Special Ed for Channel 2 

Lowe's school story incomplete

Lowe's school story incomplete

In a noble effort to help a special needs student, WKRN-Channel 2’s Christi Lowe might have done more harm than good. Last Tuesday on the station’s 5 p.m. newscast, Lowe reported how school officials kicked out Cody Abrams, a special needs student from J.E. Moss Elementary, in order to move him to Lakeview Elementary, the school for which he is zoned.

Predictably, the story portrayed school officials as neglectful, if not downright uncaring. Lisa Hunter, the child’s mother, said on air that her son will suffer if he has to change schools and complained about how officials handled the whole situation. “Nobody from the school contacted me,” she said. “They told my child in front of the class to pack up his supplies and not return to the school.”

But school principal Martha Butler tells the Scene that the mother’s story is untrue and that the teacher gave the child a sealed letter informing the mother that until the zoning issue is approved, he must attend Lakeview. In addition, Butler says the mother repeatedly failed to fill out the necessary paperwork that would allow Cody to remain at J.E. Moss.

“I’m not supposed to allow students out of my zone to attend my school unless they have permission from zoning to transfer,” says Butler, who has been at the school for more than 10 years. “I’ve talked to the mom on numerous occasions reminding her that she needed to fill out the transfer form. And the assistant principal told her in person.”

Butler, who was not quoted in Lowe’s story, says the reporter never phoned her. But her side of the story seems to suggest that culpability for the child’s plight lies not with the school, but with the mother. In addition, two years ago Metro schools addressed a letter to Hunter clearly informing her that while officials would allow Cody to attend J.E. Moss, it was not for an indefinite amount of time.

Hunter says that neither the principal nor the school ever contacted her about filling out a transfer form for her son. No doubt this is a complicated story, but by giving the mother more than enough time to air her unchallenged grievances while giving school spokesman Craig Owensby only a belated and brief rebuttal, Lowe reduced this situation to a simple cliché—that of an uncaring school system neglecting the needs of a vulnerable student. Even Lowe acknowledges this story’s not that easy.

“It’s kind of a ‘he said, she said,’ ” says Lowe. “I’m not really sure which side is completely telling the truth.” Maybe she should have investigated a little further.

Institutional memory?

Even when she chased down a psychic to uncover clues on the Perry March case, WSMV-Channel 4’s Francene Cucinello managed to be an endearing personality. Maybe it’s because she’s not afraid to look foolish. Last week, in preparing to cover the mayor’s farewell party at the arena, Cucinello reportedly phoned his office and asked for a timeline of his accomplishments and whether “he beat Boner” to win his office. Station rules prohibit Cucinello from commenting on the record, but a source in the mayor’s office confirms the above account. In Cuccinello’s defense, she probably shouldn’t have been assigned to the story anyway. She’s been in town for less than two years.

Purchase order

Is In Review publisher Boyer Barner looking to sell his paper to The Tennessean? Barner says Tennessean publisher Craig Moon asked him to “submit a proposal regarding Gannett’s purchase of In Review.” Barner declined to elaborate. Moon acknowledges talking with Barner about that very subject, but says he’s not interested right now in purchasing the fledgling weekly. Still, Moon hedged his bets. “I don’t want to say never. I wouldn’t say never with you guys,” Moon said, referring to the Scene.

Investigative reporting

WTVF-Channel 5’s A.J. Sterling isn’t likely to join the McLaughlin Group anytime soon. During last Thursday’s runoff elections, Sterling interviewed vice mayoral candidate Tim Garrett right after the polls closed, asking him, “What do you hope will happen tonight?” Garrett said he hoped he won. Viewers wanted the last 10 seconds of their life back.

Contact Matt at 244-7989, ext. 445, or by e-mail at MPulle@nashvillescene.com.

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