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  • Special Needs Children Continue to Suffer Despite Federal Ruling

    Jan 26, 2024

    The Impartial Hearing Office at 131 Livingston St, where many parents of special needs children go to discover the fate of their child’s education.
    Photo from Reed Ounjian.

    Medium – Of the roughly 1 million students in the New York City School System, as of June 2023, about 200,000 are classified as disabled. Put another way, there are more children classified as disabled in the NYC school system than there are children total in the Maine state school system, and many are struggling to receive appropriate care. Compensatory services, such as counseling, transportation, compensated tuition for private education and more, are provided by the Department of Education to meet the academic needs of these children. Yet, as of 2022, the department could not meet the deadline for providing services to approximately 95% of families who relied on them, a consequence of the department’s long-time dysfunction.

    In July of 2023, Manhattan federal Judge Loretta Preska ordered the department to implement the recommendations of court-appointed Special Master David Irwin, who has monitored the DOE since January of 2021 to identify the underlying causes of delayed services. Some of his notable recommendations included a digitization of the paper-reliant system, hiring additional staff, and streamlining communication between parents and providers. Preska’s ruling was the culmination of 2 decades of litigation over a class action lawsuit, L.V. v. NYC DOE, filed by non-profit organization Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) in 2003. The AFC represented the parents of nine disabled children whose services were being withheld by the department, which ballooned into thousands of families who claimed to be experiencing similar issues.