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Newton schools violate civil rights

Posted By Denebola On February 15, 2011 @ 7:27 am In 50th Edition,News | Comments Disabled

By Rebecca Wand,
Volume 31
May 16, 1991

The United States Office of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued its Letter of Findings on Monday, thus closing its investigation of the Newton Public Schools, which found three civil rights violations concerning special education.
A parent of several special needs students filed 10 allegations with OCR on June 14, 1990. The complaint alleged that the Newton Schools discriminated against handicapped students in violation of Federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-112).
This law protects handicapped students from discrimination and ensures they will not be denied a “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE). This education must meet the needs of special education students, as well as the needs of non-handicapped students.
The OCR investigated the matter and found the Newton Schools to be in violation in three matters: 1) the relocation of substantially separate classrooms for students with special needs in order to accommodate non-handicapped students due to increased enrollment and lack of space, 2) the grading of handicapped students differently from non-handicapped students, and 3) the limiting of opportunities for students with learning disabilities to participate in advanced courses.
On March 25, the School Committee voted to adopt the policies correcting the violations cited, and sent them to the OCR, which approved the policies.
The Newton Schools disseminated the policies to all administrators, teachers, counselors, specialists, and to the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) for Special Education, and submitted documentation of this.
The Schools will continue to be monitored by the OCR. The Letter of Findings states that “based upon this agreement, the District is presently fulfilling its obligations.”
According to administrators, the absence of formal policies in the areas of violation caused staff to be unclear on exactly how to comply with the federal law, Chapter 504, and Chapter 766, a state law.
“We needed to reaffirm our practice in the form of a policy and to clearly communicate that policy to all staff members so that everyone is fully aware of the appropriate procedure,” Assistant Superintendent of Special Needs Phil Reddy said.
“We need to better educate the teachers and help them to have a better understanding. We have to keep disseminating information to all teachers and all staff so they understand the rules and requirements of the law,” Director of Special Education for secondary schools Valerie Ardi said.

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