Note: The school denies the problems are systemic and *only* involved one child....
Posted 12/12/2008 7:10 PM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Hot Springs school has failed to adequately train its staff and maintain its facilities to serve students that have a mental illness or behavior problems, the Arkansas Education Department says.
In addition, Vista Alternative Learning Environment did not evaluate students as it should to determine if they could return to a mainstream school, failed to implement an appropriate education plan for one student, and failed to ensure the school meets state guidelines, the department said in a report Thursday.
"All special education facilities located in the Vista ALE building are inadequate with regard to size, location, accessibility, quality, and health and safety standards, as required by special education rules and regulations," the report said.
The state set deadlines for the school to address the problems, and could withhold funds if the school fails to come into compliance. The school serves about 60 students from seven Garland County school districts, and is run by the Hot Springs School District.
The department inspection was prompted by an October complaint from Karen White, whose autistic son attended the school for more than two years. She said her son failed to make any improvement at Vista. White also detailed instances in which her son was bruised, scraped and bloodied after staff tried to subdue him. She said she didn't think the injuries were deliberate but were caused by the staff's negligence.
"It's a throwaway school for throwaway children in Garland County," said White, whose son is now 13 and attends Hot Springs Middle School.
School officials acknowledged problems with the school, but disagreed with the state finding of "systematic issues."
"We're only talking about one student that they looked into so I don't know why it was systematic practice because we were only talking about one student," Superintendent Joyce Craft said.
However, Craft said the district would meet the deadlines. The district contracts with Therapeutic Family Services to provide case management and counseling.