National Center for Youth Law


Print This Post

New Lawsuit Challenges Shortened School Day for Students with Disabilities
Oregon Failing to Ensure That All Children Can Attend a Full day of School

Children in Oregon as young as five- and six-years-old are routinely excluded from attending a full school day with their peers because of their disability-related behaviors. Their school districts often make these decisions without first adequately considering and developing services or supports that would allow the students to successfully attend school for the full day. 

The use of shortened school days for students whose disabilities lead to challenging behaviors is a national problem affecting schools and districts in every state. In Oregon, hundreds of children in urban and rural districts, are losing vital access to educational opportunity by being placed on shortened school days and excluded from learning with their non-disabled peers.

Last month NCYL joined with the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Disability Rights Oregon, the Bazelon Center, and pro bono attorneys Peter Simshauser, Stacy Horth-Neubert, and Michael Folger to file a Federal class action lawsuit against the State of Oregon on behalf of parents of children who have been deprived of the opportunity to attend a full day of school. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that all schools in the state comply with the federal law Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other relevant laws governing students with disabilities. The state has been on notice about the scope of this problem for years. Oregon’s reactive approach to enforcement means only students with strong advocates get the legal protections they are entitled to. The state could get greater compliance by providing technical assistance and corrective oversight to districts but it is failing to do so.

This lawsuit asks the court to enforce existing federal law by ordering the State of Oregon to develop, adopt, and implement policies and practices that will ensure that the State of Oregon and its school districts provide a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to all eligible children in the state, including by providing children whose disabilities lead to challenging classroom behaviors with the services and supports they need to access a full school day.

Every student should have access to an education premised on high expectations for achievement. Public schools should include and support all students in their learning communities, including students whose disabilities lead to challenging classroom behaviors. Excluding students with disabilities robs them of the life opportunities that come with a high quality education. Children who receive limited instruction cannot be expected to keep pace with their classmates, increasing the chances of falling behind and dropping out. Children who are segregated and provided limited instruction understand and internalize the low expectations their schools have set for them, they feel isolation and shame. Further, excluding students from school instruction does not support their learning and generally exacerbates the disruptive behaviors that make school inclusion challenging, thereby escalating rather than solving the problem.