Parents MY CHILD'S SPECIAL NEEDS
Parental Partnerships Facilitated by the Office for Civil Rights

Parental Partnerships Facilitated by
the Office for Civil Rights

Background

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR has three responsibilities:

  • Resolving complaints of discrimination;

  • targeting reviews to resolve serious compliance problems; and

  • providing technical assistance to educate the public about equity issues.

OCR has found that the best way to resolve problems is through collaboration. We seek to empower parents by encouraging school districts to involve parents and community members in the resolution of equity issues. We believe that parents who understand their children’s rights and responsibilities in school are more likely to be involved in their children’s education and better able to advocate for equal educational opportunity.

In the last several years, OCR has worked with schools, communities, and parents to ensure equal access to high-standards learning. Through our collaborative efforts, we have facilitated parent partnerships with school districts and community organizations that have contributed to strong civil rights compliance. Some of these success stories are described below. We hope they encourage you to work in your community to promote equal access to educational excellence.

Success Stories

Illinois

Wheeling Consolidated School District #21 - To strengthen its partnership with the parents of English language learners, the District formed three new Parent Action Committees in September 1999. This effort to reach out to a broader spectrum of parents of English language learners was part of a resolution of an OCR review of the District on the issue of the provision of equal educational opportunity for national origin minority English language learners. This initiative has resulted in positive benefit to over 1,300 students. The District sponsored informal, family-friendly activities in the community to give newcomer parents the opportunity to acquaint themselves with teachers and other school staff and then created new Parent Action Committees for the Polish-bilingual, Russian-bilingual, and ESL programs. These committees work with District staff on such issues as improving effective communication with parents of English language learners, recruitment of ESL and bilingual staff, and evaluation of the programs for English language learners. The new ESL program Parent Action Committee is working closely with District staff to translate documents for its low incidence language populations. The cooperation between the District and the PACs ensures that all stakeholders will have a voice as the District restructures its ESL and bilingual programs. For further information, contact the Chicago Office at 312-886-8434 or by e-mail at OCR_Chicago@ed.gov.

Indiana

Muncie Community Schools - The parent of an African American student praised OCR’s work in Muncie, especially the effort to promote greater parental involvement in school decisions. She proudly reported that her child was now enrolled in the middle school Honors program and receiving straight A’s. This success story had its origin in 1999 when OCR and the Muncie Community Schools sponsored several meeting with parents and community members to inform them about the provisions of an agreement that the District had adopted to resolve OCR’s review. The resolution of the review, which focused on the issue of equal access for minority students to participate in the District’s gifted program and upper level courses, positively benefited over 600 students. Many parents of African American students attended these meetings. Given the success of the early meetings with parents and community members, the District formed a broad-based committee to consult on the future restructuring of its gifted and upper level programs. The committee includes students, parents, and community leaders, including the head of the local NAACP chapter, District administrators and staff. For further information, contact the Chicago Office at 312-886-8434 or by e-mail at OCR_Chicago@ed.gov.

New Mexico

New Mexico State Department of Education – Helping students with disabilities gain equal access to educational programs and services is the common goal of the partnership with the Denver Enforcement Office, Parents Reaching Out (PRO), and the New Mexico State Department of Education. The partnership was the seed of an idea first planted in March 1998 when OCR and PRO gave a joint presentation at a statewide conference on "Strengthening the Family-Professional Partnership." The goal of this partnership is to enable the parents of students with disabilities in New Mexico to advocate confidently on behalf of their children and resolve their problems as early as possible. Through formal and informal training and regular contact with PRO, parents learn how to participate actively at school meetings about their children’s needs and learn when to request a due process hearing to resolve disputes. Parents are also better able to present their concerns to their districts or to the New Mexico State Department of Education. The partnership also empowers educators to advocate for students to resolve concerns quickly. The strength of this partnership is now demonstrated by the feedback from PRO parent advocates and satisfied parents who report success in obtaining services for their children and resolving problems about their children’s education. New Mexico school districts are also requesting that PRO provide training for their staff, recognizing the value of prompt dispute resolution. This increased communication among all parties helps resolve many of the problems of students with disabilities in New Mexico at the lowest level possible in record time. For more information, contact the Denver Office at 303-844-5695 or by e-mail at OCR_Denver@ed.gov.

