The NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) has agreed to investigate whether Newark Prep Charter School failed to provide essential special education services to a student with disabilities for an entire year after the student was placed in the school through former State Superintendent Cami Anderson’s One Newark Enrolls plan.
The complaint raises serious concerns about the assignment of students with disabilities through One Newark Enrolls, and whether safeguards are in place to ensure Newark charter schools can effectively provide the special education services required in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of students assigned to those schools.
NJDOE’s Office of Special Education Programs will investigate Newark Prep Charter’s treatment of the individual student, who retained the Education Law Center. ELC is also calling on Commissioner David Hespe to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the extent to which students with disabilities assigned to Newark charter schools through One Newark Enrolls are actually receiving the services required by their IEPs.
On June 24, ELC filed the complaint with NJDOE on behalf of the parent of D.S., a fourteen-year-old student classified under the disabling condition of Emotionally Disturbed. D.S. has an IEP requiring a behavioral disabilities program, a personal aide, and individualized counseling services.
In 2014, D.S. signed up for One Newark Enrolls, State Superintendent Anderson’s universal enrollment program. D.S.’s family, provided with no information about the availability of the services contained in their child’s IEP in schools participating in One Newark Enrolls, selected Newark Prep Charter School as their first choice. On Newark Prep’s website, the charter school represents that it is “committed to meeting the needs of students with disabilities,” and the family was assured by Newark Prep staff in August 2014 that the charter school would meet D.S.’s special education needs.
D.S. enrolled in Newark Prep in September 2014, but by November it became evident he was making no progress, and his IEP was reviewed. At that time, Newark Prep admitted that the school “does not have a behavioral disabilities program and also not an alternative or therapeutic setting, which is what the student requires.” Deprived of necessary support services, D.S. was repeatedly suspended from school and accumulated 23 days of suspension by April 15, 2015. At that point, the charter school suspended D.S. for the remainder of the school year.
During the course of the 2014-15 school year, two more IEPs were developed for D.S., in February and May. All of his IEPs continued to require placement in a behavioral disabilities program with a 1:1 aide and counseling services, but none of these IEPs were ever implemented. D.S. finished the school year receiving some home instruction and remains without a placement for the 2015-16 school year.
NJDOE has agreed to investigate failures by both the charter school and the district in serving D.S. The Department’s complaint procedures provide for mediation as an initial step, with a final investigation report due within sixty days if mediation fails.
“We filed this complaint because the One Newark enrollment process assigned this student to a charter school unable to provide the services required by his IEP – services he needed to be successful in school – and the parent’s efforts to resolve this on her own were unsuccessful,” said ELC Senior Attorney Elizabeth Athos. “This investigation will show that combined failures by the Newark State-Operated school district and Newark Prep deprived this student of a year of education. We’re asking Commissioner Hespe to investigate whether other students with disabilities have been improperly assigned to charter schools under One Newark and to take corrective action.”
Policy and Outreach Director
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