In a unanimous ruling this week, the U.S. Supreme Court resoundingly rejected the claim that students with disabilities are merely entitled to a minimal educational benefit.
The plaintiff in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District is a boy with autism whose parents placed him in a private school after he made little progress in his public school district. The parents’ subsequent claim for reimbursement was denied by the district court and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the child had made “minimal progress,” and that was all that was mandated by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The Supreme Court’s reversal established a high standard for the delivery of special education services, mandating that schools offer an Individualized Education Program that is “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” As the author of the opinion, Chief Justice Roberts, noted, “a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.” In fact, Justice Roberts continued,’ “receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly … awaiting the time when they were old enough to “drop out.”‘”
For students like Endrew F. who are not fully included in the general education classroom, the educational services provided “must be appropriately ambitious,” and “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.” Further, the Court noted that this standard is “markedly more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit” (emphasis added).
Of note is the fact that the minimal educational benefit standard, which the Supreme Court so thoroughly rejected, was first introduced by President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which through its Disability Justice program submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case, praised the decision as affirming the law for this region and enhancing the rights of students with disabilities nationwide.
Sarika Saxena, Health Justice Staff Attorney, testified on behalf of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest at the Budget Hearing held by New York City Council’s Committee on Immigration. Ms. Saxena thanked City Council for its support of NYLPI’s immigrant-focused programs through the Immigrant Health Initiative and has requested for their continued support. Given the delicate political climate and ever-changing legal landscape under the current federal Administration, NYLPI’s client communities and immigrant-health focused programs, UndocuCare program connecting uninsured New Yorkers to health coverage and health in immigration detention facilities, are front and center in the fight. Ms. Saxena’s testimony also detailed the current immigrant-health needs of NYLPI’s client communities and discussed NYLPI’s cutting-edge strategies to address those needs. Enclosed are her remarks to the Committee on Immigration.
Metro New York quoted NYLPI Senior Staff Attorney Melissa Iachan in an article illustrating how the clustering of waste facilities affects community members’ health. As the article highlights, more than three quarters of the City’s waste currently is processed in just three predominantly low-income, minority neighborhoods in the South Bronx, Southeast Queens, and North Brooklyn. NYLPI’s Environmental Justice program has been advocating for waste equity for more than 20 years. The Metro article details the current legislative proposal in City Council to reduce the amount of waste processed in these three communities.
NYLPI supports our Legal Services Corporation-funded colleagues and opposes President Trump’s attempts to eliminate funding that helps those most in need. Civil legal services funding is effective and changes lives. For example, last year’s $100 million in state legal services funding returned $1 billion – that is $10 for every dollar invested in civil legal services – to the New York State treasury. Where else do you get such a return on investment and help people stay in their homes, their jobs, and take care of their families?
NYLPI signed onto a letter with the New York City Human Rights Law Working Group supporting continued, increased funding for the Commission to allow them to continue to bring civil rights cases in NYC!
NYLPI Executive Director McGregor Smyth and NYLPI Legal Director Katie Rosenfeld will join distinguished panels of legal experts on “Legal Activism in Our New America” this afternoon, March 17. The panel is hosted by the New York County Defender Services at Fordham Law School.
Session One: Civil Rights Litigation and Political Protest v. Mass Incarceration
1:00 – 2:15 p.m., 1.5 CLE credits
Sharlyn Grace, Chicago Appleseed Criminal Justice Policy Fellow
Katie Rosenfeld, Legal Director, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest &
Alexander Shalom, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU-NJ
Moderated by Stan Hickman, Senior Attorney, NYCDS
Session Two: What’s American? Immigration and “National Security” as Weapons
2:20 – 3:25 p.m., 1.5 CLE credits
Genia Blaser, Staff Attorney, Immigration Defense Project
Brittany Brown, Immigration Unit Attorney, NYCDS &
Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Consitutional Rights
Moderated by Zwi Wasserstein, Senior Attorney, NYCDS
Session Three: Where Do We Go From Here? Leading an Organization Amidst Governmental Hostility
3:40 – 4:40 p.m., 1 CLE credit
McGregor Smyth, Executive Director, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest &
Vincent Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
Moderated by Stan German, Executive Director, NYCDS
NYLPI submitted testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Immigration today, highlighting the stories of our clients and communities who are afraid to seek healthcare and other government services because of enforcement changes coming out of Washington. We continue to hear from clients, community partners and medical providers of fear spreading across communities. This includes fear of being picked up by ICE at dialysis appointments, that hospital clinics won’t provide care, that they are at risk if they assert their rights in housing court, and that jaywalking or a low-level offense will lead to arrest and deportation. Our statement calls for the City to recognize the trauma present in the immigrant communities from changes in Washington and enforcement of broken windows policing. We ask for coordinated and public response from all City agencies to assure people that NYC is doing all it can support and protect people. People want to hear from the City that it is taking a firm stance and ensuring safety and access to the services that people need to survive.
NYLPI’s Community Organizer was also mentioned in the WNYC article: (http://www.wnyc.org/story/city-council-considers-strengthening-immigrant-protections/).
NYLPI offered testimony to the Public Housing Committee’s budget hearing on March 13, arguing for increasing funding and transparency measures for NYCHA’s mold and pest problem. Poor housing conditions in NYCHA housing lead to mold and vermin infestations, which in turn threaten the health and even the lives of tenants with asthma or other respiratory diseases. NYCHA’s workforce is apparently unable to keep up with the level of maintenance and remediation necessary to protect residents’ health, and the lack of information on the extent of the problem makes finding alternative solutions difficult. Stronger budgetary support for repairs, combined with a study of the extent of the mold and pest problems and transparency as to NYCHA’s response efforts, would be a good first step toward ensuring good health for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who call public housing home.
NYLPI is excited to announce the launch of our Healthy Housing Resources Page, designed to help New Yorkers with asthma or other breathing difficulties assert their right to a home that is safe for them to live in.
Too many people in poor health—particularly in low-income and public housing—live with mold or pests that produce asthma triggers, leading to avoidable asthma attacks or even hospitalization. NYLPI’s resources page aims to equip tenants who face such hazards with the tools necessary to protect their right to a healthy home.
NYLPI’s Director of the Health Justice Program, Laura Redman, recently published this op-ed in the New York Daily News warning of a developing human rights crisis, as the new administration’s deportation policies will increase the number of persons being sent to detention centers. “Under President Trump’s newly released policies expanding who is considered deportable, many more of our neighbors will be held in detention until their cases are resolved. They will be locked into an unsafe and intolerable situation.” Our report released February 22, 2017 documents egregious, recurring medical neglect in three county jail immigration detention facilities in our area.
Read Laura’s Op-Ed in the New York Daily News.