The Department of Justice says it has reached a settlement with a Florida school district after officials there were caught sending disabled children home, and running other “systemic and discriminatory practices” that punished the handicapped.
The case involved the Volusia County School District.
“Students should never be denied their education on the basis of disability, and we will not yield until the full measure of rights guaranteed by the ADA is a reality for all,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to enforcing the law to make sure schools meet the needs and respect the rights of all their students.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Karin Hoppmann of the Middle District of Florida said the school cooperated with the investigation and now “has committed to the successful implementation of our agreement.”
The DOJ investigated – under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act – after the U.S. attorney’s office there got a complaint from a local legal aid organization on behalf of several students, many of whom have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“The complaint alleged that VCS unnecessarily excluded students with disabilities from the school’s education programs and services by regularly: (1) requiring parents or guardians to pick up their children with disabilities from school or to keep them home; (2) disciplining students for behavior resulting from their disability; and (3) engaging with law enforcement to remove students with disabilities, one as young as kindergarten age, from school,” the DOJ explained.
The federal government’s announcement about the case revealed the investigation “substantiated the allegations,” determining that the district “had excluded students with disabilities from its programs and services through unnecessary removals from the classroom.”
The district also failed to incorporate behavioral supports, it said.
Sometimes school officials even called law enforcement over behavior related to disabilities, to the point of misusing the state’s Baker Act, which allows involuntary detention of a person with a mental illness for up to 72 hours.
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