CRCT probe: Key cards reveal odd after-hours visits

The AJC has a fascinating story on how 29 DeKalb teachers and principals were flagged for possible test tampering in the CRCT cheating scandal — use of their security key cards on weekends and late at night while the answer booklets were still in the schools.

“There’s a chain of evidence that requires only certain people to have access to those tests,” said spokesman Walter Woods. “There were several instances where employees accessed school over the weekend and those employees were flagged.”

Many of the 24 — five of the employees are no longer employed with DeKalb — are reassigned to cataloging, distributing and ordering textbooks. Others are working on a special education research report. Subs are costing the county nearly a half million dollars.

While DeKalb has not released the names of the impacted schools, the AJC has been told the list includes Rainbow, Shadow Rock, Cedar Grove, Glen Haven, Stoneview and Woodridge elementary schools, and Cedar Grove Middle School.

The issue for me would be whether the employees in question often came in on weekends and late nights. Also, it’s not clear to me whether the key cards were only needed to get into the building or to also get into where the tests were stored. It would be more damning if employees used key cards to enter both the building and the area where the tests were being stored.

According to the AJC: (Please read the entire story.)

In each school, the tests were locked in filing cabinets, closets or other locations that were secure from the public, custodians and other staff. But principals and some teachers had access to the secure locations, Woods said.

The teams conducted 280 interviews, including those with every employee who entered these secure areas and the schools during odd hours. These interviews were turned over to the state in May, school officials said.

The teams then narrowed the list of target schools to 11. Interviews were conducted with another 59 employees and those findings were turned over to the state in August, Woods said.

But just because employees accessed a secure office or a classroom on the weekend, doesn’t mean they cheated, said David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators. “We have dedicated employees that go to the buildings and work,” said Schutten, who represents almost 5,000 employees in DeKalb. “It’s all circumstantial, indirect evidence. There is no evidence that DeKalb cheated. I went into the schools and told them [to] cooperate. It’s nothing like Atlanta where people didn’t talk or cooperate.”

In some cases, investigators found individuals who accessed the school on weekends had done so many other weekends through the years. In another case, an employee had to go to Glen Haven Elementary School to feed the fish.

“Glen Haven has a fish hatchery. Someone has to go feed the fish on the weekend,” Schutten said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

47 comments Add your comment

just watching

January 28th, 2011
9:50 pm

Hmmmm……..Having the testing materials in an area only accessible via key card would be a smart move for the districts under investigation….or any district….going forward.

DCSS teacher

January 28th, 2011
10:15 pm

My key card only opens three outer exit doors. The tests are usually locked in the schools vault or one of the AP’s offices. There are obviously a limit to the number of keys for those locations.

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January 28th, 2011
10:19 pm

I saw a school name that intrigued me.
I worked at Stoneview Elem. a while back.
I’m not surprised at any kind of crap that went on there!!!
-unbelievable atmosphere of “authority” watching over you and dictating daily events
-unbelievable discrimation against white people
Before you start – I currently work with black people I like who like me. I’m just stating the bald truth. When I worked at that school I was persecuted daily because I am not black.
I saw multiple instances of administrative incongruities and inappropriate actions. I saw more than one illegal action (I did not witness any abnormalities with testing at that time) but I was too naive/young at the time to realize I should have brought attention to some real authorities. I’m sorry this happened but not surprised.
nuf said.

DCSS teacher

January 28th, 2011
10:32 pm

One thing I forgot…. my keycard doesn’t work on weekends or when school is not in session. I have gone to the school on a couple of Saturdays at the beginning of the school year and we were all told to exchange cell phone numbers so we could let each other into the building since our keycards wouldn’t work.

former dcss teacher

January 28th, 2011
10:32 pm

@interesting who was the principal at that time. i’ve heard some things in the past as well


January 28th, 2011
10:55 pm

I still am pretty sure they don’t have enough evidence against anyone to even indict. It is all so circumstantial. If no one admits to the crime, and no one squeals…..I think that shortly, it will just all go away.


January 28th, 2011
10:56 pm

This is the most ridiculous and absurd explanation that I have ever heard since being an educator. For all of you smart people who don’t realize that it is almost imperative that an administrator works on the weekend in order to get any work done. The school day consists of too many interruptions in order to get anything done. If this is the only evidence that they have, then look out DeKalb! You think you don’t have money now, then just wait on the lawsuits. That raise sure didn’t make Ramona any smarter. Geesh!!!


