On April 2, 2007, four-year-old J.M. was summarily expelled from his preschool program at the Charles Sumner School in Camden, NJ. The expulsion violated two provisions of New Jersey law: due process, because the school failed to notify J.M.’s parents of the appeal mechanisms to disciplinary action; and a regulation governing the landmark Abbott v. Burke reforms that prevents a child’s expulsion from the preschool program. The Abbott regulation, NJAC 6A: 10A-2.2(a)7(i), states:
“Preschool Students in a general education program or a special education program shall not be suspended, long-term or short term, and shall not be expelled.”
Due to quick action taken on behalf of J.M. by Camden attorney Lawrence Lindsay, ELC adjunct counsel, the Camden school district has rescinded the illegal expulsion and is taking corrective measures to ensure prompt re-enrollment. J.M.’s parents are reluctant to send their child back to Charles Sumner and are currently working with the Supervisor of the Camden Early Childhood Program to find a new program.
Additionally, ELC’s legal action has prompted the Camden school district to provide training for preschool administrators regarding the issue of compliance with the Abbott rulings. Camden’s Interim Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Joann Manning, also issued a memo to all elementary and family school principals with preschool programs reiterating that compliance with the Abbott regulations is mandatory, and children should not be expelled or suspended from pre-school programs for any reason. Dr. Manning’s memo points out that the Camden district has an established support structure in place to assist preschool administrators if students exhibit disciplinary or behavioral problems.
“It is critical that every Camden child have access to the Abbott preschool program,” said Lauren Hill, Ed.D., Coordinator of ELC’s Camden Initiative. “Research has proven how much this program prepares our youngsters for elementary school and beyond. We must make sure Camden preschoolers and their families receive the supports they need to succeed and, under no circumstances, should any child be removed from the program.”
The Camden Initiative, recently established by ELC, works with students, parents, teachers and community leaders to strengthen and improve Camden public schools.
Prepared: May 7, 2007
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications