Trouble in Paradise over a girl….

Texas is not the only state with a Paradise School District.  There is one in California also, and it’s the defendant in a case recently decided by the 9th Circuit.  There was indeed “trouble in paradise.” As is often the case the trouble involved two boys and a girl.  It seems that when Justin observed Cyrus talking with Faith at the football game he overreacted, “punching [Cyrus] several times in the face.  [Cyrus] was seriously injured by the assault.”

In the subsequent lawsuit—against the school, not Justin--Cyrus alleged that this assault occurred because he was a student with a disability, and the school should have protected him better.  The school should have prevented this kind of disability based harassment. 

Cyrus did not have much evidence to support that theory.  Cyrus had never reported any kind of bullying, nor had he or his parents requested assistance in dealing with the complex social relationships of high school. School officials were unaware of any signs of danger.   Due to his ADHD Cyrus had a plain vanilla 504 plan that called for extra time to complete assignments and help in staying organized. It’s unlikely that Justin knew anything about Cyrus’s 504 status, and he freely admitted after the incident that “the attack was motivated by jealousy.”  Cyrus was talking to Faith. Faith was talking with Cyrus.  Justin was not OK with that. It may be Paradise, but it was still high school.

So how does something like that end up with claims of disability discrimination and a failure to prevent harassment?  The sole basis for Cyrus’s case was a series of “Dear Colleague Letters” issued by the Department of Education during the Obama Administration.  But the 9th Circuit  held that the DCLs did not create binding law, and did not say what Cyrus alleged that they said. The DCLs did not alter the legal precedents that require proof of intentional discrimination or deliberate indifference in order to recover damages. There was no evidence of that here.

It’s Csutoras v. Paradise High School, decided by the 9th Circuit on September 7, 2021. The case is cited at 12 F.4th 960 (9th Cir. 2021).


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Tomorrow: huzzah for math teachers.