The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced today the successful resolution of a compliance review that was initiated at the Iowa City Community School District in Iowa City, Iowa. The review examined whether the school district discriminates against African American students on the bases of race and/or disability, in the pre-referral/referral and evaluation of these students for special education and in their placement in special education.
From the inception of the review, the district worked collaboratively with OCR. The district voluntarily entered into a resolution agreement prior to OCR's making any compliance determinations.
The investigation revealed, however, that African American students continue to be enrolled in special education in the district at a rate that is disproportionate to their enrollment. In particular, in the 2012-2013 school year, African American students accounted for 2,222 of the 12,774 students, or 17.4 percent, enrolled in the district and were 407 of the 1,385 students, or 29.4 percent, in special education.
“Inappropriately placing students of color in special education programs can have adverse long-term educational consequences for these students,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. “We appreciate the district’s commitment to working with OCR to address this important civil rights issue.”
Under the comprehensive agreement, the district will:
- Hire an expert with expertise in addressing the overrepresentation of students of color in special education to review the district’s procedures and make recommendations as to what measures the district should take to ensure that it is making appropriate determinations and address the root causes of the overrepresentation of students of color in special education.
- Develop and implement a plan to expand its universal early screening process used to identify individual, grade-level and school-level needs.
- Ensure that every school in the district has implemented a systematic, team-based means of providing intervention strategies in the classroom for students experiencing academic or behavior difficulties.
- Provide training to all teaching staff designed to increase awareness of the overrepresentation of African American students in special education and emphasize the purpose and significance of placement in special education.
- Provide training to teachers and staff at each school on the intervention process and on intervention strategies for students.
- Review specific special education records for current students to assess whether eligibility and placement decisions were appropriate, and take appropriate action in response.
- Maintain data and use the data and other informati on gathered during the implementation of the agreement to annually evaluate the effectiveness of its screening, intervention, evaluation, and placement processes and analyze data related to teacher referral and the provision of team-prescribed interventions, to determine whether students of all races and national origins were treated equitably.
OCR will monitor this agreement until such time that the district has fulfilled the terms of the agreement and is in compliance with Title VI, Section 504, and Title II.
OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.
Additional information about OCR is available at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.