Fighting for Fair School Funding
SDP v. Walter D. Palmer Charter School – Amicus Curiae (PA Supreme Court)
The Education Law Center filed an August 21, 2013 Amicus Curiae in support of the School District of Philadelphia in its case to maintain legally negotiated and agreed-upon charter school enrollment caps. “We find the District’s argument to be clearly correct on the legal merits and because an affirmation of the lower court’s decision would inevitably result in unfettered charter expansion and damage the overall quality of public education in Pennsylvania, particularly for the vulnerable student populations we seek to protect,” ELC wrote.
Ensuring Equal Access
In re J.L. amicus challenges placement of child in residential institution based purely on truancy
ELC, along with Juvenile Law Center (JLC), filed an amicus brief in the case In re J.L. in Pennsylvania Superior Court, challenging a judge’s decision to remove a student, J.L., from his parents and place the child in a residential institution based purely on the student’s non-attendance at school.
Despite the student’s status as a student with a disability and allegations that he was bullied in school, the judge removed J.L. from his parents—parents the judge acknowledged were loving and vigilant—without inquiring into interventions that would address the student’s truancy in light of his disability or the alleged bullying. ELC filed the amicus to educate the court on best practices to addressing truancy and to urge against the extreme and traumatic step of removing students from their homes based purely on truancy. Out-of-home placements put children at risk of negative life outcomes – including contact with the criminal justice system and further disengagement from school.
Nicole B. v. School District of Philadelphia, et al. (PA Commonwealth Court 2018)
The Education Law Center (ELC) has filed an amicus brief in Nicole B. v. School District of Philadelphia, et al., a case involving a Philadelphia student who was relentlessly bullied because of his race and nonconformance with gender stereotypes; the school failed to intervene and allowed the bullying to escalate from verbal harassment, to multiple physical assaults, and, ultimately, to rape.
ELC partnered with DLA Piper, the Public Interest Law Center, and Juvenile Law Center in arguing that this student, and others like him, should have protection under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), Pennsylvania’s antidiscrimination law, when their school fails to intervene to stop ongoing harassment.
“Unfortunately, the Education Law Center hears frequently from families about issues of bullying and harassment in schools,” said Lizzy Wingfield, ELC’s Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellow. “The issue of unaddressed bullying is pervasive and is particularly common when the bullied student is a child of color who does not conform to societal gender norms or is LGBTQ. Too many people who should intervene to stop bullying view the harassment of gender-nonconforming or LGBTQ students of color as if it is normal, so they don’t take it as seriously as the bullying of white, gender-conforming students. That’s why it is so critical that the PHRA is available as a tool to root out discriminatory pervasive bullying.”
The Commonwealth Court refused to consider the merits of the case because N.B., who was nine at the time he was raped, did not file his claim within 180 days of the incident. A legal doctrine known as minority tolling generally means that the time bar for bringing a child’s claim does not begin until the child turns 18, but the court ruled that minority tolling does not apply to PHRA claims. Minority tolling is a vital protection for Pennsylvania’s children, as it is fundamentally unfair to hold children like N.B. to the same statute of limitations as adults.
In addition to our brief filed in Commonwealth Court, ELC filed an amicus brief requesting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court review the Commonwealth Court’s ruling and ensure that children who experience discrimination in school can benefit from the protections of the PHRA. You can read that amicus brief here. WHYY has covered this story.
Franklin Towne Charter High School
Charter schools are public schools and cannot discriminate against students. Charter schools must comply with the same enrollment requirements applicable to district schools. This demand letter, provided to Franklin Towne Charter High School, challenges a discriminatory refusal to enroll a student with disabilities. (June, 2018).
Early Intervention Transition Administrative Complaint against the School District of Philadelphia (2017)
This complaint, filed with the Bureau of Special Education, challenged delays in the completion of special education evaluations and development of IEPs for children with disabilities who transitioned from Elwyn SEEDS to kindergarten or first grade in the School District of Philadelphia. To date, the complaint has resulted in compensatory education services for 170 children, a number that is to expected to rise as the Bureau continues to investigate. The complaint also resulted in an order of corrective action that the School District create a new procedure to ensure children have a smooth transition moving forward.
Early Intervention Administrative Complaint against Elwyn SEEDS and the PA Department of Education (2010)
This complaint, filed with the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, challenged delays and gaps in the delivery of preschool early intervention services to children in Philadelphia County. The complaint resulted in compensatory education services for hundreds of children.
J.G. v. Avonworth School District (Administrative Complaint, 2010)
This complaint resulted in an order of corrective action report on new state guidance, concluding that children in residential placements could not be automatically placed in on-site schools or “forced” to participate in special education programs.
Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline
Office of Civil Rights complaint against School District of Philadelphia (2007)
This federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) complaint upheld the educational and civil rights of English language learners who were assigned to “disciplinary schools.”
Office of Civil Rights complaint against Pittsburgh Public Schools (2006)
This OCR complaint enforced the rights of English language learners to access the full range of public education programs and services and supports, including special education and appropriate school discipline protections, with appropriate translation and interpretation services for parents.
ELC Alternative Education Complaint to U.S. Dept. of Justice (August 2013)
This is an Education Law Center complaint filed on August 7, 2013 to the U.S. Department of Justice seeking an investigation into discriminatory placement of students in Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth programs.
The complaint cites four years worth of data showing a disproportionately high number of students with disabilities and African American students are removed from traditional public schools and sent to educationally inferior AEDY or similar alternative education programs, often in violation of federal laws.
In March 2019, the Department of Justice announced that it had reached a settlement agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.