustin Hoffman helped the District to secure $24.8 million in its capital campaign fund. Mr. Hoffman helped to secure funding to pay for equipment in the very room at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology where Professor Keeshen teaches his ET 2 Storytelling course. While the District is more than eager to take this money, they are also not serving the needs of either their disabled students or those in their vocational program at AET.

In fact, by condoning Professor Keeshen's alleged misuse of public funds for his alleged sabbatical and the Title VI-A federal grants, his retaliation, his use of police force, and his discrimination against the disabled, the District is going against the grain of the Academic Senate's Statement of Professional Ethics. It appears that the District is more than willing to enforce its Student Code of Conduct, yet it does little or nothing to enforce its Professional Ethics for faculty, its general policy against Academic Dishonesty, its Conflict of Interest Codes, its ADA Compliance Laws, its FERPA regulations, or its goals and mission statements pertaining to a community of mutual respect and goodwill. Is it any wonder SMC received such a poor accreditation report in 2004 or that the former President of the school, Piedad Robertson, received a vote of no confidence?

I additionally find it disturbing that the District continues to retain a negligent employee such as Professor Jim Keeshen and to allow him to cause harm to his students that ultimately would cause liability to the school and to damage it reputation. The District is well aware of Professor Keeshen's use of faculty, students, facilities, and equipment for his own personal financial interests in violation of SMC's conflict of interest codes. In fact, the District is well aware that Mr. Keeshen stated: "Right now I'm just using them so that I can to finish my film" or words to that effect pertaining to his use of SMC's facilities, equipment, and individuals to complete his animated "Day of the Dead" film and that the school has known this since at least September of last year. Additionally, SMC knew that Mr. Keeshen made the statement "Lying is better than not lying" to his ET 18 students in his class regarding their failure to meet requirements for enrollment in his class.

The District is additionally aware that Mr. Keeshen has willfully violated my copyrights to my work even after the District's attorney, Joshua Morrison, agreed in writing that the District would not use this material. Furthermore, the District knew that Mr. Keeshen admitted to infringing on my copyrights and that he was reprimanded for this alleged academic dishonesty by not being allowed to teach the ET 61 History of Animation course. Despite this fact, the District was well aware that Mr. Keeshen attempted to extort both orally and in writing to me a release of my rights to my copyrighted material. The District is aware that I refused to give into this extortion and that, in part, as a result of Mr. Keeshen's failed extortion attempt, he has caused his further retaliation against me.

The District further knew, or should have known, that Mr. Keeshen has a history of utilizing students to work for him for little or no pay, that he has repeated taken credit for their work, and that he has attempted on more than one occasion to sell this work for his own financial benefit. Additionally, the District knew that when Mr. Keeshen first infringed on my copyrights, and that I wrote a cease and desist letter to both the District and him, that Mr. Keeshen personally deleted vital student records on my SMC online homepage and inside the eCompanion course modules for his respective courses. In any event, the District knew that Professor Keeshen was a liability for the school, had no credibility whatsoever, had been repeatedly dishonest to its administration, its faculty, it students, and to the federal government, and was allowed to continue such dishonesty and to retaliate against any victims who attempted to blow the whistle. At all relevant times, the District and Mr. Keeshen knew, respectively that I have been a whistleblower to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that by virtue of this status, I am afforded protection against retaliation under the statutes and laws that protect whistleblowers.

The District knew, or should have known, that it made false claims to the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) pertaining to enrollment numbers and job potential for vocational students in order to obtain public funds and educational center status for the District's Academy of Entertainment and Technology vocational satellite campus. To date, despite our written requests, the District has failed to produce any documentation to and from the CPEC, any enrollment records or numbers, and continues to fail to meet its 500 full time student minimum requirement, failed to provided labor market statistics as set for the California Education Code, and has failed to adequately provided employment and internships for its students. The District falsely promised the CPEC back in 1997 that there were "tens of thousands" of jobs for it students.

The District has further practiced deliberate and deceptive advertising of its AET vocational program and curriculum by falsely offering occupational and career certificates that the school has either not sought approval for by the California Community College Chancellor's Office (CCCCO) or has failed to follow through in offering. For example, I and several other disabled students are enrolled in a Game Development Career Certificate by and through the Academy of Entertainment and Technology that SMC has advertised on more than one occasion in its course catalogue exists when in fact it is not even pending for approval by the CCCCO. By making such statements, by offering deceptive advertising in AET's printed materials to potential students, the District has deliberately and deceitfully violated the guidelines for Vocational Schools as set forth by Federal Trade Commission.

The District further knew, or should have known, that Mr. Keeshen has repeated padded enrollment in his courses, that he has informed me that this was a practice at the school for the AET program, that this was done to inflate low enrollment figures to secure federal funding, and that he explained his enrollment padding scheme to me and that I documented it in writing and reported it. The District knew, or should have known, that shortly thereafter, I have received retaliation by both the District, its employees and agents, and Mr. Keeshen. The District knew, or should have known, that Mr. Keeshen has provided me additional information and documentation pertaining to alleged public corruption and misuse of public funds at SMC's Academy of Entertainment and Technology and that he did this to help me to expose these false claims to the various governmental agencies in charge of investigating this matter and, at all relevant times, Mr. Keeshen supported my efforts and encouraged them in his role as a District employee.

I am perhaps once of the most vocal students at SMC pertaining to the enforcement of student rights. I am definitely the most well published student pertaining to such SAVE SMC Blog and Website. I am perhaps one of the most knowledgeable about the inner workings of the school and the understanding of the laws that both protect us and that the District is under both moral and contractual obligation to abide by. If the District wishes to not only ignore my rights, but to deliberately violate them, I can easily conceive that the rights of other students are easily in jeopardy who have less education, less knowledge, less experience with dealing with its administrators, and less voice and courage to stand up for what is morally right. I sincerely hope that SMC will now have a much needed change of attitude toward it students and that it will implement much needed changes to stop this kind of abuse and to prevent it from occurring in the future. Regardless, I eagerly await the District's and your prompt response pertaining to all matters contained herein.

Very Truly Yours,

Des Manttari

Incorporated web reference to support claims herein:

cc: U.S. Department of Education, Office For Civil Rights

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)

California Department of Education
Jack O'Connell, State Superintendent

California Student Aid Commission
Diana Fuentes Michel, Executive Director

Department of Rehabilitation (California)
Dr. Catherine Campisi

California Postsecondary Education Commission
Murray J. Haberman, Executive Director

Federal Bureau of Investigation

SMC Board of Trustee, Nancy Greenstein

SMC Board of Trustee, Susan Aminoff

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL:

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