Tuesday, February 7, 2012

That was all I could say when I heard that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the Milwaukee Public Schools and tossed- out the 11- year- old "Jamie S case."

I remember the day the suit was filed against MPS. It was September 13, 2001. I remember it well because of what had happened two days earlier. I covered that lawsuit for 7 years! Doing a story every 6 months or so at first, then only when something big was happening, like when the Department of Public Instruction settled with Disability Rights Wisconsin in 2008.

The suit claimed that  "Jamie S." who was only 8 when the fight began, and other special needs students did not get into special services in the district.  Later, it added that the DPI did not do a good job of overseeing MPS so that it would give appropriate services.

Over the years, I interviewed the mother of the plaintiff and talked to the law firm that MPS hired to defend its case. We probably can't add high enough to figure how many millions and millions of dollars were spent on this lawsuit. MPS said it was all covered by its insurance, but a lawsuit that lasts for 11 years is more than suing for somebody slipping on the ice in your driveway.

MPS has claimed victory and Superintendent Gregory Thornton told the media “We will continue to provide quality special education services for Milwaukee’s children”.

OK, well in the time it has taken for the lawsuit to crawl through the courts, thousands of students have come and gone through the Milwaukee Public Schools. Hundreds needed extra attention because of their special needs. Plans were created and things got a little better. Now, without a lawsuit hanging over its head, will the MPS give the kids with special needs all the help they deserve? Let's hope it doesn't take another 11 years to find out.

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