According to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Mounds View High School released special education students early from school last spring due to a construction project. Other students were not released early.
The 19 students affected will be given the opportunity to make up the learning time according to their individualized educational plans (IEPs).
According to the complaint filed by parent Lisa Juliar, special education students were discriminated against when they were dismissed 20 to 30 minutes early from the beginning of April through the end of the school year. Parents were told students would make up the time during the social interaction portion of the school day. However, that decision was made without an IEP meeting to discuss each student's needs.
Juliar said she requested her own son stay in school because she did not believe that making up time during another part of the school day was right. She was then told he could depart at the regular time. However, twice he arrived home 30 minutes early. She was not notified of his early departure and he arrived home to an empty house, which was a safety issue due to his condition.
In addition, Juliar said she heard that other special education students were waiting on the bus while her son was in class. “Because I wouldn't let (him) leave early, they were getting his bus all loaded up and six kids sat on the bus waiting for (him) every day,” she said. “Why do they bring them out early if they are not learning?”
Juliar said she filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights to help other parents realize that what the district did was not okay. “Many families didn't even realize that was illegal,” she said.
During the investigation, the district expressed interest in a voluntary resolution agreement. The district agreed to inform relevant staff that a student's school day cannot be shortened unless the student's IEP or Section 504 team determines it is warranted. All buses must leave at the same time. Families of students who were affected by the early dismissal will also be offered a meeting to discuss any need for compensatory educational services.
The district stated it made the decision to dismiss special education students early in the interest of their safety. Due to construction, the special education buses that normally were parked in the back of the building could not park there.
“Due to construction efforts at Mounds View High School, 19 students with disabilities were released from school early for bus transportation home last spring,” the district stated. “This was an effort to ensure the students’ safety so they could safely exit the building and school grounds during an exceptionally chaotic and crowded time with construction underway.
“Mounds View Public Schools personnel contacted the parents of the 19 students to let them know their children would be released early. Several of the students’ parents expressed appreciation for this temporary early release. In April, an individual expressed concern related to this early dismissal. The district took this matter very seriously and worked to resolve the concern related to the individual’s student’s bus departure time.”
The case will be closed and dismissed once the district fulfills its actions agreed to in the resolution. According to the voluntary resolution, the agreement is not a determination of noncompliance with law.
Juliar said this specific situation was just one example of discrimination she has faced with the district over the years regarding her son, who has a rare chromosomal disorder. “I had to fight hard to get my son in the classroom,” she said. “I had to hire a lawyer multiple times.” Juliar said that also last spring, she was asked if she wanted her son to stay home during ACT testing.