D.C. District Wins Special-Ed Appeal

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The District has won a significant battle in its 16-year war to lift a federal court injunction for failing to make tuition payments for special education students.

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. District Court must revisit a decision denying the District's bid to eliminate court supervision.

The injunction is part of the Petties vs. D.C. class-action lawsuit filed in 1995 by parents whose children had been placed in private schools because the District's public schools couldn't provide adequate special-education services.

Parents were outraged that the city was failing to make timely payments to the private schools, as required by federal law. At least one private, the Chelsea School, threatened to disenroll 42 students because the District wasn't paying up, and hadn't indicated an intention to pay at all.

The court placed a preliminary injunction in March 1995, saying that the District's failings "has placed

plaintiffs' education in constant jeopardy."

But 16 years later, the appellate court ruled that that District's current record of success needs to be a weightier consideration toward lifting the supervision; the District Court was concerned that settlements between parents and the city would be disrupted if the injunction were lifted. The parents did acknowledge, however, that much progress had been made in 16 years.

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