ED PERFORMANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY
Office for Civil Rights
Annual Report to Congress FY 2004

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Examples of OCR Case Resolutions

Across the country, OCR’s enforcement program is having a profound influence on the lives of students at all education levels. Following are some examples.

Making Academic Adjustments for Students with Disabilities

A student with neurological disorders was denied a request for academic adjustments in order to reduce distractions while taking examinations. The college resolved the complaint by designating a location for administering examinations for all students who, because of their disability, need a separate facility to take examinations. The college also agreed to post a sign to ensure students are not interrupted while taking examinations.

“I wish to express my appreciation to the people that handled my son’s case.… [T]hey assured me that they would make sure my son’s accommodations would be followed. I knew they really cared. Thank you for having these kinds of people available to care for kids who have come out on the short end of the stick. I’m eternally grateful.”

Oct. 27, 2003, letter from
complainant after OCR completed investigation

Extending Housing to Older Students

A 40-year-old student was informed that university housing was reserved for students up to 22 years of age. The university resolved the complaint by providing housing to the student.

Disciplining Students Without Regard to Race or National Origin

The parent of an African American student alleged that her son was given a detention for being late to school while two white students, who also were tardy on the same date, received no sanction. OCR learned that the students involved were on their way to school in the same car when it ran out of gas. While the school was alerted immediately of the situation by the parents of the white students, it received no notice regarding the African American student. After sharing the information and discussing the circumstances, the assistant principal advised the parent that her son did not have to serve the Saturday School detention and that all records related to the incident would be expunged from the student's file.

In one school district, OCR found that Hispanic students were required to attend a meeting and sign contracts accepting more severe disciplinary sanctions than those normally imposed. White students with similar school conduct records were not required to attend. In response to OCR's findings, the district sent a notice to all parents in English and Spanish about using the district's discrimination complaint procedures. Parents of the students who attended the meeting also received letters expressing regret and outlining steps the district will take to prevent a recurrence.

Protecting Students from Disability Harassment

OCR found that a district failed to take action when informed that a disabled student was harassed during football games. The district resolved the complaint by developing grievance procedures addressing disability harassment and later trained staff and students on the new procedures. The district's disability harassment policy and procedures are now contained in student and staff handbooks.

Assigning Students Without Regard to Race

A class complaint alleged that African American students were discriminatorily assigned to low level ability grouped classes. In investigating the complaint, OCR found the district's placement criteria were inconsistently applied resulting in a majority of African American students placed in low ability groups without sufficient educational justification. The district agreed to revise its ability grouping procedures so that students are assigned in a nondiscriminatory manner.

OCR's investigation of a complaint against another school district found intentional segregation of African American kindergarten students. Before each school year, the school principal selected approximately 20 African American children from the pool of new kindergarten students and established an all African American class taught by the district's only African American kindergarten teacher. School administrators offered no legitimate nondiscriminatory educational justification for the establishment of the racially segregated class or its assignment to the school's sole African American teacher. Instead, OCR was informed the class was established in response to requests from African American parents and as an attempt to prevent “white flight.” The district made commitments to immediately assign students on a basis other than the race of the student or teacher.

“Once again I am writing to give you the status of my son and to thank you for all you have done to make his life a success. In the fall, he finished all of his class requirements. This semester he is interning at a newspaper… He completed his courses with a 3.1 GPA. He has never gotten anything below a B- since his freshman year! His overall GPA went from a 0.9 at the end of freshman year.… You gave him the chance to achieve this success, and we are forever grateful.… He has found his way in life, and you gave him the opportunity to do this. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We can’t say it enough.”

Jan. 25, 2004, letter from parent whose
complaint was resolved by OCR several years ago

Eliminating the Effect of a School Attendance Policy on Students with Disabilities

A district's policy allows for adding three extra points to a student's average grade per quarter if a student has perfect attendance. The complainant alleged her daughter was adversely affected by this policy because of her asthma. Although the district questioned whether the daughter was disabled, it had not conducted an evaluation. The district agreed to evaluate the student to determine whether she had an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, and, if so, whether reasonable modifications could be made to give the student an equal opportunity to benefit from the attendance policy.

