The best practice for parents and students is to try to constructively resolve issues with schools, but that’s not always possible. The OCR provides a complaint process for allegations of discrimination. You can get specific information on that process here.
Protected When You Make a ComplaintEarlier this year, OCR issued a letter of guidance that is important for parents of students with learning disabilities (LD). In the letter, the OCR clarified that schools may not retaliate against an individual for raising civil rights or discrimination concerns. Here’s the important part of the letter:
[O]nce a student, parent, teacher, coach, or other individual complains formally or informally to a school about a potential civil rights violation or participates in an OCR investigation or proceeding, the [school] is prohibited from retaliating (including intimidating, threatening, coercing, or in any way discriminating against the individual) because of the individual’s complaint or participation.
Parents (and even teachers and students) sometimes worry that if they raise concerns about civil rights, they may be treated badly. This OCR letter makes clear that retaliation isn’t allowed.
Collecting Data to Help Students With LDAlong with OCR’s letter of guidance, parents should also be aware that OCR is seeking public comments on civil rights data collection by August 20. This is important because data helps us understand how students with LD are doing in schools and helps us make sure their rights are protected. The good news is that OCR is proposing data collection on some new items, such as civil rights coordinators, instances of corporal punishment for students, absences by students and the number of students enrolled in distance learning programs.
However, we are deeply concerned that OCR proposes to eliminate the collection of data on the number of teachers meeting all state licensing and certification requirements. This is bad because we need to know who is teaching out kids. We need to know if they are qualified and we need states and districts to make the best staffing decisions they can. How can they do that without data about who is where? Right now, the limited data we have on this topic indicates that students with disabilities are disproportionately taught by underprepared teachers. That is a problem. But to fix it, we need this data.
NCLD is part of the Coalition for Teaching Quality, a group of 93 organizations that believe that children deserve well-qualified teachers. NCLD also submitted formal comments to the OCR expressing our concerns about the changes in data collection. (If you want to know more, read about where we stand on the need for well-qualified teachers.)
Congress Breaks, We Keep Working for YouOn Friday, August 9th, Congress breaks for summer recess. What that means is in the next few weeks, members of Congress will most likely be visiting their home states and no legislation will be discussed in committees or on the floor of Congress. Congress will be in recess, but we’ll still be here, ensuring that the interests of people with LD are protected.