How should Portland Public Schools respond to disabled student civil rights complaint?


Portland Public Schools have become the center of national attention for allegedly denying disabled students entrance into a school for talented and gifted students. Parents of several students have opted to file a civil rights complaint rather than continue to endure the associated grievance process. Portland Schools can use a similar process used by traditional and charter schools to ensure that disabled students are not victimized by the gifted program entrance requirements.

According to the article, Portland Schools hit with civil rights complaint for denying disabled students entry to gifted school, several parents are incensed with the entrance process for the Access Academy which is located in Portland Oregon. The complaint follows months of attempts by families to resolved their concerns by using the school districts grievance process. District administrators were interrupted from working to resolve the matter when the school board voted stop the grievance process. It is claimed by the school board that allowing the disabled student grievance process to continue would have forced an increase in accountability for the district.

The primary problem that the parents have is that the Portland School District lacks transparency and discriminates against student with disabilities who desire to enter the district’s gifted program. The parents found that their children’s records indicated that district officials had annotated the application forms to the Access Academy. The notes implied that student’s with a disability would be a burden to the school.

What role should the administrators have played in admitting disabled students into the Access Academy?

The primary task for the administrators is to ensure that the process is fair. It is illegal to discriminate against students who qualify as disabled. According to section 504 of the rehabilitation act, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.” Under Section 504, FAPE consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met. Schools that are noncompliant can be subjected to civil litigation as well as withholding of federal funding which can become costly for the district.

Schools that desire to continue to receive federal funding must ensure that disabled students are not victimized. They can enhance the selection process by using an application process that is more objective than subjective. For example Boston Public Schools uses an Exam School Initiative (ESI). ESI program is designed to bridge the gap for students in the district’s traditionally underrepresented schools to gain admission and achieve success at one of the three Boston exam schools. BPS invites rising 6th graders based on standardized test scores or principal recommendations to participate in the summer program. The ESI initiative focuses on test taking and academic preparedness. The fall program brings these same students back on Saturdays in the weeks leading up to the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) in November building upon the summer curriculum. Using this program makes entrance into a talented and gifted program place a premium on objectives rather than subjectives.

The other challenge that the Portland Public is having involves the quantity of students who apply for admission. Per the article, the Access Academy received 177 applications for 76 spots in first through eighth grade and seventy-one applicants were waitlisted. There was no information provided for the waitlisted process.

Instead of a process that could lead to the discrimination of disabled students, the Portland Public Schools could use a process that many charter schools utilize. For example, the Elysian Charter School of Hoboken employs a lottery process as follows. “In the event that Elysian receives more applications than there are openings in a specific grade, a public lottery will be held. The public lottery for spots in all grades (K–8) is normally held in mid-January for the following school year admission. Families are invited to attend the lottery.” Portland Public Schools can utilize a preparation and lottery entrance process to ensure that the perception of discrimination against disabled students is unfounded.

Related Articles:

US attorney investigates Brookline private school over allegations it barred disabled child

The problem with privatization of education Special needs students lack school choices, resources

Disabled student denied entry into Piedmont schools

All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology

The Raccelerate Phenomenon

Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education

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“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools


“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President


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About Classroom Racism Exterminator

Racism is a menace and so we’ve been taught for ages which is the primary need for a diversity expert. However, even in this modern society of today where we see a lot of colored celebrities performing on stage with huge fan followings and of course an Afro-America President for the USA, we are still in a phase where racism exists in all its brutal glory and has been eating away at the society like a plague. Classrooms, are one of the most affected areas where color differences and racism exists to its extremes. Even after decades of progress and a lot of communal efforts at bridging the gaps between colored students, white students and teachers, it is sad to say that the disparities still exist and are just as pronounced today as they were back in the 1950s. Colored students, even in the likes of New York City, are attending under resourced schools or have been significantly isolated and made to be unequal in regular schools. Even if the teachers are well-intentioned, perpetuating the structural racism that has taken deep roots into the fabric of our education system is a tough task and make the need for a diversity expert imperative. Teachers need to recognize the biases that exist within the classroom and also take conscious measures to address them and their own biases of course. James Baldwin once said, “it is your very own responsibility to change this society, if you think of yourself as an educated person.” Dr. Derrick L. Campbell took this quote very effectively and straight to the heart and thus this Classroom Racism Exterminator happened. Classroom Racism Exterminator is an initiative that will teach you about your duty and moral obligation towards eliminating racism from the classrooms. This is where and how you will learn about what you need to do to produce a better society that is free of biases and disparities amongst the blacks and the whites. Because we understand how classroom biases and conversations about racism are difficult and how teachers and students almost avoid the topics altogether, we have put together a range of effective methods and products to help address the problem at hand and talk meaningfully to counter issues related to race and racism in the classroom. Diversity expert Dr. Campbell understands that it takes a lot of courage to talk about race and racism and that racial issues need to be viewed through a very critical lens that can understand and attend to the pertaining aspects of racism in the classroom. And therefore through this website we have made a conscious effort to eliminate racism from the classroom and make the educational system equal and beneficial for all. We know and we understand that there are no words that can actually describe how racism feels. There are cases and everybody tends to deal with it in their own manner. Some might lash out verbally or others might just withdraw into shells. Whatever the case, people don’t talk about it openly and teachers don’t really make a conscious effort at addressing the issue. We don’t really know if our children or if the youth is learning to be educated or become racists in their classroom. Our program is focused on helping children of color and regardless of their race, their full potential. We want every student to be able to recognize and reach their full potential so that they think of themselves as responsible citizens of their country and not regard themselves as worthless human beings. Here you will find motivational books and flash card games, all of which have been designed focusing on eliminating racism completely from our classrooms. The books and the games have been consciously designed keeping in mind the American society and educational system. It is a small effort on our and Dr. Campbell’s part to help this society become a better place to live in. A little about diversity expert Dr. Campbell Dr. Derrick L. Campbell the driving force behind Classroom Racism Exterminator is a dynamic figure and a constant source of motivation for us. He has a Bachelors of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology, Math Education, a Masters in Education Administration and also holds a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. Dr. Campbell is a well known personality throughout the nation. He has lectured at various events including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference and a lot of local churches. He is a personality well dedicated towards eliminating the plague of racism from our classrooms and helping every child recognize his/her true potential not the color of their skin. He realizes how a child would feel if he/she was made to think they are worthless human beings. Diversity expert Dr. Campbell is compassionate and related to the experiences and therefore this initiative is a constant and continual effort to eliminate racism manifested in us, completely from the classroom and from our society.
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