The latest compliance report on implementation of a 2012 court-ordered settlement shows Newark Public Schools (NPS) has made no progress meeting timelines for the initial evaluation and placement of students with disabilities in special education services.
NPS’s February 2014 compliance report shows that only 32% of district students who need evaluations are being evaluated and, where necessary, placed in special education programs within the 90-day deadline required by state law and the settlement. This dismal compliance rate hasn’t improved since the July 2013 compliance report and remains below the 40% rate in February 2013.
In effect, NPS has made no progress in improving the compliance rate from the July 2012 starting line when the settlement was put in place.
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 agreement.
The settlement mandates that students identified with potential disabilities be evaluated by a child study team within 60 days and, if warranted, provided with special education services and programs within 90 days. In addition, NPS must put in place a comprehensive electronic database to track students, provide training to staff, provide “compensatory education” for services missed in the past, and regularly report on compliance activities. The settlement includes guidelines for corrective action if needed, and requires an independent third party to monitor district compliance.
“We are deeply concerned over Newark’s continuing failure to meet the needs of students with disabilities in a prompt and effective manner,” said ELC Executive Director David Sciarra.“It is also clear the NJ Department of Education (DOE) must provide substantial assistance to enable NPS to comply, especially given that NPS is operated directly by the State.”
ELC recently met with the State Attorney General, DOE officials and NPS counsel and staff to discuss the lack of progress. The parties identified the need for additional central office and school staff and other supports as priorities that must be promptly addressed.
The next compliance report must be filed by NPS in July. ELC urges parents and concerned advocates to review the report and press for better compliance by both NPS and the DOE.ELC has prepared the answers to frequently asked questions to assist parents in understanding the obligations of NPS and the DOE under the settlement. FAQs are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Creole. 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 or 973-733-7334.Parents who are unable to resolve their concerns with NPS may contact ELC at 973-624-1815, ext. 30.
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