Communicating with Parents Who Do Not Speak English

A school district discriminated against parents of national origin minority students with limited English proficiency by failing to communicate information about their children in a language they could understand. The complaint was resolved based on the district's commitment to establish interpreter and translation services and other parent communication procedures. The procedures ensure that the district's communication of information to national origin minority parents is as effective as its communication with parents who speak English.

Communicating with Visually Impaired Students

A complainant alleged that a university discriminated against a visually impaired student by sending him letters about his financial aid that he was unable to read. Under the agreement OCR negotiated, the university assigned an employee in the financial aid office to reformat outgoing correspondence to the complainant in a font size at least as large as that determined appropriate for written materials in the complainant's classes. The university also provided a page magnifier so that the complainant could review promptly any correspondence from the financial aid office that inadvertently is missed during the manual review.

Another OCR investigation at a state university determined that visually impaired students did not receive requested alternate format textbooks in a timely manner. In several instances, the complainant had to withdraw from classes because textbooks were not available. The university made comprehensive commitments to ensure that visually impaired students have timely access to textbooks. This includes an improved tracking system so students know the status of their requests.

Eliminating Shortened School Day for Students with Disabilities

Transportation scheduling resulted in a shortened school day for 140 students with disabilities. OCR's investigation showed that some students were denied as much as one hour of daily instruction. Under its resolution agreement, the district altered bus transportation schedules so that no student was denied access to a full school day. The district also provided compensatory services for the students who were affected by previous transportation schedules.

Providing Students with Disabilities Equal Access to a Childcare Program

A parent requested a personal aide for her son, who has Tourette's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to permit his access to a childcare program. The school district did not act on the parent's request for an aide or consider another reasonable accommodation. This resulted in his termination from the program because of behaviors manifested by his disabilities. As a remedy, the district established a process for responding to all requests for accommodations and will apply the process to the student.

Providing Necessary Services for Students with Disabilities

A mobility-impaired student was forced to withdraw from driver's education because the district did not provide an automobile with hand controls and an instructor trained in their use. After discussing the matter with OCR, the district outfitted a car with hand controls and obtained the services of an instructor from the physical therapy department of a medical center, who trained the student in using the equipment. The district also informed OCR that the student's learning permit, which was suspended while she was not participating in the driver's education program, was reinstated. The complainant confirmed, after the district provided the accommodations, that his daughter was able to participate in the road instruction portion of the driving course.

Removing Discriminatory Pre-Admission Inquiries from Admission Applications

An applicant was denied admission to a school district's adult and continuing education program based on a response to a question regarding disability on the admissions application. The district deleted the question from the application and granted admission to the complainant.

“For more than a decade, the female students at [the high school] have been ignored, neglected, and lied to.… They were forced to settle for not less but nothing, while the boys sports programs were given anything they need. The response when you asked someone in charge was ‘we’ll look into it.’ The response when you asked a parent of a female athlete was ‘there’s no hope’… OCR solved years of frustration.… For the first time this year, our girls will have adequate and equal facilities. We had been prepared to settle for substandard just to get anything. God bless you.”

E-mail message from parents
at a high school, Jan. 12, 2004

Improving Athletic Facilities for Female Athletes

A complainant alleged that a university was failing to treat female and male student athletes equally in the provision of practice and competitive facilities. OCR's on-site investigation revealed that the interior walls of the women's swimming pool had significant decay, which could present health and safety risks to the team's participants. The swimming facility was the only campus athletic facility that lacked adequate seating arrangements for spectators. The women's soccer field was the only competitive facility without a scoreboard. Also, the women's soccer team practiced on the same field used for competitions. The added wear and tear placed on the soccer field during practices affected the quality of the field available for competitions. The on-campus outdoor tennis courts were not available to the women's tennis team because of the courts' poor quality. As a result, the team had to practice during inconvenient evening hours at two off-site facilities. Also, the women's soccer field was inadequately watered and the women's softball field was never watered, which diminished the quality of the playing surfaces available to those teams. When reviewing the athletic program as a whole, OCR found that these disparities consistently disadvantaged the university's female athletes and were substantial enough to deny them equal athletic opportunity.

Based on OCR's findings, the university agreed to repair and install spectator seating in the women's swimming facility and install an electronic scoreboard for the women's soccer field. The university ensured that the women's soccer team has access to a separate practice area that adequately met the team's practice needs. Under its agreement, the university also implemented a schedule for the equitable maintenance of all outdoor practice and competitive facilities and will resurface or replace the on-campus outdoor tennis courts.

