DARIEN, Conn. – A Connecticut Department of Education investigation has found that Darien’s special education department violated state laws in some of its programming decisions, according to a report released in late September.
The Education Department has been investigating Darien’s special education program based on complaints from some parents in the district.
In particular, parents claimed that administrators had changed some students individualized education program, or IEP, without proper discussions with them as members of the “planning and placement team” required by state regulations. The state’s report confirmed those allegations through interviews with parents and staff and an investigation into the district’s IEP tracking system.
“Unilaterally altering a student’s IEP is wrong,” School Superintendent Stephen Falcone said in a letter to parents last week. He added, “I will hold those whose actions were in violation of the law accountable. Beyond accountability, however, I will continue to be front and center in the on-going training and education of staff, board members and parents.”
The state says its survey of parents of special education students was “evenly divided” between those who supported the district, and those who had a negative experience. A similar poll of Darien’s special education staff was also split, with 80 percent saying they felt supported by their bosses, and the other 20 percent making “serious allegations” about the district’s processes, according to the report.
The state has already signed off on Darien’s hiring of attorney Sue Gamm to further investigate the issue. The Education Department will also monitor Darien’s IEP tracking system and do random compliance checks throughout the next year.
Darien Public Schools have also been ordered to provide all current information on IEPs and proper procedures and contacts to parents and to retrain staff members on the proper procedures. The district will also need to offer parents a facilitator with “knowledge of special education law” to help them through meetings with staff.
Both Falcone and the Board of Education say they will do everything they can to correct the problems outlined by the state.
“The Board will not tolerate systematic violations of the law, and reiterates that it will hold accountable all those who engaged in any wrongdoing,” Board of Education Chair Elizabeth A. Hagerty-Ross said in a news release.