When children return to school in September, there will be added excitement at the School for Language and Communication Development (SLCD) as it opens its high school in Richmond Hill following the settlement of an eight year lawsuit with the New York State Education Department (SED).
“It’s just amazing to me that really what was a dream of all these years has a reality to it,” said Dr. Ellenmorris Tiegerman, the school’s founder and executive director. “It’s been such a long battle and such a long road for all of these families.”
The school, which was founded 25 years ago in Glen Cove, serves students with language and autism spectrum disorders. About eight years ago, Tiegerman said the school was serving students through fifth grade and was looking to the future. Their plan was to move up one grade level each year.
In 2006 SLCD opened a middle school building in Woodside. As the children continued moving up the school began looking for a building for a high school and found space in Richmond Hill. But limits on programs serving students with disabilities got in the way.
Tiegerman said there was one point when a parent came to enroll their child at SLCD but had to be turned away because the school had reached the enrollment caps and SED said the school could not accept them.
“I said I would never, as long as I live, do that again, ever,” Tiegerman said.
At that point Tiegerman said she decided if the only alternative was a lawsuit, then she would sue. After eight years, the suit was finally settled on February 1 of this year.
Tiegerman gave credit to the families, saying they were courageous and brave as they fought for their children from beginning to end.
SLCD is now approved to serve 540 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The high school in Richmond Hill will have 168 students.
Some of the services that it has been approved for are speech counseling, psychological services, assistive technology, rehabilitative counseling services, parent training, school nursing services, and school health services. It will also offer vocational training.
Joe Farber, a member of SLCD’s Board of Directors who serves as their pro bono counsel, said that it will be nice to see the students show up for school in September and that he is sure they will be excited.
“It’s going to be great,” Farber said of the upcoming ribbon cutting. “It’s a long time coming.”
The goal of the school, Farber said, is to “allow [students] to get to the maximum potential they have.” For the new school year, he said he is most looking forward to seeing how far the students go.
“You absolutely want to give them that chance, and that’s what the school does,” he said.
Tiegerman said that SLCD’s new high school is a wonderful opportunity for students and that it gives them another option. She also said if students develop to the point where they can mange in public schools, they can leave SLCD.
“This remains an option for children with severe disabilities who can really not function in regular or public school settings,” she said.
As the school year approaches, Tiegerman said she has mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety as they finish getting the building ready for the students.
“It’s surrealistic to me,” Tiegerman said. “It’s still hard to believe.”
For more information about the School for Language and Communication Development, visit www.slcd.org.