January 28th, 2011
11:27 pm

@interesting- Don’t worry. You are not alone in your experience. Unbelievable discrimination against white people is happening all over North Georgia in the education biz. Why? I don’t know.


January 28th, 2011
11:46 pm

The bottom line here is some people cheated and changed some test answers. They will punish some people for it. Some of the people punished will be the guilty and some will be innocent. Some guilty people will go unpunished so why even bother? Why can’t they just chalk it up to a big mistake on a lot of different levels and start doing things different from now on? Why waste all this time, money, and energy when we all know the absolute truth will never shake out? Put all this energy into efforts that will enrich the education of the children going forward instead this witch hunt drama that only benefits the egos of politicians.

Cheryl Matthews

January 28th, 2011
11:58 pm

My problem with all of this is that most of the cheating is attributed ti erasures.There are many other methods used to beat the pressure put on teachers expecially in (supposingly) high achieveing schools ie. study packet being sent home through “outside” support groups with very simular items as those on the test; coding and parent monitorers “pointing to answers ” and writing answer on the board. This has been going on for years on the CAT and the ITBS.
Out of these 29 educators , I know some are just caught up in the system and did nothing wrong, I feel sorry for these educators. For those who were afraid of their superiors and were encouraged to “make it happen” I am prayful. However, for the upper level pressure, you should pay the price.
Now, for the unmonitored “charter successful Schools” it’s, “DOn”T ASK BONT TELL”. We willnoy have trully great schools until Bush’s failed NCLb is replaced with: RACE TO THE TOP. LET”S MAKE IT HAPPEN FOR THE AMERICAN CHILDREN….starting with Georgia.


January 29th, 2011
12:15 am

Gwinnett’s new “school to work program” promises lottery-like returns!

David Sims

January 29th, 2011
1:06 am

Here’s my usual list of sheer coincidences.

Rainbow. 99% black.
Shadow Rock. 97% black, 2% Hispanic.
Cedar Grove. 99% black.
Glen Haven. 95% black, 5% Hispanic.
Stoneview. 91% black, 8% Hispanic.
Woodridge. 96% black, 1% Hispanic, 1% Asian.

You won’t find many white faces at these schools. All of which have abominable test scores, by the way. Maybe they didn’t cheat hard enough.


January 29th, 2011
1:29 am

“In each school, the tests were locked in filing cabinets, closets or other locations that were secure from the public, custodians and other staff. ”

First of all, every school I am familiar with in DeKalb County School System has a fireproof walk-in vault. The vault is used to securely store student records, as well as collected cash and checks until they are picked up by the armored car service. Why would the CRCT tests be in a filing cabinet or closet — locked or not — where they were at risk from fire, theft or tampering?

Next question: Why let Ron Ramsey of DCSS Internal Affairs investigate anything? His “investigations” are suspect, as are his findings. An independent investigator should have been retained.


January 29th, 2011
6:15 am

What will this be like when Morgan’s new bill requires that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation will be from test scores?

Dr. John Trotter

January 29th, 2011
7:09 am

Didn’t the DeKalb School System lawyer, Josie Alexander, try to band Dr. John Trotter from the school system when he and his MACE folk were driving home some points about systematic cheating…in a grievance that the Office of Internal Resolutions (OIR) would not even allow to get off the ground? Oh, I am John Trotter. That’s right. I remember that silly incident. It seems that the school system ended up with a lot of egg on its face after all. Let’s see now. A few, including the superintendent, have been indicted for felonies. Yes, before all of this crap hit the proverbial fan, the MACE Picket Squad picketed several times (one time three days in a row and in torrential rain) with signs dealing with systematic cheating, bullying, etc. In fact, when Channel 11 was interviewing us at the picket scene in front of the central office, Keith Whitney was apparently getting a kick out of my assertion on camera that DeKalb was “a gangsta school system.” Again, I guess MACE has been vindicated. © MACE, January 29, 2011.

Dr. John Trotter

January 29th, 2011
7:29 am

Silly me…that would be “tried to ban” me, not “band.” Desculpe me. I guess that I was thinking about going to the beach…only one-half a block away. I hear that you guys are going to have good weather up there this weekend.

