February 9, 2007

Special Ed Needs Topic of Meeting: Hanover Area Board Hears Questions on Settlement, Votes on Legal Fees.

By Kris Wernowsky, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader

Feb. 9--HANOVER TWP. -- Parents of special needs students peppered the Hanover Area School District board with questions over a recent large settlement to a family of another special needs student.

Parents Lynette Thiemann, Donna Brennen and Dawn Mendygral were either previously involved with or are currently involved in litigation with the district over the quality of special education instruction their students receive.

"When are you going to stop paying for the actions of this district?" Brennen asked the board at Thursday's meeting.

The board has been involved in two previous settlements with special needs families, and voted again Thursday night to allow the district to pay $5,000 to create a compensatory education fund and another $4,000 in legal fees to resolve another complaint.

The family members complained that they are not being kept abreast of the shortcomings in their children's performance in the classroom and that the district has failed to hire, train and supervise educators to teach their children as mandated by state law.

School board member Anthony Spinozza told the family members that the district is in the early stages of creating a policy that would change how special education students are identified, establish earlier testing of students for potential special needs requirements and create an open dialogue among students, parents, teachers, administrators and the school board.

"Everybody from the kid on up will be involved in this processes," Spinozza said. "This is a problem nationwide and statewide, and we're trying to correct everything and go on from here."

Speaking generally, Phillip Drumheiser, a special education attorney from Carlisle who represents parents statewide and in Luzerne County and Hanover Township, said the breadth of special education issues extends well beyond the borders of any single school district.

"You have a very large, systematic issue here that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania is struggling with," Drumheiser said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

The board last month voted to spend up to $250,000 to settle a federal complaint filed by the family of a special education student. In 2006, the district entered into a nearly $69,000 settlement with a still unidentified family.


Copyright (c) 2007, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader

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