Justice Division Cracks Down On Shortened College Days

The US Department of Justice announced that a school district in Maine will end its practice of shortening school days for students with disability-friendly behavior. (Thinkstock)

Students with disabilities in a district are no longer restricted to short days of school under an agreement with the US Department of Justice.

Federal officials say Lewiston Public Schools in Maine has agreed to end its “systemic and discriminatory practice” of banning students from full days of school because of behavior problems related to their disabilities.

The settlement comes after a Justice Department investigation found that the district routinely limited school days for students with disabilities regardless of their individual needs and regardless of any support that might enable them to stay all day.

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The Justice Department said it investigated the school district after receiving a complaint from Disability Rights Maine, a nonprofit that works to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

Lewiston Public Schools staff did not have adequate training to respond to disability-related behavior, resulting in an “over-reliance” on “shortened” school days, the department found. And the research found that students with disabilities were often deprived of instruction and behavioral support if they were sent home early.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced that Lewiston Public Schools were failing to provide adequate services to students learning the English language, many of whom languished in English learning programs for years without speaking fluently.

“Students with disabilities and students learning English need extra support and services in school – not extra barriers to learning,” said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “It is unacceptable to give students with disabilities half the education they are entitled to.”

The concern about shortened school days for students with disabilities is not an isolated case. Anecdotally, proponents have said that the practice is relatively widespread. And in 2019, a federal class action lawsuit was filed against the state of Oregon alleging hundreds of students were wrongly subjected to the practice in that state.

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