MID-FLORIDA COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES WINS BIG FOR
Orlando, Florida, September 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Mid-Florida Community Legal Services Inc., (CLSMF) promotes equal access to justice by providing civil legal aid to help low-income people protect their livelihoods, health and families.
Katie Kelly, senior director of public interest and children’s rights at CLSMF, filed the initial complaint against the Volusia County School District in May 2017, alleging that the district had failed to accommodate students with disabilities and had them denied access to equal educational opportunities.
The complaint alleged that the school district was excluding students with disabilities by: (1) requiring parents / guardians to pick up their disabled children from school or keep them at home; (2) discipline students for behavior resulting from their disability; and (3) engage with law enforcement to remove disabled students from school, even in kindergarten.
The Department of Justice press release states: “The Department’s investigation corroborated the allegations of the complaint, confirming that VCS had excluded students with disabilities from its programs and services by unnecessarily removing them from the classroom. He also found that VCS staff often failed to implement necessary behavioral supports and lacked training on how to properly respond to student disability-related behaviors. These problems have led to the exclusion of students with disabilities from VCS programs and services and, at times, have resulted in calls to law enforcement to remove students with disabilities from school, including through the misuse of the procedures of Florida’s Baker Act which allows involuntary admission of a mentally ill person to a mental institution for up to 72 hours if certain criteria are met.
Finding evidence from numerous cases to corroborate the initial complaint, the DOJ’s decision was a success for countless current and future students.
Carl and Tyler Tews, parents of an autistic child depicted in the complaint, say: “The idea of a legal fight was never the one we wanted to entertain, but it was perfectly clear that it was the only way. to get Jackson what he and so many other students needed. The DOJ’s decision isn’t the end of the trip for us, or any of the other families, it just guarantees that the district will work for ALL students, including Jackson.
The first of its kind in the country, this landmark decision could prompt many school districts to reassess their current methods of helping children with disabilities.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc. is a non-profit law firm that works to remove barriers to justice by empowering vulnerable communities through advocacy and education. As the leading provider of free legal aid to low to moderate income residents of Central Florida, we provide legal assistance and advocacy to help people get the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, healthcare. health, safety and education.