LAWSUIT ENFORCES DUE PROCESS RIGHTS OF STUDENTS IN NJ CHARTER SCHOOLS
THE EDUCATION LAW CENTER STOPS NORTH STAR--A CHARTER SCHOOL THAT CHRIS CHRISTIE SAYS IS DOING "GOD'S WORK"--FROM BOOTING OUT A SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENT Bob Braun's Ledger - https://www.facebook.com/bobbraunsledger/
An Administrative Law Judge has ordered the North Star Academy Charter School in Newark to return a middle school student to school after a two-month suspension for a violation of North Star’s discipline code. The order issued by Administrative Law Judge Thomas Betancourt provides critical protections for charter school students who are excluded from school while they undergo special education evaluations.
The lawsuit underscores the express mandate in NJ law affording students in charter schools the same due process protections from suspension or expulsion as would apply to students in every public school. Charter schools such as North Star can adopt their own codes of conduct, which are often highly prescriptive, but they are prohibited from imposing unreasonable or overly harsh disciplinary penalties for infractions.
The North Star student, T.D., was suspended from the charter school for an incident that occurred in December 2015, pending a hearing before North Star’s Board of Trustees. At the Board hearing, T.D.’s mother requested that the school’s child study team evaluate T.D. to determine eligibility to receive special education services. The Board issued a written decision, suspending T.D. for a total of 56 school days and permitting a return to school on March 22, 2016. The Board also granted T.D.’s mother’s request, agreeing to provide T.D. with a special education evaluation.
At the end of T.D.’s suspension, the child study team had completed a portion of the special education evaluation. But North Star claimed that as part of the evaluation the child study team required psychiatric clearance, which had not yet been provided. By letter, the Board advised T.D.’s parents that due to the ongoing special education evaluation, they had decided to extend T.D.’s suspension for an additional 38 school days, through May 20.
Education Law Center represented T.D. and T.D.’s mother in the lawsuit against North Star, part of the New York City-based Uncommon Schools charter chain, claiming a violation of T.D.’s due process rights.
ELC and petitioners filed a motion for emergent relief as well as a due process petition, arguing that North Star lacked authority to extend T.D.’s suspension beyond the 56-day period imposed by the Board without evidence that T.D. committed an additional code of conduct violation.
Judge Betancourt found that, although T.D. was provided with home instruction throughout the suspension, an extended suspension would cause the student to suffer irreparable harm as T.D. would Education Law Center | LAWSUIT ENFORCES DUE PROCESS RIGHTS OF STUDENTS IN NJ CHARTER SCHOOLS:
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