School Committee's Sept. 20 Statement on Special Education
The following is the text of a Sept. 20 statement regarding allegations of mistreatment within the special education program of the Lexington Public Schools, as provided by School Committee Chairwoman Margaret Coppe.
Providing a safe and protective environment for all of our students is the absolute paramount priority for the Lexington Public Schools. When the School Committee members first read the op-ed column that appeared 10 days ago in the New York Times, we were as stunned as everyone. The detailed descriptions about the young student, from six years-and-a-half ago, were very disturbing.
State law requires that the School Committee meet and deliberate in public and provide 48 hours public notice. Our meeting on Sept.11, two days after the op-ed appeared, was the first time that we were able to discuss as a committee the issues raised in that article. Members of the community joined us in Cary Hall to hear from the Superintendent and Director of Student Services on the matter. At the meeting of Sept. 11, we heard that the use of separate time out rooms, as a method of student behavior de-escalation, was a practice said to have been eliminated in 2007. One parent stepped forward and said a time out room was used in 2008.
The process for addressing these issues has already begun. Superintendent Paul Ash has referred both matters to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families for independent investigation and, of course, we will cooperate fully with that agency.
We have set up this public meeting dedicated to updating the community on current information, discussing the steps the administration is taking to clarify appropriate student de-escalation protocols, and providing community dialogue. We are committed to understanding what happened in the past, what is happening now, and ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of all of our students.
We are especially thankful to the parents who shared their stories publicly with the hope that they will bring forth changes that may be needed. We are also grateful to the parents who came forward to tell us of the wonderful and caring teaching staff who have created a safe and nurturing environment for their children.
It is not an accident that Lexington has one of the best public school systems in the country. Our community has invested mightily in our schools – both in the form of tax dollars, and in the form of deep citizen commitment to the value of public education. The School Committee is committed to providing care and oversight to our schools. So much good is done by our teachers, staff, students, and families every day, and we want to communicate to them our gratitude and respect. Our schools uplift not only the parents and students who attend them; they uplift all of Lexington.
We look forward to working together as a community to turn the challenge we are now facing into an opportunity to improve, to heal, and to restore.