ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that the legal services group that oversees the welfare of disabled and mentally ill New Yorkers has the right to access the special education classroom and records of a school district where parents complained of abuse.
U.S. District Judge David Hurd granted Disability Rights New York an injunction prohibiting the North Colonie Central School District from disputing its investigative authority.
“The ‘Academic Skills Class’ classroom and other locations utilized by students with mental illness or disabilities are locations subject to the investigative powers of Disability Rights,” the judge wrote in Monday’s ruling.
The suburban Albany district provided access and records after initially denying them, arguing the school and its students were not subject to that oversight.
The six or seven students placed there in the course of the 2013-14 school year had classifications including autism, emotional disturbance, learning disability and intellectual disability, the judge wrote.
Disability Rights said it received six complaints in 2014 from parents and an ex-employee alleging inappropriate use of physical restraints and student seclusion in Blue Creek Elementary School’s special education class for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
The executive director of Disability Rights, Tim Clune, said Tuesday that it’s a significant decision with ramifications beyond that district.
“This applies to every school in New York state where children with disabilities are receiving services,” Clune said. “DRNY has the authority to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect in public schools to ensure that children with disabilities are safe.”
The federal government has designated protection and advocacy groups across the U.S. in its states and territories with similar authority.
Attorney Joseph Castiglione, who represents North Colonie, said the ruling doesn’t give Disability Rights further access in the 2014 investigation or unfettered future access.
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