State Orders Norwalk Public Schools to Correct Deficits in Support for Children with Disabilities
On July 12, 2019, the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) released their investigative findings pertaining to a Complaint filed in 2018 on behalf of 17 Norwalk students (14 of whom remained as complainants during the investigative period)
The State Department of Education ordered individual and systemic corrective action which will benefit many Norwalk public school children
Issues in the complaint involved:
· Failure of Norwalk Public Schools (NPS) to accept and process referrals for the initial evaluation of a child with a disability
· Failure of NPS to provide free appropriate public education (FAPE) for each child with a disability, consistent with federal law (IDEA)
· Failure of NPS to provide timely special education and related services in accordance with a student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
The SDE found Norwalk Public Schools in violation of both federal and state law and ordered corrective action, including:
Timely Referral for Special Education Evaluation
In addition to remedies for individual students, the SDE ordered Norwalk Public Schools (NPS) to review all preschool referrals received during the 2017-2018 school year and provide SDE with documentation of the dates that the referrals had been received and processed. Further corrective action may be ordered.
Provision of Speech and Language Services
In addition to individual remedies, SDE ordered NPS to provide a list of all students who attended Columbus Magnet School during the 2017-2018 school year and should have received speech and language therapy services but did not. NPS must provide SDE with a calculation of hours owed and steps taken to make-up missed services. Further corrective action may be ordered.
Individual compensatory hours will be awarded to students who did not receive IEP-directed support services, including occupational therapy and consultative hours.
Education with Non-Disabled Peers
SDE found that a student is not considered to be educated with non-disabled peers if he/she receives special education in a classroom where more than half the students receive special education in accordance with an IEP. The district was ordered to review the IEPs of students at Norwalk Early Childhood Center (NECC) to determine if time with non-disabled peers is accurately recorded, and train staff to ensure miscalculation does not occur again. This aspect of the SDE decision has far-reaching implications for special education throughout Connecticut.
Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Hours
The SDE decision found Norwalk did not provide appropriate behavioral consultation hours and ordered the district to train all NECC special education teachers, administrators, para professionals, and related service providers about the educational needs of preschool age children with autism spectrum disorders who have significant developmental or communication delays.
In addition to the corrective actions ordered, the SDE made three recommendations to NPS:
· Provide training for all staff who chair PPT (Planning and Placement Team) meetings
SDE also recommended that NPS make a practice of reviewing evaluations with parents prior to the PPT so the meeting can focus on development of the student's IEP.
· Monitor staff compliance with Special Education policies
SDE recognized Norwalk's new procedures to identify schools that need support to ensure that special education and related services are delivered in accordance with IEPs, and to improve timely communication with parents. SDE recommended that NPS continue to monitor staff compliance with these policies to ensure fidelity throughout the district.
· Train staff to correctly complete students' progress reports
SDE found inaccurate or incomplete IEP progress reports, and recommended that the district train staff to assure that future reports are accurate and complete.
A copy of the Complaint and the CT SDE Decision are available via email.
For more information, please contact:
Attorney Robin Keller
Attorney Kathryn Meyer
Center for Children's Advocacy
Jill Chuckas, MSW
Special Education Advocate
CT Education Advocacy, LLC