With the push to get children back in school in New York City, advocates for special education services are demanding that some of those children not be left behind. A federal judge has just approved a court-ordered monitor to oversee the city’s compliance with legal orders for special education services once the administrative hearing process approves them.
Called a special master, this appointment will guarantee that New York City will work within the time frame for providing services or payments to families within 35 days of the hearing officer’s order. As the city has repeatedly failed to comply to work within the time frame that was part of a longstanding legal settlement from 2007, the nonprofit organization, Advocates for Children, requested the independent monitor in 2019.
New York City’s poor record of administrative lag
Although families may file a complaint through the administrative hearing process if they believe that their child is not receiving special education that is appropriate to their child’s needs, the city consistently has not worked within that 35-day window, even before the pandemic hit. As a result, students may go months or even years without special services.
From October 2017 until January 2018, the education department missed the 35-day deadline 30% of the time. And from October 2018 until January 2019, the city did not comply 80% of the time.
The cornerstone of education law
U.S. Code Title 20, Chapter 33, called the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), addresses the special needs of children with disabilities from birth until age 26, with guidelines for state and public agencies to provide special services, including special education and early intervention.
Under IDEA, every child is assigned an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). An IEP team will include at least:
- one or more of the child’s classroom teachers,
- a special education teacher,
- a psychologist,
- an administrator,
- a representative of the local education agency.
The parents are considered equal members of the IEP.
For parents who are facing legal challenges to the implementation of special needs accommodations for their child, having the support services of a special education attorney can help them to protect their child’s rights and interests.