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Micaela’s Story

Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

10.17.2019 | NY Daily News | Rita Rodriguez-Engberg said many parents don’t even know they can have special education documents translated, which outline services like paraprofessionals, smaller class sizes and assistive technology for students with disabilities.

“It puts the onus on the parents to make the requests,” Rodriguez-Engberg said. “A lot of parents don’t even know they have the right to request this IEP translation.”

Advocates for Children filed a complaint with the federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights in 2012, urging the city to automatically translate the documents for any family who speaks a language other than English at home. Read article

10.16.2019 | The City | Seven public interest organizations sent a letter Tuesday to top education officials charging that the department for years “has woefully failed to meet its obligations” to address special education complaints.

The city education department’s inability to meet legal deadlines for resolving complaints filed by families of special education students is causing “material, demonstrable harm” — and requires an immediate fix, advocates say. The group is demanding a meeting with state and city education officials to spur  “immediate action” to resolve the crisis.

“These delays disproportionately affect low-income children whose families do not have the means to pay for the services they require on their own while waiting for their claims to be processed,” the advocates wrote in a letter to the state education commissioner and New York City schools chancellor that was obtained by Chalkbeat and THE CITY. Read article

09.27.2019 | New York Daily News | The Legal Aid Society and 24 other organizations sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio Thursday urging the city to “honor its commitment” to provide buses.

State and federal law requires schools to provide students in foster care transportation so they don’t have to switch schools — a disruption that can send already traumatized students spiraling.

The most recent data from the city Education Department showed that 60% of bus requests for students in foster care were approved, because they either lived close enough to an existing bus route or are guaranteed busing through special education plans, according to Chambers. But that leaves hundreds of kids and foster parents to find their own ways to school. Read article

09.26.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | Ashley Grant, supervising staff attorney at Advocates for Children of New York told the story of a girl she called Myra — a bright student who did well in her classes, maintained a B average and earned more than 50 credits (far exceeding the coursework required for a Regents diploma). But, she struggled to pass the English Language Arts Regents exam. 

“After completing all of her other graduation requirements at age 19, rather than going on to college, Myra had to spend two years studying for and re-taking the ELA exam. Eventually, after taking the exam seven times, she finally passed it at the age of 21,” said Grant, who also serves as coordinator of the organization Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma. 

“Eventually, Myra went on to attend college, where she did well. But, if she had been able to show her mastery of ELA standards another way — through a performance-based assessment, her coursework, or a capstone project — Myra could have spent those two years working toward her college degree rather than retaking a single test.”

To help others like Myra and Ramos, Grant said, AFC is “urging New York City to make changes to ensure that all students have access to existing pathways that do not rely solely on high-stakes tests.” Read article

09.10.2019 | WNYC | Randi Levine is policy director for Advocates for Children, which operates a parent hotline. “Overall, it seems like things went more smoothly this year than last year,” she said. “But we did hear from parents whose buses didn’t show up, whose children couldn’t get on the bus because their IEP-mandated bus paraprofessionals weren’t in place … and who experienced long wait times for assistance.” While the problems weren’t as widespread as last year, she said they’re still serious. “For each child who had to miss their first day of school, the continuing challenges with bus service have a major impact,” she said. Read article

09.04.2019 | Chalkbeat New York / THE CITY | Reading experts and special education advocates acknowledge a host of obstacles preclude a fast and simple solution in a school system as vast as the city’s — including cost, an entrenched way of doing business and lack of political will. But advocates say the consequences of leaving the system as is are unacceptably steep.  “It makes no sense to let this perpetuate,” said Maggie Moroff, the special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children. “Whatever else you do in school, if students are coming out of school not able to read, then you’ve failed.” Read article

09.04.2019 | NY1 | Advocates are accusing the city of violating a 12-year-old legal settlement requiring that all students with disabilities receive the services they need, and they want a federal judge to appoint an independent special master to find out why. "We’d like an independent person to go in and look at what is causing the delays in implementation and how they can actually create a system that will ensure implementation in a timely manner for all of the students and all of the orders so students and parents don't have to wait," said Rebecca Shore. Rebecca Shore is the lead lawyer for Advocates for Children, which sued in 2003 on behalf of families who said the city dragged its feet in providing services ordered by impartial hearing officers for children with special needs. Read article

09.04.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | “It’s important to include students with disabilities in conversations about diversity,” Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “In New York City, students with disabilities make up about one fifth of the population, but they’re often an afterthought.” Moroff pointed to school bus service as an example. Students with disabilities have special bussing in order to accommodate their Individualized Education Programs — a roadmap for special education that lays out the program of instruction, support and services a student needs. But that separate-bus system often means those children are unable to take part in after-school activities, Moroff said. Read article

09.03.2019 | Chalkbeat New York / THE CITY | City education officials have allowed more than a thousand students with disabilities to languish without services for months — despite orders from administrative hearing officers, according to a motion filed in federal court Tuesday. The filing charges the city is in violation of a longstanding legal settlement from 2007 that requires the Department of Education to provide services or payments to special needs families within 35 days of receiving a hearing officer’s order. According to the most recent data, the DOE blew that deadline over 30% of the time between October 2017 and January 2018. When the department had to provide a direct service, such as physical or occupational therapy instead of reimbursing the family, officials failed to meet the deadline in about half the cases, the filing says. “After parents go through the lengthy and burdensome process of a hearing and win, they expect their child to finally get the services they need — not months of stalling,” said Rebecca Shore, litigation director for Advocates for Children, which brought the original class action lawsuit in 2003 along with Milbank LLP. Read article

09.03.2019 | New York Daily News | The city’s Department of Education is dragging its feet on providing legally required services for kids with disabilities, a motion filed in federal court Tuesday charges. Thirty percent of students who get a court order for crucial support like physical and speech therapy aren’t getting those services within the legal deadline of 35 days, according to the education legal aid group Advocates for Children, which filed the motion. That puts the city out of compliance with a 2007 court settlement, the advocacy group claims. “The DOE’s delays in providing ordered services are adding insult to injury for students with disabilities and their families,” said Rebecca Shore, the head of litigation at Advocates for Children. Read article