A recently initiated federal civil rights probe of the Palo Alto Unified School District is the ninth such investigation of the district opened by the U.S. Office for Civil Rights since January 2011.
In the latest case, the OCR is investigating whether the district adequately responded to a September 2013 complaint that a student had been discriminated against based on disability. The September complaint alleged that the district had failed last spring to implement a written plan to accommodate the student's disability.
Such plans are known as "504 plans." Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guarantees certain rights in public schools to students with disabilities and their parents.
A spokeswoman for the school district said the new case "stems from a grade dispute."
Superintendent Kevin Skelly received notification of the case Dec. 16 in a letter from the OCR and released a redacted version of the letter to reporters two days later.
In the letter, the federal agency said it has "determined that the allegation … is appropriate for investigation" … and "will proceed with resolution of the complaint."
But launching the investigation "in no way implies that OCR has made a determination" as to the merits of the complaint, the letter said.
San Francisco lawyer Ali Ebrahimzadeh is representing the complainant in the case.
Of the nine Palo Alto school district investigations opened by the OCR, four remain pending, including the newest one. The other three include two allegations of disability-based harassment and one probe into the district's compliance with Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal funds.
Another OCR investigation, involving the district's mishandling of the ongoing bullying of a disabled middle-school student, ended in a December 2012 "resolution agreement" in which the district agreed to rewrite its policies and procedures on bullying. The district is still in the process of complying with that agreement.
A second resolution agreement, also involving disability discrimination, is being monitored by the OCR to ensure full implementation.
The OCR in June dropped another case, alleging racial discrimination in a middle-school search after $20 went missing from a teacher's purse, citing insufficient evidence.
Two other cases -- a 2011 allegation of sex discrimination and a 2012 allegation of disability discrimination -- have been closed.