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Families File Lawsuit Against New York Leaders, Departments Of Education Over Remote Learning Struggles

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Low attendance in New York City schools has the mayor and chancellor considering remote learning options, but some families are worried for their kids who had major setbacks with digital learning.

They're so concerned, they filed a lawsuit.

CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis spoke to one parent who asked we hide her identity.

"There was so many difficulties with that device that they gave us," she said.

This anonymous Queens mother says when the pandemic forced students into remote learning, she was relentless in her efforts to try and get help for her daughter.

"I contacted that school day in and day out," she said.

The single mom, struggling financially, purchased a new modem, but she says the problem was with the iPad, and failure by the school to fix the issue forced her daughter to fall behind and repeat the 7th grade.

"During the course of this, she got very depressed ... It was hard because I was trying to help in any way I could and she was getting very sad about it because all her friends were moving on and she couldn't," the mother said.

The mother is joining four other families in a lawsuit against city and state leaders and the departments of education. They are being represented by Legal Services NYC, Arnold & Porter and Education Law Center.

"For their failure to provide students with the support and resources needed to adequately participate in remote learning," said Veronica Cook, with Legal Services NYC.

She says delays in getting devices to students, inconsistent technology and the lack of free internet access only exacerbated the "digital divide" impacting low-income students.

"Particularly this tends to be people of color, immigrant families, families where the majority of people don't speak English, they're much more likely to not have access to high-speed internet and to advanced or current technological devices," Cook said.

The lawsuit aims to ensure access to these tools, require instructions for parents navigating remote learning in their preferred language and develop, implement and fund a plan for remedying lost educational opportunities for students.

Additional aims include:

  • develop and implement a plan to ensure that all New York City public school students who need it have access to working devices and internet service at no cost to the students or their families
  • develop and implement a claims process to provide payment to eligible families for internet expenses incurred to access remote learning since March 2020
  • award damages to compensate students' families for economic harm caused by the City's violations of the New York City Human Rights Law

A New York City Department of Education spokesperson released the following statement:

"Facing the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, New York City launched one of the most robust device distribution efforts in the nation, putting hundreds of thousands of devices into the hands of students. We will review the suit."

They added, "We've distributed over 650,000 LTE-enabled devices (Chromebooks and iPads), as well as over 27,000 hot spots. In addition, schools have purchased over 400,000 devices."

The state education department says it does not comment on pending litigation.

"Please do better. These children deserve an education," the anonymous mother said.

A message made loud and clear with a lawsuit that these parents hope will lead to change for all students.

According to the lawsuit, another family was told by a school that internet companies would provide Wi-Fi for free but instead they were quoted costs they could not pay.

The legal team says the lawsuit was filed after repeated attempts to meet with the DOE went unanswered.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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