NC Attorney General going after for-profit colleges, suing Dept. of Education

by: Mark Barber
Updated: Oct 18, 2017 – 5:26 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Three colleges in North Carolina are accused of getting rich off students in debt, according to the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

Another nine schools are being monitored for potentially offering students high-cost, low-quality programs.

Two of the schools that have been flagged are in Charlotte.

[RELATED COVERAGE: Student did not receive diploma after college closes suddenly]

Federal investigators said the Charlotte School of Law and Kings College is in the warning zone for misleading students by letting them build up more debt than their degrees could ever pay off.

“It’s hard out here. People don’t even have the money to get into college,” Zavion Rice, a Kings College freshman, said.

Kings College is accused of taking advantage of students in the administrative assistance program who are now trying to pay off years of student loans with secretary salaries.

“A lot of people should have a backup plan,” freshman Darius Morehand said.

Morehand is a graphic design student. He plans to work two jobs just to pay down his loans.

Investigators can’t take any action to help students who are drowning in debt, because the Department of Education won’t punish schools anymore.

Freshman Kristen Maw said, “We’re struggling. It shouldn’t be a good idea for them to not help us, because students can’t really speak up for themselves. It has to be someone bigger.”

United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos doesn’t think the government has the authority to regulate which degrees can be offered to students.

Attorney General Josh Stein said he’s suing the Department of Education because it won’t protect students of for-profit schools.

[RELATED COVERAGE: Big holdup for borrowers claiming for-profit college fraud]

Channel 9 asked him if students of those schools will ever get their money back.

“If it happened in the past where they were deceived, they should let my office know. We could have a claim against them,” Stein said. “We’ve gone after a number of for-profit schools, gotten refunds for students who were taken advantage of.”

Seventeen other states are also suing the Department of Education, so Stein hopes that added pressure will lead to results for students soon.

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Pilot project to help students complete GEDs

PORT ANGELES — United Way of Clallam County and Peninsula College have collaborated on a fund to help students seeking a General Education Development certificate.

The High School Equivalency Finish Line Fund was established to help students working toward their high school equivalency to overcome any barriers that are preventing them from completing all the requirements, according to Travis Simmons of the United Way of Clallam County.

Every year, approximately 500 students in Clallam County sign up to complete their high school equivalency with about 10 percent completing those requirements, he said in a press release.

Family needs, transportation issues and childcare are some contributing factors for students’ incompletion, he said.

This spring, United Way board members began meeting with college staff, the Peninsula College Foundation and community members to outline the pilot project and determine how to implement the fund.

The fund will allow students to apply for financial assistance for bus passes, bills and childcare.

During the meetings, Getta Rogers of the college foundation provided information about its Finish Line Fund.

“The Finish Line Fund offers assistance to students in their final quarters at Peninsula College [by] pay[ing] for bills and other expenses that prevent students from finishing their degree,” Rogers said.

To apply, students speak with their instructors and requests are forwarded to the college foundation’s program coordinator, who then interviews the potential awardee.

To qualify, students must be making active progress on their credential, which means that they must have completed at least two of the official general education degree exams, or they must have accrued 10 out of 20 high school credits.

“We are hoping to fund students who need immediate assistance in order to complete their education,” said the foundation’s interim dean, Laura Brogden.

Another component of the pilot project is creating an opportunity for mentorship.

“We believe motivation plays a big role in keeping students engaged through the study process and able to complete all their tests,” said Ray Chirayath, United Way board treasurer.

“We have connected with service club members and leaders in the business community who want to work with these students to provide moral support as they work toward completing the work they need to do and move toward a trade, job or further education,” Chirayath said.

The funds for this project come from donations to the United Way of Clallam County.

Donations to the fund are accepted. To place a donation, call 360-457-3011, email info@unitedway or visit

Neil deGrasse Tyson Has a Plan for Fixing Science Education

What science classes did you take in school? Biology? Chemistry? Physics? Perhaps an environmental science class? For most Americans, science education starts in grade school and continues every year to the high school level. Those of us who attend university will often require a general education class in the sciences as well. We explore the various bodies of knowledge and come out with a basic understanding of how the world works, in theory.

