Students with Disabilities Face Harsher Discipline

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“Feds investigate claims that black and disabled students face harsher discipline in Richmond”

  • exclusionary and disproportionate discipline practices
  • discipline that is unfair and inconsistent
  • failure to implement positive behavior interventions
  • evaluating a student for “punishment,”  without considering his disabilities
  • suspension for minor offenses, no other alternatives available

“The U.S. Education Department will investigate allegations of discrimination against African American students and students with disabilities in Richmond [VA] public schools.”

“The investigation by the department’s Office of Civil Rights follows a complaint filed in August on behalf of two students and the Richmond chapter of the NAACP, by the Legal Aid Justice Center and the ACLU of Virginia.”

“The complaint alleged that the school system’s discipline policies unfairly punish students who are black and students with disabilities more harshly than others.”

“It cited state statistics that black students with disabilities were nearly 13 times as likely as non-disabled white students to be punished with short-term suspensions in the 2014-2015 school year.”

“The complaint also alleges that although students with disabilities made up 17.7 percent of the student population, they accounted for 29.8 percent of students who were suspended short-term and 37.4 percent of students who were suspended long-term.”

“Rachael Deane of the Legal Aid Justice Center said the complaint had been filed before the start of this school year, and unfortunately we have continued to see the same overuse of exclusionary discipline. Clients continue to stream into our office.”

OCR opened an investigation but has not yet made a determination on the merits of the allegations.

– Washington Post, April 17, 2017

More Links

Read the complaint.

Keeping Students with Disabilities in School – A Resource Manual from the Southern Disability Law Center

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I have a question regarding this article and how it pertains to my son. My son (African American) who is on the spectrum was recently suspended for 5 days and is now being charged with sexual battery for hugging a student from behind. He was never given the opportunity to explain his side of the story. He was basically found guilty before given the opportunity to prove his innocence. Also, the school officials spoke to him before they contacted me. I’m not sure how long they talked to him. He just said he was really nervous. My question is, have my son’s rights been violated?


This will depend on your state law, rules, & whether the school followed the law & their policies. I suggest contacting your state disability rights project. They can help you understand your state laws, & your options.


I don’t understand if you have a child with learning disabilities in reading writing math focus and comprehension along with a speech delay and ADHD and below test level, why would they retain a child when the teacher and the IEP team psychologist said if the child had a LD they would move him ahead with accommodations. the teacher was negative from day one until this point. the child being degraded now the teacher and principal wants to retain the child stating to the parents the child below and immature. they are going to retain the child and they will when the appeal as parents don’t win those cases. I feel the child should go forward with an aggressive plan to elevate him, as parents know their children better. It should be a parents choice to say yes or no to retention.