With a growing number of New Jersey schools closing their doors and going remote because of the COVID surge, a motion has been filed in federal court to force schools to stay open and continue in-person instruction no matter what happens in the pandemic.

Civil rights attorney Patrick Donohue, the founder of the Brain Injury Rights Group, said a motion seeking a temporary restraining order against all New Jersey school districts has been filed on behalf of hundreds of thousands of special education students.

He said they’re seeking an injunction to prevent schools from closing unilaterally and changing from in-person services to remote learning without the consent of the parents of special education students and to force schools that have already gone remote to go back to in-person learning.

It's the law, advocates say

Donohue said federal law is clear on this.

“The school districts do not have the unilateral authority to change a student’s educational program without the consent of the parents."

He explained when a child receives special education services, an individualized education program, known as an IEP, is developed and parents must agree to any changes made in that program, which would include a switch to remote learning.

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“The school districts don’t have the authority to just alter that contract on their own. There are procedural safeguards in place to prevent schools from doing that,” he said.

Donohue said that means if a school district is considering closing and going remote, education officials would first have to meet with parents of special education students to discuss how offering virtual instruction would impact the student.

What if teachers are out sick?

Donohue said if there is a high rate of absenteeism among teachers because of COVID, the school would have to “prioritize those students who have special education needs because they have a federally guaranteed right to this education.”

He noted it’s been verified the omicron variant causes more mild illness than other forms of the virus.

“What did we do previously when we had flu outbreaks pre-COVID? The schools had to manage the situation. Similarly, they have to manage their way out of this.”

He described closing down schools and depriving special education students of their guaranteed rights as a COVID-19 crime against our children.

Worst child neglect in history

“This is going to go down as the greatest case of child neglect and child sacrifice in human history, based upon the fears of adults,” Donohue said. “We know that the coronavirus does not impact kids the way it impacts adults, and we know from studies all over the world that schools are the safest places for kids and the staff.”

Donohue said what is happening is schools are closing because un-elected bureaucrats are caving to the demands of teacher union officials.

“It’s literally been a bargaining chip by the teachers unions on the backs of our parents and our kids, and it’s got to stop.”

There are more than 237,000 students in New Jersey between 3 and 21 years of age receiving special education services.

For more information about the lawsuit, you can visit www.ReOpenClass.com. If parents want to join the suit, they can call the toll-free hotline at 888-927-4332/888-927-IDEA.

U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez could issue a ruling in the coming days.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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