Beverly Asked Special Education Parents To Waive Rights: Watchdog

BEVERLY, MA — Beverly and at least 10 other MA school districts violated state and federal law this spring by asking parents of special education students to absolve the school district of certain responsibilities, according to a new report from a special education watchdog group.

State regulators have already found Beverly noncompliant in the accusations raised in SPEDWatch’s report. Other Massachusetts school districts are still being investigated for using the coronavirus shutdown of schools as a reason to circumvent requirements to provide key special education services.

Beverly Superintendent Suzanne Charochak said the district submitted a corrective plan to address the complaint on May 27. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Seconday Education approved the plan.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, there were a lot of mixed messages and a lack of clear cut guidance from DESE on this issue of timelines. As a result, districts across the state…utilized disclaimer language regarding special education timelines,” Charochak said in a statement. “As soon as we became aware that inaccurate information was provided to a small number of parents, it was corrected immediately.”

Charochak said those parents were contacted and given the accurate information. “At no time did any Beverly families file a complaint with the department and there was never a request for a formal investigation. The complaint was initiated by an outside advocacy group,” she said.

SPEDwatch has filed complaints against Beverly and 24 other Massachusetts school districts. “They’re preying on the fact that most parents don’t fully understand all of the laws around special education,” Denise Sullivan, a state-appointed education advocate for students in foster care, told the Boston Globe, which first reported this story.

“Beverly Public Schools would like to make clear that the majority of the allegations raised in the article were not ever at issue in Beverly,” Charochak said of the Globe’s reporting. “The DESE concern related to Beverly was a very narrow issue related to timelines.”

Dave Copeland covers Beverly and other North Shore communities for Patch. He can be reached at dave.copeland@patch.com or by calling 617-433-7851. Follow him on Twitter (@CopeWrites) and Facebook (/copewrites).

This article originally appeared on the Beverly Patch

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