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School Disability Complaints Hit Record High

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Federal education officials are handling a record number of disability-related civil rights complaints in the nation’s schools.

In a report out this week, the U.S. Department of Education says that more than 11,700 complaints alleging violations of disability rights were filed with its Office of Civil Rights between 2009 and 2011. That’s the highest number ever received in a three-year period, the agency said.

The vast majority of concerns — more than 4,600 — hinged on the rights of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education, or FAPE.

Other commonly cited problems related to retaliation, exclusion/denial of benefits, academic adjustments and disability harassment, the report indicates.

Disability-related complaints accounted for over 55 percent of those received by the Education Department during the three-year period. The nearly 600 staffers in the agency’s Office of Civil Rights also investigate concerns based on race, color, national origin, sex and age.

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Comments (17 Responses)

  1. Emilie says:

    What are the thoughts on WHY there has been such an increase? Because schools are forcing students into more segregated programs? Because parents aren’t able to get relief through their state procedural safeguards? Because going to due process is so expensive that it’s not an option for most parents?

  2. hdemic says:

    There is absolutely no oversight or anyone to force the schools to do thier jobs. Federal money is not stopped. The schools know this. I keep saying the same thing again and again. They just won’t do it. Due process means nothing. There are no state procedural safeguards. The schools just won’t do it. The laws mean nothing to alot of schools and this is what is taught to our children. They just won’t do it and they know that there is no consequenses no matter what.
    Sincerely,
    hdemic
    mom o young adult in west mich.

  3. Emilie says:

    Check out OCR’s 2012 Disability Rights Enforcement Highlights
    “OCR investigates allegations of discrimination filed with our regional offices and, as needed, obtains robust remedies that address the root causes of the discrimination.”
    Robust sounds VERY good to me.

  4. Emilie says:

    hdemic, I’m also in Michigan. Multiple state complaints have found noncompliance in my district, and they have to submit a written assurance promising to try to do better next time. Completely agree that there is no consequence. Anytime a district is found out of compliance, their funding should be cut immediately. That would greatly encourage compliance.

  5. Paul Pace says:

    Just like there are many people who make a profession out of finding businesses who don’t comply 100% with access laws, there are probably MANY who are trying to win the lottery on this garbage, too! They need to put a cap on how much the parasites can win!

  6. KA101 says:

    Funding cuts certainly are threatening but I’m not sure how they improve the children’s situation: same needs, but now with less money to provide for them. Targeted cuts (say, noncompliance kills the *athletic* funding or–better–revokes a school’s eligibility to compete) might be beneficial.

    Re Paul Pace:
    Demanding enforcement of the IDEA, Rehab Act, and ADA is being “parasites”?

    Really?

    I regret that you find us inconvenient, and hope that you encounter less-hostile TABsters once you need the benefit of anti-discrimination laws. (Aging being what it is, everyone becomes “disabled” eventually. You’ll be in our group sooner or later.)

  7. Elizabeth Brown says:

    I would say that this is not half the number of complaints that should be filed because as the public schools have severely failed all the children, the children with special needs take a double dose of failure due to state cuts in education. They continue to receive money from the federal government for children with special needs and misappropriate the funds by applying it to the athletic field in order to make more money. The public school system is operating on the level of universities and colleges in the athletic field. They are knowingly and willingly denying children with special needs a Free and Appropriate Education as well as the children who are without special needs. An education delayed is an education denied…

  8. Jean says:

    Then when the OCR does come in and tells your town that they risk lose of federal funds, the town ostracizes the person who filed the complaint. Why don’t town attorneys feel that it is their ethical duty to educate about compliance?

  9. Rebel Speducator says:

    Special educators are most likely to see violations but also have little ability to do anything about it, as they are outnumbered by classroom teachers. Those who do report violations to their administrators are considered will be harassed, ignored or both, and can be fired for persisting. They are not allowed to report incidents directly to parents without violating their contract, and often it is impossible to provide evidence to outside agencies, such as the Office of Civil Rights, due to confidentiality. The system is set up to conveniently allow the people with the most power to decide whether anything “really” happened or not. This has created a dangerous atmosphere of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in an environment where instructional assistants with minimal training are being trusted to care for the most vulnerable students.

