Last night, I posted an article about a six year-old girl with a rare disability who was denied the ability to even apply to Newark Charter School. I emailed Greg Meece about this after I posted the article to make him aware of why he may be receiving tons of emails on this, as well as my thoughts on the matter. He responded to me earlier this morning.
From: Meece Gregory <Gregory.Meece@ncs.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 7, 2016 10:14 AM
Subject: RE: Let her in the lottery!
We would love to include this applicant in the lottery. In fact, we would love to be able to serve the more than 3,500 applicants who applied this year. But the fact is that there are only 190 openings at this time and we must enforce the approved and published lottery procedures to ensure a consistent and fair process for all.
The assumption that this applicant was denied an opportunity to be included in our lottery is simply untrue. This applicant was in our lottery for Kindergarten last year, and we have encouraged them to apply again this year, but for the appropriate grade. They may be in the lottery every year through high school. It is not that they don’t have access to the lottery. They clearly do.
The Board’s policy is, “All Kindergarten applicants must turn five years of age in the period from September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2016 to apply for KN in the 2016-2017 lottery.” We can certainly look at that policy for next year and see if it needs to be changed, but doing so now, after the rules have been approved, published and applied consistently to so many applicants would be wrong.
Our school has many students with severe and complex disabilities. We welcome all students, regardless of their disabilities. We use the state’s standard applicant and we don’t ask about disabilities during the application process. I’m glad parents of children with disabilities see our school as a viable and welcoming school with a solid track record of serving students with disabilities.
All applicants were apprised of the lottery rules when they applied and they were required to acknowledge that they read the rules prior to submission. This applicant appealed the situation to the Board of Directors and to the Department of Education and the school has followed all proper procedures.
He didn’t even give a farewell to his email, so I would have to surmise he is not too happy about this. This board policy is very weak. The policy says absolutely nothing about the child’s age beyond five. As well, his suggestion of the girl applying to the “appropriate grade” is ludicrous! After all of this, even being fully aware of the child’s disability, he is insisting she apply for 1st grade even though she hasn’t even been in Kindergarten. And the DOE says this is fully legal. I would like someone to explain to me how this is legal. If this little girl doesn’t get into this lottery, I fully expect there to be a lot of noise around this matter. And I will stand at the front of the line! This is discrimination at the highest level. I don’t care how many applicants they had, whether it was 1 or 500,000. This school states they don’t discriminate based on disability, but I’m just not seeing it in this case. And the transparency surrounding the creation of this policy was horrible. Shame on you Newark Charter School…