Category: California News

Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a resolution agreement with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools in California to address compliance issues involving students with disabilities in alternative and juvenile court schools.

An OCR investigation found that the county discriminated against students with disabilities in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

"All students, including students in alternative and juvenile court schools, deserve equal access to a high-quality public education," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for OCR. "In providing strong and effective systems to identify, evaluate, and serve students with disabilities, these schools can stop the cycle of revolving placements, place students with disabilities on a path to educational success, and remove them from the school-to-prison pipeline."

She added, "I am grateful for the county's responsiveness during the course of the compliance review, as well as its commitment going forward to take necessary steps to protect the civil rights of students with disabilities who are in an alternative education program."

San Bernardino County is the largest county in the United States by geographic area (20,164 square miles). The county directly operates 14 community schools and two juvenile court schools.

OCR's compliance review examined the county's process for ensuring that each student with a disability receives a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in its community and court schools, including identifying and evaluating students with disabilities and suspected disabilities, ensuring appropriate placement procedures are in place, and implementing special education plans for students who have them when they enter a court or community school.

The office found violations of Section 504 and Title II and their implementing regulations because the county:

In addition, OCR recognized that students with disabilities who do not receive services and supports necessary to address disability-related behavioral issues may unnecessarily and unfairly suffer exclusionary school discipline. In response to this concern, the county agreed to develop a system to ensure that students with disabilities are not impermissibly disciplined on the basis of their disabilities.

During the course of OCR's investigation, the county took proactive and significant steps to address some concerns OCR identified. For example, it has already begun implementation of identification, training and tracking systems for students identified with disabilities under Section 504.

The resolution agreement requires the county, among other things, to:

OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.