|Community High School. Picture taken from the CHS web page.|
When I read the article about the complaint in the Ann Arbor News, it led me to believe that the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was forcing the district to change its policy around the Community High School lottery in regards to the admission of special education students.
The article also led me to understand that the complaint alleged that the district allowed CHS to decide whether kids with disabilities would be allowed into Community High School, after they got in through the lottery.
I do not have access to the actual complaint that was filed, nor to the Agreement submitted to OCR by the Ann Arbor Public Schools. I have read the letter from OCR confirming the Agreement, and you can read it right here. Re-reading both the Ann Arbor News article and the OCR letter, I still find the writing confusing.
The student's family did allege that the district would only allow students with disabilities to enroll at Community High School if CHS offered the disability-related services that were needed by that student. They also alleged that the student's IEP team was not allowed to recommend CHS as a placement option for him. They provided as proof some language from the CHS admissions/applications handouts.
Based on two conversations I had with AAPS staff members, it seems that the student's family wanted to go around the lottery system, and use the IEP team's recommendation that CHS would be the best environment for the student to get the student placed at Community. (I presume--but don't know for sure--that they went this route because the student did not get in by the lottery.) The district said no, the IEP team cannot recommend CHS as a placement, the lottery determines placement at CHS.
Although the discussions that ended in the settlement are shrouded in attorney-client privilege, based on the OCR letter it looks like the district proved to Office of Civil Rights that they will provide whatever services are needed (presumably following the recommendations of the IEP team) at CHS for a student with disabilities who gets into CHS via the lottery. But is also seems clear that the district will still not allow an IEP team to determine that CHS needs to be the placement for a student with an IEP outside of the lottery system.
In other words, the Office of Civil Rights will allow AAPS to continue to use the lottery as the way that students are admitted--or denied admission--to Community. Only after a student gains access to a Community slot through the lottery will the IEP team help CHS figure out what accommodations/supports the student needs.
It does appear that some of the CHS admissions/applications language that was a subject of the complaint was changed. The OCR letter indicates that the District agreed
to eliminate any statements advising or suggesting that special education services are not available at CHS or similar statements that might discourage students with disabilities from applying for enrollment at CHSso that the district is fully in compliance with federal law.
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