Seattle particular schooling amid COVID-19 below investigation

Updated 9:38 AM EST, Thursday January 14, 2021

SEATTLE (AP) – The US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Bureau is investigating Seattle public schools after “disturbing reports” about how the district handled special education during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to Superintendent Denise Juneau this week, department officials cite concerns that some students could do without special lessons – and some teachers were not allowed to provide it, the Seattle Times reported.

“According to a local news report last spring, the district urged its special education teachers not to” give specially designed classes “and forbade them to tailor classes to the needs of each child,” wrote Kimberly M. Richey, the Department of Education’s deputy secretary for Civil rights. “OCR (Office of Civil Rights) is concerned that the district has failed to provide ‘free adequate public education’ under federal law to every qualified student with a disability and has denied equal access to education to students with disabilities.”

The initiation of an investigation is not an indication that the district is to blame, said district officials and the letter. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have followed the instructions of the OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) and will continue to do so. Since March, the district has adjusted every time state policies have changed, ”a district spokesman Tim Robinson wrote in an email. “Seattle Public Schools are aware of the investigation and will be working fully with the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.”

Richey’s letter said the department would be in touch with the district within a week to request access to data and interviews with school staff.

Like many neighborhoods across the country, the district has a tumultuous history with special needs education and decades of problems. In 2014, the state withheld 28% of the district’s federal funds, about $ 3 million, until they could prove it complied with federal law.

Seattle isn’t the only district struggling to provide services.

At least three families of children with disabilities in King, Pierce and Thurston counties have filed lawsuits over concerns that having more flexibility in defining “lessons” will disproportionately harm children who need more support this year, not less.

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