Friday, December 11, 2015

Who's Watching Over the Office for Civil Rights?

I've learned a lot over the past 7+ years dealing with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (ED OCR) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office for Civil Rights (USDA OCR).

One thing I discovered was the fact that there is a pattern of practice of complaints remaining open for years in the Kansas City ED OCR Regional Office from across the multi-state region. I have had many parents and advocates contact me over the years about complaints they've filed with ED OCR that have remained open for years.

It's even more troubling to know that ED OCR allows school districts like Fox C-6 to spend nearly 7 years trying to meet the terms of the Resolution Agreement that the district signed in May 2009 to become compliant with federal law.

How do students expect to be protected when there's no enforcement of the law or enforcement of Resolution Agreements?

From a FOIA request, I recently learned that the Kansas City ED OCR office has only completed 7 out of 17 school district wide compliance review investigations that have been assigned to them over the past 10 years.

I voiced my concerns to the Washington D.C. ED OCR office back in 2010 when I found out that the Kansas City ED OCR office was going to be conducting the district wide compliance review of Fox C-6 instead of the Washington D.C. office. My concerns have definitely been validated over the years.

Completing only 7 out of 17 compliance reviews over the past decade is a very disturbing statistic and one that should raise the eyebrows of the public as well as our U.S. Senators and Congressman. Taxpayers are paying a lot of people six figure salaries for what would be considered a failing grade if scoring their work like a test, 7 out of 17 is 41%. That's an F in anybody's grade book!

What are the directors and enforcement directors who oversee the Kansas City ED OCR office doing?

It doesn't seem as if they are ensuring that investigations are getting done in a timely manner.

The information regarding the 7 out of 17 compliance reviews was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Washington D.C..

Kansas City Open Compliance Review Investigations
There is one open compliance review that was opened in 2007 investigating the Wichita Unified School District #259 in Kansas.

There are two open compliance reviews that were opened in 2009; one investigating the Bayless School District in Missouri and the other investigating the Jenks Public School District in Oklahoma.

There are two open compliance reviews that were opened in 2010; one investigating the Fox C-6 School District in Arnold, MO and the other investigating the Rapid City Area School District #51-4 in South Dakota.

It's difficult to even imagine that the Kansas City ED OCR office has only been able to complete 7 out of 17 compliance reviews assigned to them over the past decade. Why can't they complete these investigations?

It should have been very easy for the Kansas City ED OCR office to determine that Fox C-6 was non-compliant with federal law when the district wide compliance review was initiated in March 2010. The district had already agreed to sign a Resolution Agreement in May 2009 which stipulated what the district was required to do in order to become compliant with federal law.

In August 2004, after the district switched law firms and the district switched Section 504 Coordinators, several students that had been previously denied Section 504 Plans for years in the district were finally appropriately provided with Section 504 Plans.

There are people working in the Kansas City ED OCR office that know why compliance reviews and other complaints aren't getting completed. They should use the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 to speak out about what's been going on in the Kansas City ED OCR Office. They owe it to the students who have been denied proper protection under the law for years. It's truly sad and disgraceful to think of the pain that that the KC ED OCR office has caused for families covered by their regional office over the years.

As it stands now, it’s very easy to see how school districts have been able to get around federal law for years. There's no accountability of the school districts nor ED OCR itself.

It's time for attorneys and staff in the Kansas City ED OCR Office to stand up and report what's been going on for years in that office that's been allowing compliance reviews to remain open for years and complaints to remain in limbo for years.

KC ED OCR staff and attorneys probably have the same fear of reprisal in their office just like it was for teachers and administrators in our school district. Everyone was too afraid to speak up about what was going on in our school district.

I wrote to the former director of enforcement for the Office for Civil Rights over the Kansas City office back in September 2015. His name is Randolph Wills. Mr. Wills did not respond to my first email inquiry regarding Fox's open district wide compliance review that's been open for nearly 6 years. After 10 days of not receiving a response from Mr. Wills, I emailed him again. He finally responded to my second email. He informed me that he was no longer the Enforcement Director over the Kansas City ED OCR office. He informed me that Debbie Osgood was the current director of enforcement over the KC Office and that he had forwarded my email to Debbie Osgood.

Debbie Osgood responded with the following email on October 1, 2015:

Mr. Simpson: 
I am pleased to respond to your email, which Randolph Wills forwarded to me as the Enforcement Director for OCR’s Kansas City enforcement office. Your email outlines your concerns regarding the Fox C-6 compliance review being investigated by OCR Kansas City. I share your concern about the time that the Fox C-6 School District compliance review has been open. The resolution of this outstanding review (as well as others) is a priority for OCR. Although I cannot give you a specific date by which the review will be completed, I want to reassure you that the Kansas City office is devoting substantial resources and attention to the resolution of this review and other pending reviews. 
You also asked about a Fox C-6 complaint being monitored. My understanding is that a number of the items in that agreement have been completed and Kansas City staff have worked with the district to resolve the remaining items. 
Debbie Osgood
OCR Enforcement Director

Ms. Osgood copied Bill Dittmeier, the current Director of the Kansas City Office for Civil Rights in her response to me. I laughed when I read Debbie Osgood’s response. Many others laughed as well when I told them what the response was from ED OCR.

How would anyone believe Ms. Osgood’s statement that “the Kansas City office is devoting substantial resources and attention to the resolution of this review and other pending reviews” when the Kansas City office has only completed 7 out of 17 compliance reviews assigned to them over the past decade?

Three weeks ago I wrote back to Debbie Osgood, Bill Dittmeier and Randolph Wills asking why the Kansas City ED OCR office has only been able to complete 7 out of 17 district wide compliance reviews in the past 10 years. None of them responded to my email. Although I did receive Read Receipts from all three of them.

On Monday of this week, I sent my question about the Kansas City ED OCR office to Sandra Battle. Sandra Battle is is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement at ED OCR in Washington D.C. I copied Debbie Osgood, Bill Dittmeier and Randolph Wills when I emailed Ms. Battle as well as the Department of Justice. No one has responded yet to my concerns regarding this issue.

Perhaps no one wants to be held accountable.

It certainly seems that the patterns of practice in the Kansas City ED OCR office would be a concern for anyone dealing with this OCR Office. As an added tidbit of information, it took nearly 60 days for ED OCR to send a response to my FOIA request. It would appear that ED OCR is not as familiar with federal law regarding FOIA request response requirements like the USDA Office for Civil Rights is. Federal law dictates that all FOIA requests must be responded to within 20 days.

A recent USDA Office for Civil Rights FOIA response letter referenced the law in their response (5 U.S.C. § 552).

You can read about FOIA law requirements in the article below located on the U.S. Department of Justice's website:


I find it truly amazing that the Enforcement Directors for the Office for Civil Rights don’t seem to do what their job titles state that they do

You would think that the Enforcement Directors at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would be holding people accountable and making sure that the regional offices that they oversee are doing their job.

Perhaps it’s time that our U.S. Senators and Congressman take an in depth look into what’s going on in the Kansas City ED OCR office.

ED OCR’s Enforcement Directors don’t seem to want to answer questions as to why these compliance reviews have been open for so many years. Perhaps the Enforcement Directors will be willing to answer these questions for Congress. I have offered to testify in congressional hearings about our dealings with ED OCR. It's about time that someone starts looking into what's going on in the Kansas City ED OCR office since taxpayers are paying a lot of six figure salaries for such abysmal completion results.

You may wish to contact the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights as well to see if you can get any answers. Perhaps there are some investigative reporters that may be interested in following up on this story as well. It certainly seems to be a huge expenditure of money for very little results.

Here is the contact page: