SRVUSD agrees to resolve federal discrimination inquiry

District to rework field-trip policy, draft School Loop rules in wake of U.S. Department of Education investigation

Federal education officials are set to keep a close eye on the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in the aftermath of a recent investigation into a claim that district staff discriminated against students with disabilities.

The SRVUSD signed off on an agreement last month to resolve issues raised during the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights inquiry into complaints against the district's School Loop student information website and field trip access, as each pertains to special-education students.

The resolution, in part, calls for the district to revamp its field-trip policy and for the first time, develop written guidance for how special-education teachers should use the School Loop website.

OCR representatives will monitor district compliance with terms of the agreement until at least mid-November 2015.

The investigation was first reported by the Contra Costa Times.

The underlying complaint – lodged last spring by Judy and Adam Wang, parents of an autistic Los Cerros Middle School student – argued, in part, that school officials did not give their son and his special-education classmates the chance to participate in a sixth-grade outing to The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. The parents reportedly found out about the field trip after the fact.

"Yes, we acknowledge that in fact a student was not offered the opportunity to participate in (a field trip)," SRVUSD official Judith Cameron said. "It shouldn't have happened, and we definitely are interested in, obviously, ensuring the rights of all of our students."

The Wangs' complaint also questioned the adequacy of the School Loop system, a website for posting grades, homework assignments and school announcements as well as allowing teacher communication with students and parents.

"Typically our special education teachers have not utilized (School Loop)," said Cameron, executive Special Education Local Plan Area director for the SRVUSD. She added that teachers in the special-ed program would traditionally use other methods of communication with parents.

OCR press representatives did not respond to email requests for comment.

The Wangs also could not be reached for comment, but Judy Wang told the Contra Costa Times, "We just want to make sure that they deliver on those promises."

The agreement requires the district to amend its existing procedures "to consistently describe the process for ensuring that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in field trips."

The procedures due to be beefed up were put into effect only about a year ago following a separate complaint regarding student exclusion from a field trip, according to Cameron.

SRVUSD officials have up to a month after the current semester ends to provide a copy of the draft policy to OCR for approval.

Cameron is tasked with training school officials on the forthcoming policy changes, monitoring district compliance and reporting regularly to OCR and the SRVUSD superintendent.

She said she must also develop the School Loop guidelines from scratch, as the district has no current written protocols regarding how the information system should be used for students with disabilities.


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