Pennsylvania district sued for failure to provide adequate home schooling to allow student to graduate on time

According to TribLive News, an Allderdice High School student and her parents claim in a federal lawsuit that she could not graduate with her classmates in 2010 because Pittsburgh school officials did not provide her with adequate home schooling while she was ill. The student, K.K., took advanced classes and participated in science and math competitions in 2009, until a stomach virus caused a chronic medical condition that left her homebound for the rest of her junior year.

The suit charges that during that time, the district provided 2.5 hours of instruction weekly from an instructor who was not certified to teach the classes she took. Her parents say the district refused their request for more instruction time and better-qualified teachers. Their lawsuit challenges a state hearing officer’s August 2012 ruling in favor of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh declined to comment except to verify that a hearing officer ruled in the district’s favor. The family is suing under a section of the Rehabilitation Act, which bans agencies that get federal money from discriminating against disabled students.

The family claims that the district drew up an inadequate plan to cover K.K.’s education and did not follow a second plan designed to allow her to catch up with her classmates when she returned to school. The lawsuit seeks to recover the cost of tutoring, legal costs and experts’ fees.

The family claims the district has a fixed practice of providing 2.5 hours per week, regardless of a student’s needs. Such a blanket policy would violate federal law, said Shari Mamas, a lawyer in the Pittsburgh office of the nonprofit Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, who was not familiar with the case. The district could be in legal jeopardy if it failed to follow a plan, which becomes a binding contract, she said.

Source:  TribLive News, 11/5/12, By Brian Bowling

[Editor's Note: In February 2012, Legal Clips provided a summary on the U.S. Department of Education (ED)’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Dear Colleague Letter and Frequently Asked Questions document on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) in elementary and secondary schools, given the changes to those laws made by the 2008 ADA Amendments Act.  The Act, which took effect January 1, 2009, “broadened the meaning of disability and, in most cases, shifts the inquiry away from the question of whether a student has a disability as defined by the ADA and Section 504, and toward school districts’ actions and obligations to ensure equal education opportunities,” said an ED press release. The Dear Colleague Letter and FAQ provide guidance for school districts on the requirements of the laws, as changed by the ADA Amendments.]

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