State Department of Education orders investigation into Killingly school board – Hartford Courant

In a relatively rare step, the Connecticut Department of Education is opening an investigation into the Killingly Board of Education after a group of parents and residents last week filed a complaint alleging the school board is failing to meet health standards. social and emotional set by the Express.

The complaint, known as a 10-4b, which allows residents to appeal when the local school board fails to implement the state’s educational interests, stems from the Killingly school board’s rejection of a plan that would have created a state-based mental health system. at school. center at the high school, at no cost to the district.

“We are pleased that the State Department of Education is taking this complaint seriously. The mental health crisis facing our students is very real,” Christine Rosati Randall, a Killingly parent, said in a statement. “Our students need help now. The School Based Mental Health Center is an immediate way to meet the dire need of our students at no cost to the District.”

The state’s decision to initiate an investigation does not mean that it has determined that the allegations set forth in the 10-4b complaint are true.

Rather, it means that the state has determined that a “substantial complaint” is warranted, defined as “a complaint that sets forth basic facts that establish a cause of action with respect to an alleged violation of the educational interests of the state.”

The focus of the investigation is whether the Killingly school board is providing “a safe school environment,” according to the letter sent to the board signed by Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker.

It is the first time in at least a decade that the state Department of Education has moved forward with an investigation for this purpose.

The state has received 30 10-4b complaints in the last 10 years, according to Andrew Feinstein, an attorney who works with Killingly residents. Of those, at least 23 were completely dismissed.

In March, the Killingly Board of Education voted 6-3 to reject the plan for a school health center.

The plan was designed in collaboration between the district superintendent and Generations Family Health Center. It would have been at no cost to the district and would have had vocal support within the community.

Parents and staff argue that the need for mental health services in Killingly schools goes beyond what their counselors and social workers have the ability to provide amid an increase in demand associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.

As alleged in Complaint 10-4b, the survey and school data suggest a great need for behavioral and mental health intervention in a community where access to services is challenging.

Nearly 15% of Killingly students admit to making a suicide plan, according to a november survey of 477 students in grades 7-12 conducted by SERAC, a nonprofit organization focused on mental health in eastern Connecticut.

More than 28% reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more, and another 28.2% admitted to having thoughts of harming themselves.

There were 500 incidents in which students had to drop class for immediate counseling in the first half of the 2021-2022 school year alone, the complaint says.

Killingly High School is calling 211 “several times a week” for services, according to Kristine Cicchetti, a human resources assistant at Killingly Public Schools.

Cicchetti said the school board has floated the idea of ​​hiring another school psychologist, but argues that this is the wrong tactic.

“The district has had a school psychologist open for over a year, but [the school board’s] The solution is to create another vacancy in our school district instead of providing our children with the proper level of mental health resources they need, it doesn’t make sense,” Cicchetti said in a statement.

A small group of students, parents and staff made the trip from Killingly to Hartford last Wednesday to appeal to education leaders during the state Board of Education’s monthly meeting.

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