July 19, 2011
Based on reports that yet another school in Paterson did not have sufficient special education staff during the 2010-11 school year, Education Law Center (ELC) has filed a complaint with the NJ Department of Education (DOE). The complaint, which was accepted by the DOE for investigation, focuses on the lack of adequate special education staff at School Number 10, which serves children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The guardian, on behalf of whom the complaint was filed, only learned that there were no special education teachers to provide her grandson’s educational services during Back to School Night in September. After objections were raised with the school principal, two special education teachers were assigned to School 10, but not until October. These two teachers had to serve all of the students requiring special education resource services until February, when a third teacher was added. Even with three teachers, the school could not provide the level of special education and related services required by students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and mandated by state and federal law.
This is the latest in a series of complaints filed by ELC with the DOE regarding the lack of special education and related services for Paterson students in 2010-11, caused by a hiring and spending freeze ordered by the DOE in September. The freeze was not lifted until May.
In previous complaint investigation reports, the DOE determined that inadequate staffing in Paterson led to the denial of legally-mandated services to elementary school-aged students at School Number 2 and to preschoolers with disabilities. DOE-ordered Corrective Action Plans (CAP) are already in place, requiring the Paterson school district to provide compensatory services in addition to those mandated by the children’s IEPs. Specifically, the CAPs issued by the DOE require Paterson to notify the parents of children whose rights were violated, to propose a compensatory services schedule, and to provide agreed-upon services. On May 10, 2011, the DOE found that little progress had been made in providing compensatory services to preschoolers.
“Paterson must hire adequate staff to deliver federally-mandated services to children with disabilities by the start of the school year in September and fairly compensate those children who were denied services the previous school year,” said Lauren S. Michaels, ELC attorney and Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Works Fellow. “The DOE has lifted the spending and hiring freeze, and, thanks to the NJ Supreme Court decision in Abbott v. Burke XXI, Paterson will have $32 million in additional state aid in 2011-12. There is surely no justification at this point for failing to comply with the law and with DOE directives.”
Education Law Center Press Contact:
Lauren S. Michaels, Esq.
Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Works Fellow
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications