MALDEF AMENDS LANDMARK SUIT TO ADDRESS EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEW MEXICO STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Suit argues that funding, monitoring, and supervision of education is arbitrary and insufficient
SANTA FE, NM - Today, MALDEF filed an amended complaint in Martinez v. State of New Mexico, adding claims seeking equal educational opportunity for students with disabilities in the state. The suit is an expansion of the comprehensive case filed in April seeking to compel New Mexico to provide a sufficient education to ELL and at-risk students, as mandated by the state's constitution. The suit is the first ever challenge of the state's provision of education to at-risk students, and now the first to seek injunctive relief under the New Mexico Constitution for students with disabilities.
"Serving the needs of students with disabilities is a quintessential responsibility of the public schools," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "New Mexico's failure to adequately serve those with the greatest educational needs is unforgivable, and requires swift redress."
MALDEF's landmark suit asserts that the constitutional rights of economically disadvantaged, ELL, and other at-risk student populations had been violated through a series of state-created arbitrary obstacles, including unfair and non-transparent school accountability grading and teacher evaluation systems that drive quality teachers and leaders from schools that disproportionately enroll English Language Learner ("ELL") and low-income students, the failure to expand pre-kindergarten programs to ensure attendance for all at-risk students, and the failure to fully support and implement state laws meant to provide cultural programs that are essential to a sufficient education as required under the New Mexico Constitution.
The amended complaint further asserts that insufficient funding has prevented school districts from properly recruiting and retaining qualified service providers for students with disabilities, especially for English Language Learner students with disabilities who require instruction, materials, and resources in their native languages. The lack of funding and adequate monitoring has also created significant delays, backlogs, and errors in the proper identification of students with disabilities and their specific needs. Additionally, the New Mexico Public Education Department has systematically disregarded state special education laws by not offering adequate monitoring, oversight, or technical assistance to ensure that districts are using resources properly, and that needed services are in place and provided for kids.
"New Mexico's neglectful public education system for its most at-risk students does not exempt special education students," said David Hinojosa, lead counsel and MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel. "These students are denied access to specially trained educators and the very resources they need to succeed in the classroom, but the state has absconded from its duty to provide them their fundamental right to a sufficient education."
In addition to Hinojosa, other attorneys include MALDEF Staff Attorneys, Marisa Bono and Ernest Herrera; and plaintiffs' local counsel, David Garcia, of Santa Fe.
A copy of the amended complaint is available here.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.
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