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IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF TAYLOR COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA
DOE and JANE DOE, individually, and as next friends of their handicapped
CIVIL ACTION NO. 92-C-92
This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. l983 for money damages by a handicapped child and his parents against a public school teacher and other school officials for refusing to accommodate the child’s handicapping condition in the classroom and a claim for injunctive relief against the Taylor County Board of Education to enforce laws that protect handicapped students. The Plaintiffs request the right to bring this case under the names of John Doe and Jane Doe and the initials D. D. to protect the family and child from further embarrassment and publicity regarding the child’s handicap.
1. The Plaintiffs, John and Jane Doe, are residents of Taylor County, West Virginia and are the parents of D. D., age 16, who has a learning disability as defined by state and federal law.
2. Defendant, Michael Withers, is a public school history teacher at Grafton High School and was Plaintiff D. D.’s teacher during relevant time periods and as such was responsible for the daily delivery of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to the Plaintiff, D.D.
3. Defendant, Greg Cartwright, is the principal of Grafton High School and as such was responsible for the administration of Grafton High School and the duty to see that handicapped students at Grafton High School were afforded their rights to a FAPE under state and federal law.
4. Defendant, Wendell Teets, is the superintendent of Taylor County Schools and as such is responsible for the administration of educational services in Taylor County as well as the duty to see that principals and teachers under his supervision provide handicapped students with a FAPE as required by state and federal law.
5. The Defendant, Taylor County Board of Education, is a public corporation which has the duty to set educational policy and to ensure that the educational system of Taylor County protects the rights of handicapped students to a FAPE, pursuant to Public Law 94-142 20 U.S.C. :1400 et. seq; and implementing regulations; 34 C.F.R. 300.340 and 300.235.
6. Plaintiff D. D. was diagnosed as having a learning disability in the fourth grade while attending Anna Jarvis School in Taylor County. He was thereafter educated pursuant to an Individual Educational Program CIEP) designed to accommodate his learning disability as required by Public Law 94-142 and implementing federal regulations, 34 C.F.R. 300.130 and implementing State Policy No. 2419, Section 1.3, 1.4 and 2.11.
7. Because of Plaintiff D. D.'s learning disability his educational program was adapted to provide for oral testing by a learning disabilities teacher in a learning disabilities resource classroom.
8. Oral testing of Plaintiff D. D. was appropriate for him and was regularly provided at Anna Jarvis School and Grafton Middle School.
9. In the Fall of 1990, the Plaintiff, D. D., entered Grafton High School as a learning disabled student and was assigned to Defendant Michael Withers' history class.
10. The Plaintiff, D. D., received low grades in most subjects during the first quarter of his first year at Grafton High School.
11. Concerned about their son’s low grades, the Plaintiffs, John Doe and Jane Doe, scheduled meetings with all of D. D.’s teachers to discuss their son’s IEP and to stress the need for oral testing by a learning disabilities teacher in a learning disability resource room.
12. The Plaintiffs, John Doe and Jane Doe, met with all of D. D.’s teachers.
13. All teachers but Defendant Michael Withers agreed to comply with the oral testing by the learning disabilities teacher in the learning disability resource room.
14. Thereafter the Plaintiff, D. D., delivered to the Defendant, Michael Withers, a note from the special education coordinator at Grafton High School directing the Defendant, Michael Withers, to have the Plaintiff tested orally by the learning disabilities teacher in the learning disability resource room.
15. The Defendant, Michael Withers, refused to comply with this directive.
16. Notwithstanding repeated notices and directives regarding D. D.’s handicap and his need for oral testing by a learning disabilities teacher in the learning disabilities resource room, the Defendant, Michael Withers, refused to comply and administered approximately nine (9) more written tests to Plaintiff D. D., most of which Plaintiff D. D. failed because of his handicap.
17. The refusal of Defendant and the negligence of the other Defendants in failing to assure the requirement of oral testing as required by the child’s IEP resulted in an unauthorized and illegal change in special education services to the Plaintiff, D. D., in violation of Plaintiff D. D.’s rights to procedural safeguards as guaranteed by federal law and implementing regulations. 20 USC S1400, et seq. and 34 CFR 300.500 et. seq.
18. During history class, the Defendant, Michael Withers, insulted and belittled the Plaintiff, D. D., a handicapped student, in front of other students causing Plaintiff D. D. to become extremely embarrassed and angry.
19. On or about November 14, 1990, after grade reports were sent home to the Plaintiffs, John Doe and Jane Doe, regarding their son, the parents attempted to meet again with Defendant, Michael Withers.
20. Defendant Michael Withers did not meet with the Plaintiffs because, upon information and belief, he was deer hunting.
21. During all relevant time periods Defendants Greg Cartwright, Principal of Grafton High School, and Wendell Teets, Superintendent of Schools of Taylor County, knew or should have known of the failure of Defendant Michael Withers to deliver to the Plaintiff, D. D., a FAPE in conformance with state and federal law, but failed to require Defendant Withers' compliance.
