Rapid City schools face federal civil rights probe

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) The Rapid City School District is under federal civil rights investigation over how it treats students with learning disabilities. A year old complaint from a district employee triggered the probe and it apparently blindsided district leaders.

"The complaint came to us as quite a surprise," said Dr. Greg Gaden, the director of special services for the Rapid City Area School District. "We weren't aware of it. The complaint was actually filed Aug. 23, 2016, under the previous administration."

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights notified Rapid City school officials that it had launched an investigation into complaints the district discriminates against students with disabilities.

Federal investigators informed the district it would examine whether the district failed to identify students suspected of having dyslexia and other disabilities.

Dyslexia guidelines have evolved -- and are evolving for schools. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education stated that dyslexia is a "specific learning disability" and said use of the term is appropriate. Last year, a state task force issued a report stating that students with dyslexia will be identified. Until this year, the term "dyslexia' was not used in Rapid City School student evaluations.

"I feel the Rapid City schools are doing the best with what the have in order to meet the needs of struggling readers and those students with dyslexia," said Gaden. "The answer to, 'can we do more?' is we can always do more for our children our youth and our families."

The federal probe is also looking into complaints that whisteblowing employees were retaliated against for their advocacy of dyslexic students.