Scandal in NY: State Review Officer unfair to students with disabilities

This story has wide implications about how justice was served or not served on families seeking special education services through schools.

The State Review Officer (NY State Education Department) who was in the position of rendering decisions for or against parents’ petitions to have their children receive services was in a conflict of interest, and was overturning most decisions that were in favor of families. (Therefore, he was supporting school districts trying to deny services to disabled students.)

There is another story about it in the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt from an article in the NY Sun:

Education Dept. Criticized Over Special Ed. Checks
BY ELIZABETH GREEN – Staff Reporter of the Sun
July 25, 2007
The state Education Department is coming under fire from attorneys from both inside and outside the agency who say it illegally denies educational services to hundreds of disabled children. Lawyers representing parents of disabled children are meeting today to discuss plans to file a civil rights lawsuit against the agency at the center of the conflict, the Office of State Review.

(excerpt continued)

At least seven of the 10 attorneys on staff have quit the State Review office in the last three years, including several who left because they were concerned about violations of law, sources familiar with the office said…

A hearing officer who judges New York City cases, Lynn Almeleh, called Mr. Kelly’s decisions “a very tortured reasoning to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.”…

A former staff member in the Office of State Review who requested anonymity said a main concern for Mr. Kelly was the cost services pose to school districts. A special education lawyer who is leading the charge for a lawsuit, Andrew Cuddy, said a major concern is that the current decisions not become precedent.

Mr. Cuddy, who has written a book, “The Special Education Battlefield,” yesterday sent a request to the state attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, asking for an investigation. Criticisms of the office were first reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal.

July 25, 2007 Edition

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