But, for all of our science education, we may be missing something big.

Think about it, in our science classes we tend to learn various facts about each of the fields of science; the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and so on and so on. However, as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson points out, “One of the things that I think is missing in the educational pipeline in America is… a class on what science is, and how and why it works.”

For all of the above science classes you probably took, how many of them focused on what science is beyond the class’ introduction? For many people, without the benefit of that knowledge, science becomes something you can choose not to believe in, in the same way you might pass on new age fads or certain interpretations of historical events.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and actor LeVar Burton


Dr. Tyson sees this as a problem, one that affects every area of our culture. In an interview with The Florida Times Union, he explained his position on the subject.


“…science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. It is a wiring of the brain that empowers you to probe whether something is real or not in this world. If you do not have the power to judge that, to judge what is true and what is not true, then you might think that science is just one way of knowing things and, hey, here’s this other way of knowing things and there’s no difference between the two, and I choose to believe this and not that.

Many people have the misunderstanding of science that he alludes to, the idea that it is one of several possible systems for viewing the world. One which is selected by the individual and has no particular claim to truth. Some people (who the author has known) view the tendency for science to change its position on the nature of reality as new evidence comes to light as proof that most of it is bunk.


A class like Dr. Tyson suggests would explain how science works explicitly, and how the facts it lays out are as objective as empirical evidence can be. It would also have to explain the difference between a personal worldview based on values, experiences, and culture; and objective facts, which science often provides.

He goes on to show us what happens when people can’t differentiate between objective truth and the things they believe are true.


“We now have people where the facts of climate change conflict with their political worldview. It’s really a cultural worldview that manifests in politics. Your cultural worldview is ‘I don’t want to lose my coal job,’ ‘I’m heavily invested in oil companies’ ‘I like oil and I don’t care that it pollutes.’

So that is your cultural standpoint and that standpoint resonates with certain industries and if you are a politician who wants to favor those industries you’ll come out and say that ‘global warming is not anything that I care about if it going to constrict these cultural and political plans that I have.’

“Now, if we had all been trained to know what science is and how and why it works, none of them would say ‘I choose not to believe this.’ They instead would say ‘OK, I hear you, I just don’t care.’ That would at least be honest.”

While his example is on climate change, there are many areas where the political and social debate in the United States continues despite the overwhelming agreement of scientists that the facts of the issue are settled. The questions of evolution, the safety of vaccination, the reality of climate change, and the natural occurrence of homosexuality all come to mind.

Each of these issues are settled, scientifically speaking. Our debates over them are cultural, but pretending otherwise unduly complicates them, so argues Dr. Tyson. Teaching our society that the empirical questions are settled, but that this leaves room for debate on how we are to interact with that information, would not only elevate our discourse, but allow us to actually solve our problems.

Now, it is understandable why a person who has not been properly educated on the nature of science might object to that previous statement. After all, if you cannot do the math, the theory of Relativity can seem to be as based on faith as the book of Genesis. If this is so, why should they think science has the better answer? This is what our education system needs to explain if we want to have a reasoned debate.

Dr. Tyson does his part to help educate people on what science is and how it works. His Big Think interviews are just a small sample of the work he does. Others like Philip Kitcher also help to explain how science works and why we should take the consensus as fact.

Our society is more dependent on science and its advances than ever before. Is it time for our understanding of how science works to catch up?


5 ways to make the most of your child’s IEP meeting


When Lacey met her daughter’s new teacher, she came prepared — with cake. Lacey’s daughter has a variety of challenges that impact her classroom behavior and require additional support from teachers and school staff. Lacey, whose last name is being withheld to protect her daughter’s privacy, says cake is one way to build a relationship with her daughter’s teacher.

She isn’t the only parent dealing with a difficult return to school. As kids with special needs head back to the classroom, their parents face a daunting schedule of meetings and appointments to help their kids adjust to the transition.

