Attorneys for the Community Justice Project at the University of St. Thomas filed a complaint last week with federal civil rights officials that accuses a Minneapolis school of routinely violating the rights of special education students.
The complaint states that Minneapolis Public Schools' Harrison Education Center fails to provide adequate instruction to its students and segregates them from the children who don't have disabilities. The complaint requests a federal investigation.
Harrison currently serves high school students deemed to have severe emotional and behavioral disorders.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, recounts the story of a 16-year-old boy who was sent to Harrison after he was involved in a fight. Upon enrolling at Harrison, the boy, "J.G.," observed frequent fights and said little was taught in the classroom.
"He also states that students are constantly disciplined with suspensions, both in-school and out of school," the complaint states. "Though Harrison punishes its students for minor infractions, J.G. remembers that a staff member hypocritically and openly recounted his drinking stories with a minor student."
District officials said Thursday they had not received official notice of the complaint from federal justice officials.
"Our standard procedure when receiving complaints is to respond swiftly and cooperate thoroughly with the inquiring agency," said Rachel Hicks, a district spokeswoman.
The district is currently considering making significant changes at Harrison, which has long been accused of being a dumping ground for troubled students.
Those changes include requiring teachers and other staff members to reapply for newly redesigned positions. The process is known as a "fresh start" and has been used in the past with some of the district's struggling schools. The board is expected to take up the issue at its April meeting.