In June 2011, the Law Center and Dechert LLP filed PV vs. the School District of Philadelphia, the first major class action lawsuit in the Philadelphia Project. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pa. on behalf of four children with autism, the suit argues that the school district’s “Automatic Autism Transfer Policy,” requiring some 3,000-4,000 children with autism to move from school to school, violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The lawsuit calls for the District to restructure its Autism program to provide greater continuity and to give parents more input into where and how their children are educated. In June 2014, the Law reached a settlement agreement pursuant to which the 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.
Stopping the Autism Shuffle
All students suffer when there are disruptions in their educations, but this is especially true for students with autism who, by nature of their disability, have an especially difficult time with change. Yet, because of the way the School District of Philadelphia structures its Autism Support (AS) classrooms, students with autism are often automatically transferred between schools – outside of the IEP process and without parental input – while their non-disabled peers are able to stay in their home schools.