Justice Division Settles with Florida’s Volusia County College District to Shield College students with Disabilities from Classroom Removals and Different Discrimination | OPA

The Department of Justice today announced a settlement agreement with the Volusia County School District (VCS) in Florida to address the district’s systemic and discriminatory practices that punish students with disabilities for their disability-related behavior and deny them equal access to VCS programs and services .

The department conducted an investigation under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Florida Central District received a complaint from a local legal aid organization on behalf of several students, many of whom had autism spectrum disorder To suffer . The complaint alleged that VCS unnecessarily excluded students with disabilities from the school’s educational programs and services by regularly: (1) asking parents or guardians to collect their children with disabilities from school or to keep them at home; (2) disciplining students for behaviors resulting from their disability; and (3) working with law enforcement to remove students with disabilities who are already of kindergarten age from school.

The department’s investigation corroborated the allegations in the complaint and confirmed that VCS had excluded students with disabilities from its programs and services through unnecessary distance from the classroom. It also found that VCS staff often did not implement the necessary behavioral aids and were not trained in how to properly respond to disability-related behavior of students. These issues resulted in the exclusion of students with disabilities from VCS programs and services, and sometimes resulted in law enforcement being asked to remove students with disabilities from school, including through abuse of the procedures of the Florida Baker Act. The Bakers Act allows the involuntary admission of a person with a mental illness to a psychiatric facility for up to 72 hours if certain criteria are met.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to enforcing the law to ensure schools meet the needs of all of their students and respect the rights.”

“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. “We look forward to working with the district to improve educational opportunities for all students.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida worked in conjunction with the Disability Rights Division (DRS) of the Civil Rights Division to investigate this case.

Enforcing Title II of the ADA in schools is a top priority for the Department of Civil Rights at the Department. You can find more information about the Civil Rights Division on their website at www.justice.gov/crt and more information about the work of the DRS at https://www.ada.gov. Citizens can report possible violations of civil rights at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/. Information about the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida Civil Rights Unit and a complaint form for the unit can be found at https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdfl/civil-rights.

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