DC’s OSSE Sued for Failure to Present Secure and Dependable Faculty Transportation, Denying Disabled College students Entry to Training


Class Motion Seeks to Treatment Systemic Failure and Violations of Federal and State Legislation

March 7, 2024 – Dad and mom and guardians of youngsters with disabilities residing within the District of Columbia (DC), together with The Arc of america, filed a category motion lawsuit immediately towards DC’s Workplace of the State Superintendent for Training (OSSE) for failing to offer secure, dependable and efficient transportation to and from faculties for youngsters with disabilities, thereby denying college students equal entry to their schooling and unnecessarily segregating them from their friends.

“The buses meant to assist youngsters with disabilities construct their schooling and futures are as an alternative perpetuating their exclusion. This isn’t only a matter of tardiness or inconvenience. It’s stealing youngsters’s alternatives to be taught, develop, and join with their friends,” mentioned Shira Wakschlag, Senior Director of Authorized Advocacy & Normal Counsel of The Arc of america, a non-profit that works to advertise and defend the civil and human rights of individuals with mental and developmental disabilities. “This systemic failure segregates college students with disabilities from their friends and deprives them of equal entry to schooling in violation of the regulation. When faculty buses turn out to be obstacles themselves, we have to struggle to make sure that no youngster is left stranded.”

In response to the criticism, the OSSE Division of Transportation (OSSE DOT) has frequently failed to offer constant, secure and correctly outfitted transportation:

  • Buses routinely arrive very late to select college students up from their houses, or don’t arrive in any respect, inflicting children to overlook an exorbitant variety of faculty days. One 14-year-old pupil was late to highschool 90 instances within the 2022 – 2023 faculty 12 months.
  • College students are picked up early from faculty and miss important tutorial time or are left stranded at college with out assured transportation again dwelling. “As a result of [my child] constantly arrived dwelling late, he would miss important therapies that have been ordered by his physician,” mentioned Veronica Guerrero, plaintiff and mom of a 14-year-old pupil.
  • College students are pressured to spend extreme time on the bus, inflicting bodily and psychological hurt when they’re unable to entry meals, treatment, or bogs. Because of this, one 13-year-old pupil with a uncommon chromosomal dysfunction has arrived dwelling on a number of events with a dirty diaper.
  • Buses don’t present acceptable lodging (together with correctly educated medical personnel) and tools that youngsters with disabilities must journey the bus safely. One eight-year-old pupil’s medical situations require that she journey the bus with a nurse current. On a number of events, and with out discover to the household, the bus arrives and not using a nurse onboard to correctly take care of her.
  • Buses can’t be reliably tracked, and households don’t have any technique to discover out the place their youngsters are positioned whereas using a bus. One 11-year-old pupil was lacking for 4 hours earlier than faculty employees positioned him.

“DC was below courtroom supervision after a lawsuit for the very same downside till 2012. Though the District had proven they have been shifting in the correct path then, now we’re shifting again to the place we as soon as have been regardless of years of fogeys and group leaders working collectively to aim change by means of native advocacy efforts,” mentioned Kathy Zeisel, Director of Particular Authorized Initiatives of the Youngsters’s Legislation Middle and counsel for the plaintiffs. “We are able to not plead and hope for change. We’re taking motion to make sure DC youngsters obtain the schooling they deserve.”

“The District’s failure to offer secure, dependable, and acceptable transportation to college students with disabilities is a part of a pattern the place the District doesn’t dwell as much as its obligations to youngsters and households,” mentioned Kaitlin Banner, Deputy Authorized Director of the Washington Attorneys’ Committee for Civil Rights and City Affairs and plaintiff counsel. “We hope this lawsuit creates the systemic modifications we’d like for college students to get to highschool safely and on time to allow them to be taught.”

The plaintiffs embrace mother and father and guardians of youngsters with a variety of disabilities who require transportation lodging and help to entry their schooling. Collectively they search to treatment this systemic failure, which violates federal and state regulation, together with the People with Disabilities in Training Act (IDEA), People with Disabilities Act (ADA), Part 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA).

Underneath the IDEA, DC college students with disabilities are entitled to a free acceptable public schooling (FAPE), which should embrace companies and lodging set forth in college students’ individualized schooling plans (IEPs), together with transportation. The ADA, Part 504, and the DCHRA require that college students with disabilities have an equal alternative to entry their schooling and prohibit pointless segregation of scholars with disabilities.

“Youngsters with disabilities are lacking important schooling and associated companies, all of that are obligatory for them to obtain a free acceptable public schooling assured below the IDEA,” mentioned Margaret Warner, a Accomplice at worldwide regulation agency McDermott Will & Emery and counsel for the plaintiffs. “OSSE’s transportation system that gives these companies frequently fails to moderately help DC college students’ particular schooling, as mandated by their IEPs.”

The case is Robertson v. District of Columbia and has been filed within the US District Courtroom for the District of Columbia.

The plaintiffs are represented by Shira Wakschlag and Evan Monod of The Arc of america; Kathy Zeisel of DC’s Youngsters’s Legislation Middle; Kaitlin R. Banner, Margaret F. Hart, and Chelsea Sullivan of the Washington Attorneys’ Committee for Civil Rights and City Affairs; and Margaret H. Warner, Eugene I. Goldman, Theodore E. Alexander and Christopher M. Shoemaker of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

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About The Arc of america
The Arc advocates for and serves individuals with mental and developmental disabilities (IDD), together with Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Issues, cerebral palsy, and different diagnoses. Based in 1950 by mother and father who believed their youngsters with IDD deserved extra, The Arc is now a community of almost 600 chapters throughout the nation selling and defending the human rights of individuals with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the neighborhood all through their lifetimes. Via the many years, The Arc has been on the forefront of advances in incapacity rights and helps. There are over 7 million individuals with IDD in america, which encompasses over 100 completely different diagnoses. Go to www.thearc.org or observe us @TheArcUS to be taught extra. Editor’s Be aware: The Arc just isn’t an acronym; at all times consult with us as The Arc, not The ARC, and by no means ARC. The Arc ought to be thought-about as a title or a phrase.

About Youngsters’s Legislation Middle
Youngsters’s Legislation Middle believes each youngster ought to develop up with a powerful basis of household, well being, and schooling and dwell in a world free from poverty, trauma, racism and different types of oppression. Our greater than 100 employees—along with DC youngsters and households, group companions, and professional bono attorneys—use the regulation to resolve youngsters’s pressing issues immediately and enhance the methods that can have an effect on their lives tomorrow. Since our founding in 1996, we now have reached greater than 50,000 youngsters and households straight and multiplied our influence by advocating for city-wide options that profit tons of of hundreds extra. For extra data, please go to www.childrenslawcenter.org.

In regards to the Washington Attorneys’ Committee for Civil Rights and City Affairs
The Washington Attorneys’ Committee for Civil Rights and City Affairs companions with group members and organizations on scores of instances to fight discrimination in housing, employment, schooling, immigration, legal justice reform, public lodging, based mostly on race, gender, incapacity, household measurement, historical past of legal conviction, and extra. The Washington Attorneys’ Committee has secured a relentless stream of civil rights victories over the previous 5 many years in an effort to attain justice for all. For extra data, please go to www.washlaw.org.

About McDermott Will & Emery
McDermott Will & Emery companions with leaders world wide to gasoline missions, knock down obstacles and form markets. Our crew works seamlessly throughout practices and industries to ship extremely efficient options that propel success. Greater than 1,400 legal professionals sturdy, we convey our private ardour and authorized prowess to bear in each matter for our purchasers and the individuals they serve. For extra data, please go to www.mwe.com.

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