The most important of these meetings is often with their child’s special education team, where parents and school staff will review and amend the Individualized Education Program — the document that sets their child’s goals and the supports the school will provide to help them achieve these goals.

These meetings can be stressful, so it’s important for parents to walk in with a game plan and the knowledge they need to best advocate for their kids. Here are five tips from educators and veteran parents for making the most of your child’s IEP meeting.

Know your child’s rights. You’ve probably heard of the Individuals With Disabilities in Education Act, which protects the rights of students with disabilities to receive a public education. But the most important element of this law is the right of students to a free and appropriate education in the least-restrictive environment. This means that, if your child can make appropriate academic progress in a general education setting with support, they can’t be forced into a special education setting.

But what constitutes an “appropriate” education is often up for interpretation. While the Supreme Court ruled in March that special education students have the right to make “appropriately ambitious” academic progress, it’s still a difficult concept to standardize. This means that parents may have to become advocates for their children’s rights.

Don’t let concerns simmer. Many parents are afraid of putting too many demands on their children’s educators. But in the special education setting, it’s often true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Rather than waiting for the next IEP meeting to roll around, parents can call IEP meetings at any time. Concerns can then be addressed proactively, rather than being allowed to escalate and cause tension.

“The IEP team and its members should always be a parent’s first line of defense, especially since there [is] always a special educator, general educator and school administrator on the team,” says Sivan Tuchman, a professor at the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education.

When concerns are addressed quickly, Tuchman says, parents are more likely to be satisfied with the results and the team is better able to maintain a good working relationship. Likewise, it’s important for parents to avoid belittling or attacking members of the team when frustrations flare.

Marilyn Rigby was a special-education teacher at a Connecticut K-8 school for more than 25 years. She says one of the biggest challenges she faced was parents who came into IEP meetings with an adversarial attitude. “The worst thing that a parent can do at the meeting is to disparage a member of the team,” she says.

Take a team approach. It’s easy for IEP meetings to take an antagonistic tone; after all, parents are fighting for what they believe their children need to be successful. But it’s important to remember that education is a team endeavor.

Tiffany Waddington is the mother of two autistic children, who has since returned to school to become a speech and language pathologist. She says it’s important for parents and educators to work together because each one offers an important perspective about the child’s skills and abilities.

“As parents, we have the benefit of living with the kids 24/7. We may also be more protective and afraid of letting kids try and fail,” she says. “As professionals … they may see the potential to push boundaries a little more than you are comfortable doing, or they may need your perspective to better understand what your child is capable of doing in other environments that they don’t see at school.”

This means establishing a relationship with your child’s school staff, and remembering to show your appreciation for their hard work — not just expressing your frustrations. “So many special needs parents seem to default to combat mode and hyper-organization as a coping mechanism, and allow fear and uncertainty to take the lead,” says Michelle Schlick, a mother of a special-needs child.

Do your homework. IEP meetings are stressful, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to request a copy of the IEP at least 24 hours in advance to review the school’s findings and process their recommendations.

“I always sit with an IEP document for a couple hours the night before a meeting, with a highlighter and a red pen,” says Lisa Marsh, a parent of an autistic child. “Come to the meeting prepared to discuss what they’ve written, have your disagreements written out and be clear on what changes you want to ask for.”

While not all schools allow you to record IEP meetings, you can always take notes. And these notes can be important if disagreements arise later. “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen,” says Audra Sisak, a New York mother of an autistic child.

Don’t back down. Sometimes, despite parents’ best efforts, IEP meetings aren’t successful. Some parents aren’t able to get their children the support they need without taking additional action.

“The path to the services parents envision for their child is not always a straight line,” says Ruth Wilson, a board-certified educational therapist and founder of Brightmont Academy. “It’s worthwhile to investigate all of the options presented, but also to be persistent when the plan doesn’t address all needs and to seek outside help when needed.”

There are a variety of options available to parents who are frustrated with their child’s special education services. They can retain advocates (often available through nonprofit organizations), contact their state’s special education ombudsman or hire an attorney. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but sometimes, even the act of retaining an advocate or attorney can be enough to get results.

