The United States District Court approved a settlement last week with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to resolve a 2017 lawsuit brought by Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS) and two students with disabilities in the Bronx.
The class action lawsuit challenged the DOE’s denial of legally mandated special education services, and the settlement agreement provides broad relief for the class.
The settlement addresses concerns raised in the lawsuit regarding the city DOE’s issuance of related service vouchers to families of Bronx students with disabilities who need related special education services, such as occupational therapy or speech therapy. The city DOE issues these vouchers when it does not have the capacity to provide the services in schools, and it has often issued the vouchers without providing families the information and resources they need to actually secure services for their children using the vouchers.
Under the agreement, the city DOE will make a variety of changes to its policies and practices. These changes are aimed at decreasing the DOE’s reliance on vouchers by increasing its capacity to provide services to Bronx students in schools. When it is necessary for the city DOE to issue a voucher, the agreement ensures that families will receive the support and information needed to utilize the voucher to obtain services for their child and facilitates families obtaining make-up services for any services missed during this process.
“It’s crucial that students with disabilities receive their related services in order to truly have full access to public education,” said Brett Eisenberg, executive director of BILS. “This agreement will bring long-needed improvements to related services for Bronx students.”