Newark Charter School Denies Lottery To 6 Year Old Girl With Rare Disability

The Newark Charter School admission policy has hit a new low. They are not allowing a child with developmental disabilities apply to the school for Kindergarten because she will be six years old when she enters Kindergarten next August.  Newark Charter School will have their lottery this coming Monday, February 8th at 6pm.

The parents’ daughter has an extremely rare disability called radioulnar synostosis that impacts her fine motor skills and limits the use of her hands and arms. According to Boston Children’s Hospital, this disability is defined as: Congenital radioulnar synostosis is a rare congenital difference in which there’s an abnormal bony or soft tissue connection between the two bones of the forearm—the radius and the ulna.  This disability is so rare, only 400 cases have been reported worldwide.

Her parents made a choice, at the recommendation of her pre-school, to keep her there another year.  According to the mom and dad, their daughter needs extra time to develop her fine motor skills and co-ordination based on her disability.  Apparently, this does not matter to the Admissions Office at Newark Charter School.

The father was told by the Admissions Office that Newark Charter School could not accept the application and enter his daughter into the lottery based on her age. The parents attended a board meeting at the school and a board member suggested to the parents to apply their daughter for first grade, and upon acceptance, they would assess her and move her down to Kindergarten, if needed.  The parents did not find this to be a viable option since their daughter was never in Kindergarten in the first place.  This was not an acceptable option for the father, so he contacted the Delaware Department of Education.

The father spoke with the Charter School Office with concerns about the legality of Newark Charter School’s actions. He talked with Jennifer Nagourney, the Executive Director of the Charter School Office.  She advised him what the school was doing was completely legal.

After reaching out to a State Representative about the situation, the State Rep. asked the father for permission to reach out to some folks on this issue in an attempt to help. I was one of those people, and I spoke with the parents earlier this evening.  The parents are very concerned about this matter and feel other parents have a right to know what the school is doing.

The father claims the Admissions Office referenced a change in their admission policy that went into effect on September 15th, 2015.  I went to the school’s board minutes and found the following changes to their admissions policy:

NCS91515BoardMinutes

The wording on this board resolution is very vague and unclear. It doesn’t even mention a scenario where a child could be older than five and what their policy is on this.  Furthermore, the board voted on this change to their policy without the action item on their agenda.  Parents who may have been aware of this planned action could have attended the meeting and given public comment, or reached out to the school to address it with the Admissions Office or their Head of School, Greg Meece.  The fact they would deny parents who applied for Kindergarten in the 2015-2016 school year is a mystery to me, but there are multiple reasons why a parent could choose not to send their child to Kindergarten and they have a right to do so.  Many families of a child with a disability have made this choice.  Charter school boards in Delaware are required to post an Agenda of their board meetings seven days prior to their meeting, which Newark Charter School certainly did in this case.  However, it did not post any action items to be voted on by the Board of Directors, just Admissions Policy as part of “business” without any clear details surrounding it.

NCSAgenda91515

The board had the same item on their agenda for their August meeting and did discuss admission procedures in the August meeting. They didn’t take a vote on it thought, so the term “business” on their agenda is very misleading and doesn’t indicate what is being discussed or having action taken.  While Delaware’s open meeting law does not give an indication either way about discussion and action items, traditional school districts tend to have these clearly listed on their agendas.  Clarification in the law is absolutely needed so all public schools have the same level of transparency in regards to board meetings.

On Newark Charter School’s website, under Admissions, their general guidelines for applications do not reference the specific age of a Kindergartner:

NCSAdmissionsPolicy

I went to their actual Admissions Policy to see what it says on the subject:

Once again, there is nothing about a child being six years old at the time Kindergarten begins. The matter is not even addressed.  What it does say is this:

  1. 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. Students applying for Kindergarten do not necessarily have to be currently enrolled in a pre-K program. A birth certificate showing that the child will turn five-years old on or after September 1, 2015 and no later than August 31, 2016 will be required during the registration process in order for the student to be officially accepted.
  2. All other applicants to Newark Charter School must apply to the next consecutive grade level that they would matriculate to if they were to remain in their current school (For example, a current 1st grade student must apply to 2nd grade).

Title 14 in Delaware State Code is very clear about what a charter school can or cannot do in the application process:

  • 506 Restrictions.
  1. A charter school shall not:

(3) Restrict student admissions except:

  • By age and grade;

(4) Discriminate against any student in the admissions process because of race, creed, color, sex (except in the case of a same gender school), handicap, or national origin, or because the student’s school district of residence has a per student local expenditure lower than another student seeking admission

The wording concerning “by age and grade” is vague. It doesn’t give an actual clarification for it.  But it should be assumed it means charter schools will only accept applications for the grades that they have.  There are many charter schools that have students in attendance in certain grades where they are much older than their peers based on individual circumstances.

In the situation with this young girl, she could not have matriculated from Kindergarten since she is not currently enrolled in Kindergarten. So the board member’s suggestion was preposterous.   I asked the father if the application asked specifically about any disabilities and he did not believe it did.  I was able to obtain a copy of the school’s application which verified they did not ask about any type of disability for an applicant.

NCSApplication

In my opinion, because of the Board’s lack of transparency concerning these admissions changes back in September of 2015, as well as very unclear wording for any parent applying to the school, this child should be included in Newark Charter School’s lottery. If you agree, please email Greg Meece at Newark Charter School with the subject line: “Let her in the lottery” and please attach a copy of this article.  You can email Greg Meece at the following email address: gmeece@ncs.k12.de.us

Their lottery is Monday night at 6:00pm. If there are any other parents within Newark Charter School’s five mile radius, from the flagpole in front of their high school, who have also had their child’s application rejected based on this very misleading admissions policy, please contact me at kevino3670@yahoo.com or leave a comment on this article.

In the meantime, the daughter’s parents are praying something changes between now and 6pm on Monday.

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