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Parent files discrimination complaint against Ashland schools

The Ashland School District is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights after the parent of a former Walker Elementary student filed a complaint alleging that the district had discriminated against her and her son on the basis of his disability.

In her complaint, the parent, who asked not to be identified, accused the district of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by excluding her son from six field trips last spring, enforcing a policy that requires parents of students with disabilities to accompany their children on field trips, revising her son’s Individualized Education Plan without her consent and retaliating against her family for requesting complaint forms.

The Office for Civil Rights dismissed two other allegations brought against the district because they failed “to state a violation of one of the laws OCR enforces,” explained ED Program Manager Monique Malson in a letter to the mother dated Jan. 9.

The boy attended Walker Elementary from kindergarten through the fourth grade, during which time he attended all field trips, including 10 during his fourth-grade year, said the mother in an email to the Mail Tribune.

Between April and June 2014, the boy was excluded from six field trips, which the mother considers “a form of retaliation,” after she and her husband requested complaint forms and a copy of the district’s annual report on the use of physical restraints and acquired an advocate.

Ashland’s Director of Student Services Samuel Bogdanove "threatened to hold the annual (Individualized Education Plan) meeting without the parent(s)" and "in a spirit of animus contacted my employer to complain that I had used my work email to send nonwork related emails to him and others at the school district," the mother said in an email.

The family has since moved to Arizona.

Bogdanove, one of three administrators the woman says violated the ADA, said the district has received a copy of her complaint but cannot comment on open complaints. (In her emails, the woman also criticized Superintendent Jay Hummel and Walker Principal Patty Michiels.)

Bogdanove said the district, as a general rule, does not have a policy that requires parental supervision on class field trips. He also said that changing a student’s Individualized Education Plan is a “team process” that involves the parents.

“We have oversight through a couple different agencies, Oregon Department of Education, which includes the state Office of Civil Rights, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Programs and Office of Civil Rights,” Bogdanove said. “All those agencies provide oversight, and parents always have recourse if they feel the district is not handling things appropriately.”

According to Malson’s letter, the complaint may be resolved by an Office for Civil Rights-facilitated resolution, a written agreement by the district to take remedial actions or an Office for Civil Rights investigation to determine whether the district is in compliance with the applicable legal standards.

“OCR’s acceptance of the allegations does not reflect an opinion by the OCR regarding the merits of the allegations or the district’s compliance status with respect to federal civil rights laws,” said Malson in her letter.

 Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.