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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Group threatens to sue Education Dept. for violating rights of special needs students

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rican Association of Health and Education-Related Services Providers (APPSSRE by its Spanish initials) has threatened to take the island government to court for violating the rights of special needs students.

“A government’s priorities are manifested by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a situation where the institutional mistreatment perpetrated by the Puerto Rico Department of Education (DEPR) for decades toward students in the Special Education program has no end,” the group wrote in a statement Wednesday. “Institutional abuse, which includes the deliberate denial of essential services and resources, as well as the failure to respond appropriately to their needs, is not only inhumane, but it is also a clear violation of their fundamental rights.”

The APPSSRE said the Education Department is interfering with remedies granted through the Rosa Lydia Vélez class action suit that are vital to guaranteeing that Special Education students receive the education and support they need to thrive academically and develop fully.

The group blamed Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and lawmakers for the failing special needs students.

“It is for this reason that in the coming days we, the Puerto Rican Association of Providers of Health and Education-Related Services (APPSSRE), will go to the court of Puerto Rico to seek justice,” the group’s statement said. “It is public knowledge that the DEPR is in breach of its ministerial obligation to guarantee that ALL students in the special education program have access to a free public education as required by the federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act),” the group said.

As a result of the DEPR’s failure to comply with its ministerial duty, the Puerto Rico court reaffirmed through the stipulation ruling in the Rosa Lydia Vélez class action case the rights of the island’s Special Education students, ordering the creation of the Procedures and Complaints Unit Provisional Remedy (UPQRP) to make related services available through private contracting (occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, educational therapy, physical therapy, psychological therapy and visual therapy services, among others) that the DEPR does not have available. The order has not been fulfilled.

“The DEPR continues to operate in violation of the laws that govern the agency and in contempt of the order of the Court of Puerto Rico,” the APPSSRE said.

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