State orders fixes at Seattle faculties after discovering particular training violations throughout pandemic
The Washington State Department of Education is instructing Seattle Public Schools to make up for excessive delays in personal tuition and medical care for some disabled students during the pandemic.
One of two orders issued earlier this month requires the school district to provide one year of post-school tutoring – in one case up to 21 weeks in one case – to students who have been promised face-to-face tuition due to their disability but have experienced significant delays. The state is currently reviewing the cases of 329 children to see who can qualify.
Another order requires that the district meet in person with the families of 11 medically frail students who have been denied care compensation and discuss the need for reimbursement.
A state investigation found that the school district has issued a blanket policy not to pay for care instead of discussing what is necessary for each student. This is a violation of federal law that requires school districts to assess the needs of each student individually.
State officials are required to be present at these meetings, a rare type of intervention.
“Based on the ongoing violations identified … this additional step was added to ensure a correction,” wrote Glenna Gallo, who oversees special education for the state department of education, in an email response.
Tim Robinson, a spokesman for Seattle Public Schools, said the district will “prioritize the appropriate response to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) requirements and any corrective action required”. He did not respond directly to questions about the state’s findings.
The enforcement actions are a tightly targeted response to more than a year of widespread complaints about late or inadequate services to Seattle’s disabled students who are eligible for accommodation for their disabilities while studying in school.
This spring, the school district postponed an earlier date for the school to reopen for special needs students three times. In January, the U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into concerns in which the district urged teachers not to provide tailored classes at the start of the pandemic. Gallo said she doesn’t think the investigation is finished, and a US Department of Education spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a query. And last October, the school district was found to have face-to-face care only for one student with a disability, while neighboring counties have looked after hundreds.
Orders placed this month come from a series of complaints filed with the state this year about late or denied services. These complaints prompted officials to investigate a larger number of cases, said Mary Griffin, an attorney who represents families on the complaints.
The state is searching student records to determine which students would qualify for tutoring. The state is only reviewing 329 cases of the district promising personal services between last September and April 2, 2021 prior to the district reopening. Families will be notified by August if they qualify for the program.
“I think it is important to understand that we did not find all of the students surveyed to be SPS violating the Federal Special Education Act as some of the delays in personal services were appropriate to meet health and safety requirements,” wrote Gallo.
However, government documents show that the process to empower students for face-to-face learning has stalled for at least several students as the county health service staff may move through the transition to prepare a return for all students in 2020 Concern was taken that the delays might be due to staffing rather than student-specific issues, state officials wrote.
Beyond the scope of the state orders, parents continue to reserve the right under federal law to ask the district for make-up services that are more individually tailored to their child’s disability. The enforcement measures are putting the district “on high alert that (the state) will monitor them for compliance,” Griffin said.