M.A. v. Newark Public Schools
In 2001, ELC with co-counsel Gibbons Del Deo, filed a class action lawsuit against Newark Public Schools and the New Jersey Department of Education, alleging that Newark and the State failed to identify, locate, refer and evaluate students with disabilities for special education services, failed to provide these students with appropriate special education services, and failed to provide “compensatory education” for the deprived services. The complaint also charged the State with failure to monitor school districts and failure to provide appropriate relief in response to special education complaint investigation requests. [Docket No. 01-cv-3389 (US District Court for the District of NJ) Docket No. 02-1799 (US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit)]
Status: Plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction on behalf of two of the named plaintiffs, and withstood extensive motions to dismiss from both sets of defendants. In a decision from the Third Circuit, the Court affirmed both the preliminary injunction and the denial of the motions to dismiss. After a prolonged and unsuccessful attempt to settle the matter, the district court certified the class in 2009 in response to the motion brought by ELC, Gibbons and newly-added co-counsel, Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice. The parties then conducted additional discovery and again commenced settlement discussions. The parties entered into a Settlement Agreement, which was endorsed by the Court in 2012. The Settlement Agreement calls for the provision of special education services on a timely basis, “compensatory education” for students who did not receive timely services, implementation of a comprehensive special education database, mandatory staff training, extensive reporting of compliance activities, guidelines for corrective action if warranted and independent monitoring of special education services. Newark has issued two Compliance Reports (July 2012 and February 2013), and the State has instituted one Corrective Action Plan. ELC is monitoring NPS and State compliance with the Settlement Agreement and, together with Seton Hall, prepared parent training materials in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Creole, and is training parents across the district.