The Asbury Park Press Editorial Board calls for a full investigation against Lakewood Public Schools’ discriminatory (and illegal) practice of offering gold-plated special education services to Orthodox Jewish children and dregs to minority students. The editorial pivots off the recent filing of tenure charges against Helen Tobia, the Ocean County district’s chief of pupil personnel services, for “overstepping her authority to place children with special needs in Orthodox yeshivas and private specialized schools at their parents’ request.”
The editorial continues,
For years, we and other critics of the school system have complained that the district routinely placed Orthodox special needs children in private schools catering to the Orthodox community, where the tuition can be $90,000 a year or more, while minority children generally received services in the public school.
The NJ Department of Education publishes approved tuition rates at private special education schools. Currently, SCHI’s annual tuition is listed at $97,121, although that doesn’t include transportation or personal aides, often prescribed by Lakewood’s administration and approved by the school board.
Contrary to federal and state law, Tobia is alleged to have acted unilaterally and denied services to eligible Latino students with disabilities. For example, Tobia ordered that a child be denied special services before the child was ever evaluated by the child study team. And she’s followed a long-standing practice of the district, whose school board is controlled by the Orthodox community, to place Jewish children in “The School For Hidden Intelligence,” which is a yeshiva for children with disabilities that masquerades as a typical private special education school.
According to the Asbury Park Press, “in 2012, $12.5 million in tuition was spent to send 130 disabled students, virtually all of whom were Orthodox children, to the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, or SCHI.”
I’ve followed Lakewood and SCHI for awhile. See here for background.