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STATE FINDS ADDITIONAL SPECIAL EDUCATION VIOLATIONS IN PATERSON

ORDERS DISTRICT TO PROVIDE SPEECH SERVICES TO 43 STUDENTS

Newark NJ -- May 9, 2011

As a result of a complaint filed by Education Law Center (ELC) on December 28, 2010, the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) has directed the Paterson school district to provide speech-language services to 43 elementary school students at Paterson's School Number 2. The State found that these students were denied therapy services for months.

This latest action is part of ongoing problems with the delivery of special education services in the Paterson public schools in the current school year. The problems started last summer when the state-operated school district requested assistance from NJDOE to cover budget shortfalls. Despite severe staffing shortages, in September, NJDOE imposed a hiring and spending freeze that prevented the district from obtaining necessary programs and staff to provide mandated special education services.

On April 13, 2011, NJDOE finally released its investigative findings and report on the violations detailed in ELC's complaint.

"For the dozens of students who were illegally denied urgently-needed speech-language therapies, it is a relief that NJDOE has ordered Paterson to resume services and to provide compensatory services as well," said Lauren S. Michaels, ELC attorney and Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Works Fellow. Michaels, along with ELC Senior Attorney Elizabeth Athos, represents parents of students at School 2.

Among NJDOE's findings are that Paterson illegally failed to provide mandatory speech-language therapy to 43 of the 116 students at School 2 whose Individual Education Programs (IEPs) included such services. According to the report, Paterson has contracted with a private agency in order to provide the needed therapies.

The Corrective Action Plan (CAP) issued by NJDOE requires Paterson to notify the parents of children whose rights it violated, and propose a compensatory services schedule.

"Parents need to know that they have a right to compensatory speech-language services that actually make up for the denial of therapies to their particular child, and that they are entitled to participate in the decision of how the school district will deliver those services," Michaels said.

"Now that the spending and hiring freeze has been lifted, this should remove any obstacles that the district may have had to immediately hiring sufficient personnel and expending the resources necessary to completely implement all students' IEPs," said Michaels. "Even at this point in the school year, there is no excuse for delaying the provision of needed educational services to hundreds of children in Paterson."

 

Education Law Center Press Contact:
Lauren S. Michaels, Esq.
Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Works Fellow
email: lmichaels@edlawcenter.org
voice: 973 624-1815 x15

 

Copyright © 2011 Education Law Center. All Rights Reserved.