Office for Civil Rights
2000 Annual Report to Congress
OCR Makes A Difference in the Lives of Students
Statistical information throughout this report furnishes important indicators of the effectiveness and efficiency of OCR's compliance program. However, it is also important to understand the profound influence the program is having on the lives of people, at all educational levels, across the country. Below are examples of how OCR is making a difference in individual lives.
"You did an excellent job in helping me and I appreciate all that you have done. Thank you!"
May 15, 2000, e-mail message from a
ADDRESSING DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION
Categorical Exclusion of Disabled Students
Students with disabilities must have equal opportunity to participate in academic and extracurricular activities. OCR resolved several cases where students were denied opportunities solely based on their disabilities.
"I wanted to thank you for all of the help you have provided for [my son's] placement ? So often we only make demands on people, but we don't let them know how much they are appreciated when they use their abilities to help others overcome what seems to be an intolerable situation. I just wanted to thank you for doing that for us."
November 9, 1999, letter from the parent
A parent of a student in a high school choir who uses a walker and wheelchair was told that the student could not go on an out-of-state trip with other choir members unless the student's parent accompanied him. Through OCR's Resolution Between the Parties process, the district and parent reached an agreement that allowed the student to participate in the field trip without the parent attending by assigning a staff member to assist the student where necessary.
A policy of another school district kept a student off the honor roll because he was enrolled in a special education math class. OCR's consideration of the complaint established that special education students had been categorically excluded from all award and recognition activities. Under an agreement negotiated with OCR, the district agreed to work with parents in designing a program to recognize the academic accomplishments of special education students.
"You [OCR investigator] made them change their attitude and they can no longer discriminate against a student with a disability who is educated at home. You?created change and for that, I say, 'God Bless You.' "
July 31, 2000, letter from the parent of a
A school failed to provide a disabled student with behind-the-wheel driver training, as provided to students without disabilities. Through OCR's intervention, the parents were reimbursed for fees and transportation costs for services provided by a private driver training school.
In another complaint, a student was not selected for a work-study position because of being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus. The university also made a prohibited pre-employment inquiry regarding the student's health. The student turned to OCR for help after trying unsuccessfully to use the university's internal grievance process. The university later agreed to give back pay to the student, issue guidelines for selecting work-study students, and provide training on pre-employment inquiries.
Student with Diabetes
A parent of a student with a severe form of diabetes alleged that his son was denied education services and excluded from school for disciplinary reasons due to complications from his disability. The district agreed to develop and implement a medical management program for the student's diabetes, provide compensatory education services for the period of exclusion, and modify disciplinary procedures to ensure the student is not disciplined for issues related to his disability.
Cutbacks in Therapy Services
"[OCR attorney] did an excellent job in her mediation meetings? The Superintendent and myself were truly impressed by her expertise and her knowledge. She established a good rapport with the complainants and with us. I really think that our meetings have brought reconciliation with the district and the family."
May 12, 2000, letter from
One of OCR's enforcement offices received 16 separate complaints that a school district cut the number of therapists under contract by 20 percent. The complainants felt that by cutting these therapy services, students with disabilities were adversely affected. Additionally, complainants alleged the district made these changes without holding individualized education program (IEP) meetings. After being contacted by OCR, the school superintendent expressed interest in resolving the complaints. The district agreed to provide compensatory therapy services during the summer break to all students who did not receive services due to the cutbacks. Students unable to receive compensatory services during the summer will be provided such services during the 2000-01 school year. A parental advocacy group stated the complainants were very satisfied with the way OCR handled the complaints and estimated about 3,000 students will benefit from the resolution.
A substitute teacher performed his duties without incident. Another teacher noticed the substitute teacher's visual impairment and complained to school officials. After the objection was raised, the substitute teacher was never called back for the remainder of the school term. The district later acknowledged that the visually impaired complainant was qualified to serve as a substitute teacher and gave him back pay.
In another case, two staff members were fired in retaliation for advocating on behalf of students with disabilities. OCR's intervention resulted in the district making settlement payments to the two employees.
