NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The situation is going from bad to worse for New Rochelle school officials who have been caught out by Department of Justice officials which are investigating the district for Title II Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The investigation has already begun to expand beyond the original complaint.
The Department of Justice has now confirmed our report last week that the Justice Department is investigating the New Rochelle Board of Education.
"We've opened an inquiry," DOJ spokesman Herbert Haddad told Talk of the Sound. He declined to elaborate further.
The Board of Education went into executive session after Tuesday's Board meeting at Trinity School to discuss the matter.
On Monday our original reporting was picked up by the Journal News and the many other area media outlets.
- CBS 880 AM/Channel 2 NewsJustice Dept. Looks At Mistreatment Of Disabled Students During New Rochelle H.S. Evacuation
- NBC News 4Westchester School Leaves Behind Disabled Students in Fire Evacuation
- Fox 5: Wheelchair student left inside school during fire alarm
- Daily VoiceNew Rochelle Schools Probed Over Handling Of Emergency
- Associated Press: Feds probe disabled student left in NY school during fire emergency
- Journal News: Feds probe treatment of disabled student at New Rochelle High School
The Journal News article is interesting as much for what it says and what it does not say.
Ken Valenti did a great job getting the district on the record on important elements of the story. Unfortunately, he did not cite or quote any sources from the New Rochelle Fire Department.
The article states:
- District officials have said that Feltenstein was kept in an area where no danger existed at the advice of the Fire Department.
- Officials said the district has a plan for dealing with disabled students during emergencies that involves designating safe areas.
- Special Education Director Yvette Goorevitch said the school had handled the situation well by following the instructions from the Fire Department.
- Goorevitch said the Fire Department directed the building administration to bring her to a point in the building that was safe.
The New Rochelle Fire Department has unequivocally denied claims by the district:New Rochelle Fire Chief Denies Claims by School Officials Following Incident at High School
Valenti spoke with Antonia Valentine at the State Education Department who told him that districts are required to rehearse evacuating disabled persons along with other students.
Valentine said that the district is required to decide on plans for evacuating the students that must be approved in writing by the student and his or her parent or guardian.
Richard Feltenstein, the father of the 17-year old left on the third floor of the New Wing of New Rochelle High School during a January 31st fire incident told Talk of the Sound the first he heard there was an evacuation plan for his daughter was in the news several days later. He says he has been asking to see the plan but the district has ignored his requests and failed to produce any plan.
Talk of the Sound has been informed by multiple sources within the building that although district previously purchased equipment to move people in wheel chairs they never uncrated the devices let alone practiced moving either of the two wheel-chair bound students.
The school did not practice fire drills with Jennifer Feltenstein, according to her father.
He says Jennifer told him that whenever the school was going to do a fire drill at the high school someone would come get her 10 minutes beforehand and remove her from the building.
The implication is that the district did not practice any fire drills for any students because they did not include all students as required by law.