Montclair Parents File Federal Class Action Suit Against District, BOE and Superintendent

MONTCLAIR, NJ – A group of Montclair parents, who have filed a class action lawsuit against the Montclair School District, the Board of Education and the Superintendent as defendants, are looking to bring students and teachers back to classes full time, five days a week. The group cites the “continued collective failure of the Board of Education (“BOE”), the Montclair Education Association (“MEA”) and Superintendent to safely and successfully reopen schools for in-person learning.”

The new lawsuit comes after Montclair Schools Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds announced on February 2 that the Montclair School District would file a lawsuit against the MEA.

A statement from plaintiffs states:

“At the beginning of this pandemic, virtual learning was an understandable situation and temporary exercise. At this point, a year later, it is abundantly clear that there is a collective and ongoing failure by those entrusted to protect the welfare of the children of our community. Remote learning is dangerously unsustainable, is doing irreparable damage to our students, and is largely a result of the inability of the BOE and the MEA to work together to find reasonable solutions within reasonable timelines. This debacle is further jeopardizing our younger students’ academic, emotional, social and physical well-being, already fragile and damaged after a year of remote instruction. The ongoing failure to the community and its students is just entirely unacceptable.”

The Plaintiffs are being represented pro bono by Ms. Keri Donohue Avellini, Esq., who is also representing plaintiffs in a similar recent federal case filed against the South Orange / Maplewood (“SOMA”) District, Board of Education and Superintendent. Ms. Avellini is also a parent of a special-ed elementary student in the SOMA case.

“Importantly, our lawsuit forcefully creates an active voice and a seat at the negotiating table for Plaintiffs to act on behalf of Montclair families, students, those with special needs, those experiencing challenging circumstances as a result of continued remote learning, and those who have been left far behind as a result of no visible prospect for return to in-person learning. The children are the most critical constituent yet have not had a voice and/or an advocate to this point to affect an outcome in their favor. Our suit provides that voice and creates an active role for us in finding a resolution and getting the schools open for in-person learning.” said Steven A. Baffico, on behalf of the Plaintiff group.

The 33-page complaint includes descriptions by eight families detailing the social and emotional harm caused by prolonged remote learning to their elementary school children including becoming withdrawn, angry and depressed, experiencing headaches and eye strain, in addition to seeing academic performance suffer.

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