SAN RAMON -- Employees at San Ramon Valley Unified will be under the microscope of federal education officials for the next two years following repeat discrimination complaints from parents of special education students.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights investigated a complaint filed May 15 by parents Adam and Judy Wang. They claimed their 12-year-old autistic son with verbal apraxia and his special day class peers at Los Cerros Middle School were discriminated against when they were excluded from an otherwise all-school sixth-grade trip to The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose last fall. They said their son's only off-campus outings consisted of walks to the neighboring sports field at Monte Vista High School.
The Wangs also complained about the complete lack of information posted about their son's special education assignments and grades on the online School Loop system, used by the district's general education teachers, parents and students.
The investigation closed Nov. 25 with the district agreeing to revamp its policies, train and monitor staff to ensure students are not discriminated against, but public records show that in October 2012 -- a month before the Los Cerros Middle School museum trip -- the district had made a similar pledge.
To resolve an earlier Office for Civil Rights complaint filed by the parent of a fifth-grade student at Twin Creeks Elementary, the district in October 2012 had adopted and circulated new procedures that promised "to provide (disabled students) accommodations to permit participation" in extracurricular field trips. It also said field trip information given to parents of other students "must be provided to parents or guardians of students with disabilities," something the Wangs did not receive.
This time around, Judith Cameron, the district's new special education program director, is committed to better results, she said.
"The district is taking this very seriously," said Cameron, who joined the district Nov. 12. "You can have procedures, but if you don't have the training and accountability, then it gets lost."
Cameron will reinforce and rewrite district policies to specify that only a special education student's Individualized Education Program team -- comprised of a parent or guardian, teacher and program specialist -- can decide to deny a student participation in a field trip. Cameron will also train and monitor school sites to make sure they do not run afoul of anti-discrimination laws and give a report of her findings to the superintendent and the Office for Civil Rights at the end of each semester.
Asked what she thought of the coming field trip rules, parent Judy Wang said, "I like that the default assumption is they get to go," but while she is generally pleased with the outcome of the investigation, her joy is tempered.
"We just want to make sure that they deliver on those promises," Wang said. "I am just a little saddened that it took our filing, as well as another parent's filing, for OCR to take a harder action."
As for the online information system School Loop, new district guidelines will direct IEP teams to decide on a case-by-case basis whether such a system should be used to report academic progress for special education students, or if existing email, phone call, meeting or notebook communications are preferred.
Though not entirely satisfied, Wang said things are looking up for her son, who was granted a transfer request to Iron Horse Middle School this year.
He and other special education students in the district attended a Special Olympics Northern California soccer competition in Concord on Nov. 8, and his class plans to visit the San Jose technology museum this spring, she was told.
Resolution came more quickly for Wang this year when she learned her son and other male special day class students were changing into their P.E. clothes in the classroom, rather than the locker room because there was no male teacher's aide to accompany them. She filed a complaint, and not long after, a male aide was assigned by the district.
"We have been proactive and we put that support in place," Cameron said of the added aide. "Our students, again, should have the same access as non-disabled peers."
Ashly McGlone covers San Ramon. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.