Tuesday • July 21, 2020
HCPSS Redistricting Special Needs Exemption Appeal Trial – PART 2 – Confidential IEP/504 Plan Details Shared in Decision Process
By Steven Keller
Included below are audio clips from Part 2 in a series of testimony given at one of the 2019 HCPSS school redistricting appeal trials held last week on July 15, 2020. This trial involves three appellants challenging the 2019 HCPSS school redistricting based on how IEP & 504 exemptions were handled for students after the redistricting vote was finalized.
The identities of the appellants on this appeal and their children have been censored in these audio clips due to the privacy rights of the children involved.
In the first audio clip from Part 2, the defense cross examines the HCPSS Specialist for Residency & Reassignment, who was responsible for evaluating students’ requests for exemptions from redistricting due to their 504 or IEP plans:
This clip focuses on whether there were other considerations beyond parents’ social media activity that was used to make the determination for an IEP/504 exemption.
Unexpectedly, the witness admits to seeking out and being granted access to the specific confidential information contained within the students’ 504 plan to use as another factor in consideration for whether or not to grant the exemption.
At the 1 minute 33 second mark in this audio clip, the witness states that she may have been given this confidential information by her supervisor, the Coordinator of Pupil Personnel Services, and by his supervisor’s supervisor, the Executive Director of Program Innovation & Student Well-Being.
In the next audio clip, the appellant’s attorney, Lorraine Whittaker, conducts a re-direct examination of the HCPSS Specialist for Residency & Reassignment and highlights some extremely concerning aspects of the testimony given in the previous clip:
At the 4 minute 27 second mark, when asked where in Policy 9000 is the authority to look at the confidential specifics of a student’s IEP or 504 plan, the witness states that “it doesn’t say that specifically in Policy 9000”. When challenged that this indicated that she “acted without authority”, she claims that she felt that she *was* acting with authority, because she got that authority from her supervisor (Coordinator of Pupil Personnel Services) & the Director and Executive Director of the HCPSS Program Innovation & Student Well-Being department.
The testimony given indicates that this employee felt like she was “acting with authority” to consult the confidential information of a student’s 504 or IEP plan as she made determinations for redistricting exemption solely because her supervisors allowed her to and assisted her in doing so, despite the fact that no legal authority existed for this invasive maneuver in HCPSS Policy 9000.
Where up the chain did the permission begin? Was Superintendent Martirano aware of these maneuvers?
Page 16 of this HCPSS org chart details where the parties mentioned in this post are located in the chain of command.
Audio clips 1 & 2 can be found in Part 1 of this series of posts.
In Part 1, it was revealed that social media activity by parents is considered “fair game” for HCPSS central office staff when evaluating whether or not to grant a redistricting exemption to a student with an IEP or 504 plan.