Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Last week, the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania filed a complaint with the Deparment of Justice alleging that African American students and students with disabilities are significantly overrepresented in the state's Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs. Pennsylvania's Alternative Education programs educate over 14,000 students each year who have been suspended from school for violence or misconduct. After reviewing four years of Alternative Education records, the Center found that special education and African American students made up a disproportionate percent of students in Alternative Education. The Center alleges that the Pennsylvania Department of Education has failed to protect many of those students' rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act. The Center's four year study revealed:
- In public schools in Pennsylvania as a whole, 16 percent of students are identified as students with disabilities. However, in recent years, even as the total number of alternative placements has dropped, the percentage of students with disabilities sent to alternative education programs has increased to 44 percent.
- 82 school districts in 2010-11 where more than 50 percent of the students sent to alternative education programs were students with disabilities.
- African American students are similarly overrepresented in alternative education placements. While African American students comprise only 15 percent of Pennsylvania public school students, in 2010-11 they comprised 35 percent of the students placed into alternative education programs.
- 45 school districts in 2010-11 that had a disparity of 20 percentage points or more between the percent of African Americans in the district and the percent of African Americans placed in the districts’ alternative education programs.
- 24 districts had disparities of 20 percentage points or higher for both African American students and students with disabilities.