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Investigation Exposes How New York City Schools Treat Kids With Disabilities

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A federal investigation into the accessibility of New York City public schools has turned up some alarming results.

The two-year investigation, which was not previously disclosed to the public, concluded that 83 percent of New York City’s public elementary schools are not “fully accessible” to children with disabilities, The New York Times reported.

It found that six school districts, which serve more than 50,000 elementary students, did not have a fully accessible school, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, sent a 14-page letter to the Education Department on Monday with the investigation findings. The letter gives the city 30 days to provide a response and “an outline and timeline of corrective actions that will remedy this unacceptable state of affairs.”

“Nowhere is it more important to tear down the barriers to equal access than with respect to the education of our children,” the letter reads. “But today, in New York City, 25 years after passage of the A.D.A., children with physical disabilities still do not have equal access to this most fundamental of rights.”

It went on to list the violations and describe the effects they have on families, teachers and students with disabilities. One family was so committed to allowing their child to go to a local school — as opposed to subjecting her to a lengthy commute to the farther away, accessible school — that a parent visited the school several times a day to carry the young girl up and down stairs to attend classes.

A spokesman for the Education Department has said the department is reviewing the letter and remains committed to increasing the accessibility of New York City’s school buildings, according to The New York Times.

Originally published: December 22, 2015
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