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BOW:  My student was disenrolled on registration day in August by her parochial school because of her language-based learning disability. We were told that the school was directed to do this by the Catholic Archdiocese in our community. Since that time, parents of students with dyslexia have been in touch to tell me that their students have been put on probation and that outside assessments were not allowed. I have also learned that the Catholic archdiocese is collecting Title 11 funds. Is there a possibility that it is in violation of the Civil Rights Act?

  1. When private schools accept this money, they have to obey important federal anti-discrimination laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794) prohibits discrimination based on disability. Under this law and the relevant federal regulations, schools must ensure that students with physical and mental disabilities receive an appropriate education, including accommodations to help with special needs. Private schools receiving federal funds can’t exclude qualified students with disabilities or charge them more, as long as only “minor adjustments” are needed to provide an appropriate education. (Section 504 is separate from the IDEA, which applies only to public schools.

    You may also have a breach of contract case as well.

    • Thanks for this update. In our case, we received no real help from the OCR even though it informed us that the local Archdiocese had several civil rights complaints against it. The OCR did not answer some key questions for us and closed the case. I called our US Senator’s office and discussed my questions with the civil rights specialist on staff. My understanding is that the US Senator’s office escalated the complaint to the DOE and assured me that this situation “would never happen again”. However, our US Senator’s office would not share what what action it took specifically and how it or the DOE pursued an action against the Archdiocese. I also understood from our US Senator’s office that the school and Archdiocese violated state education policy as well.

  2. If you have networked with other parents the area in a similar situation, use that networking to truly empower yourself and your kids and also obtain much needed resources. Carefully research Wrtightslaw as parents of kid with dyslexia have become very creative and you will read our stories and gain strategies. My bottom line when my child was in school was to go with the “right fit” and the school that WANTS my child to attend and has the resources to support my child’s education so my child can make progress. Private schools have their own culture. Children know when they are not learning and are on task with their peers.

    • Thanks for the reply. As far as I know, there are 2-3 federal offices involved with our original complaint which was sent to the OCR. The OCR closed the complaint . However, it may have been re-opened because our senator’s office escalated an inquiry about violation of 504 law to the US Department of Education. Have not gotten a formal opinion on the inquiry and I do not know what the DOE did. We were told that our Archdiocese violated state policy as well. Don’t know the consequence. We found a school which was a better fit.

  3. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. There are 2 laws that prohibit disability discrimination – Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Title II of the ADA applies to private entities, except those run by religious entities – so this wouldn’t apply to your situation. Section 504, on the other hand, applies to any entity that receives federal financial assistance – like monies for USDA free/reduced meals and ESEA Title I & II programs.

    Without all the facts, I can’t say if discrimination has occurred. But I do encourage you to contact your local OCR enforcement office for assistance: https://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm.

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