WASHINGTON— The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with Beach Babies Learning Center LLC, located in Old Saybrook, Conn., to resolve allegations that the center terminated the enrollment of a then two-year-old child from its program because the child has autism. Based upon a c omprehensive medical history and physical examination, the child’s pediatrician confirmed that the child was healthy and could participate in the programs at the center.
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, including autism, in early education and child care centers. Under the agreement, the center agreed to implement policies and procedures to ensure that children with disabilities are afforded a full and equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the center’s programs. The center will also post a nondiscrimination policy at its facility and include the policy on its website. The center also agreed to pay monetary damages to the child’s parents.
“Ensuring that children with disabilities, and their families, have equal access to early education and child care centers goes to the heart of the ADA’s promises and protections,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Beach Babies Learning Center cooperated with the department to address this matter through this agreement, and we hope that this agreement serves as a reminder to other education and child care providers about their responsibilities under the ADA.”
“Partnering with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has embarked on a significant civil rights enforcement initiative,” stated U.S. Attorney David B. Fein. “Autism is just one of many serious disabilities that affect so many families in Connecticut, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring that every child has equal access to early learning centers, public and private, and can participate in all of the programs that are available .”
Under Title III of the ADA, private early learning and child care providers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability, and must make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures to afford individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate and benefit from the early learning services . The providers should permit changes in schedules whenever necessary to accommodate early intervention services provided by outside therapists so long as they do not result in a fundamental alteration of the services.
The enforcement of the ADA is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.