DOJ Woes Increase for New Rochelle School Officials

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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.

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.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Tom Jeferstahl on Thu, 02/28/2013 - 17:28

I am a big supporter of checks and balances, transparency etc. If a 3rd floor room is the predetermined area that has been established between the school and the NRFD for special needs students to be brought to and then evacuated if deemed necessary and it is legal, then this is an exercise in tail chasing. However, if this was not part of a bigger evacuation plan and it was just the "easiest" thing to do, then someone needs to answer for that. Not fired, but maybe some additional info and the implementation of a better plan. Everyday we live and breathe we are all in violation of some federal law or statute, there are just too many of them for anyone to be able to know and follow them all.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Thu, 02/28/2013 - 19:04

Tom,

With all due respect, these comments are pretty dumb. Your smarter than that. So maybe you will reconsider them.

The DOJ will conduct their investigation and we may see the results of that so it is premature to draw any conclusions of what THEY are doing. However, the DOJ, in my experience, does not go looking for cases to waste their time or the taxpayers dime.

I've already reported that the NRFD flatly stated that there was no agreement with NRFD on a holding room on ANY floor in ANY part of the building. In this incident, NRFD was not told that there were ANY special needs children in the school. There were two. You must have missed my interview with Lou DeMeglio.

I wonder how you would feel if you had a child with CP, wheel-chair bound and came to school to pick up your daughter one day and learned that she had been left behind during an actual fire incident? Would you really say that there are too many regulations and that failing to observe them with regard to the safety and welfare of YOUR child is simply a matter of too many rules to expect people to follow?

It seems like a pretty simple rule that in a fire emergency you evacuate EVERY STUDENT.

Again, I find it hard to believe that you actually think it is somehow excusable what happened to these two students because there are too many federal laws.

Tom Jeferstahl on Fri, 03/01/2013 - 06:41

I was not aware that their was no arrangement with the fire department. I don't think the administration will be able to defend their "procedure" if emergency personnel were not aware of kids with special needs whereabouts. Also, I see your point. If everyone must evacuate then everyone must evacuate and there is no reasonable reason why special needs kids shouldn't also be evacuated. Inconvenience is not a valid reason.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Fri, 03/01/2013 - 14:16

I do not want to provide any assistance to the people who screwed the pooch on this one but let me just say that there is more to be revealed here and if the DOJ moves forward the public might learn that the problem is actually much worse regarding evac plans, fire drills and preparedness at the NRHS..