Lawsuit warns of risk to special needs students during Denver teachers strike

Feb. 12 (UPI) — Thousands of special needs students could be “extremely impacted” by a teachers strike in Denver as untrained teachers fill in for picketing educators, a new lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of students against Denver Public Schools calls on district officials to inform parents of all disabled children how it will meet their needs during the strike. More 10,000 students could be affected, the lawsuit said.

“Many of the students in this group are in need of the most critical support to maintain their health and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions,” the lawsuit said. “These students require assistance from essential employees, such as special education teachers, counselors, social workers, school psychologists and therapists.”

DPS schools will be open Tuesday while district officials and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association continue negotiations. Teachers are fighting for better pay, as educators did in recent strikes in Oakland and Los Angeles.

DPS spokesman Will Jones told The Denver Post that students with disabilities were “well supported” Monday. The district recruited substitutes who have special education backgrounds so the students would be safe, Jones said. In all, the district got 300 new substitutes, the Post reported.

The lawsuit disputes that claim, saying it’s “extremely unlikely” that DPS could find enough substitutes with adequate training or experience.

“The strike will cause severe emotional and psychological trauma for special education students, especially the large number of DPS students who suffer from autism,” the lawsuit reads. “With unexpected changes in routine, some autistic students may end up hurting themselves, hurting others and possibly suffering setbacks for months as a result of not receiving proper services.”

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