Author Investigated By State While Writing Book About Schools

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While Alaskan author Rochelle LaMotte McDonald researched the education system, Social Services investigated her for writing subversive material in her pajamas. The inconvenience derailed the project for three years, but couldn't completely stop it.

said to need psychiatric help because she spends all day writing threatening letters

Rochelle LaMotte McDonald gives a unique and passionate voice to the universal frustration parents feel about the American education system, in her new book, "Educating Shelly". Mrs. McDonald's research, which covers eighteen years and follows her children (and their friends) through multiple schools in at least two states. She presents her progress in a journal style, that you don't need a college degree to understand. While you read about her life, her conversational and intimate tone almost makes you feel like she's peeked into your life.

Her project started in California, where her children started their education. Like Alice in Wonderland, things weren't always what they seemed. As a person who strongly believed in parental involvement in the schools, she quickly discovered money was more valued than talents. While in California, she learned the rules of [fund raising], became a fan of year-round education, was introduced to the gifted program, became a member of various parent-teacher entities, and learned about state funding.

California was experiencing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall for dealing with overcrowded schools. A PTA meeting discussing options school districts faced if bonds didn't pass, drew a microscopic audience. Six months later, a meeting was called to implement the options. It was standing room only, and several parents threw tantrums when they found out their children were zoned for the new year-round school.

Mrs. McDonald observed people who claimed to be different, but acted the same, when she moved to Alaska. When she voiced a positive opinion on year-round education at a PTA meeting, she was informed that she wasn't in California anymore. She arrived in Alaska at a time before teachers were prohibited from requiring a child to be medicated as a prerequisite for education, and received a death threat from one of her daughter's classmates pre-Bethel and Columbine. Alaska had to respond to situations in a "Lower 48" manner.

When teachers couldn't offer her any suggestions for helping her gifted children with their academic weaknesses, Mrs. McDonald began to educate herself on becoming a teacher. Teachers had advised her to monitor homework that wasn't allowed to come home. She spent hundreds of dollars on supplemental materials and tutoring to help her children succeed. She even [home schooled] her children with varied success.

Mrs. McDonald attended meetings on gifted education, testified in front of Assembly and School Board meetings, attended PTA meetings, corresponded with the Alaska Commissioner of Education, and contacted the Ombudsman's office. Through the Results Project (, she met Steven Plog, who advocates behavior modification and nutrition, rather than methamphetamines, for dealing with ADHD. She educated herself on alternative methods for earning credits, and volunteered at the schools until she realized she couldn't be a silent witness.

"Educating Shelly" was written to help other parents recognize potential education problems earlier and implement remedies in a timely manner, since parents are their children's best advocates. Mrs. McDonald follows her children from Kindergarten to graduation, covering topics as mundane as homework and teacher contract negotiations to subjects as absurd as naked students and farting. The subject is dealt with in a straight forward manner and a very light coat of varnish, with a modicum of humor.

According to DFYS Log No. 96-3688, Mrs. McDonald was investigated because she was "said to need psychiatric help because she spends all day writing threatening letters". Mrs. McDonald claims that the social worker stood in her livingroom for about 20 minutes, seemed extremely concerned about her writing attire, ignored the children, and insisted that she could remove the children that day. Mrs. McDonald visited the DFYS supervisor to find out how she could keep her children, only to be told it the criteria was subjective. A week later, Mrs. McDonald was cleared with the vague advice to keep her house neat and clean.

"Educating Shelly" is available through Lulu ( world's fastest growing provider of print-on-demand books. It is available in hardbound, paperback, and for downloading.


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