Disability rights advocates sue Pasadena (Calif.) district

Disability rights advocates sue Pasadena (Calif.) district

Group argues that placing students with disabilities in a separate school denies them an equal education.

A disability rights advocacy group contends in a lawsuit that students in the Pasadena (Calif.) district with mental health needs are denied an equal education because of their placement in a segregated school.

The lawsuit brought by Disability Rights California asserts that the Pasadena Unified School District is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by assigning scores of children with mental health needs to Focus Point Academy.

The group characterizes the academy as a school where students receive an inferior education and are subjected to dangerous physical restraints, forced isolation, threatened and repeated arrests, and suspensions for minor offenses.

“Focus Point is exclusively for students with mental health needs, but they don’t need to be there,” says Candis Bowles, Managing Attorney at Disability Rights California.

KPCC-FM reports that Pasadena officials declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, but defended the program.

“The district sees the program as being beneficial for those students who need the extra support in socialization and problem solving skills to be successful,” says Associate Superintendent Mercy Santoro.

Five current and former Focus Point students are plaintiffs in the class-action suit. The lawsuit says those students did not receive individualized behavior services, did not get to participate in extracurricular activities and elective classes such as music, art, and sports, and received an education that was inferior to that offered to students without disabilities.

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