NCDPI finds numerous violations of state & federal
special education law
committed by the Wake County Public School System; Corrective action
May 10, 2010 Media Release,
Advocates for Children's Services
(Raleigh) - State and federal special education law mandate that
students with disabilities who are suspended from school must
continue to receive a free and appropriate public education with
individualized instruction in the least restrictive environment.
These educational services must enable the students to participate
in the general education curriculum and make progress on the goals
set out in their individualized education programs (IEPs).
Based on a state complaint filed by
Advocates for Children’s Services (ACS), the North Carolina
Department of Public Instruction (DPI) found that the Wake County
Public School System (WCPSS) violated state and federal special
education laws by their practice of limiting the educational
services for long-term suspended students with disabilities to one
to six hours per week of home/hospital (H/H) instruction. The
DPI found that WCPSS’ practice of H/H instruction is not
individualized, does not occur in the least restrictive environment,
and ultimately does not provide students with the free and
appropriate public education they are entitled to under the law.
ACS staff attorneys first became aware of this practice in the
course of representing students with disabilities facing long-term
suspensions. ACS attorneys were repeatedly frustrated and
dismayed by the fact that their clients—students with
disabilities—were being shoved out of school, where they received
over thirty hours of instruction per week and constant daytime
supervision, and into the streets, where they received, on average,
three hours of H/H instruction per week and limited supervision. The
vast majority of these students already lag far behind their peers
academically; the limited instruction they receive while suspended
virtually guarantees that they will fail yet another year of school.
Therefore, in December 2009, ACS filed a complaint with the DPI.
The DPI launched an investigation of the WCPSS, and over the next
five months, reviewed documents, audited student records, and
interviewed staff. The investigators discovered over 200
students who were only receiving between one and six hours of H/H
instruction per week because of long-term suspension or “behavior.”
The DPI noted major problems with special education services in
general in the WCPSS. For example the report reads: “The
records revealed students who had been retained for multiple grades
and had not passed the EOG [End-Of-Grade] Tests in Reading and
Math or the EOC [End-Of-Course] Tests in high school yet they
received 10 minutes of special education services a week or a
reporting period prior to their removals. The duration and
frequency of special education services in the IEPs for the students
with ‘regular’ placements were, in most cases, very limited.”
The DPI report directly links the WCPSS' failure to properly educate
and support these students with the students' eventual removals from
school: “The IEPs failed to provide adequate educational and
behavioral supports for the students to progress in the general
education curriculum or to remain in school.”
Ultimately, the DPI found the WCPSS:
Ÿ Failed to develop IEPs based upon the
unique needs of each student
with a disability who is long-term suspended;
Ÿ Failed to provide a continuum of
placements, which limited IEP Teams
to only one option when determining the appropriate
education setting] IAES;
Ÿ Failed to provide students with
disabilities who are long-term
suspended with a placement in the least restrictive
Ÿ Failed to hold monthly meetings to
determine the continued
appropriateness of H/H instruction for each student
with a disability
receiving H/H services during a disciplinary removal;
Ÿ Failed to report valid and reliable
information on the April 1, 2010,
Child Count; and
Ÿ Failed to provide a free and appropriate
public education for the
students who were placed on H/H for [long-term] LT
The DPI report provided some heartbreaking examples of specific
students who are victims of Wake County’s practices. An
eighteen-year-old student who was still in ninth grade and who has a
specific learning disability and a history of mental health
problems, but no history of behavioral problems, was long-term
suspended. Prior to his suspension, he received special
education services for only ten minutes, twice each nine-week
reporting period (i.e., one hour and twenty minutes per year).
While he was suspended, his IEP provided for only 4.5 hours per week
of H/H instruction; it did not include social skills, behavioral
strategies, or specialized instruction in reading or basic math.
The DPI report then goes on to list many corrective actions
WCPSS must take, including:
Ÿ Providing compensatory education for the
hundreds of students
whose rights were violated;
Ÿ Creating “an alternative special education
program more closely
tailored to the students' unique needs and that ensures
of alternative placements for that student population”;
Ÿ Developing and implementing “a plan for the
2010-2011 school year
to review the records and services of students with
are failing their classes and have multiple retentions
and provide significant interventions, including
related services, based
upon each student's individual needs.”
The staff at the DPI should be praised for the depth and quality of
their investigation and their willingness to speak up against
injustice. Their report exemplifies the type of oversight and
accountability that should be conducted throughout government
agencies that serve children.
The WCPSS should be ashamed. It has deliberately deprived some
of our most vulnerable children of the education they so desperately
need and to which they have a right under state and federal law.
This should be a wake up call for Wake County: You cannot
ignore the law and treat vulnerable children and families unfairly!
The WCPSS has one the largest suspension problems in the nation.
Last school year, Wake County schools gave out 20,651 short-term
suspensions (i.e., suspensions lasting one to ten days) and, for the
fifth year in a row, kicked out over 1,000 students for the rest of
the school year. The policies and practices of H/H instruction
for long-term suspended students are simply one piece of a larger
systemic crisis for the WCPSS: the school-to-prison pipeline that
pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system.
In addition to taking the corrective action required by the DPI
regarding H/H instruction, we urge the WCPSS to take affirmative
steps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in Wake County.
The eyes of the community are on the WCPSS and this is an
opportunity to examine other practices such as zero tolerance
policies, unlimited school administrator discretion to suspend, the
over-policing of schools, the over-use of suspensions, and the
involvement of the criminal justice system for minor school-based
The WCPSS should not wait for another investigation by the DPI to
improve the educational experience for all of our children.
Lewis Pitts (Senior Managing Attorney, LANC Advocates for Children's
Services), Durham, NC, 919-226-0052
Jason Langberg (Staff Attorney, Clifton W. Everett, Sr. Community
Fellow, LANC Advocates for Children), Durham, NC 919-226-0051, ext.
Dock Kornegay (Director, Public Relations & Development, Legal Aid
of NC), Raleigh, NC, 919-856-2564
"State finds Wake violated law for special-education students"
(May 10, 2010 article, News & Observer, Raleigh,
program, Wake told"
(May 11, 2010 article, News & Observer, Raleigh, NC)
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