Feds Dismiss Indiana Particular Schooling Investigation
The federal government recently closed an investigation into the Indiana Department of Education. The Department of Education’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation earlier this year citing “disturbing reports” from parents of students with disabilities who said their children were being forced into “one-size-fits-all” distance learning programs.
Ron Hager, senior education and employment attorney with the National Disability Rights Network, said the IDOE state investigation was unique. Hager said he was not aware of any other case where the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into a state Department of Education over handling complaints about special education.
“In this case it means that there have been complaints with her [Indiana] Education agency that these school districts were following this unified approach, and all of them [Indiana] Education agency didn’t do anything about it, ”he said.
Hager said his organization had heard from families across the country that students with disabilities were not getting the individual services they need during the pandemic.
He said he was excited about the investigation and hoped it would lead to similar investigations in other states across the country. However, Hager said he was disappointed that the federal government dismissed their investigation.
Adele Rapport, regional director of the Civil Rights Bureau of the US Department of Education, wrote in a letter to Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner of “Disability Equal Access to Education Programs Discriminating against Students with Disabilities” or otherwise violating federal law.
An Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Holly Lawson declined to comment on the firing. In a statement released in January after the investigation was announced, Jenner pledged to support schools to meet the needs of special needs students and that she “is committed to working with my local, state and federal colleagues to understand and understand these concerns to tackle “. . “
Hager said he didn’t understand why the U.S. DoE would open an investigation if it didn’t have information that the state was violating federal law.
“It’s really very curious about what it means. So I think it’s possible they never did an investigation … I’m not saying that happened. But that’s how I read it, ”said Hager.
According to federal law, schools are obliged to offer individual learning programs to students with disabilities.
Hager said concerns about state departments of education not doing enough to ensure school districts comply with federal law aren’t unique to Indiana. He said that state education authorities “have a job to oversee and monitor what is going on in the school districts. And we don’t feel like they’re doing it as well as they should. “
“Because even before COVID – and I’m sure we’ll see after COVID – we see students with disabilities not getting the services they need. You are not making any progress in education. You will be suspended. They are held back or sealed off. You will be referred to the police or the juvenile justice system [system]… And the state is not doing enough to monitor and enforce federal laws. “
More than 166,000 students qualified for special education services in Indiana in the 2020-21 school year.
Contact reporter Lee V. Gaines at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @LeeVGaines.