Lawsuit Contends Teacher Strike Will Harm Students In Special Ed
DENVER — Attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against Denver Public Schools on behalf of more than 10,000 students with disabilities who the suit alleges likely will be harmed more than other students by the teachers’ strike that began this week.
The civil lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver on Monday on behalf of a child identified only as E.A. by Aurora attorneys Igor Raykin and Tyler Jeffery. The lawyers are seeking class-action certification for the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks a court order against Denver Public Schools ensuring that the district provide necessary special education services to all students with disabilities.
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Denver Public Schools spokesman Will Jones said students with disabilities were “well supported” in their schools on Monday, dismissing the lawsuit as “appear(ing) to be based on speculation that students will be denied services as a result of the strike.”
As soon as the strike became a possibility, Jones said, Denver Public Schools officials began recruiting substitutes with special education expertise and developed plans to work with those students.
“We are committed to keeping our students safe and supported,” he said. “We will continue to monitor our allocation of staff supports in an effort to meet the unique needs of all students for the duration of the strike.”
The lawsuit alleges that “the strike will cause severe emotional and psychological trauma for special education students, especially the large number of DPS students who suffer from autism. Students with autism typically do not handle changes in routine.”
Many of the students with severe intellectual disabilities require specialized assistance for their health and safety, the lawsuit says. They need help from special education teachers, counselors, social workers, school psychologists and therapists.
Some of the children have special medical needs such as feeding tubes or breathing apparatuses that must be provided by nurses or other specialized caregivers, according to the lawsuit.
“They could get hurt, hurt themselves and/or hurt others,” the lawsuit states.
Because of the strike, Denver Public Schools likely will replace essential employees with substitute teachers with inadequate training, the lawsuit says. Substitute teachers will not be capable of addressing the federally required needs of students in special education based on individualized education programs (IEPs), the lawsuit states.
If Denver Public Schools is forced to merge classes or relocate students because of the strike it will have a severe negative impact on students who are blind, the lawsuit says. “That possibly could force these students to be confined to a classroom, damaging their social-emotional progress.”
“It is simply impossible for the district to implement thousands of IEPs for disabled children without having properly trained staff during the strike in order to do so,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit asks the federal court to immediately inform parents of children with disabilities how the district intends to meet the special education needs of their children during the strike.
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