HMG-LCCN EXCLUSIVE : Norwalk-La Mirada School District Cited by Department of Justice for Non-ADA Compliance at La Mirada High

Courtesy Giz.de

 

BY BRIAN HEWS

Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained a Resolution Agreement between the Department of Justice Enforcement Division and the Norwalk La Mirada Unified School District that orders the District to cease negligent management practices related to the Americans with Disabilities Act programs at La Mirada High School.

The original complaint was sent in to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title Two of the ADA of 1990.

The complaint was lodged in 2014 and took the DOJ over four years to forge the resolution with the NLMUSD.

When contacted by HMG-LCCN, the resident responsible for the complaint and eventual resolution, Dennis Starbird, indicated that a number of other schools in the district are also violating the ADA.

The agreement begins by releasing the NLMUSD from any negligence, which, according to Starbird, is completely bogus.

“This is just one school,” Starbird told HMG-LCCN, “the Norwalk La Mirada District has many schools that are grossly mismanaging their ADA programs.”

“Without admitting any violation of law,” the agreement stated,  “and in order to resolve the findings and concerns identified with respect to the above-referenced complaint, the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District (District) agrees to take the actions outlined in this Resolution Agreement (Agreement).”

But instead of outlining violations that are related to older buildings, the violations confirmed Starbird’s allegations of gross mismanagement.

The violations included improper ADA accessible parking spaces, accessible walkways to school facilities, accessible seating at sports facilities, accessible restrooms, improper procedures for handling individuals with disabilities, and sales and service counter issues related to food service.

All tolled, the NLMUSD was found to have violated six sections of the ADA.

In regards to the parking situation the DOJ stated, “the District must provide accessible parking in all school parking lots including a van accessible parking space in each of the two staff parking lots in the rear of the school, and appropriate signage.”

The lack of parking spaces violated Sections 202 and 508 of the ADA.

The document then outlined actions to address the inadequate access to the high school’s facilities, including the baseball and football fields. 

“NLMUSD must provide an accessible path of travel up to the school’s baseball field. Until an accessible path of travel is constructed, the District will take interim steps to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to access programs and activities at the baseball field.”

The inadequate access issues violated Section 206 and Chapter 4 of the ADA.

The agreement also demanded that the NLMUSD provide “accessible seating for the school’s baseball field, consistent with Section 221.” 

Section 221 of the ADA mandates wheelchair and companion seating at “large assembly areas.” In assembly areas with more than 5,000 seats, at least 36 wheelchair spaces and companion seats- plus one additional wheelchair space for each 200 seats more than 5,000- are required. 

The document then cited the high school’s football field which, similar to the baseball field, had inadequate seating along with non-ADA compliant restrooms. 

“The District will renovate the existing football field facility to include accessible bleachers and restrooms. Until the construction is complete, the District will provide accessible portable restrooms for all home football games, graduation, and other major events at the field.” 

Several other violations that confirm  the gross mismanagement cited by Starbird  included an individual’s access to tickets stands, concession stands, proper training of staff, directing individuals with disabilities to accessible areas, accessible signage, safety, and good seating to view football field events. 

“The District will also develop procedures to ensure that seating options for individuals with disabilities are safe, provide unobstructed views, and are integrated with the experience of other spectators to the maximum extent possible.”

“The District will also develop procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities are served at the ticket booth and concession stands and that staff are trained while also ensuring that they can obtain information as to the existence and location of accessible services, activities, and facilities at the field, including signage identifying accessible seating locations and other accessible features.”

Finally the District was admonished for inadequate access to the snack and lunch counters at the high school under 227 and 904 of the ADA.

The standards require the food counters to provide an accessible portion at least 36 inches long and no higher than 36 inches above the floor, and that customer service at the accessible counters match those at other counters.

“The District will construct an accessible lunch counter at the school and will develop

procedures to ensure that the accessible snack counter serves both lunch and snack options, such that individuals with disabilities have equal access to all of the school’s food options.”

“It’s sad,” said Starbird, “I have been pushing the District since 2014 and I had to file a complaint to get things done. After this agreement came through I will now set my sights on other schools until they are all in compliance with the ADA, it is only right.”

 

See Resolution Agreement, click here

 

 

 

 

Have a Comment?