DENVER — An education attorney has filed a federal class action lawsuit against Denver Public Schools alleging that the district’s failure to treat its teachers fairly has led to potential deprivation of proper services to thousands of special needs children within DPS.
Igor Raykin, with the law firm Kishinevsky & Raykin, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver on Monday – the same day 2,631 Denver teachers walked out of classrooms and started striking.
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The lawsuit argues that the district violated two federal laws, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, where public school districts are required to provide academic, social-emotional and other services to disabled children.
“Because of the strike, more than 10,000 DPS special education students are and will be extremely impacted,” the complaint reads. “Many of the students in this group are in need of the most critical support to maintain their health and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions.”
The district's website has a description on how DPS is handling special needs services during the strike:
“We are prioritizing our students with special needs as we make staffing arrangements during the strike. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 plan or other special needs, your school will reach out to you to discuss services being provided.”
The lawsuit alleges that essential employees, like special education teachers, counselors, social workers, school psychologists and therapists are being replaced during the strike by substitute teachers who may not have sufficient training to meet the needs of DPS children with disabilities – some of whom use feeding tubes or breathing apparatuses.
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The complaint goes on to argue that DPS has not publicly put any plan together to provide services to affected special education students.
“Without these critical services, these students’ health and safety would be in jeopardy. They could get hurt, hurt themselves and/or hurt others.”
The lawsuit also mentions the negative impact a strike has on blind and visually impaired students who spend a significant amount of time learning their surroundings within an assigned classroom.
“This would be undermined and could cause physical harm to the students. That possibly could force these students to be confined to a classroom, damaging their social-emotional progress," it says.
The lawsuit asks that the court intervenes and requires DPS to inform impacted parents on how it will meet the needs of special education students during the teacher strike.
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