Dissatisfied parents are taking legal action to support their special needs children. Lawsuits have been filed against public schools for failing to provide necessary accommodating services in some states, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Hawaii by parents, special education advocates, and teacher’s unions. A class action lawsuit began at the end of July, filed with Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. Nearly all public schools are under fire from this legal action, for violations of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
Many students with a wide variety of disabilities are unable to learn effectively over virtual platforms. Difficulties with technology, shorter attention spans, and the need for physical assistance with tasks is difficult or impossible, especially considering the hours of speech, occupational, and physical therapy often provided in person during school hours. During school shutdowns, many children suffered relapses or partial/full regression. Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) were all but forgotten for a while, as everyone adjusted to the new reality of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, with schools back in session, a reduction in services that were previously offered creates frustration and difficulty for parents hoping to get their children back on routine and on track with development. With policy changes, distance learning, reductions in staff and other issues, the needs of many students are not being met, and there are clear violations that are being pointed out with the lawsuit. The Patrick Donahue Law Firm along with the Brain Injury Rights Group is taking the public school system to court, naming not only the New York City School District, but public school districts all over the country.
Other issues are being addressed under this class action lawsuit. Parents have suffered financially not only due to providing regular care for disabled students, but being forced to take off from work and getting therapies and other services (that the school would normally provide) from private agencies. The demand is for all vital in-person services to resume, as well as for IEPs to be reevaluated considering the changes in approach to education overall.
Parents should respond immediately if they are contacted with information regarding this class action lawsuit if the public school district that they live in has been specifically named in the case as a defendant. There is no reason to do anything unless they receive communication about it in the mail. Schools are challenged with the difficult decisions related to virtual learning, in-person learning, hybrid learning, searching for the safest and most effective learning options for a majority of students. Many districts that have opened have also com under legal fire for poor reopening strategies, while others are being criticized for limiting education to virtual learning only. There is no easy solution to these issues, and clearly not the same answer will work for every student. Parents of special needs students, however, should be accommodated as best as possible, and they should not be expected to simply ignore what their children need to succeed at learning.