- Fellow Editors
Wicomico County Public Schools Exploitation of Special Needs Children - Part I
Wicomico County Public Schools has been exploiting and abusing special needs children and their families for years. For the first time in history, we are exposing their scandal of abuse that families have had to endure. Through the school's collaborated effort to withhold special education supports, hundreds of disabled children have been neglected, while WCPS receives millions of dollars for special education. We will demonstrate that our special education funding is not being used for its intended purpose. The elected school board has the power to correct this, to which all prior boards have turned a blind eye. In fact, they have allowed their board attorney and his law firm to ignore the law and exploit special needs children, their families, and the taxpayers. WCPS has perpetuated these practices by systematically obstructing and denying the right to receive special education services, while interfering with the parents' right of due process.
Special Education is big business. The problem is statewide, but Wicomico is among one of the worst counties in the State of Maryland when it comes to the exploitation of special education and the associated greed of holding onto the cash. There is a federal program called FAPE, which stands for Free and Appropriate Education. There is also the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These programs exists to ensure that special needs children receive their right to a quality and equitable education in order to succeed. This includes a student's right to be treated equally and receive the needed support no matter the cost. Since FAPE and IDEA are both federal laws, Maryland has enabled the counties to blatantly ignore it, because it is not defined in Maryland legislation.
In order for a parent to hold a school system accountable and fight for their child's rights, a parent would have to sue the school district and the State of Maryland in a U.S District Court. This costs thousands of dollars that the average family doesn't have. Meanwhile, the government is using the taxpayer's dollars against the citizens (without limit) to perpetually abuse, obstruct, withhold, intimidate, and drain a citizen's personal resources dry. Meanwhile, the special needs child suffers and receives no needed support while the clock ticks year after year, as the child is pushed through the school system.
The board attorney and his firm are laughing all the way to the bank as they exhaust the school's annual budget allocated to legal fees. As the law firm consumes the annual budget in a "use it or lose it" environment, they look to exploit ways to escalate cases rather than to deescalate them, as they greedily grab for the pot of gold.
With the exception of a couple board members, the majority of the elected board seems to prefer to remain out of the loop on special education matters, while administration works along with the board's attorney to exploit the board, special needs children, and the taxpayers. We the taxpayers are financing their scandal.
During our investigation, we talked to many special education families. We have learned that each child has very special and individualized needs that greatly varies from child to child. If the public school cannot accommodate the needs of a student, a child has a right to alternate placement at a private school under FAPE. This means that the public school has to transfer the per-pupil cost of the student to an alternative school for that child.
Here's the kicker. There's is no expense to the school system. Private institutions charge anywhere from $7,000-$15,000 per year for tuition. Wicomico County Public Schools will be receiving approximately *$22,235 per pupil for the 2023-2024 school year if the student count of 14,900 remains the same. As a result, WCPS still makes money in the alternate placement of a special needs student.
Here is an example of those abusive WCPS legal fees against parents, and that's just for one hearing.
What is the total cost to tax payers when the Special Education Department denies a child services and pursues their decision legally?
The cost includes:
WCPS legal fees
WCBOE legal fees
Cost to reassess the child multiple times
Expert witness fees
Special Educators time out of the classroom to focus on litigation
Parent and special needs child legal fees (missed worked and time away from instruction to focus on litigation?)
Answer is $25,000 to $100,000
It's not always easy to get your lunch money back from the bully who took it.
The Wicomico County Board of Education and its administration rather consume $25,000-$100,000 in legal fees to deny special education instead of passing off $7,000-$15,000 of the per pupil allocation of $22,235 already received. That means that WCPS can do the right thing and still gain a profit of $7,235 - $15,235.
It's not about the practical sense of doing what's right. It's about greed, power, and control. The school system wants to monopolize education and keep it that way, no matter the cost. The teachers' union is in on it too.
As the bully, the school system will "torture and beat you up" if you attempt to get your money back for what it was originally intended. Ironically, the school system has a Bullying, Harassment, and Intimidation policy, but they exempt themselves.
There is a family who has been battling the Wicomico public school system for over eight years and decided to share their story with us. We have reviewed all documents by the school system and it is absolutely disgusting. The school system is not accommodating an autistic child who has very individualized special needs. The parents requested an alternative school that could meet those needs as WCPS was unable. WCPS agreed to place the child in an alternate private school. The child was doing great. When the next school year came, WCPS refused to continue the alternative placement.
They did this despite the fact that the child was diagnosed as having autism by licensed, specialized physicians. WCPS Administration was using the IEP team to render a medical diagnosis based on the student's progress in order to deny educational supports to a disabled child. The child was denied any supports or alternate placement, because the school claimed that the student no longer had a disability or required any special education supports.
It was because of the alternate school that the child was doing so well. The private school was meeting those exact needs of the student in ways that the public school could not. Because the student's progress made the public school look bad, they denied the alternate placement tuition out of retaliation. The family had to seek an attorney and spend thousands of dollars to fight for their child's education. The school's ruthless objective along with their attorney is to appeal, delay, reschedule, deny and obstruct the due process of a special needs child. The school's objective is to run out the clock, financially exhaust a family's resources, and for the family to give up. Those that cannot afford an attorney are stuck.
We know of several other parents that have a child who has been denied an IEP, and have been battling the school system for years. There are still many more special needs children that require 504s and/or an IEP but are denied. The school system is denying people for various reasons and excuses, for many even unspoken. If they see that a special needs child is an expense, liability, time burden, or has behavioral issues, the school system will be partial in their decision as compared to another child. They also take into consideration race and socioeconomic status in who they acknowledge, select, or support for special needs. That's why we are exposing their hypocrisy in the name of equity, which the school system preaches. They are not only contradicting the law, but several school policies.
Wicomico has excellent community resources to provide services to our special needs students. It's time they get out of the way and stop obstructing disabled children from accessing special education supports. We've only scratched the surface. Stay tuned for Part II.
If you are a parent with a special needs child, please reach out to the Delmarva Parent Teacher Coalition at delmarvaptc.org/contact to share your story. All will be kept confidential. We are forming a class action lawsuit, so we welcome special needs families who have been denied special education services to climb aboard.
Here are the WCBOE members, which you can reach out to them regarding your concerns with special education:
WCBOE Board Members
Gene Malone - firstname.lastname@example.org
Allen Brown - email@example.com
Kristin Hazel - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonnie Ennis - email@example.com
Susan Beauchamp - firstname.lastname@example.org
David Plotts - email@example.com
John Palmer - firstname.lastname@example.org
Fellows & Editors
March 17, 2023 Copyright DelmarvaPTC.org
Please consider joining the Delmarva Parent Teacher Coalition and follow us on FaceBook to stay informed of what's really happening with education in our schools.
* Total Revenue ($349,813,898) minus Capital Projects ($18,508,943) / # of Students (14,900)