Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Court Settlement Opens School Doors for Pa. Disabled Children

See this article by that title in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It begins:

An agreement approved yesterday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia will make it easier for Pennsylvania families with disabled children to mainstream their kids.

The settlement gives more power to the parents of disabled children and forces state officials to make sure school districts comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

"We've worked with parents whose children were systematically excluded from the regular education environment just because of their disabilities," said Barbara Ransom, a lawyer for the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, which represented the plaintiffs in the 11-year-old class action case.

"Discrimination is bad no matter who does it or who is affected. These children have been excluded because of the prejudices associated with being different."

The Public Interest Law Center represented a class of 280,000 special education students in a lawsuit with 12 named plaintiffs and 11 disabilities advocacy organizations. The plaintiffs claimed that the state's school-age students with physical, behavioral and development disabilities are not given enough time in regular classrooms and don't get appropriate instruction, with adjustments for their disabilities, to help them learn.

The settlement requires the state to set up a five-year monitoring system, along with a parent-dominated advisory board.

School districts will get be graded on how well they include disabled children in regular classrooms. Those with the worst records of including disabled students will be put on a monitoring list. The state will help failing districts improve and impose penalties on those who don't.

The most severe penalties include losing state funds and disciplinary action against school administrators.

You can find a copy of the settlement agreement here.


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