The Iowa City school district will hire an outside expert to address the issue of black students being disproportionately placed in special education programs.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights had investigated whether the school district discriminates against black students “on the bases of race and/or disability, in the pre-referral/referral and evaluation of these students for special education and in their placement in special education,” according to a news release.
The district voluntarily entered into a resolution agreement before the Office for Civil Rights made any compliance determinations, according to the release, but the federal government found black students continued to be enrolled in special education at a disproportionate rate.
In the 2012-13 school year, black students made up 17.4 percent of the district’s enrollment but 29.4 percent of special education students.
“Inappropriately placing students of color in special education programs can have adverse long-term educational consequences for these students,” Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights, said in a statement. “We appreciate the district’s commitment to working with OCR to address this important civil rights issue.”
Under the agreement, the district said it will employ an outside expert to review procedures, implement universal screening assessments, add intervention teams at schools, provide professional development to teaching staff, complete a review of all current special education records for all students with an Individualized Education Program, and develop a process for the maintenance and analysis of data on an annual basis.
The district said many of the Office for Civil Rights requirements have been or are in the process of being implemented.
The district did not immediately respond to a message Wednesday asking how much the outside person will be paid and how long the process is expected to take.