Advocating for Our Children
Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York has provisionally approved a settlement in the lawsuit brought by former students of Franklin K. Lane High School (FKL) alleging that they were illegally pushed out of school. The suit was brought by a number of former FKL students who were represented by Advocates for Children of New York and the law firm of Morrison and Foerster LLP. Over five thousand students who had been discharged from FKL in the last three years have already been notified of their right to return to school. The Department of Education (DOE) has agreed to assist them and other FKL students by providing support services through the newly created after-school Young Adult Success Center, and students who return will have the opportunity to make up credits. It also protects all FKL students from being pushed out in the future."
The settlement creates a number of new policy and procedures for former FKL students. Notice to all discharged students has already occurred as a result of the litigation. A newly created process for readmitting discharged FKL students who wish to return to the NYC school system is outlined in the settlement. These newly readmitted students will be given priority admission to NYC high schools with a clearly delineated and short timeline for readmission. The exit conference process includes a requirement that notices will be provided to all students and their parents before they are discharged or transferred from school, which contains information about their right to remain in school until the age of 21. The settlement also clarifies that students at FKL cannot be improperly prevented from attending classes or involuntarily transferred to a GED program if they want to obtain a high school diploma. The settlement requires annual training for administration at Region 5 and FKL to ensure that staff members responsible for counseling students and overseeing transfers and discharges are adequately informed of student rights. Lastly, and of extreme importance, plaintiff counsel will monitor the student discharge process at FKL to assure that the settlement provisions are being followed. The bulk of the settlement requirements continue until June 30, 2006 with particular provisions staying in effect until June 30, 2008.
Advocates for Children also represents students who filed suit in separate actions because they were discharged from two other schools: Bushwick High School and Martin Luther King High School for Law and Advocacy. Those cases are also pending before Judge Weinstein, who recently ordered that by January 8, 2004, the DOE must send notices to all students who had been discharged or transferred from Bushwick or any of the schools at Martin Luther King's High School site since July 2003. These notices will inform students of their right to return to school. Parents or former FKL students with questions about the suit can call AFC at 212-822-9550 or Morrison & Foerster at 212-468-8245.#
Jill Chaifetz is the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, an educational advocacy and legal services organization.