You wouldn’t want to discriminate against a veteran who has a disability, would you? I’m sure you wouldn’t. And I expect the transportation director at St. John’s County School District in Florida does not think that the district has done that. But the federal court held that Ashton Ambrose may very well have a legitimate claim of disability-based discrimination.
Ms. Ambrose lives exactly 1.9 miles from Hickory Creek Elementary, where her five-year old son attends. The problem is that the boy frequently did not attend because his mother couldn’t get him there and the school refused to provide transportation. Apparently Florida follows the same 2.0 mile guideline that most Texas districts use. The little boy does not have a disability that requires special transportation. There is no indication in the court’s opinion that he has an IEP or 504 plan. But being five years old, it’s a long hike to go almost two miles to school every day.
Ms. Ambrose is unable to drive due to her lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety and panic disorders. So she asked for an accommodation—a variance from the usual application of the 2.0 mile standard.
Ms. Ambrose sued, alleging that the district was discriminating against her by refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation. The district responded with a Motion to Dismiss.
The court refused to dismiss the case. It held that the mother was a qualified individual with a disability and that the allegations in her suit were sufficient to survive the district’s Motion to Dismiss. The court also held that the student had standing to sue for “associational discrimination” in that he lost educational opportunities because of the discrimination against his mother.
Rigid insistence on enforcing standards like this one in the face of a request for an accommodation that is reasonable can be dangerous. It’s Ambrose v. St. John’s County School Board, decided by the federal court for the Middle District of Florida on March 27, 2023. It’s cited at 83 IDELR 16.
DAWG BONE: 504 AND ADA REQUIRE FLEXIBILITY—NOT RIGIDITY.
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Tomorrow: how bout one for the Sheesh-O-Meter!