Ever since the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was made law under the Kennedy administration, schools all over the country have been striving to make their institutions more inclusive. Some are still falling short, even after a half century of legislation targeting the separation of special needs children and helping with their integration with their traditional peers. If your schools in your district have recently come under fire for not being inclusive enough of special needs children or one or more of the schools in the district are being sued, you might be wondering how you can make things better and avoid the disability discrimination lawsuits in the future. Here is what a disability discrimination lawyer might advise you to do.
Look at the Schools in Question to See What Additions and Changes Can Be Made
Having one or more students in wheelchairs means that you should have wheelchair ramps outside flanking the steps to school doors. At the very least, there should be an entrance for the children who are not physically capable of making it up the one to five stairs to the school doors. If the school has more than one story, there should also be an elevator available, for children with physical challenges. Note these issues and then bring them up at the next school board meeting.
Discuss Budget Reassignments to Make Improvements
Public schools are funded by tax dollars. Each district receives a share of tax dollars annually, and the school board is supposed to manage how this money will be best spent. In light of the recent discrimination lawsuits, a lawyer would advise you and the school board to seriously consider allotting funds to making the necessary changes to these schools. This might include ramps, elevators, additional teacher aids or paraprofessionals to help in the classrooms, and additional special education supplies, rooms, teachers, and tools. If the board makes these arrangements with the money, it reflects favorably upon the district when district representatives have to appear in court to answer to the discrimination charges. Your lawyer can show the judge that the district is making every effort to make the changes to accommodate special needs children.
Work with the Parents Who Brought up the Lawsuits
Parents tend to be angry (and rightly so) when their children's education falls short of what the disability laws promise. You can sit down with these parents and the lawyers that represent them (the school's disability lawyer should also be present) and discuss what is wrong and how to fix it. Then agree to make the changes that these parents are asking for, in order to get the lawsuits dropped and have things settled out of court.
For more questions, contact a disability discrimination attorney.