New York

New York City Parent Training Initiative - Minority parents are now engaged in active partnerships with local advocacy organizations and productive dialogues with local school officials in several New York City community school districts, including Districts 1 and 2 in Manhattan, and District 30 in Queens. Minority parents serving on district committees and school leadership teams have a more effective voice in decisions affecting their children’s education as a result of OCR’s parent training initiative. This initiative has positively benefited over 450 students.

Through earlier investigations of the New York Public School system, OCR knew that African-American and Latino children were typically the most likely to end up in restrictive special education placements. Their parents, many of whom had limited English proficiency, often lacked information about their children’s rights and available program options. OCR partnered with several advocacy organizations, including Sinergia and Advocates for Children, to offer training for these parents. At each forum, OCR explained its complaint procedures, special education regulations, and the provisions of previous settlement agreements between OCR and the New York City School system which require that parents receive notice about important district policies and procedures, including registration for special programs and/or schools. The forums were simultaneously translated into Spanish through the use of headsets, seamlessly communicating with all parents about the tools they need to ensure their children have access to equal educational opportunity. As a result of these meetings, in several districts, a collaborative approach to solving problems has been adopted that gives parents the opportunity to voice concerns and play an active role in making decisions affecting the quality of their children’s education. For further information, contact the New York Office at 212-637-6466 or by e-mail at OCR_NewYork@ed.gov.

Oxford Academy and Central School District - The District has empowered its Diversity Task Force to promote respect and tolerance in its schools and prevent harassment and to resolve a parent’s complaint of racial harassment at Oxford Academy. Members of the Task Force now include parents, community organizers, and a representative of the local NAACP in addition to teachers, students, and administrators. This resolution has positively affected over 500 students. A Multi-Cultural Consultant from SUNY Binghamton Center for Education and Social Research facilitates the Task Force meetings to encourage an open dialogue. The Task Force has developed an ambitious plan that includes three key activities aimed at improving the school climate. First, members have begun reviewing the district’s anti-harassment policies and procedures and have made a commitment to amend any that are inadequate and to continue such reviews on an annual basis. Second, the Task Force has recommended creation of a conflict resolution/peer mediation program. Third, members developed training for staff and students and recommended curriculum changes to address diversity issues. The Task Force has already distributed its diversity training materials to all staff and is currently developing a survey form that will be distributed to all the students of the District to understand their differing perceptions about race and class issues. In response to the Task Force’s initiatives, Oxford Academy has formed a diversity club for its students. For further information, contact the New York Office at 212-637-6466 or by e-mail at OCR_NewYork@ed.gov.

Ohio

North Olmsted City School District - The District has reached out to the parents of English language learners to seek their help in developing a handbook that explains the services available to students. This effort will meet a mutual goal of the parents and District staff to ensure that English language learners and their parents have sufficient information about the school, its programs, and existing educational opportunities. This partnership between the parents and District was part of a resolution of an OCR review focused on equal educational opportunity for national origin minority English language learners. The handbook will be published in the 1999-2000 school year and will positively benefit over 100 students. After its publication, the parent group will meet periodically to monitor the District’s implementation of various procedures discussed in the handbook. For further information, contact the Cleveland Office at 216-522-4970 or e-mail OCR_Cleveland@ed.gov.

South Carolina

Saluda County School District – Minority parents now have a voice in shaping changes to the district’s policies and practices as a result of an OCR mediated agreement between the NAACP and the school district. The agreement resolves a complaint concerning allegations of discriminatory application of discipline sanctions, employment discrimination, and different treatment of minority disabled students. Parent members of the NAACP have reported that they now feel they are partners with the district in solving problems affecting their children’s education. While members of the partnership have not been able to resolve all the conflicts within the district, the parties now have a constructive model for working through their differences. Minority parents will continue to play a role in reviewing changes to the district’s policies, the effectiveness of the implementation of new procedures, and the development of diversity training for staff which will positively benefit all 2,500 district students. For further information, contact the Atlanta Office at 404-562-6350 or e-mail OCR_Atlanta@ed.gov.

