EF v. New York City Department of Education

Scroll to case documents Date Filed: 01/26/2021 Status:
District 75 Flyer
Image: Flyer with text “Is Your Child in District 75 on Staten Island? Disability Rights New York, Disability Rights Advocates, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law want to connect with parents of District 75 students on Staten Island. Who we are: We advocate for the civil rights of kids and adults with disabilities. Our goal is to make sure children with disabilities have the same opportunities to learn and achieve as other kids do. We have filed a lawsuit to enforce the rights of students attending District 75 programs on Staten Island, or who are at risk of a District 75 placement. We want every student who wants to be in his or her neighborhood school with their families and neighbors to be able to go there and still receive the supports and services they need to be successful. This is their legal right. Other cities support students with even the most significant disabilities in their neighborhood schools and we know New York City can too. Is this about my child? Yes, if your child is in a District 75 school or program on Staten Island and/or: Your child was put in District 75 because your neighborhood school could not provide the services and supports your child needed, or You were told District 75 was the only option if you wanted your child to receive the services and supports they need, or You were not allowed to move your child back to your neighborhood school because it doesn’t have the services and supports your child needs, or Your child is not being challenged in District 75 or is not making progress, or Your child’s behavior at school is not getting better, or Your child’s school uses “alternate assessment” for all students, instead of the regular New York State learning standards, or Your child is not getting the services listed on their IEP, or Your child has no access to sports, clubs, or other activities or school services, or You were told your child can’t get a Regent’s or local diploma in District 75; or Your child is physically restrained or put in a separate room in their District 75 school to control their behavior, or Your child could go to school in their neighborhood school as long as the school provided the supports and services your student needs to be successful. If you are a parent or know such children and families, we want to hear your story. We are also happy to answer questions about our lawsuit. All communications are strictly confidential. Contact: District75@dralegal.org or ask for Will at (518) 432-7861.”


On January 26, 2021, DRA and partners filed a major class action lawsuit challenging New York City’s segregated school system for students with disabilities on Staten Island. The lawsuit alleges that the borough’s separate school district for children with disabilities, known as District 75, denies these students an equal education, forcing them into segregated schools and classrooms without adequate resources and with no meaningful opportunity to be integrated into their community schools. 

The plaintiffs, three Staten Island students with disabilities and the advocacy group Disability Rights New York, are not seeking monetary damages; rather, they seek reforms that will compel the New York City Department of Education to provide the resources necessary so that every Staten Island District 75 student has the opportunity to attend their neighborhood schools if they choose. Many Staten Island District 75 students attend schools located outside their communities and spend two hours or more commuting to school every day. 

Research has long shown that students with disabilities score higher on academic achievement tests and are more likely to graduate with a diploma as well as maintain employment when they learn in an integrated learning environment with students without disabilities. However, in many cases, being labeled as having a particular disability or needing certain supportive services has meant an automatic, segregated Staten Island District 75 placement. 

The Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that Staten Island District 75 students have unequal access or no access at all to school facilities, such as playgrounds, cafeterias, libraries, electives like music and art classes, and extracurricular activities like clubs and sports teams. Very few District 75 students graduate with a regular diploma, and Black students with disabilities are overrepresented in segregated District 75 schools. This lawsuit will support students with disabilities and their parents in securing quality, inclusive education in Staten Island community schools with their siblings and neighbors.

New York City has been on notice of concerns about District 75 since at least 2008, when the Council for Great City Schools issued its City-commissioned report, “Improving Special Education in New York City’s District 75.” According to the report, “the isolation of students [is] more pronounced in the New York City school system than in other major urban school system known to the team…leaving District 75 alone is not acceptable.” New York education and disability advocates have also sought reforms to District 75. But the City has continued to maintain the segregated District 75 system, instead of providing expertise and resources to Staten Island community schools so that they can enroll District 75 students.

The case will be litigated by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Disability Rights New York, the Law Office of Gerald Hartman under the auspices of the Barbara McDowell and Gerald S. Hartman Foundation Inc., and the law firm Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP on behalf of Disability Rights New York (DRNY) and individual Plaintiffs.

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