Private NJ Special Education School Faces Two Lawsuits

The Star Ledger reports today that a realty company has sued Somerset Hills School, a private school for boys with behavioral disabilities in Warren County. An additional suit was filed by Jerome Amedeo who, oddly enough, was executive director of the school, owns the land, and has long profited from the arrangement.

Somerset Hills was much in the news last year after a Ledger expose unveiled a variety of fiscal offenses, including multiple cases of nepotism and exorbitant salaries.

Somerset Hills is part of a consortium of private schools that serve students with disabilities in NJ. Technically, students are placed there by Child Study Teams in  public districts when a less restrictive in-district placement is deemed unsuitable due to the extent of disability. It's fair to say that Somerset Hills is an exception: the vast majority of N.J.'s private special education schools are well-intentioned, respectful of public finances, and heartfully devoted to our most fragile children.

Regardless of the quality of the majority of NJ special ed schools, the result is an system of extreme segregation. In fact, NJ is currently under federal court order to correct its overplacement of students in restrictive settings, which violates students’ right under the Individuals with Disabilities Act to receive necessary services in  the “least restrictive environment.” (See NJ  Spotlight coverage.) Currently NJ public schools place 9% of its special education students in non-district schools. This is the highest rate in the country, and is partially responsible for our towering public education costs. 

From today’s Ledger:
Two new lawsuits allege the Somerset Hills School, a private school for students with disabilities, abruptly abandoned its former home in Warren Township last month, left the property in disrepair and now owes more than $1.6 million, court records show.
And when all is said and done, taxpayers could be on the hook for it.
The suits — filed this month in state Superior Court in Somerset County by Home School Realty and its owner, Jerome Amedeo — say that Somerset Hills vacated the property at the end of last month despite a lease requiring it to pay rent, utilities and taxes through June 30, 2015.
For more on the state’s lack of oversight of publicly-funded private special education schools, see here. Side note: the comments below the article confuse these schools with charter schools. Whole different animal.