Court-appointed special education monitors detail how the state picked the wrong New Orleans schools for federal consent decree scrutiny
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Court-appointed special education monitors detail how the state picked the wrong New Orleans schools for federal consent decree scrutiny

Marta Jewson |
October 2, 2019

Independent monitors overseeing the Louisiana Department of Education’s work under a federal consent judgment have identified a series of mistakes — ranging from calculation errors to what appears to be sloppy record-keeping — that led the state to monitor the wrong New Orleans schools for special education services.


In total, over two years, 10 schools that should have been monitored at specific times — based on the terms of the 2015 court settlement — weren’t. That’s according to a 15-page report published Wednesday in the court record of a long-running federal class-action lawsuit over services for students with disabilities in New Orleans. 

Under the terms of the consent decree, the department was supposed to select schools whose records suggested may not be properly identifying, enrolling or educating students with disabilities, based on factors like the amount of time staff members were spending providing required services to students with special education plans. Department employees would then conduct targeted monitoring at those schools by reviewing individual student files, interviewing staff and conducting site visits.

But in 2017 and 2018, the department mistakenly selected 10 schools that didn’t actually meet the criteria for monitoring, meaning other schools that should have been more closely scrutinized were passed over. 

Some of those schools were monitored later, and others are scheduled for monitoring this fall. Last month, the Department of Education argued the problems were a net positive because its led to more schools being monitored in total. Lawyers for the plaintiffs think such make-up monitoring is too little too late, but they are more concerned with what the report shows about the department overall. 

“One aspect of the process is the department’s ability to oversee this complex new decentralized school system,” said Neil Ranu, a civil rights attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center who represents the plaintiff class of current and future special education students in New Orleans. “And the nature of these errors tell us they haven’t yet developed that capacity.”

Credit by - The LENS

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