NYC DOE failing to provide education to disabled kids amid COVID-19, lawsuit alleges

Parents of children with disabilities say the city has failed to provide adequate educational services for their kids during the pandemic, new court papers show.

Parents for eight children with disabilities including autism, hearing impairment, and other physical and behavioral issues say the Department of Education has failed to meet their kids’ Individualized Education Programs during remote classes — and failed to provide in-person learning in cases where home classes were impossible, a Manhattan federal lawsuit alleges.

These children variously require speech, behavioral and physical therapists, language translation, and additional technology such as tablets and special sensory learning tools which the DOE has failed to adequately provide, the court papers allege.

And while the DOE has said it will provide make-up programs in cases where educational services have been lacking because of the pandemic, it is “ill-equipped” to face the “large-scale failures caused by the pandemic,” the court documents claim.

“Defendants have not met these obligations with respect to thousands of New York City students with disabilities since the onset of the pandemic,” the suit charges. “As a result, these students have been unable to participate meaningfully remote learning and have lost the opportunity to make educational progress. Many have regressed.”

The parents want the DOE to establish a streamlined process to identify which students are missing out and to then offer substitute services to those students.

Erendira Landa says she and her autistic, Spanish-speaking son David, 15, have faced endless hurdles in adjusting to home learning. Landa struggled and eventually found a translator for his classes but she still hasn’t found a speech or behavioral therapist who speaks Spanish and is available after school.

“It’s been very difficult because the related services he’s entitled to have not been met and the one to one setting that he’s supposed to have in these special programs he’s not been able to be provided because there is no one by his side,” Landa told The Post.

“The school is helping as much as they can online but they cannot provide a person on the other side of the screen,” Landa explained.

“City students with disabilities have been denied access to an appropriate education for the better part of a year, and we hope that today’s complaint brings justice and essential compensatory services to these students as quickly as possible,” plaintiff lawyer Joshua Kipnees said in a statement.

DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson said the department will review the suit.

“We know remote learning, a reality all our families are grappling with due to the global pandemic, can be especially challenging for families of students with disabilities, and we’re doing everything we can to safely offer in-person services as quickly as possible,” Filson said.

“We are closely monitoring student progress, prioritizing device distribution to students with disabilities, and working with families to identify when children need additional services,” Filson added.

The DOE began offering special education and other services remotely after March 16 following state and federal laws. And it offered in-person related services in the summer as soon as the state regulations allowed for it.

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