ODLC Investigates Allegations of Discriminatory Practices in State Scholarship Program

January 22, 2018 – ODLC was alerted to a series of articles written by Oklahoma Watch reporter Jennifer Palmer regarding disability discrimination by schools that offer tax credit tuition scholarships, which are administered by the Oklahoma’s Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF).

Following publication of these articles, ODLC received a complaint regarding these schools and the alleged discriminatory practice of rejecting students based on disability.  ODLC Managing Attorney, Joy Turner contacted Rob Sellers, Executive Director of OSF, to address the issues raised in the Oklahoma Watch article.

Mr. Sellers informed Ms. Turner his organization is working with all recipient schools to assure their policies and practices are in complete compliance with the anti-discrimination policy required by law.  Requirements for schools’ participation in OSF funding listed on the organizations website state the following:

A school must sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the OSF setting out each party’s responsibilities.

A school must: be accredited by the State Board of Education or an accrediting association within the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission; be in compliance with all applicable health and safety laws and codes; have a stated policy against discrimination in admissions on the basis of race, color, national origin or disability, and ensure academic accountability to parents and guardians of students through regular progress reports.

Mr. Sellers went on to say, “In Ms. Palmer’s article, there were several member school’s websites that held non-discrimination wording in their policies that were not in compliance and/or appropriate.  We are working with all our member schools to review their non-discrimination policy, ensure that the policy conforms to the discrimination policy required by this law and provide a period to cure any deficiencies.  We will continue to work with our member schools to remedy this situation as quickly as possible – with proper approvals of their schools’ governing board – to ensure the schools that take advantage of the state’s tax credit scholarship program are doing so within the law.  Any schools that don’t conform to the legislation we operate under will be required to cease participation in the Opportunity Scholarship Fund.  We will continue to monitor this matter in the upcoming months.”

ODLC will continue to monitor this issue to assure schools receiving these funds are in compliance.  ODLC will work with the OSF to resolve any future complaints. If you have a specific complaint of discrimination based on disability related to one these scholarships, please contact our office.

January 31, 2018 –   Read the Oklahoma Watch follow up article which discusses ODLC’s investigation.