An Antioch special education school is closing after the Oakland Unified and Antioch Unified school districts removed students and withdrew funding for the school.
The districts’ actions came in the aftermath of investigations by state and law enforcement agencies into several allegations against Tobinworld II, a nonprofit special education school that serves students ages 5 to 22 with autism, emotional disturbances, developmental disabilities and learning disabilities. The charges included the possible physical abuse of a student and concerns over instructors’ credentials.
Tobinworld also operates a school in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale.
In a letter to parents this week, Tobinworld’s founder and executive director, Judy Weber, told parents of students at Tobinworld II that the loss of funding “has made it impossible for Tobinworld II to continue to operate in Antioch.”
The letter blamed “an unfortunate series of events, sparked originally by a set of false and misleading media attacks against Tobinworld II,” for the decision to cease operations on July 26.
A message left for Weber at the Glendale school, Tobinworld’s headquarters, was not immediately returned.
Weber said in the letter that Antioch Unified removed 44 students in recent weeks and Oakland Unified removed eight.
Oakland Unified said in a statement, “We cannot provide specific details about the OUSD students who have been removed nor comment on next steps for them, but we are committed to ensuring that all OUSD students receive a quality education in a safe environment.”
Antioch Unified did not respond to a message seeking to confirm the accuracy of Weber’s letter.
Problems for Tobinworld II began several years ago.
Responding to a citizen’s complaint in October 2014, the California Department of Education, which oversees private special education schools that receive public funding, suspended certification for Tobinworld II in August 2015, citing several violations, including the charge that Matthew Israel, Weber’s husband, had not been listed on state certification forms, as required by the California Education Code. The violations were rectified and certifications for the schools were approved in December.
A few weeks later, a video appeared online, showing a teacher’s aide slapping the face of a 9-year-old boy in special education. On Jan. 15, three legal advocacy groups – the American Civil Liberties Union, Disability Rights California and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund – issued a demand letter to the California Department of Education calling on the state to take action to eliminate the improper use of force on students with disabilities in classrooms across the state.
The department responded in March with a letter stating that it had investigated complaints and corrective actions had been taken.
The Bureau of Children’s Justice, a branch of the California Attorney General’s office, also listed Tobinworld in at least one subpoena seeking information bearing on “their treatment of students with disabilities.”