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Wake Co. schools settles suit over disabled student services

The Wake County Public Schools System has reached an agreement with Legal Aid of North Carolina to improve services for students with cognitive disabilities.

The agreement, which was finalized Feb. 13, outlines ways that the school district will work to improve services for students with mental health disabilities.

“Special education law requires that all students with disabilities be offered an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment,” said Cari Carson, staff attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Advocates for Children’s Services in a news release. “But too often, students with mental health disabilities are segregated away from their non-disabled peers or are not making academic progress in any setting.”

The complaint was filed on behalf of seven students who alleged the school system had violated their rights, along with the rights of other students with mental health conditions and cognitive disabilities. The violations ranged from suspending students without first holding legally required review meetings to failing to provide students with transportation to alternative placements.

The terms of the settlement will provide for additional training for staff on effective behavior interventions, implementing a suspension monitoring system, updating service protocols for students with disabilities who are suspended for more than 10 days, doing internal audits to ensure required procedures are followed and providing individualized fixes for students who missed 20 days or more of school due to suspensions or transportation delays.

Karen Hamilton assistant superintendent for Special Education Services for the school system said in a release that the agreement reinforces what Wake County Public Schools was already trying to do.

“We are pleased to reach this agreement with Legal Aid of North Carolina on completing the strategies and systems outlined in the settlement, some of which were already underway,” Hamilton said. “We look forward to future opportunities to support our students with special needs.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the settlement had not yet been finalized. North Carolina Lawyers Weekly regrets the error.

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