PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that her Office, along with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), in Philadelphia, hosted a panel presentation yesterday for disability rights organizations to discuss the problem of discrimination against children in public and private schools, camps, and childcare facilities, based on an autism spectrum diagnosis. The virtual event was attended by organizations that routinely work with families of children with disabilities.
The focus of the presentation was to inform the public of the efforts and enforcement tools of the United States Attorney’s Office and OCR to combat disability discrimination, with an emphasis on less-recognized and under-reported discrimination against children who have been diagnosed with autism.
The United States Attorney’s Office’s segment of the presentation focused on its primary tool to combat autism-based discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Department of Justice enforces the ADA, which prohibits discrimination in a variety of settings because of disability. The presentation discussed the provisions of the ADA that apply to public and private schools, camps, and childcare facilities, and informed the public that these entities are required to comply with the ADA by providing disabled children with an equal opportunity to participate in programs, activities, and services.
To assist the public with identifying potential autism-based discrimination, and increase reporting, several examples of allegations investigated or resolved by the Department of Justice were discussed, including situations where children with autism were denied enrollment, disenrolled, or treated differently than other children in schools, camps, and childcare facilities.
“Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that each child has different needs and abilities. The ADA prohibits schools, camps, and childcare facilities, whether public or private, from making blanket denials of enrollment, services, or activities without conducting an individualized assessment of the needs of children with autism. Our Office is committed to combating autism-based discrimination by helping the public identify and understand the options for reporting such potential violations of the ADA,” said U.S. Attorney Romero.
U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero; Assistant United States Attorney Stacey L. B. Smith, from the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia; and Andrea DelMonte, an attorney with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights in Philadelphia, presented to the attendees.
The United States Attorney’s Office encourages anyone who believes their child is being discriminated against by public or private schools, camps, or childcare facilities based on autism to review Department of Justice guidance and resources provided at www.ADA.gov, where complaints may also be filed. Individuals in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton may also file a complaint with the United States Attorney’s Office directly at 615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250, Philadelphia, PA 19106, ATTN: Lauren DeBruicker, Civil Rights Deputy Chief. She may also be emailed at USAPAE.CivilRights@usdoj.gov or Lauren.DeBruicker@usdoj.gov
Individuals may also contact OCR at OCR.Philadelphia@ed.gov to discuss the Department of Education’s enforcement options detailed during the presentation.