Virginia

Appomattox County Public Schools – Parents, African-American ministers, and members of the local NAACP now meet regularly with District staff to discuss the racial climate in school, the discipline of minority students, and other educational concerns. The catalyst for this ongoing dialogue between the community and the District was a meeting convened by OCR as part of the investigation of a complaint alleging racial harassment. To resolve the complaint, the District agreed to develop a clear and comprehensive racial harassment policy, revise procedures for investigating and resolving such complaints, and train its staff and students on the new policy. Recognizing their mutual goal of ensuring that all students can learn in a safe school environment, District representatives and community members have formed an informal partnership and begun an open dialogue that positively benefits all 2,350 students in the district. The District’s newly developed racial harassment policy has been widely distributed to parents, and the District has provided information to the community about the racial climate in each of its schools. Parents were also invited to the racial harassment training. As a result of the District’s greater openness, African-American parents now report feeling more welcome in the schools. A key member of the local NAACP speaks positively about the early successes of the partnership with the district, noting that he and parents have attended quarterly meetings with the District Superintendent to discuss other positive changes that parents would like to see happen in the schools. Both the District and NAACP report increased parental involvement at school meetings. For further information, contact the District of Columbia Office at 202-208-2545 or e-mail OCR_DC@ed.gov.

Washington

Peninsula School District - Parents and other community stakeholders will help shape the District’s policies and practices to promote a positive educational environment for all students as a result of a voluntary resolution OCR obtained to resolve a parent’s complaint about racial harassment in one of the District’s high school. This agreement positively benefits over 9,000 students. Key provisions of the agreement with OCR include training for students, staff, teachers, and administrators to increase awareness and recognition of racial harassment and applicable laws, the negative effects of racial harassment on the educational process, and strategies for dealing with such behavior. The training design will be shaped by students, parents, other community members and district staff to ensure a broad spectrum of opinion on the issue and will emphasize awareness of cultural and racial diversity in American culture. For further information, contact the Seattle Office at 206-220-7900 or by email at OCR_Seattle@ed.gov

 

Resources

If you want to see the schools in your community improve and also want to help your child accomplish more, the following resources may be useful. Many of these organizations maintain web sites that provide additional information.

I. National Organizations with Parent Involvement Programs

Center for Law and Education (CLE). CLE works to bring about school- and district-wide change across the country in order to improve educational outcomes, particularly for low-income students. CLE developed CAPS (Community Action for Public Schools), a national network of people working to improve the quality of public education and stronger parent involvement policies. CAPS members receive telephone advice and referrals that help them with individual student problems. Telephone advice lines provide tailored help and advice for people who are trying to change schools in the areas of: 1) Title I and standards-based reform efforts to improve academic achievement; 2) high school reform efforts to improve both academic and vocational quality for all students; and 3) parent and student involvement in school reform efforts. This website includes information about Title I as a tool for parent involvement and the educational rights of students with disabilities. Contact: Center for Law and Education, 1875 Connecticut Ave. Suite 510, Washington, DC 20009. (202) 986-3000 (voice) (202) 986-6648 (fax)

Families and Advocates Partnership in Education (FAPE). The Partnership is a new project which aims to inform and educate families and advocates about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997. FAPE is the creation of Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) and 11 other organizations along with 20 community groups and expert consultants. FAPE’s Weekly Newsline is in Spanish and English. The web site has links to parent centers as well as information about promising practices and success stories. 1-888-248-0822

