Controversial Special Education School in Orthodox Enclave of Lakewood Raided in Probe
New Jersey law enforcement officers removed computers and boxes of records from a special education school with close ties to Lakewood, N.J.’s large ultra-Orthodox community, according to a report in the Asbury Park Press.
The June 29 raid was of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence was carried out by the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Justice.
A spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General’s office would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. SCHI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Forward.
According to the Asbury Park Press, law enforcement officials were seen removing boxes from SCHI offices labeled “SCHI Invoices 11-12” and “SCHI Deposits.”
Founded in 1994 by Rabbi Osher Eisenmann, SCHI provides therapeutic and educational services to 600 special needs children and young adults. For years, the school has been at the center of disputes over public funding for private special education students by the Lakewood school board. Lakewood’s public school district pays millions of dollars per year to send students to SCHI, the vast majority of them from Orthodox families.
The state’s education department reported in 2006 that it had found a pattern of racial discrimination in the Lakewood district’s referrals to special needs schools, but then retracted the report, according to the Asbury Park Press.
In 2012, Lakewood’s public schools paid $12.5 million to SCHI to place 130 students at SCHI, nearly all of whom were from Orthodox households, according to a 2015 editorial in the Asbury Park Press.
In 2013, fees to private schools for special needs children helped send the Lakewood public school district into a $4 million budgetary shortfall.
The district will pay for 199 students to attend SCHI in the upcoming school year.