U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Issue Forty Three
SCHOOLS AND PRESCHOOLS MUST ACCOMMODATE CHILDREN WITH AUTISM AND DIABETES
The Department has recently resolved or filed briefs in a number of cases involving discrimination against children who have autism or diabetes.
On May 17, 2011, the Beginning Montessori Academy in Baldwin Park, California, entered into a settlement agreement with the Department resolving a complaint that the state-funded private preschool had refused to re-enroll a child with autism. The school agreed to adopt nondiscriminatory policies, provide training to the teacher directly responsible for any enrolled child who has been diagnosed with autism, and pay the complainant $5,000 in compensatory damages.
"All children deserve access to educational services, and making sure that schools are fully accessibile to children with disabilities is a necessary part of integrating individuals with disabilities into all aspects of American life," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. "The department is committed to vigorously enforcing Title III of the ADA."
On June 1, 2011, the Alexandria Country Day School in Alexandria, Louisiana, entered into a settlement agreement with the Department resolving a complaint that the school denied admission to a six-year old girl with Type I diabetes after the parents asked to school to supervise her when she tested her blood glucose level, used her insulin pump, and performed other daily diabetes care practices. The school agreed to modify its policies to permit staff to oversee children's diabetes care management.
"Schools have a responsibility to make reasonable modifications to policies so that all students with disabilities can enjoy their programs and activities, unless doing so would result in a fundamental alteration in the program," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. "I applaud the school for working with us to address this matter, and we hope this agreement serves as a reminder for other private schools about the requirements of the ADA."
"I congratulate the school administration for dealing with this serious issue which affects so many members of our community," said Stephanie A. Finley, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. "The U.S. Attorney's Office, the Department and the Obama Administration are committed to ensuring that all individuals in this country can go to schools, public and private, and participate in all of the programs that are available."
On June 28, 2011, the Beach Babies Learning Center in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, entered into a settlement agreement with the Department resolving a complaint that the center had terminated a two-year old child's enrollment after he was diagnosed with autism. The school agreed to adopt nondiscriminatory policies and post them at its facility and on its website, modify its schedules to accommodate early intervention services for the child, and pay the complainant $7,431 in compensatory damages.
"Ensuring that children with disabilities, and their families, have equal access to early education and child care centers goes to the heart of the ADA's promises and protections," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. "Beach Babies Learning Center cooperated with the department to address this matter through this agreement, and we hope that this agreement serves as a reminder to other education and child care providers about their responsibilities under the ADA."
"Partnering with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office has embarked on a significant civil rights enforcement initiative," stated U.S. Attorney David B. Fein. "Autism is just one of many serious disabilities that affect so many families in Connecticut, and the U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to ensuring that every child has equal access to early learning centers, public and private, and can participate in all of the programs that are available."
On June 10, 2011, the Department filed a Statement of Interest supporting the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction in C.C. v. Cypress School District, a case in the federal court in Los Angeles, California. The plaintiff is a seven-year old boy with autism who uses a service dog. His motion seeks to require the school district to let him use his service dog at school while the case is pending. In its brief, the Department explained that the school must make reasonable modifications to its rules, policies, and practices to avoid discrimination against this student. On June 13, 2011, the court granted the boy's motion and issued an opinion that agreed with the Department's position.
On May 11, 1011, the Department filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of California in American Nurses Association v. Jack O'Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and American Diabetes Association, a lawsuit seeking to block a settlement agreement between the State Superintendant and the American Diabetes Association under which professional school employees will be trained and will administer insulin for students with diabetes in certain situations when a school nurse is not available. The American Nurses Association sued, arguing that this settlement is inconsistent with California's Nursing Practice Act, which prohibits unlicensed individuals from engaging in the practice of nursing, including administering insulin to students with diabetes. The California Court of Appeals agreed. In its brief to the Supreme Court, the Department explained that insulin administration is considered one of the "related aids and services" that a school must provide for students who have an Individualized Education Program or Section 504 Plan requiring insulin doses during the school day; noted that many California public schools have no nurses because of budget constraints; and argued that the Court of Appeal's interpretation conflicts with, and is preempted by, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Title II of the ADA.