The Legal Aid Society is threatening to sue the de Blasio administration for failing to provide internet access to homeless children in shelters, effectively blocking their ability to participate in remote learning during Covid-19.
Legal Aid and the law firm Milbank, representing the Coalition for the Homeless, sent a demand letter on Thursday to schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter, calling on the city to remedy internet access problems at the Flatlands Family Residence in Brooklyn and other DHS facilities with school-age children.
“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,” the letter, shared with POLITICO, said. “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.’”
The de Blasio administration partnered with Apple earlier this year to provide iPads to students in shelters and contracted with T-Mobile to provide cellular data on those devices. But these efforts “soon proved to be of little or no use to many children,” the letter said, because shelters like the Flatlands facility lack reliable cell service in the building.
For Crystal Boyd, a resident of the Flatlands shelter who has two teenage children, the issue has been “very frustrating.”
Her son, 15, is in high school, while her daughter, 18, is attending college remotely.
Her daughter had to finish a paper due at midnight on a recent night sitting outside the building because of connectivity issues inside, and her son has had to