CHALMETTE, La. — St. Bernard Parish Public Schools routinely violate the rights of students with disabilities by placing them in a punitive alternative school setting without the appropriate accommodations and education services to meet their needs, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Law Clinic for the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, was brought on behalf of two students with multiple disabilities who have languished in the district’s alternative school for years, in violation of their due process and disability rights.
Federal and state laws require school districts to educate students with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to meet their needs. However, St. Bernard Parish Public Schools use punitive discipline practices that force students with disabilities into the alternative school where they remain indefinitely – resulting in an expulsion, as defined by state law.
“The policies and practices of St. Bernard Parish Public Schools create a separate and unequal system where Black students and students with disabilities, forced into the alternative school, are segregated and deprived of the education services and activities afforded in traditional school settings,” said Ashley Dalton, an attorney for the SPLC’s children’s rights practice group. “We are bringing this suit to put an end to the practice.”
“It is time for St. Bernard Parish to fix this broken and illegal alternative school system,” said Hector Linares, a professor with the Loyola Law Clinic. “St. Bernard Parish – and other, similar districts in Louisiana – must reform their systems to provide all youth the opportunity to experience academic and personal growth alongside their peers.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the district to comply with federal and state laws regarding students with disabilities and enforce the due process rights of students.
The complaint can be found HERE.