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ELC ADVOCATES ON BEHALF OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IN NEWARK

ELC, along with the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law and the Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C., is advocating on behalf of children with disabilities in Newark who have been denied appropriate special education services.

The case of M.A. v. Newark Public Schools, which was filed in 2001 on behalf of six children with disabilities, their parents and all other similarly situated children in Newark, alleges that Newark Public Schools and the State have routinely denied thousands of children with disabilities a "free appropriate public education" and a "thorough and efficient education" in violation of federal and state special education laws, federal civil rights laws and the New Jersey Constitution. Newark and the State have failed to identify, locate, refer and evaluate thousands of children with disabilities for special education eligibility, have failed to provide them with appropriate special education and related services, and have failed to provide them with "compensatory education" to compensate for the educational services which they did not receive. One plaintiff failed or marginally passed classes for several years, yet was advanced to the next grade level each year, while his mother’s requests for a special education evaluation were repeatedly ignored. Another plaintiff with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Myasthenia Gravis, was similarly not evaluated despite numerous requests for evaluations by her parent. The complaint also alleges that the State additionally failed to appropriately monitor Newark’s delivery of special education services and failed to ensure that students with disabilities received appropriate relief in response to complaint investigation requests which are filed pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The M.A. plaintiffs successfully defeated multiple-count motions to dismiss in the district court, attained a preliminary injunction on behalf of two of the named plaintiffs (see "district court" link above), and defeated the State’s appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals of both the preliminary injunction and the denial of the motion to dismiss. In a strongly worded decision, the Third Circuit found that at least two of the named plaintiffs had "suffered from years of neglect" and faced "the potential harm ... from continuing failure to provide appropriate educational services." Subsequent to the Third Circuit decision, the parties commenced settlement discussions, and the parties are now amicably attempting to resolve the lawsuit and establish appropriate mechanisms to ensure that children with disabilities are no longer denied their right to an appropriate education.

Anyone who is interested in further information about this lawsuit, or who is aware of any problems related to the provision of special education services in Newark, the State’s monitoring of special education services or the State’s complaint investigation process should contact Ruth Lowenkron of ELC at 973-624-1815, Ex. 21 (voice) or 973-624-4618 (TDD)