State lawmaker to examine alleged issues at Middleborough special ed school

A state legislator with oversight over education will examine private special education schools following media reports of alleged abuse and neglect at a Middleborough institution.

Rep. Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Education said she was troubled by a recent investigation by The Eye and WBUR public radio that documented a litany of supported allegations of problems, including improper restraints, runaways and improper sexual relations between staff and students at the Chamberlain International School. The Boston-based Disability Law Center also released a report this month finding the school failed to “prevent and properly respond” to students prone to hurting themselves, failed to prevent students from running away or prevent bullying.

“It certainly raises some serious issues about policies there, supervision and accountability,’’ Peisch said about Chamberlain.

Peisch said she is going to reach out to state regulators to learn more about government oversight of private schools funded with taxpayer dollars.

Chamberlain serves more than 100 students with a range of disabilities, from autism to schizophrenia, and is overseen by the state Department of Early Education and Care and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Chamberlain officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Peisch said her concerns are particularly heightened because other Massachusetts schools serving disabled students have also faced recent scrutiny for allegations of mistreatment.  In March, the state shut down the Eagleton School in Great Barrington, which enrolls boys with mental disabilities, after five former staff members were arrested. The Disability Law Center also filed reports alleging maltreatment at the private Evergreen School in Milford and at the public Peck School, which teaches emotionally disturbed students in Holyoke.

Maria Mossaides, head of the state Office of the Child Advocate that oversees state agencies that care for children, said she is finalizing a report that should be released by the end of the year examining state oversight of residential schools.

Rep. Kay Khan, a Newton Democrat and co-chair of the Joint Committee Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, told The Eye last week that she is considering holding a hearing to listen to results of Mossaides’ report in the early spring.