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MSDE finds violations in Carroll autism program

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The Maryland State Department of Education has found Carroll County Public Schools in violation of missing deadlines for students' Individualized Education Programs, but a teacher selected to replace a well-liked special education instructor was qualified for the position.

The findings come after a group of parents filed a complaint with MSDE in May alleging that their children in the special education program at New Windsor Middle School were neglected after the special education teacher was placed on administrative leave without notification to parents.

The school system was notified of the violations July 16.

"We are pleased that MSDE concurred that our students have been taught by a highly qualified teacher and that even when the classroom teacher was absent, that the substitute was trained and supervised by another highly qualified teacher," according to a statement from the school system. "We note that MSDE determined that some regulatory deadlines were missed and our staff will work to make sure that these deadlines are met in the future."

Spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said the school system was unable to comment further on the report due to the laws and regulations relating to the confidentiality of student records.

"The CCPS will continue to work with the parents of disabled children to provide a free, appropriate public education for the children," according to the school system's statement.

MSDE investigated five allegations from parents, including that students were not provided with instruction from a highly qualified special education teacher, that the school system had not ensured that the Individual Education Program (IEP) team had reviewed results of assessments procedures within required timelines, and that CCPS had not ensured that students' social, emotional, and behavioral needs had been addressed.

The state department of education also investigated whether the school system had ensured that students were provided with personal hygiene assistance and whether students had been provided with the opportunity to participate in nonacademic activities, such as lunch and physical education, with nondisabled peers.

New Windsor is the only middle school with a special education program for students with autism. Last school year was the first year that the school system had offered a middle school program for students with autism.

According to the MSDE report, special education resource teacher Becky Byers was no longer assigned to the classroom as of May 3.

Parents had advocated for her return, but Gaddis said Friday that Byers is no longer employed with the school system. She could not comment further because it is a personnel matter.

The MSDE investigation found that a highly qualified special education teacher was hired to fill Byers' position within a week of it becoming vacant.

A substitute teacher in the class from May 6 to May 10 met the requirements to serve as a substitute, according to the report.

MSDE found Carroll in violation of not ensuring that student reevaluations be completed within required timelines and that the school system did not ensure the parents of one child the opportunity to participate in an IEP meeting by phone to complete it within the required timeline.

The report states that the four week delay in completing the reevaluation had a negative impact on that student's ability to benefit from his educational program.

The report also states that there is no documentation that the delay in completion of the reevaluations was the result of a lack of sufficient school staff.

MSDE found that for some students, the school system did not follow proper procedures to identify and address all of their social, emotional, and behavioral needs. The school system also did not take steps to ensure that the IEP team addressed the lack of expected progress toward achievement of annual goals for one student to ensure that she would meet her behavioral needs by the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

The report states that Carroll was not in violation of providing assistance for students' personal hygiene needs because none were identified. But the report added that the school system did not take steps to ensure the identification of personal hygiene needs for students, which is a violation.

Finally, MSDE found that some students were not provided with supplementary aids and services required to permit them to participate in lunch with their nondisabled peers.

MSDE is requiring the school system provide documentation by the start of the upcoming school year to ensure compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state requirements outlined in the report.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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