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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against CPS for Discriminating Against Students with Disabilities Whose Parents Have Limited English Skills

Failure to translate special education documents and provide language interpretation at special education meetings violates federal and state laws

January 29, 2018 (Chicago) – A federal civil rights class action lawsuit was filed today against the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for failing to adequately serve students with disabilities and their parents who have limited English skills. CPS serves a diverse community that includes a large population of students from families whose native language is not English. 52,231 CPS students with disabilities receive special education students and 41 percent, or approximately 21,000, of these students lived in a household where English is not the native language. The Complaint gives numerous examples where parents who have limited English skills were denied the opportunity to have vital special education documents translated into their native language.  Additionally, the Complaint documents that CPS has repeatedly failed to provide competent interpreters at important special education meetings for parents who have limited English skills.  As a result, thousands of students with disabilities have been harmed and denied the crucial special education services they need and are entitled to by law.

The suit alleges violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Education Opportunities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The suit also names the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) as a defendant for failing to provide proper oversight of CPS and for failing to provide interpretation and translated documents for due process hearings and mediations. The suit was filed by Equip for Equality, the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System for people with disabilities in Illinois, and Kirkland & Ellis, which is providing representation on a pro bono basis.

“The special education process is already intimidating for parents of students with disabilities,” said Olga Pribyl, Vice President for Special Education and Pro Bono at Equip for Equality. “It becomes exponentially more difficult for parents who have limited English skills when they are not provided with critical information about their children’s education in their native language.”

The Complaint seeks a finding by a federal judge that CPS and ISBE are in violation of the law and an order requiring that parents with limited English proficiency be provided with special education documents in their native language, and language interpretation by competent interpreters at key special education meetings.

“The law is clear that parents are entitled to meaningfully participate in special education planning for their children by receiving information in their native language,” said Donna Welch, lead pro bono attorney and a partner at Kirkland and Ellis. “Our firm is committed to ensuring that the promise of meaningful participation becomes a reality for all parents and students regardless of what language they speak.”

“For thirty-two years, Equip for Equality has been fighting for students with disabilities to receive the special education services they need to be successful in school and in the real world,” said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. “We hope this litigation will ensure that a parent’s limited English skills are not a barrier to a student’s success.”

The case is H.P. v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 2018 cv 0621. Read the complaint here.

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About Equip for Equality: Established in 1985, Equip for Equality (EFE) is a private, not-for-profit organization that advances the human and civil rights of people with disabilities and serves as the Governor designated, federally mandated Protection and Advocacy system for Illinois.  EFE is dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities to live full and independent lives by providing self-advocacy assistance, legal services, disability rights education, public policy advocacy and abuse investigations. (Equip for Equality is supported by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This press release does not represent the views, positions or policies of, or the endorsements by that federal agency.)

About Kirkland & Ellis: About Kirkland & Ellis: Kirkland & Ellis is a global law firm with more than 2,000 attorneys representing clients in private equity, M&A and other complex corporate transactions, litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration, restructuring, and intellectual property matters. From 13 offices around the world, Kirkland lawyers are committed to providing legal services without charge to those who cannot afford counsel, with the goals of improving lives, bettering communities and deepening our attorneys’ professional experience. Kirkland attorneys at all levels pursue pro bono matters dealing with a variety of issues such as immigration, disability rights, civil rights, prisoner rights, death penalty cases and criminal appeals, guardianship, veterans’ benefits, education and the representation of nonprofit organizations, among other areas. In 2017, Kirkland attorneys devoted more than 118,000 hours of free legal service to pro bono clients. Learn more about Kirkland’s commitment to pro bono and corporate social responsibility at




Last updated: January 31, 2018

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