Jackson v. The Board of Education of the City of Chicago
On August 29, 2019, Disability Rights Advocates and Legal Council for Health Justice filed a class action lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools (“CPS”) challenging CPS’s policy of denying free nutrition programs to students whose disabilities require them to attend therapeutic day schools (“TDS”).
On June 3, 2021, Judge Young B. Kim preliminarily approved a settlement in the class action. Under the terms of the settlement, CPS updated its policy so that all students will receive free breakfast and lunch, or will be reimbursed a stipend by the non-public school. CPS’s notice to parents and guardians is also available in other languages.
The named plaintiff in the class action–the guardian of a student with several disabilities who has been unable to access CPS’s nutritional programs ever since CPS transferred her to a non-public school–filed the case in order to end the discriminatory policy and recoup the money that she and other parents have been forced to spend on meals.
Since 2014, CPS has participated in a federally-funded program called the Community Eligibility Provision of the National School Lunch Program that reimburses school districts with high poverty rates for all nutritional programs, including school breakfast, lunch, and other snacks, for all students, including those living in poverty. However, CPS denies free access to these programs for the hundreds of CPS students with disabilities attending TDSs because CPS cannot meet their educational needs in community schools.
The lawsuit, which alleged violations of the federal civil rights laws designed to eliminate disability-based discrimination, including Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, sought to rectify this issue by forcing CPS to change its policy and stop excluding students with disabilities from its free nutrition programs.
On June 9th, 2021, the court issued preliminary approval of the parties’ proposed settlement agreement. This agreement fully protects class members’ rights by securing a systemwide policy change that commits CPS to providing for or otherwise funding nutrition for its students with disabilities regardless of whether their disabilities require CPS to place them in a non-CPS school. In addition, the agreement provides for monetary compensation of the class members who sustained expenses in the past due to their exclusion from their schools’ nutrition programs. The final approval hearing is scheduled for October 1, 2021.