MONTGOMERY PUBLIC SCHOOLS (ALABAMA)
On behalf of Montgomery school children, in May 2011 the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP), the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the Law Offices of Sears & Sears, PC, filed three complaints with the Alabama State Department of Education. The complaints allege systemic failures by the Montgomery (AL) Public Schools (MPS) to provide education and other needed services to children with emotional disturbance.
According to the complaints, Montgomery schools fail to identify, and provide mental health services to, children with emotional disturbance who are entitled to special education and other services. Nearly 32,000 children are enrolled in MPS, but the district has identified only 85 students as having an emotional disturbance.
In July 2011, ADAP and the Bazelon Center filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, alleging that MPS fails to educate children with emotional disturbance, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.
ADAP and the Bazelon Center secured a settlement agreement with MPS in November 2011. Under the agreement, MPS has hired a nationally known expert in children’s mental health, Narell Joyner of Charlotte, North Carolina, to work with MPS teachers and administrative staff to evaluate how MPS identifies and plans for students with emotional disturbance, and to identify available resources MPS can access to better serve these students. Ms. Joyner will make recommendations for how MPS might improve and fund its programs serving students with emotional disturbance, and help MPS implement her recommendations.