Nobel Learning Communities Inc., West Chester, agreed to pay $215,000 to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the company of illegally excluding children with disabilities from its schools and programs.

The company, which operates 185 elementary and secondary schools and preschools in 15 states (including Pennsylvania and New Jersey), also agreed to designate a compliance officer to be sure the Americans With Disabilities Act is enforced. The settlement was announced by the U.S. Department of Justice, which sued Nobel in April 2009.

The suit contended that Nobel discriminated against children with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, global developmental delays, and other disorders.

In a statement, Nobel denied the allegations and said the settlement avoids costly and time-consuming litigation. It added, "The settlement formalizes policies already in place."

Those include a disability nondiscrimination policy and staff training.    -Paul Schweizer