Nearly two years since the Newark Public Schools (NPS) agreed to a court-ordered Settlement to improve the delivery of special education services, the latest compliance report filed by NPS shows little progress in meeting deadlines for serving the district’s students with disabilities.
NPS’s July 2013 compliance report shows that only 32% of district students are receiving initial special education services in a timely manner. This represents a decline from the 40% compliance rate in February 2013, reversing recent progress. NPS is now back at the July 2012 starting line for compliance under the Settlement, a serious setback for students with disabilities in the State-operated district.
The Settlement was entered in M.A. v. Newark Public Schools, a class action lawsuit brought by Education Law Center (ELC), along with co-counsel Gibbons P.C. and Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice, on behalf of Newark students with disabilities. The Settlement was approved by the Federal District Court on January 27, 2012, and the Court retains jurisdiction to enforce the Settlement.
The Settlement mandates that students with disabilities receive special education services in a timely manner and obtain “compensatory education” for services they missed in the past. In addition, the Settlement requires NPS to put in place a comprehensive special education database, provide staff training, and regularly report on compliance activities. The Settlement also includes guidelines for corrective action if warranted, and requires an independent third party to monitor district compliance.
“Newark’s lack of progress in serving students with disabilities is deeply disturbing,” said Ruth Lowenkron, ELC Senior Attorney. “This latest report also shows that the State Department of Education (DOE) is not satisfactorily monitoring Newark, even though the Commissioner of Education directly operates NPS schools through the State District Superintendent.”
The next progress report on the Settlement must be filed by NPS in February. ELC and other special education advocates will carefully analyze the report and continue to press for better compliance by both NPS and the DOE, which could include returning to Court for enforcement action.
Parents of NPS students who are seeking special education services and have questions about whether the Settlement is being appropriately implemented for their child should contact the M.A. Class Action Compliance Officer, Ms. Priscilla Petrosky, at 973-621-2750. Parents who are unable to resolve their concerns with NPS may contact ELC at 973-624-1815, ext. 30.
Ruth Deale Lowenkron, Esq.
Education Law Center
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications