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Sacramento City Unified has failed special education students for years, grand jury finds

Sacramento school district under fire for failing special education students
Sacramento school district under fire for failing special education students 02:07

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento City Unified School District "deserves an F grade for not meeting the needs of its students with learning, physical, and behavioral disabilities," as written in a civil grand jury report released Monday. 

The report's findings are the result of an eight-month-long investigation where a grand jury concluded that the district has dropped the ball for years when it comes to improving known issues within its special education department, which serves about 7,000 students districtwide. 

District leaders in their response Monday called those past shortcomings "accurate" and are promising to do better. 

"The notion that we are failing to provide appropriate educational services to our most vulnerable students and those with disabilities is unacceptable to every educator and administrator in Sacramento City Unified. The report is a sobering reminder that our students and families deserve better and we must do better by them," the district's statement said.

The Sacramento City Teacher's Association (SCTA) told CBS13 this report is a validation of issues within special education they have been calling attention to since 2017. 

"We hope this is the last wakeup call that Sac City Unified needs to get," said Nikki Milevsky, SCTA president.   

SCTA has filed complaints to California Department of Education, at least one of which has been upheld.     

"SCUSD has been officially admonished numerous times regarding its Special Education Department. The California Department of Education (CDE) has found SCUSD out of compliance for several years," the report reads.

Milevsky says the district has failed to put needed focus on intervention efforts for students. Too often students who are performing poorly in the classroom are not helped and end up in special education classes when they do not need to be there. 

"Our District has really been remiss in providing that level of intervention for our students. That's really step one," said Milevsky. 

The grand jury report foun that in the past seven years, when it comes to early intervention and improving special education services as a whole, "there is no evidence of any progress." 

The report points out that about one year ago, a lawsuit was settled with the district that claimed special education classes were segregating students and disproportionately hurting Black and minority students. 

"CDE has warned the District for the past three years that its special education programs are "significantly disproportionate." There are more students of color in special education than would be expected based on their percentage of the general student population," the report reads. 

The report also highlighted another big concern of the SCTA that parents were left out of drafting the "individualized education plan" for their special ed students. 

"District-level staff were making decisions about students without the parents being present," said Milevsky. 

Among the reports findings are 13 recommendations to the district. 

One includes that administration leaders, teachers and staff should by early January come together and develop a plan to make sure that special education is " equal component of the general education program rather than being treated as a segregated entity." 

Read the full grand jury report with all its findings and recommendations to the District here. 

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