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Disability rights group files complaint against Rapid City Schools

The families of three disabled Rapid City Area Schools students have filed a formal complaint against the district for alleged inadequacies in their children’s educations.

The complaint has been filed by Disability Rights South Dakota, an advocacy group, on behalf of the families.

The complaint questions the amount of time students spend in schools, the qualification and training of staff members, and the broader inclusion of disabled students with their peers.

Cole Uecker is executive director for the group. He said they want to ensure every student’s individual rights are recognized.

“Kids, especially with mobility challenges or disabilities that require maybe a little bit more space to move, school will let out for them a little earlier," Uecker said. "It seems to be a good accommodation, but what ends up happening is kids are missing out on 15, 20, 30 minutes of school a day.”

While the group wants to see more inclusion and individualization of services for students and called for more training and qualified staff members, Uecker said he can empathize with the district.

"I completely understand school districts and administrators are getting pulled in a lot of different ways," Uecker said. "There’s staffing challenges and resource challenges in South Dakota and all over the country. I think it’s important to keep the focus on that individual student and their needs that is required by federal law. That we look at what is necessary to allow for that student to benefit from their educational programming.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the school district said they plan to comply with the Department of Education’s investigation, adding "Our exceptional staff takes great care to serve all students, including those with disabilities. Like districts around the nation, we have faced challenges associated with staffing. However, we will continue our work in providing students an exceptional education experience and support our staff that work tirelessly to educate kids.”

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture