OCR Complaint & Getting the School to Apologize

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(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

  1. Wow, I have been getting a crash course over the last few weeks in what is available for my child through a 504 plan. She is in the 8th grade. She is diagnosed with ADHD, Bi-Polar I, and General Anxiety Disorder. I feel that the GAD is a direct result of her experiences in this school during the 5th grade year. At that time she had a Bi-Polar diagnosis, the school knew it and they knew she was on medications and not adjusting well. NO ONE mentioned the available help. Since then they are well aware that she is now on 6 medications with the other documented diagnosis. I came across the 504 information when looking at parent rights over a different issue, with the school. What happened to the ‘childfind’ mandate in this situation? And are they liable for the elevated expenses we have had due to not getting available help?

  2. Pingback: Section 504 – Civil Rights Law, Protection from Discrimination | SpecialEdAdvocate.org

  3. Wow…the part of the experiencing discrimination as a white male part blew me away. He is fortunate to have such a perceptive person as a parent and advocate. My five year old has autism and both she and her six year old sister attend IEP meetings with us. We feel it is important for them to know why we are meeting and for them to be a part of the IEP team. When my daughter began having serious behavior problems after two years of services, her five year old sister told us to “listen to her and her sister because they are part of the team and want to help”

  4. I am the grandmother and guardian of a 14 year old boy. He has been diagnosed with ADHD, Bi-polar, ODD. I feel that he has not gotten an education for the last 3 years. I was ill and recovering and not really able to keep up with what was happeneing to him in school. This past year, I started in September to get him extra help. What He and I heard from the team of teacher was that he could do the work but he just didn’t want too. I ask for an ARD, I asked for a co teacher. Someone or something to help him. Finally in the end of November they had and ARD. I requested testing, he had not had any since the 4th grade. We had another ARD in December still no testing scheduled. Another in January, finally they gave me the papers to sign for the approval. The testing didn’t happen until febuary. By this time the school year is half over. The boy had given up and started having discipline problem. Spent most of the last couple of months in the pass class or ISS. What other resources are out there for him? Where else can he go to school to get an education? I am single on disability. I can’t afford a private school. All I have pushed for is an education for this child. What are my options?

  5. Your OCR Complaint and Freedom of Information Act

    We filed a Complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) during the 2007-08 school year. After the mediation process was completed, I filed a request for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The information I obtained was helpful and very educational. This is something you may want to do.

  6. I have a question. Let’s say that a parent proved failure to provide a FAPE, and got compensatory services, the only stipulation was that the parent sign a confidentiality agreement. I know this confidential agreement this is done all the time. However, in this agreement besides confidentiality, the parent also signs away the child’s civil rights. The thing is worded that the parent cannot persue due process and that the parent in the name of the child cannot aue in civil court under section 504, IDEA or the ADA from the time that the school district did not provide a FAPE until the time that the parent signed the agreement. It even lists specific job and political positions of people “employed” by the school district and their predecessors whom can not be held “liable” Since education is considered property according to Goss vs. Lopez (75) and life liberty and property cannot be taken away according to the constitution of the US (5th and 14th amendments) can that parent sign away the child’s right to due process or any other rights?

  7. I read that same NY Times article. We wanted an apology from the director of Special Ed after she filed a due process against us despite the overwhelming evidence that the program our son was in was not appropriate.

    It never happened.

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