ADDRESSING RACE, COLOR, AND NATIONAL
A school suspended a minority student for fighting but took no action against a white student who also was involved. Through OCR's intervention, the district signed commitments ensuring that disciplinary sanctions would be administered without regard to a student's race. The district also agreed that prior to taking disciplinary action, it will afford a student an opportunity to explain circumstances surrounding the incident. The district later expunged the disciplinary records in the student's file.
English Language Learners
A comprehensive resolution agreement was reached that will provide about 50,000 English language learners the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the education programs of one of the nation's largest school systems. As a result of OCR's cooperation with the district, about 1,700 bilingual and English as a Second Language teachers received training to better identify and instruct students who speak 62 different languages. The training and program services, according to the district's recent assessment, are allowing students who are learning to speak and understand English to outperform other students when they return to the regular education program.
"I am pleased to inform you that through the positive and collaborative efforts of [OCR investigator], resolution of the case has been made possible. [OCR investigator] established a trusting relationship with the parents and was able to bridge productive communication between the district and the family."
February 11, 2000, letter from a school district's Coordinator of Special Education
A parent alleged that members of a white supremacist group subjected her son and members of her family to racial slurs and death threats. At the end of the school year, a death threat was made against all African American students at her son's school. The mother felt her concerns were not taken seriously by school or law enforcement officials. After OCR's investigation, the district signed a comprehensive plan aimed at preventing and responding to incidents of racial harassment and safety. This included re-evaluating campus security measures and providing programs in race relations for all students and employees. Also, students injured by racial harassment will be offered psychological counseling.
Minority Students and Special Education
A state department of education entered into a resolution agreement after OCR completed a compliance review on minority students in programs for the educable mentally handicapped (EMH). The agreement addresses racial disparities in the EMH program. The state will establish a process for all school districts to monitor referral rates based on race for special education evaluation and target technical assistance to school districts that show a significant overrepresentation of minority students in EMH classes. The state will issue a memorandum to school districts recommending that nonverbal supplemental tests be used in assessing the intellectual functioning of students with language deficiencies. The EMH evaluation procedures also will be revised to include parental input in assessing a student's adaptive behavior. These initiatives will have an impact on 28,500 students in the state.
In another compliance review, OCR found that African American students who were referred for problems were more likely to be classified as mentally retarded, while white students were more likely to be classified as learning disabled. OCR also found that African American students spent more time in self-contained classes for the mentally retarded than white students. OCR identified many African American and white students who should not have been placed in special education classes. The district is now addressing these issues in its compliance agreement.
A complaint also was resolved alleging that African American students are inappropriately placed in emotionally handicapped classes and retained when services are no longer required. The district entered into an agreement with OCR to review the screening and evaluation process used in placing students in classes for the emotionally handicapped. The district will collaborate with universities and other urban districts to identify best practices and strategies that can be used. The agreement affects the 3,682 students currently in the district's emotionally handicapped program.
ADDRESSING SEX DISCRIMINATION
Student Health Insurance
A college's student health insurance plan omitted coverage for pregnancy and based premiums on a student's sex. After a complaint was filed with OCR, the college satisfactorily demonstrated that the plan now provides coverage for pregnancy and requires identical tri-annual premiums for male and female students.
OCR found that a school system was operating mentoring programs only for the benefit of male students. When this was pointed out, school officials agreed to reformulate its "Youth Leadership Program" to include both male and female students in its mentoring programs. Also, all students will be offered equivalent resources and support.
Sexual harassment violates Title IX when it establishes an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment that interferes with the ability to benefit from a school's program. OCR received a complaint alleging that a female high school student was subjected to sexual harassment by other students. A comprehensive settlement was negotiated in which the district agreed to discipline the students engaged in the harassment and to adopt a policy that defines and establishes penalties for sexual harassment. The district also made commitments to investigate incidents of sexual harassment promptly and train staff and students on its newly adopted policy.
In a midwestern state, about 3,000 girls are now competing on 156 high school ice hockey teams. The association governing interscholastic athletics scheduled the girls' state tournament in a facility inferior to the facility provided for the boys' ice hockey tournament. After OCR notified the association that a complaint had been filed, the association explored options for providing an equivalent facility for hosting the girls tournament. This included arranging to use what is considered an exceptional competitive arena at a large state university and publicizing the event through television and other media outlets.