An Ohio Department of Education investigation found multiple issues with special education provided by the Warren County Education Service Center.
The findings issued Dec. 16, 2022 found 43 districts that send students to the Warren County ESC had at least one violation of special education law, according to Disability Rights Ohio, a civil rights advocacy group that filed complaints against the Warren County ESC.
The DRO said in a press release that chief among the complaints was the lack of adequate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that meet students’ specific needs, failure to implement students’ IEPs, as well as evidence that students were not being placed in the least restrictive environment. The home districts are responsible for each student’s IEP.
Education Service Centers supply services for school districts across Ohio, and often take the most severe cases of children with mental and emotional needs. Warren County works with school districts from as far south as West Clermont School District and as far north as Holmes County.
Among the local districts affected included Dayton Public, Xenia, Centerville, Vandalia-Butler and Springboro. The Warren County ESC operates nine buildings that provide specialized services and programs for special education and special needs children. It also provides staffing to districts such as nurses, school psychologists, occupational and physical therapists.
Warren County Educational Service Center Superintendent Tom Isaacs said a number of the districts, including Warren County ESC, have requested ODE to reconsider the findings. ODE has paused the proceedings pending the reconsideration.
In a statement sent via email to the Dayton Daily News, Issacs said, “The Governing Board of the Warren County Educational Service Center has been made aware of special education findings and corrective action issued by the Ohio Department of Education. It is important to emphasize that no abuse or neglect of students was found. The findings involve paperwork issues that ODE found with student records. The ESC and school districts dispute most of the findings. Those we don’t dispute will be promptly corrected. As for the findings that are in dispute, the ESC has engaged with the Ohio Department of Education leadership to hopefully resolve the matter without litigation. The ESC will have no further comment on this matter until it is resolved.”
DRO senior attorney Kristin Hildebrant said districts and ESCs have a legal obligation to educate all children, regardless of who they are, and the state provides funding to do that.
But there is also a moral obligation.
“Our society is premised on the fact that we treat people equally, regardless of their station in life or whether they have a disability or not,” she said. “So, to provide an education that is sub or is below what we provide all other children is just not in line with our obligation to treat all people equally.”