  10. Elizabeth Brown says:

    The increase in complaints could possibly be based upon the parent’s belief in the U.S. Education Department and the U.S. Justice Department to take actions in correcting the problem. During the Bush era, the parents felt they did not stand a chance in obtaining justice for their children because of the corruption in the Bush Justice Department. Assistant Attorney Generals were fired for political causes and others feared the same course of action had they rendered just cause for action on behalf of children with special needs. Although President Bush signed Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) into law on January 8, 2002, it was not enforced. It was there for show and tell or for those who were able to hire private counsel.

  11. Elizabeth Brown says:

    . The number of complaints are far greater than reported because the public schools have severely failed all the children. Many parents have not filed complaints for fear of “Other commonly cited problems related to retaliation, exclusion/denial of benefits, academic adjustments and disability harassment.” Children with special needs are subjected to double doses of failure due to state cuts in education and unwillingness to match federal funds. They continue to receive money from the federal government for children with special needs and misappropriate the funds by applying it to areas such the athletic field in order to make more money. The public school system is operating on the level of universities and colleges in the athletic field. They are knowingly and willingly denying children with special needs a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as well as the children who are without special needs. An education delayed is an education denied…

  12. gloria derosa says:

    paul,

    you need to understand that when a parent goes to due process or files a complaint you are asked what you want/what is an appropriate remedy and you list things like additional therapy time, summer school, purchase needed technology, inclusion with peers etc -things that are promised by fape law . it is not a money making proposition where parents are suing and making millions. all we want is for our kids to learn , make progress towards their goals, and get the protection/provisions promised under idea– so you need to get a GRIP

  13. George Buzzetti says:

    Is it any wonder with RTI being more commonly used by school districts? With RTI I can legally not identify and help special ed students. RTI was designed to do this and make school districts able to inter fund transfer up to 60% of the special ed catagorical federal and state funds into the general fund for any use. Not only that you cannot help or treat the special ed students and not lose the federal and state funding and also not have to keep good records. Many believe that special ed does not exist.

    With school districts nationwide having revenue problems is it any wonder that they go after the most vulnerable? Why not, it is too easy to do. These parents are already under financial and psychological stress from the extra phychological and financial needs of helping their children. They are what we call “Easy Marks.” It is only going to get worse with what is called “Flexability.” This is the code word for school districts to do anything with catagorical funding and requirements. The way that most school districts are run financially from my over 20 years of serious research is plain “fraud.” I would like to see the breakdown of these complaints as to charter schools and schools who have adopted RTI. Then we would be able to really look at this general situation. You cannot analyze any situation unless you have the broken down information. This is why I run 10 year spreadsheets with many parameters. For instance, at LAUSD in 2010-11 102,000 students or 15% did not come to school everyday for a lost revenue of over $1.14 billion. In 2002 when LAUSD had 156,000 more students than in 2010-11 only 14,500 or 2% did not come to school everyday. The total lost revenue in this period of time was over $5.6 billion and when I compared the lost employees with the lost students the numbers came up under 1%. This is what LAUSD calls the work of the “Reform Board.” This is common throughout the U.S.

  14. Dannys Girl says:

    Administrators need to be more aware of their special education programs or lack thereof and appropriation of funding needs to be better monitored.

  15. Suzanne Arena says:

    I am so not surprised. I had to resort to going to the Disability Law Center in Rhode Island because they have ignored my son’s disabilities which all stem from Dyslexia processing (Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Written Expression etc.). Schools refuse to test the 1 in 10 children (20,000+ Diagnosed kids here in RI) and as such, children like mine are left behind. There is no accounatiblity and this whole process has debilitated the family with more stress and paralyzing the harmony and onward growth that is needed.

  16. Patty says:

    AMEN…hdemic!!!!!! No accountability whatsoever!!! I say…..hit ‘em where it hurts $$$$$$. Stop funding!

  17. Patty says:

    There is nothing special about special education

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