Parents of color and parents of students with disabilities appear to face disproportionate levels of exclusion from their children's school campus. With little to no due process, New York City public schools have begun to use "limited access letters" to ban allegedly "disruptive" parents from school grounds. These letters may restrict a parent from entering the building without calling the principal ahead of time or impose other burdens. The city keeps no formal data on these letters, a cause for concern. The New York City Department of Education's Chancellor's Regulations also do not seem to address the practice. This Article comments on the phenomenon of these letters. After describing the current limited access letter landscape in New York, the Article argues that these letters violate the law. Specifically, the Article argues that limited access letters violate procedural due process, constitute arbitrary and capricious decision-making, and impose a disparate impact on parents of color and parents of students with disabilities. The Article reviews relevant case law in the Second Circuit and around the country. It also discusses how other cities, such as Los Angeles, have introduced reforms such as an appeals process. The Article concludes by suggesting alternatives and improvements while maintaining that the practice of limited access letters should ideally be eliminated outright.
I wish to thank Todd Silverblatt, my fellow attorneys in the children’s rights unit, the CUNY Law Review editors, especially Cassie Hazelip and Sophie Cohen, and my wife, Tara Schwitzman-Gerst, for assistance in this article.
Andrew Gerst, Limited Access Letters: How New York City Schools Illegally Ban “Unruly” Parents of Color and Parents of Students with Disabilities, 22 CUNY L. Rev. 334 (2019).