About 80 Gilbert district special-needs students will get the chance to attend the East Valley Institute of Technology in the fall after an agreement between the Mesa school and the Gilbert Unified School District.
The students' registrations had been in limbo since May when they were told they might not be able to attend EVIT. The registrations were put on hold after a Gilbert district employee filed a complaint against EVIT alleging harassment and a hostile environment toward the employee and special-needs students.
The complaint led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights that began in March. The results of that investigation are expected at the end of the month, said EVIT spokeswoman Lynn Strang.
"We're just very glad that it's been settled (with the Gilbert district), and we look forward to having those students at EVIT," Strang said. "We're hoping that they (Office of Civil Rights) find that it was a separate issue that caused this to happen."
Gilbert Superintendent Dave Allison said in a written statement the agreement with EVIT was made through a legal mediation process.
Gilbert district officials and EVIT officials "realized that each side had to compromise on some issues so an agreement could be achieved, which meant that the best interests of the students will be served," Allison said.
Joshua Hulecki, a Highland High School junior, said he is relieved to be able to attend EVIT's video production classes after all.
He was told last week he can attend EVIT, after spending the summer not knowing what he would do in the fall. He had planned to take a computer class at Highland High in case he wasn't allowed to attend EVIT.
"I was glad they made a decision," Joshua said. "I'm going to show them that I'm going to be the best I can be ... I'm very competitive."
EVIT is now in the process of evaluating each of the 80 to 85 application packets of the Gilbert special-needs students and deciding whether classes are available and whether these students should be accepted.
Based on advice from EVIT's attorneys, the 80 or so new Gilbert district students who had Individual Education Plans for their special needs were told around May 5 they'd have to wait to be accepted into an EVIT program while the evaluation was completed.
No other school districts were affected.
Students from 10 feeder school districts can attend EVIT's various programs for a half-day, spending the other half at their home school. EVIT's programs include culinary arts, firefighting and aviation flight training, among others.
The five-page agreement outlines how EVIT will process 2009-10 applications, how EVIT will decide to decline enrollment and an explanation of EVIT's practices, procedures and protocols.
The agreement, which was signed by EVIT Superintendent Sally Downey and Gilbert's Allison, states that there has been no "admission of wrongdoing" from either side.
"The parties will not characterize this agreement as an admission or indication that any person or entity engaged in any improper or unlawful conduct or wrongdoing," according to the agreement.