The Seattle Times article “Invisible Schools” highlights the complication and difficulty of supporting students who have struggled in traditional public high schools and who may have emotional and behavioral challenges.

The good news is that about twenty-five Washington State-approved private schools partner with School Districts to provide the needed one-on-one attention for academic and emotional success. These dedicated approved private schools have excellent teachers and deliver positive outcomes for the children and School Districts. In addition to being approved private schools, they are considered nonpublic agencies for their work with public school students.

Unfortunately, the article’s authors grouped approved private schools with private organizations which focus on helping students with severe emotional and aggressive behavioral issues. These organizations are also doing vital work! However, according to the article, there have been some cases of overuse of isolation and restraint. By lumping approved private schools in with these special programs, the reader is left believing the misinformation that private schools need more oversight. Private schools do not require more oversight.

Preempting the article, a “watchdog” organization called Disability Rights Washington (DRW) aggressively approached our schools, demanding access to children, staff, and files. With time, resources, and patience, our highly skilled Principals are helping DRW learn the nature of private schools, recognize the distinction between private schools and private organizations, and strategize on how the State can increase their support of ALL NPAs – private schools and private organizations.

WFIS is working with the State Board of Education, OSPI’s special education department, the approved private school NPAs, and DRW to sort out how best to move forward. Together we can educate the public about how approved private schools improve the educational opportunities for all students in Washington. The Seattle Times article may not be as accurate as we would like. Still, it spurred interest in how private schools support students and initiated more dialogue between state agencies and departments around students with special needs.