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Paige’s Story

Paige, a bright third grade student on the autism spectrum, sat at home for nearly two months waiting for a school placement that would meet her needs. 

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08.04.2020 | Today, Advocates for Children joins more than 30 organizations in reminding the Mayor and the City of its legal obligation to provide transportation for students who are homeless, and expressing our disappointment that the City’s school reopening plan does not prioritize students who are homeless for in-person instruction. The current plans for reopening schools in the fall will be unworkable for many families experiencing homelessness, who are not permitted to leave their children in shelters during the day while they work or address other urgent family needs.

Read the letter [PDF]

06.24.2020 | Today, Advocates for Children joined more than 20 organizations calling on the DOE to appoint a senior-level leader to focus full-time on students in foster care and to honor its Fiscal Year 2020 commitment “to ensure bussing for students in foster care” and guarantee that students in foster care, who have a legal right to transportation between their foster homes and schools, are provided door-to-door transportation going forward. The pandemic has further demonstrated the need for a staff member who has expertise in the specific rights and needs of these students, can serve as a point person for schools and foster care agencies, and can ensure that DOE policies take into account students in care.

Read the letter [PDF]

06.24.2020 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to new State guidance strongly encouraging school districts to provide over-age high school students the opportunity to return to school next year to finish meeting graduation requirements and to prepare for their transition out of high school:

We thank the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for strongly encouraging school districts to allow 21-year-old students to return for the 2020-21 school year to finish meeting graduation requirements and to receive the transition supports they need to move on to post-secondary opportunities. The guidance is an important first step towards ensuring that COVID-19 does not cause any student to lose their chance to earn a high school diploma or miss out on the support they need to transition out of high school.

We strongly urge the New York City Department of Education and districts across New York State to follow NYSED’s recommendation and provide all young people aging out without a diploma the opportunity to complete their education and prepare for life after high school. Districts should reach out to 21-year-old students and their families right away to let them know they can return. We agree with NYSED that “it would be a cruel injustice to pull the rug out from under these young adults who have worked so hard for so long,” and with the school year quickly coming to an end, this small group of students must know they will not be left behind.

Read the statement [PDF]

06.23.2020 | Today, AFC released a policy brief summarizing the proposed cuts to education funding in the Mayor's FY21 Executive Budget and the devastating impact these cuts would have on schools and students. The brief urges Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to reject cuts to education and ensure schools have more resources—not less—to address the challenges caused by the pandemic. 

Read the brief  [PDF]

06.16.2020 | Today, Adovcates for Children  joined more than 80 organizations calling on the State to ensure that children do not lose Early Intervention services due to the difficulties getting preschool evaluations during the pandemic. The letter asks that the State extend Early Intervention services for three-year-old children who have been unable to receive preschool special education evaluations due to the pandemic, so these children will not abruptly lose all services at the end June.

Read the letter [PDF]

06.09.2020 | Today, Advocates for Children joined more than 80 other education, social service, and civil rights organizations in calling on the entire New York City Congressional delegation to invest $205B in public education in the next COVID response bill. 

As organizations working with children and families in New York City, we urge our Congressional representatives to ensure the next COVID respone bill includes supplemental funding for public education, including targeted allocations to support students with disabilities, English Language Learners/multilingual learners, and students experiencing homelessness. Our public schools are facing immense and unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19; without substantial federal support, the current crisis will have lifelong consequences for a generation of children whose education has been interrupted for reasons beyond their control.

Read the letter [PDF]

06.03.2020 | As an organization that advocates for racial justice, we are pained and outraged by the unconscionable killing of George Floyd by the Minnesota Police Department and the systemic racism that has taken the lives of so many members of the Black community.

Every day in our work, we see the many ways that systemic racism deeply affects the students and families that we exist to serve: for example, 93% of the students in emotional distress who are handcuffed by school-based police officers instead of receiving supportive mental health treatment are Black and Latinx. We see the impact of systemic racism on a regular basis, when we fight for individual students—young people who are growing up with the burden of knowing that the deck is often stacked against them—and in the policies we strive to change.

At Advocates for Children, we will continue to do our part to create a New York that is more just, and we stand by our community partners in calling for change to begin to dismantle the systemic racism that oppresses communities of color. We will continue to reach for our vision of a school system that provides all children with the instruction, support, and opportunity they need and that no longer leaves Black children behind.

We are grateful for your partnership and support in these difficult times.

In hope of a better future,

Kim

05.27.2020 | Today, AFC is testifying before the City Council Committee on Education about remote learning and the impact of COVID-19 on the City's schools, focusing on the challenges our clients have experienced and the need for the DOE to address the barriers students are facing so they can participate in remote summer school. Read our testimony [PDF]

05.21.2020 | Today, AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Finance about the importance of rejecting proposed cuts to schools and investing in education initiatives that will help students get needed support when they return to school, including funding for preschool special education classes, direct mental health support for students, guaranteed transportation for students in foster care, support for English Language Learners, and more. Read our testimony [PDF]

05.19.2020 | In response to a complaint filed by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) have entered into a voluntary resolution agreement to ensure the provision and monitoring of translation and interpretation services to parents of New York City students with disabilities whose home language is not English. The agreement, signed in December 2019, came seven years after AFC and NYLPI filed the initial complaint with OCR concerning NYC DOE’s inadequate services.

The resolution agreement confirms the rights of Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents, under local, state and federal civil rights laws, to translation and interpretation services related to the special education services their children receive. In addition to acknowledging that LEP parents have a right to receive translations of special education documents – such as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Section 504 Plans and NYC DOE-funded evaluations – the resolution agreement is significant because it also states that the NYC DOE is responsible for informing families of their right to request these services, tracking translation and interpretation requests, and creating a centralized system for providing translated documents to families in all school districts in New York City. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for a centralized, effective system for providing and tracking translation and interpretation to parents of students with disabilities in the New York City public schools. Seven weeks after the closing of schools, there are LEP families and parents of English Language Learners (ELLs) who are still struggling to connect their children to remote learning and to special education services. Many of these families are not able to communicate with their schools unless the NYC DOE provides interpreters and translated materials. 

In response to AFC and NYPLI’s complaint, NYC DOE launched a pilot in 2018 for the centralized translation of IEPs, upon request by parents, in three of the City’s school districts. The resolution agreement states that this IEP translation pilot will inform the creation of a centralized system for all special education document translations. The IEP translation pilot remains in effect in Districts 9 and 24 and in special education District 75. 

“The agreement is not as strong as we had hoped, but it starts to move the school system in the right direction,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, Director of AFC’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project. “It’s important for parents to know that they currently have a right to translations of special education documents, and they can make the request through their children’s individual schools. In light of the COVID-19 school closures and the active role parents are playing in their children’s remote education, it is more important than ever for parents to understand their children’s IEPs and special education needs.”

"We are grateful that after years of neglect, the NYC DOE has finally committed to providing parents who are Limited English Proficient with access to the document translation and meeting interpretation necessary to meaningfully participate in their children's education,” said Ruth Lowenkron, Director of the Disability Justice Program at NYLPI. “We will vigilantly monitor the agreement to ensure that the NYC DOE honors its commitment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The full voluntary resolution agreement is available here.

View the press release [PDF]
View translated press release as a PDF: Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Spanish