The Success Academy charter school network says the city is routinely discriminating against its students in the South Bronx, delaying and denying special education services to children that need them.
"The law sets a standard for what must be done for kids who have special needs, and the law is being violated," Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz said.
The charter network, the city's largest, filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of six parents who say their children were unfairly denied special education, like speech therapy and support for Dyslexia.
The city's charter and private schools go through the same process as public schools to get approval for special education services.
But the lawsuit alleges that education department officials in the South Bronx go out of their way to reject requests to provide the services to students at any of the six Success Academy schools in the community.
"There are some children who are denied services who are clearly in dire need of help,," Success Academy attorney Aaron Safane said. "One child whose IQ is in the 6th percentile was denied services."
As NY1 first reported in May, city figures show the South Bronx special education office approves services for 80 percent of the students referred by public schools, but for only about 40 percent of students referred by Success Academy.
In addition, Success Academy students and their parents generally wait a lot longer for a decision. In the South Bronx, 66 percent of public school students are granted hearings within 60 days, as required by federal law. But just 3 percent of Success Academy cases are heard on time.
Success Academy says one of its students waited 653 days for a decision.
"Special needs kids are extremely educationally vulnerable," Moskowitz said. "So these delays have enormous educational consequences for kids."
Starting in late May, NY1 has been asking the city's education department to explain the disparities in wait times and approvals. The agency has only said it is collaborating with charter schools. A spokeswoman now says the city will review the lawsuit.