Two Idaho school districts were able to fend off a lawsuit brought by the parents of a student with Asperger’s in a recent court decision. Jury members required six and a half hours to decide that the Boise and Meridian school districts had provided adequate accommodations for student Matthew Abramowski’s education.
Abramowski moved to the Boise area with his parents in 2004. When he had previously been enrolled in a California school, Abramowski had been receiving special education services. Initially, he continued in this program in Idaho. However, the school district decided that the student should be placed in the mainstream educational program when he was in the eighth grade. Idaho school officials didn’t feel that Abramowski’s disabilities were severe enough to require him to continue with special education classes. Abramowski’s mother requested that he be independently evaluated, with the result being that Matthew was granted extra time to complete assignments and provided with other accommodations.
However, the Abramowski complaint alleges that the school districts did not do everything possible to accommodate Matthew’s special needs. The complaint stated that the district did not adequately prepare Matthew for life beyond school, and that a great deal of time and money will be required to retrain him for organizational and planning skills. Moreover, the lawsuit also cited instances of bullying by various classmates that teachers did little to address.
Ultimately, the jury found the complaint unpersuasive. U.S. District Judge Candy Dale dismissed the lawsuit in the wake of the jury’s decision. Nick Crawford, who was part of the school districts’ defense team, noted that the jury must have recognized that school staff and administration “did, in fact, care” and that reasonable accommodations had been made.
Charlene Quade, who was acting for the plaintiffs, disagrees. She believes that the federal law known as Section 504, which was relied upon in the complaint, is a complex one, implying that perhaps the jury did not fully grasp the issues at hand. The Abramowski family remains hopeful that the case will assist other schools to more effectively deal with students who have Asperger’s in the future.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, or school employment law, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district legal issue.