John Rue & Associates, LLC has filed a class action lawsuit against the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) on behalf of parents over the state’s 45-day rule. The suit is scheduled to go to trial in the coming weeks.
Since the Complaint was initially filed in 2019, seven more law firms have joined, and all eight firms have jointly requested that John Rue & Associates, LLC be appointed as Class Counsel to lead this very important litigation. If the class is certified by the court, then the Class Counsel (by and through 10 “named plaintiffs”) will be able to act on behalf of all members of the class, even if they are not participating in the case directly. In other words, class actions are a means by which absent class members (such as New Jersey parents of children with disabilities) can benefit from a lawsuit without getting involved in the case themselves.
Several non-profit organizations have also joined the lawsuit, including the Education Law Center, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, and Disability Rights New Jersey.
The state’s policies and procedures when it comes to providing to children with disabilities is complicated and convoluted. It can be frustrating to maneuver, which is why it is important that you speak with a New Jersey special education lawyer who can help you through the process.
For years, John Rue & Associates, LLC has been representing families of children with disabilities in their fight to ensure provision of the services they require to receive and access a free and public education (FAPE). Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with disabilities receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP establishes a basic framework for the education of a child who requires special education services.
Prior to proposing the IEP, the school will examine the child and discuss the results in a meeting with school officials, the parents, general and special education teachers, psychologists, and the case worker. At that meeting, the details of the IEP are presumable finalized before it is put into writing.
If the school district proposes an IEP that the parents disagree with, it is imperative, especially if it represents a change to the current IEP, that they move swiftly to request either mediation or a due process hearing. A due process hearing is conducted before a hearing officer, in New Jersey, and an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). Both sides present their arguments, and witnesses may testify to provide the ALJ with factual information necessary to make an informed decision on your case. The hearing officer is required to issue a decision in writing within 45 days after deducting any specific adjournments requested by a party. If you do not agree with this determination, you may file an appeal in court.
The ALJ has 45 days to issue a decision. Unfortunately, New Jersey has demonstrated a poor history of following through on this deadline, taking anywhere from nine months to a year to render a decision.
In 2019, John Rue & Associates, LLC and five other firms filed a lawsuit against the NJDOE to provide relief for families who are stuck waiting for a decision while their child does not get the services or education they need. Judge Noel Hillman denied NJDOE’s Motion to Dismiss in 2020, and discovery, including depositions of ALJs and high level officers of NJDOE, has proceeded since that time. The trial, to be conducted in federal court in Camden, is now looming. The Court has not yet decided if the public can attend on Zoom.
The long delays are wreaking havoc for parents who are trying to provide the best for their children with disabilities. In his ruling rejecting the Motion to Dismiss, Judge Hillman described the experiences a few of the plaintiff parents had to endure for their children.
He cited one example of parents who had to wait 338 days from the day the case went to the OAL to the date a final decision was rendered. While the decision did ultimately favor the family, the child received no special education service and no FAPE associated with the time that elapsed while the case was pending. The family said that they have a need to file additional due process claims but have been hesitant to do so due to the long delays.
Another family had to sit through 341 days of waiting without a hearing taking place. These are just a few examples of this endemic problem.
The goal of the lawsuit is to obtain a court order requiring the NJDOE to comply with the 45-day rule so that parents do not have to wait while their child fails to receive the education they are owed.
The problem with these long wait times is nothing new. It is a problem that has been plaguing the NJDOE for years. Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) released a report after investigating a complaint of New Jersey’s failure to comply with the 45-day deadline. The USDOE found that the NJDOE is out of compliance with the IDEA.
New Jersey has stated publicly that, out of the 1,300 due process complaints filed in New Jersey between 2016 and 2017, only 52 % were resolved within 45 days.
If you are frustrated dealing with your child’s school or disagree with the IEP they want to provide them, you do not have to accept their plan. Let the New Jersey special education lawyers at John Rue & Associates, LLC step in and argue on your behalf. We provide parents who may need a special education lawyer with a preliminary consultation with a New Jersey special education lawyer for $100 (30 minutes by phone) and, after a preliminary consultation, a more detailed discussion (with two lawyers for 90 minutes to three hours by Zoom) for a flat fee of $795. Call us at 862-283-3155 or contact us online for more information. Located in Montclair, Ridgewood, Haddonfield, and Princeton, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the state.
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