DOJ: School Forced Disabled Students To Perform Manual Labor For No Wages

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File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a classroom. (credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CBS Connecticut/AP) — The U.S. Justice Department says Rhode Island and the city of Providence violated the rights of the developmentally disabled by unnecessarily segregating them at a city school and a state-licensed employment program.

The department’s Civil Rights Division alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the Harold H. Birch Vocational School and the Training Through Placement program in letters to the city and state last week.

Justice officials say a “sheltered workshop” at Birch where students worked long hours doing manual labor for little or no wages served for years as a “direct pipeline” to the similarly segregated Training Through Placement program.

“Birch obtains contracts with private businesses to perform work, such as bagging, labeling, collating, and assembling jewelry,” a letter obtained by WPRI-TV stated. “One former student stated that she was required to spend a much greater portion of her school day in the workshop, including full days, when the workshop had important production deadlines.”

Mayor Angel Taveras says the city shuttered Birch’s program and removed its principal.

“These kids deserve justice, they deserve better and people should know what happened, and the only way we can ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Taveras told WPRI.

The governor’s spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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