G-Bitch has the details on the federal class action lawsuit filed against the Louisiana Department of Education "for not ensuring special needs students in New Orleans get the services they deserve and need". If I'm not mistaken, this suit was referred to in the amazing disappearing and reappearing Brentin Mock Newsweek article.
From the papers filed:
...the rights of New Orleans public school students with disabilities are violated in four general ways:The kickers come in on page 11, points 32-35, entitled New Orleans School Governance Framework:
...First, students with disabilities are denied admission to public schools on the basis of their disabilities because the Defendants (Paul Pastorek, the LDE, and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) have failed to ensure that public schools offer the same variety of educational programs and services as are available to non-disabled children. These practices constitute nothing less than disability discrimination.
...Second, students with disabilities are denied the protections and services to which they are entitled under federal law because the Defendants have not promulgated and enforced a child find policy that would (1) apply uniformly throughout all New Orleans Public schools and (2) ensure that all students who are in need of special education services are identified, located, and evaluated in a timely fashion.
...Third, students with disabilities are denied educational opportunities that confer a meaningful educational benefit because Defendants have failed to ensure that IEPs (individualized education plans) are developed, reviewed and revised for each New Orleans public school student with a disability, and have failed to provide access to related and transition services.
...Fourth, students with disabilities are punished for manifestations of their disabilities and unlawfully excluded from educational programs and benefits because the Defendants have failed to implement policies, procedures, and practices related to school discipline that protect these students' federal procedural safeguards and shield them from discrimination on the basis of their disability.
As a result of the unique structure of public education in New Orleans, students with disabilities face insurmountable challenges when attempting to access educational services. Under federal law, special education services are administered by a local education agency ("LEA") - traditionally a single school district which serves as the centralized point of authority and accountability for schools. As a result of the education reforms that occurred in the city during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, no such single entity exists in New Orleans. (italics mine)Further details on how the decentralization has affected how the New Orleans public schools handle special needs students follow, including this sad anecdote in points 55 and 56:
When charter schools violate their contractual obligations and deny enrollment to children with disabilities, Defendant LDE fails to take appropriate action to remedy this violation. For example, Pierre A. Capdau Charter School enrolled a student body comprised of just over three percent of students with disabilities. Instead of enforcing the federal obligations to ensure that a school provides equal access to disabled students, in 2010 LDE granted Capdau a three-year charter extension because it met academic performance standards.Further examples of the current "system of schools'" failures to help the ten plaintiffs named in the suit are cited throughout. It reads like one of the more pathetic tracts I've ever encountered. The first 19 pages are heartbreaking all in themselves. The folks representing the plaintiffs have certainly done a lot of homework. If this makes it through the courts and is then fully implemented, perhaps a true public education plan could result...
Had LDE investigated the exclusion of students with disabilities at Pierre A. Capdau Charter School it would have uncovered the plight of students like Plaintiff P.B., who is identified as a student with a disability...On October 3, 2010, a school administrator told his mother that P.B. was no longer welcome to return to school because of a manifestation of his disability. Since that time, P.B.'s mother has attenpted to locate a New Orleans public school that will enroll him. Every school has turned her away and P.B. remains out of school to this day.
I wish these families all the luck in the world. This will be one long haul.