Advocacy Agency Calls For Closure Of Specialized School
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 17, 2005
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT--Connecticut's Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities issued a report Wednesday calling for closure of the Hartford Transition Learning Academy.
The HTLA is operated by the Hartford Public Schools to provide a therapeutic environment for special education students who, according to the report, "have exhibited physical aggression, harassment of peers, self-abuse, social withdrawal and other challenging behaviors in their previous educational settings."
The investigation was launched in the summer of 2004 over concerns about the overuse of physical restraints at the facility. But facility officials blocked investigators from coming inside the building. When a court ordered the school to open their doors, investigators found that the school had instituted a new policy banning physical restraints.
Once the investigation team got inside, however, they found "little effort being made to identify and understand individual students' needs and learning styles."
Specifically, the report indicated that the school had failed to create a therapeutic environment; a model of alternative or innovative educational programming; and transition planning for those coming into HTLA from other schools or for those going out to the community or higher education.
In light of these findings, along with the fact that federal law for decades has encouraged students to be moved out of segregated programs and facilities, the report concluded that: "The continuation of the HTLA middle and high school programs cannot be justified."
The study's authors did acknowledge that the facility has moved scores of students out of the facility -- down from 220 in September 2004 to just 80 in September 2005 -- and cautioned educators to avoid moving the remainder into specialized, segregated programs in community schools.
"To be dumped once is bad enough," James D. McGaughey, executive director of the protection and advocacy office, told the Hartford Courant. "You don't want to compound the problem by dumping them back."
"Report Slams Special School" (Hartford Courant)
Report: "Hartford Transitional Learning Academy: A School in Need of Transition" (CT Office of Protection and Advocacy)