“I held off [on hiring a lawyer] for three years thinking if I was friendly, things would improve,” says Susan Carollo, a Washington mother. “They didn’t. But with a state complaint and a lawyer, it was [an] instant turnaround.”

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You might also be interested in:

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Herring Sues Department of Education for Not Enforcing Gainful Employment Rule

Release from Office of Attorney General Mark Herring:

Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 18 state attorneys general in suing the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos for refusing to enforce the Gainful Employment Rule, a federal regulation designed to protect students from predatory for-profit schools.

“The Department of Education should be protecting our students and holding for-profit schools accountable, but Secretary DeVos is irresponsibly refusing to enforce a rule that does just that,” said Attorney General Herring. “Too many students across the country take on thousands of dollars in student loans based on promises made by a for-profit school, only to find themselves in deep debt with no degree or one that may not lead to a good job like the school advertised.  More than one million Virginia student borrowers have a total of more than $30 billion in outstanding student loan balances, and I’ll continue to stand up and fight for them and their families.”

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the Department of Education violated federal law by refusing to enforce the Gainful Employment Rule, which implements the requirement in the Higher Education Act that all for-profit schools, all vocational schools, and non-degree programs at all other schools “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” 

The Gainful Employment Rule has two important aspects.  First, it empowers prospective students to make informed decisions by requiring schools to provide information about the program’s average debt load, the loan repayment rate of all students who enroll in the program, the percentage of students who graduate from the program, the number of graduates who obtain employment in a field related to the program, and the average earnings of graduates.  Second, the Gainful Employment Rule assesses whether schools’ programs provide education and training to their students that lead to earnings that will allow students to pay back their student loan debts. If the programs fail the objective metrics, federal student loans and grants would no longer be provided to those programs.

On July 5, 2017 and August 18, 2017, the Department announced its intent to delay large portions of the Gainful Employment Rule without soliciting, receiving, or responding to any comment from any stakeholder or member of the public, and without engaging in a public deliberative process. The Department has also publicly stated that it has no plans to calculate the necessary metrics to determine whether programs are failing the Gainful Employment Rule’s minimum requirements.  State attorneys general argue in their lawsuit that the delays have no legal justification and the Department’s actions are “arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.”

Today’s complaint asks the Court to declare the Department’s delay notices unlawful and to order the Department to implement the Gainful Employment Rule.

Attorney General Herring joined state attorneys general from California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington in filing today’s lawsuit. 

Washington state sues DeVos for suspending rule intended to keep colleges from offering worthless degrees

Four days after he stood on a Bellevue street corner with other protesters and denounced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against DeVos and her department.

This lawsuit is aimed at stopping the U.S. Education Department from delaying, or refusing to enforce, an Obama-era rule intended to keep for-profit college and trade schools from offering worthless degrees and leaving their graduates with high levels of debt.

In an interview, Ferguson said the rule offers “common-sense protections for folks all across the country,” and he believes it is being suspended illegally because the administration is not going through public hearings and other forms of feedback outlined by the federal Administrative Procedure Act. Attorneys general from 16 other states, plus the District of Columbia, are joining the lawsuit.

The Administrative Procedure Act “is there … to avoid exactly this situation,” in which a new administration comes in and tosses out rules developed by a previous administration, he said.

DeVos suspended the rule this summer, calling the regulations “overly burdensome.”

It’s the 17th such lawsuit Ferguson’s office has filed against the Trump administration; his office has also intervened in four other cases to defend rules it believes the administration isn’t defending.

The “gainful employment rule,” as it is called, aims to hold postsecondary schools accountable for the quality of the education they offer. It is a new rule that would stop the flow of federal financial aid to schools whose graduates aren’t making enough money to repay the student loans they took out to earn their degrees.

In early January, before Trump was sworn in, the Department of Education released a list of more than 800 schools nationwide that had failed the gainful employment test. Almost all of the schools were for-profit colleges.

