The limits of Section 504.

Imagine that your school district has employed a teacher to work in the Life Skills unit. The teacher, it turns out, is not a good guy.  You eventually discover that he has sexually molested some of the children at school, taking advantage of their low cognitive ability.  When the police get involved, they find a large number of pornographic images and videos on his computers.  The parents of the boys who were abused sue the district, alleging several causes of action, including a violation of Section 504.

The federal court in Texas recently concluded that behavior like this does not amount to a violation of Section 504.  Section 504 is about discrimination against people with disabilities.  The statute describes three types of discrimination: 1) being excluded from a program due to your disability; 2) being denied the benefits of a program due to your disability; or 3) being otherwise discriminated against due to your disability.  The notion of “otherwise discriminated against” is pretty broad, but not broad enough to cover this situation.  Key Quote:

What allegedly occurred—[the teacher’s] physical and sexual assault of the children—is jarring, but Plaintiffs’ amended complaint does not state facts that would lead the Court to reasonably infer that MISD subjected the children to discrimination because they were disabled.

This suit is not over. The plaintiffs also sued pursuant to Title IX and Section 1983, and those claims have not been dismissed. But the case illustrates that Section 504 does not cover every bad thing that might happen to a student with a disability.  The case is Strange v. Mansfield ISD, decided by the federal court for the Northern District of Texas on August 17, 2018. We found it at 2018 WL 3950219.


 Tomorrow: how bout a little “inside baseball”?