By Selim Algar |
School districts across the country have abandoned special education kids amid the coronavirus crisis, according to a class action Manhattan federal lawsuit slated to be filed Friday.
The case argues that districts ignored federal law by failing to provide legally mandated services to kids who suffer from mental and physical deficits after the closure of schools in March.
“These school districts violated the rights of 6.7 million students across the country by altering their educational programs,” said parent and activist Patrick Donohue. “They put the burden on parents to do the job of these school districts.”
The case names Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and districts across the country as defendants.
Backers of the suit will release radio ads in New York to draw attention to the ongoing plight of special education parents.
Two hundred families in 10 states have signed on as plaintiffs so far, arguing that remote learning models have been inadequate for special education kids who often require one on one assistance.
“These programs are federally protected,” Donohue said.
The case is demanding the resumption of full-time in person special education for impacted kids, fresh evaluations for badly regressed children, compensation for parental expenses incurred during remote learning and funding for additional staff.
If programs don’t fully resume, the case is pushing for districts to give parents a “blank check” to provide adequate independent services for their children.
“The districts have totally abandoned these families,” said Donohue, who has a disabled teen daughter and has frequently warred with the DOE over her education.
He noted that the city furnished learning centers for the children of emergency workers during the prior school year but made no similar accommodation for special education students.
“There are horror stories from across the country,” Donohue said, highlighting a mother with two autistic kids who was forced to quit her job in order to take care of her kids after in-person services were suspended.
He also ripped remote learning for disabled kids as wholly ineffective.
“In many cases, the local school districts failed to even provide live synchronous service to these students while they were home,” he said. “Instead, the responsibility for ‘remote learning’ landed squarely on the shoulders of parents across America.”
A DOE spokeswoman said the department prioritized health concerns when it shuttered schools and was compelled to move to remote learning.
“We quickly moved to remote learning, including special education services in order to provide students with disabilities with continuity of services during the pandemic,” said Danielle Filson. “This summer, we are offering in-person related services for our students with disabilities. We are acting in the best interests of our students while following health guidance and will review the lawsuit.”