URGENT CLIENT ALERT: J.T., et. al. v. Bill de Blasio, et. al., And So It Begins: COVID Special Education Class Action

Through a July 27, 2020 lawsuit, two New York attorneys filed the first of possibly many COVID-19 special education class action lawsuits which includes as a defendant the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) and nearly, if not all, Texas Public Schools. The 350 pages included in the lawsuit alleges that every state education department and school district failed to provide a free, appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to students and discriminated against disabled students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (“IDEA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504)”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Notably, the ADA does not apply to Texas public schools because they receive federal funding. The lawsuit further contends that all defendants violated students’ rights under the Civil Rights Act.

The lawsuit contains hundreds of allegations of fact against the various state education departments and school districts. Essentially, plaintiffs contend that the national school closures during the Spring of 2020 resulted in wholesale noncompliance with both the procedural, and substantive requirements of the federal statutes. Plaintiffs contend that, during the school closures, the defendant state education departments and school districts (1) failed to adhere to IDEA Part B Funding requirements, (2) violated the various statutes’ “stay put” provisions, (3) denied FAPE and/or unilaterally modified students’ Individualized Education Programs (“IEP”), (4) discriminated against students with disabilities by not providing appropriate accommodations, and (5) acted knowingly, willfully, deliberately, and with bad faith in violation of students’ rights.

Of grave concerns to advocates for public education are the plaintiffs’ extraordinary request for relief, including a demand for school vouchers on a national level. The highly politicized and polarizing issue of using taxpayer dollars to provide vouchers to schools will take a forefront in this litigation. These plaintiffs are using the IDEA and Section 504 to seek funding at public expense for private schools which are exempt from the IDEA and Section 504. The hypocrisy is palpable.

With the thousands of Texas public schools named in this litigation, we are poised at the vanguard of this historic litigation. The Texas Rural Education Association Risk Management Cooperative (the “RMC”), the RMC has already appointed our Firm to defend its 83 member school districts. As you know, through Geneva’s Guidance, our EdClips, Geneva’s participation on the TEA Special Education Task Force, and our 24/7 COVID-19 telephone free no-research question calls for all Texas schools, we have been standing with Texas Schools during this pandemic and we will not leave your side. School districts that are not covered by RMC in this litigation are encouraged to contact us that we can help you navigate the litigation.