On July 10, 2012, a class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, against the Mississippi Department of Education, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. The proposed plaintiff class, represented by a named plaintiff, consists of disabled students in the Jackson Public School District. The complaint alleged individual and systemic violations of IDEA by the School District, and that the State has continually failed to ensure that the School District meets its federally mandated obligations under IDEA. IDEA requires that a state provide a free appropriate public education to all students with disabilities, and that this education be provided in the least restrictive environment with minimal segregation from their non-disabled peers. The Plaintiffs allege that the State's failure to enforce IDEA has resulted in potentially thousands of students being denied their guaranteed free and appropriate public education, and seek injunctive relief requiring the State to execute its responsibilities under IDEA.
The named plaintiff and a class of similarly situated students had, in September 2010, filed an administrative complaint against the Jackson Public School District with the State, alleging systemic violations of IDEA and the failure to provide a free and appropriate public education("FAPE"). Alleged violations included: that the School District denied the students an appropriate level of related services to address their behavioral needs and goals, and denied many students with any such services; that the School District failed comply with IDEA's disciplinary regulations with regards to functional behavioral assessments ("FBA"), behavior intervention plans ("BIP"), and manifestation determination reviews ("MDRS"); that the School District failed to confer meaningful educational benefit; that they failed to comply with the substantive and procedural requirements relating to the development and implementation of individualized educational programs ("IEP"); that they failed to provide educational services in the least restrictive environment ("LRE"); that the School District failed to provide students with necessary and appropriate transition services; and that it failed to provide students with necessary and appropriate extended school year ("ESY") services.
The State Department of Education investigated and in November of 2010 issued a report that substantiated every one of the violations. The Plaintiffs alleged in the July 2012 complaint that the School District continued, despite this investigation, to violate the rights of the Plaintiff class, and that the State exhibited complete indifference to the ongoing violations, and that it failed to take appropriate action to compel JPS to correct its violations of IDEA. The Plaintiffs allege that the State bears the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that local school districts comply with IDEA, and that the State has completely failed to exercise this responsibility.
Less than ten percent of students with disabilities graduate from the School District. During the 2010-2011 school year, only 9% of eighth grade students with disabilities scored proficient or above in state-wide science testing, while only 4% of eighth grade students with disabilities were considered proficient in language arts as measured on the Mississippi Curriculum Test.
The Plaintiffs seek a declaration from the court that the State's failure to comply with the mandates of IDEA is unlawful. They seek an injunction enjoining the State from subjecting disabled students to practices that violate their rights under IDEA and compelling the State to fulfill its duties under IDEA. They also seek reasonable costs and attorney's fees.
On September 17, 2012, the Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint that added two additional named plaintiffs and which made minor changes to the formulation of their arguments. The allegations remained substantially the same. One November 4, 2012, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Certify Class, on November 11, 2012 the Plaintiffs filed a motion for a Preliminary Injunction, and on November 27, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. These motions remained pending until May 28, 2013. See below.
At a January 23, 2013 settlement conference, the parties agreed to put a temporary stay on the case while they pursued settlement. Two days later, one of the added named plaintiffs from the Amended Complaint withdrew from the case. His claims were voluntarily dismissed without prejudice.
Apparently settlement negotiations failed, because on May 28, 2013 the stay was lifted and the pending motions terminated without decision. The parties were instructed to refile their motions, in light of any new facts that may have developed in the intervening period. The case is ongoing.Alex Colbert-Taylor - 06/03/2013