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 Home > News > Alert! Class Action Suit Filed Against California Dept  of Ed Over High-Stakes Testing (May 9 2001)

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State exit exam discriminates, lawsuit alleges


Published Wednesday, May 9, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News 

"In unprecedented action that could eventually affect hundreds of thousands of disabled students statewide, Disability Rights Advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday against California's Department of Education, challenging its high school exit exam, which they say discriminates against those with learning difficulties."

"The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, charges that the exam discriminates because it provides no alternate assessment, no procedure for requesting accommodations and no process for appeals. The suit claims the exam tests disabled students on material that they have never been taught. As a result, the lawsuit says, the department has ``created chaos and confusion.'' The lawsuit seeks corrective action to remedy these alleged flaws in the system . . .."

"In addition to the state Department of Education and Superintendent Delaine Eastin, the suit, specifically, names Fremont Unified School District and its superintendent, Sharon Jones. One of the three student plaintiffs, 13-year-old Juleus Chapman, attends Fremont's Hopkins Junior High School."

The suit was also filed on behalf of the Learning Disabilities Association of California.

At an Oakland news conference, Juleus and 13-year-old Jennifer Lyons, another of the plaintiffs, said they expect problems when they take the test next year.

Juleus said he suffers from dyslexia and dysgraphia, the latter a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to write words legibly in a defined space over a normal time frame. Like other students with these disabilities, Juleus has a modified curriculum that allows him to use a laptop computer and calculator during regular tests.

But Juleus and his mother, Monique Chapman, said they were told by Fremont school officials that he would not be able to use any special accommodations on the tests. They were not provided with information on how to appeal, they said . . .

Disability Rights Advocates, an organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities, allege the exit exam was hastily developed and flagrantly violated the rights of disabled students -- 80 percent of whom they estimated will fail the exam, with profound, disastrous effects on their lives . . .

A similar lawsuit filed in Oregon by the Disability Rights Advocates was recently settled after the state agreed to adopt recommendations of an expert panel that led to improvements on testing students with learning disabilities . ."

Full text of article in Mercury News. 

News Release from the Learning Disabilities Association of California

Update From Wrightslaw: On February 21, 2002, Judge Charles R. Breyer issued a preliminary injunction in Juleus Chapman, et. al. v. CA Dept of Education, et al., requiring California to provide accommodations for learning disabled students who take the California High School Exit Exam in March, 2002.

Judge Breyer found that ". . . the March administration of the CAHSEE is likely to violate rights guaranteed to learning disabled students under federal law . . . The Court has crafted an injunction that protects the rights of learning disabled students without derailing the State of California's efforts to improve education in the state." Download injunction as pdf file
or text file

Do No Harm: High Stakes Testing and Students with Learning Disabilities

When settlement was reached in the Oregon case, Disability Rights Advocates published Do No Harm: High Stakes Testing and Students with Learning Disabilities

Do No Harm  analyzes the issues surrounding high stakes testing and students with learning disabilities, the legal implications of these tests, and safeguards that are needed to protect the rights of learning disabled students.

More Resources About High Stakes Testing 

Letter to Wrightslaw:  Are Children with Disabilities Required to Take State-Mandated Tests?

Provisions in IDEA 1997 Related to Students with Disabilities and State and District-wide Assessments published by Office of Special Education Programs, U. S. Department of Education, August 24, 2000.

Qs & As about IDEA, Students with Disabilities and State and District-wide Assessments. "Family friendly" version of OSEP Memorandum about assessments; 26 questions and answers about parental permission, role of IEP team, accommodations and modifications; alternate assessments, out-of-level testing, accountability, and more.

Do No Harm: High Stakes Testing and Students with Learning Disabilities. from Disability Rights Advocates (DRA). Analyzes issues surrounding high stakes testing and students with learning disabilities, including the legal implications of such tests and the safeguards needed to protect the rights of learning disabled students. 

List of Appropriate School-Based Accommodations and Interventions for a Section 504 Plan or IEP by Rebecca Chapman Booth from National Attention Deficit Disorder Association. 

Pass the Test or No Diploma: High Stakes Graduation Testing and Children with Learning Disabilities by Paul T. O’Neill, J.D., Wilkie Farr & Gallagher.

Books About Special Education Law & School Law  

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law by Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. Reviews

The Law of Schools, Students, and Teachers in a Nutshell (Nutshell Series) by Alexander and Alexander.
"This book covers school law in a clear and concise manner; language is easily understood; should be on the desk of every teacher who is concerned about the welfare of children." Information about The Law of Schools

What Do I Do When: The Answer Book on Special Education Law by Susan Gorn.
Clear answers to hundreds of questions about legal rights & responsibilities, from eligibility, evaluations, IEPs, procedural safeguards, discipline, more. Excellent resource for parents, educators, advocates and attorneys who want to learn more about special education law. More info about The Answer Book on Special Education Law.

For more books about special education law and legal issues, visit the Law Section of the Advocate's Bookstore

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Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
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Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
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Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
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