Hayward Unified School District Structured Negotiations
The Hayward Unified School District has entered into a comprehensive agreement with nonprofit law firms Disability Rights Advocates and Disability Rights California (formerly Protection & Advocacy, Inc.) and several parents to expand its voter approved District-wide modernization and new building efforts into making all its schools accessible to students with disabilities. The agreement was negotiated collaboratively without any lawsuit being filed.
The advocacy groups hailed the agreement as an example of a school district committing to improvements because they furthered the educational process. “We are pleased that the Hayward Unified School District worked diligently with us through structured negotiations to develop a plan to improve access for students with disabilities,” said Melissa Kasnitz, the managing attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.
Under the settlement, the District will remove architectural barriers and take other steps to provide program access for students with mobility, vision and/or hearing disabilities. Attorney Steve Rosenbaum, of Disability Rights California, commended the District for its willingness to consider systemic change: “Rather than respond to individual students’ complaints piecemeal, Hayward was willing to examine its programs, policies and infrastructure and commit to overall improvements.”
Because of its recently successful bond passage, a number of District school sites are slated for modernization and new construction during the next four years. The agreement, however, focuses on its other facilities.
The key provision is a ten-year commitment by the District to spend a portion of its maintenance and operation budget annually to remove barriers at these other schools. The District is also maintaining a “quick fix” fund to make changes necessary for individual students pending overall building rehabilitation.
The District also engaged a recognized specialist in architectural barrier removal and “program access” who reviewed and updated an existing survey of District buildings. The specialist will review construction and remedial plans submitted by the District, and consult with the parties on an on-going basis with respect to all manner of barrier removal issues as they arise during the term of the agreement.
The settlement also addresses concerns by the parents and advocacy groups that the District had not consistently met the needs of students in special education. The District has engaged a team of consultants who will evaluate various aspects of the District’s special education policies and procedures. The District and the advocacy groups will then work together to develop a plan to implement improvements based on the recommendations. Stakeholders, including administrators, parents, teachers and other instructional staff, will be consulted in the recommendation process.
The architectural work and implementation of special education recommendations will be reported periodically by the District throughout the term of the Agreement.