Quite a few of my clients have come to me for help when their child’s school day is made shorter than their typical peers. Sometimes, it is a matter of a bussing situation where the kids in special ed are on a bus that leaves 10 or 20 minutes before their typical peers. Other times, schools are sending their kids home, day after day, because they can’t control the child’s behaviors. Parents want to know, can the school do that??
There are a lot of parents asking that question in Oregon. A federal class action lawsuit was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The lawsuit alleges that many of Oregon’s school districts are violating the law by shortening the school days of children whose disability-related behaviors are causing disruption in school. Some of the children are getting only an hour or two of education per day when their typical peers get six hours, and this is being done without proper consideration of alternatives, such as increased interventions, services, and supports. The lawsuit also alleges that, when the children are being educated, they are not being educated in their least restrictive environment. Rather, they are being instructed in separate rooms, away from their typical peers.
Thankfully, we have come a long way from the days when children with disabilities were denied an education outright. But this lawsuit makes it clear that we have more ground to gain, so that all children with disabilities may truly receive a proper education, alongside their typical peers.
It will be some time until the Oregon Court reaches a decision in this matter, and the lawsuit may settle before that happens. We will follow the story and keep you updated. It is generating awareness among families and school districts, which is always good. Meanwhile, if your child’s school day is shortened based on IEP team discussion and agreement that it is necessary to meet YOUR child’s specific disability-related needs, then it might be okay, in the short term. But if the reduction in hours is being implemented for all children in special ed in the district or is being used as a band-aid because the district doesn’t know how to manage your child’s disability-related behaviors, a red flag should go up in your mind. Meet with the team and develop a plan to get your child back into a full day of school with appropriate services and supports.