DOJ settles with Volusia County Faculties over disabled college students being often faraway from lecture rooms
On Tuesday, August 3, the Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with Volusia County Schools “to address the district’s systemic and discriminatory practices that punish students with disabilities for their disability-related behavior and give them equal access to programs and services Refuse VCS. “according to a press release from the DOJ.
The settlement agreement states that an investigation was opened in April 2018 in response to a complaint that affected 11 students with disabilities – nine of whom were autistic – whom the district discriminated against by relying on “blatantly punitive” disciplinary tactics and law enforcement agencies left to address known behaviors due to their disabilities. These include regular parent or guardian pickups from school, staff telling parents or guardians to keep the student at home, formal suspensions, and removing students from campus through abuse of the Baker Act.
According to the agreement, during the course of the investigation, the DOJ obtained information about autistic students in 45 of the 85 VCS schools through interviews with parents, teachers, exceptional student education staff and others supporting the original complaint that disabled students were dated Classes were excluded from programs due to unnecessary distances from the classroom. The investigation also found that VCS staff often did not implement the required behavioral support and were not trained to properly respond to disability-related behavior of students, ”the press release said.
“Students should never be denied education because of disability, and we will not give in until the full measure of ADA rights is a reality,” Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said in the press release . “The department is committed to enforcing the law to ensure schools meet the needs of all of their students and respect the rights.”
As a result of the settlement, VCS must review and amend all of its written policies and procedures regarding students with disabilities that are submitted to the DOJ for review within 150 days. The school district will now be required to implement a system to track all distances of students with disabilities from class. All employees who work with autistic students are also required to complete a mandatory training program developed by VCS.
“We are grateful that VCS cooperated in our investigation, recognized the opportunity for improvement and committed to the successful implementation of our agreement,” said acting US Attorney Karin Hoppmann for the Middle District of Florida in the press release. “We look forward to working with the district to improve educational opportunities for all students.”
The Ormond Beach Observer reached out to VCS for comment but did not receive a timely response for publication.