The Maryland State Department of Education plans to launch an investigation into a complaint filed by the parents of nine New Windsor Middle School students earlier this week, department spokesman Bill Reinhard said Wednesday.
Parents filed a complaint May 13 with the Maryland State Department of Education division of special education, alleging that their children were neglected for seven school days when a special education teacher was placed on administrative leave without notification to parents.
The parents’ complaint alleges nine violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) between May 2 and May 12. The allegations include that the absence of a qualified special education teacher in the classroom led to no academic instruction for four days, a neglect of children's hygiene that resulted in children returning home with “dirty underpants” and “underpants that reeked of urine,” and that parents were not properly notified of the teacher being placed on administrative leave.
The complaint submitted to MSDE states that special education resource teacher Becky Byers was placed on administrative leave May 2.
The school system won't comment further because it is a personnel matter, according to Carroll County Public Schools spokeswoman Carey Gaddis.
Gaddis says the school system will "fully cooperate" with the MSDE investigation.
“We are absolutely outraged that they would take her (Byers) away and then they didn't even notify us that she was gone,” said Jenny Maloni, one of the parents who delivered the complaint.
Attempts to reach Byers through a family member were unsuccessful.
Maloni kept her 12-year-old son Domonic home Monday and Tuesday because she felt the school was an “unsafe environment.”
Domonic returned to class Wednesday with about half of his classmates, Maloni said.
Maloni, a Mount Airy resident, said parents want Byers to return because she was dedicated to her students.
“Every single family supports her,” she said. “We love her, we think she is an amazing teacher.”
The parents' complaint alleges that not even classroom staff was notified when Byers was placed on administrative leave.
New Windsor principal Erin Brilhart sent a letter home to parents May 13 informing them that a staffing change has been made for students with autism.
But Maloni said parents first found out about the change through “gossiping.”
“They have treated us like they didn't even take the kids' feelings into consideration,” she said.
New Windsor is the only middle school with a special education program for students with autism. It's the first year that the school system has offered a middle school program for students with autism.
A new teacher has been assigned to New Windsor for students with autism, according to Gaddis.
She said the new teacher is scheduled to remain in the autism classroom next year to create consistency for the students.
“We are certainly hoping to provide consistency by doing that,” she said.
The parents' complaint outlines five remedies to address the situation, which include reinstating the teacher, increasing staffing so that the student-teacher ratio is no more than two children to one adult, relocating the middle school autism program or putting another principal in charge of this program, immediately reinstating inclusion opportunities, and providing compensatory services to all students in this classroom for the hours that they were without a qualified teacher.