The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has completed its investigation of a lodged by Jen Crowder for lack of speech and language and occupational services for her son, Austin, and has found the in violation of special education laws.
Both the district and Crowder have attorneys to deal with the matter. “Those attorneys are working together to resolve this,” Superintendent of Schools Pia Durkin said.
According to Massachusetts law (603 CMR 28.03 c), the school had 45 days to develop a new Individualized Education Program (IEP) following an evaluation of Austin last December. The district did not develop a new IEP until July. Additionally, the report says the district did not complete all of the required evaluations.
The law also required that the district use the IEP developed by Austin’s previous district in North Carolina until they were able to develop their own IEP. The IEP developed by North Carolina required Crowder's son to receive speech and language therapy and occupational therapy.
The education department found that while Austin did receive the proper speech and language therapy, he only received occupational therapy for 10 minutes per week while his IEP called for 30-minute sessions.
The education department is requiring the school to take several corrective measures as a result of the findings. The district will need to revise its policies and provide training to staff members to ensure that IEPs are developed properly and in compliance with the law. The district will be required to provide compensatory services for missed occupational therapy sessions. They will also be required to provide four hours of compensatory services centering on academic skills.
The plan for implementing these compensatory services will be developed by the administration and Crowder. If they are unable to agree on a plan by Oct. 21 this year, it could result in a loss of funding.
Superintendent Durkin and Director of Special Education Lisa Martesian said the district is not in any real danger of losing funds.
“The issues about funding are probably misinterpreted,” said Durkin, adding, “We have never ignored any finding from the DESE.”