National Coalition for Parent Involvement In Education (NCPIE). NCPIE is dedicated to developing effective family/school partnerships in schools throughout America. The NCPIE mission is to advocate for the involvement of parents and families in their children's education and to foster relationships between home, school, and community that can enhance the education of all young people. NCPIE focuses on various approaches: 1) families and schools as communicators; 2) families and schools as supporters; 3) families and schools as learners; 4) families and schools as teachers; 5) shared governance; and 6) families and schools in collaboration with communities. This website offers materials for developing family/school partnership policies, an online resource catalog, and has links to family/community organizations, government agencies, and higher education research sources. (703) 359-8973

National Coalition of Advocates for Students (NCAS). NCAS is a national education advocacy organization with 22 member groups in 14 states that works to achieve equal access to a quality public education for the most vulnerable students. Focusing on kindergarten through grade 12, NCAS informs and mobilizes parents, concerned educators, and communities to help resolve critical education issues. NCAS has several projects including the "Mobilization for Equity," an effort to train parents and community members on strategies for achieving equity in their schools, and the "National Asian Family School Partnership Project," which supports Asian family and community involvement in local schools. The NCAS web site includes downloadable materials in various languages and links to other education advocacy organizations. Contact: National Coalition of Advocates for Students, 100 Boylston Street, Suite 737, Boston, MA 02116. (617) 357-8507.

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY). NICHCY is a national information and referral center that provides information on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals. NICHCY's information specialists are available to speak with parents and others about their area of interest or concern. NICHCY also provides referrals to other organizations and sources of help – disability organizations, parent groups, and professional associations at the state and national level. Some information on this website is in Spanish. The website includes a comprehensive listing of resources by state. Contact: NICHCY, P.O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013. 1-800-695-0285

National Network of Partnership Schools. The Network of Partnership Schools brings together schools, districts, and states that are committed to developing and maintaining comprehensive programs of school-family-community partnerships. This site includes information on promising partnership practices, answers to frequently asked questions, publications, and links to other partnership sites. For other information, contact: Johns Hopkins University 3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 200; Baltimore, Maryland, 21218. (410) 516-8800 (voice); (410) 516-8890 (fax)

National Parent Teachers Association. PTA’s Building Successful Partnerships Initiative is a multifaceted program focused on increasing awareness and implementation of the National Standards for Parent /Family Involvement Programs. Almost 200 PTA leaders are available to conduct workshops and give presentations on parent involvement and the National Standards. The website includes a list of local PTAs. Contact: Director of Public Relations, National PTA Headquarters, 330 N. Wabash Avenue, Suite 2100, Chicago, Illinois 60611. 800-307-4782 (voice) or (312) 670-6783 (fax)

PACER Center. The Pacer Center, a nonprofit Minnesota statewide organization begun in 1977, now offers 20 major programs, including Parent Training programs, programs for students and schools, and technical assistance to parent centers both regionally and nationally. Its mission is to improve and expand opportunities that enhance the quality of life for children and young adults with disabilities and their families. PACER's programs help parents become informed and effective representatives for their children in early childhood, school-age and vocational settings. Through knowledge about laws, resources and parents' rights and responsibilities, families become better equipped to work with agencies to obtain appropriate services for their children. The website includes a comprehensive listing of parent training centers and community groups throughout the nation, links to related organizations, and answers to frequently asked questions. 1-888-248-0822

Parent Assistance Coordination Center (PACC)/Parent Information Resource Centers (PIRCs). The PACC has been in existence for just over a year. Its most urgent goal is to provide technical assistance to the PIRCs to help them develop as significant stakeholders in the rapidly expanding field of parental involvement. One of the goals of PACC is to identify and develop best practices among the PIRCs and other parental involvement providers in an effort to establish a resource network that will promote and provide parents with up-to-date materials on parenting issues. (303) 820-5624

Parents for Public Schools, Inc. (PPS). Founded in 1989 in Jackson, Mississippi as a local organization, Parents for Public Schools today has more than 50 local chapters across the country - all seeking unique solutions to their local challenges. PPS encourages parents to become involved in policy making and governance and to hold school districts accountable for producing better schools. Contact: 1520 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39202. 800-880-1222 or (601) 354-1220 (voice) or (601) 353-0002 (fax). PPS has a select list of local affiliates.

