Sua Sponte: NSBA and the Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund submit amicus brief urging the Fifth Circuit to apply the “deliberate indifference” standard to Section 504 claims for damages

On July 26, 2013, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Texas Association of School Boards Legal Assistance Fund (TASBLAF), which includes the Texas Association of School Boards, the Texas Association of School Administrators, and the Texas Council of School Attorneys, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (LA, TX, MS) in Lance v. Lewisville Independent School District, Docket No. 12-41139.  The NSBA/TASBLAF brief, filed in support of the school district, asks the Fifth Circuit to affirm the decision of a federal district court dismissing a claim for damages under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act based on the suicide of an elementary student at school.

According to a Legal Clips summary of a Courthouse News Service report on the suit, the parents of the student, who committed suicide in a bathroom at his elementary school, sued the Lewisville Independent School District claiming that the district failed to keep the student safe from harm, and was deliberately indifferent to complaints that he was being bullied.

Although the suit raised a number of claims, the appeal to the Fifth Circuit focuses on the Section 504 claim.  The issue is: Whether a school district is liable under Section 504 for the suicide of a student who had been subjected to harassment at school although school officials had responded effectively to all known incidents of harassment against the student?

The brief urges the Fifth Circuit not to dilute the deliberate indifference requirement established in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education,  526 U.S. 629 (1999).  The brief contends that the Supreme Court’s precedent precludes plaintiffs from obtaining damages under Section 504 in the absence of a showing of intentional discrimination, which requires, at a minimum, proof of “deliberate indifference.”

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