Alaskan Students Sue State Over Graduation Exam
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 17, 2004
JUNEAU, ALASKA--A group of five high school students with disabilities has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Alaska Board of Education, claiming the state's new high school exit exam discriminates against them by making it more difficult for them to graduate and get a diploma.
The suit, filed Tuesday, claims that the new exam will mean that more than two-thirds of students with disabilities in the state will not be able to graduate this June.
Federal law requires students with disabilities to be given accommodations on school tests -- to have the questions read to them, or to use calculators, for instance. While schools do allow accommodations on most tests, the suit accuses Alaska of not allowing such accommodations on the exit exam.
Sid Wolinsky, an attorney with the legal firm Disability Rights Advocates, which is representing the students, said that students are flunking the test at a 3-to-1 ratio.
"We're not seeking to stop the whole test, we're not seeking to set aside standards, we're not seeking damages," Wolinsky told the Associated Press. "We're seeking that the safeguards required by both federal and Alaska law be implemented."
A number of discouraged students have already dropped out of school, the suit claims.
Disability Rights Advocates, based in Oakland, California, has already sued the states of Oregon and California, in 2000 and 2001 respectively, over their use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement. The issues brought up in the California case have not yet been resolved.
Keith Gayler, associate director of the Center on Education Policy, told the New York Times that 20 states require exit exams for graduates this year, and that four more states will soon be adding them.
Disability Rights Advocates