Judge Sides with DeVos in Lawsuit over Special Education Regulations

Content courtesy of the Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights

A federal judge has denied the Chicago Teachers Union’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop Chicago Public Schools and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from enforcing regulations on creating remote learning plans for special education students due to the coronavirus.

The union had argued the directives created an “impossible burden” for special education teachers, and, without a court-ordered waiver, its members “would be required to conduct a whole scale redrafting” of some 60,000 learning plans.

Northern District of Illinois Judge John F. Kness in the order wrote the union’s lawsuit faces “significant barriers” and “likely lacks standing to proceed in federal court.”

“We’re pleased to see the judge sided with students in this case,” said Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill.

Background: In May, CTU brought forward the lawsuit against DeVos and her department, as well as Chicago Public Schools and the city’s Board of Education. The union charged that special education teachers had inadequate resources and guidance to make revisions to the education plans for tens of thousands of special needs students who are no longer in classrooms because of the virus.

The core of the dispute is a requirement in the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116), that requires DeVos to report to Congress with any additional waivers she thought were needed during the pandemic under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and other education laws. She declined to seek waivers to the “core tenets” of IDEA.

What’s next: While Kness wrote the court was “sympathetic to the challenges” of providing remote special education and services, he also said “the legal deficiencies in CTU’s case are rife.” This means teachers will need to have those remote education plans in place. They were expected to have them before the school year ended on June 18.

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