The Manhattan US Attorney fired off a letter to the Education Department’s general counsel Monday, calling out the city’s school system for still failing — some 25 years after passage of the American With Disabilities Act — to make most elementary school buildings fully accessible to disabled children.
Bharara demands a response that will provide an “outline and timeline of corrective actions that will remedy this unacceptable state of affairs.”
“Our investigation revealed that … the City is still not fully compliant, and children with disabilities and their families are being denied the right to equal access to a public school education,” Bharara said in a statement.
In his damning 14-page letter, he wrote, “Based on the City’s own statistics
Continuing to blast the troubling situation, the letter, which came after a two-year probe, added that “children with disabilities are frequently denied the experience that many of their peers take for granted…. Instead, starting in kindergarten, these children are often forced unnecessarily to travel outside of their neighborhoods to schools where there are no familiar faces.”
Bharara also wrote that “the costs of this situation are acutely illustrated, when
In response, the Education Department said that its most recent capital plan earmarked $100 million to accessibility projects.
“Our goal is to ensure that all our students have access to a high-quality education, and a student’s disability should never get in the way of their access to a great school,” said spokesman Harry Hartfield. “We are reviewing the United States Attorney’s letter and remain committed to increasing the accessibility of our school buildings.”
Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children, said the access-problem for the disabled at the city’s elementary schools has been around for too long.
“It’s exciting to see the US Attorney take action,” Sweet said. “It’s been an issue for a long time.”