The Nebraska Department of Education’s Office of Special Education has recently re-emphasized that students with disabilities should not be placed on shortened school days unless the student’s IEP team has determined that a shortened day is required to address the student’s unique disability-related needs. The same is true any time a student is considered for an atypical placement – whether that be an alternative school, out-of-district or homebound placement. While IEP teams in Nebraska typically do a good job of considering a student’s academic needs in these more restrictive placements, teams sometimes overlook the need for these students to be well informed about upcoming events and extra-curricular activities.
Section 504 and Title II prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. School districts have an obligation to ensure that no person is excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from others, or otherwise be discriminated against in any program or activity. This obligation can impose affirmative duties on school districts to reduce or eliminate barriers to participation.
In Kanawha County (WV) Public Schools, 112 LRP 7430 (OCR 2011), the Office for Civil Rights advised the school district that they had failed to meet their obligations under Section 504 and Title II. OCR determined that the district discriminated against a disabled student receiving homebound instruction by failing to provide timely notice of various extra-curricular events the student’s class was taking part in. Specifically, the district failed to inform the student about opportunities to take Senior Pictures, participate in school trips, order yearbooks, or participate in graduation events. In response to this lapse, the district was required to develop policies and procedures to ensure that all homebound instruction students were provided with appropriate notice about upcoming opportunities to participate.
Students in a more restrictive placement are still members of your school community. Effective, timely communication about events, opportunities, and activities is not only legally required, but is best for our kids. If you have any questions about your school’s obligations under Section 504, or anything else, we recommend you contact your school attorney, or call Karen, Steve, Bobby, or Tim.