News & Updates

Legal Impact of School Closures on Students With Disabilities and Their Parents

Published August 4th, 2020 by Stacey Gahagan

We are continuing to monitor the legal impact of school closures on students with disabilities and their parents and caregivers.

On July 27, 2020, attorneys in New York state filed a federal class action lawsuit against ALL public school districts in the United States on behalf of ALL students with disabilities - including students with IEPs and 504 Plans.

One of the named plaintiffs is a student in CMS (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools). See page 87. Both CMS and WCPSS (Wake County Public School System) are specifically mentioned in paragraph 38. The list of the North Carolina school districts sued is on pages 175-176. North Carolina public charter schools are not on the list of North Carolina school sued.

The complaint describes widespread denials of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and disability discrimination as a result of school districts' failure to provide appropriate special education services and access to the general curriculum after the COVID-19 related school closures. Only 10% of school districts provided adequate services to students with disabilities; many did not even try to provide individualized, appropriate services. Some school districts attempted to force parents to waive their child's rights just in order to obtain limited remote services.

This lawsuit is only in the early stages and will have many challenges before students with disabilities and their families can expect to experience relief as a result of the case. We will update you as the case progresses.

To prepare for the coming school year, consider joining us on August 19 for a webinar on Understanding & Advocating for a Free, Appropriate Public Education During COVID-19.

We are available by appointment to discuss your individual legal claims regarding services provided during the 2019-2020 school year and assist you in planning for the 2020-2021 school year.

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