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Out-of-district placements focus of special education lawsuit

A federal lawsuit has been settled concerning one state's Department of Education oversight of special education needs of particular students.  The concern was the high level of segregation that occurred in that state's special education program.

One particular school district was singled out for its number of out-of-district placements of special education students.  This district sent 130 students elsewhere concerning public or private special education placements.  One other school with a similar enrollment only sent 50 students out for such placements.

The superintendent of the offending district stated: "Livingston has recognized that out-of-district placement is not always the best option for our students, however, we have been working toward providing, since my first day here, more options in-district to give our parents and students greater choice."  Additional life skills programs have been tentatively budgeted for 2014-2015.  Social and emotional support programs have been added for certain grades along with other trial programs.  The school will also be required to perform a data review and analysis with classroom observations being conducted by the Department of Education.

The federal lawsuit had been filed by disabilities and parent rights advocate groups.  The settlement agreement called for corrective and needs assessments plans to be put in place in 75 districts.  It was said that these districts encompassed approximately a quarter of that state's school children.

We sometimes see in California similar circumstances where the needs of special education students are not met and where parents then require attorney representation.  Federal laws provide parents the right to pursue a number of remedies when it comes to disabled-student issues.  Unfortunately, it sometimes requires the prompting of lawsuits to make schools pay attention to the needs of all of their students.

Source: The Alternative Press, "NJ Settles Special Education Lawsuit," March 2, 2014

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