Forum: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
Date Filed: May 12, 2011
Parties: District of Columbia Charter Schools
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After a lengthy investigation, in May 2011 the Bazelon Center filed a disability discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division against the District of Columbia. District charter schools have routinely discriminated against students with disabilities, violating federal civil rights laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
The Bazelon Center found that D.C. charter schools often require parents to disclose detailed information that reveals a student’s disability, which the school then uses to screen out applicants with serious disabilities. Charter school officials frequently tell parents that the school cannot or will not meet a student’s special education needs, despite legal obligations to meet those needs. D.C. charters that do admit students with disabilities often then warehouse those students in restrictive and costly private schools at taxpayer expense.
As a result of the unlawful practices described in the Bazelon Center’s complaint, D.C. charter schools serve a disproportionately low number of students with disabilities compared with the District’s “traditional” school district, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Within the District’s charter school student population, students with the most significant disabilities are concentrated in just two highly segregated charter schools.