Faculty vaccine mandate would disrupt training of special-needs college students, lawsuit from S.I. households claims
STATEN ISLAND, NY – Staten Island parents of special needs students at a school in Pleasant Plains filed a lawsuit Wednesday to block the removal of unvaccinated workers who fail to meet the city’s Friday afternoon deadline to detect at least one coronavirus (COVID – 19) Jab, claiming the move could disrupt their children’s education.
The lawsuit filed by the parents of four PS 25R students with autism or cerebral palsy in the St. George State Supreme Court alleges the mandate would cause “irreparable harm” to students with special needs and affect the city’s Department of Education Impact (DOE) ability to meet children’s individual education plans (IEP).
South Shore School students have annual IEPs that are equipped with a variety of accommodations to support learning, including adapted teacher-student class ratios, physiotherapy and speech therapy, and full-time paraprofessional assistance.
The lawsuit alleges that substitutes sent to the school to replace unvaccinated teachers only have “emergency Covid-19 certification” compared to the current teachers on the staff, “who are properly qualified special educators, who have gone through extensive training and certification procedures “. . “
People with these “carefully crafted IEPs … cannot be taught and looked after by unqualified substitutes,” the lawsuit said.
Parents involved in the filing are not rejecting the vaccination or the mandate itself, as evidenced by court documents, but want to ensure that their children receive the educational standard guaranteed by the IEP, created under the Disabled Education Act, a federal act became.
“The aim of this lawsuit is to protect children with special needs with IEPs,” the law firm Turturro, which represents the families, said in a written statement. “Children with special needs require a special level of care and instruction that cannot be achieved by everyone.”
“Your education and related services have already suffered significant interruptions due to the pandemic,” the statement continues. “This mandate puts these children at risk of further regression due to failure to address their special needs.”
Parents involved in the lawsuit allege that the city’s plan to replace unvaccinated teachers with substitute teachers could create immense difficulties for students with special needs struggling with change.
“The transition is one of the toughest hurdles seen in children with autism,” said Christopher Litrell, a plaintiff in the lawsuit whose 10-year-old son Ryan has autism. “They have a very difficult time adapting.”
Litrell, president of the PS 25R’s parent-teacher association, said the school’s “family atmosphere” and dedicated teachers helped his son make remarkable progress during his time there. However, he fears that after removing some of the staff, his son may be left without vital accommodations like physical therapy.
The lawsuit alleges that about 40% of the school’s teachers and staff could be replaced on Monday, the first day of school the mandate would take effect.
“It will definitely hurt my son in the future,” said Litrell. “My son is in fifth grade right now and they’re supposed to prepare him for junior high, and I’m scared – I’m really scared – that as an autistic kid he won’t be ready for junior high.”
Rather than removing teachers and staff who choose not to have a vaccination, Litrell said these people should instead be tested regularly.
The mayor’s office and the city DOE referred the comment to the city legal department.
“Courts have spoken. Everyone in a school building is safer with the staff vaccinated. Approximately 90% of special education teachers are already vaccinated and thousands of skilled assistants are on hand when needed, ”said Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the legal department. “The number of vaccinated employees is increasing every day and our vaccination mandate was introduced to protect students and school communities, especially the most vulnerable.”
The latest lawsuit comes shortly after a federal court denied an appeal to block enforcement of the city’s controversial mandate that all public school workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday evening that school staff had until 5 p.m. Friday to receive at least one dose of a vaccine.
The municipal DOE said Monday that 87% of its employees, 90% of its teachers and 97% of its directors were vaccinated
“If you have not received the first dose by 5:00 pm on Friday, we will assume that you will not come to work on Monday and that you will not be paid from Monday, and we will fill your role with a replacement or an alternative employee “Said de Blasio.
Paulina Bellantonio, attorney for Turturro law firm and plaintiff in the trial whose 7-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy, said the mandate could be another barrier for students who have been away from their school building for a year.
“These children lost so much, especially through distance learning, and it was an incredible disruption to their routine and an educational plan that is specifically tailored to each child,” said Bellantonio.
The coronavirus pandemic, she said, had regressed many students, especially those with special needs, adding, “There were new behaviors that emerged, there were old behaviors that came back.”
A month before her eighth birthday, Bellantonio said her daughter had made progress and was starting to speak.
“Losing her therapist now when she finally makes this progress would be devastating,” said Bellantonio. “It would be devastating for her as a person growing in society, but also for me as her mother, and we are just trying to protect these children.”