Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Head Start Suspension Denounced; Pastors Show Support for Urban League, Which Has Appealed to HHS

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Head Start Suspension Denounced; Pastors Show Support for Urban League, Which Has Appealed to HHS

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

The federal Administration for Children and Families, which supervises Head Start programs across the country, has upheld the Jacksonville Urban League's suspension as a provider of the school readiness program.

As a result, the Urban League "will continue to be summarily suspended indefinitely from operating Head Start and Early Head Start for Jacksonville," wrote Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, in a July 1 response to area pastors who had sent letters of support for the Urban League.

The April suspension, which cited child health and safety issues, was upheld after a June 6 hearing at the Administration for Children and Families' Atlanta regional office.

The Urban League has appealed to a Health and Human Services departmental appeals board, Earl Johnson Jr., a Jacksonville attorney representing the Urban League, said during a news conference Tuesday.

A hearing on the appeal is expected to be scheduled in Washington within the next few weeks, he said.

Johnson said he would argue that the suspension violated the U.S. Constitution, federal code and Head Start regulations because there was no due process, or prior notification or hearing.

"We had no opportunity to be heard" before or at the time of the suspension, he said.

Head Start is for low-income families with children beginning at age 3; Early Head Start is for children up to age 3. About 2,000 children are in the local program, which has been run by the Urban League for 17 years.

In April, the federal government halted the Urban League's $15.2 million grant to operate the 24 local Head Start centers. The government put a Denver-based contractor, Community Development Institute, in charge of Head Start.

The suspension stemmed from "serious ... violations that threatened the safety of children, including multiple repeat instances of leaving children unsupervised or releasing them to unauthorized adults, multiple instances of using physical discipline and injuring children and issues of facility disrepair," Fuentes wrote in her letter. …

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