After Ann Arbor Public Schools resumed classes virtually on Wednesday, a disability-rights advocacy group asked U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy to stop Michigan school districts from cancelling in-person classes going forward.
The Brain Injury Rights Group (BRIG) is a New York-based legal rights advocacy group that offers pro-bono services to individuals with disabilities. The group filed a temporary restraining order Wednesday against the Michigan Department of Education, AAPS and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, calling on Judge Levy to temporarily stop Michigan school closures when the consent of parents of special education students is not given.
In their Wednesday press release, the BRIG estimated there are around 200,000 students between the ages of 3 and 21 across the state of Michigan receiving special education services. In the press release, Patrick Donohue, BRIG Founder and Chairman, also called upon Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to take action to keep schools open.
“This is a continuation of the COVID-19 crimes against our children based upon the fears of adults by corrupt union bosses and unaccountable education bureaucrats,” Donohue wrote. “Shame on those who were silent while the greatest case of child sacrifice occurs in human history! Where is Governor Gretchen Whitmer?”
The temporary restraining order is a part of a federal class-action lawsuit that was filed by AAPS parents against the same parties on June 30, 2021. The lawsuit claimed that special education students in the district regressed academically when the district switched to online education and that the students’ Individual Education Plans were changed without prior notice.
Although the last day of winter break was Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, for AAPS students, the district announced it would cancel classes Jan. 3 and 4 before going virtual Jan. 5 – 7. In-person classes are expected to resume Monday, Jan. 10. The district said the decision was made based on recent COVID-19 transmission data from the Washtenaw County Health Department indicating an “extraordinary rise in COVID-19 cases” throughout the Ann Arbor community.
While AAPS is under fire for pivoting to online learning after winter break, the spread of the highly-transmissible COVID-19 omicron variant has led some U-M community members to demand that the University of Michigan “e-pivot” for the first two weeks of the winter semester.
In an email to The Michigan Daily, AAPS spokesperson Andrew Cluley said the district does not comment on pending litigation. However, he said the district has continued to serve special education students through live video-conferencing sessions even as classes transition to an online format.
“Special education services will continue as scheduled via live video conference. The amount of time spent in live instruction with our students is based on need, student stamina, and teacher discretion,” Cluley wrote. “Staff may push into classes via Zoom for inclusion, and also use breakout rooms when appropriate.”
Daily News Editor Roni Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org