State notifies Warren County ESC, 43 other districts that corrective action deadlines are paused

The findings of an Ohio Department of Education investigation that identified special education law violations by 43 school districts that send students to the Warren County Education Services Center have been paused.

The Dec. 16 notice of findings, which also included deadlines in January and February for the districts to be compliant, have been paused indefinitely and will be updated at a later date, according to an email sent Monday to the districts by the ODE Office for Exceptional Children-Dispute resolution.

Last week, Warren County ESC Superintendent Tom Isaacs and several other districts, requested ODE to reconsider the findings. As a result of that request, ODE has paused the proceedings pending the reconsideration.

In a statement last week from the Warren County ESC Governing Board, it emphasized “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 findings issued by ODE’s Office for Exceptional Children noted each of the 43 districts that utilize specialized services and programs offered by 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 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.

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