U.S. Department of Education investigating complaint on state's disability accommodations for state tests
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 01, 2012
11/01/12 at 7:18 AM
Read the letter: Understand the allegations and role of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating allegations that the Oklahoma State Department of Education violated the rights of a local girl and untold other special education students by limiting accommodations for them on state tests.
The girl's parents, whose names were redacted from the copy of a letter obtained by the Tulsa World, allege the state discriminated against their daughter on the basis of her disability.
The girl, who has autism and encephalopathy - a disease of the brain that alters brain function or structure - apparently is a high school senior who reportedly failed state tests that place her in jeopardy of not receiving her high school diploma in the spring.
The regional Office for Civil Rights, which is in Kansas City, said in the letter to the girl's parents that it had evaluated their complaint and would be investigating.
Opening a parent complaint for investigation doesn't imply that federal officials have determined the merits of the complaint, as they are "neutral fact finders, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence," the letter says.
The parents allege that the state Department of Education discriminated against their daughter by "dictating the accommodations, modifications, and/or supports her IEP (Individualized Education Program) may contain for state assessments" and specifically prohibiting certain other accommodations.
They also allege that the state's policies and procedures on "which accommodations may appear on a student's IEP for state assessments" could affect all students with disabilities.
The Office for Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing the federal Rehabilitation Act's prohibition on discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal financial assistance, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act's prohibition on discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities. The letter says the state Department of Education is subject to both.
Tricia Pemberton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said, "We've not yet received this letter from the United States Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, but we will work with them to ensure they have all documentation regarding this case."
Oklahoma upped the stakes of its End of Instruction test program last year when it began requiring high schoolers to pass at least four of the seven required subject exams in order to receive their diploma.
Original Print Headline: Tests face rights complaint
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470