The Philadelphia Project

In order to comprehensively reform the way Philadelphia educates all of its 19,000 students with disabilities, the Law Center developed a unique public-private partnership with Dechert LLP, McCarter & English, LLP, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP, and students from Philadelphia law schools. Together, we educated parents and other advocates about their rights, represented individual families in administrative hearings, and, with the information gained from those individual cases, filed class action lawsuits to address systemic issues.

By working with a team of pro bono attorneys, The Philadelphia Project expanded the Law Center’s capacity to represent more individual families in administrative hearings. Through individual representation, we not only secured needed services for more children with disabilities, but we gained specific knowledge about widespread problems in the District that allowed us to design effective strategies for systemic reform.

Class Action: Reforming Provision of Extended School Year Services

Each student with a disability is legally entitled to have their Individual Education Plan (IEP) team, with their parents, consider the need for Extended School Year services (ESY) and develop an individualized service plan. ESY is needed for when school lets out for three months over the summer or for a long holiday break. Students with disabilities may need services to continue because they are learning a crucial skill to be more independent, or they may revert to lower functioning without services. On October 30, 2014, the Law Center filed a class action lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia for not meeting these requirements. Click here to read more about this case and find out about the progress we’ve made.

Class Action: PV v. School District of Philadelphia

The four plaintiff students, ages 8 and 9, whose educations have been disrupted by the District's Automatic Autism Transfer Policy
The four plaintiff students, ages 8 and 9, whose educations have been disrupted by the District’s Automatic Autism Transfer Policy

All students suffer when there are disruptions in their educations, but this is is especially true for students with autism who, by nature of their disability, have an especially difficult time with change. Yet, because of the way the School District of Philadelphia structures its Autism Support (AS) classrooms, students with autism are often automatically transferred to between schools – outside of the IEP process and without parental input – while their non-disabled peers are able to stay in their home schools. In June 2011, the Law Center and Dechert LLP filed PV vs. the School District of Philadelphia, the first major class action lawsuit in the Philadelphia Project. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pa. on behalf of four children with autism, the suit argues that the school district’s “Automatic Autism Transfer Policy,” requiring some 3,000-4,000 children with autism to move from school to school, violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Click here to read more about this case and find out about the progress we’ve made.

Language Services in the School District of Philadelphia

An estimated 14,000 students in Philadelphia schools are members of families whose primary language is not English. Even though it is mandated by federal and local law, the School District of Philadelphia systemically fails to provide the interpretation and translation services parents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) need to meaningfully participate in their child’s education. Click here to read more about this case and find out about the progress we’ve made.

Systemic Failure of Early Intervention Service Provider

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contracts with Elwyn to provide services to approximately 7,000 preschool-age children residing in Philadelphia. However, state-conducted investigations have revealed systemic failures in the organization to provide sufficient services to children within its care. The Law Center represents parents of children with disabilities in their disputes with Elwyn to ensure that their children receive the services necessary for educational progress. Click here to read about work in this case.


Project Updates

November 2015
District Court Affirms Child has been Denied Free and Appropriate Public Education

August 2014
Hearing Officer Again Finds Student with Autism Denied Free and Appropriate Public Education


Law Center Helps Child Receive Necessary Speech Therapy Services


Law Center Intervenes to Get a Child Back to School Safely

July 2014
Special Ed Team Working to Ensure Kids have Access to Aides

July 2014
Law Center Concerned about ESY

June 2014
Student with Autism Denied Sufficient Services

June 2014
Law Center Files Due Process Complaint for Student with Autism

March 2014
Child with Cerebral Palsy Receives Compensatory Education

March 2014
Law Center Secures Two IEEs for Client with Dyslexia

November 2013
Law Center helps child avoid transfer to disciplinary school


Law Center’s Use of Stay Put Provision Enables Kindergartner to Remain in School


Judge Baylson’s Decision Expands the Definition of Intentional Discrimination

October 2011
Prevented from Enrolling, Student with Autism Returns to School with Law Center Help

July 2011
Settlement Reached for Student with Dyslexia

May 2011
Decision Finds Major Flaws in District’s ESY Programming

August 2010
Settlement Grants Additional Services to Student, Helps Raise Parent Awareness Of Services For Students 18 And Older