Parents of children with special needs in New Orleans are one step closer to positive changes in the chaotic public school system. On April 26, 2010 Federal Court Judge Jay Zaney denied the Louisiana Department of Education’s motion to dismiss the Southern Poverty Law Center’s lawsuit seeking justice for more than 4500 students with special needs attending public schools in the 51 different LEA’s (Local Education Agency) operating within the city of New Orleans.
While many hail the changes in public education in New Orleans as groundbreaking, some of the changes have been a nightmare for children with special needs. Parents have to literally go school to school to apply and are often dissuaded from even applying if they mention that their chid has special needs. The state of Louisiana has no way of tracking how many parents are turned away. Parents report having been turned away from as many as 8 different schools once they revealed that their child has special needs. During yesterday’s court hearing Judge Zaney asked the lawyers for the Louisiana Department of Education if this is how the system supposed to work. The Lawyers responded that this is indeed how choice works in New Orleans. Of course parents should not be turned away because of the special education status of their children, but the State of Louisiana has failed to put in safeguards to prevent this type of discrimination. The lawsuit hopes to correct this type of problem and many more that many parents experience.