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Saddleback Valley Unified School District
  • Test Mania - Saddleback Valley Unified School District - SBVUSD announces that all Kindergarten students will be take standardized tests.
  • After reading the news release, listed below, be sure to visit the M.I.N.D. web site. M.I.N.D. is "the Music Intelligence Neural Development Institute is a community based, non-profit, interdisciplinary basic scientific research institute which was formed in 1997, by the team of scientists that did the dramatic and ground breaking research (see below) that used music as a window into higher brain function." What makes this site so fascinating (besides the fact that M.I.N.D. has been so enormously influential in bringing to the forefront that music education is vitally important to the education of ALL children, is that fact that Saddleback Unified School District is JUST A FEW MILES AWAY (as the crow flies) and yet their behavior (as exhibited below) is so barbaric!

ASEE NEWS RELEASE of March 11, 2000

March 11, 2000

Dear Editor:

The American Society for Ethics in Education (ASEE) would like to thank all of the fine members of the community who attended our first presentation on the need to increase access to the music education program for children in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. As ASEE has noted previously, there appears to be widespread denial of access to Saddleback Valley USD’s already existing (but minimal) program: this denial appears to especially affect those students who have been identified with special needs and/or learning disabilities. In light of all of the current research regarding the important role that a comprehensive education in music plays in brain development, this is nothing less than a moral outrage. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times (Scientists Map Pattern of Growth in Young Brains, March 8, 2000, front page) states that, "educators have long known that intellectual abilities in language, music, and mathematics must be developed before puberty." Of considerable note is the research being conducted by neurologist, Dr. Gordon Shaw from the University of California, Irvine. In his recent book, "Keeping Mozart in Mind" (Academic Press, copyright 2000), Dr. Shaw notes that his research has "shown that disadvantaged second graders can rapidly learn ratios and proportional math using S.T.A.R. [a specially developed computer program] but that piano training gives an additional significant boost over children in a control group. This is a big deal!" (Shaw, pg. 15. Emphasis was not added.)

Closer scrutiny of the music education program within the Saddleback Valley Unified School District provides something that is very disturbing. Another recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Creative Music Starts in Schools (March 6, 2000, pg. F3) notes that, "As our economy booms and school budgets slowly recover from the effects of serious budget cuts that began years ago, music education is making a comeback. But for the majority of schools, these programs are incomplete and poorly funded. Once a week lessons taught by music teachers who have no classrooms and are forced to drag their supplies from class to class on portable carts are, to paraphrase Emerson, ‘an apology for the real thing.’" Unfortunately, this statement describes the "music program" that currently exists within the Saddleback Valley Unified School District.

Getting back to the issue of denying access to portions of the already minimal program offered by SVUSD to students with learning disabilities, it is known that Susan Navarro-Sims, principal of Cielo Vista Elementary School (a "California Distinguished School") has sent out notices (form letters) to parents of students at her school on at least three occasions. In one such case, it is known that a student, who had just been identified by the school’s psychologist, Ms. Suzanne Nielsen, as exhibiting signs of ADD. Ms. Neilsen stated that "psychometrically, [the student] did present as a child with a likely attention disorder...Clinical observation during testing and in the classroom as was well as scores on behavior rating scales supports the impression of attention disorder [ADD]." (This information is being used, by ASEE, with the permission of the child’s parents.) Furthermore, it is also known that this child would NOT been have tested by the school, had the parent not insisted upon such testing in the first place. Further extensive evaluation by the child’s doctors confirmed the diagnosis of ADD. Just one week after the school had noted this child’s apparent learning disorder, Ms. Navarro Sims issued her first letter (April 12, 1999) stating that the child had been declared ineligible "to participate in extracurricular activities (chorus, instrumental music, after school performances)." When Ms. Navarro-Sims then sent this letter a second time (November 29, 1999), the parent of the above student filed a complaint against Ms. Navarro-Sims and the SBVUSD with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). SBVUSD then claimed that they had found "an error" in the form letter they were using.

Other atrocities suffered at the hands of SBVUSD administrators and teachers on this student include:

  1. Ms. Navarro-Sims, disclosed, WITHOUT parental permission, confidential information from the student’s file to an outside agency (in direct violation of the California Education Code).
  2. In December of 1999, this child was moved to the BACK of the classroom - which, as any competent educator should know, is the absolute worse possible place for an ADD child to sit. It wasn’t until SBVUSD learned of the complaint file with OCR, that the child was finally moved to the front of the class.
  3. It has just been learned that this child’s teacher, apparently, has a habit of answering personal phone calls, on her cell phone, during classroom instruction time.

As some of these (and other) problems appear to be widespread within SBVUSD, the ASEE is now seeking parents of other children within the Saddleback Valley USD to come forward and possibly join in a class-action lawsuit against SBVUSD. Many of these issues will be discussed at the next public information meeting now being planned by ASEE. For further information, please visit ASEE’s web site at: to examine this, and other educational horrors.