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State authorities are scrutinizing Dunlap's special education program. Here's why

Mike Rundle

Officials with the Illinois State Board of Education will conduct an on-site review of the Dunlap school district's special education services.

Part of the reason is standard procedure, because the district withdrew from the Special Education Association of Peoria County (SEAPCO) last year to set its own special education program.

But state officials say they are also monitoring the district due to the high number of complaints filed over the district's special education programming over the past two academic years.

The onsite review will include interviews with school staff, classroom walkthroughs, examinations of the files of twenty Dunlap district students on individualized education programs, or IEPs. That's a federally-required education plan catered to the unique individual needs of students with disabilities.

"Special education teachers serve as case managers for students with IEPs, district staff provide interventions specific to IEP goals and all district staff work together to make appropriate adaptations within the general education setting in partnership with general education teachers," superintendent Dr. Scott Dearman explained in an email. "Any related service minutes that are specific to individual student IEPs are provided by the appropriate professionals."

Parents interviewed by WCBU say the district's IEP policies are an area of particular concern. Anita Frei is a mother of three children with special needs enrolled in the Dunlap school district.

"I really think the whole special education program needs a revamp," she said. "I feel like our district is big enough that they can support a program, but they need to have things set up. They need to hire the qualified staff, and just support these kiddos."

In an email, Superintendent Dr. Scott Dearman said the district's certified staff positions are full, but he acknowledge eight aide positions are currently open due to a lack of applicants.

Currently, Alyssa Hart oversees special education in her role as director of student services. Dearman said that job has overseen special education for years, but with the district's withdrawal from SEAPCO, a new director of special education role will be created to manage the expanded services in the district.

Following ISBE's onsite review, the agency will require the district to respond in writing to any findings of noncompliance with the law, and to work with the state to develop corrective action plans in any areas where it's found noncompliant.

The visit was originally scheduled for next week, but Dearman said a scheduling conflict forced a postponement.

"Dunlap #323 is always looking to improve and I look forward to working with ISBE and receiving their feedback," Dearman said.

The Peoria Region Human Rights Authority of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission is also preparing a report on the Dunlap School District. The agency declined to release information on its finding before the report's publication.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.