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State inspects Franklin Learning Center

May 06, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Franklin Learning Center, which serves children and young adults with special needs, underwent a three-day state inspection last week in response to complaints filed by a disability advocacy group.

The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN) performed a surprise inspection in late 2008 and filed complaints about individualized education programs (IEPs) and the use of Rifton chairs. The chairs are designed to be used for posture, but the DRN said the chairs were being used for behavioral purposes.

From April 27 to 29, the Pennsylvania Department of Education "did a tour, then they did staff interviews, parent interviews and reviewed 35 students' records," said Kerri Bloom, director of special education for Pennsylvania's Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12.

Bloom's position with the intermediate unit means she has a supervisory role for the Franklin Learning Center. The Franklin Learning Center is jointly owned by the Chambersburg Area, Greencastle-Antrim, Fannett-Metal, Tuscarora and Waynesboro Area school districts.

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The parent-teacher group met last week and further discussed the inspections process, Bloom said. Parents continue to write letters of concern, she said.

"The parents are very supportive," she said. "We haven't had any children taken out of the center."

Bloom said it could be a few weeks until the education department's findings are released. The 35 records, from the center's 200 students, were chosen at random by investigators, she said.

The school year is wrapping up "very much business as usual" with dances, a fishing derby and a school fair, Bloom said.

The Franklin Learning Center, on Loop Road, serves students ages 3 to 21 with physical, developmental and behavioral needs in a public education system. It employs more than 100 people, including teachers, occupational therapists, psychologists and speech therapists.

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