Unit 5 Resolves Civil Rights Criticism; Admits No Wrongdoing

This fall, several Unit 5 officers received training that helped resolve a federal civil rights complaint alleging the district opposed a special school student. The district did not admit any wrongdoing.

The student’s parents filed the complaint with the US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office (OCR) in May. The student, who is only identified as “Student A” in documents, received special educational services as part of an Individual Education Program (IEP).

During a recent meeting with special education staff, the parent declined Unit 5’s recommendation of where Student A should be housed for the 2020-21 school year, according to records. The student then allegedly sent a series of emails to district officials with subject lines such as “Retaliation” and “Unit 5 Misconduct,” according to records.

These repeated contacts appear to have raised security concerns. Unit 5’s security director – a retired ordinary police officer – visited the family home to discuss the matter.

Before the investigation into OCR was completed, Unit 5 agreed in October to resolve the complaint through a voluntary settlement agreement. The agreement is designed to “ensure compliance with federal laws that prohibit disability discrimination and retaliation by federal grant recipients and public institutions.”

Under this agreement, Unit 5 would train its superintendent, special needs education director, school board president and safety director on the non-discrimination and non-retaliation provisions of the federal disability law by November 2. A ban on communication between Student A and district officials has also been lifted.

“The district has expressed an interest in a settlement arrangement with OCR,” Unit 5 attorney Curt Richardson told WGLT. “OCR did not identify any violations in the resolution agreement and the district did not admit any suspected wrongdoing. However, in order to avoid unnecessary investigation, and because the actions proposed by OCR were part of the district’s normal practices and annual training, the district voluntarily agreed to resolve the complaint. “

OCR will monitor whether Unit 5 meets the terms of the agreement. The family can still file a private federal lawsuit against the district even if the OCR does not find a violation.

Unit 5 is the largest school district in Bloomington-Normal with more than 13,600 students. Approximately 18% of these students receive special services under an IEP.

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