State Enters Stipulation In
Disabilities Class Action Lawsuit
Students With Disabilities
Can Get Diplomas In 2004 Without Passing Exit Exam
April 9, 2004
Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes and Alaska Education Commissioner
Roger Sampson announced the filing of a joint stipulation Wednesday
in U.S. District Court that would allow students with disabilities
in the Class of 2004 to get a diploma without passing the state's
high school exit exam. The stipulation was based on an agreement
by the State of Alaska and the lawyers who filed a class action
lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
As many as 500 high school
seniors with disabilities have not passed all three parts of
the high school exam - reading, writing and math. Under the injunction,
the students still need to complete all other state and district
graduation requirements. About 800 seniors have disabilities.
The lawsuit was filed March
16 against the State Board of Education & Early Development,
two Department of Education & Early Development officials
and the Anchorage School District.
"We have stated from the
outset that we have concerns any time the State Board and Department
of Education & Early Development are implicated in treating
students unfairly," said Education Commissioner Roger Sampson.
"Our aim is exactly the opposite. We are working to provide
a top rate education for each and every child in the state and
to help them make a successful transition to life after graduation."
Sampson added: "The agreement with the plaintiffs will allow
both sides to negotiate in good faith the issues raised in the
suit to reach a resolution that is fair for all involved."
Sampson and Attorney General
Gregg Renkes said the stipulation will provide time for the State
to seek guidance from the Legislature and the State Board of
Education regarding options for settling the lawsuit. "We
need to know whether the legislature will act on pending legislation
affecting this case before we can engage in meaningful settlement
negotiations," said Renkes.
The key points of the stipulation
- Members of the class action
lawsuit include all students who have an Individualized Education
Program (IEP) under the federal Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act or a Section 504 Plan under the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973 and who have taken or who must the high school graduation
qualifying exam. About 18,000 students statewide at all grade
levels have IEPs.
- The high school exam will
not be used to deny a class member a high school diploma in the
spring of 2004 if the student has met all other requirements
for a diploma.
- The State of Alaska will notify
secondary school principals and special education directors about
the stipulation. Schools will be required to notify parents,
special education teachers and affected students.
- The State of Alaska and the
plaintiffs' lawyers will enter into negotiations to try to resolve
the issues raised in the lawsuit. The first negotiation is expected
to be May 18.
- The State of Alaska and lawyers
for the plaintiffs will report to the court progress on the negotiations
no later than July 9.
Source of News Release:
Alaska Department of Education
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