Local family to file special needs complaint against State Dept. of Education

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. - The Chada family believes the State Department of Education may be violating the civil rights of special needs students, and now they're afraid their daughter won't graduate this school year.

Seventeen-year-old Mary Chada, a senior high student, is on her own path to a high school diploma.

Mary is on an Individualized Education Program -- or an IEP. Her mom Angela says ACE test graduation requirements could hurt her chance at getting a diploma.

She says right now, Mary is considered failing because she passed her test with the help of color coding.

"It's like discrimination with someone that's disabled. You can't set the bar up here when you know they're never going to make it," Chada said.

Chada believes the State Department of Education is overstepping its bounds. She says the department changed its stance toward support mechanisms like color coding that help special needs students succeed.

"The problem with that is the state department is overriding the IEP team. And that's a federal civil rights violation," Chada said.

Special needs directors at Broken Arrow Public Schools say the tests don't properly measure the progress students are making to develop life skills.

Gena Taylor, director of secondary special education, says there are safeguards in place to help special needs students succeed. She worries the state department's enforcement of the new test requirements threatens that.

"We want to abide by state law, but we also want to recognize the authority that an IEP team has federally," said Taylor.

Chada says she just wants to see Mary and other special needs students who have earned their diplomas get them on time.

"And for someone at the very end of the finish line, at the state department to say 'nope, she can't have her diploma. It's just, heartbreaking,'" Chada said.

Chada says the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is considering opening an investigation into the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

A spokesperson for the State Department of Education tells 2News there are mechanisms in place to accommodate special needs students during testing.

The department says it does not allow color coding that directs students to the answers during testing. It also says it does not get involved in IEP decisions and that is left to school districts to handle.

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