MoFo Improves Educational Standards for Students With Disabilities in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

05/29/2018

Sarah L. Prutzman

Litigation

MoFo News Item

A MoFo pro bono team, alongside co-counsel Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, negotiated a successful settlement with the Mount Vernon City School District (N.Y.) to ensure the education rights of present and future students with disabilities in the District.

The settlement caps a prolonged effort to address persistent and widespread failures to serve students with disabilities who live in Mount Vernon. MoFo and its legal services partner filed the case in 2013 on behalf of seven individual children who suffered grievous deprivations of the “free and appropriate education” promised them by federal law.  While not a class action, the suit sought and achieved systemic change that will benefit all Mount Vernon children who have special needs.

The settlement requires a major investment in the education of students with disabilities, with supervision and assistance from an outside expert monitor. Specifically, under the settlement:

  • The District must undertake approximately 90 concrete remedial actions designed to improve educational services for students with disabilities the district’s provision of educational services to students with disabilities, including creating and implementing a comprehensive special education handbook, providing district-wide professional development trainings, and implementing a data system that allows for real-time monitoring of the district’s delivery of special education services.
  • The District must establish baseline data on 15 different metrics relating to students with disabilities and improve its performance on those metrics over the next three years. For example, by June 2021, the district must conduct at least 95% of its annual CSE (committee on special education) meetings on time and improve its graduation rate for students with disabilities to at least the state-wide average.

“For too long, the Mount Vernon School District has failed to provide students with disabilities the support and services they need, and are legally entitled to, to be successful in the classroom,” MoFo associate Sarah Prutzman said. “Under this settlement, the education for these students will be greatly improved. We hope this is going to change lives.”

MoFo and Legal Services of the Hudson Valley originally filed suit on May 29, 2013 against the District, the District superintendent, the Mount Vernon City school board, the New York State Department of Education, and the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Education.  The case is ongoing with respect to the New York State Department of Education and its Commissioner, which, according to the complaint, did not take action even after repeatedly identifying shortcomings in services provided by the school district to students with disabilities.

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