St. Louis Education Law Cases
Read selected school law and special education cases litigated by the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III:
A.Y. v. St. Louis Public Schools, No. 4:14-cv-1415 (E.D. Mo).
A young girl with autism who moved into St. Louis City was placed by SLPS in a regular education class without special education services. She was physically and sexually abused by other students in her class. Eventually the student was hospitalized after she made multiple suicide attempts. When the student began attending a homebound program, SLPS failed to modify the student’ IEP to address new diagnoses of depression and PTSD and failed provide appropriate services in the homebound program. We successfully represented the parent in a due process hearing. Among other things, the Commissioner found that bullying at school resulted in a denial of a free appropriate public education. Placement for the student was ordered at Great Circle/Edgewood Children Center. When the parent sued for reimbursement of attorney’s fees, SLPS filed a counterclaim appealing the Commissioner’s order, then held a new IEP meeting and attempted to change the student’s placement from Edgewood back to SLPS. We then filed a new due process hearing request to maintain the student’s stay put placement at Edgewood. Thereafter the parties reached a confidential settlement.
C.P. and O.P. v. Board of Educ., Jacksonville Sch. Dist. No. 117. #117 v. C.P and O.P., et al., No. 15-cv-03228 (C.D.Ill).
We successfully represented a student with autism in a due process hearing. The student developed severe aggressive and self-injurious behaviors and PTSD at school because of the district’s improper disciplinary procedures and failure to regularly consult with a BCBA. The district then ignored homebound recommendations of the student’s pediatrician, psychiatrist, psychologist and others. Instead the district proposed to place the student at Hope Institute but without the accommodations for transportation that were needed because of the student’s urological condition requiring her to use the bathroom as often as every 20 minutes.. After a six-day hearing, the impartial hearing officer ordered that the student’s home ABA program be maintained for at least six months at a cost of more than $13,000 per month, that the school district reimburse the parents for more than $10,000 in expenses incurred for the home ABA program, and that the school district then develop an appropriate transition plan for the student’s return to school. The district filed its appeal in the U. S. District Court in August 2015 and sought a preliminary injunction to avoid making the foregoing payments. The district’s motion was recently denied. The district also lost its attempt to keep the court’s decision denying the preliminary injunction under seal. Now all payments to the parents have been made, the student’s stay-put status remains in the home ABA program, briefing in the case will conclude in August 2016, and a decision is expected shortly thereafter.
Student v. Pikeland CUSD 10, 2013-0358.
Our client, a bi-racial African-American/Caucasian young man, was repeatedly bullied in school on account of his race, including racial name calling, racial epithets written on his locker, and an incident of physical hazing in the boys locker room. These incidents of harassment exacerbated the the student’s symptoms of depression and anxiety and resulted in suicidal and homicidal ideations. Despite many signs of an emotional disturbance–including prior hospitalizations, reports of auditory hallucinations, and frequent contact with mental health providers–the school district’s only educational diagnoses was learning disabled. The district provided no services or goals to adequately address the student’s social and emotional issues. Following a four day hearing, the Impartial Hearing Officer found that the district had denied the student FAPE by failing to assess the student and identify all of his disabling conditions, and by failing to create individualized and measurable goals to address his anxiety and depression. The Impartial Hearing Officer ordered all of the relief requested by our client, including counseling and tutoring services.
Doe v. Sobeck, No. 3:12-cv-01222-JPG-DGW (S.D. Ill. 2012).
Our client, a young woman with developmental disabilities, was raped by another participant in a developmental training (“DT”) program in West Frankfort, Illinois. On her behalf, her parents are suing the The H Group BBT, Inc., and two of its employees for compensatory and punitive damages. Her claims are based on Title IX, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Illinois state tort law.
Edwardsville Special Education Placements, (Illinois State Board of Education Due Process Hearings).
Edwardsville School District 7 recently instituted a blanket policy of removing students with autism and emotional or behavioral disabilities from private placements (such as at Giant Steps or Logos School) and returning them to the District, even where the evidence indicates the student requires the services of a private placement to receive a free, appropriate, public education. Our firm has represented several families in Edwardsville, Illinois, who each filed due process hearing requests against the Edwardsville School District. In many cases, the disputes center around the removal of a student from his or her private placement. Our firm has negotiated a series of favorable settlements on behalf of our clients which preserved the private placements and, in some cases, resulted in reimbursement of attorney’s fees. We also recently represented parents in a four-day due process hearing in which the hearing officer ordered the return of a student to a private placement for not less than 18 months.
Mapaville Litigation (E.D. Mo. 2010).
Our clients are parents of students with severe disabilities who attended Mapaville State School in Festus, Mo. They discovered abusive treatment of their children at Mapaville after secretly recording several classes. The audiotapes revealed verbal and physical abuse of children, teachers and aides participating in Jazzercize activates while children were ignored, students being put down for naps for lengthy periods each day, and teachers and therapists falsifying records of services to students, among other things. Six families file due process hearing requests; five lost, one family obtained partial relief, and one family (represented by our firm) was successful. Then our firm agreed to handle all these cases on appeal in the U.S. District Court. Eventually Mapaville and the Missouri Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to settlements in each case which provided for a wide range of compensatory services over a three-year period, including independent augmentative communication evaluations, unannounced monitoring of Mapaville, and payments to our clients ranging from $10,000.00 to $200,000.00. The last Mapaville case was concluded in January 2013.
N.L., et al., v. Special School District of St. Louis County (Nos. 10-1894 and 10-2008, 8th cir. 2010):
This was an appeal of a special education due process hearing decision. Our clients are parents of N.L., an adoptee with reactive attachment disorder (RAD). The Special School District (SSD) placed N.L. in at least 13 separate placements with over 100 different service providers prior to third grade. Eventually SSD placed N.L. at Edgewood Children’s Center, a day program for students with severe behavioral problems. Our clients enrolled their son at Edgewood for six weeks, then removed him and placed him in private school upon the recommendation of his psychiatrist. The hearing panel found that the school district’s placement of N.L. at Edgewood was not in the least restrictive environment and that his former SSD placement violated his right to a free appropriate public education. The hearing panel ordered substantial compensatory services but denied the parents’ claim for private school tuition reimbursement. Both parties then appealed. The hearing panel’s decision was affirmed by the U.S. District Court, and both parties appealed again. While the case was pending in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the parties reached a settlement involving payment to our clients of $105,000.00.