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Judge Dismisses Long-Running Class Action Special Education Suit Against D.C.

The Blackman-Jones case, originally filed in 1997 by parents who said the District of Columbia was failing to provide appropriate special education services to its students with disabilities, was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman on Tuesday, bringing to an end 18 years of court oversight. 

Blackman-Jones represented two combined cases, both of which contended that the 45,000-student district had systemically failed in its obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Blackman v. District of Columbia contended that the school system did not meet mandated deadlines for holding due process hearings. Jones v. District of Columbia argued that the system was not implementing the hearing officer decisions in a timely fashion. The Blackman portion of the class action lawsuit was dismissed in 2011, with the school system successfully making the case that it had improved its performance. 

"We have worked tirelessly over the last four years to improve education outcomes for children with disabilities," said District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray in a statement Tuesday. "Today's decision demonstrates that the improvements we have made have helped create the best special education system that the District of Columbia has seen in many, many years. The ruling will enable the District to continue serving as a model for special education reform."

The District of Columbia is still under facing increased oversight from the federal Office of Special Education Program, which gave the school system a "needs intervention" rating in its latest evaluation of special education performance, for the 8th consecutive year. The District has been required to use some of its federal IDEA money allotted for administrative costs to improve compliance with hearing deadlines and student evaluations.

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