What was intended to be a training session that was in line with the special education staff and administration training for the Darien parents and Board of Education members on Thursday, Oct. 10, turned into a question and answer session about the operational policies that have yet to be written.

Multiple parents at the start of the two-hour presentation asked where they could find the new policies and procedures that are in line with state and federal special education law that Theresa DeFrancis, the attorney hired by the Board of Education, was charged with writing. However, they were told that the policies had not been written yet.

"I didn't want to write new policies and then have successive reports come out and need to revise them," DeFrancis said.

She told the parents that she planned to write the new policies within the next month and a half.

"We want everyone to be on the same page," said DeFrancis, who stated the new policies have not yet been written but that the special education staff has been advised to follow the state Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Parents expressed concern that the special education staff was not using any set district policies; however, DeFrancis informed them that the teachers were instructed to refer to the state and federal law.

The rest of her training addressed the district's response to the state's reports regarding the special education complaint, how parents should go about seeking an informal review process and general special education law and practices.

"I felt it was important to do preliminary training," DeFrancis said.

On March 20, a group of parents filed a complaint claiming that the Darien Public Schools had violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by removing the "team aspect" of the Planning and Placement Team meetings, at which students' programs and goals for the year are determined. Under the law, educators are not allowed to make any sort of predetermination about the students' programs before meeting with the parents.

During a parents-only meeting with four CSDE representatives on June 10, parents spoke of IEPs being changed without their knowledge and after they had left their PPT meetings, which is a direct violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Parents and staff were also provided the opportunity to anonymously submit more information to the state following the meeting.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews

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