When school systems try to ban me (and DeKalb’s attempt has not been the first time), then I take this as a compliment. I also determine to crank it up against those superintendents. Hey, it seems to work. The next thing that you know, the superintendents become “banned” from their “former” school systems. Funny how life works, heh? © MACE, January 29, 2011.

APS Teacher for now

January 29th, 2011
7:54 am

In APS, our key cards don’t work on the weekend either. Schools have found all kinds of ways to beat the system. Apparently, I didn’t get the memo. My F to D average kids had a 38% pass rate on an EOCT in December. The other teachers had 90% to 100% pass rates. Just because they are Teach for America does not mean they should not be scrutinized. All is not as it seems.

Good golly, they are definitely coming for me. What a set up. I get the slower kids, the non “superman” teacher and they get the more advanced kids. They teach the class twice as long as the state allows and then there is a miracle? Oh please. I am so sorry for my tirade. The corruption and systemic cheating in APS is beyond belief. Dekalb has nothing on APS…writing my memoirs now.


January 29th, 2011
7:55 am

Oh well……So much for going in to work on the weekends. In my wildest dreams I never thought an administrator going to work on a Saturday or Sunday could turn into them losing their certification. Not exactly sure how we will all get our work done without doing so, but it certainly isn’t worth the risk of being accused of wrongdoing. I won’t do it again. Uh huh, no way, not me.


January 29th, 2011
8:11 am

While I fussed about the ridiculous levels of paranoia and security measures our testing coordinator set in place, I’m now extremely grateful and will make a point of thanking her in May.

In my system….
Only the testing coordinator has a key to the storage closet that holds the testing materials. When a teacher picks up their testing materials, you stand in front of the testing coordinator and literally make a physical count of all testing materials. Then you sign out the materials and note the time. After the testing period is over, you have approximately 10 minutes to return the materials…..where you once again count in front of a witness, sign the materials back in and note the time.

Also… one in the system is allowed to test their own students. You are not allowed to proctor a test in your subject area and/or grade level.

It was my understanding that these were the testing recommendations from the DOE. Someone at the CO is responsible for the testing protocols within each district. If their protocols are weak and/or not written down, they need to be removed. If strong protocols are in place and building level personnel did not follow the procedures, then they should be removed.


January 29th, 2011
8:22 am

WHATEVER happens in DeKalb County isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s lived in the Atlanta area for years.

Schools, board of education, sheriffs, the chief of police, the CEO and his cronies, county commissioners, mayors….you name it, they’ve done it.

Way to go DeKalb…or should i say….Way to go Dekalb south of I-20.

APS Teacher for now

January 29th, 2011
8:24 am

I know most administrators are caring and hardworking people just like us teachers. I spend 3-4 hours after school each day tweeking lesson plans again because things didn’t work, calling parents, checking papers, putting up student work, reading professional education articles, tutoring students, cleaning my room, attending meetings, making copies for varying abilities, attending school functions. My required meetings alone on Tuesday had me clocking in 12+ hours. In APS we have to thumb print in and out and also sign in. The kids just walk in and half of the metal detectors don’t work.
I used to work on Saturdays and stopped this year. I did it for over 25 years and got no thanks, just a shove toward the door for being an older teacher. We’re being slandered and discriminated against all over the place. The elders used to be revered for being wise; now they just want to put us out to pasteur to save money.

Take your work home or better yet see if you can get a driver and work from your car like Dr. Hall. Maybe it will be tax deductible.

Gung Ho Granny

January 29th, 2011
8:26 am

If the “power” would only realize that scrapping NCLB along with all these national tests is the answer. Test at the end of each week on what was taught that week; test at the end of the grading period on what was taught the previous weeks; then and only then will a teacher get a real handle on where a child is struggling. Teachers are being forced to teach to these national tests from the very first day of school and in all reality cannot get a real handle on where a student is struggling. Say what you want but it is obvious cheating went on and guess who the losers are – students. DeKalb used to be known as one of the best school districts in the metro area; today they are known as one of the worst. If as much effort was put forth making sure ALL schools were equal and that every child in the system is entitled to a quality education, gee what a difference the whole system would be. And more importantly, parents, teach your children that there is no room in society for bigotry and prejudice. If parents would leave their kids alone and stop pushing their bigotry and prejudice onto their kids, you would find kids don’t look at the color of someone’s skin but rather look at them as a person. And by the way I’m white but have always taught that to my children and grandchildren.

bootney farnsworth

January 29th, 2011
9:06 am

this is exactly why I avoid using my key card whenever possible.

those things aren’t about easy access, they’re about tracking your every move so one day it could be used against you.


