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USDOE responds to 4 legal issues in civil rights findings on Special Ed at Matafao Elem

Four parents of children with disabilities filed complaints against local ASDOE

A US Department of Education investigation has found that the local Education Department (ASDOE) failed to provide for students with disabilities attending Matafao Elementary School with one week of educational programs while their resource room was being repaired, according to a USDOE’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) findings and the conclusion report.

The complaint by the parent of a child with a disability attending Matafao Elementary was one of the four legal issues addressed in the OCR findings and the conclusion report is outlined in an 88-page letter received recently by another parent, whose child has a disability, and who also filed a separate complaint against ASDOE. 

And the CCR findings and conclusion from OCR Regional X team leader Paul Goodwin covers the four separate complaints from parents of students with special needs who didn’t receive services as required by federal law for school year 2013-2014.

OCR’s investigation focused on four legal issues including the complaint regarding Matafao Elementary School. See separate story printed elsewhere in today’s edition, for other details as well as Legal Issue One.

In the complaint, the parent of a student with special needs — identified in the OCR investigation as Student C — told OCR that the resource room at Matafao Elementary School was older, dirtier and had outdated furniture compared to the classrooms for non-disabled students.

In its written response, ASDOE indicated to OCR that the resource room was renovated during the spring and summer of 2013 to include: ceiling repair, new walls, retiled floors and a new air conditioner. Additionally, a sink and additional electrical outlets were installed in the room, according OCR, which also states that ASDOE provided photos of the resource room.

The school’s resource specialist told OCR that a parent raised a concern during the 2013-2014 school year that the furniture in the room was not appropriate for the room, which was dirty. In response to the parent’s concern, the specialist told OCR that ASDOE moved the resource room to a bigger classroom prior to the beginning of new school year 2014-2015.

ASDOE cancelled class for students with disabilities that use the resource room because the new room was not ready for the new school year. Therefore, OCR said, students missed one week of school.

The school’s special education teacher told OCR the ceiling of the new resource room was damaged and that the damaged ceiling was not confined to the resource room as it affected the entire building.

The teacher further told OCR that all rooms at Matafao school including the resource room “were in poor condition, and that the resource room’s age, cleanliness and furniture were not worse than other classrooms at the school.

In follow-up emails to OCR, the parent says the current resource room was “much improved” and “much cleaner”. If compared to other rooms in ASDOE, the parent says the resource room “is probably better than other rooms now because classrooms in American Samoa are generally poorly equipped and maintained,” according to the OCR report.


OCR says it investigated whether ASDOE discriminated against disabled students at the school by placing them in a classroom that was older, dirtier, and had dated furniture compared to classrooms for non-disabled students.

According to the OCR report, evidence failed to establish the resource room (in question) was in worse condition than classrooms for non-disabled students. However, as part of the investigation on this issue, OCR said it found evidence that the “district failed to provide students’ in the resource room with any educational services for a week at the beginning of school year 2014-2015” while the room was being prepared.

Additionally, ASDOE didn’t offer the students an alternative location in which to receive their education program.

Therefore, OCR concludes that ASDOE “treated these disabled students differently than their non-disabled peers when it failed to provide them with an educational program” for the one week period and this is in violation to provisions of federal law.


According to the settlement agreement between USDOE and ASDOE — whose acting director, Philo Jennings signed Oct. 11th — that by Jan. 12, 2017, the ASDOE will send a letter to all parents of current students who were assigned to the class in the resource room at Matafao at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year and offer the parent/ guardian compensatory and/or remedial services as a result of ASDOE’s “failure to provide an educational program for the students for one week”.

The letter will provide the parents/ guardians with a minimum of 30-days to respond to the offer. If parents/guardians accept the offer, ASDOE is to file a report with OCR containing documentation of parents’ responses as well as information on the discussions reached between ASDOE and the parents. Additionally, ASDOE is required to file updated reports on compliance in meeting the compensation and/or remedial services.