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Complaint filed against TPS

Complaint filed with State Department of Education against Toledo Public Schools on Behalf of Students Seeking Special Education Evaluations.

School system fails to identify students with educational disabilities
and ignores requests for evaluations and services.

According to an administrative complaint filed with the Ohio Department of Education Office of Exceptional Children, Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) allege that Toledo Public Schools (TPS) has violated federal law by failing to adequately identify and evaluate students who may be disabled and in need of special education supports and services in school.

The 15-page administrative complaint outlines the district’s failure to comply with federal and state laws pertaining to students with disabilities. The complaint aims to bring the school district into compliance with the Child Find provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies serving Children with Disabilities.
 

Complaint filed with State Department of Education against Toledo Public Schools on Behalf of Students Seeking Special Education Evaluations.

School system fails to identify students with educational disabilities
and ignores requests for evaluations and services.

According to an administrative complaint filed with the Ohio Department of Education Office of Exceptional Children, Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) allege that Toledo Public Schools (TPS) has violated federal law by failing to adequately identify and evaluate students who may be disabled and in need of special education supports and services in school.

The 15-page administrative complaint outlines the district’s failure to comply with federal and state laws pertaining to students with disabilities. The complaint aims to bring the school district into compliance with the Child Find provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Operating Standards for Ohio Educational Agencies serving Children with Disabilities.

Child Find establishes that public school districts have an affirmative duty to locate, identify and evaluate children who may be disabled and provide services to children who have a disability and are in need of special education services.  If school employees and the public school system fail to do so, they have defaulted in their legal obligation and may be liable to the children who have been denied services.

In 1989, ABLE filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court against TPS for violations of the Education for all Handicapped Children’s Act (later amended as IDEA) and the Ohio Revised Code, including Child Find obligations.  Rebecca S. et. al v Ohio State Board of Education, et. al., no. C87-7239, (N.D. Oh. 1989).  This lawsuit resulted in a settlement agreement requiring TPS to develop policies and practices to ensure compliance with Child Find.

“Almost two decades later, TPS continues to fail to comply with the Child Find provisions of IDEA,” says ABLE  Attorney Ryan Wilson.  “TPS’s failure to adequately implement its Child Find obligations is pervasive and systemic.  TPS has a history of non-compliance with this essential element of IDEA which ensures that students who need special education services are located and identified,” he adds. 

The experiences of the seven children named in the complaint reflect a pattern of TPS officials failing to adequately respond to children facing significant challenges in school, an inadequate school based intervention policy, a lack of respect for parental perspective and input, and a lack of urgency in ensuring that children struggling in school receive the additional services and supports that they need at the earliest possible time.  The representative complainants include children with severe and diagnosed behavior related challenges, children who have failed multiple grade levels, children who have been removed from school repeatedly for disciplinary issues, and children who struggle with basic skills needed to advance academically. 

The cases reflect a disregard for parental input as each shows TPS’s failure to take parental requests for services and special education evaluations seriously.  “Not only has TPS failed to affirmatively identify children who should be suspected of having a disability, TPS has failed to adequately consider parental requests for evaluations and has failed to make a good faith effort to investigate parental referrals for special education evaluations,” says LAWO Attorney Kate Mitchell. 

The complaint calls for the Office for Exceptional Children to investigate and provide the students named in the complaint who have not yet been evaluated with an evaluation and compensatory education services. The complaint also asks for a review of the educational records of all children who have failed academically for more than two quarters in any academic year, have been suspended or otherwise removed from school for more than 10 days during any school year, or who have been diagnosed with any medical or mental health condition which may impact their ability to benefit from their education and have provided documentation of such diagnosis to TPS.

In addition, the complaint calls for the appointment of an expert to work with TPS to develop a policy that includes the implementation of a number of interventions as soon as a child begins to struggle in school with academics or behavior related issues and to ensure the completion of a special education evaluation within 90 days of a parents request for an evaluation, 60 days of parental consent or within 120 days of a school based referral for an evaluation.

This case is the result of work by the Toledo Medical-Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC) and the Education Law practice at ABLE.  “A number of students experiencing these issues with the Toledo Public Schools have been identified by the MLPC – a multidisciplinary collaboration of pediatricians, lawyers, and mental health providers who work together to address a variety of legal issues that impact the health and well-being of children," says Mitchell.

ABLE and LAWO are non-profit law firms that provide free legal services to low-income residents in 32 counties of northwest and west central Ohio and to agricultural workers and immigration clients throughout the state.  The MLPC is a partnership among ABLE, LAWO, St. Vincent Mercy Children’s Hospital, and University Pediatrics at the University of Toledo College of Medicine.