July 19, 2023
Negotiated Agreement Provides Comprehensive Blueprint for DOE’s Strong
Commitment to Ensuring Compliance in Resolution of 20-Year Old Class Action Case
Demonstrates Adams Administration’s Determination to Improve School Experience for Students With Disabilities and Families
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David C. Banks today announced that the DOE has reached an agreement in a 20-year old court case to provide equitable, comprehensive, and timely support to students with disabilities and their families who have chosen to exercise their due process rights. Today’s agreement stems from the 2003 class action lawsuit LV et.al vs. NYC DOE class action lawsuit, and displays the Adams administration’s commitment to collaborating on initiatives that will honor the experiences of students with disabilities and their families. The original case was filed by parents of children with disabilities who voiced concerns that the DOE was not implementing impartial hearing orders issued in their favor in a timely manner.
The negotiated agreement contains 40 requirements proposed by a court-appointed special master that the DOE must meet to improve services for students and their families. The final agreement represents months of work and collaboration between the DOE, the plaintiffs, the special master, and the court to improve the implementation of Impartial Hearing Orders.
“As a student, it was difficult to navigate the public school system without the support I deserved, and too often, students with disabilities have struggled in a system that wasn't fully able to meet them where they are,” said Mayor Adams. “Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction for both New York City’s public school students and their families. Together, with all those involved, the DOE is building on the foundation this administration is setting to support students with disabilities and reimaging special education in public schools.”
“For too long, the Department of Education has not done enough for our students with disabilities and their families. Our families have long deserved a transparent and responsive process for receiving much needed services for their children, and we are proud to continue our efforts to make this a more family-oriented process,” said Chancellor Banks. “The 40 requirements developed by Special Master David Irwin, in collaboration with DOE and plaintiffs, and memorialized today in Judge Preska’s order, are the result of tireless work and collaboration with our general counsel and key DOE leaders who ensured the special master had unfettered access and deep engagement with necessary staff to truly understand the profound challenges that make this work complex and difficult. The new requirements are stringent because we, too, believe that change is long overdue. While case volume and challenges increased over the past decade, we are moving aggressively to set a new course.”
“The court’s signing of this order represents a key milestone in this decades-old case and sets forth a roadmap for lasting reforms that will benefit thousands of students,” said New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix. “I thank Judge Preska for her steady oversight of this longstanding matter. I commend the chancellor for his leadership and the entire DOE team for working collaboratively with the special master to develop this thoughtful and comprehensive plan.”
A Blueprint for Change
There are 40 obligations outlined by the special master with implementation timelines ranging between 45 days to 18 months from the date of the order, including requirements for reporting on progress.
Key points from the court order include:
Building on This Administration's Commitment to Students with Disabilities
The Adams administration’s unyielding commitment to scaling and sustaining special education programs with track records of success was celebrated during the 2022-2023 school year with the citywide expansion of four programs: Sensory Exploration, Education & Discovery (SEED); Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD); Nest and Horizon; and Path Programs. This $205 million investment supported the creation of 70 additional SEED programs, 15 new ASD Nest and Horizon programs, and seven Path classrooms. This also includes a new paid internship opportunity for high school students with IEPs to work in the SEED sensory gyms.
A historic investment was also made in early childhood special education, earmarking $130 million for providers over two years. This investment guaranteed an early childhood special education seat for every child living with a disability by spring 2023, lengthened the school day to align with general education early childhood programs, and provided additional benefits to providers, including professional development opportunities, increases in salary to accommodate a lengthened school day, and to create pay parity among providers to match their general education peers.
This administration also recognizes the importance of access to extracurricular programming for young people. During the 2022-2023 school year, DOE launched a partnership with Special Olympics New York to create new standalone and unified basketball, bocce ball, and track & field teams, increasing access to sports for over 2,000 students in District 75 schools.
Lastly, a new Special Education Advisory Council was formed in December 2022 to identify existing gaps in instruction and programming, and share recommendations regarding priority investments in programs and services for students with disabilities. This council has 50 members and is comprised of parents, caregivers, local community leaders, university partners, advocates, students, alumni, educators, and experts in the special education field.