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Philadelphia: Charter School Accepts Student, Then Withdraws Acceptance After Seeing Her IEP

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Franklin Towne Charter High School in Philadelphia has been accused of discrimination against a student with disabilities, reports Greg Windle in The Notebook.

Pamela James was thrilled when her granddaughter was accepted at Franklin Towne Charter High School. Her granddaughter raced off to tell friends the good news, and James gave the school a copy of her granddaughter’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), which included the need for emotional support — a common but relatively expensive requirement among students in Philly schools.

Hours later they were both shaken when James got a call from the Northeast Philadelphia school, informing her that her granddaughter could not attend as a result of her emotional disturbance diagnosis, that the class she needed was “full” and that the school would not accommodate her.

“After I took her IEP to the school, that’s when they shot me down,” James said. “That was really ugly discrimination.”

James was furious. No one at the school would return her calls, though she eventually received a brief letter restating that her daughter could not attend.

“I don’t understand how they’re able to do this,” James said. “They decided to change their mind because she needed emotional support.”

At that point, James did not know it is illegal to deny a student attendance at a public school based on their special education status. But she would soon find out. The Education Law Center of Philadelphia has since taken up her cause, sending an open complaint letter to the schools’ lawyer.

The article includes a graph created by the Education Law Center that shows the stark disparity between Philadelphia’s public schools and its charter schools in enrolling students with disabilities.

The only type of disability where charters accept the same proportion of students as public schools is “speech or language impairment.”

On every other type of disability, the contrast is dramatic. The public schools enroll more than 90% of students who are blind and nearly 90% of those who are deaf. The proportions accepted by charter schools are tiny. Eighty percent of students with autism are in public schools, 20% in charters.

Let us all be grateful to organizations like the Education Law Center. Without them, many students would have rights that are not enforced.

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