Dad and mom of disabled youngsters say vax mandate hurts schooling: go well with
Parents of disabled children at a special school in Staten Island are suing the vaccination mandate for fear that their teachers and staff will be replaced by unqualified substitutes, new court documents show.
The lawsuit – filed by parents of four students with different levels of autism and cerebral palsy – aims to prevent PS25R special school employees from being removed if they fail to meet a Friday deadline for their first coronavirus vaccination, according to a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Staten Island on Wednesday.
Students at the school each have individual educational plans, including physical and speech therapy, counseling and, in some cases, a paraprofessional staff dedicated to individual work, the court records say.
However, their training runs the risk of being derailed and disrupted if the Ministry of Education replaces unvaccinated employees with less qualified employees, according to the lawsuit.
About 40 percent of the school’s teachers and other employees are in need of replacement because they haven’t been vaccinated, the court records say.
The subs “only have ’emergency Covid-19 certification’ in contrast to the plaintiffs’ current teachers and employees who are properly qualified special educators,” the lawsuit said.
“Plaintiffs are children with special needs with carefully crafted IEPs and cannot be taught and cared for by unqualified substitutes,” the filing states.
And if their IEPs are not followed, it is a breach of contract and would “cause irreparable and potentially irreversible harm to the children,” the lawsuit said.
Teachers and lawyers protest against the Education Department’s vaccination mandate in Foley Square, Lower Manhattan on September 27, 2021.
Rainmaker Photos / MediaPunch
The parents do not contradict the mandate themselves, it says in the lawsuit. Rather, they want to ensure that the quality of their children’s education remains the same.
Plaintiff Christopher Litrell – the president of the school’s parent-teacher association and father of a 10-year-old boy with autism – told the Post, “We don’t know the subs. We don’t know their qualifications. “
Litrell’s son Ryan has a paraprofessional who works one-on-one with him, and the boy receives a range of services, including occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy, and counseling at school, the court records say.
“Our employees – you can see in their faces that everyone wants to come to work and it shows in our kids,” Litrell said. “It’s like a small family, you can see that they really take care of the children.”
“My son, he’s doing a phenomenal job because of the staff at this school,” said the father. “My son is in 6th grade and they’re supposed to be preparing him for junior high all year, and I’m really scared that won’t happen.”
Litrell said the DOE should instead allow its staff who decide not to get vaccinated to have regular testing.
Christopher Litrell argues that unvaccinated teachers should only undergo COVID-19 tests.
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DOE employees either have to have their first injection by Friday, or they can opt for unpaid leave from the health insurance company, or they can take severance pay and cancel altogether.
Parents ask a judge to block the removal of teachers until the DOE can ensure that properly trained staff are “ready to serve the plaintiffs and provide IEP-compliant educational services,” the lawsuit states.
Plaintiff’s attorney, Natraj Bhushan, said in a statement to The Post that his clients “take no pity with the vaccination mandate itself or the authority of the mayor / DOE to implement such measures as a guideline.
Bhushan said they just wanted to make sure the IEPs – as legally binding contracts – would not be disrupted on Monday or in the future.
“They just cannot afford to have their carefully planned training and therapy interrupted, even temporarily,” said Bhushan.
On Monday, the DOE announced that 91 percent of its 78,000 teachers had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. And of the 130,000 DOE employees, 87 percent received at least one dose.
There has been a spate of litigation over the vaccine mandate, which was due to go into effect last Monday.
That deadline was postponed after a federal appeals court issued an injunction last week that temporarily blocked the mandate. The injunction was then lifted on Monday.
“Courts have spoken,” said Nick Paolucci, spokesman for the city’s legal department, in a statement to The Post. “Everyone in a school building is safer when the staff is vaccinated.”
The Department of Education has reported that 87 percent of all 130,000 workers received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kevin C. Downs
“About 90 percent of special education teachers are already vaccinated and thousands of qualified assistants are available when needed,” said Paolucci, noting that vaccination rates are increasing every day.
“Our vaccination mandate was put in place to protect students and school communities, especially the most vulnerable,” the statement concluded.
“Courts have spoken,” said Nick Paolucci, spokesman for the city’s Justice Department. “Everyone in a school building is safer when the staff is vaccinated. Around 90% of the special educators are already vaccinated and thousands of qualified assistants are available if necessary. The number of vaccinated employees is increasing every day and our vaccination mandate was introduced to protect students and school communities, especially the most vulnerable. “
Additional reporting from Selim Algar