COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES OF MID-FLORIDA WINS BIG FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

Orlando, FL, Sept. 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc., (CLSMF) promotes equal access to justice by providing civil legal aid to help low-income people protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

Katie Kelly, Senior Manager of Public Interest & Children’s Law at CLSMF, filed the original complaint against Volusia County School District in May 2017 alleging the district failed to accommodate students with disabilities and denied them access to equal educational opportunities.

 The complaint claimed that the school district was excluding students with disabilities by: (1) requiring parents/guardians to pick up their children with disabilities from school or to keep them home; (2) disciplining students for behavior resulting from their disability; and (3) engaging with law enforcement to remove students with disabilities from school, even as young as Kindergarten.

The Department of Justice press release states, “The department’s investigation substantiated the allegations in the complaint, confirming that VCS had excluded students with disabilities from its programs and services through unnecessary removals from the classroom.  It also found that VCS staff often failed to implement necessary behavioral supports and lacked training on how to properly respond to students’ disability-related behavior. These issues led to the exclusion of students with disabilities from VCS’s programs and services and, at times, resulted in calls to law enforcement to remove students with disabilities from school, including through the misuse of Florida’s Baker Act procedures which permits the involuntary admission of a person with a mental illness to a psychiatric facility for up to 72 hours if certain criteria are met.”

Finding evidence of many cases to corroborate the original complaint, the DOJ’s ruling was a success for countless current and future students.

Carl and Tyler Tews, parents of an autistic child represented in the complaint say, “The idea of a legal fight was never one we wanted to entertain but it was perfectly clear it was the only way to get Jackson what he and so many other students were in need of. The DOJ ruling is not the end of the journey for us, or any of the other families, it simply ensures the district will work for ALL students, including Jackson.”

The first case of its kind in the country, this landmark ruling may influence many school districts to reevaluate their current methods for assisting children with disabilities.

ABOUT CLSMF:

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc. is a nonprofit law firm striving to remove barriers to justice by empowering vulnerable communities through legal advocacy and education. As the primary provider of free legal aid for low to moderate-income residents in Central Florida, we provide legal assistance and advocacy to help people obtain the necessities of life: food, shelter, health care, safety, and education.

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