O.C.R. Scores Early Win In Special-Ed. Dispute

November 21, 1990 4 min read

The Education Department’s office for civil rights has won a preliminary skirmish in its legal battle with the DeKalb County, Ga., school district, by ensuring that the case, which challenges the o.c.r.'s authority to investigate certain special-education complaints, will be decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

The school district had sought to have the case heard in Washington, but o.c.r. officials said U.S. District Judge Louis Oberdorfer ruled in their favor.

The 11th Circuit Court is expected to rule soon on the district’s request to halt the termination of its federal funding, a decision that will determine whether the district can go ahead without risking at least $7 million that it stands to receive this year.

If the DeKalb district did not win a stay and ultimately lost the case, the district would not be able to recover this year’s funding, o.c.r. officials said. District officials have said they would cooperate with the o.c.r. rather than lose the money. If they could obtain a halt of termination from the court for the duration of the trial, however, they could decide to cooperate afterward and lose nothing.

The case involves complaints by DeKalb parents about the district’s refusal to place their handicapped children in residential facilities.

The district argues that the Education of the Handicapped Act is the sole vehicle through which parents may contest the placement of disabled children, and the o.c.r. may not properly investigate such complaints as violations of civil-rights law. The district further argues that it does not have to cooperate with a probe that it believes oversteps the o.c.r.'s jurisdiction.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to review a decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a case involving political-campaign activity by the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

The teachers’ union prompted questions from the state elections board when it announced a paid in4tern program to mobilize support for weac-endorsed candidates for the state legislature. The elections board warned the union that the interns’ activities could constitute campaign contributions under state law. The elections board also told the union that certain expenses for communicating with weac members could be considered contributions under the state campaign law.

Although no penalty had been assessed against it, the union went to court, arguing that its rights had been violated. But a state circuit court dismissed the complaint, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals found the case to be moot. The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed the appeals court’s finding.

Gilbert D. Roman, named last month as director of the Bush Administration’s Hispanic-education initiative, has resigned.

Mr. Roman, an official in the Education Department’s office for civil rights for more than a decade, said last week that he left the department for personal reasons.

Richard Marquez, who advises Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos on dropout-prevention issues, has been named acting director of the Hispanic-education initiative, which includes a White House advisory council. (See Education Week, Oct. 24, 1990.)

The Pell Grant program is facing a potential $145-million shortfall for the 1991-92 school year, according to a preliminary estimate by the Education Department.

Final figures on the program will not be issued until early 1991, however.

A department spokesman said that such a shortfall would lead to the elimination of grants averaging $225 to 71,000 of the least-needy students, and the reduction of 1.2 million grants by $100. About 2.2 million of the neediest recipients8would not be affected.

The Education Department agreed last month to insure $500 million in student loans formerly held by savings and loans that are now insolvent.

A press release issued by the Resolution Trust Corporation, the company established by the government to handle the transfer of assets from failed savings and loans, said that the department’s willingness to guarantee the loans will enable the rtc to sell the loan portfolios quickly.

The rtc will continue servicing the loans until they are sold, according to the agency. But the department determined that not selling the loans or selling them at a low price would cost the corporation more than it would cost the department to insure the loans.

The eligibility of some loans for insurance by the department may have lapsed while the rtc assumed control of the loans, but that will not affect the loans under the agreement between the corporation and the department.

The Education Department has issued a new guide to help schools, businesses, and community groups develop mentoring programs.

The booklet gives directions for recruiting and maintaining volunteers and profiles several successful programs. Most mentors, the booklet suggests, help children and adolescents with their schoolwork and career planning and also provide positive adult role models.

Copies of One on One: A Guide for Establishing Mentoring Programs, will be distributed nationwide to business and community leaders and school-volunteer coordinators. They are also available from the U.S. Education Department, opbe, Room 4049, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202-4110.

A version of this article appeared in the November 21, 1990 edition of Education Week as O.C.R. Scores Early Win In Special-Ed. Dispute