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RCSD special education students get more legal support

Max Schulte

Families of students with disabilities reached a new legal agreement with the Rochester City School District earlier this month.

Last week, a federal court approved something called an “amended consent decree” that addresses lawsuit claims brought forth by parents of students with special needs in 2014.

The decree requires the district to demonstrate improvement in providing timely services, improving graduation rates, and increasing parental involvement of students with disabilities.

Attorney Maggie Robb with Empire Justice Center worked on the case. Some of the grievances reflected legal concerns over systemic failings dating back to the early 1980s.

“Empire Justice Center very quickly learned that students with disabilities were again, not receiving the resources they deserved and were entitled to under the law in a systemic way,” Robb said.

Part of those grievances included a lack of certified special education teachers, and lack of adequate translation for families of students whose first language isn’t English, Robb said.

One of the solutions agreed to is the use of a parent helpline that parents can call with concerns, which the district would be legally required to keep a record of. The District Parent Support line has been available at least since the court first approved the settlement in February 2021.

“This case has always been about students with disabilities and their families,” Robb said. “We want them to know that we are here to help enforce their civil rights so they can achieve academic success and prepare for life beyond high school.”

Attorney Carolyn Nussbaum with Nixon Peabody said the case was unique in that it was brought forth from a grassroots effort by families.

The district did not provide comment.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.