Top DC Charter Investigated for Special Ed Requirements Violations

One of the best charter schools in Washington D.C. is getting attention from both local and federal education authorities after allegations were made that the charter is not meeting the special education requirements laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to Emma Brown of the Washington Post, the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education has opened an investigation into BASIS DC – a school that boasts an accelerated and rigorous academic program – after someone lodged a complaint that BASIS is discriminating against special needs students.

The investigation followed on the heels of a two-day review conducted by the D.C. Public Charter School Board after a number of parents lodged similar allegations against BASIS.

The findings of the review show that the school did not have proper documentation on the steps it took to reduce services offered to special needs kids. A number of other problems were outlined in the findings published by the board’s website. Copies of the required individualized education programs were either missing from student files or did not have a parent’s signature.

In addition, board staff found that BASIS DC placed special-education students in a remedial classroom for failing students, where the special-education students were not provided the reading instruction they needed, according to the summary.

The board has required BASIS DC to fix the problems identified during the review and improve staff training in special-
education teaching methods and law. Board officials plan to meet with school officials four times during the coming school year to ensure that they are making progress.

The school has already taken a number of steps to correct its special education problems, including hiring a consultant last spring to help it draft a new special education curriculum. According to Brown, since then the school has also hired a coordinator for the program and plans to add two full-time special ed teachers.

BASIS has been enrolling students since 2012, although critics of the charter have repeatedly warned that it is the wrong solution to the problem of underperforming DC students. The school offers accelerated academic program in middle school. In addition to standard high school graduation requirements in place for all DC schools, it requires all its graduates to complete a number of Advanced Placement courses.

Its recent request for expansion was denied by the board over concern that a high number of students were leaving the school.