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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Florida Insanity of the year

Where do we start with the story of 13-year-old Alex Cullinane and the Back to Basics Military Academy? This story is going to boggle your mind. A good fiction author couldn't have put together all the twists I'm about to re-tell.

Here is the first Miami Herald article.

An autopsy is expected to be completed today on a Plantation teenager who died on a school-related camping trip Saturday, said Larry Cameron, director of operations for the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner.

But investigators won't know the cause of death for 13-year-old Alex Cullinane until later this week or next week, after the medical examiner receives lab results, Cameron said.

Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 quoted other kids at the camp who said Alex had refused to eat or drink.

North Miami police are investigating Cullinane's death. The boy was attending a four-day leadership training camp at Oleta River State Park in North Miami when he died.

The camp was affiliated with a school Cullinane planned to attend this fall, Back to Basics Military Academy, located at the Living Word Fellowship Church in Lauderhill.

The school, starting its second year, describes itself on its telephone answering machine as a ``military juvenile boot camp.''

However, Principal Lynda Browne has said it is not a boot camp.
Alex Cullinane died, cause still undetermined, last Saturday August 11th. His mother is obviously broken up about it but doesn't blame the school.

The teen's mother, Dena Cullinane, said the school's principal, Lynda Browne, told her that Alex was eating and drinking when camp started Wednesday, but that another student saw him throw away some food later in the week. A drill sergeant told Cullinane that Alex woke at 3 a.m. Saturday, complaining he did not feel well. On the way to the bathroom, he collapsed in the sergeant's arms.

Cullinane worries the physical activity was too much.

"This weekend was going to be leadership training, so the kids could bond. It wasn't going out there to do intense military training exercises," said Cullinane, who said her son was not physically fit, preferring to spend his time on the computer or studying. "What they told me is they would start at his level and build."

The boy's grandmother, who declined to be named, said police told the family Monday "they can't find anything, so they are doing more tests." She said the autopsy showed "no bruises or anything."

Cullinane said she does not blame the school for her son's death, seeing it as "God's will."

"Anger and bitterness and blame … accomplish nothing. As painful as it is, I'm determined to get through this in peace," she said.
TFM has lost a child, so I understand the pain Mrs. Cullinane is suffering. If she wishes to forgive this camp and its owners, that is her right and I respect it. The authorities still need to investigate however.

Investigate they did. Read this from yesterday's Miami Herald.

A Christian military academy that has come under scrutiny after a student died shut down Tuesday after Lauderhill officials discovered that it was breaking the law.

Back to Basics Military Academy never applied for an occupational license to start a school inside the Living Word Community Church at 5770 W. Oakland Park Blvd.

Isn't that just lovely. The Sun-Sentinel provides a few juicy details.

It has, however, collected $86,760 in state money in the past year to help educate disabled students, according to the Florida Department of Education. State law requires schools to meet city building, fire and health codes to qualify for the money, but does not require them to submit documentation.


State officials say the school accepted $86,760 in state money in the past school year to educate 14 special-needs students. This year, it had accepted 24 disabled students but had yet to get the state money. The school serves grades 4-12.

The money is part of the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, which is meant to give parents options when public schools are not meeting their children's needs. Such students could have anything from a mild learning disability to severe physical and psychological handicaps.

The school has to provide services to the disabled students as part of the scholarship program, said Department of Education spokeswoman Cathy Schroeder on Monday. Yet it is unclear whether the school did. When asked in a state survey if the school provided exceptional student education services, the principal answered "No," state records show. But later in the survey, Browne said that "for children with remedial learning issues, we offer specialized curriculum at a reduced pace."

To receive McKay Scholarship money, private schools must complete the survey, which describes the student body and staff, and a compliance form, which asks if the school meets state and local health and safety building requirements.

The state might request further documentation if they receive a complaint, officials said. No complaints have been filed against Back to Basics. The Department of Education audits a third of the schools receiving the scholarships each year.

