Milbank LLP and The Legal Aid Society are partnering to ensure that school-age children living in New York City’s homeless shelters have sufficient internet access to receive a sound basic education in the era of COVID-19. Through a recent demand letter to the Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Milbank and Legal Aid have indicated their intention, working with the Coalition for the Homeless, to take legal action should the City continue to neglect to provide WiFi or other connectivity to students in shelters—a basic necessity for meaningful participation in school during the pandemic.
As Milbank and Legal Aid have explained, by neglecting to provide adequate internet access, the City is not only failing its most vulnerable children but also violating its statutory and constitutional obligation to provide each child with a sound basic education, regardless of his or her circumstances.
The letter states:
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet access is not a luxury; it is a basic prerequisite to entering the “virtual classroom” that has been necessitated by the virus. By neglecting to ensure that homeless children can connect to the internet, the City is in violation of its constitutional obligation to provide a “sound basic education,” and the Department of Education is failing its stated mission of providing a “rigorous, inspiring, and nurturing learning experience” to “every single child.” Instead, it is providing them with no education at all.
Grant Mainland notes, “Litigation should be unnecessary when the basic educational rights of children living in shelters are at stake, but we’re prepared to act if the City won’t solve the problem voluntarily.”
Milbank views pro bono advocacy as critical for ensuring equal access to justice and advancing the law for public good. Details on the firm’s pro bono work can be found here.