Reps. DebraLee Hovey (R-112) and Chris Lyddy (D-106) plan to meet with the state Department of Education to further discuss a complaint the two legislators logged with the state regarding Newtown’s handling of special education cases, officials said.
“There is a meeting scheduled,” Lyddy said in an email on Monday.
The meeting was made at the request of state education officials who recently received a complaint from Hovey and Lyddy, who in turn said they have received numerous complaints from parents of special needs children complaining about the district’s handling of their cases.
The two said after receiving few satisfactory answers from Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson and Board of Education chairman Bill Hart, they decided to lodge a formal complaint with state officials.
However, state education officials said it was unclear which division would be handling such a complaint.
“At this point in time, we are not sure the Bureau of Special Education will be handling this through the Complaint Resolution Process or whether other bureaus within the department will be involved,” state education spokesman Tom Murphy said in an email last week. “The complaint is very broad and somewhat general so we need more information before we determine how or if we will be doing an investigation through the bureau of special education. It may be through the office of legal affairs.”
The state’s Complaint Resolution Process requires allegations to be lodged, at the latest, one year from when the specific violation occurred, officials said. The complaint can be about a specific child or issues that affect a larger group, officials said, adding the investigation usually takes about 60 days although extensions may be granted.
Meanwhile, at least one parent has said the district reacted to the news of the complaint by trying to make accommodations for one of her children but which fall short of what she had been asking for.
Susan McGuiness Getzinger for months has asked that the school district allow her children’s regular bus to pick up her children from her home but that request has been denied. She said she submitted documentation last year regarding one of her children’s medical condition, which limits what activities she participates in.
But it was not until a few days after the complaint was made public in the Newtown Bee that the district sent a mini-bus to her house but only to pick up one of her children, she said.
“They are trying to cover themselves,” Getzinger said of the district.
Getzinger said she refused the pickup because the regular bus already comes to the neighborhood and the only accommodation she is seeking is for that bus to stop at her house to pick up both her children rather than a special minibus. She said the district was wrong to deny her request last year, and she has been lobbying to overturn that decision ever since, saying it was unreasonable.
Board of Education chairman Bill Hart said he was briefed about Getzinger’s request, and said the mini-bus was sent because Getzinger had recently submitted paperwork regarding the condition. Hart said it was not in response to the legislators’ complaint.
The dispute over the bus stop is whether school buses should be allowed to pick up children from in front of their houses.
Hart said denial of Getzinger’s request has been upheld at a state hearing, although Getzinger said the hearing was improper.
She has since filed a complaint with the Statewide Grievance Committee regarding the district’s lawyer.