The Chicago Teachers Union is suing the U.S. Department of Education, President Donald Trump's Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Chicago Board of Education over regulations on special education via remote learning that the union says are "impossible" for teachers to fulfill.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Tuesday, seeking an emergency injunction waiving the requirement that Chicago Public Schools staff redraft roughly 60,000 individual education plans, known as IEPs, for students receiving special education while participating in remote learning.
Chicago Public Schools have been closed to in-person learning since mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic, with online instruction ongoing.
CTU says in the suit that federal law requires schools to review and revise each IEP under remote learning circumstances, as well as convene a formal conference with every parent or guardian of a child who has an IEP.
With more than 60,000 students who fall into that category, the lawsuit states "this directive poses an impossible burden to carry out in the roughly six weeks left in the school year."
"Aside from being impossible to accomplish, and from threatening to interfere with the provision of the special education services needed by these children, the redrafting of roughly 70,000 plans is highly like to increase the anxiety and emotional distress of parents or guardians and that will further complicate the revision of these plans," the suit continues.
The lawsuit contends that DeVos was granted authority to waive the requirement to revise IEPs under the recently-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act but did not do so.
CTU alleges DeVos and the Department of Education "acted arbitrarily and capriciously in failing to take account of the circumstances that require different treatment of the Chicago public schools… as opposed to the thousands of other school districts across the country with a much smaller number," the suit reads.
A spokeswoman for DeVos said in a statement that the lawsuit is "nothing more than political posturing for a headline."
"It’s sad to see the union making excuses for why they can’t educate all students instead of figuring out a way to make it happen," Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito said.
A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman also criticized the suit, saying it was "not about helping students."
"Our special education students deserve access to a high quality education and the district's remote learning guidance outlines expectations for educators to ensure students are supported under this unique learning format," CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said.
"Make no mistake: this lawsuit against the district is not about helping students - it's about avoiding the necessary steps to ensure our most vulnerable students are supported during this unprecedented crisis," Bolton continued.
CTU seeks a temporary restraining order and relief from enforcement of the regulation requiring the IEPs be revised, according to the lawsuit.