But no school has yet lost federal funding. DeVos’ predecessor, John B. King Jr., said in a conference call with reporters in January that the numbers were released to give career colleges “an opportunity and in some cases a warning to improve the quality of their programs.”

The gainful employment rule requires colleges and other postsecondary schools to provide accurate information about average earnings and debt loads of their graduates.

The rule gives postsecondary institutions many different ways to show they are meeting their obligation to prepare students for gainful employment, “and only penalizes those institutions that repeatedly and flagrantly failed to do so,” according to the lawsuit.

Ferguson’s office has also filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit that challenges Obama-era rules on student loans. He has joined other state attorneys general in arguing that those rules deter predatory for-profit colleges from violating consumer-protection laws. And his office is also suing Navient, the nation’s largest loan servicer, for a range of business practices, including allegedly making unauthorized robocalls, doing a poor job of tracking payment processing errors, steering borrowers into costlier repayment options and misapplying payments.

“Long before Donald Trump was president, we’ve been pretty focused in this office on student loan issues,” Ferguson said. “This is not a new issue for the office, but it is frustrating to me the Trump administration is not following this rule.”

WVU to launch global competency certificate program – Charleston Gazette

Next fall, West Virginia University is planning to launch a new global competency certificate program that will require students who participate to study abroad for at least one semester or participate in an international internship.

School officials said they hope the new program will encourage more students to study abroad and will give students a leg up on other graduates in an increasingly global economy, said William Brustein, the school’s vice president for global strategies and international affairs.

“The goal is to integrate international, global perspectives into what students learn on campus,” Brustein said.

Brustein launched a similar program at The Ohio State University when he worked there under then-university president Gordon Gee. Brustein said Gee, now at WVU, brought him to the Mountain State to launch similar international initiatives like the certificate program.

At WVU, Brustein said he is replicating two programs he spearheaded in Ohio. The first involves WVU partnering with foreign universities to expand the school’s academic reach. Already, WVU has started partnering with a private university in Bahrain. The global competency certificate, which Brustein calls the “Global Mountaineers” program, is the second.

The new certificate program will likely launch for undergraduates next fall, then for graduate students soon after, according to Lisa DiBartolomeo, a professor in the school’s Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics who is heading up designing the program.

If all goes as planned, she said the program should be “relatively flexible” so students in nearly every major can participate. The university hopes that non-traditional students who might have already graduated will consider taking part in the program.

“We’re hoping this will be a really attractive opportunity for students throughout West Virginia, and not just students in college or community college,” DiBartolomeo said. “It’s for people in the community, too, people who might be looking to move up in their career path or looking to add an additional credential. Based on our peer institutions, we think this is a very competitive program that will be attractive for a lot of people.”

The program will begin with a one-hour credit class online which introduces students to the basics of world geography, data analytics and comparing and contrasting different cultures and regions of the world.

From there, DiBartolomeo said students will need at least six credits, or two classes, in a foreign language. Many WVU students already are required to take two foreign language credits, and those credits would be able to count toward the certificate.

Students will be required to take six credit hours in core course material — many of which will overlap with the school’s existing general education curriculum — and an ending assessment. Students will also need to complete some sort of education abroad program, which DiBartolomeo said could be an international internship or could be the traditional study abroad program WVU already offers.

“It is tricky in this age when we’re really trying to think about college affordability to say we’re going to require a study abroad component, I fully recognize that represents a significant financial commitment for a student.”

But without that component, she said the certificate program wouldn’t be competitive with other similar certificate programs.

New report highlights General Assembly’s failed record on higher education

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), a nonpartisan organization, has published new state-specific data on college affordability that paint a damning picture of the General Assembly’s record.

The report shows that both cost of attendance and student loan debt have risen dramatically from 2008 to 2014. These increases disproportionately create barriers to economic advancement for students of color and students from low-income families.

North Carolina’s constitution places a very important responsibility on the General Assembly. State leaders are required to provide higher education for free “as far as practicable.” Article IX, Section 9 reads:

The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.

