Lawsuit filed to block Michigan schools from going virtual

Group sues to block school closings
Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 7:12 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A group representing students with special needs is suing to stop schools from going remote any more.

The Brain Injury Rights Group allege it’s unfair to the children.

A handful of school districts across Michigan are temporarily online as a precaution due to the rise in COVID cases. The Lansing School District decided to keep students home for a week because so many students and staff were testing positive.

More: Lansing School District returning to in-person learning

The group is asking a federal court to block schools from stopping in-person education. The lawsuit was filed after multiple districts switched to remote education the first week back from holiday break.

The suit alleges that shutting down face-to-face education violates students’ civil rights. The Brain Injury Rights Group said the closures violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which protects students who require special needs.

“That law specifically has built-in safe guards specifically to prevent school districts from doing what they’re doing,” said Patrick Donahue.

The law guarantees students with disabilities get an individualized education program that meets their needs. The Brain Injury Rights Group said that switching to online education alters the education plan made for each disabled student and keeps students from getting services promised by their schools.

“If school districts wanted to change it and if they wanted to bypass the safeguards, they should’ve been the ones going to federal court and saying, ‘There’s this specific emergency that we need to do in order to change all of these students educational programs,’” Donahue said.

Michigan has nearly 200,000 students receiving special education services. The Brain Injury Rights Group said online education is often difficult for them because they can’t get individual care at home, which could cause setbacks.

“We have families across the country whose kids were walking, now aren’t walking. Whose kids were talking, now aren’t talking,” Donahue said. “We have kids who were potty trained and now aren’t potty trained.”

Many schools said the closures are temporary and the goal is to return to in-person education and keep it that way.

The lawsuit names the Michigan Department of Education as a defendant. A spokesperson for the department said they have no comment.

The Brain Injury Rights Group has filed similar lawsuits in New Jersey and Illinois.

The Michigan lawsuit can be read below.

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