Equity & Diversity

Disability Issues Take the Lead in Record-Setting Years for Civil Rights Complaints

By Christina A. Samuels — May 07, 2015 1 min read
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Disability issues made up close to half of the complaints received by the U.S Department of Education’s office for civil rights over fiscal years 2013 and 2014, far outpacing the next highest category for complaints, which was sex discrimination.

The figures come from a recently-released report from the civil rights office that was submitted to the White House and Secretary of Education. The report said that 19,939 complaints were filed over the two fiscal years, of which 9,941 were alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Both laws prohibit disability discrimination by public entities. Fiscal 2013 saw 9,950 complaints filed in all categories, and in fiscal 2014, 9,989 complaints of all kinds were filed.

That compares to 6,933 total complaints filed in 2010, and 5,533 complaints filed in 2005, to give an idea of the pace of the growth. But the report also states that OCR has also been resolving cases at a record pace; nearly 20,000 were closed in fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

Some excerpts from the April report describe some of the recent agreements that districts have made related to disability-discrimination complaints:

Riverview Gardens School District, Missouri: A parent alleged that the district discriminated against her son on the basis of disability (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and specific learning disability) by suspending him multiple times and causing him to miss more than 10 days during the school year without conducting a manifestation determination review. In November 2012, the district committed to develop new evaluation protocols and training for staff. Rockdale County School District, Georgia: OCR investigated an allegation that Rockdale County School District discriminated against a student by subjecting him to different treatment when he was removed from a college readiness/preparatory program called Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID), and by informing the complainant that students with disabilities were not allowed in the program. In a resolution agreement signed in April 2014, the district agreed to conduct annual training for staff, apologize to the student, and invite that student, along with other students with disabilities, to participate in the AVID program without any preconditions for enrollment; to institute related policy corrections with OCR approval; to establish new outreach protocols advertising that the program does not discriminate; and to document student selection and retention to ensure nondiscrimination. Parma City School District, Ohio: In November 2012, OCR resolved a complaint against Parma City School District following OCR's investigative findings that the district's website was not accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities using assistive technology; that students with disabilities at one elementary school were provided with emergency-related services that were different from, and not as effective as, those provided to students without disabilities; and that some of the district's schools and facilities were inaccessible to persons with disabilities. To remedy these issues, the district committed to provide a website that is accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including persons who use assistive technology (such as screen readers). The district also committed to develop an emergency procedures plan that includes students with disabilities in fire and other emergency evacuation drills, and to provide proper signage and two-way communication devices in the area of refuge at one of the identified schools.

h/t Council for Exceptional Children Policy Insider

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.