Since the establishment of the Special Education Unit just over one year ago, NYLAG has worked with parents of disabled, school-aged children to ensure that each child receives a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment possible. Through NYLAG’s advocacy efforts, parents are enabled to send their children with disabilities to private schools or to pursue needed supplemental services at the Department of Education’s expense. NYLAG’s staff has also been successful in securing additional services in public schools for children with disabilities and has helped place at-risk children in appropriate, public school classes.

Earlier this year, the staff in the Special Education Unit was extremely pleased to receive a lengthy, decisive opinion from Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York that was favorable to T, a teenaged NYLAG client. T, who has Attention Deficit Disorder, spent first through eighth grade in various special classes within the New York City public school system. Despite being of average intelligence, he struggled considerably. His grades were poor and he had increasing behavior problems in the classroom. For his ninth grade year, T looked forward to his first year of high school.

The Department of Education, however, determined that he could not function in a special class in a community school (a school that educates both disabled and non-disabled children) and that he instead should be placed in a special class in a school only for children with disabilities. Such a move would have constituted placing T in a more restrictive environment. Rather than accept this decision, T’s mother unilaterally placed him in a community Catholic school that has programs for children with and without special needs.

NYLAG attorney Laura Davis worked diligently in her briefs to show that T should not be placed in a more restrictive environment and that he would in fact benefit from, and most certainly needed, interaction with non-disabled peers in a community educational environment. Laura was able to demonstrate that the placement chosen by the Department of Education (the special class in the separate school) was inappropriate and that the program chosen by T’s mother (the special class in an integrated, private school) was appropriate.

In the end, NYLAG was able to secure a favorable decision for T. Furthermore, NYLAG was able to establish a legal precedent for placing children in the least restrictive educational environment. This is just one of the many successes NYLAG has been pleased to be a part of since the formal establishment of the Special Education Unit. Funding for the Special Education Unit is graciously provided by the J.E. & Z.B Butler Foundation and the Edith Glick Shoolman Children’s Foundation. NYLAG hopes the second year of the Special Education Unit’s existence will prove to be even more successful than the first with expanded funding and the continual hard work of its dedicated staff.

For more information on the Special Education Unit, please contact Laura Davis at [email protected] or 212. 613. 5040.