OCR & Discrimination: Dismissal Times for Special Ed Students

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I had an interesting question from CB. I’ll post my response to her – many of you may have the same concerns.

Here’s the background.

She has two children with autism. In her state, each county operates a “Special Services School District” for children with disabilities. Her older son attends a county run school (technically a public school), but out of the district specialized schools and has a 5.5 hour day.

Buses off-load the children five minutes AFTER the start of school and children are dismissed five minutes BEFORE the official end of school due to “transportation” issues.

Her younger son is taught in our hometown’s school district in an inclusion class and he has a 6.5 hour school day, with the children in their seats at the 9 am start time and not loaded on the bus until after the close of school at 3:30. His school is in compliance with the law.

Even though the specialized school is out of the district, it is still a public school.

Does this public county school have to have the same 6.5 hour instructional day that is afforded to the younger son who is educated within the district?

We are forming a group of parents to take action and have been reading about the VA Beach City Public Schools and the suit that PIER brought about regarding earlier dismissal times for special education students.

I’m not the attorney in the Wright family, but do have knowledge about the VA Beach case.

What happened –

In general, the Office of Civil Rights is looking for practices that are different for a group of people, based on their disability.

If the public school provides 5.5 hours a day to children with disabilities who attend a special ed program or a special ed school, but provide a 6.5 hour “full day” to children who attend regular public schools, you have a good chance at prevailing IF you structure an OCR complaint properly.

The Virginia Beach parents attempted to resolve the problem with the school administration without success. They conducted observation of when the buses left, and this was their evidence that kids with disabilities were sent home early. They provided their observations (evidence) to OCR which meant OCR did not have to come to VA Beach and spend time gathering evidence – this made it easier for OCR to rule in their favor.

See Is It Legal to Send Kids with Disabilities Home Early?


Although OCR continues to find that this practice is discriminatory, many school districts continue to do this.

Depending on the state you are in, OCR has offices and investigators in different regions of the country.

If a group of parents decides they may want to pursue this issue, I recommend that you contact one of the people involved in the Virginia Beach case to get their advice on how to structure your complaint, and other things they learned.

  1. Due to concerns of eloping; especially when school is dismissed, May a parent request in IEP that their child with moderate autism be allowed to dismiss at a much quieter location or away from the masses of children leaving the school at the same time?

    • Yes, that makes perfect sense.
      In a written request, include your concerns about what will happen if your child is dismissed at the same time a mass of other students are dismissed. If you have an example of what has happened, be sure to include it in your request.

  2. I just found out my sons middle school at parent teacher conference were not following his IEP. School knew about it and had not told me and changed his whole schedule and all of his teachers the next day! I went to one of the districts heads of special Ed. He looked on the computer and said they owed my son compensatory time because of not getting services his grades really dropped from last year! Someone please let me know what I need to watch out for I do not trust the school now they really let my son down and knew and did not inform me!

  3. We brought this up numerous times with our district in CO. After we filed a complaint along with other issues, the district was able to fix a early dismissal from school. This happened the most in High school, than middle school and not at all in elementary school. It seems to be more convenient for transportation and the schools just do what the busses tell them to do! it took us 2-3 years to resolve this.

  4. We have kids in my son’s school who are basically told if they misbehave at school, they will be sent home. These are kids who have some sort of disability, regardless if they are on an IEP/ISP/504 or not.
    So, to answer your question, they have freedom of speech, and have probably not legally done anything wrong. On the other hand, if the person is an ESE Specialist, they should have better tools than threats to keep a child’s behavior in-line.
    The above is why we will probably switch totally out of the public/private sector and go traditional homeschool after this year. My one child will loose his IEP services, but I cannot stomach the behavior at the private school any longer and our public schools are some of the worst in the state academically.

  5. I want to know can a ESE Specialist tell a disabled child that he will be handcuffed, arrested and thrown in jail if he is found wandering. My son has autism and noise can become overstimulating causing him to look for quieter spaces.

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