By David Fleet
Goodrich – The school board has started an investigation at Oaktree Elementary school regarding alleged disciplinary issues that involve the superintendent’s son.
Superintendent Ryan Relken distributed a letter on Jan. 14 stating that a group of parents are making assertions that students who are protected under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) are physically harming other students.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities. Schools must find and evaluate students suspected of having disabilities—at no cost to parents. Autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment are some of the disabilities.
“Among the children that these parents are making assertions about is my son,” wrote Relken in the letter. “These parents are further stating that teachers and other staff at Oaktree are refusing to discipline students protected by IDEA appropriately because they are afraid of retaliation from me based on the fact that my son is one of the children about whom they are making assertions.”
“These assertions are causing significant disruption in the educational environment at the Oaktree campus,”added Relken. “It is important that not only the assertions and any motivations behind them be understood, but also any context in which they are being made should be fully explored. Further, if there is room for improvement in any of our processes or any misunderstandings about District policy and IDEA requirements, it is important that they be promptly addressed,” he wrote.
Relken initiated an investigation, to be undertaken by the board’s legal counsel, he said.
Relken initiated the investigation through the board’s legal counsel Joe Urban of Clark Hill and his colleague, Vicki Coe, to review the assertions and make recommendations.
“I have rescued myself from this process and asked that Board legal counsel coordinate the investigation with Goodrich Director of Student Services, Michelle Flessa,” he wrote.
Greg Main, school board president responded on Jan. 17 with a statement regarding the audit of student discipline.
“Goodrich area schools is committed to providing the best education possible for all learners,” said Main in the statement. “We take seriously any input we receive from the public or our team members about our policies, procedures and practices. Thus, we have initiated an audit of student discipline practices at Oaktree Elementary to review this parent input.”
Main, further responded to the the investigation.
“Ms. Flessa has been assured that the board seeks a full and fair review of the facts and that neither she nor any staff member who participates in the review of the facts, will face retaliation for any input they provide,” he wrote.
“Our goal is to conduct a transparent review of the assertions that have been made and where and if appropriate, implement any improvements that we deem necessary to continue our goal of providing the best education possible to the children attending Goodrich Area Schools.”
The final report was expected at the Jan. 28, school board meeting. However, due to inclement weather that meeting was postpone. Contact Michelle Flessa so that she may incorporate the concern into the investigation that she and board’s counsel are undertaking.