In addition to the Abbott v. Burke school funding litigation, ELC has litigated hundreds of cases in its 30 year history. The summaries below highlight some of the most significant decisions in special education, residency, bullying and discipline.
M.A. v. Newark Public Schools, et al., 344 F.3d 335 (3d Cir. 2003)
ELC, together with co-counsel Gibbons, Del Deo, filed this class action on behalf of all children with disabilities who required special education services from Newark Public Schools, but were not provided with such services. Plaintiffs’ motion seeking a preliminary injunction was granted, and Defendants’ motions to dismiss were denied by the district court. Both decisions were affirmed by the Third Circuit. The district court subsequently certified the class and the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement which was endorsed by the district court in 2012. The Settlement Agreement mandates that special education services be provided on a timely basis, “compensatory education” be provided for students who did not receive timely services, the implementation of a comprehensive special education database, mandatory staff training, extensive reporting of compliance activities, guidelines for corrective action if warranted and independent monitoring of special education services. ELC is monitoring NPS and State compliance with the Settlement Agreement and, together with co-counsel Seton Hall, is training parents across the district.
A.W. v. Jersey City Public Schools, et al., 341 F.3d 234 (3d Cir. 2003), 486 F. 3d 791 (3d Cir. 2007)
ELC filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the failure of a school district, the state education department, and individual employees to identify and remediate A.W.’s dyslexia. The case reached the Third Circuit twice, with the Court holding in the first decision (2003), that the state defendants had waived sovereign immunity by accepting federal financial assistance and could therefore be sued under IDEA and Section 504 and, in the second decision (2007), that individual state defendants could not be held liable under Section 1983. A.W.’s claims against his school district and NJDOE were successfully resolved through settlement.
Board of Education of Lenape Regional High School District v. New Jersey State Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and A.M., 399 N.J. Super. 595 (App. Div. 2008)
ELC represented A.M., as intervenor, in challenging her school district’s appeal of an Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) complaint investigation determination regarding A.M.’s son to the Commissioner of Education. The Appellate Division upheld rulings of the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education in A.M.’s favor, by holding that the Commissioner lacked jurisdiction to review a final OSEP determination of a special education complaint.
J.A. v. Board of Education of South Orange and Maplewood, 318 N.J. Super. 512 (App. Div. 1999)
ELC served as counsel to J.A. and her niece T.C. in successfully appealing the denial of admission of T.C. to the South Orange and Maplewood public schools. The Appellate Division ruled that the school board’s failure to inform the student of the grounds for the denial violated due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In addition, the Court recommended the promulgation of statewide school residency regulations by the Commissioner, and established a mechanism for the determination of damages and attorney’s fees claims arising from due process violations asserted in administrative proceedings.
L.W. v. Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education, 189 N.J. 381 (2007)
ELC joined an amicus brief on behalf of Plaintiff L.W., a student bullied by other students due to his perceived sexual orientation over the course of several school years. In its decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court established that a school district can be held liable under the Law Against Discrimination for student-on-student (or peer) harassment on the basis of sexual orientation that creates a hostile educational environment, when the district fails to act reasonably to end such harassment. The Court rejected the more difficult federal standard of proving a school district’s “deliberate indifference” in order to establish discrimination, in favor of a lower standard of proving that the school district’s actions were unreasonable under the totality of the circumstances.
P.H. v. Board of Education of Bergenfield, State Board Docket # 60-00 and 27-01 (December 5, 2003)
P.H. v. Board of Education of Bergenfield, State Board Docket # 60-00 and 27-01 (July 5, 2002)
P.H. v. Board of Education of Bergenfield, State Board Docket # 60-00 and 27-01 (October 3, 2001)
P.H. v. Board of Education of Bergenfield, State Board Docket # 60-00 and 27-01 (September 5, 2001)
In the P.H. case, ELC challenged a district’s expulsion of a student from public school without the provision of alternative education. This case resulted in several New Jersey State Board of Education rulings: in 2001, establishing the need to provide alternative education during the pendency of a discipline appeal to avoid irreparable harm; in 2002, holding that the state constitution requires that a student expelled from school must be provided with an alternative education until graduating from high school or reaching age nineteen, whichever comes first; and in 2003, holding that state statute requires the provision of a free public education to an expelled student until his twentieth birthday.
V.A. v. Board of Education of Collingswood, State Board Docket #34-99 (July 5, 2000)
ELC obtained a New Jersey State Board of Education decision setting aside the expulsion of a student with no prior disciplinary record under a zero tolerance policy. In addition, the State Board ordered the student’s readmission to his regular public high school, based on its conclusion that it would be arbitrary to require a student without persistent behavioral or educational problems to attend an alternative education program.