January 29th, 2011
9:13 am

Gung Ho Granny: What you describe is similar to what has to happen for RTI Level 2. We have to pretest the kids, then test the kids at the beginning and end of each week, THEN posttest. Eight tests in 3 weeks! Just to “prove” we are trying to bring up a child’s skills. If they “succeed”, we have to continue providing this very small group instruction, if they don’t succeed, we have to continue working with them for a total of 12 weeks. THEN, if still unsuccessful, you get to go to Tier 3! Even more of the above!

Since we have not had RTI working for the last 5 years (although we have been required to use it, we were given guidance that changed from day to day, and was never deemed acceptable) we have over 200 kids who need RTI Tier 2. Of course, we also have to find time to teach GRADE LEVEL material. And, anyway, we are only “allowed” a certain number of students in RTI at any one time (far, far less than 200).

So when you have a child working 2-4 years behind grade level, this is supposed to fix it. Or pretend to. Meanwhile, the rest of the kids in the room are not getting the instruction THEY need.

Ole Guy

January 29th, 2011
9:41 am

It would seem that one hellovalot of doubt exists here. The one (and, quite possibly, the first) individual to fall under suspicion would be whoever is charged with security. Many people may have access to particular areas of the school property, and at particularly odd times of the day/week. However, it is the SOLE responsibility of whomever is charged with security to ensure that access to these tests is strictly limited/air tight as a frog’s six.

You people would do well to abandon the “Barney Fife” mentality…Citizen’s arrest, Citizen’s arrest!…and get with the program. Rather than dole out punishment from the bottom up, you need to start from the top.


January 29th, 2011
9:42 am

My wife has taught for almost 30 years. She goes into the school and into her classroom–as do many of her colleagues–almost every weekend and at least one night a week. I have gone with her. We have been there as late as 11 p.m. and I have seen her principal, assistant principal, and other teachers and their families there at those hours. Weekend work is necessary to properly plan lessons, prepare the classroom, complete report cards, etc. I know they are not there to change answers because it is a topnotch private school that doesn’t waste valuable classroom time on CRCT and other useless standardized testing. A teacher who doesn’t work after hours, including nights and weekends, is who you should be worried about in your school. That teacher is not putting the time in to do the job right.

Ole Guy

January 29th, 2011
10:04 am

APS Teacher, while I, along with many of the readers, support you (collectively), and the plight of teachers everywhere, I, for one, am growing a wee bit weary of reading of the “woe is me…place me on the altar of sacrificial martyrdom” songs. The issues you write of…long, unpaid, unappreciated hours, shitbird administrators who couldn’t care less about you, etc, ad nauseum…are well-known to all. These, and many more issues, are precisely the reasons why I decided that teaching, as a career change, was definitely not for me. Despite the “call” to help younger generations, I knew, without a doubt, that my personality, one of “take no crap, take no prisoners, get the job done”, would, sooner or later, evolve into an explosive mix. Similar experiences, in the Military, of Jr Officer vs Sr Officer taught me that as long as one was aware of the rules of the game, one could navigate the trecherous waters of organizational strife. Upon learning that the educational camp has no rules, per se, I had to make a decision.

Therein lies the big difference, Teach…I assessed the situation and acted acordingly. You, and many of your fellow teachers, seem to have accepted these “unofficial conditions of employment”. By remaining in the classroom, you have signaled that you (collectively) are ok with these issues…that you, indeed, accept them as the price of helping a generation which, by the established “rules of the game”, cannot, and will never be helped.

Like my Granny used to say, “You made your bed, now lie in it”.

NWGA teacher

January 29th, 2011
10:30 am

Any weekend will find dozens of teachers and their children in my school. We use key cards for entry. The cards only work on exterior doors. Each teacher has one key to his or her own classroom. I’ve been there late at night to retrieve forgotten materials, laptop, or phone. There are usually cars in the parking lot and lights in classrooms. A scan of the videos will show me moving from my desk to the printer, the copy machine, my mailbox, and back to my desk. Weekend and late night entry to the building is normal procedure.

