Newport News Behavioral cited by D.O.E. for loss of classroom time from unapproved therapy, staffing deficiencies

Newport News Behavioral Health Center’s residential school was cited by the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) for violations of free public education standards and education staffing requirements. The DOE found that students left the facility to attend Equine Therapy for a total of 4 hours and 45 minutes each Tuesday from the same class periods for at least 8 weeks. It was determined that each student lost 34 hours of instruction because of the Equine Therapy. Also, the DOE noted that Equine Therapy is not a related service allowed under the student’s Individualized Education Program. After requesting additional information, the DOE also found that students were being pulled from class for therapy sessions and were missing one hour a week of classroom time. The DOE also found during the inspection that the program had violated special education staffing requirements. Specifically, the size of the classrooms in the school for the number of students and staff “does not provide an environment that is safe and conducive to learning.” Inspectors measured three classrooms at 240 square feet and one at 340 square feet and noted that most classes during the day have 12 students and 3 staff members. The report noted that there are plans in place to renovate some of the classrooms to provide more space. The DOE also found that the facility’s Del-Mar School needed an alternate staffing plan due to the nature of the treatment program within that unit. The Del-Mar School has two sex offender units of boys. Since each sex offender unit may only admit a maximum of 12 clients, and the sex offender students cannot be integrated with other male students, the DOE determined that an alternate staffing plan was necessary “when there are more than 10 students admitted to either of the sex offender programs to ensure the educational needs of the students are being met.” Lastly, the facility was required to submit a corrective action plan for not providing paraprofessional training to Mental Health Counselors so they can work as teacher aides when the number of students exceeds the student/teacher ratio. The facility also submitted corrective action plans to address the other cited deficiencies.