Pennsylvania school districts have been receiving emailed copies of the complaint and other documents relating to a purported class action lawsuit filed on July 28, 2020 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit, entitled J.T., et al. v. Bill de Blasio, et al., was filed by four student-parent plaintiffs along with a list of 104 additional plaintiffs from around the United States, alleging that their rights under various federal and state constitutions and statutes are being violated by New York City, the New York Department of Education, and all School Districts and state departments of education in the United States. The essence of their claims is that every school district in the nation has failed or is failing to implement continuity of education last spring or reopening for this school year in a manner that sufficiently provides a free and appropriate education (FAPE) as individually outlined in the IEP or Section 504 service plan of every student in the nation being served under IDEA or Section 504.
It is critical that if district officials receive copies of documents relating to this lawsuit in any form (including by email), they should not accept this as service or otherwise reply to the sender. Immediately notify the district’s insurance carrier (usually through the district’s insurance broker) and solicitor, providing whatever documents were received. There are significant legal considerations regarding the proper service of process for school districts regardless of what plaintiffs’ counsel may imply in the communication.
The federal court will likely take some time to determine whether the lawsuit can proceed and whether to certify it as a class action. There are substantial legal hurdles to whether this suit can be certified as a class action and whether the claims involved can otherwise be pursued in federal court without first exhausting administrative remedies under the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Arrangements for group representation of school districts are taking shape in states around the nation, and PSBA has been informed that Pennsylvania districts insured by the CM Regent will be represented by the Levin Legal Group. It is possible that other insurance carriers may arrange to piggyback on that assignment or on other insurance company assignments of defense counsel. Follow instructions from the district’s insurance carrier, and please watch for further communications from PSBA and Levin Legal Group about this matter.