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Suit Filed Against New Orleans District On Behalf Of Students With Disabilities

From the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.:

Students with disabilities are being denied access to the city's public schools and are often pushed into schools unable to provide them with the special education services they deserve under federal law, according to a complaint lodged today by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other advocacy groups.

The complaint, filed with the Louisiana Department of Education on behalf of all special needs students in New Orleans public schools, outlines the department's systemic failure to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to educational services and are protected from discrimination.

The complaint (pdf) lists13 student petitioners with a dispiriting set of complaints, including a 13-year-old with depression and self-injurious behavior who was threatened with expulsion for being disruptive to the school environment, and a 9-year-old blind third grader with autism who had to be accompanied by his mother to school for two months, because the school did not provide a paraprofessional. The school said it was too short-staffed to accommodate the obligation to provide a paraprofessional, the lawsuit said.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune article on the complaint included this statement from State Superintendent Paul Pastorek: "While we have no way of verifying these specific incidents as of yet, it's unacceptable that any child or family would have to endure the kind of hardships that were described by the Southern Poverty Law Center in this complaint," Pastorek wrote. "If we had been notified, we would have worked with this organization, these students and their families to resolve any deficiencies so that their physical, emotional, and educational needs are met by their local districts and schools."

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