Public Education Network (PEN), Local Education Funds (LEFs). PEN’s mission is to create systems of public education that result in high achievement for every child. PEN believes that improving public school systems is the responsibility of parents, individual citizens, and whole communities. PEN’s local education funds are tax-exempt, nonprofit, community-based organizations that work to improve student achievement for all children attending public schools. A LEF convenes key players in the community, administers innovative school programs, brokers resources, awards grants, and enhances the visibility and value of the public schools. Independent of the school districts they serve, LEFs are organized as ongoing community organizations with professional full-time staff and a board of directors reflective of the communities they serve. The PEN website has a list of LEFs. (202) 628-7460

Quality Education for Minorities Network (QEM Network). The QEM Network is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to improving the education of all minorities. QEM Network sponsors a community outreach and leadership development program that includes training for parents. Contact: Executive Director, 1818 N Street, NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20036. 1-800-487-5319 (toll-free); (202) 659-1818 (voice); or (202) 659-5408 (fax)

II. National Organizations Providing Useful Information for Parents

ASPIRA. The ASPIRA Association, Inc. is a national nonprofit organization devoted to the education and leadership development of Puerto Rican and other Latino youth. This website provides information on its state and local programs, public policy advocacy, leadership development, partnerships, and links to useful resources. Currently, ASPIRA has offices in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico. Contact: ASPIRA Association, Inc., 1444 I Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005. 202- 835-3600 (voice), (202) 835-3613 (fax).

National Community for Latino Leadership, Inc. (NCLL). NCLL is a coalition of local and national leadership development programs. Its web site contains a national leadership directory and links to related research and leadership resources for parents and others. (202) 721-8290

National Urban League. Founded in 1910, the National Urban League is a nonprofit, community -based social service and civil rights organization headquartered in New York City, with 115 affiliates in 34 states and the District of Columbia. The mission of the National Urban League is to assist African Americans in the achievement of social and economic equality. The National Urban League emphasizes greater reliance on the unique resources and strengths of the African-American community to find solutions to its own problems. Through its affiliate system, the National Urban League, serves more than 2 million individuals each year. The affiliate chapters are listed on the website along with other resources. (212) 558-5300

 III. Local Organizations

Coalition for Quality Education. The Coalition for Quality Education is a community-based, grassroots organization, acting as an advocate with and on behalf of Toledo public school students, their families, and schools. Particular attention is given to students and families who are least served by school systems because of their race, socio-economic condition, geographic location, or special needs. Contact: Coalition for Quality Education, 1702 Upton Avenue, Toledo, OH 43607. (419) 537-9246 (voice) or (419) 537-7102 (fax).

The Connecticut Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). The PLTI seeks to enable parents to become leading advocates for children. The PLTI offers leadership training for parents to help them understand how school systems function and how decisions are made within the public policy and budget domains. PLTI sites are located throughout Connecticut and in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Contact: The Commission on Children, 18-20 Trinity Street, Hartford, CT 06106 (860) 240-0290 (voice), (860) 240-0248 (fax).

Education for Parents of Children with Special Needs (EPICS Project). EPICS is a parent training and information center designed to provide assistance directly to Indian parents and families in the central New Mexico communities of Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties to facilitate their active involvement in meeting the special educational needs of their children. EPICS provides training and advocacy assistance to professionals as well as parents and develops parent training publications and videotapes. Contact: Southwest Communication Resources, P.O. Box 788, Bernalillo, NM 87004. (505) 867-3396 (voice).

Fiesta Educativa, Inc. Fiesta Educativa assists Latino and Spanish-speaking families with disabled persons who reside in urban and rural areas. Its website contains information about parent training, local chapters in California, and links to other websites on disabilities. Contact: Fiesta Educativa, Inc., 3839 Selig Place, Los Angeles, CA 90031; (323) 221-6696 (voice) or (323) 221-6699 (fax)

Institute for Responsive Education, Boston Parent Organizing Network (BPON). BPON is a citywide initiative whose mission is to become the catalyst for the emergence of a strong and diverse parent/community voice that focuses on support and advocacy for the improvement of the Boston Public Schools. Contact: Institute for Responsive Education, 50 Nightingale Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115. (617) 373-5922 (voice).