Private schools are private businesses and need to be registered with the Florida Division of Corporations to be recognized by the state Department of Education, officials said.

Back to Basics was inspected by the Broward County Health Department on Aug. 24, 2005, and received a "satisfactory" rating for meeting needs, such as running water, said Howard Rosen, environmental administrator for the agency.blockquote>
What a clusterfuck. This academy is getting state money but isn't even licensed. Were they even insured?

Back to the Miami Herald article.

The school directors have come under scrutiny since Cullinane's death.

In 1991, the state ordered Reginald Browne -- now an academy director and husband of principal Lynda Browne -- to stop referring to himself as a psychologist since he wasn't licensed in Florida.

In 1995, Reginald Browne was fired amid allegations of financial mismanagement from his job as CEO of Family Life Institute for Counseling, Education and Research, an agency that counseled at-risk youths.


His wife and son, Reginald Browne Jr., also worked at the institute, which ran a group home in Lauderhill.

Broward County and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice revoked grants to the institute after investigations concluded that money had been misused.
The FL Department of Juvenile Justice is one of the most dangerous knuckleheads TFM has had the displeasure of chronicling. Go and read this but keep a barf bag handy when doing so.

On Monday, Reginald Browne tried to distance the academy from a subcontractor, Juvenile Military Training and Leadership Corp., which, he said, ran the outdoor camp.

State business records show a Juvenile Military Boot Camp Inc. with the same address as the Brownes' home in Plantation Gardens.
What a joke. They subcontract to themselves. I don't know what's worse, the Brownes or all the incompetent bureaucrats local and state-wide who let these people operate the academy and even financed it when the Brownes should have never been in business!

This isn't over. Read this from today's Sun-Sentinel. The School has gone underground is somewhere else!

A military school is operating out of an undisclosed location after being kicked out of a Lauderhill church for not having the proper permits, school parents said Wednesday.

Back to Basics Military Academy has been under scrutiny since one of its students died during a camping trip Saturday. Despite the death, parents support the school.

Lynne Miller said she is continuing to send her 12-year-old daughter to the Christian school because it is the only place the sixth-grader has flourished.

"We have tried other schools. [Our children] were being suspended. They were being ignored, they were being chastised," said a tearful Miller, whose daughter has behavioral problems and attention deficit disorder. "Since she's been at this school, she hasn't been on any medication. She's a happy kid."

Neither Miller, an associate professor of education at Florida International University, nor Rebecca Chaparro, a Sunrise mother who said her 13- and 14-year-old boys are also attending the academy, would disclose where the school is now. Miller said most of its 32 students are attending at a "safe" place with teachers and drill sergeants.

The school has 15 days to let the state know that it relocated and 60 days to submit paperwork, including inspections, said Department of Education spokeswoman Cathy Schroeder. In the interim, she said, the school can stay open.

But not in Lauderhill, where the school had been for a year.

If the school moved elsewhere in the city, it would still need to apply for and receive licensing and permits to operate legally, said Lauderhill spokeswoman Leslie Tropepe. She said the city would send another notice of violation if it were anywhere in Lauderhill.

"When [the supervisor of code enforcement] spoke with the owners of the academy, they assured us they were planning to leave," Tropepe said.

Most cities have similar permitting and zoning requirements.

The state also has rules that affect the school.
What rules? This business was operating right under the noses of county, state and city officials without a license. Now they can't be found.

TFM has done 43 chapters of saying Florida the rules are different here. They aren't different, we just don't have any!

If I were the police, I'd have the Browne home and the Millers under surveilance. Of course that will have to require a degree of competence that is totally lacking in this bewildering story.

This would make for a classic knucklehead award but where am I to start? The Brownes, At least two Florida agencies, Broward County government, the City of Lauderhill, these last parents who don't want to say where the academy moved to. Has Broward County suddenly entered the twilight zone?

Stay tuned, TFM isn't done posting on this story.

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