Lawsuit says special needs students denied essential services

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NEW YORK CITY — Caleb Bell is deaf, blind and nonverbal, so he requires a lot of hands-on, one-to-one intense help.

When schools shut down in March, his special needs services went away which means he was no longer learning.

“Remote learning did him no good because if you can’t see and you can’t hear, then Zoom doesn’t offer him much,” his mother Chrystal told PIX11 News.

Chrystal is asking the DOE to hold her son back for one more year so he can get the services he is owed. However, Caleb is now 21 years old and will age out of the New York City school system.

Caleb Bell was one of the eight students named in a class action lawsuit filed by Advocates for Children, hoping to get compensatory services for tens of thousands of special needs students in New York City public schools. About 200,000 students have individualized educational plans.

Rebecca Shore, the director of litigation at Advocates for Children believes both the city and state will be asking to dismiss this case this month with no real plan to get these students the help they were promised.

“We know remote learning is a challenging reality all of our families have grappled with, especially our families of students with disabilities, due to the global pandemic,” the DOE said in a statement. “We reopened schools for our District 75 and elementary school students as soon as possible and have prioritized full-time and in-person services for our students with disabilities since day one. In a previous case the Court ruled that the transition to remote learning does not amount to a denial of services, and we are closely monitoring student progress, prioritizing device distribution to students with disabilities, and working with families to identify when children need additional services.”

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