Noon v. AlaskaDRA Reaches Landmark Settlement with State of Alaska to Ensure Equal Educational Opportunities for Students with Disabilities
DRA represented a class of all students in Alaska with learning disabilities who were required to take the Alaska High School Graduation Qualifying Examination (HSGQE). The parties reached a comprehensive settlement agreement on Monday, August 2, 2004. Among other critical new access features to the testing program, the settlement included a broad expansion of the accommodations available to students with disabilities, an alternative portfolio review assessment for students with severe disabilities to demonstrate their proficiency in math, reading, and writing, and an expedited due process appeals system designed especially for HSGQE-related disputes.
DRA with the Disability Law Center of Alaska and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, filed the lawsuit in March 2004 against the Commissioner and the Alaska State Board of Education & Early Development and the Anchorage School District. The lawsuit charged that the HSGQE violated various federal and state laws relating to students with disabilities. At the time the case was filed, DRA had projected that at least 500 students in the class of 2004 would have been denied diplomas because they had not had a fair opportunity to pass the HSGQE. Fortunately, DRA’s legal intervention resulted in an immediate waiver of the HSGQE graduation requirement for every student with an IEP or 504 Plan in the class of 2004. This paved the way for months of constructive negotiations to protect the rights of students in the class of 2005 and beyond, which resulted in a comprehensive settlement.
Sid Wolinsky, DRA’s Litigation Director, said of the landmark agreement, “This settlement has resulted in a win-win situation for everybody. Students with disabilities gain a fair opportunity to participate on equal terms and the State benefits from a rigorous accountability system that considers the needs of all students. In reaching this important resolution, Disability Rights Advocates is pleased at the constructive approach taken by the State of Alaska. We all share the same interest: an educational system for all Alaskan children that prepares them to achieve their full potential.”