Attorney: Darien schools operating special ed program illegally

The following statement was sent to the Darien Times by Andrew Feinstein, an attorney who represents several parents who have filed a complaint to the state Board of Education, claiming Darien Schools are illegally gutting its special education program:

Both the Darien Superintendent of Schools and the Chairwoman of the Darien Board of Education issued statements over the past weekend concerning the petition that 23 Darien parents filed with the State Department of Education about special education in Darien.  On behalf of the parents, I write to clarify a few points:

1.  The petition is an extreme and unusual procedure asking the State Department of Education to step in and take over special education in Darien due to Darien operating in contravention of federal special education law.  The State accepts federal special education funds in exchange for a promise to ensure that all local school boards act consistent with federal law.

2.  The parents signing the petition understand and support the efforts of the Darien Board of Education to operate the schools in town in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible, consistent with the law.  The petition alleges violations of the law.

3.  The petition seeks an order from the State Department of Education telling Darien to cease engaging in illegal practices.  It does not address individual cases.  If, however, the State Department of Education agrees with the petitioners that Darien has been operating its special education program illegally during the current school year, any parent should have the option to reopen any IEP adopted since July 1, 2012 and to seek compensatory education for any period of time during which his or her child was not provided with a free appropriate public education.

4.  The situation has become as difficult as it has because the Darien Public Schools failed to provide memos and power point presentations to parents when they requested them pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act last fall.  Had Darien met its statutory obligation to provide documents in a timely manner, the illegality would have been revealed and ended far earlier.

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