Milbank LLP, in partnership with The Legal Aid Society, has secured a settlement with New York City requiring it to install wireless internet in over 200 shelters housing more than 11,000 school-aged children across the City, so that these children can participate in remote education during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Under the settlement, the City has installed wireless internet in the vast majority of shelters as of April 1, 2021. For those shelters where installation remains incomplete, the City will undertake significant interim measures and support designed to ensure that all children housed in shelters have adequate remote educational access, and substantially complete installation by August 31, 2021.
In November 2020, Milbank and The Legal Aid Society filed a class action lawsuit, E.G. et al. v. City of New York et al., on behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless and certain individual shelter residents and their children, against the City and its agencies for their failure to provide students who reside in City shelters access to reliable internet service so they can attend school remotely. The complaint alleged violations of state and federal law—namely, the Education Article of the New York Constitution, Section 3209 of the New York State Education Law, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Milbank successfully defeated the City’s legal challenge to Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion, resulting in favorable legal precedent concerning educational access for homeless children under Section 3209 of the New York State Education Law. After weeks of expedited discovery, and in the days leading up to a three-day evidentiary hearing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the parties reached an agreement-in-principle to settle the matter. Under the terms of the parties’ agreement, the named plaintiffs will seek Court approval of the settlement on behalf of a class of children and their families residing in City shelters.
The settlement marks an important success for children living in shelters across the City. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, students in shelters have struggled with virtual learning due to lack of wireless internet or other reliable internet access in the shelter system. The settlement remedies that inequity and vindicates homeless children’s right to a sound basic education under the New York Constitution and other state and federal laws.