Been there - know the answer!

January 29th, 2011
10:33 am

Teachers MUST collectively take a stand. United we stand, divided…
The reason the teacher organizations (GAE, ODE, PAGE, MACE) can’t effect change is because
1)the teacher membership is spread over too many different organizations and
2)the fact that most teachers in GA are spineless scaredy-cats!
If all of Georgia’s teachers would band together as one voice and take real action, we could together effect change.
I saw this in my prestigious St. Louis school system back in 1981. Missouri does not have collective bargaining rights and it is illegal for teachers to go on strike in MO. However, back in 1981 I walked the line (strike) with my colleagues – ALL of us. It took only one day. We shut down the schools and ever since, the BOE has entered into win-win bargaining with the local NEA. Not one of us received so much as a reprimand in our file, and no police were involved.
We need to consolidate our efforts and choose ONE teacher organization. Then we need to show the school systems who REALLY runs the schools – teachers! United we stand, divided – we ar falling!
Take note – this was NOT a union, but a teacher organization with bite!
Politics are ruining Georgia’s school systems and nothing will change unless teachers stand upright and let their voices be heard as ONE!!!
Incidently, I now belong to MACE, because the NEA in GA is spineless too!

Private School Guy

January 29th, 2011
11:52 am

If the investigators could find a correlation between the theft of laptops and test erasures then they could just blame the cheating on the creeper. Case closed.

January 29th, 2011
12:24 pm

ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Musical Top Girl meets Top School-Cross the Line with rezoning and redistricting, North vs. South, Awards, Faking your way to the TOP, and the political power of the board members. BRING IT ON captures the challenges of APS and Dekalb schools. The perfect combination of elementary/high school drama on the NORTHSIDE of Atlanta. Story told by my friends. Jackson school has crossed the line.

Top School

January 29th, 2011
12:33 pm

ATLANTA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Musical Top Girl meets Top School-Cross the Line with rezoning and redistricting, North vs. South, Awards, Faking your way to the TOP, and the political power of the board members. BRING IT ON captures the challenges of APS and Dekalb schools. The perfect combination of elementary/high school drama on the NORTHSIDE of Atlanta. Story told by my friends. Jackson school has crossed the line.
Bravo to my friends for taking a bad situation and turning it into a musical comedy!

Rush Self Shooter

January 29th, 2011
2:40 pm

It does not take a professional sport investigator to figure out which NL baseball players were doping;
It does not take FBI agent to know that my bankrupt and disbarred lawyer neighbor is now a drug dealer by looking at his new purchases.

It does not take a Ph. D( even a fake one) to know that such and such school has cheated on the CRCT.

The trouble is that cheating, done at just the right intensity, benefits the Tysons, Halls, and Beasleys of the state of Georgia.

DCSS and APS “should know or should have known”! No amount of bogus benchmark testing while keeping pace can result in improved scores.

The system lies!

Top School

January 29th, 2011
4:05 pm

It’s amazing that the cheating is only focused on the past year…The issues of cheating under Beverly Hall have been going on since she stepped in as Superintendent. You would need to evaluate the testing as far back as those who could step forward would tell.

A systemic problem that has been going on for a long time. Reported to authorities that could careless.

Warren Fortson and the Professional Standards Commission took care of that…


January 29th, 2011
4:12 pm

Students who take Economics need to leave the class understanding the concept of incentives – people, businesses, and governments respond to positive and negative incentives in predictable ways. Not that I am condoning the possibility of cheating on a test such as CRCT, but seriously, what did the people who implemented all of these tests expect? I’ll be the first to say that sometimes my EOCT scores are great, sometimes not so much, it all depends on a lot of things. It really does scare me, though, to place my career in the hands of students who, at times, aren’t all that concerned about the concepts themselves. There are some people who think this whole process is a joke. Just take a recent comment in the vent column… Hey kids, want to see your teachers squirm, mark two answers on every question on a standardized test and then erase one.

