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Federal review: ‘Insufficient evidence’ to sustain allegation of discrimination at Sanibel school

By Staff | Apr 20, 2010

After four months of investigating allegations of discrimination at The Sanibel School, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found insufficient evidence to charge either the school or Lee County School District with misconduct.

Last year, groups of parents with children attending The Sanibel School claimed the administration discriminated against students, failed to implement student education plans and retaliated against those who spoke out.

Timothy Noonan, compliance team leader with the Office of Civil Rights, sent a letter to Superintendent James Browder on March 29 stating that the evidence was not sufficient to find the district in noncompliance.

“OCR finds that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that the district is in noncompliance with Section 504, Title II and Title IX, with regard to the issues investigated in this complaint,” wrote Noonan.

Section 504 requires all students be provided with a free appropriate public education (FAPE), while Title IX protects students from being discriminated against based on sex.

Besides releasing the letter, district spokesperson Joe Donzelli had no further comment on the OCR’s findings.

Claudia Foster, one of the Sanibel parents who brought the complaints against the school district, said she wasn’t satisfied with the findings because she says that investigators didn’t speak with the witnesses she presented.

“They take information from the districts, schools or persons being investigated as the gospel of truth,” said Foster. “The burden of proof is put on the complainant.”

Foster said she provided federal investigators with a list of witnesses and testimonies, but they never spoke with them.

“They aren’t willing to dive as deeply as they need to,” she said.

In January 2010 the school district concluded its own investigation. At that time Browder said there were no grounds for disciplining the principal or administrators at The Sanibel School, and no action was taken.

Federal review: ‘Insufficient evidence’ to sustain allegation of discrimination at Sanibel school

By Staff | Apr 20, 2010

After four months of investigating allegations of discrimination at The Sanibel School, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found insufficient evidence to charge either the school or Lee County School District with misconduct.
Last year, groups of parents with children attending The Sanibel School claimed the administration discriminated against students, failed to implement student education plans and retaliated against those who spoke out.
Timothy Noonan, compliance team leader with the Office of Civil Rights, sent a letter to Superintendent James Browder on March 29 stating that the evidence was not sufficient to find the district in noncompliance.
“OCR finds that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that the district is in noncompliance with Section 504, Title II and Title IX, with regard to the issues investigated in this complaint,” wrote Noonan.
Section 504 requires all students be provided with a free appropriate public education (FAPE), while Title IX protects students from being discriminated against based on sex.
Besides releasing the letter, district spokesperson Joe Donzelli had no further comment on the OCR’s findings.
Claudia Foster, one of the Sanibel parents who brought the complaints against the school district, said she wasn’t satisfied with the findings because she says that investigators didn’t speak with the witnesses she presented.
“They take information from the districts, schools or persons being investigated as the gospel of truth,” said Foster. “The burden of proof is put on the complainant.”
Foster said she provided federal investigators with a list of witnesses and testimonies, but they never spoke with them.
“They aren’t willing to dive as deeply as they need to,” she said.
In January 2010 the school district concluded its own investigation. At that time Browder said there were no grounds for disciplining the principal or administrators at The Sanibel School, and no action was taken.