The Seattle Times article “Invisible Schools,” initially printed in late November, caused unnecessary stress for private schools. The report made no distinction between approved private schools that act as NonPublic Agencies (NPAs) and health organizations that are NPAs. Therefore, the comment that private schools need more oversight was incorrect and misleading

What is an approved private school NPA?

Private schools can apply to OSPI to become an NPA. As an NPA, they partner with Districts to support students with special needs, primarily academic but sometimes behavioral. About 25 private schools are also NPAs. Taking care of students at approved private schools that cater to children’s unique needs is a fantastic asset to the school system.

What happened that put NPAs into the newspaper?

Some NPAs use restraint and isolation to help mitigate violent or harmful behavior. However, the complaints mentioned against NPAs in the paper were not made against approved private schools. Moreover, most approved private school NPAs do not use isolation or restraint.

Who oversees the NPAs?

The approved private school NPAs have the oversight of the State Board of Education, OSPI’s Special Ed Department, and the Districts with whom they work.
Another troubling part of the story
An organization called Disability Rights Washington (DRW) is writing legislation to create more “oversight” for private schools. Unfortunately, the initial contact with this organization caused a high level of stress for Heads of Schools. DRW sent a threatening letter to several of our schools. In the letter, they claim to have the power to show up at any of the schools, videotape and take pictures, interview children, and have unfettered access to all student and school files. Needless to say, their initial approach to working with our schools was damaging.
In response, the schools were forced to retain legal counsel. The school leaders spent weeks preparing their communities for an unwarranted inspection. Their workdays and the students’ school days were interrupted by a 4-hour visit by DRW. None of the schools we spoke to, who received the letter, had any complaints made against them.

What is the private school response?

WFIS is working with the State to clarify best practices, outline the relationship between schools and DRW, and shed light on any issues that need to be addressed. We are also learning more about potential legislation so we can help craft appropriate levels of oversight to keep children safe while giving parents as many options as possible to help their children be successful in school.