Thursday, May 5, 2016

Civil Rights and Disabilities in Public Schools

Interesting and sad report! Staffing level at the Office of Civil Rights has been dropping significantly at the same time OCR complaints are at a record high (p. 8). The number of complaints over restraints and seclusion, used as a discipline measure for disabled children, is also at an all time high (p. 9). Highlights (lowlights really) from the 2011-2012 school year include: Only 50% of our country’s public high schools offer calculus and only 63% offer physics; A quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students do not offer Algebra II; a third of these schools do not offer chemistry; Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension (13%) than students without disabilities (6%); and about 40% of school districts do not offer preschool program with 57% of school districts that operate public preschool programs offer only part-day preschool (p. 16). There were about 4,800 complaints sent to the OCR in 2015 concerning students with disabilities on a 504 (p. 33). This is 46% of ALL complaints filed with the ORC in 2015 (p. 8. 33 &; 34)!!! It can take 120 to 256 DAYS to complete a case! This about this in terms of a school year. You lose most if not all of the school year to resolve the issue (p. 34). There were 1,489 complaints concerning FAPE (p. 35). These complaints include students with disabilities not being taught core subjects like math, science, and social studies because they were being pulled out for special education services.

Bullying of disabled students, with 552 complaints, was the second largest issue in 2015 (p. 36) due to schools failing to respond to bullying complaints. On October 21, 2014, the OCR issues a Dear Colleague letter and fact sheet regarding the obligation under Section 504 and Title II and their implementing regulations for schools to respond appropriately to bullying of students with disabilities. These documents clarify that if a student with a disability is being bullied, federal law requires schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring. Regardless of the basis of the bullying, schools must remedy the effects of bullying on the services that a student with a disability receives (such as special education or other disability-related services) to ensure that the student continues to receive FAPE (p. 36).

There were 214 complaints due to lack of access to programs, services, and facilities. Lack of access occurred in several school districts. One example is a school keeping students of disabilities segregated from all the other students including recess and lunch. Another case involved a school failing to have a sign language interrupter at school events after parental requests were ignored. One school district rescinded their offer for a gifted program after the district learned a child had a disability. Another school district refused to provide a registered nurse for a diabetic baseball player on travel to away games. There are too many examples to list here.

This is a very interesting read. I did not even cover all the other issues OCR covers. If you can take the time to read the report.

If you ever need to file a report, hopefully you will not, the link is below.