North Carolina Education and Law Project (NCELP). Established in 1992, NCELP seeks to improve public educational opportunities and outcomes for low-income and minority students in North Carolina. The Project is nationally recognized for: producing legislation to reduce class size in primary school grades; improving parental involvement in schools; and researching issues such as alternative education, best practices for elementary education, and ability grouping and tracking. The Project's North Carolina Parent Education Studies Program builds the capacity of low-income parents to become actively involved in public school governance. Contact: NCELP, P.O. Box 28068. Raleigh, NC 27611. (919) 856-2150 (voice) or (919) 856-2175 (fax)

Parents Union for Public Schools in Philadelphia, Inc. Parents Union for Public Schools, founded in 1972, is an independent, citywide membership organization for parents. Its mission is to involve, organize, and empower parents to advocate effectively for their children. Its programs include: a Parent Resource Center, Special Education Advocacy Assistance, General Advocacy, Parent Organizing Assistance, and Truancy and Dropout Prevention. Contact: Parents Union for Public Schools in Philadelphia, Inc., 311 South Juniper Street, Room 200, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 546-1166 (voice) or (215) 731-1688 (fax).

Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc. (SPAN). SPAN is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering families, professionals, and communities interested in the well-being and educational rights of children in New Jersey. SPAN provides information, training, technical assistance, and support to families. Its multi-faceted programs, which include individual advocacy and technical assistance, parent and professional development, and research and public policy advocacy, are carried out by a bilingual, multiracial staff, composed primarily of parents. Contact: Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, Inc., 35 Halsey Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102. (973) 642-8100 (voice) and (973) 642-8080.

IV. State and Federal Government Programs Promoting Parent Involvement

National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators (NAFEPA). NAFEPA members at the local level serve as points of contact on Title I for parents, school districts and community members. Among other activities, NAFEPA members make the benefits of federal education programs fully and freely available to all eligible children and promote continuing in-service education for all persons involved in federal education programs, including parents and volunteers. NAFEPA has a list of local Title I contacts on parental involvement. (916) 686-7712; http://www.nafepa.org

Partnership for Family Involvement In Education (PFIE). The Department of Education created PFIE in 1994. PFIE’s mission is to increase opportunities for families to be more involved in their children’s learning at school and at home and to use family-school-community partnerships to strengthen schools and improve student achievement. PFIE offers resources, ideas, funding, and conferences relevant to family involvement in education. PFIE partners commit to increasing family participation in children's learning through a variety of activities and efforts which include student- and family-friendly policies at the workplace, before- and after-school programs, tutoring and mentoring initiatives, and donations of facilities and technologies. The website includes a list of the partners. 1-800-203-5494; http://pfie.ed.gov

Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Centers (T.A. Alliance). The T.A. Alliance is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, to serve as the coordinating office responsible for parent project centers. Parent project centers have been created in each state to provide training and information to parents of infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and professionals who work with such children. This website includes a parent center directory and links to sites of interest to parents centers. Contact: http://www.taalliance.org

The National Parent Information Network (NPIN). NPIN is a project of the ERIC system, administered by the National Library of Education in the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed and maintained by two ERIC clearinghouses: the ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City; and the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Materials included in the NPIN Virtual Library have been reviewed by staff for reliability and usefulness. Publications, brochures, and other materials that are merely listed in the Virtual Library may not have been reviewed and are included only for information purposes. Contact: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Children's Research Center, 51 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820-7469. 800- 583-4135 (voice/TTY), or the ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, Institute for Urban and Minority Education, Main Hall, Room 303, Box 40, 525 W. 120th St. New York, NY 10027-9998. 800-601-4868, email: lry2@columbia.edu. Useful information on Illinois can be found at http://www.npinil.crc.uiuc.edu/map

 


 
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Last Modified: 05/12/2005