The South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint Tuesday against the Beaufort County School District.
The complaint alleges that the school district denied special education services to students with disabilities and subjected them to repeated suspensions and unnecessary harsh discipline.
The complaint was filed with the South Carolina Department of Education and lays out how the school district doesn't consider a child's disability in disciplinary matters, which is required by federal law, according the groups.
The filing alleges that district fails to provide students with disabilities with special education services such as counseling and positive behavioral support plans. Students with disabilities are disciplined without parents being notified in some instances, according to a news release.
African-American students with disabilities are suspended at an higher rate than white students with disabilities, the groups allege.
"Beaufort County's current policies and practices are in clear violation of federal law," said Amanda Adler, staff attorney for South Carolina Appleseed in a statement. "As a result, the district is cutting short the futures of countless students with disabilities by denying them access to a quality education. Beaufort County has chosen to handle behavioral issues with suspensions and expulsions rather than provide special needs children with the services they need to succeed in the classroom."
The complaint also describes the impact the alleged failings by the school district has affected students.
"We are simply asking the Beaufort County School District to comply with federal law by providing students with disabilities with the educational services they are entitled to by law," said Jerri Katzerman, deputy legal director at the SPLC, in a statement.
Statement from the Beaufort County School District Director of School and Community Services Jim Foster:
Today's complaint was definitely a surprise. We've been working throughout the school year with the parents of all five students listed, and we always make certain that parents know they can come to us with any concerns that are unresolved. Under federal law, parents of special education students can request a special meeting at any time to discuss their child's individual education plan (IEP). We usually know when parents are unhappy, and we work with them.
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