School district responds to complaint

Gordon Woods /
Posted 4/17/24

CLINTON — The U.S. Department of Education has agreed to review a complaint filed by a Clinton parent against the Clinton School District.

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School district responds to complaint


CLINTON — The U.S. Department of Education has agreed to review a complaint filed by a Clinton parent against the Clinton School District.

The Department of Education’s Chicago Office for Civil Rights notified Tyler Smith their office would investigate his allegation “the district discriminates against persons with physical and mobility impairments.”  The agency’s letter to Smith notes his claim the playground at Clinton Elementary School is “inaccessible.”

“Please understand that opening an investigation does not mean that OCR has made a decision about the complaint,” Smith was advised in the letter.

Smith approached the school board in 2023 about accessibility issues at CES, where his son, who has limited mobility, was a student at the time.  Smith later expressed frustration, saying he did not feel the district was doing enough to address the issue.

School superintendent Curt Nettles told the Journal this week that after Smith’s initial concerns the district added pathways for students with mobility issues to access most parts of the playground at CES and the district researched the type of surfacing suggested.

Nettles also contacted several other superintendents in the area, “to determine what, if anything, they do differently than we do.”

“None of them went above what we do,” Nettles said.  “I sat in a meeting with over 25 superintendents from around Central Illinois and asked the same questions of them about equipment, surfacing and future plans.”

Nettles said none of the other districts did more than the Clinton School District nor had plans to.

The district in the 2020-2021 school year discussed plans for future facilities’ improvement.  Nettles said they solicited opinions and ideas from administrators and school board members.  From those meetings, the district categorized those plans as “needs, wants and possibilities someday,” according to Nettles.

“We then identified things in the ‘wants’ category that we could begin to move on and planned financing and timelines for those as well,” Nettles said.

Nettles, school district business manager Drew Goebel and the school board made the final decision on the long-term improvements plan working with the district’s buildings and grounds committee.

School districts are required by the Illinois State Board of Education to have a 10-year Health, Life Safety plan. 

Nettles said an interview he gave earlier with a Champaign news outlet was aired by the station in such a way as to give the impression the district planned to resurface all of its playgrounds.

“We never told the family we would resurface our playgrounds,” Nettles said.

Nettles said the district worked with its architects to fulfill its obligation under the Health, Life, Safety plan.

The district was contacted by the Office of Civil Rights about Smith’s complaint, Nettles said.  The OCR requested information from the district, which the district compiled and sent.

The district received confirmation the OCR received the information on March 6.

“Based on our conversations with the Regional Office of Education and the documents we were provided, we are confident we are in full compliance,” Nettles said.