Advocates Prepare To Challenge Plans For Large Segregated
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 14, 2006
ELKHORN, WISCONSIN--Disability Rights Wisconsin, the state's federally-mandated protection and advocacy system, is getting ready to take legal action against Walworth County if the county board goes ahead with plans to build what it admits would be a segregated school for 250 students with disabilities.
According to the Janesville Gazette, the county's board voted in April to set aside $22 million for a larger facility to replace the current Lakeland School, which provides a "self-contained environment" for 220 students.
Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, a managing attorney with DRW's schools and civil rights team, said the decision violates the federal rights of these students by teaching them separately from children that do not have disabilities.
"In virtually every other county, local communities have figured out how to include children (with special needs) in their neighborhood school," Spitzer-Resnick told the Gazette.
"What's radical, frankly, is Walworth County's notion that what they're doing, which is so different than what happens in rest of Wisconsin and the rest of the country, is that it's the right way to go. That's radical."
Supporters of the plan to replace the 1950s era facility argue that the facility addresses the need for a "continuum of alternative placements" for students with disabilities, and that they would likely be segregated in self-contained classrooms in mainstream schools, anyway.
Meanwhile, other schools in Walworth County are trying to figure out how they will make up a financial gap when the county takes nearly $1 million from their special education operating budgets to finance the proposed Lakeland School. That's because, when the board decided to move forward with building the facility, it decided to stop paying for special education services provided through in-district schools.
"Lawsuit could threaten Lakeland School building plans" (Janesville Gazette)
"Districts weigh special ed options" (Janesville Gazette)
Disability Rights Wisconsin -- formerly Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy