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Lawsuits & Litigation

Class Action Accuses Oregon of Devaluing Special Education Students’ School Time

— January 23, 2019

A class action claims that Oregon is punishing disabled children by sending them home early for acting out in class.

A federal class action has been launched against Oregon, with attorneys claiming that the state’s special education policies deny disabled students unfettered access to opportunity.

The lawsuit, reports, was filed on behalf of four parents who say their children are denied the right to attend school for some or all of the day. The complaint names Gov. Kate Brown, who also serves as the state’s superintendent of education, schools director Colt Gill and the Oregon Department of Education as defendants.

According to OregonLive’s coverage of the suit, one hearing-impaired 6-year old was sidelined from the beginnings of his education. The suit says that, unlike his peers, the boy was allowed to spend only an hour per day in kindergarten classrooms.

Another 10-year old, identified in the suit as Elijah, reads at grade level and excels at mathematics. But because Elijah is autistic and the school hasn’t found a way to accommodate his disability, the boy is required to go home early almost every day.

OregonLive and the lawsuit say that neither boy’s case is unique. Advocacy group FACT Oregon received hundreds of similar reports, all claiming that children with disabilities have been pushed away from education because districts cannot or will not cope with outbursts or irregular behavior.

Brown wooden gavel; image by Rawpixel, via
Brown wooden gavel; image by Rawpixel, via

“Shortening the school day of a child with a disability is not an appropriate substitute for providing the academic and behavioral services and supports that would enable that child to learn and progress socially during a full school day,” claims the lawsuit. “When children are subjected to shortened days, they frequently fall behind academically and miss out on critical social opportunities in which they can practice appropriate behaviors.”

Eight-year old Aidin, a ‘high-functioning-boy on the autism spectrum,’ told that he feels left out when he’s sent home early. His mother says that sometimes acts inappropriately, but, at other times, teachers will make a decision based on the feeling that “it’s going to be a bad day.”

Aidin, says OBP, knows that he’s being treated differently and doesn’t like it.

“I want to go full days,” Aidin said.

And Aidin’s also cognizant of how his autism and alternate treatment set him apart from other children.

“I don’t like to have short days. It gives me the feeling that I should be there full days like a normal kid,” he said. “When I have short days like that, it makes me feel like I’m not a normal kid.”

The state Department of Education’s communications director, Marc Siegel, didn’t offer specific comment on the litigation but said Oregon is committed to “equity and excellence for every learner.”

All in all, the state serves more than 70,000 special education students. Advocates claim the number of complaints they’ve received suggests that hundreds—perhaps thousands—of disabled or differently-abled students suffer discrimination in education offerings.


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