PDE Bureau of Special Education Orders Reforms to Philadelphia SD Special Education Evaluation Process

In response to a state administrative complaint, ELC received a decision that will lead to systemic changes affecting thousands of children suspected of having disabilities in Philadelphia. After hearing increasing concerns regarding excessive delays in evaluating children suspected of needing special education services, ELC filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education (BSE) on behalf of 12 individual students and hundreds of similarly situated students who were denied timely evaluations.

BSE found that the School District of Philadelphia was not properly identifying and referring many children in need of special education evaluations. Even when children were properly referred, BSE found that students were not evaluated within the required timeframe. As a result, hundreds of children were languishing without the special education services they needed.

BSE ordered the district to put in place new policies and procedures, monitor data to ensure timely evaluations, and provide necessary compensatory education services to individual students impacted. These reforms will ensure that children with disabilities receive the services they need in a timely manner.

Franklin Towne Charter High School

Charter schools are public schools and cannot discriminate against students.  Charter schools must comply with the same enrollment requirements applicable to district schools.  This demand letter, provided to Franklin Towne Charter High School, challenges a discriminatory refusal to enroll a student with disabilities. (June, 2018).

Demand Letter


Early Intervention Transition Administrative Complaint against the School District of Philadelphia (2017)

This complaint, filed with the Bureau of Special Education, challenged delays in the completion of special education evaluations and development of IEPs for children with disabilities who transitioned from Elwyn SEEDS to kindergarten or first grade in the School District of Philadelphia. To date, the complaint has resulted in compensatory education services for 170 children, a number that is to expected to rise as the Bureau continues to investigate. The complaint also resulted in an order of corrective action that the School District create a new procedure to ensure children have a smooth transition moving forward.


Complaint Investigation Report

Request for Reconsideration

Amended Complaint Investigation Report

ELC Recommendation Letter

CIR File Review



Office of Civil Rights complaint against Pittsburgh Public Schools (2006)

This OCR complaint enforced the rights of English language learners to access the full range of public education programs and services and supports, including special education and appropriate school discipline protections, with appropriate translation and interpretation services for parents.

ELC Alternative Education Complaint to U.S. Dept. of Justice (August 2013)

This is an Education Law Center complaint filed on August 7, 2013 to the U.S. Department of Justice seeking an investigation into discriminatory placement of students in Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs.

The complaint cites four years worth of data showing a disproportionately high number of students with disabilities and African American students are removed from traditional public schools and sent to educationally inferior AEDY or similar alternative education programs, often in violation of federal laws.

In March 2019, the Department of Justice announced that it had reached a settlement agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.