A closed building of Stone Academy in West Haven. After the nursing school abruptly closed on Feb. 15, educational plans of hundreds of students are left in limbo. Attorney General William Tong launched an investigation into potential violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by the for-profit organization in February. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is seeking a second court order in his investigation of Stone Academy, claiming the former nursing school and its officials have not provided all requested data and documents.

“Full compliance with a state investigation is not optional. Stone cannot pick and choose which records to turn over, or where to search,” Tong said in a news release. “Stone took millions in tuition from students who poured countless hours away from their families and jobs to become nurses. We are putting everything we’ve got into this investigation, and will not hesitate to throw the book at any and every one responsible for this tragedy.” 

Tong launched the state investigation after the school’s abrupt closure in February for alleged violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Tong’s office says the school has partially complied with the civil investigative demand, which asked for Stone’s records regarding tuition, marketing practices, faculty qualifications, accreditation materials and student complaints. 

However, Tong argues the school’s compliance with the full investigative demand “remains deficient in several important areas.”

The school has not provided “responsive materials from non-stone.edu servers and devices,” has failed to “identify the search terms used to gather responsive documents,” and has not given the state its minutes for “regular meetings on issues bearing on Stone’s operations,” Tong said.

In early April, Tong issued a court order against Stone’s owner Joseph Bierbaum and trustee Richard Scheinberg after claiming they ignored civil investigative demands regarding their knowledge of the school’s academic and financial records.

Tong’s office said that enforcement order remains pending in Hartford Superior Court and that the attorney general had tried to “secure compliance from Stone without resorting to a court order.”

“Last month he sent a letter to Stone’s attorneys identifying various deficiencies and demanding a full and complete response. Stone remains out of compliance, leaving the Office of the Attorney General no option but to seek a court order,” the office said in a news release.

Perry Rowthorn, the attorney representing Stone Academy, argues that the attorney general should instead focus his efforts on “the harmful and unlawful conduct of the Office of Higher Education.”

“[The Office of Higher Education] required Stone to close with just two weeks’ notice, [refused] to permit a teach out for current students, [is] holding students’ transcripts hostage for months and now [is] conducting an illegal audit to disenfranchise students and graduates of legitimately earned academic credits,” Rowthorn said. “Stone will keep the focus on protecting its students and graduates, and we urge the Attorney General to do the same. Stone has cooperated extensively with this investigation – producing nearly 100,000 pages of documents to date – and will address the minor issues raised in the Attorney General’s filing in court at the first informal conference on June 15.”

The nursing school closed its doors in February amid questions about its examination passage rates, faculty qualifications and clinical training and has left about 850 students in limbo after the Office of Higher Education seized the students’ transcripts for an audit of the academy’s records to determine the validity of its coursework.

Last week, eight former Stone Academy students and their attorneys announced they plan to file a class action lawsuit against the school.

Jessika Harkay is CT Mirror’s Education Reporter, covering the K-12 achievement gap, education funding, curriculum, mental health, school safety, inequity and other education topics. Jessika's experience includes roles as a breaking news reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Hartford Courant. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Baylor University.