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Sacramento City Unified School District settles lawsuit over special education practices

The Sacramento City Unified School District has reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought on by the Black Parallel School Board and district families in 2019.

The BPSB is a nonprofit community-based organization that advocates for African American families within the school district.

The class action lawsuit claimed students with disabilities were excluded and segregated from classrooms, wrongfully suspended or disciplined, and were not receiving necessary resources within the special education program. It argued these issues impacted Black students with disabilities at a disproportionate rate.

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PRESS RELEASE: Sacramento City Unified School District and Advocacy Groups Pursue Settlement of Lawsuit Alleging Disability and Race Discrimination

JOINT PRESS RELEASE

SACRAMENTO, CA: The Sacramento City Unified School District (District) and plaintiffs suing the District for alleged discrimination against students based on race and disability asked the federal court to pause litigation so the parties may seek potential resolution through settlement.

The lawsuit, alleged as a class-action, was filed by a coalition of nonprofit advocacy groups on behalf of the Black Parallel School Board (BPSB) and three students in the District. The suit alleges that the District’s policies and practices in the areas of special education and student discipline harm students with disabilities, and in particular, Black students with disabilities.

While the District does not agree with the allegations in the lawsuit, “we appreciate plaintiffs’ willingness to work with us,” said District Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar. “The District believes that we should work cooperatively with the plaintiffs to identify potential policies and practices that may not serve the best interests of the District’s students with disabilities, and to jointly find solutions to those issues, which would include addressing factors which limit service options or strategies for serving District students,” said Superintendent Aguilar.

The parties have asked the Court to grant a seven-month stay of the litigation. During the stay, and by early February, the District has offered and agreed to implement several measures intended to benefit students with disabilities, including Black students with disabilities. These measures include: Halting all District suspensions based on “willful defiance” not only for students in kindergarten through third grade, but up and through eighth grade; Offering students a special education assessment plan within 15 days of a request for such assessment; and Directing school administrators and staff not to ask or require students to leave school as an informal response to concerns with student behavior.

“These measures are significant to students with disabilities and their parents and guardians whom we and other advocates in our community fight for and support,” said BPSB Chairperson Darryl White. “The District’s willingness to implement these interim measures has encouraged BPSB to engage in cooperative discussions with the District about potential broader and more permanent reforms and protections for our students.”

Also, during the stay, an agreed-upon set of experts will review the District’s data and practices in the areas of special education, student discipline, and implicit bias. That review will include expert interviews of students, parents, District staff, and other stakeholders. After the assessment and study of the information gathered, the experts will issue recommendations that the parties will consider as part of a possible settlement to create positive, lasting change for students and their families.

The Court granted the requested stay of litigation today, December 20, 2019.

Media Contact:

Courtney McKinney, Director of Communications, cmckinney[at]wclp.org

Co-Counsel:

Disability Rights California
Equal Justice Society 
National Center for Youth Law

No more waiting

More than two years after an independent audit raised alarm bells about special-ed classes, youth advocacy groups don’t see change coming without legal action.

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The California city where students with disabilities are ‘segregated’

In the Sacramento city school district, nearly half of students with disabilities are separated from peers. A lawsuit claims the district is violating federal law.

…Antionette Dozier, an attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, one of four legal organizations representing the students, said it is a familiar issue but one that is starkest in the state’s capital.

“This is a statewide problem. However, Sacramento is probably the most egregious in terms of racial segregation and the treatment of black students,” Dozier said.

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