Jul 28, 2014
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Out-of-District Tuition Plan 'Discriminatory'

Letter from the ACLU indicates that Barrington schools could face a legal challenge based on discrimination if it does not accept students with special needs.

Out-of-District Tuition Plan 'Discriminatory'

Barrington’s proposed out-of-district student tuition program is on tonight’s agenda for the School Committee meeting. Chairman Patrick Guida’s comment in Barrington Patch that any legal issues could “shelve” the proposal is expected to take center stage because of a letter from the RI chapter of the ACLU that says the proposed program already appears discriminatory.

The letter from ACLU executive director Steven Brown to Superintendent Robert McIntyre says that a number of laws prohibit schools from discriminating against students with disabilities, according to several online sources, including wrnieducationblog.

“While in some circumstances schools may have some leeway in dealing with special-needs students, such as when significant problems might arise in providing them necessary accommodations, we are not aware of any basis whatsoever for a school to have a policy of automatically and categorically excluding special education students from an enrollment policy,” said Brown according to wrnieducationblog.

“The Barrington School Department has no obligation to establish a special program to accept students from out-of-town, but once it does so, it cannot simply declare students with disabilities off-limits,” said Brown according to rifuture.org.

 “While in some circumstances schools may have some leeway in dealing with special-needs students, such as when significant problems might arise in providing them necessary accommodations, we are not aware of any basis whatsoever for a school to have a policy of automatically and categorically excluding special education students from an enrollment policy. Such blatant discrimination flies in the face of the numerous laws designed to treat such students equally, not segregate or stigmatize them.”

The out-of-district tuition program is expected to add about $127,000 in new revenue for the schools even though criteria for the program and other details still need to be finalized.

Guida has already said in Patch that the schools are not averse to educating students with special needs from out of the district, but the cost of that education would have to be handled on a case-by-case basis -- not the district's $12,800 per pupil expenditure.

Don’t miss updates from Patch!