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We keep you up to date on the latest developments in special education and disabilities rights at the local, state, and federal level.

BREAKING NEWS: Huge Victory for Parents of Special Education Students in New Jersey!

Have you pursued or considered legal action to obtain appropriate programming for your special education student, only to be told that resolution of your dispute would take months or even years? Such drastic delays in resolution of special education disputes will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a class action settlement negotiated by a team of parent attorneys. The team includes lead class counsel Catherine Merino Reisman and her partner Judith Gran of Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba, LLP. The settlement was approved yesterday by United States District Judge Edward S. Kiel.

IDEA Requires Resolution of Special Education Disputes in 45 Days

IDEA regulations require state Administrative Law Judges to decide special education disputes within 45 days of receiving a case. This is known as the “45 Day Rule.” New Jersey has not complied with this requirement for years. The suit was filed in 2019 after the U.S. Department of Education determined that NJDOE could not even determine whether special education decisions complied with the 45 Day Rule.

Settlement Provides Systemic Change and Retrospective Relief

In C.P. v. New Jersey Department of Education, No. 1:19-cv-12807, Judge Kiel approved the settlement of a class action lawsuit filed against the New Jersey Department of Education (“NJDOE”) for violating provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) that require timely decisions in cases involving disputes about special education services. The class includes more than 5,000 children with disabilities and their families. The settlement provides relief for these class members and requires systemic change that will benefit all families seeking to resolve disputes in the future.

How Might This Settlement Benefit You and Your Family?

For families that currently have special education cases or will in the future, the settlement requires compliance with the 45 Day Rule. The settlement provides for appointment of a Compliance Monitor to help NJDOE meet its obligation. The Compliance Monitor will issue regular reports on NJDOE’s progress toward compliance and the federal court will retain jurisdiction until 95% of cases are being decided within 45 days. The U.S. Department of Education will be monitoring settlement implementation.

If you have been demonstrably injured by past 45 Day Rule violations, the settlement gives you two years to pursue a legal claim against NJDOE.

Perspectives from Parents and Lead Counsel

Elizabeth Perry and Marcia Podsiadlo, parents of children with disabilities who have gone through the New Jersey hearing process, testified at the settlement approval hearing. After the hearing, Ms. Podsiadlo said, “Time is critical to the education of children with disabilities. Unnecessary delays in resolving disputes with the school district cause tremendous harm.” Ms. Perry commented, “The settlement gives hope to New Jersey families that their children will receive the help they need before it is too late.”

Ms. Reisman stated, “As the Court aptly noted at the outset of this case, time is precious and, once lost, cannot be recovered. This settlement will make a difference in the lives of thousands of children in the future who otherwise would suffer irreparable harm from delayed access to educational services.”

Thanks to All Those Who Worked Tirelessly on the Class Action on Behalf of Parents and Children

The Class is represented by Catherine Merino Reisman and Judith Gran of Reisman Carolla Gran & Zuba LLP; Gregory Little, Elizabeth Athos and Jessica Levin of Education Law Center; David Giles of the Law Office of David R. Giles; Denise Lanchantin Dwyer of the Law Office of Denise Lanchantin Dwyer LLC; Robert Thurston of Thurston Law Offices LLC; and Jeffrey Wasserman of Wasserman Legal LLC. Jennifer Rosen Valverde of Rutgers Education and Health Law Clinic represented several non-profit advocacy organizations that served as amici curiae (“friend of the court”) throughout the litigation.

For more information, see the 45 Day Class Action website.