CLE Succeeds on OCR Complaint: Boston Public Schools to Protect and Accommodate Students with Sickle Cell Disease

In response to an investigation by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), Boston Public Schools (“BPS”) has agreed to recognize sickle cell disease (“SCD”) as a disability that interferes with a student’s education, and to implement policy changes to ensure that students with SCD receive the quality education they have long been denied due to health problems.

 

This agreement resolves a complaint CLE and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute filed with OCR on behalf of a group of BPS parents and students over three years ago. The complaint stated that students with SCD -- nearly all of whom are African American or Hispanic -- were penalized when manifestations of their illness, including physical pain, difficulty concentrating, and absence, interfered with their ability to participate fully in class.

 

"This agreement sends the clear message that students and their families are not to blame for sickle cell disease-related absences, and that public schools must provide these children with supportive services and accommodations necessary to attain the educational benefits provided to other students" said Kathleen B. Boundy, co-director of CLE. All qualified BPS students with SCD will have a 504 plan, which requires a comprehensive evaluation of the ways a student's disability interferes with learning, and identifies supportive services and accommodations to address the student’s needs.

 

Read the full press release here.

 

Read the complaint here.

 

Read the Final Resolution Letter from OCR here.