VWSD’s special ed program meeting needs, audit finds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The official result might not be known for 90 days, but Vicksburg’s director of special education said the immediate result of a recent state audit is that students’ special needs are being met.

A 17-member audit team put together by the Mississippi Department of Education’s special ed office visited Vicksburg’s public schools Jan. 13-15.

The team’s specific assignment was to see if students with emotional disabilities are being properly identified.

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“To some extent it is a numbers game instead of being about the children, but I’m so pleased that they said the children are getting services,” said Dr. Susan Bentley, Vicksburg Warren School District special ed director.

According to statistics, Vicksburg Warren schools are supposed to have 46 students identified as having emotional disabilities. Just 25 have been, she said.

The audit team was looking to see if an additional 21 students should be formally diagnosed, said Bentley.

The team visited each school in the district, looking at discipline records, students who might have been hospitalized or institutionalized for an emotional problem and special education students not previously identified as having emotional disabilities.

Statewide, Mississippi must identify 200 students as having emotional disabilities, Bentley said.

The requirement was one result of a 1979 lawsuit known as “Mattie T.,” in which a Mississippi Delta student was the lead plaintiff among a number of students who were found to have been inappropriately disciplined instead of identified as emotionally disabled.

“We do our best to comply,” said Bentley.

A parent meeting also was held, with about 19 parents of special ed students attending, facilitated by the parent coordinator on the audit team. Local school officials were not there, Bentley said, so parents would feel free to comment and ask questions.

Audit findings are expected in about 30 days. The district then will prepare an improvement plan and await final approval from the state. Finally, a summary will be given to the district which, by law, must be published in the newspaper.

Informally, Bentley said, the audit showed the numbers might not be what the state requires but the services are there. “They said we are really doing well with providing services.”


Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com