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  • Lawsuit seeking makeup services for NYC students with disabilities survives another legal challenge

    Mar 29, 2024

    Prasit Photo / Getty Images

    Chalkbeat – The lawsuit — filed in November 2020 by the nonprofit group Advocates for Children — argued that thousands of children with disabilities missed out on key services after the city’s schools switched to virtual instruction. The city struggled to distribute functioning remote learning devices, leaving some students without consistent access to instruction or other support such as physical therapy, the suit claimed.

    Under federal law, students with disabilities have a right to “compensatory services” if their schools don’t provide all of the specialized instruction or therapies listed on their Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs. But seeking those services can require families to file a formal complaint — and the system that oversees those claims in New York City is dysfunctional and beset by delays that often stretch hundreds of days beyond the 75-day legal limit. (The complaint system is under federal court supervision thanks to a different lawsuit.)

    The goal of Advocates for Children’s lawsuit was to force the city to come up with a streamlined process outside of that backlogged system to award extra services for students with disabilities.

    “We’re looking for something that’s not each parent fighting on their own for relief,” said Rebecca Shore, the litigation director at Advocates for Children. She said the current process is “costly and inequitable for families without attorneys.”

    The case has faced years of legal setbacks and delays. Carter dismissed the lawsuit two years ago because the families involved in the litigation had not tried to first use the formal complaint process. “Plaintiffs must exhaust their claims before coming to federal court,” Carter wrote.

    Advocates for Children challenged that decision and a federal appeals court ruled in 2023 that the case should not have been dismissed. But city officials once again tried to get the case tossed.

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