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Judge: More families can join lawsuit over school services

August 26, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a West Virginia civil case involving school support services for children with disabilities can become a class-action suit.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger issued the ruling Tuesday in a 2020 lawsuit filed by a couple of parents and a national disabilities rights group called The Arc, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. The suit could now encompass more than 1,000 children in Kanawha County public schools who need behavioral support, the newspaper said.

“We can now proceed to hopefully change the way Kanawha County is providing services to all students with disabilities, not just those individual kids,” said attorney Lydia Milnes of the nonprofit law firm Mountain State Justice. “So the families have always, since the beginning, wanted to see change that was bigger than just them.”

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Kanawha County school officials declined to comment.

Berger wrote in the ruling that “students with disabilities in Kanawha County are subject to disciplinary removals at a rate disproportionate to their non-disabled peers, and at a higher and more-disproportionate rate than students with disabilities in most other school districts in the state and most other large school districts nationally.”

She ordered the parties to try to mediate the dispute before continuing with litigation.