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.
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.