S.S. v. City of Springfield
Students with mental health needs are being warehoused in a segregated Springfield Massachusetts school without educational opportunities or therapeutic supports, according to a class action lawsuit filed on June 27, 2014, in US District Court.
The lawsuit charges the Springfield school system is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by placing hundreds of children with mental health needs in the so-called Public Day School where they are denied an equal educational opportunity and where the focus is on behavior control using dangerous physical restraints and repeated arrests and suspensions for minor offenses. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a 15-year-old student who for the last four years has been consigned to the Public Day School. The plaintiffs also include the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, a statewide, grassroots family organization that advocates for improved access to services for children with mental health needs and their families, and the Disability Law Center, the Massachusetts Protection and Advocacy System. The Plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Public Representation, the Judge David H. Bazelon Center for Mental Health and Morgan Lewis & Bockius.
The Complaint alleges that the Public Day School is exclusively for students with mental health needs, and the children segregated there do not need to be there. Instead, the Plaintiffs claim that these students can be educated successfully in Springfield’s neighborhood schools with reasonable modification of school programs and appropriate school-based behavioral services. Such services include a school-based intervention plan that relies on positive support, training for teachers, staff and parents, and coordination with non-school providers.
The City’s Motion to Dismiss has been denied. Importantly, the Court found that the Plaintiffs had stated a cause of action under the ADA that is independent of the IDEA.
Documents filed in the case are listed below:
Plaintiffs’ opposition to the Motion to Dismiss - August 27, 2014
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint - Feb. 11, 2015
Motion for Class Certification - October 16, 2015
Decision on Motion to Dismiss - November 18, 2015