Class action alleging the City of Springfield violated the ADA by segregating and denying equal education to hundreds of children with mental health disabilities in the “Public Day School,” where the focus is on behavior control, including physical restraints, arrests and suspensions for minor offenses. S.S., the lead plaintiff, had been physically restrained and isolated in a basement room, arrested by armed and uniformed police officers, who are contracted by the school system to work at Public Day School. The Public Day School is exclusively for students with mental health needs, and virtually all these students are African-American or Hispanic. They do not need to be in segregated settings or subjected to punitive practices, and can be educated successfully in Springfield’s neighborhood schools with reasonable modification of school programs and appropriate services. Organizational plaintiffs in the case included the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, a statewide organization that advocates for improved access to services for children with mental health needs and their families, and the Disability Law Center, the Protection and Advocacy system.
The district court denied class certification and dismissed the case, and the plaintiffs appealed the decision. The court of appeals dismissed the case holding that the plaintiffs including members of the class and organizational plaintiffs had not fully exhausted administrative remedies.
CPR’s partners were the Bazelon Center for Mental Health and a private law firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP.