NEW YORK, April 17, 2023 – Today, Mobilization for Justice and Simpson Thacher &
Bartlett LLP filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of New York City students with disabilities and their families, aiming to remedy the New York City Department of Education’s (“NYCDOE’s”) systemic failure to provide special education evaluations to students with disabilities in a timely manner. The NYCDOE’s extensive delays have deprived the Plaintiffs and the proposed class of their right to a free and appropriate public education by denying them the special education services to which they are entitled.
The lawsuit, filed against the NYCDOE and NYCDOE Chancellor David C. Banks, alleges that students with disabilities in NYC face unacceptably long delays in obtaining necessary special education evaluations, exacerbating their underlying disabilities and hindering their educational progress. The suit alleges that Defendants have delayed providing special education evaluations directly to students, have delayed responding to requests for independent educational evaluations (“IEEs”), and have failed to pay independent evaluators who provide IEEs for their services in a timely manner, with delays sometimes exceeding six months.
Families have fought for these fundamental evaluations, but progress has been impeded at every step by undue delays from the NYCDOE. These delays have forced families of students with disabilities to file due process complaints to obtain their evaluations. Even after promising to provide or pay for these evaluations in exchange for families agreeing to settle their due process claims, the NYCDOE’s systemic delays often cause students to wait an excessive amount of time between first requesting their evaluation and finally receiving it.
Critically, the Defendants’ excessive delays in paying independent evaluators who provide IEEs for their services has severely limited the pool of providers willing to contract with the City of New York to deliver special education services. This has a disproportionately harmful impact on low-income students, primarily of color, whose families cannot afford to pay for IEEs independently.
“From my experience as a housing attorney representing low-income tenants, I know the law as written is often not how the law is applied in practice. The NYCDOE has systematically failed students with disabilities needing a special education evaluation through unlawful delays and not paying independent evaluators in a timely manner. I am proud to stand with parents and students across New York City fighting as well as Mobilization for Justice to ensure that DOE provides students with disabilities with the services they are entitled to by law,” said Shekar Krishnan, NYC Council Member for District 25.
Althea Stevens, NYC Council Member for District 16, noted, “The lack of prioritization to ensure that our students with disabilities have necessary education evaluations is a poor reflection of Department of Education. The constant delays and unpaid providers will increase the educational gap, which will be counterproductive in the City’s mission to create equitable accessibility to education for our students.”
Andrew Gerst, a staff attorney at Mobilization for Justice, stated, “Thousands of low-income families of color across New York City depend on the NYCDOE to ensure that their children are properly evaluated for special education services in a timely manner. When this system breaks down because of rampant delays, students with disabilities are the ones who suffer.”
Michael J. Osnato, a Partner at Simpson Thacher explained that, “Every student has a right to a free and appropriate public education under federal and New York State law. The NYCDOE’s failure to provide timely special education evaluations deprives hundreds of special education students in New York City of their right to obtain a quality education, causing significant harmthat is multiplied by the duration of the NYCDOE’s delays.”
Mobilization for Justice (www.mobilizationforjustice.org) is a civil nonprofit legal services organization with offices in Manhattan and the Bronx whose mission is to achieve justice for all. MFJ prioritizes the needs of people who are low-income, disenfranchised, or have disabilities as they struggle to overcome the effects of social injustice and systemic racism. MFJ provides the highest-quality free, direct civil legal assistance, conducts community education and builds partnerships, engages in policy advocacy, and brings impact litigation, with a focus on four key areas: Housing, Economic Justice, Disability and Aging Rights, and Children’s Rights. MFJ also promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, and understands the need to eliminate all racial disparities to achieve justice for all.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP (www.simpsonthacher.com) is one of the world’s leading international law firms. The Firm was established in 1884 and has more than 1,000 lawyers. Headquartered in New York with offices in Beijing, Brussels, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, São Paulo, Tokyo and Washington, D.C., the Firm provides coordinated legal advice and transactional capability to clients around the globe.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP: Arielle Katz, firstname.lastname@example.org