Top School

January 29th, 2011
7:54 pm

All the TESTING is invalid in the APS system under their unethical administration.IF they falsify and cheat on any issues…attendance, Bonus Pay, Pay for Performance, administration of Professional Development Plans, Falsification of documents of any kind…nothing is valid under unethical leadership.

The testing for the last 10 years under Beverly Hall is not valid…
ALL means top to bottom. Above Average, Average, Below Average…with erasures …without erasures…everything in the system is tainted with corruption.

Start over…Get rid of all those involved…starting with the TOP.
Criminally charge them for the damage they’ve done to parents and children of this community.

APS Teacher for now

January 29th, 2011
8:11 pm

@Ole Guy, thanks for your comments.

Cindy Lutenbacher

January 29th, 2011
8:50 pm

I’m with those who say to scrap the tests. I keep waiting for folks who endorse these standardized tests to actually study the research behind them. The independent research shows us that the tests reveal two things, categorically (that is, exceptions exist, of course): family income and test prep. These standardized tests reveal neither what children have actually learned nor anything about their potential.
When we worry about key cards and such, we’re truly missing the point.


January 29th, 2011
8:57 pm

@ interesting; Dr. Farrell Young was principal during that time. He also worked in APS.

Dekalb Oldtimer

January 29th, 2011
11:08 pm

Experienced SPECULATION: NO Dekalb teacher came into a closed building at any time in order to access and change answers on the tests WITHOUT authorization/direction from an administrator.

PREDICTION: Sooner or later, one or more of the 24 reassigned teachers will feel his/her career threatened by investigators [ from the D.A. or Professional Standards ] .At that time, one or more of these teachers will reveal that he/she DID assist in the crime, but was following directions given by his/her administrator.


January 29th, 2011
11:45 pm

In Dekalb, only a few teachers have 24/7 access to the building after hours. This can only happen if the Principal gives MIS the teacher’s information and permission. Gone are the days we can get into the building on the weekends to work. It’s been about 5 years now and it’s not allowed anymore (unless staff and admin abide by their own rules) Knowing this, the admin had to know who was accessing the building after hours.
Testing materials are kept in a locked room as soon as the testing time window is completed for the day. Key cards only open outside doors and teachers cannot enter other classrooms without a master key or keys left by an administrator.
Testing protocol has changed dramatically for Dekalb in the last several years do to infractions. It’s the schools that don’t follow this that make the rest look bad. We go “by the book” at my school and children and teachers take it very seriously. It’s not worth losing your job over! I guess as usual, people think they can get away with it!

Rush Self Shooter

January 29th, 2011
11:49 pm

.Continuing Dekalb Odltimer’s 11:08PM

…And the implicated administrators will tell of the enormous pressure place upon them to produce the test score improvement advocated by the BOE; they will re-count tales of how administrators moved up the ladder/career path with trumped-up test scores; and they will tell how the Superintendent and his cabinet never asked questions about the circumstances surrounding these out of the ordinary increases in test scores……

Rush Self Shooter

January 29th, 2011
11:52 pm

These tests need to be proctored by substitute teachers…. Here is a business idea: I will start a company to proctor state tests for a fee….. I am going to be rich!!


January 30th, 2011
9:59 am

“Testing materials are kept in a locked room as soon as the testing time window is completed for the day.”

Yep, and the only one who has access is the testing coordinator who is an administrator. Teachers didn’t have access unless it was given to them by the administrator. I imagine if the teachers did alter tests on the weekend it was because the administrator told them to do “whatever it takes” to raise student “achievement”.


January 30th, 2011
7:52 pm

At Browns Mill a new principal allowed a teacher who was once employed at her school to come back during CRCT testing after school to help with erasures and boxing up tests. This teacher was working at another DCSS school but was allowed in the building to assist with CRCT testing. Besides, the same teacher assisted with cleaning up CRCT test while working in that building as a teacher.

sad APS Dad

January 31st, 2011
2:36 pm

Dr. Hall has been leading and guiding an orgnaization that has overseen the reporting of completely false and misleading reports on the academic progress and performance of students during her entitre tenure and she will not be indicted or held accountable. But the teachers, who are given every incentive to do the wrong thing and punished for doing the right things, will bear the burden of Dr. Hall’s official and unofficial policies. Every City of Atlanta tax payer should demand justice for the fraud committed against APS children and the misuse of our tax dollars.