Lawsuit: CPS failed to provide required education to student with disabilities during pandemic

Posted on [rt_reading_time label="• Reading Time:" postfix="min read"]

This article was published on WCPO by Abby Dawn on March 2, 2021.

CINCINNATI — The parent of a Walnut Hills High School student who has disabilities filed a lawsuit alleging that Cincinnati Public Schools failed to provide legally required education during the pandemic.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, names Cincinnati Public Schools, Superintendent Laura Mitchell, Walnut Hills High School, Principal John Chambers and CPS Board of Education members Melanie Bates, Eve Bolton, Pamela Bowers, Ben Lindy and Mike Moroski as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, named B.Z. on behalf of the student R.Z., alleged the defendants failed to provide an appropriate public education for R.Z. by ignoring the effects of remote learning on R.Z.’s Individualized Education Plan, refused to open R.Z.’s high school and made no efforts for compensatory services.

R.Z., who survived childhood cancer, has cancer-associated cognitive impairment, the lawsuit says. R.Z. has difficulty paying attention and concentrating, reduced processing speed and compromised short-term memory. R.Z. also has ADHD, which is treated with medication.

The lawsuit says R.Z.’s grades were stable and the student was involved in extracurricular activities until Walnut Hills High School switched to remote learning in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

The defendants did not address the special needs accommodation programs, and despite reopening other Cincinnati Public Schools recently, continued with remote learning for Walnut Hills High School, according to the lawsuit.

“Upon information and belief, they hide behind the notion that (sic) vast majority of the high-end students of Walnut Hills actually excel with 5-day digital only learning … R.Z., however, struggles every day with the workload; R.Z. battles ambivalence and a lack of connection that is having a material adverse effect on R.Z.,” the lawsuit says.

The CPS Board of Education on Feb. 8 voted to keep virtual learning in place at Walnut Hills High School. Board member Moroski’s motion to keep the high school virtual “until the district elects to accept three-feet social distance as the standard” was approved 5-2.

Due to spacing concerns at Walnut Hills High School, some parents and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers have called for an extension on remote learning.

But days later, Gov. Mike DeWine said CPS reneged on a deal to resume in-person learning by March and that it “simply is not acceptable” that the school will remain remote.

Cincinnati Public Schools spokesperson Frances Russ released the following statement:

“We are aware of the lawsuit filed by a parent of a Walnut Hills High School student and it is under review.”