DRO Files Motion to Intervene in the Warren County Educational Service Center Lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce

March 20, 2024

Yesterday, Disability Rights Ohio filed a motion to intervene to ensure that the rights of parents and students with disabilities are enforced. This legal action is in response to a lawsuit filed by Warren County Educational Service Center (WCESC) which seeks to invalidate findings by Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (ODEW) that the WCESC violated education law and deprived students of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

DRO intervened to:

  • Ensure parents of students with disabilities can pursue available remedies when they are unhappy with IEP services being provided to their children.
  • Ensure WCESC administrators and staff complete training and corrective measures to remedy Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) violations.
  • Ensure students with disabilities who are not receiving the services they need at WCESC get compensatory education.
  • Ensure DEW complies with federal law in providing parents of students with disabilities a transparent complaint process.

“The WCESC seems to be doing everything BUT following ODEW’s corrective action plans and taking the steps necessary to address the inadequacies we uncovered,“ stressed Kristin Hildebrant, DRO senior attorney and education team leader. “This lawsuit would not only prevent the parents of students with disabilities from exercising their rights to complain about poor education services at the WCESC, but also prohibit DEW from implementing any corrective action at WCESC, thereby depriving students of necessary services and supports to address their disability related needs.”

DRO filed an initial complaint in May 2022 that alleged nine violations of special education law. Chief among the grievances was the lack of adequate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and appropriate behavioral interventions that met students’ specific needs. A subsequent investigation by ODEW found that 44 school districts sending students to the Warren County ESC had at least one violation of special education law.

As a result of its findings, ODE ordered 42 school districts to attend professional development programs on IEPs and the requirements of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). School districts were also ordered to create internal teams to monitor students placed out of the district, to review and correct inadequate IEPs, and to meet with their students’ families to discuss and track the services being provided and progress their children were making. Students were awarded compensatory education hours for the denial of FAPE, some of them surpassing 100 hours.

However, months after the findings were released, DRO discovered that these corrective action plans were paused and being revised by ODEW after pressure from the WCESC and some school districts, with many students losing compensatory education that they were originally awarded.

“It is most unfortunate that we are forced to spend time in court, rather than working together to ensure students with disabilities receive the best possible educational opportunities,” said DRO Executive Director Kerstin Sjoberg. “The time for all parties to comply with those laws designed to give students an appropriate education in the least restrictive setting is long overdue.”

Parents and families impacted by ODE’s decision to reconsider its original findings can contact DRO at www.disabilityrightsohio.org for updates and more information.

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