Special education parents prep for private state meeting
Published 2:57 pm, Monday, June 10, 2013
This morning, a handful of parents met with Andrew Feinstein, the attorney representing their special education complaint, in preparation for a meeting this afternoon with representatives from the state Board of Education.
The complaint alleges that the Darien Public Schools violated the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
During the meeting at St. Luke's Parish, Feinstein told the group of 10 parents that he wants Darien to get "smacked very publicly so other school districts don't follow the same path."
The meeting with four state representatives, including head investigator Michael Tavernier, is part of a larger investigation that was initiated following a March 20 complaint by two dozen Darien parents who claimed services weren't being provided to their children and that the systematic policies within the school were illegal.
According to the complaint, the new policies, instituted by Deirdre Osypuk, the special education and services director who was appointed after the retirement of Robin Pavia, violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by removing the "team aspect" of the PPT meetings, at which students' programs and goals for the year are determined.
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Under the law, educators are not allowed to make a predetermination about the students' programs before meeting with the parents.
While preparing for this afternoon's meeting, Feinstein advised the parents to give statements that are specific to how the rights of their child were violated while providing "very little identifiers."
Throughout the course of the investigation and initial complaint, parents have requested to remain anonymous when speaking with local media outlets for fear that the school district would further restrict their children's education.
One of the parents in attendance told the group that the meeting with the state education representatives was the chance for the parents to "connect the dots" for the state.
Earlier this year, parents were made aware of a memo featuring a PowerPoint presentation that, according to Feinstein, outlines "potential recommendations requiring discussion with administration prior to (Planning and Placement Team)."
In a second complaint filed by the parents on April 4, Feinstein wrote, "There is simply no other way to read the last page of the PowerPoint presentation other than predetermination. The instruction to staff is to determine services before the (Individual Education Plan) IEP is written and before present levels of performance and goals and objectives are set. It is hard to imagine a clearer and more egregious violation of federal special education law."
Another mother, whose child receives out-of-district special education, spoke to the growth of SPEDucate, an advocacy group for families with children with special needs, and its ability to provide information to those who need it.
"We want this to be a district worth of all our children," the mother said.
The meeting with the state representatives will take place in the Tokeneke Common Room from 4 to 6 p.m. and is only for families with special-needs children.
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