(Moved from the Community Helpline)
Our district allows all general education students to attend the high school of their choice in the district. But the district refused to allow our son Rob to attend the high school of his choice because he has an IEP. This policy would force Rob to attend a different school from all his friends and lose his longstanding support network.
So we filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) …
OCR found that this policy was discriminatory and that the district discriminated against Rob. OCR forced the district to allow Rob to attend his school of choice. The district also had to make significant changes to their policies and practices. We obtained help from an advocate through this process and incurred significant expenses. Can we get the district reimburse us for these expenses?
If they would apologize to Rob, we wouldn’t care about the money. Although the district signed a statement to OCR admitting discrimination, they are unwilling to acknowledge their wrongdoing or apologize to Rob.
Congratulations on the successful resolution to your OCR complaint. Regarding your desire for the district to apologize to your son – it’s not going to happen. An apology would require administrators to admit they were wrong. In many organizations (schools, hospitals, corporations) higher-ups won’t admit mistakes and won’t apologize. This refusal to apologize is a big mistake and fuels a large proportion of litigation.
Some doctors and hospitals are changing their ways. When doctors began to apologize for medical mistakes and hospitals offered reasonable compensation, the number of malpractice suits dropped like a rock. Read “Doctors Say ‘I’m Sorry’ instead of ‘See you in Court‘” (NY Times, registration required)
Convincing people to offer a sincere apology is a tough sell. You need to let this go and move on – and help your son do the same. You need to make sure that while he experienced discrimination, he does not feel like a victim.
You’re right. The district will not apologize or acknowledge that they were wrong, even though we won this discrimination case. Although this has been a difficult experience, many positive things have come out of it.
Rob learned to stand up for what he believes in. He learned that one person CAN make a difference. In the future, other students with IEPs will be not denied their choice of schools in our district. As a white male in America, it is unlikely that Rob will experience the opportunity to be discriminated against again. I say “opportunity” because this experience gave him a chance to know firsthand how discrimination hurts. We hope he will continue to advocate for himself, and for others who encounter discrimination.
For those folks who have questions about the Office of Civil Rights, read Questions & Answers About OCR’s Complaint Process at www.wrightslaw.com/info/sec504.faqs.ocr.complaints.htm
You’ll find dozens of articles and helpful resources on the Section 504/Discrimination page at www.wrightslaw.com/info/sec504.index.htm