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Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Case Involving an Outburst at School

The firm of Franczek Radelet reports on a case from Illinois:
In Jackson v. Indian Prairie School District the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the School District did not violate a special education support teacher’s substantive due process rights when the School District refused to transfer an autistic student, who was known to have violent outbursts, from the teacher’s classroom even though the teacher was ultimately injured when she attempted to stop the student from throwing a chair.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to grant the School District’s motion for summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit held that although the School District’s actions were “flawed,” “negligent,” and “short-sighted,” they did not “shock the conscious” [sic -- the word is conscience] as is required to impose liability for a substance due process violation. In so finding, the court relied on the facts that W.K.’s acts of violence were often aimed towards himself, that the majority of staff members did not fear W.K. would harm them, that W.K.’s behavior had generally improved overall at school with a fewer number of incidents, and that the IEP team repeatedly placed W.K. in a general education setting.

This decision highlights the importance for school districts to adequately document the reasons behind the IEP team’s placement recommendation. Such documentation may mitigate a school district’s liability related to damage caused by a student that is the subject of the IEP.