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State issues mandates for Benton Harbor Area Schools' special education program

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – more unwelcomed news arrived before Benton Harbor Area Schools’ (BHAS) Board of Trustees Tuesday evening.

The state’s department of education is stepping in after learning the district’s special education department has been noncompliant for at least four years.

According to the state, BHAS made up six percent of complaints the department has received.

The state found issues in disciplining students, not following procedures, missing deadlines, over identification of special needs students among other things.

“When you do that, it creates a snowball effect,” said Traci Teasley, a liaison from the Michigan Department of Education. “We really want to make sure when parents send their children here, we’re doing our very best to give them the services they need.”

Teasley was one of three representatives from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to address the board in light of its findings.

Trustees say they had no idea.

“The board is in the dark on the situation so our goal is to be sure to be transparent so they understand the severity of the issue but also how much support is available to help them address the issue,” said Teasley.

Moving forward, the MDE has issued mandated corrective action for the district.

That includes scheduling monthly compliance updates to the school board, collaborating with MDE and Berrien RESA staff and implementing other corrective measures provided by the state.

The school board will meet again Wednesday to give Superintendent Shelly Walker her annual evaluation.

That meeting would be her first appearance since being placed on leave in February.

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