School Resolves Civil Rights Case
In recent months, two documents have come to light indicating that the Dresden School District was the subject of a civil rights case brought after the 2015-16 school year. These documents were released by ProPublica as part of its project on the status of all of civil rights cases brought against schools that have been resolved in the past three years or that are currently pending.
The complaint brought against the school was filed by a parent of a former Hanover High School Student who graduated in 2016. The complaint was filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights(OCR). Complaint number’s 01-15-1244 and 01-16-1123 allege that the school and district discriminated against the student as a result of his disability and retaliated against him when he brought these issues to light. When asked about whether or not the student was retaliated against, Principal Campbell said “I can state strongly there was no retaliation,” and also added, “we absolutely don’t discriminate.”
The student suffered from a neurological disorder which caused “episodic and recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep and altered behavior.” As a result of his disorder, the student missed approximately seven months of his senior year because he was unable to attend school while his disorder was in an active state.
The complainant was specifically concerned with two actions taken by the Dresden School District. The first was that the school provisionally added a clause to the Individualization section of the handbook which would modify courses for a student if they missed 25 or more classes. The other action outlined in the complaint was that the head of Hanover High’s Math Department requested that the Student and Parent sign a contract saying that the student’s previous teacher had not recommended the student take Honors Calculus, the course which he had signed up for. However, the complaint states that the contract was never signed and the student nonetheless took the Honors Calculus course. When asked about this supposed contract, Principal Campbell said that students are often asked to sign a waiver if they sign up for a class their previous teacher did not recommend them for, but that he couldn’t comment specifically on any one student’s case.
The complainant also argued that the District only provided her son with course assignments for some of his classes and “developed a tutoring plan that was impractical due to his neurological disorder.” District records show that the student was offered 10 hours of tutoring per week and that the complainant refused to make the Student available for tutoring after January 2016. However, the investigation found that the District may not have provided the Student with tutoring and course assignments for the second semester of the 2015-16 school year.
Another issue articulated in the complaint was that the student had without justification received several different grades on a math project he submitted in December 2015. According to the complaint, the student’s math teacher initially gave the student a 60 on the project but then changed the grade to a 0 because she thought the student had cheated and used a prohibited calculator, something the student contested. School records also show no indication that the Honors Calculus teacher accused the student of cheating. The complaint then states that the grade was ultimately changed to an 80. When asked for the identity of the teacher, Principal Campbell said that he couldn’t comment on any teacher-specific matter just as he couldn’t comment on any student-specific matter, and that all teacher employment information is confidential.
Prior to the conclusion of the OCR investigation, the school district showed a willingness to resolve the issue and in December of last year, Superintendent Badams signed a Resolution Agreement. The agreement required the district to revise its nondiscrimination policy, its policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability, its Homebound Instruction Policy, and the Handbook section on individualization. According to Principal Campbell, all of these policies have been revised.
*Special thanks to Hayden Smith for initially finding the documents outlined in the article. The documents can be found at https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/investigations/more/01151244-a.pdf and https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/investigations/more/01151244-b.pdf