Scandal At The State-Operated
School For The Blind Exposes State Ed’s Neglect Of
I have called for a
criminal investigation as well as for two federal probes,
by the Justice Department’s Office
of Civil Rights and by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector
general, into the recent scandal involving serious neglect
of multiply-disabled children and young adults at the State-operated
New York State School for the Blind in Batavia, NY.
It is bad enough when the State Education Department (SED)
or other State agencies fail in their mission and solemn responsibility
to ensure that the most vulnerable children, those with multiple
disabilities, are provided an appropriate education and quality
health-care in facilities charged with their care. But when
the State itself operates a school, such as the School for
the Blind, and serious incidents of neglect and, reportedly,
even physical abuse occur, it is indefensible, and those responsible
must be held accountable, at every level, to the fullest extent
of the law.
A recent report both
prepared and based upon inspections performed by the State’s Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental
Disabilities (OMRDD) found that SED had been incompetent and
negligent in not properly providing for the well-being of 18
students at two interim care facilities on the campus. Students’ medical
needs were ignored, and complaints of abuse were not investigated.
Medication was not provided, or inappropriately administered.
Conditions warranting follow-up visits with physicians were
simply ignored—for month after month.
There can be no excuse
for the systemic--and now admitted—failure
of SED to have had properly trained staff, or for the fact
that the Department had no procedures or policies in place
whatsoever to protect children under its direct care from physical
abuse, mistreatment or gross neglect.
has transpired raises grave questions about SED’s competence
to monitor the health, safety and delivery of appropriate,
quality education and related services to children with disabilities
in public schools throughout all of New York State, including
in New York City.
Accordingly, I plan legislative hearings into the quality
of educational services and quality of care provided students
with disabilities throughout the state. These hearings will
certainly look closely at outcomes and data; probe whether
children are learning in special education, or whether for
many, goals on IEPs (individual educational plans) are being
ignored, or not ever tracked.
When the State Education
Department fails to protect children with disabilities under
its own watch, it raises grave concerns about the Department’s overall monitoring of—and
delivery of—quality education to these children, as well
as its diligence, professionalism, seriousness or competence
to protect disabled children from neglect and abuse across
the state, in every school. And needless to say, SED it would
seem apparent, can certainly not be relied on to monitor the
well-being of thousands of disabled kids placed out of state.
This is very, very worrisome, and my committee will look into
this as well.
True, there are many dedicated, professional teachers and
administrators who serve children with disabilities well. But
accountability and faith in the system as a whole is clearly
lacking. I look forward to working with parents, advocates,
teachers and administrators in exploring whether children and
young adults with disabilities are in fact learning and receiving
appropriate, mandated services, be it in District 75 or in
inclusionary programs here in New York City, and across New
How many students who have both disabilities and enormous
intellectual or artistic potential are being warehoused in
the public schools, rather than educated? What is the State
doing to make every district accountable? And how can we trust
the State to do its job, when it has been found to be responsible
for outrageous misfeasance at its own school?#
Assemblyman Sanders is chairman of the Education Committee.
E-mail him at email@example.com or phone 212.979.9696.
His mailing address is 201 East 16th Street, New York, NY