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New York Legal Assistance Group Brings Lawsuit to Protect Rights of Special Education Students

JSM v. New York City Department of Education

Many New York City schoolchildren with disabilities that affect their ability to learn are being denied the special education services they need. If the New York City Department of Education denies them any aspect of that special education, they and their families have a right to challenge the denial by filing a “due process complaint,” and having a hearing to fight for the services they need.

Federal and state laws clearly require New York City and State to conduct hearings quickly – usually within 75 days – because children suffering without necessary special education services can’t afford to wait. But for years, New York City schoolchildren with disabilities and their families have had to wait long beyond the legal deadline. These families wait nearly a full year to get decisions on their special education due process complaints.

These delays are illegal, unfair, and harm New York City’s most vulnerable residents: preschool- and school-aged children with disabilities that affect their ability to learn. The delays hurt families experiencing poverty the hardest, since they cannot pay upfront for the services their children need and must wait months or years to get the services their children need. New York City and State have known about this problem over a decade, but failed to fix it.

On February 7, 2020, five families of New York City schoolchildren who were denied their rights filed the action JSM v. New York City Department of Education, No. 20-cv-705 (E.D.N.Y.) on behalf of themselves and all families who suffer the same harm. On June 18, 2020, the Court formally “certified a class,” meaning that the case will proceed on behalf of all families in the same situation. The class is defined as:

Individuals who file or have filed due process complaints, and the children on whose behalf due process complaints are filed, when due process complaints are unresolved and the decisions of such complaints have not been timely provided under applicable federal and New York state law.

Those families are being represented together, at no charge, by the New York Legal Assistance Group and the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. The case is currently in litigation: The parties’ briefs on summary judgment were recently filed.

Do you think you may be part of the class? Do you have questions about the lawsuit?

Please contact us at 212-946-0352 or JSM@nylag.org.


Violations of federal Special Education law, violations of Due Process and Equal Protection.


  • Plaintiffs filed the class action lawsuit on February 7, 2020. 
  • The Court certified the class in this case on June 8, 2020, and appointed New York Legal Assistance Group and Sullivan & Cromwell as class counsel.
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