State sued for not accommodating disabled for exam

The Associated Press
Wednesday May 09, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — A disability rights group has sued California’s Education Department for failing to accommodate children with disabilities during the state’s newly implemented high school exit exam. 

Disability Rights Advocates filed the suit Tuesday in federal court in Oakland on behalf of three dyslexic teen-agers. It seeks class action status to represent all California public school students similarly affected. 

“Gov. (Gray) Davis and the bureaucrats in Sacramento have ignored the repeated requests by the disability community ... and others to wait and develop a fair test.  

“The politicians have instead decided to use California children as guinea pigs in an educational experiment which is destined to fail,” said Alison Aubry, a lawyer for the Oakland-based nonprofit organization that sued. 

Education Department spokesman Doug Stone said Tuesday he had not yet seen the suit and could not comment on it specifically. 

However, he said the test is new and a work group is now being formed to develop guidelines for school districts. 

“We do believe that we are trying to ensure that the locals understand what is required under state law with this exam and ensuring that for special ed kids ... appropriate accommodations are part of that,” he said. 

The High School Exit Exam, which was created after lawmakers decided in 1999 to require such an exam, tests students’ skills in English and mathematics.  

The English portion includes multiple choice and essay questions and the math portion covers arithmetic, statistics, algebra and geometry. 

The exam was developed and field tested for several months last year.  

Beginning in 2004, passing the exam will be required for graduation. 

“Regardless of how bright and talented students are, how hard they work or how high achieving they may be, students who do not pass the exam will not graduate from high school, will not receive a regular diploma and will be severely disadvantaged in applying for employment and for college admission,” according to the suit. 

Dyslexia is a learning disability that impairs one’s ability to process language. 

The suit asks the state to provide an alternate exam, if necessary, for disabled students or reasonable accommodations such as extra time, use of spell checkers, calculators or tape recorders.