Of course, the “as far as practicable” language provides policymakers legal wiggle room to place some of the financial burden of college attendance on students. But the SREB data make it awfully hard to argue that General Assembly leaders are continuing to meet their constitutional responsibility.

The share of family income required to support a full-time student at a North Carolina college or university increased dramatically from 2008 to 2014. On average, families in North Carolina needed to devote 13 percent of their income in 2008 to pay for a full-time student at one of the state’s four research universities (UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, UNC Charlotte, UNC Greensboro). By 2014, the cost nearly doubled, rocketing to 21 percent of average family income.

The story is similar at four-year non-research institutions of the UNC System (e.g., Appalachian State, East Carolina University, UNC Asheville, etc.), where the percentage of family income needed to attend full-time has also nearly doubled.

The story is slightly better at North Carolina’s community colleges, but the percentage of family income necessary to attend full time has still increased over this time period: from 14.8 percent in 2008 to 18.1 percent in 2014.

The SREB data also show that the increasing financial burden to attend colleges falls most harshly on low-income families. Even after accounting for need-based federal and state grants, low-income families must dedicate a greater share of their income to attend a North Carolina college.

Higher education is supposed to be the path toward upward economic mobility. However, the disproportionate cost of college for low-income North Carolinians closes off this path for a growing share of the state’s populace. State and federal need-based aid are clearly failing to create equal opportunity for all students to advance their education beyond high school.

Not surprisingly, the SREB data also show increasing levels of student debt. North Carolina students are taking on about 45 percent more debt than they assumed in 2008, according to the SREB report. The average North Carolina student took on $14,328 to attend a research university as a full-time student in 2008, but this number climbed to $20,325 in 2014. As Marion Johnson of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center’s noted in a recent report, student loan debt is both a symptom and a cause of racial inequity. The increasing cost of North Carolina’s colleges and universities is disproportionately burdening black students with high levels of student loan debt.

It’s no coincidence that state support for the University of North Carolina system has deteriorated since 2008. Since 2008, state funding per student has decreased by 14 percent. Over the same period, average, inflation-adjusted tuition and mandatory fees increased by 48 percent. These changes go hand-in-hand. Recent research has shown that “the single biggest driver of rising tuitions for public colleges has been declining state funding for higher education.”

The SREB data should serve as a loud and clear wake-up call to North Carolina’s policymakers. North Carolina’s constitution establishes the goal of making higher education free for all of the state’s students, not just rich ones. But years of austerity budgets have disproportionately put higher education out of reach for North Carolina’s low-income and minority students. Such policies would be unwise and immoral in any state, but are particularly egregious given North Carolina’s abysmal track record in promoting inter-generational economic advancement.

General Assembly leaders must change course and recommit to investing in higher education so that a college degree can be as free of expense as practicable for all of the state’s students, rather than just a select few.

Kris Nordstrom is a policy analyst the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project.

In most schools, gifted students with learning disabilities are left behind. Not here

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As a twice exceptional student herself, Bracamonte’s own academic life, growing up in Bethesda, Maryland, was one of frustration, rebelliousness and conflict, fueled by a lack of support for her twice exceptionality. She could speak three languages by first grade, but was held back because she couldn’t recall the alphabet in order. By third grade, she’d read many of her school’s textbooks, but was still not allowed to advance.

As the anger from being misunderstood and alienated mixed with intellectual boredom, year after year, Bracamonte began to detest social convention and authority. She turned to athletics, pouring 30 hours a week into gymnastics and track and field training, but with bitterness. When she was about to get first, second, or third place in a race — when there was something at stake — she would stop just short of the finish line and walk off the track.

“I wanted to make a point,” she says. “I wanted my coaches and school to know I didn’t care about them, or the medals, or the accolades.”

She believed school failed her, and that pain didn’t fade. Watching her children experience similar issues lit a fire in her.

Bracamonte’s older son, Julien, 18, began his academic career in public school, where his combination of ADHD and a high IQ forced his teachers to confront a challenge they were never trained to meet. Julien was always getting up and walking around the room, a thinking tool for him but a distraction for others in that particular environment.