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New report details shortfalls in several CT special education programs, suggests state action

High Road Schools, which contracts with nearly 40 districts across Connecticut, was found to be overusing interventions of seclusion and restraint, according to the report. The investigation, which spanned the last two years, also alleges High Road Schools had inadequate staffing levels, training, and certification for staff, in addition to and a lack of individualized supports for students with a disability.
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High Road Schools, which contracts with nearly 40 districts across Connecticut, was found to be overusing interventions of seclusion and restraint, according to the report. The investigation, which spanned the last two years, also alleges High Road Schools had inadequate staffing levels, training, and certification for staff, in addition to and a lack of individualized supports for students with a disability.

An investigation published Tuesday highlights a number of deficiencies at one of Connecticut’s largest state-approved private special education providers.

High Road Schools, which contracts with nearly 40 districts across Connecticut, was found to be overusing interventions of seclusion and restraint, according to the report. The investigation, which spanned the last two years, also alleges High Road Schools had inadequate staffing levels, training, and certification for staff, in addition to and a lack of individualized supports for students with a disability.

Legislative recommendations in the report include amending state law to strengthen Connecticut State Department of Education (CDSE) oversight over these schools, to ensure accountability that each student gets the services they need.

The report was prepared by The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) and Disability Rights Connecticut.

“There are legal obligations to these children, and they deserve to have an equal educational opportunity,” said Deborah Dorfman, executive director of Disability Rights Connecticut.

Equity is also a concern, as the investigation showed a disproportionate number of the students at the High Road Schools are from low-income Black and brown communities. The group of schools enrolls over 300 students with Individualized Education Plans.

CDSE has stated that it “vigorously disagrees” with the report’s conclusions about its involvement with High Road Schools and shared concerns about the report’s methodology. The department also said it will treat the report as a formal state complaint, and initiate an investigation and correct any identified deficiencies.

According to the report, the investigation was prompted by several complaints made to the state Office of the Child Advocate. CDSE has stated, in part, that they “received no complaints from parents, from guardians, from students, from attorneys, from parent advocates, or from local or regional school districts regarding High Road Schools.”

The OCA has also proposed changing state law to require transparency of CDSE’s required monitoring and enforcement of placement of children with disabilities in such “separate schools.” Dorfman said this would address a larger, systemic issue in Connecticut.

“That would also require the state and the school districts to find out: why are the kids there? Who is there? And should they have asked should the districts have actually served them in their home district.”

Investigators said in a statement that their findings raise questions about other state-approved special education schools.

“Practices routinely fall short of state laws, education regulations, best practices, or all three,” Connecticut Child Advocate Sarah Eagan said. “Changes need to be put in place without delay.”

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla Savitt focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. Michayla has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that she was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.

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