UNION, NJ — The Union Board of Education voted at its Sept. 19 meeting to eliminate the behavioral disabilities program at Burnet Middle School since there are no students in need of the structured classes this year.
The program provided a structured setting for students with social or emotional growth issues. Once students have shown growth in these areas, they’re integrated into regular classes. According to the county Office of Education regulations, the program is eliminated if no students are enrolled in it, Director of Special Services Kim Conti at Union schools said.
Before the BOE voted to eliminate the program, board members asked several questions about it during a work session meeting held Sept. 12.
“When we eliminate this program now, a month from now are you going to come back and say that ‘Oh we need to reopen this program again because a kid needs to be placed in that program?’” asked Nellis Regis-Darby. “How do you do that? I think there should be a plan for those kids.”
Regis-Darby wanted to make sure that there was a plan for any student who may have been in the program in the middle school and may need it in high school, too.
“We know that’s a really hard year for the kids when they’re transitioning” from middle school to high school. “So I think that something needs to be in place. I don’t know what the plan is,” she said.
Conti told BOE members at the meeting that a behavioral disabilities program exists at the high school. There may be a need for the program to be reopened in the middle of the school year, she said, if a student develops a need during the school year, or new entrants who move into the district need it.
“Now, (if) your question is, ‘May I come back to you and ask to establish a (behavioral disabilities) class at Burnet?’ I might,” Conti said during the work session meeting.
Conti told LocalSource after the meeting while there may be students at Burnet Middle School who have individual education plans, which are devised for each student with a disability, they do not necessarily have a need for the behavioral disabilities program.
Students are placed in the program — or removed — after an IEP team makes that decision. IEPs are generally individual and confidential plans for each student, and cover a variety of issues from behavioral to cognitive, including autism and ADD and ADHD.
“They may have shown that they need a less restrictive environment,” Conti explained to the board. “So they get the opportunity to go to a less restrictive environment, which doesn’t mean that it should be without support.”
There are other programs at the middle school that still offer support, Conti said. The Effective School Solutions Program, for example, provides counseling services within the district for students with emotional and behavioral issues, Conti said. There was still a need for that program at Burnet Middle School at the end of June, Conti said. She said students who may have been in the program could have graduated to the high school or moved out of the district.
The next school board work session meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in the administration building. The next regular meeting is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. at Union High School.