NORWALK, Conn. – Child abuse continues at High Road School, Brenda Penn-Williams said Monday.
Penn-Williams on May 17 led a group of three women to speak to the Board of Education about their complaints regarding the children in the school’s care, who they said had been bruised and psychologically scarred by restraints at the privately run Norwalk Special Education facility, which provides ervices paid for by Norwalk Public Schools.
Penn-Williams said Monday that she had been out of town since then, and returned to hear Barbara Prefit complain that her 10-year-old daughter had fresh bruises on her arm after being restrained at High Road, a facility on North Avenue.
Other children involved in the complaints were kicked out of school and were not currently getting any education, she said.
This included a brother of a girl who had been complaining, she said. The boy had no problem with High Road but had been “kicked out” too, she said.
High Road has declined to comment on the situation. A follow-up question asking about the procedures for restraints and the reasons they are used went unanswered.
“This is a mess,” Penn-Williams said Monday.
She and Prefit had planned to speak to the BoE, but that was a special meeting called solely for the purpose of interviewing candidates to fill vacant principal positions. Lyons said that legally, public comment could not be added to a special meeting.
There is also a man who says his son has been mistreated at High Road, Penn-Williams said. He speaks Spanish and she needs an interpreter, but the boy wants to go back to the facility he had been attending in Trumbull, she said.
“I think they don’t care,” Penn-Williams said, of the BoE.
“Of course we care; we are actively moving forward with our investigation,” BoE Chairman Mike Lyons said in an email.
“We expect to have the investigation report to the Board by the end of the week,” he said in a follow-up email. “We’ve had other parents of children at High Road come to us with praise of the school. There remain two sides to the story, and we will evaluate this as objectively as we can. We have no knowledge of these new allegations made by BPW; we can’t help people if they don’t tell us about their issues.”
Penn-Williams said the parents call her because they trust her and know that she will try to help them. Lyons said previously the BoE cannot legally discuss the cases with Penn-Williams because she is not a parent or guardian of the children.
On May 19, Lyons explained the situation in a comment on NancyOnNorwalk:
“NPS is involved with High Roads, even though it is a private school, because we have a number of special education children who have been out-placed to High Roads via the PPT (Planning and Placement Team) process. Although we have no control over High Roads, we could reconvene the childrens’ PPTs and change their IEPs (Individual Education Plans) to reassign them to another school, if we determined that High Roads had acted improperly in regard to them.
“Regarding the question ‘when is High Roads going to NHS (Norwalk High School)?’, our plan for next year (as part of our rebuilding of our special education program if the City approves our special appropriation request) is to bring two classes of children now at High Roads back to NHS (see http://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/SPED-Dev-Fund-2016-17-thru-2018-19-rv-2-MTC.pdf, p. 2, item 3). For the first year, High Roads’ staff would work together with NPS special education teachers to teach this group of children; in the second year, High Roads’ staff would depart and NPS staff would take over full responsibility. The children outsourced to High Roads are “ED” (emotionally disturbed); children are designated at five levels of concern in the program, and we would take children from the top two categories (children who are emotionally compromised but with no history of violent behavior toward others or themselves). Children in the other levels would not be brought back to NHS, since even our revamped program would not be equipped to deal with their more significant needs.
“Note that the special ed plan also includes (p.2, item 11) adding a capacity to actively monitor out-placements – something Norwalk has never done. We feel adding that capacity would give us ‘early warning’ of any problems that develop with out-placements, while simultaneously improving communication with parents and help return students, when appropriate, from out-placements to NPS.”