Is RCSD prepared for a class action lawsuit? On October 22, 13Wham reported a “shake-up in special education leadership.”
The cash-strapped district is under investigation by the New York State Department of Education. The investigation allegedly stems from the district's failure to provide adequate learning requirements for special needs students during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March of 2020, school districts across the country were forced to shut down due to health concerns about the virus. Unfortunately, safety concerns remain, enabling remote learning throughout many American cities. Superintendent, Dr. Lesli Myers-Small, confirmed all students would continue the virtual learning setting until at least January 4, 2021.
These obstacles have left parents with the task to provide services the district is legally responsible for, but they may be unsuited to deliver. According to ED.gov, each public school child who receives special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document. The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of quality education for each child with a disability.
Has the district provided specialized training for parents with special needs students? If not, how are parents expected to perform these services successfully?
On October 16, 13Wham reported the challenges many parents of special needs students are experiencing. Eamon Sones is a fifth-grader at School No. 28. Eamon is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal. His parents say learning from home has been especially difficult.
"Normally as a mom, you might say you feel like you’re working two jobs. We feel like we’re working three,” said Karen Fellows Sones.
Now, lawsuits brought on by parents are taking school districts into the courtroom. According to Hodgson Russ Attorneys, individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Equal Protection/Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Practically every public school district in the United States, and every State Educational agency, are named as defendants in this class action lawsuit.
Could RCSD survive another financial blow? Only time will tell how courts will handle special education over the next few months.