Monday, November 10, 2014

Class Inaction

Here's a story that caught my eye in a rather unpleasant way this past week.  According to, a class action lawsuit has been filed against the city alleging that the Department of Education "fails special needs students."  Sadly, it's just another example in which first-world education standards fall far short of expectations.

In fact, in my opinion, the Tanzanians have this one all wrapped up; vocational training is HUGE in the Tee-Zed, whether due to many students' inability or ineligibility to pursue higher education, the strong demand from the agriculture and other informal sectors, or the high rate of unemployment which makes skills acquisition essential.

Moreover, I would venture to say that Toa Nafasi sort of sets kids with learning difficulties and special needs on the course to finding their niche to pursue a vocational skill since, for the most part, academics will never be their strong suit.  I'd like to think that we are providing that catchment to which Mr. Khattab refers in his last sentence: to give kids "a future, to be independent, to be self-sufficient, to help [themselves]."

Read on....


A class action lawsuit claims the city's education department systemically failed to comply with state and federal laws requiring transitional services for special education students.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York Wednesday.  One of the plaintiffs, 16-year-old Mohand Khattab, attends New Utrecht High school in Brooklyn.  The special needs student, according to his parents, was never given a vocational assessment or subsequent training to help him transition into life after high school.


The school system never even disclosed something like that to us -- to let us know that he is entitled to vocational assessment or vocational training," said his father, Hossam Khattab.  "We don't know anything about that."

Khattab sought legal help once he obtained his son's individualized education plan and realized there were no plans to assist him with life after graduation.

"We have to make vocational assessments for him to know his ability exactly or what his vocational interests are," said Hossam Khattab said.

According to the New York City Department of Education's website, the District 75 Office of Transition Services "is committed to insuring that every student receives the services needed to achieve his or her desired post-secondary outcomes to become productive members of the community."

This includes working to make sure skills are developed and supports are provided so that every individual can become as independent as possible.

Attorney Gary Mayerson, who filed the class action lawsuit, claims the DOE has violated state and federal law by not providing this assessment and training to potentially tens of thousands of students.

"Parents are not informed by the city about what transition is," Mayerson said.  "In fact, most parents walk out of the IEP meeting not knowing anything about transition."

The DOE said it's working with the school and Khattab's family to ensure the boy gets the help he needs.

"The DOE is committed to providing the services our students need to thrive in and out of the classroom, and we are working with this school and the student's family to ensure that we provide the student with appropriate services," the agency said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Khattab's father hopes it's not too late.

"I don't want him to continue to fall through the cracks anymore," said Hossam Khattab.  "We are trying to give him a future, to be independent, to be self-sufficient, to help himself."

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