Making Programs Accessible to Students with Disabilities

An individual with a disability may not be excluded from an educational program because an institution's facilities are inaccessible or unusable by individuals with disabilities. OCR investigated a complaint on the accessibility of more than 1,500 portable trailers a district uses for regular classrooms. OCR substantiated that all of the trailers lacked ramps and accessible entrances , and also fell into the "new construction" provision of the Section 504 regulation. Additionally, we found that the programs housed in each of these trailers were used to provide educational programs which were not otherwise available in an accessible location. Therefore, all of the trailers were required to meet new construction accessibility standards. The district made commitments to either eliminate the portable trailers or make them accessible to students with mobility impairments.

Students experienced serious problems because a university was not meeting accessibility standards. An undergraduate student had problems entering her dormitory and reaching the card readers to access vending machines. On one occasion, facilities staff bumped her scooter down the stairs to evacuate her from a building because they were unaware of how to transport the scooter. Another student who uses a wheelchair had to wait four months before the university installed a shower seat, hose, and handrails in his dormitory's bathroom. Students in wheelchairs had to be carried while trying to obtain services at the health center.

OCR obtained a compliance agreement that ensured that the campus is fully accessible. The university agreed to a plan ensuring students with mobility impairments access to its programs and activities. Also, the university provided training to all administrators and its student life and disability services employees about Section 504 requirements for accessibility of existing facilities and newly constructed or altered facilities.

Ensuring Emergency Treatment for Students with Diabetes

A mother of a student with diabetes alleged the district was in violation of the disability laws by not designating trained individuals to administer glucagon in the event the school nurse is not available at the time of an emergency. The district's policy permitted only registered nurses to administer injections but designates a partner nurse at each campus to fill in during an emergency. The resolution agreement required the district to provide specific information and guidelines on the use of the partner nurse. These include communication procedures between the school campus and partner nurse and a protocol for contacting the parent and the emergency medical system and for monitoring response time.

Assuring Students Are Not Placed in a Racially Segregated Educational Setting

A complainant alleged a school discriminated against her son and approximately 70 other third- and fourth-grade African American students by treating them differently on the basis of race. She alleged the students were taken from their classrooms, placed in a racially segregated setting, and given their test scores on the state's assessment test. The test results showed lower scores for African American students compared to white students. The vice principal confirmed that he talked to the African American students without any nonminority students being present. He stated the purpose of the meeting was to encourage African American students to improve their scores. The students were told if they performed better in future tests, they would each be rewarded with a popsicle.

Under Title VI, no person on the basis of race shall be subject to segregation or separate treatment in any matter related to the receipt of any service or benefit. The district submitted assurances that it will not segregate African American students on the basis of race in any educational setting and will treat all similarly situated students the same. Also, the district agreed to write to parents, staff, and students explaining the incident and providing assurance that this type of action will not occur in the future.

Ensuring Opportunity for Students with Disabilities to Participate in School Graduation

A mother was informed that her son, because of his disability, would not be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony the same as other students. Instead, the student would be seated with his parents and his diploma would be handed to him. The decision was based on the opinion of a special education teacher that the student would not be able to participate in the ceremony without difficulty. The complaint was resolved after the district reconvened the student's individual education program team to determine the full extent and manner in which the student could participate in the graduation ceremony.

Ending Racial Harassment of Minority Students

A complaint alleged that a school district neglected to prevent and end racial harassment of African American and Hispanic students at a high school. The complainant stated that the district permitted a hallway where only white students were allowed to walk, discriminated in enforcing its dress code, and retaliated against the complainant for reporting incidents of racial harassment. OCR participated in detailed discussions and facilitated an agreement whereby the school district consented to conduct school and community forums to improve racial harmony and enforce disciplinary rules prohibiting racial harassment, including offensive conduct.

“I am sorry to say that many of the parents will never know how you have made a positive difference in the way their children will be treated in the future. You are a piece of a puzzle that has been interlocked with others so that children and their rights will be protected. I understand this is your job, however it is your integrity I admire the most.”

Aug 30, 2004, letter sent by
complainant to an OCR enforcement office


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Last Modified: 11/01/2007