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Hillsborough County Special Education

Students with mental disabilities in Hillsborough County, Florida endured a culture of neglect and overly harsh discipline that robbed them of an education and pushed them along a path to incarceration.

The school district failed to provide the counseling, social work and psychological services required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). Children with disabilities graduate from Hillsborough schools at a rate of just 39 percent - compared to 75 percent for all students during the 2005-06 school year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of advocacy groups filed a class action administrative complaint with the Florida Department of Education to bring Hillsborough County schools into compliance with federal special education law and end practices that exclude or isolate children with disabilities.

The Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities joined the SPLC in filing the complaint, which lists the Florida State Conference of the NAACP as an organizational complainant. Hillsborough County was the nation’s ninth largest school district at the time of the filing.