Cape May County Technical School District must revise its admission process after a state review found it may unfairly discriminate against disabled students.
In a settlement agreement with the state Office of the Attorney General and Division of Civil Rights, the district must make changes that include not asking whether applicants are disabled and notifying parents of the specific reasons for rejecting an applicant.
“When educational opportunities are offered on a competitive basis, or through a selection process, it’s important that all applicants be on equal footing, and that they be evaluated solely on their abilities – not their disabilities,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman, in a statement.
Other changes include that the applicants be evaluated on a specific set of objective criteria, and that the admissions committee cannot review a disabled applicant's Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, as part of the admissions process.
The Division of Civil Rights launched its review in response to concerns by parents, educators and advocates, according to the statement about the settlement released Tuesday morning. It found the district has had a lower percentage of disabled students enrolled than other comparable schools.
For example, the division said the Technical High School’s percentage of students with disabilities was 1.25 percent in 2009 and 5.25 percent in 2010. The statewide average is 15 percent, and the county average is approximately 17.6 percent.
“Through this settlement, the school has created a set of policies and practices that foster greater equality in the student admissions process at Cape May Technical High School,” said Division Director Craig T. Sashihara in the statement. “This is an important step, and I commend the school district for its readiness to embrace change once the issue was brought to its attention.”
Under the agreement, the changes are voluntary, and the district acknowledges no liability or wrongdoing. The district will also provide training to staff members in regard to the changes.
The school will provide statistics to the state for the next three school years, including the total number of applicants, total number of applicants with IEPs and total number of applicants with IEPS who are accepted