A group of parents of students with disabilities and the School District of Philadelphia have settled a case concerning the School District’s process for determining appropriate special education services during school breaks. The parents and students are represented by the Public Interest Law Center and Covington & Burling LLP. The School District is represented by Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller.
An estimated 26,000 students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia receive special education services, and under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), school districts are required to provide certain students with disabilities Extended School Year (ESY) services during school breaks.
In 2014, the Public Interest Law Center filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of a group of parents and students against the School District, alleging that the School District required that students’ ESY services fit within predetermined dates and times of a uniform ESY summer schedule created by the School District. The lawsuit asked the court to certify the matter as a class action. The School District denied these allegations, including that class-wide relief is appropriate, and continues to maintain that the ESY services it provides comply with the IDEA.
Under the settlement agreement, the School District will provide notices and training for District employees and parents/guardians concerning the School District’s ESY services, to inform those involved in determining students’ ESY services (including School District employees and parents/guardians) that ESY services must be individualized for each eligible student, and that the ESY services provided by the School District will not be predetermined or limited by the School District’s ESY summer schedule. The School District will also provide trainings and resources to special education teachers, special education liaisons, administrators and other School District personnel involved in determining special education services to ensure that they understand the School District’s ESY policies. Separately, the School District will conduct two parent trainings per year on ESY services. The School District also agreed to develop written notices and revise existing forms related to ESY that are sent to parents to make clear that the type and amount of ESY services for each child are based on the child’s individual needs.
The settlement agreement will be in effect through December 31, 2019, and the School District will provide certain data related to ESY services while the agreement is in place. The parties have agreed that the court will retain jurisdiction throughout the life of the agreement.