On the Legal Docket: New Lawsuit Aims to Reform Staten Island’s District 75 for Disabled Students

Last January 2021, attorneys from the Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights New York, the Bazelon Center, and the law offices of Jerry Hartman, filed a major class action lawsuit challenging New York City’s segregated school system for students with disabilities on Staten Island.

Known as District 75, many Staten Island students attend schools outside their communities and commute to school for more than two hours each day. The lawsuit seeks reforms to allow students the necessary resources to ensure students can attend their neighborhood school. 

Research has shown that students with disabilities are more likely to score higher on tests and graduate high school when included with their non-disabled peers. 

The three Plaintiffs in the case alleges that District 75 does not give students equal access to school facilities such as cafeterias, libraries and playgrounds, electives like music and art classes and extra-curricular activities and sports. Black students with disabilities are overrepresented in District 75. 

I spoke with Emily Seelenfreund, of Disability Rights Advocates, and she said that currently the New York City Department of Education has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and the plaintiffs have filed opposition. They are waiting for a judge from the federal court of Eastern District of New York to rule on it. 

We reached out by email to the New York Department of Education’s legal team but did not receive comment. 

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