NORWALK, Conn. — School officials issued a statement Friday in response to a complaint regarding Norwalk Public School Special Education practices. Seventeen schoolchildren alleged in the complaint that the district’s Special Education practices have systematically violated federal and state laws which require a free and adequate education for all students.
The statement was issued midday Friday by NPS Chief Communications officer Brenda Wilcox Williams, and is presented below in its entirety:
“We are shocked and disappointed by the allegations made by Attorney Keller, given the significant investment that Norwalk has made in special education in the past two years. Our strong preference would have been for advocates and attorneys to encourage parents to resolve concerns in a collaborative manner, before filing a complaint which will redirect untold hours away from the supervision of quality services for students and in-school coaching for our staff. Over the past year, we have successfully resolved concerns when they have been brought to us.
“With the support of the Norwalk Special Education Development Fund, our district has made significant progress in revamping the delivery of services to special needs students, in alignment with recommendations in the 2015 CREC Report. Although special education remains a shortage area throughout the state, Norwalk has built a strong team of special education teachers and administrators. In the past year alone, we have hired over 30 new staff members, including special education teachers, speech pathologists, school psychologists, BCBAs and social workers. The growth in program development and staff development has been unprecedented.
“Norwalk is also leading the way in innovation. Examples include:
- “The recent opening of the Norwalk Center for Specialized Learning in Literacy, in collaboration with Fairfield University.
- “Project SEARCH, a transitional program implemented at Norwalk Community College in collaboration with NCC, Ability Beyond and the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation Services.
- “The Nest Program, a fully inclusive model for students with high functioning autism, now established in two Norwalk schools, with direct training and coaching from New York University’s ASD Nest Support Project.
- “Therapeutic programs at middle and high schools, redesigned in close collaboration with Cognitive & Behavioral Consultants of Westchester and Manhattan for DBT training, and including intensive in-school dedicated team coaching.
- “Building capacity for trauma-informed care within our schools, working with our partners at Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance.
- “All our innovative programs are committed to inclusionary practices, including Norwalk Early College Academy, the state’s first 9-14 P-TECH model program. These are just a few of the examples of program innovations that are underway to best meet the needs of our most vulnerable students.
“The Connecticut State Department of Education is required to review Attorney Keller’s complaint, and will advise us which claims will be dismissed and which will require the district to provide additional documentation of compliance. The district takes compliance very seriously. NPS has established a tiered system of school supervision and support, based on data, to assist schools that need more support in the implementation of quality special education supports and services. Under the Board of Education’s Strategic Operating Plan and the district’s 2018-19 Priority Implementation Steps, approved by the Board on September 25, we are committed to accomplishing all remaining recommendations and compliance issues. We also look forward to working with private preschool partners in the School Readiness program to facilitate timely referrals and evaluations, as appropriate.
“While there will always be more work to do, our administrators and staff are committed to the success of every child, regardless of disability, socio-economic status or race. We will not be distracted from Norwalk’s goal of providing innovative, comprehensive, research-based programs and services for all students within our public schools.”