Stopping the Autism Shuffle


Judge Approves Settlement

The class action settlement agreement in which the School District of Philadelphia must notify parents of students with autism in grades K – 8 about the school placement process to ensure that parents have an opportunity to understand and discuss the decision was approved by Judge Legrome D. Davis.

The settlement resolves a class action lawsuit filed in 2011 by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Dechert LLP against the District on behalf of some 1,600 students with autism who were being “shuffled” from school to school without notice to, or consultation with, parents.

The School District must now formally alert parents of children with autism in January of each year that their child may be transferred to a new school, listing the proposed school, if known, and informing parents of their rights to participate in a formal meeting with school officials (an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP meeting) to discuss the transition. Teachers and school officials will also receive formal acknowledgement of transfers. By June 1 of each year, the District must provide an official letter of transfer and inform parents of their rights to challenge the circumstances of their own transfer through a formal administrative hearing called a due process hearing. The District also must publish a listing of Autism Support classrooms on its website by mid-October of each year so that if parents wish to try to have their children in such a classroom, they know where these services exist. Previously there was no such comprehensive list.