22. As a direct and proximate result of the negligent and/or intentional acts and omissions of all Defendants, the Plaintiff, D. D., failed his history course during the Fall, 1990 school semester and received zero credits on his permanent school record.
23. As a result of having failed Defendant Michael Withers' course, the Plaintiff, D. D., was forbidden by school officials to participate in his extracurricular activities.
24. In or about January, 1991 the Defendant, Michael Withers, left Grafton High School on a leave of absence for Charleston, West Virginia, where the Defendant is in the State Legislature.
25. The Plaintiff, D. D., was then assigned a substitute history teacher who promptly complied with the modified testing procedures for the Plaintiff.
26. As a result of being properly evaluated during the second semester, the Plaintiff’s grades dramatically improved in history.
27. The Plaintiffs, John Doe and Jane Doe, filed a grievance against the Defendant, Michael Withers, regarding his acts and omissions toward the Plaintiff, D. D., and prevailed on said grievance before the State Board of Education.
28. As a result of prevailing on the grievance against Defendant Withers, the Taylor County Board of Education was required to administer a comprehensive examination to the Plaintiff, D. D. , which examination was administered by the learning disabilities teacher.
29. The administration of the comprehensive examination required the Plaintiff, D. D., to intensively prepare for an entire semester’s examination and testing. This re-preparation and re-testing was extremely time consuming and embarrassing to the Plaintiff and caused the Plaintiff’s grades in other classes to drop.
30. As a direct and proximate result
of the negligence and/or intentional acts and omissions of the Defendants,
the Plaintiff, D. D., in addition to receiving zero credits for history
was subjected to embarrassment and shame within the school community.
I. FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
DEPRIVATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS IN VIOLATION OF 42 U.S.C. 1983
31. The Plaintiffs reallege and incorporate Paragraphs 1 through 29 as though fully set forth herein.
32. The Defendants, acting under color of state law as public school teachers, principals, administrators and the Board of Education, deprived the Plaintiff, D. D., of his statutorily protected civil right to a FAPE as guaranteed by federal and state laws for the education of handicapped children and as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 3, Section 10 of the Constitution of the State of West Virginia.
33. As a result of these constitutional deprivations, the Plaintiffs were damaged as alleged herein.
WHEREFORE, the Plaintiffs pray for damages as follows:
$30,000.00 against Defendant Michael Withers;
$10,000.00 against Defendant Greg Cartwright;
$10,000.00 against Defendant Wendell Teets; and
$10,000.00 against Defendant Taylor County
Board of Education.
$30,000.00 against Defendant Michael Withers.
Furthermore, the Plaintiffs pray for injunctive relief requiring all Defendants to immediately comply with the requirements of Public Law 94-142 as well as federal and state laws and regulations protecting the rights of handicapped children to a Free Appropriate Public Education. The Plaintiffs also pray for attorney’s fees and costs and such other relief as this Court may deem appropriate.
JANE DOE and By Counsel.
Bill Byrne and Lloyd W. Spring, III represented the child in Doe v. Withers.
Recently, Bill Byrne represented a a profoundly deaf high school student who ran afoul of an age rule that prevented him from playing interescholastic sports in J. R. Traylor v Board of Education. He relied on the West Virginia Human Rights Act and the obligation for reasonable accommodation under state law.
Note: After Doe v. Withers was posted at our website, we received the following email:
Response to Gary as follows:
Your point is well taken.
v. Withers is a 1992 case decided in part under United States Code Section
Practically speaking, it is nothing more than a simple civil jury trial, unreported in any of the State or Federal Court Reporters. Yet it is also a major landmark case. Because it was civil jury trial verdict, and not appealed, it is not reported in any of the usual published caselaw decisions, which are about cases on appeal.
It is significant because it was the first special ed jury trial and also was the first special ed dollar damage trial.
It is also very significant because the history teacher, (a prominent member of the General Assembly at that time, and, I think, a member of the education funding committee) would not follow the IEP, despite being instructed to by the Supt, School Principal, Special Ed Director, and special ed teacher. The special ed teacher and Director of Special Education were not defendants in the civil suit because there was documentation in the file that they directed to the teacher to follow the IEP. The Superintendent and School Principal were dismissed from the case because they too, had told Withers to follow the IEP. I'm not totally sure that my understanding of all of the facts are correct and we expect to have some more in depth "first person" articles about the case by some of the players.
It was significant for several reasons and it paved the way for all of the later special ed damage cases such as WB v. Matula (landmark 3rd Circuit) and the more recent ones at our website.
I hope this clarifies why Doe v. Withers has been posted at the website.
Your email tells me that we need to do a better job in providing background about cases that we post at the website and why they were posted. I appreciate your emailing me and I suspect other readers may have had the same thought but kept it to themselves.