2017 Case of the Year: J.S. v. Houston County Bd. Ed.

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Wrightslaw 2017 Case of the Year – J.S. v. Houston County Bd. Ed.

We urge all special education attorneys to read this case. It includes issues such as a allegation of failure to exhaust, physical abuse of a child, and violations of Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Case Claims Against the School Board

This case against the school board claims that, by acting unlawfully or by failing to act, “the HCBOE deprived J.S., III of the required supervision and services required by law, excluded him from and denied him the benefits of public, federally supported programs and facilities operated by HCBOE, and, ultimately, led to and caused his discrimination and harassment.”

J.S. v. Houston County Bd. Ed.
11th Cir.
10/2/2017 – Alabama

You’ll find this “Case of the Year” in Wrightslaw: Special Education Legal Developments and Cases 2017.  See the Table of Decisions, page 31 and the Summaries of Decisions, pages 73-75.

Parents Allege Abuse of their Child

A child with “severe physical disabilities and cognitive impairments” was abused by his aide/paraprofessional who regularly removed J.S. from the classroom and took him to the school’s weight room. The child “with some frequency, [was] excluded and isolated from his classroom and peers on the basis of his disability.”

The Alabama parents filed Section 504 and ADA claims against the Houston County Board of Education alleging abuse of their child.

The U.S. District Court dismissed the case “mischaracterizing his Title II and Section 504 claim regarding his removal from his regular classroom as merely a claim that he was denied a FAPE, a right guaranteed under the IDEA.”

Reversed and Remanded – the School Board may face Jury Trial

The Court of Appeals reversed portions of the decision and remanded it back. The School Board may face a civil Jury Trial for violations of Section 504 and ADA.

Outcome: Parents prevailed.

2017 Cases of the Year in Wrightslaw: Legal Developments and Cases 2017

These cases are must reads for special education attorneys, advocates, and others who are interested in special education law. You will learn what makes these four cases unique and earned them the distinction as 2017 Cases of the Year.

  • 9th Circuit, California: M.C. v. Antelope Valley, page 47.
  • 11th Circuit, Alabama: J.S. v. Houston Cnty Bd. Ed., page 73.
  • SCOTUS: Endrew F. v. Douglas County Sch. Dist., page 46, 99.
  • SCOTUS: Fry v. Napoleon Comm. Sch., page 40, 83.

Get the complete Wrightslaw Year in Review Series

  1. Please help our son!! Our son was a victim of sexual assault by another student. His IEP stated that he have an aide accompany him to class and stay in all regular education classes to assist. We have filed a complaint with OCR, they said that his IEP did NOT specifically state that an aide accompany him to the restroom so they could not find the school at fault. These assaults happened over a 3 week period and in different locations on campus. No teacher or paraeducator present during these times, over 10 different incidents occurred.
    We obtained an IPO against the perpetrator, yet the school still allowed him to return to the campus for NROTC since he was accompanied by his own aide.
    Our attorney has pulled out of the case due to financial constrains..we need help!!! Any advice???

  2. How did they find out/ obtain evidence? We have seen the chairs they use to restrain students including our child and an aide seemed to “slip up” one day and admit that our non-verbal gentle asd child “rarely” needs to be put in the restraints because “she’s a very good girl” as if they tell kids they are bad and restrain them! My husband and I were lied to by the school district representative and refused basic rights so we decided to try to homeschool/charter since our child regressed during public school anyway. We were told by a professional at the San Diego Regional Center that in order to take our child out of such an environment we have to have evidence & basically LET them do wrong to our child! We are fighting this but I live in fear of having to put my child back.

    • Sandra – this is awful! Our kids have enough to deal with. It’s hard to know what works in different states, but in Ohio, anyone working in the field of developmental disabilities is a mandated reporter. We have no option. If someone simply “tells” us they saw something we have to report it. These reports must be followed up, and they usually go directly to the Sheriff’s office for investigation. In the case of some school districts, it has been the only way for families to get attention when they suspect abuse.
      If it was me, I would call Disability Rights California (disabilityrightsca.org) and ask them what they suggest.

  3. Congratulation to this family. I’m happy that you were persistent. I’m currently going through similar issues with my daughter’s district. However, am having difficulty finding legal representation. Dept of Justice stated what happened to her is criminal and should be investigated…I agree is your lawyer available?

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