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U.S. Department of Justice Finds Lincoln Public Schools in Violation of Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today, February 14, that Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) discriminates against children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The findings follow an investigation into a complaint submitted by Disability Rights Nebraska, the designated protection and advocacy organization for the state of Nebraska. The complaint alleged that LPS has a policy of placing children with hearing impairments into three cluster sites, which is in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tania Diaz, CEO of Disability Rights Nebraska, applauds the U.S. Department of Justice for recognizing the rights of students who are deaf and hard of hearing and the responsibility that Lincoln Public Schools has to provide effective communication under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.                                         

Disability Rights Nebraska submitted their complaint on behalf of an elementary student with a hearing impairment whose preferred method of communication is American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting. Her neighborhood school is located two minutes from her family’s home and is her preferred school. However, LPS requires that she attend a school across town in order to utilize an ASL interpreter. This school is more than a 25-minute, one-way drive from her home and even longer if she needs to ride the bus. Because she is forced to attend one of LPS’ designated sites for children with hearing impairments, she misses out on building friendships with children from her neighborhood, attending school with her sibling, and becoming more familiar with her neighborhood environment. LPS stated, “Sign language interpreters are placed at the three cluster sites in LPS... Since the student needs a sign language interpreter, [the selected school] meets her needs.” All three cluster sites are located in south Lincoln.

Disability Rights Nebraska also advocated on behalf of a high school student with a hearing impairment. This student experienced hearing loss later in her childhood. She does not communicate using ASL and does not require the use of an ASL interpreter. She utilizes assistive technology in order to effectively communicate. Despite this, LPS attempted to remove her from her neighborhood school during her senior year. LPS enrolled her into the high school they designated for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. This move would have placed her in a learning environment that utilizes a language that she does not understand. The placement would have also isolated her from her friends, teachers, and familiar school environment.

The Department of Justice determined that LPS’ blanket policy of enrolling students who utilize ASL interpreters into one elementary, middle and high school violates federal law. They further outlined steps LPS must take to come into compliance.

The full findings letter and Department of Justice press release can be found at:

Disability Rights Nebraska has offices in Lincoln and Scottsbluff. We use a combination of strategies to promote, protect, and advocate for the legal and human rights of all people with disabilities. We support people to gain full inclusion in their home, community, education, and employment beginning with those who learn, live, or work in isolated segregated or congregated settings. We are part of a nationwide network of congressionally mandated Protection and Advocacy organizations for people with disabilities.

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