A Brighton High School student and her mother are alleging that District 27J violated her federal rights by refusing to accommodate her requests for a disability accommodation in her education.
Jane Doe, who is 17 years old, wrote in her lawsuit that another student sexually assaulted her in 2018. She reported it to law enforcement on Oct. 30 of that year, and her mother, Joan Doe, e-mailed a school counselor one week later to inform him. Joan Doe also explained that her daughter was experiencing panic attacks and anxiety.
The lawsuit further alleges that Jane Doe was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, in addition to being suicidal.
The counselor, writes Doe, told Joan Doe that her daughter’s options were to be schooled at home, leave class early or transfer schools. Joan Doe spoke with assistant principals and an intervention specialist to ask about setting an individualized education program for Jane. IEPs chronicle a child’s educational performance, how a disability affects progress, and a statement of goals and services to be provided for the child.
As Jane Doe’s “mental health declined substantially, and her grades suffered as well,” the lawsuit explained, adding that Joan repeatedly requested a home tutor for her daughter. On Dec. 4, Jane Doe saw her assailant at school and ceased attending classes. An evaluation in April 2019 showed that Jane was ineligible for an IEP, but was eligible for a 504 plan, another federal mandate to remove barriers to education for a child with any disability.
The lawsuit acknowledged that Jane Doe ultimately earned passing grades, but that “it was due to a significant amount of handholding and monitoring on the part of Joan Doe.”
An administrative law judge in October 2019 found that the district had not committed an error in determining Jane Doe's ineligibility for an IEP.
The Does allege that 27J violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by slow-walking Jane’s evaluation and ultimately denying her an IEP. They are asking for the district to pay for “all counseling services, mental health services, therapy, other nonacademic services and [education] until Jane Doe turns 21 years old.”
A District 27J spokesperson said they are confident the administrative law judge's ruling will be upheld. Brighton High School did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is Jane Doe, a minor, by and through her mother, Joan Doe v. Brighton 27J School District.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with a comment from District 27J.